Friday, 14 September 2012

Learning Technologist Award - Reflections and thanks

I was honoured to accept the Learning Technologist of the Year 2012 Award on Wednesday evening for my work on accelerating children’s learning through an enquiry led, technology enabled approach.

Attending the Association for Learning Technology Awards' ceremony was a humbling and moving moment for me, particularly in light of the awesome learning technology projects out there (past and present) led by some truly inspirational educators – many of whom have inspired me!

Although the award is called 'individual', an accolade like this is never just about the recipient. This one recognises the children - their enthusiasm, their learning and all those moments that make teaching so special. I particularly wish to thank Bev Hartland-Smith, my Head Teacher, for her encouragement, enthusiasm and inspiring leadership throughout my time on her team. My thanks too to our Deputy Head, David Dunn and the School Governors for their support. I hope the award also says great things about Pedmore Primary school and what it’s like to be part of the team here and of course, the wider support the school has always been fortunate to have from the super team at Dudley Grid for Learning and RM.

I thank Martin, my husband and our two sons Luke & Max for their fantastic support and encouragement.

Lastly, I want to express my hope that by sharing the learning benefits, other teachers will feel encouraged, just as I have been, to use technology to help children learn.

My presentation to the panel:

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Google Maps & Mask Making

Rainforest research with Google Maps
Just a brief update today!  I thought I'd share the map of rainforest information that my class started creating earlier in the year.  It's a good way of getting into a topic early on and for children to share the information they find.  As you can see, the children post using their online rainforest cryptonyms which they choose at the beginning of the year.

View Researching Tropical Rainforests by Y4 Bengal Tigers in a larger map

Hangout with Taiwan
We had our last hangout of the term with Chong Ming Elementary school in Taiwan.

Hanging out with the lovely pupils of Chong Ming
Andy, one of the teachers there supporting our sessions, shared with children that he and his son had recently visited the World Land Trust Borneo Appeal site that earlier in the year our pupils had raised money to help fund.  This has made it all the more real for them!

We were all excited to learn that there's a possibility that Amy, the fantastic teacher we've been working with on this project, may be visiting us at Pedmore before the end of term!

Children made chilli and flatbread
This went really well and the weather held out for most of the evening.  Google Apps have proved really useful for all the planning children have been doing.  The context and real data children were working with from using forms to find out what everyone wanted for dinner, dessert, drinks and breakfast through to analysing with the spreadsheets and then using Google Presentation to present results to the class have proved invaluable.  Children have found the apps very straightforward to work with.  With project based learninjg, children have found it actually matters that questions are framed in a way which enables them to be answered!  Feedback between class teams has been instant (and occasionally blunt)!  And with this approach, meeting the deadline for your presentations to the class has really mattered - otherwise the person doing the shopping won't know what to buy!

Our school chickens really came through lots of eggs this week.  And many children brought in produce that had been homegrown.  Throughout Thursday and Friday children were cooking chilli, flatbread and toppings ready for one of the evening dinner options.

Mod Roc and Greek Masks
Mask making
I've recently discovered that I'll be working with the same class next year. :)

So for our Domino sessions, we've been getting stuck ancient Greek mask making inspired by the history topic we'll be studying next year.  Here are the children working away on the early stages.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Bengal Tigers - Seal of Approval Awarded!

This week, despite hurricanes, we had another hangout with Taiwan...our second Bottle Top Art Day and...the Bengal Tigers awarded their seal for the first time ever!  More about that later!

Taiwan Hangout
My class - ready to hangout!
This time, my class, the Bengal Tigers, were presenting to Taiwan.  Children worked SO hard creating scripts and then learning their lines - they LOVE the real context our hangouts provide.  They included many aspects of our Earth Caretakers Project. 

Children's presentations went really well but our second hangout of the week had to be postponed because Taiwan continued to be affected by severe hurricanes.  We were very glad and relieved to hear that everyone is safe in Chong Ming and we've rearranged for next week.  (Video to follow!)

