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chers And Experts

Innovative Practices From Tea

FREE - Issue 6 Innovate My School Innovation and Inspiration

Teaching with Tablets Whooshing through a narrative eSafety: The balance between filtering and monitoring SEN and TECHnology The Innovation Magazine For Teachers


contents Innovation update


Industry news


The National Enterprise Challenge 10 Whooshing through a narrative


eSafety: The balance between filtering and monitoring


Five essential elements for an authentic playground


The thinking and talking approach 23 to homework User reviews


SEN and the gift of technology


Teaching with tablets


Read more articles on the Innovate My School website, such as

• How to help students harness their hunger to achieve • Creating RSA-style videos for teaching Geography

Director - Michael Forshaw Editor – Tim Miles Advertising – Angela Gallagher Graphic Designer – Alison Kelly Asst. Graphic Designer – Emma Kelly

If you would like to advertise in this magazine, please email, phone 0845 034 6690 or visit


Welcome to the February edition of the Innovate My School Magazine. 2013 looks set to be the year of the tablet in education. But with ever more makes, models, apps and opinions, it can seem nigh impossible to choose the right devices for your school - let alone decide how best to use them. In our main feature this issue, tech-savvy staff from four schools untangle all things tablet, explaining why they plumped for certain devices and passing on their top tips for tablet-based teaching. To ensure that we do not surfeit on such a tempting feast of technological treats and take our good fortune for granted, Carol Allen recounts her experiences of teaching in parts of the world where the simplest software can provide lifechanging benefits for SEN pupils. More tablets means more schools providing WiFi and greater access to the internet for pupils than ever before. In a thoughtful article, IT expert Alan Mackenzie tackles the technical and moral aspects of eSafety. Ros Harker shows that innovative teaching does not always require technology in her fivepoint elementary guide to creating the perfect playground; and English teacher Sam Marfleet draws on his experience with the Royal Shakespeare Company to “whoosh” us through narratives. Last but not least, Sue Dixon provides some superb examples of how you can hone primary school homework to pupils’ interests. As ever, we also have the latest news, reviews and Innovation Update. Please keep sending your comments, questions and suggestions to love hearing from you.

Tim Miles Editor, Innovate My School Magazine 3

innovation update

Imperial Rules With Star Wars soon to return, the mere presence of rulers in a classroom is likely to ignite the occasional lightsaber duel.

Mention imperial units and you may find yourself amidst the Battle of Endor. Yet this is what teachers could be required to do. According to a new draft primary curriculum, children should “understand and use basic equivalencies between metric and common imperial units”.

children should “understand and use basic equivalencies between metric and common imperial units”

introduce them to imperial measures and human ingenuity. Best of all, they won’t even need to remember their rulers. They’re going to make their own. Each pupil will need a piece of paper, scissors and a pencil. He should place the paper on the floor alongside his foot, then cut a strip the length of his shoe’s sole and roughly the width of a ruler. The paper should be moved to a desk. Placing a hand palm up on the strip, so that the thumb joint is at one end of the paper, the pupil should make a pencil mark next to his palm crease. Then he should move his hand along the paper so that the thumb joint is next to that mark, and make another mark at the new position of the palm crease.

A basic law of human proportions is that an adult’s hand width fits almost exactly Once pupils (and teacher) have recovered three times into the length of his shoe from the disappointing revelation that sole. The rule is not quite so reliable for this doesn’t involve stormtroopers or star growing children, but it ought to work destroyers, here’s a quick way to well enough. Every pupil should, at this



point, have a strip of paper divided into three roughly equal parts. Pupils should fold the paper twice: once at each mark. The folded strip of paper should then be folded in half, and then folded in half again. Each pupil should now find that the folded paper is just slightly wider than his thumb at the knuckle joint. The final step is to unfold the paper and draw a line along each of the folds and number each line, from left to right. All that’s left to do is cut a piece of card of appropriate width and length, and attach it to the paper strip. Each pupil now has a personalised “foot” ruler, divided into twelve thumb-sized segments (known as inches). Even if pupils find that the divisions of their rulers are not perfectly even, this short exercise will have introduced them to the origin of imperial measurements: feet, hands and thumbs. It can be explained to them that an imperial foot really is a foot - albeit an adult male one in a standard ruler - and that an inch is the width of thumb with just enough space to knock a nail in either side. This is all because feet, hands and thumbs were the most practical natural tools for measuring things to a good degree of accuracy. In one short lesson, your pupils have learned about the genesis of imperial units and the laws of human proportions, not to mention an ingeniously pragmatic approach to problem-solving. And, like any good Jedi, they can now make their own lightsabers.

Roboteacher Now for a story that will thrill technophilic teachers - but perhaps worry them a little too!

