Monday, 16 May 2016

SATS, sleepless nights and writing for a purpose

Well it's another late night and I thought I'd write a blog post to catch up. I feel I have been a little lazy on updating my blog and that's just rude. I do apologise...

So what's been going on. Well to put it bluntly May is here and SATs have been my life.  I have marked them, collated them, analysed them and even dreamed about them. Though I can't help but feel a certain degree of disappointment about them. I dont believe in testing 7 years but no its not that.... it's that they don't really tell me anything! Scaling scores come out at the end of May and even the scores I do have matter very little until then...

For all their importance in the school year I still have to go to moderation and prove against key indicator statements. So I now find myself scrambling to make sure each child has the evidence I need to support my judgements. I really wonder why I had worried myself at all. But a couple thoughts popped into my head about SATs through administering them this year.

Firstly, timing. I think I probably took the leap early compared to everyone else. I know my children and I know that they are about as useful as a rubber duck in a snow storm when it comes to the last two weeks of a half term. I am seeing it today. The inevitable social problems and behavioural issues cassading through the class. They are tired. I really do wonder if schools who have left it to the last minute have done themselves a disservice.

Secondly,  I was fairly surprised about the reading paper 1 (ks1). Three really annoying little parts where you had to stop the children mid flow. I think next year I will space these three sections out...

Lastly, I don't like to be a tail teller but it seems schools have been seriously misabusing the test conditions this year. Children revising whilst in the same rooms, carouseling testing and alsorts of nafarious practices. So what stock do I take in outcomes can I take any?

Now I find myself on the long road to moderation...  It's paved with:   Have I got it? How am I going to get it? Where the hell is it? Particularly writing... I've been finding it a largely torturous endeavour. That was until I started giving writing a serious going over in my mind. What makes a good writer? What is going to get the children writing to their maximum ability? The answer seems clear to me... write for a purpose! Currently I have set up two opportunities for the children to communicate internationally writing letters. The children are passionate and the writing is really progressing!

I'll let you know how it goes...

Monday, 4 April 2016

Oh no he didn't oh yes he did - app review puppetedu

Puppet edu

So I'm back... So much for the app review every week! 
This app is a fantastic way to engage primary children and presenting information without much hassle. Now I'm not going to say there will be no hassle as the children will have to learn to use the app and it's functions. But its interface is incredibly well thought out.

So this is the kind of thing you can produce...

Now this app is from the same lovely people who created the Seesaw: Learning Journal app. Which is great for my classroom personally because the app is completely integrated with the other. Saving work on the iPad has never been easier. Teach the children the upload button and you have solved the problem of saving work to be viewed later.

The app allows you to take pictures or download them from the internet. Once you have your images then you can order them very simply. From there it is a case of recording sound over the top of the images. The children can change the timing of the slides or even record parts of the voice recording. Text and emojis can be added in all sizes and colours. But what I enjoy the most is there isn't an abundance of choice for the children to get hung up upon. After an inevitable few not so good attempts the children can produce a great presentation.

Friday, 25 March 2016

What's happening? Who has the plan? Does anyone know? - Teacher Moderation 2016

My thought pattern over this academic year was as follows...

Be positive! Stay positive! Am I positive! OK just keep being positive... no you can do this... what's this oh ok thats ok... wait hang on what's this... and what's this?  But that doesn't make sense with this or that... what is going on? 

This rather long and laborious journey is all related to teaching assessment this year. I know everyone is as frustrated as me this years interim teacher assessment. Now I know this will be the first time I have attempted this for my school. But as a new teacher I quite relished the challenge of the hashing out a set of professional judgements about the children in my class. I knew I was possibly going to be up against the big wigs up at County and the government as an institution. I had it all set out in my mind... 

"See here child is A is this child is this" I would say to the demon dream crushers of county.

"Hmm well Mr Holmes I'm not sure about this" he would scoff.

"No look here and there! I'm right so there" I would defiantly claim.

"OK you are so right but I will get you next time" he would say skulking away until next year.

Queue patriotic music... bah bu bu bah bahhh bah

Yeh whoop fighting the man!

No such luck. Early in the year I quickly realised things were going wrong and I would be robbed of the chance to kick the proverbial dog. Bluntly put the current curriculum testing and assessment has been plagued by ambiguous mixed messages, arbitrary rules, too many contradictions and endless blundering. In my blog I think anybody can see I'm nothing but a pragmatic positive optimist. It really pains me to write such negativity but what's the truth is the truth...

I shall outline some of the difficulties that I am experiencing in brief.

The getting rid of levelling. The department for education said that the old levelling was difficult for the parents to understand. Now to a certain degree I understood this, I'm sure a 2B meant little to parents. So out they went...Did they replace them with 1 2 3 or even a b c all of which are universally understood. NOPE. Let's replace them with senseless letter acronyms. They are so devoid of any meaning that I can't even remember them!

