Category Archives: education

Shadow Play: Investigating shadow and light in preschool.

shadows
Shadows provide extraordinary educational opportunities.  Not only do they raise a spontaneous curiosity in the child, stimulating his imagination and exercising his emerging intellectual abilities but they are also omnipresent (even more than sand, stones, water or “pencil and paper”, because you only need a bit of sunlight or even a candle to produce them). Perhaps more effectively than other things, shadows can nourish the child’s need to do and to experiment given the ease with which the variables involved in their formation and transformation can be manipulated.

( Guido Peter – The Hundred Languages of Children)

My youngest has become increasingly fascinated by shadows. As we walk along she shouts

I can see your shadow

or

my shadow is long

With this in mind I thought it would be a nice idea to make shadow shapes and draw around them with pavement chalk.  Some shapes worked better than others, my youngest daughter’s shadow looked a little like an embryo!

embryo shadow

The girls drew around them. They were particularly interested by the fact that they couldn’t see the whole of their legs.  It was a very hot day so only my 4- year- old wanted to colour in the detail.  They were very proud of them and pointed them out to their dad every time he walked over the driveway.

My 4- year -old has very poor eyesight and needs practice copying and tracing shapes to enhance her perceptual motor skills . I hate the idea of sitting her down with worksheets so I thought shadow tracing might be a nice alternative.  We took a number of objects outside to draw around. We even attempted to draw around her bike, which was a little tricky.

Later in the week we were playing with blocks in the house.

My 2-year old declared

I have a shadow, it’s behind me

Where is the shadow coming from?   What makes it appear?

Maybe the fan.

Okay, so let’s turn the fan off and see if they disappear.  Has it gone?

No

My 4-year-old had an idea

I know maybe it’s the light, let’s turn it off.  It’s gone!……………oh hang on it’s still there, it’s just fainter.

Shall we see if we have a shadow outside today?

We don’t have a shadow……. Oh wait, when you sit  down there is a bit of a shadow.

Why do you think that happens?

I don’t know.  Let’s see if there are any shadows on the grass.  No, not even the dog.

Do the trees have shadows?

Yes and the bushes.

My 2-year-old had an idea,

Maybe the sun has taken away our shadows.

No, that’s not right because the sun makes the shadows.

Maybe when the sun is not there it takes them away?

I know, let’s draw a sun and see if they come back.

drawing a sun
drawing a sun to bring the shadows back

I know we can stand in the sun and make it bright colours to see if it comes out.

In the meantime my 9-year-old came to join us. I told them the girls had a bit of a problem that they were trying to solve and wondered if she could work it out.

Why is it that when it is cloudy there are no shadows but when things are close to the ground there is a small shadow?

Maybe it’s because it is darker when you are close to the ground

But there is no sun and you need light to make a shadow.

Yes, but if it was dark I couldn’t make a shadow because it couldn’t get darker.

If we were in the sun and it was too bright what would we do?

Stand in the shade.

What makes the shade?

A tree.

So what is happening to make the shade?

I don’t understand.

I drew a picture of the sun in the sky with a stick person stood underneath and a tree with a stick person underneath the tree.

Oh, the tree gets in the way of the sun.

At that moment as the girls were standing in their picture of the sun, the sun came out.

standing in the sun
They stood in the sun and hey presto the sun came out. Look, it worked the sun came out!

I think we might work on reflections as a starting point for our pre-school year .  We could

  • Resurrect the shadow puppet theatre
  • Use the projector to make and investigate shadows
  • Place paper on the windows and observe and trace shadows
  • Continue to talk about and ask questions about shadows when we are out and about.
  • Make a homemade light table
  • Investigate mirrors and natural materials
  • Observe reflections in water

and wherever else it might take us.

Save the Children Food for Thought – The Link Between Literacy and Nutrition

save the children, food for thoughtI write a lot about the pre-requisite skills to learning to read.  Talking with children, playing with language, reading to your child and developing listening skills are all important but for some children even with these things they will fail to thrive educationally.

Why? Because of poor nutrition.

