I didn’t find the lack of video for pupils a problem during daily lockdown classes. This post goes over the reason why video might be a problem and lists some ideas for compensating.

also keeping in mind some people are voice shy, and some people have noisy home environments

Although from a higher ed perspective it all rings true from a primary perspective.

Replied to Remote Learning Lessons – Reflections From a Parent by an author ( )
Although so many of the structures were carried online, one that was absent was a deliberate social space encapsulated in the yard. A part of me understands why. Some may abuse such an opportunity. There is no means of putting in place clear habits and policies before moving online. Also, it would become another thing for teachers to manage. Maybe such a space is the responsibility of home, I still think that this social side is one of the limitations to moving online, a place for play and experimentation.

Hi Aaron,

This is fascinating, there was a lot of opacity between me and my class, this opens it up a bit. Your daughter’s school sounds a lot more organised in a daily fashion than my class.

I ended up setting up a  Minecraft edu server at home for the pupils to access. This turned into a social space as I set no real guidance, problem or focus. I thought of this as a playground. It certainly fits the description  a place for play and experimentation.

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).

screenshot of chat in teams described in post.

BacK to school tomorrow, ironically I had the smoothest teams meeting yet today. Relied on the chat for all display. This is how it went.

Round the room

Everyone get chance to talk, some posted images at the same time into chat.

Maths

  • Uploaded small video just one or two minutes 1.5mb to explain a multiplication strategy into the chat. Gave time to watch.
  • Then uploaded a jpg with 4 chilli multiplications. Time to work on own choice of question, bit of music to time via Farrago.
  • Children explained their working and I scribed. Snapped with phone cropped and uploaded to chat. Previous we had tried the whiteboard but lots of lag and different amounts of lag.

 

Literacy

 

  • Read bluebottle poem, without title or last word.
  • Discussion and guesses.
  • Played poet reading poem, Farrago again.
  • More discussion.
  • Posted link to  Paddington 2 – Film Class  and gave a few minutes to watch.
  • Discussion of some of the questions.

Quiz

  • Read out questions, pasted into chat

A pretty smooth, IMO, hour. Almost no time wasted waiting for pupils to see a slide. Preparation was a lot quicker too. A text file to remind me what was next and to copy text from. a folder for images, audio via Farrago.

screenshot of file icons used for planning and prep described in post.

I really hammered the size of the movie and images. Handbrake and imageoptim both multi platform, open source & free, are great tools.

I had suggested that the pupils watch the two videos before the meet, not all had but they were so short I don’t think it did anyone any harm to watch twice.

It was interesting too in the mix of audio, text and image posted to chat that the class used to join in.

I’ve not seen this rather crude method of running a meeting described but it has lead to the smoothest meeting of the nearly 30 I’ve had over the last 6 or 7 weeks.

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

Replied to Allowing the Space to Fail by an authoran author ( )
Early on in the crisis, our daughter cared a lot about learning online. However, as time has passed, this interest has dwindled. Although this has been difficult, it has has also highlighted the importance of a space to fail in order to learn.

Hi Aaron,
I am seeing a change in engagement with my class over time. I am still getting roughly the same numbers turning up to daily Teams meetings, but a slowing down of ‘handing in’ of tasks. I wonder if this is about not having classmates to spark off each other. Being physically away from the classroom meaning it is easier to skips things and other family routines becoming more important. It is really hard to tell.

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.

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

So far I’ve been following a pretty standard pattern for our class team meetings. 1 hour a day 5 or six items running from a prepared PowerPoint.

I think most of the pupils enjoy it or at least the ones that have turned up come back.

I try to give as much time to them to talk as I can, but it is difficult getting contributions when we don’t know who is going to talk. I do a fair bit of round the class and some shout out when you have an answer!

My main problem is the slides failing to show up on the pupils screens. I don’t think I’ve managed a meeting where everybody has seen the slides in a timely fashion. My screen is white/black is a common cry.

We had a meeting this morning where less than half the class turned up, so only 12 in the meeting. I gave up trying to use the slides as there were too many problems. This was with a 1.9mb powerpoint so I am not sure where the problem lies? I have generally a very basic approach to slide decks. No transitions, very few images, lean & mean.

I’d really like to know how to get the slides to work a wee bit better. I even tried turning my video off to see if that would help, but it didn’t make much difference. As I’ve no idea about the pupils connection it is difficult to even guess.

I had though earlier that flipped learning might be the way to go, and do link or embed some videos on our blog. I got the impression that they were not much watched. I am now thinking that it might be better to make my own videos and ask the class watch them just before the meet. This will of course mean more prep.
So my classes timetable for tomorrow looks like:

  • 12:45 – 1:45 Minecraft
  • 1:45 – 2:00 time to watch a couple of wee videos uploaded to Teams.
  • 2:00 – 3:00 Team meeting

In other news:

I thought hands up in Teams had reached the iPad, but it seems not.

I am beginning. To see a drop off in participation, or in the sending me ‘work’ via Teams, e-Portfolios or email. I don’t think the May holiday helped, although I had a few pupils posting and even opened Minecraft up for a while on Monday. Maybe changing things up a bit in the meetings will help.

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

Teaching via blogs, teams and meets it a bit like throwing mud at the wall and seeing what sticks. I am not getting the same bunch turning up everyday. This makes planning a series of lessons difficult. Or continuing something.

My team meetings consist of some of the following:
– A bit of chat, perhaps “round the room” sharing news although if that happens every day most folk dry up after 2 or 3
– A few maths questions, pupIls note down answers and then we review and discuss.
– “Number talks”
– Tables bingo
– Every week we take a poem: read it on the first day; discuss words the next; Poetic techniques the next and do a bit of writing the next two. 10 minutes a day.
– A general knowledge quiz
– Discussions of some of the tasks on the weekly blog post.

I try to keep it moving along, light and happy.

We tried 5 minutes drawing with soft music one day this week, it seemed to go down well. I’ve done the same with writing. On paper then pasted into the chat. Again using poetry keeping it short.

Of course this is interrupted by pupils dropping out, trying to get back in! Mics not working, audio dropping etc.

I also run a Minecraft Education Server for an hour or so everyday. I mostly step back. Stick on the text to speech and try and get some prep done. Not particularly successfully. Every so often I wander about amazed at what is being done. It is a pretty open ended task, a Virtual Banton. It seems to develop in fits and starts. It drops away then an idea picks up. Fascinating to watch. I’ve never had more than 7 pupils in at once.

Today I was completely surprised, two of the class wanted to ‘give’ me the school uniform. It seems in Minecraft there are ways to pass on these thing. Some instructions in chat followed, but they were to complicated for me. One pupil then decided to make a video. And drop it in teams. 2 minutes later job done. I’ve got my uniform on.

Text of a pupil  blog post today, “I know I’m like two weeks late with this work but here it is.”