Census 2011

Yesterday, March 27th 2011, was Census day.  The Census is one of the first things I taught when I started teaching ICT at our school.  Those children are now 18 to 21 years old!  Does not bear thinking about – so let’s move on!

We looked at the information provided for schools on the Census Website and discussed what happened in school 10 years ago and I reported that only one year 6 pupils had a computer at home!  We had a fabulous man come to talk to us, he is in charge of the Census in our area.  We then looked at the Census form used 10 years ago and the current Census form available for schools to use.  We chose the best questions from the two questionnaires and created some questions of our own.  We put in questions about the school uniform and wanted to collect pupils thoughts on having a healthy tuck shop for KS2 pupils.

After looking at all the pupils input a final questionnaire was put together for our Census day at school.  This is our Census questionnaire for 2011.

census questionnaire

Then I remembered something that our visitor told us – this is the first time that the Census can be done online!  So scrap the paper, let’s get it put on the learning platform.  So I did and the pupils loved answering the questions, measuring their height and thinking about their favourite computer/online games, we had some fabulous discussions.  I was so thankful that the pupils scrapped the question about heart rate, I hate doing anything like that and it put me off my tea!  Here is our online Census:

klp census q

Did you spot my mistake?  Missed Science out of the favourite lesson question!  Only one person asked where science was, so I might have got away with that one!

Kaleidos is a bit clever when it comes to surveys, it will analysis the answers for you and put them in a graph!  Don’t get excited – take a look:

good q

The data analysis is fine, not exciting but accurate!  Then there are these collections of data analysis:

bad q

So our pupils will now be given one of these nonsense graphical analysis and practice the data collection and handling skills they learnt last term to turn this gobbledygook into meaningful data.  So check in later, to see our results and the wiki set up on our learning platform to record our work and results and how our school community will change as a result of the data collected.

Picking Up The Ball And Running Again!!

Well autumn half term came and went and not a lot happened on the learning platform.  I have never know such a busy run up to Christmas and then losing 3 days to the bad weather.  Now 3 days does not sound a lot but it did set everything back and the amazing Christmas Fair planned didn’t happen and getting the rehearsals for the nativity and carol concert was a blur.

So New Year – new plan of attack.  The year 1 & 2 learning platform sessions have been brilliant and they have added information to their class page and created word searches and uploaded them onto the learning platform.  Their next objective was to create games and put them on the learning platform.  This set me a challenge to find some software that would do the job and not break my budget (which I have used very well this year and there was a little left for such an investment).  I had a look around and then found the perfect answer when our year 1 pupils were using the fabulous jigsaws made by Simon Haughton’s reception pupils at Parkfield Primary School using 2DIY.  The pupils really enjoyed this and the fact that they had been made by other children really impressed them. (I use this with reception pupils as extra mouse skills practice and when they learn to use the interactive Whiteboards).  I would recommend everyone to use these resources and what a fab advert this is for 2Simple who make the 2DIY software.

So I used Twitter to ask Simon what he had used to make these jigsaws and then ordered, on approval, the said software.  Our pupils have really enjoyed learning to use this software.  As this goes to press they are designing their own games that will be embedded in the learning platform.

All pupils recieved a reminder of their username and password to take home.  Year 5 & 6 can change the password they were given, but must be responsible and remember it.  I will reset passwords if needed.  The reception teacher is very keen to use the learning platform as a communication tool and eager to get parents involved in supporting their children at home when using the learning platform.  We held a drop in session where parents could come in, collect their child from class and then together look at the learning paltform and create their avatar.  This was very successful and will most likely become a regular event for new pupils and their parents.

Year 5 & 6 also have a busy classblog but the quality of posts left a little to be desired!  So I decided to give it some structure.  I love the website young me/me know and decided to get the pupils to combine a little bit of  photography and blogging.  I went back through the photograph archives and found photographs of them in our reception class.  Their challenge was to recreate the photograph and post both photographs on the class blog.  This was great fun on so many levels.  First I had a trip down memory lane looking at photographs from seven years ago.  The staff hair styles was an eye opener shocking criminal!  Looking at photographs of some of the pupils reminded me of how much they have grown in 6/7 years.  The pupils enjoyed looking at how much they and their class mates have changed.  Some pupils did not start in reception with us but joined the school during KS2 so they brought photographs in from home.  Recreating group photographs was a challenge as a few have moved on too.  But it was a good afternoon.  I do not know whether it is good or bad that the pupils managed to find the toys they were playing with and use them in their new photographs!  All teaching staff and pupils in the class were then asked to comment on the photographs.  While teaching staff were doing this so were the pupils, it reminded me that if our learning platform was to be successful I had to go back and do some staff training and remind them how the learning platform can be used without too much effort!

I will not post any of the photographs here and you all now why!!  But here are some of the comments the post received:

“you look really cute” (lots of these comments!)

“Wow look how different you and Georgia look!  Is that Joshua in the middle on the old photo?” (Left pupil replaced)

“Louis you look a bit wierd young and you have changed a lot”

“Your hair is so different”

“Holly you have not changed”

All the post were very positive, which was great and it was a very happy afternoon with lots of laughting and chatting.
STAFF MEETING

I wanted to plan this really carefully and pitch it right so that each member of staff can take one idea away and use it.  At this point we are still just using the Interest Spaces – the social side of our learning platform.  I have been trained on the learning spaces and have set some up but have not introduced it to the staff yet.  I have asked for a staff meeting near the end of the school year, when reports, SATs and school trips/concerts are out of the way and just before the staff set off on a planning journey.

