Monday, September 04, 2006

The Last Post

It is now September 2006 and it has been six months since I last posted an entry – I think this tells me it is time to say farewell and make this our last posting. I know that in the last six months I was ambitious for our blog – looking for more interaction from both the children and other members of staff. I was not in the tablet class very much last session, but Arlene always kept me up to date with developments within her class. Perhaps there was just too much blogging going on which made the whole feedback process less manageable. A lesson may be to keep things simple – one class blog which changes focus throughout the year?
Back to the tablets. We are now two years on from when we were first given the tablets and boy, have things changed in our school regarding ICT! Has this been just a case of keeping up with the times or have the tablets changed the way we think about ICT in learning and teaching? I think that the tablets have given us an insight into the future – a change in the way our children learn. They have also given us the confidence to use the tablets in new and innovative ways, thus changing the way we teach. I still think the staff are a little overwhelmed by the tablets and worry that something is going to go wrong with them. The secret is to be brave and fearless and use them – they are only tools after all, and if something goes wrong, it gets fixed. To be fair, very little has gone wrong with the tablets –we’ve had a couple of damaged pens, and one screen which is on its way out, but that’s not bad considering the amount of use they have had over the past two years.
There is no doubt that the tablets motivate the children. Even though the children have become used to having them at their fingertips, they have never become complacent about using or looking after them. Its funny, but I have a new class working with the tablets this year, and it is interesting watching the children build up ownership of them and being responsible for them – worthy qualities to develop. Meanwhile, in the next classroom the original tablet children are constantly through asking if they ‘could borrow their tablet’ – wee souls!
Indulge me with one last tablet story – Last term I decided we needed to get the children using the class digital cameras more, so I planned a series of activities using the cameras, the tablets and free photo editing software called ‘Picasa2’ (from Google). Each class from P3 – P7 became confident in taking photos, downloading them onto the tablets and editing them using Picasa2. This series of activities ended with a photo competition, using objects in the school grounds as the subject. The children’s photos were fantastic – each one was different. Every child succeeded in printing off an edited photo – skills they can carry on in the classroom and at home independently. The Royal Bank sponsored the competition and the winner was given a digital camera. I uploaded the photos onto www.photoboxgallery.com/portellenps - why not have a wee look at what our wonderful children have been up to? This topic was such a success – it covered ICT, citizenship, enterprise, school grounds – you’ve got to have a go!
I think the tablet project allowed us to dip our toe into a new and exciting learning environment. We liked this new environment and decided we wanted more. This has led to staff being excited about what ICT can do for them in the classroom. We are excited about what this new session is going to bring. But it has taken a lot of work to get to this point. We have invested a lot of time in training, creating a framework in order to bring ICT to the classroom and making it meaningful. We have also invested a lot of money in equipping our classrooms with a good set of ICT learning and teaching tools. It has not happened overnight but I think the tablets have contributed to all of this. Changes have to be small and sustainable. We are now at a point where I team teach ICT with each member of staff. Slowly they are taking the reins and making ICT work for them.
This summer I signed up to be an SSDN / GLOW mentor. We have to write a blog about how we use ICT in our daily work. If you would like to hear how Port Ellen is getting on in the brave new world of ICT, pop in every now and again, it would be good to hear from you- http://kathleenjohnston.edublogs.org/
Lastly, I’m sorry if my attempts at humour have diluted the worth of the tablet project – at the beginning of the project I felt it was so important for readers to hear from a real person – someone who has to juggle life as well as teaching. Thank you for taking the time to find out about our progress within the project, and I hope you have found this diary useful. The PC Tablet Project has been an amazing learning experience for us and our children.
All the Best
Kathleen