Tag Archives: collaborative learning

Badger, badger, badger, badger.

There’s a lot of work going on at the moment about using badges for crediting skills, experience in education and the workplace. I came across this template for designing your own badges and shared it last night in the #dlchat. People in the chat seemed to like it, so I thought it might be worth posting it here also. Getting my Digital Leaders becoming badge creators and awarders is an aim for my Digital Leader project next year, as it has multiple benefits. I hope they’re keen to be badgers.


Thoughts on using Technology in schools.

I came across this via zite which I use to find and share a load of good reading, infographics and ideas. This pretty much sums up my thoughts about using Technology in schools, and is what we should be aiming for when embedding ICT across the curriculum.

As it says at the bottom, it’s a tool not an outcome.


Learning Spaces.

An area I wanted to develop this term in class was my use of displays. I feel ‘traditional’ primary school displays are not a natural strength of mine, and I’ve always wondered about the effectiveness of the display in effecting children’s learning. I’m open to any researched ideas about the effects if you’d like to post in the comments or e-mail me I’d be grateful.

In March time I came across No Tosh’s posts on learning spaces and was really interested in some of the ideas in the post. I was particularly interested in the learning wall idea, and set about creating one in my class using plastic wallets to display the children’s work in a respectful manner as well as allowing the much needed fluidity for the display’s success.

We launched our topic in April, Beavers – back after 400 years, and I explained the ideas to the children, and waited…and waited…and waited. Well this week we had a bit of a breakthrough. A couple of children brought work in on Tuesday, a couple more on Wednesday and today I had a child asking to stay in through lunchtime to create her work for the display. I have to say I am delighted that the idea seems to be taking off. I hope to have more work to add to the display coming in thick and fast now.

How does it compare to ‘traditional’ displays? Well, the children are very interested by what is on the display and clearly as work is beginning to come in they are motivated by what they see and want to copy, build on and develop their peers work. Could this happen on a ‘traditional’ display? Well yes it could, but my experience (and/or lack of artistic eye) means through my career it hasn’t happened as much as I’d have liked, and certainly not as much as the time and physical resources used in a display should have impacted. It is certainly something I will be using again next school year and I hope it will have the same motivational effect.

Here is the work the children have created to date.



Why might sharing and publishing in the open be advantageous?

This is one of a series of blog posts from #teachtheweb course. My other posts can be found at Teacher, teach thyself.

The creator controls what of their work is seen or heard, by whom, where and when.


In my opinion sharing and publishing have never been easier, nor more accessible for all of us. We share photos through Instagram, Facebook and Flickr, we can share ideas through blog writing, tweeting and facebook, we can share pretty much all aspects of our daily life and it’s only going to get easier.


Who do we share with? Close friends, less close friends, colleagues from work or education, people from around the world. Pretty much anyone we want who has some level of open and available internet access.


We can also produce more formal pieces of publishing such as e-books and ‘real’ books through tools such as Lulu.


In my early lifetime, sharing meant meeting up with someone, sending something via the post, photocopying pieces of paper and the thought of publishing your own writing was a pipe dream – it was in the hands of newspaper editors or book publishers. They decided what was to be seen, not the user and certainly not the ‘receiver’ of the information.


The user can access more content than before, and more easily.


If I wish to find some writing about a subject it is easy. I use the web and search engines and find lots of information in a variety of forms. This is a brilliant, as work which previously I would have been excluded from accessing due to cost and geographical restrictions is know available and most often for no or minimal cost. Secondly, it’s easily searchable (whilst acknowledging google organises things in a google search initially) I can use some advanced search techniques to precisely access the materials I would like.


The user can choose how to acknowledge the creator.


If I buy a book, I have acknowledged the creator(s) up front by paying. If the work is not of a standard I desire, or if it is an incredible life changing book the acknowledgement is the same – £15.


I’ve also paid an amount which is set by some 3rd parties – publishers, shops as well as the creator. It’s probably fair to say that if I pay £15 for a book, the creator will not recieve £15.


If I am accessing something via the open web, I can choose how I acknowledge the work – I can tweet the link to the work, I can access the creator directly via a comments section, I can pay some money via paypal in some cases (I choose if and how much of course), or I can write a response myself citing the original work on my own spaces.


