The value of a PLN for generating, sharing and building on ideas

During the first week of EDC3100 I think we were all a little overwhelmed by the workload and the time consuming task of setting up our PLN. Nearing the end of Semester now, I am thankful that I undertook that initial task of making connections and the subsequent maintenance of connections over the past 15 weeks.

Each time I was given a lesson to plan for I was able to confidently find the information, resources, and ideas that would make it an engaging experience for the students. My peers’ blogs provided a valuable source of current, relevant information and I was able to easily find already tried-and-tested resources and websites.

Pinterest has been another favourite source of ideas throughout prac as I find the visual layout easy to scroll through to find something that looks interesting.

The benefit of a PLN is demonstrated in my peers’ responses to my previous blog post in which I discussed Easi-speak USB recorders. Not only did my peers find this information useful, but they responded by adding their thoughts and ideas, which allowed me to extend my thinking and integrate this technology in even more beneficial ways. One of my peers, Karla, wrote her own blog post about her thoughts for using Easi-speaks to allow students to voice their understandings, enabling the teacher to use this as a form of formative or summative assessment without slowing down the pace of the lesson by stopping to talk to each student and record anecdotal observations. I found this to be a fantastic idea for their use and a great example of the benefits of a PLN, where people can work together to generate, share and build upon ideas.

Reflection on ICT integration

Throughout my Professional Experience and even more so now that it is coming to an end, I have been reflecting on the ways in which I integrated ICTs into my teaching and the things that I have learnt throughout EDC3100.

Without a doubt, the biggest lesson that I have taken away from this course is that while technology is a fantastic tool for enhancing learning, the presence of ICTs is not enough alone. Technology use needs to be accompanied by an appropriate pedagogy to ensure that it is integrated into teaching in a way that enables new learning that would not be possible without it.

I experienced many cases of successful and not so successful use of ICTs during my PE, and generally when the use was not so successful it came down to pedagogy. When the use of ICTs was successful, it was a fantastic feeling to see students engaged, on task, and learning or experiencing something that they would not have had access to otherwise.

Throughout this course and my professional experience I have learnt that when thinking about how ICTs can be used in a lesson, a few extra moments of thought and a review of some of the frameworks that we have discovered (my favourite table to audit ICT use against is Aditi Rao’s) can help to easily tweak the use of technology into authentic integration.

Mid Prac Reflections

I can’t believe how fast the past 2 weeks have flown by! We are over half way through our Professional Experience now, with only a week to go. By now I feel that I have settled in and gotten to the students, teachers and what is expected of me, so the last week will be a good one, with my level of teaching and planning increasing.

I have enjoyed the experience so far and tried to take all of the feedback on board, which included being more prepared for lessons (more specific in my lesson plans) and getting on top of students’ behaviour.  My mentor has stated that I need to expect more from the Year Ones as they are capable of much more than I am used to with 3-4 year olds, who I normally work with.

As far as ICTs go, the class use them quite a lot on a regular basis, in ways that generally enhance learning. For example, they often use the classroom computers and MP3 players during literacy and maths rotations, and the teacher will often present a worksheet or activity to students by projecting it on to the board with an ipevo and then discussing or completing it together, which helps students to learn from each other.

I have been able to present digital photos to students in this way as a stimulus for discussion on shapes, and it kept students engaged in the lesson, while also allowing them to relate shapes to their everyday environment and collaborate on identifying all of the shapes in the pictures.

Well, back to the lesson planning, hope you are all having a great weekend and enjoy your final week of prac!

 

Digital Citizenship

This is just a quick post, because I would really like to link to a blog by a fellow educator, Jennifer, titled “One Step Ahead”, in particular a post about digital citizenship which I found to be very clear and informative.

This post will be useful for future reference as it discusses 9 elements of digital citizenship and links to a blog post titled “Digital Citizenship Survival Kit”, which teaches digital citizenship with props, for example using a padlock to symbolise strong passwords and a tube of toothpaste to symbolise that once it’s out there, you can’t put it back in. Thanks for a great post Jennifer!

 

Pedagogical Knowledge

In the lead up to Professional Experience next week, I decided to review the Pedagogical Knowledge forum on Studydesk to familiarise myself with some strategies for Year One students, particularly as I have only ever worked with 3-4 year olds before.

