Having had great success with our first SOICT unit (see this post), my year 6 class were chomping at the bit to begin unit 6.3 – ‘we are games developers’. Only two weeks in, they are already surpassing my expectations in terms of engagement and ability.
We began by looking at games that they already knew. Their understanding and interest was high and they were desperate to begin programming. We have used a variety of tools already – Scratch and Kodu primarily for games development, but also the excellent Codecademy (more on this later), Comic Life and various web-based applications.
George and Omar are two boys who took particularly keenly to the unit. Here are a couple of short video clips of them in action. These were taken on the last day of the winter term, after a one hour lesson on how to use Kodu.
As before, this unit has really sparked interest and engaged my lovely class. They’re already hooked on ICT but SOICT is helping me as a teacher to come up with challenging and varied lessons that stimulate them all.
As an ICT lead and Year 6 teacher, I was keen to start using SOICT as soon as I could. The mixture of easy to administer ideas and flexibility mean that confident teachers and newbies alike can pick up the scheme and run with it very quickly.
So instead we created websites which linked with our topic on Ancient Egypt. The kids began using Weebly, which was new to me, and were very quickly exremely adept users. They considered audience, content, design and copyright; they peer-reviewed their websites; they thought about how to promote their websites and how to add the basic html coding that they brought with them from blogging; they discussed media, scanning and uploading artwork; they thought about how to write for the web; they looked at other websites and analysed their content. They did some of this at school, but their work was largely done at home, undirected.
Some highlights included Aiden’s page about Howard Carter. He decided that his website, aimed at children, had some pretty tricky words in it, so he recorded himself reading the biography he wrote of the famous archeologist. He found that the computers in our ICT suite didn’t code to MP3 properly, so he used media-conversion sites to solve his problem. You can see the page here. I also love Jessica’s quiz. She decided that the children looking at her website might not read things very carefully, so a bit of comprehension might do the trick… Ah SATs! Leyla’s introduction made me laugh too – “What was it like 2,000 years ago, before even our parents were born?” Sharon wanted a more graphical way to write her instructions on how to mummify a body, so she enlisted the help of Comic Life (another of my favourite programmes). This was her idea, and she had to learn how to save the file as a .jpg, how to upload it to Picasa and how to then embed it into her website.
I was hugely impressed with both the scheme and with Weebly. There was a great deal of direction in SOICT but it was written in such a way that I didn’t feel ‘naughty’ deviating from the script. Assessment was easy and I could demonstrate progress in all children as a result of the unit. Hurrah! We’re now working on unit 6.3, developing games. Again, we’ve strayed from the scheme relatively wildly, but that’s the beauty of SOICT – we’re working with the great ideas, not being dictated to by a restrictive and product-led approach to the teaching of ICT.
You can see all of the websites created by clicking on the image below.
Having won third place in the Educational Blog Awards for our whole-school approach to blogging, an article has today been published in the Tottenham and Wood Green Journal as well as on haringey.gov.uk. Here is the article:
Ferry Lane Primary gets top marks for school blogsite
Tuesday 21 June 2011
Ferry Lane Primary school in Tottenham is celebrating being awarded third place in the national Educational Blog Awards.
Ferry Lane’s blogsite was entered in the “Whole School Blogsite of the Year” category and was one of more than 300 blogs and blogsites nominated across four awards categories.
Judging criteria in the “Whole School Blogsite of the Year” category was the demonstration of:
“a community commitment to blogging”,
“blogging beyond the classroom” and
“clear and consistent messages about e-safety, comment policy and content”.
After a public vote whittled the blogs and blogsites down to a shortlist of ten; judges awarded third place to Ferry Lane Primary. They said:
“The work of Ferry Lane Primary School deserves a special mention – their class blogs are wonderful and demonstrate what can be done with a bit of creative thought and professionalism from educators. Any school wishing to improve their partnership with parents should visit this website as a model of good practice.”
All classes from Year 3 upwards at the school have their own blogs, with the senior leadership team also taking part and regularly blogging.
Headteacher Maxine Pattison is thrilled with the national recognition and whilst she says that the award celebrates the school’s approach to learning and teaching through the creative use of new technologies, she wasn’t sure what they were doing and why at first. She said:
“I wasn’t very confident myself when we started this project but I can now see the sheer enjoyment and engagement with learning that the children and their families are experiencing.
“It’s had a huge impact on the development of children’s writing skills and the ability to improve their own and other children’s writing in a constructive way.
