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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Live streaming our School's Nativity

After viewing numerous Teachmeets recently it has got me thinking about streaming some of the events in school. It is always hard for some parents to get time of work and so this may method may help them.

Streaming an assembly or performance may give some parents the chance to join in with the school celebrations rather than miss them due to work commitments.

As Christmas approaches there are going to be numerous opportunities to broadcast some of our celebrations with our school community.

The first event that we are going to try and stream is the first Advent assembly we will have on Monday 3rd December. During December, our Junior department hold daily assemblies to remember the Christian tradition of Advent. We sing songs, read parts of the Advent story and light the candles on our wreath. I will be streaming our first Advent assembly to link with the Global Classroom Christmas around the World Project that I have been involved in co-ordinating.

If successful, I am hoping to then stream the EYFS and Key Stage 1 Nativity play for any parents or classes involved in the project that want to view it.

Over the last few days I have been looking at the best ways to stream in school.

There are different ways to stream, based on the device you have, these are the best options I have found so far:

From a PC: The best and easiest way to broadcast on a PC is using Google Hangout. This is a free service that basically lets up to 10 people join a video conference. At first I was worried as to whether the 10 can be  extended as I would expect/hope more than 10 would watch. After tweeting other teachers it was @DeputyMitchell who made me aware of the Youtube add on. This allows you to broadcast your live hangout on YouTube providing a link for anyone outside the hangout to view! Once the hangout has finished YouTube automatically turns it into a YouTube clip. Sounds perfect and saves time! Problem??? The YouTube option is not available on tablets or phones.

iPad/iPhone - I was distraught to realise that the Google+ app, although it supports Google Hangout, does not have the YouTube public broadcast option! Ideally it would be the iPad I would stream from due my PC laptop only having a webcam attached to the top of the screen therefore making it very impractical to record a school assembly or show. The iPad is perfect as it is lighter more easily maneuverable.
I was getting frustrated and put out a tweet hoping to find an answer. Some teachers got back suggesting some apps that allow you to stream from your iPad such as Ustream and LiveStream. However the free options allow you to stream but will interrupt with adverts every so often, my worry is whether the adverts will be appropriate and may lead to a parent missing the crucial line of their child therefore rendering the whole process pointless!

Finally I have found probably the best options for using an iPad. The app webcamera turns the iPad into a webcam for your PC over the WiFi. You need to buy the app and then download the free PC software. But after testing it seems to work well meaning that the Google Hangout can be set up on the PC linking with YouTube but the webcam being the iPad.

I did initially download iWebcamera first!! (So annoying when you buy an app to find a better one!!) however this app does not have audio support, meaning the iPad will be the camera but if the laptop is out of reach no sound will be recorded.

I am still not sure which is the best option however I am looking to test both methods - Google Hangout on PC using Webcamera on iPad and the Ustream on iPad. I will report back on which I feel is the best and most efficient method however after two days of investigating I wanted to share the options if anyone is thinking about doing the same.

Monday, 26 November 2012

A running list of tried and tested iPad apps used in the classroom

As part of my role I am testing different apps to see how effective and useful they can be in the classroom. I have been keeping a running list of apps I have used, the related subjects and links to the school blog with examples of how we have used the apps.