Malnutrition is an underlying cause of 2.3 million children’s deaths a year, and for millions more children contributes to failures in cognitive and educational development. As a result, the life chances of millions of children around the world are devastated. The long-term consequences of child malnutrition for health and resilience to disease are well established. But new evidence commissioned by Save the Children, for the first time identifies the impact of malnutrition on educational outcomes across a range of countries.

The Story of Ngouth a 12-Year Old from South Sudan

RS55849_Nguoth studying_Wechpuot Primary School1Although he is 12 years old, Nguoth looks about eight. Like many students in his class, for two years he had to drop out of school because there wasn’t enough food at home. He still misses school at least two days a week to go into the bush to find wild fruits. On the other days, he comes to school hungry. In 2010, the UN declared Akobo, the region where Nguoth lives, the ‘the hungriest place on earth’. Drought, floods and inter-communal conflict have left a third of children malnourished.

I was five years old when I started school. Sometimes I had to stop coming because I was hungry.  For two years I dropped out because I had to go to the river to fish and to the bush to collect wild fruits for my family. I think the situation is getting worse and more children are stopping coming to school to help their family.

Hunger is very bad in this area. We have no gardens to grow food because the floods destroyed them. The people are angry with each other and there’s no peace [referring to inter-communal conflict and cattle raids affecting the area]. People are very sick, malaria is very high and lots of children are absent from school. It’s hard for children to be happy and take part in class because they’re hungry.

My favourite subject is science and when I finish school I’d like to be a doctor.

RS55844_Nguoth in class_Wechpuot Primary School_Akobo5Nguoth is currently studying at one of 20 schools supported by Save the Children through a DFID funded project in Akobo East. Save the Children is providing these schools with text books, desks and other school supplies, training teachers and has set up and is supporting Parent Teacher Associations and Student Advocacy Teams that encourage more children to enrol in school.

To enable  Ngouth and thousands of children like him to achieve their dreams they  need adequate food.

Food for Thought forms part of the IF campaign where 170 charities have joined together to call for the G8 to take action on World Hunger. A number of high-profile children’s authors have also agreed to support the Food for Thought report with an open letter to G8 leaders – these include Julia Donaldson, Eric Carle and Philip Pullman.

Julia Donaldson, the Children’s Laureate and author of the bestselling book The Gruffalo, said:

“The devastating impact of malnutrition shouldn’t be underestimated. It stunts a child’s development, sapping the strength of their minds as well of their body, depriving them of the chance to be able to read or write a simple sentence”

How can you help?

Read the full report

Sign the petition

Follow the IF Campaign

Follow the campaign via Britmums

CBeebies – Magic Hands: Translating Poetry into British Sign Language

cbeebiesOften as parents we are unsure about  introducing  children to poetry, fearing that it is difficult to understand. My children however love poetry and will often choose to read it rather than prose. A new CBeebies programme Magic Hands launching soon will make poetry even more accessible to children.
CBeebies Magic Hands  is a brand new and groundbreaking series for the channel featuring poetry translated into British Sign Language.

A co-commission with BBC Learning, Magic Hands  presents modern and classic poetry for children in a way that has never been seen before. Across the series, the Magic Hands presenting team – Ashley, Donna, Aimee and Simon – perform some of the best children’s poetry entirely in British Sign Language (BSL).

From Robert Louis Stephenson to Roger Stevens and Michaela Morgan, the programmes are fun, five-minute packages that mix sign language, the spoken word, music and vibrant animation to bring the poems to life and capture the imaginations of both deaf and hearing children.

The series is made for CBeebies by Remark Ltd, a company that is owned, staffed and run by people who are deaf.

Series producer, Judith Bunting, says: “Translating modern and traditional poems for children into BSL on such a scale is a first. There are deaf poets and deaf theatre companies but no national television company has ever tried translating children’s poetry into BSL.

The Magic Hands presenters are all new to television and have been profoundly deaf since birth. On set they worked with professional interpreters along with the series’ artistic director, Jean St Clair, and both deaf and hearing production crew.

