Teaching about Life on Earth in Early Years

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This summer at the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute in San Diego our theme for the week was ‘Life On Earth’. To kick start the week we had a fantastic keynote from famed biologist E.O. Wilson, author of the new Life on Earth multi-touch textbooks available for free from the iBook Store.

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Nottinghamshire County Council iPad Networks

This academic year is already shaping up to be a great one with many exciting projects planned for my class already. Some of these I have blogged about already but today I want to write about the iPad Networks for Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC) schools.

During the Summer Term last year I began talks with consultants at NCC about the possibility of running a specific training program for schools in the district with iPads. I have worked closely with the ICT team over the last 2 years, delivering workshops, presentations and drop-in sessions around my use of iPad in school.

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Using Puppet Pals to support choice making and SEN provision.

I have been working with a local nursery who use iPads with their SEN children.

The nursery manager had a vision to use apps to help children make choices. There are apps designed to do this, but most are expensive or present many small symbols for the child to choose from.

My suggestion was Puppet Pals. Even though this app is designed for story telling, it is so versatile and can be used beyond story telling.

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TeachMeet Midlands: What was it all about?

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TeachMeet Midlands was a huge success. This time our TeachMeet was part of National TeachMeet Day in the UK, which helped raise the profile of the event in Nottingham and across the Midlands. With sponsorship from the Nottingham Learning Trust (@NottmLT) and The National College (@the_college), as well as the companies behind TeachMeet UK, Pete (@PeteBevington) and I (@MarcWithersey) were able to promote this event through many channels beyond Twitter and we introduced so many more teachers to the TeachMeet format of CPD.

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Including Early Years and ELGs in a computing curriculum (UPDATED September 2014)

The autumn term has been a long but rewarding one for me. A new job has been the challenge that I was looking for and I am settled in to a new school and a new role. Each week has passed with a new set of achievements and the role has been fast paced, but progress is being made at an astonishing rate!

One focus for me, as for many of us, is implementing a new computing curriculum for the school. As an early years teacher I am keen to include the foundation stage within the primary curriculum planning phase and make stronger links between the two curriculums.

This may be an easier process for other curriculum areas, but within the ‘technology’ strand in Early Years Outcomes and the new computing curriculum for key stage 1, it seems to be a little more vague.

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Programming Apps for Early Years and Key Stage 1

This has been a busy week to say the least! Not only am I preparing to move schools, I have been at 3 CPD events in two days and the new primary curriculum has been released (almost).

The 3 events were Computing at Schools (NTU Hub), TeachMeet Nottingham and The Festival of Innovation. At all 3 events I was involved in running workshops, but it was good to spend time listening to others and finding about about computing and programming. My good friend Peter Bevington (@PeteBevington) has great ideas for a new primary curriculum which he has already started embedding so do get in touch with him for your long term ICT plans!

Meeting other teachers is also great and that’s how I pick up new ideas. So here’s my favourite three Apps for programming on the iPad (the 4th being BeeBot which we all know and love). By the way, these are all FREE on AppStore!

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The Festival of Innovation

Friday 12th July was Nottinghamshire’s Festival of Innovation and I was invited to run four 45 minute workshops. The whole event had such a good feeling about it, and it was attended by teachers, ICT leaders and head teachers. A real good mix of people all wanting to learn something new and look for innovative ideas.

The Keynote came from John Davitt @JohnDavitt who was very entertaining. His presentation was very interactive with a jargon busting bingo card and many jokes along the way. I’d love to summarise what he talked about but it ranges from accents, hyperlinks, talking sheep and using QuickTime and buttering toast. What he did do though, which is a refreshing to see, is encourage the use of Twitter during the event so that we can all share ideas during the day. As so few teachers are using Twitter, John directed us to http://www.todaysmeet.com which sets up a private timeline on their site for participants to post to without having an account. Take a look at it for your next event! Also check out his website and follow him on twitter.

Ok… On to my workshops.

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Getting more from Windows 7 and your Interactive Whiteboard: Gadgets, Widgets and Snipping… #ukedchat #edtech

This half term our school have had new Promethean interactive whiteboards and a priority within the ICT team has been to improve whiteboard use. As I always say, training and sharing is the best way to improve staff skills. So this is the route we are taking.

Here a few ideas, tips and tricks that are easy ideas for whiteboard use. All of them are free, most of them are already installed on your Windows 7 machine!

