I’m now three quarters of the way through my secondment as an ICT Curriculum Support Teacher (the title has been changed to ‘support teacher’ from ‘support officer’ recently – I think I prefer the new one). During this second half of the secondment, I’ve felt much more confident addressing adults during CPD sessions. This was one of the biggest challenges in the early days.
Undoubtedly, one of the reasons that I feel more comfortable in this role now is because I have more ownership over the courses and activities on offer. Although I was able to introduce some new CPD courses during the first year of the secondment (almost all of these were a direct result of being introduced to new websites and ideas via twitter, by the way!), many of the courses were inherited. This was mainly due to the timing of the interview, as it was necessary to have some courses in place before a candidate for the post was chosen. In fact, apart from the job of supporting staff in developing their school website and maintaining the Virtual Teacher Centre (both the pupiland the staff side), everything else has been designed by me – and I’ve really appreciated opportunity!
As well as offering CPD courses on setting up and sustaining class blogs and raising awareness of free online tools to enhance learning and teaching, I’ve been involved in a number of interesting projects. One of these is an on-going pilot project with a group of children in a local primary school. I’ve set up ePortfolios for them, and in February I have a meeting with the Art Department in their feeder High School to discuss the possibility of developing this in to something that might help the primary/secondary transition stage. Hopefully, other departments will get involved as well. It’s very early days, but the eportfolios also have great potential for formative assessment, as well as self and peer assessment opportunities. Difficulties of setting up effective Personal Learning Plans may also be addressed. I do realise that, for this to work properly, it needs to be an Authority wide initiative. A long term strategy is required …. but it’s a start 🙂
Off On A Tangent!
….. just because it’s my blog and I can 🙂
It still amazes me that I’d scarcely heard of a blog until just over three years ago. I’ve written on here before about how I set off on a journey that would change my approach to learning and teaching. The journey also gave me the confidence to allow children to take more of a lead in their own learning. I’ve copied this brief summary from elsewhere on here:
First I created a Class Blog so that I could give the pupils an audience for their work
Very soon after creating the class blog, I realised that it was important to allow access to the children’s own work so I created a wikispacefor the class to post their writing
This didn’t work well, because if we all logged on and edited the space at the same time, problems occured (a “someone else is editing this space” message)
Soon I wanted the children to have their own blogs, but still have control over how they were used. I learned that East Lothiancould help me set up individual blogs.
The next session, I managed to safely set up individual blogs on my own …… I found out about the ‘Gmail+’ trick. For example, If you have a‘email@example.com’account, it’s possible to create lots of new blogs using that same e-mail address. You can do this by creating new blogs with a ‘yourname+student1@gmail’, ‘yourname+student2@gmail’etc.
One advantage is that, although the pupils have admin rights, the teacher can also login to the blogs at any time.
Another advantage is that any comments appear in the teacher’s gmail account – even although the children can moderate them, the teacher has a record of what has appeared
It’s quite easy to keep track of what is being posted on the children’s blogs by using ‘google reader’, or something similar
One thing I miss while on secondment is the relationships that are built up with children in your own class. So I was delighted, recently, when Annacontacted me on ths blog by leaving a comment on my last post. She’s now in second year at High School, and has decided that she would like to start using her blog again. It was a simple enough task to transfer it over to primaryblogger (where there’s loads of space and a guarantee of no ads). I’m really glad that she wants to do this, and I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting one of my favourite blog posts. Anna wrote this in primary 7 (two years go) and it still makes me smile ….. and she kept her promise of writing her ‘thought of the day’ posts regularly. She also inspired others in the class (including me!) to keep their blogs going at the time:
“Well basically I’ve decided that I would like to have a future in blogging! I think that blogs are interesting and fun to write things on rather than writing something on paper. My thoughts for today are that blogs are a great way to learn, they are more interesting than doing something on paper. When I’m older I think that I might do something to do with computers. I’m going to be starting a thing on my blog called thought of the day! Thought of the day is when I write a post about something I have realised, thought or discovered on that day.”
