Bev's adventures in ICT

Posts tagged ‘Twitter’

London Calling!

So the BETT Show has been and gone and it seemed like it was all over in a flash! There was much to take in and admire but there was also an opportunity to look around and think ‘How are schools going to afford all this amazing stuff (are you listening Microsoft 365)?’. That’s not to say everything I saw was amazing mind you: much of the hardware on offer looked very impressive, but is there really a place for 3d technology (plus other new, yet misplaced, innovations) in the classroom? I’d take some convincing on that one…


The awe inspiring Kevin McLaughlin works TMTakeover

Much of the BETT experience for me was about sharing ideas with other like minded educationalists and I feel this was, by far, the most successful element of BETT. Thanks to great people like Dave SmithIan Addison and Ian Usher (plus a whole host of others – apologies for not including you all) events like Collabor8 4 ChangeTeachMeet Takeover and TeachMeet BETT 2011 were unbelievably inspiring, welcoming, inclusive and well organised. They were also well attended and supported, suggesting that these are the sorts of ‘events’ the people that matter (i.e. those actively involved in education) want to be part of: I hope others are taking note.


Anthony from 2Simple showcases PurpleMash with a bit of help from the audience

I have to say I felt very honoured (and lucky) to be invited to speak at the 2Simple software stand and be part of their team at Collabor8 4 Change. I feel the (2)simple and intuitive nature of PurpleMash, in addition to their other software  packages, are really blazing a trail and showing people how to make good software that is both accessible and inclusive for ALL pupils, including those with Special Educational or Additional Learning Needs,  from Early Years to Ks2 and beyond. While on the stand over the three days I was there I got to watch all sorts of inspiring presentations from both members of the 2Simple team, and other great educators, which gave me loads more ideas of how to use their great products in the classroom. I also looked at their new development Mash 2 Web (thanks Philip – it looks AMAZING) and had a closer look at 2Start English, which looks like it could be useful to use with a large number of pupils from different settings: not just those pupils who might need a bit of support learning English but also in the average Foundation classroom. Well done guys – and thanks for making me feel so welcome. Your stand was buzzing with excitement and anticipation throughout the event – testament to the brilliant work you do! It was also great to see so many people from SEN settings coming and having a look as I think this is an area that is not always best served by what is marketed as ‘accessible’.


The truly amazing Anthony Browne on the Scholastic stand

A special shout out also has to go to the ever wonderful Chris Ratcliffe (honestly – he’s fantastic) and the team on the Scholastic stand. Like 2Simple, Scholastic understand what schools need and produce products which enhance the teaching and learning experience rather than items which make the whole process more complicated. They are also very supportive of the TeachMeet idea: I managed to complete a hat trick of TM Takeovers on their stand, one of which occurred just after I’d stepped off the train.  I hope my presentations were useful – I can’t really remember what happened! Lots of other TMtakeovers took place on their stand over the four days and it was a pleasure to present and watch everything going on there. High spot, for me and many others, was the launch for Scholastic’s fantastic new literacy resource: Read and Respond Engage (well worth checking out), where I managed to meet Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne (as seen in the pic above). They’ve also got some great new science resources at Scholastic: just check out their website!!!

The legendary Dughall participates in Kevin's TMTakeover slot

In case you are wondering if this blog post is ever going to reach a conclusion I’m going to finish with a few things I loved at BETT. Apologies to anyone I leave out – there were so many great things to see: real ‘diamonds among the rough’ if you’ll pardon the expression. Here’s my top ten (not including the ones I spoke about above)…

