Archive for the Category ◊ Learning Platforms ◊

Wanna share?
Thursday, July 08th, 2010 | Author:

This post is aimed at Hampshire people, but feel free to read it and give your opinions!

Ok, so we have a county-wide VLE, Wizkid/Studywiz. How much do we share across the county? A little bit, we have some schools discussing transition with their feeder schools or working in a cluster, we have a county-wide group for us to publicise information and documents, but I want to think BIG.

We currently have 410(ish) primary schools on Wizkid. How many of them teach the Seaside? or Victorians? or Plants? Ok ok so some of them are creative, child-led or dynamic, but still, they need some help and inspiration don’t they?

So let’s plan together. As of this week, every member of the Hampshire Shared Resources Group will have full teacher access. This is 900 teachers. You can come into this area, see what people have done already and export the folder into your class/year group. Nothing wrong with taking this and using it, but wouldn’t you rather be a sharer?

To be a sharer, why not add an activity to a folder? Why not add a useful website? Why not create a new folder? Why not upload your planning? Imagine if we could get 2 or 3 teachers helping you to plan that seaside topic. Imagine if we could get 20 or 30. Exciting innit?

How about you plan with someone else and then communicate with them during your topic? You could message them, email them, video conference with them…what are their children doing? What are yours doing?

So go and take a look, if you’re not a member of the group go and join it (Tools>Group Membership>Search) and then follow the instructions once inside. If you get stuck, give me a shout. There’s a help video in there under ‘Info’. I look forward to planning with you all!

PS: I have to say a massive thankyou to @simonhaughton, the man is a genius and we have stolen borrowed, lots of links from his school Parkfield’s Delicious account. Do thank him if you get chance.

To VLE or not to VLE
Monday, June 28th, 2010 | Author:

I’m finally going to post this as I’ve had it sitting in draft for a few weeks. James Clay blogged about VLEs today, so it seemed like a good idea to share my thoughts too.

So…VLEs, Learning Platforms…what’s the point? Surely you can get it better elsewhere? for free? Is this the best it can be? It’s all empty!Aren’t we only doing it to meet some target?

As you may know, I have spent the past two years of my life training primary school teachers in using our VLE, Studywiz. It’s had ups and it’s had downs, but the VLE is a very useful tool. I am a regular on Twitter and I speak to excellent ICT teachers all of the time, but how many of them have bothered with a VLE? Not many. Why? Maybe it doesn’t do what they want it to, maybe it isn’t customisable enough, maybe they were already doing it beforehand.

For the techy teachers out there, I can understand why they might want to sidestep the VLE issue. They’re already blogging with their class so why do they need a paid-for system to do it? They can go get free versions of 4 or 5 different tools that will be better than the VLE, so why bother? But how many teachers are VERY confident with ICT and can manage this?

In my experience, having everything under one roof is a great starting point for many teachers. 95% of the people I train have never thought about learning online, I know 1 school and a couple of random teachers that were blogging here in Hampshire. This is rising slowly, but VLE training has helped to show these teachers what is possible. Many of them are just starting to put links online so that their children can access websites and resources. How would you do that without a VLE? Use a website that only 1 person can update? A delicious account maybe? What about for the 5 year olds? The VLE is great for younger children as you can include sound and/or tools like Voki to give them clues and directions of what to click on and why. From using sound and microphones in training, teachers have seen how easy it is and now they’re off to record it with their class. Fantastic. Very basic for most people, but for some, it’s a breakthrough.  Even though general confidence in ICT is rising, there are still an awful lot of teachers out there who are not ICT confident! I have trained some recently who do not know how to access their email. One asked what I meant when I said ‘Google it’. These people will be taking my words and ideas and cascading it back to the rest of their staff.

One thing the VLE gets used for, is as a launchpad to other things. Children start at the VLE and from there they can watch te embedded video from BBC, discuss it in the forum and then go off and create a Prezi which can be embedded so others can assess it. I’m not sure about other VLEs, but our one is fantastic at embedding HTML and other content whether it is a Google Streetview, a Voki, a wordsearch or Animoto. This is the bit that people get excited about. The VLE itself has some basic tools which work well, but being able to drop in a Google Form or a Bubbl.Us mindmap is a real winner.