So thanks to Anna’s decision to take up blogging again, she has inspired me (just like before) to write a blog post. It always feels like work at the time, but it certainly helps – me anyway – to stay focussed 🙂
Recently I came acrossa post on the ltscotland glow blog about a transition Glow group success. It was set up to give the primary 7 pupils the opportunity to liaise with the senior pupils at their local High School. I wonder if this is the same Glow group success that was shared ata MIICE conference I attended last session? At that conference, I heard about Transition projects happening within Glow. As well as the one described here, there were others that linked Primary 7 and S1 pupils via a variety of curricular areas:
S1 pupils read poems to the P7’s in Glow Meet and there was a question and answer session. The teacher then provided a session on how to write poetry.
A High School maths dept. set monthly puzzles for the P7’s. This gave the teachers valuable insight into the levels that the P7’s were working at.
A P.E. dept. had a huge amount of questions asked about their subject and it gave them an insight as to how the P7’s were feeling.
The English Dept. gave the P7’s the task of writing a hallowe’en story. The feeder primary school children held back until the last minute to post their stories because they didn’t want their ideas to be ‘hijacked’.
Our local Authority has just recently signed up for GLOW, so it’s too early to be thinking about using it as a vehicle to support the changeover from primary to secondary.
I have, however, been pondering the use of online spaces to aid the transition process in some curricular areas:
The first one is a link between some Primary 6 children and the Art Department at their local High School. It’s hoped that senior pupils will be involved, too.
Evelyn is going to showcase the children’s artwork on the blog, and we’re hoping that the primary 6 children will use theclass blogand perhaps theironline wiki spaces to discuss their artwork. The children in this particular class used these spaces last session with Cassie, their probationer teacher. The aim is to get feedback from High School in the form of comments.
The second idea is to create a link with the same set of pupils and the maths department of the High School. I’m hoping to work with the class teacher, another teacher who has recently been seconded to promote CfE and numeracy across the curriculum and a teacher from the High School maths department.
I intend to re-invent the Carronshore Maths blog that I set up a while ago and the associated wikis. The Carronshore maths blog isn’t an edublogs supporter blog, though, so I’ll be moving it to primarybloggerto get rid of any adverts ….. and to get access to akismet spam blocker …. and get lots more space, too 🙂
I’ve made a ‘help slideshow’ of how to export blog data from edublogs to primaryblogger – it might be of help to someone …
In a previous post a comment by Ray Tolley got me thinking about what happened to the various online spaces I had set up for Primary 7 stage children in the past.
“Perhaps one important point missed so far is about longevity. Having taken the trouble to help pupils build up an e-Portfolio, what happens if there is no ‘portability’ to the Secondary school or beyond? I doubt that promises of ‘interoperability’ will really materialise in the next 10-15 years! I think that it is very important to invest in a system that is future-proofed. I feel that children will get very frustrated if they have to start from scratch all over again when they move on to another school.”
I’ve been revisiting some of the spaces I set up and contemplating primary/secondary ‘portability‘ and ‘longevity‘ issues mentioned in Ray’s comment. Stories of some missed opportunities are outlined below:
Portability Issue 1 – Jamie’s Story
Jamie was typical of most of the boys in the class that year. They seemed less motivated than the girls when it came to imaginative writing tasks. When they were given their own space in a wiki, however, and allowed some freedom as to the subject matter, Jamie demonstrated that he was actually very capable of writing a great imaginative story. I’ve copied some of his story here:
His face shone dark in the moonlight, while his coat lay torn slowly floating in between the reeds. His shirt was dirty and wet. The dark waters that lay behind him gave him the appearance of a demon or a dark shadowy creature moving in the night. His sheath was well padded and worn away because of constant usage, it had three diamonds encrusted in it. It had a gold rim and a thin copper lining wrapped around it. This lay on his back but it never wieghed him down as it was as light as a feather. He had black boots on and they were half-covered by his camouflage trousers.
He walked on at a normal pace when he heard a purring noise, after a while he ignored it and carried on his stroll. He heard it again. He was watching a certain bush knowing that there was a creature behind it because of all the wierd purring noises. the world stayed as still as a stick insect as they lay eyes on eachother there was more rustling then the beast came out, a tiger that was as orange as sunset heading speedily at Kai. In reaction Kai drew his sword from his sheath and took a deep slash at the tiger’s leftpaw then stabbed it twice roundabout the same place the tiger had gave in to the pain and there it lay dead……
Everyone in the class was full of praise for his effort. It turned out that he liked a particular type of story and had read lots of them. He also enjoyed writing them in a notebook that he carried around. His Laughing in the Face of Death story started a craze and soon the boys in the class began carrying their own notebooks where they wrote similar styles of stories. I remember hearing them comparing stories, as well as seeking and giving advice.
