Interactive Independent learning at Key Stage 5

With the constraint of limited time,I feel anxious about the need to complete multiple controlled assessments at the same time as desperation to finish the syllabus with time for revision before the first AS exams. To  improve the chances of  the latter, I often set my students the task of giving presentations on certain topics of the syllabus to their peers and asking them all to complete their own notes on these. This has worked well for years and with advances in technology, the students have delivered increasingly polished presentations and I have been impressed with their ability to speak well and present thorough material. However.. there is always room for improvement and with Google docs, the students are able to work collaboratively and can easily share their work. We can all comment on content and give feedback or challenge material. This format still works. even then….

So my latest development is to set the same task through asking the students to create a Tackk!

This way they can create a mini website with all materials easily accessed through one shared area with interactive features. I have just received the first back and it is impressive. The students could take this further and link a google form through a button at the end which would allow them to assess the learning of everyone in the class… so things can get better and better!!!

Here are my instructions

and here is the first one back

The format of the tackk takes about 15 minutes to master… it’s so easy and just look at these great results.

Sharon Davidson @sharondavidson1

Assistant Headteacher

I get knocked down – but I get up again…

knocked down

Building character – what does this mean? There’s been lots of news and blogs about this recently ~ along with real world learning apparently we should all be doing it in our lessons. Helping pupils prepare for life’s ups and downs, remain optimistic, and metaphorically get back up again when they fall. There is a Japanese saying Seven times fall down; stand up eight which I share with year 8 when they are choosing options, and ask them what they think it means.

Is it possible to “teach” resilience? I do think there are several different aspects and pointers to demonstrate to students, not necessarily in a dedicated lesson but as opportunities or needs arise during the year.

Firstly it is important to feel part of a community; use the support of others around you. Having just coped with an unexpected bereavement I can personally vouch for this. Nothing can actually immediately “make things better” but the support and kindness of friends and colleagues really helps you to get through a low time in your life. In a work scenario, friends can encourage and give honest feedback as well as unconditional support – it may be character building to go through hardships and trials, but there is no need to cope alone.

If you can help to build a sense of optimism in your students, a glass half full attitude, they will also be able to cope more easily with problems and setbacks in the short term. If you believe in a brighter future you will be more able to cope with difficulties in the present, as you can see past and not be totally consumed by the “end of the world”.

Having said this, it is important to keep expectations realistic so that the future is less likely to throw a surprise punch ~  just think of the early auditions for the X factor and how it seems unbelievable that some of the contestants are so unaware of their lack of talents. We do students a disservice to pretend that everything will always be fabulous all the time.

As well as having realistic goals, it is important to learn that these goals need to be flexible. Just because one aspect of your life changes, it does not mean that a goal is unachievable, but it may need altering. “When life gives you lemons, keep them because, hey, free lemons!:)”  luke hemmings

If things do go wrong, we also need to teach how to use the experience to reflect, rather than looking back for a culprit; something or someone to blame, or even just a reason. Instead try to develop a more useful habit by considering What could I have done differently/better? Things could have been even better if…? How can I get back up, and resume moving in the direction I want to travel?

Finally, to steal the Boy Scout’s motto (am I showing my age here?), Be prepared. Being ready for a challenge, and as prepared as possible, will not only lessen the chances that something will go wrong in the first place, but if it does, allow you to recover and get back up again as quickly as possible.

So to sum up, I tried very hard to come up with an acronym for these. Probably not hard enough…

Sue’s Obvious Rules For Reinforcing Resilience

Support   Optimism   Realism   Flexibility   Reflection   Readiness

Sue Moreton @suemoreton1 
IAG co-ordinator

Revise with Studyblue

studyblue

I have been playing round with some revision based activities recently for my Year 8 Science class and have used many online flash card websites over the years however I have been trying out one called StudyBlue recently.

As a teacher or student I can set up an account for free, there is a premium service that you pay for to have access to more online flashcards already created however I don’t feel you necessarily need that.

As a teacher I can create a set of revision materials for a specific class and invite them to view and use them. These are basically electronic versions of flashcards where I can create keywords and with their meanings and then view them like flashcards. You can then test your own progress with your revision through a quiz or filling in the blanks etc

Even better you could get students to create their own revision activities then share it with the rest of the group. As I joined and registered to the site I noticed that there were around 15 students from my school already using this themselves personally and I was able to view their quizzes and see that they were using it already and have been using it for the last 6 months in a wide range of subjects.