  1. Meeting back up with great people I chat to on Twitter: the best place to build an effective PLN in my opinion. Particular mention should go to my good friend @EBD35 (we were the only attendees to the exclusive Häagen Daz TeachEat!!!!), without whom…etc…etc… but I met many other wonderful people, many for the first time, who were happy to put up with my fairly effervescent personality, willing to share ideas and supportive at the different events I was involved in. You know who you are and you’re all marvellous!
  2. Watching the fabulous Tim Rylands , and his posse, talking about the amazing Epic Citadel project and how it inspired children’s writing. That was followed up by showing and sharing great ipad apps and talking about the impact they have in the classroom. You can read all about it here!
  3. I loved the format of the Collabor8 4 Change event: it was lovely to be chatting and sharing/presenting ideas in small groups and needs to take place more often.
  4. Being at Kevin McLaughlin’s TMTakeover (see earlier photo): great ideas and a huge crowd gathered as it was so engaging. Staff on nearby stands had to stand around and wait for punters to return as he drew them in from all areas. He also admitted that he occasionally picks up the guitar in class in a Jack Black stylee…
  5. Taking part in the TeachMeet: great again to meet people and all the presentations offered something to take away. Special mention should go to Bill Lord (‘don’t throw that camel – I’m not a well man’) and the LEGENDARY’ Dughall (that’s as in ‘The Magic Roundabout’ people – please remember) McCormick, talking about how a VLE engaged pupils during closures caused by snow while, simultaneously, wearing part of a Sonic the Hedgehog costume that prevented him from being able to actually see the screen. Pure class!!!
  6. Meeting up with Welsh Tweeps and talking about future TeachMeets in Wales (amongst other things). There’s one in Cardiff very soon! It was particularly nice to meet up with Karen and Ceri – two Welsh people who are trying to get others involved in creating PLN via Twitter. Diolch yn fawr!
  7. On Friday I mentioned TMTakeover to someone I was sitting next to at the Tim Rylands seminar. On Saturday I saw them in the audience during my TMTakeover. Result!! (and thanks).
  8. Rising Stars have a great new ICT product out called Switched on ICT. The launch on their stand was packed with fabulous people including Neil Adam and Miles Berry, both of whom made me feel at ease immediately. It was also great to see Andrea Carr again, she is always busy but makes time to talk to people: is a truly lovely person.
  9. I had a lovely welcome at the Mayer-Johnson stand where I was truly impressed by their developments in communication aids (custom skins for Dynavox – what a great idea) and Boardmaker which is now easier to use and has loads of great new features and teaching tools. Also thinking about supporting pupils with SEN: I loved the SMART table but it is a bit pricey for many schools at the moment I fear. I could also see how Anithings could enhance learning in an SEN (and Foundation) setting: thanks to John Sutton for sharing.
  10. Did I mention Anthony Browne…?

The Ideas Factory

There’s been a huge rise in the number of TeachMeets taking part recently, and this can only be a good thing. Last weeks saw TMGloucester, TeachMeet Holywell High School and TeachMeet Sunderland. Next week there’s TeachMeet Essex and TeachMeet X (in stoke on Trent) happening on the same night. There are also a few that are taking place after half term and I’m looking forward to taking part, one way or another.  The TeachMeet phenomenon is really gathering pace, mainly due to the use of social networks and PLNs (like Twitter and Facebook)  to let people know about such events. Additionally, the fact that these events are streamed live over the internet means you can watch and take part without the need to travel to the venue – fantastic if you live a fair distance from the actual event (which, in my case, is all the time). You’re also able to take part virtually: pre recorded video presentations, prezis or live video and skype links really embrace the use of modern technology and make such events more accessible and interesting.

I really enjoyed taking part (virtually) TeachMeet that took place at Holywell High School last week. For a start, it was great to see another TeachMeet happening in Wales, albeit too far away from me for me to actually attend. The atmosphere was great and there were some great ideas being shared: some I knew about but hadn’t tried yet (therefore making me even more determined to try them soon), some I hadn’t thought about using in the classroom (like PptPlex – a very cool piece of kit – thanks @nellmog!), some which were truly inspiring (like the power of blogging and howler monkeys from @deputymitchell!!) and some I just adored and would love to try at some stage (origami for listening skills!!!! – genius from @ColinTGraham). The whole evening was packed with great ideas and everyone was sharing their own experiences: what could be better? I had also sent a video presentation to be used (on Google Maps – and, no, it’s not an obsession) which you can look at here (there’s also a follow up available here) and had gained a few new Twitter friends by the end of the evening – fantastic!

The following evening was TeachMeet Sunderland, which had a completely different set of people presenting , which meant a whole new load of ideas were shared and discussed. There were a couple of stand out presentations for me: the pencil puppet idea was simple yet effective (thank you @dominic_mcg), @islayian’s presentation on education in his neck of the woods was really enlightening and the fantastic (and fast paced!)  presentation on esafety by pie man extraordinaire @simfin was really insightful! It also appeared that everyone was really enjoying themselves and getting involved in some interesting discussion, and that’s no bad thing.

Making connections with people is always important and the power of TeachMeet proves how necessary this is. Next week I’m going to enjoy a couple of TeachMeets from the warmth of my living room (mainly as they are to far away to get to – otherwise I’d be there) and I’m really looking forward to it. There already interesting sounding presentations listed on the wiki for both events (although, as they’re both on the same day I will take part in one and catch up on the other later). I’m really looking forward to catching Twitter’s latest television personality , Dawn Hallybone (she’s the teacher on the new Nintendo DS ads don’t you know) presenting  at TMEssex (suitably enough on the use of gaming to engage pupils) and cannot wait to see what the marvellous Bill Lord has to say about books and literacy at TMX. So, even if you’re not in the vicinity of a TeachMeet, why not join in with the live streaming like I do – you’re sure to get some great ideas to use in your classroom!