Securing the bottle tops to perspex!
Bottle top art (day 2)
We also had our second bottle top art day.  We're likely to need a bit longer before this is completed because the scale is quite big and the process of sticking and then screwing down the bottle tops is taking longer than originally anticipated.  But, as you can see from our pictures, it's really coming along now!

There's been lots of interest and lots of staff and children have helped by bringing in extra browns and golds because we found we were running short of these colours.  Thank you everyone!  Next time, hopefully we'll be able to complete it and put it up in the playground in its permanent home.

Our orangutan is coming along well!
Breaking news....Bengal Tigers' Seal Awarded!
The Bengal Tigers are extremely pleased to report that AT LAST we've heard from a company that actually answered the questions we asked about recycling and the use of sustainable packaging!  And what's more, children were impressed with the answers too!  This feels groundbreaking!

Over the last 12 months pupils have written MANY letters but companies smoothly (or perhaps not so smoothly) have side stepped all our rainforest action teams' questions.

Well done John Lewis!
So....DRUM ROLL....the first company to be awarded the Bengal Tigers' official seal of approval is......JOHN LEWIS!   Well done John Lewis!

On a sadder note, the children were very concerned to read reports that wood fibres from prime rainforest land in Indonesia have been found in the packaging used by KFC.  I know children are keen to write to KFC about this matter!  They've also been listening out for news from the Earth Summit in Rio - mostly though, the feeling is one of disappointment.

Next week we are having the last hangout of the term with Taiwan.  Children will be sharing their Earth Caretakers presentation with more pupils at Chong Ming Elementary.

Our summer camp
We will also be having our summer camp.  In small teams, children will be using Google Forms to collect data about everyone's requests for food, drink and activities.  They will then be analysing the data and making presentations to the class about options chosen.  There's nothing like real life Maths is there!

Pedmore's chickens
I've mentioned before that children are growing lots of their own fruit and vegetables for our camp and we're also hoping to use eggs from Pedmore school's very own chickens!

Minimising the air or freight miles of anything the children need to buy will be a priority too! 

Hopefully the sun will put its hat on for us on Friday....

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Orangutans & our bottle top art (day 1)

work in progress
Bottle top art and orangutans
Our keenly anticipated bottle top art day at last arrived on Wednesday!  We all had a fabulous day - even the sun came out!

Before half term children had created some lovely rainforest inspired designs and we settled on a picture showing an orangutan with her baby and in the canopy layer a toucan and macaw.

macaw artwork
The orangutan was inspired by our focus on Borneo which, with Sumatra, provides the last two natural habitats on earth for the orangutan.  100 years ago there were 315,000 orangutans - now it is estimated that there are less than 7000 and this beautiful animal may be extinct in the wild by 2015.

The children feel that we may not be able to do much to help, but we should try to do whatever we can.  'Be the change you want to see in the world' - Gandhi
sorting, counting and sizing bottle tops

The children transferred their designs onto card and then from card onto the perspex.  Meanwhile, other groups were busily using Google search to research rainforest tree species so that they could come up with leaf designs for the background.  A further group were counting and colour and size sorting the bottle tops the whole school community has been collecting since September.  There were over 1500!

rainforest leaves
Later, children began the process of sticking these onto the perspex.  Next time they'll be drilling them on so that they'll be really secure!

As our video shows, our bottle top art is a work in progress.  We're hoping to complete it next week and put it up in a leafy, tree filled section of the playground.  Meanwhile children have begun to develop their ideas for a world themed playground.  Watch this space!

  Replies to our rainforest letters

So far children have had two replies to their rainforest letters.  The Animal Savers Team heard from Marks & Spencers in reply to their letter about packaging and the Rainforest Orangutan Team received a reply from Coca Cola about their use of plastic bottles.

