• 25 Jan
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    This is the second guest post in our Digitalk series, where we showcase class blogs. The aim is to promote blogging in school as an incredible tool to improve literacy, confidence, connections, ICT skills and…well we’ll leave it you to be inspired by this latest entry below. The enthusiasm from Mr Sloan and his class for blogging shines through.

    Ferry Lane blog

    School: Ferry Lane Primary School, Tottenham, London
    Teacher: Mr Jack Sloan | Email: jack.sloan2 at gmail.com
    Class blog: http://year5.ferrylane.net/

    When I first started blogging with children nearly five years ago, I could never have imagined the impact it would have had, both on me as a teacher, and on the children that I have taught. Blogging has revolutionised my practice. Using blogs within schools has two powerful and measurable benefits.

    Firstly, it allows for real collaboration; within and outside the school.

    Providing the ability for parents, other schools, professionals and relatives in other countries to comment, criticise, and collaborate in their childrens’ work is hugely powerful. My children know that when they work, they do so with the support and encouragement of their peers and a more extended network.

    They know this because they get comments.

    Lots of them. Straight away.

    They improve on their work because children from New Zealand tell them to look out for their capital letters, and because a headteacher in Tanzania helps them with their subject knowledge.

    They work with each other over the weekend without leaving their living rooms, using tools like Voicethread and Google Docs to help them collaborate. They come into school telling me that they have been doing experiments, visiting museums and advising their classmates on using more interesting adjectives. They are engaged because of the blog.

    Mr Sloan's class uses Voicethread to encourage collaboration

    Secondly, school blogs provide a window on the world.

    The children I teach will tell you where our visitors come from. They will argue over why so few come from Sub-Saharan Africa and why we never actually see Australians on our blog during school hours (although we know that they visit us in their hundreds).

    Blogs provide an audience and a real-life interface to the outside which is easy to keep safe, but still has the immediacy and excitement of the social-media world (in which they live outside of school hours).

    • Our kids feel valued.
    • Their work is looked at, scrutinised and appreciated.
    • It doesn’t live in a dusty book – it develops through time.
    • My kids write, and write, and write!

    Enough from me. Here are some views from my fantastic Year 5 children at Ferry Lane Primary School.

    They’ve been blogging for six months, and advocate the use of blogs in school as much as I do. To kick things off in style, here is Sharon writing for the most cynical of classroom Luddites. Sharon is 10 years old and wrote this as a post at home, by herself. It is unedited here.

    Have you ever thought that the Internet was an incredible waste of precious time?

    Do you really think that mindless kids could achieve incredible things?

    Are you positively sure that blogs are any safer than enraged hyenas?

    Well, if you really are that cynical, I don’t know what kind of things you have been hearing. However I haven’t written this great (if I say so myself) article to mock you.

    This is specifically to the most negative of adults (and kids) who haven’t the foggiest idea of what they are talking about when they say “Blogs are horrendous, they’re not safe . BLAAH, BLAAH, BLAAH!” And on and on they drone.

    I guarantee you that by the end of this article you will be star stuck.

    Also you will be left in complete and utter awe, just thinking “Where was I all this time?” Utterly re-born (trust me!).“Yeah, yeah, as if I will ever learn to love a nonsense blog,” you may be complaining. Even if you are in this position, you will soon understand what the fuss is about.

    A long time ago (in approximately 2009) lived a time where life and excitement were at war. Blogs and schools neglected each other.

    A time that I honestly hated. When no one really cared about us poor, innocent, little children.

    And if you were to learn this piece of information from anyone in the world, you would probably have to learn it from us, the spectacular Ferry lane Yr5. Soon after (basically 2010) the blogging revolution changed everything completely. It took a turn down brilliant lane, which of course was marvellous. Blogs were officially accepted in schools!

    Such mind-blowing news, right?

    Well not for all (maybe not even for you). If you would just hear my humble yet glorious words, your treacherous thoughts will vanish within one heartbeat.

    Beautiful things happen at times you don’t quite expect them to. I mean, we used to live a life of horror and torture (this was before, mind). Until the hero arrived (finally), of which you may know him as….”MR. SLOAN!”

