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.
International Dot Day falls perfectly at the beginning of the school year. September 15th. We have been in school for just over a week and we are getting to know each other and our school routines. Dot Day is a festival which extends the message of the brilliant book, The Dot. In this story, Vashti doesn’t like art class. She has an encouraging teacher who tells her to sign her name and she frames Vashti’s art work. This gives Vashti a beginners mindset and she starts to explore other ways of making her mark in art class. The story ends with a showcase of Vashti’s dots and a chat with another unconfident young learner. She helps him make his mark and tells him to sign it. And the story begins again!
International Dot Day takes the idea of dot art work and how through art work you can show how unique you are. Children make their own art work to represent themselves. In group and class discussions we unpick what it means to be you. What are you proud of? What makes your unique? How will you make your mark?
September comes around again and our rooms are full of energy. A ‘beginners mindset’ can be seen everywhere around school. It’s a positive place to be as we all look towards a new year ahead. In Foundation, we are busy establishing routines and learning what skills our youngest learners in school have. Each year I see a step forward in the confidence, and maturity, that children have when using technology. Skip back a couple of years and the excitement to be on an iPad meant snatching it from someone’s hands and running it to the corner of the room. With teachers in professional learning discussions, I had conversations about turn-taking and rule setting when introducing iPad to young learners. But this week, with my new cohort of 4 year olds, I am seeing a much more mature approach to technology and how they know it is readily available in their world. It is embedded in their life and expected to be a part of their learning environment. This doesn’t mean they know how to use apps like Book Creator, but they are a little more skilled in navigating and handling these devices.
In June 2016, I published a community engagement project, One Best Photo, with the Forestry Commission in England. In the first 3 months this free outdoor learning and technology resource has been downloaded across the UK, America, Canada and Australia. At the launch event held in Nottingham with Sherwood Pines, Early Years teacher Tanya Leadbeater downloaded the pack and took it back to her nursery. Church Vale Primary School say in their vision statement that they want their children to be life-long learners. Tanya helps to achieve this in her role as the Computing Co-ordinator by introducing new ways of teaching and learning across her school which motivates and engages their children. I am amazed by the quality of work the 3 year olds have produced from using One Best Photo and it is a pleasure to showcase their work here today. Thank you for sharing this Tanya!
Tanya Leadbeater. Church Vale Primary School, Nottinghamshire.
I have been teaching for 14 years and during this time have worked in two Nottinghamshire Primary schools and have taught classes in each Key Stage. In 2014, I began teaching in the Foundation Stage and have been teaching Foundation 1 children since. I work part-time and have two children of my own. As well as being class teacher, I am the Computing Coordinator which I have been for almost 10 years now.
Visit Church Vale Primary School website here.
East Side Gallery, Berlin.
Before heading to Berlin for the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) World Wide Institute, I watched ADE Michelle Cordy present a powerful idea in her closing keynote of ISTE.
“When teachers connect, they change the world.”
Now, more than ever, we need teachers to be together. We have a responsibility as a global community of educators to give children, from all over the world, the best start in life; socially and academically. To do that effectively, we should not stand still and we certainly should not stand alone!