Handheld Learning, Day 1 (Next Generation Learning Session)

I’m currently at Handheld Learning 2008 in the Brewery in London. So far it’s been good, waiting for the first session to start here shortly); I’ve already talked to a lot of people, some I know well and some I hadn’t (this just goes to show that there is more to a conference than sessions alone. The networking is very important as well).

Presented by Andy Black from Becta and Next Generation Learning, this session is a collection of presentations about “how to use technology well to make learning a more exciting, rewarding, and successful experience for people of all ages and abilities. I’m live blogging this session, so apologies in advance for any typos etc….

Andy: Seven presentations to make you think about learning. It’s not about mobile learning, it’s about the learning that’s mobile.

Andrew Davis from Clunbury CE (Aided) School Shropshire

Started off by showing a brief video made by students about learning with technology. It’s a rural school, so ICT is very important to connect to the rest to the world. Discussed the use of Nintendo DS’s in school and how he asked the kids how they could the DS’s:

  • to develop math skills
  • cooking skills
  • communication
  • memory skills
  • link the DS’s together

Or, in Davis’s words: engagement, fun, collaborative learning, competition, instant feedback, assessment. This was followed by some examples of use in math, used when appropriate.

Blogging to communicate with the outside world, literacy practice and feedback for writing (other students, parents; three stars and a wish).

Nicholas Hughes: Robots in KS2 (Nightingale Primary School)

Talked about the use of robots in education, and programming them. Started by experimenting and recording what they found out. Students worked together to talk and question (overcame language barriers for one student). After three weeks students started using GoRobo to control the robot and make it do things (“can you make him wave? Can you make him dance”). Showed a video to sum up the overall project.

Engagement and getting students to think and to question what they do and how they did it. Kids learned about control technology and had fun while doing it.

Gavin Hawkins (Wolverhampton LA): SynchronEyes at Stow Heath Junior School)

PDAs in schools since 2002. Involved in Learning2Go. Project grew to 200+, with 24/7 access to kids. The latter is important, and an underlying philosophy of the project. Providing content and applications, connectivity. Showed video of a day in the life of learners using mobiles in Wolverhampton (saw this video at NECC as well), with a range of examples, esp. for visual learning, including mindmapping, drawing concepts. Showed examples inside and outside of the classroom, including homework.

It’s the seamless use of the technology that really stands out here, as well as the integration into an existing school-tech infrastructure. Hooking up the handhelds to a whiteboard used as an example (using Dotpocket and My Mobiler). Then worked with Smart to develop software to show multiple handhelds, enable communication between device, laptop, and desktop, collaboration, distribute and collect files, and assessment: SynchronEyes. Number of handhelds you can use at once depends on the strength of your wifi.

Willington CE Primary School Co. Durham (Alison Richardson and Victoria Suddes)

Use of ICT and electronic assessment.

  • Electronic flying start assessment with linked evidence (children’s work, informal observations, formal observations, and photographs.
  • electronic portfolio
  • missed the third step here

Use of permanent laptops for student work, sent to network, assessed, sent back to child. Child then improves work based on comments. Works better electronically than on paper. Then showed examples of doing this, e.g. track changes in Word, Publisher, PowerPoint…

Use of stranded sheets for science, ICT, and narrative writing (they basically look like rubrics, linked to evidence, “literally just a click away”), i.e. combined into an electronic portfolio. Showed example of a claymation on the foodchain, used as evidence of learning. Are now working on making the assessment system avaible outside of school.

Matt Buxton, Djanogly City Academy, Nottingham

Plan for ICT in a “fit for purpose” curriculum with innovative ICT embedded into the planning. (anytime, anywhere, ubiquitous, independent, personalized (buzzwords, anyone?). Curriculum model is underpinned by embedded and innovative ICT. Design tasks that lend themselves to real world learning, based on a model from Queensland, New Basics: recognition of difference, supportive classroom environment, connectedness, and intellectual quality.

Connectedness: students engaging with real, practical, or hypothetical problems which connect to the world beyond the classroom (i.e. mobility too!!): learning gateway, computers for students (tablets, Q1s), wireless (wifi and wimax).

Examples of learning: oral histories, British national identity documentaries, International trade montages, etc.

Bristol – Hand e Learning  (Henbury Secondary School)

1:1 handhelds, 24/7 (both hw and www access), using Q1

Parents involved through e-Learning Foundation grants

Teacher training before students receive tech.

Video example of student interview: student talked about interactivity with teacher using the handheld, as well as using it when appropriate.

What did we do?

  • Connectivity (wireless, monitoring and filtering of connections)
  • Leadership
  • Pedagogical support
  • Parent financial contributions

Trying to minimize the things that can go wrong for a teacher, i.e. go simple.

Showed examples of activities: contextualizing literature – guided research; Image Blast, understanding poetry before reading; Video stars – building confidence and skills; Talk Wall – asynchronous tool to ask questions and get student answers that can be organized and turned into a text file.


Andy finished up by discussing how powerful all of the different tools presented can be. However, all of it should be supported by good teaching.

Image Credit: My camera

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