Deft Regional Conference

On Tuesday,  we hosted a regional conference to celebrate and disseminate the achievements of the Digital Futures in Teacher Education project.  The conference started with an introduction from Richard Pountney, our project lead and Anna Gruszczynska our project manager.  Then Julia Davies and Cathy BurnettImage set the scene by outlining the themes that emerged from the project.  Parallel sessions of Case studies were presented in four themes.  The presentations are hyperlinked to the presenters, but you can see their case studies written up on our Digital Futures website.

Getting to grips with Software was the theme for Peter Winter, Chris Welch and Jack Todhunter’s case studies.  Using Social networking was the theme for Chris Bailey and Kate CosgroveJim Hildyard, Rob Hobson and ImageZubida Khatoon showed how they used mobile technologies outside the confines of the classroom, and Mick Connell, Sarah Butler, Michael Payton Greene and Christine Bodin talked about professional development issues.

Doug Belshaw and Bob Harrison gave keynote speeches, and a discussion panel, chaired by Phil Moore from YHGfL invited questions and comments from the floor and the twitter feed.  Our principal investigator Guy Merchant, and academic lead Jackie Marsh ended the day- you can see the full details on our project programme.

It was a great success.  The conference centre was filled with over 80 delegates (some from as far away as Japan) who shared an interest in digital technologies and education.  They came from a wide range of backgrounds- from the students that Sarah Butler brought along- to a researcher of educational buildings; from a retired SEN teacher to a teacher educator from Lincoln.  Our DeFT teachers and tutors, confident and inspirational, succeeded in motivating them all by sharing their creativity and technological know how.Image

Everyone was interested in the same story- the development of digital technologies, the exploration of digital literacies and ways of promoting new and exciting ways of learning. In the words of Bob Harrison this was a “timely” and “genuinely important project”, because “there are massive changes taking place in education at the moments, and the use and impact of technology on learning is really really important”.  Now we need some sort of transformation in the way we educate our children. We need to “educate the educators- or else our young will be left behind”.   Keith Hemsley, who has spread the gospel about the benefits of using informational technologies in schools for the past thirty years, said that he enjoyed listening to the teachers: “I thought I would have heard it all before,” he said, “but it’s a different approach!”

Delegates were impressed with how the case studies showcased a wide range of involvements with digital technologies. Several people I talked to were impressed by the scope:  “we can take these ideas away, and build on them…” said one teacher educator.  A few were amazed at the dexterity of the tiniest of our participants. One delegate, after seeing the Sharrow Nursery project said, ” I have learnt a lot, I am surprised that very small children can use these tools, a video camera, they made video clips, it’s so amazing! Yes I saw a new world! ”   Many more people spoke of how they were really inspired by the case study presentations.

I spoke to Doug Belshaw who said he was pleasantly surprised by the determination and imagination that the teachers demonstrated:  “I was expecting them to say ‘well we were trying to do some stuff, but we were hamstrung by e-safety issues,’ but they found ways round this and did stuff, I would quite happily have my five year old son in that kind of class.”

For other blogs on the conference see Guy Merchant‘s , where you can see Jack Todhunter’s film of the event, and Doug Belshaw’s blog, where he posts the prezi he used for his keynote speech.  Leicester City Council have blogged about Lucy Atkins’s impressions of the day

The conference was a brilliant showcase of all the effort that the project members have been working towards over the past year. We have come so far… it seems so long ago that everyone met together at the start of the project. As Sue Bamford said in her feedback sheet, “Lovely to see the outcomes of this project- having been at one of the first meetings where everyone was putting forward their first ideas about what they might do.”

I have not had all the feedback sheets back yet, but so far the message is clear: it has been a truly wonderful event ….

here are just some of the comments:

“very thought provoking… positive promotion of using digital technology in the classroom by inspirational teachers”

“getting to grips with software. very interesting and useful”

“the themes intro was brilliant at putting the sessions into context”

“A very valuable experience overall.  I have been introduced to many new ideas and issues to think about, which I plan to share with my fellow PGCE primary students”

“great ideas for primary- inspiring, thank you”

“I really enjoyed this event, I was stimulated.  UK is challenging to introduce ICT into schools.  That is amazing.  All presenters were excellent.  Japanese should have a sense of humour like British.”

“Excellent opportunity to learn from others and contribute to that learning … privilege to meet so many creative and daring people who are making a difference.”