So I decided to put all the support documentation on the learning platform.  I did not want to give the staff more sheets of paper that would be filed away and never used.  I spent the whole morning (of my day off) updating the staffroom section and then found a page on the staffroom that was set up but never used so I thought I would delete it.  Do you know what is coming next?  Because this page was linked to the staffroom, it took the parent page with it!!!  I called RM support and they were brilliant but the staffroom was gone!!  So I spent the afternoon putting back the staffroom ready for the staff meeting!

The headteacher had asked the class teachers to bring something with them that they could put on the learning platform.  They brought ideas and photographs which was great.  The meeting was made up of a small presentation and hands on doing work on their class interest spaces.  I supported the teachers with what they wanted to do and offered ideas.

Slide 1 – I wanted to remind them that the learning platform was not going anywhere and that the school now wanted to take the next step with the learning platform.  I want to run a small project with parents.  At the moment no parents have their log in for the learning platform.  If they do log on at the moment they do it with their childs details.

slide 1

Slide 2 – This slide highlights where staff can go to find the support they need when using the learning platform.  We are very lucky because our local authority provides a  great deal of support actually on the learning platform that staff can access at any time.  They are also putting support here for numeracy, eco schools and other subjects.

slide 2

Slide 3 – This slide explains the what is now expected of them.  This was a very productive time that I allowed half an hour for but went on longer because the staff were brilliant and did what they wanted and then wanted to expand on it.  At the end of it they all said it was much better than they thought and couldn’t wait to show their class what they had done.

slide 3

Slide 4 -I wanted to finish by explaining/reiterating that when they stopped using it so do the pupils.  The action research I did demonstrates this perfectly and other schools have found this too.

slide 4

I finished by talking about the report from NAACE about their being two kinds of school during the bad snow at the end of 2010.  The key part of the press release is:

All over the country there are schools where learning continues even when snow closes the school. Schools with effective online learning platforms can keep much of the normal school activity going. Teachers can set work online and post resources so that parents can more easily support homework, pupils can email work to their teachers and ask them questions. With online forum and chat facilities for a class or the whole school, pupils can discuss and collaborate. Many of the schools also use their platforms for extra-curricular activity and fun learning challenges.”

That is what I want.  I watched my teenage daughter keep working during the bad weather using the college’s VLE (Moodle).  She didn’t complain once and happily did the work set her.  Her tutors even emailed her to check she was ok.  I don’t think we need that at primary level but having work on our learning platform and keeping in touch via a blog is my aim!

I am now looking forward to a productive term using our learning platform.  KS2 will be focusing on the census.  This was one of the first projects I did when I started teaching!!  It will be interesting to compare the data with regards to technology use at home.

New Year, New Challenges

I am going to say that we are now more or less settle back into the school routine and it is all going quite nicely!  I have cleaned the class interests spaces on the learning platform up a bit and got rid of some stuff older information and posts.  Some are just going into hibernation, ie SATs, so that they can come out to play later on. I have permission from our headteacher to rant discuss the learning platform after half term and get the staff back into using it in their classroom.  So I am now plotting planning the next projects.

There is one class that is eager to get back onto the learning platform, so much so that we had a meeting last week and they have put together a list of information, activities and links that they would like on their class page.  This was backed up in a meeting with parents of the eager class where I got to show them the learning platform and asked if any of them would be interested in taking part in a project using the learning platform, we have not had any parents log in yet as themselves – only their children.  A case of POS (parent over shoulder!)

This eager class are year 1/2 pupils doing a project about themselves.  They have taken their photographs and drew self portraits.  So in ICT I decided to extend this topic and we talked about their V-Me’s (avatars) they created to represent them online.  We talked about why we didn’t use a photograph of themselves.  I then introduced them to the fab website Voki where they could create an avatar that moves and talks – onto a winner here.  We had a fab morning and a sample was put on the learning platform and shown in the afore mentioned parent meeting.  Take a look:

Year 1/2 Vokis

Our year 5/6 pupils are looking at blogging in their literacy so i jumped on the band wagon and set up a new class blog and asked each pupil to add a post discussing any aspect of their class.  I have been through and commented on some, deleted others and have asked the teachers to now log in and add their comments.  I want them to blog each week and build a social history of events in their class.

This is a fab post

This is a fab post

I hope that this blog will continue and grow.

My plotting plans for after half term include using the virtual learning environment element of our learning platform, haha!!  I have created an e-safety course for pupils andI am going to get a lesson plan from each class and create the same lesson on the VLE.  *Rubbing hands together*

Keep your eyes peeled on this blog to find out what happens.  If  you have already done this and would like to offer me advice PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do add your comments here!

Keeping the Momentum Going!

Easter arrived and all our pupils now have a user guide, their username and password at home.  The learning platform was starting to be used, but not for learning!!  The suite of laptops dramatically changed ICT lessons.  Pupils could have a laptop/computer to themselves and could log onto the learning platform and change their v-me, read and add to blogs and start to collaborate.  But really the laptops and the learning platform should be being used in class and in any lesson, not just ICT!  Have I moaned before about this?

So I wanted to demonstrate to everyone just how powerful the learning platform is and how it can be used for collaboration in a whole class project.  The whole school was taking part in one geography project.  The younger children were learning about our village and local area and the older children were learning about the nearest big city, Derby.  I offered to help hijack part of the work that year 5 & 6 were doing.  I am sure the APP in literacy talks about presenting your work in a variety of ways, well using ICT is one of those ways, where it is appropriate of course.  I felt a wiki coming on!  I created/setup the basic elements of the wiki and then asked the pupils what they wanted to know about Derby.  Each group (4/5 pupils) chose their topic and the front page was created.

wiki front page

Some of the subjects were very imaginative and some had to be amended slighty but each group were happy with what they were researching and the clever ones picked topics that were also being looked at in class.  All the pupils finished this project with better research and presentation skills.  The collaboration took a bit longer and reminded me of Philip Griffin’s wiki work on Tudors (You can read about it in Ictopus).  I had taken his advice and kept the topic tightly focused on their subjects and kept the physical size of the wiki smallish.

