Quoted Older teachers in Italy fear Covid-19 risks as schools return ( )

Teachers will have to wear face masks at all times, as will pupils over the age of six. Classrooms have been furnished with single-person desks and placed 1 metre apart. Staff and children will have their temperature taken on arrival, while several hand-gel dispensers will be placed around school buildings.

from: Older teachers in Italy fear Covid-19 risks as schools return | World news | The Guardian

Replied to a tweet by an author ( )
First week back...how’s was yours? Would love to hear others thoughts on their return to school

I am in a good place, my class all pupils I taught last year, gone from a 4-7 multi-composite to 6-7 will cut down planning & prep. Having emptied the room before summer means I can’t find the duct tape and am missing my cardboard mountain. Mask on when I move about the room.

When windows cannot be opened, classrooms could run portable HEPA filters, which are capable of trapping viruses this small, and which sell for as little as a few hundred dollars. Marr advises schools to measure airflow rates in each classroom, upgrade filters in the HVAC system to MERV 13 or higher (these are air filter grades), and aspire to meet or exceed ASHRAE (the professional society that provides HVAC guidance and standards) standards.

This is a really interesting article. I am not sure how long I could keep windows open in my classroom as we move through autumn into winter.

Replied to a tweet by an author ( )
You either practice social distancing or you don’t. This is exactly the vague ambiguity that Westminster has been guilty of. And, up and until now, mostly resisted in Scotland. If you practise social distancing you plan around it, instead of enacting a policy of wishful thinking https://twitter.com/Emma_Seith/status/1286297934607327239

I was disappointed by being “free to choose” to wear a mask or not. ‬I don’t have the knowledge or understanding to make that decision. It also seems it would be better if everyone did same thing? I’ve been reassured by Scot Gov decisiveness & clarity so far…

mouse in a live trap

Now the term is over. Time to look back. This is one of a set of notes about my experience of teaching recently. This was going to be that amazing post that pulled it all together. After a week 10 days into the holiday it turns out is more an inconclusive ramble😀.

The results, (I am not sure stats like this tell me much):

24 pupils from composite p4-7

  • 20 Pupils in my class made 381 Blog posts
  • We had 38 Conferences in Teams, maximum 17 pupils average 10
  • 26 Minecraft sessions 17 pupils at least once (6 of which only used Minecraft once or twice)

4 pupils never posted to their blogs
2 pupils never participated in a conference a couple more never stayed for more than a few minutes.

There was not a complete overlap.

I am quite please with the engagement. Given the short notice I was aiming for engagement as opposed to achievement.

The schools SMT were in touch with parents and we had no worries around pupils who did not show up online.

Previous Posts made During Lockdown

The above posts are a series of notes taken at the time. Musings and mumblings as opposed to anything well though out. Writing them helped me think through things and will help look back and learn over the coming years. What follows is more of the same.

Learning Tasks

Over the weeks I posted one big blog post a week with ideas for the week. These were all linked from a featured post on the blog: Home Learning – Banton Biggies

I was quite surprised that the take up of what I though of more creative and fun tasks were not taken up as much as some of the more basic stuff. Sumdog, which enjoyed in class was much less used than expected. I think I’ve underestimated the community aspect of a class in sparking ideas and encouraging children. Perhaps more show and tell about learning in Teams would help. One problem with that was the understandable uneven attendance in meetings. This made it hard to move on through the week.

Blogs

Blogs are, imo, very good at sending information out. The combination of media, the ability to make the information publicly available and the way it can be organised are useful. I recorded the text as audio and pupils told me they found this useful.

The incorporation of posts allowed by the display posts plugin allows you to repeatedly add regular information simply. I’ve used Display Post plugin to list my lockdown posts above, but it is a lot more powerful that this simple example.

Blogs are not, imo, the best way to collect and review pupil ‘work’ on a day to day basis. But the pupils were familiar with them and they worked well for me in the short term. Using OneNote would have been better if I could have avoided previous problems. I didn’t feel the effort to get pupils using OneNote when they had not before would have worked. If I had had a straight p6 or 7 or even a composite 6/7 I would have done so, but felt it best to stick to what we knew.

Still some of the blog posts are valuable beyond the “handing in” aspect. first as evidence of learning and second a record of these unusual times. Making 380 comments wore out my emojis and kept me in touch with my pupils.

The Glow Blog reader plugin made checking the pupils posts really simple. I can’t recommend it enough.

Screenshot of Glow Blogs Reader

Teams

I didn’t follow ‘best practise’ for my meetings. I worked it out as I went along. Each meeting had several shorter elements including:

  • round the room, to let everyone tell news, raise issues etc;
  • number talks, often supported by videos to watch beforehand;
  • quizzes
  • poetry, we looked at a different poem every week, exploring different aspects daily, usually ending with some writing on Friday.

