It’s not whether you use social media, it’s how you use social media…

“It’s not whether you use social media, it’s how you use social media”

On Friday 4th May, we are hosting a Social Media Awareness Afternoon at King’s and for those parents that can not make it, I have linked the presentation to this blog post. The message really centres around the above quote. We live in a digital age where the number of people engaging on social media dwarfs the population of the worlds biggest countries. There is no point in burying our heads in the sand or scare mongering about the inevitable apocalyptic end-game that social media will bring to humanity. Rather, we strongly recommend a proactive, mediative approach where parents educate both themselves and their pupils about the dangers of social media, but also about it’s virtues and ensure that the correct measures are taken to make sure user experience is optimised.

Social media is here to stay. Recent news stories about Facebook data mining and trolls on Twitter have not seen a large decline in the social media giants’ respective user-base. Even if one of the social media giants did fold, it would only be a matter of time before another replaces it and becomes a part of every-day life for everyone with an internet connection. However, the invasive nature of social media in all our lives does highlight the need for education about the pitfalls of clickbait, unsolicited hyperlinks, sharing personal data and digital footprints. We are confident that the children at our school enjoy an engaging digital literacy program whilst at school and also realise that they probably know far more about the social media that they use on a daily basis then most adults. Therefore, during the afternoon, pupils will also be presenting and demonstrating which social-communication tools they use, how they protect themselves and why the power of conversations and communication between parents and pupils is a great way to develop deeper understanding. Furthermore, we will offer reassurance that children’s online lives can be positive if sensible procedures are established and followed. More detailed advice is available in the Prezi below.

http://prezi.com/wfxn5-bnw47q/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

 

 

 

Trilby TV v4 – What’s New?

It would not be an exaggeration to say that adopting Trilby TV has had a huge impact on teaching and learning at our school. We adopted Trilby in September 2017 and since then, our digital signage has burst into life with pupil work and achievements brightening our corridors every single day.  Furthermore, our staff room has become a hub of information and ideas now we can direct specific content to the newly fitted plasma TV that adorns one of the walls.

Even sharing the daily schedule has become a breeze! What once was a laborious task of turning on an ancient laptop stored in a filing cabinet, waiting 10 minutes for it to load and then entering the details via an auto-playing PowerPoint, is now a quick and simple part of my daily routine. I remotely update using Google Slides, and with the related HTML embedded within Trilby, the updates appear instantly on the Trilby TV.

Our marketing department have also seized the opportunity to regenerate the screen in our main school reception; posting student work, activities and news from across the school whilst also advertising future events such as upcoming concerts, productions and Open Days.

Adding to all this excitement was February’s eagerly awaited Trilby TV v4 update, meaning the old App will no longer work. However, in the mean time before the new app arrives, the web app works wonderfully on iPads and others tablets too.

So, once we have logged into v4, what are the new features that we can look forward to?

1. New interface

First and foremost, we have a fantastic new interface to deal with.  As before, the + button allows us to add content, which can be in the form of videos, slideshows, twitter feeds, web content or a title screen. However, the overall layout is easier to navigate and the button design looks great too!

On the left hand sidebar you can (from the top down):

Return home,

See each individual player that is connected on your network,

Set up playlists,

Edit different categories,

Add and manage new users

Check permission groups and settings

Manage the system dashboard

 

You can also view the content of each individual channel by hitting the settings button in the top left hand corner.

2. Twitter Feed and Title Screen Colours

Another great new feature allows users to add different colours to their twitter feeds and title screens. This is very pleasing aesthetically, especially when selecting colours that, for example, link with ones Twitter avatar. I have included an example here from our main school account.

 3. Editing Slide Shows

A minor gripe with previous version of Trilby TV was the inability to edit the slides that made up your slideshows. For example, if adding a set of pictures from a school trip, once published to Trilby TV you could not add or delete pictures. Instead, to make changes you would have to re-upload all the images again and make the alterations that way. It’s all different now! You can easily add and delete individual slides to your hearts content.

4. Smarter playlist tools

Playlists are a great way to organise content and with V4, you can edit and re-order you playlists with much greater ease. They can then be sent to different players and, like all content, can be set to a specific broadcast schedule.

And finally…

There are probably a few other features that I have missed – please let me know if you are aware of anything I have left out and I will update this post accordingly!

For details about getting your school signed up to Trilby or taking advantage of their 30 day free trial – take a look at their website.

Absorbing ADE2017: Five Things I Took Home From Windsor

Windsor is a stunning town, situated on the River Thames, 20 miles or so west of London. It is the home of Legoland UK and the world famous royal residence, Windsor Castle, originally built by William the Conqueror in the 11th Century. In July 2017, it also was one of the locations that welcomed the new Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) class of 2017 and I was lucky enough to attend as Alumni. They were a brilliant few days, and I’d like to share five things that I took away from a remarkable experience.

