26/04/2012

Blog 5: #tmbolton

I have just returned home from the extremely impressive ESSA Academy in Bolton where I participated in TeachMeet- an gathering of teachers and educators who are keen to share and steal new ideas and innovations.

For an overview of the event please read Simon Haughton's excellent blog.

The venue itself was awe inspiring, totally different to any educational establishment I have ever been in.  Clear walls, green views from most rooms, no smartboards/ projectors, a 4D studio, in which pupils can perform alongside video images, interactive PE rooms and Apple TV in every room.  Why Apple TV?  Apple TV because every staff member is equipped with an iPad and the ability to create exciting and engaging content, iBooks for example.  This means that any staff member can transmit their iPad's image/ content to any of the connected TVs or screens.  (See my earlier blog for ideas on how to use iPads).
(image courtesy of Essaacademy.org)
Not only this, but each pupil is given an iPod touch (something I am keen to provide) so that Internet content is readily available, as are video/ image/ audio recording and other useful apps.  Parents contribute £15 to cover insurance.

It all looks very inspirational and idyllic (for me anyway), but it'd take a brave (and well funded) primary school to embrace this technology to the level it has been embraced at ESSA.

Back to #teachmeet

The format was excellent.  Anyone who wanted to share good practice had exactly 7 minutes to do so.  When the time was up, they were off!  I will definitely try this with my own colleagues at school.

So what will I be trying out?

Hopefully I will be able to try out nearly everything I have seen.  Not just for the sake of it, but because it all had a positive, engaging effect on the pupils and enhanced teaching/ learning.

  • We will be joining in with the 100 Word Challenge (www.100wc.net) thanks to Julia Skinner
  • I look forward to collaborating in real time using www.livewriting.net and cover it live, Cherise Duxbury
  • Will I try learning the ukelele with my class?  Why not!! Thanks to JC Sheffield
  • Pete Rafferty has shared a great idea- technology takeover day- allow kids to bring in their devices from home
  • Thanks to Simon Haughton we have access to a fantastic History Encyclopedia (www.history.parkfield.co.uk) and excellent resources to accompany on his blog
  • I will be trialling Apple TV in my class room next year
Anything I try out will be shared.

There was SO much to take in!  If you can make it, please go next year.  It's the best CPD i've been on in ages, and it was FREE!

Massive thank you to @deputymitchell and @dughall for organising.

05/04/2012

Blog 4: Using Moodle in KS2- a cheap alternative to a VLE?

Is Moodle a 'doable' alternative to expensive primary VLEs?  Yes, in my opinion.

Moodle is a free source e-learning platform, which allows users to access all kinds of resources (courses), interact with each other, complete tasks that have been set for them and feedback to tutors.  In principle is sounds very good.

Last year, after viewing a number of VLE demos, including DB Primary and Purple Mash, I was set the challenge of sourcing a free alternative, as neither seemed particularly cost effective to our small school.  I stumbled across Moodle, and it seemed to tick all of the boxes, doing everything DB Primary did at the demo.  Key features are:

  • Individual, secure logins for children and staff
  • Definable roles for admin, staff and pupils
  • Safe peer to peer chatting and messaging service
  • File (any type) uploading and downloading for all users
  • Set up class pages, and pages for other areas of the school (PTA etc.)
  • Create and use quizzes and other activities
  • Staff and children can contribute to a whole school blog
  • Calendar, clearly showing upcoming events
  • A news feed
  • You can integrate other web resources using iframes
  • A lesson planner, allowing you to upload, link and sequence on-line resources
  • And most importantly, it was FREE
Just recapping the features now sounds impressive.

I presented this to my headteacher, who was impressed, so I was given a full day out of class to experiment with themes and set up the site.
Here is the site I set up:  http://www.moodle.kingsmeadowprimary.co.uk

As you can see, it looks ok,

So I trialled it with a small group of Year 6 pupils, and they loved it.  They enjoyed chatting to each other from home, completing activities at home and uploading work.  I then opened it out to the whole class, and they loved it too.

We trialled it with Year 3 pupils, who surprisingly took to it very easily.

Unfortunately it ground to a halt.  This happened for a number of reasons.

  • The formal user interface confused a lot of the children, especially SEN children
  • The rigid structure of a page doesn't allow for much personalisation
  • The speed of the platform when numerous children were using it in school was extremely slow. This ultimately put colleagues off from using it.The username/ password system was too complicated.  passwords must include capital letters, lower case letters, numbers and other characters.  Hard for lower KS2 children to remember.
  • Content- all content needed to be added by yourself, the school.  Overtime this would build up and provide a good bank of quality resources, but the time involved made this difficult.
  • I left the school.
So the Moodle site has been abandoned, which is a shame.  I firmly believe that if I was still at my former school then it'd be going strong (on a better server).

I would like to give it another go, especially if certain aspects are made more child friendly. Also I would improve the server that held the site.  I feel that I got half way there before having to abandon it.   
You may feel that the money you are saving could be better spent elsewhere, however the time it takes to teach yourself how to use it, set it up and then populate it, you may be better off biting the bullet and subscribing to an established platform. 

There are primary schools out there using Moodle successfully. Here are some links:

Also, this company specialises in setting up Moodle Sites for primary schools: