Monday, 23 February 2009

TIPD Visit to Sandviken, Sweden - Part 4

The final 2 days of our visit to Sandviken were spent in Upper Secondary Schools (sometimes known as 'Gymnasiums'). These take pupils for three years from 16-19 (grades 10, 11 and 12), so roughly equivilent to a UK 6th form with an extra year. This level of education is not compulsory, although roughly 90% of pupils will begin a course. There are 15 national upper seconday programmes that students can choose from, as well as some specially designed programs that may be available locally. Programmes include for example Construction, Buisness, Handicrafts, Medi, Healthcare. Whatever programme they are studying, all students will continue with the 8 core subjects of maths, Swedish, English, PE and health, the Arts, General Science, Social Studies and Religion. This ensures a broad education even whemn studying programmes that may seem quite specialised by their title. Students are free to attend the school of their choice, whether or not this is in their local municipality, is state run or private. The student's home municipality must fund the student wherever they wish to attend. This has led to increasing competition between schools and municipalities, and much money is now spent on marketing and incentives to attract the best students. The situation also means that municipalities and individual schools cannot be sure of the level of funding they will get each year as it is entirely dependent on student numbers.

The state-run Sandviken Gymnasium has recently been refurbished due not in small part to increased competition from privately run competitors and the need to attract students and importantly the money that comes with them. ICT is put in the hands of the learners with most students beign issued with a laptop for them to use through the duration of their time in the school. There is wifi throughout the building to allow flexibility in where students work, with much of the learning taking place in small break-out rooms where groups can collaborate together. Student are free to take the laptops home to use and treat them as their own. As in the schools we visited earlier in the week, there is no internet filtering in place at all. A useful, if not attractive, feature of most classrooms was retractable mains cables hanging down from the ceiling to allow laptops to be easily plugged in.

Most of the ICT use seen evidenced was the ever-present powerpoint (extensively used by both pupils and teachers). We also saw some use of adobe flash for pupils to present their work, but this was beign used at a quite basic level.

As with most of the schools visited, they were using the 'first class' system for communication between staff and to a lesser extent pupils. However, it was evident that use was not uniform across the school and that not all staff utilised the system for anything more than email. It was recognised by the school that the system does not have full MLE functionality and they are seeking to move to another system in the future.

On the final day of the trip we visited a specialist 'Gymnasium'; a joint venture between major local company, Sandvik, and the local authority. This felt very much more like a business environment than a school. Each student had an individual desk and workstation in a student office. Much work was done in collaborative groups as it would be in the workplace. There were only 2 specialist programmes offered and these very much concentrated on the engineering skills favoured by Sandvik for their future employees. Facilities in this school were very good and it was obvious that much money was spent on the school by the parent company - high tech machinery, robotics and tools were routinely used by the students.

Interestingly, this school was the only one that we came across that has any sort of web filtering in place. However, this was not due to concerns over safety. Rather the filters are there to ensure that bandwidth-heavy content, including video and audio is not accessed. The school shares an internet connection with the main industrial site and they limit heavily how much they are able to use. This places obvious limitations on the way that the internet can be used as a tool for learning and teaching.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Thursday, 19 February 2009

TIPD Visit to Sandviken, Sweden - Part 3

On the afternoon of day 2 we visited a grade 5/6 class at the Primary school. This is the equivalent of a year 7/8 class in the UK. The pupils were having an English lesson and were very much given ownership of their own learning. They selected their own activity and there was a range on display - translating books from English to Swedish or vice-versa, writing a report in English, reading English novels etc. The teacher told us that she lets the children know at the beginning of the term what activities they needed to cover and it was up to the pupils to do so. Periodically the teacher would check up that the required work had been done and if it had not been then the pupil needed to catch up in their own time. Pupils were even trusted to work at home in many cases and would regularly do so up to a few months ago when the government changed the rules that allowed this to happen. The teacher and pupils were enthusiastic about this particular way of working and were hopeful that it may be allowed again in the future.

In terms of ICT with this group, the teacher said that the pupils were free to use it when they wished to, but the most common uses were word processing, powerpoints and online dictionaries. Interestingly we were told that there were no dedicated ICT lessons to teach specific skills. ICT was in use for some home-school communication through their 'First Class' system. This was mainly via the teacher updating an online class calendar that parents could then pick up via the school website, as well as some email-type communication. Other ICT use seen in the school was mainly with individuals or groups; for example a memory building / brain training piece of software for specific targeted pupils and a program called Lexion being used to reinforce basic literacy skills - this program having been procured on behalf of all Sandviken schools and introduced with an extensive training programme.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

TIPD Visit to Sandviken, Sweden - Part 2

Day 2 saw a visit to a primary school, and again was full of contrasts between the English and Swedish education systems.

The morning began in a preschool class (children aged 6-7; compulsory schooling does not begin until age 7 in grade 1). The pupils were giving each other massages as part of their 'Social & Emotional Training', a scheme that this particular school follow that focuses on children's interpersonal skills.

