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?
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.
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.
Puppet 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
This year the national Anti-Bullying Week in the UK challenged teachers to bring an e-safety focus to their classroom. As an early years teacher, talking about safety online is quite tricky and modelling good practise online has always been my focus. My class regular experience positive uses of the internet and our Connected Classes are an important part of our classroom life. As a class we make FaceTime calls to other early years children around the world, we share books that we have written on the iPads with them and we often help each other out with answering questions about our localities.
For Anti-Bullying Week though, I wanted to make these experiences more personal for the children. This is how I found Maily on the App Store.
This is a free app and it is free to set up an account and to use the service. There are no adverts or in app purchases either. Maily is designed for the travelling or far reaching family though. It’s there for the kids to be able to send a special message to mum when she’s working away, or the grandparents that live in Spain.
It’s perfect for early years though. Maily has very little reading involved, it’s all pictorial and within a couple of taps your children have opened their inbox, scrolled their contact lists to find a friend, wrote an e-mail and sent it. All within the app, inside one secure account.
Last half term our investigations were all around our local area. The outcomes of this project would focus on children talking about their home, community, school and their place in the world. As well as the regular practise involved in this kind of learning in the early years, technology enabled us to share this learning in a purposeful way.
First up in the project came International Dot Day which put a spot light on children from other parts of the world who shared the same interests as us. You can read more about International Dot Day here. It’s a great festival that shows children how they are connected to the rest of the world. This initiated conversations about our place in the world, where we live and what it is like here.