Digital Technologies Week 10 – Games-Based Learning 2

This week in Digital Technologies we hosted a group of primary six students from a nearby school. They had collaborated to create the village of Hogsmeade from Harry Potter in Minecraft and brought in their iPads to show us their work and teach us how to use Minecraft. I had used Minecraft previously but it was an enjoyable and interesting experience to see how the students used it as part of their learning.

An OFCOM Report (2011) showed that 85% of 5-7 year olds and 90% of 9-11 year olds regularly use a gaming device. It follows logically that the majority of students in a primary classroom will feel quite comfortable using games, and therefore that they could be a valuable resource if used correctly to support a lesson.

Bray (2012) says that games-based learning has the most transformational impact when it is combined with good learning and teaching. To me the digital leaders programme in the primary school that visited us supports this by taking the students with the most enthusiasm for technology and allowing them to bring their experience into the classroom to assist both their peers and their teacher. Bray (2012) also says that games should not just be a reward or entertainment. It was interesting to see the students using Minecraft in a practical way, by creating their own model of the village of Hogsmeade to support their class novel. This further helped with the development of ‘soft skills’ such as teamwork and collaboration that was evident when we looked at how the Nintendo Wii could be used in the classroom. In pairs, on one server, the students had to create a shop from the village of Hogsmeade aided by their reading of the novels in class, thus supporting their literacy lessons and encouraging them to work together.

Beauchamp (2012, p.9) says that it is important when using games in the classroom to make it clear the way in which we want the games to be used and I think that the activity of building Hogsmeade within Minecraft was an excellent way to achieve this. By the end of the input, it seemed clear that the students had enjoyed showing adults with minimal experience how to use Minecraft. The digital leader system implemented in the school who visited us seems to be a very useful way to teach collaborative learning skills which will serve students well in academia and beyond.

References

Beauchamp, G. (2012). ICT in the Primary School: From Pedagogy to Practice. Harlow: Pearson. p.9.

Bray, O. (2012) Playful Learning: Computer Games in Education. [Online] Available: https://www.slideshare.net/Microsofteduk/playful-learning-computer-games-in-education [Accessed 9 Apr 2018].

OFCOM (2011). Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes. [Online] Available: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0030/55479/children_and_parents.pdf [Accessed 9 Apr 2018].

Digital Technologies Week 11 – Digital Technology Enhancing Outdoor Learning

In this input of Digital Technologies, we examined how technology could be used to enhance and compliment outdoor learning through two useful apps; “Pic Collage” and “QR reader”. Through research and reflection, I have concluded that technology can help teachers structure outdoor lessons in a way allows children to explore important parts of the curriculum in a more exciting, accessible and relevant way whilst providing context and experience that may be difficult to create in a classroom setting.

The “Pic Collage” app mentioned above allows users to take and edit photographs in a variety of different styles as well to structure albums of photographs – constructing a timeline of events with captions and descriptions. In outdoor learning pupils could be encouraged to take pictures of, for example, local wild life and structure an album which demonstrates their understanding in a creative and sophisticated way. If the pupils were divided into groups creation of the albums could be a team activity which encourages the development of many additional ‘soft skills’. An interdisciplinary task such as the example above provides many links to the curriculum such as:

  • “I can explore and experiment with digital technologies and can use what I learn to support and enhance my learning in different contexts.” – (TCH 1-01a).
  • “I am learning to use language and style in a way which engages and/or influences my reader.” – (ENG 2-27a).
  • “I can extend and enhance my knowledge of digital technologies to collect, analyse ideas, relevant information and organise these in an appropriate way.” – (TCH 2-01a).
  • “I have the opportunity to choose and explore an extended range of media and technologies to create images and objects, comparing and combining them for specific tasks.” – (EXA 2-02a).
  • “I can create and present work that shows developing skill in using the visual elements and concepts.” – (EXA 2-03a).

The other app, “QR reader”, is an app designed to be used with QR codes which are essentially a more complex bar code that can store a significant amount of useful information. When scanned a QR code almost instantaneously grants access to appropriate information either stored in the code or from the internet and as such can significantly improve the learning experience. QR codes are increasingly common and can be found in for example, museum exhibits and other places of interest providing additional information which may be too lengthy for a small display can also be created and tailored to the needs of the class which ensures that the information children receive is appropriate and at a suitable level. In outdoor learning codes such as these can be created by a teacher as a sort of ‘treasure hunt’ allowing children to explore and discover information in a seemingly organic way or perhaps on a class trip to a museum a teacher may encourage pupils to use codes presented to gather additional information. As with “Pic Collage” tasks that use “QR reader” can be linked to the curriculum in many ways;

  • “ Using digital technologies responsibly I can access, retrieve and use information to support, enrich or extend learning in different contexts.” – (TCH 1-02a).
  • “I can use digital technologies to explore how to search and find information.” -(TCH 0-02a).
  • “I can create, develop and evaluate computing solutions in response to a design challenge.” – (TCH 2-15a).