Each episode of Magic Hands is based around a single verse, interpreted for children. The selection comes from poets including Christina Rossetti, Kenn Nesbit, Gareth Lancaster, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Katharine Pyle, Charles Kingsley, James Carter, Sarah Coleridge, Maya Angelou, Rabindranath Tagore and Grace Andreacchi as well as Shakespeare.

Controller of CBeebies, Kay Benbow, says: “We are delighted to bring Magic Hands to CBeebies. The mix of sign language, music and lively animation creates spellbinding poetry that we are sure all our young viewers will enjoy.”

Magic Hands will be broadcast in the Spring.

Homeschooling and Expatriation

Thank you to the  The Expat Hub for providing today’s guest post. The Expat Hub is a website with lots of useful tips for those who are considering a move overseas or those like us who have already made the move.

Homeschooling isn’t something I have considered for my own children, we are fortunate to have good schools in the area and my children are happy. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone but the article below outlines the pros and cons of homeschooling both generally and from an expat perspective.

 

homeschoolingHomeschooling is a subject which always seems to inspire debate.
It might not be for everyone but with the number of children being home schooled on the rise it’s clearly a viable option for some families.
But is it a good choice for families who have emigrated?

Before we talk about homeschooling in specific relation to expatriate children here are some of the most commonly argued pros and cons of homeschooling.

Pros

• Testing has shown that homeschooled children are good self-directed learners, do as well in exams as their public/private school counterparts and are well received at colleges and universities.
• Although the national curriculum has to be covered (and the children must prove their competence in specific subjects through testing) generally speaking there is far more educational freedom at home then in the classroom. What can be taught, how it can be taught, and where is much less prescriptive.
• Bullying is a sad aspect of mainstream education, something which can have a negative, and in some cases incredibly serious, impact on a child. In a homeschooling environment bullying isn’t an issue. Consequently a child may be less likely to suffer from low self esteem or condition their behaviour to ‘fit in’. Homeschooling can also be a fantastic way of gradually building up the confidence of a child who has been a victim of bullying in a traditional school.
• By not having to stick to traditional school hours homeschooled children and their parents can work out a schedule which benefits everyone. Children can also stay in bed a little longer, allowing for better rested (and more intellectually receptive) students.
• Homeschooling can also help build stronger ties between family members. Parents of rebellious children have often noted how destructive behaviours lessened or disappeared following a period of homeschooling. Spending more time with their children allows parents to know them better, giving them the opportunity to witness important life changes they could otherwise miss.
• One of the things many parents have commented on is how, without schoolroom distractions, children are able to accomplish more work in a shorter space of time. This often means that the concept of homework going on well into the evening, a major stress of many parents, is no longer an issue.
• During difficult times like illness, bereavement or moving children in traditional education are prone to experience disruption and can find it difficult to focus. The natural flexibility of homeschooling means that it is much easier to work around a family issue.
• Going to a traditional school can also be a costly business. There are school uniforms to buy, PE kits, packed/school lunches, lunch boxes, pencil cases, bus fare/petrol costs and school trips. Some or all of these expenses can be eliminated with homeschooling.

Cons
• Whilst homeschooling is more flexible than having to stick with a school timetable it does take up a lot of time for parents. As well as the actual teaching involved there’s marking, lesson planning/activity organising and lunch making, and a dozen other things besides!
• Some people consider homeschooling to be ‘weird’ and those who do it are in the minority. Parents, and children, must be prepared to experience criticism and negative comments.
• Homeschooling is a full time job, one which requires a serious investment of time and effort. For those parents who have to work alongside to supplement their incomes life can be very busy and tiring.
• Further to the point above, homeschooling can severely limit your household income, particularly for single parents. Even couples can find it a struggle to make ends meet if one of them has to give up work in order to make homeschooling a possibility.
• Although spending more time together as a family is something which sounds like a pro in theory, the reality can be difficult and littered with ups and downs. Parents have to be prepared for the occasional tantrum or argument, and children have to understand the way they’re expected to behave during ‘school’ hours.
• If you have just one or two children to teach the group and team activities you can enjoy together are going to be severely limited. Many homeschooling families find it necessary to enrol their children in extracurricular activities, particularly sporting ones, so they don’t miss out.
• In some instances children who are homeschooled find it difficult to interact with others outside of the home environment. Whilst the loss of social interaction is the main point raised by homeschooling detractors, parents who want to home school can arrange activities, take their children to public events and encourage them to make friends within their local community. Social isolation can be a problem, but it’s one that’s relatively easy to work around.

