Week 11 – Final Destination.

So, eleven weeks later and I’m back, in the Mac lab, which is no longer one of my least favourite destinations!

It’s been a journey like any other. There have been highs and lows, good times and not so good times. However, I can say absolutely that I finish this journey significantly stronger and more confident than when I started, and I am very pleased with what I have achieved.

When I set off I was an apprehensive and avoidant Digital Tourist, with more than a hint of Cyberostrich (Jarvis, 2015). Now, I am still a Digital Tourist but I’m no longer so apprehensive or avoidant, and my grasp of the language is much better! With the unwavering support (and tolerance) of my Cyberlemming (Jarvis, 2015) classmates I have developed skills and confidences which I would not have previously thought possible. I’m still no techno whizz-kid but I feel far more confident about taking my skills out into the classroom now than I did before. My new levels of confidence make me determined to carry on improving my skills and researching ways in which I can use digital technologies to enhance learning; both mine and other people’s.

Collaborative working has been a real benefit on this journey. It has made learning fun, enjoyable and memorable; much as we would like to replicate in the classroom. Using our individual strengths in teamwork has allowed us to produce some work of which I am very proud.  Gathering knowledge from, and with the support of others, both Digitally Native and Digitally Immigrant (Prensky, 2001), I have seen that my skills “comfort zone” can easily be included in the use of Digital Technologies. Who knew I could ever be part of something which can be found on YouTube? I even know how to put things on to my own YouTube channel now (even if I did need help to set it up)!

I brought my creative strengths to the projects and I was able to learn and develop from the individual strengths of my team-mates. Interacting with the work produced by other teams and taking on board their feedback on our work was also very valuable. However, I appreciate that we were very lucky to work effectively as a team without the sort of vying for Position which will be expected when working with a Primary Class. I can reflect on the tasks we undertook and identify where it is likely that problems would occur if the same task were being undertaken by children and I will take that knowledge forward when planning any digital technologies activities with a class.

This module has also taught me the importance of Planning and how it is essential that any input in planning is proportionate to the volume of outcome expected. I have identified that my creative side is very much my driver; it wants everything produced perfectly and to maximum effect. I take pride in producing quality work and would like to encourage children to take pride in their work too, but I recognise that striving for perfection can turn a simple task into a monster event. I need to learn to rein in my desire to include everything and accept that pared down versions are just as acceptable if they meet the target and enhance learning.

So… where to next?

I have really enjoyed completing the Digital Technology module and am full of ideas of how I can take my new knowledge forward. I am keen to spend my free time between BA1 and BA2 refining and developing my new skills and adding more if possible. I want to do more reading and find out more ways in which I can incorporate digital technologies into practice. I am keen to be the sort of teacher the Scottish Government (2016) identifies is essential in providing a comprehensive education in the modern age. The continuing development of my digital technology skills will enable me to meet that requirement. I am very much looking forward to developing my own ideas for using digital technologies across the curriculum and taking those ideas forward into practice in BA2.

And finally…

I cannot end this blog without acknowledging the help I have received in operating the technology to produce it. My classmates have not only been fantastic team-mates throughout the Digital Technologies module, but they have been endlessly supportive of my struggle to get to grips with using Glow (I can do it now… but I still don’t like it!). Their input has been invaluable, and I hope I am lucky enough to meet colleagues in further practice as supportive as they have been.

References

  1. Jarvis, M. (2015) Brilliant Ideas for Using ICT in the Classroom: A very practical guide for teachers and lecturers. Oxon: Routledge.
  2. Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon. [Online] Vol.9 (No. 5). Available: https://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf.
  3. Scottish Government (2016) Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through the Use of Digital Technology: A Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland. Edinburgh: Scottish Government [Online] Available: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0050/00505855.pdf [Accessed: 18th March 2019]

 

Week 10 – QR Codes: A little bit of Outdoor Learning and a side order of Time Management.

This week’s stop on the journey sees digital technology meet Outdoor Learning.

QR codes are a practical way of providing lots of information without lots of volume of resources. They can be utilised in many ways to provide access to information and instruction. They are a handy link between the traditional and the digital demonstrating how the two principles can be effectively combined. QR codes can link to information in written, audio and visual forms and can also be used as a quick way to provide links to web-based resources. The latter may be particularly effective when introducing younger children to the principle of using Digital Technologies to access the Internet. Younger children often struggle to input long lines of text and using a QR code could provide a valuable time-saving element allowing for further time to be spent on learning. While QR codes are undoubtedly useful in the classroom they also have a place in Outdoor Learning.

Cremin and Burnett (2018) propose that including the outdoor environment in learning offers an enhanced and enriched experience. Indeed, Education Scotland (2010) concurs, stating that Curriculum for Excellence strives to include Outdoor Learning for positive attributes it brings to the education of the child as a whole. Engaging with the natural and built environments around them children can experience the curriculum in a variety of new and exciting ways. Not only are the physical and mental benefits of a healthy lifestyle promoted (Thirlaway and Upton, 2009) but children also experience cognitive challenges in the form of assessing and managing risk and problem-solving. Working collaboratively to address challenges leads to the development of relationships and encourages children to test their own abilities. Using QR codes and technology in outdoor learning allows children to interact with the curriculum on a whole new level and in turn allows them to influence and shape their own learning.

I have been very lucky in my time in School to experience a good deal of Outdoor Learning. One of my happiest experiences was inventing a maths challenge for a group of Primary 3 children using old car tyres (which is probably a complete Health & Safety no-no!). The children were estimating height but were not particularly engaged with the prescribed task. Thinking on my feet I introduced a new element: “Guess how many tyres high you are.” The children were able to estimate if their height was over a metre, identify that the width of a tyre was less than a meter and subsequently estimate how many tyres would be the same height as them. The tyres were included in the playground as part of a programme to increase physical activity and learning through play, so I just decided to use them. OK, at this point I’ll admit that most teachers probably wouldn’t have put the children inside the tyres and stacked them up, but it was a HIT! I had a long line of very excited learners desperate to try out their stack and see if they were right. The learning was enhanced!

With this experience to contribute to the group discussion, we set about working out what we could do.

So, what did we come up with?

This one was hard. We hit wall after wall after wall in trying to decide how we could utilise QR codes effectively in a task which we also had time to complete. We could see clearly how the QR codes could be utilised in scenarios where links to information would be required such as Posters, Book Reviews inside book covers, Classroom displays, or where easier to access links to Internet-based information are required. Seeing a physical activity which wasn’t basically just a Treasure Hunt, really stumped us and, inevitably, we spent too much of our time debating instead of producing. Had we had longer to produce something more complex I think we would have all been happier but therein lies a lesson we all, as a group, need to learn.

We decided it was likely that lots of other groups would opt for the Treasure Hunt choice, so we took the joint decision to be a bit different. As the weather was less than Outdoor Learning friendly, we decided to construct an activity which could be done inside. However, on reflection, I think it’s clear that we pretty much ignored the “active” part of “activity” and went for a more problem-solving based exercise. We chose to target our task at First Level children with a focus on Numeracy.

We opted to reintroduce our previous character from “Week 6 – iMovie… and some sage advice on internet safety.” “Grantus Maximus” in fusion with the shopping task from “Week 2 – Bee-Bot and Beyond”. This time Grantus, very much in the spirit of Chef Bee-Bot, is hosting a party and needs to get some things from the shops. After viewing what is required for the party the participant chooses from a collection of items, scanning the QR code attached to each to see if they have associated price. At the end, the participant adds up the prices of the items they have selected and scans a QR code to see if they are correct.

We considered that this task would meet the following E&Os:

MNU 1-20a:I have explored a variety of ways in which data is presented and can ask and answer questions about the information it contains.
TCH 1-02a: “Using digital technologies responsibly I can access retrieve and use information to support, enrich or extend learning in different contexts.
EXA 1-04a:I can create a range of visual information through observing and recording from my experiences across the curriculum.

Our completed task was given to another group while we put our coats on and went off to do a treasure hunt given to us by them. Windswept and more than bit damp we returned to find out that the group we swapped with had enjoyed the presentation of our task but had managed to complete it in a matter of seconds! Here comes the lesson: Time Management.