I think that this will be particularly beneficial in improving literacy within science with my Year 8 class which is one of the reasons why I have started using it.

The site is also accessible via an app for both android and ios which makes revising on the go much more easier too.

As we are starting to head into the exam season this would be a great resource to share with your students.

Dan Roberts @danjjroberts

Deputy Headteacher

TEL: Constructive Gamification in the classroom

I often feel when talking about TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) that gamification is a style of learning that we all struggle to regularly find meaningful ways in which we can use games to enhance learning. I am a great believer in not just having technology for the sake of it and that if it doesn’t add anything to the lesson then don’t use it, but at the same time I do not doubt that we all feel, when used correctly, technology can be a great thing for teachers and learners.

Interactive fiction tells you the beginning of a story before putting you in charge of the future and letting you decide what your character should do. You make the choices which dictate the story’s outcome. In a learning environment this can be used to encourage students to research, to create a story relating to a subject and creating problems to be solved in a ‘basic’ computer programming environment. This involves game design and literacy skills (this is merely me scraping the iceberg) all whilst being fun and engaging.

Two colleagues of mine came accross Twine whilst at Bett 2015 and told me about it on their return, with the knowledge that another colleague was interested in using it within a lesson, I set about exploring what it had to offer.

The thought was for the students to use Twine to create a game based on a ‘Day in the Life of a Roman’. I began to use this as my test for Twine and the results were great.

DS 1

Twine (Twinery) lets you create a game with multiple scenarios, options and endings. Each player can make their own version of their story using the game that you create as they proceed. The interface is user-friendly, self explanatory and generally easy to use. There are a couple of tutorial videos and some example Twines available which is always nice when you are trying something completely new. Although coming from a programming background would be an advantage in creating something extra special, users from all levels can make something good while developing some basic programming skills.

Twinery can be downloaded but can also be used as a web based tool which is great in my opinion as it can be used on almost all platforms as long as you have an Internet connection. There is no sign-up necessary, but if you do choose to sign-up then there is no cost. When it comes to saving your work, Twinery saves to your browser as a standard, which I wouldn’t find particularly useful in the classroom setting. It can also be downloaded which would be best as it can then be moved and taken with you wherever you choose.

After creating what I felt was a decent basic game, I was looking to ‘jazz it up’ a bit with some pictures, sounds and general formatting which I felt the students would be looking forward to doing, but found that there were many bugs which prevented me from gaining full functionality from this side of things. This left me feeling a little let down and even though I do think Twinery is great, I set about searching for alternatives which would let me further personalise my game in this way.

When searching I came across InkleWriter, it is very similar to Twinery as it is easy to use, web based and free, so I began to explore further.

DS 2

At first sight I felt it may be lacking a little bit, as it looked very basic, but after further inspection I started to like its simple structure and friendly user interface and ended up quickly creating the same as I had in Twinery. The story book view as well as the map view really helps keep it in perspective and shows the flow of it all a little better. I then began to look into ‘jazzing it up’ as this is where I fell flat using Twinery.

With InkleWriter inserting media, using italics and bold formatting to make parts stand out couldn’t be easier. Copying and pasting web links into the game, inserts media and this makes it a lot easier to personalise which I feel is important.

There is a contents section which allows the user to keep track of what has been done and to jump between the different branches of the game. This really helps to keep things connected. There are loose end warning, so if you create an option but do not expand on it, the warning lets you know you have forgotten to link that part which really helps when the game begins to get really intricate. Markers are another great InkleWriter tool. These allow your stories to rejoin but only giving options for future moves depending on what markers you have set previously, this is shown as an IF function.

On the other end of the spectrum there is a developer version of InkleWriter where you can really turn your game into something truly special. Some of the apps which have been developed from ink writer have won international gaming awards, so you can imagine the sort of standard which is possible to reach using it.

Another suggestion to try is >Playfic_ and although fundamentally this has the same basics as the other two it lacks in functionality and to be frank the interface is pretty dull and uninspiring. The personalisation factor is completely lacking and unlike Twinery this isn’t because of bugs but merely down to the fact that the feature isn’t available.

DS 3

In my opinion Playfic isn’t really a contender with either Twinery or InkleWriter. Twinery has the potential to be great if some of the many bugs that I encountered are fixed and currently out on top for me is InkleWriter which is already pretty awesome! Some points I have raised with the developers are that I would like different themes to become available within the basic set-up of InkleWriter rather than just the scrolling book; this can be done in the developer mode but without that knowledge at the moment it is impossible without help.