 

So those are the pros and cons of homeschooling, but what different things do you have to consider if your family is emigrating?

Pros
Firstly, although children tend to adapt to new environments more easily than adults, how well they are able to acclimatise varies hugely according to their age, confidence levels and previous experiences, and can even be affected by whether or not they have siblings.
Generally, the older a child is the more fervent an attachment they will have developed to the home they’ve left behind and the more resistant they’ll be to all the changes in their lives. Homeschooling can be a good option in this case, and it can also help you overcome the initial language barrier older children often face when entering the schooling system abroad.

Choosing between a pricy international school and a cheaper (but often more culturally challenging) local school can be a real headache for parents. Deciding to home school can alleviate some of the stress!

If your move abroad is temporary sending a child to a mainstream school can be a real upheaval when you have to leave. Home schooling is a great way of making sure your child doesn’t miss out on their education without the issues of them having to adapt to a new school only to leave soon after. If you talk to the teachers at your child’s school before you move you may even be able to pick up their curriculum exactly where they left off, making the transition smoother.

The Big Con
If you’ve emigrated for good it’s important to get the family integrated into their new environment as quickly as possible. Homeschooling might be a sensible and attractive option but as a family you run the risk of spending too much time together and not enough time getting to know your new home and meeting new people. When it comes to homeschooling abroad social isolation is as big a problem for parents as children. If it is something you want to pursue ensure that you and your children are involved in separate activities which will encourage you to make your own connections. Building a life for yourself beyond the family home can be the most challenging thing about emigrating and making your family a self sufficient unit really won’t make things easier in the long run!

No payment was received for this guest post.

Why Use Technology in Education? Professor Tanya Byron

In the above video from Tanya Byron’s keynote speech at the 2011 FOSI conference, she explains her response to the government when faced with this question.  She speaks with such passion and conviction and I found myself nodding with excitement all the way through.

I think there are 2 key points to this argument.  Firstly that education needs to be made more relevant to children’s everyday experience. Children live in a multimedia world and are excited by it.  Bringing this multimedia world into their education will make learning more exciting and when learning is exciting we achieve better results.

My 7 year old often says school is boring and she hates writing.  She is one of the brightest children in her class, if she finds it boring imagine how the least able children feel. Which brings me to the second point.  Education in this country is about whether or not you are academic, if you are academic you are clever , otherwise you are not and pushed down a seemingly less important vocational route. This notion of what ‘clever’ is forms from the very beginning of school and unfortunately it is often boys who are not academic and would prefer to do something more active. Unsurprisingly the gap between boys and girls widens.

When children lack motivation they misbehave and eventually give up on school altogether ( as happened with my younger brother). Technology has so much promise as a way of engaging children and raising standards.  It is relevant to their lives and gives them skills for their future.  My own daughter’s teacher recognised that children of this generation will be unlikely to use pen and paper as a main source of writing in the future.  Yet there is still fear about doing something different and worries that they have insufficient equipment .

This is why we need inspirational leaders, with ideas, energy and enthusiasm to show teachers what can be done. If enough influential people share this message, perhaps one day we will be heard.

TEDx London 2011 The Education Revolution

WP_000716

I was fortunate to attend TEDx London this weekend. This event was born from issues raised in Sir Ken Robinson’s 2010 TED talk and was designed to raise the question ‘ How can we bring on the Education Revolution?’

What can all those involved ACTUALLY  DO to ensure that the old and irrelevant in education is thrown out and  that we can build a new model of constant reinvention to ensure that  education provides what industry requires and more importantly what   young people need to flourish in today’s world.