1.Teaching Is Amazing

With all the negativity surrounding Ofsted, SATs, teachers pay, teacher recruitment etc. it is easy to forget what an amazing job teaching actually is and what a brilliant job teachers do.  At ADE2017, all attendees were provided with ample opportunities to hear stories from classrooms across the world, demonstrating the wonderful work that takes place on a daily basis. From showcases to informal conversations, it was inspiring to hear so many marvellous projects taking place, orchestrated by a brilliant team of educators.

2. Chase and Status Don’t Just Make Brilliant Music

One of the highlights was the interview conducted by Peter Ford with Chase and Status’ very own Will Kennard (aka Status). I have long been a fan of Chase and Status and was amazed when Mr Kennard appeared on stage! He provided a fascinating insight into his own education and how although he attended a good school, was not engaged with the education available there. He passed his exams and went to university as he felt he had too, but “dropped out” after a year (much to his Mum’s dismay) to concentrate on his true passion; electronic music production and DJing. It proved to be the right choice as Chase and Status are now global superstars within their scene and regularly tour the planet, headlining major music festivals across the planet. We also got a sneak preview of their new album, Tribe, which sounded typically awesome. However, the most inspiring aspect of Will’s story was that he used his negative experience of education to try and make a positive difference to young people today by forming the East London School for Arts and Music (ELAM). The objective of ELAM is to give children the opportunity to develop their skills in music, arts and drama, regardless of their background. Furthermore, their unique curriculum allows the fusion of songwriting, poetry, news articles, gig reviews, and even plays that have been performed at the National Theatre. The dreaded OFSTED had even confirmed what a stellar job Will and his team are doing when they awarded the school ‘Outstanding’ in their most recent inspection.

3. There Are More Fantastic Swift Playground And Coding Resources Available

I have already used Swift Playground, Apple’s quite excellent coding App, with Year 7 and received fantastic feedback from students. However, it looks like there may be even more excitement next school year as there is now bluetooth connectivity to robots, drones and musical instruments including Lego Mindstorms Education EV3, the Sphero SPRK+, Parrot drones and more. Furthermore, the younger pupils will be able to enjoy more coding as I will be using the free Get Started With Code teacher guide. I will be using it alongside Tynker, CodeSpark Academy and Keynote. All resources are free and each lesson has editable slides, purpose built for the classroom and importantly, in case you get stuck, the answers!

4. Clips Are Everywhere and Bursting With Potential

If you are a teacher on Twitter, you may have noticed a sudden burst of #classroomclips appear on your timeline. One of the main reasons is that us ADE’s were set the challenge of producing something useful, tangible and constructive using the new, simple and intuitive Apple App, Clips. It is free and allows for very quick production of pretty professional looking video clips, ideal for sharing on social media. I have already seen some brilliant projects unfold, such as the #ClipsTours videos which showcase parts of the world visited by ADE’s or the @TechTeachGoals team who are now sharing short but useful hints and tips for #Edtech use in the classroom. However, I am most excited by the prospect of seeing what the pupils will produce when back at school and are unleashed upon the Clips App themselves.

5. The amazing prospect of Apple School Manager & Shared iPad

Over the summer, we are lucky enough to be adding 20 brand new iPads to our resources at King’s ready for September. They are the new ‘iPad’ which means that we will be able to set up users on the devices who will be able to log-in and find their respective set up. Our existing shared iPads were iPad Mini 2’s and although they have proved brilliant for our pupils, there were lots of occasions where work was lost, wrongly edited or settings had been changed. Instead, with Apple School Manager and shared iPad, individual users log-in to the device to find their own unique settings. We will be among the first schools in the UK to be using the new feature and I can’t wait to get started. Regarding the old devices, they will now be exclusively for Y4 whilst the new devices, for Y5. Furthermore, we are lucky enough to have 1:2:1 iPads in Y6,Y7 and Y8 so our pupils iPad provision has never looked so healthy.

 

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.

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.

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.

 

 

The Success of a School iPad Project – Pupil, Teacher & Parent Voice

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Has our iPad deployment worked? A simple question, but one that is often very hard to answer. There is no doubt that technology offers many means of improving teaching and learning in the classroom; the results of our recent pupil survey certainly reiterated this. However, as any technology deployment is unlikely to suddenly provide all pupils with 11 A* at GCSE, how do you truly measure success?

Ready_for_final_exam_at_Norwegian_University_of_Science_and_TechnologyPersonally, I don’t believe that success should be judged by a set of test results, but those that do will tell you technology is an expensive waste of time as there is no evidence it impacts upon ‘standards’. Simply, they are wrong. I am fortunate enough to work at a school where independent thinking and a love of learning are just as important as great grades and standards of all-types are valued.