Soon after Jamie’s story appeared on his wiki, we had a visit from two High School teachers from the English Dept. I’m not sure of the original purpose of their visit but at some point our HT had asked some of the pupils to share the class wikispace with them. They were impressed with Jamie’s attempt at story writing and had also heard about our primary stage ‘two stars and a wish’ assessment strategy and had left a comment for Jamie on his wiki space:
Star 1 ~ Fabulous use of imagery
Star 2 ~ Fantastic description
Wish ~ Develop the use of personification
… but that was the end of the High School teachers’ involvement. They had no idea of the ‘behind the scenes’ information I was privy to. On reflection, it would have been great if more had been made of that opportunity to bridge the gap between Primary 7 and S1.
Portability Issue 2 – High School Induction Days
In June each year, the Primary 7 pupils from our cluster spend three days getting to know their new High School. This is great for helping the transition to s1, and the children’s blog posts about their experience gave further insight into how they coped with adjusting to their new environment.
Lisa appeared to have no reservations at all! She wrote:
“I loved Larbert High, it has been one of my best experiences. I made a lot of cool new friends……”
Tessie, however, wrote about her confusion over the lunchtime arrangements:
“….after that it was lunchtime. a confusing nightmare. we had to line up and put money on our card which was easy. but then we went to the hub *dinner hall* and we got told to get a drink. easy. but then if you went and said can i have a burger please she would say something about do you have a meal deal drink. and i was like what??? it was weird.”
“I was shaking in the back seat. My Mum gave me £2.50 for my dinner money. Then when we eventually got there I stepped out the car not knowing which way too go then I saw some other people walking by that were in my class so I just followed them.”
Last year on the three day visit, I gave the primary 7 pupils some of our mp3 players with built in microphones (they had been used to using these in class) and they interviewed some of the teachers and ‘buddies’. We shared these interviews once the children had came back from their visit. I’ve included one of them here – I have permission from all involved to share this online:
I wonder what potential blogging has for smoothing out the primary/secondary transition journey?
Longevity Issue 1 – Marc’s Blog
Of all the primary 7 pupils, Marcwas the most successful in keeping his blog going as he moved on to High School. In fact, in April 2008 he received a comment from David Gilmour:
“Hi Marc, this is just to let you know that last month, April 08, your home page was the second most popular entry page on edubuzz.org, with 2571 visits.”
Marc obviously enjoyed his blog that had been set up for him in Primary 7, and he continued writing posts until Second Year at High School. His main love was for drama/singing/dancing (and probably still is!). He began receiving comments containing words of encouragement from like-minded people … comments such as:
“Hi Marc, i’m the drama teacher at Knox Academy, just wanted to wow and well done for doing your own theatre company, it’s very hard work but liking your name and what you are doing! keep me posted in your future projects! break a leg!”
Hi Marc – can you give me the details of the Flannan Isle play that you are doing. I will be doing a project with my class based on the mystery of the Flannan Isle and would be interested to know where I could get a copy of the play. Thanks
I’m glad you like Wicked! one of my favourite musicals! if you haven’t seen it yet you must! i seen Idina and Kerry and now booking to see the new Elphaba. We just took S2 and S3 students to see it in London
These comments were from Drama teachers – not from Marc’s own school, but from schools in another Local Authority. Despite the popularity of Marc’s blog, no-one in his own school ever commented (and the chances are that no teachers there were even aware that he had his own blog). It’s been a wee while now since Marc last updated his blog, but it is worth mentioning that he regularly posted to it for two years after he left primary School.
Longevity Issue 2 – Kayleigh’s New Home
Marc wasn’t the only one that year who continued to post to his blog after he’d moved on to high School. A handful of others posted during their first year of High School. Danni was one of these … and it was amazing to see a comment on her last blog post from Kayleigh.