Some of the tips that appealed to me are summarised below:

  • Different strategies to signal a change in activity to children, for example in language rotations. These include strategies like hand clap patterns, everyone pointing to where they need to move to, and call and response type phrases such as “Lollies!” with students calling back “Yum Yum”. There are many variations such as, “Macaroni and Cheese” with the reply being “Everybody freeze!” or “1-2-3 Eyes on Me” where the students reply “1-2 Eyes on You”.
  • “Eyes on me or my shoulder” may be more inclusive of cultural groups that prefer not to make eye contact.
  • Understanding your students prior to setting goals/expectations/rules
  • Questioning students to gauge understanding
  • “Copy-me gestures” such as hands on head or finger on nose
  • Choosing class leaders for certain activities such as lining up
  • What How Why strategy: “What” students are going to be learning about, “How” they are going to be engaging with the new learning (listening, reading, viewing etc.) and include if it is individual, small group, whole class. “Why” – outline expectations of students and what they will be producing to show their learning.  Eg: does it form as part of an assessment piece, produce a short story…
  • Reminding students of appropriate actions with positive statements, for example, “Walking in the hallway please” (rather than “Don’t run”)
  • Explaining why you are doing certain things so that they understand the reason behind actions
  • At clean up time, tell students that there is one special peice of paper (a secret) and the one who puts that in the bin will receive a prize or gets to leave the class first.
  • Having high standards for your students
  • WALT/WILF/TIB – ‘We Are Learning To’, ‘What I’m Looking For’, and ‘This is Because…’
  • Using maths concepts in small games as a break and to re-focus the class
  • Asking students for help because you are new, for example asking them questions about how the classroom runs and what they need to do.
  • Coloured pegs for group activities to signify which group they belong to (helps with fine motor as well – this is probably for younger children than Year One)
  • Use a variety of teaching strategies, for example direct instruction, discussion and hands on activities.
  • “The Talking Clock” – to show the level of talking that is appropriate. Clock hands would point to the 3 when the teacher is talking and only one person (teacher or student) can talk at a time, the 6 would indicate the chance to discuss with your partner and teacher and the 9 indicates group work so discussions in small groups. The 12 indicates outdoor activities and play. Pictures can be added for younger classes.
  • K.W.L chart (What I know, What I want to know and What I have learnt)
  • Learning all students names as soon as possible (draw up a seating plan or try writing a prominent attribute next to their name to help you remember)
  • Develop a routine for  class activities, such as:

1.  Establish what they are learning
2.  Model the task/strategies they need to use to do it
3.  Ask the students to help you
4.  Model their activity to them
5.  Question time – concerns/worries they have about the task
6.  Students do the task
7.  Once students have completed the task, begin a classroom discussion on what was hard/easy

  •  This website describes Eight themes which are useful for inclusive pedagogy (for example, multi-sensory approaches and formative assessment).

Year One Sight Word Lesson with ICTs

My first planning challenge set by my mentor is to prepare an activity for the reading rotations that will enable students to learn and practice sight words.

Using a Google search and Pinterest I have found a number of lesson ideas, including Bingo and Snakes and Ladders type games which were print outs and also a number of digital objects, such as this one where the students put the sentence back together to launch the jet plane.

I have a feeling another group will be on the classroom computers and my mentor will probably expect me to plan something a little bit more hands on than sitting them in front of a computer, so I have ruled out the online games for this particular task.

The Bingo and Snakes and Ladders type games look like fun, but I would like to find a way to incorporate ICTs since after all, this is an ICT prac.

This led to me exploring ways to use the Easi-Speak USB recorders that I have previously blogged about.

I found a lesson idea where children read sight words to each other over walkie talkies, with the receiver writing the word down.

I think this could be adapted so that children listen to a series of sight words being read out on the Easi-Speak’s play back function and either write these words down or select the correct word from flash cards (This can be adapted for different reading levels).

The students can then record themselves reading a series of sight words from the list, ready for the next group.

If they have time spare after completing these activities, they can use the Easi-Speak’s playback function to self assess their fluency.

Maybe we could also integrate the Easi-Speak recorders into Bingo in the same way so that students become the callers?

If we happen to create a class blog (something I haven’t discussed with her yet) we could upload audio samples of the children on the Easi-Speaks to share with parents and others in the community.

 

ICT General Capability for Year One

Now that I know I will be working with a Year One class on PE, I thought it might be wise to check out The Australian Curriculum’s ICT General Capability Learning Continuum for Year One to see what they might be capable of/ready for.

I had a look at both Level One (what they should typically be able to do by the end of Foundation Year) and also Level Two (what they should be able to do by the end of Year Two) as they will fall somewhere in between.

