Moel-ty-Uchaf stone circle near Llandrillo in Gwynedd.
London. Nothing more to say.
The Forth Bridge from North Queensferry.
A view of Lake Vyrnmwy in mid-Wales. Edited using PhotoForge on iPad.
Just thought I would add a few favourite images of mine from 2011 to the Blog. You are welcome to re-use, though I'd welcome a credit - you can view a larger image size by clicking on the pic. The first is a view of the Copeland Islands from Groomsport in Northern Ireland. Effects were done on an iPad.
And another key document has been published (sneaked out?) this week by DfE. Consultation on the Areas of learning and Early Learning Goals for Foundation Stage was announced on Tuesday. The key documents show a slimmed down (surprise?) set of requirements with a focus on the 'basics'. Learning about technology does get a mention, but references to specifics in the current EYFS documentation (e.g. programmable toys) have disappeared. Should the findings of the Expert Panel Review of the National Curriculum be implemented, this could be the only place in the statutory curriculum where learning with/about technology gets a mention?!
Anyway, as the title says, its the time to wish readers of these ramblings very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. Looking forward to 2012?
A parting shot - this mind/concept map of links and sources for Global Learning and ESD was created in Mind42. An intuitive and useful tool.
Having taken a short while to re-read and reflect on the Expert Panel Review of the National Curriculum (summarised here), a few obvious points arise. There is some stuff we can broadly all agree on here (e.g. breadth in the primary curriculum) alongside more contentions material, including some of the selective international comparisons. If there is a problem with the current curriculum (declining standards?), then the solution offered by the Review appears to be a more academic, 'traditional', subject-based curriculum.
ICT is always going to sit uncomfortably in such a context because its status as an academic subject has never been entirely secure. Many, including myself, would argue that ICT has academic legitimacy because it is underpinned by distinct theories and processes. Others, coming from more traditional subject backgrounds would see it (to quote the Review) as one of the 'very worthwhile areas of learning [which] apply knowledge in particular ways or foreground particular areas of skill or competence – but have weaker epistemological roots'. ICT draws on knowledge and understandings from a range of disciplines to make a discrete whole. As a subject it is not alone in doing that - geography, for example, has a relatively small core of unique content; the rest is drawn from the sciences, history, mathematics.
The unique core of ICT (in primary, at any rate) is small, but contains content that is essential for the functioning individual in the 21st Century - child or adult - namely digital or media literacy, understandings about controlling devices, the provisionality of information, independent choice of digital tools. If this essential stuff is no longer defined in an agreed programme of study, but left to individual schools to determine, then we have a recipe, not for disaster, but for ever increasing inequalities of opportunity.
Apparently, 77% of respondents to the National Curriculum Review's call for evidence felt ICT should remain a statutory subject (with similar support for other 'demoted' subjects). The Expert Panel remained 'not entirely persuaded'. Discuss.
Although implementation has been booted into the long grass of 2014, the findings and recommendations in the Expert Panel Report published today (link to PDF file) gives an insight into the shape and structure of the new curriculum for England when it appears in twelve months time(?). Amongst the international comparisons and welcome focus on the importance of oral language, there is an explicit deconstruction and restructuring of key stages at primary level and a clear articulation of layers within the school curiculum: the Basic Curriculum made up of a 'slimmed down' National Curriculum of core and foundation subjects plus school-determined cross-curricular provision and a Local Curriculum determined, devised and delivered at school and community level.
So where does Information & Communication Technology sit within this structure? At the moment it is part of the National Curriculum with a programme of study and a set of defined attainment Targets. The Expert Panel's recommendation is that it ceases to have this status, but becomes part of the cross-curricular provision in the Basic Curriculum, alongside Design & Technology, Citizenship (both similarly moved from the NC) and current Basic Curriculum stalwarts: Religious Education and Sex Education (to name but two). At least that appears to be the recommendation at primary level, as there is an indication that Computer Science could have a place in the secondary curriculum. Schools will determine the content of these cross-curricular elements (though RE continues to have a peculiar status of being locally determined). In some ways, ICT is in a similar situation to what it was as a cross-curricular dimension in the much-missed New Primary Curriculum, except that it isn't labelled as an 'Essential for Learning and Life' and its status appears to be only as a tool for learning in other subjects.
So why this demotion (if we are to be simplistic)? The Expert Panel state that 'we are not entirely persuaded of claims that design and technology, information and communication technology and citizenship have sufficient disciplinary coherence' to be discrete subjects. They go on: 'Implicit in this judgement is a view of disciplinary knowledge as a distinct way of investigating, knowing and making sense with particular foci, procedures and theories, reflecting both cumulative understanding and powerful ways of engaging with the future. ... Some very worthwhile areas of learning apply such knowledge in particular ways or foreground particular areas of skill or competence – but have weaker epistemological roots.'
So we are into epistemology - always a favourite! ICT appears to be regarded as a set of skills and competencies, not serious knowledge and understanding for the 21st Century; not a 'powerful way of engaging with the future'.
