Monday, 31 October 2016

Day 79 - Functioning again

Swift Playgrounds coupled with Everyone can Code iBook is a winner.

Fab ideas for the classroom and a 360°view of how children are learning with the integration of Seesaw and Blogging direct from the classroom. This lesson was 45mins but the students were very happy to continue this in their own time - oh the joys of 1:2:1.

Here are the latest attempts from my Year 5 & 6 students to explain what a function does and how lops and behaviours can be simplified when creating code. Inspired to start with the Macarena - Apple Music to the rescue and impromptu dance moves in front of the class! Who knew...
Blogging direct from the lesson....charting our own success
Add caption

Macarena sets the scene for an fun adventure into coding, loops, behaviour  and functions.

Working out the finer details and protocols of naming functions...

I love the fact that the collaborative and supportive nature of this approach allows questions to be asked without fear of embarrassment. We are all learning together. The students look forward to working with new members of their class and get the feedback that really counts - from their own classmates! 

Day 78 - Function-ing Brilliantly!

Halloween can always bring out the dark side of a class, usually through excitement and spirited enthusiasm. Today, with the students I tried some new approaches...

Following a really successful Inset with staff - it was clear that the integration of iPad into the curriculum is going (on the whole) well. However, there are still a few barriers to making continued progress and pushing on with the development of learning and of course teaching. One barrier is always, 'Vickie I haven't got time to invent new resources all the time' (usually this means - 'so I don't and haven't tried anything new as yet...') I work part time and know I can trust this resource I get good results...

So, in evaluating the staff's needs I made my timely intervention and showed the teachers Nearpod. - Yes I could have introduced this at the very start of our roll out. But truthfully, the creative aspects of iPad and workflow that were encouraged initially worked brilliantly. This is an intervention that refreshes ideas and gives 'tired' teachers a quick win with the impetus to keep on preparing the best learning opportunities in lessons for the students.  This targeted focus allows the teacher to use their favourite resource sites (Twinkl) but also augment the slide deck with interactive tasks which utilities the iPad and gives independence to the student. Putting the onus on the student to be responsible for their learning.

So what have I used in the classroom today?

Nearpod - inverted commas. The basic slide deck was taken from a Pdf exported from a powerpoint in Twinkl. I then added additional slides with examples of modelled exercises, quizzes and free writing opportunities. The close procedure is particularly effective with lower Key Stage 2.

Illustrating the rules of using inverted commas
The results of using this guided learning method were evident immediately, the students achieved well and the standard of their work was noticeably more accurate and proficient.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Day 77 - Swift Changes ...

Apologies for my loyal followers, my blogs have been limited recently due to a small issue with Blogger crashing since iOS10 seems a bug has been found and fixed so I'm glad to be back with you.

Today my year 5&6 class launched their adventures into the swift playground and they have become bloggers from the classroom too!

What have I been using in the classroom today? 

Seesaw, Swift playground & iBooks combine to make a new way of coding come to life...swift language has been introduced across the world and has made understanding code more easily accessible to students and teachers alike.

Apple have thought 360° about how to make Swift a usable and fun way to learn code. For teachers books available from the app store support the introduction and is backed up with tutorials and scaffolded lessons - much like the way we as teachers now encourage our students to learn.

Together we are working through he new landscape of code with Byte and friends encouraging us at every step. Meanwhile students ares supporting and encouraging each other by pairing up and then blogging on the class blog in Seesaw when they have found a solution or have faced a challenge. 

Stage 1 lays down the foundations and conventions of using the swift code language. It was obvious that the students were motivated to find a solution and appreciated the added 3D's features making the game more involving and immersive. Functions were more of a challenge but many students showed resilience skills that mean that a challenge is a blip...a not managed it yet moment.

My next hope is that the students will guide those in the younger years to try their hand at swift programming through tutorials which have the double bonus of reinforcing newly learnt skills.