I returned from TEDx London, my head buzzing with ideas, questions and things to explore.  Many of the underlying concepts were not new but were reiterated by passionate individuals and illustrated by exciting examples from the world of education. These were some of my highlights:-

The talks were split into 3 sections

  1. What’s Wrong / What’s Happening
  2. What’s Right
  3. What’s Next.

The first session began with a live feed from Sir Ken Robinson.  He discussed his views on the purpose of education

Economic – Education underpins the modern economy and for a modern economy there is a need for creativity and innovation.

 Cultural – Helping to understand each others cultures and relieve the problems of cultural mistrust.

Personal – Education is about individuals, it cannot be mechanistic and should encourage students to become engaged.  For this reason education should be personalised.

Sir Ken Robinson’s vision for change includes

  • Education that is personalised
  • Improvements in the motivation of both students and teachers
  • Education that is customised to the needs of the particular community or individual school
  • Education is about diversity and standardisation offends diversity.
  • Education is about partnership with great institutions and the community.

A number of these points were a common thread throughout the talks.  The importance of recognising children as individuals and encouraging, rather than stifling their talents and interests, came time and again. The need to motivate children and encourage them to think for themselves and the many possibilities that technology offers  also kept reappearing.

I consider myself fortunate to work in Early Education.  Active learning, teaching that stems from children’s interests and strengths and listening to the child’s voice are fairly widespread.  Learning is fun in the early years and it would be unusual to find a pre-school child who grumbled that school was boring. I hope that all education can take lessons from early education at its best.

Adam Roberts an 18 year old human rights campaigner talked about  critical thinking and how his mother’s encouragement to ask questions set him up for life. As young children we instinctively ask questions, but as we grow older children are often discouraged from questioning. This point was made even more strongly in Ewan McIntosh’s talk. Ewan explained the need for children to be problem finders rather than problem solvers.  He showed a group of 7 and 8 year olds who were asked to put on their own TEDx event.  The children were inspired to come up with their own questions, prompted by ‘have you ever wondered?’ The children came up with wonderful philosophical questions and the excitement and animation shown by the children was truly infectious

Another common thread was the potential for  embracing social media and technology in the classroom.  By doing this we are bringing the real world into the classroom rather than viewing education and school as separate to other aspects of life. Dan Roberts  believes strongly in education through technology and demonstrated some of the things his students at Saltash.net Community School are doing.

 

The What’s Right sessions showed a number of inspirational projects including:

History pin – building a history of real people and places using photographs and video footage.

A workshop from Seeper with a school for children on the autistic spectrum, showing how technology can motivate and engage children Dr Matt Whitby  showing how awe-inspiring science can be, through his off the wall science experiments.

 

Tim Exile – a musician who has invented a machine to create spontaneous electronic music using a variety of sounds.

 

The Final session involved speakers who are thinking in a new way and their pleas for like-minded individuals to join them in this journey.

Dougald Hine was inspirational.  He talked about change  with determination and self belief, a firm believer in making things  happen.

Emily Cummings the 24 year old inventor has been named Barclays woman of the year in 2009 and one of the top ten outstanding young people in the world in 2010.  She explained how her passion for designing began when her grandfather taught her to make things in his workshop. Teachers recognised her talent and entered her for competitions, harnessing her enthusiasm and giving her new goals.

Sir Ken Robinson closed the day with a plea to make alternatives a part of the mainstream.  A new vision for education including personalised learning, group activity, the closeness of the community and using and sharing talents.  Many of the case studies from young people at the conference showed that talents were often discovered and utilised outside of school.The community then has an important role to play in educating children The closing lines resonated with me

New technologies will make change possible.

Technology alone doesn’t do much, it’s what we do with it that matters.

There were some wonderful examples of what we do with technology and creative thinking.  I came away with lots of ideas and things that I wanted to share but also a feeling of uncertainty about what I can do to make a difference.  I want to share inspirational ideas and inspire others to try new ways of teaching.  Why?  I believe that we need to be able to use the tools that children are used to at home and that will form a large part of their future rather than sweeping them under the carpet .  Technology will not replace traditional play but will enhance it if we use it creatively. It gives opportunities for awe and wonder, for raising questions, self discovery and creative expression. My endeavour is to show this in practice and inspire others to do the same.

