Between now and Christmas p6 and I have decided to learn how to use 2diy to create a range of games based on the things we are learning.  It’s all very well learning to do something yourself but the real test of understanding is in how well you can teach others.  Apropos of that, we aim to take what we have learned and go teach one of our new p1 classes how to create a game of their own. I have set p6 into working pairs and they will be responsible for teaching one primary 1.

I have seen 2diy in action a fair bit and was part of a pilot project while I was working with the Consolarium and was really impressed with what I saw.  ( Education Scotland have a little bit of information on their website about the software  as well).  At the tail of end of last year I presented a wee case to our illustrious HT about how good it was and what a useful and flexible tool it could be, not just for creation but for assessment purposes too and she agreed.  What was really interesting and encouraging for me in the class was how quickly the children grasped how 2diy worked and how confidently they started exploring the tools and watching the great wee help videos, all really without me going through any kind of laboured or controlled teaching process – pretty much just pointed them at the tools and help videos, set them off and encouraged them to share what they had found with others in the class.  This week we aim to finish off our first games and get some feedback on them from the rest of the class and beyond – my aim is to upload a selection onto the class blog page and invite comment.  In hindsight the only thing I would do differently is change the save location to the shared area rather than the local machine to make it easier to get our work back.
Watch this space for progress reports.
Pretty much the bulk of my time outside of the class has been focussing on attainment, discussing class progress with teachers and looking at the larger pictures shown up by Incas and Pips results, visiting classes to join in with the learning as part of the ongoing overviews etc but that is not nearly as exciting as creating games!

Assessment and playing with words

Over the last couple of weeks I have been heavily focused on administering standardised assessments and looking at the feedback. Last year for the first time we used Incas assessment and it gave us some very interesting data about our cohorts and this information supplements the ongoing assessments undertaken by classroom teachers and feeds into our school improvement plan. This year, in line with our authority guidance, we are undertaking the assessments again with pupils from p3, p5 and p7.  By using these standardised assessments we hope to be able to add to the bank of evidence we have that shows the value we are adding to our children through the work we undertake in school.  As I wrote last time we have also decided for the first time to undertake PIPS baseline assessments with our incoming p1 classes and this information, coupled with the Incas data will, over time, provide lots of interesting data about the progress cohorts are making.  Last week we met with the p1 teachers to discuss the feedback from the baselines and after the October break I will meet with all class teachers to look at the feedback for their own class and to discuss how their classes are progressing.

Class teachers plan for assessment and begin each planning session focused on what their children need to learn and building the learning experiences around the needs of the children. As I may have written before, each of our teachers maintains a private glow blog where they share evaluations of their class progress with our illustrious HT and myself and reflect on their own practice..  These are updated fortnightly although many teachers update weekly. This blog is where we keep all the planning and observation feedback as well so there is an ongoing conversation throughout the session and beyond.

I am looking forward to the conversations with teachers and feel that the evaluation blogs staff keep and share with our illustrious HT and myself make these conversations much more meaningful and productive.   I continue to be amazed by the high quality skilled evaluations our staff make and how integral this process has become to our assessment and evaluation practice.

On a slightly different note I have stumbled across an app called Wordfoto which would make a nice wee introduction to thesaurus work or looking at synonyms.  If you are lucky enough to have an iPad available this wee app would be worth a look. Basically you add a selection of words to describe a photo and it uses these words and creates a typographical version of your photo out of them alternatively a picture paints a thousand words………

New Year New Stuff

We have been back in school for a good few weeks now and are really getting knuckled down into the term. Classes are busy and productive and children are happy and going about their business. One of the things we came back to was information from our council about a competition being run in conjunction with Sumdog. I was aware of the website but hadn’t really spent much time looking at it so decided to give it a look.  I really liked what I saw and asked around on Twitter for any other information from folks who had been using it and the feedback was very positive.
I have enrolled the whole school in time for the competition but classes have begun to use it already and the feedback from teachers and children is positive as well. In fact as I write this I have the reports open in another tab and one of our children has answered 653 questions with 85% accuracy over Saturday and Sunday! I thought for best use we should really use the reporting tool as well so took the subscription which allows us to track progress and identify areas for development.  Over the next few weeks we will get information out to parents about the website and how it might be best used to support children’s learning.