The move from best fit to a secure fit model. Not only do the children have very difficult and demanding key descriptors to meet. But if they fail to evidence one on the preceeding set but can do all above in the higher set then they out and out fail. I'll give you an example. Let's just say I have a child that can write with subordinate clauses and beautiful prose. But fails to consistently put in full stops in their writing they fail automatically. Now an argument can be made that the teacher has failed to address or teach them full stops. But sometimes children's personalities completely override teacher wishes and hopes. What seems even more ridiculous is that we live in a world where people will be typing on computers which can tell you what's wrong with your writing. I always want to throw my computer out of the window when it underlines my writing saying passive voice consider revising. Why should I deny children the same soul destroying task.

Handwriting! Honestly I fell like I tripped into the tardis and fell back into the Victorian times. I sense that any tories reading this will be itching to tell me 'well one ought to ensure ones transcription is legible for ones recipients besides Britain was a tremendous nation back then ahhh the good ol days'. Unsubstantiated nonsense... The old days were full of awful pedantic practice for the sake of practice. Yes your handwriting should be be neat enough for others to read but joining should be a personal choice. Is there a correct way to join? NO! Does it matter if anyone does join? NO! Surely it's time to face up to things are computerised now. Shh don't tell anyone but...... the world is run on computers. But does either make a better writer...nope. The current system has been relaxed but only so much as to say that if you are a writing at greater depth then you are a joiner. But if not then you are only just meeting national standards. This doesn't take into account clear medical research that shows that seven year old boys often can't develop the fine motor skills to be able to join handwriting.

Grammar. Currently our six and seven year old will have to sit a GPS test. Harsh indeed considering the average adult cannot sit them successfully. I see the same strange glazed mixed with terror look fall across parents faces when I mention grammar. Often followed by well 'I was better at maths'. However, what's most confusing is that it counts for nothing. First of all it doesn't count towards evidence for meeting the standards in writing. Moreover, they have to use grammar in written pieces to prove they have met it. Huh but what happens if it doesn't come up in that particular piece of writing? Even more strangely is that my teacher assessment overrides it all. A curious way to spend time.

Drum roll please... exclamation sentences. Apparently a late clarification from the department of education has said that an exclamation sentence starts with 'how' or 'what' has a subject, verb and an exclamation mark. Now I have looked and spoken to a great many individuals and I cannot find any origin of this definition. It doesn't even seem related to the way anyone speaks or writes. My question would be why? Let's leave it there.

Constant late clarifications and clarifications that the  need more clarifications. Everything is rushed and half baked. Why release anything in the first place if it's not correct. Surely there should be a clear transparent end goal that everyone is included in achieving. Schools and teachers are currently left hopelessly in the dark. 

I have so many questions, equivocations, worries and fears currently about the looming end of year judgements. Too many to write about here. It feels good to unload. Even if it is into the abiss of the world wide web.

If anyone does read this throw me a comment good or bad.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

To the movies!!! - Lego Movie Maker App Review

Lego Movie Maker 

By now many teachers will be aware of the power of this little app. I love it! I use it every week with the children as it has such creative power. Best of it's free!!!!!

This has been around for many years now but it's worth putting this on all the iPads in your school immediately. Essentially, it allows you to take pictures and put them together to create animated videos. There are now many variants of this such as minecraft and many more. More than anything its crazy simple to use even for the most novice of users. The only downsides are the annoying "would you allow lego movie maker to enable camera". This can baffle even the most intelligent little soul. Nevertheless, you can make fantastic animated movies with sounds, music and effects. After the children have created their master pieces they can be downloaded to the camera roll and uploaded to a VLE, Googledrive or other date retrieval system. 

Uses in the curriculum 

I've used this for everything and even run my own stop go animation club. 

Here's a little list of ideas:

1. story telling
2. showing grow of plants in plasticine 
3. advertisements
4. recipe videos for non-food
5. silhouette stories
6. white board stop go

Hope this helps!!!

Magic hands!!!!

Anti-bullying video - A recipe for a friend...

Monday, 15 February 2016

A better bright future - seeing the light at bett2016

I'll start by saying I'm sorry for the tardy blogging folks! But in all fairness this terms seems to be busier than I could ever have imagined.

Well I'm back from the bett show 2016 and what a show it was! If your an ICT leader at your school then I highly recommend it. Crammed full of stalls, lectures and endless amounts of new hardware and software it is literally a dream. All the newest gadgets and educational masterpieces are there to play with and dream about in your school. Whilst I was wide eyed and wandering I found myself inspired and thinking; if this is the future for education then it's incredibly exciting. Regardless of your struggles or money constraints it's well worth a look. I even won a new microbit!!!! Who said tweeting never got you anywhere!