Humanoid robots, such as Max and Ben of Topcliffe Primary School, are becoming increasingly popular in teaching. They are thought to be particularly good at teaching autistic children. Ian Lowe, Topcliffe’s head teacher, believes that the robots’ absence of emotion makes them less intimidating to such pupils, and therefore easier for them to engage with. But of course, teachers need not fear replacement for a few years yet. However clever they become, robots will never be able to master the art of the classroom or gauge pupil responses. ...Unless they’re fitted with EEG sensors that enable them to monitor and respond to pupil brain activity and attention levels, that is.


innovation update

A calculator curtailed In our September magazine, we featured an article arguing that pupils should do more maths in their minds. A reliance on calculators, the article asserted, makes pupils less likely to grasp important mathematical principles, and can lead to their misunderstanding the true meaning of the equals sign. But, as the article also pointed out, calculators are necessary for dealing with large and complex numbers. What, then, can be done to ensure that pupils only use them when they should? Our attention has been drawn to a type of calculator that may provide the answer - though only if you can make a reasonable guess at that answer first! When a pupil enters a sum into the QAMA (Quick Approximate Mental Arithmetic) calculator and presses the equals button, he is then required to enter a reasonably accurate guess at the answer before the calculator will give him the correct one. This may not help pupils understand the nature of the equals sign, but it does require them to have some mastery of mathematical concepts, and it ensures that they keep their mental arithmetic ticking over. 6

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Curtailing the Calculator, as published in the last issue of Innovate My School Magazine

Innovation Update written by: Tim Miles, Innovate My School @timkilometres @innovatemyschl



Industry NEWS

Microsoft launches national search for games development talent In partnership with Naace, Microsoft has launched a competition designed to inspire schoolchildren to become interested in coding and computer science.

free to explore the realms of possibility, bringing to life their most creative thoughts and ideas in a ways that can enhance their education.

The Kodu Kup will give UK schoolchildren aged between seven and fourteen the opportunity to develop new computer games using Kodu, a visual programming language built by Microsoft specifically for creating games. The entries will be judged by a panel which includes Gary Carr (Creative Director at Lionhead - home of the multi-millionselling Fable games) and Theo Chin of IndieSkies.

The Kodu Kup gives these school children the chance to develop games

Kodu is used by teachers in schools across the United Kingdom. So far, it has been effective in helping pupils develop basic programming and problem-solving skills, while holding their interest and sustaining their excitement. The Kodu Kup gives these school children the chance to develop games - with an edge of competition mixed in. Children will be

Kodu Kup entrants must develop a game on a theme of water awareness, Mars exploration, or retro arcade. Visit www. for more details.



Google in Education North of England Summit Google in Education, together with The North Halifax Grammar School, have announced the “North of England Google in Education Summit”, to take place on Saturday 27 April and Sunday 28 April 2013.

The summit is focused on helping delegates get the most out of Google Apps for Education The summit will exhibit two brand new specific summit strands for 2013: A “Google Apps Certification” strand for attendees looking to become Google Apps EDU Certified trainers, and a “Chromebooks in Education” strand for teachers wishing to use Chromebooks in their schools and classrooms.


“The summit is focused on helping delegates get the most out of Google Apps for Education in primary and secondary schools and higher education environments,” said Dan Taylor, Conference coordinator. “We have sessions led by some of the world’s leading Google Apps experts, including Ken Shelton, from Google Teacher Academy. “There will be sessions for teachers and lecturers, school administrators and school IT managers. The aim of the summit is for attenders to leave with knowledge that they can start using as soon as they return to their schools and colleges.” For more information, visit or call +44 (0)131 202 6003.

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Lord Alan - Keynote Sugar Speak at the fina ls night in er, July

Will your school be the National Enterprise Challenge winners 2013? 10


“The National Enterprise Challenge gives schools the opportunity to harness their pupils’ key employability skills. It gives students the opportunity to test themselves on a national level and businesses the chance to support the next generation of budding entrepreneurs. I am delighted to have been asked to be keynote speaker at the finals night in July and look forward to seeing you there. Best of luck with your challenges, everybody.” - Lord Sugar, 2013 The National Enterprise Challenge, with Finals Day special guest Lord Sugar, is an inter-school competition available to all secondary schools in the United Kingdom. The Challenge is divided into two age categories: Key Stage 3 (Year 7 and 8) and Key Stage 4 (Year 9 and 10). Your school will receive an enterprise event delivered to the full year group by our TNEC team, centred around two specifically tailored “real-life” business challenges. TNEC team will facilitate the whole day, with the students working together in mixed-ability groups of six. The winning team will then go on to represent the school at the National Finals in London, July 2013, competing against up to 100 schools from across the UK. The Finals Day will be a celebration of all things enterprise. The students will first pitch to specially chosen guest judges from the business community, before taking their seats for the awards night.

