Operation: Cosmic Dust – A Pupil Powered Mission To Space

In September 2016, an email from The Principal began what was to become a remarkable adventure, not only for Roffa The Teddy Bear, but also for the pupils of my place of employment; King’s Prep School in Rochester. The mission, code named ‘Operation: Cosmic Dust’ was clear; get Roffa The Bear into space and back whilst obtaining some footage of the journey! Simple, right?

Captain Roffa The Bear

Immediately, this seemed like an ideal challenge based learning project for the Prep School’s extraordinary Digital Genius team; two members of each class that meet once a week with myself to learn about everything Edtech and to be on hand in every class to assist teachers and their fellow pupils. As the Michaelmas term ‘blasted’ towards Christmas, naturally the weather started to deteriorate. Therefore, our wonderful ‘cluster’ of Digital Geniuses spent the rest of the term procuring the required equipment; accompanying Captain Roffa on his journey was two SIM card GPS transmitters, a 64GB SD card and a Go-Pro Camera to record the adventure. Most of the equipment was purchased from the fantastic team at Sent Into Space.

The Digital Genius Team and Roffa’s kit

The Digital Genius team immediately set about designing and building the payload to carry Roffa and the equipment into space. Once completed, it was simply a matter of waiting for the right weather conditions to occur. Roffa could not travel north due to air-traffic, whilst travelling east was no-good due to the proximity of the Thames Estuary and the North Sea. Days turned to weeks, and weeks to months until, deep into May, the metaphorical planets aligned and the launch date was finally decided for Thursday the 25th.

The landing predictor finally comes up trumps!

When the countdown had finished and take-off day was upon us, at lunch time the whole school gathered on the school field, known as The Paddock, to watch the extraordinary event unfold. When everything was prepared, everybody shouted out the countdown from 10 and then, in a blink of an eye, Roffa’s astonishing ascent to the stratosphere began. As Roffa majestically disappeared from sight, it was down to Head of Science – Mr Caithness, and myself to head off into the Kent wilderness in the hope we could retrieve the Astrobear.

The school gathers to watch the launch of Roffa

Finally, after 4 hours Roffa made contact and provided GPS coordinates stating he had landed just east of Hadlow. With no hesitation, we sped over to the location but, to our dismay, after an extensive search, it was clear Roffa was gone…

Roffa was recovered in Hadlow by Mr Tim Shilton

However, just as we were about to return to school empty-handed, Mr Caithness received a phonecall! Thankfully, Roffa had been found by a Mr Tim Shilton of Hadlow! We made the short journey to Mr Shilton’s house who then explained he had been enjoying a glass of Shiraz with his wife when he suddenly saw the bear descend near the bottom of his back garden! He retrieved Roffa from a tree and then made the call.

Roffa Featured in The Times

The next day, the Digital Genius team carefully opened the payload and ejected the SD card and the footage they found was simply stunning. The curvature of the earth was clear alongside East Anglia, the Isle of Wight, France, Belgium and beyond and all can be seen the film at the bottom of this post.  Roffa’s journey was subsequently featured in the Medway Messenger, The Times and even the international press. Furthermore, the Digital Genius Team were invited to present their project at Sussex University as part of the Solutions INC Annual Education Summit.

The Digital Genius Team at Sussex University

Nevertheless, most importantly of all, Roffa’s adventure inspired the learners of King’s Prep School in what was a truly memorable experience for us all.

Operation: Cosmic Dust – Launch Day from King’s Prep School on Vimeo.

Getting Started With Apple Classroom

The Apple Classroom App has been available for over a year, however, until the release of Apple Classroom 2.0 unless your MDM was ahead of the game, whether you could use it not was in it’s hands. Thankfully, that is no longer the case; the release of version 2.0 means that as long as you have the right iPads, any teacher can take advantage of deploying this free, powerful and simple app in their classroom.

So, lets start with the ‘right iPads’. Simply, as long as student iPads can download iOS 10.3.0 or above, you are OK. Make sure you are all on the same WiFi network and have Bluetooth turned on as discovery is completed via Bluetooth, whilst connection is over WiFi using ‘Bonjour’.

What is Apple Classroom?

Apple classroom provides a whole new level of control to teachers who benefit from using iPads in their classroom. In an instant you can:

  • Open an app on all devices
  • Navigate the iPads to a web page or a chapter in a book in iBooks
  • Lock and unlock the iPad screens
  • View a device’s screen remotely
  • Initiate an AirPlay session between a single student device and the classroom Apple TV

How do you set up your classes?

