Friday, February 24, 2006

February 2006

Hello, Dear Reader! It seems a long time since I was last in touch, however, I have not been idle! We now have 4 nice new tablets 512MB as opposed to 256MB in the old ones. The newer tablets should work a bit smoother and cope with the software we install onto them without freezing too much. The only down side is that the new models have the pens slotted on the outside of the tablet. These pens look more like a normal biro, but are less robust and more easily broken than the older models, which are smooth and pop into the frame surrounding the screen.
We had a visit from the high school technicians the other day - a very welcome sight! We had a log of the problems we had come across - the boys were heartened at how few problems we had encountered. They felt that most of the problems with freezing were to do with our tablets not being able to cope with some of the graphics work we had been asking them to do. Poor wee things - overworked! All in all they were most impressed by the whole project. As they spent the day working on the tablets in the classroom, they were aware of the work the children were doing. They couldn't believe the high skill levels and motivation of the children. This was a great boost for Arlene and I. I'm always a bit intimidated by ICT technicians - I'm always worried I make a right ICT gaff, and get flustered when I talk about the spec of a machine! However, we can't have done too badly, as the boys were amazed at how well the tablets were running considering the age of the users.

The last time we talked, I mentionned Assessment is For Learning and the tablets. We think that the tablets are perfect for making use of formative assessment. Assessment can be done by the teacher through one - to one work (remember the marking via email? - we are advancing onto the use of the public pupils folder on the network now). They can assess one another's work through the data projector and the whiteboard- this is an effective tool which we use often. They can also assess their own work. One example of this is a child who printed off a poster in which she had a piece of written work - using the pen. Once she had printed it off, she looked at the poster and decided that the hand writing was not neat enough and went off to make the necessary changes. Second time round, the work was much more to her liking. The children are able to evaluate their own work and then make the necessary modifications without starting all over again. I believe there is a lot of power in the delay of finishing a piece of work and then seeing it being printed out. It is as if the children are seeing their work with fresh eyes. How many times have we said ' Go and read this over again', and it hasn't happened...
Our learning support teacher is also making use of the tablets with some of the children. She is using the highlighting facility for the children to highlight the words they think they have spelt incorrectly. She is also using speech recognition software with one wee boy. Progress is slow, but she feels there is the potential for the software to be a real help when this child goes to high school.
I have to let you into a secret. It is the mid term break. It is a Friday afternoon and I am sitting at my computer, multi tasking - my husband has come in to get a shopping list for the butchers and has muttered something about being a saddo doing work during the holidays... sounds familiar?

Anyway, back to the tablets. Did you know we won an award? Argyll and Bute ran a council awards scheme, culminating in a grand dinner in the Corran Halls in Oban for the finalists. My HT Violet Cusworth, John McPhee and I were there and the tablet project picked up the award for 'Innovative Use of Technology'. We were dead chuffed. There is also going to be an article about us in LTScotland's magazine, Connected. Fame at last. I may retire on this high spot and buy some hens...
I've had a request to let you know about some of the other things we have been involoved in using ICT. Well, as you know, Arlene has been busy blogging away, with two blogs up and running. I plan to set up a blog for our Eco Schools Committee, with the children on the committee making the entries. This will keep the community up to date with our progress. We have also used funding to put a digital camera in all the classrooms, including the pre5 unit. This will encourage both teachers and children to make use of the cameras to plan, implement and assess their work. We have also invested in two laptops from Novatech solely designated to the two Smartboards. We have also bought trolleys to house the laptop, projector and speakers. We aim to have a piece of kit like this in every classroom over the next two years. The plan is to make each class almost self sufficient with basic ICT resources. Over the past few years, most problems have arisen when teachers go to use ICT resources and they are either not available or they don't work. This scunners everyone involved and they end up not using the resource. We are tring to overcome this. Through class work with the children and CPD training with the staff, everyone should be able to make good use of the resources in class and see them as valuable classroom tools - a bit like the tablets! I'll let you know how we get on.
Ok, getting major hassle from husband now to go to the Co-op for the weekly shop. Ah, the joys!
Until we meet again...