Some rather belated thoughts on returning to classroom teaching.
Featured Image: My own, my class is under the parachute.
Some rather belated thoughts on returning to classroom teaching.
Featured Image: My own, my class is under the parachute.
This is a summary of my presentation for PressED – A WordPress and Education, Pedagogy and Research Conference on Twitter. I’ve pasted the text from the tweets, without the conference hash tags below.
I am @johnjohnston a primary school teacher in Scotland. I acted as ‘Product Owner’ for Glow Blogs from 2014 to 2016 & continue the role on a part time basis.
Glow is a service for to all schools & education establishments across Scotland.
Glow gives access to a number of different web services.
One of these services is Glow Blogs which runs on WordPress.
All teachers and pupils in Scotland can have access to #GlowBlogs via a Single signon via RMUNIFY (shibboleth)
#GlowBlogs developed & maintained by Scottish Government considerable amount of work going into dev, testing, security and data protection. This differs from many edu #WordPress set ups as changes developed relatively slowly.
Major customisations include shibboleth signon, user roles & privacy. Teachers/Pupils have slightly different permissions.
Blogs can be public, private or “Glow Only”
There is also an e-Portfolio facility added via a plugin.
Glow Blogs are currently used for School Websites, Class Blogs, Project Blogs, Trips, Libraries, eportfolios. Blogs By Learners, Blogs for Learners (Resources, revision ect), collaborations, aggregations.
ePortfolios supported by plugin, custom taxonomy. ‘Profiles’ print or export to PDF. Pupil portfolio blogs can have sparkly unicorns or black vampire styles but the profiles that come out look clean and neat.
Pupils can learn to be on the web but with <13 we have duty of care.
Pupils can create blogs. Cannot make blogs public.
A member of staff can make pupil’s blogs public. Pupils can be members of public blog and post publicly.
Only scratched the surface of the potential of #WordPress the tools are in place, Scottish teachers and learners are exploring the possibilities but it is early days. We are tooled up for the future.
My class have been writing short descriptive passages about soldiers in the WW1 trenches.
At the weekend I planned for them to record these over a background of sound effects. I had spent some time at freesound.org and downloaded 20 or so effects and sounds. I had converted these to MP3 files, to reduce file size and placed these in a folder in OneDrive which I then shared. I have also made a list of credits for the files, all are Creative Commons.
The plan was to get the class to listen to the files in OneDrive then ‘open’ the ones they wanted to use in bossjock jr. These could then be loaded into ‘carts’ alongside the voice recordings. The pupils then played the different sounds and record that for their final mix.
To make sure everything went smoothly I got the whole class to open OneDrive and make sure they were logged in. That first step worked fine. The problem was OneDrive reported that there was not an internet connection and showed no files or folders. Since the class had logged into Glow this was obviously wrong.
I ended using most of the morning interval and lunchtime trying to see where the problem was. Strangely when I opened the iOS Files app when also allows you to see OneDrive files, I started slowly seeing files on the pupils iPads. And when I switched back to OneDrive the appeared there. To give the pupils access to the shared folder I needed to send a url. This opens OneDrive, and that told me I needed to open the browser, doing this, and signing on to Glow again (in the browser this time) eventually gave pupils iPads a view of the shared folder. Unfortunately I couldn’t get these to open and then open in bossjock in a timely fashion. It just was taking too long.
On my iPad I had earlier made the files available off line in OneDrive. This took a while. I did manage to see the files in the Files app, from there I copied the MP3 files to the Notes app. 2 notes with about 10 files each. I quickly tested sharing these notes via Airdrop, it was pretty quick.
I suspected that airdropping notes with 10 audio attachments might be a bit slow, especially without Apple Classroom. I was wrong. In the afternoon I just dropped the notes to the pupils in groups of 4 or 5 at a time and in 10 minutes had distributed 20 audio files to all of the class. From there they could listen to the files in notes and copy the ones they liked to bossjock.
The rest of the afternoon when well, the children recorded their voices and mixed in the sound effects. For a first try the results were good. Next time I think we will record the audio live over the backgrounds that would allow us to duck the effects and make sure all of the words were clear. I think once the logistics of moving audio onto the iPads was sorted it becomes an interesting and valuable lesson. Fortunately the class missed all of the boring bits and no one asked why we had opened OneDrive earlier in the day.
featured image, screenshot of sending audio from Notes to bossjock jr.
One of the activities I get my class to do is to record themselves reading for self assessment. This is not particularly exciting or complicated but I think it is worthwhile.
We use bossjock jr a free iOS recording application 1. This allows pupils to record their reading. After they are finished they can export the recording into the Notes app and add their self assessment. This can then be air dropped to me. Using Apple Classroom means that I don’t have to accept the drop, it waits for me in Classroom until I’ve time to move then to my Notes. 2
From my point of view Notes is not the greatest app for organisation, but I can move the notes to a folder at least.