“I’m a true fan of blogging now and proud of the way the children and families have responded to the opportunities available through the use of new technology.”
“As a school leader blogging is an opportunity for me to get in contact with families, reinforce the learning we do at school and celebrate the school’s successes with a wide audience. I can also interact online with other school leaders to share ideas.”
Jack Sloan, the teacher who introduced blogging to the school last year, continues:
“Through the blogs, many opportunities have arisen for children at the school, including helping to make a BBC documentary and an invitation to the children to sing at a national conference.”
“Children have also been asked to write for award winning websites such as brainpop.co.uk and Teach Primary magazine. The quality of writing is improving all the time at Ferry Lane, and the engagement developed through blogging has been a driving force in this increase in attainment. I’m amazed at the commitment of all staff at the school to this venture – it shows what can be achieved when a school works together effectively.”
Cllr Lorna Reith, Cabinet Member for Children congratulated pupils and staff at Ferry Lane, citing the blogsite as one of her favourites. She said:
“This recognition is thoroughly deserved. I enjoy the blogsite and often log on to read the latest creative writing and updates from the pupils and staff. The blogs are engaging and entertaining and the quality of writing has sky-rocketed. Well done to everyone at the school.”
Jack Sloan from Ferry Lane will be delivering training to other schools in the area on how to get children blogging from September 2011.
Thanks to David Mitchell for his mention of my work at Chorlton Park on blogging. You can read his article here. He says:
The work of Jack Sloan and his pupils at Chorlton Park Primary were absolutely crucial and at the start of all my work. It was Jack who showed me what was possible through pupil blogging, and without the chance to have seen him doing this with own class I would not have had that insight into thinking this may be the solution to Heathfield’s problems with writing. He was helpful in so many other ways too.
Thanks also to John Sutton for his praise of the Ferry Lane blogs at his presentation at BMoble here.
We won third place for our whole-school approach to blogging. Very pleased. They were looking for:
A community commitment to blogging
Blogging beyond the classroom
Clear and consistent messages about e-safety, comment policy and content.
Here is what they said about Ferry Lane:
Ferry Lane came in third in this category with judges commenting “Powerful learning demonstrated through a whole school commitment to class blogging. The work of Ferry Lane Primary School deserves a special mention – their class blogs are wonderful and demonstrate what can be done with a bit of create thought and professionalism from educators. Any school wishing to improve their partnership parents should visit this website as a model of good practice”
We are also in the Tottenham and Wood Green Journal this week. Click here for the article.
I have been asked to write a short think piece for the Educational Blog awards by Chris Ratcliffe and John McClear. They want me to focus on the impact of school blogs on individuals.
I teach at Ferry Lane Primary School in Tottenham, London. It is a great little school with fantastic children in an area of very high deprivation. Our children tend to have very little exposure to the rest of London, let alone the rest of the country, so blogging has been an effective way to give them a window on the world.
The impact of school blogging on a population of children is clear. Engagement rises as a result, peer-marking means the quality of writing and thinking improves, and boys want to write more. Underneath the data that supports these statements of course, lie the individuals whose learning is affected. Here I will mention two individuals for whom blogging has had a significant impact in recent months.
Jozef and Sharon have very different needs. They are both 10 years old and in my Year 5 class. Jozef arrived from Slovakia to Tottenham last year. His family are all learning English. Sharon has no problem with her English. In fact, she is probably the most talented writer I have ever taught. So how has blogging made a difference to them?
We will start with Sharon. It is rare to find a child with such a flair for language. She is Eritrean and her first language is Italian. She GETS writing. Sharon is able to play with a reader’s emotions and expectations, to make one laugh, and to make one think. You can read her blogposts here. Here is an extract from a piece she wrote at home, independently, on the blog:
“Mum, just sign the letter, for crying out loud!” you would screech and pester your parents on a day to day basis “Why? A blog is just another ridiculous website which children waste time gaping and writing hopeless things on it. I mean why in the world would you want such an atrocious thing!” your concerned (but SO incorrect) parent would shout back.