“constant frustrations with tech. but seen huge passion and enthusiasm with great examples of innovation in learning and teaching”

“events like this help to provide the most valuable CPD – learning from each other’s, sharing innovative work, how social media is a forum for sharing.”

and you can see many more on the #deft twitter feed.

 

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A message to you

This week we are collecting together all out resources to complete the final report for the project and in doing so we realise just how much has happened over the year…

10 presentations,(you can see the powerpoints on slideshare) three teacher meetings (and another one next week), four core team meetings, and the Digital Bloom installation in the Sheffield winter gardens, not to mention all the events that the teachers have or are arranging with their schools.

We are looking at the reflections of the project participants, and although they have not all come in yet, it is evident that the project has had a considerable impact on many people.

For me it has opened my eyes to the fact that there are many facets of digital literacy,  and it is quite extraordinary how the teachers and students in the project have been able to spot and take advantage of the facets of digital technology that will enhance their teaching. I realise now that although I have certainly expanded my own knowledge of the uses of technology, I am aware that there are many more areas of which are still quite alien to me, and that achieving ‘digital literacy’ is somewhat akin to reaching the end (or beginning) of the rainbow.

There is a part in the final report that asks

How has the wider community benefitted from your project?

We know that the schools have reached out to their local communities by involving parents, museums and local parks with their projects.  We know from our conversations with the public during the ‘digital bloom’ installation in the Sheffield winter gardens, that people are interested and keen to support digital technologies in schools.  We know from the conferences we attended that there is an awareness of the issues that this project addresses, and a curiosity and appreciation of how the participants have engaged with them.

However we do not know what impact this project has on the even wider community- the readers of this blog…I wonder what people in Australia, Guatemala, India and South Africa think of our project.

Has it changed your attitudes towards digital literacy in education?

DeFT Regional Conference October 2nd

The DeFT project is hosting a Regional Conference on 2nd October at the Sheffield United Football Ground, 9.30 – 15.30.  The keynote speakers will be Doug Belshaw and Bob Harrison.  DeFT academics from both Sheffield Universities will be there to present the project, together with the teachers and tutors who took part. Teachers from ten schools from in and around the Sheffield and Rotherham area  will be presenting  case studies which contain information which would prove useful to teachers at all levels of education.  Five case studies are from secondary schools, including one school that caters for children with special needs and five are from first and middle schools, one of which has a nursery attached. It promises to be an extremely interesting and informative conference. This event is now full: to check if there are any places available owing to cancellation email a.gruszczynska@shu.ac.uk

Monteney Monsters

School is out now at Monteney Primary School, the children and teachers are on holiday, and the school is empty- empty that is except for the odd monster lurking around the  corridors of the school ‘s virtual spaces…

If you visit there now, you will be able to see what Peter Winter, and the year twos have been up to for the last few months.  Peter has set up a Moodle which hosts a range of resources that he has been using with the children.  They have been learning how to program using ‘scratch‘ .

Peter has created sets of on-line instructions that children can follow at their own pace, and create sprites that can move and talk in their very own settings.  The children got so good at managing sequences and timing in their programming that they were able to create conversations between two sprites on their videos. You can see them for yourself on this link to the website.The children went on to develop their own 3D monsters using a program called ‘spore’, and once the children had designed their monsters, they used ‘fotobabble‘ to talk about their monsters.

They then made music scores using ‘Avary’ for the monsters to dance to! The children have also written some amazing acrostic poems, which were read out by avatars from ‘voki’.

This is about the stuff that the Moneney children have already done. However at Peter’s request we have ordered a green screen, which has finally arrived at DeFT headquarters.  We don’t quite know what Peter has in mind, but I expect that in September we will be blogging about more wonderful things that will be emerging from Monteney.

Hallam Digital Agony Aunts

Towards the end of term some of Sarah Butler’s PGCE students from Hallam University presented the work that they had been doing for their final project. Anna and I were invited to attend the presentation by the group that had worked on digital literacies.  Their projects explored how digital technologies were used in their placement schools, and students’ and teachers’ attitudes towards these technologies. It was a really encouraging session. Students reported that aspects of digital literacies are addressed in these placement schools, and have been promoted by the students themselves.  In the words of one student: “digital literacy allows teachers to utilise a vast range of creative pedagogical strategies to ensure that their classroom is motivating and inclusive environment.”

These students gave insightful and balanced accounts of their experiences. They all delivered the message- yes technology can be interactive, fun.  It can promote creativity, excite interest, enthuse students- but it has to be relevant. It doesn’t matter what new singing and dancing stuff you bring in to your lessons: if it is used unimaginatively and repetitively, it can work to turn off the very pupils you are trying to engage.

