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ICT in action

What is happening in a school near you.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Exciting times for teachers, children and bears!

Having returned from a weekend in Campbeltown thought I had better update my own blog. Spent Friday at Marlyn's school Castlehill Primary where I was made to feel most welcome by all the staff and pupils. Spencer, of course having enjoyed his journey on the ferry, was made even more welcome. The talking teds topic is just beginning but already we have seen tremendous motivation and enthusiasm from the children. Their desire to look after the bear, read and contribute to the blog as they wait patiently for iGear and slow bandwidth, is amazing.
On Monday morning all of my class wrote from Campbell's perspective about his experiences thus far. In pairs the children then supported one another as they typed their entries onto the blog.
Of course it is time consuming, but an aspect of education that will make a welcome return with the Curriculum For Excellence is that of the need for depth. For years now we have been pressurised into covering so much with subjects being compartmentalised into blocks of time, following prescriptive planners with seemingly no way to deviate that we have often remarked in our staff room of feeling as though we are only skimming the surface.
Our school is involved in an initiative called Smooth Transitions. With funding from Fusions providing a classroom assistant in the afternoon I plan and deliver cross-curricular topics, using Structured Play activities and planning similar to Pre-5 methodology. I had always used Structured Play but felt that it was increasingly marginalised and seen as an add on, end of the day time when other "work" was completed. I have an outline plan but take into account ideas and suggestions made by the children as the topic unfolds. Talking Teds is an ideal way to work creatively to motivate and sustain learning which has ICT at its heart and the children's enthusiasm as its driving force.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Spencer's adventures in Campbeltown

Friday, March 24, 2006

Greetings from Campbeltown

Spencer and I have made it safely to Campbeltown. We caught the Portavadie CalMac ferry to Tarbert yesterday evening where Spencer and I were treated to a visit to the wheelhouse where the bear drove the ferry. I spent today at Castlehill School where I had a super day meeting staff and children and seeing the goings on in a big school. 290 pupils instead of 41! Mrs Moffat and I have had a glorious time immersing ourselves in ICT without the usual glazed looks and sad nodding of heads from those around us. I am just sorry I won't be here for the performance of 'All Creatures Great and Small," but was privileged to see some dress rehearsals today. Good luck with the performance and thank you for making me so welcome at Castlehill Primary.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

They have arrived!

The Bee-bots are here, too late for the children to see but they will be delighted in the morning.
I did an after school CPD session with our staff on the use of Comic Life. They were all very impressed with what it can do and how simple it is to use. We also took delivery today of an interactive whiteboard of our very own. A bigger one than I have on loan with the stand still to arrive.
Good news on the software front- I now have the Promethean software upgraded from their site and after a 20 minute talk through from Gary at Inveraray my Masterclass laptop now goes on the internet again in school thank goodness.
I have also been in touch with Caledonian MacBrayne to alert them to the fact that a very important teddy bear will be travelling on the Portavadie to Tarbert ferry tomorrow evening, accompanied by his teacher. This will be the start of the next exciting adventure of "The Travelling, Talking Teds". Keep checking the blogs for more updates.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Spring is in the air not a whiteboard in sight

Yesterday I took the children on a Spring walk. We are fortunate to have an orchard as part of our school grounds, so we started there and continued around the playground taking note of any signs of Spring. We found daffodils and buds, heard birds singing and the burn gurgling. Above the school is a private house which at one time had an extensive garden and contains some fabulous rhododendrons. We continued our trek taking photos and will revisit at intervals to see more changes. Although our playground is a concrete jungle we are surrounded by woodland, forest and field so within moments we can explore the natural world.
In case you are feeling a touch envious,I always have to remember to do it now though because once the summer approaches, the midges get their hobnail boots on and make outdoor pursuits an impossibility! Every silver lining has its cloud!!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Houston...we have a problem

Just when everything was going so well the technology conspires against us! Having installed OSX10.4.3 seemingly without a problem I had spoken to soon. The Promethean software won't work properly with the upgrade, I can't calibrate the board so we have lost the interactivity and the internet settings for school have gone!!! Are we downhearted...well not really..I know it can be sorted but it just means we can't do all the fun things we have been doing so readily.
This week the children are going to write about themselves using Kidspiration. Samuel has posted his first and the others will follow.
Spencer had a lovely buggy made for him today by Nathan and Rory using Big Builder- they photographed him aboard and instructed me to put it on the blog when I get home!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

OSX 10.4.3

I have just installed this new version of OSX Tiger on my Masterclass laptop. I always find these experiences a bit scary. I have copied all my files onto CD just in case but it all appears fine and I am even still able to get on the internet. I now have to familiarise myself with Widgets and Dashboard. Next step- install my new iWorks and iLife 06.
Had a relatively whiteboard free day today until last thing this afternoon. Whilst checking out blog postings and comments the children were amazed to see Kipper. How did you get him there? they asked. So I showed them.
ORT Clipart is a super CD which I use to create supplementary material for the reading scheme. I have written and delivered an in-service course for our authority on 'Interactive worksheets using ORT clipart.' Now the children can copy and paste onto an Appleworks document to their hearts content- I knew that yesterday's lesson in Kidspiration would come in handy!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Blogs, bears and boards