The pupils had to learn that only one member of the group could edit the page at a time and I was impressed to see the other members of the group doing research and planning their part of the wiki while it was being updated by others.  Some of the more eager pupils added to the wiki outside of the ICT lesson.  All groups worked really well and every page has really good information in text, photograph and web link form.  I really liked the idea of a field trip to check out the takeaways but the budget wouldn’t allow!

Take a look at some of the pages of our Derby wiki.

dcfc wiki

food wiki

industry wiki

It is be no means the finished project but could be added to by other pupils when the topic comes around again maybe.  It was very enjoyable and one pupil did create a survey on the learning platform that all pupils completed about how often and why the visited Derby.

It did demonstrate to the teaching staff how easily the learningplatform can be used in any lesson.  Lets hope that this happens next year, oh I am the optimist!!

Now We Are Cooking With Gas!!

Getting the year 5 and 6 pupils on before Christmas with the grand total of 7 pc’s was torture!!  Two were very old laptops that moved so slow the pupils on these laptops very often got left behind and I didn’t want their first experience of the learning platform to be a negative one.  So do I cut the group numbers down to 5 and be at it forever and a day?  At this point there seemed on alternative so that is what happened.  The groups were very positive and the pupils enjoyed themselves.  So I started with the year 1 and 2 pupils and I was thankful for the smaller group.  I needed to go slower and be aware that their ICT skills were not always at the same level of the year 5 and 6 pupils that had gone before them.  I changed their passwords for them, the initial password created had the older pupils struggling so I did not want that again.  I spoke with their teaching assistant about suitable passwords and we settled on cvc words, one for all the girls and one for all the boys.  The idea was if the they logged onto the learning platform in class the teachers would not have to remember loads of different passwords.  All the pupils had laminated cards with their names on and I thought we could do something similar with their usernames.  Further up the school the teachers could have a list of usernames.  I had allowed year 5 and 6 to change their passwords by themselves and not report their new passwords to me.  This is how it will be at secondary school, so no harm in training them now!  Or will it come back to bite me you know where?

I did not get all the year 1 and 2 pupils on the learning platform before Christmas.  But we were getting their.  End of February marked the end of the first year of the implementation of the learning platform and that is where my dissertation would stop recording our journey.  So I planned to pull out all the stops in January and February.

During this time I saw an opportunity for a major breakthrough.  The headteacher was asking staff for an ideas for new projects in school, there was some money that had to be spent soon.  So I hatched a plan, put together a proposal that told the headteachers and governors that by not voting for it they were harming the children’s learning!  I put a proposal together for a suite of 15 wireless laptops and a trolley so that they can be used in any of the classrooms.  The school would also have a wireless network installed. This would drmatically eccelerate the implementation of the learning platform, getting the remainder of the pupils on would now be very easy and the ability for the pupils to use the learning platform or the Internet during a lesson was now possible.  I wanted to make the laptops available to parents and other community members, run some classes for them on how to use ICT to support their children or for themselves, creating a CV, using popular websites (that will get through the school filtering!) or anything else they wanted to know.  It would be a flexi-learning session not a perscriptive session.  I taught post 16 and adults at a local college in a previous life so had kept all my notes or could create new ones.   This is the Wordle of my proposal:

Wordle Image of Laptop Proposal

Wordle Image of Laptop Proposal

I am very please to report that the governors liked the proposal as much as the headteacher and I did and approved the whole proposal.  I would start ordering the kit straight away!  It was just before Christmas – what a good one!

January was busy again from day one, what is happening in education at the moment?  Oh yes, safeguarding, e-safety, OFSTED could land on us at any time and something about a bloke called Rose and a new curriculum!  January saw the learning platform being used by year 5 and 6 to support their geography topic about our nearest large city.  We decided to use a wiki and split the children into groups of 4, they then chose one aspect of the city that they would look at and create their own wiki page, topics included population, countries represented by takeaways, the football club, shopping, transport, its history and industry.  Each week in their ICT lesson the groups would research their topic, write about it in their wiki page and then add web links and photographs.  It was hard work, first only one user could be updating a wiki page at a time, some of the children were rubbish at reading websites to locate the information that they wanted.  copy and paste was heavily abused and had to be stopped.  But after a couple of sessions it all started coming together.  I had read about Philip Griffin, a primary school teacher and leading teacher for primary ICT for Woking Borough Council, discovered soon after his class started using their learning platform One time he allowed the pupils to see each other’s work hoping for a collaborative effort, it did not quite work as he imagined:  “However, for some maths homework the children were given particularly challenging tasks to complete and it was hoped that they would assist each other in working collaboratively to find the solution to a problem.  However, at present both the children and their parents still seem to think that it is cheating to help each other”. (Griffin, 2008).  I now had first hand experience of children not being able to collaborate very well.  This will have to change quite soon, collaboration is now becoming very important.  RM had also upgraded Kaleidos since I had written my information pack for new users so I took some time to update the information pack with screen shots and checked the basic instructions were still correct.

Then boxes started to arrive!  Christmas again in early Janaury.  Once they were all collected together, our fabulous eningeer arrived.  Together we did all the work in one day (he had said it would take two days) which was great I could use them the very next day.  They spent the following morning charging and in the afternoon I had 15 very eager year 5 and 6 pupils come to my room.  I introduced the idea of the laptops and then told them they were going to ‘road test’ them.  I wanted them all logged on and playing a game on the internet.  I was then going to see if any issues arose such as slow internet, could not all get onto the network wireless or anything else I had not thought of, these were my two biggest worries at this point though.  But they all got on and found a website and had a 5 minute play and that is when the headteacher walked in expecting to see them all working on the learning platform.  I asked one of the pupils to explain to the headteacher what we were doing and why, that seemed to work and the headteacher left pleased that the laptops worked and the pupils were motivated.