 

Starting School – A Change in the Relationship

20110823-233234.jpg

I was asked if I would write a post about starting school. This isn’t a recent event in our household, my eldest started school 3 years ago. Many of my friends are struggling with the thought of their children going to school, fearing how much they will miss them. I don’t remember feeling any great sense of loss but this was probably due to the impending birth of my 2nd child. My eldest starting school meant that I would be able to spend quality time with the baby and get rest when I needed it. One thing that has struck me however when recalling those times is the way in which our relationship changed once she started school.

When you have a baby and toddler you feel that you know everything about them, you are always with them when they do things and understand all their little signals better than anyone else. You as a parent are also the biggest influence on your child’s life. You decide what they are exposed to, what they do, where they go and how they are disciplined and brought up. I felt very close to my daughter in her pre-school years. I wasn’t a stay at home mum but even on my working days I spent time talking to her about what she had done and planning what we would do together.

I think this has been the biggest change since starting school. I am no longer the only influence on her life and many of the things that happen on a daily basis I never know about. When I ask about her day I get ‘fine’ as a blanket response. Yes, she still talks about some things, but I do feel that there is a lot that I miss out on. Helping out at school sometimes helps, you get to know the other children and the routine and teachers. This has been difficult however since having her younger sisters. Being at school takes up a lot of time, couple that with clubs and playing with friends and sometimes you feel like you barely see them. I try really hard to build in quality time, bedtime stories, talking at mealtimes or sharing a game or piece of music, but it still feels inadequate compared to the early days.

I have had a positive experience with school. My daughter has enjoyed school, been sufficiently challenged, enjoyed new experiences and made good friends. She is growing into a wonderful young lady and becoming independent. On occasions we have time together doing things that the younger ones wouldn’t appreciate or be able to do. I look forward to more of these as she grows older.

Once our children start school we are no longer the be all and end all, but we are still a major influence on their lives. They still love and need us, they still look up to us and want us to share in their achievements and interests. We no longer get to spend so much time doing things with them but that enables us to do more for ourselves and appreciate the times when we can do things together. Starting school is a new chapter, bringing new challenges but it is also a time when child and parent alike can gain a bit of independence and build new interests .

My Grown Up Weekend part 3 – Festival of Education Bob Geldof

Besides the fabulous weather and the chance to chill out in the sunshine in beautiful surroundings, the highlight of the festival was Bob Geldof’s Speech.

He was relaxed, engaging, funny and above all passionate. He used a rich intelligent vocabulary, peppered with a few swear words and held the audience in the palm of his hand.  The speech began with recollections of his own experience of education which he described as ‘ a horror’. The 2 saving graces were radio and poetry.  Radio helped him to see other possibilities – the possibility of change.

He talked of a key message that he had learned from Africa

Only the educated are free.

Inequality is a signature feature of today’s society and in an asymmetric world instability is inherent.  42 million children went to school for the first time as a result of the G8 cancelling national debt, these children have an entrepreneurial spirit far greater than children in our own culture. Similarly in China 400 million  people have been pulled out of poverty enabling them to become world market leaders. In the UK education has become a given right and therefore children derive little inspiration from it – perhaps then it is time for a shift in the purpose of education.

Bob Geldof talked of the role of education in this country.  He described values as shaping our future.  Britain is the most tolerant of all countries and we will only keep to that through education.  The cliché is that children are our future, but how do they become our future? The UK is full of creativity, it has fostered many creative geniuses from musicians to poets and the creative arts was the 6th greatest industry in this country for many years.  Of course creativity is not only about the arts but also about creating new technologies and inventions and recognising genius early on.  He encourages the importance of spreading these values throughout the world ‘or black darkness faces us’.

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it

The talk ended with a story of a time in the Congo when he rested from the heat and was fanning himself under a tree.  A Bicycle came by and rang a bell and a multitude of people came from their huts clutching laptops and plugged in to download email.  The world’s ideas will change as a consequence of such people.

all progress depends on the unreasonable man – George Bernard Shaw.

