Are we ready? The Computing curriculum is nearly here…

We started the session with a quick catchup and discussed E2BN again reminding ourselves that the Computing Curriculum has many elements which were previously in the old ICT curriculum so we don’t have reinvent the wheel!

We discussed the usefulness of Beebots, Probots and the new Roamers!

For introducing programming concepts: starting with the basics and moving up, they are still great tools. They can be used cross-curricularly, particularly in maths, with directional language and angles. As well as this there are loads of places you can find resources as they’ve been around for so long:

We also had a brief discussion about the new Roamer:

After years of confusing children who couldn’t predict which way it would go the Roamer now has a ‘nose’. It is also a lot smaller and easier to handle. What is nice about it is the replaceable disk which can differentiate the level of difficulty you want. We couldn’t, however, see an advantage of using the Roamers over the Beebots and Probots.

Talk now turned to the Computing Curriculum and the different ideas that people had when developing their own curriculum. Sway shared some of her documents with the group. They are all now online at her blog so check them out and download them if they’re useful:

This led us to discussing ‘Computational Tales’ which is a blog with some examples of stories which explain programming concepts. One of my favourite ones is the The Ant and the Grasshopper: A Fable of Algorithms. Check out the other examples on that blog as well.

The author of that book has since published two books that also deal with programming concepts:


We spoke about our progress with Digital Leaders (see the previous post for more info) and reminded everyone of Digital Leader chat or #dlchat on Twitter every Thursday night at 9pm. To join this you need to log on to Twitter at that time, and search for the hashtag #dlchat, this will allow you to see any tweets someone writes on this topic. You can then add your own ideas by tweeting and including that hashtag as well.

Finally, Sway is running a new networking group with Denbigh Teaching School Alliance focussing specifically on the development on the Computing curriculum rather than the cross-curricular ICT aspects of Technology4All. However, we discussed that we didn’t want MK teachers to feel stretched at having to attend different events and so thought we could alternate the half-termly focus between the two.

With this in mind, I am setting up a Google ‘Community’ Group for primary school teachers local to MK to share articles, resources and best practice inbetween meetings as well as having access to support networks if you need a hand. To join this you need to sign up to Google+ (a social networking website) and then click on this link and ask to join the community.

A new year, a new computing world…

A big hello to everyone who came along to our first meeting of the term, it was great to catch up again.

New Curriculum

We began talking about the new curriculum and what it has to offer. The message seemed to be not to panic and read through carefully. Some people had information about workshops for computing offered from the MK Teaching Schools Alliance at Kent’s Hill on 15/10, 25/2 and 29/4. I have tried googling this for more information but can’t find it – if you have a link please send it my way. 20131003-212246.jpg From here we talked about Switched on ICT as a scheme of work to support teachers in this time of change. These schemes of work come with teacher support as well as plans and use free/common software. As well as this they fit themes within work and can be easily linked across the curriculum. There is an example unit online for people to check it out.



Alongside curriculum discussions we talked about iPads in schools which most schools now had. We talked about pros and cons of 1:1 devices and the main reason seemed to be so that an individuals’ documents and creations can be centralised. We did suggest Dropbox for this, however, there is limited space and it’s not easy to create bulk accounts. Ruth explained that she had been approached by an people selling an app called ‘Foldr‘ which allows children to save work to a school server with their existing school log in. She’s going to let us know how that goes!

We also discussed if anyone had considered other tablets. No one had and it seemed that the iPads apps were the winner with nothing close. I mentioned some new Google developments looking at designing apps specifically for education and hoping to develop their market in this area. If you are interested in this then you can watch the google announcement here:

Google Apps for Education

20131003-221137.jpg Discussing the progress of Google in the tablets market led us to talking about Google Apps something that I have enjoyed using specifically with collaboration. The ability for several children to work on the same document on several devices has huge potential for group work not to mention a teacher being able to leave live comments on a child’s work as they’re writing.