Then we did go onto the learning platform and changed their V-Me’s, checked out their class page and added a post to their class blog about the laptops.  The posts included text, sketches and videos which was really great, it showed that the laptops offered access by everyone regardless of writing, spelling abilities.  I thought about our little ones here.  Being able to listen to or watch others posts rather than have to read them – great!

Now we were going to get serious.  Over two half days the whole of year 3 and 4 were introduced to  the laptops and the learning platform.  it was a great success and two fabulous sessions that was enjoyed by everyone.  I changed their passwords for them, bigger words but still the same for girls and the same one for boys.  i did follow it with a warning that I could track who logged in where by IP addresses so if someone logged in as another user I would know and they would face the wrath of me, then their class teacher, then the headteacher.  I was a little upset that many came back the next day saying they could not access the learning platform at home, but got a website that they did not want.  It took some working out, but at school they click on a shortcut on the desk top to access the learning platform.  although the user pack did give the learning platform website address they were putting it in the Google search bar rather than the address bar at the top of the screen!  So straight away I made sure that all the pupils had a go at logging on in school as they would at home and the problem has seemed to have gone away!  Next I got the rest of the year 1 and 2 pupils on in one session with the new laptops.  Now it was time for some fun!

I believe in total inclusion, I am passionate to the point of obsession about this.  When I taught at college we had a disabled lady come to a flexi session to learn to use the Internet.  She had a very short term memory, hours to a day max (bit likethe film 50 first dates).  Each week I showed her something different and sat with her and made notes while she used the computer.  By the following week she had totally forgotten but we would do something else and follow the same pattern.  One day her carer came to fetch her and thanked me for what I did.  She would read the notes and had started using the internet more at home.  If she can do it, why not the reception class?

I changed their passwords before hand just like I did with years 1 and 2.  The reception teacher and I logged explaining what the learning platform is (all pupils took this letter home) but we added a section about how they could help thir children and the intentions of the class teacher to use the learning platform as a communication tool as well as a learning tool.

It was a long and very busy session just to log on and create their V-Me’s.  They were getting tired and we had never ran so many miles in a classroom.  So I showed the children around the learning platform on the interactive whiteboard and they they all went out for a break.  Then I had some of the more able children back in small groups and they added a post to their class blog.  We used video and the sketch tool.  since we have done this the class teacher has been very hands on using the learning platform to add news items and information about topic work, show and tell and other class activities.

Then we hit the end of February and the first year of our implementation. It had been a busy year but I sometimes felt we stopped and forgot about it.  Here is a summary of what we did.  After I did this I thought, no we were always on the go!

SUMMARY OF FIRST YEAR OF IMPLEMENTATION

OF THE LEARNING PLATFORM

DATE

ACTIVITY OR PROJECT

February 2009
  • Installation
  • Training for Headteacher and ICT Coordinator with LA (2 days, 3 weeks apart)
  • Setup structure of main school page and class pages
  • Setup pages for specific interests, ie school council and staffroom
  • Added content to main school page
  • Consultant comes into school to see Headteacher and ICT Coordinator regarding planning and implementation (between the two training days)
  • Headteacher and ICT Coordinator agreed to meet each week to discuss progress and plan learning platform projects
March 2009
  • Headteacher and ICT Coordinator are meeting each week, things discussed this month include adding content so that when the pupils start to use it there is information to look at and activities for them to take part in, staff training and preparing an information pack that can be given to new users
  • Project 1 – Creating and adding content to the learning platform
  • Project 2 – Create new user information pack
April 2009
  • Headteacher and ICT Coordinator planned first project on the learning platform, Summer Term School Blog
  • Staff meeting dedicated to do an initial training session with the teachers
  • Teachers logged on, changed password and created avatar
  • Teachers introduced to first project – Summer Term School Blog
  • Project 2 – New user information pack added to
  • Project 3 – Summer Term School Blog
May 2009
  • Initial training for one teaching assistant
  • Project 2 – New user information pack amended
  • Project 3 – Summer Term School Blog
  • Project 4 – Headteacher adds content to staffroom page re: Science AT1 following successful science week and staff training
June 2009
  • Headteacher and ICT Coordinator planned introduction of learning platform to pupils, who would attend additional training at local secondary school and a summer holiday project
  • Secondary school provides days training for staff of their feeder school.  Teacher, teaching assistant and ICT Coordinator attend
  • Initial training for one teaching assistant
  • Project 3 – Summer Term School Blog Project running – Teacher adds content to year 5 & 6 class page
  • Project 5 – Teaching assistant adds content to year 1 & 2 class page
  • Project 6 – Year 1 & 2 class add content to their class page (logged in as teacher though!)
  • Project 7 – Year 2 & 4 pupils introduced to learning platform (small group having weekly sessions)