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Technology in the new Early Years Foundation Stage: What do you need to prepare?

The new EYFS is on the way in September and the Development Matters document is bringing exciting changes across all of areas of learning, but for me, the greatest acknowledgement is in the Technology strand of ‘Understanding the World’.
 
During the Summer Term I have been working in a variety of counties discussing my use of iPad and how I believe this tool has a strong place within the new Technologies strand.So what is happening in Development Matters?
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Creating Content
  
It seems that the use of a BeeBot, or other programmable toys, is now part of a much wider vision for ICT learning and assessment. The emphasis on using technology in the new curriculum is on children creating their own content. This content creation is embedded in the other areas of learning, using technology to enhance communication, language, arts, maths and literacy. Therefore, the skills of the specific area of learning ‘Understanding the World’ can be practised through prime area strands such as speaking, listening and social development.
 
By using an app like Puppet Pals, children are creating and saving their own content on iPad but are also working in a group, taking turns and talking about the story they are retelling.
Age Approriate Software and Hardware
The new strand also mentions the need for selecting age appropriate ICT devices. Many settings and schools use NetBooks, PCs and/or ICT Suites but more settings are turning to mobile devices as age-appropriate solutions. The iPad is an age appropriate device as it promotes sharing and group work as several children can work around one device. It’s touch screen access means that children interact directly with the software and they are learning how to get a response from an animation or display on screen by touching exactly what they want. The fewer transition points in an activity, the faster the pace of learning. With a mouse or keyboard, children need to look down at them and then back up at the screen, this can cause some confusion depending on the task! They do need to learn these skills, but we need to be selective in when this is appropriate to the task at hand. What do we want the children to do when learning a story? I want them to retell the story. How am I going to do? Story maps, story walks, role play masks and costumes, small world play and now, Puppet Pals App can retell the story digitally. My proudest moment came from this app this year, where 3 children retold The Gruffalo using this App, a skill I was waiting to see from them.
iPad, compared to other tablets and devices, looks age appropriate in the layout and organisation. iPad doesn’t have any menus, minimising features, exit crosses, dates, times, calendars etc on the home screen. Therefore children look for the software they want using the large icons. 
The security settings also allow children to access the apps which are appropriate to them, and apps like a web browser, AppStore, iTunes can be disabled for classroom use. The latest version of iOS brings Guided Access in the Accessibility settings. This means that in an early years setting, the teacher can set Guided Access so that one particular app is used in that session, and at other times can have free choice of what apps to use. 
Final Thoughts

The new technologies strand is still very limited in what you are assessing, and this is probably is probably due to the digital divide between settings and homes. With an upcoming review of the National Curriculum, it may be useful to look at skills that can be taught in Year 1 and bring these in to planning for the foundation stage too.

Download Now:

Enabling_Environments_Curriculum.600x600-75Enabling Environments: A Computing Curriculum Beginning in Early Years

This book has been written for the Early Years practitioner or Computing Coordinator of a school looking to further embed the use of technology in their Foundation 1 and Foundation 2 settings. Marc Faulder, an Early Years teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator, provides a complete skills curriculum from 30 months to the Early Learning Goal in this book. Chapters introduce a skills curriculum, the assessment and progression of the skills and a thorough planning document to show how technology enhances learning in all Early Learning Goals.

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How to organise apps and set restrictions for a primary or early years iPad

Please note that images on this blog reflect iOS 5, however the processes remain the same.

For the Summer Term I am planning to support staff at the primary school I work at with understanding the basics of using an iPad in a primary classroom. This blog post is going to act as a base for all of my advice, so it will probably change over the coming weeks.

For information on managing multiple devices and purchasing app licenses, see my blog post here: https://enablingenvironments.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=728&action=edit

I saw a blog post at EdTechLoung.com this Easter holiday which gave a huge bank of recommended Apps for Early Years and Primary Education. The blog post also provided information on how to group these Apps into folders to make the iPad more accessible for primary aged pupils. This reminded me of a very early blog post I wrote when I first launched ‘Enabling Environments’. I shared the challenges and solutions to using 1 iPad in a class of 30 children, and now I feel I have so much more to say about it. If you want to read about deploying multiple iPads in a classroom or school, read this blog post about the Volume Purchase Program and mobile device management.

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