Gi Day Danni
sorry it’s a long time since i spoke last. Iv’e just been so busy at school. I came 4th in the school cross country and 18th in the interschool cross country leauge out of a 110 people the lap was about 3km. They after that we had our faction sports carival (there like the houses we used to have) am in beard which is blue. these are the individal avents i took part in : 100m sprit i came 3rd out of the 8 people i raised ,i came 4th in the 200m out of 8 people, i came 3rd in long jump my longest jump was 3.29m and the last of the these events was the 400m i came 4th out of 8 people. After that we went onto team avents this is what they were: my team got second in leaderball, we came 3rd in flag relay, tunnelball,zigzag realy and shuttle relay But sadly we came last in passball. I have done other this as well i will tell you about them some other time
have a good on
from your friend kayleigh
The comment was from Kayleigh, who’d left Carronshore half way through primary 7 to go and live in Australia. It was just fantastic to read her blog post to say that she’d arrived safely and was settling in to her new life ‘down under’. It was also wonderful that there were 15 comments on that post in reply. These included comments from:
friends in her old Carronshore school
virtual friends she’d met via her Carronshore blog who live in another part of Australia
classroom assistants from carronshore
teachers from Carronshore
the HT from Carronshore!
a member of staff from another authority in Scotland
Longevity and portability Issues – Troubles with edublogs
The blog posts from the next group of Primary 7 bloggers didn’t have as much success when it came to either ‘portability’ or ‘longevity’ issues. Unfortunately just as these primary 7’s left primary school, edublogs began to have problems with bloggers logging on to their blogs. Passwords had stopped working and I looked for help on the edublogs forum – I discovered that others were also having difficulties accessing blogs.
I asked for advice:
I’m also very concerned that all the blogs I set up last session for my class now can’t be accessed by them. They were all added as users (admin status) but have now moved on to High School. If they try to log in, will they not gain access? Although I still monitor their blogs, I’ve no easy way of showing them a way around this new problem. Their blogs can be found at http://mvass.edublogs.org/examples-of-pupil-blogs/
Luke replied that I should ask the pupils to reset their own passwords … not straight forward in my case because I’d set up the blogs in such a way that I had given the pupils control over their own passwords … equal admin rights.
The students have their own blogs (set up with the gmail hack). I can reset their passwords because I know their usernames, but can’t then change the new passwords back to their own on because I don’t know what this was.
They’ve all moved on to High School now so i can’t even ask them!!
The blogs were set up in August 2007. I know that some used them just recently.
Because of the gmail hack set up I can access them with my own username and password as I also have admin rights to each of their blogs, but that doesn’t help them to gain access
The reply was:
Quite a sticky situation there. You could maybe add a contact form/note on your blog, asking students who can’t log in to contact you. You can then give them the new password. Other than that, maybe James might have a better idea.
This problem led to a lot of the primary 7’s being confused as to why they couldn’t access their blogs. I know this was happening because I was receiving‘change password’ email requests – but I’d no way of getting the new passwords to the ‘High School’ pupils.
Ok, that was hard work writing this and it’s time to press the publish button – but I’m thinking that there might be a way forward with some of these ‘portability’ and ‘longevity’ issues ….. watch this space 🙂
The first half of my 23 month secondmentas an ICT Support officer is now over – and it went by in a flash! I think I spent most of it ‘finding my feet’. The courses I providedwere a mixture of ones that were either:
in place before I came in to post
developed to meet the needs of particular schools
added by drawing on tools and activities I had used previously in my own classroom practice
devised as a direct result of having heard of their existance via my twitter network.
Like last session, I plan to prepare CPD activities (just one of a number of remits) by introducing teachers to the available online tools I learn about via twitter. Courses on using tools such as Xtranormal or GoAnimate were well received last session – and I would not have known of their existence if it hadn’t been for the sharing culture I’ve become accustomed to by following my fellow ‘twitterers’. More and more useful free online tools are becoming available at such a fast pace that it’s hard to keep up. Next session, I have some new ideas planned – but this post will concentrate on just one :
Blogging with Classes
The best find I’ve discovered for next session is a new blog host to recommend to teachers here. I came across it via an email a colleague at work received. When I took up this secondment post, I had been using edublogs for a couple of years. There were little annoying things like the slowness, and the occasional unexpected ‘down-times’ .. but it was free and it was under the umbrella of ‘education’ so it served my purpose. I’d also used eduBuzz to host a blog that I wanted to set up to compliment our photaday project adventure – and this led me to have the confidence to set up pupil individual blogs thanks to David Gilmour’sexpertise 🙂
The following year, I managed to successfully set up individual pupil blogs via edublogs. At the time, they recommended using learnerblogs for pupils. The blogs were set up in such a way that I had equal administrative rights on each pupil blog, and comments needed to be moderated before appearing on a blog. This set-up worked well for a while. During the course of the year, however, learnerblogs were no longer supported by edublogs and advertisements began appearing on the pupils’ blogs. Annoying spam comments also began to surface on a few of the blogs.