Although the Animal Savers are pleased to read of M&S's 'Plan B' both they & the Orangutan team were more than a little disappointed to find that, on close reading of their replies, there were NO responses to their questions.

The M&S reply referred the group to their website for answers so they will be having a look there.  But I think it's fair to say that, teams are already drafting new letters to these companies!

Hangouts with Taiwan
We were delighted to receive another invitation to not just one, but two hangouts with pupils in Taiwan next week.  Towards the end of this week children have been busily scripting their presentations in preparation for our hangouts.  They are going to talk about our Earth Caretakers project.  We'll let you know how these go.

Year 4 Summer Camp
Summer camp planning
In less than a fortnight, the Year 4 Bengal Tigers will be having a summer camp on our school field.  Children plan it in detail and this includes budgeting for food and other things we'll need, menu planning and deciding which games will be played and other activities.  

This year, because children are so focused on 'being the change' they've decided to try to cut out air miles for food bought and better still, they've been working with their families to  GROW THEIR OWN fruit and vegetables.  Fantastic!     

Friday, 8 June 2012

Hanging out with Taiwan & dabbling with Ngram Viewer - Wow!

Weeks 5 & 6 of Google Apps proved to be every bit as pacey as the first four.   And that notwithstanding class assembly rehearsals & performance shoe-horned into the few remaining timeslots.  Just as well this is our half term week - I think we've all needed a bit of time for rest, reflection & relaxation!

Hangouts to the East & to the West! the East with Chong Ming Elementary in Taiwan...
Marine artwork
I arrived at school to prepare for our first ever hangout - it was early and nearly deserted and therefore unusually quiet.  After making the obligatory cup of tea (a MUST for me!), I was dismayed to find a fuse had blown and all the lights and electrical sockets in my classroom were out.  Fortunately, after a quick fix, I was soon up and running again and racing the clock to pull out the wires from my class computer and plug them into my laptop, sort out sound and projector and try to angle the tiny camera so that there was a view of my pupils as they streamed in an hour before our usual start time.  Although it all felt a little bit haphazard and unfamiliar, but hey presto,  suddenly four classes from Chong Ming Elementary School, along with eight teachers, their principal and technicians appeared on the class whiteboard.  Hurray!!!!

Marine artwork
Unfortunately, I don't think our friends in Taiwan had quite as good a view....that day must have been our first sunny day in about 9 months (it certainly felt like it!) so we were either bathed in dazzling sunshine or, with the blinds down, plunged into semi-darkness.  Nonetheless, our hangout was up and running.  We had a Q and A session - my pupils were stunned to hear that Chong Ming hours are from 7:30am to 4:00pm and, I think, most impressed to hear that the favourite TV channel is Discovery.  We were all pleased to hear that teachers and pupils would be following the Olympics this summer.  Without hesitation our partner school responded to a question about favourite sports with a resounding 'SWIMMING'!
Pupil's artwork

Next Chong Ming pupils gave a series of presentations, in flawless English I might add, about their wonderful marine life artwork made from recycled materials.   Overall, a great success I think for a first hangout.  The techology worked seemlessly and the future possibilities are very exciting.  I think it would great to start an 'Interesting Ways with Google Hangouts' if there isn't already one available in Tom Barrett's excellent interesting ways series.

Pupil's artwork
My children have since used Google to complete their Art Critique forms to provide feedback on chldren's super artwork.  We are planning another hangout in the next fortnight, this time with presentations from us about our Earth Caretaker projects and from Taiwan more about their marine life environmental project.  Many pupils have requested we also exchange ideas and get to know one another through a pen pal arrangement - I think Google Apps would bring an exciting dimension to this too.   

...and to the West with Elizabeth Morrow in New Jersey...
Later that week, I joined our Year 2s for another hangout - this time with the Elizabeth Morrow school.  Once again there was a Q and A session and then our children gave some mini-presentations about life at Pedmore school.  I'm really hopeful that we'll be able to develop this link with Sarah Rolle and her pupils when the new term begins in the Autumn.