Here are the links to the Authoring Systems mentioned:

http://twinery.org/

https://writer.inklestudios.com/

http://playfic.com/

Please post any comments you have of your experiences and maybe links to some Interactive fiction games you create so that we can all share and develop ideas.

Below is a link to my InkleWriter

A day in the Life of a Roman game:

http://writer.inklestudios.com/stories/8mfj

Note:

Since writing this blog post I have done some further research and the reasoning behind concentrating on these three ‘Authoring Systems’ is that they are readily available online and do not require any download or signing up to use (although signing up does unlock some extra features such as sharing capabilities). This means their accessibility is endless and the students can pick up their project at anytime, anyplace which is an extremely desirable characteristic for any resource in today’s modern learning environment. The most commonly used and talked about systems on the internet seem to be: ADRIFT, Alan, Hugo, Inform, Quest, TADS, ThinBASIC Adventure Builder, RAGS and DreamPath. I have tested these alternative authoring systems and there is possibly another blog post to follow in the future.

As a general overview I would use Twinery and InkleWrite over all of these anyway mostly due to all of the same reasons as mentioned in this blog post.

Daniel Shahin @DanielShahin 
Educational Technologist @DHSB

Do you stretch and challenge in the classroom?

Picture by  @RWM_learninglab
Picture by @RWM_learninglab

It is certainly time for an update on progress for my Challenge project at DHSB. My last post was in May last year! However I can confidently say I have made substantial progress in that time.

I had posed a number of questions in my last post outlining the aim of the project and those remain.

*What is stretch and challenge?

*Why stretch and challenge at DHSB?

*How effective is stretch and challenge at DHSB?

Whilst I cannot reach a conclusion I can start to surmise why I am looking at challenge with DHSB.

My starting point for this research was to survey the teaching staff. They are driving forwards teaching and learning in our school and so their thoughts and opinions are paramount. The data was based on the teacher standards and focused on how we support those students who need greatest challenge.  The data was interesting with 50/70 (check figures) staff completing the questionnaire, a brief summary of some of the data is below

  • 76% set goals which stretch and challenge pupils of all backgrounds and abilities
  • 74% plan homework to consolidate and extend the knowledge and understanding pupils have achieved
  • 66% know how and when to differentiate appropriately

I know these are quite broad and crude calculations, however the important question is how do we know this? How can this be evaluated, triangulated and evidenced more?

The next stage now is for our most able students to go into their lessons and reflect on the teaching and learning going that is happening.  They are receiving their training next week which will enable them to be confident to make judgments in lessons about what they are observing. They will be considering the following:

  • I learn best when…
  • I am challenged when…
  • The type of teaching I enjoy most…

This will naturally require them to highlight particular subjects and teachers, but will also provide irrefutable evidence which is essential to effectively evaluating the provision of challenge at DHSB and whether it meets the thoughts and opinions of teachers.

I am really looking forward to this part of the research, giving ownership to our students who after all are the ones who benefit from the great teaching which happens at DHSB.

Rachael Green @dhsbgeography 

Head of Geography

SWAT Co-ordinator

 

Twine – A interactive tool for telling stories

Twine

 

Did you ever read those fantasy game books as a child? Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s I have to admit it was a bit of a craze among boys in my school. They were the books where they gave the reader a choice at the end of each chapter of what to do next and would ultimately change the potential outcome of the story. This type of book or game is called Interactive Fiction.

This is the 1st of many posts from myself and @ben40forte about what we learnt from visiting #BETT2015 and thank you to @tecknoteacher who we  picked this up from at the Teachmeet.

Twine is a free tool for telling interactive, none-linear stories, you don’t need to be able to code to write one of the stories. I haven’t tried it myself yet however it is supposed to be fairly easy to use.

Here are some quotes about Twine so far:

A new tool has emerged that empowers just about anyone to create a game. It’s called Twine. It’s extremely easy to use, and it has already given rise to a lively and diverse development scene.

Carolyn Petit, Gamespot

Although plenty of independent games venture where mainstream games fear to tread, Twine represents something even more radical: the transformation of video games into something that is not only consumed by the masses but also created by them.

Laura Hudson, The New York Times Magazine

The simple beauty of Twine is this: if you can type words and occasionally put brackets around some of those words, you can make a Twine game.

