Category Archives: Inspiring learners

Wintry Weather? We have got it sorted!

img_1033Isn’t it great to be back into a new year? Don’t all cheer at once! Well after a first week back of working in classrooms we had our first centre based event today which involved teams from our local VEX league. The league was funded by the CSI and we wanted to build in some one off ‘cup competition’ type events….today was the first.

We had six schools who could make it for the whole day and they were issued with the challenge of creating a variation on their original clawbot designs. With the weather looking like being exciting for drivers in the next few days the challenge was to design and build a snow plough. Unfortunately I2L has not had the pleasure of the snow queen as yet this year but a mix of cubes and paper shreds stood in its place.img_1031

The teams were tasked with not only designing, building and testing their designs but also to showcase them in the form of an advert by the end of the day. It was brilliant to watch teams sitting in huddles with paper and pencils, discussing ideas, trying them out, discarding them, going back to previous designs and so on. I’d have this lot project planning with me any day.

As you can see from the pics below there were a range of designs and some of the groups wanted to add a green screen element for authenticity.

It fills me with great pride that children in our local schools just consider use of green screen, voice over and animation as ‘what they do’. Sadly with time constraints the finished videos have suffered from some issues of sound quality but that in itself has been a great learning experience. The playlist below has the finished videos for you to enjoy.

So now I can put my feet u……….oh no we have another 70 in tomorrow using LEGO with iPads for a creativity challenge…..I can’t wait!

“What did we do so right to go there?”

IMG_1159I have changed the name of this post following feedback from a teacher in one of the participating schools. She wasn’t at I2L during the day but was waiting for children when they arrived back in school. Her words: ‘I have never seen those children so buzzing about anything‘. The title is a quote from one of the children who had taken part. Every teacher knows the value of motivation for effective learning and the feedback I have had from all the schools has been the same. Of course every lesson can’t  be ‘build a space hotel’ but using events and activities like these to develop children’s wider skills (the ones they will need in everyday life and their future work careers – see posts passim) is continually proving to have a knock on effect in EVERY lesson. At least for a while….but that is why we put so many events on, usually at no cost to schools, so that schools can pick and choose which fit in with their own timetables across the year. Having a centre to do this is proving more invaluable all the time because it gives focus and direction to the activity. I was asked by one of the teachers yesterday if I could create a concept and come and do something in school. My answer of course was yes, I do it all the time, but I also wanted to highlight the value of it not being in school, something she agreed with. She related the interchange between a group of girls who felt that they had now learned ‘buffet etiquette’ (pronounced buff-Et) because they had been in the queue with some of the work ambassadors.

It is always a balance in teaching, and working with such a large number of schools now across the Tees Valley is confirming my initial belief that focussing lots of the centre’s efforts on developing wider skills for students is vital for their overall achievement and future life chances. Enough wittering…..

The final presentations:

FullSizeRender

52 children from four schools  employed in developing ideas for a new Space Hotel. How do you create a cafe in micro-gravity? What games might you play when you have difficulty staying in one place? These are not questions that phase our young designers and engineers at Inspire2Learn. Three of the schools were even video linking back to the rest of their class in school to ask them for designers, marketeers and film makers to help create and sell their hotel idea. Another, St Benedicts ran their communication through Padlet. Innovative and effective! No pressure and a fun day? Not really. The idea of the scrapheap challenges is to engage the children in the employability skills and experiences that it is very hard to replicate in school. The ones that we have built our framework around for schools to use to check if they are addressing these.

We also have 8 volunteers in the building today from engineering, science and employment backgrounds, engaging the children in conversation about how they are managing their work, what problems need to be solved and how they will achieve their aim. And their aim is?

To create a short presentation to camera detailing what they have achieved during the day and why. Sadly this could not be a live video web feed as the web monkeys who supply our broadband seem to have blocked all the services we routinely used last time (FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts). It would have been nice to have been told that things had changed without us having to actually try using it to find it doesn’t. Maybe I should check next time that the internet is working the same as it has done previously, the light switches work, the taps give out water…

I posted pictures as the work progressed. Many of our volunteers also left to visit the schools taking part and engage the students working in their classrooms. This was found to be a hugely beneficial aspect from both the team at the centre and the children back in school.

