Tag: Flipgrid

Remote Learning in Computing Science

Bitmoji image of Miss Mutter and twitter name @FHSComputing
Hello, I am a Computing Science teacher at Falkirk High school, this post is about my experience of moving to remote learning and my journey through it until the summer break. I have been an MIEExpert for 3 years and gained MIE Trainer status during this period of remote learning.

Before moving to remote learning Microsoft Teams was used by a small number of teachers across our school. I lead the schools eLearning staff working group and had been providing training to these colleagues on using the main features of Glow (Teams, OneNote Notebook, Forms, Sway, O365 and Immersive Reader) that we thought would be most useful in our setting. We had planned to roll this training out across the entire school this year with eLearning staff and our pupil Digital Leaders supporting and leading the way. This did happen, just not how we had planned.

In the two weeks prior to starting remote learning I provided training sessions to staff on the basics of using Glow and Teams so that all staff had a grounding on it and could use this whilst working from home. I also synced all Glow pupil groups within our school to enable staff to quickly create the teaching groups and teams they needed. All Staff rose to the challenge and engaged with digital learning tools in a way that I have never seen before in my 20 year teaching career. I remember one of the last things I said to my Head Teacher was that “My silver lining out of all of this will be the staff engagement with Digital Tools and Technology for learning.” My view has slightly changed on that front – I’ll explain later.

Graphic showing Glow and Digital Tools used during remote learning
Overview of my original use of Teams and Digital Tools

I have been using OneNote Notebook for a number of years and then Teams when it launched in Glow with most of my classes. I had used O365, Immersive Reader, Forms and Sway before but not extensively. Additionally, some of the tools I’m using now I had never heard of before remote learning.

When setting up my Teams I wanted to make things as easy as possible for pupils to locate work and navigate their virtual learning space. With this in mind, the first assignment I set all of my pupils was a ThingLink on Navigating our Team. This gave them pictures of their Team with links to explain each part so that they could gain an understanding of how our virtual classroom was laid out and would operate. ThingLink is a digital tool that I had not heard of prior to remote learning but is one I will definitely continue to use. I had great feedback both from pupils and staff on it and great engagement from both when using it.

Screen clipping of the Navigation ThingLInk
ThingLink screen clipping from pupil Teams Navigation Assignment

 

screen clipping of Team ChannelsAll of my Teams have been set up the same way. I have added different channels to hopefully indicate what each one is being used for rather than all communications being in the one General channel. It can otherwise quickly become clogged up making it difficult to locate work, etc. I also set my General channel for staff only commenting as this is where I post Assignments and Announcements to. This should mean that it is easy for pupils to see the weekly work and important announcements.

screen clipping showing a weekly work announcement in my team

I am using Assignments to issue weekly work to all pupils. This means that each child gets their own editable document (Word, notebook page, spreadsheet, PowerPoint, etc.) that they can work on, complete and submit for marking and individual feedback. Pupils can clearly see what assignments they have outstanding and completed. Using the Grades tab they can also see their progress and scores for all submitted tasks. All of my Teams have a OneNote Notebook which gives each child a space to work.

screen clipping of notebook setup
OneNote Notebook Lesson Outline

My organisation and layout of my notebooks has developed through remote learning. I now have clear Success Criteria, Tasks and Exit Passes to help the children see exactly what they need to do for each lesson and for me to gain feedback about how they felt about that lesson.

I have been teaching programming to my new S4 class. We started this when we “Moved On Learning”. At our school we code in Python and normally use our desktop PCs or Laptops in the lab, however, not all of my pupils have these devices at home. Some are using a tablet or their phone to complete work. Some have opted to download Python onto a device while others are using PythonAnywhere which is all done online. The actual Python coding is identical in both environments but the platforms themselves are quite different, therefore, I have been recording myself doing the tutorial tasks in both platforms and embedding these into a Sway each week. The pupils then watch the tutorial for the platform they are using.

screen clipping of python code in assignments
Python Code attached in Assignments

I was delighted when pupils were attaching their programs to their assignments when it showed me the code in the assignment window. I did not expect to see the code within the Teams assignment. This meant that I could view their code, mentally run through it to check that it would work but it also made discussing their code easier. Because I could see the code line numbers it made our discussions easier because I could state the line number in which they needed to revise. There were occasions where it was necessary to “show” pupils what I meant as communicating via keyboard was not always easy and I have started using Trinket for this type of thing. I can create Python code in Trinket and share it via a link with pupils to edit and experiment with which has helped them to see the differences between their code and mine. Trinket is another digital tool that I was unaware of prior to remote learning but will definitely continue to use.

