SOLE Part 2

In my last post SOLE Part 1 – I outlined the reason/purpose and methodology behind this study. This week, the sessions were delivered.

Here are the phases/year groups BIG questions and a selection of photographs from the week…

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It is possible that this weeks SOLE based Lesson Study has raised more questions than it has answered. However, one thing is certain; if SOLE is to be implemented/used effectively, it requires as much strategic planning and rigour as any other pedagogical method – such as CBL, PBL etc – to be successful.  We have witnessed incredible learning this week, including Foundation Stage children discussing and understanding scientific concepts from KS3 programmes of study. However, we have also encountered difficulties, particularly with regards to individuals’ collaborative skills and reading ability. This is where careful planning needs to take place; what skills do children need to possess to participate/be successful in a SOLE session? This is about developing skills and attitudes that children need to initiate their own learning.

Whether you agree, or disagree, with this…

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…or this…

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…surely, as a profession, we can agree that developing skills and attitudes that children need to initiate their own learning, is vital… can’t we?!

Add your ideas here – http://padlet.com/chris_edwards/SOLE

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SOLE Part 1

In April 2015, I had the pleasure of meeting Sugata Mitra. As part of the Eos International Conference, I was privileged to observe Sugata Mitra deliver a SOLE session at Harstholme Academy and listen to his keynote at the conference itself. Prior to this, I had also watched all of his TED Talks. Since then, I and other colleagues have experimented with SOLE sessions with our pupils. I have also, via Twitter, read numerous blog posts both for and against this method of learning. To be blunt, SOLE is a bit like Marmite; you either love it or you hate it. When it comes to SOLE, it is safe to say that educators have very strong opinions on both sides!

As a result, I decided to make SOLE the focus of our latest Lesson Study at school. For 2 years now, we have used Lesson Study (with great success) as a way of experimenting with and embedding new ideas and pedagogies.

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Before the study started, I asked staff to peruse the School in the Cloud website and I posed the following questions…

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Although we call what we do ‘Lesson Study’, we do not follow the process set out at http://lessonstudy.co.uk to the letter. At our school, teachers (in groups of 4-6) plan, deliver and evaluate a lesson. We conduct 3 studies per academic year and each study has a specific focus – e.g. Math through CBL or Writing through SOLE.

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Today, groups planned their SOLE sessions. In my next post (SOLE Part 2), I will share these sessions and attempt to answer MY BIG QUESTION… Are Self Organised Learning Environments an effective way of learning?

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My Top 10 iPad Apps for the Primary Classroom

I have been using iPads in the primary classroom for over four years now. In that time, I have downloaded and experimented with hundreds of apps; some great, some useless. Here are my top 10!

10. Coach’s Eye

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Coach’s Eye has been developed as a performance-enhancing video app for sport. It enables you to video, replay (including in slow motion), add commentary and annotate. In the classroom, we use it to provide peer feedback and peer coaching.

9. Red Laser

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Red Laser is a QR code reader and generator. In the classroom, we use it to generate and read QR codes linked to web content. We also use it alongside Sound Cloud (see number 7) to give and receive peer feedback.

8. Sound Cloud

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Sound Cloud enables you to record audio and store it in a cloud. Once in the cloud, you can generate a URL and create a QR code for your audio. In the classroom, we use it document spoken learning and provide peer feedback.

7. iMovie

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‘iMovie makes it easy to browse and share the HD video you shoot on your iOS device. Turn your favourite clips into blockbuster films or Hollywood-style trailers. And watch your mini-masterpieces anywhere with iMovie Theater. A few taps, a few swipes, and you’re ready for your big premiere.’ Children from Foundation through to year 6 find this app intuitive and have great success in creating professional quality videos. Learning opportunities with this app are endless.

6. WordFoto

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WordFoto, an app that turns your photos and words into amazing typographic  works of art. In the classroom, we use this to generate vocabulary around settings and characters.

5. ScratchWork

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‘ScratchWork allows you to take notes and browse the web while having the two side by side to avoid back and forth flipping.’ If, like me, you use the internet a lot in your classroom, this is a must.