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 🙂

Getting Yourself on the Map

I spent yesterday afternoon following and contributing to TeachMeet East; yet another great event that was excellently organised and superbly run by top Twitter bods @tomhenzley and @missbrownsword (plus a host of others – you know who you are). Not that I was actually in Norwich mind you: I was taking part via live streaming and had even submitted a video presentation for the event!! Needless to say, the event was fabulous with lots of great presenters and presentations (French + dancing = audience participation: who’d have thunk it?) and I left me feeling even more inspired for the TeachMeet I am organising this summer in Pembrokeshire .

After the event had finished a bunch of us were chatting on Twitter and someone suggested that it would be great if there was a map we could all use to help plan future TeachMeets: somewhere you could add your location to so that other like minded people could see where you were based. That way we could see who might be able to attend TeachMeets in any given area. Well. low and behold, another top Twitter bod (@ianaddison) got on the case and came up with this fantastic TeachMap (he’s blogged about it here too) via Google Maps! Stunningly simple and truly useful, you can see at a glance where interested people are located. It’s already helped me track down a few people near me that I hadn’t come across before and I’ve now added them to my Twitter network. If you’re interested in attending TeachMeets why don’t you add yourself! Maybe you’ll find some like minded people in a location near you that you hadn’t come across before 🙂

You BETTer – You BETT!

So, over a week has passed since I staggered through my door after a whirlwind visit the the BETT show in London’s Olympia and it seems as good a time as any to talk about some of the amazing things I saw on offer.

I think 2010 will prove to be a real turning point in the way teachers and children access and harness technology in their classrooms. This is partly due to the sharing of ideas over social networking sites like Twitter, but also due, in no small part, to the growing phenomenon that is TeachMeet. And TeachMeet BETT 2010 was definitely the place to be on the Friday night. If you haven’t been to a TeachMeet event before, or joined in via a web link using Flashmeeting you are seriously missing out. The ideas shared were invaluable and many will have a direct influence on my teaching or have inspired me to try out new things. This is true of all the TeachMeets I’ve joined in with via the web as well – everyone’s part of a like minded group and all are welcomed with open arms. Heck – I’m even thinking about approaching my LEA to organise one. TeachMeet is definitely the place it’s at!

In fact many people I’ve spoken to have commented on the ‘fringe’ activities being more of a draw than the actual technology! But interest in the technology is what brought us to Olympia in the first place and there was plenty of great stuff to see. So I thought I’d mention a few things I really liked so that you could investigate further – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

The first item I’m going to acknowledge here is iboard player. I have been a fan for a long time. It’s easy to navigate, has loads of fantastic categorised resources (which are also levelled to different ages) and is now FREE! Yes, you read that correctly – all of these fantastic activities are now free to access. The iboard is really aimed at a KS1 age group but there is much in there that you may find pupils in Year 3 are also happy to access and the activities could be very useful for pupils with SEN. The resources also link brilliantly with a number of Foundation Stage/Phase topics and I’m sure many of you will enjoy exploring what the iboard has to offer as much as the children will love the activities!

Scholastic have also come up trumps with their new interactive, multi mouse product Story Stage. Initially being launched with titles suited to KS1 (KS2 ones will be available at a later date) this is really going to revolutionise the way young pupils interact with each other on the screen. There are so many times when a classroom has too few computers for the number of pupils who want to use them and, in my experience, what usually happens when pupils share one unit and mouse is that one will take the lead and the other will sit along side passively or slowly getting frustrated (which never ends well). By hooking up an extra mouse (or up to three extra if you prefer) Story Stage has made the computer a tool that pupils truly can share. Want to change the background? Add sound, movement and objects? Visual effects? Stage Lighting? Track what each individual pupil does? This product ticks all the boxes! Of course the other great thing about it is that, with so much emphasis being put on initiatives like Storytelling into Writing, which is based on some of the traditional tales Story Stage incorporates,  engaging learners and allowing for personal learning styles, this product has truly come just at the right time.

Now I wouldn’t be giving a true account of what I enjoyed seeing at BETT2010 without mentioning the fabulous people at 2Simple and their new products. They just keep coming up with tremendously usable products that pupils really love to use. I’ve been trying out the Online Tools package which just has so much good stuff on it that I just know teachers, parents, children and even grandparents (I know because I’m one of them) are really going to enjoy creating things with them.