So, apart from hanging out, and madly planning for our class assembly, what else have we been up to?

Exploring Ngram viewer and 'tellling the story of the graph'

aaa Wow!  I've just got to say 'wow' about this very nifty Google tool!  I wasn't sure what my pupils would make of it or what would come out of a session based around it - but it exceeded my expectations!  I briefly demo'ed to the class and then asked children to come up with some search terms.  We searched for the words deforestation, tribes, aluminium, packaging and logging from 1800 to 2008.  Children then share ideas about the meaning or story of the graph.  They began by looking at 'tribes' in isolation and soon began to suggest links between the different lines.  What an insight into children's thinking, reasoning and understanding this provides!  Have a listen to a few of their ideas!

Designing logos

Our rainforest action teams wanted a highly visual way of responding to and critiquing the replies to our letters that we're hoping soon to receive from companies and Governments.  So they decided to create team logos as a 'seal of approval'.  Here are some of their designs!

Google search tool
At last!  Available in school on children's netbooks!  Hurray!  We celebrate in class each little step forward because sometimes they're hard won.  That said, we've had some great technical support from the lovely people at RM who are trying to help with making Google tools available to us without compromising the filters that are there for children's safety.  Thank you, Dudley RM team!

It's a feature of this style of learning that children ALWAYS have lots of questions throughout their projects.  Pupils need information to find out about the topic, to write great letters, to respond to the replies they get, in short, to become really informed.  So it's great to have search in Google Docs up and running.  In school!  What a great learning opportunity!  We've already talked in class about what it means to 'cite' sources, use of images from sites in our docs, how we can begin to get an idea of the reliability of information based on its source, the usefulness of search terms and how we can refine these to access the results we're after.  And my pupils are 8-9 year olds!  Pupils will use search with or without our input - it's the nature of the world they're growing up in.  But this tool brings the discussion and learning into the classroom so that children will learn how to use search in an informed and skilful way.

...and a word about Blogger in school
 Blogger is at last up and running too, after a fashion.  Children can create and edit posts but must wait until hometime before they can view their blog - or another pupil's come to that!  The stop-start nature of making this tool available has meant it just hasn't gotten off the ground as a means for children to 'blog the learning journey' as they go along. 

Google translate and 'gallery walk'
The children have continued sending out their letters.  Google translate has proved invaluable for letters going to destinations where English isn't the first languages - for example Malaysia.  We're all very excited about what the replies may bring.  Based on the experience with last year's Year 4, I suspect the children will need to hone their higher order reading skills when they receive some of the replies. 

Some letters aren't quite ready yet and it's for good reason that redrafting is an essential feature of project based learning.  I'm hoping to organise a 'gallery walk' with the help of some of our older pupils so that they can kindly and constructively critique children's first drafts.  Should be a great learning opportunity for all parties!

So what's next?
I've mentioned the up and coming hangouts and the gallery walk.  We've also got an annual camp event at the end of this month.  The children want to make it as sustainable as possible so they are going to be planning and adapting menus based on reducing or even eliminating the air miles of ingredients and trying to choose forest friendly sources for the things they'll need.  We've also got our big bottle top art day coming up soon too!  Watch this space!



Sunday, 20 May 2012

Week 4 of Google Apps & exciting contacts with Brazil & Taiwan

Week 4 of Google Apps for Education
I can't quite believe it's only been 4 short weeks since we launched GApps for Education at school.  Phew!

Assessment week notwithstanding, this week has been PACKED with learning skills, hangout preps, fab news on new partners through our rainforest questionnaire and lots more besides!

Learning Skills
Our learning skills display
One of the things I was keen to do was to involve children in self and peer assessment as part of this project. After getting pupils' ideas on how we could do this, we used questionnaires relating to our school's existing learning skills framework.  Have to say I'm loving the simplicity, accessibility and power of Google forms, so using this format, pupils gave themselves and their rainforest action teams marks out of four for each of the key aspects of learning.  There's more info about the learning skills here - we use children's own definitions of what these mean.