Unfortunately the trickiest bit for me has been proving that I am a part of a school. The way this works is you embed a piece of code on your school website so that when Google reads it it knows that you are who you say you are. Depending on your website provider this can be relatively easy or incredibly difficult! Beyond this, it is the case of an administrator uploading a CSV file (which can be downloaded from SIMS) and then adding bulks of children to specific year groups/classes. From here you can then set which Google products you want the children to have access to based on their age and needs.

To increase the processing speed of your application to get Google Apps when you are asked to leave a comment write that you will not need Google+. As this is a social networking tool that is entirely open, it is unlikely you will ever need this in school and if Google do not need to set this up you’ll be set up quicker.

Digital Leaders

Many schools are now looking at setting up their own Digital Leader projects which is fantastic! It has also made me consider revisiting the DL KidsMeet project – watch this space. If you are interested in seeing any of the blogposts regarding my own Digital Leaders check them out here:

We discussed that a good place to go to talk to educators about setting up Digital Leaders is #DLchat on Twitter. This chat takes place every Thursday from 9:00 – 9:30pm and is a time where people with Digital Leaders can chat about upcoming projects, progress and share ideas. All you need to do is search for the ‘#DLchat’ hashtag and keep refreshing. To add your own ideas just write a tweet and add the hashtag and it would show up. A couple of people who have infant Digital Leaders are: @traceyab1, @Kezmerrelda and @SheliBB is just great at all things Digital Leaders. She also runs the Digital Leader Network which is a great place to find loads of helpful resources. EdmodoLogo_blue Ruth suggested that she was using Edmodo with her newly appointed Digital Leaders. At the moment they’ve been focussing on ESafety but over the half term they’re being set with the challenge of learning to use Scratch. We suggested using the Code Club resources as these are easy to follow and free! code club We also discussed the use of Edmodo badges as a way to set challenges and reward Digital Leaders for their efforts. Chris Cox is the teacher who has created loads of badges on Edmodo – you can contact her on Edmodo here or on Twitter here. She is always happy to share with other teachers so don’t worry about asking! The Google spreadsheet she created to go alongside it is here:

ICT Assessment – Digital Badges

The discussion of badge for Digital Leaders led us on to ICT Assessment and the idea of Digital Badges as recognition of achievement. I suggested Mozilla’s Open Badges scheme as an organisation that were trying to create this. logo-footer You can see information about MozFest and the plans for Open Badges in education here. We also discussed Ian Addison’s (@IanAddison) website where he has created resources for using badges as assessment. His site, ICT Planning, has all of his skills progression as well as a range of planning and software suggestions.


Now we discussed ESafety, the theme for this year’s Anti-Bullying Week (The Future is Ours. Safe, Fun and Connected) and the ESafety Mark. Previously, I used 360 Safe’s Esafety Mark to ensure we were providing for our children as best we could. We also discussed places to get a range of Esafety planning, several people used the site for resources and the Digiduck book was highly recommended (see here).

Finally we arrange some dates for future meetings:

  • 21/11/13 – Cold Harbour School – Esafety focus
  • 06/03/14 – Olney Infants – New Curriculum focus
  • 08/05/14 – Caroline Haslett School – TBC

ICT Mark Network


© Copyright Richard Schmidt and licensed for reuse under a CC by 2.0 Licence.

Welcome to staff from New Bradwell, Bradwell Village, The Redway, Gilesbrook, Olney Infants, Heelands, Walnuts, Cold Harbour and Loughton Manor schools, who braved their way through snow this evening to listen to Tina Wright from Slated Row tell us about the Naace ICT Mark.

ICT Mark

The ICT Mark is a great way to recognise whole school improvement and publicly celebrate good practice in the use of digital technology. Having received not only the ICT Mark but also the 3rd Millennium Learning Award, Slated Row is well placed to become our local ICT Mark Champion school. 

