Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reviewing Year 7

This is a thinking aloud post following on from the previous post. My ethos in designing the KS3 curriculum is to get the students engaged and challenged and to get away from a MS office training mentality. At the same time I have to cover some of the basics of modelling, data handling etc and the use of MS Office applications which will support the students across the rest of the curriculum. My aim is to incorporate web 2.0 applications as appropriate to support learning and to push the boundaries re computing as opposed to ICT by introducing programming and impact of IT topics. I don't really follow the national curriculum but I do try to cover the ICT APP levels as we have a statutory duty to report levels and I also feel APP gives a good structure around which to build a curriculum.

This is my SOW for year 7 (changing quite a bit at the moment)

Year 7

I started by reviewing the current year 7 SOW for ICT. The SOW had been written piecemeal last year and I needed to have a look at the big picture and see what had worked / not worked and where the gaps were. I had 6 topics which were broadly a half term each:-

Getting Started - logging on, networks, e-safety, presenting info e.g. e-safety poster, Wordle, editing images
Rafi-ki - online learning community - online communicating, home page design
Presenting Info - house-style and target audience - Time magazine front page, leaflet for Zoo
Scratch Game programming
Digital storytelling - Storybird, interactive ppt, image editing using Fireworks, stop-go animation
Dream holidays - google apps, spreadsheet modelling, glogster, publisher leaflet

These topics mapped out like this:-

I ringed the times I used MS Office applications in orange and other applications in green.

Mapping the topics against APP levels gave me this coverage

Overall I'd covered all level 3 and 4 APP criteria. For level 5 I hadn't covered 'Identifying benefits and limitations of using ICT both inside and outside school'. For level 6 I hadn't covered 'Exploring the impacts of of the use of ICT in work, leisure and home' or 'Devising a data handling solution to test hypotheses that use technology to reduce input error'. I hadn't covered level 7 or 8 at all. In general students had only one opportunity to meet AF2 criteria whereas they had multiple opportunities to meet most of AF1 and AF3. The presenting information and digital storytelling topics didn't really cover any criteria that hadn't already been covered by other topics. In the case of the presenting information this was a bit of a filler topic, which, if I'm honest, was recycling old material while I was concentrating on KS4 resources. Digital storytelling was a fun topic using some of the applications I'd come across online such as Storybird and Pixlr. Storybird had gone down particularly well and had been picked up by the English department and incorporated into their SOWs. 

At the end of the summer term I had conducted a student voice google form to get feedback on what students had enjoyed / not enjoyed, a self assessment on how confident they felt about the different topics and what else they wanted to find out about. From this it was clear that the Dream Holidays topic had been particularly well received (although as it was the last topic it may have been that it was the only one some students could remember). Storybird and Scratch also got the thumbs up and to a lesser extent Google Apps and Rafi-ki. However for Dream Holidays several students mentioned enjoying creating a PowerPoint of their dream holiday which was not part of the SOW and raises questions re the consistency of delivery. On the negative side lots of students disliked Scratch and / or Dream holidays with the feedback for Scratch in particular being that it was too hard. I need to review the differentiation for the Scratch SOW and also possibly need to look at the CPD needs of some of the non-specialist teachers. In terms of what students wanted to learn more about creating websites and more on games programming came top of the list along with Sketch-up and video editing (I'm ignoring those who wanted to do more PowerPoints).  

I feel the strongest elements of the current year 7 curriculum are the Scratch and Dream Holidays topics which just need a little tweeking. The initial Getting started topic needs reviewing. It needs to cover the new VLE and it does not have any internet researching included. I would also like to including blogging and maybe give an overall theme. I'm going to look at some of Nick Jackson's (@largerama) CSI Skoolies SOW from #ictcurric to cover internet research. I would also like to give an overall theme to this SOW. Digital Storytelling needs to move to be run at the same time as the English department's storytelling SOW and I need to work with English to ensure that we are dovetailing the resources. I'm going to drop the Presenting Information topic as I don't think it's adding much. Rafi-Ki is the difficult decision. I've used the site for the last 3 years and really like it. However it has cost £750 per annum and I've struggled to get other departments to use it. It now has a new site which I've not fully got to grips with. The basic functionality is now free but the communication tools cost £495 per annum. I have been given agreement for funding for this year but it will take a strong case for next year given financial constraints. I need to weigh up whether it is worth the money given the alternative online communcation tools available. My current thinking is to scale down how much we do in class and use Rafi-ki more for extended homework projects.