Another new thing we have taken on this year is PIPS Primary 1 baseline. Some authority colleagues have been using this for a number of years and over the course of a few conversations with them we decided to try it out.  I am a great believer that knowledge is power and feel the more information we have about children and their aptitudes and development needs the better able we are to meet those needs.  We will be meeting with the p1 staff on Tuesday to look over the data and see what we make of it…

This is what makes the job so interesting, there is always new stuff to try and improvements to be made.  We never stand still.  Every day is a school day!

PS I was having a little moan on twitter (and in real life) about the Scottish Learning Festival, and the timing of it to be precise.  Why do we have the largest most important education get together at a time when hardly anyone in the profession can go.  Supply teachers are like hen’s teeth and budgets are increasingly constrained so the chances of a class teacher getting along are practically nil.  Why not run it Friday Saturday Sunday, or later into the evening with maybe sessions running from 5pm-9pm, or over inservice days, or run smaller local events concurrently or any number of more imaginative solutions.  I tried to follow the link to GlowTV for the ministerial address and got nothing and watched 10 minutes of the word “buffering” on the live link on the website for a couple of different session before throwing my toys out the pram….

A million little jobs.

Been trying to write a blog post for weeks but other stuff keeps getting in the way.  As usual in the summer term there is a lot to do and the fact that the summer holidays are around 4 weeks way terrifies me as I have so much to do.  The standards and quality report is  drafted and submitted, our InCAS testing is complete and has raised some really interesting questions for us which I am keen to chat about with other schools who have completed them.  The Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy is still on my desk to finish and a million little jobs are working their way down my to do list.  Now that I know Glow has a 15 month extension I can also get cracking building next years Glow Groups and adding all the necessary glow parts. To be honest the best use we get out of them is the blogs and I have spoken about them many times on here so I won’t bore you any more.

One of the things we have added this year is a P7 profile. Rather than generate anything new we have simply tweaked what we already had for individual children’s blogs and that has given us a really useful and interesting format for profiling the children’s learning and a simple way for children to share it with all the necessary partners.  We have used the format created by Alex Duff, education manager at Education Scotland and he has been really helpful ironing out some issues we have had with tags.

I have had pause to think about composite classes over the last couple of days.  They are always the most difficult classes to build successfully and we really put a lot of effort into getting the social and educational balance right. We began thinking about our classes weeks ago and then  we consulted with everyone who works with  the children and used information from parents and carers as well as  what we have observed in the dining room and playgrounds.  This week our illustrious HT has been on the phone to a couple of parents to run some ideas past them before we put the final finishing touches to the classes. It saddened me to hear that there are still schools who seem to build their composite classes by considering only age.  I can’t imagine how that can offer the best opportunities for all children.

Scottish Education Awards Nomination

One of the great things about keeping a blog is how the act of writing helps collate your thoughts and line them up in a reasonably coherent manner (I hope!)  Just before the holidays we decided to make an application to the Scottish Education Awards in the Learning Through Technology category. Unfortunately we were unsuccessful in our bid and did not make the final three  but I thought it might be useful to share the nomination we made.  Here it is below.  We would love to know what you think, constructive criticism is actively sought here!

“We believe our school uses technology to support effective learning, primarily through our use of blogging but also our involvement with games based learning. All of our blogs are hosted within Glow.