As this blog has recorded, (souls glitches or just plain evil intent) all this new technology is sometimes not as straightforward as ‘they’ lead us to believe. The ‘final act’ of the presentation was, for me, the piece de resistance.

The students set themselves up as a panel of Agony Aunts. Two female and one male aunt bravely invited questions from their audience.

Just tell us your digital problems, and we will help you solve them!

As you can imagine, this was an extremely entertaining and engaging way to encourage discussion and share solutions.  We have all been there!  Amidst groans of recognition and sympathy, the audience started to share their own ‘worst nightmare’ scenarios when using digital technology in school. One student described how she had based her entire lesson on a DVD that the children needed to watch, but the computer kept crashing after two minutes…another mentioned that the sound track on the DVD she was hoping to present did not work… another stated that after having spent all night on a brilliant powerpoint based lesson, there was no computer in the classroom when he got there.  Another wanted tips on how to present inclusive lessons to the visually impaired and deaf students in his class. Students aired their frustration on the limited access of internet provision in some placements, and lack of software.

The panel remained calm, and offered some excellent advice, taking each question as it came.  The solutions were brilliant.  These included- pretending that the glitch is deliberate- that you have stopped the film for the pupils to complete the story line, or that you have carefully deleted the sound track on the film so that pupils can invent their own.  They stressed the importance of liaising closely with the support available within the school, and letting the right people know what you are planning to do so that they can offer help when needed. The discussion demonstrated clearly how these students recognise that digital technologies are a double edged sword: on one hand it is essential for teachers to keep up with the latest technology.  As one student said: “I previously thought that I was digitally literate but I have discovered that there are so many technologies out there to use that you can soon become outdated”.

However on the other hand, in the shadow of unreliable technology, teachers these days sometimes need to think on their feet and draw on all their personal resources in order to deliver lessons.  These students certainly demonstrated that they were fully aware of the issues involved, and embraced the new technologies with the cautious respect they command.  The students were anxious to share the expertise that they had gained on the course, and although many of them had not heard of the OER movement, they were keen to contribute to the DeFT project.

By the way, we found out later that during our session with the students, our DeFT digital recorder did not work, leaving us to rely on our video cameras. On inspection (by a member or our learned e-learning support team) the memory card decided not to function at that particular time.  It is fine now.

Any suggestions Aunties?

 

 

 

Creative Space

The PGCE students at Sheffield University have just completed their final assignments.  But this was no run-of-the-mill assignment- it was a mission that no PGCE students had previously undertaken at Sheffield University.

It all started earlier this year, when these students were asked to wander around graveyards of northern Sheffield to make poetry come to life using digital video recorders.  They were then introduced to the delights of Winterhill and Rawmarsh City Learning Centres where they became familiar with the recording and editing processes of making a film.  Working in groups, they supported each other’s ideas and technical understandings, learning that good communication was very important. They soon realised that they needed to be ‘over explicit’ to help learners new to technology. As one student said,” you learn best from hands on experiences.”  Whilst some relished the prospect of using digital technologies, others were apprehensive, convinced of their own incompetence yet aware of their obligations as a teacher to keep up with the latest technologies. “Children must be equipped to face the ever changing technological era.”Image

Pretty soon, they were ready for the real task at hand: the final task that  Mick Connell and Andrey Rowsowsky were to set for them.  It was not to create a resource for teaching, nor was it to be assessed, observed or linked to any part of any school curriculum.  The students were set free from these shackles – given free range.  Yes, they had to make a film, but they were given full licence to develop their recently acquired to skills pursue their own interests and

… be creative.

The only stipulation they were given was that their films had to be about the city that had hosted them for their year of study: Sheffield.  Any aspect could be explored- people, landscapes, cultures, history. Students were invited to build on their own interests and create something that was unique to them.

Taking advantage of this brief: they did just that!Image

Anna and I were invited to see the screening of these films. With the group, we witnessed five completely different and unique takes on Sheffield.  Students watched and discussed their films, quizzing each other on the techniques they used.  It was interesting to find that although many had planned storyboards for their productions, they had put these to one side as serendipitous events such as thunderstorms, public reactions and availability of unforeseen props changed the direction of the stories.Image

After the event I thought: this is real teacher education – not teacher training.  This was an activity that would impact on so many aspects of  these students’ personal development. Encouraging well rounded, creative and digitally literate individuals can only be good news for the children who are lucky enough to have them as teachers.