4. 360 Cities

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‘360Cities’ Panoramic World features the interactive panoramas of thousands of the best panorama photographers from around the globe, whose panoramas come to life on your iPad.’ Learning about Egypt but can’t afford to take you class on a visit? This app is not a bad second best.

3. Google Drive

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Google Drive has transformed the way I teach. ‘You can keep photos, stories, designs, drawings, recordings, videos – anything. Your files in Drive can be reached from any smartphone, tablet, or computer. You can quickly invite others to view, download, and collaborate on all the files you want–no email attachment needed.’

2. Book Creator

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‘Book Creator is the simple way to make your own beautiful ebooks, right on your iPad.’ Does what it says on the tin. Very intuitive and I haven’t met a child yet who doesn’t like it!

1. Explain Everything

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‘Explain Everything is an easy-to-use design, screencasting, and interactive whiteboard tool that lets you annotate, animate, narrate, import, and export almost anything to and from almost anywhere.’ The children in my class and I use this every day. If I could only use one app in my classroom, this would be it. A must for all teachers and pupils!

Developing the use of new technologies to support teacher feedback and peer assessment

Last week I was invited to speak at CfBT’s Schools Working Together Conference. Here is the gist of what I shared…

Teacher Feedback
Effective feedback is vital if children are to make progress. For many years, teachers have given feedback in books through written comments. Whilst this has its’ place, I question how effective written feedback is, especially for younger children and those with low levels of reading ability. For this reason, I often provide verbal feedback and find this to be most effective. However, this raises two issues. Firstly, verbal feedback requires the teacher to provide this, to the individual child, during lesson time. How feasible is this considering many of us have 30 children in our class at any one time? Secondly, if feedback is given verbally, where is the ‘trail’ of feedback in a child’s book (learning journey) for the child and others (parents, SLT, OFSTED etc) to see?

To solve both issues, I have started to use SoundCloud and QR Codes. SoundCloud is an iPad app and cloud storage that enables me to record my verbal feedback (without the child being present) and store it as an audio file ‘in the cloud’. I then, using RedLaser, generate a QR code linked to the audio file’s URL in SoundCloud. I print it, stick it in the child’s book and then they scan it using a mobile device to listen to my feedback.

Peer Assessment
After the success of using SoundCloud and QR codes to provide effective teacher feedback, I then considered the possibilities of using this for peer assessment. Peer assessment raises the same issues as teacher feedback but also generates the issue of the ‘peer assessors’ ability to write or communicate their feedback effectively through written word. Children in my class, of all abilities, now provide peer assessment through the use of SoundCloud and QR codes. This has also proven to be most effective.

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My Interview with personalizelearning.com

I recently did an interview for personalizelearning.com with Kathleen McClaskey and Barbara Bray. You can find it here: http://www.personalizelearning.com/2012/11/messy-learning-interview-with-chris.html

OR HERE!

‘Messy Learning: Interview with Chris Edwards

TRANSFORMATIONAL TEACHER INTERVIEW: CHRIS EDWARDS

Chris Edwards is a year 2 – Class2CE teacher at Chad Varah Primary School, Addison Drive, Lincoln, England. The school is for children in years F (4yrs old) to 6 (11yrs old) with nearly 500 children in the school. There are 2 forms (classes) per year group with approximately 30 children in each form (class). Before Chris became a teacher, he was a professional musician. During that time, he occasionally worked with children, teaching music. Chris loved it so much that he decided to become a teacher. He has now been teaching six years.

We have been asked by primary teachers how to personalize learning for young children, so we interviewed Chris how he has personalized learning for children 6 to 7 years old.

Q. Why did you decide to personalize learning?
A. I decided to personalise learning in my classroom about a year ago. I watched a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson (the king of creativity) speaking about how he believes that our current education system is killing creativity. What made me think the most was when he said this: “Shakespeare was in someone’s class once, right?” And I thought wow! I have never considered who I may have in my class! I had never realised that in my class could be the next Steve Jobs, the next Prime Minister… What if there is a child in my class now who has the potential to cure cancer… When I started thinking in this way, it changed everything. It made me realise that the most important thing was ensuring that every individual child in my class, realised and reached their full potential.

