Thinglink: A creative way to link information, websites, infographics, videos and quizzes within one image.

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(Source: Eijnews. Image by unknown)

What does it look like? How does it work? Click here for a thinglink about thinglink!

What I love about thinglink is it’s another way of embedding specific content which I’d like my students to access, without worrying about them googling away and being exposed to unsuitable sites. Thinglink is essentially an interactive infographic where you can add links to websites, information, images, videos and quizzes for students to explore in a lesson. It’s all linked to a little icon placed on a larger image of your choice.

An example:

lead-edu

(Sources: Wiki. Imagine by unknown)

I’ve been training my students to create their own Thinglinks about our recent learning linked to Extreme Earth. On the free account, you can add students to your account and Thinglink will give them their own logins. It’s a great free tool and the students have loved being creative and tagging their own links. Here is an example: Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 10.41.15 AM

Here are some ideas for how to use thinglink in your classroom:

 

Nearpod: Lesson presentations which are truly interactive

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Has anyone else lost the love of these ‘interactive’ smart boards which have become a standard feature of classrooms these days?

I am always looking to improve the way I use ICT in my classroom and how I can use the SAMR model to redefine technology in my lessons. It’s a constant learning curve and I’ve recently discovered Nearpod which is revolutionising how I deliver my lessons.

As a fan of flipped teaching and backwards teaching, I am passionate about AFL and individualising content as much as possible. Nearpod enables teachers to deliver a lesson either live or at the pace of students by allowing them to access the content of the presentation on their own device, via a student code.

The teacher can control the pace through Live teaching, as you would with a PowerPoint, Presi, Promethean or Smart presentation, but students also have access to the content and can answer questions, take quizzes and provide the teacher with valuable formative feedback on their learning. Polls can be used in the live teaching mode to engage students and quickly assess whether a concept has been understood.

If you opt for student paced learning, students can access the same content as above, yet this way they can move through the content at their own pace, allowing for students to go back, revise, practise or skip forward etc. Videos can be embedded to support those learners who need more teacher demonstration, whereas more confident learners can simply skip these videos and go onto the next slide of content.

I introduced this to my students this week and they have picked it up pretty quickly. Often I have morning activities going on in class as the students get into school and one of these Nearpod tasks served as a great task for this slot.

Data reports – Here is the great bit – data!

Whichever way the students access the content, live or at their own pace, their interactions and answers are recorded and the data can then be used for your assessment, for learning conversations with students and also with parents. After the lesson has ended, the data is stored in the lesson file, under your library. Clicking on the top of the lesson and then onto reports gives you the data from that lesson in an easy to read format with statistics for accuracy, participation and details of the questions which were answered correctly or incorrectly. This can handily be printed off in a PDF format, either in teacher or student friendly versions, depending on what purpose you’re using it for. You could print these reports and keep it in students’ books, if you wanted a written record.

Teacher report – whole class

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Student friendly data report

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Nearpod also has some awesome features such as 3D graphic models and virtual field trips, which I’ve yet to explore fully. I can’t wait to learn more about this programme and use it to its full capability in my classroom.

For me, the major benefit of this tool is its interactive features which mean students are really involved in the lesson and can access it at their own pace.

Find out more about Nearpod here

Excited to try it out for yourself?

One quick way to try Nearpod in your classroom is to create an account (for free) and then download some of the content already created by other teachers. You can duplicate their content and add it to your library, where you can either use as it is or edit for your own students. I recommend trying this way first in order to see how others are using the programme. Some of the ready-made content is free while others charge a small fee.

Other tips on how to use Nearpod in your classroom:

Professional development for teachers: Where do you find it?

Image by Karalee 

Looking for some tips and tricks to put the ‘zing’ back into your teaching? Or perhaps you just want to stay ahead of the game and keep your teaching practice current. Either way, it can be a minefield finding some good quality resources to help you. Not to mention finding the time to look for and then read them! So I have gathered some resources which I find useful below.

(Thank you to all those contributors who I have cited!)

Online articles:

Edutopia

Education World

Guardian Education 

TES

EdTech Teachers

Online PD:

These come in the form of either online courses, which you can dip in and out of at your leisure, or webinars, which you can join online. Online courses and on-demand webinars have the advantage of being available whenever you are, whereas some webinars are virtual meetups online, so you need to join on a certain day and time. 