Massage in Preschool class in Sandviken

Following this session whilst the children went to play the teacher introduced us to how she teaches mathematics. This is mainly done in a kinesthetic way, for example with their weekly visits for 'Forest Maths' where they children will be set tasks such as collecting a particular number of items, then twice as many, three times as many etc., or items twice as long, half as long and so on. This work is recorded with a digital camera and then at a later time in class drawn about by the children who also comment about it for the teacher to scribe on their work. There is a simple opportunity here for effective additional use of ICT which I think they are missing - having the children adding voice recordings about the digital pictures of the work they did for instance.

Forest Maths

In the grade 1/2 class (7-9 year olds) we witnessed the school's rather revolutionary scheme of 'writing to reading'. This involves the children working entirely on the computer for their early writing and not using a pen for this until they have become confident at reading and writing electronically. They use a piece of software that sounds out each letter as it is typed on the keyboard, and then each word as it is completed. It was evident that the children were making the letter sounds to themselves when searching for the keys on the keyboard, and also self-correcting their work if the voice-read word did not sound like they expected. The children were left to write relatively independently; the brief in this case was to include 2 teacher-selected words in their particular piece of writing. We were told that after the children had used this system for a year or so they were then introduced to writing with a pen, and were already able to form letters correctly without having had specific handwriting lessons. I suppose this is due to the fact that they are able to visualise the correct letter shapes that they are so used to seeing on the screen (a comic-sans type font is used). Additionally were told that when this was trialled over a year - one class using this method and the other a traditional method, at the end of that time the 'writing to reading' group had a higher level of reading and writing as well as neater handwriting. This was certainly an interesting thing to see and I hope to get a copy of the project research to look at in more detail and report back on.

Writing to reading scheme

Monday, 16 February 2009

TIPD Visit to Sandviken, Sweden - Part 1

I am spending this week on a TIPD visit to Sandviken, Sweden. There is a mixed group of colleagues, mainly from Surrey schools, with 4 of us from Islington as slightly last-minute additions due to some of the Surrey group dropping out. There is a mixture of ICT and non-ICT specialists, teachers (mainly secondary), ICT advisors and Marc from Islington's EMAS team. The aim of the visit is to examine how VLEs are being used in Swedish schools and to bring back ideas that can be used to inform our own work in Islington and Surrey. We also found out this morning that a separately organised group from Waltham Forest are here on a similar visit, with a 50:50 split of Primary and Secondary - so I hope to be able to join up with them too to share our learning, particularly as they are close neighbours to us in Islington.

This morning began (bright and early at 8am having not got to the hotel until half-past midnight) at Sandviken's Education Offices, with an introductory talk about the education system in Sweden and Sandviken's history of using ICT in schools. It seems that historically Sweden was a leader in the use of ICT in schools, Sandviken particularly, with a large number of projects taking place and a high level of investment since 1994. However, this is not now quite the case due to political and funding changes. However, the team and Sandviken are keen to ensure that ICT continues to be used to support teaching and learning.

The school visited today was 'Soderskolen', a Secondary and Middle school teaching grades 4-9 (roughly age equivalent to years 6-11 in the English system).

Secondary school in Sandviken

The first thing that struck me was the size of the school - less than 400 pupils in the Secondary and 250 in middle school, which is apparently the norm for Swedish Secondary schools. Along with this you noticed the general level of calm in the building. There was an extremely relaxed atmosphere and the relationship between pupils and teachers seems extremely good humoured, but with a clear respect for boundaries.

The first class we visited was a textiles / DT class where the teacher showed us the system for E-Portfolios. This is a system that allows pupils to submit their work online fot teacher to mark and comment upon, accessed from a regular webpage, and where the pupils build up an e-portfolio. A nice feature of the system is that children can choose if they wish to make their finished work public to be viewable on the 'inspirations' section of the site. This can then be seen by anyone who cares to visit the website and builds into a great resource to give children ideas for their own work as well as giving them an instant wide audience.

Another point of interest in the school visited today was the attitude to mobile phones. Most of the children had them on their desks in front of them and when asked said they did not get into to trouble if they went off during a lesson; in fact they could go out of the class to take a call if necessary! Also, the teacher in the Science class we visited had the phone numbers of the students – it was not uncommon for them to text him or he to text them outside of school hours.

In the middle school class we visited the teacher had recently returned from her visit to BETT. She had brought back with her some of the 2simple software titles to try out, particularly 2animate and 2DIY. As ever the children seemed to enjoy 2DIY and were keenly making their own platform games, although had not explored much of the rest of the program. Most of the teachers we are travelling with had not seen the product before and there were some interesting conversations about its potential for supporting cross-curricular learning. I have promised to show it to them on my laptop and let them have a play with it before the week is out.

2DIY in Sandviken

The final class of the day visited was a second language group. The majority of the children were Iraqi and a few from Burma. The children spend all of their time initially with this group, and are introduced to Swedish and English lessons immediately. After the first few weeks the children are integrated into mainstream classes for lessons that are not as ‘language heavy’ such as Art, PE etc. and gradually into more mainstream classes for all subjects. Even when they integrate into Swedish lessons and are assessed alongside native speakers allowances are made for their grammar, spelling etc. The teachers ‘reward experimentation’, preferring to see children challenge themselves in their writing and make mistakes rather than play it safe and produce simple writing that is grammatically and spelt correct.