    Information retrieved from QR codes by pupils could be the basis of a diverse number of tasks which could be linked to almost every part of the curriculum.

    Whilst reflecting on the use of digital technology in outdoor learning I became aware of several issues that may arise and that should be addressed to ensure that lessons of this style are successful. Firstly, there are the obvious issues with resources – classes must have enough hardware (with access to the appropriate software) to ensure that every pupil is given the opportunity to engage in the activity. Another issue, somewhat unique to outdoor learning, is the ‘wear and tear’ of technology outdoors as in my experience technology may not withstand the elements even when care is taken. A further issue is a higher risk to the children as it is more difficult to monitor the behaviour, participation and safety of pupils if they are outdoors especially if the task calls for them to be divided. However, in the “Curriculum for Excellence Through Outdoor Learning” document there is special consideration made in stating that outdoor learning can help children gain valuable “skills to assess and manage risk when making decisions,” (Scottish Executive, 2004) and perhaps this is an opportunity for teachers to share their concerns with pupils in a way that will help the pupils develop these essential ‘soft skills’ that will help them throughout academia and in the wider world.

    There is a consensus that outdoor learning “boosts student wellbeing” (Isaac, 2016) and their overall learning experience and so as I develop as a teacher I feel that I should explore possibilities to use outdoor learning along with digital technology to provide a rewarding experience for my pupils both academically and socially.

    References

Isaac, A. (2016). Tips and tricks for teachers: how outdoor learning boosts student wellbeing. [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2016/jul/17/tips-tricks-teachers-how-outdoor-learning-boosts-student-wellbeing [Accessed 3 Feb 2018].

Pratap Singh, R. (2014). Top 18 Incredible Resources On Using QR Codes in eLearning and mLearning – eLearning Industry. [online] eLearning Industry. Available at: https://elearningindustry.com/using-qr-codes-in-elearning-and-mlearning [Accessed 4 Apr 2018].

Scottish Executive (2004). Curriculum for Excellence. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.

Scottish Executive (2004). Curriculum for Excellence Through Outdoor Learning. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.

Digital Technologies Week 9 – Games Based Learning 1

In this week of Digital Technologies, we reviewed how the Nintendo Wii could be used as a stimulus for and an enhancement to, learning in a primary classroom. In the past it has been observed that the use of computer games has promoted and help develop ‘soft skills’ in primary children but more modern approaches to ‘game-based learning’ focus on how games can be used as an interactive introduction or foundation to a lesson which advances other areas of the curriculum.  These modern approaches have

Mario Kart is a game in which a varied cast of characters compete in races around equally varied tracks with the goal of gaining the most points on a league table. At first I was rather sceptical about how this game could be used to teach children anything outside of the ‘soft skills’ mentioned above. However, after reflecting on different aspects of the game I have concluded that it can be used to support many learning outcomes from across the curriculum. For example, after participating in or watching a race, pupils may be asked to design an effective ‘kart’ based on the games rules for weight and perhaps even write a short description explaining why their design is more effective than the ‘karts’ presented in the game. The activity ties into the curriculum for excellence in the following ways:

  • “ When exploring technologies in the world around me, I can use what I learn to help to design or improve my ideas or products.” – (TCH 2-01a).
  • “I can convey information, describe events, explain processes or combine ideas in different ways.” – (LIT 2-28a).

Another activity would be again to participate in or watch a race and then to write a short story as a driver or spectator. By allowing children to interact in an environment they gain a more defined insight into that environment which in turn can inform and inspire their writing:

  • “As I write for different purposes and readers, I can describe and share my experiences, expressing what they made me think about and how they made me feel.” – (ENG 2-30a).
  • “I can recreate a convincing impression of a personal experience for my reader, sharing my feelings and reactions to the changing circumstances with some attempt at reflection.” – (ENG 3-30a).
  • “I am learning to use language and style in a way which engages and/or influences my reader.” – (ENG 2-27a).