Online courses and webinars on demand:  

UDEMY  I love this website as you can search for a wealth of teacher-led courses. Some are free whilst others are only $19. There is some great content on there and lots of keep you going, if you’re happy to pay the small fee. What I love most about this website is that many of the deliverers are teachers themselves. 

TeacherToolkit Te@chertoolkit also run a range of online courses. 

TurnItInA great variety of online webinars to watch and listen to for free on demand. ASCD webinars are on demand and so are also available all the time. “Founded in 1943, ASCD (doing business as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is the global leader in developing and delivering innovative programs, products, and services that empower educators to support the success of each learner. The association provides expert and innovative solutions in professional development, capacity building, and educational leadership essential to the way educators learn, teach, and lead.” (“About ASCD”. Ascd.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 6 Oct. 2016.)


Blogs:

I try to read as many blogs as possible, written by other teachers, teacher trainers and PD providers. Check out the list of blogs I follow to the right of this page. There are some great ones out there. I love reading about other teachers’ adventures in the classroom and their learning journey. I fully encourage you to do the same and even start your own blog, if you’ve not done so already! 

Books:

I really try to read as much as possible so that the choices I make about my teaching, the tools I use in the classroom, are founded in research and purpose. I might hear about a book from a colleague which is a good read and when you go searching on Amazon, you can see the “others also purchased…”. This is where I often end up clicking through and stumbling across some other great reads. Take a look at my Good Reads list on my home page. 

YouTube:

There are some great videos out there which can up-skill even the busiest teacher in a matter of minutes. YouTube is a great resource for this. Here are a few videos I have come across which I have found useful. 

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Image by Elon University

I’ve just finished watching this on-demand webinar on the SAMR model of using technology in the classroom. Even as a teacher not new to this concept, this webinar was very useful in clarifying my understanding and giving me even more ideas. Check it out!

https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/playback/Playback.do?id=5ecx6o

 

Further reading

http://www.edudemic.com/professional-development-setups/

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/why-quality-professional-development-teachers-matters-ben-johnson

http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin297.shtml

Technology in the classroom: The SAMR model

Technology is moving at an incredible pace and every day it seems that there is something new we could use in the classroom. But how often do we use technology in a way which actually adds something to our teaching and, more importantly, adds something to the learning of our students?  The SAMR model, developed by Ruben Puentedura, demonstrates the thinking process that we as educators can go through in order to up-skill their use of technology in the classroom.   

What is the SAMR model?

Watch this video for an introduction: Dr Ruben Puentedura – The SAMR Model

Key question: Is it adding anything?

Using the SAMR model, we can begin to analyse how we are currently using technology and consider our next steps as teachers. 

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Slide1” (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by langwitches

It can be tempting to stick to substitution when we use technology in the classroom, through the use of Office tools or research. Using an iPad to computer to research something which could equally be researched using a book is substitution. Using googlemaps instead of an atlas to locate a country is substitutionWriting up a student’s work on Word, Publisher or other programme is substitution.  These are simply alternative methods which don’t necessarily add any more to the learning. However, the good news is that there are also many easy ways we can adapt how we use these same tools which do add to the learning. Yes – easy

Word processing
Original task: Writing a story. 
Improved using the SAMR model:

Substitution: A Word Processor replaces a Pen/Pencil in a Writing Assignment. Students type the story instead.  
Augmentation: The document is created using the Word Processor using a speech-to-text function to ‘type’ it – great for students who are learning English as a second language.  
Modification: Work is shared with peers/teacher so that feedback can be received and incorporated to help improve the quality of writing. This is easily done through Google Drive, if you have it, or can simply be saved onto the sever and a peer can then open and use the review mode to add comments, highlight sections, pose questions etc.
Redefinition: Instead of a written assignment, students could ‘write’ their story using an iMovie, Comic Life app, youtellstory app or storybird. All of these apps allow you to add pictures and overlay audio to tell your story. There are so many of them out there. 

Research lesson.
Original task: research a country or city and share facts using books from library and magazine clippings.
Improved using the SAMR model:

Substitution: Use presentation software (like Powerpoint or Prezi) to construct a presentation providing information about a selected area.
Augmentation: Incorporate interactive multimedia – audio, video, hyperlinks – in the presentation to give more depth and provide more engaging presentation.
Modification: Create a digital travel brochure that incorporates multimedia and student created video. 
Redefinition: Explore the locale with Google Earth; seek out and include interviews with people who have visited the local. A green screen video would add a sense of realness with the student interviewing people ‘in’ the city.  

