Inventors Day: the importance of tinkering and play.

Working with Shonette Bason-Wood, and being a Spread The Happiness Teacher, has taught me one thing… stop waiting to be happy!

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The Spread The Happiness diary and calendars make everyday an exciting day for you and your class. What’s best about the diary is that you are never quite sure if the days in the diary are real or not! But that’s the point, don’t wait for a day to do something new, exciting, daring or different. The diary gives you permission to be the teacher you want to be, and the teach in ways you’ve always wanted to. Which brings me to Inventors Day.

Thursday 17th January was marked as Inventors Day on the Spread The Happiness calendar. I hadn’t seen any of the usual posts on social media about an international day for inventors but it motivated me to observe play in the Maker Space that I set up and developed since 2016. So I spent the afternoon tinkering with the robot kits we have and it made me remember all of the fun we’ve had working with different robotic toys over the years …. and I’ve never shared them!

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Unplugged to Debugged: coding in the early years.

Bringing coding to the early years seems like a big step as the Early Learning Goal for technology narrowly states that young children should use technology for a particular purpose. It’s one strand of the curriculum where practitioners may be less confident in working that cross-curricular, linked-learning best practice that we are the true experts of.

To bring coding to the early years we need to better understand what coding is and how the skills of a good coder are related to the skills we are developing across the areas of learning.

The Cornerstones of Coding

Being good at coding is more than inputing commands in sequence. Good coders are actually good problem solvers. Coding is a process underpinned by the skills of:

  • Pattern Spotting and Sequencing
  • Breaking larger problems down in to small steps (Decomposition)
  • Looking for mistakes and correcting them (debugging)
  • Making predications based on prior knowledge (Logical Reasoning)
  • Testing out ideas (Evaluating)
  • Playing around (Tinkering – yes that’s a technical term too!)

Looking at this list of skills and the definitions, I immediately see a link to The Characteristics of Effective Learning.

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For readers who are new to the Early Years Foundation Stage in England, you can view the 2019 profile handbook here and read about The Characteristics of Effective Learning which underpin all learning for birth to 5 year olds here (page 22).

 

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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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50 Things To Do This Summer: Number 49 “Make a PicCollage”

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I am an advocate for using Spread The Happiness resources for more effective partnerships with parents.

 

Last year Shonette Bason-Wood introduced 50 Things To Do This Summer; a checklist of activities to get families having fun together. It's full of real simple ideas that sometimes get forgotten in busy life, but when we look over it as adults, we remember those things from our childhood – well most of them!

Number 49: "Make a PicCollage"

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Technology is part of children's lives now and 'screen time' gets a lot of bad press. Not all screen time is the same though. No doubt many of us are in settings where children's communication, language, social and physical development are behind age-typical development so we are quick to assume this is because of their use of technology.

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Many small people, who in many small places, do many small things, that can alter the world.

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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!

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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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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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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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Podcasting in Early Years: Singing with Major Tim Peake!

AudioBoom.

I had forgotten about this little gem of an app but this week my class wanted to write a song for Tim Peake and tweet it to him. They’ve been fascinated by his story so far and we keep checking his Twitter feed and watching YouTube videos about the International Space Station. Singing him a song is a great compromise as they did ask to FaceTime him when he first arrived on the ISS. Now I can usually make a FaceTime link for them but that is very ambitious!

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