Our first hour of code was a success and I look forward to the outcomes when faced with the challenges that see the students tasked with personalising code and seeing first hand how they can influence how a program runs. More importantly, when things go wrong, just how to re-trace steps and check the lines of code to see which block of code is causing the error. Debugging for a reason...

Day 76 - A New Operating System

Every new academic year heralds a variety of changes in the operating system within the school. Whether that is new staff, a new management structure or new students. Refreshing for most and frustrating for a few...

With the new academic year comes a new operating system from Apple too - iOS10 was released and promised to invigorate the daily classroom as it supports shared iPad and the new classroom app, which puts classroom management centre stage again for teachers. All this should be warmly embraced.

However, a few glitches and further updates later the applications don't always live up to the promises and additional time needs to be spent developing new skills and procedures to enable the devices to work seamlessly in the classroom. This is true ofter of the device management systems that school's rely on as the backbone of their deployment. The newest application from Apple is classroom, which has been running smoothly at Barns Green allowing the students the ability to really be stretched as they have been provided with timely & targeted work at their own level. Nothing new...but the beauty of the new deployment method is that the extension tasks can be tailored to the students who perhaps have surprised themselves by shining in one area that perhaps they didn't believe they would...

What have I been using in the classroom? 
Showbie as a the method to plan, deploy and organise the resources for the classroom.


One way that working with iPad hasn't changed in the classroom with the blend of traditional equipment with the exercise books supported by iPad as tool for learning. Handwriting has seen a significant elevation through the use of the iPad to give individual reinforcement for the formation of letters using tutorials,  comprehension and SPaG work have seen a rise in accuracy as the test results are proving!

Using the iPad is a natural part of how the students learn. Here the first stages of working with Swift playgrounds show how the computing curriculum can be cross curricular and reinforce digital skills which allow the students to excel and clearly communicate their understanding in their studies.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Day 75 - Mastery v Tests

Tests are an accepted way of gauging achievement at a given point. However, at times teaching can be overly focused on this event. I'm not suggesting that colleagues teach to the tests but they are more than mindful of the consequences of not providing the correct level of exposure to the prescribed learning outcomes. But I think it goes further, I believe our education system is weakened if the tested years (Y2,Y6, GCSE etc)  are seen as the most important. Focus can be unbalanced which reduces the impact of teaching or the ability for the teacher to feel that they have the time to really explore and remain creative to achieve the goals. My fear is that the curriculum becomes constricted and narrows.

This week at school, being off formal curriculum LO's and based on the usual plans have not been a barrier to learning. In fact it has released time to focus on perfecting a skill, rehearsing and editing - in short - mastery of a skill. Today was a case in point. I wanted the students to feel that they could build on their previous knowledge & digital literacy.

What have I used I the classroom today? 

Showbie to gather resources for the challenge based learning task and Classroom app to release additional  resources such as iBooks, podcasts and websites as necessary to the individual needs of the pupil. The focus was on developing a challenge based approach setting a task that needed the students to practise, experiment and for the students to have a positive mindset.

I wanted to layer the skills as i had planned to follow this up with a Keynote masterclass using animation. The task was simple, to animate a dot. The students learnt to effectively use the tools to give an inanimate object some personality...they exceeded my expectations but more importantly surprised themselves with what was possible. Having the time to spend time building the foundation skills will pay dividends in the end as the students can rely on these basic skills and grow with future learning.

Online Safety - Quik it's so important that the students have the opportunity to recall in their own words and express this understanding in different formats which truly reflects their views and can be a measure of just how they view the world. Whether their views are relevant, responsible and effective to keep them safe online. This was presented as a short animated storyboard...judge for yourself if the students were successful. Check out an example of a video that was shared on Trilby Tv to inform the rest of the school.

<iframe src="" width="480" height="270" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

This is such a worthy step as the community as an audience is exactly who this knowledge affects and  is valued by. So as far as I am concerned a curriculum based on the premise that mastery of base skills, wrapped in challenge based tasks is a learning environment that promotes achievement, self value and beneficial attitudes to learning including perseverance, independence and self reliance.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Day 74 - Going dotty

Returning to school after a holiday is always demanding. Even with all the planning in the world, one never seems to be 100% ready, whether it's the forgotten log in details for the language program or the label for the spelling book of the late registered's enough to send you dotty! 

