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
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
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
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'!!
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
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
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!