This video shows a sample of the signage that we are running on one of our reception digital signage units. Follow thesignageguy at youtube.com/thesignageguy to see more demos and how tos.
Teachers don’t have a lot of time! But they do have high standards and they want their efforts to have impact. I have recently been demoing a free tool to a few teachers at my school called Screenr.
It is a free screencasting website which is a one-click record simple system. There is no software to install (although you do need Java installed). You don’t even need to register an account as you can use a Windows Live account (we have live@edu so all teachers have a Live account), a Google account, Twitter, Facebook or other services.
It can be used to record video tutorials showing how a piece of software is used, or showing a PowerPoint slideshow with some narration (perhaps as a revision video). In fact, anything that is on-screen along with the audio narration.
So what’s the downside? There are two main factors but these aren’t negatives.
- There is a time-limit of 5 minutes, but this is a bonus as it means you need to split your work into manageable chunks that will keep students engaged.
- There are no editing tools, it is record and go! If you mess up, scrap it and record again. This is a bonus as it means that you don’t waste time editing and trying to perfect something which is fine as it is!
I’ve recorded a short video tutorial showing how to use the tool and embed the video into our learning platform (Moodle).
If you have any questions then please ask. If you record an awesome demo then please post it in the comments below!
My Twitter feed is full of retweets this morning … “Michael Gove to scrap ‘boring’ IT lessons” from the Guardian. In his opening speech to the BETT show, Michael Gove will slam the boring and constrictive programme of study that is in place for ICT and will allow schools to choose their own curriculum.
Gone are the days of the drip fed Microsoft Office curriculum and a brave new world is upon us with exciting and dynamic schemes of work that will be updated to reflect current practice. This new curriculum will serve the needs of all and will pay homage to Turing and inspire a new generation of programmers and other digital professionals. Or will it?
Don’t get me wrong, as an ICT teacher and former Head of ICT I welcome the freedom but I’m not sure everyone will know what to do with this new found power. There are lots of excellent professionals who are on Twitter and have already made moves towards developing a dynamic and exciting scheme of work. The #ictcurric team developed excellent resources and shared them willingly. But what about the ICT departments who are not engaged in these professional networks? How do they find out what others are doing? The concern is that some departments won’t know what is possible so will not push the boundaries. This situation is made worse by a lack of computing trained professionals in schools who can inspire students and lead them on to independent programming through sites like Microsoft Dreamspark.
The major stumbling blocks in this brave new ICT/Computing world are the examination boards and the qualifications available. We can provide as much inspiring teaching and as many awesome lessons as possible but whilst you still have exam boards who are awarding marks for using WordArt in coursework (see attached extract from the mark scheme for WJEC A-Level ICT) we are still doomed to be uninspiring when we get to the formal stages.
The exam boards must develop the qualifications to match this new technological freedom and must continue to update the qualification to keep it relevant in an ever changing work.
Finally, to support teachers we need to have more CPD available to staff to get them skilled up in the computing aspects of ICT. There will always be students who want to push the boundaries of lessons (educationally) and the staff have to be able (and confident) to lead them to the next steps and support them on their journey.
These students are headed for greatness, we just need to ensure they are pointed in the right direction.
This year I won’t be making any new year’s resolutions. For me I am focusing on using my skills more at school. As an ICT teacher it’s easy to get on the treadmill of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and the occasional Access database if you’re getting really technical. This year I am going all out for coding at school.
In my previous life (before I was a teacher), I worked for BT in their main development facilities in Ipswich. During my time I was a systems tester, systems analyst and I have been known to turn my hand to some coding from time to time. Some of those development skills have lapsed but they occasionally get a trip out when I am really into a web project - an example of this was when I developed plannerLIVE! <—- BTW: plannerLIVE! is completely free of charge, has hundreds of schools registered and has over 100,000 homework assignments online! Did I mention it’s free?
Following my visit to Microsoft’s UK base in Reading at the Microsoft in Education Forum I have been thinking more and more about getting more coding into school. Ben Nunney’s presentation on using Kinect in the classroom was excellent and got me thinking about doing more coding at school. I’d love to get him to come in (or Skype in) and do some work with gifted students. In addition, Ray Chambers is publishing some exercises on using Kinect on his website which is a future step for us.
So this Thursday I am starting Coding Club at school. The students have been fed an almost exclusive Microsoft Office diet (some have done a little Scratch) so we’re starting from the basics.
- I’ll be getting all students to register with DreamSpark to get hold of software and tutorials.
- We’ll be starting with a little SmallBasic to get them used to coding and conventions
- Following that brief intro we’ll be getting straight into XNA Game Studio 4.0
(I’m currently working through the XNA 4.0 Game Development by Example: Beginners Guide book which is really good)
- From there … who knows? The sky’s the limit!