Science. 
Original task: label the features of the water cycle on a diagram. 
Improved using the SAMR model:

SubstitutionUse the Smart board or other interactive whiteboard to drag and drop the labels onto the diagram. 
Augmentation: Use Quizlet online to create a matching game for parts of the diagram, definition and term. 
Modification: Use the app Educreations to model drawing the diagram and audio record the explanation.
Redefinition: Use Aurasma app to bring a diagram ‘to life’ by embedding video explanations and/or drama created by the student.  

How can I develop my practice using the SAMR model?

Take one step at a time and progress up through the model. Remember, substitution is not bad but we can improve our practice and the learning opportunities we create by moving up asking ourselves some key questions.  

What apps work for this?

This blog has some great ideas for how to use this model in your classroom and links each section of the model to different apps.

Further reading:

SAMR model explained. (Useful Prezi)

Technology integration in the classroom. 

Digital technologies in the classroom.

The classroom of the future

Road sign to  education and future
By Tcodl (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Whilst reading ‘Weaving creativity into every strand of your curriculum’ by Dr. Cyndi Burnett and Julia Figliotti, I was drawn to a question which they used as a hook for activating creative thoughts in students.  

What things in the classroom might be missing in a classroom of the future?

As this question rolled around in my mind, I began to think about how teaching is changing and how the way I teach now, just 6 years after qualifying, is so vastly different to my training year. We have quickly moved from being teachers who provide students with the information they need to learn to providing students with the skills they need to find this information. As facilitators of learning, our role as teachers has dramatically changed. So then, it is almost inevitable that the environment we create for our students to learn in also changes.

 What I can do to facilitate this change? 

  1. Technology.  Developments in technology has led to some inspiring new apps and products on the market for education. Whilst not all schools and teachers have the funds or means to use all of these new technologies in their practice, some are free or nearly free. This blog post highlights some of these new technologies such as Augemented Reality and game based learning.
  2. Flexible classroom environment. Check out my previous blog post about how flexible seating works in my classroom.
  3. Student choice. Your next topic is the Vikings. The curriculum states what your students need to learn.  Your planning guides you in what you need to share with your class and how they will demonstrate their knowledge. Or should it? Why not let your students choose? In my classroom, I allow my students an element of choice in how they demonstrate their knowledge to me. Whether it’s humanities, history, Science or Maths, it is really empowering watching students plan and design their own way of showing you their understanding. I’ve had student rap facts about the Anglo-Saxons, groups make Anglo-Saxon clothing in order to hold a fashion show, and even students produce a reenactment of an important event  in history. The key here is, choice. The quality of the learning outcome is higher when students are more engaged and enthusiastic about their projects. Granted, it takes a whole lot of guts as a teacher to allow 30 students to choose different projects, but I promise, the outcome is well worth it!
  4. How we measure learning. Ultimately, if there is to be this big paradigm sift then we need to revolutionise the way we measure attainment and progress. Many of the ways we currently measure attainment are content focused and not interactive or involve problem solving. You cannot reform the way we teach without also changing the way we measure learning. I am not sure what the solution is to this yet, but it is something I am currently researching. I’ll keep you posted on what I find!

 

For more on this topic, I recommend reading this blog by Rebecca Rosen.

Flexible Seating

Looking around my classroom this year, I was struck by a thought. Education has changed dramatically over the years. Classrooms of today look dramatically different to those in Victorian England. Or do they?

Yes, education has come a long way; research has focused on the different learning needs of students and innovative ways to help students to develop the skills they require in today’s world. Differentiation has been a buzz word for a long time and teachers have spent many hours and PD sessions learning about how best to differentiate their lessons to suit all learners. Yet we still expect all students to sit for long periods of time on chairs and at tables, regardless of their needs or learning styles. There is zero differentiation there.

This prompted me to do some research of my own. I came across a few blogs which got me thinking about the set up of my classroom and how I could adapt it to suit the needs of my class. On a basic level, designing a classroom which is comfortable and allows for student choice, will enable students to select an area which they will be able to focus in. Being focused and comfortable will help students to be better engaged and foster better outcomes.

Flexible classroom environment

Redesigning the classroom

Effective Learning Environments

Rethinking classroom design –Comfortable classrooms—physically and psychologically— promote a sense of well-being, keep minds focused, and limit distractions.” 