The pupils can also upload their recording to their e-Portfolios on Glow Blogs.
This is slightly trickier as they need to get the files somewhere they can be uploaded through the browser. This means a 2 step process:
1. Export the files from either bossjock or notes, via the Files app to iCloud or OneDrive 3
2. Choose the recording from Files in the file upload on blogs.
The class all have managed this fine, it might take a few goes for some of them to remember they need to export. 4
I love that you can ‘share’ media straight from Notes into the Files app.
I have also tested Drag and drop from Notes to Safari and that seems to work too, it seems easiest to drop it on the Upload Button in the WordPress media library.
I’ve not tested this with the pupils yet. Next time.
“Tinkering with realtime world creation in @Scratch. Character on the screen is coded to interact with different colored objects. (Black is floor. Red is lava. Green is the goal.) Kids can be creating and coding these worlds simultaneously in realtime. https://t.co/giiR6HCmNR”
I want to track this to see if the “how to” requests get an answer. Looks clever. Might not need much kit?
As an enthusiastic proponent of pupil blogging when I first heard about the e-Portfolio system developed in Glow Blogs I was rather worried. I think this was around 2012. I had been excited about Glow Blogs giving the opportunity to Scottish teachers to get blogging into their classrooms. When I saw e-Portfolios appear I saw them as adding complexity to the process (the rules, the capacities and Es & Os). The idea of blogging being a requirement and be controlled and constrained felt as if it was against my idealistic ideas.
Over the next couple of years I worked in many schools helping set up e-Portfolos with groups of pupils. I rarely saw the end result. One good thing I saw was teachers realising that posting to WordPress was a lot easier that their usual way of creating a website. In our Local Authority like many others schools started to move their websites to Glow Blogs.
It was ironic then that when working on Glow in 2014-15 that I spent a lot of my time working on improving the e-Portfolio system.
Last session I found myself returning to class teaching. Over that year I did some blogging with the class and set up and used e-Portfolios a bit. Less than I hoped but getting back into teaching after a major curriculum change had its challenges (I am still working on some of these).
One of the things that has changed is the ease of getting an audience. Providing an audience for pupil work was one of the main benefits I found in Sandaig. A lot has changed in the 12 year since I started getting pupils to blog. There has been a massive increase in publishing by schools. It seems a lot harder to gain an audience.
Last session e-Portfolios became less of a focus when I found out that the secondary we feed had its own requirements for a pupil profile and this was not one created by a blog.
This session I decided to give the e-Portfolios another chance, focussing on informal self evaluation and celebration.
After a term I think this is going pretty well. The class are largely enthusiastic about the process. We are managing to make at least one weekly review post a week. In addition the pupils are sometimes posting their artwork, writing and at some end of sections review of maths work.
The children are taking posting seriously, recording learning and some beginning to pinpoint next steps.
I’ve been giving out a template with suggestions for the weekly review asking different children to complete more or less depending on ability. Some pupils need 1-2-1 support every time, others are running away with it. The template is the sort of thing you would expect (best work this week, why, didn’t like, why, enjoyed etc). One thing the pupils especially like is to summarise their week in emoji. I added this as a wee bit of fun, but it has been fascinating to see how some really think about this.
With a class with a wide range of abilities, across p4-7, it is a bit of a challenge to manage the process. This is somewhat eased by the fact there are 17 pupils in the class and we have 1-2-1 iPads.
This term I’ll change these around a bit giving some pupils simpler templates to start. I do vary the questions from week to week already.
At this point the posts have a fair number of typos, spelling and grammar errors. I try not to focus on these but will pick that up later on this session. I want the pupils to enjoy posting. I encourage photos along with text and the pupils are posting some multimedia. I’ve also asked them to post about learning outside school too.
I do review what they write briefly before they transfer from notes to their blog. I am a fan of editing blogs posts in external app 1.
I was delighted one week when a Primary 4 pupil was still working at the end of the session, he had decided to make a short video of a magic trick he had learnt as an example. This was off his own bat without any prompt.
One of the things that has surprised me most is the pleasure I get in ‘marking’ the post by leaving comments. I can’t say marking jotters is something I always enjoy but I do love commenting.
I’d though that the process of posting weekly would speed up and not take some much time after a few weeks, this has not happened yet. Some pupils need support in publishing, more in writing. I do think the process is justifiable in terms of basic literacy as a exercise in writing, grammar and spelling. It is also hitting a few Health and Wellbeing E&Os 2. Perhaps some ICT too;-).
There are a few different e-Portfolio systems on the go across Scotland, several based on different Glow services. I am of course biased towards the web, blogs and WordPress. Glow Blogs now have a nice follow system that makes it easy to keep up with pupil blogs, I know my way round WordPress, it is flexible open source software with good exit/export paths 3.
Apart from system used, I am pleased with the results I am getting by using e-portfolies, a a little surprised at the range of learning that can go on in the process.