A recurrent theme in our group-work has been that we all share a desire to produce high-quality output and lots of it. In this instance, we went all out on the content without stopping to consider the outcome. We put our own achievement before the learning and we were wrong. As Dunn (2017, pg. 19) attests: “It’s quality, not quantity that counts. It’s how you deliver your lesson… and the outcomes that are most important.” We invested a significant amount of time producing a very small end product which is not an effective strategy as we move forward to meet the Standards for Registration (GTCS, 2012) with the GTCS but is a valuable learning point to add to the other experiences we have gained throughout the Digital Technologies Module.

Thinking back…

While we were having our discussion about how best to construct our activity I was struck by a thought: QR codes could be incorporated with the Bee-Bot activity I invented in “Week 2 – Bee-Bot and Beyond”. While the task is designed so that the pricing calculations can be altered to meet the needs of the learner, there is definitely potential to incorporate QR codes as an additional element. Modern children are used to the concept of “scanning” items when shopping and the QR codes works and looks, very similar to the barcodes children see every day. Rather than producing instructions using environmentally impactful resources such as paper, laminating pouches and printer ink, the same information could be accessed, in the same presentation format, via a mobile device such as a tablet. As tempting as it is to rush off and start production of a whole new version of that resource, I am mindful that the addition of QR codes, while fun, must provide an enhancement to the learning and that I must avoid getting carried away with the novelty factor. I think this is something I will explore further over the transition period to BA2.

And thinking forward…

Considering what I have learnt during the Digital Technologies Module, I think I have made steps towards achieving the following requirements of the GTCS Standards for Registration:

  • 2.1.4 “Have knowledge and understanding of contexts for learning to fulfil their responsibilities in literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing and interdisciplinary learning.”

Know how to promote and support the cognitive, emotional, social and physical wellbeing of all learners in their care and show commitment to raising these learners’ expectations of themselves.

Have knowledge and understanding of current guidance on the use of digital technologies in schools and know how to use digital technologies to enhance teaching and learning.

  • 2.3.2 “Have knowledge and understanding of the importance of research and engagement in professional enquiry.”

Know how to access and apply relevant findings from educational research.

  • 3.1.1 “Plan coherent, progressive and stimulating teaching programmes which match learners’ needs and abilities.”

Plan appropriately for effective teaching and in order to meet the needs of all learners, including learning in literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing and skills for learning, life and work.

  • 3.1.2 “Communicate effectively and interact productively with learners, individually and collectively.”

Use communication methods, including a variety of media, to promote and develop positive relationships and to motivate and sustain the interest of all learners.

Reflect on the impact of their personal method of communication on learners and others in the classroom.

  • 3.1.3 “Employ a range of teaching strategies and resources to meet the needs and abilities of learners.”

Demonstrate that they can select creative and imaginative strategies for teaching and learning appropriate to learners as individuals, groups or classes.

Demonstrate that they can select and use a wide variety of resources and teaching approaches, including digital technologies and outdoor learning opportunities;

3.4.1 “Read and critically engage with professional literature, educational research and policy.

Read and analyse a range of appropriate educational and research literature.

Use what they have learned from reading and research to challenge and inform practice. 

  • 3.4.2Engage in reflective practice to develop and advance career-long professional learning and expertise.

Reflect and engage in self-evaluation using the relevant professional standard.

Adopt an enquiring approach to their professional practice and engage.

And finally…

So that’s us, the journey is almost over. It’s annoying that the last stop wasn’t as good as some of the others, but the learning is equally as valuable. I will add this knowledge to the album with all the rest and keep it for reflection.

References

  1. Cremin, T. and Burnett, C. (eds.) (2018) Learning to Teach in the Primary School. 4th Oxon: Routledge.
  2. Dunn, D. (2017) How to be an Outstanding Primary School Teacher. London: Bloomsbury.
  3. Education Scotland. (2010) Curriculum for Excellence Through Outdoor Learning. [Online] Available: https://education.gov.scot/Documents/cfe-through-outdoor-learning.pdf [Accessed: 14 March 2019]
  4. The General Teaching Council for Scotland. (2012) The Standards for Registration: mandatory requirements for Registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland. GTC Scotland: Edinburgh.
  5. Thirlaway, K and Upton, D. (2009) The Psychology of Lifestyle: Promoting Healthy Behaviour. Oxon: Routledge.

 

Week 9 – Minecraft Education.

This week combines education with a Digital Technology I am more than familiar with – Minecraft.

As a parent of children across the spectrum of ages, I am very much aware of how big a part gaming plays in modern lives. As previously discussed in “Week 3 – ActivInspire: frustratingly uninspiring.” and “Week 4 – Exploring Coding with ScratchJr (and thinking about the Attainment Gap) the inclusion of multimodal texts and the “gamification” of learning are now regular features of modern education. Incorporating the positive aspects of “gaming” with which children are familiar encourages them to engage with learning and develop a host of skills both personal and educational. Problem- solving elements allow children to learn from instant feedback (World Government Summit, 2016) and this type of interaction allows for easy inclusion in creative activities.

Without a doubt, the most enduring game I have experienced is “Minecraft”. Unlike many other games where there is a beginning, an ending and a prescribed story to follow, “Minecraft” is an endless world of infinite possibilities. There are elements of traditional gaming possible however those can be removed, and the experience can become solely one of development, incorporating many aspects of the curriculum. Launched in 2011 it has become a global phenomenon, appealing to both children and adults and its adaptation for educational purposes saw its inclusion across the curriculum, encompassing subjects such history and languages as well as those which may more traditionally be associated with gaming; such as coding (Marsh and Spiller, 2015). Incorporating the curriculum with media such as Minecraft means that lessons are no longer lessons as we know them; they are now Quests. No longer need children be switched off and “bored” by single-subject learning (Corbett, 2010). The curriculum can be interwoven to produce learning and development the student doesn’t even know is happening. As Corbett (2010, pg. 3) suggests: “What if, instead of seeing school the way we’ve known it, we saw it for what our children dreamed it might be: a big, delicious video game?

The video below offers a good insight into how Minecraft can be utilised in learning.

So, what did we do with Minecraft?

I am very familiar with Minecraft. Well, I’m very familiar with hearing all about Minecraft and making encouraging parental noises at what my children produce using Minecraft! My 15-year-old son has his eyes set on a career in Architecture and Minecraft is a valuable tool in helping him develop his design skills. I can manage the very basic principles of operating Minecraft, but the more complex structures require learning the concepts of “Crafting”. Unfortunately, this is where I revert to my “Lost Tourist” status. While this is an issue for me, I do not think it would necessarily be so for children who meet Prensky’s definition of being “Digital Natives” (Prensky, 2001). In my experience, modern children pick up the methods necessary for operating digital games almost intuitively. Indeed, Gee (2007) notes that those who interact with games often do so without first consulting any instruction, they simply learn through interaction. He further suggests that this can be compared to traditional learning where students require a visual and practical context before written information makes sense. I can certainly identify with that statement as I have found similar difficulties when engaging with prescribed “pre-reading” for course subjects. I much prefer to evaluate information after I have had practical input and find learning more effective using this method.

As I did not particularly find the practical use of Minecraft easy or sufficiently engaging I chose instead to focus on the ways in which it could be utilised in learning. Identifying appealing cross-curricular scenarios in which Minecraft could be incorporated. In group discussion, we again identified that there was potential for Minecraft to be used in topic work e.g. “Design you own Egyptian Tomb.” Or “Build your Dream Home.” One group member produced a mind-map, taking note of all our discussion interactions and points. We used the mind map to evaluate our findings and set about producing the type of planning document we will go on to use in further Placement experience.

  • EXA 2-03a:I can create and present work that shows developing skill in using the visual elements and concepts.
  • EXA 2-05a:Inspired by a range of stimuli, I can express and communicate my ideas, thoughts and feelings through activities within art and design.
  • EXA 2-06a:I can develop and communicate my ideas, demonstrating imagination and presenting at least one possible solution to a design problem.
  • MNU 2-11a:I can use my knowledge of the size of familiar objects or places to assist me when making an estimate of measure.
  • LIT 2-09a:When listening and talking with others I can:
    • Share information, experiences and opinions.
    • Explain processes and ideas.
    • Identify issues raised and summarise main points or findings.
    • Clarify points by asking questions or asking others to say more.
  • SOC 2-10a:Having explored my local area, I can present information on different places to live, work and relax and interesting places to visit.
  • TCH 2-09a:I can extend and enhance my design skills to solve problems and can construct models.
  • TCH 2-10a:I can recognise basic properties and uses for a variety of materials and can discuss which ones are most suitable for a given task.