Today was another exciting chapter in the life of the blog and the boards and the bears. We looked at the blog first thing and the children are thrilled to note that their blog is catching up with mine with regard to how many hits it has had. They were delighted to see that Mr Brown- who has achieved saintly status amongst the children, as the provider of the board had been looking at the blog. That site meter is amazing!
We watched an episode of The Magic Key which ended with Kipper asking for words to describe his Teddy. The opportunity could not be lost and although I had not intended to do so we created a Kidspiration document with adjectives to describe our wonderful Spencer which you can see on the Talking Teddies blog.
I read a criticism of IWB in TES " Are they being used as a tool to force the end of pupil-centred teaching and a return to the whole class teaching of the last century? Most often they seem to be used as nothing more than an expensive projector screen" Brian Kerslake MD of Topologika Software has obviously not been in my classroom!!
I found that today using the board enabled me to really embed Edit-copy /edit- paste facility in Kidspiration to make the repeated stars we needed. Children came out and did it- then those who suggested interesting words typed them onto the stars with spelling suggestions from the audience. Whole class, engaging, differentiated teaching and learning appropriate to P1-3 with every child desperate to contribute.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

More goodies arrive

Today I received some more of my Masterclass orders. I have got a copy of iWorks which is new generation Appleworks. I have had a quick look at it and will let you know how I find it's use in comparison to Appleworks. New Macs, I believe do not ship with Appleworks so I thought it advisable to get to know this new product. I also got iLife 06, mainly for the iWeb that it contains- this looks like websites for dummies which is just what I need ( but looks very professional). Lastly I got a game called Toysight Gold, the Mac equivelant of Playstation eyetoy. I look forward to trying it with the class and they were thrilled to see it come out of the box.
All Argyll schools have been issued with a copy and site licence for ComicLife. I showed my class today how it works- just the basics, and at choosing time Rory and Brandon P2, wanted to use it with the IWB. They took a photo of Spencer, loaded it into iPhoto, cropped it and dragged it into ComicLife where they added speech bubbles and captions. They were delighted with the end product and want to upload it to the teddy blog. Unfortunately we seem unable to upload in school as iGear blocks our attempts so I have to load things in at home.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

We're still learning too!

If there is one thing that is coming out of all this blogging it is the fact that as adults, we too are still learning. To set up the Teddy blog has taken many hours of our time. We have talked on Skype and blogged at the same time to ensure that the necessary accounts and admin privileges are set up and working properly. Marlyn has done the bulk of the setting up as she originally applied for the account but we both feel the time (our own) and effort is worthwhile. My mind is now brimming with ideas and possibilities for activities and learning opportunities to come, so keep watching the blogs to see how it unfolds. A friend told me last night that I am just a "Skyping blogger".

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Talking Teds get their own blog

Spencer says hi Campbell

Last year 2 class teddies went on an exchange visit. Campbell went to Tighnabruaich Primary and Spencer went to Castlehill Primary in Campbeltown. The bears are getting ready for another exchange but this time they will get to meet one another first when I spend a day at Castlehill. To facilitate communication between the schools Marlyn and I have set up a blog for TalkingTeds-see the link. The children will help "the boys" keep the blog up to date with the bears' exciting adventures.
The children will also use digital photos and video as well as improve their skills using Kidspiration software.
We have already had great fun with this. As Spencer has been sitting quietly watching us over the Winter months, they realised of course, that he has been hibernating, but as Spring approaches it is time for him to waken up! I am going to take Spencer in my car so I heard one pupil say to make sure he wore a seatbelt. Another said that it was too scary for him to go in a box again- it was awful dark in there.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

When Spencer goes to visit Campbell........

I can't wait to see Campbell and Mrs Moffat and all the friends I met last year. Spencer

They will play on the computer and then they might get an ice-cream. Diane P2

They will sit down and be quiet and patient. Chloe P1

They will play with the children. Rowan P1

He will have good fun with Campbell. They will go for a walk and bonce on the trampoline. Brandon P2

He might go on a bus and have fun at school. He will have good fun at playtime. Nathan and Ellise P2

They might play hide and seek-Campbell is going to be first.Then they might hav a picnic. Kieran P2

