Your First Class Book Project

Creating class books is something I remember doing as a child in school. We would all contribute a page by drawing and writing. Every member of the class had something to put in and our book would be displayed proudly in the classroom library. Do you remember those kinds of activities too?

They were very manual tasks, with a lot of potential for practising literacy skills but gave so much pride in our work too! The sense of a real audience for our class book was so motivating.

The problem was, we only ever made 1 book and if you wanted to show it anyone, they had to come in to the library. What if your class book could be shared in an unlimited capacity, to anyone, anywhere?

It’s now possible with Pages book templates and creation tools.

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Pages is a free app from Apple for your iPad and to make a class book, you only need 1 iPad! This is great first activity for book making in an early years classroom, where each child can add their own page to the class book.

 

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Young Children Can Create

In England we teach young children (Birth to 5 years old) from a non-statutory curriculum now known as Early Years Outcomes (formally Development Matters). The curriculum is structured around 7 areas of learning but themed on A Unique Child, Parent Partnerships, Enabling Environments and Learning & Development. Learning across these themes, principles and areas of learning are woven together through The Characteristics of Effective Learning.

Development Matters, and Early Years Outcomes, explain that theEE theme Enabling Environments theme should ‘value all people’ and all learning. Yet there is a division in the early years community about the role of technology in learning. Our young children have access to technology in the home and there are an abundance of reports and opinions claiming screen time is a contributing factor towards low attainment in physical, social and language development. For this reason, there are settings who switch off to technology provision.

Technology is the one strand in our early years curriculum, and throughout the National Curriculum, where the application in the learning environment is different to the application at home:

  • talking at home is similar to talking at school,
  • sharing at home is similar to sharing at school,
  • reading at home is similar to reading at school,
  • numbers at home is similar to numbers at school,
  • whereas technology at home is different to technology at school.

At home, children (and adults!) watch TV and video rather than film movies ourselves. We use the internet at home to browse and shop. We more often choose to listen to music rather than make it. We look at photographs at home rather than take them. We regularly relax in front of screens. 

At school and nursery, the Early Learning Goal for Technology states that children should ‘select and use technology for particular purposes’. In the National Curriculum for Key Stage 1 this extends to digital skills such as using images, video and sound for creative projects.

We should be teaching children how to create with technology, in meaningful ways that are cross-curricular where ‘experiences respond individual needs’ and interests.

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These Walls Bring Us Together

Attending the Apple Distinguished Educator Institutes at the end of each academic year is my time to reflect on the year of teaching and recharge for another year of learning. A global gathering of innovative educators who share vision and values for learning that are similar to mine. These global gatherings for reflection and collaboration are more important now than ever before. An education based institute attended by almost 400 educators representing 37 countries makes for an empowering experience. Coming together in one place in a unique opportunity to learn across cultures and boundaries. The walls of the ADE Institutes don’t divide us; they unite us as one community.

Often in education, barriers are put up in teaching and divisions are made when debating what is the best way to learn. These kinds of walls can slow down innovation and creativity in the teaching community, which impacts on the children we teach. The children that nobody else knows, but us, their class teachers.

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At Institute, we might be inside the walls of a conference, but these walls don’t divide us. They bring us together and become a think tank for creativity, for what is possible when we stand united as a community of innovative educators. The Apple Distinguished Educator community came together again in Austin, Texas, to build teaching ideas and strengthen confidence to try something new that will make a change to learning. With this courage and opportunity to be creative, we evaluate our practice, refine it and make it the best it can be, without any walls dividing us. I gain the confidence to share my work, my ideas and my vision to lead the charge for change in my school and the educators I connect with.

This year’s Institute was themed around Everyone Can Create. A simple statement but a complex idea behind it. Everyone can create, and everyone should be creating. Teachers, students, adults, children. Everyone. Everyone should be encouraged to create, because creating is in our DNA. It’s our personality, it’s our identity and it’s how we move forward and make a difference, together. Creativity should be at the heart of education, because it is creativity that solves problems, builds good communicators and makes the world not only a more interesting place to live, but a more successful place to live.

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Don’t Touch The iPads!

There has been a flurry of articles published recently about tablets, and general technology use, and how overuse at home may be having a detrimental impact on early childhood development. These articles often highlight a practitioner’s viewpoint that physical development is the lowest it has ever been, that children can’t hold paintbrushes and there are no mouse or keyboard skills these days. As with most good things in life, good health and well-being comes with careful balance and always in moderation; it’s not often that a total ban is a necessary solution.

I was going to write about this, and why I think a complete ban or avoidance of technology in early years will not close the gap in physical development and social skills. I would have written something along these points:

  • We are supposed to find out what children bring to their learning, what skills they have, and develop them.
  • Technology is 1 area of learning where children’s home skills do not match the skills we want to see in learning.
  • Children are consuming content at home (watch video, play games, listen to music) and we need to teach them to create with technology (make films, code games and create music).

My point would be, if we are recognising children have an unbalanced diet with technology, that they are consuming too much content, then we should be planning for our children to learn how to create. If they learn how to create with technology, their characteristics of effective learning are enhanced. We would give them another way to express themselves, in a medium they are interested in. Then, what if, they go away and download these apps at home? Suddenly, the gaps could start to close. That children are making stunning photographs, meaningful films, collaborating and sharing their work with a real audience. Their learning becomes focused on the idea and the task… and not the device.