And finally…

It has been good, this week, to work on a topic which I can relate to on both a personal and professional level. As a mother, I know how the use of Minecraft influences my own children’s lives and future aims and as a student teacher, I can see how useful it can be in education. A more reflective than practical stop on the journey but equally as valuable.

References

  1. Corbett, S. (2010) Learning by Playing: Video Games in the Classroom. [Online] Available: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/19/magazine/19video-t.html [Accessed 7 March 2019].
  2. Gee, J. P. (2007) What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  3. Marsh, S. and Spiller, L. (2015) Three ways to use Minecraft imaginatively in the classroom. [Online] Available: https://www.theguardian.com/global/2015/apr/07/three-ways-minecraft-classroom [Accessed: 7 March 2019].
  4. Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon. [Online] Vol.9 (No. 5). Available: https://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf [Accessed: 7 March 2019].
  5. World Government Summit (2016) Gamification and the Future of Education. [Online] Available: https://www.worldgovernmentsummit.org/api/publications/document?id=2b0d6ac4-e97c-6578-b2f8-ff0000a7ddb6 [Accessed: 7 March 2019].

Week 8 – Everything is… awesome? (Animation: Part 2)

This week we created our animated masterpiece.

We spent the week preparing our individual contributions and all we had to do was quickly put them together. Or that’s what we thought, anyway! We sorely under-estimated how long it would take to compile the finished animation and as a result, we were unable to include all the elements of learning we wanted to. We had originally intended to include three fraction-based problems for the viewer to solve but we would, realistically, have required the whole day to film. The length of time taken is a point seconded by both Jarvis (2015) and Moving Image Education (2019) and one on which we must reflect for further success.

The Moving Image Education website offered a lot of information about using cut-out animation and we took those points on board. We created a number of different settings which could be filmed independently of each other and which allowed for filming to carry on while scenes were adjusted. Fixing elements which would remain static stopped things from moving in the environment, but it also prevented any adjustment to how we wished to present things. Re-arranging the features was quick and fun and as we did not require a super-polished professional result we were happy enough to accept the inevitable jerkiness of some movements.

Luckily, with our previous experience using iMovie, we were able to edit the animation relatively quickly. Our “voice talent” team-member has the experience of working as a professional Actor so was able to record his contribution off the top of his head, with no errors. I appreciate though that achieving the same thing with children is unlikely and would require more time spent creating a readable script. Another team member has experience of professional media production which helped us to achieve our aims effectively. Again, working with children this is likely to take much longer. My own lack of experience in this area, and apprehension is something Beauchamp (2012) identifies as a potential barrier to successful learning and something which I am determined to be conscious of in my future practice.

Recording the voice-over.

 So, how did it go?

Having created the animation with the target of First Level, I have considered that the following E&Os could be met:

  • MNU 1-07c:Through taking part in practical activities including use of pictorial representations, I can demonstrate my understanding of simple fractions which are equivalent.
  • EXA 1-02a:I have the opportunity to choose and explore a range of media and technologies to create images and objects, discovering their effects and suitability for specific tasks.
  • EXA 1-04a:I can create a range of visual information through observing and recording from my experiences across the curriculum.
  • TCH 1-09a:I can design and construct models and explain my solutions.

And finally…

I absolutely loved this animation project. It was great to work, again, with a fabulous team. I loved the traditional creativity element of the design and the incorporation of maths in the story. It was a valuable learning process which I would very much like to take on in the classroom. I feel that this type of project would be a big hit with children and could be accomplished as a planned project over a number of weeks. Having learnt from our own experience how long it takes to do I feel better prepared to take on the planning which would be required for completing this sort of task with a group of children. Making learning fun and engaging is important and I feel that this project has ticked both those boxes.

References

  1. Beauchamp, G. (2012) ICT in Primary School from Pedagogy to Practice. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.
  2. Education Scotland (2019) Curriculum for Excellence. [Online] Available: https://education.gov.scot/Documents/All-experiencesoutcomes18.pdf [Accessed: 28 February 2019].
  3. Jarvis, M. (2015) Brilliant Ideas for Using ICT in the Classroom: A very practical guide for teachers and lecturers. Oxon: Routledge.
  4. Moving Image Education (2019) [Online] Available: Moving Image Education website: [Online] https://movingimageeducation.org/create-films/animation [Accessed: 21 February 2019].

Week 7 – Everything is… awesome? (Animation: Part 1)

This week we’re going to use our new found movie-making skills to find out about the art of animation.

Animation is a long and slow process which requires planning, space and logistics. While it is very heavily consuming of time (Jarvis, 2015) it has the potential to engage children well and promote learning across the curriculum. As a fairly large task to undertake it requires planning to ensure that all learners are involved, effectively engaged and contributing equally. Children with ASN are an everyday part of life in a mainstream Primary School and it is essential that their needs be included in learning intentions. The strength and surety of planning and the rapidity of outcome and success can be suggested to make participation in Animation a positive learning experience for those with ASN (Korsgaard and Voldberg, 2017). Positive classroom experiences are vital in promoting self-esteem and inclusion in all learners (Beauchamp, 2012).

Animation can happen in numerous ways, including a range of different media. Using Digital Technologies as a mode of production does not mean it has to be constructed solely using those Technologies. I am a very big fan of traditional art and craft and multimodal texts can be produced wonderfully using children’s creative imaginations and own constructions. Having viewed some particularly effective animation using simple cut-out materials we opted to use that same technique in our own animation.

Having a play…

Before getting started on this week’s task we first had a go at doing some animation on our own. First using the Puppet Pals app then the iStopMotion app.

Puppet Pals is easy to use but quite limited in its scope. The user can select from a range of characters and scenery and use the app features to make their own story. However, the features of the app are limited without paying to upgrade to a premium version. The could be successfully utilised by younger children where a quicker interaction is desirable but it would not hold the attention of an older child for very long.

iStopMotion is a user-friendly app which allows the user to quickly produce an animation result without any intensive training. All you need is a classmate who knows you’re going to say, “I can’t work this” and you’re good to go! After some brief instruction even I was able to produce a short animated clip from which I managed to deduce that:

  1. Animation takes a really long time to produce a very short output.
  2. Nothing stays where it is supposed to.
  3. Trying to produce a stop motion animation on your own is really hard.
  4. It’s a steep learning curve.
  5. You need to plan.
  6. Helping other people to achieve their desired animation outcome is lots of fun, even if it does end up a bit like a game of Twister!

Planning our next masterpiece…

The first question we asked ourselves was “What are we going do?” After lots of batting ideas backwards and forwards and refining, we settled on producing an animation, based on a known story, with a maths-based focus. Hence “Little Red’s Fraction Footpath” was born. Based on the story of “Red Riding Hood”, we decided to add a fraction-based problem-solving element.

Our second question was “How are we going to do it?” We decided to opt for the cut-out animation method we had seen in class as it was easy to do and produced a quick and effective result (Moving Image Education, 2019). We decided to opt for the cut-out animation method we had seen in class as it was easy to do and produced and quick and effective result. We opted to combine this with another effective element which is very recognisable in the field of animation – Lego. Not only is Lego one of my favourite things ever but it is also a great way of demonstrating fractions. So, our fraction puzzles would be constructed from Lego.

Our third question was “What are we going to use to make it?”. Having found our video production so successful in “Week 6 – iMovie and some sage advice about internet safety” we decided to use the same tools again. We would shoot our animation using the iPhone XR and edit it into a finished product using the iMovie programme.

Thinking forward to Part 2…

We’ve all got our allocated jobs and we know what it is we want to produce. Now we just need to put it all together and see what we come up with. Very much looking forward to next week’s stop on the journey!

References

  1. Beauchamp, G. (2012) ICT in Primary School from Pedagogy to Practice. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.
  2. Jarvis, M. (2015) Brilliant Ideas for Using ICT in the Classroom: A very practical guide for teachers and lecturers. Oxon: Routledge.
  3. Korsgaard Sorensen, E. and Voldborg Andersen, A. (2017) Strengthening inclusion of learners with attention difficulties through interventions with digital technology in process of production. European Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning. [Online] Vol. 20(1), pp.45-53. Available: https://doi.org/10.1515/eurodl-2017-0003 [Accessed: 21 February 2019].
  4. Moving Image Education (2019) [Online] Available: Moving Image Education website: [Online] https://movingimageeducation.org/create-films/animation [Accessed: 21 February 2019].

Week 6 – iMovie… and some sage advice on internet safety.