To make things worse, with that in mind, when I evaluated the teaching and learning in my classroom, I realised that it was not fit for purpose. Regardless of the good observations, I couldn’t, hand on heart, say that the teaching and learning in my classroom inspired and enabled every individual to reach their full potential and develop their individual talents. So I changed it. [Read about how Chris used iPads during an evaluation hiding in his cupboard while his children researched how to bring him home from Greenland.]

I am confident that I now have a system in place that doesn’t kill creativity but rather encourages and engages children in learning. Most importantly I’m confident that we are developing an environment in which all children, supported by me (the facilitator), can begin to realise and reach their full potential.

Q. How are learners in your class changing?
A. The learners in my class are changing in a very noticeable way. The learners in my class are no longer passive. They are engaged in their own learning and are motivated. Most importantly, they are learning to be resourceful and resilient. Learning anything is an inherently frustrating process. How can it not be? If we knew it all already, we would not be “learning”! Therefore, having a personality that is more likely to carry on despite frustrations – that is, being academically resilient – is proving to be a huge success. In the form of the iPad, children have a multi-purpose tool that enables them to problem solve effectively. This is helping children to become resourceful and resilient.

Q. What are you going to do to different this year in your classroom?
A. Over this next academic year I will be carrying out a small scale research project. I have called this project ‘Messy Learning.’ Over the course of the year, I will focus on and try to answer the following questions…
Can we ensure better progress (against nation curriculum targets – movement through lit and num levels) when we engage children in personalised learning using handheld devices?
Are children more likely to discover and develop their individual talents when engaged in personalised learning and are using handheld devices?
Is it important that children discover and develop their individual talents or should we focus on basic skills (literacy and numbers)?

Q. How did you change your classroom?
A. I learned how to redesign my classroom from Kevin McLaughlin. Here are a few pictures of the redesign of my classroom.’

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Using technology to engage learners

This week, I was observed by my Headteacher. The focus for the observation was ‘Engagement and Progress’. I have 29 children in my class and 16 iPads. Here is an outline of what we did.

In order for the ‘engagement’ aspect of this lesson to work, I spent the first 2 hours of the day hidden in my cupboard. My LSA welcomed the class, took the register and started the day – the children had no idea where I was – I watched on a monitor from the confines of my hiding place. 9.30am arrived and my Headteacher entered my classroom to observe me unaware of where I was. “Have you seen Mr Edwards?” My LSA asked my Headteacher (my LSA knew where I was, of course). With this, I appeared on the IWB (using my iPad camera and airserverapp). I had hung a big white sheet behind me to disguise where I was. The children became very excited.

“2CE”, I said, “I got so excited about your work on the North Pole that I decided to go. However, I got lost, I think I’m somewhere in Greenland and I really need your help. I have to whisper as I can hear some animals near by. I don’t know what animals they have here, so if some of you could find out and email me a list, that would be great. Also, it’s really cold here. Could you email me a list of suitable warm clothes to wear please? There’s lots of snow here. I’ve heard of a shelter called an igloo but I have no idea what they look like or how to make one. If some of you could find out what an igloo looks like and then have a go at building one using materials around the classroom, that would be a big help. Perhaps you could video yourselves making it to help me out. Finally, I don’t actually know where Greenland is! Can you have a look on the maps app and email me a screen shot? I’d really appreciate your help all! Speak soon.”

With this, they were off! Within 5 minutes, I was receiving emails from my class with screenshots of maps. Within 10 minutes, the emails containing lists of arctic animals and warm clothing started arriving. It was working! I could see on my monitor that all children were engaged and were completing the ‘tasks’ with excitement. I could also see small groups of children collaborating to build igloos using lego, blocks and boxes. Every so often I would reappear to thank the children and display excellent examples of what individuals had emailed through.

To close the lesson, I appeared on the IWB to explain that a rescue helicopter had found me and was bringing me back to school. As the children went out for play, I emerged from the cupboard.