I have also been using Forms to create surveys and quizzes. Sometimes I have set these as the weekly work tasks on their own but also embedded these into Sways and OneNote Notebook pages depending on the task. This has allowed me to combine a variety of resources (theory, pictures, video and quiz) enabling all of the elements of that task to be in the same document making it easier for pupils to complete the work set for them.

praise given to Miss Mutter by a pupil

I have had positive feedback from pupils when issuing praise stickers for completing work, being kind or helpful to others in the team and have received praise from pupils myself. Which I must admit nearly made me cry. It was really nice to get this from pupils as it let me know that everything I had been doing was working, helping and appreciated.

Other Digital Tools that I have been using to support teaching and learning during this time are ¬†Wakelet, Flipgrid and Canva. I had been using Wakelet this year with my Higher Computing class. We had been adding online resources to it as we came across them building up a bank of revision materials as the course progressed. During remote learning I have been using it as a central point for storing staff training “How To” videos that I have produced. I have added the Wakelet as a tab in our whole staff team so that everyone can access it easily. As part of the staff CPD Training that I offered I created a Wakelet on making a virtual emoji classroom and shared it with staff to help them to create their own virtual classrooms. I have used Flipgrid to record ‘shorts’ (videos of less than 10 minutes) and shared these with pupils in my Teams. These short videos have normally been instructions on how to do something or a welcome to our team message from me. I have not used this app with pupils recording their own videos but this is something that I would like to be able to use in the future. I stumbled upon Canva during an online CPD session that I was taking part in during remote working. Canva is a design app that allows you to quickly design and create great looking publications either working from templates or from your imagination. I have used it to create certificates of appreciation for my pupil Digital Leaders, pupils submitting work, infographics, a twitter header image and various Teams announcement banners. All of your creations¬† can be animated, downloaded as pdf, image or video and shared with a link directly into my Teams, etc.

Announcement Banners
Announcement banners

My other roll during remote working has been training and supporting staff within my school with Glow, Teams, using Assignments, O365, ThingLink, Forms, Sway, Voice Overs in PowerPoint and OneNote Notebook. This has been great fun and very rewarding with staff sharing their successes and creations with me. Again reinforcing my original ‘silver lining’ from lockdown. However, I did say earlier that my view of that has slightly changed and it has – I’ve been so impressed by our pupils; taking part, sharing, asking questions and trying things out, however, in equal measure also by their parents and folks at home, supporting them (and me). I have received some lovely messages from them which has been greatly appreciated.

I have also achieved MIE Trainer status during remote learning. I had completed my own training for this way back in 2018 but had never tracked the training and support I had been providing to staff until now. Something else from remote learning that I will continue to do.

My silver lining now – the way in which pupils, parents and teachers have collectively engaged with Digital Tools and Technology for learning.

MIEE and Trainer Badges

 

You can find me on Twitter @FHSComputing

Creating the Remote Inclusive Classroom

The transition to remote, and now blended learning, has been incredibly challenging for students and educators alike but it has especially difficult for those with additional support needs. Many have co-occurring difficulties and rely heavily on a variety of support mechanisms in the classroom. So the key question is how do you maintain this level of support when the classroom the student and educator are in is no longer the same four walls? How do you create the inclusive classroom when the physical classroom is no longer there?

Thankfully, Microsoft’s Learning Tools are available to all educators and staff with M365 levelling the playing field and ensuring that every student can share their voice and become successful learners. The best aspect of all is that the tools are completely integrated into Microsoft tools such as Microsoft Teams, OneNote and Flipgrid. No extensions or additional cumbersome steps to install an add-in are required to access the tools. The tools are there by default and that is key for creating any inclusive classroom: accessibility by default.