Google Hangout - Chong Ming Elementary School, Taiwan
Chong Ming Elementary School, Taiwan
After a few filtering hiccoughs, we're all set for our first Google class hangout with the Chong Ming Elementary school in Taiwan.

Pupils there have completed our rainforest survey and we're having a planning session in class tomorrow to get the most from the hangout.  It'll be an early start for Year 4 - the hangout starts at 8:00am Tuesday!

Google Translate and a truly amazing offer from ActionAid Brazil
ActionAid, Brazil
From the outset of this project, I really hoped for links with pupils from a rainforest region of the world.  So this week it was JUST FANTASTIC to see our questionnaire had been completed by Celia, Coordinator for ActionAid Brazil!  Celia's heartfelt responses about the deforestation of Brazil's rainforests and the devasting impact of this on local people in the form of mudslides, flooding and climate change have really moved every single one of us in class - sharing an insight that no amount of  traditional study will lead to.

Brazil - earthobservatory.nasa
Celia also wrote asking that I pass on this message to Year 4: 'living in a country very rich on forests - and suffering from a huge deforestation process, I have only to celebrate initiatives like yours'.

Celia has offered to pass our survey on to teachers and children in the region to complete next month.  This is truly an amazing offer considering the work that this will involve.  Says Celia, 'Our children do not speak or read English and also the majority of teachers in the remote areas of Brazil cannot speak any other language but Portuguese.'

Fortunately, with Google translate, this won't be a problem - I've already received translations from several pupils, completed and sent to me this weekend!  Watch this space!

Google Search - Fab Research Sidebar!
On Tuesday I heard the great news about the new research sidebar available in Google docs.  YES!!!! I thought.  And what SUPERB timing! Children could use these for their key questions. So, all fired up, I demoed how to use the tool, pointing out useful features like the citation button but when the children logged on it wasn't there!  After some tooing and frooing I discovered that we're on scheduled releases in GApps - so I've reset that now to instant release.  I'll need to wait until tomorrow to see whether the tool is also blocked by the LA filters.

Questions & Bloom's Taxonomy (image
In the meantime, we carried on without the tool - lots of children researched the answers to their questions after school and brought in information the next day.  This process brought out some really good learning - like copyright issues & citation of sources/use of images, reliability of sources, pros and cons of using wikipedia.  Pupils have also had lots of opportunities to ask questions, think about their usefulness in the context of their team's aims and how their questions should be framed.  

Letter writing
This has taken a little longer than I expected.  Second drafts were completed on Friday and children have been sending these to me throughout the weekend.  Here's one to the Malaysian Government from our Rainforest Tribe Kidz team who, as their name implies, are trying to help tribespeople affected by deforestation.  And here's another to Coca-Cola about aluminium cans.

Our playground sculpture
The week ended with some more good news - Bev, our Head Teacher had a letter from the Express & Star commending children for their Living History Project.  This was a fantastic art and local history project led by local artist and former pupil, Luke Perry.  As part of learning about their Black Country heritage, children made chain using traditional methods. 

Last year they helped to arc weld the large metal anchor they made in the playground too!  If you're at a school in the Midlands and you want to give children an amazing learning experience that'll stay with them forever, give Luke a call!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Rainforest survey, videos & bottletop art - fast, furious and fun!

Rainforest Animal Savers Team Action Plan
Progress has been fast and furious this week - needs must as we have sports day, class assembly and assessment week ahead - all of which will impact on time available for our rainforest projects.  So yes, fast, furious, always, always fun!

So this week children have discussing and mindmapping ideas for their projects.  After looking around a bit, I found iMindmap.  It's a great little app - the basic version is free though I decided it was worth the £9.99 so that we could, among other things, export the team maps.