How to set up a class set of iPads

The prospect of having a class set of iPads is exciting, from getting the green light and shopping around to the arrival and unpacking all those brand spanking new iPads. My first piece of advice would be to shop around and try and find the best deal, its amazing how much you can save with a bit of bartering.
So we purchased 40 iPad 2 with 2 Leba iCases (pictured) and a new toshiba laptop (used as the mother laptop.) The iCases seem the best idea as they are easier to transport from class to class which will be happening most days. They also sync as well as charge. My only concern was after reading up on using the iCart it said that was best used with a MacBook. However up to this point it seems to work fine with the windows 7 laptop.
So five of the iPads were to be used as teacher iPads for the leadership team along with myself. The other 35 make up the class set. These were the steps I took in setting up all the iPads.
  1. Printed labels for all of the iPads "TeachersIPAD #001" or "StudentIPAD #004" etc
  2. Made backgrounds for each iPad with the labels on see example and uploaded them to our dropbox account. If you do not have a dropbox account I would suggest making one as it has become extremely useful.
  3. Noted all the serial numbers with the labels for each iPad and add them to the inventory.
  4. Stuck the labels on the back of each iPad
  5. Placed them in the iCase
  6. Set up a Gmail email account on the mother laptop
  7. Used this email account to set up an iTunes account.
  8. On the mother laptop downloaded a number of apps (see links below)
  9. Set up the "mother iPad" - TeacherIPAD #001
  10. Put all the apps into appropriate folders "KS1 Numeracy," "Writing" and "Art"
  11. Set up the school WiFi and set up a dropbox and evernote account using the Gmail account.
  12. Downloaded the background from dropbox.
  13. Set up the Gmail account but added signature settings>mail,contacts,calendars>signature    as "sent from TeacherIPAD #001"
  14. Changed the name of the iPad settings>general>about>name to "TeacherIPAD #001"
  15. Backed up this iPad with iTunes once everthing had been set up.
Once I had set up the first iPad I then used this backup to set up the other iPads through the iCase. I plugged the iCase in and put the USB in the PC and on the set up clicked restore from backup of the first iPad (TeacherIPAD #001.) Now even though the iCase can charge upto 16 iPads it seemed that using a Windows laptop it would only backup 7/8 otherwise it would crash. Running from the backup of the first iPad takes a while as it copies all the settings and the apps however it did seem to work eventually. Once they had been synced I had to individually repeat the steps 13 - 15 on each iPad to distinguish each one.
This process was a lengthy one however all the iPads seem ready to start the new school year. My only concern now is how well the School's WiFi will cope with iPads. The school's infrastructure does not lend itself well to WiFi anyway so this will have to be our next hurdle to overcome. A lot of the apps we have downloaded do not require the internet however to really unleash the potential of the iPads it is something we need to investigate further.

NOTE***** - This post was created before Apple released the VPP program, now schools will need to set up a VPP account, more information can be found here.
Before embarking of the deployment of the iPads I did research a number of websites that had undergone this task here are some of the most useful links:
Most of the apps that we have downloaded came from this very useful site which has given me plenty of ideas of how to use the iPads in the classroom:

My current role

This year I have been come out of the classroom to cover PPA right across the school. Being a big 2 form entry Primary School I wanted to really experience the scope and progression right through the school for my own development. As the ICT co-ordinator for the past four years, the Head wanted me to use this as the focus for when I am teaching. Using my expertise definitely impacts on the quality of teaching and I have done similar things in the past where I will teach PE for both classes in the year group as my parallel teaches Art. I think it is hard sometimes to have the same enthusiasm and drive for every single subject. I hold my hands up and say that I do not have a particular strength or desire to be a good artist. I often thought am I letting my children down by not being as good at Art as I am at PE or other subjects? I think with foundation subjects it is a good idea to utilise Teacher's strengths by letting them teach other classes. The quality of learning will always be better when you have a teacher who is passionate about the subject.

Therefore this year I have been using my passion for ICT to teach children from Nursery to Year 6. Before I took on this role I had to get the Head to agree to investing in some up to date hardware to use. The current provision in the school was ok but I wanted to really pilot and test some of the newer technology seen today. I had stumbled across numerous websites about how tablets were now the best thing and as a avid apple user, the iPad just stood out as the most intriguing pieces of equipment which seemed to have so much potential within the classroom. After a little convincing we invested in a class set of iPads - (35 for children, 5 for senior management.) My role this year was to then see how iPads can impact on learning right across the curriculum.

The journey has been a really enjoyable one so far. I am halfway through my second half term and loving my role. The enthusiasm and engagement from the children carries on to be overwhelming. They love using the iPads, they listen more carefully, work together more sensibly and seem to think more creatively.  All the activities and lessons that I have covered have been documented on my school blog.

My main goals for the year are as follows:

  • Set up the school with a blog and try to use this blog to showcase children's work. and hopefully by providing an audience see an impact on the children's learning.
  • Use the iPads with different year groups would give me a a better understanding of how the iPads can be integrated into our ICT curriculum and scheme of work.
  • Have the time to improve other teacher's competence with ICT, bring others with me to make sure that next year when I have a class back, the iPads are still being used the their potential across the school.

Multiples and More Guest Blog

Being a teacher and father to four is a very challenging job yet possibly one of the most rewarding. I was asked to write a guest blog for the website Multiples and More. It was a great way for me to share the journey my family and I have been on for the last year or so.

