Archive for teaching with technology

Today I had one of those experiences which blows you away by the nature of it’s unexpected success. We used Twitter to connect and bring two oil riggers, each on opposite sides of the world, live into our classroom.

To back track slightly – as part of our Diamond Decades topic, this week we are learning about the 70s. On Monday we watched a video about the 1970s and amongst the strikes, 3 day week, no electricity etc we watched an oil rig being installed in the North Sea. The children were fascinated and following some discussion, beyond knowing somehow it got oil and thought it would be like a cruise liner inside – they didn’t really know much more.

That evening thought it might be an idea to follow up this child-led interest and see if some ‘experts’ could answer a few questions. I tweeted the following.

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Thanks to all the people who retweeted – we got a good few offers of help. These included current riggers, an ex-rigger who lived and worked on a North Sea rig in the 1970s, as well as a Year 5 class in Norwich, many of whose parents currently work on the rigs. We set up a Linoit, children posted questions as one of their first morning activities, published them and people have started to answer our questions there. We were collaborating and using real experiences to enhance our learning.

In addition to this, I had two offers of help from riggers who were also on Twitter, Craig Johnson in Western Hebrides, off Scotland and Mr McKinley, currently on a rig off the coast of China. We sorted out the time differences arranged a time for my class to ‘chat’ live on twitter.

My class have an account and we use it in fits and starts. I do use a Tweeter of the Day (if I remember) but a lot of the time it is additional information for our blog, so therefore for parents. But as a result children do have the Twitter App on their iPads. This Tweetchat was upping the anti for us somewhat!

As I sat down to start, I suddenly realised I wasn’t exactly sure how this was going to pan out. I know I am capable of having a chat with a couple of people on Twitter simultaneously whilst following various conversation threads, but could I navigate a class though this and retain their interest? Could our riggers keep up with the questions if too many posted at once? How would we be able to display all the different answers? Suddenly Skype seems a more appealing option!

My intention was to start with one iPad per table linked to our Twitter account which children would post questions from and everyone else would view the @ connect feed on the IWB. I would facilitate it from my teacher account and somehow everyone would still feel involved. We did a quick e-safety chat and started.
We ran into issues almost immediately – the iPads were quicker than my network connected PC linked to the The @connected feed wouldn’t show conversations, so as more questions were posted, and answers came with photos attached, the children with iPads were viewing these excitedly whilst the rest were waiting for me to flick between them on the board. Children with iPads were wanting to ask more questions before the rest of the class had had a chance to digest (or even see) the original answer. At the same time I was trying to take some photos of the activity for our class blog!

In the end I let go. The IWB got ignored. Children buddied up in pairs, logged on to Twitter with one iPad between them and asked their own questions, viewed the threads they wanted to follow and asked their own follow up questions. This meant I had 30 children totally engaged, navigating their own pathways through the responses, choosing what interested them and then excitedly bringing me photos and facts they’d learnt. I watched the learning happen.

I have to at this stage to give utmost credit to @craig294 and @ABMckinley for their patience, speed, informative answers and for attaching captivating pictures to their tweets. The children made their learning but these two guys made it come alive!

To have brought experts from two different sides of the world live into our classroom was an exciting experience in itself. To have experienced the children taking control and creating their own meaningful learning from the opportunity was more incredible.

Success has opened up ideas and other possibilities. One account with many children hooked in having their own experience. Simple. What if you could connect to a fictional character related to your topic (I know some on Twitter have already done this), but live in a classroom situation? What if you used another class, using another single Twitter username as the ‘expert’

One thing I’ve already noticed this year is how much less cluttered my classroom is. There isn’t the pile of resources covered in post-its for my TA to photocopy each morning and I’m picking up less scrap at the end of each day. I’ve relegated the charging cabinet outside another classroom and manage with one surge protected tower of 10 plugs – that doesn’t count as clutter! Surely 34 iPads haven’t made my room tidier? Well possibly…

I also realised the answer to the declutter question was more importantly linked to a process that allowed the children to choose and self differentiate the level at which they want or are able to work, look at things at their own pace and at times in more detail.

Today I have finished marking my assessed writing from the end of last term.

In Literacy we are focusing on how writers create tension in their writing. Our main stimulus is a Chinese story written in poetry form to link in with our topic, but on the success of the recent Wii lesson, I wanted to use Myst to build on the idea of magpie-ing words and phrases to use in writing. I then wanted to help children apply these to a structured format to have a better understanding of how using paragraphs can organise their writing.

I used a section of Myst V I have used before for setting descriptions, but the fact it starts in a room, then goes down a corridor before you are faced with glowing bubble form, linked well with the idea of a trapped/escape/surprise structure. So the focus was to build tension with a descriptive setting, before using the corridor to have a fast paced escape and then a sudden surprise/question which had the possibility of moving to a climax.

This week I tried using Mario Kart on the Wii to help my class apply the features of creating tension and a build up in their writing. It was predominantly a Speaking and Listening lesson, but they grasped what I was trying to get them to do really well so I gave them 20 minutes writing time at the end to write 3 short paragraphs including the features we had identified. Some of their work can be found below.

We started by playing a few rounds of the game, practising using the pause button to swap between drivers. They needed to be able to do this efficiently as I was going to be stopping and starting them a lot!. I only used one controller (on purpose) and the 10 minutes or so doing this got the general excitement out of their systems and we could move on to with a little more focus.

We then recapped how writers create tension in their writing, created a list of SC and then applied these to three parts of the Mario game; sitting on the start line, leaving the start line and describing an incident such as a crash. I created a “magpie” sheet for them, with 3 columns

Today I spent the morning at another school. I learnt so much just watching experienced teachers and left on such a high! It will be by mission for the rest of this year to visit another school in my NQT time at least every second week.

I watched a year 4 maths lesson and it was great to see how choice could be offered within a fairly structured lesson. By giving them options (two in this case), this passed responsibility back to children for what they were doing, as it was their choice. More incentive to achieve. I have an observed lesson on Tuesday and would love to try it, but think it is something the children will need some experience at before being able to make good choices independently.

I then went into a the classroom of a totally inspirational teacher. A teacher I’d met at a TeachMeet recently. Just the way she interacted with her students was brilliant. I enjoyed being in her lesson! She used the Wii and a safari game to inspire and provide stimulus for a literacy lesson on diary writing. I liked the way she gave the ownership of writing the success criteria to the students via post-it notes. I also liked her mental starter for literacy to improve a sentence – done in the back of the literacy books. Children in the class were engaged and all worked silently and independently to complete the task. The plenary had children identifing WOW sentences in their own work and were offered the opportunity to self assess against SC before handing in.

Even the small things such as seeing how teachers organise their files, discussing projects, plans and lessons that worked and excited the children. I walked away with two great ideas for reading passports and some guided reading cues! And they were just cherries on the icing of having observed some inspired practice.

Don