Head Teacher's Pet (Alpaca my bag now)

Some things are meant for sharing and some things aren’t. When your audience is parents it’s not unnatural to think once or twice about what you might share. However, an Alpaca in the Head’s Office? No brainer. It makes “dog in the playground” seem very pedestrian.

alpaca ma bag

This Alpaca went on tour around the classes with the wonderfully Doolittle-esque Head Teacher Dave McPartlin and in terms of memories for the children you can only imagine them re-telling the day’s events when they saw their families later that day.

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Isn’t it refreshing that in the prevailing climate of risk avoidance and health & safety we have an ‘Ofsedicially’ Outstanding school prepared to take in large South American mountain dwelling creatures in the name of enrichment & probably a few other things too…including fun?

On the face of it it’s slightly bonkers.

Conventional wisdom might say

  • do it, but don’t make too big a fuss as parents might not ‘get it’
  • do it and feature the visit in the next school newsletter at the end of the month
  • do it and pop a photo on the school website

Unconventional wisdom might say, do it then share it on Facebook the same day so that mums and dads might actually believe their children when they get home!  Today that’s exactly what happened. Unconventional wisdom won and the response from parents at Heysham St Peter’s CE Primary was very good.

euronews polar bear

By coincidence in the news two days ago another large furry mammal was spotted in London – specifically a Polar Bear.  Wait.  A massive polar bear in London down in the Tube (and later other places too) with small children? What could possibly go wrong?

For me, social media engagement is about stories and in my talks round and about the place with groups of Heads that’s what I delve in to in more detail.  Whether it’s stories about an Alpaca in the Head Teacher’s office or Polar Bears on the London Underground it doesn’t matter too much. Every person and place has a story to tell so why not share it? You’ll might be surprised at the reaction.

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School App Maker Admin Update

The new app maker currently in closed BETA testing is getting a, dare we suggest it, beautiful overhaul of how user admin is handled.  Having played tonight with the new interface and features first-hand I can say that it makes admin almost a pleasure.

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A sneaky peak of a tiny bit of the new School App Maker Admin

 

We’ll be unleashing the new app maker for general release really soon so keep your eyes peeled if you’re interested in seeing the new incarnation.

In the meantime don’t forget our new free publication for primary year 6 computing in support of app making.

Sneaky Mission on a Train

Yesterday I was on a train journey that seemed so dull it could have been in black and white.  And that’s when I had an idea.

blippit image editing

I took a sneaky quick snap in the reflection of the train window, being sure not to arouse attention with a loud shutter sound effect or auto flash that would give the game away.

I sent the photo up to the Cloud via 4G which then synced to my laptop. Once there I loaded up my beta version of the new app maker which is currently in closed testing with peeps from schools.

One of the new features in the BETA comes under the heading of ‘funky’.  It was never requested by any user ever but what the heck we built it anyway because we believe it’ll have a big impact for the better.

Essentially we’ve taken the app maker and turned the Image Widget bit of it into a full blown image editor capable of quite magical things. Well, in the right hands anyway; not necessarily mine as you can see.

We can’t wait to see what our users do with this 🙂 Choo choo!

 

Green Park Primary School – Change for all the right reasons

Yesterday, thanks to a random tweet about Chromebooks by Green Park Primary computing lead Pete Rafferty (@Raff31), I had the great pleasure of spending a morning there with the children, teachers & Head Teacher Mrs Hains.

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One of the areas I’m always really interested in is how schools make things happen, why they happened in the first place and what’s the outcome at the end of it all.  The time spent in year 3 & 6 was so interesting that many things, though not necessarily in this order, shot through my mind
  • if Ofsted walked in now, unannounced, where would they put themselves & how would they begin to understand what was happening
  • technology is often seen as an isolator of children; a shutting down of a child to those around them. Not so particularly in the Year 3 lesson. The level of conversation leading to division of labour and ongoing review of improvements was really quite special.
  • the children can choose the right tool for them; they use a white board to jot down the essence of information from a web page then the Chromebooks to edit and add it into their work. Less & less copy & paste
  • distributing leadership across the class is a much-hammered phrase down the years but when the teacher ‘believes’ and hands over the reigns it’s a powerful thing in a one-to-one situation
  • shift happens; peer review/AfL is non-threatening here and being shared to the big screen is no biggie
    • children invite others to collaborate on their work including the teacher
  • risk taking is a gradual process but clearly the Head has, with teachers, nurtured a culture with Pete that mistakes happen but that’s life and so long as they’re learned from that’s fine.  The lesson is not to not take risks again.
  • they’ve done it the right way round; network wireless infrastructure is bolstered to take the demands of busy children & teachers
  • lives are touched by tech where it’s advantageous for it to be so e.g. Google Drive enabling job shares to work seamlessly on report moderation

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Miss Lewis-Brown (Yr 3) was the guide and the side not the sage on the stage.  Capturing notes on her iPad during the lesson and I believe filing them away using Evernote it was pretty inspiring that though the technology was so conspicuous it wasn’t the star.

On tech note, I’m a big fan of Chromebooks in schools for some practical reasons to do with reducing

  • technical support burden on ICT people i.e. you can forget about updates & antivirus
  • waiting time when people log in to the Chromebooks i.e. you’re talking about seconds
  • cost overheads and worries about ratios e.g. you’re looking at around £160 ex vat per Chromebook
  • the digital divide i.e. some of these children asked for a Chromebook instead of an iPad this Christmas

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Managing ongoing change that leads to the kind of images you see here takes nerve and leadership but it’s definitely achievable.  With the support of the Head, Pete has gently guided his colleagues along a path driven by need and potential which I could imagine influencing the secondary school provision.  One of the feeder schools has in fact recognised this already and is laying the ground with Office 365 where the children’s collaborative working skills will be transferrable.  Just some of the challenges will be in
  • exploiting the opportunities Office 365 this has to offer
  • nurturing digital leadership as a desirable attribute in students
  • ramping up the network infrastructure services in a larger setting (££)

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By coincidence the BBC published a story today about a campaign by employers that puts a value of £88 Bn on soft skills.  Food for thought.