Kitty Horrorshow

If you’re interested in making interactive fiction then there’s no better place to start than Twine.It’s possibly the simplest game making tool available, it will take you mere minutes to get started, and it has a wonderfully simple visual editor.

Richard Perrin

And aside from being free, it’s really not programming at all — if you can write a story, you can make a Twine game.

Anna Anthropy

Twine is the closest we’ve come to a blank page. It binds itself and it can bind itself along an infinite number of spines extending in any direction.

Why not have a go yourself, I plan to or set it as a long extended homework for students to see what they can produce?

CAREERS IN THE CLASSROOM?

Careers

Is this the holy grail of careers ed –  careers activities that can be done in curriculum lessons, taught by the subject teachers?

It is certainly on my agenda for this year – again (!)

“If you can find a job you like, you will never have to work a day for the rest of your life” this quote is credited to Confucius, so proving that top class careers advice has been around for a very long time – but how to help our students find that job? (I’m assuming that we have all found ours…)

First of all there is no doubt that everyone from Nicky Morgan downwards is looking for “Real world skills” – you can’t open a paper without reading something on those lines and this is a nationwide ask, I think. Schools are supposed to address this but with no money to do so, so the easiest option would seem to be to incorporate it in the curriculum. We are promised by Nicky Morgan a new Careers body from Sep 2015 which will be “employer led”, but funding is only for a two year period. After that employers are expected to pick up the tab. Is that realistic?

There are many further questions that need answers (and I am often told about all the employers desperately keen to help in school – and there are a few – however from experience when trying to pin someone down to a specific date and time when you are constrained to a particular hour in the week it is not quite so easy!)

An ATL survey of its members found that:

  • Only 5% of teachers think careers advice has improved following Government changes
  • 78% of teachers think there is not enough time in the curriculum dedicated to careers guidance;
  • 78% of teachers think schools and colleges do not get enough funding for careers advice;
  • 69% of teachers think work experience should be compulsory.

Overwhelming opinions, but how to improve?

Most if not all subject teachers/leaders are rightly concerned with their own subject and are often under time pressures to get through the content of their course, let alone add further stuff. It is also understandably outside the comfort zone for many, especially as careers requirements and specifically LMI change constantly and quickly. So how to address this?

I think it’s important first of all to keep everyone informed of the careers ed that IS happening in school. I’ve tried using a weekly blog, twitter & going in to assemblies, attending pastoral and academic staff meetings whenever possible to keep interjecting careers related comments or questions, making sure careers area/notice board is visible and regularly updated, talking to governors about it, publicising Career guidance appointments or apprentice drop-ins  – basically raising the profile as much as possible. This may well lead to suggestions or ideas or offers to help but should at least stop anyone saying they don’t know what is going on!

Once at least some of these are in place, hopefully you can progress by inviting specific involvement from subject teachers eg hosting guest speakers, signing off employability passport activities, undertaking WEx visits, running STEM clubs, options evenings, PSHEE/Citizenship lessons or similar. Subject teachers are usually class tutors too – is there any available tutor time you could use? I’m lucky in that I can inflict regular careers activities via the PSHEE tutorial programme for tutors to deliver!

Once most these are in place – and this is where I think we are after several years in my current role – I am now hoping to encourage more direct engagement with careers by suggesting starters or plenary sessions to subject lessons. It is also often the case that we are already doing many careers related activities in subject curriculum time in school – can we make them more explicit? Sites with clips of different jobs such as www.careersbox.co.uk   can be great and need very little planning preparation from the subject teacher, or simple five minute activities such as write down or discuss all the jobs that might be done in a particular place/what jobs could you do that would use the skills we have just practiced in this lesson/how might you use this knowledge in a particular job area/where could you go for further information on careers in this subject?

Once a teacher/subject is regularly adding in snippets like this, the final step is to add careers activities into the subject SoL; using real world scenarios to teach the skills & information in the first place. I know that some subjects lend themselves to this far more easily than others – if you have any great ideas, I’d love to hear them!

All of this, of course, is only really possible with support for your endeavours from your LG/SLT. The reality is that it is a very rare person who will volunteer to do extra/anything different unless they are guided from above; not necessarily because they don’t think it is a good idea but because of time constraints, and general exhaustion!

We are required to deliver “appropriate & impartial” careers advice for Y8 upwards. If this could have the added benefit of helping students to “see the point of” their curriculum lessons, surely it would be a win-win situation?

careers 2

 

Sue Moreton @suemoreton1 
IAG co-ordinator
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