DATE

ACTIVITY OR PROJECT

July 2009
  • Initial training for one teaching assistant
  • Project 2 – New user information pack now has Media Tools instructions
  • Project 3 – Summer Term School Blog
  • Project 8 – Pilot study for Media Tools
  • Project 9 – Blog to keep in touch with teacher on maternity leave
  • Project 10 – Summer holiday project
August 2009
  • Project 9 – Blog to keep in touch with teacher on maternity leave
  • Project 10 – Summer holiday project
September 2009
  • Project 9 – Blog to keep in touch with teacher on maternity leave
October 2009
  • Headteacher and ICT Coordinator planned introduction of learning platform to all year groups
  • Project 9 – Blog to keep in touch with teacher on maternity leave
November 2009
  • Project 9 – Blog to keep in touch with teacher on maternity leave
  • Project 11 – Year 5 & 6 pupils introduced to learning platform (having weekly sessions)
December 2009
  • School secretary has training on adding news articles and maintaining school calendar on learning platform
  • Proposal put together by ICT Coordinator to increase ICT infrastructure so that the learning platform is more accessible during lessons for pupils (portable trolley with 15 wireless laptops that can be used in all classrooms)
  • Governors approve proposal by ICT Coordinator to increase ICT infrastructure
  • Project 9 – Blog to keep in touch with teacher on maternity leave
  • Project 12 – Year 1 & 2 pupils introduced to learning platform (having weekly sessions)
January 2010
  • ICT infrastructure added to and wireless network installed
  • Project 2 – New user information pack added to
  • Project 9 – Blog to keep in touch with teacher on maternity leave
  • Project 13 – ICT Coordinator adds content to year 3 & 4 class page
  • Project 14 – Year 5 & 6 produce a wiki for their geography project
February 2010
  • Project 9 – Blog to keep in touch with teacher on maternity leave
  • Project 14 – Year 5 & 6 produce a wiki for their geography project
  • Project 15 – Year 3 & 4 pupils introduced to learning platform (having weekly sessions)
  • Project 16 – Safeguarding survey for pupils to complete
  • Project 17 – ICT Coordinator adds content to receptions class page
  • Project 18 – Reception pupils introduced to learning platform (having weekly sessions)

Onwards And Upwards – Just A bit!

Coming back in September I thought things might be quiet for a while and we could get on with the Learning Platform – boy was I wrong?  It was so busy and straight away so much was going on and then half term arrive (thank you)!  So I put a proposal together of how the Learning Platform implementation could take off again after the half term.  With E-safety and Safeguarding Children coming at us in every direction, it has not quite gone according to plan, still waiting to have that discussion with the headteacher.

So last week I took the Learning Platform by the throat and we have now moved on.  I have removed from sight the previous summer’s project and the transition blog.  I have removed the news from April and added a little Christmas spirit to the main interest space!

We have a fabulous teaching assistant at school who, with very little training, has transformed their class page into a mine of information.  With one days training/experimenting with our Learning Platform in June I am amazed by the resources that they have created.  Very quickly this class had an interest space totally linked to their topic work and school visits.  The class teacher was so impressed that the Learning Platform was quite often on the interactive whiteboard and used one of the resources with the whole class.  Because of lack of access the resource was printed out and given to the pupils.  This teaching assistant sits at home at night working on the Learning Platform, there is simply no time offered to them during school hours. I am beginning to wonder if this is the only way our Learning Platform will come to life, by dedicated staff working in their own time, which they already do, but will this be perceived as another burden to add to the list?

Friday I showed they year 5 and 6 pupils how to access the Learning Platform.  They chose a colour scheme and created their own V-Me avatars.  They were given a brief tour around the main interest space and then directed to their class interest space.  Here I talked about a blog that I have setup for them to discuss whatever they want with each other.  I called it ‘What Ya Doin?’ which is a popular catchphrase from a popular Disney cartoon that they enjoy, hoping to make it memorable and popular for the pupils to use.  I  have to say that their teacher and other staff came back to me saying that the pupils enjoyed it very much and couldn’t wait to go on it at home.  This backed up the very positive response that I got during the sessions.

I gave all pupils an user pack with all the information that they might need to successfully use the Learning Platform.  I was given some help sheets created by a colleague at another school and I have expanded these notes using screen shots from our Learning Platform to offer as much support as I can without being sat next to them.  I also gave the pupils a set of notes for creating their own interest spaces on their home page.  I did not go in to any detail but told the pupils that if they would like to create their own interest space, about any subject they choose, to have a go with the notes and then if they have any problems to come and see me.  In one of the small projects before the summer holidays year 4 pupils created their own interest spaces with ease.  That is one thing that I can say about Kaleidos it is easy to use.

So now I wait to see if they do use the Learning Platform to blog or create their own interest spaces.  I gave the talk about passwords being like knickers, the bigger the better and you would not let others use your underwear, it is something that you keep to yourself!  i told them that I would be able to find out if they abused another pupils login and password for cyberbullying or adding offensive material.  I wrote the pupils username and initial password on the front of the user guides and then when they changed their password I wanted them to make a note of it on their user guides for when they were at home.  I had one instance of a pupil looking at others passwords and them telling others.  They had a strip tore off them and the injured parties flocked into my classroom to reset their passwords.

My next job was to get our main interest space populated with news and dates in the school calendar.  Enter the school secretary from stage left.  Armed with another user guide the secretary logged on, created their V-Me and then, with minimal guidance from me, this one is a clever one, added news items, pictures and added dates into the school calendar.  I explained that when the pupils log on at home they will most probably have their parents looking over their shoulder (POS I think kids type in on MSN to warn their mates to keep it clean!) and we don’t want an empty Learning Platform.  So we have moved on quite a bit this last week.

My next job is to get the pupils on from the class with the active teaching assistant so that they can see and use what is on their class interest spaces.  This is a KS1 class so I am going to approach it a little differently and am toying with the idea of doing a session for parents.  If the parents can help support their children on the Learning Platform at home it is going to be beneficial and hopefully keep the momentum of updating the interest spaces going.  I think that the interest spaces here can also be used as a good communication tool between home and school.  This is a very important link and this is another strategy to use in keeping the link strong.

