Monday, 26 September 2011

Multiplying and Dividing by 10, 100 & 1000

After searching for ways to help children understand what is happening when multiplying and dividing by 10, 100 and 1000, this is the best method I've come across. Moving children away from the notion of 'adding a 0' or 'taking off a 0' is essential for them to be able to multiply and divide by multiples of 10 when using decimal numbers. This video shows a simple way to demonstrate this:

Friday, 23 September 2011

App Sharing

Apps are awesome. I have so many apps on my phone that I have not played with half of them. Photgraphy apps, which make my naff pics into amazing art, truly addictive games and, of course, educational apps from tracking stars to making books into mini-blockbusters. The problem is which ones to get for our iPods at school?

We were introduced to the fantastic site AppShopper which tracks price changes as well as new apps. This is great but means we are getting even more of a range of apps to look at. We decided that we would like to use this blog to help suggest apps that would be good to use in school.

Therefore, we need you.

Please use the comments section to offer your ideas for great apps which we can use to make our lessons even more funky.

Thanks in advance.

The Importance of Versatility

I really like Apple computers. I like the simplicity of the interface especially on the mobile platforms. I like the way I can take a film from iPhoto through iMovie to iDVD. I also like the way apps allow me to educate, play and explore at the same time. The thing is, I really like Windows too. I like the interface on PCs. I like the fact that I can get right into the depths of the OS and play around with it and I love Open Source software and gaming.  I have friends who have an almost religious fervour about Apple computers and I have friends who are equally zealous about Windows.
To me a computer is a tool. Sometimes I use it well, often rather badly. This is sometimes down to how well I know the software but more often than not it is down to how well the computer is working for me. 
As an educator, my job is to teach children. When I was at school we made use of a BBC Micro. When I was at college, we used Windows 95. When I started teaching, there were only a few computers i
n school and five years ago the touch screen mobile platform was only just starting.
The fact is that we cannot anticipate the sorts of operating systems and technology that our children will be working on in ten years when they leave school and go into the adult world. It is imperative that we teach children how to use the tools we give them effectively. Even more importantly we need to teach them the basic skills that you need to be able to adapt so that you can work with computers of the future. It is only by doing this that we will be able to ensure our children are prepared for the future.  Our children need to be taught to use OSX, Windows and even Linux. It is only by doing this that we can get away from people saying that they cannot use one system or another and make our children future proof as well as our hardware.
Lesson 1: Turn it off, wait thirty seconds, then turn it on.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Team Lego

At the start of the year, it is all about getting to know your new class. The children go through initial assessments in reading, writing, maths, art and all the other subjects. We also want our children to leave school at the end of the day having had fun. This year we looked at how we could add a bit of fun to some of our assessments,

A key area of development for us is developing teamwork skills, as well as independence and initiative. In the past, whilst we were teaching the skills of how to work in the team, we offered theoretical problems as well as classics such as building bridges with newspaper. So, this year, we looked at spicing them up.

Lego. I love Lego. The kids love Lego. It is easy to put together and easy to pick up. And, of course, I love Lego. After a visit to the Manchester Lego Discovery Centre, where my family and I played with the Duplo tower activity, my colleagues and I set up problem number one. How high can you build a Lego tower? The joy of this activity is that you can clearly highlight a design and evaluation stage.

Problem number two was slightly more complicated. As part of our curriculum we film a Shakespeare play, so I wanted to assess how well children were able to orient themselves around a camera shot and storyboard. In order to do this, I set up the challenge of making a film, with sound, using two Lego figures (from the Lego Minifigures range) and two sheets of paper as well as anything they had in their pencil case. The children had two hours to complete this. To add an extra challenge, I gave the children specific film genres to work with, from Romance to Science Fiction.

By the end of the morning, all the children had completed their films. We had the scary 'Demon Skateboard' as well as a beautiful romance between Disco Girl and the Chef. Most importantly, I could see how well the groups worked together, as well as their proficiency with the software and the cameras.

Now I can move forward with the shot types I want to teach, the software we need to work on and the team skills I need to focus on. I also got to play with Lego.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Who are our Children's Role Models?

At the start of a new school year, classes may choose to undertake a study into role models. Or during the year, the study of role models may be part of the PSHCE or RE curriculums. The term role model may also appear in history, science and other subject areas when significant figures are mentioned or studied. The purpose of these studies and the use of the term ‘role model’ is to give children direction and someone for them to aspire to be or become more like. If we, as adults, refer to someone as a role model then the person’s actions, morals and achievements need to be something worth aspiring to.

The people seen by children as role models are more often drawn from contemporary society and modern culture and are often world famous. I would like to see children thinking more deeply about the term role model. What exactly makes a role model and are they someone that everyone can aspire to be more like?

From looking in the dictionary, I found: ‘role model (noun); a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated’. My parents were role models. I looked to and still look to them for inspiration, advice and direction. While, not all parents will be perfect role models for their children, they, even though children may not realise it, are their first role models, shaping and defining their early lives. A discussion of parents as role models could be a good place to begin the lesson. How do the children perceive their parents as role models? The teachers and other members of a school’s staff will also be seen as role models by some of the children they work with. Have any of the children realised or experienced this?

There are many people in a child’s life they will look to copy, turn to for advice and reassurance. These people (close relatives, teachers, club leaders or community members) can be looked to first in a lesson about role models. These are the most important role models as they are the ones children have daily contact with and may not even realise they are role models. Then the children’s idea of whom they see as a famous role model can be looked at, before possibly discussing some other role models that are possibly less well known.

Within primary education, on the news and in various other media I frequently hear the name ‘David Beckham’ being put forward as a role model. While I have nothing against David Beckham or his achievements I do feel there are other role models we can look to first. The Wikipedia entry for Role Models highlights children’s perception of what or indeed who a ‘role model’ is. Below are some suggestions of less mentioned role models:

Richard Branson – Found school challenging. Has dyslexia. Left school without qualifications. Multimillionaire!

Elizabeth Fry – Prison reformist. Features on £5 notes in England.

Maximilian Kolbe – Took the place of a condemned man at Auschwitz. Kolbe died, Franciszek Gajowniczek went on to live until 1995.

St. Thomas More – Refused to go against something he believed in.

Adam Smith – Earned a reputation and became one of the most influential works on economics ever published.

Aung San Suu Kyi – Political activist.

Margret Thatcher – Perhaps not a popular choice with everyone, but overcome boundaries to become the UK’s first female Prime minister.