As the judges deliberate, the students will receive a sit-down three-course dinner, during which they will wait excitedly for the winners of this nationwide challenge to be announced. The winning groups will then pitch one final time – this time to a packed house, including some of the biggest names and sharpest brains in British business – before taking part in an all-inclusive Q&A session with special guest Lord Sugar! To round off this prestigious event, Lord Sugar will present the winning groups with their prizes and have photographs taken with them. The night will feature entertainment, and promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all students lucky (and talented) enough to participate. For all those taking part, win or lose, it will be an event to change lives, one to inspire the next generation of British entrepreneurs. It will certainly provide a great platform for schools to demonstrate the talents of their students to the local community, local media, and beyond. The standard cost of the challenge is £1995. However, subscribers of Innovate My School can enter for £1795 by quoting ‘INNOVATE’ when booking! Limited school places left! Call 01782 367 148 or visit


Whooshing through a narrative

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“Whoosh!”, until the teacher says re nt ce t bu back into the ds like fun, point they all move ich wh at Whooshing soun m es this at the h teacher Sa he teacher usually do (T . cle cir what is it? Englis to ensure that es a simple of a scene.) This helps d en Marfleet describ e th t roles, and plains how y a range of differen pla s pil pu whoosh, and ex t ge ls lp your pupi olved. that all pupils are inv approach can he y. or st y to grips with an able way of oosh can be an enjoy wh A s pil pu a complex ity that helps pils an over view of pu ing giv A whoosh is an activ in th aracters and key characters fit wi tive, introducing its ch rra na to understand how es to understand tered whoosh It can also help them ts. en ev a narrative. I encoun are pe e Royal Shakes ships between some of the relation while training with th I r, he ac te sh gli velop ideas En de characters and to Company and, as an pils pu g cin du ro int r fo about themes. saw their potential t whooshes suit any bu ; ys pla x ple m co to y rs and a story (histor subject with characte comes to mind). n be an A whoosh ca ther pupils into a ga , sh oo wh a n ru To ble way of giving ya all desks and chair s. jo ide as en e ov m d an cle cir her plays the role of an overview of a ils p u p In a whoosh the teac e th of t s a “lite” scrip ve a narrator and read complex narrati y character, event or ke a n he W e. tiv rra na the teacher picks a object is mentioned, . pupil from the circle r should “freeze o the centre of the g a whoosh a teache rin Du That pupil moves int s rm rfo in points and lines or pe e” the actors at certa m fra circle and recites a few by d te s in the main circle. tion, as direc se questions to pupil po some appropriate ac e th in ain m en roles re the teacher. Pupils giv 12


. . . e v i t a r r a n ight give them a For example, you m ntify and ask them list of themes to ide the moment which are relevant at , or ask them to the whoosh is paused ppened and ha summarise what has en next, or pp ha to predict what will re characters. pa m co encourage them to

in to As pupils beg es understand them they can discuss perspectives. derstand themes As pupils begin to un ectives. The they can discuss persp questions that t es teacher might sugg e actors. At the pupils can pose to th pils could be asked end of a whoosh pu tions or summaries, to write down ques m the start point and these could infor n. of the following lesso onomy will see Fans of the SOLO tax introduce pupils how a whoosh can move them from to a new topic and uni-structural or a pre-str uctural to a rstanding of it. multi-str uctural unde

g helps them Developing questionin ional ideas. lat quickly to cultivate re

rks best A whoosh wo f different with a number o ith a characters and w a dash script that adds of humour. st with a number A whoosh works be rs and with a script of different characte humour. With a that adds a dash of ters or narrative, smaller set of charac a number of smaller break the class into that your pupils circles. Be confident ctations pe understand your ex s itie tiv for drama-based ac before starting. Ar ticle written by: Sam Marfleet, Director of English y at Ormiston Victor Academy @MarfleetS m



The balance between filtering and monitoring 14


ESafety Debates about internet filtering in schools may never go away - at least not so long as pupils and teachers are prevented from accessing online curriculum resources, and draconian policies are pursued by local authorities or other education bodies. I have visited schools that block as many websites as they realistically can, so afraid are they of the risks to pupils. Ofsted itself frowns on this practice (although I have yet to visit a school that has been asked a question about how they manage internet filtering). There are three very good reasons why we limit internet access in schools: to safeguard children, to protect the school against liability, and to ensure that pupils use the internet for the right purposes. For the first two of these, a filter - a piece of software that blocks pupils’ access to certain internet content - works reasonably well. Modern filters are relatively good at reducing access to illegal and inappropriate material, and are becoming more difficult to bypass.

