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.
We want our early learners to become life long readers so promoting books and reading is what we try to do. To share a love of reading with the many different kinds of learners in our classroom can be challenging so making use of technology is one solution.
For the past few years my early years class have been writing books on our iPads using Book Creator. They’ve contributed to whole class books about their village, written fairy tales in pairs in Woodland Workshop and created their own independent maths journals. With our whole class and shared writing books I usually combine all of their content on iBooks Author on my MacBook. I then publish their project to the iBooks Store. Below is a gallery of the different book creating experiences we have had using iPad, iBooks Author and Book Creator.
It’s not often that I use iBooks Author to create texts for them to read on their iPads but this is starting to creep in to my practise so today I’d like to share an idea with you.
September and the start of school came and we all survived again. Settling in to routines, finding our feet in a new classroom and figuring out where to start building those blocks for this year’s learning. It’s an exciting time as the weeks unfold and we get to know our new class, finding out what they already know and what they need next.
Every year it amazes me the skills the children have when using iPads, and other technology in their classroom. This year’s highlight for me was during the introduction of the class iPads and basic skills of navigating the home screen, dock and the camera. One of the children had this to say:
“I know another skill. You have to close the apps too so that it doesn’t waste the battery charge”. Yes that’s right! And this skill was even demonstrated correctly. I hadn’t come across this skill at the beginning of the year before!
However, there is one skill that I am yet to be met with in September, and that is using the camera efficiently. How often do you see this on your camera rolls and you don’t find out about it until your iPad memory is full:
We always start the year with photography skills. It takes a long time, it’s a whole half term (and for some the whole year) but it is a skill which underpins the very basics of using an iPad to create authentic content. It’s a skill you return to every time you use an iPad to make a movie, book or presentation.
I have decided to write another post about the wider curriculum and classroom organisation. Over the years I have posted a few times about my classroom spaces and provision as it adds a bit of flavour to the technology focus of my blog. It shows another side to my work.
I always look to Alistair Bryce-Clegg for inspiration, he is a one-stop-shop for all things early years. Not only does Alistair share great ways of working, his recommendations are well within the reach of all early years settings. They are cheap, sometimes free, and every time his ideas are effective! Alistair’s post Creating an Environment to Provoke Learning gave me the confidence and vision to go ahead and put all my energy in to redesigning our areas.
“As a class teacher, when it came to my environment less was definitely not more! In fact more was more with a bit more chucked in for good measure!” writes Alistair.
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.
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.
I have been reading Kristi Meeuwse’s blog, iTeachWithiPads, for a while now and a recent post of hers on Maths Journals stood out for me. I am always asked about maths apps for iPads, but I have never considered myself a maths expert. What I usually see are maths games being played on the iPad, which can engage certain leaners but the level of enhancement is not as great as what I have seen with literacy and authoring apps. The work Kristi’s kindergartener’s engage with on iPad is the best example of maths enhancement with technology that I have seen.
What are Maths Journals?
We use MyStory book creating app to photograph practical maths activities and record our maths understanding with marks or voice on the pages of the book. This means that the practical activity is captured, making the experience more meaningful rather than disposable play that is packed away at tidy up time. The child can reflect further on their learning by recording their mathematical understanding using the built-in microphone or with physical marks on the page.
Animating with iStopMotion
iStopMotion brings stop frame animation to early years for the first time. The app allows the children to see their last taken frame on top of the live view of the next image they need to take. This shows them where to place the object they are animating for the next shot. This feature is known as an onion skin. Here is an example of this feature from teachwithvideo.com.
At first glance, this app lends itself perfectly to story telling, language and literacy. This year though, I had an opportunity to enhance shape, space and measure with iStopMotion.
Apps to use – click the app names to take you to the AppStore
Free: iMotion – this app does not have an ‘onion skin’ feature.
Paid (lower price point ): iCanAnimate – this app does have ‘onion skin’ but does not record sound/voice of the animation
Paid (higher price point): iStopMotion – this app has both ‘onion skin’ and sound/voice record.