Step 1 – Teachers need to download the Classroom App

Step 2 – Open the App and hit ‘Create New Class’. Give the class a name and, if you wish, choose them a colour!

Step 3 – Select the class and then hit the ‘Add’ button.

Step 4 – Students should navigate their iPads to settings and should see the classroom app appear in the menu on the right hand side

Step 5 – The Students should then be able to select the relevant class and the teacher can then add them into the class via the App.

Once the students are added to the class, you can start to take advantage of the Classroom App features.

What are the features of Classroom?

The following features can either be initiated with the whole class or to individuals, pairs etc.

Open – Use this feature to open specific apps on the iPads

Navigate – Direct the iPads to a specific website

Lock – lock the iPads so they can not be used

Mute – Stop sounds on the ipads

Screens – take a look at the activity on each iPad. When you do this, students are notified on their devices by a blue bar at the top of their screens.

Groups – Classroom creates a group to start with: All. This contains all the devices that are in the class. The teacher can then create static groups as required – for example project teams. The app also generates groups based on factors such as low-battery life or students that are on specific apps.

In conclusion, Apple Classroom is a pretty awesome tool. When deployed, it can alleviate any fears that students are not on task with their devices. It’s very simple to use and adds an unprecedented element of control to iPad classrooms.

Getting started with Swift Playgrounds

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Apple’s Swift Playgrounds is a fantastic app built to help teach programming. It is ideal for the classroom and it’s purpose is to help children from Y6 onward get started with coding and learn some of the fundamental concepts involved. It uses Apple’s own programming language, Swift, and is intuitive and beautifully designed. Furthermore, it is relatively simple to use and best of all – it’s free!

Getting Started:

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Tap the featured button to choose your playgrounds

Once you have downloaded the app, you need to select the playground you wish to start in. To do so, tap on the featured button and then I would strongly recommend that you pick ‘Learning to code 1; Fundamentals of Swift’ before embarking on any other of the challenges . Simply because it will provide a basic scaffold on which pupils can start to build their understanding of the app and the Swift language itself.

Navigating The App:

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Playgrounds has introductory slides for each concept

Once downloaded, you tap on the Playgrounds and an in-built keynote presentation will walk you through the coding concept of each section. The first is commands and the presentation gives a nice overview before the coding starts.

Once the introductory presentation is finished, the first playground starts up and you are ready to start coding! The annotated picture below shows you what’s what.

 

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Teacher Guide:

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-12-28-42To accompany the app, Apple have also released a brilliant teacher guide available in iBooks. The book is designed for use with students and is packed full of fantastic content to help teachers, including those that are less confident, use the app in the classroom. The materials included align with curriculum standards for computer science and provide lesson plans, learning objectives, key vocabulary, a whole host of activity ideas, a grade-book to track progress and achievement and best of all – the answers, in case you get completely stuck! Furthermore, the book also contains the following interactive features which really help when rolling out Swift Playgrounds:

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Keynote Slides

The Keynote slides are very helpful and once downloaded, fully customisable. They contain interactive examples of children’s work, key vocabulary and explanations. There are also additional activities that are a great add-on to the playgrounds themselves; providing the opportunity for children to learn the key concepts unplugged. Or in otherwords, examine what the concepts mean without computers.

Using SeeSaw 

The grade-book is great for summative assessment, but for formative assessment Apple recommend that teachers use the awesome SeeSaw. SeeSaw is a fantastic, simple-to-use portfolio App that means pupils can hand in examples of their work in video or picture format. Teachers can then annotate, like, and provide feedback (verbal or written) to the pupils and they receive instant notification. All their work is stored in personal folders making it easy to monitor and very helpful for events like parents evening!

Summary

Swift Playgrounds really is a fabulous tool for the classroom. Whether you are a Computer Science wizard, or a primary teacher who has unwillingly been given the responsibility of running the coding curriculum, the App and accompanying resources provide a wonderful opportunity to engage, challenge and promote computer science in any school that is fortunate enough to have iPads available for their pupils.

Super Josh Magennis!

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Charlton are unbeaten in 2017 and no one in the EFL has scored more goals in this calendar year than Josh Magennis! Well, we haven’t had a lot to be proud about recently so why not take this opportunity? In all fairness, this was a very good Charlton performance by a team that appears to have its confidence back after another turbulent few months in SE7.

After conceding to a Jermaine Easter opener following a slip by the Big Friendly German, it all felt rather familiar at The Valley. However, this time our heads did not go down, the crowd didn’t turn and once we equalised in the 41st minute through Magennis, we actually started to play some decent football.