When I am creating my classroom, inclusion is always the first aspect I consider. It is so important to ensure that we intentionally include otherwise we are always destined to unintentionally exclude. I am now going take you into the strategies I employ to develop the inclusive classroom and I have broken it down into four key areas: reading, writing, maths and communication.

 

Image showing symbols to represent the four areas of the Inclusive Classroom: reading, writing, maths and communication

 

 

Reading

Immersive Reader logo
Immersive Reader logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Microsoft’s Immersive Reader has completely transformed my classroom and, I am not exaggerating when I say that it has been life-changing for many of the students I work with.

I had used various Text to Speech software applications in the past with limited success. They did the job but were clunky and often prone to crash. Worst of all they were just another thing to worry about. As soon as I pressed the Immersive Reader logo on OneNote for the first time I was hooked (I always feel like a little bit of sparkle dust should appear when I click). I couldn’t quite believe the options available to my students. Page colours could be instantaneously changed (no more need for coloured overlays; the students kept losing them anyway), line focus meant that my students could remove distractions and focus on one, three or five lines at time (no more reading rulers; again they just lost them). Picture dictionary available to show an image of a word to support comprehension, using Boardmaker symbols that I had used for years without the need to print out, cut out, laminate, lose them and repeat again and again.

Last time I checked, Immersive Reader can translate text into 63 different languages and that list continues to grow and grow. I have now introduced Immersive Reader to every student I work with for the past three years since I discovered it (and every colleague too).

With the transition to remote learning, many students are now getting bombarded with so much more text to read than ever before. Every assignment can be full of text instructions, PDF and Word attachments also full of text, links to websites again with screeds of text and so on. It’s not surprising that many students are not engaging with online activities.

By introducing Immersive Reader to all my students (and colleagues) in school prior to lockdown, I’ve also empowered them to develop the skills needed to access any form of text. Microsoft Teams is the hub we use to communicate and share and Immersive Reader is there in every line of text for anyone to access with just 2 clicks (click three dots and click Immersive Reader).

Immersive Reader is not just exclusive to Microsoft tools but can be found across a whole host of third party applications such as Wakelet, ThingLink and Buncee.

Going back to my earlier point about bombarding students with a whole host of materials, Wakelet is a fantastic app to consider using to mitigate this. All of your resources can be housed in one Wakelet collection, with a clear sequence for students to follow and can be shared in one single URL or QR code. Best of all, Immersive Reader is integrated and accessed at the click of a button (the Immersive Reader logo in this case).

If you have never seen it in action before, prepare to be blown away here:

Immersive Reader in action

What about if the text is on paper you ask? Fret not, because combining the magic of OneNote and Office Lens, you could be using the power Immersive Reader within 90 seconds. Don’t believe me, check it out below for yourself.

OneNote and Office Lens: The Superhero App Duo

Writing

Also integrated into almost all Microsoft tools (apart from Microsoft Teams which I will come to in a minute) is Dictate. I have tried various computer dictation programs over the years but they required both a studio quality microphone and a heck of amount of patience to train it to actually recognise a coherent sentence. Dictate is already there, integrated into OneNote and works on any Windows, Mac or Chromebook device, and it is incredibly accurate . It can even understand my Glaswegian accent! The only downside is that Microsoft Teams does not have Dictate built in (seems strange to me that the instant messaging app does not have the ability to instantly message). You can get around it by taking advantage of the device’s in-built dictation tool (Window Key + H for Windows devices if you are wondering).

Dictate in action

Students can now access support for reading and writing at any time, in any place, with any device and, more importantly, without asking. This has now become even more important because of Covid-19, as in many cases, there is often no one there to ask. By introducing and training students to make the most of these integrated tools, we have inadvertently equipped for a situation that we could never have predicted.

Maths

Many students have real anxiety about undertaking maths work and I can’t say I blame them – maths was never my strong point. Even drawing a straight line with a ruler I can find challenging. The digital inking tools in OneNote are a complete gamechanger in this regard. You can use the digital ruler to get a perfect straight line (even tells you the exact angle!). The page can turned into a maths jotter by the square grid option and the individual squares can be made as large as like. For someone like me with writing difficulties such as dysgraphia, this makes such difference (when I was at school, I could never fit the numbers in the boxes in the maths notebooks the teachers gave me!)

