Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Room Names

We've recently changed our room names.

We had the usual: Meeting Room, ICT Suite, Music Room and so on.

We felt that those names, and others (Drama Room and Gallery), possibly limited the potential uses of the rooms by some members of staff. The ICT Suite was empty or being used for computing lessons, the Meeting Room was only used for meetings and so on. In attempt to make them more usable, we looked for some more generic names.

Various ideas we put forward. Random names, famous people, rivers, countries and more. We went with the names of parts of our town, local villages and cities (you know, like a posh hotel does). I recently visited a school where they'd done similar (pictured below - can you see their theme?).

It's taken over a year to really get going. Need to overcome the 'old names', make people see their worth and get the new names being used. It's worth it. Now, it's just a room, that can be used, but may be used most of the time for music, competing or a space for the Learning Mentor...

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Print Your Own Diary

If your school is like ours, every member of staff gets a diary. They need a diary to help them keep track of their day-to-day work.

Where does yours come from? A local shop? Local education supplier? Elsewhere?

Previously, ours came from our stationery supplier. Last year, we started designing and having our own printed.

They look better: each has the school logo, colours etc on and the member of staff's name printed. Small thing, but it makes it mine!

We've chosen some key policies to have in the front of them - every member of staff now has those in their 'Diary/Handbook'. We have added key dates and information to the front pages too. Printing them ourselves also allows us to populate them with our 'school dates' and lay out the 'week to view' pages in a way that is useful to us.

Cheaper? Oh, no! Certainly costs more. Worth it? Yes! 

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Raising Motivation and Engagement in the Classroom

Over the past 12 months, we've looked to add something we've called ‘Sparkle’ into our junior school curriculum. ‘Sparkle’ is exactly that - something different, innovative, bright, interactive, technological, risky, cool and so on…
As part of this, we came up with the term ACE ( Audience, Context &Enrichment). The whole purpose being; to give children an audience for their work, a reason/purpose for their work and to do so in a fun and engaging environment. Should children just complete work for the sake of it, to learn and because they're told to? Well, that's one option. But, how about helping them to enjoy learning, finding out about audiences, complete tasks within a set context and with enrichment…

Like all schools, we have those who will work whatever the task, teacher, day of the week, weather and so on (even they need Sparkle). But, this is so important for the ‘Why?’, ‘Do I have to?’, ‘Boring!’ pupils.

What have we done?
Year Three: DT - Designed sandwiches and then visited Subway to make and eat sandwiches.
Year Four: Cave Painting - Enclosed room, lights off and the walls covered withpaper. The pupils had a go at creating cave art in the style to Stoneagedwellers.

Year Five: Non-Chronological reports about Pokemon and then used these tocreate a Pokemon Go style activity.

Year Six: Before making fairground rides in DT, the pupils visited Legoland(for, lots of fun) to generate ideas.

Year Six: Wrote about countries of the world and then displayed these outside with a large world map for all parents to see when collecting their children.
Year Five: Produced writing for iTunes publication.

Year Five: Had questions asked tosomeone in Sierra Leone as part of 100wc.net.

Year Four: Tweeted authors.

Year Three: Invited parents in during the day to help the children make toothpaste and share their learning.
Year Four - Learned how to and made Roman Oil Lamps as part of history/art. Then, in English, wrote and filmed instructions for how to make the oil lamps. Then, after school, parents came in to make an oil lamp with their child being the teacher.

Impact? Those who are usually engaged in learning were not turned off by any of the ACE additions. They continued to work with the same gusto. Whether interested in Pokemon or Lego or not, they engaged with the task. 

The main impact has been with those who are often not engaged with learning - those that are easily turned off. We saw boys (and it was mostly boys) really engaged by the Pokemon task: trying new words, working at home and asking, "When's English?" The Year Six pupils saw the buzz at home time where people were looking at their work. Year Five experienced seeing one of their peer’s work being used in an interview on Facebook. The Year Four pupils felt special and appreciated by having their Tweets replied to by an ACTUAL author.