There are three very good reasons why we limit internet access in schools For the third purpose, filters are less effective. Even sophisticated filters can end up inadvertently preventing pupils from accessing internet content that is harmless and useful. An innocuous website about biology, for

example, might be blocked if the filter identifies certain words or terms on the site. Sites can be manually removed from a filter’s blacklist by an administrator, but this is a timeconsuming process, requiring the pupil to contact a teacher, who would then either have to log in himself to enable the pupil to see the site, or contact the school’s IT staff in order to have the site unblocked. Moreover, the appropriate use of the internet is a complex and contentious matter.There are myriad opinions on what pupils should or should not, and can or cannot, be prevented from accessing online at school. Monitoring can help with these problems. In simple terms, a monitoring system - rather than preventing access to internet content - reports pupils for potentially inappropriate activity on the internet and any part of the school network. (This is an important point to note: not all inappropriate activity involving IT takes place via web browsers.) In our biology website example above, monitoring software would not have prevented the pupil from accessing the site, but would have highlighted his having done so by, for example, sending an email to a member of staff. It’s important to note that monitoring and filtering are not mutually exclusive: a site can be blocked and the attempt to access it reported. Indeed, in many cases some combination of filtering and monitoring is probably the best solution. Consider the following example. A very worrying modern trend is that of pro15

ESafety anorexia and pro-bulimia sites: that is, websites that openly promote these conditions. Let’s say that one of your pupils searches online for a pro-anorexia site. The search engine gives some results. If your school has an effective filtering system, but no monitoring, the student will click on a link and be prevented from accessing the site. However, staff would not be alerted to the pupil’s attempt to access the site.They would only find out about it if someone frequently read through all the recent internet activity records of each pupil at the school - a process that could well be prohibitively timeconsuming. Meanwhile, the pupil may well have accessed the website outside school, unbeknownst to her teachers and parents. If, however, an effective monitoring system had been in place, this would have identified the pupil’s attempt to access the site as potentially inappropriate, captured a screenshot of the attempt and immediately emailed this (along with details of the pupil’s account) to a teacher in charge of pastoral care or a head of year.There would be clear evidence that the pupil - or someone using the pupil’s account - had attempted to access the site, including the time and date of the attempt and the search term used - which might in this case have been “How to hide effects of anorexia from parents”. The school would know that it had a safeguarding concern and could quickly take an appropriate course of action. With a filtering system in place as well as the monitoring one, the pupil’s access to the site could have been blocked as well as reported to the relevant staff member.


It is beyond the scope of this article to consider what internet content should be filtered (blocked) as well as reported by a monitoring system and which should simply be reported. Moreover, no monitoring software is perfect. However, by highlighting pupils’ attempts to access potentially inappropriate online material, monitoring systems give schools some scope to filter less aggressively.Their presence alone may well deter pupils from engaging in any inappropriate activity on the school network. And those pupils who do misuse the network are more likely to be found quickly, whereupon they can be dealt with in accordance with the school’s behaviour and disciplinary policies. The primary purpose of eSafety measures must be to protect children. But they should also, as far as possible, give schools the freedom to benefit from IT and the internet. Realistically, this requires a balanced combination of filtering and monitoring. In some cases, a measure of human monitoring the checking of certain pupils’ network activity and internet logs by a member of staff - may also be necessary.

Read more articles like this at Article written by: Alan Mackenzie, Managing Director of SafeICT Consultancy Ltd @esafetyadviser /esafetyadviser


107 Favourite iPad Apps for Learning

Should Twitter be used in schools? How to teach internet safety in Primary


Learning with the Raspberry Pi Using Audio Stories and MP3 players in the EYFS For all these articles and more, visit:

Innovation and inspiration for teachers.

An Authenic Playground

Five essential elements for an

authentic playground “Natural play” has long been a buzz phrase in early years education. Ros Harker cuts through the jargon and explains how five of nature’s finest materials can be used to create authentic and exciting play areas. The most authentic playgrounds are those which consist mainly of natural components: natural landforms, natural surfaces, even natural safety materials. Budgets, space and safety must of course be taken into account.Yet, with enough imagination, it’s relatively cheap and easy to create appealing natural play areas. Many schools already use the five materials I’m going to discuss, but they generally deploy them on a small scale. Sand and soil, for example, are often kept in trays and brought out for occasional activities. I feel that the real benefits of these materials come when they are used on a large scale - and outdoors. Before we consider my top five materials, a quick note. I have not included water as a separate item in my list.This is because it is a big subject, and because using water effectively can be expensive. However, though the infrastructure required to support them can be costly, water pumps have obvious play and educational merit, and are usually very popular with children. So, water aside, here are my top five natural materials, and how to use them.