We’ve focussed on the learning bit a lot here in Hampshire and we try to show as many ways of using it for learning as we can. There’s no point showing a tool without good reasoning about why to use it. After all, we’re not meeting a target, we’re showcasing our children’s learning! Quite often people say that they haven’t started using the VLE yet due to Ofsted being just around the corner (aren’t they always?). Why not be pro-active and celebrate your achievements online instead? Don’t shy away from them, push them in the inspectors faces and let them be amazed that your children are writing online and creating content for others.

What about benefits for teachers? We’ve been sharing ‘finished’ resources for a few months now here in Hampshire, but the next step is to try and get some teachers to plan and collaborate together from the start. So many teachers are doing the same thing and planning the same topic, it would be great if they could work together! This should be happening more and we hope to have something in place to enable this soon.

The potential is there, VLE or not, but using a VLE is a good starting point for many teachers who had never had the chance or inclination to do this type of learning before. Some teachers are now enthused about the potential and come to training buzzing about what they will find out next!

So what do you think of VLEs? Do you have one? If you do, why? Was it to meet a target? Was it because learning is made easier?

If you don’t? Why? Is it because of money? Are you doing it all already?

I’d be interested to hear from people outside of Hampshire to see what they think about using VLEs in primary schools.

Update – Here are some Becta case studies

School’s Closed! (But has the learning stopped?)
Wednesday, January 06th, 2010 | Author:

As you may have noticed today, it snowed. A lot. Here in Hampshire, a lot of schools were closed as they were across the rest of the country. 

Now what happens to the children’s learning while the school is closed? This could be due to snow, burst water pipe or whatever. What do you do to continue the learning? Now, I must say that if my school was closed for a day due to snow, I would be encouraging pupils to get out there and enjoy it. It doesn’t happen much in my part of Hampshire! But what if it is closed for 2 or 3 days? a week? Is there something in place for the children? Even if they do go and play in the snow, they will want to come in the warm eventually and maybe they will venture online…Maybe they live away from their friends and would love to have the chance to chat online. Maybe they are just enthusiastic about their learning? If set as an optional task, then this will definitely win over parents. Be careful that it isn’t set as compulsory, especially if not all of your pupils have internet access.
I heard reports of schools using VLEs last year in the Far East when Swine Flu was a problem, but it hasn’t really been mentioned much here in the UK until now. 

I saw a lot of Twitter posts from the likes of @primarypete_ and @Deputymitchell about their ‘snow lessons’ that went on today and I know that these inspired other teachers too. I was sitting here wishing I had a class to work with! In Hampshire we are in the middle of our rollout for the VLE, lots of schools are using it a little bit and quite a few have it embedded throughout the school. How many have been using it today? It is hard to tell without looking into the stats and that will come in a few days time. But what did your school do? Did you plan anything?

So what could you do if it was snowing? How about:

*Using descriptive language to describe a snowman example 
*How deep is the snow outside?
*Give the children a title and ask them to write a story on PrimaryPad together
*Using a gallery to share pictures of the view from their house and describing what they can see
*Using these descriptive words to write a story setting / start a story
*Embedding videos of the snow and asking the children to discuss a new form of transport to cope with the weather
There are some things that can be done and set up for the children to access without a teacher and some with teachers involved. From what I can gather, most of these examples had teachers online with the children too. But if you don’t want to be as involved (or you fancy going outside yourself) then why not set up some activities for them to do?

Studywiz has a great gallery tool. Get the children to upload photos of their garden and use the comment box underneath to describe it. Think about the vocabulary, think about how your sentences make the reader feel.As a teacher you could start this off and let the children access it throughout the day. Some of people on Twitter sent texts to their children informing them when the online lesson would start, but having resources available to all is also an option. 

It really shows the potential of the technology. I know a few schools are now planning to add activities for the children as they enter the 2nd or 3rd day of snow.  
Very exciting indeed!

For a much better description of what went on, read about it below on their blogs instead:
I would watch the Twiddla link on medium/fast, lesson starts around 340, the number is in the top left.