 

This week we’re thinking about e-safety and it’s “Lights”… “Camera”… “Action”: we’re making a movie!

In “Week 4 – Exploring Coding with ScratchJr (and thinking about the attainment gap)”, I discussed the idea that modern children need to know not only how to practically operate technology but to understand how it works. Expanding on that point it is also vital that children are educated to understand the wider reaching implications and potential impacts of using digital technology. Never has human communication been so easy and so globally accessible. Modern humans use digital technologies to enable self-expression (Shtepura, 2018) with the rise of social media platforms being the most notable and currently influential. Porter (2004) proposed that “digital storytelling” would be seen in the future via the mediums of text, sound, video, music, animation and digital imagery. Fifteen years later and society (particularly children, teenagers and young adults) is immersed in the phenomenon of “YouTubers” and “Social Media Influencers”. These people really are Prensky’s “Digital Natives”; they have lived their lives with this element of social communication and social pressure which did not affect previous generations.

While children are so drawn to, and influenced by interacting with digital technologies, and particularly Social Media, it must be considered an essential part of education that they learn how to conduct their interactions safely. Cranmer et al (2009, p140) state that policy in school should focus on the “meaningful and grounded elements of children’s everyday ICT experiences.” However, Beauchamp (2012) proposes that it is necessary to look further and consider the lives of children in their home environment as well as in school. As educators, Beauchamp suggests that teaching e-safety should not be about placing arbitrary restrictions on technology but instead about teaching children how to be responsible for their own interactions. The importance of this is supported by Becta (2007, p.9) “…children engage with technology at an ever-younger age, and their knowledge and use of technological services, tools and devices can quickly outstrip that of their parents, carers and teachers.” Becta (2010, p.4) defines this concept of learning as “digital literacy” which consists of a combination of “functional technology skills; critical thinking; collaboration skills and social awareness.” Simpson and Toyn (2012, p.82) clarify this by stating that digital literacy is the skill of being able to evaluate appropriate ways in which to use ICT, how to work collaboratively, how to gather, evaluate and present information and how to use online media “…in a safe and sensible manner…”.

 

With this information in mind, working as a team, we opted to address this week’s task via the form of a YouTube video. As two members of the team can attest through their experience as parents, YouTube is a phenomenally successful platform in engaging young people. As such we decided that not only would this make it a good method of delivering our message but that it would also engage children as an activity in the classroom (GDPR constraints allowing). We invented our own “YouTuber”, “Grantus Maximus”, to make our video both identifiable and relevant to our chosen audience: Second Level. We opted to aim our message at Second Level children as those children are at the age where they are less likely to have parental supervision of time spent online; more likely to have their own mobile technology and more likely to be actively engaged with the concept of “Social Media Influencers”. We also considered that the “to the point” nature of our parting message was better suited to slightly older children.

Luckily our team contained a range of abilities and skills which allowed us to work well and efficiently together. Experience in the fields of acting, theatre production, screenwriting, and video editing made our team strong and capable without external input. However, had I had to attempt this task on my own it would have been a completely different matter. Reflecting on this I can see that for this project to be achieved successfully in the classroom extensive planning and organisation would be required. It is very unlikely that teams of school children would manage to co-operate as effectively as we did, and they would also require assistance with skills like formulating a script and managing the practicalities of filming. Despite these potential complications, it is still a project I would like to undertake as I can see how keen children would be to engage to enhance their learning using multimodal context to share their message, a theory supported by Jones and Hafner (2012).

Teamwork makes the dream work!

Thanks to the technical know-how and acting abilities of our team we were able to complete the first part of the task timeously. We decided that as we were unable to access professional studio lighting and sound set-ups that professional YouTubers often use in producing their videos, we would instead use a technology which could be available to children making their own videos. The iPhone XR contains video making software which allows the subject to be placed in a variety of settings. We decided that this would add an engaging and fun element to our video. This provides another aspect to consider if attempting this project with a group. It is very unlikely that professional video recording equipment would be available, but children’s imagination is limitless and can be utilised to great effect to produce engaging content.

 

The “drag and drop” interface of iMovie makes it relatively simple to use.
Creating a YouTube Star of our own was a good way to make our video relatable.
Sometimes, conveying the message in straightforward language is needed.

Editing the footage into our final video took the longest time. Thankfully one of our team is proficient in using the iMovie software so was able to take charge and instruct the rest of us as required. It was good to see the programme demonstrated by a capable tutor as I am very aware of my own limitations in interacting with this type of technology (particularly on an Apple platform). The drag and drop interface made the programme quite user-friendly and before long we had our finished product, of which we were all very proud!

So, how did it go?

The “Top Tips” nature of our message conveys information in a concise and child-friendly manner; encouraging individual responsibility while also reinforcing the idea that Adults and outside agencies exist to help. On reflection, I feel we should have included more specific information on outside agencies rather than just giving a quick mention to Childline. We consulted online resources to ensure our “Top Tips” were accurate and relevant so it seems a strange oversight not to have made more of this element of information. As Dunn (2017) agrees, the likelihood is that children will experience something inappropriate or upsetting through their use of digital technologies and they need to be as well-equipped as possible when navigating their way through their own digital journey.

Having considered this task as appropriate for Second Level Children, I decided the following E&Os would be appropriate:

  • HWB 2-03a:I understand that there are people I can talk to  and that there are a number of ways in which I can gain access to practical and emotional support to help me and others in a range of circumstances.
  • HWB 2-11a:I make full use of and value the opportunities I am given to improve and manage my learning and, in turn, I can help to encourage learning and confidence in others.
  • HWB 2-12a:Representing my class, school and/or wider community encourages my self-worth and confidence and allows me to contribute to and participate in society.
  • HWB 2-13a:Through contributing my views, time and talents, I play a part in bringing about positive change in my school and wider community.
  • HWB 2-16a:I am learning to assess and manage risk, to protect myself and others, and to reduce the potential for harm when possible.
  • HWB 2-17a:I know and can demonstrate how to keep myself and others safe and how to respond in a range of emergency situations.
  • EXA 2-01a:I have experienced the energy and excitement of presenting/ performing for audiences and being part of an audience for other people’s presentations/performances.
  • EXA 2-03a:I can create and present work that shows developing skill in using the visual elements and components.
  • LIT 2-06a:I can select ideas and relevant information, organise these in an appropriate way for my purpose and use suitable vocabulary for my audience.
  • LIT2-26a:By considering the type of text I am creating, I can select ideas and relevant information, organise these in an appropriate way for my purpose and use suitable vocabulary for my audience.

And finally…

This week has been without a doubt my favourite stop on the journey. As a parent of teenaged children, I felt particularly able to relate to the topic. I have had a great experience working with my team and learning new skills. I am very proud of what we managed to produce! I can see that this would be a very successful way of working with children and that they would be really keen to engage, although it would require extensive planning and people-management skills. I think this would be a great way of presenting information to a whole school or as a presentation which could be shared with parents and the wider community, strengthening social links. I am glad to have strenghtened my capabilities in using and evaluating the use of digital technologies and I am keen to move forward to next week’s stop on the journey.

References

  1. Beauchamp, G. (2012) ICT in Primary School from Pedagogy to Practice. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.
  2. Becta (2007) Signposts to safety: Teaching e-safety at Key Stages 1 and 2. London: Becta.
  3. Becta (2010) Digital Literacy: Teaching critical thinking for our digital world. London: Becta.
  4. Cranmer, S. (2009) Children and young people’s uses of the Internet for homework. Learning, Media and Technology. Vol. 31(3), pp.301-315.
  5. Dunn, D. (2017) How to be an Outstanding Primary School Teacher. London: Bloomsbury.
  6. Education Scotland (2019) Curriculum for Excellence. [Online] Available: https://education.gov.scot/Documents/All-experiencesoutcomes18.pdf [Accessed: 15 February 2019].
  7. Jones, R.H. and Hafner, C.A. (2012) Understanding Digital Literacies: A Practical Introduction. Oxon: Routledge.
  8. Porter, B. (2004) Digi Tales: The Art of Telling Digital Stories. Bernajean Porter Publication.
  9. Shtepura, A. (2018) The Impact of Digital Technology on Digital Natives’ Learning: American Outlook. Comparative Professional Pedagogy. 8(2), pp. 128-133.
  10. Simpson, D. and Toyn, M. (eds) (2012) Primary ICT Across the Curriculum. London: Sage

Week 5 – Creating books…of a sort.

