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.
Connecting Classes Across Continents is a collaboration I began with Apple Distinguished Educators who teach in the early years. We met in San Diego in July 2014 and began planning how we could use FaceTime and social media to build a personal learning network for our young learners, In the beginning we had classes connecting between South Carolina, Maine, Ireland and my class in England. The process is simple, we looked at what we taught throughout the year and found topics which overlapped or linked so that our classes could exchange knowledge over a video call.
Over the last two years my classes have made short video calls to these classes to talk about their place in the world, ask questions about the different places and share stories or festivals from their home country. We have shared Bonfire Night, Thanksgiving, Christmas food similarities and differences and Chinese New Year. Connecting with real children celebrating these festivals made the learning so much more real as we could have genuine discussions with real people involved in these celebrations.
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.
Friday 17th June
This is the day my class waited for! Our hero Major Tim Peake spent his last day on the International Space Station and preparations began for his journey home.
It has been such a buzz following this mission. Since the launch, children in my class have been fascinated and asked so many questions about space. From the launch through to today they have followed this mission and been inspired by this journey. As I look back to December 15th when I heard about the launch on the news on my drive to work I was excited! I could not wait to talk about this with my class and watch the footage on our Smart TV. Back then though, I would never have guessed how involved we would become in space exploration!
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!
Coding in the Early Years is something that I have been tinkering with since the new primary curriculum became statutory. I’ve planned unplugged computing strategies which support the later use of BeeBots and practised skills on a suite of iPad apps designed to apply this skill of coding.
This year I’ve been lucky enough to get our hands on Dash robots that connect to our class iPads via Bluetooth. This robots have a suite of apps which progress from early control skills (like a remote controlled car) through to Scratch-like coding blocks that support the Year 6 objectives.
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.
We are getting ready to teach the children how to make Maths Journals again this year, but before we hand children their own iPads, we need to model book creating in maths first. You can read more about Maths Journals here.
Bonfire Night is a British festival remembering The Gunpowder Plot from over 400 years ago. Guy Fawkes attempted to murder King James who would be in The Houses of Parliament on November 5th 1605 (I hope I have that date right?). Guy Fawkes obviously failed as The Houses of Parliament still stand today and every year on November 5th our children visit a bonfire and watch fireworks which depict what could have happened should Guy Fawkes have been successful.
This festival, like many others, lends itself well to cross-curricular learning. However, it also lends itself well to my connected classes project as our friends across Europe and America will not be celebrating Bonfire Night. Therefore it is a great opportunity to use technology to share this festival with them.