There are of course many other ways that Mario Kart can be used in a teaching environment and has been noted by many teachers as being helpful in supporting the learning of Maths – with emphasis being drawn to “averages, decimal numbers, rounding and sorting data.” (Robertson, 2012)

In reflecting on ‘game-based learning’ I have also become aware of numerous concerns that must be addressed if these activities are to be successful. When planning ‘game-based learning’ the most obvious issue would be having enough hardware to allow a class of children to participate within the planned time of the lesson as lack of engagement with the material may severely impact pupils experience – especially those forced to miss a ‘turn’ due to lack of resources. Another concern is in the extent of teacher participation as I feel a lack of direction or focus either during the activity or the assessment may devalue ‘game-based learning’ outside of the ‘soft skills’ previously mentioned. Therefore, it is important that any lessons which focus or build on ‘game-based learning’ are well planned, researched and clearly defined both for teacher and pupil to ensure that the lessons link purposefully to the wider curriculum. (Learning-Teaching Scotland, 2010)

Mario Kart is just one of many games that can be played on the Nintendo Wii and as I develop as a teacher it may be prudent to research further games on a variety of platforms to find more opportunities for ‘game-based learning’ as I feel this style of learning offers a fun, motivating, attractive and accessible way for pupils to explore the curriculum.

References

Learning-Teaching Scotland (2010). The impact of console games in the classroom. Edinburgh: Learning-Teaching Scotland.

Robertson, A. (2012). Mario Kart in the classroom: the rise of games-based learning. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/9745664/Mario-Kart-in-the-classroom-the-rise-of-games-based-learning.html [Accessed 3 Mar. 2018].

Scottish Executive (2004). Curriculum for Excellence. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.

Digital Technologies Week 8 – Mobile Devices – Easi-Speak Microphones

In this week of Digital Technologies we looked at how mobile devices could be used to enhance learning in the primary classroom. It would be easy to dismiss mobile devices as a tool in the classroom and consider them little more than a distraction. It could be argued, however, that today’s children are constantly exposed to a huge range of mobile devices from a very young age in the home and therefore the use of mobile devices in the classroom could be a helpful way to make the children more comfortable. I think it could be a very useful way to overcome hesitation in children who are far more used to, for instance, using a tablet than putting pen to paper.

It could be argued that affordability is the main issue in bringing mobile devices into the classroom. It would not be viable for most schools to buy every student an iPad, for instance, which is what I think of immediately when I consider mobile devices in the classroom. However, today we used Easi-Speak microphones to create a performance poem that would be quite at home in a literacy lesson in either key stage one or two:

“By considering the type of text I am creating, I can select ideas and relevant information, organise these in a logical sequence and use words which will be interesting and/or useful for others.” LIT 1-26a

“By considering the type of text I am crating, I can select ideas and relevant information, organise these in an appropriate way for my purpose and use suitable vocabulary for my audience.” LIT 2-26a (Scottish Executive, 2004).

We created an “I am…” poem using a template with simple instructions. We then created a PowerPoint with a slide for every line and recorded each line of the poem using the Easi-Speak microphone and then embedding these in the PowerPoint.

The Easi-Speak microphones were very simple to use, with just two buttons on the side. No cables were needed, the microphone plugs directly into the USB port of a computer and the sound files were simple to insert into the presentation.

This was a fun activity which was reasonably flexible. Some individuals in the class wrote a silly poem, others wrote something more imaginative from the perspective of a character and some wrote a poem which was slightly more personal. I think that this model of lesson involving the Easi-Speak microphones could be used for a huge variety of topics and my perception of using mobile devices in the classroom has been widened. I think that the ‘digital native’ students in the primary school classroom today would engage well with this as opposed to creating their poem on paper alone.

There is also scope in this lesson for children with their own devices to use them to make the presentation, which they may be more comfortable with. Scotland’s Children’s Parliament (2016) carried out a survey of primary school children and the results showed that the children used a huge range of mobile devices at home. There is no need to equip an entire classroom of children with a mobile device, nor to make every single lesson include technology – this could instead be detrimental to the learning. However, when the lesson lends itself to flexibility across mobile devices, I see no reason to entirely exclude the mobile devices that children are comfortable using from the primary school classroom.

 

References

Children’s Parliament (2016). A Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland: The Views of Children. [Online] http://www.childrensparliament.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/REPORT_digital-learning-consultation_Childrens-Parliament-1.pdf [Accessed: 09.03.18].

Scottish Executive (2004). Curriculum for Excellence. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.

Digital Technologies Week 4 – Coding

This week in digital Technologies I planned a lesson in which children would be asked to create their own twist on a fairy-tale using the coding app Scratch Jr. This lesson bundled literacy outcomes with technology outcomes and gave children some practical experience with coding.