You can read the article here

Writing a guest post for the Guardian

I was asked by the Guardian after tweeting them on the subject to write a full response to statements made yesterday by the Prime Minister about sport in schools, you can read what he said here
I orginally tweeted this back - Tweet
I was then asked to write a longer piece demonstrating my view more this was published on the Guardians blog - view here
Some of my original article wasn't added to the blog however I wanted to share it for all to see so here is my full response - Would love to hear your views on this:
After comments made today, I can't help but think that David Cameron has this issue totally wrong. At this point, I must state that I fully support competition in sport and feel children experiencing competition is vital in building essential life skills such as determination, courage and willpower that they can apply in many different areas as they get older. What I don’t agree with is that we need a complete change in culture and purely focus on competition.
I work at a primary school that has a flourishing sports programme due to the dedication of members of staff devoting so much of their own time running clubs, hosting events and coaching children outside the school day. This has been happening for many years, on top of their other responsibilities. We have been very successful in numerous local and national competitions but our main achievement is boasting that every child represents the school in some sort of competition before they leave. Personally I don’t feel myself or my colleagues could do anymore to provide the children with opportunities to excel in sport. Why do we do it? Well, personally I feel my duty as a teacher is to provide children with as many opportunities to excel and find a talent in whatever subject. What sport does more than a lot of other subjects is that it provides children with a healthy lifestyle and the right values to live by. It also gives children personal life long memories. Just look at the Olympics, some have memories of winning a medal, whereas some will forever remember just competing and doing their best.
What the PM is blinded by is the fact that one of the main reasons we are winning so many golds at the Olympics is down to the previous government providing opportunities for all children to play, enjoy and love sport despite ability. Since the cut in school sport funding, the opportunities are deteriorating for children to experiment with different and lesser known sports. In the past, funding was available for coaches to come into school to provide opportunities for all children to try different sports, they would then organise local competitions and make links for children to then join a local club. In my current school, we are very lucky to have teachers who have expertise in various sports. I feel I have a strength in sports I play or played when I was younger and feel confident in coaching these sports. With previous school sport funding I was able to give children opportunities to try sports outside my ‘comfort zone’ so to speak. Sports such as hockey, lacrosse, and athletics were just a few examples of various sports children at our school attempted before then joining local clubs if they had enjoyed and wanted to pursue further. This kind of approach was thriving in many local schools however since the cut in funding it has become more difficult given that schools have so many other priorities and issues.
I feel this has a knock on effect onto the level of competition in schools, I feel the only way you can get the best is by competing in numbers. Imagine if becoming an Olympic gold medallist is the pinnacle, underneath are national championships, followed by regional finals, county competitions, borough heats and finally club or school contests. If the gold medallist was never provided with the opportunity to first participate and enjoy a sport at the earliest level before competing and then excelling, he would have never reached that final goal. I believe the reason we have been successful competing as a school is that we have so many children participating in sport, this breeds natural competition between them. At my school we are considered a big school with over 500 pupils and often comments are made about this being the reason why we have such strong teams, however, I know of other local schools with just as many children which do not compete on the same level as we do, even though most of the children live on the same estate. I feel this is down to our school encouraging as many children to enjoy and play sport. Imagine if I had a class of 30 and had to pick a team of 7 with only 10 regularly participating in sport, the chances of picking a team stronger than a class who has 30 children regularly participating is slim.
If the government focuses purely on competition they are restricting the possibility of finding the next generation of Gold medallists. To focus purely on competition from a young age breeds an elitist mentality that would only provide children who display potential at that moment to succeed. The government should focus on providing children with as many opportunities to try as many different sports as possible. Before competition is even spoken about children should be given the chance to build a passion for a sport and want to become the best at it. I look at many of the Olympic winners and feel before acquiring the will to win they must have had a passion for the sport they compete in. Children should be coached to become the best they can be and not to just win. I have seen so many makeshift coaches/parents put unnecessary pressure on children because they want to win. This can create a negative fear within children and restrict their opportunity to improve and better themselves as athletes. People don’t realise that winning isn’t an instant occurrence. An analogy would be to compare it to how we would teach Numeracy in schools, no child would excel from just sitting test after test after test. Instead, they are taught numerous methods, play games and learn skills needed to solve a problem, they find a method they feel most confident with and then can approach a test without the fear of failing.
Having watched the success from these games it has made me question whether the government will reconsider providing more funding, as if it stays the way it is, we are going to really be disappointed and even embarrassed at the next few Olympics. Just take the examples of Austrailia, who before the Sydney games, pumped money into school sport in preparation to make the 2000 Olympic games a successful and memorable one for the country, it worked, they finished with plenty of medals and forth in the medals table. Since then, the funding has been cut because the Olympic memories were no longer current or focused on in the news and they now sit low in the medal tables in this year’s Olympics. I’m pretty sure at that time Austrailia also used the word ‘Legacy.’