The collaboration possibilities are endless.


It’s a reasonable assumption that if you are spending your non work time writing/creating and sharing works for free, it is something you are passionate about. By sharing these things in the ‘open’ format, you are likely to connect to people with similar passions. The greatest working groups I have worked in are the ones where the members have shared goals or passions. The work created in these groups has been of a high quality


The effect of your passion being shared with liked minded individuals is a massive gain. It allows you to work together (virtually or real) to create more pieces and connect with a wider audience, it lets you see how other people with similar passions are creating and can give you hope that you’re not alone.


And yet…


There are examples of work practices being used which stop or limit openness and sharing. Some planning programs in school only allow printed copies and copies within the format of their (paid) software, meaning the work created in them cannot be shared easily. Some education intranet sites allow access only to members of their community, excluding a huge range of educators from contributing and making the process of sharing work on those intranet more laborious than it should/needs to be. It would be interesting to know what the thinking is behind these decisions being imposed as I feel the benefits of openness and sharing are huge.

About Dropbox.

Online/cloud storage is becoming more popular with many services available, to store and sync my documents I have been using dropbox for around 4 months now and find it’s a great service which has never once failed.

I discovered dropbox via my Personal Learning Group on twitter.

Basically, Dropbox is a web based storage facility which allows you to drop files/folders/stuff into your dropbox on one laptop, and then access the same stuff via the dropbox on your other machines. The stuff in the dropbox auto-sync and immediately appear in the ‘box’ on any other laptops you wish to sync with.

I use it in quite a  simple way. On both my school laptop and home laptop, I downloaded the dropbox install package and it placed a shortcut on my desktop. Open the shortcut and you can place files and folders inside and they will appear within a minute on the other machine also. Each time you save a version of a document, that new version is saved on you other machines too. It’s just like placing a file in folder on your desktop.

There is also a web login which means you can access your files which are saved inside dropbox on any machine with internet access, even if it hasn’t got the ‘box’ downloaded and on the desktop.

Dropbox is free for 2GB of storage, which in 5 months has proved ample storage for me (and is similar to many pendrives) and you can upgrade to 3GB by getting your friends to sign up. If you need more storage, you can upgrade to 50GB for $9.99 a month or $99 for a year. Or you can upgrade to 100GB for $19.99 a month or $199 a year. I would certainly consider upgrading if my current storage got used up. It can be downloaded onto more than two machines if you need to.

For collaborative working, you can share a folder with a colleague who has a dropbox account also. Again, this is a very simple, efficient process (and can earn you a bit more storage).

To read about the other online storage options, have a look at Doug Belshaw’s excellent blog which has a posting about what else is available.

Using physicsgames.net for problem solving.

Physics games is a site I use with my class to develop thinking skills. It is a site which contains hundreds of free games which, as the name suggests have some degree of physics in them. This doesn’t mean that they are complex science games. The science involved is often simple use of gravity, although many of the games have an element of forces in them also.

The site has been updated recently to put the games into categories; block removal, construction, demolition, platform, projectile and stacking. Each game, as well as being free is easily embedded into a blog site and could be embedded into a class blog page.

I use the site for problem solving activities, with the children working in table groups and attempting to solve the puzzles on the IWB. This approach often leads to other tables seeing the solution as we collaboratively achieve the goals.

The games on the site are successful, I feel, because they do not require the ‘knowledge’ which I feel sometimes holds back problem solvers where a problem is based in maths (as I find many problem solving activities are). There is no need for number bonding, nor tables. The problems are solved generally through the problem being identified, the resources being evaluated and then a mixture of trial and error approaches. Within these trials, the children may identify changing an order of events as being required for example or using one set of resources to change to effect of another. In nearly all of the games I have used, the skills required are built steadily from one level to the next leading to a good progression of problem solving skills being required.

As well as developing these skills, the games on the site are extremely popular, I find, with many of my class working on them at home and asking to stop in through playtime to work on them.

The link is in the sidebar under the category thinking skills.

Delicious Bookmarking

I came across the delicious bookmarking site a few years ago, probably through reading the Guardian’s Technology pull out on a Thursday. (Sadly this is now only available online). I signed up for an account, saved a few bookmarks into it and probably didn’t really see the point. In the last couple of months I’ve revisited it, having seen its use on various educational websites.