Featured image E-Portfolio | Oliver Tacke | Flickr Public domain
“the chance of people replicating this in schools is very small. Carol Dweck told me that they don’t have a single example of a school successfully changing pupils’ mindsets.”
I’ve not really paid much attention to Growth Mindset. I missed Carol Dweck the year she was at SLF but I remember a lot of excitement.
More from the post a quote from Carol Dweck:
“I was asked once, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ It’s the idea that my work – which was designed in opposition to the self-esteem movement – would be used in the way that the self-esteem movement is used.”
Interesting read and Carol Dweck will be a guest on the Tes Podagogy podcast on 18 October I think I’ll huffduff that for a listen.
Last week I posted about the end of Flash, one of the thing I regretted was the loss of a tool to teach animation.
Direct link: jj-test-wick
My skills in this department are limited, but if you look closely you will see the person in the animation is moving his arms and legs. They are a clip.
The flash vacuum is being filled before it exists.
Although in the age of mobile and tablets Flash content has become less important there still is a lot of educational material, especially games, that uses Flash.
I also used Flash to teach animation in class. Although Flash is expensive at the time I used it you could get cheap education copies and the software was less complicated.
Sandaig Primary School: Computer Club (on the Internet archive) still has some of the work we did.
I’ve just had a trip down memory lane, Littlefish Flash lists some of the things I did with Flash and also links to a pile of worksheets I made for my pupils.
Looking back I remember how exciting, for me, to be able to learn and teach about layers, frames, bitmap and vector graphics.
One of the introductory exercises we did was to use flash to trace our faces. The same technique was popular with my class using iPad apps this year.
I’ve read a lot online about the problems with Flash over the last few years. It uses too much energy for mobile and has regular security problems. Despite this and the fact it was priced out of my classroom when Adobe bought it I am a little sad that old flash content will either vanish or be hard to view in just a few years.
I didn’t ever expect to write a post with this title, but this has been stuck in my head for a while, I started writing it a few weeks ago.
In a recent post he writes about using google docs with his class and this bit brought me to a halt:
I would never use it with younger kids; they need to write accurately with pen or pencil before they should move on to more focused tools but for seniors it works really well.
I’ve recently finished my first year in a classroom in nearly a decade. A lot had changed! One of the thing that changed in my classroom is the children each had use of an iPad. I’ve blogged a bit about some of the technical aspects of the experience but not about some of the decisions made about when to use technology and any benefits. At the start of the year I didn’t introduce the iPads straightaway, but established jotters as normal. We discussed the importance of keeping using the jotters and over the year came to some sort of balance. I’d estimate about 1:2 iPad to handwriting ratio. Given that the primary sevens would be going to a new school next session where they would not have 1–2–1 devices I did not want to put them at any disadvantage.
It was a small class and only the older children, the primary sixes and sevens, did a lot of daily writing on the iPads. I’ve not got any statistics or real findings. I do feel that writing digitally has help with some of the processes of writing. In particular the ability and willingness to revise written work. Correcting ones own writing is a lot easier on a device and gives a more pleasing result in the main. Reorganising writing is easier too. Moving paragraphs around, or just creating paragraphs out of a block of text is a lot easier.
That should make improving writing easier? I hope so.
Kenny writes about his own experience of finding examples of his handwriting from the past.
I found a little piece of my own history when I came across the old notebook. Wouldn’t it be a shame if that same opportunity were to be denied to future generations?
Which was obviously an enjoyable experience for him. My own history with handwriting has been different.
All the way through school (and university) I got reminded that I would lose marks for my handwriting writing. I can’t recall ever feeling pleased with it.
Left handed, primary seven lessons with pen and ink were a smear. Even with a left handed fountain pen.
At sixteen, taking a shotgun licence form to the local police station my printed ‘signature’ provoked a ‘call that a signature son’, I’ve signed a scrawl ever since.
A gap of nearly 10 years between university and Jordanhill did nothing to improve the situation.
My first permanent head teacher gently suggested I practice writing on the board and at home. This I did for a few minutes at home (copied out the Tao Te Ching), and when I arrived in school. This improved my classroom writing enough to get by. Making Banda worksheets was an extended torture for me. Usually making a mistake right at the end.
When the same head suggested I improve my non-existent ICT skills by taking home a computer for the summer break I was not too keen, but I went along with it. I discover ClarisWorks and the ease of editing. I was much more interested now.
I write a lot. I’d not argue that I am a good writer, but I love blogging, as a way of sharing but more as a way of thinking.
The main difference between my blog and the few journals I’ve kept (I’ve found old travel ones) is that I can read the blog. I can search it too and find what I half-recall.
I don’t know if digital writing is better or worse for pupils literacy. I’ve read various bits of research but nothing conclusive. I certainly feel digital helps me and perhaps some learners.
Update: while this post has been maturing in drafts I read: Can’t Trust It: Typing vs Handwriting which indicates that the water is muddy.