As Tina explained, the ICT Mark is an accreditation for schools showing they have reached nationally agreed levels within the Naace self-review framework.  The starting place is to complete the self-review framework, considering the impact of your school’s use of ICT and gathering some supporting evidence. Once Naace are happy with your evidence, an ICT Mark assessor visits your school.  In Tina’s experience, this was more of a casual tour than a formal inspection, followed by a discussion around a table with 6-8 members of the school community. The idea was to get an impression of the school working as normal and to celebrate putting ICT at the heart of their learning. Slated Row came through with flying colours despite a server crash during their visit. Tina puts much of their success down to their aims of finding real reasons to use ICT for learning and developing genuine ICT capability rather than simply focusing on skills.

The self-review framework costs £50 and the accreditation a further £550 for Primary schools with more than 100 pupils. Tina hopes to continue networking with local schools aiming for their ICT mark. Ann Murtagh, Olney Infants ICT Coordinator and Milton Keynes Early Years Consultant, also offered her support. Contact them here.

ICT Curriculum

One of the self-review framework requirements is a vision for ICT, something that presents a particular challenge in the current climate. We talked about the problems of defining learning objectives in a subject that has the potential to enhance learning in all areas of the curriculum as an ‘embedded’ subject, but also needs to be studied discretely. We agreed that we need to balance the twin goals of learning through ICT and learning to use ICT, and allow children time to become familiar with the tools and software that will become part of their repertoire of skills before they begin to apply them across the curriculum.

We looked at the new Draft Programmes of Study and thought about how terms such as Digital Literacy, Technology Enhanced Learning, Information Technology and Computer Science have been redefined and given a higher profile in the revision of the ICT curriculum to meet changing government objectives. This puts an exciting new emphasis on children as makers and creators through ICT rather than consumers of content.

The following sources of inspiration for curriculum planning were suggested:

Peter Twining’s EdFutures Bliki

Computing at School (CAS) website 

Milton Keynes ICT Primary Progression pages

ICT Planning by Ian Addison (Also see his list of Useful Sites)

Simon Haughton’s ICT Curriculum  

Rethinking ICT from Chris Leach

Naace’s ICT Framework

Matt Lovegrove’s Primary ICT Teaching and Learning Framework



We finished our meeting with some ideas sharing around the table. Once again, the collective input led to a useful set of resource links and ideas:

Digital Leaders

Sway Grantham (@swaygrantham) has been developing a Digital Leaders (DL) programme at Bradwell Village School this year. She began by inviting formal applications and selecting children to interview. Over the last term the successful applicants have been trained up through weekly lunchtime sessions. They are now taking on responsibilities such as demonstrating software at staff meetings, solving technical issues, helping with whole-school blogging and computer club, hosting ICT coffee mornings for parents and promoting eSafety within the school. They wear physical badges and earn online badges, and join in with a network of DLs across the country using Edmodo for safe social sharing.  We all agreed that this is a fantastic way of promoting ICT within the school and helping the use of technology to run smoothly, with the added benefit of raising individual children’s self-esteem.

Purple Mash

We are all big fans of Purple Mash, even more so since our visit from Katie Hart last term, and Tina shared the news that a substantial discount has been negotiated for Milton Keynes, meaning our schools can get a year’s subscription for just £1 per pupil. Contact Nick Kettle at Milton Keynes Council or Katie Hart at for more details.

Busy Things

Rachel Cross from The Walnuts showed us the Busy Things website. This colourful UK site has over 240 educational games and activities for EYFS, KS1 and SEN, including phonics activities based on Letters and Sounds and Jolly Phonics, letter formation, art, music, problem-solving, spelling and numbers. Many are also available as iOS apps. Prices are £20/year for home use or £200 for a school, or you can start with a free trial. The cross-platform versatility means that children can access their favourites from home or you can integrate it into your learning platform. There is also a version of over 80 activities that use icons instead of text and need no written or spoken English, making it accessible for print-challenged or EAL children. Most activities also work with switches. Thanks Rachel, definitely one to investigate!