So that is where we are - based on initial reading and this type of document always reveals hidden depths on re-reading. A few initial thoughts.
Below is my full list of ten online tools for primary education in 2011, including some alternatives that nearly made it into the list. I have tried to provide a selection of tools, which represents the range of what is out there for children at all levels of primary education from foundation stage (technically not primary, I know) to Year 6 (in England; again I'm aware that other UK countries use different labels - and there is an even wider range worldwide). I hope you find at least one of the tools/sites relevant and useful. Feedback appreciated.
And finally, one of my favourite animations, from a couple of years ago (and very seasonal) - made by two Primary PGCE students, who must now be well into their second year of teaching. Doesn't time fly when ...
No. 2 in my list of Top 10 online tools for primary education is the Aviary Education Music Creator. Part of the Aviary Suite of online tools (which include photo editing, drawing and sound editing facilities), the Music Creator is a seriously exciting tool, if you have ever wanted to make music (like me) and have no musical skills whatsoever (like me)! After an initial simple sign-up process, select the Music Editor link and you are presented with a deceptively simple interface - twelve instrumental tracks in which you insert notes or chords by pointing and clicking. Tempo, beats per measure and volume can all be modified easily and there is a choice of over one hundred instruments - which is where the Music Creator starts to get complicated. There is almost too much choice and the temptation is there to waste a huge amount of time fiddling and twiddling with everything from guitar chords to hand-claps to Latin percussion! The short track below was created in half an hour or so!
It uses drums, bass and piano only and the final stitching together required a little bit of work in Audacity to put the exported MP3 clips from Aviary into sequence. Sorry, got a bit techie there! Please take a look at the Music Creator - even if you end up not using it in school, it is an absolutely brilliant entirely free tool!
Hopefully, having conveyed my enthusiasm for the Music Creator, you wonder what could be better? At No. 1 in my list is Kerpoof Studio (mentioned in a post on 18th September) - specifically the Make a Movie option. Like Music Creator, this is a deceptively simple tool for making animations with ready-made scenes and characters. The sophistication lies in the facility to build the animation through a four-track timeline with several characters doing stuff at the same time - moving, 'emoting', saying lines, juggling, rotating; the list isn't endless, but is pretty impressive! Put simply, Make a Movie enables very young children to sequence and program creatively in an attractive, engaging and safe environment. Teacher accounts are free with the facility to set up classes with pre-defined logins and passwords.
'Children take it for granted. Indeed, technology seems to give rise to great interest, and often excitement and pleasure, among young people. New technology has radically changed the home and the workplace: it has a similar potential to transform the classroom.'
A quote from the latest Ofsted report into ICT in schools, published yesterday? No, in fact a short extract from 'Information technology from 5 to 16 (HMI Series: Curriculum Matters No. 15)', published in 1989! Illustrating that we've come some way in the language we use about ICT, but maybe not that very far in clichés and attitudes about its potential. The latest report obviously has a serious agenda in relation to secondary ICT, and the programming/computer science issue discussed in earlier posts, but it is interesting that the headline writers at the BBC and The Guardian (to name but two) have made a bee line for the negative stuff and reported some of the positive findings about primary ICT only in passing.
Primary ICT comes out of the report fairly well: 'The overall effectiveness of ICT was good or outstanding in over two thirds of the primary schools visited'. What is interesting and rather depressing is that we have the same three areas of weakness in terms of teaching and learning identified for (what seems) the umpteenth time in Ofsted reports: control, data handing and assessment. Although its clear that outstanding schools (11 of the 88 primary schools visited) are doing something about these issues, they seem to be stubbornly resistant to improvement and change. Once more Ofsted recommend that schools 'provide subject-specific support and professional development to improve teachers’ confidence and expertise', but where this is going to come from with the decline of expertise in local authorities, I don't know? CPD innovations like TeachMeets, may be a way forward, but I get the sense that such events are meetings of the savvy and converted not those who really need to be there? Am I wrong? I hope so.
Below is a Wordle based on the report (with 'schools', 'school', 'pupils' and 'students' removed). I suppose the prominent words are the ones you would expect, although words like 'creative' or 'creativity' are notable by their absence.
On the subject of creativity, I have added a few new stop-motion animation videos to my YouTube channel - all made by Yr 2 Early Years ITT students in a short workshop on Wednesday. The example below is seasonal, witty and nicely animated.
Which brings me to a disappointment - I was going to add to my Top 10 list of online tools in this post, but have just checked and discovered that Draw Anywhere, an online drawing and diagramming tool, which was my intended No. 2 now no longer has a free version. The best it offers is a free 30 day trial. As one of the key criteria for my choice of tools is having a worthwhile free version, I am afraid its disqualified. Similarly, Glogster EDU would have been in my list, except it now charges for a Teacher account - only a single account is free. Obviously, the business models of these services require these changes, but, as I said, its disappointing for the cash-strapped school or teacher in these troubled times.
Tony Pickford is a tutor and writer on primary education.