Am I going wrong?
Are you running something similar at your school?
Let me know in the comments below!
It’s been quite some time since I last wrote a blog post and in that time I’ve had a couple of significant incidents that have changed my perspective on ICT and Computing in schools.
The first was the Microsoft in Education forum held at the Microsoft UK headquarters in Reading. This was a great event organised by Sean O’Shea, James Marshall and Tim Bush. A small group of 12 education related people got together and discussed how Microsoft helps with the most important thing in schools … learning!
The Partners in Learning site has some fantastic resources to help learning and teaching in schools. Here are a few highlights from the site:
Microsoft Mathematics Add-in for Word and OneNote - This free add-in allows you to easily insert mathematical formulae, symbols and graphs into Microsoft Word documents.
Microsoft Songsmith - A clever free application that helps students to develop music. Students sing into the microphone and Songsmith creates the music to accompany the song.
SmallBasic - A simple way to introduce real programming skills to students. SmallBasic is the pre-cursor to VisualBasic and projects can be ‘graduated’ to VisualBasic when you are ready.
There are a lot more tools available at the newly redesigned Partners in Learning network site. They’ve packaged their best learning resources into the Learning Suite by Microsoft. This is a single installer that allows you to choose the programs you want to install.
An essential part of being a better teacher, manager, student or leader is the ability to review and refine your practice and to be open to new ideas. I am currently reading a book “Teach Like a Champion: 49 techniques that put students on the path to college” by Doug Lemov. Lemov is managing director of a group of ‘Uncommon Schools’ who are independently run charter schools aiming to be high performing regardless of social profile of the students.
Some may consider the advice in the teaching manual to be for new and inexperienced teachers but there is something there for everyone who is keen to refine their craft and improve the performance of their students.
Lemov has sought out and observed high performing teachers, especially those from schools whose level of social deprivation is preventing students from achieving. He has identified common themes and techniques that can be applied in your classroom now and will improve performance. These have been organised into areas:
- Setting High Academic Expectations
- Planning that Ensures Academic Achievement
- Structuring and Delivering Your Lessons
- Engaging Students in Your Lessons
- Creating a Strong Classroom Culture
- Setting and Maintaining High Behaviour Expectations
- Building Character and Trust
Within these seven areas are 49 techniques, each with catchy names (Precise Praise, Sweat the Details, Right is Right), simple explanations and successful case studies. I am part way through the book but a technique that grabbed me in Setting High Academic Expectations is Right is Right. This is my summary of that section.
Right is Right
This section is about having high expectations for ‘correctness’ in the classroom. A partially correct answer is not good enough in the high achieving classroom. There are a number of ways that teachers can ensure that students are always fully correct and are achieving the highest standards.
1. Hold out for all the way
Teachers try to encourage students and stay positive but their rounding up of answers lulls students into a false sense of security. Consider the situation
Teacher: Katie, how will the introduction of computers into the factory affect the workers?
Katie: Well, they won’t be very happy!
Teacher: Right, they won’t be very happy as the new technology could mean that they would lose their jobs.
The teacher has ‘rounded up’ Katie’s answer here and set a low standard of ‘correctness’. Katie may feel happier and more confident but this confidence is misplaced as she would not get the marks in an exam situation. This situation is all too familiar in the classroom; it’s important that Katie is told that she is ‘almost there’ but that she is not completely correct. The teacher can improve Katie’s performance in the final exam by using simple techniques.
The teacher should praise the student but prompt them and assist them in expanding their answer to be fully correct. They can do this by using phrases such as
“You’re getting there. Can you expand that answer?”
“That’s part of the solution. Can you complete it?”
“Can you develop that answer further?”
“Okay, but there’s a bit more to this answer than that”
2. Answer the question
Students can often answer the question they WANT to answer rather than the question that is being asked. Quite often they can get away with that as the teacher is delighted that they have learned something and can recall it, but the teacher should stick to their guns and insist that the question asked should be answered.
Teacher: Who can tell me what a high-level language is?
Tim: C++ is a high-level language.
Teacher: Thank you Tim but C++ is an example. I am looking for a definition of what a high-level language is.
3. Right answer, right time
We’ve all had the keen student who want to demonstrate their understanding by jumping ahead of the question that you asked. This is fine for that student but it doesn’t help the other students in the class who need the process to be broken down into the manageable chunks that you originally planned. It also creates the impression that the pace of understanding is much faster than it really is.
Effective teachers should tactfully but forcefully ask the student to explain the NEXT step, not the whole process. They should then carry on as they originally planned the delivery of the material. This is not to say that if you should not move ahead if the whole class has genuinely understood the concept faster than you expected.