If you’ve not used delicious before I’ll try to summarise what it does. It is a website which collates bookmarks for you. You need to install the delicious bookmark widget into your browser, or install the bookmarklet into google chrome. Once that is done any site you wish to bookmark can be bookmarked by clicking on the tag button (or bookmarklet in chrome).

Once this is done a window appears and you are invited to add tags to your bookmark. Tags are keywords which relate to the website your bookmarking. They are more flexible than just putting a bookmark into a named folder as they not so restrictive. For example a website about algebra and problem solving for upper juniors could be tagged as ‘algebra’ ‘ks2’ ‘maths’ ‘upper’ ‘juniors’ and ‘problem_solving’. This means that by searching for any of those tags the site can be found. I find that on my browser based bookmarks that link either goes in an overburdened ‘maths’ folder or either algebra or word problems but not both.

A further advantage of using a browser based bookmarking system is that your bookmarks are easily accessible on any computer you use. Until about 4 years ago I only had a web connected computer at home, so I didn’t need to access my bookmarks in school on a different machine. With the advent of school laptops this changed and for a while I found myself e-mailing links to my g-mail account for me to ‘find’ at school. Now I just need to log into my delicious account and all my bookmarks are there.

The ability to share links between computers opens up the possibility of having  a school delicious page. This would mean that rather than put pieces of paper on the staffroom noticeboard with good links on, people can save their links onto the school account and then other members of staff have access to them at school and at home and don’t have to type in a fiddly url. Using a similar idea, it is possible to create a page of links for classes and for children to then use at home for projects/revision etc.

Finally (for my delicious discoveries so far) it is possible to add other users to your delicious account. This means that you can view and use the links that other teachers are using for various ideas around the UK and beyond. When you are on the delicious site, you can search your own bookmarks, your networks bookmarks or the whole of the delicious network to find what you are looking for. However, when you are logged in you can decide whether you want to share all or some of your bookmarks with other people or not (this means that my Derbyshire Cricket links can be hidden away!!).

As ever, the best way is to have a look at the website itself, make an account (if you have a yahoo account you simply sign in with that) and have an explore.


My class are working on a topic which will involve a lot of research from the internet, and maybe some research from books. I was trying to think of ways for them to present this research to the rest of the class, and also if viable move away from a program like Powerpoint.

I’d seen prezi recommended by a few people on my PLN on twitter and had a further look at it. It’s an online presentation tool which allows the user to place words, pictures onto a larger space rather than using a slide based approach. It allows the presenter to zoom in on certain words or details of pictures as they wish. The Prezi approach seemed to rely a bit more on the people presenting their ideas and these being enhanced by the presentation, rather than the people speaking reading the text of the presentation to their audience. This idea of presenting rather than reading was something I wanted to aim for in the class. I also liked the fact that it didn’t lend itself too much to having too much text on the pages. This, I felt would encourage the children to be discerning in the information they put into the Prezi and what information they wish to tell their audience.

Many of the ways of working with Prezi are standard. Double click to place work on the space for example, but it’s when work needs to moved or resized that there is a slight difference. Prezi uses a tool called a zebra for this. By clicking in the centre of the zebra you can move your selected object, the middle ring allows you to resize an object and the outer ring allows you to rotate an object. I found it really simple to pick up how to make small presentations, as ever the best way is to go to the website and have a go yourself. Here is the link for that. Prezi.

We had a look at Prezi last Wednesday (after which I came down with a virus and have been off school since – not related to Prezi though) and after an initial 10 minutes when we had no internet access we made a start.

I began by explaining that we were going to learn how to use a new program which they would use in their topic work. This went down well, my class are very confident at using ICT and are developing good skills for learning about how to work with different programs. We had a quick look at the introductory video and then I made a Prezi to show them in around 3 minutes. I then allowed them 15 minutes of exploring time.

The exploring time is an approach I use a lot with ICT, and my class respond well to it. They seem to spend a few minutes exploring on their own, before their own Personal Learning Networks appear. Soon there was a buzz of ‘Look at this’ and ‘How did you do that?’ and ‘Come and look at this Mr.Drummond’ going on. The children’s enthusiasm and sharing of skills meant that no-one was getting left behind with the basics of using the program and some children were extending the possibilities already.

