The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Photography

I’m always excited to hear from followers of my blog and connecting with readers through Twitter or by e-mail. Recently, teachers from Mere Green Primary have shared ways they have been using the Young Children Can Create books, which I published with Kristi Meeuwse and Jason Milner in August 2018. This is the second blog post which has been written by Terri Coombs and Rebecca Murray from Mere Green Primary School. In this post, they share the impact that The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Photography guide has had on their early years practice.

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Terri Coombs is the IT Lead for Mere Green and SLE in Computing and IT across the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership. She has 20 years teaching experience which includes 10 years of leading IT and is passionate about using technologies to inspire creative teaching & learning and enable all children to engage.
Rebecca Murray is the IT Lead for Early Years at Mere Green, she has 5 years of teaching experience in Early Years and promotes the use of iPads to encourage levels of independence.
Mere Green Primary School is an outstanding two form entry, family orientated school. We are driven to ‘make a difference’ for all our children, through support, nurture and trust. In addition to our mainstream children, we also have 20 places for children with statements for speech, language and communication from North Birmingham, who have enhanced speech provision across the school day. We are a fully inclusive primary school, which reflects the society in which we live.  We have a whole school vision for embedded use of IT to enhance authentic learning opportunities.

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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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The MakerSpace: A Foundation Stage Challenge

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Monday 4th July was the day I had been waiting for since February. Apple Distinguished Educator, Jason Milner a Year 4 teacher from Sydney, visited my school to work with me on a MakerSpace project we had been planning for months.

 

 

What is a MakerSpace?

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I was particularly interested in this concept of MakerSpaces because of the strong links to Foundation Stage style practice. It’s a place in your school or setting where children use open-ended resources or work on projects related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic skills. Children work on their own projects or respond to challenges set. I wanted to see how best practices and resources from Foundation can be extended to support learning in computing and programming skills. Jason also wanted to gain experience using our Dash robots with Foundation Stage children.

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Early Years and Online Safety: my top resources!

Digital Citizenship and online safety is such an important part of the National Curriculum and confidence to teach this subject is growing amongst teachers in upper primary years. But what is happening lower down school?

In the early years we have always been good at providing children with opportunities to develop relationship skills and problem solve in their peer groups. We have access to many age appropriate resources to discuss stranger danger and bullying. Over the last year I’ve started to see good materials published to bring online safety in to our curriculum. I want to share some of these today.

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Puppet Pals is still a staple app for Early Years!

Puppet-Pals-HD-Directors-p-Pass1Puppet Pals, a story-telling app created by two dads, has been around from the very beginning. The set of first generation iPads arrived in my classroom and it was the first app I downloaded that I thought ‘Yes, this is it!’ It was the app I used when Nottinghamshire County Council’s ICT specialist visited to see me teach with iPads and it changed her view on their potential for learning.

Download Puppet Pals from the App Store here.

That was 2010. Fast forward 6 years and Puppet Pals is probably one of the few apps that’s remained the same and remained strong.

Let’s take a look at how Puppet Pals has been used in my classes over the years.

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Physical and Digital Masks

What’s the best way to get Tim Peake to sing our song to us?

If you haven’t read the blog post about our Podcast to Tim Peake, take a look at that here. The class are so eager to have Tim Peake listen to their ‘Stars and The Moon’ song and are waiting with so much anticipation to hear back from the European Space Agency. So in the meantime I decided to have some fun with Tim Peake masks and find the best way to have Tim Peake sing ‘Stars and The Moon’.

We love making role play masks but this mask’s purpose is to make it seem like Tim is singing our song to us. It needs to be the most convincing mask!

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Shape Hunts with Pic Collage

Last year I used Padlet as a collaborative tool for shape hunts around school. It was really effective to use a collaborative tool and create a shared document that displayed all of the 3D Shapes we found around school. You can read about that here.

This year Padlet released a free app for iPad making this resource much more stable on iOS, but it requires the latest iOS and we are using iPad 2 which I don’t want to update to iOS 9. So I had to rethink how I can make use of technology to enhance the traditional shape hunt.

“This adult led activity happens in so many foundation classes, and I have led shape walks many times. During these walks, we carry a bag of plastic shapes and we match the plastic pieces to real objects. This happens for 2D and 3D shapes. The children might even mark off on a clipboard the shapes they spotted, like bingo, or draw pictures of the shapes they have seen. By the end of the walk, they have all recorded the same shapes in the same places. I wanted to enhance this experience, to make it more personalised”

So this year we used the free app PicCollage. It makes use of children’s photography skills which they are all secure with when using iPad but creates a very simple and effective poster showing the shapes they noticed around school. They also like it because they get to take a selfie instead of writing their name!

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Teacher Authored Texts in Early Years

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.

For the past few years my early years class have been writing books on our iPads using Book Creator. They’ve contributed to whole class books about their village, written fairy tales in pairs in Woodland Workshop and created their own independent maths journals. With our whole class and shared writing books I usually combine all of their content on iBooks Author on my MacBook. I then publish their project to the iBooks Store. Below is a gallery of the different book creating experiences we have had using iPad, iBooks Author and Book Creator.

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It’s not often that I use iBooks Author to create texts for them to read on their iPads but this is starting to creep in to my practise so today I’d like to share an idea with you.

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Light and Dark Exploration with iPad Controlled Toys.

This term our learning has been investigating “what happens when the sun goes down”. One of the earliest observations is that it gets dark much earlier and the moon comes up. With this comes the need for light to see in the dark so out comes our tents, black bed sheets and den building. In our dark spaces we play with torches and light sources. In terms of technology learning in Early Years Outcomes, this play links to the switching on and off of light sources & looking at batteries.

We wanted to take this early technological learning a little deeper, and closer to a modern home. We made use of two different Bluetooth controlled devices in our dark spaces. This activity is all about controlling light sources as a connected device, getting a device to respond to instructions on an app.

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