1. sand Sand is a versatile material with great appeal to children. First, forget the principle of less is more. More is more: the larger the sand area the more it can be used in play and learning. Aim to create a beachlike sand area, ideally with water alongside it. Vary resources in the sand pit (shells, stones, pebbles) and tools (moulds, spades, buckets) but also have times when the sand is uncluttered so that children can interact with it directly and simply.

Sand is a versatile material with great appeal to children. Maintenance is minimal, but the sand will need to be replenished over time, and it does have a tendency to creep into areas where it is unwanted! The sand area will require a breathable, lightweight, easilymovable cover. Be sure to buy play sand that it is non-toxic, non-staining and safe if inhaled. It is also essential that children’s play be supervised at all times - whatever materials they are using. Innovatemyschool

3. soil Schools tend to reserve soil for flower beds and not for use as a play material. But its properties make it ideal for play. Children can dig in it, turn it over, bury and find treasures, make holes, fill vessels, research mini-beasts, etc. When dry it is hard and crumbly, but when moist it can moulded. Wet, it becomes mud: a material particularly fascinating to children, who can use it to make imprints, marks and noises, and generally squish and squelch around.

2. boulders Boulders are becoming popular features for playgrounds. It is easy to see why. They enhance the landscape, provide great opportunities for balancing and jumping, and are perfect for weary staff and children looking for a seat! Combined with sand, boulders can create the perfect setting for adventures. Ensure that you only use boulders that are safe and suitable for children’s play.

A soil space should, where possible, be large enough for children to dig in using long handled tools, thereby learning to use their entire bodies to manipulate the soil. At the end of a session, children can be given brooms and brushes and encouraged to tidy up by restoring the soil to its designated area. With soil, hygiene is particularly important. When not in use, the area should be covered by a tarpaulin to prevent dogs and cats from using it. Ensure that, before children enter the soil area, any cuts are covered with plasters or gloves to prevent infection.


An Authenic Playground

4. wood Bark and wood chippings make an excellent safety surface. Wood is tactile and pleasant to touch; it blends in with the natural environment and is strong, durable and versatile. Wooden trunks or beams can be balanced on.Trees with low lying branches are great for climbing or for creating dens. Slices of trunk make brilliant stepping stones that children can move around.

Trees with low lying branches are great for climbing or for creating dens. Planted wooden rounds are great for manoeuvring along, helping children to develop balance and coordination and to overcome challenges by helping one another. Best of all, wood is relatively cheap. Ask your local council’s parks department, your local Wildlife Trust and your local sawmills if they’ll donate any materials, such as trunk slices or other suitable off-cuts. Be sure regularly to check any pieces for splinters or sharp edges, and sand down anything which might jeopardise safety.

5. plants It wouldn’t be a play garden without plants. As well as creating a more pleasant environment, plants offer further benefits. Herbs, for example, are perfect for sensory development and can be used in home 20

economics lessons. Flowers and petals are very appealing and can be used to create patterns, potions and broths. Latin could even be introduced in the form of spells and incantations associated with such creations - though it is of course essential that children do not eat or drink anything they shouldn’t! Make the most of weeds, dandelions, daisies and buttercups alongside other plants. It could be that you have a greenfingered member of staff or member of the school community who might be willing to maintain a school garden as a separate project. It is hard to highlight just five features of nature, but I hope this overview helps to inspire you to create the best possible play areas for your school. Budgets are always limiting, but creative thinking can help keep spending down.

Ros Harker is Business Development Manager at Playgarden, a specialist outdoor playground development company serving the early years industry. Playgarden champion a landscape-led approach and have helped schools and nurseries throughout the United Kingdom to transform their outdoor spaces. Article written by: Ros Harker, Development Manager at Playgarden /playgardens




education innovation MARCH 8&9 2013




t t t

Harnessing technology to inspire and improve An exciting, UK focused, national event for education leaders and teachers Free CPD training on how to make realistic, practical use of technology in your school Get involved and contribute to debates on the future of the ICT curriculum

education innovation will consist of two jam-packed days of keynote speakers, free CPD training,

“how to” sessions, practical seminars, workshops, central debate hub, ministerial addresses and leaders conference, fully integrated with an exhibition of hand-picked education technology experts.

Speakers include: n

Stephen Twigg MP; Spencer Kelly, Tim Rylands, Vanessa Pittard (DfE) and David Brown (OFSTED)


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The thinking and talking approach to homework

The “thinking and talking” approach to

Homework is often an emotive and divisive issue in primary schools. How much is appropriate for a certain year group? What forms should it take? How much parent involvement is required? To what extent should it be tailored to individual children? And so on. It is important that the time and effort spent answering these questions and devising and marking homework results in the greatest benefits for pupils. Homework should build on classroom lessons but not be repetitive or dull. The most valuable homework challenges pupils: it makes them think for themselves and, ideally, encourages discussion between them and their parents. “Thinking and talking” homework assignments can be an excellent way to achieve those goals. These simple exercises involve pupils and their families discussing and investigating things that don’t have a single right answer. For example: a teacher might ask pupils to get their parents’ help in making a list of ten games that can be played outside. The games should be arranged in order

of how risky they are. Pupils would be expected to think more deeply about the game they consider to be the most risky, by discussing their reason for choosing it with their parents, and by drawing a picture or describing a scene that shows the worst thing that could happen when someone plays this game.