This week sees digital technology combined with another love of mine: children’s literature.

From their very earliest days children are immersed in a rich environment of learning through storytelling. Children develop their social and cultural identities through the stories they hear from family members, adults and peers who shape their world and from the multimodal texts which surround them. They develop their use of language, imagination and thought processes from a very early age; learning to hypothesise, question and interpret information (Browne, 2009). In exactly the same way storytelling can be used in the classroom to convey information and encourage investigative and critical thinking skills.

 

With the rapid advancement in the inclusion of digital technologies in education and their commonplace feature in children’s lives, storytelling can take on a new dimension while simultaneously creating a link between the school and home environments. Children can quickly and easily access technologies which allow them to become active participants in their own learning. Students develop their literacy and thinking skills at the same time as being engaged in more “play” focused activity (Sagri, et al, 2018).

The inclusion of mobile digital technologies such as the iPad in schools means that learning has become portable and can be expanded into many environments. The capacity of these technologies means that reams of previously printed media are now accessible almost anywhere and the opportunity to add information from the user’s own environment, e.g. photographs, is endless (Jarvis, 2015). Adding multimodal features to the traditional printed text adds an extra dimension which gives an advantage and allows the author to convey much more information. However, although technologies such as the iPad allow for great creativity it is, again, essential that teachers using them to promote learning are fully aware of how to use the device correctly and appropriately (Vitalis, 2018). This idea is supported by the Scottish Government (2016) who are committed to ensuring that support exists for both staff and student teachers while encouraging practitioners to support each other through the use of digital platforms as well as in person. Educators strengthening their own personal knowledge and ability will, in turn, enable them to further assist learners who may gain greatly from using digital technologies to enhance their learning but require greater support to do so.

The iPad Scotland Final Evaluation Report (Burden et al, 2012) identifies that gains in achievement among students using mobile technologies were particularly evident for students with English as an additional language. They were able to share their own stories, identities and cultural foundations with a decreased language barrier. Similarly, the technology offered benefits to children who may be described as “focus learners”, with issues such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (Korsgaard and Andersen, 2017). These children are found with increasing frequency in mainstream schools aiming to achieve educational inclusion. Indeed, the inclusion of these students’ ASN provides a learning opportunity for all; teachers and students: “…demonstrating the new technologies are an opportunity for all to learn.” Department of Education and Training (2011, p.18). With these ideas in mind, we set out to use the iPad to create our own e-book.

So what did we decide to do?

Working collaboratively with Nicholas Meikeljohn, we used the “Book Creator” app, available on iPad, to complete this week’s task. We chose the hilarious and wonderful “The Day the Crayons Came Home” as our inspiration and utilised the app to produce our own e-book.

After giving a brief introduction to the premise of the story we chose to focus on the (mis)adventures of “Neon Red” crayon. Readers can easily spot, either through the text or the accompanying illustrations, that Neon Red and have incorrectly identified his location. This inspired us to include interactive elements in our e-book which allow readers to find out more about each of the areas Neon Red thinks he is visiting. The inclusion of video links provides an opportunity for the reader to expand their general knowledge and confirm their suspicion that Neon Red is indeed wrong. The inclusion of audio clips makes the e-book accessible to those whose reading skills may not be sufficiently developed for independent reading and the use of sound effects provides an element of fun. The final feature of the e-book, a maze activity, links the themes of “The Day the Crayons Came Home” with a problem-solving activity.

So… how did it go?

In discussion, while completing the task Nick and I both felt the need to explore why we would opt to use e-books. We are both firmly in favour of books in their original form and while I am very much a Cyberostrich to Nick’s Cyberlemming (Jarvis, 2015) we both agree that there is the possibility of technology for technology’s sake could be a risk here. While digital technologies are an everyday part of the life of the modern child they need not be included in every part of life and some would argue that they can be detrimental to health and development (Chorab, 2016). This thought made me reflect on the point that the learning must be enhanced by the inclusion of technology.

We developed the idea for our e-book with that point firmly at the forefront. Rather than simply using the technology to re-tell the story which already exists in a perfectly functional form, we opted to focus on expanding one particular point. We decided that this approach could be highly beneficial when children are producing larger pieces of “topic” based work. Being able to include many different types of information in one e-book presentation could lead to some very informative final work. The portable nature of the iPad means that that work could then easily be shared both within the class and within the wider school. Potential also exists (data protection rules allowing) for sharing between school and home, strengthening the important links between the two communities.

This type of activity could be utilised successfully across the curriculum and across all stages. With particular reference to our task, which we identified as First Level, we selected the following E&Os as appropriate:

  • SOC 1-13a:By exploring a natural environment different from my own, I can discover how the physical features influence the variety of living things.
  • LIT 1-14a:Using what I know about the features of different types of text, I can find, select, sort and use information for a specific purpose.
  • LIT 1-16a:To show my understanding across different areas of learning, I can identify and consider the purpose and main ideas of text.
  • LIT 1-01a:I regularly select and listen to or watch texts which I enjoy and find interesting, and I can explain why I prefer certain sources. I regularly select subject, purpose, format and resources to create texts of my choice.
  • TCH 1-02a:Using digital technologies responsibly I can access, retrieve and use information to support, enrich or extend learning in different contexts.

And finally…

On personal reflection, I can absolutely agree that mobile technologies can be very useful. My first voluntary experience in a primary school was with a child for who English was a third language. He had almost no spoken English at all and I was tasked to support him in the classroom. It was via the use of technology that we were able to communicate. More accurately, it was via his proficiency in using technology that we were able to communicate. This was a great practical example of the point stressed throughout the literature that teacher proficiency in Digital Technologies is key.

Which brings me to my nemesis…

I hate iPads. I don’t own one, I don’t own an iPhone. The Macs in the Mac Lab bring me out in a cold sweat. There is something about the interface I just can’t get to grips with. OK, I’m not alone, loads of people can’t work the Mac interface but iAppliances are anathema to me. I am an Android girl through and through (and I’m not significantly more proficient there either!) which looks like it’s going to present me with a problem I’m going to have to strive to overcome.

iPads are increasingly found in Primary Schools and as they feature not only there but in the coming tasks on this journey I will have to make an extra effort to get to grips with that part of the language.

References

  1. Browne, A. (2009) Developing Language and Literacy 3-8. London: Sage.
  2. Burden, K., Hopkins, P, Male, Dr. T., Martin, Dr. S., Trala, C. (2012) iPad Scotland Evaluation. Hull: University of Hull.
  3. Chorab, G. (2016) The brain to new technologies: the risks and losses. General and Professional Education. Vol. 1, pp.9-15.
  4. Department of Education and Training. (2011) iPad Trial: Is the iPad suitable as a learning tool in schools? Australia: Queensland Government.
  5. Education Scotland (2019) Curriculum for Excellence. [Online] Available: https://education.gov.scot/Documents/All-experiencesoutcomes18.pdf [Accessed: 7 February 2019].
  6. Jarvis, M. (2015) Brilliant Ideas for Using ICT in the Classroom: A very practical guide for teachers and lecturers. Oxon: Routledge.
  7. Korsgaard Sorensen, E. and Voldborg Andersen, A. (2017) Strengthening inclusion of learners with attention difficulties through interventions with digital technology in process of production. European Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning. [Online] Vol. 20(1), pp.45-53. Available: https://doi.org/10.1515/eurodl-2017-0003.
  8. Sagri, M., Sofos, F., Mouzaki, D. (2018) Digital Storytelling, comics and new technologies in education: review, research and perspectives. The International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives. Vol. 17(4), pp.97-112. [Accessed: 7 February 2019].
  9. Scottish Government. (2016) Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through the Use of Digital Technology. [Online] Available: https://www.gov.scot/publications/enhancing-learning-teaching-through-use-digital-technology/ [Accessed: 7 February 2019].
  10. Vitalis, E. (2018) I can locate it! Teaching location with the assistance of digital technologies. Australian Mathematics Classroom. Vol. 23(3), pp.8-11.

 

Week 4 – Exploring Coding with ScratchJr (and thinking about the attainment Gap)

This week’s stop on the journey through Digital Technologies involves Coding.

As we discovered in Week 1, the idea that children are digitally “native” in a technology-driven age is accepted. However, Beauchamp (2012) suggests there is a disparity between the accessibility to technology and the way in which it is used in the home. He identifies that children’s interaction with technology in the home is primarily game based, despite the intentions of parents who wish to make a link between home and education. In agreement with this finding, Kerwalla and Crook (2006) state “…for most children, game playing becomes a predominant form of domestic use.