Clicker Apps

Helen is excited about the new Clicker Apps for iPads from Cricksoft, though we haven’t been able to try them out yet. These two apps look to be just what we need to support writing on the iPad.


With Clicker Sentences you can quickly set up sequences of sentences for your learners by typing or pasting them in with images from your photo library or camera. You can also get ready-made sentence sets from Children can then listen and tap words in the grid to build sentences, hear each sentence spoken aloud and edit. Sentences can be shown as a model, a pop-up or just spoken aloud as a prompt.

Clicker Docs is aimed at children who can use the onscreen keyboard to type into the simple word processor, then listen to their writing read aloud and correct mistakes. The word predictor suggests and reads aloud words that fit the context of their writing as they compose their sentences. They can also tap to add words from the tabbed word banks that you create to fit a topic or download from

Another recently launched iPad app for assisting challenged writers is iWordQ. You can use this simple text editor for writing with the support of word prediction, text-to-speech, and speech recognition.

Find more tools for supporting writing on Helen’s Pinterest boards.


We decided to make our next meeting the Milton Keynes TeachMeet on 1st March, organised by Helen, Sway and Emma:

For those who haven’t been before, a Teachmeet is an informal gathering where anyone can share great ideas they’ve trialled in classrooms and join in learning conversations. Everyone is welcome from all types of schools, all subjects, all age groups and all needs. It is a chance for people to hear ideas from each other and be inspired by colleagues. We are pleased to have Drew Buddy (aka Digital Maverick @digitalmaverick) as our Master of Ceremonies hosting a fruit-machine randomised line up of 7-minute presentations and 2-minute nano-presentations. We are also delighted that Peter Ford from NoTosh has agreed to lead an interactive session. This fun evening takes place at the lovely Open University Hub with wifi, live streaming, a twitterfall, free refreshments and a raffle. We guarantee you’ll take away some new contacts and new ideas!

Places are limited to 50 so please sign up here asap.

You can come to watch and listen or think about taking just 2 or 7 minutes to tell us about something you’ve found exciting recently. You’ll find the atmosphere very supportive and we’re sure you’ll be pleased you joined in.

On 9th May we will meet at 4pm at The Walnuts School and Helen will bring a set of 14 iPads to play with. Here’s a map.

Look forward to seeing you soon.

2Simple and Purple Mash

We were delighted to welcome Katie Hart from 2Simple to our meeting on 15th November. Katie gave us a hands-on guided tour of some of the best features of Purple Mash for supporting writing and learning through drawing, designing and making.

We were all taken with the bank of hundreds of themed writing templates. Each starts with a stimulus using sound, images or video, followed by a ready-made page with space to add text, photos drawings and clip art.

You can click to insert vocabulary or sentence starters in your writing and respond to question prompts on the screen. This example based on the Three Little Pigs has sentence starters to help retell the story and supports editing by suggesting connectives, and prompting checks for tense, capitals and full stops. All of these features help to increase writing independence.

Activities are grouped by theme, making it easy to differentiate learning. We loved this simpler version of the Three Little Pigs task, and thought our children would enjoy drawinging straw, sticks and bricks houses with the textured pens. Other art activities have all kinds of fantastic pens: snakeskin, lizard scales, animal fur, zebra stripes, baked beans, peas or chocolate, you name it!

Another activity that grabbed our attention was Purple Mashcams. You can use a webcam to put your own face in a picture and write from the point of view of one of 42 different characters. It would be hard to resist writing once you see yourself as a viking, zookeeper, android or chef, for example.

Next we played with 2Design & Make in the Creative Tools section. Here you can design, print and make vehicles, buildings, masks, crowns, and 3D shapes, as well as open-ended models of your own. When you alter the shape and use the drawing tools to customise your model, you can watch your ideas appear on a spinning 3D representation. Katie shared some super models of Tudor-style houses.