The Addicks were shooting towards The Covered End in the second half and we were fortunate enough to witness the best 45 minutes by Charlton at home this season. Other than Magennis, the stand out performance was from academy product Joe Aribo who set up Magennis for his second and provided another assist for Teixeira to slot home the third from close range. However, with the imminent departures of Konsa and Lookman on the horizon, it’ll be interesting to see how long Joe hangs around.

Magennis completed his hat-trick in the 73rd minute after latching onto a pass from Crofts and finished with some aplomb; celebrating in front of an ecstatic (and surprised) North Stand.

Although not everyones cup of tea, a lot of credit has to go to new manager Karl Robinson who has clearly realised the huge work to be done to rebuild the relationship between the club and the fans. He ensured the whole team clapped all three stands (just like Matty Holland used to do…) following the final whistle and we also saw the first tunnel jump in a long time! Josh Magennis appearing twice as following his first jump, he forgot to re-collect his much deserved hat-trick match-ball! Just for a very brief second, it felt like we had got our Charlton back.

Let’s just hope Robinson is given the time and resources to build something positive at The Valley despite the hapless record of the current regime.

School technology adoption: harness the power within…

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Educational technology has never been more popular or accessible but remarkably, some school leaders completely misunderstand the change in pedagogical approach a deeply embedded adoption of technology requires.  It is all to common to see schools buy the tech, then pay one of the many ‘Edtech Guru’ consultants an astronomical fee for a day or two’s consultation and expect learning to be transformed over night. However, a far more comprehensive plan is required if adoption is to be successful. Furthermore, utilising the endless talent, wisdom and experience contained within every staff room should feature heavily within it.

School leaders must comprehend that the simple acquisition of digital technologies will not lead to inevitable change and progression. Indeed, as  Keith Turvey from Brighton University states; if technology-centered arguments, as opposed to those based on pedagogy, are the focus of school leaders attention then technology may never perform more than a “perfunctory role in education”.

Instead, school leaders must realize that it is their responsibility to ensure the conditions are right for a variety of stakeholders to be actively and passionately involved in the integration of technology into their respective school context. School leaders need to consider the myriad of complexities involved with digital technology adoption and reflect upon the multifaceted barriers that they will encounter.

There is plenty of highly respected academic literature that indicates successful modern school leadership requires the acquisition of new skills, new behaviours, new knowledge and indeed, new vision. All of which are fundamentally necessary if educational technology is to become an indispensable element of a school and it’s endless potential is fully unraveled.

It is my opinion therefore, that schools who wish to succeed in the digital age must ensure that they employ and nurture leadership that understands the possibilities that technology can offer but also grasps the difficulties successful adoption involves.

School leaders need to accept that no educational system should be regarded as a single social system. Rather, each individual school has it’s own idiosyncrasies, identities and teachers. An ill-considered adventure in the technological jungle, without considering existing school culture would be foolish. Therefore, school leaders wishing to adopt technology should engage in open and frank dialogue with their staff about mutual goals and visions for their respective schools. The value of such conversations should not be underestimated and are a powerful means to evoke and address our fundamental beliefs. As Linda Lambert puts it “Being listened to and listening to others has an almost magical effect on our expressions as a professional”.

With such dialogue taking place, the development of shared purpose may contribute to the organisations ability to adopt and integrate new technologies. It would also provide teachers with opportunities to continuously learn from each other, and wider professional networks, and put into practice the new powers, knowledge and skills they have acquired.

Ultimately, if school leaders wish to provide the best possible learning opportunities for their students, and see the adoption of technology as part of that process, they must also ensure that they provide the best possible circumstances for their teachers to pioneer, experiment, make mistakes and learn together.

Get Kahooting!

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If you haven’t already heard of Kahoot, it really is worth investigating. The online quiz creator is one of the best free tools available to teachers to add a new engaging, simple-to-use but brilliantly fun dimension into your everyday teaching.

Teacher Perspective

Getting started is easy. Sign up for an account at https://getkahoot.com/ and once this is established, you click on the New Kahoot button or choose between a quiz, discussion or survey.

Kahoot

Whatever option you select, you will be redirected to the same screen. There is no difference in the set up for a quiz, discussion or survey, rather you will need to pose the questions in a different way. The next screen you come to will look like this:

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It’s pretty simple to fill in and one really nice feature is the ability to add an intro video. Basically, the YouTube video that you choose will play in a loop whilst the players of the game sign up. Therefore, I would recommend the video is not too long. You could even upload your own videos to YouTube to use!