    You could get why he was so popular to us. He was THE creator of blogs. Well let’s just say the creator of blogs within our area. When the blog began, each and every one of our lives transformed from a terrible murky grey, to sprinkles of gold.

    We started to write, write, write and we became more famous by the minute (not so surprising really). Although this isn’t my point, in fact being famous is never the point of blogging and never will be.

    What I am trying to say is that when you see kids (even adults) learn and explore brand new and fascinating things, don’t you think much more excitement will grab hold of someone’s distressed life. That wouldn’t be so horrible, would it? Just think of it!

    Aren’t you a tiny bit tired of hearing the same old words being said by the exact same people “I don’t want to do any work!” Don’t you just plead to see children have a laugh (a good laugh by the way) on the Internet knowing that they are proud of their own precious work? You see, me being a child, I certainly know that us kids just don’t get many opportunities during our childhoods.

    That’s one of the greatest things about the blog, no matter what the age; you have the skills to SHINE (seriously)!

    Encouragement has a huge influence on blogging. No encouragement means no more writing. Children will never for the rest of the millennium, even think about typing a single letter on the blog without it. Plus all these users from around the world will expect outstanding work.

    This is why it is a big deal for people to comment.

    You know, to make them think “Oh, I’m quite good at this let me carry on doing it!” To make them never give up on a single dream.

    The impact on my life would most definitely be the blog. The comments make me stronger as a person, the activities are compelling and I just have a BLAST!!

    “So what, you get good comments, you still haven’t proved to me why I should go on this so called, ridiculous Ferry lane blog”.

    “Well, you just don’t understand the complete message of blogging, do you?” (and anyway who said I was finished?).

    You can’t even be bothered to go on this stupendous blog, and yet gazillions of people from all around the world can. I can name you a montage of countries that have checked up on our blog. Australia, America even Mongolia. New Zealand, Canada, Swaziland too.

    So you get what I’m saying.

    The quality of our work is outstanding and that’s what usually gets more people attracted to our blog (you can’t argue with that, we’ve already had over 1,000 comments in 5 months).

    All pieces of great of work are something that children cherish. In 10 years time, we will probably think “Oh, is that really what I did at the age of 10?”

    Blogs aren’t just about improving your writing, there are sacks of things that you could do.

    Maths, science, being critical about each other and more. This doesn’t only affect users, it also helps other generations. Basically, when new kids start blogs we could be an inspiration to them, people from outside of Ferry lane.


    You see, blogs aren’t made for lazy, people who waste time. So don’t just sit there, START PRONTO!!!

    The impact of blogging is huge. Writing attainment is rising rapidly as a result, as is engagement. Parents and staff are keen once their fears over e-safety are allayed, and I have never seen such a straightforward, attractive and easy to manage way to get schools looking through the window, full of awe, into the world around them.

    Click here for a large version of the Voicethread

    PS: If you liked the above you might want to check out “Digitalk No.1 – If I hear that song again…

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  • 22 Jan
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    BrainPOP UK was proud and excited to host the first ever Teachmeet Takeover at BETT 2010.

    But before Takeovers there was TeachMeet itself. If you don’t know what Teachmeet is you’re not alone! Teachmeet is a growing educational fringe movement, centred on local evening events hosted by teachers for teachers, to allow the sharing of ideas and best practice.

    It’s pretty awesome. If there’s one happening in your local area it’s a very worthwhile event to attend.

    BrainPOP UK has been very supportive of these events for some time, and we were even asked to make a movie to explain Teachmeet.

    But a major challenge of any movement is to encourage new members to join; to spread the word; to invite fresh blood into the tribe. BETT 2010 offered an opportunity to get the discussion and demonstrations of new online tools to a wider audience. Thus was born Teachmeet Takeover! You can read more on why we took part on our post: Off to BETT Part 3 – TeachMeet Takeover .

    Drew kicks off Teachmeet Takeover at BETT2010 on the BrainPOP UK stand

    Drew kicks off Teachmeet Takeover at BETT2010 on the BrainPOP UK stand

    Drew Buddie (@digitalmaverick), kicked things off with a talk on using Web 2.0 Tools. This was more historic moment than perhaps it appeared. For the first time at BETT a stand was being used to promote something other than its product.