My first method of organising the meetings involved a new presentation every day. Toward the end I stopped doing that. Pupils often saw nothing or didn’t see slides at the right time. I probably stuck in that rut, spending most of the morning making slides for far too long. Eventually I ‘presented’ by using the chat. Adding text, pictures and video as I went. Keeping the videos very small <2mbs meant this didn’t interrupt the flow.( Simpler Meet)

I used a fair bit of audio in the meets. Splicing together snippets from Farrago via loopback with my mic as input in Teams. This allowed me to ‘play’ poets reading their work and music. I used this to play bits of music as a timer when I gave the pupils time to work on something. (Lockdown Learning 18 May 2020 – virtual devices).

Having periods, 2-5 minutes of silence or music might seem a bit daft but I found the pupils enjoyed it and produced some good work. We used it for drawing, number talks, writing and brainstorming. I imagine it is even harder to respond immediately in Teams than it is in a classroom, so thinking time.

I ended up making quite a few short < 1.5 minute videos to explain things. At first I uploaded them to Teams well before the meets and asked for them to be watched, flipped style. As it became obvious that the class didn’t all watch them I continued but then uploaded them into the chat during the meet and gave time to watch them. This got round the problem of live explanations involving visuals synchronising. None of these videos were things of beauty. Earlier ones took time but I cut down and down in both size and speed of production. Either using the built in screen recording on iPad or recorded voice over for Keynote slides on Mac. In the later I used Screenflow to add audio for its better editing. In both cases reduced dimensions and quality of videos in HandBrake.

I found a few things irritating in Teams. The differing UI on different devices made it hard for some of my pupils, especially the younger ones. I would have loved a sticky post effect for announcements. I believe this is in the works but my pupils regularly missed announcements as they were pushed up the stream. I did have a channel just for announcements, but I don’t think the pupils visited that much.

Double clicking a file in the Teams dialogue does not result in the file being opened.

The file dialogues in teams drove me mad. Years of selecting files and then double clicking or hitting return/enter to open got me every time. Files from the desktop were fine as it then used the system dialogue. Ones from OneDrive or the teams files area, bleh.

Closing a document you had opened from a folder in the files area didn’t as I’d expect leave you in the folder but put you back to the top level of files. Again not a big deal but it slows down a workflow. I guess this is to do with Teams being a cross platform app built on electron.

The ability to edit a document in Teams was turned off due to high demand but I think it would be a killer feature. I did work with older pupils a little in shared word docs. The whole bouncing back and forth between different apps seemed too complex to start using with my younger pupils. Being able to do this in Teams would have been great.

We had not used assignments. I did try a few but they did not get completed by many in the class even with gentle nagging in meetings. I can’t say I was particularly disappointed. I found the marking and returning over complicated with a confusing UI. The Team I had set up was set up a few years ago, leavers removed and new addition to the class added. I noticed that the leavers were not removed from the OneNote classroom. I’ll be setting up a fresh team next session.
 
The way we used Teams was very much down to having a mixed age class on a multitude of devices and Operating systems.
 
I didn’t find Glow’s restriction on pupil cameras a problem. I suspect it saved us some bandwidth. It also removed any source of embarrassment.

Minecraft

We had used Minecraft (and the open source Minetest) a bit in class before lockdown. We tried some of the worlds created for maths activities and around creative tasks.

Once I found I could run a server from home]

I though it would be a good additional space for the class. I set it up and said to the class I would like a virtual Banton, with a school and roads to let me find other things they built.
I was quite surprised that the whole class didn’t jump in, but some of the ones that did were there every day. The created, to my mind, a amazing place, expanding and following their whims. It also provided the opportunity for some of them to teach me how to do a few things in Minecraft. I choose not to set up any of the learning worlds, thinking of it as more of a playtime experience.

Personally

During lockdown I was in a particularly favourable place. I’ve no children to look after and was totally supported by my wife. I have no idea how teachers with children of their own or other family to look after managed.

Still this was an intense experience. My days were very much taken up by school stuff.

I got a bit obsessed with keep contact with pupils. A few less in a meeting or posting to their blogs got me worried. This despite the fact that I knew that they all were in quite different situations and had different needs from school.
I also got into the habit of responding very quickly. This meant I was on constant alert to teams and new blog posts.

Blended Thoughs

As we got to the end of term it looked as if we were going back to some sort of blended learning situation. The rooms in school were prepared . I was feeling that this term had prepared me to prepare for a term or more of blended learning. My ideas centred round:

  • H&WB focus. Or making sure everyone is feeling good
  • Outdoor Learning. Start this straight away
  • OneNote start straight away. Main way of handing in work possibly.
  • Flip, short videos for home,
  • Reading Books and other resources, wondering how this would work as we were not supposed to have materials going back and forth.
  • Micro:bits in class as can have one each in tray for day. Can create code at home and use in school? Onedrive.

I was quite looking forward to getting this started before the change of plan at the end of my term.