Pupils can further develop an analytical mindset by discussing various topics or themes with their families. Other simple “thinking and talking” homework exercises could require pupils to put a collection of household gadgets in order of usefulness, or to rank news stories from a paper or the internet in order of the most captivating headlines or stories. (A diamond ranking template can help with this.) Again, the important thing is to get pupils to think about why they chose the order they did, and to analyse and justify their decisions though there’s no clear right answer. 23

The thinking and talking approach to homework Pupils can further develop an analytical mindset by discussing various topics or themes with their families. Teachers might encourage them to consider, with their parents, questions such as: Is fiction always made up or does it contain elements of truth? Is it harder to tell the truth than a lie? Is it ever okay to tell a lie? What if everyone had to tell the truth? Other themes could concern money, beliefs, beauty or happiness.

By requiring pupils to consider questions that have no clear answer, “thinking and talking� homeworks can introduce them to philosophy and improve their ability to reason, construct arguments and think independently. This approach to homework is really worth thinking about!

Article written by: Sue Dixon, Founder of Thinking Child @ThinkingChild1 /ThinkingChild




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and the gift of technology

Recounting her experience of teaching SEN pupils overseas, Carol Allen explains how technology can provide lifechanging benefits for pupils with disabilities, and why we should never neglect the resources available to us in Britain. Over the past few years, I have worked at many educational establishments in the United Kingdom and abroad. My area is communication and access to learning for all - from those with profound and multiple learning difficulties to those who are academic and able but have a specific or transitory learning barrier. Unsurprisingly, my work in other countries has brought me into contact with some strikingly different approaches and attitudes to special educational needs.


In Albania I came across a slow start to the provision of education for some children with disabilities. Historically, in this country, such children were put through the same system whatever their disability.

Historically, in this country, such children were put through the same system whatever their disability. This had been the case for a blind man whom I met. Intelligent, articulate and a wonderful singer, he carried his few possessions - a cassette tape player with two cassettes and his cigarettes - with him at all times, having no safe place to store them. Innovatemyschool

Korça, Albania

We set up a computer with tactile access using an Intellikeys keyboard and linked this to some of his favourite songs from his youth. We then recorded his own singing on the computer and gave him tactile access to play it back and sing along. He was so moved by being able to do this for the first time in his life that all present were in danger of emotional collapse. Within one session, he understood the tactile symbols and was working independently. With sponsorship from the extremely supportive Inclusive Technology we went further, training two teachers in using basic technology to help pupils with autism, cerebral palsy, visual impairments and learning disabilities.

ideas as we watched, and then returned with more queries. We worked, answered, adapted and shared for every moment that we had. It was the very best continuous professional development experience ever! One thing it highlighted was the power of technology to help people with disabilities. Returning to the UK, we were reflecting on the role of fate: how our birthplace can determine our educational opportunities, our life chances, our life expectancy. At work the following week, I had an inbox brimming with items such as: “This child needs more teaching assistant time”; “This child needs a laptop”; “Can you come and deliver another CPD session?”; “It’s not possible to include so-and-so as he won’t sit sensibly in class”.

The teachers questioned us incessantly, tried things eagerly, extended and developed our


SEN AND THE GIFT OF TECHNOLOGY These emails made me realise that though our country has excellent SEN resources, an element of chance exists for pupils here too. Though some schools and teachers have a can-do attitude to SEN and seek solutions to difficulties, others are less proactive and look for reasons why certain pupils cause difficulties to established routines and practices. Both attitudes can exist within one school: a particular teacher may go out of her way to understand a child and his learning needs and preferences, whereas another might leave this to teaching assistants or avoid addressing the situation.

Yet I visit schools where not even the basic accessibility features of Windows or Mac OS are being used.

We have ready access to some superb technology.

There are so many ideas to be shared. Twitter is a great starting point: it constitutes a worldwide community of experts eager to share their ideas! Facebook offers pages of ideas and tools, some focusing on a particular area, others broader in scope.

We have ready access to some superb technology. Free downloads such as WordTalk enable text to speech and the conversion to MP3, so that struggling readers can, for example, access revision notes in their preferred format.

