Wednesday, 16 February 2011

WWF - The New Green File Format

The WWF have just launched a new file format designed to make us really think about the documents that we create that need to ever be printed. Let's think for a second. How many documents that we create and share actually ever need to be printed and kept?

Since studying at Aberdeen University, I have found that I have paused for thought much more often as my mouse pointer hovers over the print icon. Mainly this is due to the charge of 5p per print. However, part of this is also due to my acknowledgement of the amount of paper wasted every day.

As readers of the blog will know, this is the second time I have undertaken a teacher training course due to the GTC Scotland's list of unacceptable ITT qualifications. This is the second time I have begun to amass a huge collection of documents and evidence to justify my application to the General Teaching Council. I often wonder, how much could have been presented digitally?

I'm due to fly to London soon and in true student fashion, I have booked a low cost airline and take my luggage allowance in my own hands, literally! But when the computer tells me to print my receipt, does that mean on paper? Do I really need to hand the staff at the boarding gate a crumpled piece of paper to scan? No. I have a crystal clear colour screen on my mobile phone, scan that.

The wwf format is a print option much like printing to PDF. However, unlike PDFs which can be printed, there is simply no option to print a wwf file. Therefore, you can be sure that your document will not end up in a recycle bin, or worse, and encourage an awareness of paper wastage. So at a time when we are concerned about the future of the UK's forests and when we are desperately looking for renewable energy sources, responsible use of paper should definitely be high on our agenda.

Note, at the time of writing this, the PDF viewer on the HTC Desire did not recognise the wwf file format.  However, I'm confident that there will be a solution in the apps market very soon. I'll update the post when I find one.

Monday, 7 February 2011

End of Placement One

Friday 4th Feb was my last day at King Edward Primary School, near Banff. Coming from a large primary school in London to teach in Aberdeen, I was pleased to have been placed in such a polar opposite. The school only has 25 children in total, 15 of these made up my placement class of composite P4-7. I've learnt a lot about how rural schools operate and how Aberdeenshire council support it's schools. I was also given the opportunity to try new things and I was lucky that the headteacher let me run with my own convictions allowing me to learn from both the positives and the mistakes made along the way. 
Using GLOW

During my placement, one particular personal goal was to embrace Glow as well as getting the children using it regularly at school and at home. After some initial log-in problems, all children were equipped and ready to use the resources that I had put up. I created a Glow group allowing children to access links, games and an example Prezi presentation that they could access both at school and at home. It was important that the children get into the habit of logging on and we made sure that the children had the opportunity to log-in almost daily. I began to increase the use of glow to include web based games activities for use in number (and at home) as well as setting online homework. At this point, only the instructions for the investigations, some links and fun games were set online but I have every intention of developing what I have used in Glow to set some Glow Learn and Glow Meet tasks in the future.

Games Based Learning - using Endless Ocean

In the first part of my placement I used the Endless Ocean Wii game to set the context for diary writing from the perspective of the main character in the game. The children loved that they were using the games console in school and it provided motivation and a talking point both inside and out of school. I can see that a whole theme, carefully planned around a game like this can provide some really deep learning as children really get into the subject. I found that I could make constant numeracy references too so this really did help with embedding numeracy, literacy and ICT into the whole CfE.

Planning for Art

Following the castles theme, I planned a series of lessons to enable children to consider things that represent them in their lives. Children thought about what was important to them and we explored the idea of representing those things using symbols rather than pictures. The symbols were then used to create their coat of arms where they used paint to add contrasting, solid colours, black crayon to make thick, bold lines and then silver or gold paint and sponges to give it a metallic effect. They loved creating them and seeing what their neighbours had done. They also look fantastic on out wood panelled wall, above our big fireplace.
ICT presentations - using Prezi

I introduced children to Prezi in the last week as they were to begin their presentations to show their own castle. Their castles were to be a collection of features that they thought were important and were based on real, local castles owned by the National Trust for Scotland as well as fictional castles set in fantasy stories. They picked up Prezi extremely quickly and some rushed home to continue their presentations. I'm sure that this is a tool that they will revisit again and again.
Go Animate

Following an inset day on teaching & learning strategies for children with Autism and another inset delivered by Stephen from DoBe, I introduced a pupil with Aspergers to Go Animate as a way to express how he felt in a certain situation. I also mentioned that he could be the class expert and show others how to create animations. Little did I realise that he would take this new responsibility with such vigour. He is now 'booked' to deliver training to the other teachers as well as leading a group of children creating an animation for the Comic Relief assembly. One empowered pupil!

Plate Design

Another success story that I feel particularly proud of this term was the boy who was allowed to take part in a plate-making activity, even though the family were not in a position to pay the £7 for the plate. This particular child has difficulties in most areas of the curriculum although shows a real talent for making and designing things. The plate was no different except that he unfortunately left his design at home when the day for painting the plate came. Unperturbed, he preceded to recreate his exact design (I know because I saw both!) onto his plate from memory. His plate was one of the most well spaced out and carefully painted designs in the class. He was really pleased with it. 
However, when I returned after Christmas, his plate was still there. We discussed it in the staff room as well as with any other professionals who commented on the art-piece in question and I photographed it and presented the A4 colour print to him that afternoon. He was extremely proud and immediately went home to show his Mum. The next day he proudly announced that his Mum liked it so much she had agreed to buy it after all. At no point did anyone in the school send the print home as a selling tool. It was a celebration of his hard work. The fact that they bought the plate definitely showed the affect that ensuring praise goes home can have.

Chatting with Jacqueline Wilson

A while ago I read a twitter post about a forthcoming LTSwatch the web-cast but their behaviour was very good and they all seemed to be able to relate what she said to their own writing.

The web chat was not going to be online until 1pm, during their lunch break. However, as they had all written down questions that they would like to ask, I said that we would choose one to ask while the children were brushing their teeth at 1.15pm. We did, and she answered. The children were very excited to see the name of their schoolmate up on the big screen, on the Internet, for JW to answer.

Letting off Steam

What better after 4 weeks of hard graft in someone else's classroom, your own sleepless nights and not to mention your ill children's sleepless nights, than to walk 24miles in 24 hours. No, in black and white it seems like a daft thing to do but it was my way of letting off steam.

Having had to ditch the hike around the Lochnagar area due to the weather, me and my oldest pal Will (none other than William Wallace actually!) headed for the Gordon Way armed with heavy packs full of food, dry clothes and other necessities. I felt my binoculars far more justified Will's tin of baked beans when it came to extra weight but that was just one of the bickerings to be had as we hiked from 8pm Fri eve through to 2am before bivvying in the woods near the Bennachie Centre and hiking back to Suie car park the following morning via Pixie Heaven, which was another point for 'discussion'!

To read more about out planned coast to coast walk and the training (or lack of) that we are undertaking, click here.