Can I also just ask? Why weren’t your students taking part? Oh, it clashed with something else, no problem, there are three more scrapheap challenges this side of the Summer so let me know when you want to come. Oh and if you are in ‘the world of work’ and would like to drop by for even an hour (but half a day would be even better!) drop me a line.

Back to the Future

Welcome back after your festive break everyone, I hope it has refreshed your enthusiasm ready for the year ahead. And what an exciting year ahead! Just looking at the diary for the next few weeks reveals a huge range of different ways in which our work and centre is supporting you, either as schools or businesses.

IMG_2078The centre itself has been using the quiet Christmas period to refurbish several of the rooms and offer new opportunities. The new flooring in the auditorium for example opens up the possibility for fitness activities, for which we have had several enquiries from providers, to safely take place on an evening. If you run evening classes that might like to take advantage of the space, please let us know and come in for a chat.

We also have a very busy training schedule being finalised. Due to the amount of work that we do actually in schools, hands on, we limit consultant led courses at the centre to just a couple a week. That means demand is oftenNew_Pasture_Lane_Y5_Y6_02 high so please book early if you want to attend any. Details of courses will appear in the Events section of this site over the next few days as well as via flyers and emails into schools. As ever, we have some particularly exciting lined up in the near future. We are delighted to invite Tim Rylands back here in February. He will be two leading distinctly different days. On the 4th February he will lead a hands on, creative day using digital tools (all tools will be available at the centre) where teachers are the students. It will examine how you structure creative, collaborative activities in a classroom through active participation. This date has limited places so be warned that it will fill up quickly, this is not the usual Tim Rylands day! The 5th February however IS the more usual maelstrom of innovative ideas, web tools (almost always free), fabulous classroom ideas and perceptive critique of the teaching and learning process. Many people in the region have benefitted from working with Tim and he is continually asked to come back. That says a lot. If you have only briefly seen him speak before you need to be here on that date! This event will also include a small exhibitors area for a handful of companies that work regularly with our schools.

The week after that is the next Challenge Day (see tabs above for previous dates) which has an ever expanding number of schools taking part. Without fail the feedback has been positive, comments tend to focus on the words ‘stimulating, engaging, creative, collaborative’. It is FREE to take part in and you don’t need any specialist equipment, please let us know if you would like to be part of it – age is not an issue!

And finally for this post….I am often asked to speak at events, or in schools, all over the world about the use of mobile devices and how that impacts on effective learning and teaching. It may sound a glamorous jet set lifestyle but the reality is sadly quite different. Although hands on, close support has been shown time and again to be the most effective way to develop, one off events are often the only way that schools can get hold of trainers. I have been concerned about this for some time. The schools local to us can usually get us in their diary within a couple of weeks, certainly a half term, for anything from 1:1 staff support, working with the students or even whole school training. Their CPD very much includes a capital ‘C’. So I have been looking at ways that I am able to combine the best of both worlds. Today was the first attempt at that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fellow ADE Lewis Hall recently took up a post as an ICT manager/trainer within the ADVETI schools in the United Arab Emirates. Although he is very knowledgeable and experienced in using iPads devices in various settings himself, we hatched a plan to include me in a training day for staff who were pretty new to iPads. We felt that Skyping me in would offer staff a different perspective to just his. It was also a golden opportunity to demonstrate how Showbie works so beautifully as a way of connecting teachers and learners through materials and feedback. It meant an early start for me but nothing compared to travelling 5000 miles! After exploring the ‘learner as producer’ model that teachers find so immediately effective to develop their practice around we introduced Showbie. I can quite honestly say that Showbie usually elicits really impressive comments from staff but to run a session half way across the world with immediate handing out of work and feedback had a huge impact. Lewis emailed not long ago to thank me for the session and also included this paragraph:

At lunch time more than 3 of the staff came to see me and said that they just can’t get their head around that someone 6000miles away shared content with them, in this way it was much more powerful, it made them think that students can access outside the classroom (we know that but they don’t always ‘get it’).

I can honestly say that the experience was similar from my end…and I use it all the time!

We are going to continue support sessions on a regular basis as there are different campus’ developing the use of iPads and Lewis felt that being able to include that different aspect, a different viewpoint, helped to open the debate amongst the teachers about what would work best for them. There are several other schools around the globe already talking to me about this type of support (often in collaboration with an actual visit at some point) so if this interests you, please get in contact.