The Learning Platform Journey So Far …

In January 2009 my headteacher and I had our first days training at County for the RM Kaleidos Learning Platform.  It sort of went that the headteachers were looking at the bigger picture and saw this as more work for their staff and the ICT coordinators were excited and just wanted to get started.  Primary school staff were more eager than infant school and special needs school staff.  It was felt that the learning platform had more to offer for older children rather than the younger and less abled children, quite negative, what happened to inclusion?  But the first day went well and my headteacher and I put the effort in and planned and produced a page structure that we felt would work within our school.  We left with our information folders and motivation to do this.  Before the second days training we had a visit from a RM consultant which proved to be very informative and blew a few of our theories out of the water, but hey we took it on the chin and adapted.  my headteacher and I decided to meet after school every Wednesday for half an hour to work on the learning platform – keep the momentum going.  The second day also went very well, once we got there!  It snowed, oh millimetres and Derbyshire slowed down!  So with my trusty 1978 Land Rover I set off up the A6 with slightly snow covered sides of the road and reached Matlock on time.  My headteacher and I pulled up at the same time, aren’t BMW’s wonderful?  Only one other school made it that day and we had a fab day, we had Derbyshire’s brilliant ICT consultants and the learning platform specialist all to ourselves – and yes we did – try our hardest to eat the lunch made for 12 people!!

Training done it was time to let the staff in on the learning platform.  First the headteacher and I added some information, text and photographs to the main interest space for our school and created a page off the main interest space about the building works that had just taken place.  We decided that the first little project we would do is to keep a blog called ‘Summer Term @ Our School’.  Each teacher would be responsible for keeping the blog for one week.  I went first and the headteacher followed then it would be the teachers turn.  The headteacher and I agreed that we would leave comments to the teachers posts, so that a conversation would start to build up, demonstrating the different features of the blog.

A staff meeting (teachers only) was dedicated to the learning platform.  I gave a short demonstration of the learning platform to them and talked about how we were hoping to use it for the first year.  We had decided to concentrate on the ‘Interest Spaces’ and leave the ‘Learning Space’ alone for the moment.  The interest spaces is where you can create your own blogs, wikis, discussons, picture libraries and a page about anything you want really.  This is where all the web 2.0 technologies are located that we wanted to get everyone using first.

I think that Kaleidos is straight forward to use, the tool bars for the web 2.0 technologies are all very similar and the fact that you can choose a colour scheme and create your own avatar called a v-me it is nice to use, especially for the children at primary level.  I have said in the past that it feels very cbbc-ish.  It lacks the professional feel I get when I am using this blog for example and I wonder what teenagers think of it.  So when my daughters came home with their log-in details I was very eager to check out what a secondary school page looks like – the same as ours!  There is a Gothic colour scheme (purple and black) which is very popular with the teens and they had pet snakes or dragons.  I think Bebo and YouTube are safe for the moment.

Back to the teachers who are now each sat a computer logging on for the very first time to the learning platform.  It was kept simple.  They changed their password and created their v-me’s.  This training session happened on my blog ‘watch’ so I entered a post saying that I was looking forward to using the learning platform with the teachers.  The last tasks for the teachers was to add a comment to that post, which they did in a very positive manner.

The following week the headteacher carried on with our Summer Term blog.  It was our science week.  We had been planning science week since February and it was going to be ‘big’ – and it was.  The headteacher used the blog to record the highlights of each day and also created a page on the staffroom interest space going over the events of the week in great detail for staff, so that we can easily recreate some of the activities.

The following week our KS1 teacher took the blog into their classroom.  They did their first blog at home recording what they had enjoyed about the day and how busy the class had been.  Then the blog was introduced to the class at the end of the day while all were sitting around the IWB.  The children were asked to contribute to the blog, which they really enjoyed.  They were shown what others had put in the blog and then had the chance to contribute as a group.  This worked really well and the blogs started off quite simple but soon became very interesting.  The headteacher added a comment to this post which was received by the class with great excitement.  They then started looking at other blog posts and added their own comments, all very positive.  They have continued to comment on blogs by staff and older pupils in school.  They even made a video blog post wishing the pupils moving on to secondary school good luck.  They have become very confident in doing this which is great.  I still um and argh about replying to another persons post in Twitter!!  Here is their first post with their teacher:

1st whole class blog

1st whole class blog

The following week the wheels came of the blog a bit.  The year 5 and 6 class was about to have their go.  This is a busy class with two teachers who job share and well it just didn’t happen really. I don’t like to nag (at school!!) so when it did not happen on the Monday I decided to approach this in a non-threatening way to the teacher.  When a group of year 6 pupils came to work with the reception children I asked them to come to me before going back to class.  I had logged onto the summer term blog on the IWB, I sat them around it with a wireless keyboard and asked them to each write a sentence about what they had been doing in the reception classroom.  They did and they enjoyed it very much.  Here is their post:

Year 6 blog about being in the reception classroom

Year 6 blog about being in the reception classroom

I then asked them to ask/remind/pester their teachers to put the blog up on their IWB near the end of the day and let other pupils add a sentence about their day.  That didn’t really work either so my next plan was to gate crash the classroom at 3:00pm and take control under the guise of ‘let me help you’.  So I went into class and talked about what the year 6 pupils had written about being in the reception classroom and the asked for other pupils to contribute a sentence about what had happened in their class that day.  Again the wireless keyboard was passed around quite successfully but their spelling and punctuation was not their best.  Take a look:

Year 5 & 6 blog about their day at school

Year 5 & 6 blog about their day at school

This started a conversation between our literacy coordinator and the headteacher about this.  Pupils duly took note and when using a school-wide blog their spelling and punctuation matched their teachers expectations.  At this point it was half term.