Project Action Videos
The mindmaps provided the structure for children's team videos.  Children have had LOTS OF FUN and especially this week with their videos.  Very creative ideas from a planet saving character called Eco Boy (complete with eco costume!) battling a character called Polluto, to an Eco News Desk, jingles and animations - and that was from just one of the teams!
Our rainforest survey on Google forms

Taiwan, El Salvador & a Rainforest Survey with Google Forms!
We've also been exploring Google forms.  Over the last ten days or so, I've heard from Amy, a teacher in Taiwan, about a possible opportunity for our classes to connect.  Amy's school closes for the summer at the end of May, so with the end of the month fast approaching, we have been trying to remove the filtering  obstacles and find a time for our classes to virtually meet! I'm hopeful this will be possible and we're likely to use Google hangout.  But in the meantime, my class & I thought we'd put together a rainforest questionnaire.  Although Amy's class hasn't yet completed the survey,  through the GCT network, Jennifer from El Salvador kindly responded and we now have some survey results from a school in a country with rainforests.  My class are absolutely THRILLED and I hope that this will help children gain a real insight into the local impact of deforestation.   If you're reading this and have a class in a rainforest region, we'd love it if you'd take our survey also! 

Writing to influencers
Pupils have made a good start on their letter writing and I'll update here as these go out & the replies start to come back.  We received a postcard from Survival International this week thanking the children for their work on behalf of the Penan tribe of Borneo.  One rainforest team (the Rainforest Tribe Kidz) have chosen tribes as the focus for their project.  There's a real buzz in class about our projects - and there's an extra boost whenever we connect with others from beyond our classroom walls!

It's also helping us to put all these places on the map!  Children began a rainforest map a couple of months ago.  They've posted information they found using their rainforest cryptonyms.  From the start of Year 4, every pupil in class is known online by their rainforest cryptonym (like Leaf Cutter Ant or Poison Dart Frog)  and we use these at times when we're online eg. when we're map making or using Voicethread.  We've haven't visited in a little while but do take a look if you have a moment!  

So...what's next?
Counting bottletops
So...what's next?  It's assessment week in school so this will affect how much we can do on our projects this week.  I'm still hoping to run a session in class on Google search. I'd also like children to use forms to gather some more information relating to their action projects. 
Creating bottletop designs
We've also collected a mini-mountain of plastic bottle tops with help from the school community.   Luke Perry, an absoluely FANTASTIC artist who has worked with us on two amazing local history/art projects, will be helping us to create a piece of rainforest inspired bottle top artwork for our playground.  Children were busily creating their designs on Friday!


Monday, 7 May 2012

Plan it's mindmapping, videos & letter writing!

Last Thursday and Friday were inset days at school so I was able to spend some time with Bev, my Head Teacher talking through my Action Plan (a big thank you to Jo Badge & Mark Allen for reviewing!).  We shared lots of ideas for the project as well as thoughts about how the project might roll out and ways of using Google technology.  On my part, I shared a few nerves too!  These come with the territory of project based learning - the 'unknown' is built into this approach, it's a given.  If every aspect was nailed down at this point, there'd be zero scope for pupil choice and zero scope for a real context.  It'd way less fun too!

Fruits of the Rainforest by Year 4
Project Action Plans and Videos
So, this week teams are going to be working on their project action plans and videos.  I've created a document to share with teams highlighting what I'd like plans and videos to include.  Before you think it, I'll have to say it - the format is a bit - not child friendly at all!  So, having discovered iMindMap all of half an hour ago and being a fan already of Tony Buzan, I'm going to ask children to create a mindmap using our class iPod Touches.  I think the Buzan mindmaps look like pieces of art so, if we've time, I may ask children to draw their mindmaps too & then we can use Picasa to put the final touches.  In the meantime, if anyone can suggest another alternative let me know!