Hey i really enjoyed Crucial Crew it was great fun. Please would you visit my blog as someone has left a comment i dissaprove of. I dont knoe who it is. It is quite rude.
When I investigated her blog, I was horrified to find that the comment was extremely offensive … so much so, that I immediately deleted her blog – a decision made in haste. I spent the rest of the weekend setting up edublog accounts for the children and, on the Monday, I demonstrated to the class how to export all the information from their learnerblog accounts and import it in to their new edublogs one. I also explained how to activate the Akismet plugin and gave them a necessary API Key to enable it to work.
All went well after that, and I successfully completeda case study on my experienceof giving the children in my class their own online space – and when I started my secondment post, I had no problem recommending using edublogs as a free blogging platform for other teachers in the Local Authority. The recommendation was short lived, however, when inapproriate adverts began appearing on the edublogs class blogs. The only solution was to sign up to be an edublogs supporter. It doesn’t cost a lot, really, to make a blog ad-free, and you can add 30 more blogs (a class set?) to that account so that they’re ad-free, too.
But there’s a catch ….. being ad-free is all they’re entitled to. There’s no option on these blogs to add any plugins – so Monica’s ‘extremely offensive’ spam comment could be repeated again and again … much more disturbing than just an annoying advert!!
Cassieand primary 5L/W did a fantastic job of keeping it going last session. Next session, Evelyn W – our school art specialist (and my Chartered Teacher buddy), will use it to allow the Carronshore pupils to display and discuss their artwork.
I plan on providing three twighlight sessions:
A ‘taster’ session to introduce participants to the world of blogging with classes
An introductory session on how to set up a class blog
A third session to explore activities and available tools that can be used to take class blogging further
I’ve also (very quickly and easily) set up some ‘training blogs’ that can be used during twighlight sessions. These are shown in the screenshot below. Everyone will sign in to the main falkirkcpd blog, then scroll to their allocated blog on the dashboard. I’ve set 10 up, with the idea that participants can work through activities in pairs.
I’m off now to work on ideas for giving children space on a wiki so that they can build up their own ePortfolio. Thanks to Jayefor introducing me to the concept …. viatwitter of course 🙂
On Friday I logged on to my twitter account to see what was happening. I’d signed up for the education 2020 flashmeeting session – but I’ll save that experience for another post 🙂
When I logged on to twitter I found (as usual) loads of links to new sites useful for education. One of these was praising http://photopeach.com/home so I’ve been palaying around with it today. My effort looked good to me on the photopeach site … so fingers crossed that it’ll look good on here too 🙂
The survey results mentioned in the previous post prompted me to look for alternative blogging tools for those pupils whose frustration at not being able to master the codes for wordpress was affecting their motivation to blog. I used Blogger before migrating to edublogs (I still use it occasionally to experiment with posts for the class blog). In many ways, it’s much more user friendly and when I demonstrated this to the pupils, there were actual shouts of, ‘Hooray!’
Everyone now has a new ‘blogger blog’ and will have the choice of whether or not to stay with their learner blog or move everything over like Adam has begun to do. Adam is clearly delighted with his new ‘easier to use’ blog (and has admitted to being one of those who chose no.1 in the ‘blog popularity’ survey question).
I’ve also been reading how Conrad Glogowski, mentioned in a previous post, encourages his pupils to ‘grow a blog’. I really like this idea and have been wodering if I can adapt his worksheet to suit my own pupils’ needs.
Meanwhile, I need to come up with a more refined research question ….. and clearer aims. Lots of thinking to do!