Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Note Taking Apps

When it comes to note taking apps on my iPhone there are two that can't be beaten.

The first is the built in Notes app that comes with the phone. I use this app for keeping notes about things I only need to know for a while for example, ordering meals, shopping lists, guests for parties. I only need to access such notes from my iPhone and don't need them to sync with my computer. I can email them to my computer though if I wish. It's perfect for my use.

When it comes to making more detailed notes, however, I prefer Catch. This is a free app and it is fantastic for use in meetings or for anything that you need to access from a PC. I have begun to use it to take notes at staff meetings, Teachmeets and courses. (I just wish I had an iPad so it was quicker to write). I love the fact that notes are synced online and that I can access the notes from anywhere. I can add pictures and links, and I can add hashtags to my notes to make them easier to search. You can record your voice if you wish to make notes that way. Notes can be fully search online and they can be shared by email. It's also handy to be able to set a passcode lock for the app.

Evernote is also an excellent app but I use this primarily for remembering things that were not written by me like blog posts that inspire me and instruction.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Bee Bots

I recently purchased some Bee-Bots for the school. Programming robots is an area of ICT that we were not really hitting - and it's one of the most exciting!!

So that I could inspire our teachers I asked on Twitter if there are any Bee-Bot resources out there. @ianaddison recommended @simonhaughton and @bevevans22

Simon recommended: 
These are blog posts written by Simon - real practical ideas for using the robots.
An amazing demonstration of how Bee-Bots can grip children's imagination.

How Bee-Bots can be used in the classroom

Bev recommended:
An excellent post about how Bee-Bots have transformed Key Stage One.
There are excellent Bee-Bot resources here - these particularly enthused the staff.

Bee-Bots seem to be primarily used in Foundation and Key Stage One but I believe they have a use in Year Three too. Here are some ideas that we will be trying:

  • Creating a map of the local area for Bee-Bots to navigate
  • Exploring compass directions and making a course for Bee-Bots to explore
  • Investigating negative numbers

Here are some other Bee-Bot links:

There is software available from Focus Educational which allows children to programme an on-screen robot.

Does anyone else use Bee-Bots in Year Three? What sorts of activities do you do?

Monday, 13 June 2011

ICT Vision

We recently asked our staff to write a vision statement for the subject they co-ordinate. We asked everyone to make sure that it states our beliefs as a school, begins with a statement about where the school is now and it should be aspirational and state how we would like the subject to develop over the coming years.

Here is the one I wrote for ICT:

At SCHOOL we equip all pupils with the experiences and skills of ICT that they will use in a rapidly changing technological world. Children will be confident, independent and safe in their use of ICT. They are able to use technology to communicate, and to access and evaluate information. We aim for our children to develop a range of ICT skills, and an understanding of the most appropriate ways to use them. Children will learn to create pictures and text, music and sound, multimedia, animation and video. They will learn to collect, find, produce and interpret data. They will learn to give instructions and use modelling to investigate solutions. ICT skills are taught and then they are applied to other areas of the curriculum. E-Safety awareness is taught through every unit of work.
We aim to keep pace with educational and technological developments in the world and we have a commitment to provide all teachers with the necessary tools to do their job well, including laptops, interactive whiteboards and interactive whiteboards. Through training, teachers are empowered to give pupils opportunities to learn in different ways through new technologies. We invest money to purchase equipment and software to make the ICT curriculum varied, exciting and complete. 
Most ICT lessons are taught in our ICT Suites. Over the coming years we plan to upgrade our facilities and provide more laptops in our classrooms. We intend to make the school’s learning platform an integral part of our learning at school and at home. The school will work towards achieving the ICT Mark and e-Safety Mark within the next three years.

We intend to develop training and offer guidance to encourage parents to use ICT to further enhance learning out of school for themselves and their children.

Here is a Wordle of the vision statement:
The larger words are the ones that were used most frequently in my statement. Hopefully I've managed to get my main themes across.

The nature of ICT means that my action points are very likely to change over the next few years!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Lightshot Screenshot software

After many years using alternative screenshot software I recently learned about Lightshot. It was instantly better than the previous software I had installed.

I use the free PC desktop version but add-ons are available for Chrome, IE and Firefox.

I like it because when I click the PrtSc button the software kicks in. I can immediately select the precise area that I want to copy. I then have a range of choices of what to do with the image. I can upload the image to share online via Twitter and Facebook. I can copy the image to the clipboard. I could print the image. I can also save the picture to my computer. 

It has made the process of taking screenshots so much quicker and easier and I love the way that the program allows me to do several things with the image.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

So that's what Digital Literacy is...

I've heard the term 'digital literacy' being used quite a lot over the years.

I recently stumbled across the best definition of it that I've read:
"Exploiting the huge potential of the Information Age is a task set before all of us. Being able to access information at the time and place where it is required is more possible than ever before, with the advent of wireless technologies, broadband connectivity and intelligent agents. Digital literacy is the means through which this can be accomplished... 
In short, digital literacy is all about making the technology work for you, finding new and interesting ways in which information technology can enhance life and improve the quality of teaching and learning. The digitally literate teacher will be convinced of the efficacy and usefulness of the connected computer."
Transforming Primary ICT, edited by Steve Wheeler 2005 

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Monthly Review: May 2011

May was a strange month as I was off on paternity leave for much of the first two weeks. Those couple of weeks were spent enjoying time with our baby. We went out for days out and had lots of visitors. Lily has been great so far and is sleeping well at night time!

Other things that have kept me busy in May are:

New teacher interviews
We held interviews to appoint two new teachers in KS2. Our interview process was excellent: classroom observation, an interview with the school council, a tour of the school (given by the school council), an informal lunch with a few members of staff and, of course, the formal interview. I believe we have appointed the two right people through this very thorough process. I wrote about do's and don't's when writing job application letters here

Returning to work
I hate returning to work after a one day course. So returning after nearly two weeks was really hard. I felt so behind and so out of touch with everything. I teach for 60% of the week and this has been too much since I returned from my paternity leave. Simple things like tidying up have been tricky - I need to sort myself out!

School University
Each year we have a 'university' for our children in KS2. This involves the children choosing a course in something that we normally do not offer in school. Courses include bricklaying, gardening and being a librarian. I had a strict deadline to put together a prospectus for the children to choose their favourite courses by the last day of the half-term. So much of my time since returning to work was spent arranging courses (run by teachers, teaching assistants, governors, local businesses and local high schools). The children chose their courses on the last day of half-term - just in the nick of time!

I attended #tmchesh2 in Macclesfield at the end of May. I managed to take our assistant headteacher with me so that she can see how they work. I would  like to introduce professional development in this format to our staff in the next academic year.

Investors in Pupils
I attended a course about applying for a quality mark to celebrate our work in listening and responding to pupil voice. This will be one of my big targets for next year.

Best man
I was best man at my friend's wedding at the end of the month. I managed to write my speech a few days before and I had lots of compliments from guests at the wedding.

Seeing the physio
After I badly injured my knee on 7th April I have been seeing a physio. He has been giving me exercises to strengthen my knee. My knee is still swollen and is nowhere near right, but it is much better. My doctor has referred me to an orthopedic consultant so hopefully my appointment will come soon.