Expectations of younger pupils and ‘borrowing’ lesson ideas

As a Head of Department in an Independent School that goes from Nursery to Year 11 (and soon to Y13) I am responsible for planning the ICT curriculum that is to be delivered to all of these pupils. I am very lucky to have primary and infant co-ordinators who are very passionate about ICT and in ensuring that the pupils learn in an interesting and enjoyable environment. I only teach Y8 and up and whilst we achieve excellent GCSE results I know that, as I am a secondary school specialist, I must continue to learn from primary specialists in my PLN. Three such teachers that always amaze me with their creativity are @simonhaughton, @chrisleach78, and @ianaddison. The amount of interesting resources that they produce has made me rethink my expectations of our younger pupils. Given the right tools, and the right balance of freedom and structure, my expectations should be much higher.

Recently, I posted on this site that I had been given the go ahead to revise how ICT is taught within my school. In this revision I do not have to follow the NC or the attainment targets. My starting point for this was to try and put down on paper all the things that I believe that pupils should learn by the age of 16. I did not want to be age specific, nor did I want to put in place level boundaries. My intention is to have a curriculum that a pupil can progress through according to their ability, passion and desire. Putting down on paper all these topics has rapidly grown and as a result I have placed some permanent links on the #digitalstudies page of this blog. Please look at the table there and share anything that you find useful.

A flaw that I quickly saw with my mindmaps was that I had topics to be covered but no actual lesson ideas. I know that in some areas, I will have to come up with my own lessons and I am looking forward to this; however, I wanted to be able to use lessons that others had tried and tested. I sent @simonhaughton a tweet asking if I could directly link to resources from his excellent blog.  Simon kindly agreed to this.  This morning I have spent almost 5 hours starting in January 2010 and going through to then end of December 2010 pulling out ideas from Simon’s site and placing them alongside topics in my maps.  Whilst I have all of 2011 to still go through, I have been so in awe of what the younger pupils can do, that I am really looking forward to seeing what else Simon has in store.

The exercise of going through Simon’s blog post by post has really opened my eyes to what the pupils can do if expectations of them are set high.

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Keeping up to date with reading blogs – Flipboard, Instapaper and Kindle

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I was a fairly early adopter of the iPad and love it as a tool for professional development and as a means to stay up to date with the many excellent blogs that are out there.  Initially I was so enthusiastic about adding blogs to follow that I ended up with a great big list of posts that I had the best intentions to read but never did.  I needed a way to quickly access the blog updates and to save some posts for reading later.

This is my solution …..  I set up an account with Google Reader and over time added RSS feeds from blogs that were recommended or that I stumbled upon (usually on Twitter).  The number of blog posts became a little unmanageable and although Google Reader is a good aggregator, I needed something more user friendly.  Using Twitter, I saw a tweet about FlipBoard, so being inquisitive, I downloaded the free App and set up an account.

This was exactly what I was looking for!  I added my Google Reader Account to the settings and waited a short while for it to populate with the most recent posts from the blogs that I had subscribed to.  I could now use flipboard to dynamically turn pages and browse the posts (it makes it seem more real, actually turning a page!).  When I found a post that interested me, I could tap on it and open it full screen to read.  I have found this to be a much more eficient way of discovering new posts.

Now I had more efficient access to the blogs, I was reading more and adding more bloggers at a very fast rate.  I needed a way of storing some of the posts so that I could read them later and with the possibility of reading them when I didn’t have access to wireless (I know it doesn’t happen often …. but still often enough!).  The answer to my problem was Instapaper .  I installed the free App and created an account.  I can now browse through flipboard and read the posts and when I see one that I want to spend some more time on later, I can click on ‘Read it Later’ and the link will be stored and synch’d so that I can read it offline when I am ready.  I have also added a button to safari on my iPad so that I can do the same when browsing the Internet.  Instapaper goes even further as it also works a bit like Diigo in that your saved links can also be accessed on the internet from any enabled PC.  So even if you don’t have a mobile devide with you, as long as you have access to the internet, you have access to your Instapaper account.

Finally, I wanted a way to read some of the posts when I didn’t have my iPad but when I fancied a change from reading a book.  I converted to Kindle about 6 months ago and recently set up Instapaper so that it synch’s with the Kindle (using the wireless connectivity).  I can now read the posts on the Kindle wherever I am – problem solved!