They mite play agame and they mite wotch a videyo.Jade P2

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

An exciting delivery

The first of my Masterclass goodies arrived today. The secretary brought the box into the classroom to gasps of excitement from the children,"It's the Beebots," they cried. But it wasn't. One of the things I ordered was called 'How to make a Movie- The secret of pirate island'. Inside the box are scripts for the cast, directors instructions and a CD rom of music, sound effects, still pictures and video clips to enhance and customise the movie. There is also a clapperboard which I always have thought was required for any digital video project. Intended for older children than my class I would like to try it with the computer club. A simpler version could be made based on Pirate Adventure from ORT with my class. We listened to and looked at the resources on the CD rom which the children found very exciting. The resource came from Tag Learning and there are another 3 titles to choose from.
I also ordered a web building application called WebBlender from Tech4Learning. I downloaded the 30 day trial for this last week on my home computer. Within a couple of hours I had created a 6 page website with links that worked and photos and text. Having been on a one day Dreamweaver course I know which one I prefer and would be comfortable using with the children. The only problem I had with it was sluggishness- my home machine has only 128MB of memory and the recommended is 256MB. What will arrive next? Can't wait.

P3 begin to blog

Samuel says snakes and ladders is best game on the board.

Owen says the memory game is the best on the interactive white board.It is tricky to write on it because your shadow gets in the way.

Steven says I would like to keep the board.I like to calibrate it.

Calvin likes snakes and ladders too. I would like to try the draughts game.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Hello world

Now I know the internet is called the World Wide Web and that anyone on the planet with access can read it, but it takes a bit of time to get used to the idea. I now have a site meter and it really is amazing. When I put it in I thought all it would do was tell me that so many people had looked at my blog. I had noticed hit counters on other web sites and imagined a wee click wheel that notched up the numbers each time the page was opened- like the guys on the ferry when they count up the passengers to make sure there are enough life jackets to go round!
Well... how wrong I was. Not only can it tell you how many life jackets you need but what language you speak, where you are from, what sort of computer you are using, how long you are on the blog for and whether you take sugar in your tea and a lot of other stuff. I am pretty gobsmacked by this piece of kit- that innocuous little Rubik's cube at the very bottom of my blog, sitting there and looking all innocent is recording a huge amount of data which I can then access and look at in all sorts of ways.
If you haven't got one yet for your blog I would try it. When no one comments on your blog at least you know people are lurking in Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Portugal, USA as well as in the UK- hello Blackpool. Apparently I could sign up for a meter that does more......can't get my head round that.

The wonderful thing about whiteboards, is whiteboards are wonderful things

I am thinking of renaming 2 of the girls in my class Tigger and Roo. This afternoon at choosing time they were positively bouncing with enthusiasm and excitement- all channelled positively to activities on the interactive whiteboard. After carefully calibrating the board the girls set to their task and navigated their way to the Games folder where they knew the memory game was. After that they found an alphabet jigsaw and then a sliding puzzle. They took turns, shared ideas, co-operated and when they couldn't solve the sliding puzzle asked me to help. I'm afraid I wasn't any better than they were so we left that one for another day!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

....and the result was

A nil-nil draw and a possible ankle fracture for my son. Too swollen to X-ray at the moment as the bony bit that sticks out at the side of the ankle resembles a shinty ball! Which leads me to the wonders of the internet. As a concerned mother and sometimes referred to at work as "Medical Morag", and being the appointed person for first aid, I spent a good couple of hours delving into the millions of things about ankles on the web. I now know that the bony bit that sticks out is called the lateral malleolus and is in fact the bottom end of the fibula which forms a cup shape with the tibia for the ankle joint. With this limited knowledge I am of course worrying- only time will tell. Last year he got a broken thumb...now I found out a lot about that too on the internet. My son's nickname in the shinty team is "Bones".

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Shinty season underway

Today marks the start of the new shinty season with a huge number of cancellations due to snow and frost. Welcome to summer shinty! Kyles are hosts to Ballachulish as long as they can negotiate Glencoe.

We Are Learning To....

....use the latest technology.On Thursday evening we had a Parent's Evening. A very good turn out and lots to discuss as usual. Many of the parents had been told by their children about the interactive board so it seemed only fair to let them see some of the things it can do. I am now of a mind to run a workshop for parents on the use of the board. One of my neighbours whose child is in my class said it had been a hot topic of discussion at work on the fish farm next day with other dads. Although a number of children have access to computers at home, many parents did not receive any computer education at school or were just leaving as the technologies were emerging. Last year our PTA paid for 2 digital projectors for the school- perhaps they could be persuaded to help fund interactive whiteboards once they all see this amazing resource and have the chance to use it themselves!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Trees, worms and iPhoto

Today we planted trees! We have an orchard as part of our school grounds and this afternoon we added some holly, dog rose and hawthorn trees to form hedging around the orchard. 41 children, 4 teachers and a handful of parents braved the Arctic winds to get them planted. On our return to the lovely warm classroom I demonstrated to the children, using the whiteboard of course, how to transfer the photographs I had taken into iPhoto. We then had a go at cropping some of the photographs- so much easier to demonstrate to all on the big screen. Favourite snap was of a wiggly worm. Tomorrow they are going to take photos of the shells we have collected, crop, label and print them out for display.