Bev's adventures in ICT

Posts tagged ‘Rising Stars’

Top of the World

Firstly – an apology for the recent lack of blog posts! I can safely say that it’s been a little bit busy!! Not so long ago I was in Newcastle at the Northern Grid conference; talking about ICT and inclusion. Then last week I had a whirlwind trip to London to pick up a TES Award where I got to put on a posh frock and chat to a lot of great people, including the famous Mr Thorne of ‘Mr Thorne Does Phonics‘ fame. It was a fantastic event and everybody I came across was really lovely, so I’ve got to say a big thank you to the TES team – you guys rock! Anyway, apart from the great excitement of the TES awards I had a few things that were going on just before and then just after: namely TeachMeet ThinkBig and Reflect and Share. Here’s a short report on each.

TeachMeet ThinkBig was small but perfectly formed. Due to the change of date we managed to clash with a few other things that were on but we managed to have a great time in any case. It was fairly amazing that anyone got to take part – our network crashed at 10am that morning and was still not working properly at 3pm. We managed it though and, thanks to the team at NGFL Cymru, it got streamed as well. Because we were in a fairly informal setting we managed to forget about the camera and have quite long discussions among ourselves – I’m sorry if this spoilt anyone’s viewing pleasure but there were a few newbies there and lots of questions were asked in between presentations. We had a number of virtual presentation from some great people I’ve got to know through Twitter, including this one from Mike McSharry (which had all of the attendees scribbling notes furiously), a couple from Alessio Bernardelli (including this one on using mind mapping properly) and a fantastic presentation on thinking skills in science from Claire Lotriet (there were many more great vidoes and I will add details to the wiki soon). We also had some interesting live presentations from Dave Stacey, who had some interesting ideas on how to use a text book, and Rosemary Davies, who shared a load of free web tools and talked about using Edmodo as a learning platform. I also gave a few presentations, mainly showing people a few things they may not have seen. One included a new variation of the old traffic light fans (I’ll talk about this at a later date in full) and later on I demonstrated 2Connect and explained why it’s such a great program for developing mind mapping in younger pupils or those with ALN. I also shared a few ideas that I’ve posted on here that I felt linked in with other presentations, especially ones that allowed for a bit of creativity or supported what was said in the presentations. In fact I probably talked way too much…(and that’s hardly ever the case).

Of course the Reflect and Share session, which took place on Wednesday, was quite different, This involved Year 6 pupils sharing their ideas about their learning and resources and activities they thought were worthwhile and eahc child involved made their own presentation or gave a demo to the staff who attended. We had presentation on a whole range of activities including developing problem solving skills by using Machinarium, using unusual images to inspire poetry, movement in art (inspired by work on Jackson Pollock), developing writing skills using Myst, using Wordle and other word based ideas and creating music using Incredibox and Isle of Tune (which I’ve talked about here). I don’t want to miss any presentations out here (pupils were brilliant and every presentation had something to offer) so the others were about the use of ebooks in the classroom (highlighting the books we have from Rising Stars), using Purple Mash at home and in class (everyone seems constantly amazed by how much content is available through it), using BlockCAD lego to link to DT, Prezi, Primary Pad and Primary Wall (this included live demos – staff were very impressed), our school library, how after school clubs have helped pupils improve skills, using Class Pet in class and at home (especially the maths activities), learning logs and Pivot Stick Figure. I was really proud of all of the pupils who took part (twenty one in all) but what I felt was truly fantastic was the way they had obviously taken on board things I had shown them or introduced them to and then taken it in their own direction. Hopefully it’s the sort of event that will take off in other areas – it was certainly worthwhile!

