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Review of the year – where has it gone!!

What a year this has been in terms of my professional development and my discovery of using Twitter as a form of CPD, discovering new and exciting ideas and pedagogies, which I have used in my teaching throughout the year.

It began around October time, when a colleague of mine suggested to follow @SENICT (Ian Bean) as he was coming to our school to run some training. The idea was that we could ask him some questions before he arrived so that the training was suited to our needs. Before this, I had done what many people do and sign up to Twitter to follow celebrities (yes, I did follow Stephan Fry). I did not understand Twitter and what purpose it had in terms of myself developing as a teacher. After following Ian I started to follow people who were similar and wrote a few things about what I was doing in my class. This is when things started to snowball and soon I was immersed in picking up new ideas and chatting to like minded people. I joined #ukedchat on a regular basis and soon found some excellent blog posts to follow and read.

I really liked the idea of blogging and especially after seeing the effect of Quadblogging (fantastic idea created by @deputymitchell) was having with schools around the world, I wanted to try it with my class. I currently teach a mixed ability 16-19 SLD / MLD class who range from a P8 to a level 3 in Maths and English. I found the impact immediate and they were engaged in wanting to write down what they were thinking and share this with whoever would listen. They needed support in creating their blog posts but they seemed enthralled by idea that anyone from around the world could read their posts.

From seeing my class have their own blog, I decided to take the step and create my own blog. This was mainly to reflect on what I was doing but also share my passion for using technology to create an inclusive environment for the students I work with. I have enjoyed the process of creating blog posts and sharing my experiences with others. This has led to many different collaborations inducing the use of iPads and the Kinect in SEN. (I would recommend following @trinityfieldsit and @littleangelssch as they are leading the way for using the Kinect in SEN)

Over the year, through the use of Twitter and my own desire to refine my practice I have picked up loads of great ideas and theories which I hope to continue to use now and in the future. I particularly like the idea of SOLO taxonomy and will be working on ways to enable the students I work with to understand this so that they move forward in their understanding of how to progress.

I have been fortunate enough this year to move on with my career and I am not stating that Twitter and blogging have been essential in me doing this, but I feel that without the use of these two tools I would not be in the position I find myself today. I feel through the use of these I have been able to reflect, refine and develop my practice as a teacher which has enabled me to continue in my professional development and meet my aspirations of moving up in my career.

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Teachmeet Brighton 2012 – #tmbton – Ideas to take away for SEN

On Thursday evening, in the fantastic surroundings of the Amex stadium, 100s of teachers from around the Brighton area came together to share ideas in the excellent model that is Teachmeet. Though a lot of the ideas and themes were from mainstream settings, they could also be used in a SEN setting. In this post, I will look at a few of these and delve into how I feel they could be used in SEN classrooms.

Flip Cameras – Jane Waite in her 2 minute presentation talked about how useful flip cameras were for students to showcase their work and increase engagement. I have used flip cameras in the classroom for lots of different things. Recording student’s responses to questions or for them to explain theme or concepts. Students who find it difficult to write their responses are often able to verbalise their responses far better. By recording their responses, students are able to instantly watch them back but also I can use them as evidence of their understanding. The nice thing about flip cameras is their simplicity, simply point and click to record videos. Most students are able to use these independently to capture their footage. I have had students film ‘How to’ videos using these with excellent results.

Blogging / Quadblogging – @traceyab1 – Another great presentation on the benefits of getting a class blogging. My class have started their own blog (www.ogc6thform.primaryblogger.co.uk) and the enthusiasm from the students to write their own posts is fantastic. They are motivated to share their experiences and it allows their creative juices to flow. I have already seen improvements in students’ literacy over the short time they have been blogging especially in sentence construction. Quadblogging was created by David Mitchell (@DeputyMitchell) and it involves four schools who blog forming a partnership where for one week the focus is on one of the school’s blogs. Students would visit this blog to read and post comments. After one week, the focus moves to another school’s blog. This puts a real emphasis for blogs to be written and students are motivated because they are writing to an audience and will receive feedback on their work. In addition, it provides students to link up with schools from around the world and learn about different cultures and experiences that they might never see first-hand.

Quadblogging is a great idea and I would like to see more special schools blogging. I find that it is mainly primary schools who are blogging. I would like my class to link up with other schools however I feel that it would be inappropriate for an SEN class of 16-19 years quadblogging with 6-7 year olds. Even though their academic levels may be similar, it would be more appropriate and beneficial for them to be conversing and sharing experiences with those of a similar age and level. So any special schools out there who are blogging or interested, give it a go and we are ready to share in this with you!!!.

QR Codes – @ictash – Brilliant presentation about using QR codes in the classroom – http://prezi.com/ho5ii1ybhafm/cracking-the-code/ I have known about QR codes for a long time but it was only after seeing Simon Cobb’s presentation that the penny dropped for me. These are an excellent tool in SEN to allow students to access websites independently. The idea is that a website URL can be generated into a QR code and using a webcam and QR scanner software they can be scanned and this automatically opens up the browser to the relevant website. I have found that with our students once on the website are able to navigate them but struggle with entering the address. This gives them the tools to do this by themselves and you could also link to pictures and videos that are relevant on the web.

Flipped Classroom – @Mr_BRouse Another great idea that I had heard of before but Ben Rouse presentation (http://portal.sliderocket.com/AVXMI/Flippped-Classroom-tmbton) allowed me to see it in action. The idea is that at home students learn the basics through videos explaining the concepts with teacher instructions and examples of exam solutions. These are repeatable so that students can replay the information over and over to help them learn the themes of the topic. In the classroom, the students are then able to apply these basics in differentiated tasks with the expert (teacher) in the class to support them. I have taken some time to think about how I could use this with my class and I am going to experiment with something next term. In their Meal Preparation lesson, students have a new meal to cook every 6 weeks. In partnership with the parents we send the recipe sheets home so that the students can transfer these skills in a different environment. From next term, with my TA’s, I am going to film a step-by-step video showing how to prepare the meal to accompany the recipe sheet. Students will then have a visual reminder of how to make the meal which they will be able to access at home. By practising the skills at home in this way I hope that they are able to make more progress in class and begin to learn recipes without having to use the support sheets.

Along with these presentations there many others which I found very interesting –

Socrative – @pegleggen – a student response system that allows you to gauge student understanding using quizzes and games.

Westdene School Teachers – Use of VLE, BYOD and PuppetPals HD app for iPad.

Apps for Good – encouraging students to tackle problems for the social good using mobile apps.

All the presentations were excellent and thought provoking and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Thanks to Iris Connect for sponsoring the event and @pmp4 for hosting.

Looking forward to the next one!!!

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