Replied to Allowing the Space to Fail by Aaron DavisAaron Davis

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.”

screenshot Farrago, Loopback, Teams

Notes to self as I try and teach myself to teach remotely. 

 

Powerpoint note, how annoying is Design Ideas. To turn it off you need to turn off all MS services in the privacy tab of the prefs. And relaunch app. And it didn’t seem to work for me. Back to Keynote – Export for me.

Teams

I am putting Announcements in 2 channels, then the next day removing them from the main channel and taking away the right to reply.

Got loopback working today. Dropping the Pass-Thru might have done the trick. This means I can mix in audio, Farrago in the meet today, with my mic.

screenshot Farrago, Loopback, Teams
Click for Big!

The Hands Up option turned up in Teams meeting for most of my class today. Good news was it seems to be in iOS as well as PC & mac.

Had a few more slides with photos today. These proved to be ‘laggy’ for some of the class. The children found that opening the chat and closing it seems to force a screen refresh and of the the slide shows up.

Tried having 5 minutes silent drawing in the meeting. I had my phone camera on my paper and some music in the background (loopback). It seemed to go down well.

Replied to Athole on Twitter (Twitter)

“@johnjohnston Why do you do a daily Teams meeting? Are they all class Teams? Do you do 1:1s too? I do a daily video message , 2 whole class video meets and two 1:1s a week. As well as all the video feedback. I’m just curious and comparing.”

Hi Athole,
Good question. I am not sure. It is the pattern I’ve fallen into. I put a weekly post of learning ideas up on our blog. The pupils respond on their e-Portfolios, occasional e-mails and in our Class Team.

I put the audio of the weekly post up.

I’ve a class of 24 p4-7, so 8 to 11 year olds.

We only have one team, we had not used Teams much before this. Just an an example of a chat app really. We used e-Portfolios a fair bit (WordPress, Glow Blogs).

I am trying to get some interaction with the class, give them some fun and encourage them to keep engaged. I’ve heard from some parents that it is motivating.

I’ve only had a maximum of 15 pupils in a meeting. I think some get bored and drop out. The environment for them all is different both physically and digitally.

During the meeting I work through a few different areas, usually look at a poem, have a quiz, do some ‘number talks’. Based on a powerpoint. It takes a lot of prep.

Our teams lacks pupil video. Which might be a good thing.

No 1-2-1s I’d not thought of that, nor heard of anyone doing them here?

I’ve not seen any local or national guidance here, so just trying things out and seeing how they go.

I’d be keen to talk about this more and obviously need to think more too.

Notes to self as I try and teach myself to teach remotely. See More lockdown learning for some sort of background.

Experimenting with Farrago & loopback to merge different audio devices into Team meeting, not successful so far, mic seems to lose volume & extra background noise. Seems like a good idea, can bring in other audio to meeting.

An online lesson that goes a bit wrong really effects my mood. Given the circumstances this is going to happen quite often. A lot of my eggs in one hour.

North Lanarkshire have decided that all Teams should follow a naming pattern, NLC School Name Class Name. This really spoils the readability of posts when I want to mention the class.

You can turn on text to speech in Minecraft, then you can listen to the chat while working. The music is quite relaxing too.
Children are bonkers.

Some notes….

A few weeks ago I blogged about how I was tackling providing some home learning for my pupils. Since then we had a two week break and have been working on line for a couple of weeks since. The class is a multi-composite of p4 to 7, 24 children.

Some children continued to pop into our Class Team and post to their e-Portfolios over the break and I did make some Holiday homework suggestions.

Since the holidays I’m continuing on the path I started. A weekly post, with activity suggestions, monitoring and commenting of the portfolios and being available in our team at least 9-3.

I am getting a fair response on the e-Portfolios, these are Glow WordPress blogs the class are used to posting to. I’ve had over 200 posts since lockdown started with about 20 out of 24 children posting at least once. I’ve put, with permission, a selection of screenshots on our class blog: Learning at Home

We have started having a conference call every day in Teams. This lasts an hour and I’ve been doing alternative mornings and afternoons. I am finding that I need a fair bit of time to prep for this. The attendance has been around half the class.

The connection in Teams seems not too bad. I am basically working my way through a mini program from a PowerPoint deck. I am finding if I keep these as light as possible, without transitions that seems to work best technically. Some of the class who were using phones don’t seem to be able to see the slides but they have negotiated use of another device at times.

The different interfaces and affordances of Teams on different devices are frustrating. For example I can’t just start a meeting from my iPad in a channel. I can call an individual, or join one set up on a computer, just not kick one off. Guessing what is happening at the other end is fun too.

There also doesn’t seem to be a way on mobile or a table to see the meeting and the chat at the same time. This precludes pupil putting up their hand in the chat. That means that discussions can get either a bit confusing or we need to go round the room which takes a fair bit of time, or there are overlapping answers. I remember the ‘hands up’ feature in Flashmeeting many years ago. I see MS is starting to roll this out to the desktop apps, but it would be great to have in in mobile, web, phones and tablets my class are using.

I’ve begun to try muting all the mikes and telling the pupils to un-mute as a sort of hands up.