It's demanding on the students too with a new teacher, classroom, classmates and routines every second of the first weeks require full focus. Making new friends and bonding with a new circle of friends is hard. But is exactly this environment that is ripe for encouraging and reinforcing good habits. Taking a step back to reflect on why getting along with a variety of people is a useful (life) skill.

At school this week, there has been some space made to do extended projects. The teachers have planned an immersive,  artistic & creative curriculum based on The Dot a book by Peter Reynolds. The activities encourage purposeful social talk, unlimited creativity without being constrained to red group, top group, starfish or whatever derivation of hierarchy is common place in differentiating work. Tasks are collaborative and this shared experience strengthens identity within a new class. 

What have I used in the classroom today? 

I chose a mathematical slant, focusing on the formation of a circle whilst encouraging the pupils to use the properties of circles. Having seen a great pin on pin interest using a paintbrush in a pair of compasses - a collaborative artwork was created. 

The series of skills practised the manipulation of the compasses resulting in an instructional video demo using the built in camera on video mode. The video was airplayed to the class screen and repeated from photos so the support could continue as many times as was necessary. 

Resulting a whole class large version using chalk and string on the classroom floor. 

2) The class were re-introduced to iPad and so the refresh of using app went hand in hand with the refresh of share aware (NSPCC online safety iniitative) and SMART thinking (CEOP - both these sites are excellent for ideas in class to support discussions and reinforce the responsible use of technology in and outside the classroom. 

I used Showbie to distribute resources and set up challenges and switched between AirPlay and using this feature in Classroom, Apple's newly released classroom management app.  The students responded well to the initial locking of the iPad, they were quite excited by it but in fact as the lesson progressed they were equally eager to see the next resource that they had been directed to. 

The finished animations were quickly uploaded to Trilby Tv and shared across the school to give further reinforcement to good practice when communicating online. A full day collaborating and exploring the possibilities. The difference today was that the value of the technology in the classroom facilitated the students to work with the resources in their own way without preconceived end points. Refreshing. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Day 73 - Transition

Life is full of next steps...phases of life that one goes through seemingly important and all encompassing when emerged in the moment; on reflection the phase is fleeting. One of the most important transitions is from Primary to Secondary school. That time has come now for many Year 6's ; seemingly too grown up for Primary. 

Today however, we were lucky to complete our transition period by involving some secondary pupils in the lives - and last memories- of their primary classroom. They were their judges. The competition -computing and coding - like minded students with high expectations. 

The idea was for the Year 7 students who had just completed their Scratch projects would judge the efforts of the year 5&6 teams. The Teams had to incorporate a Makey -Makey as part of the way their Scrartch game was controlled. 

Our in house competition has three categories; 
1) best controller - design and use
2) best game - coding skill and execution of game
3) best overall team. 

Final preparations in the classroom saw the teams produce an eBook of their teams creative journey. This was exported to a movie file via Book Creator , in addition the code was saved on Scratch and incorporate the Makey - Makey. 

The important team building skills reinforced team work and resilience were evident in spades. The best groups worked to overcome difficulties and rely on their peers to help and suggest alternatives when challenges were faced. Controllers were checked and beta testing took place. 

Debugging was a central part of the task to ensure the game lived up to the expectations of the students as well as be impressive for the judges. 

Once the Secondary students had the opportunity to play the games it was evident that the students had gained a high level of skills; problem solving and creativity was being displayed. 

The end of the hours sharing resulted in three team winning prizes. But on reflection the winners were all the students who have grown in ability and have the foundation skills that could take them on to pursue occupations in the digital sector. Perhaps the experience will give the students the chance to contribute in ways they hadn't considered. They will certainly go to secondary school equipped with the relevant skills to enable them to succeed and give them options. A really satisfying way to end the year.