Each of our 11 classes maintains a public blog, regularly updated by the pupils and teachers to share the cross curricular work of the class.
Every teacher maintains an evaluation blog which reflects on teaching and learning. These are updated fortnightly and shared with SMT.  Teacher evaluation blogs are also where feedback from observations, plans or assessment evidence is stored thus allowing a real conversation about teaching and learning within classes. These evaluation blogs will also be shared with receiving teachers as an integral part of transition information.
Our HT and DHT maintain public blogs
Our Rights Respecting School Award team maintain an evidence blog in preparation for application for RRSA
The Eco- Committee maintain a blog about the work they are doing to maintain our Green Flag status.
Primary 4-7 pupils maintain personal blogs and senior pupils extend their use by preparing eportfolios in preparation for transition to secondary school.
We use a large selection of online tools in a range of classes to extend and develop teaching and learning including Voki, Mangahigh, Domo.goanimate, Zooburst and Jamstudio
Since October 2011 our p7 class has been undertaking a pilot with Intel, Promethean and our LA on the use of 1-1 devices and how they impact on learning and attainment.  Each child in p7 has been allocated an Intel Classmate for home and school use and this has proved to be very successful and will be reported on through our Local Autority
Last session our LA added wireless to our school and allocated the school 50 netbooks and all classes have timetabled use of these netbooks which are integrated into learning and teaching.
Our youngest classes are using Zooburst as an assessment task.  In this, p1 children are creating augmented reality popup books to show their understanding of their topic and to demonstrate appropriate sentence construction.
In the middle stages all children are maintaining personal blogs which form the beginning stages of what will be their eportfolio in the senior years of primary. Our p6 and 7 teachers have recently agreed a format and are working towards completion in June 2012.
Children have personalised their blog with headers and appropriate pages, categories and tags to reflect their achievements. They are learning the technical skills of adding new posts and organising and publishing a blog while using, reinforcing and developing the literacy skills of spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Children in senior classes are also working collaboratively to create, from scratch, their own songs, writing lyrics, creating backing tracks and effects  These songs are embedded into the class blogs to share with a wider audience.
Our children are adept at creating and researching using a range of technological tools and are at home identifying and using the most appropriate tool for the job at hand.  It is particularly encouraging to see how children have identified skills in others and are happy to seek and share expertise between their peers.
As mentioned previously, each class has a public facing blog where teachers and pupils record and publish the work of the class.  In total this session we are rapidly approaching 10 000 hits.  Perhaps the most successful use of a class blog has come from when our p7 pupils went on residential trip.  Each night the class teachers updated the blog with photos and information from the day’s activities.  Parents found this useful and many left messages for their children on the blog. In the course of this week the class blog received over 2000 hits
Also as previously mentioned all our senior pupils are using the blog format to prepare an eportfolio of transition.  This will include a selection of their achievements in a range of media formats including photos, scans, vokis,animations, audio and video.  These will be available to view, through the pupil login, for a parents and carers to viewand they will be encouraged to leave comment also.
We maintain a website with a range of news, events and other information.  Currently we have recorded around 6000 visitors from all over the world.  Our parent council maintain a section within the website .
At the inception of the Intel Project noted earlier, we recognized the importance of engaging parents as supportive partners. Parents/carers and pupils were invited to an information evening introducing the project, outlining their responsibilities, and to discuss how they might best support the pupils. Parents were advised on how to use the devices safely on their home internet provision and of their responsibility to ensure the devices were used in accordance with Acceptable Use Policies and Safe Surfing guidelines.

One of our senior classes is signed up to Quadblogging this term and have been partnered with schools in America, Australia and  England and Clustrmaps on each blog and school website show readers from all over the world.
Many parents and children comment on the blogs of other classes particularly if there are siblings.

We maintain effective partnerships with our LA EDO , with Tim Hatch (UK Education Business Manager at Intel) as we work together on the 1-1 pilot with Intel Classmates.  We have a partnership with Stuart Fraser (Head of Scotland Business at Promethean Ltd), who is also supporting the 1-1 project by supplying software and support.  We are a member of a CPD community sharing practice through the CPDConsolarium wiki and with our quadblogging partners we are learning about other parts of the world the world and the way other schools use technology

We believe our approaches ensure our children embody the 4 capacities and equip them with the skills to go forward in their lives and careers with a wider appreciation of their own talents.  Our whole school community is proud of the work we do and are delighted to be able to share our successes through our blogs to a wider audience both national and international.  Knowing that people from outside the school read our blogs has helped give our children confidence that what they are undertaking is worthwhile.  Our blogs provide a range of windows through which our school ethos and achievements can be viewed”.

MarioKarting in the Early Years

Last night was our Open Night where we share the work our classes have been doing with parents and friends of the school.  As usual we had a great turnout to see Wheels and MarioKart in the Early Years, Titanic in the middle stages and Rock Band in our Senior Classes.

Two of our classes made a bid to the Consolarium to use Mario Kart and borrow some kit through the loan service.  The deal is if you join CPDConsolarium and make a kit bid and are successful, then you track your progress on the Consolarium wiki page that is set up for you.  I have just posted the video below on that wiki page but reckoned it needed a wider audience….

CPDConsolarium is a great place for Scottish teachers to get together and share the great practice that is exemplifying Curriculum for Excellence.

PS You can read the whole experience from each class on their blogs.  Primary 1 were racing here and Primary 1-2 were racing here.

New Technology tools (to us, anyway)

I see that Just2Easy is now available through Glow.  So just in case I am bored over the Easter break I can work out how we can integrate these tools in school. I reckon I’ll probably start by watching the help videos (Actually who am I kidding? I never read instructions, much prefer just to dive in and faff about for a bit!) I have been fortunate enough to have a quick play with the tools over the last couple of months though, and from what I have seen we will be able to put these tools to good use.