Katie also had some printed examples of open-ended writing frames, using templates for leaflets, postcards, posters, newsletters, letters and envelopes from the 2Publish and 2PublishExtra within Creative Tools. You can add your own photos to these or use the huge collection of clipart.  We particularly liked the 3D leaflets:

We also loved having the whole of Simple City and Maths City available for the Early Years, both of which have choices of activities at a number of difficulty levels. And we thought older children would be blown away by the opportunity to design, play and share their own 3D maze games in 2DIY3D.  Here you can design your own environment, by importing patterns for walls and floors, and creating characters or objects to collect and avoid. Each object can have sound and animation, and you can set the number of lives and points awarded within your game.

Games can be shared via a weblink or embedded in a blog or webpage, meaning that anyone can play, not just those with logins to Purple Mash. This adds up to an outstanding tool which lends itself to use on any curricular theme. Here’s a game on George and the Dragon from Summerbank Primary School. Click to follow the link and use the arrow keys to navigate:

Katie finished with demonstrations of the 2Simple software 2Create a Story and 2Do It Yourself (2DIY). 2Create a Story lets you make ebooks with animated illustrations, and 2DIY has many options for creating flash activities and games. Here’s a link to a film I helped to make at Sonning Common Primary School with Matt Lovegrove whose Year 4 children created learning games for Year 2 children.  These children thought hard about designing games to meet Year 2 learning objectives and refined their games as a result of audience testing:

Making Games at Sonning Common Primary School.

As I’m sure you know, all schools in Milton Keynes currently have a free subscription to Purple Mash. Contact Katie if you’d like some more logins for your students.  ( 8203 1781).  Longmeadow School have offered to coordinate continuing this subscription as a schools cluster after Feb 2013 when it is due for renewal. The more schools join in the bigger the discount so let them know if you are interested ( 508678).

We agreed to meet again on 17th January. Tina will use this meeting to launch an online ICT Mark Network Group sharing ideas, problems, lesson materials and practical tips on how to make best use of ICT. Please come and join in whether or not you’re aiming for the ICT Mark. Contact Tina for more information at

Sway, Emma and I are organising a Milton Keynes Teachmeet. Do let me know if you’d like to help plan this. (

It was good to see you all! I hope the run up to Christmas is fun, and we’ll look forward to more ideas sharing next term.

Driving Inspiration

On 3rd October we were pleased to welcome Vicky Hope-Walker from Creative Junction talking about the Driving Inspiration Project, a collaboration between disabled and non-disabled young people around the themes of the Arts and sport. This project began six years ago with the aim of raising the profile of the Paralympics, and has grown to include hundreds of children across the world making music, animations, dance and art led by disabled artists and paralympians. Vicky’s projects are designed to fit the individual needs of schools, but typically begin with an assembly, interviews with the artist and follow-up arts workshops.

One amazing example involved a team of disabled animators, musicians, artists and paralympians working with 20 schools in 11 countries to design an animation about the paralympic torch, with the artwork coming from as far afield as Jersualem, the Silicon Valley, Turkey and Shanghai, and varied use being made of Adobe Connect and Skype alongside face-to-face workshops.

At Mandeville School in Buckinghamshire the musician Jack Fletcher worked with rowing paralympian Naomi Riches to produce a collaborative piece of music based on the Olympics theme which inspired contemporary dance work at local primary schools.

It was inspiring to see so many examples of how these positive role models changed attitudes and promoted integration whilst reinforcing the Olympic values of determination, inspiration, courage and equality. Vicky can offer 50 more free sessions in schools with artists. To find out more please email  You can find guidance and materials on how to run a similar project here, including this introductory PowerPoint to get children thinking about diversity:

We followed up Vicky’s presentation with some ideas-sharing around the table. Tina from Slated Row talked about the Oxfordshire company Point2Educate which streams software rental to schools via the internet for a fraction of the cost of a termly licence. You can subscribe to popular schools applications such as 2Publish, Anithings, BBC French and Kar2ouche for as little as £10 per term. Download the Point2Player and try it out for free with 18 educational Open Source software titles including Scratch, Kodu and Google SketchUp. This gives pupils access to the same software at home without any need to download as long as they have the internet. A fantastic resource for easing school budget problems and promoting learning beyond the classroom.