Next time you have that “end of a tough day” feeling, think of those in areas of the world which don’t have the buildings, the specialist training, the technology, the money or - most importantly - the political and strategic support that are available to us. Then determine to make a difference!

Google Translate can help EAL (English as an Additional Language) pupils in those difficult first weeks when they are struggling with a new life, a new school and a new language. High visibility mouse pointers can be downloaded free of charge for those who have difficulty seeing the standard one. Yet I visit schools where not even the basic accessibility features of Windows or Mac OS are being used. I see pupils with dyslexia using coloured overlays to help with their 30

reading, but then working on computers with no accessibility features enabled to give the same support.

Read more articles like this at Article written by: Carol Allen, Advisory teacher for ICT, SEN and inclusion @caroljallen


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Teaching with Tablets

Teaching with tablets

Tablets are increasingly popular in education. But with ever more brands, models, apps and opinions, it can seem nigh impossible to choose the right devices for your school - let alone figure out how best to use them. We asked tech-savvy staff from four schools to explain why they plumped for certain devices, and to pass on their top tips for tablet-based teaching. Read on to find out what teachers think of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Apple iPad and iPad Mini, Zoostorm SL8, Acer Iconia W510, and the new CnM LearnPad >>


Teaching with tablets

Samsung Galaxy Tab First up is Phil Spoors, Assistant Head Teacher at Cramlington Learning Village, where each incoming Year 7 pupil receives a Galaxy Tab. Before launching our 1:1 tablet scheme, we ran trials with a range of devices, including iPods, Archos tablets, mobile phones, iPads, Minibooks and Galaxy Tabs. We had expected the iPads to come out on top. But though the iPad had, in our view, a slightly superior user interface and some very useful features - such as compatibility with Apple TV and iTunes U - the Galaxy Tab performed better in all our “learning” tests. (It is, however, worth noting that the Tab was complemented effectively by our VLE.) In September 2011, we issued each Year 7 pupil with a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7” (WiFi only) 16GB. The following year, we issued Year 7 pupils with the Galaxy Tab 2 7” (WiFi only) 8GB. We chose the Galaxy Tab for several reasons. Most importantly, it worked well with our virtual learning environment and the various flash-based websites we use. With the help of a parental contribution scheme, it was also affordable. One of the biggest draws was the tablet’s Android OS, which enabled our three web developers to 34

easily create and quickly distribute custom-built apps. Staff training was essential, and teachers were encouraged to acquire Tabs of their own via the same contribution scheme as the pupils. Those who did became familiar with the their functionality very quickly. Though the scheme has been a huge success, there were some early challenges. In our first year of 1:1 tablet use, many pupils accidentally uninstalled apps and, inevitably, some devices were broken. At first the tablets were not used every day, and a few pupils stopped bringing theirs to school regularly.This year, to ensure that the tablets are used every day, we have found simple apps which can be used in many lessons. (Battery life is not a problem if the devices are charged fully every night.) For schools considering using tablets of any kind on a large scale, we recommend a system whereby parents are asked to contribute towards the cost, so that each pupil owns a device: with ownership comes more responsible use.

App Focus • Coach’s Eye for PE and drama • Skitch for photographing and annotating work or for peer feedback • QR Code Scanner Innovatemyschool

Apple iPad and iPad Mini No article about tablets could overlook the iPad. Daniel Edwards of John Hampden Grammar School has extensive experience in using Apple products in his classes. Here he considers the educational benefits of the iPad 2 and the iPad mini.

Teaching with tablets

App Focus • Explain Everything • Socrative • Google Drive

Editing movies on a mini is slightly more difficult than it is on a full-sized iPad though the mini’s 4:3 aspect ratio screen makes viewing the finished product a real pleasure.

The iPad mini’s light weight gives it an advantage in shared-device schemes (in which each pupil is For teachers who want a device to “present” given a tablet at the start of a lesson but returns with at the front of the class, I recommend it at the end). And schools are likely to save the iPad mini. It’s light, and swiping between around £1000 if they purchase, for example, resources and annotating while speaking are easy. thirty iPad minis rather than the same number Used with Apple TV, it is particularly effective for of iPad 2s. delivering lecture-style lessons. When it comes to choosing the best tablet for pupils, the decision is more difficult. My preferred model of tablet use in schools is “1:1”, whereby each pupil has a tablet of his own. The “mini” has one obvious advantage over the iPad for this: it’s cheaper.The approximate £35 price difference between an iPad 2 and an iPad mini becomes even more significant when a school is annually buying a tablet for every new pupil! However, though the mini has all the functionality of a full-sized iPad, its screen is too small for the activities that are now common in iPad classrooms.This makes precision typing trickier, and editing of work slower. Using the mini to annotate interactive whiteboards necessitates frequent “pinch zooming” to check work.