Consequently, it is not surprising to find that educational technology aimed at children is presented in the form of a “game”. Using the five semiotic systems (see fig. 1) found in multimodal texts (which computer-based games are), children can receive vital educational input without realising they are being formally “educated”. Rather than being passive recipients of “lecture” based presentations with the aim of retention of fact, children now have the opportunity to interact fully with their learning, constructing their own outcomes and developing their own understanding. Whitebread (2006) proposes that using the game-based format allows “problems” which are posed to children to be presented in a relatable context. They can be simplified to present the focus information to young children and problems can be re-framed and re-presented in several differing contexts, allowing for the development of early critical thought processes, maximising engagement and inclusion. The World Government Summit (2016) identifies that “gamification”, although not officially defined or universally accepted in education practice, offers significant benefits in engaging children in essential learning.

So, why “Coding” and what is it?

It is widely agreed across Government and Industry that education in digital technology is essential. Not only do children need to know how to operate digital technologies but they also need to know how they function; points agreed by both Naughton (2012) and Curtis (2013). The simplest, introductory concept in understanding how digital technologies function is basic “Coding”. Using basic computer code, children can create chains of instructions to produce a planned outcome. Presented using elements of “gamification”, children can engage with programs such as ScratchJr to explore and develop skills in creative thinking, logic and reasoning and problem-solving while simultaneously receiving instruction in how digital technology functions.

 

 

The ScratchJr program presents an attractive and simple to use interface which allows children to create their own adventures via a simple “drag and drop” format. Offering a range of scenes and characters children can add text and sound to quickly produce a pleasing and rewarding outcome. The ability to easily move between scenes and edit makes the program accessible to even very young children, with adult assistance. Older children may be able to use the program to produce a presentation after a period of collaborative pre-planning.

The simple and easily correctible format of ScratchJr allows children the freedom to experiment and be independently creative. This type of learning freedom encourages engagement and provides for a greater breadth of knowledge to be developed (World Government Summit, 2016). The lack of consequence for “failure” and lack of need for strengths in literacy and maths make ScratchJr equally accessible to those children who may experience difficulties through ASN.

After initial experimentation, using ScratchJr to complete this week’s assignment task was straightforward. The wide range of available characters and scenes made formulating a storyline easy and incorporating the elements of sound and text added an interactive dimension. Experimentation was possible and changing my mind was easy once I had grasped the basic principles of constructing each character’s code. The end result was successful and pleasing to interact with proving that, despite initial apprehension, the instruction of “create an interactive story to promote literacy skills” was sufficient prompt to produce a finished piece of work.

Having chosen to focus on Early Level when addressing this assignment, I considered the following Experiences and Outcomes could be addressed using the ScratchJr program:

  • TCH 0-01a: “I can explore digital technologies and use what I learn to solve problems and share ideas and thoughts.
  • TCH 0-14a: “I understand that sequences of instructions are used to control computing technology.”
  • TCH 0-15a: “I can develop and sequence of instructions and run them using programmable devices or equivalent.
  • LIT 0-09b / LIT 0-31a: “I enjoy exploring events and characters in stories and other texts and I use what I learn to invent my own, sharing these with others in imaginative ways.

So how did it go?

On reflection, I think it would have been beneficial to include a vocal recording of the text and a sound effect specific to each character. My chosen feature of Literacy was “alliteration” and it would be beneficial for children engaging with the final product without adult support to hear the repeated sounds.

From completing this week’s study, further reading, reflection and assignment I have developed a broader understanding of the concept of coding and its relevance in the context of Primary Education. I feel more comfortable with the practical elements of the task and can see the potential to develop my own tasks which could be used in placement experience and further practice. With a particular personal interest in the challenges faced by children with ASN in main-stream education, I am keen to reflect further on the potential for digital technologies to be utilised in this area.

And on wider reflection…

In preparation for this week’s class on coding, I thought I’d familiarise myself with the ScratchJr. platform ahead of time. Except… Scratch Jr doesn’t function on either my laptop or my brand-new Android smartphone!

 

This is a perfect example of the sort of barrier to access which could be experienced by children both in schools and in the home environment. If technology is not accessible, for whatever reason, then children are at a direct disadvantage in developing essential skills identified by the Scottish Government as necessary for successful progression to employment. Having done my BA1 placement in a Scottish Attainment Challenge school I have seen the very children whose social needs have the greatest impact on their educational outcomes (OECD, 2007) and whose access to technology is the lowest.

“The Scottish Attainment Challenge is about achieving equity in education. This can be achieved by ensuring every child has the same opportunity to succeed, with a particular focus on closing the poverty-related attainment gap.” Education Scotland (2019).

To access Scratch Jr. properly, I required a tablet. After much research and consideration of how my specific choice could be used to the best and desired effect during my time as a student teacher, I am now the owner of a Samsung Galaxy Tab S4… and I can access Scratch Jr.

I count myself particularly lucky to have been able to afford to buy a tablet to enhance my learning. It cost more than some families of Scottish Primary School children will have as their entire income for a month!

So, my thoughts after prep. are…

In order to provide equity in opportunity not only must technology be accessible to all children, but programmes should ideally be accessible across different platforms and across all operating systems.

Where are we currently on the journey?

So far, we’ve discovered that despite being apprehensive about using technology I am much keener when it involves a hands-on creative element. I am sceptical about the use of technology for technology’s sake and very much agree that the implementation of technology in education should be to enhance learning, making the learner an active participant rather than a passive observer. It’s also clear that I benefit from learning which is quick to engage with and encourages development and self-reflection. Having looked at programmable toys, multimodality and coding separately I was intrigued to find a resource aimed at the Early and First Level age group which combines all these…

Code-a-pillar

Code-a-pillar is constructed from a single head unit and interchangeable body units, each telling him to perform a different action. Rather than coding via a screen-based interface, the child performs exactly the same mental operations of planning and problem solving but is also interacting with both the resource and the environment physically. Very similar to the methods required in using Bee-Bot but without the need to retain the programmed steps mentally. Code-a-pillar also has an app which allows children to code using a process similar to that of Scratch Jr. but again a simplified version. The app also features basic literacy and numeracy elements combined and presented as an interactive game.

 References

  1. Beauchamp, G. (2012) ICT in the Primary School: From Pedagogy to Practice. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.
  2. Curtis, S. (2013) Teaching our children to code: a quiet revolution. The Telegraph. [Online] 4 November, non-paginated. Available: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10410036/Teaching-our-children-to-code-a-quiet-revolution.html [Accessed: 31 January 2019].
  3. Education Scotland (2019) Curriculum for Excellence. [Online] Available: https://education.gov.scot/Documents/All-experiencesoutcomes18.pdf [Accessed: 31 January 2019].
  4. Education Scotland (2019) Scottish Attainment Challenge. [Online] Available: https://education.gov.scot/improvement/learning-resources/Scottish%20Attainment%20Challenge [Accessed: 31 January 2019].
  5. Kerawalla, L and Crook, C. (2002) Children’s computer use at home and at school: context and continuity. British Educational Research Journal. Vol 28(6), pp.751-771.
  6. Naughton, J. (2012) Why all our kids should be taught how to code. The Guardian. [Online] 31 March, non-paginated. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/mar/31/why-kids-should-be-taught-code [Accessed: 31 January 2019].
  7. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (2007) Quality and equity of schooling in Scotland. Paris: OECD. Available at: http://www.oecd.org/edu/school/reviewsofnationalpoliciesforeducationqualityandequityofschoolinginscotland.htm [31 January 2019].
  8. Scottish Government (2019) Pupil Attainment: Closing the Gap. [Online] Available:  https://www.gov.scot/policies/schools/pupil-attainment/ [Accessed: 31 January 2019]
  9. Scottish Parliament (2016) Closing the Attainment Gap: What Can Schools Do? [Online] Available: http://www.parliament.scot/ResearchBriefingsAndFactsheets/S5/SB_16-68_Closing_The_Attainment_Gap_What_Can_Schools_Do.pdf [Accessed: 31 January 2019].
  10. Whitebread, D. (2006) Creativity, problem-solving and playful uses of technology: games and simulations in the early years. In: Hayes, M. and Whitebread, D. (eds) ICT in the Early Years. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
  11. World Government Summit (2016) Gamification and the Future of Education. [Online] Available: https://www.worldgovernmentsummit.org/api/publications/document?id=2b0d6ac4-e97c-6578-b2f8-ff0000a7ddb6 [Accessed: 31 January 2019].