Emma’s pupils at Olney Middle School are using Google Apps for Education, a suite of online hosted services including word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and email software, all free to schools.  One advantage of this approach is that files are saved in the cloud and so can be accessed from anywhere and on devices such as phones and tablets as well as desktops. Anther advantage is that pupils can work together on documents,  and see their changes in real time:

Emma’s class collaborated on creating play scripts, each taking writing roles such as stage director. We discussed the need to begin by modelling the use of real time collaboration tools and establishing ground rules in order to get the most out of them. We also thought about writing books for devices such as Kindles by saving documents as PDFs.  All wonderful ideas for promoting shared writing.

eTwinning was another hot topic this evening and Sway from Bradwell Village led an exciting discussion about ways of making connections with other school across Europe through ICT via the eTwinning website.  This site acts as a portal for teachers to find partners, set up projects, share ideas and start working together. Once you’ve found a partner and chosen a project you can register it on the Portal and gain access in a private online ‘Twinspace’. Then you can get together in real time using collaborative tools such as Skype and video conferencing, or you can exchange documents over time using familiar tools such as PowerPoint. There have been over 5000 projects so far and a good starting point might be to browse these in the Project Gallery. Or you could get ideas from the ready-made project kits for differing age groups and themes. Here’s a nice idea for sharing PowerPoints around fairlytales in two languages.

Sway’s Year 4 class at are following a ‘Me and My World’ topic from the International Primary Curriculum, and have shared paintings and photographs with schools in Spain and Bolivia. Gareth at Langland Community School also has experience of eTwinning with schools in India and told us about his online exchanges of artwork and postcards. So much potential in these ideas for raising children’s confidence through writing for real audiences.

Moving on, Li from Slated Row described how iPads have increased engagement for her autistic students. Sway has been comparing iPads with Blackberry tablets but was put off by the limitations of the Android app store and chose to use the iPad for her class blogging tool. She also finds it enhances motivation for writing. The Nextbook7 was recommended as a Windows tablet worth considering. Here’s a review.

Another interesting project idea came from Amy Brewer at WhiteSpire, whose Year 9 pupils have been drawing templates for hats on the computer using a grids in 2D Primary software and printing them as a pattern for 3D hat designs. Amy has also been trialling the use of PowerPoint for her Y10 Resistant Materials coursework and finds that her students’ motivation is much higher when writing and editing on the computer.

At the other end of the age range Sarah Ray’s Year1s at Germander Park have been using 2CreateaStory from 2Simple to redraft and editing writing. This software lets you combine words, pictures sounds and animation in a story format and then save as Flash files so that you can share them anywhere. Like Sway, Sarah found that the forgiving computer environment had a positive impact on the quality of her children’s writing.

Once again, this all added up to an evening full of ideas and inspiration. Thanks to everyone for your valuable input and hope to see you all soon!






Kindles for reading support in Milton Keynes


I have been involved in an interesting project looking at the use of Kindles for reading support in Milton Keynes over the last six months.  Several kindles were loaned to SEN pupils in Milton Keynes schools through the Vital programme run by the Open University.  The kindles were used by students with dyslexia, visual impairments and physical difficulties

 in three primary and three secondary schools. Three more schools had their own devices.

I stocked the kindles with 65 free eBooks and a set of Rising Stars eBooks aimed at reluctant readers.  Many were Amazon free eBooks; other sources included how-to guides from Instructables for non-fiction,  Project Gutenberg, and free books from Google Play.

At one primary school a Year 6 boy with dyslexia had use of a kindle at home and at school for three months, giving him a real chance to develop some ownership over the device. He liked the anonymity it offered, ‘no-one knows that you’re reading an easy book’.  Some of his enthusiasm must have rubbed off as several children asked for kindles for christmas and they ended up with four in their guided reading sessions.  It looks like kindles might be a gentle way of testing out the idea of bringing your own devices (BYOD) in schools.