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Handheld Learning Conference 2012

Today, Thursday 11th October, I was given the opportunity to share with other teachers what happens in my classroom at The Handheld Learning Conference in Hull. Here is what I shared.

One thing that always seems to ring true, usually in hindsight, is that you should use the right tool for the job. The reasons are varied but usually amount to reducing the amount of effort to get a job done or ensuring you don’t damage your work (or yourself).

In fact, Abraham Lincoln said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

This, in essence, is what I want to talk about today: mobile devices as tools. I do not believe that they are a magic wand that will solve all of our problems. In fact, I am of the opinion that if they are introduced as some kind of ‘quick fix’ to somehow enhance teaching and learning, that they could end up having the opposite effect and could actually hinder good learning and progress. And so, it’s important to understand that I started by thinking about learning – the devices came after.

I love the TED app on my iPad. I can sit for hours browsing and watching inspirational talks. One of the first I watched was a talk by Sir Ken Robinson (the king of creativity) speaking about how he believes that our current education system is killing creativity. What made me think the most was when he said this: “Shakespeare was in someone’s class once, right?” And I thought wow! I have never considered who I may have in my class! I had never realised that in my class could be the next Steve Jobs, the next Prime Minister… What if there is a child in my class now who has the potential to cure cancer… When I started thinking in this way, it changed everything. It made me realise that the most important thing was ensuring that every individual child in my class, realised and reached their full potential.

To make things worse, with that in mind, when I evaluated the teaching and learning in my classroom, I realised that it was not fit for purpose. Regardless of the good observations, I couldn’t, hand on heart, say that the teaching and learning in my classroom inspired and enabled every individual to reach their full potential and develop their individual talents. So I changed it.

Forgive me for sharing this aspect but remember, teaching and learning first, tools second. What’s the point in having an axe if you don’t have a tree to cut down? So briefly, here I some of the things that I’ve done…

I scrapped whole class carpet time. I worked out that if children sit on the carpet for a 15min intro and plenary every lesson of every day from year 1 through to year 6, they will spend a total on 96 days (24hours) sitting in the carpet!
I asked the children what they wanted to learn about and how they wanted to learn it.
I completely changed the classroom layout. I scrapped set seating arrangements. I scrapped ability groups and therefore 4-way differentiation.
This is now my classroom layout. (See picture). It is based on a problem solving and development room at a company called Maya based in Pittsburgh. Children move freely around the area/zones. Differentiation is now 30-way, personalised to the needs, likes and talents of the individual. In essence, it’s personalised, project-based learning. This includes literacy and numeracy. Every child’s individual ability in these core areas are assessed and monitored daily, and individual targets are set and reviewed regularly on a 1:1 basis.
It’s messy… I’ve labelled it ‘messy learning’… But, I am confident that I now have a system in place that doesn’t kill creativity but rather encourages and engages children in learning. Most importantly I’m confident that we are developing an environment in which all children, supported by me (the facilitator), can begin to realise and reach their full potential.

So… Why iPads?

Well, this where ‘the right tool for the job’ becomes applicable. If I am expecting children to become responsible, enthusiastic consumers of knowledge, then 2 slow computers in the corner of the room are not fit for purpose. If am encouraging children to work collaboratively on creative projects, supporting them as they develop their artistic, musical and cinematic skills, then large, difficult to use, slow, fixed machines are not fit for purpose. If I am wanting to enable 21st century learners to reach their full potential and make a real difference in a 21st century world, driven by new technologies, then in my opinion, children need to be using and exploring the power of new technologies in a relevant way.

I’d like to finish by sharing my favourite use of the iPad… Blogging… The 16 iPads that I have in my classroom have really opened up a world of possibilities with regards to the sharing of learning and giving children’s work a wider audience. Children are now able to upload writing, pictures, videos etc to the class blog with the touch of a few buttons. Children can take a photo, using the iPad, describe what they have been learning to do and upload it for the world to see. Children do this during the school day and by the time they are collected by their parents, the parents can have seen what their children have been doing during the day and have a great discussion about it on the way home.

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