Secondary school in Sandviken

Quote of the day came from the science teacher whose class we visited. He mentioned that the children sometimes produced videos as homework to reinforce learning that happens in the classroom;

“They are making videos about their sex education. I have only seen small parts so far.”

Friday, 13 February 2009

Teachmeet North-East London

On March the 31st Havering (and Redbridge) ICT teams will be hosting Teachmeet NEL 2.

For those of you have never been to one of these event then read the description below and visit the wiki site of last years event here.

What is Teachmeet then?
Teachmeet NEL is an exciting unconference event organised by colleagues @ Havering and Redbridge. The event is a chance for anyone interested in Educational Technology to share good practise. Delegates can come to either share what they are doing through means of a mini (7 minutes) or nano (2 minutes) presentation or to just listen to what others are doing. Last year there was a very wide range of subjects covered, these included a focus on the latest ed tech gadgets, an Nintendo Project and how a violin teacher used a VLE. There was a raffle on the evening where delegates could win a top of the range visualiser or plasma screen TV.

The other side of Teachmeet is the networking, friend sourcing and meeting up with all those contacts you have been twittering and blogging with over the last year.

Teachmeet, is about teachers sharing that which they find effective and exciting in their classrooms. It is not sales pitches or long abstract talks about blue sky projects that leave you cold. We want people to be inspired and excited, we want them to come along to hear people that will make them remember why they went into teaching in the first place.
As well as randomly selected 2 and 7 minute presentations, there is also a category called a mini note, a short 15 minute presentation by the following confirmed guests:

Tom Barrett - Inspiring ICT in his Primary Classroom
Drew Buddie - Good stuff from the man who coined the phrase 'Twitter is like googling people'
Max Wainwright - teacher and software developer on zen, simplicity and cup cakes
One more TBA

We still want lots of 7 minute and 2 minute presenters please - so please go to the wiki site and add your name as a speaker or 'lurker' - if you can't work out how to do this, then email me your name and I'll do it for you. We also recognise that we need our sponsors and though we wouldn't want them to sell from the front, we do, in this current climate need to give them a reason to attend. Therefore you will see our sponsors put to work around the central atrium in the CEME centre, they will each be serving themed refreshments, we therefore look forward to the cup cake stall, the bar and the more civilised Teas and coffees.

Teachmeet North East London will take place at the he state of the art Ceme Centre in Dagenham. Yes I know it is a long way but there is a free minibus from the station and I promise it will be worth your while!

So please sign up now - trust me if you go to one ICT Conference event thingy this year, make sure its this one - it will be brilliant.

If you are not convinced yet, try the video below, courtesy of Antony Evans at Redbridge (thanks to him for most of the content of this post, too.)

Friday, 6 February 2009

Online Research, Communication, Publishing and E-Safety - SOW strand now available!

The draft of our new ICT scheme of work strand "Online Research, Communication, Publishing and E-Safety" is now available online to download. The document was written in conjunction with colleagues from Barnet, Kensington & Chelsea, Northampton and Hackney LAs.

See - it is the 'recommended resource' at the bottom of the page. Comments, suggestions and ideas for additional links or lesson resources are welcomed.

ICT Coordinator's Meeting - 5th Feb

This term's ICT coordinators' meeting was a select gathering - thanks to those people that managed to come - it was great to see you. Unfortunately, a number of coordinators could not make it due to diary clashes and the knock-on effects of this week's poor weather. For the benefit of those people and anyone else who is interested, here's a brief rundown of the main things that were covered:

2 Simple Software - 2DIY

Nigel and Katie from 2Simple software presented their latest and very exciting product to us - 2Do It Yourself. This great software package enables teachers and pupils alike to quickly and easily create their own flash-based activities to reinforce a learning objective, assess knowledge or just for fun. Finished activities are automatically exported as flash files that can then be shared via an MLE, the internet, in IWB presentations and many other ways.
The product is as easy to use as the rest of the 2simple products, and has great potential as a really inspiring and transformational tool for learning and teaching.
See example activities, find out more and even order a free trial here.

Online / E-Safety Strand for new SOW now available

The online / E-Safety strand for the new scheme of work is now available to download in the scheme of work fronter room. We would welcome any comments on this draft version that has been written in conjunction with Barnet and Kensington & Chelsea LAs. It will be publicly available online soon on the LGfL website and a link will be posted here as soon as that happens. weblinks

Don't forget our weblinks available online at . These are added to at least a couple of times a week and can be fully searched by keyword tag. 139 links and counting.
You can also use the website yourself top save and share bookmarks. The big advantage of this is that the links are accessible from any computer - very handy if like me you work on 2 or 3 different computers regularly.

Safer Internet Day

10th February is Safer Internet Day - don't forget to plan an assembly or activities for your school during this week. Assembly resources can be downloaded from but you will need to register.

Hands on Support Sessions

Don't forget to book any remaining hands on support sessions as they need to be used by the end of this term and our diaries are filling fast!