Over the previous two years we had made considerable investment in the procurement of whole-school holistic WiFi. The Y6 iPad roll out in September 2015 was the culmination of many months of planning, training and decision making that had ultimate the goal of improving the classroom experience of our pupils; allowing them to do things differently and express themselves in a multitude of ways.

Eight months into the project, and with September 2016 fast approaching, it has been a time to reflect on both the successes (and failures) as we make preparations for the second phase of the deployment. We recently held an iPad information evening for prospective Year Six parents whose children are in the second year of our roll out. Therefore we compiled these two short films and completed a qualitative survey of parents to demonstrate the success of our 1:2:1 project so far from those who have experienced it first hand. The results speak for themselves.

Pupil Voice:

 

Teacher Voice:

Parent Voice:

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Blog On – Challenge Based Blogging

I’m a huge fan of school blogging and also of Challenge Based Learning. I therefore decided to combine the two for a school project for Year 8. This post shares what we did and also contains links to all the resources you need to replicate the project in your school. Using the CBL wheel as our guide, we started with…

THE BIG IDEA

The Big Idea should be broad concept that can be explored in multiple ways. Furthermore, it should be important to students, and society at large. For this project, the over-riding concept was communication and with a little prodding in the right direction, the students decided to create their very own blog sites to share their writing with a potentially global audience.

ESSENTIAL QUESTION

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 20.39.35The formation of an essential question is a fundamental part of any CBL challenge; it is something pupils can always use to refer back to and forms an umbrella under which they can all work. The students used Padlet to establish “Sometimes our writing never gets read. Can we use blogging to write for a real audience?”

CHALLENGE

The next task was for the students to embark on their specific challenge. It is imperative that the students generate an area of interest in which to work. By this point they knew they would be making a blog and creating content for it, however they needed to decide what they would be blogging about and organically work out whom they would be working with. Again, Padlet was the tool of choice. In the example below you can see that 4M loosely bundled their choices into video games, pets, cars, photography and sport.

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ACTIVITIES / RESOURCES

Once the groups were formulated (via subject choice not friendship) their initial task was to plan their blog. To do this I provided a blog planning sheet for each group. Each group started with a discussion and then took to their computers. They then used OneDrive to begin work on the planning sheet collaboratively in real time and left it in a shared folder for me to check and provide feedback.

Blog Planning Sheet

Another key aspect of the project is the blog design. We are fortunate to have a whole school WordPress site, hosted by the fantastic Creative Blogs. I am a huge fan of WordPress and knowing how to use it properly is becoming an ever more valued skill. Therefore, a significant part of the project is an introduction to some basic skills that can enhance their blog and help them to meet their objectives.

Blog – Design Checklist

Once the subject of the blog has been decided, students then begin to design their blog. This design checklist details things that all students should do and a few things they could do, therefore taking care of differentiation.

I also created some tutorials below that will help the students (and teachers) with the could do section. Flipped learning really does change the dimensions of the classroom and empowers pupils to work independently. Please note that each template within WordPress may have slightly different functionality but the tutorials should certainly point you in the right direction.

Customised Widgets:

Personalised Header:

Customised Menu:

Customised Background Image:

There are a couple of ‘Could Do’ options on the deign checklist that don’t have tutorials; that is because if the students get this far they should be able to start to work things out for themselves! The beauty of working with technology is that it doesn’t really matter if you get things wrong, but it is hugely important to experiment and take risks. Of course, if it does go horribly wrong; hit the undo button or don’t save and start again!

SOLUTIONS/IMPLEMENTATION

Once the site is designed and up and running, it’s time to get blogging! Each group should have a theme for their blog that they opted to write about. This should promote enthusiasm for the task. When you set up your blog, students can be assigned different privileges. Good practice is to ensure that they are contributors as opposed to editors. The reason being contributors can not publish articles without approval from the page administrator which should be the teacher. This should also encourage a good standard of English as only well-written and thoroughly edited posts should be published.

Students can add images and even embed videos within their posts relatively easily. The following tutorials are available should assistance be required with this.

Embedding Video In Your Post:

Inserting Images In Your Post:

EVALUATION

Evaluation does not have take place at the end of the project. As soon as the first blog posts are published, pupils can start leaving comments on each others work. Using the comment function of blogging is arguably the most important part of it. Comments provide each author with feedback from a variety of sources. It is also authentic evidence of an audience and has the effect of improving standards as students realise their work has a true purpose. The comments are all moderated by the administrator (teacher) and should be useful and constructive. It’s worth spending time looking at comments and what makes a good quality comment, and indeed a poor comment. Teacher feedback can also be provided via comments and by using social media, comments can even be collected from an authentic global audience and should provide a successful, contextualised answer to the original Essential Question.

Here our some example comments taken from our ‘Blog On’ project:

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