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.

Panel of Experts

There is a group of experts at Hallam who are playing a vital role to help transform some of our case studies into useful OERs. Julia Myers’ group of PGCE students from Sheffield Hallam University came to meet Anna and I to talk about their perceptions of what digital literacy means to them as beginner teachers and what sort of resources would be useful to them in their own practice.   The intention is that these students will review our case studies and offer suggestions for ways in which they will support future practice.  Through their own practice they are considering the opportunities and potential, limitations and challenges that digital technologies offer.  They plan to look at the relevance of specific case studies in terms of the impact of digital technology and the nature of digital literacies; and seek related opportunities appropriate to alternative age and ability groups.

We want to make our resources user friendly, so we will be acting on the help and support of this highly motivated and inspiring future user group.

At our first meeting, we were amazed at the level of competence exhibited. Some students talked enthusiastically about the excellent projects they had started in their placement schools, apparently undaunted by the fact that they were uncertain that their ideas would be supported after they had left.  They were impatient to try out these ideas in their own schools when they had graduated, with their own classes.  One student talked of how he encouraged his pupils to send emails to a partner school in Thailand, opening up the possibility of quadblogging (that is being trialled at Sharrow and Mundella schools) He had learned from experience that his pupils are much more likely to produce fine writing if doing so for a specific audience.  Other students talked about using flip cameras with students to develop their language skills, others spoke of how they used Edmodo as a facebook for under fourteen year olds.  Their creative contributions gave us a lot to think about.

We were particularly interested to find out from the students where they looked for ideas to enhance their teaching, as this would give us an idea about how to arrange our own resources. The facilities they use most are teach meets, twitter, webchats and the TES magazine, which they found was well set out, and easy to flick through.

They told us in no uncertain terms what they would look for in a case study…

  • They wanted it to be clearly and concisely written- and colourful!
  • They would like a descriptive title, and underneath three or four bullet points about the content.  They did not want to plough through lots of irrelevant pros to find out whether it was useful to them.
  • They would like the findings at the beginning, and hints on how methods/resources can be adapted for different ages and abilities, and they had lots of suggestions as to how this could be done.

With these instructions in mind, the DeFT team are starting to write up the case studies.

We hope that they will meet with approval!

Aliens in Heathfields?

Last week when the DeFT digital meadow was up and running in the Winter Gardens we attracted a lot of public interest.  One member of the public expressed her disapproval of the uses of digital technologies in schools.  “Children should be outdoors, running about, getting muddy… not stuck inside in front of one of those screens all day!”

She would have been thrilled to see Rob Hobson’s project in action!

There was not much mud involved, but there was a lot of the “outdoors” and “running about”! Rob’s aim for the project is to “give children a wider understanding of how ICT use can be taken out of its usual constraints.”  He certainly did that!

His project was launched with a “happening” in Heathlands Park.  It was rumoured that a spaceship has crash in a bit of wasteland  not far from the school.  The children in Rob’s class reported on this event, giving news releases, photographing the crash landing, and interviewing the public who had witnessed strange occurrences in the neighbourhood.  All this information required imagination, creativity and technical know-how to produce! It was so exciting that some members of the class forgot they were reluctant readers and writers. Everything they created was put onto designated webspaces by the Y6ers and QR codes were fabricated to link to these websites.

When all this careful preparation had been completed, a chosen few placed the QR clues in carefully selected places in Heathlands Park.  You can see the QR trail here .  Finally the hunt for clues could start.

Later that Friday afternoon, two classes of children were accompanied to the park where they were set lose with ipods equipped with  QR readers.  Their brief was to locate the clues, access the websites, find out what had happened, and piece together the story.  Because there was no internet connection in the park, Rob had provided mifis which provided wifi access to groups of 5 children with ipods.  The group of five could not stray far from the mifi carriers, who were dressed in bright yellow jackets, so cooperation was essential!

Children shared information, discussed clues, and fed back their thoughts to a blog that had especially been set up for the occasion.  People’s versions of what really  happened can be read here .  If you happen to be passing Heathlands Park, you can find the clues yourself,  send in your ideas to the blog, and add to the stories.

It was an exciting afternoon, and everybody enjoyed it tremendously.  In the midst of all this action the treasurer for the Heathland Community Park wandered onto the scene.  He had never heard of QR codes, and thought it would be a wonderful way of disseminating information about the park.  He watched the children working with their ipods, and realised that the general public could also interact with QR codes in this way with their own mobile devices.

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:   http://www.flickr.com/photos/82405818@N02/show/

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:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/82322448@N02/

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