What I learnt

As a fledgling ICT co-ordinator I was there to "figure it out" so to speak. The government have thrown us all a hail mary with the new computing curriculum so lucky me I get to figure it out! If the predictions are right 50% of all jobs will exist in the computing sphere by 2050. To be honest I think it will be much greater. I know area is woefully behind in bringing a coherent computing curriculum into practise and worst still internationally England as whole is a laughable tech player. Nevertheless, always the optimist there is interesting things to get your hands on. 

Raspberry Pi - Now I know! Come on! I'm behind! It came out ages ago! Yes but the newest version is brilliant. So much so I bought it straight after the show. The most expensive version comes in at £50. For the uninitiated such as myself it is a simple bare circuit board computer. The programming possibilities are endless. The cheapest version is £4 but you have limited wifi compact but still. Now the newest version comes preloaded with minecraft and scratch. Don't worry it has a familiar feel to the operating system. Draw backs for schools however are that you need mice, keyboards and a screen with hdmi socket. There are thousands of attachments and things you can programme it to do. I saw whack a mole games, cranes and mechanical devices all attached.

Microbit - I WON ONE! I can't wait for this little baby to come in the post! Another bare computer. I have to confess I don't know how much it costs. But it is made by the abc and you can programme it online to do all sorts of amazing things to display watches to cranes and bullies. Good news is I think it will be cheap and best of all it will work with current laptops that schools have. Bummer is that it appears there is some kind of delay... :(

Below are some of the highlights....

Saturday, 9 January 2016

The Up and Downs - Seesaw app review

Hey folks,

Sorry I haven't uploaded any new entries this week. New term equals more work urge :)

Image result for seesaw learning journalAnyway, this week I am going to review a fantastic app that has been probably my biggest pet project to date. I'm sure many other schools are using apps to connect learning, assessment and the general information technology age. But this has to be one of the best. After seeing edmodo, a great app for connecting the learning in the classroom with the home, I was determined to find something that would do the same. As I have a KS1 class of my own I felt that the edmodo platform was a little complicated and tricky to navigate for their little souls. But I came across this app called Seesaw: the learning journey...  Things have been changing rapidly since!!!

What does it do?

Simply put it is a learning journey digitised. You setup avatars and areas for children with their names. No email address required!!! When this is done you download the class app onto each of the iPads in your classroom. You can then produce a really easy qr class code so the children can point a camera and log on. The platform its has a rolling feed a little like Facebook (which is a bonus when teaching internet responsibility). Children can upload videos, pictures, links and drawings all made in app or from the rest of the iPad. Not sure that is very well explained but they can upload a range of multimedia. When they upload they will be asked to tag themselves in the photo. A comment or recording can be added as well. Great for those children that find writing really difficult. Children can comment and like others work. As the teacher you can give feedback in the form of likes and comments. Of course as the moderator you have to approve any uploads first.

I have found this a powerful class tool to share links quickly for really complicated subjects. Moreover, children can upload their work form other platforms. Getting work in on iPads can be tricky at the best of times but this really is a handy tool for getting the stuff in one place ready for me.

When you have sufficient data you give handouts the parents to upload the parent app onto their devices. They get live feedback of what the children are working on. More than this they can even comment back and like posts.

Draw backs?

Well so far I am in the beta testing stage for school. You get tremendous support online from the San Francisco based company. I haven't had any problems so far... knock on wood. But their are a few concerns I have. First of which is how will it react with multiple classes with shared iPads. Obviously iPads are difficult to get at the best of times with stretched school budgets. How will it work with multiple classes? Second, at the end of the year it says I have the option to archive the class. But where and who has the data? What happens if my data gets lost?

Why did I choose it?

Well after strenuous research this app just seemed the easiest to work for me as the teacher and the children. Moreover, graphically it seemed more child friendly and appealing. My children certainly love choosing those avatars. But most of all, it just seems like someone who teaches in education has thought this through. Down to the minor details of the left and right camera button on the screen. It's intuitive and everything that is good about modern technology. I don't find uploading a nuisance but a pleasure. I love seeing positive comments back from parents and involving people in my classroom.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Pray tell - app review tellagami

I've got a beautiful app to review today. I've recently come across this fantastic and daily useable app. 

So what does it do? 

This app allows you animate a preprogrammed avatar. The avatars are easily customisable in what they wear and look like in appearance. Once you have your avatar looking acceptable you can programme text that a computer will read out or you can record your own voice over. The app recognises text and tries it's best to match speech with inflections and related movements. You can choose expressions to match your text as well. What's best is the ability to drop in images into the background or choose from set template designs. 

Here's a little demonstration just for you folks here
Draw backs?

So what are they I hear you ask? Well the speech takes a little getting used to and never quite sounds right. There's a little bit of fiddling to make it sound correct. Another minor annoyance is you can't change the background during the talk. Man that would be useful. But hey these really aren't big enough considerations to put you off. It's a talking avatar and your disposable and that's powerful!