The choice of activities available means there’s something for everyone with activities that could link to a range of things at home and at school. My particular favourite of the activities available is 2Design and Make  – just check out the flaming car that I encouraged my son (a grumpy teenager no less) to create for his nephew. That’s not to say the other available activities are less than marvellous – they are all wonderful in their own way.

2Create a SuperStory is another fantastic new 2Simple product (and one I’ve blogged about previously) – this was launched at the BETT show. As with Scholastic’s Story Stage, this really links in well to a number of different initiatives and topics being currently covered in schools (for both KS1, KS2 and pupils with SEN) and, like all 2Simple software, it’s easy to get to grips with for teachers and learners alike! If you haven’t seen the product yet please check it out. If you’ve got the incredible 2CASS and you want to find out more, make sure you have a look at the 2CASS Archive – full of useful hints and tips and examples of work that may inspire you.

There were, inevitably, many more excellent products launched at BETT 2010 (and a few old favourites being showcased too) that I haven’t got time to talk about here. Online resources from BrainPOP and Education City look well worth further investigation and I absolutely loved the new StoryPhones. I as also pleased to hear from the people at Widgit Software that they are working on including  predictive text in SymWriter to make it even more inclusive, although it is going to take them a while (keep an eye out in the next 12 months for it though) and was bowled over by some of the new Easi products being showcased by TTS – very child friendly!

On the 15th day of blogging…

So, we’re just about to bring 2009 to a close and looking forward to 2010. It’s been a great year for my adventures in ICT: lots of fun with free online applications and downloads, the ongoing developments from the bods at 2Simple (which leave me in constant awe and wonder!), a new blog, a club wiki, the collaborative power of Twitter, Google Maps and Docs, Etherpad (soon to be RIP but many appearing in its place), the list of high spots goes on! So I thought I’d recap a few of my favourite moments – hopefully it will bring a smile to your faces too 🙂

Firstly I’d like to thank all the fantastic people I follow on Twitter for encouraging me to start this blog – the feedback has been amazing and I love reading everyone’s comments and ideas. I wasn’t really sure I had enough to contribute to the ever expanding use of ICT in the classroom (I know my OH would disagree) but I’m hopeful that I have ignited ideas and inspired  some of you a little bit. It’s always nice to read a comment or see a tweet that refers to something in the blog – at least I know I’m on the right track and the help and support I have received from others has been most welcome. Thank you all!

I’ve also enjoyed using (or playing with) lots of the free tools available online or to download and fitting them into activities and planning. I’ve got a few particular favourites too: Ript – great for collecting and arranging research, Dabbleboard – collaborative brainstorming fun (plus all its alternative uses too), Mapwing, SumoPaint and so many others! Ongoing use in the fantastic range of products available from 2Simple software has also given me a huge amount of pleasure. It’s great to come across a collection of products that is so versatile and everyone enjoys using. If I’ve bored you with my ongoing waffles about the wonders of 2Paint a Picture and 2Publish+ (plus many others) well…tough! I will be boring you some more in 2010 with further ideas because I just love the stuff!! If you’re interested in finding out even more about 2Simple ideas then check out their own blog – it’s full of useful ideas and information!

I should name check a few people who have helped me along my way (with the blog and other ideas) – there are many and you all know who you are. I’d still be typing come Christmas day if I listed all of you now! Some, however, need to be properly thanked for their ongoing help and support to a relative novice. So…drum roll please… first up is Mark Warner (without whom I wouldn’t have even started tweeting or blogging): the man is full of ideas and runs a seemingly endless selection of inspirational sites (check him out if you haven’t already). I’d also like to give a special mention to the wonderful Tom Barrett for lighting a spark to get me started on creating a few curriculum linked Google Maps. So far I’ve created 3 (Pembroke Castle shapes, Amazon Rainforest and Castell Henllys) , but more are on the way (particularly linked to storytelling).  Anthony Evans has also been a great inspiration for a long time – firstly through his Redbridge ICT blog and now through his work at 2Simple. He’s also the only person I have spoken to who is more obsessed with Doctor Who than I am (well – maybe) so, Anthony, I salute you. Finally a couple of shout outs to a special gang of Twitter friends. Fellow blogger Nicola Stables (we started blogging the same week!), plus new bloggers EDB35 and Simon Haughton (watch this space – they’re both going to be fab blogs that will be well worth following): you keep me going and I love getting your comments and feedback on ideas. Here’s to a productive 2010!!!