|Mr. STEAM Co. Nick Corston|
Our spot was the computer suite, and I was gifted with the company of Broadwood’s ICT/Computing Lead, Jeanette Bowden, and Bridgewater teacher, Tracy Philipson. The facilities were great - lots of iPads and fast laptops. Tracy had used our content-based apps, Digital Mysteries before so that was a helpful start. We thought the most challenging things would be the varied ages (6-11) and that they could come and go as they please. Jeanette mentioned that one thing that could be on our side is that the children would hopefully help each other. Time would tell!
|Two students and I, discussing their activity|
Here’s the four key things I learned:
- Children teach each other
This was really lovely to see and particularly prominent, I think, because of the flexibility of the day. The vast age difference between some of the children in our workshop, meant that natural instincts to help others came to fruition without us asking. With some being very young, they hadn’t typed in a web or email address before, so older children showed them what to do, what to type and where to click. This meant that although being young and at this stage of learning meant they couldn’t create a task on their own, they played a part and learned some key skills as they went along.
- Let passions shine through
If you’ve not heard about Thinking Kit before, it allows teachers and students to create their very own app-like activities for iPads. We can’t speak to everyone who's used Thinking Kit up to now, but some that we have, have told us that students have created activities on a range of things - but often curriculum-based. This is great and one of the key things that helps integrate the tool into day-to-day school life, but this day was all about freedom and creativity. For this reason, I left the topic completely open.
|A task all about Batman being created:|
1 & 2: Creation side. 3: In the app.
- While these aren’t “curriculum topics”, they ignited the passion the students needed in order to help them become content creators. Whilst they were getting excited that they were using their favourite hobby as part of a school activity, they were also developing many skills. A few to name; often collaboration, writing, targeting a particular audience, research, web-skills of sourcing relevant images and saving/uploading them plus general digital skills.
- Don't assume
As I mentioned earlier, one of the challenges was going to be suiting the workshop to different age groups all at the same time. This then led me to believe that maybe younger children would either be able to stick with ‘solving’ our own mysteries or only creating a task with strong guidance. Now, whilst these two things definitely did work well for some children, one of the younger children actually made so much progress that he created four tasks all on his own! At the beginning, I sat with him to guide him through some of the things that were new to him but after that, he was on a roll! Whilst I’d expected only year fives and sixes (age 9-11) to create full activities predominantly on their own or with peers, this boy and a few others actually proved me wrong - with a little guidance and passion for their idea, children can achieve their goals independently. It was lovely seeing the students share their tasks with others too.
- The simpler the instructions the better
Pre-Thinking Kit, we had Windows software that enabled people to create their own activities. This tool formed the basis of the Thinking Kit Creator, but our developers had to have a big cull in terms of features to make it accessible online and also to open up the tool to more children. Because we made the tool a lot simpler, we thought we had the bare minimum of what someone would need to create an activity. However, seeing primary children using the tool for myself, opened my eyes: we still had a few advanced options that can be hidden away for those who know to look for them. Examples include adding a Reading Stage or extra instruction: just their presence meant those few more precious minutes being used to ask what they meant (when these features weren't particularly relevant for a student creating a task for a peer).
The key is to suit tasks to different audiences - our original and very advanced Windows authoring tool is still very useful to some teachers, but they know what they are looking for and so the extras help rather than hinder.
|Helping one of the younger students|
For more information on Thinking Kit and how to get the free app and a free trial to the activity creator that the children used, please visit www.thinking-kit.com. You can also read our last blog post for details on how to get involved with STEAM Co. here.
Some examples of students' work...
|Task 9774 'Should we go to the beach?'|
|Task 5159 on Robin Hood|