    We all learned an important lesson in this first presentation, which is the importance of speaking LOUDLY!!! (BETT background noise is l-o-u-d). We didn’t have a microphone, or one of those fancy Madonna style headsets. Or even a megaphone. But most people could see and hear what Drew was presenting and that was the main thing.

    The audience and the BrainPOP UK team all leaned loads about using slideshow animation tools to bring pics, pdfs, and other media to new life. Drew took stills from some great BrainPOP UK movies, and showed how they could be given a new spin as annotated resources for kids, or, indeed, by kids.

    Tom Barrett was up next on the Friday and he gave a superb presentation on using Voicethread in the classroom. In case you missed it check out Tom’s excellent Google doc: “17 ways to use Voicethread in the Classroom

    Friday is the busiest day but even so the stand was mobbed. In fact, the queue was building out of the stand and blocking the pathway. But that’s kind of the point – be a little disruptive and get noticed. People were stopping and staying to see what all the fuss was about.

    BrainPOP UK stand packed for #TMTakeover #bett2010

    There were a series of great presentations on the variety of Takeovers and they’re sparking some fascinating debates about the impact and implications of Teachmeet – such as this much-commented on post on Tom Barrett’s blog .

    So if you’re off to BETT 2011 keep an eye out for TeachMeet Takeover flyers…who knows what you could learn?

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  • 08 Jan
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    What is TeachMeet takeover? We should probably leave that to Tom Barrett (the teacher who came up with the idea) to explain:

    “Educators presenting about FREE ideas on the vendor stands at the world’s largest educational technology event. Sharing inspiration for free.”

    Tom Barrett, Edte.ch blog: http://edte.ch/blog/2009/12/14/teachmeet-takeover-needs-you

    At each stand, at a certain time of the day (check out the TeachMeet Takeover time table), a teacher will “takeover” part of a stand to demo free tools and resources that teachers may find interesting and useful. On our stand it will be on the big plasma TV on the back wall.

    Lots of companies have volunteered to provide some space for a takeover:

    • Adobe
    • Scholastic
    • Studywiz
    • NetIntelligence
    • TrueTube
    • Rising Stars
    • The National Archives / BFI / English Heritage
    • Moava
    • Promethean Planet
    • VT Group
    • DB Education

    We’re privileged to be welcoming through the week:

    • the inimitable Drew Buddie (demoing “Doing more with Tim & Moby using freely available Web 2.0 Tools” and “Wordle, Tagul & BrainPOP“)
    • the inspirational John Johnston (demoing “A project to gather the voices of educators using mobile devices”)
    • the main man himself, Tom Barrett (demoing “Why Voicethread should be used in every primary classroom”)

    The demos will only be a few minutes long, and, having seen these 3 present before, we know you’ll walk away enlightened and full of new ideas. Also if you pick up a TeachMeet Takeover flyer during the show it will include a mini competition, along with the timetable of confirmed talks.

    You will need to collect 8 ideas from takeover talks from around the show to claim some prizes from the stands taking part. We’re donating some ice cool Tim and Moby memorabilia.

    Perhaps you’ll also be inspired enough to go to a TeachMeet one day.

    So why are we letting teachers “take over” our stand?

    There are 3 parts to our answer.

    1. Put simply, we are intrigued. BrainPOPpers are naturally inquisitive people. We’re also BETT veterans and like to feel part of its evolution. It may work, it may not – but if you don’t try you’ll never know.
    2. We support CPD (Continuing Professional Development). To support those who want to be better teachers. We know BrainPOP UK works best as part of a good teacher’s toolkit – we also know teachers call upon any number of other resources. Why shouldn’t we do our bit to encourage open minded investigation into new ways of doing things?
    3. We’ve always been big supporters and sponsors of the TeachMeet initiative too and part of the Takeover is to encourage new people to go to a TeachMeet.

    Our stand is only small but we’re sure TeachMeeters can make the best of it. You have our promise that we won’t “push” anything, we’re just happy to lend our space to help out this exciting event.

    All that’s left to say really is “Bring on the TeachMeet Takeover!”

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