But I decided not to write about that.

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Instead, I want to share apps to use on 1 iPad, that require no touch at all and we can put the iPad down and make it respond to us using all of our physical skills. Those skills that we need to develop now more than ever.

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50 Things To Do This Summer: Number 49 “Make a PicCollage”

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I am an advocate for using Spread The Happiness resources for more effective partnerships with parents.

 

Last year Shonette Bason-Wood introduced 50 Things To Do This Summer; a checklist of activities to get families having fun together. It's full of real simple ideas that sometimes get forgotten in busy life, but when we look over it as adults, we remember those things from our childhood – well most of them!

Number 49: "Make a PicCollage"

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Technology is part of children's lives now and 'screen time' gets a lot of bad press. Not all screen time is the same though. No doubt many of us are in settings where children's communication, language, social and physical development are behind age-typical development so we are quick to assume this is because of their use of technology.

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Through the fire, I’ll keep burning on.

“When it goes wrong, I’ll take my time and keep on holding on”

Chase & Status: All Goes Wrong (feat. Tom Grennan)

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Will Kennard, of Chase & Status fame, shared his story at the Apple Distinguished Educators Academy this year. In an hour long special appearance, he told stories of his influences and inspirations. Tales of creativity and collaboration took us on a journey where obsession, attention to detail, failure and perseverance have lead to success. Will reflected that collaboration can only be successful when there is a balance of personalities and experiences. Everyone has something to contribute and his best work comes together when different people work with a shared vision.

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Draw and Tell app

Here’s a spotlight on an app I discovered Apple’s Get Started with Code teacher guide. This is a mark making and story telling app which crayons, paint brushes, stickers and templates. It’s free, it’s lots of fun and it’s another tool to engage children in early writing skills.

The launch screen has 3 options:

  • Blank paper (start a new picture)
  • Colouring (access to templates)
  • Your drawings (saved work)

The screenshots in the tiles above show you what happens as you move through the ‘Blank Paper’ option and begin a new drawing. There are heaps of tools available, all of the tools you would expect in a digital painting package (including a rainbow crayon!).

Why not paint, draw and mark make with real art tools though?

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Getting Started with Code

“Early Learning Goal: Technology. Children recognise that a range of technology is used in places such as homes and schools. They select and use technology for particular purposes.”

Early Years Outcomes, 2016

The Early Learning Goal for Technology is limited in Early Years Outcomes and often practitioners feel lost at developing this area of learning. What we forget when reading the Early Learning Goal for technology, is that our curriculum is best taught cross-curricularly. The technology goal is a prompt to make us consider how best to teach technology skills through other areas of learning; just like we do with English and Maths!

The real problem is, what are these links to other areas?

First, you need to decide which part of the Early Learning Goal we are trying to teach. Do you want children to use technology to enhance other skills (by using video, animation, photography, audio recording etc.) or do you want to teach computational thinking skills which will lead in to programming, problem solving and algorithms? Most likely, we sway towards multi-media skills because we are more confident with that than we are with code! But we really should put more emphasis on coding across our curriculum as the Technology strand will lead in to this area in Key Stage 1.

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One Best Photo Gallery

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  Saturday 17th June

Here is a day that has been marked on my calendar for several months, but also a day that 2 years ago, I never have thought would have been marked on my calendar!

One Best Photo launched at Sherwood Pines.

What is One Best Photo?

This project came about through a partnership with myself and the Learning Rangers at Sherwood Pines. In 2015, I met the Rangers to talk about ways in which I am using technology outdoors on field trips to their forest. For several years I had been taking classes of Foundation Stage children (aged 4 – 5) and leading photography walks with them.

Why?

Children have access to cameras in devices and photography is huge part of their every day lives. We now have a responsibility to teach them camera skills and what it means to be a photographer. If we don’t, then this will continue to happen on our devices when our young learners use them…

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One Best Photo with Polly Youngs

In the summer of 2016, I worked with the education rangers at Sherwood Pines to developScreen Shot 2016-05-22 at 09.05.04 a free technology toolkits for use at Forestry Commission sites. One Best Photo is an outcome from this partnership and is a resource that can be used with early years and primary aged children. In the planning pack, teachers learn how to teach photography skills to young learners whilst children capture the relationship between people, wildlife and timber. This resource is available for free on iTunes and the education rangers at Sherwood Pines are welcoming groups to their forest to use this pack for free. All you need to do it pack up your iPad devices and get your group to the forest!
Since publishing, One Best Photo has made its away to classes around the UK and across the world. Recently, Polly Youngs attended one of the many events One Best Photo has featured at and was inspired to use it with her nursery class. Polly tells a story of using One Best Photo in her setting where children used Pic Collage and the iPad camera. She then arranged a trip to their local Forestry Commission site to apply these skills and capture striking images of people, wildlife and timber; the three key principles of the Forestry Commission.
Thank you for writing in and sharing this work with me Polly, over to you!

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