After the explore, I set the context. In this case it was presenting some ideas the class were working on around the history of movies, famous actors and making movies. The class spent the remainder of the lesson working on these.

In the plenary part of the lesson we discussed the positives and negatives we had found in using Prezi and I also discussed the idea that the skills used in learning how to use a new piece of software, in using a learning network within the class and in knowing when a program is the best fit for the job were equally as important as the skills they had learned directly connected to Prezi (such as using the zebra tool).

As we complete some Prezi, I will attempt to embed them onto my class’s blog page.

Web 2.0, week 2

This week, as you can read below, we’ve used a range of IT across the curriculum in P7.

Our maths has used the wii extensively for work on mean, mode and median averages, and we have used mind42.com to create online mindmaps about how to make Buddy Bear famous. There is more about using mind42.com in the post below.

We also used wallwisher to suggest ideas about how we could make Buddy famous. This has been done entirely out of school and can be seen here. Hopefully we’ll get a stream of ideas going onto this page. Again,I like wallwisher as it is a simple way of children putting down their simple thoughts about something, a book, a unit of work etc and it is also a kept record of their ideas (as opposed to the piece of large paper with post-its beginning to fall off). 4 of my class have now created their own walls using wallwisher to post (with their friends) their favourite pets, sports etc. This suggests to me that they find using the software both stimulating and effective.

I have created a blog for Buddy Bear, using blogger. The idea behind this came from the postings on wallwisher suggesting we put a film of Buddy on youtube and post some pictures of him onto the internet. Blogger seemed a good way of bringing all of these online ideas together. I will also use that blog site to allow the children to tell the world of Buddy’s adventures when they get to take him him. Buddy’s blog can be found here.

I read Tom Barrett’s excellent articles on bloggging, specifically the ones about using Blogger with his class. This seemed like a good option for Buddy Bear’s Blog, as I wanted to have text (his diary entry) and pictures (of his visits) and eventually video all in the same place. By adding some tools to the basic blog my class can gauge how successful they are in making buddy famous around the world. The tools I added were a feedjit live traffic feed, a clustrmap and a simple hit counter. The class enjoy looking at the blog and some have viewed it at home, but as yet only I have left a comment.

I created a picasa account for the project which I will put pictures of Buddy in as the children take them. Blogger runs using google accounts so the account for the blog provides a picasa account and an e-mail account to which the children can e-mail their pictures in as they take them.

Web 2.0. Week 1

I don’t know if I’ll keep this up, but I thought when I use a new program in class (which I’m aiming to do a lot of this year) I’ll post on here to say how it’s gone.

My first application/program I used was wallwisher. My class enjoyed this and have produced their reflections of 2009 and ideas for 2010 here. One of my class went home and made her own wall for favourite animals which I was really pleased about. We’ve also done walls for our class novel and for some snow haiku we wrote.

I’ve had a couple of problems with it which I feel I should share.

Firstly I embedded our 2009-2010 wall onto our class blog page. I noticed after a couple of days that when I was logged into the wall to approve and edit, it also allowed people viewing on the blog page to approve and edit! I decided that for now the best idea was to take off the embedding and replace with a link.

Secondly, on our haiku wall I showed the children how to put a picture on. In showing one of my class how to do this I seemed to have planted the picture on the wall, completely independently of the wall. I cannot edit the picture, nor delete it! It has become detached from the writing as well. I may begin a new wall. Apart from those hiccups it’s been great. I now need to ask the LA to unblock it from Pupil Internet access as so far I’m entering them up on my machine only.

The other program I used was primary pad. This was really popular with the children, with comments like ‘this is better than MSN’, and children asking how they could share a pad with someone at home. We created a word list for snow poems and this seemed to work really well with 18 different users on the pad at once. What was interesting was how thoughtful the children were about not overtyping. I hadn’t used it with so many children in one go so I didn’t really know what to expect (or how our internet would hold up). They coped really well and were considerate of other people’s feelings and word ideas.

I will try to find the opportunity to do some more collaborative writing using primary pad in the next couple of weeks and we will certainly continue with wallwisher.