Week 3 – ActivInspire: frustratingly uninspiring.

 

This week’s input on multimodality focused on using ActivInspire, a platform which I saw used to great effect during my placement experience.

Used in combination with the Promethean board I saw extensive examples of how this partnership of soft and hardware can be used to both inform and engage. Rather than simply being used as a projection screen for passive observation; the Promethean board allows a multitude of interactivity options across a range of media. This use of media allows multimodality to be utilised across the curriculum, enhancing learning and inclusion for all students.

The Promethean Board in a S.T.E.M. Lab.

So what does “Multimodal” mean?

Something can be described as “multimodal” when it combines two or more of the five semiotic systems (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1.

 

In modern society, children are surrounded by multimodal texts. The days of the printed word being the main conveyance of information are long gone and today’s learners are immersed in an ever-increasing combination of modes of communication, many of which are visual and primarily delivered via screen (Jones and Hafner, 2012).  As the delivery of information in society has changed then so too must the delivery of information in education. In order for teachers to provide the comprehensive and inclusive education desired by the Scottish Government, they must adapt their practice to include modes of communication with which children are familiar in their day to day lives: “Increasing recognition of the pervasiveness of digital technologies and multimodal experiences in children’s out-of-school lives, therefore, is exposing a need to incorporate such tools within teaching and learning, to enhance current  and evolving pedagogic practice.” (Twiner et al, 2010, p212) One particularly effective way of meeting this need in the classroom is via the use of the interactive whiteboard.

The Promethean board loaded and ready to go with a lesson on “Place Value”.

Traditionally the classroom has been dominated by the “Blackboard”. Used to convey information to the gathered class this feature has undergone many adaptations from the traditional chalk writing surface, to more environmentally and health friendly wipe-clean whiteboards. In today’s modern classroom the traditional writing surface has been replaced with the “Interactive Whiteboard” (IWB). Modern children are used to interacting with screen-based technologies and more specifically touch screen technologies. The IWB allows these home familiarities to feature in the classroom too. Rather than having to erase the day’s work once the board is full teachers now have the option to save work as they go along, allowing them to refer to it or keep it as a record of achievement. Children can add their own contributions to the board or take charge of their own administrative tasks. IWBs also offer multimodal learning opportunities to children who may struggle to engage with the more traditional modes of education.

ICT has a long history of being used to support children with SEN in mainstream education settings (Beauchamp, 2012). In today’s schools, where inclusion is at the forefront of policy, it is essential that learning is accessible to all. The use of IWBs and associated digital technologies can help to bridge that gap. Students with ASN or who find difficulty engaging in more traditional modes of education such as written text can now be successfully included in learning. In placement experience, I was lucky enough to witness exactly this approach used by a Primary 7 teacher who needed to adapt the learning to meet the needs of two pupils with differing ASN. While most students were able to interact with an activity exploring “Time” using analogue clocks, the students in question benefited from an interactive game on the IWB which was more appropriate to their learning needs. Being able to adapt learning quickly and easily via the features of the IWB allows inclusive education which Education Scotland (2019) has identified as crucially important in ensuring that young people have equitable access to further employment opportunities no matter what barriers to learning they may face. Similarly, the Education Endowment Foundation (2017) recognises the importance of digital technologies in ensuring that all children can develop the metacognitive skills necessary to identify their own educational needs as well as plan strategies to ensure those needs are met.

There is no doubt that the IWB offers today’s teacher a wealth of opportunity to expand their teaching. No longer must they produce the information as they go, they can delve into an endless supply of resources and change them easily as required. IWBs engage pupils and hold their interest (Dunn, 2017) often enabling or expanding discussion. Children are keen to participate as the technology they are interacting with is familiar to them. However, it must also be familiar to the teacher. While schools are keen to be seen to be investing in the latest technologies it is equally important that they have the required infrastructure to ensure that those technologies are being utilised effectively (Duebel, 2010). In classrooms where the IWB is not utilised to full effect, it becomes little more than a projection screen and the teaching which accompanies it reverts to lecture-style input which risks disengaging the students. It is important to remember that technology must always enhance learning. The IWB should be used as a brief introduction or source of reference for learning but should not replace active and interactive learning (Jarvis, 2015).

However…

As with all technology, the potential for it to become little more than an activity in passivity looms in the background if the user is not fully aware of how to interact with it successfully. This was made abundantly clear during my less than successful attempt to use the ActivInspire programme on a computer. It was clear what it was supposed to do but how exactly I was supposed to make it happen was neither straightforward nor intuitive, which was deeply frustrating. I am very aware of my own shortcomings in the field of patience: I disengage rapidly when something doesn’t happen quickly enough. The time it took to try and get to grips with how to operate the ActivInspire software was just too much for me (the same has to be said for Glow)! It was, however, a valuable reflective experience in classroom behaviour.

All of a sudden, I’m a confused tourist again!

And when the student doesn’t understand, things like this happen:

 

The Health and Safety Executive (2000) identified teaching as one of the top three most stressful professions, with managing pupil behaviour being identified as the most stressful element for both experienced and trainee teachers. I recognise that I am a classic example of a student who participates in low-level disruptive behaviour when they are struggling to complete a task successfully. Don’t know what to do? Just wheel off around the room and have a nosey at what everyone else is doing!  I am (and always have been) guilty of exactly the same behaviours seen in the classroom when pupils either do not understand the task at hand or are unable to access resources successfully.

So, my thinking after this week’s session is that while multimodality is unquestionably a great feature in widening access to learning it is imperative that it is accompanied by user-friendly delivery systems. Learning is not enhanced where technology introduces multiple hurdles to complicate things. For learners like me, learning is shut down by the introduction of extra problems, and that way trouble lies.

And finally…

The journey’s been a bit rough this week but all-in-all a good reflective experience. I’ve learnt from the good and the bad and identified areas where I need to focus my own learning. I will take my new-found knowledge and talents forward to tackle next week’s adventure.

As I was not able to achieve very much at all with my own endeavours to work ActivInsipre I will instead reflect on the successful use I saw on Placement in a Primary 3 class, specifically in reference to teaching Place Value. In that circumstance, I consider the appropriate E&O which could be met are:

  • MNU 1-01a: “I have investigated how whole numbers are constructed, can understand the importance of zero within the system and can use my knowledge to explain the link between a digit, its place and its value.
  • MTH 1-21a: “Using technology and other methods, I can display data simply, clearly and accurately by creating tables, charts and diagrams, using simple labelling and scale.

 

References

  1. Beauchamp, G. (2012) ICT in the Primary School: From Pedagogy to Practice. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.
  2. Duebel, P. (2010) Interactive Whiteboards: Truths and Consequences. [Online] Available: https://thejournal.com/Articles/2010/08/04/Interactive-Whiteboards-Truths-and-Consequences.aspx?Page=4# [Accessed: 24 January 2019].
  3. Dunn, D. (2017) How to be an Outstanding Primary School Teacher. London: Bloomsbury.
  4. Education Endowment Foundation. (2017) Metacognition and Self -Regulated Learning Guidance Report. [Online] Available: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/Support/Links/Campaigns/Metacognition/EEF_Metacognition_and_self-regulated_learning.pdf [Accessed: 24 January 2019].
  5. Education Scotland (2019) Curriculum for Excellence. [Online] Available: https://education.gov.scot/Documents/All-experiencesoutcomes18.pdf [Accessed: 24 January 2019].
  6. Education Scotland. (2019) Developing creativity, employability and skills. [Online] Available: https://education.gov.scot/what-we-do/Developing%20employability%20and%20skills [Accessed: 24 January 2019].
  7. Education Scotland. (2019) Embedding digital learning and teaching. [Online] Available: https://education.gov.scot/what-we-do/Embedding%20Digital%20Learning%20and%20Teaching [Accessed: 24 January 2019].
  8. Health and Safety Executive (HSE). (2000) The Scale of Occupational Stress: A Further Analysis of the Impact of Demographic Factors and Type of Job, Contract Research Report 311/2000. London: HSE
  9. Jarvis, M. (2015) Brilliant Ideas for Using ICT in the Classroom: A very practical guide for teachers and lecturers. Oxon: Routledge.
  10. Jones, R.H. and Hafner, C. A. (2012) Understanding Digital Literacies A Practical Introduction. Oxon: Routledge.
  11. Scottish Government. (2019) Developing the young workforce: Scotland’s youth employment strategy. [Online] Available: https://www.gov.scot/publications/developing-young-workforce-scotlands-youth-employment-strategy/#res466386 [Accessed: 24 January 2019].
  12. Twiner, A., Coffin, C., Littleton, K. and Whitelock, D. (2010) Multimodality, orchestration and participation in the context of classroom use of the interactive whiteboard: a discussion. Technology, Pedagogy and Education. Vol 19(2), pp.211-223.
  13. Zull, J. (2011) From Brain to Mind: Using Neuroscience to Guide Change in Education. Virginia: Stylus Publishing.

