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.



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.

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.

Digital Bloom – day3

It has been another busy day in the Winter Gardens in Sheffield.  Word has got out about the action in the ‘pod’.  School children from Dinnington have come to see the digital meadow, and have found out about how the children in Mundella Primary school use the Brushes app in school.                                                                           “Does that mean we will all have ipads in school?” asked one excited pupil…

Although Richard Johnson was not able to be there today, our brilliant pod assistants Tori and Kayleigh were able to make a couple of ipads available for anyone who fancied a go on them!  They said that it was a popular activity, and that people took their time to make their pictures, and explore the stories on the display.  The art work reflects the wonderful diversity of our visitors!  IMG_0586

As promised we have uploaded the pictures onto a flickr account again… this time you can see them here:

There are still a few more to be uploaded, so if you cannot see yours yet, you will probably see them tomorrow!

If you missed yesterdays display, they are all here:

We will be there until 12 noon on Friday, so come and visit us if you haven’t done so  already!

Budding Artists

Last week we had our first workshop held in the Owen building at Hallam University that was delivered by one of our partners,  Richard Johnson from the Sheffield Children’s Festival.

Twelve people attended the workshop including Bjoern Hassler from the Cambridge based ORBIT project, Chris Bayley from Bradfield Dungworth Primary, Jack Todhunter from Newman , Kate Cosgrove from Mundella, and Tom, an eight year old expert that just popped by.

Richard had set up the room so that the tables and chairs were grouped together around vases of brilliant yellow tulips that seem to lean anxiously out towards us. Each person had access to an ipad perched on an easel.  As there were a couple of people who had no previous experience with ipads,  Richard introduced the session with a short explanation about the features of the ipad, and how to use the brushes app.  After this, we were given instructions in stages as to how to ‘paint’  tulips.

Richard said ,”I will show some simple steps, but you need to bring your own creativity and style as well.” He explained that the ipad is a lovely media for children because it is intuitive-  “there is nothing in between them and the canvas- apart from a bit of technology!”

Just as he had at Mundella school, Richard shared three artist’s tips: to find out about them, and how they went down with the children, you will have to visit the comets blog

The silence in the room was tangible. Everyone was concentrating very hard, performing to the best of their abilities!  When we had finished we learned how to “play back” our pictures in order to see how we had created them. You can see how Jack Todhunter’s mind worked as you play back the story of his creation here.

The feedback was excellent.  Everyone agreed that the session was useful for their professional development, and that it was helpful to their work on the DeFT project.  A few participants commented on how they appreciated the practical ‘how to’ ipad lessons, while others stated they enjoyed learning art techniques which can be applied to ipad apps.

The only criticism was that the lifts were not working in the Owen Building, and everyone had to walk up 8 flights of stairs to get to the seminar room.

Jack Todhunter took a video of Richard Johnson demonstrating some of the features of the ipad-.

Digital big melt: News from Winterhill

I have just come back from my visit to Winterhill school in Rotherham and I am very impressed with their progress on the case study where teachers and students are producing OERs for Magna Science Adventure Centre and are exploring the use of  QR codes in that context. The work on resources is in full swing and there are some great examples of incorporating OER creation within the curriculum, with students and teachers bouncing off creative ideas and working collaboratively. I first had a chance to talk to Chris, an art teacher who is working with year 9 and year 10 students exploring the creative potential of OERs. As part of their BTEC Diploma in Art and Design, year 10 students have visited Magna and took some photographs in the water and fire pavilions, drew field sketches and on that basis are now creating artwork which is informed by futurist paintings. As the teacher emphasised, what the pupils really appreciate about the project is that they are involved in a real brief for Magna and working on resources that will hopefully resonate with the future visitors and enhance the exhibits. At the same time, this case study is a great example of incorporating OERs within the curriculum and fostering collaboration between the students since in true spirit of re-use and repurposing, year 9 students are Photoshopping the pictures taken by year 10 class to create slideshows accompanied by soundscapes representing an industrial theme (see picture above for a sneak preview!). Even better, the soundscapes are created with freesound, a collaborative database of Creative Commons Licensed sounds.

I then had a chance to talk to year 8 English students who shared with me the poems and the short impressionistic writing they have created on the basis of their visit to Magna and also told me about the plans to interview a steelworker to create additional resources for the project. I was quite impressed about the range of creative ideas them kept bringing up as to how they could enhance the content, I must admit I sorely regretted not being able to record that conversation but I am hoping to go back shortly and to continue talking to the students and the teachers. Hopefully the students will also accept the invitation to share their perspective on the project through this blog and tell the readers a bit more about their fascinating work.

In full bloom: Digital literacy and creative learners

In our exploration of issues related to digital literacy and Open Educational Resources in the context of teacher education, we have purposefully made space for creativity. Right from the start, when thinking about our involvement with the schools, we talked about creative learners and ways in which creativity informs children’s digital literacy practice, both within and outside of schools. To show how serious (or playful) we were about all things creative, we asked Richard Johnson from the Sheffield Children’s Festival to collaborate with DeFT as an official project partner and many conversations later, some very creative ideas are ready to see the light.

Tulip by Richard Johnson

On top of his many artistic skills (see the tulip, created with the Brushes app at our recent project meeting for proof!), Richard has extensive experience of organising and working with schools as manager of the Sheffield Children’ Festival, organised by Sheffield City Council every summer. In 2011, over 34,000 young people had an opportunity to take part in the festival, the largest of its kind in the UK, and work with professional artists, develop their creativity, exhibit work, perform in city centre venues, participate in workshops and special events. Two DeFT schools will be participating in the festival this year – kids from Mundella Primary School will be taking part in the “Bigger Bloom” project inspired by David Hockney’s work where they will use iPads to create digital flowers which will then become part of a spring flowers mural displayed at the festival. Kids from Bradfield Dungworth Primary will spend the day capturing the involvement of the school with Camp Cardboard project (does what it says on the tin – the kids build a camp, using cardboard) via digital photography and video, they will also blog and possibly Tweet about the event.

We are working with Richard to explore creative ways of disseminating OERs created in the context of the project and started brainstorming about details of an installation which would reflect the understandings of digital literacy being developed by DeFT partners. The working title for the installation at the moment is “Digital Bloom”, and the key metaphor we think of using is that of a field of flowers, where each of the flowers represents individual understandings of digital literacy, with the field signifying its collective meanings. So, who wants to come out and play with us?