Listen to the teacher and pupil from Tickford Park School talking about their use of the kindle here.

There was a slightly less positive response from another Y6 dyslexic reader, but this might be due to the fact that he made no use of the text-to-speech option and didn’t take the device home. However, he did seem to benefit from the enlarged text. For him, eBooks on the iPad with colour, sound and animation could be more engaging option.

Another primary school had some interesting ideas for publishing their own work to their kindles from Word or PDFs, with the aim of increasing motivation to write.

We also trialled a kindle in a secondary school for a visually impaired student. Her first response was to compare the weight of the kindle to the weight of a braille book, which for an average paperback can run to several volumes. She liked the enlarged text and text-to-speech and was able to navigate by touch on the kindle with a keyboard.

For two secondary students with physical difficulties there was a version of the kindle app on the Grid 2 accessible using their eyegaze and headmouse equipment.  The headmouse student used her kindle app to read aloud and create audiobooks for Smartbox, whereas the eyegaze student reviewed their new social networking gridset. These experiences made for a rewarding remote work experience week in the summer term.

Another secondary school has 25 kindles in their library to loan to low ability readers.  The school librarian commented that the students are less aware of the size of eBooks and so pick books they might otherwise reject because they look daunting.

There’s more about the project in these presentation slides from the Jisc event ‘It’s all about the learner’ in June. My overall impression is that kindle features such as text-to-speech, enlarged text, contrast and spacing options provide support for students facing reading challenges. They may also help readers to get through the boring bits! —The instant word definitions and annotation of texts increase reading  independence and offer the potential to access texts at a higher level. And the anonymity and kudos of kindles may help reluctant readers get past their hang-ups about their reading ability and become hooked on stories.

Find more interviews, tips and resources for supporting through technology on the Vital SEN portal.



First Meeting 20.06.12

We were delighted to meet educators from Bradwell Village School, Loughton School, Loughton Manor School, White Spire School, Summerfield School and Wyvern School at our first meeting at Slated Row School on 20th June. Welcome all!

Thanks to Tina from Slated Row for providing lovely tea and biscuits, and to everyone for their ideas and enthusiasm.

Here’s a quick recap of our show and tell session.

Tina went first to share a compilation video made by Slated Row School, which helped them to achieve a Naace 3rd Milennium Learning Award celebrating the way they use technology to create a simulating learning environment for 4-19 year olds with moderate learning difficulties. Congratulations to Slated Row on this Milton Keynes first!

Tina shared the wonderful video they made to showcase their work, with super images of children using phonics apps on iPads, making audiobooks with voice recorders, creating shadow puppets on the IWB, filming outdoor role play, using Dance eJay for music composition and composing stop frame animations. There are many examples of how assistive technology can improve curriculum access across the age range, right up to Post-16 students using technology for social networking, community and work skills.

Stop frame animation from Slated Row

Find out more about applying for the Naace 3rd Millenium Learning award here and view Slated Row’s video here.

That was a difficult act to follow. Helen from SENDIS was next, sharing resources for exploring sound and music. These are grouped together using a visual bookmarking tool called sqworl, which is useful for presenting students with a pre-selected set of choices.

We looked at Sounds of Intent which offers a framework to assess and plan for the musical development of children with learning difficulties and complex needs, based on a research project by the Institute of Education, Roehampton University and the RNIB.  You can click on an interactive framework (the circular diagram) to assess where a child is musically and then view ideas for promoting their engagement with music via videos, downloadable soundclips and suggested activities to match each level. See an explanatory booklet from Soundabout.  Helen then demonstrated two fun music sites which might be used alongside the framework.  Incredibox features a Beatbox choir whose harmonies the user controls. This could encourage children to think about cause and effect, sequencing, and problem solving.  Isle of Tune offers the same kind of learning opportunities, but this time using cars that make music!  You might grade the level of challenge to fit the abilities of the children and the degree of scaffolding they need, from basic exploration to creating catchy and even recognisable tunes. Here’s a video by the pop group, OK Go, who used the Isle of Tune approach to music in real life.  And you can compare your children’s efforts on Incredibox with St Mary Redclife Primary.

