Monday, June 12, 2006

July 2006 - update

I continue to work with the Craft instructor to amend NAB materials. We are working on an assessment item within the Working with Craft Tools unit (Access 3). We are focusing on using ICT to enable 'drag and drop' matching tasks, which are more easy to access and respond to (while ensuring that Performance Criterion remains unchanged). These assessment tasks will be up-to-date and should promote pupil independence. Time constraints are worked around by meeting during time set aside for the monthly ICT drop-in session in my classroom.

We plan to make use of of time during the cross-curricular Activity Week to provide an option which utilises Garageband, iRiver, Logo, Comic Life, Audacity, Digital Camera etc. The pupil group will be challenged along the lines of:
""Your group are going to produce a 30 minute Radio show. In it will be your top 5 songs at the moment; your news, views and interviews; and a song or track that your group have produced. You can use the digital camera to shoot some video that will go along with the audio. You can keep a photo-diary of the day, which will be turned into a humourous comic strip."

We have used the Simply VR software to attempt to produce 360 degree Art and Craft images in order to allow pupils to showcase their efforts and to build up examples of work for their personalised S4 leavers CD-ROM. Unfortunately, the images taken by the digital camera are too large and I can't seem to reduce it. Therefore we will try to apply our animation skills (using StopMotionPro) to achieve a 360 image.

Our Radiowaves station (Hillside Beatbox) has a couple of new stories on it. Pupils worked in English to write a match report on our recent cup final. Our Green Team (Eco Schools) recently visited Craigencalt Ecology Centre. Upon return to the school, Class 3 decided that some follow-up questions were necessary in order to inspire the group for next sessions environmental activities. Therefore we set up a Skype call to Ronnie at Craigencalt. All questions were planned and sent to Ronnie in advance. The Skype call was recorded using Hot Recorder. After the call, pupils were then able to use Audacity to carefully select the key parts of the conversation, which was then uploaded to our Radiowaves station, where it remains one of the 'Featured Stories'.

Pupils in Class 3 continue to be encouraged to search for appropriate educational podcasts during their studies. Recently, during some Social Subjects research (Marine conservation) and pupil went into iTunes and searched for this term. They then selected two shows from the ten listed (DiveFilm podcast) for listening to in the coming weeks. As usual, they will be encouraged to give feedback to the producers in terms of production values, and any follow-up questions.

One of the static class teachers spoke to me about the challenge of teaching Long Division. We searched on the Web for examples of good practice. One of the strategies that we agreed to try out was to use the enhanced podcasts produced by Millthorpe School. These podcasts have audio and video, and are humorous and in a context. In August we will allow the class to access the Long Division show, evaluate its impact, and feed-back to the producers along with some follow-up questions from the pupils.

During a separate Social Subjects project, myself and a pupil visited the Royal Museum in Edinburgh. We took photos of relevant Ancient Egypt artefacts, which the pupil then tagged, commented on, and added notes to using the class Flickr account, when back in the classroom. The pupil was 100% on task, and became aware that using social software (where anyone on the Web can see the photos and his comments/interpretations etc) means taking care over content. The Flickr task helped to reinforce his learning (in a sense helping anonymous, future learners searching Flickr using Ancient Egypt related tags). I plan to explore the potential for using Flickr tasks like these as assessment tools. I discussed assessement options with the pupil and he agreed that I would contact a History teacher, who will be asked to visit the class Flickr page and 'mark' (comment) on the pupil's work ie accuracy of notes, appropriateness of tags.

After our recent success in Video Conferencing with The National Archives in Kew, we have used the booking system at Global Leap to once again engage with their staff (in September), this time as we learn about Victorian Child Criminals' Poetry. Having an event like this in the diary helps to sustain a positive, focused ethos in the class. It reinforces that staff are committed to creating enhanced learning opportunities, and builds upon previous success (both academically and socially ie being able to interact purposefully with a 'new face'. I'm aware of new technology (particulary associated with the new Macs) which means that soon the bulky equipment needed for good quality Video Conferencing may no longer be necessary. With the support available, I'm confident that at least one other teacher will make use of the booking opportunities available at Global-Leap.

The last Access Network meeting (held at the end of June) continued to provide support to those who are considering amending NABs. One influence on future direction (of amending NABs) is that a number of SQA subject reviews are taking place, therefore I will focus on those units which we currently deliver that are not currently subject to review. For example, Social Subjects NABs have been rewritten and show a great improvement; although I'll still be giving advice on alternatives as Social Subjects assessments, in particular, can be made more accessible and meaningful through, for example, blogging or the creation of a podcast. By the start of September, those pupils who are working on an Independent Study Contract will be discussing with me how they will show that they have met the evidence requirements of an Access 2 or 3 Social Subjects unit. This approach remains intensive. For example, I've noted that pupils need to set themselves a couple of targets towards the end of the previous lesson (in the day). Often this means that they have break time to consider their work so that a productive 45 session follows. The class is typified by movement, discussion and drafting, and although often appearing like a booruch; pupils remain 'on task' for the lesson, have clear ownership of resources and learning, and appear to learn more (with some freedom to move there learning in different directions).