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A Little Bit of Northern Soul

This time last week I was sitting in a hotel getting ready for Sunday lunch after a few days away and the Northern Grid Conference. It was a truly fantastically organised event: Simon Finch and his team had pulled together a group of people who all had great ideas and were truly inspirational. The fact that they considered me one of them and invited me to present a workshop was a real honour and I owe them a great deal of thanks for that. Although the day went past in in a blur of meeting people (both old friends and new) and listening to inspirational speakers, there was much to take away. Here are my lasting thoughts and the things I most remember.

  • I arrived a little late (although I did set out at 3,30am…blame the plane). No one was in sight. Rather than wander around aimlessly I decided to tweet that I had arrived and ask where everyone was. I had quite a few replies, all of them leading me to the room where Russell Prue was kicking the day off. I’m so glad I managed to get there in time to listen to him. He managed to be inspirational AND put everyone in a good mood, setting us all up nicely for the day ahead. No mean feat!
  • I wasn’t sure what to see before I set up for the morning workshop. Imagine my relief when I saw a few familiar faces: Jan Webb and Ian Addison. I decided to sit in on their workshop and catch up with a few other friends at the same time: Bill Lord (who was presenting a workshop at the same time as me later on) and Dughall McCormick (he appears to be the happiest bloke on the planet whenever I see him – that can’t be bad). Ian’s presentation (15 ideas in 15 minutes) was full of great ideas, some of which I’ve mentioned on the blog and others which are worth checking out for yourself. Jan Webb talked about collaboration and showcased some great ideas and tools, some of which come from the Partners in Learning network (including SongSmith which I mentioned on here only a short while ago). Jan finished her presentation with the statement ‘it ain’t what you do  – it’s the way that you do it’ and then, to underline the point played a snippet this 80s classic. Being of a certain age, I enjoyed this as Bananrama were quite significant style icons during my teenage years. I was fairly shocked, however, when I realised I had turned up in a rather ‘Bananaramesque’ outfit myself – at least my hair wasn’t back-combed 🙂
  • I was presenting in the same room as Jan and Ian a little while after they’d finished. I was pretty nervous at this time (possibly a little bit hyper too – I had been drinking a fair amount of coffee) as I’d only been through the presentation a couple of times since extending it in length (oh, how I missed Mary Farmer!). I felt an instant sense of relief when two people I had never met before but know quite well ‘vitually’ turned up to wish me well and watch the presentation. Martin and Rachel, you can not imagine how pleased I was to see your friendly, supportive faces. After more coffee and a storming introduction from Simon I was out of the starting blocks and everything to be over very quickly. I hope it all went okay – it was very difficult to tell from where I was standing. I was relieved to have finished… and then it hit me that I’d have to do it all again later on…
  • I thought it was great to see so many exhibitors were laid back and not at all pushy – quite different to some places I’ve been where everyone has a patter or a pitch and is ready to sell, sell, sell!! Equally nice to catch up with some some of the exhibitors I already knew, especially Alan from 2Simple and Karen from Rising Stars – you are fabulous.
  • Didn’t see any workshops in the afternoon: mine was repeated after lunch (which was scrummy, even thought there was a distinct lack of pie) and again it was soothing to see someone I knew sitting in front of me. After that (and a little chance to chat to more friends) I hit a brick wall (it had been a long day) and needed more coffee. This meant I missed the last round of workshops before heading off to the main room for the big finish…
  • …which was Steve Wheeler. I don’t think anyone could have done a better job really. Relevant, humorous and thought provoking in equal measures, he had some great things to say and put a different slant on many things that are at the forefront of the technology in education ‘debate’.  I felt like I was mentioning significant points from the presentation via Twitter every few minutes – there was so much worth repeating and sharing. And The Lord’s Prayer was fabulous!
  • Dughall did not win the raffle. Not even a pen.
  • After a bit of a rest in my hotel it was out on the town with a group of great people from Northern Grid, plus a few others who had been speaking at or attending the conference, for a few drinks and a bit of tapas. A lovely time was had by all and we whiled away the evening discussing Children’s TV of our youth and rock bands we had seen live (along with other pointless, yet enjoyable, conversations). At one point we were playing ‘guess the TV theme tune’ and discussing The Flashing Blade and its awful dubbing – surely life doesn’t get much better than that.
So, there you have it. My first Northern grid Conference and it was fantastic. If I’m really lucky they might invite me back!

