A Spring Time Photo Walk

Back in January I took my young learners on a winter photo walk to appreciate the beauty of frosty scenes and notice the patterns in the natural world. You can read about this activity here. Wednesday 20th March was marked as the first day of Spring, and we were learning about the Hindu festival of Holi, so we took our cameras out on photo walk to capture the colours and signs of spring time.

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Before the walk we looked at the photographs from our winter walk. This was an effective way to link learning and notice the changes that have happened in the seasons but also to review the teaching point of good photography. Using photography in the early years is important because young children have access to cameras in almost all devices they touch. We must teach children to use cameras effectively and for a particular purpose so that they don’t fill devices with endless, repetitive images and learn that photographs tell us visual stories.

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Photography and Story Writing

The Naughty Bus is one of my favourite stories to read to children. The text is presented in a fun way, with words that help convey meaning. It’s the illustrations that bring the story to life for me though, real photographs in a fiction book. I love the way a real London Bus toy comes to life on the pages in the way that children imagine when they are playing with their own toys.

These illustrations made me think about the ways that photography can inspire children to write. What if children used their own photography as a stimulus for writing?

Each day this week, children have come to school to find our own Naughty Bus in various scenes of chaos.

These scenes created lots of conversation and excitement each morning, and I modelled how to capture these moments with our camera. In a few taps of the iPad, I could snap a few photographs, swipe through them with the children on the spot, select the ‘one best’ photo and print it wirelessly to display on in our classroom. The children then set to work cleaning up after their Naughty Bus but the moment was captured forever (and shared with parents via the class blog).

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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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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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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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Our first week with iPad – Mastering the Basics!

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.

FullSizeRender-2-300x300.jpgCathy 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-profile.jpgDave 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!

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MakerSpaces: Foundation Stage Best Practice in Key Stage 2

What is a MakerSpace.

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I was interested in MakerSpaces because of their strong links to Foundation Stage best practise. It’s a place in school where children use sets of resources to work on projects related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic skills. Children design on their own projects or respond to challenges. I wanted to see how best practises and resources from Foundation can be extended to support learning further up school. For the Year 4 teachers, they wanted to see how our new range of iPad compatible robots can be used in their coding curriculum.

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For this MakerSpace I was joined by Jason Milner. Jason is an Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) from Sydney, Australia. Throughout July he visited other ADE schools across Europe and today we collaborated on this project at my school. Jason wanted to gain experience using iPad compatible robots and also observe the impact that wrapping code around the curriculum may improve the way in which children apply mathematic skills.

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One Best Photo: a Forestry Commission Project.

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 09.05.04This month I am proud to announce the publication of free lessons that I have created in partnership with The Forestry Commission Learning Rangers.

In July 2015 I met with the education team from Sherwood Pines to talk about this potential project and how we can work together to bring technology and outdoor learning together.

 

 

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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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