Over the years I have developed a network with fellow Apple Distinguished Educators that brings the world to our early years classrooms. I regularly receive positive feedback from parents who are amazed at the way their young ones connect with other early years children around the world by using iPads and Apple software.
Today, Tuesday 19th January, marked another one of those moments in my career where my classroom really does become an international hub for collaboration between early years settings and teachers.
It was such a pleasure to welcome Marie Neves and Flavia Nascimento from Recife, Brazil to Burton Joyce, Nottingham and my classroom.
Marie and Flavia work at CESAR, an innovation centre which promotes transformation through technology and support schools and teachers with this kind of innovation. They work with a range of schools including early years, special needs, adult education and teacher training.
Accompanied by Dr Nicola Pitchford and Laura Outhwaite, our partners from the University of Nottingham, Marie and Flavia visited my class to observe how children are using iPads to document their learning in maths, engage with iPads to develop a love of reading and how we are closing the attainment gap with onebillion apps.
This education charity designed a suite of apps to be used specifically in Malawi where basic mathematic and literacy skills need to be achieved in order to thrive in community life. The University of Nottingham are key partners in the success of this program in Malawi and you can read more about their work here. Laura Outhwaite, referenced in the onebillion evidence, is conducting research in to the effectiveness of these apps in Nottingham schools and comparing the results with those from the Malawi study.
My class are involved in this research and we are finding similar successes when using the onebillion apps in addition to other best practises for mathematics teaching. Marie and Flavia are interested in implementing onebillion apps in their partner schools in Brazil. Seeing how the iPads are deployed for this intervention and how children use the apps independently demonstrated how useful these softwares are in developing early maths skills.
It is always worth remembering that the onebillion apps were designed for a specific learning environment in the context of Malawi and therefore they should not replace the teacher in any way. The onebillion apps are proving effective as an additional tool in my classroom for closing the attainment gap. However, children in my class develop their understanding of mathematical language and make mathematical concepts more concrete when engaging in open ended investigative play with number. Personal Maths Journals on iPads captures these experiences and records their play in a multi-modal format.
As the children play with maths resources they document their work in Maths Journals on the iPads. Using Book Creator, children have their own journal where they photograph their work themselves, insert that photograph onto a page, annotate it and use the voice recorder tool to talk about their maths. The Maths Journals are independent and are shared with the class over AirPlay with our smart TV.
Marie and Flavia were impressed by the skills that the children demonstrated during this learning. Yes they were demonstrating number recognition, applying addition and subtraction concepts and using the appropriate mathematical language but the children were independently documenting their maths. These multi-modal Maths Journals facilitate collaboration and discussion about maths. Our visitors particularly enjoyed the collaborative nature of Maths Journals and how the children share their recordings with one another.
Teacher Authored Texts
We want our early learners to become life long readers so promoting books and reading is what we try to do. To share a love of reading with the many different kinds of learners in our classroom can be challenging so making use of technology is one solution.
I’ve been using iBooks Author (An Apple app for Mac) to write my own versions of familiar stories and in these books I incorporate sounds, real images and video. Children read my books on our iPads and listen to my narrations too. Also, it’s a great way to promote writing because the children see me as an author and know that they can be an author too. Usually they read my book and have a go at writing their own.
Marie and Flavia observed how children engage with the books that I have written and watched how children become motivated to read then write their own stories. They were particularly impressed by the way the children organise themselves in these activities. With only 1 iPad and headphone set available for this activity, children were not squabbling to take their turn but negotiating the turn taking and knowing what to do between listening. Having only 1 iPad available here means that the children had to talk about what they had read and share the story in their own words with their peers.
This working relationship came about through my Apple Distinguished Educator network and it is a real joy to partner with The University of Nottingham for the onebillion research. As this partnership develops and we make links with others, including Marie and Flavia, my passion for technology in the early years grows. Welcoming these visitors to my classroom and having the opportunity to step back, observe and reflect on the learning happening around us was wonderful. Being an Apple Distinguished Educator continues to provide me with chances to look at my practise, develop my teaching knowledge and try out new things. Sharing this with others is so powerful and I look forward to visiting the schools in Recife, Brazil in the future. There is so much that Marie and Flavia told me about their schools, teachers and children that would be great to observe myself. It is very empowering to gain an international perspective on education through real relationships and make comparisons between our settings.
My final share with Marie and Flavia today was the collaborative book which was written on a single iPad between children at my school and our link school in Goa, India. You can read more about this collaboration here and how this global book was co-authored on a single iPad and published to the iBooks Store.
Many Thanks to Nicola, Laura, Phil and Jen for making this partnership a possibility and to the team I work with for their patience as I learn new things!