As a teacher, I should like to use both an iPad and an iPad mini. As a teacher, I should like to use both an iPad and an iPad mini. Overall, however, I recommend full-sized iPads for pupils.Though my pupils thought the mini would be great for watching movies, they were less enamoured with its small screen size when editing their work. If the iPad mini had Apple’s pixel-dense “Retina” display - as the forthcoming mini 2 will - this might be less of a problem. But I still doubt that it would be the better tool for the job.We’ll see minis appear more in our school as pupils bring in their own devices. It will be interesting to see if longer-term use changes opinions. 35

Zoostorm SL8 & Acer Iconia W510 Like Android, Windows 8 is available on many makes of tablet. Three teachers from Maesteg Comprehensive School, which has Zoostorm SL8s (upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 8) and Acer Iconia W510s, give their take on teaching with tablets running Microsoft’s 8th generation OS.

Teaching with tablets

There have been a few drawbacks. It can take pupils longer to write on the Zoostorms than by hand or on a PC - some found it necessary to balance their tablets against books! We were also disappointed that they had no rear-facing camera for recording pupils’ work.

The three Acer ICONIA W510s we recently purchased come with detachable keyboards and rear-facing eight megapixel cameras, negating We opted for Windows 8 tablets chiefly these problems. However, at over £500, they because we wanted devices that would integrate are considerably more expensive than the well with our Windows network. A seamless Zoostorms - and even many PCs! transition between tablet and PC was also appealing, and the familiar Windows operating Little training was required in the use of the system means that pupils can access their user tablets because of teachers’ and pupils’ familiarity areas on their tablets in the same way as they with Windows operating systems.To preserve do on PCs. battery life, staff and pupils are encouraged to charge the tablets fully every night. In addition to meeting our relatively modest needs (we wanted pupils to be able to type Some of our teachers believe in purchasing a notes, save work to their user areas and email Windows 8 tablet for each pupil to make theory staff using Microsoft Exchange accounts), our lessons more interesting. Others feel that pupils Windows 8 tablets have provided many benefits. should be introduced to a range of operating systems and interfaces. Although a “1:1” Previously, pupils had been using small deployment may not happen in the near future, whiteboards during lessons. Notes written on we certainly foresee the school purchasing more these were generally lost.With tablets pupils can tablets and using them more widely. save their notes to their user areas. The new devices have been particularly useful for collaborative learning and for pupils with additional learning needs: in lessons that involve computers, pupils can use their tablets while still working in groups, rather than sitting facing PCs or half-hidden by laptop screens.

App focus • MS Office and Outlook • The camera, for taking photos of the students’ work • School Information Management System (SIMS) 37

Teaching with tablets

CnM LearnPad

The CnM LearnPad is an Android tablet with a twist, running a version of the open-source OS that has been heavily modified and tailored for use in education. Lyndon Watkins, head teacher at St Mary’s Catholic Primary, explains why his school opted for this tablet. We chose the LearnPad because we felt it offered better value for money than competitor tablets.We were attracted to its abundance of education apps covering curriculum topics, and to the tablet’s compatibility with the many Flashbased curriculum resources that we use.

We chose the LearnPad because we felt it offered better value for money than competitor tablets


App focus • Solar Explorer • Foundation Maths • QR Code Scanner A QR code is generated for each resource, and teachers can drag the icons for digital resources that they wish pupils to access during a lesson into a “lesson plan” area, and then print off the QR codes for those resources. In the lesson, pupils use the LearnPads to scan the printed QR codes, thereby loading the desired resources on to their tablets. The LearnPad comes with a superb book reader application, and various phonics and literacy apps, which have proved very effective. Using the tablets encourages children to develop independent research skills and improves their grasp of IT and technology. The tablet’s management features are easy to use, but staff training was essential to unlock its full learning potential and enable teachers to get the most out of its resources. It was important to train teachers in integrating existing lesson plans and resources with the management system.

One of the main benefits of the LearnPad is that, being designed specifically for education, it helps to create a safe and controlled learning environment by ensuring that pupils can access only approved applications, content and websites on the tablets.

At St Mary’s, we feel that tablets are essential to the future of education and would love to be able to provide a LearnPad for every child at our school.

Digital resources (websites, apps, worksheets, etc.) can be accessed, created and edited by teachers via a cloud-based management portal.

What’s your favourite tablet in the classroom? Join the disscusion at community Innovatemyschool

Profile for Innovate My School

Innovate My School: March 2013  

Issue 6 of Innovate My School’s online magazine, bringing the latest in educational innovation and inspiration to educators across the UK.

Innovate My School: March 2013  

Issue 6 of Innovate My School’s online magazine, bringing the latest in educational innovation and inspiration to educators across the UK.