During Independent Living (PSE) we continue to use a Rogerian, person-centred approach. The current unit is entitled 'My Home'. Pupils worked together to choose the order in which the 7 sections would be tackled, and then chose 2 learnings styles/modes for each section eg 'Moving On' was selected first, to be studied primarily via discussion and a visitor to the school. This continues to be very labour-intensive, though you learn to make the most of resources and external links. I believe that this element to Class 2's ethos is only sustainable with classroom support, good health, and receiving all 'Preparation and Correction' periods. Over the summer, I will consider one more subject that this approach could be realistically used with (eg Media Studies). The Rogerian approach was 'done to me' during a Masters unit at Moray House; delivered by tutor Richard Hendry. I decided to try it out with PSE, as pupils require a degree of ownership of a life skills programme and due to the existing programme being well structured, though 'dry'. Class 5 have started work on a whole-class animation in French which will allow them to script the language that they have learnt during Unit 1. Set in Paris, the characters are ... snowmen.

For the 'Where I Live' section, pupils were to dream of their ideal living environment (lead-up work had been done by immersing ourselves in the excellent The Real Game). The chose to each produce an animation. Therefore, I gave them the following task: Produce >30 second animation (with £0 budget) entitled, "Welcome! Let me show you around my new home." This block of animation (where the classroom assistant and myself are now comfortable with this media) was noticeable by pupils improving their planning (storyboarding), selection of resources, and control/manipulation of filming.

My weekly podcast has just reached it's summer holidays (21 episodes in 6 months). Show 21 gives an overview of what's best in the Web 2.0/new media world at present and also sees me reflect on podcasting within Hillside. Of note, my colleagues now have access to the database of educational podcasts that I've built up during this year. This will go live on the Web at the end of the summer (as a result of collaboration with a fellow Scottish 'edublogger'). The second batch of Independent Living podcasts are booked in for recording during August and September, for release at during October. ETwinning, RSS, and the edublogger community help me to keep an international focus. Relating this to my conviction that genuine collegiality and collaboration is central to 21st Century teacher professionalism, I will continue to host a fortnightly Skypecast over the summer ('Podcasting in the Classroom'). So far, the 3 conversations have covered resources, benefits/constraints, project ideas, and sharing of best practice.

One focus for the FLaT project has been to offer pupils and class teachers the entire range of Access 3 clusters. Media Studies (Analysis and Production units) has been introduced to Class 3 during the last term. The key textbook is GCSE Media Studies (OCR) by Longman; ironically a bit out-of-date as it has nothing on social/new media, although any text over 6 months old would probably suffer in this respect.

Recently, I met with an Enterprise in Education representative. We sketched some plans for the year ahead and discussed appropriate Enterprise packages and contacts. It is expected that myself and our Craft teacher will develop a couple of links from next session. Two classes have worked on Enterprise activities this term, without any FLaT support, so I'm considering how we can collaborate with external organisations to enhance the experience for pupils and build on the toehold within our curriculum. The Food and Drink Challenge would enable us again to work with local business and possibly Further Education.

Learnng via interactive 'off-timetable' events will continue into session 2006/7. The Teenage Health Promotion morning is booked to take place at the school in September, and The RealCare Baby and parenting programme looks likely to be funded, and find its way into our PSE/after-school curriculum from October. This report (and a previous introductory programme run at Hillside) has convinced me that pupils will benefit from this kinesthetic approach.

Class 5's Maths class in the school benefits from a high level of team-teaching. One period a week is given to 'ICT Maths'. As the term drew to a close, I decided that a way to 'cement' the pupils' learing of multiplication by 2 digits would be for them to collaborate to produce a 2-page comic, using Comic Life (bundled with new Macs) which in a fun way would teach the reader how to tackle such a calculation. The pupils were given a 10 minute tour of Comic Life, and as 'digital natives' (well, 2/3rds were) spent the next 30 minutes genuinely collaborating on a meaningful task. Two of the boys were particularly encouraging of the classmate who wasn't too confident with the technology. The task was fun (making me do silly poses and making daft statements) and it brought the step-by-step process alive. The end result was produced within a period; though as all of this should be about the 'teach' and not the 'tech', it is important to consider, in advance, WHY the technology is being used and if it an efficient use of time and resource. I regard Comic Life as another tool in the toolkit. It is not 'the answer', but there will be a time-and-a-place (particularly in Modern Foreign Languages).