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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Story & Coding with Dash and Path.

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.

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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.

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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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Maily! e-mail that’s possible in early years.

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.

Maily.

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.

FullSizeRender 17It’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.

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An Early Years Shape Book about Bonfire Night

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.

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Designing and Controlling Bumper Cars with Dash Robots.

At the end of September a huge travelling fair arrives in our city, a 700 year old event which expands year on year. It’s the Goose Fair. There isn’t a school in our region that would ignore it and in true Early Years style, it’s a great opportunity to cash in on some great learning and play opportunities!

This year we are using Dash and Dot robots from MakeWonder as part of our coding curriculum. They fit perfectly in to a classroom with just a few iPads and bring coding to life as children control Dash and Dot from a suite of apps produced by MakeWonder.

The apps for Dash and Dot follow a clear progression in skills and with as this was our first experience coding and controlling, we started with the first app in the collection: “Go”.

Think remote controlled car… The app connects to Dash over Bluetooth and the user steers Dash from the iPad screen. There’s options to send sounds to Dash from the app and even record your own sounds to play over Dash’s speakers. The colours on Dash’s body can also be changed and flashed from the app. It’s that perfect app to teach children early control skills and introduce direction language.

What’s more, Dash and Dot come with ‘building brick connectors’ that can be attached to the sides and head of the robot allowing Lego to be built on to them.

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An Outdoors Photography Project for Early Years: Taking Your “One Best Image”.

In the summer term we take our Foundation Unit to Sherwood Pines, a Forestry Commission park here in Nottinghamshire. As the name suggests, it’s a large woodland with tall pine trees and a great outdoor education team and facilities for all ages. During the day we did all of the outdoor education activities you could think of in a forest: mini beast hunts, woodland art (Andy Goldsworthy), story trails (The Gruffalo) and for the purpose of this blog post, photography.

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Connecting Classes across Continents: a collaborative book by two schools.

For the past 7 years our Executive Head Teacher has been the lead link between our schools here in Nottingham (Burton Joyce and Cropwell Bishop) and St. Francis Xavier school in Goa, India. For 2 weeks each year, Phil spends time at the school working with the staff and students of the schools. The project is funding by The British Council and supported by Nottingham Forest Football Club also.

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Last year, Phil’s visit supported the launch of our school blogs and kick started Skype Classroom projects. This year, he set out to make a multi-touch book on a single iPad and create a collaborative text about the two localities. My first attempt at creating  a teacher authored textbook using iBooksAuthor came about at the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) institute in San Diego (2014), and with a group of Early Years ADEs we authored a book about Rancho Cuyamaca. I shared this project with Phil and it shaped our vision for this project.

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Start Unplugged! Coding in Early Years.

This Spring Term I was invited to work with staff at Heymann School, Nottinghamshire, who were preparing for Science Technology project. My role was to share and support in ways their early years pupils could engage with coding and control skills.

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I champion a place for unplugged computing in the curriculum as it secures language, vocabulary, children’s internal decision making, recording and visualising their own inner-computing.

To read more about computational thinking, coding and how it supports you to plan for The Characteristics of Effective Learning and thinking skills, you can also read this more recent post of mine. 

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Introducing MakeyMakey to Early Years Children.

This week saw the arrival our MakeyMakey and the first time I got hands-on with the kit. Having followed the work of ADE Mark Shillitoe for 2 years, I thought it was about time I tried it out for myself. I ordered the MakeyMakey from Amazon, just over £40, and the kit comes complete with enough crocodile clips for simple projects. The instructions are clear, set up took about 5 minutes and we were up and running with a Banana Piano in a matter of minutes.

Wait a minute though, what is MakeyMakey?

MakeyMakey is an invention kit for everybody. It is a USB device that replaces keys on your keyboard. IMG_7551IMG_7549 IMG_2708 Continue reading