Letter writing
 Later on this week, I'd like teams to consider letter writing.  Persuasive writing and letters are part of the Year 4 curriculum so our projects will provide the all important real purpose!  As good writing is always boosted along by some good reading, we'll be starting by looking at some of the letters last year's pupils wrote concerning palm oil from sustainable sources.  Here's one example with some of the teaching points given in red.
Rainforest Enquiry
Our rainforest stakeholders' enquiry went well last Wednesday.  An hour in & with break time fast approaching, I reluctantly wound things down but pupils were really fired up for the discussion and every single person took part!  Quite a few children came along in rainforest inspired outfits which gave the whole thing a sense of occasion.  Becky, our visitor and a Reception teacher from a local school was enthusiastic too & hopes to start philosophy for children soon.  (I recommended Sara Stanley's excellent books especially for philosophy with very young children).

I'm hoping that somewhere along the way we'll be able to link with a school in a rainforest region of the world.  The children and I would love it!  There's a possibility of a link with a school in Taiwan.  If we are lucky enough to be able to do this, I'm sure it'll deepen the understanding of everyone involved in the project!  

Spot the difference?17 April & 30th April

Spot the difference...with a difference!
Lastly, a quick mention for Earthwatch. Over the last two weeks or so, children have been looking at a plot of land in Indonesia which is under threat from illegal logging.  We've signed up to watch and flag this area of rainforest if we spot any changes.  Local authorities are alerted if any plot of land is flagged and have pledged to investigate promptly.  A great use of satellite technology and a great way of pupils being involved in a vital rainforest saving effort! 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012 two of Google Apps!

We've been exploring Google Apps in class over the last two days.  Can't quite believe it's only been two days...they've loved it!  More about that in a mo...

Over the last few days we've heard in class from Margot James, our local MP and Tanya Blackburn, Head of Outreach at Survival International, an organisation that campaigns on behalf of tribal peoples around the world whose way of life & very existence is threatened by deforestation.  Both praised pupils' efforts to help rainforest people and, in particular, Molly for her Amnesty article about the Penan mentioned in an earlier post.  The class have been really encouraged.

Can 9 year olds really make a difference? 
Over the last few months children have been inspired by the examples of some amazing youngsters.  Here are just two:  Felix Finkbeiner, was a youngster of only 9 when he hatched the idea of planting a million trees as an answer to climate change.  Now 13, Felix's charity, Plant for the Planet, is up and running in 131 countries.  Children shared footage of Felix's message to the Earth Summit in an assembly. Look out for Felix's 'stop talking start planting' gesture to the conference president - children loved that! Cole Rasenberger provides another role model of what tenacity and passion can achieve - his persuasive postcard campaign caused the mighty McDonald's to rethink their policy on the sourcing of packaging.   Result!

Jumping right in to Google Apps
Yep! They've jumped right in with spreadsheets, sites and emails over the last couple of days.  And this is just the start!  I'm introducing pupils to the tools they'll be using for their rainforest projects.  Children are already familiar with Wallwisher from earlier in the year.  They've begun to use the walls to post their ideas for projects.  Everyone formed up into teams today & were given half an hour to prepare and deliver a 2 minute presentation to the class outlining their project focus.  Quite pacy!  Next, teams will be working on their Project Action Videos.  Through these they'll be fleshing out their team's project idea, possible actions for implementation and group roles. Although children's Google Apps accounts were only activated yesterday they were already using them yesterday evening to share ideas.  Needless to say enthusiasm and energy levels are running high..!

Walking a mile in someone else's moccasins
We have visitors from a nearby school tomorrow who've asked to see philosophy & the enquiry approach in action.  To help children explore some of the issues surrounding deforestation, we're going to for a different approach tomorrow.  Children are going to take part in the enquiry as stakeholders rather than as themselves!   They'll be debating the future of the rainforests in role as scientists, environmentalists, loggers and tribespeoples. (Going by some of the chatter at the end of the day today, I should think more than a few will be really going for it by dressing up to look the part too!)