 

Boys will be boys…

Boys. What can you do with them? Never a day goes by when you don’t read or watch something relating to improving attainment in boys. It wasn’t that long ago that we chatted about the differences between boys and girls learning styles on ukedchat and we’ve also seen Gareth Malone recently going on about it on our TV screens. Getting boys engaged in learning is the hot topic of the moment. Everyone’s trying to do something about it. Both Pie Corbett and Tim Rylands give inspiring insets on storytelling, poetry, using Myst, and getting kids interested and there are plenty more people who do the same thing. You can get fabulous ebooks and graphic novels (many from Rising Stars who sponsored TeachMeet Pembs) and  Scholastic’s interactive Read and Respond are also full of inspiring ideas  let’s face it, who doesn’t like Stig of the Dump?).

Just recently I’ve been enthusiastic about visual literacy – great for engaging pupils of all levels. I’ve found some great resources linked a few different titles. If you’ve not checked out The Mysteries of Harris Burdick I’d suggest you check it out! There are a number of resources for it on both You Tube and SlideShare and there are also great resources based on books by Shaun Tan and David Wiesner . There are, additionally, some great video resources available online that they could use in class in a similar way, including a number of Pixar shorts and items from both the BFI and Film Education. Well worth investigating!

ICT can be a good way in when it comes to getting boys engaged in learning.  This is just as true for pupils with SEN and here are some great ideas!  The youngest pupils, many of whom might not be ready for a mouse, can have fun using the Switch activities on Help Kidz Learn (which are also set up to work with a space bar if you don’t have switches) while those slightly can enjoy exploring the land of the Red Fish. Pupils also enjoy accessing 2Paint a Picture and some of the PurpleMash Paint Projects using a touch screen. Older children are just can have lots of fun using the fantastic Publish Projects, again on PurpleMash, which really help them because the features (like the prompts and videos) are just so inspirational and inclusive. I’d also suggest using 2CASS to present work, another fabulously inclusive tool, which I’ll be blogging about at a later date. I’m sure these activities will be loved and adored by any number of boys (and girls) so why not try them out.

We’ll keep a welcome in the hillside…

I am just about fully recovered from the first ever TeachMeet Pembs, an event I organised which took place on Tuesday just gone. I can’t remember much of it  , I don’t know how I managed it but, encouraged by a whole gang of Twitter bods, I went with it and the results are available for you to view via Ian Addison’s blog. A few people have already blogged about the event from a spectators point of view so I want to reflect on the actual organisation of it.

It all started as a bit of a joke. I am located on the tip of West Wales, as close to Ireland as I am to England. Loads of great TeachMeets were going on in England and Scotland but they were all miles away and it was frustrating that I could only join in, usually, via FlashMeeting or by watching the live feed and commenting on Twitter. Then I got the chance to go to TeachMeet BETT 2010 and take part in TeachMeet Takeover and immediately I was hooked. Ideas. both big and small, were shared freely and the atmosphere was very supportive and relaxed. I left BETT wanting to repeat the experience as often as possible but still there were no TeachMeets happening in Wales so it was back to the Flashmeetings for me. Then, on afternoon, I ended up in front of two computers trying to watch and follow two very different TeachMeet events: TeachMeet Hants and the BMobLe Conference and later that night, via Twitter, I bemoaned the lack of TeachMeets happening in Wales. I thought that would be it.

I was, of course, quite wrong. When people worked out where I lived it was suggested that an informal ‘holiday style’ Teach Meet could be organised on my doorstep during the summer holidays, thus giving rise to the event’s hashtag name – TMBev. There was talk of camping, guitars, pubs and it carried on in that jokey way for a little while until…someone said they would be prepared to actually come. Okay, I thought, I’d better get organising!! Luckily there was a lot of help out there, particularly from the aforementioned (and totally wonderful) Ian Addison who has a great ‘How to organise a TeachMeet’ guide available (I’m sure he’ll share if you ask nicely 🙂 )

I could not have sorted things for this event without help from a number of key people so here goes with the list! Firstly the people who started the joke in the first place (you know who you are but I’m naming and shaming anyway): Bill Lord, James Langley, Kevin McLaughlin and Dughall McCormick and those who slowly convinced me it would be a good idea: Dawn Hallybone, Anthony Evans, Chris Ratcliffe and Ian Addison. All of these people made me think that the event would be a bit like Field of Dreams…’if you build it, they will come’ which wasn’t totally the case but it gave me the push I needed to get things moving in the right direction. Then there was the support of my Head Teacher, who allowed me to travel up to Blackpool for their TeachMeet and see how it was done, and from my local ICT advisory teacher, Duncan Whitehurst who helped with the behind the scenes technical stuff and also came along to present! I also need to mention our fabulous sponsors, some of whom just picked up the tweets and offered support: take a bow 2Simple Software, Scholastic, Maxi Map (from Llanelli – our first local sponsor), Rising Stars, BrainPOP UK and Primary Pad,  and Welsh based ones that I emailed directly: Daydream Education and Gomer Books. Without the support of any of these people there just wouldn’t have been a TeachMeet in Pembrokshire so thanks for helping it happen.

Of course we wouldn’t have had a Teachmeet at all if there hadn’t been presenters and an audience ,and you can see most of them on the little video above.  I was amazed at how far some people were prepared to travel to take part, or even just observe, and I truly appreciate their attendance and participation. Some people even went above and beyond the call of duty just to be there and join in! Mary Farmer endured a few days of sleeping in my shed to attend before heading off on her holiday break. Simon Haughton, Ian Addison, Colin Hill and Charlie Deane somehow crammed attending, presenting and assisting with the event into an already tight schedule of meetings, holidays and other stuff – words fail me. With true dedication to the cause both Mandy Barrow and Jo Liversidge plumped for the full on holiday experience, combining TeachMeet with the glory of Pembrokeshire. And I don’t want to forget the Welsh teachers who came, none of whom had ever been to a TeachMeet and two of whom, Sheila Furniss and Dave Stacey were brave enough to give presentations!

So that’s about it! TeachMeet Pembs was certainly an experience to remember and, hopefully, I’ll get round to organising another TeachMeet in the future and another batch of interested people will come along. I’ve already included links to some blog posts that talk about the presentations and ideas that we shared so I hope you enjoy checking them out. You can also check out an archive of Top Tweets (thanks again Ian) connected with the event I’ve just got a few things left to say and then I promise I will stop. Firstly, Ian Addison is like a one man TeachMeet machine and his assistance and commitment were invaluable on the day. Next time I see him I’m going to give him a big sticker and remember to say well done! Secondly, I have a truly fantastic technician called John who came in for the whole day and sorted out all the little things that needed to be done. Someone even asked if I could hire him out – he’s that good!! You definitely need people around who are technically savvy if you’re thinking of organising a TeachMeet of your own and I know am fortunate to have him working alongside me. But finally I just have to tell you that the support from my family has been second to none and there is no way the event would have taken place without them coming along for the ride. My husband got up from a 12 hour night shift after only a few hours sleep to help pack goody bags and rearrange furniture and my youngest two children have been very patient; sorting out lots of household chores while I’ve been ‘otherwise engaged’ and assisting to set up the day. And, just when I thought my family couldn’t possibly do anything extra to help my slightly unusual father (a dj at Swansea Sound) got the local news team to ring up and chat to me about it on air for the morning show!! They just gave it their total backing and I just couldn’t have done it without them 🙂