First School in the UK to use Second Life for Lessons

The Newsround website is featuring a story about a school using second life for lessons.

Children taught in Second Life

Interestingly, in the video, they claim that “Acklam Grange is the first school in the country to use Second Life for lessons”, which I’m not sure is true.

Whilst I agree that Second Life has a great deal of potential, I’ve not been able to use it in my teaching yet. I would be interested to discover that this isn’t the first school to use Second Life, and how successful other people have been at using it in an educationally beneficial way.

Speaking in Sentences

My English class have been doing some work on speaking in sentences and we decided to talk about Christmas. I then remembered being shown Voicethread and I decided to try it out with my class. It would be great if some other people would comment on the thread to give my children some evidence that people can see and appreciate their work. If you or your class would like to comment, please feel free to join in.

Swanwick School and Sports College Blog

The children commenting are in Key Stage 3 and have a range of learning and behavioural difficulties.

Always ready to learn

I have been thinking recently about the role of teacher and learner, and how the balance sometimes changes. This trail of thought has been mainly sparked by two incidents.

We have a technician who works in our school twice a week. To call him a technician is a bit of an understatement really as he is a trained teacher who now mainly does freelance work for some of the major Apple magazines, websites and podcasts. He knows much, much more about technology than I do and I am always learning from him. However, last week, I taught him something (about using barcode scanners to transfer information to mobile phones, very interesting!) So, although he knows more about ICT than I do, he doesn’t know everything. He can still learn from people who know less than him.

In a school assembly a few weeks ago, a piece of music was played. I usually pride myself on my music knowledge and was most distressed that I couldn’t name this 1960s Motown classic. Then, within seconds of the song being played, one of our children put up his hand and answered the track name and artist. The child is a student at the special school that I work in and can’t write much or do addition past 8. However, his music knowledge is excellent, and he often suggests music he thinks I should listen to. If his taste in music wasn’t so biased towards late ’80s euro-soft-rock I would take more notice.

We don’t always learn in a way which is easy to measure. We may know a lot about something, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t gaps in our knowledge that somebody who knows less that us can fill in.

See if you can pick something up from a student this week, and maybe teach the subject leader something too. If you’ve already broken up for the holidays, can you remember learning something when you didn’t expect to learn anything?

SEN Students Excluded From Web 2.0

I have been teaching for nearly a year now and have been inspired by the other teachers I have encounter on blogs, conferences and podcasts. I’ve tried to use some of the great ideas in my teaching in a school for children with special educational needs, but I have encountered a big problem – the login screen.

We have tried to use Google Apps, email, flickr, etc. However, they all require a login, for obvious reasons. This proves to be very difficult for nearly all of the students I teach. Many of them struggle to spell, with many not even registering on standardised tests. Whilst they can read a bit, use the computers better than some of the staff and create all kinds of media, when it comes to logging in, they just can’t enter the text accurately enough. As many of the children I teach have emotional and behavioural problems, two negative responses from a website can have a major effect on their behaviour for a good deal of time. Once they have logged into something like Google Docs, they can spell well enough to produce some creative and readable work, but a login screen is obviously unforgiving. Even giving the children their login details to copy into the computer isn’t enough for them to get it right.

Whilst I would love my students to be part of the exciting possibilities presented by the web, i’m not sure there’s a practical way to involved them. Any ideas?

Social Media in Plain English

Common Craft is a husband and wife team creating videos that explain things ‘in plain English’. They provide both free low-resolution embeddable and licensed high-resolution videos for use in school, places of work, blogs. Their Twitter in Plain English video is available from the Twitter home page. They have also produced Social Media in Plain English video. Whilst I love their simple visual approach, I feel like this video is less ‘plain English’ and more ‘bizarre analogy’. I still like it though and it probably does it’s job.

School? FUN?! – An Estonian’s View

On a recent visit to Estonia, I was talking to someone about myself, what I did for a living, etc. I mentioned Finnish schools as being highly regarded. She immediately scoffed at the comment. ‘School is really bad in Finland’, she said in perfect English. ‘The teachers can’t say anything about the children’s behaviour, the children are even allowed to chew gum! And, the teachers have to turn lessons into games and make them fun, otherwise the children don’t learn.’ I didn’t really know what to say in return, I like games!

*EDIT* – I’m not suggesting that this is the view of all Estonians!

First forays into Second Life

Having recently upgraded to a MacBook Pro, I can now run Second Life without being randomly logged out and delivered back to the newbie island, as happened on my previous MacBook. So, I’ve given it a go. I have a bit of a problem with it though, I have no idea what to do. I wander around quite happily, enjoying the ability to fly and looking at what people have created. However, all of my instant messenger and social networking contacts are people I previously knew offline, in the real world. This makes wandering around an online world quite difficult because I’m not used to making new friends in cyberspace. I probably need to do some research into the benefits of Second Life, but when I’m there, I don’t know where to start. Any ideas anyone?

In terms of educational benefit, I can see how Second Life might be helpful. See Steve Beard’s Blog for more info.

It’s good to be blogging again!

Still alive! (or the problem with blogging about the ordinary)

I’m sure I’ve lost my loyal readership (of two) by now, but nothing I have been doing has been particularly news worthy. It’s not that I haven’t been working, but I’ve been planning for what to do with my first budget, which looks like it could be quite considerable for a school of 70. And most of what I’m looking at has been so eloquently blogged about by other people, so why would I need to? I’m unlikely to spark a debate on an aspect of the eeepc that hasn’t already been covered.

I hope to get going with this blog again now, as there should be some news worthy stuff coming up. I’m also going to try to use twitter a little more too, with mini updates. However, I wish there was a was to subscribe to relevant twitter info. I love to hear about the use of ICT in school, or even the odd update on a house move, but I’m not that interested in finding out that someone had Frosties for breakfast for the 13th day running, especially when I get the accompanying SMS! It means that you have to sift through so much stuff to get to what you need. Maybe I just need to lighten up a bit.

Flickr and Google Docs CPD

Today we started the first of our weekly ICT staff training sessions. After a shaky start (which lasted half an hour) we had some fun with Google Docs, working collaboratively on a presentation. Unfortunately, this shaky start made everything appear far more complicated than it actually was. However, as our staff became aware that they could edit each other’s work we began to have more fun! Pictures were added by dragging photos from flickr onto the document. Flickr is useful because, using an advanced search, photos can be found that are copywrite free, or at least only partially restricted using a creative commons license. We will probably talk about properly attributing a persons work them at a later date (I don’t want to scare them off), as we shamefully haven’t included any in our presentation. The presentation can be seen by clicking on the link below.

It was mentioned that this technology could have positive implications for teaching and learning, but no concrete ideas were presented as to what these might actually be. Any ideas or actual proof of the use of flickr or Google Docs in the classroom would be appreciated. Please add your comments!