In the meantime, I'm going to have a quick look at this on YouTube for suitability.  Children have heard about how it helped change some hearts and minds over at Mattel and have asked (repeatedly) if we can share it in class.  Pester power!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Google Apps - we're good to go!

This weekend I've been setting up Google Apps for my class.  A big thanks to Ian Addison for his very useful guide on how to do this and to Matt Lovegrove & Mark Allen for their sessions on this at GTAUK.  The parental permission letters went out on Wednesday.  After looking at a few examples, I pulled one together which I've shared here in case anyone wants to avoid reinventing the wheel!

My class are very excited about starting to use GApps & most of the permission letters have already come back. Tomorrow they'll be using Sites to create e-portfolios showing some of the work they've done in Year 4.  I couldn't find exactly the 'how to...' video I was looking for so I created a set of simple instructions for pupils to follow to start their sites.

Y4 at the Gurdwara
I was delighted to find how easy it is to embed videos on Sites - so pupils will be able to embed their own videos on a diverse range of topics from their chain making in the Black Country using traditional methods and their Tudor broadcasts about the lives and deaths of Henry VIII's unfortunate wives to their visits to one of Birmingham's Gurdwara last week.  The chainmaking and Gurdwara ones were made by pupils using iMovie on our iPodtouches.


Sunday, 22 April 2012

Google challenge - Be the change!

In April, Google challenged us, using Gandhi's famous words, 'to be the change you want to see in the world'.  With that in mind, I've been developing my action plan. Its  focus: How can project based learning and Google Apps accelerate learning in the primary classroom, develop global citizenship in pupils and make a contribution to sustainability?

Young Reporter of the Year Awards
One of the special things about being a teacher is sometimes experiencing the world from the children's perspectives.  Class enquiries give children free reign to discuss questions they've chosen - without lots of teacher talk! It's always an eye opener and more than a bit humbling.  I highly recommend it! Children  ask the most disarming questions - 'why are people cutting down rainforests when we all need them to breathe?' They simplify issues by going to the heart of the matter - our pupils asked two 'Seven Summit' mountaineers, 'if Mount Everest is so beautiful, why does it look like a rubbish tip now?'   They asked their local MP,  Margot James, 'what have you done to help the rainforests?' and 'what can children do to make a difference?'   Children have an unassailable belief that they can make change happen (obstacles? what obstacles?). And guess what? They can!

Margot James MP visiting Year 4
I've just posted Molly's article on our blog.  As part of our study of Borneo's rainforests, pupils wrote articles about the devastating impact of deforestation on the Penan people.  They reasoned that if the Penan could be allowed to live in the forests as their people have for hundreds of years, then that would be good news for the forests too!  I sent the articles off to Amnesty for their Young Reporter of the Year Awards.  Molly, one of the youngest of the 3000+ entrants, made the final ten!  Wow! 

Be the change you want to see in the world?  I think our young people will lead the way if we give them the opportunity!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Friday, 6 April 2012

I'm home now & relaxing in the afterglow of the truly fantastic & memorable GTA 2012 event!  It's been a privilege to meet with such fantastic and inspiring educators and to find out more about how Google awesome tools can be used in so many different learning settings.  I feel honoured to join this community of educators & moved by the warmth of the welcome!

Reflecting on my magic moments, I must say that, for me & I'm sure everyone else, there were just SO many!  Highlights certainly include the motion charts & animating data with Tia & Becky, mapping & story telling with Tom Barrett and the amazing youtube & flipping your classroom sessions with James Sanders - just awesome! 

I could write about many more highlights but, as we were asked to narrow our magic moments down to THE ONE, I've got to go for Mark Wagner's truly inspiring 'dream out loud' action plan session.  This is a genuine opportunity to be part of the change we want to see in the world and I can only guess at the amazing impact this will have for and through our learners!  I'm very excited about & looking forward to joining everyone for the journey this will take us all on!

My video application: