Some of you may know that I as well as my new consultancy venture I also teach ICT to KS2 at a Hull Primary School for 2 afternoons a week. So after all these years of dispensing advice, I now get to practice what I preach!
Anyway, I tweeted a while back that I was about to embark on delivering a unit of work simulations to Y3/4 using the learning platformm as the main delivery vehicle. I figured that I’d been telling folk how handy it would be to use the product they’re paying for, I’d better back myself and try it out in earnest.
I’ve written before on about this area of the curriculum, so won’t repeat, but the fact that many of the resources I intend to use are online and not on the school network helped the choice of when to start and which topic to start with. It also meant that I could do nearly all of it at home as I wasn’t relying on links to resources on the school network. The school happens to use its learning, so if I slip into their terminology, just translate for your particular learning platform. E.g Courses in its= Communities in DB Primary. ‘A rose by any other name’ and all that.
I set up the course and decided that I’d add each week’s lesson in one at a time, but will leave previous week’s available. I have the overarching key ideas on the starting page and a set of questions below that will run through the whole unit (What happens if? Can I change? Is this like real life? etc). Each theme has a relevant picture- and if I could have found a video on anything but YouTube I’d have embedded that for more excitement and relevance. E.g To show how the balloon rises.
From there, there is a link to each week’s theme. (Week 1 was flying a virtual hot air balloon) and any associated worksheets. I also wanted to provide the pupils with somewhere they could do more than just fill in the worksheet, so I linked to a Discussion Area in the platform, where each week is a separate topic and also to a Primary Wall account I’ve set up so that pupils can add to this. At the moment we have a technical issue accessing this in school, but I’m sure that will be sorted soon. (Wallwisher is a similar product I demonstrated many ICT meetings ago).
So, how did it go? Well, there was a lot for them to take in in Week1. Logging on, finding the course and dealing with more than one browser tab, but by and large all went well. Sure, some pupils closed down all the tabs, or the wrong one, but that’s to be expected. I’d recorded my dulcit tones for those pupils who needed a reminder occasionally, but it’ll be a while before it becomes 2nd nature to use this rather than stick their hands up!
Week 2 was, thankfully, a lot smoother. We were designing a roller coaster– nicely timed for Hull Fair- and as well as this weeks Discussion Area, I’d linked to a Google Spreadsheet where the pupils could enter their scores. It was quite interesting how some pupils who’d finished the set task and had used the discussion area chose to go back to the simulation and try and improve their design and therefore score. In susequent weeks, this will be an option for them once they’ve completed the set work as the acticities will remain live in the platform.
In short, more pupils got more done in Week 2 than 1, so that has to be progress!
As an aside, whilst this is an ICT lesson, the links to science, forces, friction, etc using a roler coaster simulation are quite splendid.
There’s a few weeks left on this topic and the plan is for the pupils to hand in an assignment at the end of the unit so that I have something tangible to show for our efforts as well as those mentioned.
Could I have done this without a learning platform? Well, think I could, but not as easily. It’d have been trickier to provide the direct links to the simulations, discussion area,etc. The other KS2 staff have been added to the course so they can see what I’m doing with their classes and I’m not sure how easily this would have been done with a collection of online tools they’re less familiar with.
When this present cohort have finished the unit, I’ll archive it, ready to be tweaked and re-used again with a different set, which is an advantage.
Tweaking the course is pretty simple and in a week or two I’ll try using groups in the course to differentiate some activities for some pupils: i.e all pupils will access the same course, but will see different activities.
I’ve written before, and my colleague Dughall also, on how you can do most things a learning platform does with existing web tools, but…. and the but is here, on Dughall’s blog.
So, the school has a learning platform and I’m there for the foreseable future, I decided to use it. My initial reaction is that it took no more time to set up than using shared areas/favourites/some web tools, possibly quicker and I can alter/add/delete items pretty swiftly.
One of my aims of this approach is to see if, once pupils are more used to accessing the learning platform and becoming less reliant on my instructions and directions, is whether I’ll be able to move towards a more pupil centred/indepenent way of working, where pupils have more control over what they learn and in what order.
Will I carry on using it? Yes, for the reasons above. Will I use it for everything? Probably not, butthe future will tell on that.
However, after only 2 sessions I asked the pupils if they like using it and their reaction was very positive. Towards the end of this 1/2 term I might just create a survey for them to complete, but whilst they’re keen to carry on working this way, I’m striking whilst the iron is hot.
It should also be possible to share this course, minus the pupil data of course, with other users of its learning. I’ve never tried it, but if anyone is interested in using my course as a template, please let me know and I’ll find out how it can be shared with you.