After half term the remaining teachers did not take up doing the blog for a week.  But the KS1 teacher and their teaching assistant started to blog when they had something to say.  At the same time we started two small projects, one with year 2 pupils and the other with year 4 pupils.  each week for 45 minutes they came to my classroom and learnt a little each week about the learning platform, what we had done on it already, what it was capable of doing and how we wanted to use it at school.  Both groups were great and I hope that they will be our learning platform champions and help support other pupils in school.  The first week was log on and choose your colour scheme – didn’t really grab them so I pulled out the ‘let’s create your own avatar’ card – oh yes it pulled them around and they left the room smiling and told all their friends what they had done.  All the pupils were really sensible about what their avatar looked like, except one who chose every accessory in black – looked like a shadow – which was great but they changed it when their peers started commenting “oh I have chosen the long hair and it is going to be blue” and “my pet dragon is going to be bright purple”.  I could see no difference in how both groups worked that week, they were both excellent, understood what was asked of them and got on with the job in hand – no messing.

Week 2 I asked them to log on and change one thing about their avatar, basically as a reminder of how to get the the function.  They I directed them to our Summer Term blog and asked them to take a look at what had been posted.  Year 2 had a laugh and then I showed them how to add a comment to a post made by their teacher, which they did.  I then asked them to post their own entry into the blog.  With the year 4 group that followed I asked them to do the same but their comments were to be added to the blogs just posted by year 2, I wanted year 2 to be able to receive some feedback more or less straight away. Year 4 then added their own post to the blog.  One pupil commented that they found the learning platform a bit dull.  This is a fair comment, at this point they had not done much and compared to some of the other websites that our pupils use it is not the most exciting, attractive, interactive website ever.  This post was followed up by myself, the headteacher and other pupils working on the two projects.  Here it is:

Pupils blog stating 'It's boring'!!

Pupils blog stating 'It's boring'!!

So I had to step up my game for the following week!  So I asked them to log on and the site was down!!  So much for stepping up my game.  Plan B was thought up on the spot like a true professional!!   I decided that they should start to plan their personal interest spaces – their very own web page about them, what they liked and anything else that they felt they wanted to do (as long as it would make our headteacher smile at them and not shout at me!)  They had a quick discussion with each other about what they would do, where they would find their content and roughly planned their page.  We used the website Cool Text Graphics Generator to create the header for their pages, they all managed this very well.  They then started to use Google Images to search for pictures to add to their web page.  One pupil had some yu-gi-oh cards that they took photographs of to use on their web page.  They finished the session by uploading the photographs that they had found and saved to their network folder.  Again they did this really well.  I repeated the same session with the year 4 pupils, Kaleidos had left the building!!

Right this session was going to rock!  Kaleidos was going to be online and the task in hand was going to be creative, fun, imaginative and fun.  I started both sessions by allowing the pupils to check the blog posts for comments and to respond to them if they wanted to do so.  We uploaded the photographs of cards and then we went about creating their own web pages.  I asked them all to choose the template that offered 50% of free text space and 50% web 2.0 technologies.  We used the first free space to hold the logo heading they had made last week and a couple of sentences about their web page.  In the second free space they inserted some of their pictures and a small narrative explaining what they are, Sponge Bob Square Pants I can manage, yu-gi-oh cards are from another planet!

The pupils then started to fill out the firs of the web 2.0 technology blocks.  They added a slide show to display all of the photographs that they had uploaded, they only added a couple of them on their web page.  Under the slide show the pupils added web links that related to the topic of their web page.  Now we have our bored pupil totally engrossed in what they were doing putting together a very informative and creative web page.

The next couple of sessions followed pretty much the same format.  The pupils started by checking the Summer Term blog, adding any comments or new posts that they wanted to and then the pupils worked on their web pages.  One member in each group did work faster and became quite adventurous with the content on their web page, when the other members of the group saw what they were doing they would ask ‘how they did that?’ or ‘where did you get that from?’ and peer support gushed forth.  This was one of the highlights from me, I became an observer as each group flourished and worked together.  And here is the next highlight for me.  One of the pupils asked ‘why can’t I see the others avatars?’  They went on to say what was the point of creating them if they could not see each others, fair point, but they really wanted to see what the headteacher and their teacher looked like too!  You get to see the head of an avatar on discussion boards but they don’t pop up on the blog and there is not a show room where you can go and view them.  So I created this post so that they could see what each other looked like and others using the Summer Term blog could see them and hopefully comment on their fab fashion sense.

The v-me showroom blog

The v-me showroom blog

I have to say that this post was soon out of date as they change something about their avatars each week.  But it made them very happy and that is what mattered.  They did get some lovely comments which made them feel very good about themselves/their work.

Our local secondary school has been working with the whole cluster group and offered to support all the schools in the cluster group with the implementation of the learning platform.  This was gratefully received and a training day was arranged where the schools could send their staff to receive training on the learning platform from RM consultants at the secondary school.  Yes there was food but just meeting up and talking was the best bit.  A very enthusiastic teaching assistant and our very artistic year 5/6 teacher went.  We all had a great day and the TA has gone on to do some fabulous work with their class on the learning platform.  Our artistic teacher so impressed the RM consultants that they were asked to show their work in a small presentation to all participants at the end of the day – brill!!  Time like this is so precious, they did so much and once they were using the learning platform and we talked about what was happening in the classroom at the moment, things started to happen.  The TA created an interest space for her class and then created a page of that about the growing topic they were working on in class.  Information about a trip to the local farm to have a look around any buy some eggs; a wiki containing a story that had been started for the children to carry on; web links to the location for the class trip and a quiz about the farm that the class had visited – just brilliant!  The class teacher was blown away and made sure that the pupils worked on all these pages.  The artistic teacher showed their class what they had done and used an interest space to log the progress of the summer concert by KS2 pupils.

The secondary school concerned worked on a pilot with RM testing their media tools for the Kaleidos Learning Platform.  They asked if any of us would be interested in joining in and we said ‘YES’.  It would be interesting and useful as it suddenly makes the learning platform very accessible for our younger pupils.  Suddenly it is not all about reading and writing but watching, listening and looking at drawings.  The pilot was in two parts, teachers had to complete some simple tasks using the media tools and then the pupils had a go and then you fill out the paperwork!