Next we were pleased to welcome Sway from Bradwell Village School, who had some great ideas for using Twitter in the classroom. Sway’s Year 4 class have been composing tweets to help them reflect on their learning using slips of paper with their initials on. These are then tweeted out to parents with the aim of sharing the children’s learning. Year 4 also have their own free Radiowaves blog which is well worth a visit, with some fabulous stop frame animations based on the book Handa’s Surprise. Sway also recommends joining over 6000 teachers tweeting live between 8-9pm every Thursday on #ukedchat. You can subscribe by email to their newspaper The #ukedchat Daily or browse past sessions on their website. A fantastic source of collective inspiration.

Kim from Loughton School has had a set of 36 iPads for some time now and was a wealth of information on how to solve the problems of managing this number of devices. She also told us about a blind pupil trialling the BraillePen 12 from Sight and Sound Technology with VoiceOver on the iPad to write in the Notes app and read it back using the refreshable braille display, providing a portable device for independent recording. Continuing on the theme of iPads, Kim recommended the Dexteria app (£2.99) for practising fine motor skills and handwriting readiness, Pocket Phonics (free Lite version) for learning key letter sounds and formation using British voices, and the free Dragon Dictation voice recognition app which can help to overcome the physical barriers of handwriting. We discussed the difficulties of importing musical compositions from Garageband to iMovie. This is a problem which has been solved with the latest upgrade to iOS 5.1. Here’s a how to guide. We’ll look forward to hearing more about how Kim’s pupils combine music and film-making.

We went on to consider software for supporting writing.  Heather and Barbara from Olney Middle School are using WordQ successfully, combining word prediction, a thesaurus which gives examples of words in context, and spoken feedback through text-to-speech. They find their pupils are very keen to use it on their netbooks and note that writing anxieties are reduced by taking away the pressure of needing to be perfect at the first attempt. At the younger end, Margaret from Loughton First is using Clicker and higher up the age range Tina is using Read Write Gold with her Year 8s at Slated Row. These tools all offer a range of features for writing support and help children gain independence by finding and fixing their mistakes.

Next we had more examples of stop frame animation from White Spire School with their engaging film of a plasticine snail race in the style of Nick Park, recorded as part of their Curriculum Day activities. Mark has some innovative ideas for using YouTube as a tool for students to teach others by filming themselves in food tech. The ShowMe  and Explain Everything iPad apps were recommended for enabling students to record and narrate their own ‘how tos’. We also talked about the free webtool screenr for making simple screencasts on the computer. Any of these tools might help to assess understanding by capturing students’ narrated explanations. Another suggestion from the White Spire team was to use webcams and Skype or FaceTime on the iPads to provide opportunities for peer assessment between classes. Clever stuff!

Simon from Summerfield led an interesting discussion about the time management difficulties which go hand in hand with ICT responsibilities, and the demands of being expected to manage equipment and solve a whole range of technical problems alongside teaching.  A couple of schools are beginning to train students to become Digital Leaders in September, with the possibility that they might be able to take on a supportive role solving problems and sharing their expertise with pupils and staff. Find out more about the Digital Leaders programme here and here.

Our final presentation came from Amy at White Spire, who intrigued us all with her account of how she used 2D Primary software from Techsoft (site licence £95) combined with a small knife cutting machine to help children with weak drawing skills to produce a range of professional looking mini-enterprise items such as a key ring lights and clocks, printing their computer designs onto vinyl.  The total cost of the equipment was under £400 and the results are superb. Entrepreneurs in the making!  (Can we come on Dragon’s Den with you?)

Overall, an inspiring start to what we hope will become a regular series of meetings with many free and fun ideas well worth trying. Thanks everyone and we’ll look forward to seeing you again next half term.  Enjoy the summer break!