Here Sharon explains the purpose of blogging to parents (in a blogpost which was then sent home in our school newsletter). As a direct result of the audience Sharon receives on the blog, she has been given many opportunities. Her poetry has been commented upon by Valerie Bloom (here), she has been asked to guest-post for Brainpop.co.uk (here) and review books for Teach Primary magazine. In her post about blogging, she goes on to talk about the opportunities given to her through blogging:
I didn’t think that this would ever be possible to do as a child, did you? I felt outstandingly brilliant knowing that there is something in me worth showing and it could be adored by dozens of people. ” Wow, that’s amazing I can’t believe you got to do all this. What more could you want?” you might wonder. Well there’s a lot more. After a while I as just popping into class until I found that Mr Sloan had a gigantic parcel in his hand ” Parcel’s arrived for you, Sharon!” I hadn’t the foggiest idea of what he was talking about. Personally I was hoping that it was big wads of money to share with teachers (of course)! Although it wasn’t there were four books, joined along with a letter. It said that I could write a book review and they would publish it on a teachers magazine! I was utterly speechless! I mean that moment is extremely rare to little girls, don’t you think!
For a gifted young writer like Sharon, blogs can provide a genuine and critical audience. Sharon’s skills are being tested, and she is now writing with greater purpose. Whilst she is writing at a level much higher than anyone in our class, she IS being stretched because she knows that her audience has high expectations. She thrives on the praise she gets from her writing, and knows that there are many people across the world who come to our blog specifically to read her writing. The comments she receives help her to improve and she is getting a taste of what it’s like to write within a brief. Through the blog, Sharon is a published writer, not only at ferrylane.net, but also in print and on many websites. I can’t think of a better way to expose gifted and talented children to the world.
Jozef is less visible on the blog. He does write regularly (here) and his writing is improving rapidly. The blog has had a different type of impact on him and his family however, one which is harder to see. Jozef and his family are new to the UK, having arrived last year. We have been publishing a list of “Free Stuff to do in London this weekend” each week as a way to encourage our children and their families to explore the fantastic experiences that London has to offer. It has been slow to catch on, and hard to convince families to participate. Jozef and his family have been enthusiastic however.
Each week Jozef tells the class where he has been. He is being exposed to language and experiences which are helping him and his family to learn English rapidly. He has taken part in painting classes at Somerset House, been bird-watching at nearby Tottenham Marshes, went to the macabre “Cryptmas” fair, and visited some of our country’s best museums. These experience are vital for rich language acquisition, and something which I feel we need to promote heavily in our school. Through the Free Stuff to do blogposts, Jozef is learning about the world around him and this is, I feel, having a significant impact on his education. He is becoming more articulate, more engaged with his learning, and sharing some rich experiences with his family.
So. The impact of blogging on individuals is just that. Individual. Each child can use a blog in a different way, and that is part of the beauty of it all. Children love blogging because it works for them as individuals. Blogs provide automatic differentiation, and we need to make sure that we exploit that. Jozef and Sharon use the Ferry Lane blogs for totally different purposes, but the impact of blogging on both children is both positive, powerful, and clear to see.
To finish with a much more talented writer than myself, here Sharon tries to convince all those skeptics out there to give blogging a go. I hope that this article will go some way to convincing people of the power of blogging in the classroom.
” A blog is a website where you learn how to improve your writing and to play games… BLAAH, BLAAH!” . Oh come on, think outside of the box. Of course you will learn to improve your work. However, when have you ever thought that billions of people from around the whole world would even bother to comment on your work? Well it has happened, and you’ll never guess who commented on my work. No it wasn’t an Arsenal football player, or Cheryl Cole. In fact it was someone ten times better. VALERIE BLOOM!! You know, the famous poet, an inspiration to all. I just came to school like regular and all I heard for the rest of the day was ” Oh Sharon you lucky girl, Valerie Bloom commented on your work AAH!” I felt like fainting (literally!) And from that day forth I had a term full of opportunities glimmering in your heart.
I was asked to present at the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) Primary National College at the Emirates Stadium in March. The theme of the conference was ‘Networking for Excellence’ and I spoke about using technology to connect classrooms with the outside world. It was a great day, and I learned a lot from other practitioners. I also took my Year 5 class to sing at the conference – they did a great job!
I have been asked to run a course for teachers in Haringey who are new to blogging. The idea is to encourage them to have a go and get them set up.
I have produced some tutorial videos to get them started, There are more to come.
What do you think? What should I add?
‘Bling’ your blog in 10 minutes! Make it look great and help to make your school blog more user-friendly.
Moderating blog posts and comments.
Adding and managing users – simple but laborious method.
Embedding photos and video on your school blog.
Using categories and tags to organise your blog.