Week 2 – Bee-Bot and Beyond.

This week sees a combination of technology and creativity; an area in which I am far more comfortable.

 

Jarvis (2015) suggests that learning should be both an active and interactive process. This can be achieved through children using technologies and working collaboratively to address and solve problems. This type of learning increases pupil engagement and encourages discussion and the sharing of ideas. Jarvis also notes that learning should be both memorable and relevant. The use of programmable toys allows for the creation of multiple scenarios which can be adapted to have a wide range of real-life relevance. Children’s eagerness to engage with programmable toys and the sense of achievement they gain from their successes make these tools particularly memorable. NCTE (2012) describes how the use of programmable toys is an ideal method of ensuring inclusivity in the classroom as these toys allow children with SEN/ASN to participate: an area of need identified by the Scottish Government (2016).

 

Janka (2008) identifies, in agreement with the Scottish Government, the developing need for children to establish competency in using digital technologies if they are to become successful contributors to the workforce. He acknowledges the concerns some educators have regarding children’s need to learn through interaction with their environment and proposes that programmable toys are a perfect choice as they are a tangible device which can be used to address problem-solving within the child’s physical world. They can also be applied across curricular areas and my choice for this week’s task was numeracy: “In the field of mathematical development, children should develop the ability to describe a simple journey and instruct the programmable toy in order to develop positional language and estimation.” Janka (2008, pg 13).

 

“Learning should be both an active and interactive process.”

 

Having seen Bee-Bot used in the classroom during my volunteer work I am familiar with what it does and how it can be used to enhance learning. In that specific context, the Bee-Bot was used to reinforce the children’s understanding of coordinates. Inspired by both the knowledge I gained from that experience and how much the children enjoyed interacting with their task I chose to take the elements of learning I had experience of and adapt them to create my own activity. I opted to make my task suitable for First Level and chose to focus on e&o TCH 1-15a and MNU 1-09a, keeping the following quote in mind: “Well constructed adventure games and simulations provide a wealth of opportunities for children to practise the skills of reasoning, hypothesis testing and decision making.” Whitebread (2006, p93).

  • TCH 1-15a: “I can demonstrate a range of basic problem-solving skills by building simple programs to carry out a given task, using an appropriate language.”
  • MNU 1-09a: “I can use Money to pay for items and work out how much change I should receive.”

“Chef Bee-Bot Goes Shopping”

As it is January, a time when the focus in Scottish schools turns sharply to Robert Burns, I decided I would incorporate a Scottish element to my plan. I decided to make my Bee-Bot game a shopping task whereby the participants are required to direct “Chef Bee-Bot” around a supermarket, collecting ingredients for Scottish recipes and then paying the required total for their shopping before leaving the supermarket. This combines the use of digital technology with physical interaction and allows for expansion through discussion into areas such as Health and Wellbeing and Sciences.

Chef Bee-Bot…

For the purposes of this task, an ordinary Bee-Bot programmable toy is accessorised with a chef’s hat (made from one strip of paper and a dried-out surface wipe!). Bee-Bot itself is very straightforward to use and children either pick up the process from teacher input or from observing peers and working collaboratively, as documented by Alison Lydon (2007). The ability to accessorise Bee-Bot in a number of ways adds an extra element of fun, increasing engagement and allowing for extension into other areas of the curriculum e.g. the expressive arts. In this context, EXA 1-03a “I can create and present work using the visual elements of line, shape, form. colour, tone, pattern and texture.” could be met through the exploration of Tartan leading to making Tartan Bee-Bot shell “kilts” for Chef Bee-Bot.

The game mat…

Designed as a basic blank grid of squares the mat can be re-used and adapted to any potential variation of a Bee-Bot task. The mat can be accessorised using 2D or 3D objects dependent on the aims and theme of the task and the specific needs of the users. The blank area at the front of the mat allows for attaching basic instructions and placement of shared objects.

The market stalls…

In this instance, the mat is accessorised with stalls with varying coloured rooves. Each stall represents an area of a standard supermarket e.g. “Fruit”, “Diary”, “Meat” etc. Each stall contains colour co-ordinated cards depicting the items which may be required. Each laminated card can be notated with a price for each separate item. Lamination means the price marked on any card may be adjusted according to the needs of the participants. The Stalls have interchangeable front panels, allowing their purpose to be re-designated simply by changing the sign. The 3D nature of the stalls adds an element of depth perception and interest to the game board and they can be positioned in any arrangement allowing the game to be made easier or more complex as required. The “self-service checkout” element as the final stage of the game gives a further interactive dimension as the children are required to physically deposit the correct amount of money into the box, as they would in a real-life supermarket shopping scenario.

Rules of the game…

Each player selects one recipe card. Each recipe card lists the ingredients Chef Bee-Bot requires to collect. The player must plan their route around the game mat to collect all the required ingredients. Their final stop should be at the self-service check-out where the player deposits the total sum of their shopping. Players can plan their route and perform calculations using the laminated planning sheets and a whiteboard pen. A visual reminder of the types and different values of coins is included to assist players with the final step of the game. The game allows for players to work either solo or collaboratively in teams.

So, how did it go?

In conclusion…

This week’s task was thoroughly enjoyable and a real confidence booster. It was heartening to be able to combine my previous experiences with my personal strengths to produce a whole resource which can be utilised and adapted in my future practice. I was pleased with how positively my finished item was received by my peers but on reflection, I feel there are adaptations I could make to improve the experience: the recipe cards should include a picture of each separate item to allow those with weaker reading skills to participate equally. I also feel it would be useful to include a reminder to clear Chef Bee-Bot’s memory at the end of each turn, as this is identified as a problem in use by both Janka (2008) and in my previous experience in the classroom. Seeing the ways in which the activity could be expanded to encompass an entire topic of study was a very useful and helpful insight into the process behind lesson planning.

All in all, a great experience, however, as the Bee-Bot toy is designed to be used by Early and First Level children perhaps I shouldn’t be too pleased!

And thinking back…

Working with Bee-Bot reminded me of my own childhood where we played with a very similar technology: Big Track. Having used exactly the same basic programming principles in the 1980s as are required to use Bee-Bot makes me realise that coding is neither the new technology I think it to be or a new experience for me. Perhaps why I don’t find it so daunting?

 

 

References

  1. Education Scotland (2019) Curriculum for Excellence. [Online] Available: https://education.gov.scot/Documents/All-experiencesoutcomes18.pdf [Accessed: 18 January 2019].
  2. Janka, P. (2008) Using a Programmable Toy at Preschool Age: Why and How? [Online] Available: http://www.terecop.eu/downloads/simbar2008/pekarova.pdf [Accessed: 18th January 2019].
  3. Jarvis, M. (2015) Brilliant Ideas for Using ICT in the Classroom: A very practical guide for teachers and lecturers. Oxon: Routledge.
  4. Lydon, A. (2007) Let’s Go with Bee-Bot: Using your Bee-Bot across the curriculum. Kirkby: TTS Group Ltd.
  5. NCTE (National Centre for Technology in Education) (2012) NCTE Floor Robots – Focus on Literacy and Numeracy. [Online] Available: http://www.ncte.ie/media/NCTE_Floor_robots_focus__on_literacy_numeracy_primary_12-06.pdf [Accessed: 18th January 2019]
  6. Scottish Government (2016) Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through the Use of Digital Technology: A Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland. Edinburgh: Scottish Government [Online] Available: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0050/00505855.pdf [Accessed: 18th January 2019]
  7. Whitebread, D. (2006) Creativity, problem-solving and playful uses of technology: games and simulations in the early years. In: Hayes, M. and Whitebread, D. (eds) ICT in the Early Years. Maidenhead: Open University Press.