2 areas I definitely need to address are homework and assessment. Homework has been very hit and miss over the last year and I feel it is a lost opportunity to encourage independent learning. I liked this post by Pete Bell:-


and would like to incorporate some of the ideas from it. I also want to build extended tasks around Bloom's Taxonomy to give a range of different activities. This from James Greenwood (@jpgreenwood) is great:-


I'm planning on making the first extended homework the impact of IT on day to day life. This would start at the knowledge level by collecting data on how often and for how long the student used IT in a week. This could then be extended into an analysis on how this usage differed from how their parents / grandparents spent their time and an evaluation of the impact of IT in wider society. (While I'm thinking about it I'm going to create some Wordle posters based on the key words for each level). 

Assessment is the second area I need to work on. My school is focusing more and more on the progression data for KS3. This gives me several issues. We start OCR Nationals in year 9. As this does not cover much in the way of APP criteria, the end of year 8 levels are what tends to be used for end of KS3 reporting. Progression is based on the first levels reported in year 7. This is in November when we have covered very little other than the basics and e-safety. Additionally the level are assessed by non specialists who up to now have had very little guidance. I'm giving a lot of thought to a levelling test taken by all year 7 soon after they arrive to try and get a more accurate first level which can be used as a reliable baseline. I also need to develop a more robust tracking and feedback system.

I'm working on getting Google Apps for Edu sorted out so that the students don't have to set up individual accounts which was a pain last year (particularly as we don't have student email accounts). I also want to do some work with English and Geography using QR codes based on this blog post:-


Finally I want to get the students blogging and get the school taking part in quad-blogging. 

Right - a fair bit to be getting on with - now I need to have a look at year 8. 


  1. Donna,

    You have clearly done so much in such a short time and your success is there for all to see. Unfortunately, as you and I know this will only continue to be hard work on your part to get to where you want to be.

    I just wanted to offer you a little support and guidance re your reference to students' comments on Scratch. To my mind and in my experience of using Scratch in my classrooms for a few years, it is about changing students' mindsets to their achievement when teaching programming especially in respect of games design like this.

    Basically, every students wants to create a playable, "good" game and if they don't achieve that then they think they have failed. This is best addressed from the start. I have found that showing them games that don't quite work but outlining how at various levels of APP with examples these games have achieved more than they think is a great way to put this thought in their heads. Also, this gives students great ways of peer assessing, understanding how the assessment fits the work. Further, I would definitely now kick things off with http://stanford.edu/~cpiech/Elimu/lessons.html#/english/unit1/lesson1 and get them to have a go and see how far they get. Then use this as a tool to send the message re little achievements in making things happen is what it is about rather than getting a singing and dancing game.

    Hope that helps. In fact I think I might turn this into a blog post on mine and see what others say. What d'ya reckon?

  2. Thanks Nick. I think resilience is a big issue with many of my students. There is a great tendency to give up if they find something hard Time and again I was getting comments about liking topics because it was easy or because they already knew how to do it. The love some of them have for PowerPoint is very depressing. I've been working on modelling problem solving. I tell them when I don't know how to do something and show them how I go about finding out how to do stuff.

    I'd forgotten about the Stanford stuff - I was playing with it before I went away and it's great. Would be good teamed with the Python stuff I've been working through this week. As we move deeper into programming though CPD re non-specialists is going to be an increasing issue. Going to need an extra-curricular club for some of the keener students.

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