I try a range of things in the meeting, it is difficult to make it too interactive. I’ve tried having my phone & an iPad hooked in alongside my computer but failed to show the class anything. I thought the phone on a camera stand would be a great way to demo things. Turned out the video did not take over the main screen for most and the class could not see it. Coming out of presenting a PowerPoint and demoing on my Mac camera didn’t work very well either half the class could not see what I was doing. Swapping between PowerPoint and webcam seems problematic and opening the whiteboard slow.

I presume a lot of these problems are due the the huge number of folk using teams around the world, I wish they would stop with the TV adverts and give me some bandwidth;-)

We have tried number talks and quizzes. The whiteboard has sometimes worked for the number talks. Hard for the pupils on a computer to use with a mouse (me too). Demos on slides with questions and anything else I can think of. Most of the ideas I’ve seen around this sort of learning are aimed at secondary or tertiary students. I think primary might be a little different.

Last week we tried a writing lesson, we had discussed the poem maggie and milly and molly and may by E. E. Cummings each day during the week. On Thursday we tried to write out own versions. First we brainstormed in several sections: names, objects etc. One at a time with me talking for a couple of minutes, then two minutes writing time followed by the children telling the rest their ideas.

Next we went through in couplets in the same sort of way, I read a couplet, gave my own example and then had two minutes writing and then sharing. Not unlike you would do in class except I could not see what was going on or work briefly with individuals. I think it went well despite the strangeness of having two minute timed silences. We needed the silence as some pupils will just talk through the two minutes. I am beginning to like the mute all button.

I had hoped that some sort of flipped learning might be a way to go, but the videos I’ve suggested pupils watch don’t get as much reaction as simple worksheets or writing tasks the pupils can do and post to their e-Portfolios.

The class are usually really creative (cardboard, photos and poetry the last 3 post before lockdown on our blog). The don’t seem to pick up on the creative suggestions as much as I expected. I think they need a little more support and encouragement.

My plan is to slowly expand the range of activities and technologies I offer. Testing something new one week and using it a bit more the next. Taking things slowly.

The week before last we briefly tested Minecraft Education Edition. I managed to get it working on my Mac so that some of the children could login to the same world. This week we had a few more sessions, them most pupils we got in was 7, they seem to have fun. I write another post about that.

The next step is to start putting some assignments in teams and see how that goes. I tried one this week, got 9/24 pupils competing a quiz. As we didn’t use Teams in class I think we need or add these things slowly and make sure as many as want to can use the technology. I’ll try a couple more next week and see how it goes.

I am also wondering about spending a little more formal time in the Teams chat as opposed to a meeting. At the moment it is mostly used to announce the meetings and Minecraft sessions. A couple of pupils have handed work in there too as an alternative to their e-Portfolios.

We also use Sumdog, it is quite a popular activity in class but I’ve not had much take up from home. About half the children are using it but only for a short time each week. The NLC Sumdog completion starts on Friday so that might encourage a bit more use.

As I am getting more children involved in posting to their e-Portfolios than anything else to will continue to be one of the main focuses. Most of the class have posted there at least once, many frequently. One thing that surprises me is the number of pupils working on paper and uploading photos of the work to their blogs. I presume some of this is due to access to hardware.

Teams meeting have maxed at 13 pupils, out of a class of 24. Afternoons seem more popular than mornings, I think some pupils are sleeping late. I am switching to more afternoon meetings next week. I’ll also continue to try different ideas in the meeting, give pupils time to complete tasks in chunks as I did with the writing this week.

I am just learning the ins and outs of Teams by trying things out. I’ve seen a few useful videos and posts but mainly just test as I go. It might be time to step back a wee bit and find out more. Unfortunately a lot of information is aimed at secondary schools or business like environments where the variety and access to hardware is not a problem. Time researching software is also not time preparing for the class.

I am also feeling my way to the both the content and delivery in Teams. Again most of the advice I’ve seem seems to be around delivering a secondary course quite different from a multi-composite primary.

It would also be slightly daunting to think about who is in the audience. It certainly sounds like many in my class are in a shared space.

It is taking a surprising amount of time to do this. Several hours at the weekend to put together the weekly post and two to three to prep each Team meeting. Hopefully I’ll get better at this. I also am trying to quickly comment on e-Portfolios and reply in Teams. I try to keep everything light as I my main aim is to keep in touch with as many of the class as possible. Having a multi-composite makes planning more interesting.

I am very lucky in having a supportive wife, my daughter is grown and away, I’ve little in the way of home responsibilities. I’ve no ide how you would manage if you had kids at home or a partner that needed the living room space too…

This is very much a case of fumbling around in the dark. I’ve not read much about how other primary teachers are tackling this and wonder if there are any patterns emerging.

Replied to No Deep Work in Shared Spaces by Aaron DavisAaron Davis

I have learnt that it is very difficult to do ‘deep work’ without a wife, especially when you are trying to work in a shared space.

I am not doing deep work, just trying to teach online. Despite the fact I am fairly tech literate with a good connection and no children at home I am finding things really time and head space consuming. I’d be in an even worse place if I didn’t get amazing support from my wife.