Another tool that has been getting a bit of use in one of our Early Years classes is 2DIY.  I was part of a trial while I was working with the Consolarium, really liked it and saw a lot of potential for its use.  I think if we can stretch the budget we will get a  lot of value from it.  Some of our p1 children are having a great time creating simple games and activities for others in their class.

We have taken advantage of the 30 day trial of 2DIY in school and when my older boy (primary 5) came back from his school with a homework challenge requiring him to create a game about FairTrade, my thoughts turned to 2DIY; his thoughts turned to a sheet of paper and some felt tips but ………  I knew that some of the Purplemash tools were available through Glow so off we headed for a look.

We found 2DIY 3D and within a few minutes he had mastered the skills and very quickly had created a simple 3d maze game collecting fairtrade products and avoiding products that weren’t.  He was absolutely delighted with what he had created and spent the rest of the afternoon creating other games.  It is such a simple but effective tool with a very shallow learning curve. I would definitely recommend it.

Scottish Education Awards

The closing date for the Scottish Education Awards is Friday next week (2nd March) and I have been working on a nomination for our school.  Hopefully I should be able to get the finishing touches to the nomination completed tomorrow and then fingers crossed.  As I have been working through the nomination every class and child is mentioned for a range of the great work they undertake within the school.  It sometimes is worth a bit of a step back to observe  how far you have come and how well everyone is doing.

The Doors of Perception

One of the classes undertaking the Rock Band topic is planning to take their band on tour to France and were scouring the net for an appropriate venue in Paris.  Their teacher was helping them plan routes round Paris when I walked in and we ended up discussing some of the sights and tourist venues of Paris.  I suggested they could go to Pere Lachaise and pay homage at the grave of a true rock star.  I was met with blank looks.   In a roundabout way I tried to give them clues as to who I was talking about

He used to sing with the Doors, his first name is short for James and his second name is the same as the supermarket along the road from us

“Is it Jim Asda?” was the reply………..

Perception is something that I have been thinking about recently.  Our illustrious HT has been meeting with some of our nursery parents recently and my name came up in conversation.  The family was suggesting that their child perceived me as a scarey character and they were surprised when they saw my picture on the staff board as I looked like such a nice man. I am pleased to say that the family were relieved when our HT jumped to my defence! I am aware that sometimes in school my name is invoked as a threat and this alters perceptions of what I am really like and how difficult it is sometimes to separate the role from the person.  I’m sure as teachers this is something we are all aware of and how hard we work to ensure that the perception of ourselves is accurate but how that is sometimes outwith our control.

Who to believe? I think it is human nature to share complaints rather than praise, forget all that has gone well and focus on the thing that causes displeasure or upset.  How quickly rumours grow arms and legs  is something our illustrious HT is discussing on her blog this week and it gibes well with a story that was reported on radio this morning about the veracity of some of the reports on TripAdvisor.  The firms owners have had to rewrite their marketing to remove the claim that it contains “reviews you can trust”  I then opened my virtual newspaper to be met with a gentleman claiming 5000 heads in England are not up to standard and that Ofsted will be stripping out “Ofsted-speak” and replacing it with “blunt” comment and from there I was led to the odious Parent View website.  It’s all about perception isn’t it?

A question; when was the last time you wrote to complain? And when was the last time you wrote to praise………..

Quadblogging Guitar Heroes

This is shaping up to be a busy and exciting term.  Senior classes are taking on a Guitar Hero project, an old favourite of the Consolarium and run to great effect by Gavinburn Primary School, and others, over the last few years.  All 3 of our teachers who are involved were able to visit Gavinburn last term and chat with their HT Gillian Penny and meet colleagues who have been running “Band in a Box” for a number of years and get the benefit of their experience.  At the start of the week  I Walked into a class as bands were being formed and I have got myself involved in teaching groups over the coming term looking at software such as Jamstudio, Audacity and Moviemaker.

We had our first go at using Jamstudio to create a backing track for a cover version; each newly formed band had a go and I’ve embedded a couple below.

charlotte leah

Bailey Bobby

The next stage is to import our backing track into Audacity, add vocals over the top and change effects, add backing tracks etc and mix the whole lot down into one track.  This track will then have a video built over it using Windows moviemaker – that’s the plan anyway.  Then using the skills they have learned each group will be creating a range of songs of their own.

Our p7 class has also signed up to Quadblogging this term and are linking with schools from all over the world. I know they are enjoying commenting on the blogs of other school and are spectacularly excited about hearing what other readers think of their blog , I also know that their teacher is probably more excited than any of the pupils….

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