In summary, they should be able to:

  • Identify ways that ICTs are used at home and school.
  • Follow class guidelines and rules on security practices with ICTs.
  • Locate information using icons, (working towards following hyperlinks, copying and pasting etc) and explain how digital information was used.
  • Using online short sequences of instructions (working towards using online mind mapping or drawing software).
  • Using ICT as a creative tool, for example editing text, audio, numbers and images (working towards editing and manipulating these features).
  • Viewing online information posted to a site by a teacher, (working towards using class online discussion board or blog to read and post electronic messages; composing a message and sending it with support).
  • Understanding that online communication can be received by others, and can be viewed at a later time.
  • Using hardware and software such as printer, digital camera and desktop computer; knowing when something has not worked as expected and seeking help.
  • Identifying and listing different ICT systems.
  • Save and open files (working towards applying basic functions such as labelling files, and dragging and dropping files).

From this list it appears that the students I will working with will already be fairly competent with ICTs! I have already witnessed the students confidently using desktop computers and MP3 players during their reading rotations, so I have no doubt that they will even be teaching me a few things! This list gives me something to work from, alongside the knowledge I will gain of the individual students’ abilities.

Can we use ICTs in the early years? You bet!

The second topic of interest I would like to explore further this week is the use of ICTs in Early Years teaching and learning. There is a common misconception that there are limited options for ICTs with young children, but my exploration has shown otherwise!

A number of my fellow pre-service educators have blogged about fantastic opportunities for enhancing learning with ICTs, and their posts are well worth a read.

Emma Pails explores the use of Bee-Bot robots.

Mrs Grimshaw discusses class blogging in a Year One context

Kate Petty shares her review of some online games such as Busy Things and Turtle Diary.

As you can already see, the options extend far beyond the use of digital cameras and Interactive Whiteboards!

I have chosen to research a piece of equipment that I hadn’t heard of before this morning, when my prac mentor told me that they had just acquired a set and didn’t really know what to do with them yet:

 Easi-Speak Microphones.

Basically, these are MP3 recorders/players that allow the user to record voices, sounds or music on the move. They are designed as a microphone with a built in battery and USB connector.

The technology is really just an MP3 recorder/player, so these activities could also be carried out with any voice recorder if your class doesn’t have access to Easi-Speak microphones. However, I believe the microphone design would be big hit with children, engaging them and encouraging creativity!

Taken from this website, are some of the key features and ideas for use.

Key Features:

  • Easi-Speak lets you record directly into the microphone
  • Playback remotely or download your files straight to your PC through the attached USB
  • 128MB built in memory that can record up to 4 hours (high quality sound)
  • Downloaded files are WAV or MP3 format
  • Audacity Music Editing Software is provided as file on the Easi-Speak
  • Built in battery charged through USB

Top Ideas:

  • Capture audio during role play
  • Take on investigative adventures outdoors
  • Record audio for podcasts
  • Use to support children with EAL needs
  • Encourages reluctant speakers
  • Ideal for oral assessment and APP
Benefits include that the microphone doesn’t require batteries because it charges by connecting the USB to the computer, there is a string to attach the USB cover to the microphone (great for young children!), and the microphone design can take away some of the intimidation of being taped, as it is an inviting design to speak into.
They can be used right across the curriculum, for example for oral language, fluency, phonics, speech therapy, intervention, math facts, podcasts and more. Some more examples of cross-curriculum links can be found here.
I like the idea of students using the microphones to conduct interviews, present an assignment as a ‘reporter’, and walk around the school environment or an excursion recording observations.
The Nerdy Teacher suggests using the microphone for storytelling:
Students could add sentences to a story and pass the microphone around to hear what everyone said and add their part. This would be a great way to get students collaborating on a story and end up with something funny to share with everyone.
 Some more ideas for the Easi-Speak microphone’s use come from the HP Storytelling wiki:
  • Record children’s poems/speech recital for self assessment.
  • Written work can be recorded and showcased on a class blog.
  • Record and listen to music and sounds.
  • Take them with you on EOTC to record ideas.
  • Roving reporter, interviews, surveys, drama, role-play…
  • Learning languages.
  • ESOL.
  • Record and replay reading to self-assess fluency – could also provide evidence for Student/Parent/Teacher Conferences.
  • Use as means of an alternative to written assessment – children speaking about their learning (Teachers could add to student’s digital portfolios).

I’m looking forward to using this equipment on my prac and will keep you updated on how it goes!

Before I sign out, I would also just like to share this huge list of apps that can be used in Kindergarten, compiled by Matt Gomez – it could come in very handy for early years educators 🙂

Interactive Whiteboards use in early years teaching

This week I set out to expand my knowledge about Interactive Whiteboards.

To focus my search, I decided to narrow it down to investigating the benefits, problems and considerations of using IWBs in classrooms, and exploring some examples for use with a Year One class.