This fourth website really made me think about the way I planned my lessons. I began to ‘flip’ my classroom in order to make the most of my new classroom design and things really began to click into place. I’ll talk more about my flipped classroom in my next post.

In order to achieve my new classroom design, I had to beg and borrow as much of the furniture as possible! I have been really happy with the outcome so far, but as many of you can probably empathise, I continuously want to change and upgrade things.

 

This is the start of my classroom redesign journey. 

Students love the standing tables! They really enjoy the freedom of movement which comes with not being confined to a seat. The standing tables were simply created by putting old wooden creates underneath the tables. I have seen other teachers use bed raisers too, which is something I will be using in my new classroom. The bouncy balls are great for students who need to move constantly and find sitting still challenging. DISCLAIMER – they are a challenge when you first put them in your classroom! I know teachers who have given up on using these very quickly due to behaviour management issues. However, please do persevere, as when students understand that they are seats and follow the rules for using them, they will calm down and use them appropriately. I personally love lying down on the large cushions as I work with a group of students who are doing the same.

The outcome? Well, it’s only been 4 months of this layout and I can honestly say I’ve seen an increase in the engagement of my students. They love learning and feel proud of their classroom. Students who previously found it challenging to stay focused are actually the ones who are considering where they will work best in the classroom the most. My classroom is often used by other teachers and other students come into the room too. It’s been fantastic to see my students explaining the new layout to others and encourage them to make good choices about where they learn best and not just sit next to their friends. Proud teacher moment!

Many teachers and members of senior leadership have shared positive comments about my classroom and the innovative design. I know that for some it may seem a bit too far outside of the box, but honestly, teaching and learning is something which is always moving forward. It’s exciting to try new things and adapt your practice. We can’t continue to teach like we always have as we educators need to move forward with the times.

I am excited about starting the year with my new class and have already begun to redesign the classroom to allow for plenty of seating options.

If you’ve tried redesigning your classroom or have any great ideas to share on this, please do comment and share!

Speed dating CPD!

I recently read an interesting blog post by te@chertoolkit which could change the way professional development is delivered by schools. I don’t know about you, but I have experienced some great training sessions, sat through some average training and also endured some utterly useless ‘development’ sessions. Some of the best were actually delivered or shared by colleagues.

Te@chertoolkit suggests a simple strategy for sharing best practice among staff. Each staff member brings an idea to the meeting which they can explain in 30 seconds. Teachers then move around the room sharing ideas and soon the room will be buzzing! You could even add music and a countdown buzzer for added atmosphere. With a large staff group, perhaps you could split into departments/categories and then have each group feedback to the larger group with a summary of the ideas discussed.

Staff led development is highly under used in schools, in my opinion. Teachers move from school to school gathering ideas and training along the way and are then often made to sit and listen to someone else train them on the latest teaching strategies. When was the last time you were asked if you already had that specific training? Have you ever been asked if you’d like to share some ideas with your colleagues? Hand on my heart, I can honestly say that I could count on one hand the times I’ve been asked either of those questions.

I know that I have sat through ‘training’ sessions which have been completely useless to me since I was already applying those theories in my daily practice. One particular session was so poorly planned by the leader, that many of the application suggestions were actually not relevant to our school context, meaning much of the content was rather useless. I sat there and thought about how I would have ran the session, had I been asked to.

I can draw two conclusions from this:

  1. The training delivered to teachers needs to be appropriately differentiated.
  2. Leaders should know the skill set of their teachers and actively encourage sharing amongst staff.

Yes, leaders need to ensure that all of their staff have a certain level of training, but they should also allow opportunities for teachers to choose their own PD sessions. Where I have seen CPD work exceptionally well, is where teachers are given the autonomy of choice. In one of my previous roles, staff were actively encouraged to run a session, in any area of teaching and learning that they wish, and colleagues could ‘sign up’ for the session. This session was then added to their online portfolio of professional development as a record of their training. Staff leading staff empowers teachers to share their best practice and is often delivered in a very teacher friendly way! It was these sessions that I learnt much of what I do today in my classroom today.

I am an advocate for schools developing a ‘menu’ of PD opportunities from which teachers and other staff members can choose. This menu should allow for teachers to have regular and useful training which can be put into practice, reflected upon and then thoughts shared back among colleagues. blackboard-677578_1920