We are so lucky in the Early Years. We have a passport for change: Enabling Environments. It’s been in print from Development Matters 2012 and it means we are allowed to make changes that enhance the learning in our settings. Here’s what Development Matters says about Enabling Environments:
It is an overarching principal which is still present in Early Years Outcomes, 2014, and we must hold on to this tightly with both hands because we are allowed to decide what an enabling environment looks like for the children that we teach every day! This post explores how I am using Future Work Skills 2020 to enable learning in my early years environment.
With the introduction of Apple Classroom this summer, our iPad deployment at school became a lot smoother and manageable for teachers.
For a long time we have relied on Guided Access in the Accessibility settings to manage learning in focus groups. Triple tapping the home button on each iPad was commonplace in our early years setting, locking in apps for particular tasks during the day. Now with Classroom, the whole process of teaching and learning is more robots. From the teacher iPad we are able to open, lock and view the screens of every iPad in our classroom.
This is really handy when using iPad 1:1 with our young learners. Even though our desirable outcome is for children to select and use apps for a purpose, when teaching a skill in Maths for example, Classroom really does count!
A Closer Look at Classroom
This is a view of my teacher iPad running the Classroom app. You can see I have 5 iPad devices locked in to the Number Frames app. Each of the 5 iPad devices has a live view of the iPad screen in real time. I can tap the Lock icon at any time to freeze the iPad devices and I can launch any other app, book or website I want the group to use.
You can also see that I am managing different groups of iPad devices. There are 29 iPad devices all using Number Frames in the class and I can tap this group to see what each child is doing on their iPad. I know where and when to intervene just from glancing at Classroom at any time.
Our time in Brazil wrapped up with a visit at the Mayor’s Office and a meeting with University of Pernambuco at the British Consulate. At both of these meetings planning for the future took place. Great progress has been made with local schools and partners here over the last 13 days and moving forwards with the onebillion maths intervention seems likely. On my final visit to ABA Global school I was presented with a gift from peace linguist, and President of the Board at ABA Global Education, Francisco Gomes de Matos:
“Oh, Brazil, about you what can I foresee well? You will be internationally admired. You will be educationally developed. You will be scientifically and technologically advanced. You will be interculturally comprehended.”
This resonates with me and our trip here. This articulates the aims we have for working with Brazil and assures me that Brazil makes a perfect partner in our projects and research.
It was a successful first week in Recife and the agenda took new directions each day. As so much time was dedicated to observation and knowledge exchange, our time was flexible. Because of this we were able to follow the lead of our local partners which maximised the opportunities for this scoping visit.
Today I head out to Recife, Brazil and it feels like the beginning of a great adventure. But whilst I wait for my connecting flight to Sao Paulo from Amsterdam, I look back at the 18 months which lead up to this moment.
Unlocking Talent Through Tablet Technology
Unlocking Talent is a research project supported by VSO and Norweigian Government. Lead by the University of Nottingham, the project evaluates the use of onebillion apps in closing the gap in maths. Beginning in Milawi, this research found that from 8 weeks of using the apps, children made 18 months learning gains in maths skills.
As this research continued, the University and onebillion questioned whether or not this way of working could be replicated beyond Milawi. This is where I joined the team and together we ran a pilot a study across the schools in the federation that I work for. We found similar learning gains here, as well as in other small scale pilot studies from UK schools. So in June, we launched the UK’s first ever large scale evaluation of tablet technology and maths attainment.
The apps are used with Early Years children that have been identified as working below age-related expectations. They work on activities set by the teacher in the app for up to 30 minutes a day. The learning is 1:1, personalised and self-paced. These children access this app as well as normal teaching practices and traditional interventions. When combined like this, the learning gains have been huge.
The findings from the initial UK pilot studies can be found here.
Introducing video conferencing software as a way of connecting my class and extending our reach is my one best thing. FaceTime calls are the back bone to the Connecting Classes Across Continents project that I collaborate on with a group of early learning Apple Distinguished Educators. We use the software to share learning and exchange knowledge between our classes.
I’ve been using FaceTime beyond this project though. Video conferencing can bring many more experts in to our classrooms. Those days when the fire engine visits schools and the police officers join us for question and answer are so valuable. There are many more experts that we can learn from who aren’t in our local area though. That’s where softwares like FaceTime extend our reach for knowledge exchange.
Physical to digital work is transforming our art area this year, thanks to Cathy Hunt. It’s a simple idea which builds cameras in to your art area. Children move between the iPad and their physical art work to develop their ideas. Cathy has a host of lesson ideas for all ages on her website, and it’s been great fun building this way of working in to our art activities.
I came away from the Apple Distinguished Educators Institute brimming with ideas about photography and why we need to enhance learning by giving children a camera.
Cathy Hunt, of the iPad Art Room, shared the idea that “it all starts with the camera, because from this launching point we can support students to develop their ability to communicate”. In her classroom she sees how cameras help children ‘see their world differently’ and that their ‘connected cameras are always collecting’.
Dave Caleb, a digital literacy coach in South East Asia, explains “images are an incredible medium. They transcend language barriers. It doesn’t matter what language you speak, you can read a photograph”. He reflects that ‘your camera roll is your story’ and now that students have access to devices, they have a powerful story telling device at their finger tips. He concluded that ‘We need to teach our students to capture powerful images. It is a literacy we need to teach. It is tied to what it means to be human’.
Both of these presentations at the ADE Institute support the reasons why I start and end with photography each year my Foundation Stage classes. At the end of last year I published the ‘One Best Photo’ resources with The Forestry Commission but each September I wonder how I will progress my new class of 4 year olds to this level of creativity on their iPads. And each September, the 4 year olds amaze me!
At the Apple Distinguished Educators Institute in Berlin I got to meet Cathy Hunt, an extraordinary art teacher from Australia. Cathy must have shared 30 or more inspiring art lessons with us in just a 3 minutes. She passionately demonstrating how we need to ‘pull down the barriers between technology, traditional tools and tactile materials’. And to this effectively, Cathy says that it all starts with the camera.
“Cathy is a well-known advocate for the creative integration of technology in education, developing ground-breaking programs for students around the world that combine hands-on, tactile and collaborative ways of working with mobile devices. Cathy is probably best known for her work on iPadartroom.com, a home base for educators to engage with innovative ideas, resources and technology for learning in that combines paint and pixels. Her site has grown to become the ‘go-to’ resource for teachers leveraging mobile devices for creativity.”
This year I’ve packed my creative toolkit full to the top with Cathy’s ideas and giving it a go. At the beginning of the year I plan a variety of activities where my new cohort of 4 year olds can get to grips using the camera on our iPads and mastering the basics. I love this start because it gets them mobile with the devices from the get-go. They practise holding the iPad securely and moving between the camera app and photos app to find their images. Thanks to Cathy, I’ve now found a way to link their digital creativity to physical art work.