In my opinion the most important skills we can teach children is to ask questions, think for themselves and believe that they can make a difference.  Bob Geldof was so passionate and articulate about what he believes in, that you can clearly see why he has been able to make a difference and will continue to do so.

If you ever get a chance to see/hear him speak don’t hesitate his talk was truly enthralling.

My Grown Up Weekend part 2 – Festival of Education : Technology and Education

As regular readers will be aware I am very interested in the use of new technology in early years classrooms.  I was pleased to see therefore that the Festival of Education at Wellington College Crowthorne had a number of sessions relating to education and technology.  As usual at these events most of the content was aimed at working with older children but I found a number of ideas/materials that could be adapted for use with younger children.

Jan Webb  from Microsoft gave an interesting talk outlining many of the free resources available to teachers and the ways in which she had used them in the classroom.  Many of the resources were used to link up with schools in other countries to add another dimension to project based learning.  This could be used really successfully in an early years classroom, using video chat to talk about and demonstrate concepts such as snow to young children who may not have seen it before.

Jan explained that the Partners in Learning Network provides free downloadable software for use in the classroom.  I got up and showed off my singing talents to demonstrate Songsmith – for creating music (ok it was only Happy Birthday).

Shireland  Collegiate academy demonstrated  their learning gateway .  Though this is a secondary school and would be used very differently in an early years setting, I saw merits in the way that staff could share planning and assessments, as a means of getting parents involved in their children’s learning and making learning visible to them.

There was an interesting discussion at the end of the day about what we could teach the Facebook generation.  There were some interesting points regarding worries about the ever growing use of technology and social media.  On the positive side was the idea that worries about technology are similar  to worries about the novel in the eighteenth century and that whatever children are interested in will become the dubious thing.  I think that is an interesting view and that we should be using children’s interests to stimulate meaningful learning , rather than threatening to ban things. Another point made was that in this generation the most important skill we can teach children is to take charge of their own destiny. Some felt that this generation were in danger of losing social skills and that technology should be limited to allow children to spend time reading.  A straw poll was taken as to the preference between physical books and reading them electronically.  Personally for me I would much rather have a kindle with hundreds of books in one place than have to find or carry real books.  I suppose there is still some sentimentality about having books on a shelf, but is that because they are precious or because we want to show others what we have read?

I have many links and inspirational practice to look up as a follow up to the festival, these will appear on the blog in due course.

Is there any value in pre-schoolers using iPads?

 

As you may have read in previous posts I am very interested in harnessing technology to engage children in early literacy.  I have been reading a number of articles about using iPad with pre-school children and am still yet to come to a satisfactory conclusion. 

In Maine there is an initiative to give iPads to  pre-schools in the hope that it will open up new worlds of learning for students.  It is recognised that this it will take a great deal of thought to achieve optimum benefits.  The hope is that it will be used to open up new avenues for exploration and not purley for entertainment.

 http://new.bangordailynews.com/2011/04/22/education/ipad-use-among-kindergartners-sparks-debate/

This is where I struggle.  My 7-year-old has just been allowed a DSi and I had hoped that she would use it as a camera and music player, creating projects to share . As yet I have only seen her engrossed in solitary activity and pushing her younger sister away.  I fear that this could also be the case with iPads if the applications are not creative and far-reaching enough.  Are there any applications that promote creativity and open-ended activities?  Are there any that are designed to be used with groups of children collaborating on tasks?

I have looked for many recommendations but have so far found that most involve variations on the same theme.  The kind of things that have been around on children’s websites for years – memory match games, puzzles, flashcards, colouring in, matching and tracing. Also I have seen a number of interactive books which are great on some levels but would worry that they would replace important aspects like bedtime stories.

So I’m very much on the fence at the moment .  If anyone has experience of using an iPad with pre-schoolers (particularly in the classroom) or has found any ground breaking applications in line with an active, play based,creative and interactive classroom I would love to hear about your experiences.