Once the Description page is completed, you start entering your questions. A really helpful feature is that you can add a picture or video to accompany each question. This could just be a visual prompt or actually form part of the question as shown in the example below:

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You then set the rest of your questions and once finished save your Kahoot, ready to be played.

This can be done by hitting the play button. Once it has been clicked, a pin number will be automatically generated and appear on the class projector.

This is the pin the children need to join the game!play

Pupil Perspective

It could not be any easier for pupils to join the game. They simply need to visit www.kahoot.it and they will see this screen:

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To join the game, all they need to do is add the teacher generated pin code and a nickname! Any silly names can be easily deleted along with the player who entered them. Children soon learn they are missing out on a whole lot of fun!

CPD

Kahoot very helpfully has a whole webpage dedicated to CPD resources! It includes a slideshow available in PDF, PowerPoint or Keynote format, and even has some speaker notes with guidance and prompts!

Get Kahoot

I could not recommend Kahoot enough. I love writing the quizzes and children absolutely love playing them. It’s a simple but sure-fired way to get ALL your class involved in the lesson and motivate them to achieve whilst you get to monitor their knowledge and understanding of any part of the curriculum you choose to use.

 

 

 

Berlin Takeaway – ADE Institute 2016

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Berlin is a city abound with character, history, contrast and wonder. This year Apple chose it to host the 2016 the Global Apple Distinguished Educator Institute. The week was quite brilliant and I’d like to share five things that I took away from a remarkable experience

1. Technology can break down walls

Berlin Wall

Perhaps there is no other city in the world in which a wall has played such a prominent part in defining culture. The Berlin Wall was torn down over 25 years ago and it’s citizens now enjoy freedom of movement, ideology and expression. In a classroom, when used with well-planned instruction, technology has the power to unite classrooms, empower and amaze students and help turn teachers into global authors. Indeed, at the Apple Institute, educators from every corner of the planet joined together with a common goal – to use technology to change the lives of their students. From having breakfast with Brazilian ADE’s to working with ADE’s from the Middle East on global projects; the ADE institute highlighted that we are all truly global citizens and education is a force for good.

2. Swift Playgrounds has a LOT of potential

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Apple, like many other technology companies, believe that coding is an essential skill and will only become more and more important in our evermore technology focused society. They have come up with a new iPad App called Swift Playgrounds that makes getting started with coding fun, interactive and achievable. The APP is released in fall  Autumn but to get a good idea of what to expect, Apple have released an iBook guide for teachers. 

3. Running/walking is the best way to feel a city

IMG_3683A couple of runs in Berlin provided an opportunity to see parts of the city that were off the beaten track. The first was an early morning, 9mile adventure with Nathan Ashman. The second, a 6 mile random odyssey towards the Lichtenberg area of town. On the Wednesday, all ADE’s were given the opportunity to explore Berlin. Mark Anderson, Coby Reynolds and myself set off by foot to find the East Side Gallery. We roughly followed the path of the Wall from the Brandenburg Gate until we reached our destination. We filmed, took pictures, grabbed a couple of beers and sampled some local food – good times and great memories.

4. Photography is for everybody

eyeem-homeWe were fortunate enough to listen to a fascinating seminar from the team behind the App – EyeEm. The App is used by 18million people from 150 countries across the globe. Any image that you are particularly proud of can be uploaded and shared with The World. The quality of imagery is exceptional and you even get a chance to make a little cash out of it as brands like UBER, The Huffington Post and ASOS may want to buy them! Fellow ADE Rachel Smith had already been tapped up by Getty Images! The seminar also included some top photography tips and with the remarkable technology that is readily accessible to people, most people can get a shot that was once only available to the elite.

5. Virtual reality works in the classroom

IMG_3663Perhaps the greatest thing about the ADE institute is the humbling experience of seeing the amazing work that goes on in schools around the world. I take my hat off to every single one of the ADE’s who present a three minute showcase and I never fail to take home a list of things that I have to try in my classroom. After ADE2016, very near the top of the list is Virtual Reality (VR). Like some elements of photography and film-making, only a few years ago using VR in the classroom would have been obscenely expensive, time consuming and impractical. However, after seeing some of the work done by educators such as Sarah Jones and Nathan Ashman using affordable tools like Google Cardboard, Streetview and Thinglink 36o, I am excited about getting some projects started in the next school year.