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Reflective Summary September 2012: Revision

Context

The context for this summary is based predominantly in a Year 2/3 classroom. Over the last 3 years the students and I have been learning how to access the features of the classroom computers with a particular emphasis on the ActivInspire programme on our Interactive whiteboard (IWB).  For the last year it has been about transferring that learning to our C.O.W which has provided a more concentrated learning opportunity.

 

Focus

My particular focus has been on integrating the IWB and later the C.O.W/IPODs into all aspects of the curriculum with an emphasis on independent use.  My focus was for students to be able to use these tools for independent activities that students could access, use (constructively) and return without too much support from the adults in the class.  It was about teaching the students the protocol with accessing the device, (collecting and returning the laptop or switching on the IWB and projector) finding the correct or suitable programme for the task and then correct process for shutdown, turning off the device and returning it to its “home”.

 

The Rationale

My reason for choosing to move in this direction was because, as with all aspects of the curriculum, it needed to be about allowing students to access learning at their own level and pace.  Only ever using ICT equipment as a whole class (the C.O.W or one student at a time on the IWB) would limit what some students may be able to achieve.  For me it is about the pedagogy of ICt learning rather than just using electronic devices.  It was also important for me to be able to allow and enable the students to use the ICT independently and constructively especially at times when I would be working with others as individuals or as part of a group.

 

What did I do?

Initially getting to the stage of students being able to fully use the ICT independently of adult help took great lengths of time, instruction and support.  This year the students have been much quicker at getting to this stage and this is due to the overall growing capacity of our students (in NE and Year 1 classes especially) and improved access to ICT devices.  Our NE and Year 1 classes are taught the basics (and more!) and this saves valuable time once they get to the Year 2 and 3 classes.  The basic classroom management of the devices took no time at all to implement and this allowed plenty of “real” focussed learning time.  Much of my ICT planning involves finding appropriate websites/educational games or APPs etc and placing them into folders on the “student drive where the children would be able to find them easily.  Of course as with all interaction with any ICT devices this at times proves to be frustrating as students will accidentally delete, rehome or save over the top of valuable learning activities.  On some occasions things would just simply disappear and absolutely no-one had any idea who touched it!!! (Those working with children will appreciate that this is often the case.)

 

When new additions are made to the repertoire whole class introduction is given, ground rules set and then students are able to discover for themselves what they can do with it.

 

What happened?

In the main students are able to access the devices with minimum adult support. They are able to make sensible choices with restrictions when asked to use educational games or apps.  My abilities and confidence also grew and many activities that I would have offered to the students through some other media e.g. pen and paper or cut and paste I was now able to offer through one of the devices.  Our allocated C.O.W/IPOD time is now used experimenting with new apps or programmes or properties of the ActivInspire (taking photos of images and importing or cut and paste from flipcharts etc) rather than the management aspects. 

 

The goal of having students work independently on meaningful activities so that I can work with individuals or small groups has definitely been achieved to a point that I am happy with (considering the age and make-up of the class).

 

Whilst students are able to access the devices easily we are still experiencing  problems with procedures such as “saving” independently or navigating through files to find work if the “right” folder is not instantly visible ( a common problem as five classes share the C.O.W. ).

 

One area still to find a solution for is the returning of the devices to their “home”.  Obviously by its very nature this is easy for the IWB users as physically it doesn’t need to be moved.  The issue with this device is that often students will close down flipcharts or programmes which have been opened by me for later use or have been worked on earlier but haven’t been saved.  This is obviously a management issue for me and something that I need to ensure is set up properly so that I don’t lose anything valuable to me.

 

The IPODs, at the moment, are also easy to “rehome”.  The IPODs are currently stored in a small basket and one teacher has taken the responsibility to recharge and care take these devices.  If, as we have requested, more IPODs are purchased it may be that each class will need to develop a caretaking regime.

 

The C.O.Ws present as a bigger problem.  Handing out the laptops and then collecting them in at the end of the session can often take longer than the session itself and obviously this was always going to be a barrier to independence.  Whilst the accessing of the devices at the beginning of the session was easily mastered by the students, returning the devices still presents as an issue.  The students seem to lose interest in the laptop as soon as there action time on it lapses so there seems to be a lack of care to shutting down and rehoming them.  The laptops were often not shut down properly or weren’t plugged into the power cables when returned to the trolley.  This would then have a domino effect for future users (other classes) as they would be low on power or other students would need to log off our class user and re logon.  This just adds to the set up time for that class.    For these reasons a classroom adult (generally me) is always in charge of overseeing the rehoming of the laptops to their trolley.

 

The ultimate goal of having total independence is probably a little ambitious when teaching students of this age.

 

 

What did I learn?

My journey over the last three years has been very exciting.  Transforming my classroom from one of little or no ICT to one where I feel confident enough incorporate it into almost every curriculum area has been a challenge.  Having a new set of students every year brings its own challenges for this.   The fact that the growth in ICT usage has been evident from NE to Year 6 means that every year teachers should see a marked improvement on their students’ abilities to use the devices. The challenge then is about ensuring we continue to stay ahead of our students and keep them challenged. 

 

One thing I learned early on was that the students are not afraid to take risks when using these devices and that this is something that needed to be used to its full advantage.   Students who lack confidence when working with maths or reading in a group or individually with the teacher seem to lose those inhibitions when posed with a similar activity on the laptop! 

 

An important factor for me was to ensure that using the devices followed my own pedagogy and philosophy with respect to child centred learning.  Every child learns and work at their own pace.  It was my goal to ensure that whole class teaching when using the devices was kept to a minimum and was only used when necessary e.g. teaching a new property or placement of game/activity. 

 

 

Next steps/What will I work on next?

  • work on management strategies for ‘rehoming” the laptops
  • keep up to date with new learning – look for ways to improve what I know about the capabilities of each of the devices
  • continue to seek out activities/programmes/apps that enhance my programmes of study and don’t just “babysit”
  • build tools to enable students to self- assess and goal set in the ICT curriculum.