We're working in an environment of testing, assessment and accountability. When do the children work best? When they don’t realise they're learning! When Lee Parkinson visited our school, he spoke about 'Camouflaged Learning'. He said that in his experience, if you ask a child in Year Three to write instructions for how to make a cup of tea, they will tell you to "Go away" (Lee didn't say 'Go away'). However, can they write instructions for Minecraft, using a Raspberry Pi, plaiting hair, or anything they're interested in? It takes a bit of extra work, it involves getting inside of the minds of the learners, but it makes a huge difference! 

Make it enjoyable. Make it memorable. Make it interesting. 
They’ll learn and might not even realise! 

 Let us know what you're up to too...

Friday, 12 January 2018

Bar Reports for Attainment Data

In a recent discussion with James Pembroke, he suggested various different ways to manipulate and display our junior school data in order to analyse it. One of these was to create 'Bar Reports' for each cohort as they pass through the school.
When thinking about how to do this, Excel, Numbers, G Sheets and other applications were an option, but I went with PowerPoint so that I could have more control over how the finish product looked.
In PowerPoint, I created arrays of 100 squares and then coloured these according to the percentages we'd assessed children at. A slightly time-consuming process, but well worth it and something that has shown us aspects of our assessment, attainment and progress that we had not previously seen.
The three pictures here are completely fictional and in no way represent any school, children or their data.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

School Cyber Attack Danger

Schools are not safe from cyber attacks. Here's a bit of information about one we experienced recently:

So, everything was normal. No sign of anything going wrong. Then, on a teacher's computer, during a lesson, the mouse began moving around 'by its self'. Computer shut down, taken off the network and checked. No sign of what was going on. Then, another machine experienced a similar issue and someone experienced it in their own home too.

We took the site offline so that we were no longer connected to the outside world. While offline, we changed passwords, reset settings and checked over the network and servers. All appeared to be ok, so we went back online. But, within hours of being back online, we experienced the same issues again.

So, again we took everything offline and if laptops went off site, they were kept offline too. This time, some passwords had been changed, parts of the servers altered and laptops taken control of. 

Over a year on, we don't know who was responsible. Nothing, as far as we know, was taken and nothing damaged, and no money was requested. It would appear that the person responsible used the school's network as an area to play and try things out.

We changed all passwords, wiped and re-setup all computers and then went back online. Since, (fingers crossed) all has been ok. However, from the experience, here are a few things we learned:

- Keep software up-to-date. One of the ways in was through an old, unpatched OS;

- Apple computers are susceptible to attack. Our Mac system was attacked, not the Windows system;

- Don't use one admin password across your network. Have different passwords for different hardware/systems;

- Set up users as standard users and have separate admin accounts that can be accessed and used by those who need to;

- Store passwords somewhere secure on paper - not on part of the network;

- Create passwords using a password generator;

- Keep a system backup off site (even if it involves the administrator carrying the discs its on home);

- Don't assume you're not a target;

- Check and double check what's being installed and by whom;

- Don't just give access to the full network - how much access do mobile devices need? pupils? visitors?

All things we should have known? Probably. We're now far more aware of the dangers. This incident was mostly just inconvenient for a few months while we sorted it out, but it could have been worse. Police were involved, many technical people came in to assist, but, as we said, we never found the root of the issue. We don't want it to happen again...

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

PosteRazor Data

Looking at data, or any information about groups, cohorts or whole school, on pieces of paper? Why not stick it up on the wall? Large.

We recently did and it helped look at it in a different light, as a group, pointing at things - stepping forwards and backwards. In addition to on-screen and printed A4 paper.

How did we do it? The paper copies that were to be handed out to those at the meeting were also saved as picture files and enlarged with the program 'PosteRazor'. They were printed, put together and stuck on the wall.

It worked quite well. They stayed on the wall for a while too, to allow us to keep glancing at it.

PosteRazor that data (and more fun and engaging things)...

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Changing Behaviour from @UKEdMag

In September 2017, we wrote about behaviour systems for #UKEdChat's monthly magazine:

To read the full article, and the rest of the magazine, click here.