Uncertainty

Of course things have changed now, it looks like we will be back to a normal attendance pattern in August. I am also wondering about my OneNote plan, some of Nick Hood’s concerns echo my experience. But if we are to prepare for the chance of further lockdown I think it is my only choice. The temptation to fall back on AirDrop  in the class will be strong.

The featured image on this post was taken by one of my pupils, used with permission. They shared it in our Team, I loved it & though it appropriate (I’ve used it before).

Replied to Athole on Twitter by Athole on Twitter (Twitter)
Back to School – Engaging with the NEW NORMAL http://throughthewindae.com/back-to-school/

Fascinating read. Going to be a very useful starting point to to thinking about August 11, albeit my circumstances are very different.  Delighted to see it coming to my RSS reader via ScotEduBlogs. Hopefully blogging is part of the new normal.

screenshot of Team's Chat

Some notes, part of a ragged collection on my lockdown learning.

I had a wee lightbulb moment this week. I’ve been running daily Teams meetings with my class and having a lot of problems with pupils not seeing the content of slides presented. My way of handling these meetings has been to use a PowerPoint slide deck to step through what I want to discuss and teach. It gives me some structure, allows be a board and to explain some thing visibly.
It has lead to a lot of pupils telling me a they can’t see the slides.

I had planned to do a bit of flipping so this week I used the day’s slides as the basis for a screencast or two each day. These were posted first thing in the morning so pupils could watch before the meeting at 2. Then if the slides failed I’d just continue and hope the pupils memories helped untested what I was saying. This didn’t work all that well. Not all the pupil read the morning post or watched the video. The videos were all short, 2 or 3.

The other problem is that pupils don’t all turn up every day, so if you try to teach a series of lessons it gets complicated. This is further complicated by having a multi-composite with a wide range of maturities and levels. For those that do come every day I imagine the repetition gets a bit tedious.

💡On Friday I abandoned the slides. Not sure why I didn’t think of this before, caught in the headlights? Instead I had a text file of notes and in a folder a few images and a video. These were uploaded into the chat at the appropriate time. The video was only a minute or so long and very small. I can also copy and paste text to the chat.
This worked a good deal better, the pupils could all see the content, reply with text and their own images while we talked. I’d been using the chat to collect writing in previous meets but this was a lot better.
An easy way to export the chat would be useful.

We did have problems with some pupils getting dropped and a few who lost the ability to talk. Most solved by quitting the meeting and app and starting again.

So my plan is to do just this for meetings in the future. Not sure how much I’ll be doing going forward as we go back into school next week to start organising for the new year. That will cut down on time for meetings and preparation for those meetings.

I am hoping getting rid of the PP will save me a bit of time too. Making ‘good enough’ explanatory videos doesn’t take very long. I either record talking over a few keynote slides or the screen of a whiteboard on an iPad. Try for one take, little editing. I then run them through handbrake to reduce the file size.

Things that have worked best for me, or I think are worth testing more:

  • Short sections, a wee bit maths, literacy, chat, quiz. I’ve not tried anything else.
  • Giving time to pupils to do a few minutes writing, calculating or drawing in meeting. I play a wee bit of music during these intervals.
  • Upload short videos or images to support discussion.

On the Minecraft front, I’ve had the server up and running for an hour every day, usually only 3-5 pupils this wee. Interestingly one who never comes to meeting, so proving useful in a small way. The Virtual Banton continues to expand. Now seems to have a railway in the sky and a zoo. I don’t spend much time there, occasionally popping in for a chat to to get some sort of idea on what is happening. I do listen to the talk though

Some notes, part of a ragged collection on lockdown learning.

Writing more poetry this week using Long Trip by Langston Hughes as a model. We worked on the poem everyday writing on Thursday & Friday. I play music for 5 minute writing blocks. This seems to work. Last week’s poem Our Magic Box Biggies is on the biggies blog, and this week’s will be up there soon.

Teams for iPad got an update promising hands up, but none of our iPads show this yet despite having the update.

It would be handy to copy the text of a conversation (or export it) in teams. Copying one message at a time is not much fun. I need to try the notes facility and see if it works for the pupils.

A we seem to be going back next session to a mix of home and school I think I’ll be starting to try out OneNote again. Last time wasn’t fun but if it works it will really help with organisation.

The plan to Flip our teems meeting a bit was a partial success. Quite a few of the class didn’t read the message so just turned up. So we had to go over things anyhow. I think I’ll keep going, despite the extra prep. The videos are pretty quick & dirty, just recording of voice over keynote slides. (I use screenflow for this as opposed to the built in recording ’cause I prefer it).

Presentations continue to lag on teams, despite a 800kb deck today. I could even see this on my iPad beside the computer! I don’t really think it is a bandwidth problem. Quite a few pupils went silent, leaving the meeting and rejoining helped with that.

I made a real effort to spend some time in Minecraft with the pupils this week, didn’t really happen as every time I found time someone could not log in leading to conversations in teams. Quitting the app and swiping away and trying again seems an iPad solution.