To do this I had to familiarise myself with Scratch Jr., which I had never used before. I had around half an hour to get used to the app. This lesson would need to be carried out in a class with a good amount of prior experience coding using Scratch Jr. I created my own twist on the Princess and the Frog which could be used as a hook at the beginning of the lesson to help engage and inspire students. It would be important in this lesson to highlight the breadth of possibilities in this task – for instance writing the fairy tale from the perspective of the villain or sidekick. It would be important to suggest some ideas to minimise the chance of anxiety for students when attempting to create their story. The Experiences and Outcomes that would be explored in this lesson are as follows:

  • By considering the type of text I am creating, I can select ideas and relevant information, organise these in a logical sequence and use words which will be interesting and/or useful for others. LIT 1-26a
  • I can convey information, describe events, explain processes or combine ideas in different ways. LIT 2-28a
  • I can demonstrate a range of basic problem solving skills by building simple programs to carry out a given task, using an appropriate language. TCH 1-15a
  • I can create, develop and evaluate computing solutions in response to a design challenge. TCH 2-15a

(Scottish Government, 2004).

Learning to code as early as primary school is important to ensure that “that the next generation of digital natives will not just be able to consume digital content but create it.” (Curtis, 2013). Obviously, it will equip children with practical skills needed to succeed in STEM fields, but another, lesser known, benefit of learning to code is the variety of problem-solving skills it develops. Coding will give children valuable experience in breaking processes and problems down into smaller segments to be solved (Naughton, 2012).

Coding in the classroom using an application such as Scratch Jr. is a valuable way to create engaging lessons across the curriculum. It is also useful in helping to develop a number of transferable skills in problem-solving for a generation immersed in technology.

References

Curtis, S. (2013). Teaching our children to code: a quiet revolution. The Telegraph. [Online] 4th November. Available: The Telegraph. [Accessed: 8 February 2018].

Naughton, J. (2012). Why all our kids should be taught how to code. The Observer. [Online] 31st March. Available: The Guardian. [Accessed: 8 February 2018].

Scottish Executive (2004). Curriculum for Excellence. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.

Digital Technologies Week 1

I chose Digital Technologies as my optional module because it seemed clear to me that it would be a useful topic for me as I train to be a primary teacher.  I already consider myself quite competent and fairly confident using technology. A large part of the first lesson of this module involved studying the Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland. From this I learned that my comfort in using technology will benefit me in my teaching career.

In 2017, it is impossible to avoid technology and it is imperative that future generations are given the skills to use it responsibly, safely and to their advantage. In the Curriculum for Excellence, digital technology outcomes are addressed from the offset; even in the Early Years, such as the outcome TCH 0-01a which requires children to be able to “explore digital technologies and use what [they] learn to solve problems and share ideas and thoughts.” (Scottish Executive, 2004). The onus therefore is on teachers to equip children as young as three with this knowledge.

There is heavy emphasis in the Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland on not just using digital technologies in the classroom, but to use them in particular in a way that enhances learning.  A survey carried out by the Children’s Parliament of 92 children aged between eight and eleven found that digital technology helped students to engage more with learning, with the caveat that it is not over-used (Scottish Government, 2016, p. 8). This was interesting to me as it stresses the importance of using digital technology in the classroom only where it will assist the learning, and to avoid using it for its own sake. It also interested me that the children were wary of technology being over-used in the classroom, as my own instinct would be to assume that the generation this survey concerned would be most comfortable, and even happier, using technology almost constantly in their learning. I think an awareness of this in my teaching career will serve me well.

Reading this document also made me particularly aware that I will need to participate in a career-long development of my existing skills in using digital technology. One of the four main objectives of the strategy is to “develop the skills and confidence of educators in the appropriate
and effective use of digital technology to support learning and teaching.” (Scottish Government, 2016).  Another survey that was referred to in the document highlighted that a number of students aged between eleven and twenty five felt that many teachers lacked the skills to use digital technology properly. In my opinion this could not only hinder learning but also foster a lack of confidence in teachers in other areas. It is therefore essential that teachers are actively seeking to improve their skills to ensure that digital technology is used appropriately in the classroom.

To a certain extent, I consider myself a digital immigrant. I am confident utilising technology in my every day life but I do carry with me what some may refer to as a “digital immigrant accent” (Prensky, 2001, p. 2). For instance, I am far more comfortable printing something out and reading it on paper than I am reading off of a screen, which I tend to find uncomfortable and distracting.

To be an effective teacher and to integrate technology into the classroom in a way that enhances learning – in line with the Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland – it is my responsibility to be aware of these behaviours in order to ensure that they have a minimal impact on the learning that takes place under my guidance. I look forward to learning how to do this in the Digital Technologies module.

 

References

Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon. [Online] Vol. 9(5), pp.1-6. Available: https://doi.org/10.1108/10748120110424816 [Accessed 12/01/2018].

Scottish Executive (2004) Curriculum for Excellence.  Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.

Scottish Government (2016) Enhancing Teaching and Learning through the use of Digital Technology: A Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland. [Online] Available: https://beta.gov.scot/publications/enhancing-learning-teaching-through-use-digital-technology/ [Accessed: 8 January 2017].