4. Use of technical vocabulary
This final point is about getting teachers to not only use technical vocabulary in the classroom but to expect it back from students and not ‘round up’ the vocabulary. Great teachers should insist on precise technical vocabulary.
In Lemov’s book he illustrates this with video clips, one of which shows a maths teacher asking a student about how ordered pairs of co-ordinates work. The student answers that “the x-axis comes first and then the y-axis”. Many teachers would accept this answer as it is or ‘round up’ and say “That’s right, the x co-ordinate comes first and then the y co-ordinate”. In this scenario the student probably wouldn’t even realise that their technical vocabulary was wrong. The teacher in the video clip questions the student to coax the correct vocabulary out of them and then insists on them answering the question in full using the correct technical vocabulary.
Regardless of whether you are new to teaching or have been teaching for a number of years, “Teach like a champion” allows you to identify the little things that make a big difference in the classroom. I have already used some of the points in my classroom and will be using some of these suggestions for staff when observing lessons for professional development and mentoring.
Sale Price (at time of publishing): £13.67
Amazon also have a live preview where you can read a sample of the book before you purchase.
I signed up for Amazon Prime two years ago but I didn’t mean to. I signed up for the free trial and didn’t cancel in time but now it’s one of the best things and I wouldn’t be without it.
For those of you who don’t know what it is, Amazon Prime gives you
- unlimited FREE One-Day Delivery on millions of eligible items sold by Amazon.co.uk
- free shipping with no minimum purchase
- the ability to share your account with four other members of your household
… all for the low cost of £49 for a year.
I tend to find that Amazon prices are normally excellent on most items and you can order quite late in the afternoon and still receive it next day. I use it with the Amazon iPhone app to order on the go. It makes the whole process a doddle!
Amazon Prime has saved me so much on shipping over the last two years and it means that using Amazon is a no-brainer as you only need to think about the cost of the item and it is couriered to you for the next day.
A number of people enjoy checking in with apps like Foursquare and Gowalla but after you’ve been riding high at the top of the leader board for a couple of weeks it gets boring pretty quickly.
Foursquare has specials if you are the mayor of nominated places but these have never been useful or relevant. The only one I could possibly imagine using is Domino’s but it takes time to earn the mayorship.
I recently came across Quidco when my father in law purchased an iPhone and we earned £109 for buying through Quidco. Quidco have now released an iPhone app but the interesting part is that they make payments for checking in to different stores. This puts a whole new perspective on the foursquare system … why would you check in for free when you could be earning money?
They are only small payments but they will build up quickly. Examples of check in payments include
- check in to Debenhams = £0.25
- check in to GAP = £0.25
- check in to Halfords = £0.20
- check in to New Look = £0.10
- check in to the Cutting Room (a small hairdresser near me) = £0.25
Of course you can also earn payments for buying things online - e.g.
- earn £150 cashback for signing up to Virgin Media
- earn £85 for getting Sky+ HD
- get 7% cashback for buying online at Boots
A few months ago I saw the excellent C Magazine from Jamie Portman at Campsmount and was incredibly impressed so when I started at my new school I wanted to start our own learning magazine. I worked on this with a colleague (Jay Davenport) and initially this was published internally only but we are now pleased to publish this far and wide on the Internet!
We have now completed our third issue and the next one is in progress. Inspire magazine is the learning magazine from Ousedale School. The first issue was generic but subsequent issues have had a focus including teaching gifted students and the post 16 issue.
The response from staff has been incredible and they are starting to have more conversations about learning. It is certainly creating the buzz that we were looking to produce. I hope you enjoy them and pass them on to staff at your school.
You can read all the three issues by visiting www.ousedale.org.uk/inspire
Watch this space for Issue 4 … coming soon!
One of the ICT crimes in schools is buying technology but not using it. One of the most common technologies that suffer from this is the interactive whiteboard.
Rather than buying new stuff, we are focusing on making the best of what we have got. Our school has lots of Promethean Activboards but many of the staff do not know how to use the ActivInspire software or are stuck on the older ActivStudio software.
We recently ran a whole school training session on use of interactive whiteboards. We had three classifications: beginners, intermediate and advanced, but with a lot of staff split across two campuses how do we achieve a consistent training experience?
We wanted to train in ICT suites and had ActivInspire installed on all the computers so staff could practise during the session instead of sitting and watching. We ran one advanced session, four intermediate sessions and two beginner sessions simultaneously.
We made a number of mini training videos available and training flipcharts for the trainers.
You can access all the training videos and the trainer flipcharts at our new learning platform that we are currently developing. Visit http://learningzone.ousedale.org.uk/course/view.php?id=59 for all the files.