I looked in a variety of places for information:

  • Diigo – both the EDC3100 group for items tagged “iwb”, and the “Interactive Whiteboards in the classroom” group.
  • SMART Exchange
  • Promethean Planet
  • Blogs of my fellow preservice educators, for example Mrs Poulter’s blog post, which provides a great overview of IWB and got me started on my exploration!

I found that there are a number of benefits:

  • IWB allow for kinesthetic, auditory and visual learning to take place and make the classroom a fun, exciting learning environment.
  • They enable educators (even technophobes) to develop ICT rich lessons.
  • They bring learning to life.
  • They are great for staff training, video conferencing and PD sessions.
  • They promote e-learning as content from blogs and websites can be displayed.
  • They promote collaboration.
  • The writing/drawing on the screen can be saved, edited, revisited, shared and re-used.
  • They increase efficiency
A number of these benefits were read about at on this list of benefits on a wiki, compiled by previous EDC3100 students.

 

But there are also some problems/considerations with IWBs:

Gary Stager argues that Smartboards are a terrible investment as “they reinforce the dominance of the front of the room and teacher supremacy” and highlights that in many cases a projector could be used. This is the case in some of the benefits listed above, for example blogs and other web content could just as easily be viewed through a lap-top and projector set up as an IWB.

Some Health and Safety Recommendations are listed on the techlearning website, including risks such as damage to human eyes through misuse of projectors.

 Techlearn provide some more information about the disadvantages, including the cost, the fact that they may be easily damaged, and the considerations to be taken into account about the height of the screen.

 I think one of the main points to remember here, is that (as with all technology) it’s not the technology itself that enhances learning, but the way in which it is used.

 

So, how can I actually use the IWB with my Year One prac class?

The internet holds an abundance of ideas and resources for IWB, which can be a little overwhelming. This article gives some great advice for those starting out, including the advice to start off with some basics and add more as you gain confidence. For example, to begin with, learn how to handwrite on the board and change the colour of the pen using the colour pallet.

There are a bunch of online, interactive, educational games and simulations grouped on this website, which can be used both on the IWB or in the computer lab. They are categorised by subject area and topics, such as phonemes and words, with games like “put it on the shelf” to learn colour words.

Promethean Planet and SMART Exchange have a number of resources available for download, such as the Butterfly life cycle lesson, where students can drag items across the screen. Their websites also include information about technical issues in using Interactive Whiteboards. A number of these training tutorials have been compiled here.

Kent ICT provide resources categorised by age groups and learning areas.

One practical example that appealed to me, because it is simple but could be useful in many situations, is to place writing in a text box on the IWB, then scribble over it with the same colour pen as the background. Students can then use the ‘eraser’ function to reveal the hidden word.

Considering that many classrooms and schools lack expensive ICT equipment, including Interactive Whiteboards, my fellow pre-service educator, Mrs Drury, found this interesting YouTube video showing how it is possible to create an IWB on any surface such as a door, using a Wii remote, a bought or made IR pen and Smoothboard software, for about $120.

ICTs available on Prac

Today I met my prac class and mentor, and sussed out what ICT resources are available at the school and in the classroom.

I stayed for literacy rotations and observed students using computers and also listening MP3 recordings of stories through headphones.

It was fantastic to meet the class and my mentor as I was feeling a bit nervous, seeing as it will be my first placement in a school.

My mentor was fantastic and ran through all of the ICT resources available at the school, including:

  •  MP3s with headphones.
  • 6 x classroom computers
  • Subscription to Sunshine Online – literacy and numeracy program
  • PM Benchmark books on computers
  • 1 x Computer lab (can be booked)
  • 1x Laptop room.
  • 1 x IWB in a room (can be booked) – this is easier to book into than the computer lab.
  • 1 x Classroom projector
  • Set of Easi-speak microphones
  • She mentioned that the school are currently conducting a fundraiser to purchase 1 iPad for every classroom.

There are a number of constraints, for example, while the Internet access is good, they only have small Internet quota for all four Year One classes to share, so programs like Sunshine Online cannot be used very often.

She also discussed the difficulty in booking the computer lab as the roster is on a ‘first in best dressed’ basis and fills out extremely quickly, so it doesn’t often get used by her class. The IWB room is also booked in the same way but she said it is much easier to book a spot and  could be a good option for me.

The Easi-Speak microphones are new and as such they haven’t been used very much yet. I have offered to do some research and find out more about them so that we can implement some exciting learning activities with them during my placement – watch this space for more information on these!

Easi-Speak Microphone. Image retrieved from http://www.tts-group.co.uk/shops/tts/Products/PD1727034/Easi-Speak-MP3-Recorder-Player/