Sunday, 15 February 2015

Go on bore them - A Review

Whether you're a newly qualified teacher starting out on your career, an experienced classroom practitioner, or somewhere in between, you will find something to take away from Terry Freeman's digital publication Go On Bore Them.

The premise of the booklet is how teachers make ICT lessons excruciatingly dull and draws on the author's 30+ years experienced in education as a teacher, inspector, consultant and writer. The book is littered with examples of how teachers have taken a subject, which by its nature is engaging and relevant, and made it boring. More importantly though, each anecdotal error is accompanied by an explanation of why this created a boring lesson, before offering advice on how it could be taught and why such strategies would engage learners.

The advice given is sequenced into the structure of a traditional lesson, working its way from starter through main activities (dealing with under and over-challenge), to the plenary. The evidence Terry uses- selected form his time as an inspector- is presented in a light-hearted way and did, on more than one occasion, caused me to chuckle. The narrative voice that comes through is one of support rather than criticism, as a reader you feel you are benefiting from someone's vast experience. He shows you mistakes that others have made and helps you understand why these choices were to the detriment of learning and offers solutions. Such solutions are based in pedagogy and offer advice that could have a long-term impact on teaching and learning rather than a quick fix for a specific problem. I found it impossible whilst reading this publication, not to reflect on my own practice and on a few occasions my cheeks flushed with colour as I remembered mistakes I had made. 

While this booklet may appear to be about teaching with technology and uses secondary school as it main evidence base, it offers plenty for the non-specialist and primary teacher. Neither is it affected by the changes of Curriculum 2014 whereby ICT has evolved into Computing. This publication is for those who have a growth mindset, who want to reflect on their own practice and who want to create purposeful learning environments. So it should be relevant for any teacher. Put simply this digital booklet focuses on pedagogy, technology is merely the context it uses, and shows that by neglecting how children learn, we really can bore them.

Go On Bore Them, can be downloaded from Terry Freeman's website ICT in Education

Thursday, 12 February 2015

CAS CPD Events

This term I will be running two CPD sessions on behalf of Computing at Schools.

The first course - Introducing Computer Science to the Primary Classroom (10/03/15)  - explains the computer science concepts and terminology of the new computing curriculum and explores a range of engaging unplugged activities (non IT) that can be used to introduce such concepts to the classroom. 

These activities include the algorithm or advice quiz; roboteach makes squash; human number sort; the selection dance; variable guess who.

The course was over subscribed when run last term. Below is some feedback from course attendees
  • "The activities shared were very useful"
  • "It was excellent"
  • "[the course] made me realise I had a better understanding of the concepts than I thought"
  • "great examples of unplugged resources"
  • "loads of practical ideas to use in the classroom" 

The second course - Using Makey-Makey Boards with Scratch (19/03/15) -  explores how Makey-Makey boards (more info here) can be used in conjunction with Scratch to program activities and games that use external inputs. As this session will be very hands-on, the numbers are strictly limited to 15 to ensure that all attendees have access to resources.

The session includes ideas on use a makey-makey board to test electric conductors; to control maze based games, control two player race games; play an onscreen instruments. 

Both courses will be run as twilight sessions from 4pm to 6pm at St Paul's Primary School in Withington (M20 4PG)  and the charge per attendee is £27.15. If you would like to book a place on either course please use the links below. Course attendees will be receive copies of resources used in the training sessions

Using Makey-Makey Boards with Scratch -

In addition to these events, Sally Jordan will be hosting the termly South Manchester Primary CAS Hub meeting and CPD sessions on Scratch and Kodu - details below.

Next CAS Primary Hub is at Acacias Primary School on March 5th
Introducing Scratch to Primary Teachers KS1 & KS2 on 26/03/2015 16:00 – 17:30
Using Scratch to deliver the Computing Curriculum in Primary Schools.
Exciting and engaging ideas for you and your class with practical activities to deliver straight away.
There will be an opportunity to gain practical experience using Scratch and to learn about the wide variety of plans and resources available.

Introduction to Kodu for Primary Teachers on 30/04/2015 16:00 – 17:30 at Acacias Primary School, Burnage.

Sally Jordan - Sally is Computing Co-ordinator at Acacias Primary School, and was appointed as a Primary Master Teacher (Level 2) in July 2014. She is currently teaching Computing across the school and Year 6 intervention groups.
Venue for both training courses is Acacias Primary School, Alexandra Drive, Burnage M19 2WW

For further information:

Earthquake watch on Google Earth

If you are teaching lessons on natural disasters, then using Google Earth, to show pupils recent seismic activities, is a powerful way to get across the idea that earthquakes of a low magnitude happen frequently.

To launch this, first open the Google Earth then open Earth Gallery.

Next select crisis from the explore menu and open the Earthquakes from the Last Week map, selecting view in Google Earth when the option presents itself. If you are using a computer open the .kml file you have just downloaded, touchscreen devices will do this step automatically.

You are now presented with information about the earthquakes grouped into those that have occurred in the last hour, last 24 hour and last week. In class we used the information to create a database-style information cards using the book creator app.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Databases using Top Trumps

Top Trump,  a childhood favourite, are a great way of introducing children to databases. A pack of top trumps is a database, they contain records/files and the data is organised into fields, each card has the same set of fields which enables the data to be compared.

I started the unit off by showing children how to create a database using 2investigate by Purple Mash. Each group was given a set of top trumps card and had to input the data from the cards into a collaborative database. When this was finished, the children got to play top trumps for a few minutes before I posed a question about how we could use the database to work out which field had the best chance of winning. I modelled to the children how to search individual fields and how to use greater than and less than searches. The information returned showed them how many cards were better than theirs for that particularly field. They were then able to make a mathematical choice about which field offered them the greatest chance of winning.

At home several children created their own databases from their own trop trumps card, two even created databases by using Wolfram Alpha (a class favourite) to research statistical data about football stadia.

Once the pupils had mastered the skills of designing, creating and searching databases, we moved on to applying the skills in a cross curricular context. In our topic work we had been studying natural disasters, so the children were asked to create a database about volcanoes. Using the idea of top trumps helped them to think about which fields to include: the pupils visualised the data on a top trump card. They then researched and created a database before querying it to answer questions devised by other children.

The children were clearly enthused by this unit of work and using top trumps gave them an easy way to understanding the vocabulary and purpose of databases.  

Ben Davies @b3ndavi3s