The year 2 and year 4 pupils really enjoyed making short videos wishing our year 6 leavers all they very best for the future and enjoy your new school and oh we will miss you!  The year 6 pupils thought that was great.  The media tools are really easy to use and the pupils had no problems with them at all.  Then I showed them the picture I had created using the ‘sketch’ facility, they laughed and I asked them to do better and they did!  Here is my effort of a summer’s day using the sketch option in a blog:

A Summer Day using Sketch, RM media tools for Kaleidos Learning Platform

A Summer Day using Sketch, RM media tools for Kaleidos Learning Platform

We were now nearing the end of term and our two groups were doing brilliant.  They had started to ask if they could use the learning platform at home.  This gave us an idea to run a summer project using the learning platform.  More on that later.  I needed to get one more job done before the end of term.  Year 6 had not been on the learning platform so I wanted to get them logged on and using it before they go to secondary school.  So we had an entertaining afternoon year 6, the headteacher and I working the learning platform.  I made use guides for them to take home with all the information they would need to navigate around the learning platform, set up their avatars and contribute to a blog setup just for them ‘The Year 6 Transition Blog’, using text images and the media tools.

That is where we are now.  Once we have settled into the new school year I hope that we can get more pupils using the learning platform quite quickly.  Watch this space, as they say!  I promise that posts will never be this long again.  I wanted to get the story so far down in one go!

My Dissertation Information

Here I will keep you informed of how it is going.  What projects we do at school and how it has gone.

This is an excert from my dissertation proposal:

Proposed title of dissertation (as agreed with your supervisor) The Government’s e-strategy wants all primary schools by 2010 to be using a learning platform within their community: This report uses action research to record the challenges and rewards of the first year of the implementation of our learning platform and how it is supporting teaching and learning and communications within our community.

Brief outline of dissertation (please give details, where appropriate, of background reading, relevant hypotheses, outline of sampling and techniques to be used, sources of material, proposed chapter headings, etc.

Teaching and learning will be personalised and communication strengthened. This is the next big initiative from the government and by 2012 our learning platform will be an integral part of our school.

The VLE is not a brand new technology and it has been implemented into educational establishments successfully, but usually with older children, secondary school age upwards. Using a learning platform with primary school aged children is new and the theory into implementing a learning platform at this level does not fit with how primary schools, especially small schools where staff ‘wear several hats’, work! Could this report help other schools with a no-nonsense approach? Realistic goals achieved within a workable time frame.

Research I have looked at so far has been via BECTA, other LEA’s and RM, the company’s learning platform, Kaleidos, which we are using. I have looked at case studies and recommendations of how to implement your learning platform. I am in contact with a colleague at a similar school who is a little ahead of us. I am also involved with a cluster group project involving a local secondary school and other primary schools in the area.

There is not a hypotheses but our school believes that slowly does it will achieve better than a quick dash!

I will be able to interview/survey my headteacher and colleagues, the pupils at school and their parents throughout the length of this report. After the literature review most of the data will be primary data from our school. Secondary data will be sought from government agencies, LEA and local schools.

The first year of the learning platform implementation will concentrate on interest space – communication and some learning activities. We have applied to join a pilot scheme to test a new feature to the learning platform, easy ways for younger users to add data, voice recordings/video/pictures.

Our school is going to run small projects involving small numbers of pupils. We are thinking of looking at year 2 and year 4 pupils, school council. Staff projects include blogging and creating interest spaces for specific areas of school life or the subject that they coordinate.

The action research element, iterations, will be when, after each small project, we review how well it went, what we could have done better and what improvements will be made to the next project before it starts.

Our implementation is going to be led by what has just taken place and how it worked, so who knows what might happen?

So here goes then!!

Hello world – This is me!

I work in a small primary school in Derbyshire.  I teach ICT to all of the children in the school, which is really great.  You watch them grow and develop their ICT skills to become creative individuals. I support the teaching staff with ICT training looking at the resources we have in school and how to be creative with them, websites that may of be of interest and the big one – embedding ICT across the curriculum.  I look after the infrastructure with the help of a great technician who comes to our aid and I get to research and write policies relating to ICT, e-safety at the moment!  And be as creative as possible with a small budget, my favourite cost is free!! I also do the same at a local infants school, where my girls went in a previous life, and the learning platform is big there too!  The headteacher has recently bought a bird box with a webcam and microphones ready for the new school year!

I love the fact that I can concentrate on ICT – it is a huge subject and with the Rose report and other changes coming along it is an exciting time.  The biggest ICT project happening is school at the moment is the Learning Platform.  This will be the main topic of this blog.  I know I called it an ‘ICT’ project and that is wrong.  It is a whole curriculum/school project that will enhance the teaching and learning in our school and within our school community.  We have some very interested staff and the children in the projects at the moment are producing some excellent content and using the learning platform to show their interests and communicate with others at school.

Our LEA bought the RM Kaleidos learning platform for all their schools, provided support with setup and training for two members of staff for every school.  We have had a RM consultant in school looking at our setup and offering support tailored to our school.  Our secondary feeder school has also provided support with a cluster training day ran by the RM consultants that have been into our schools.  The support is great and RM support via the web is comprehensive and quick!  I am going to be working with some colleagues from other schools and the LEA in the autumn – learning platform related!!

We had our training in February and have ran a few small projects in school that I will detail here.  I have just finished my last two assignments for my MA Degree, ICT in Education at Nottingham University and I am now working on my dissertation, the implementation of a learning platform (VLE) in a small primary school.

These last two years doing this degree has been amazing and I have met some interesting people and had the most enlighteniing conversations!  Using Twitter and creating this blog is an extension of this work.  I now have a need to search out and explore new technology.