Even if you can’t access the digital inking tools, OneNote can solve typed equations for you, break down the steps and you can also create Forms quizzes of the back of one equation for your students to practice with. The questions have, of course, Immersive Reader ready to leap into action.

Immersive Reader for maths equations

Communication

Establishing and maintaining communication can be the most challenging aspect of creating a remote inclusive classroom. A number of local authorities have initially prevented live teaching to take place and even fort those that have allowed it, educators are prevented from seeing their students in Microsoft Teams as the camera is disabled for them. That’s before you consider the fact that many students will not have the opportunity to connect live for a whole host of reasons. For this reason, and a whole host of other reasons, I have turned to the video discussion tool, Flipgrid for asynchronous communication.

 

Flipgrid logo

 

Flipgrid is an incredible app that I love for two simple reasons:

1. It is inclusive and accessible to all!
2. You can use it for absolutely anything – “If you can think it, you can Flipgrid it!”

I will use a whole other blog to share with you with how Flipgrid is the perfect tool to amplify voice asynchronously in the remote classroom. Let’s just say, that Flipgrid allows both educators and students to share their voice in the way most suitable to them. Both teachers and pupils can use the camera to share their video asynchronously by recording short videos (up to 10 minutes) but if they (or you for that matter) don’t want to appear in the camera, they don’t have to. They can use videos of objects, photos, sketches on the whiteboard/blackboard canvas, emojis over their face, text…the list could go on and on.

I have been specifically using Flipgrid in two ways during lockdown: to create short videos to explain the instructions in the assignment and creating short videos to share spelling rules and show how to decode words and blend sounds. This they can’t get from a PDF worksheet!

Anytime I want to record a video for my students (whether it is a Face to camera video or a screen recording), I immediately jump onto Flipgrid. Accessibility is definitely everywhere in Flipgrid, not only is Immersive Reader integrated for use with any piece of text, Flipgrid will automatically generate captions which you can also edit (so important when you are sharing videos and you have a thick Scottish accent like myself!).

 

Screenshot of the edit captions option on Flipgrid
Screenshot of Edit Captions feature in Flipgrid

 

Developing communication skills during remote learning does not just mean having face to face interaction with their teacher but the opportunity to connect with their peers as well. Microsoft Teams provides the perfect platform for this. I have specifically created a team for my Tutor group for this purpose, the opportunity for students to chat and connect with their friends in a safe space. I even throw in a fun Kahoot Quiz every Friday and there is great chat on the team before and after (even the classroom assistants get involved). It can get quite competitive!

Building self-esteem in all students is important but especially those with additional support needs such as Autism Spectrum Condition. Finding ways to do this during such difficult times can be tricky but one thing I have found that the students have responded to is the use of Praise stickers in Microsoft Teams. When students have completed work to a high standard, I always ensure I pick out a praise sticker, whether it be the awesome one or the achiever one or the courage one, and share it with my students. I’ve had some lovely messages from parents who have been so appreciative of me doing this.

 

Image of awesome praise sticker on Microsoft Teams
Praise sticker in Microsoft Teams

 

I would just like to end by saying that this does not mean every one of my students have engaged with remote learning and achieving their full potential. Several have not shown any sign of accessing the materials at all. I have just had to accept that there are many factors that are out with my control e.g. access to devices, connectivity, support from home, motivation etc. What I have tried to ensure is that I fully consider everything that is within my control to ensure that my materials and lessons are inclusive and accessible to all. After all, if we don’t strive to intentionally include we are always destined to unintentionally exclude!

About Me

I am an Additional Support Needs teacher at Lanark Grammar School. I am also an MIE Expert, Master Trainer and MCE (Microsoft Certified Educator). I am also a Flipgrid Student Voice Ambassador and Grid Guide and a Wakelet Ambassador. I was awarded MIE Expert of the Year for Scotland 2019-20 and I also won a global competition ran by Flipgrid to attend E2 Education Exchange in Sydney, Australia.

You can find me on Twitter: @cgerrard02

Photo of Chris Gerrard