Digitally Outdoors

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On 4th April, I delivered a keynote presentation to Kirklees’ outdoor learning conference, “I’m a kid, get me out of here”. My presentation was entitled ‘Digitally Outdoors’.

Now, I am a passionate advocate for the use of technology to enhance learning and this could well be described as ‘my thing’. However, I have more than one ‘thing’ and therein is something of a problem. In the past, when I’ve been out and about evangelising about technology for learning, I have been met by those educators whose arms are crossed and whose brows are furrowed and who are clearly looking at me like some sort of harbinger of doom. I know what they’re thinking. They are thinking:
“Listen to you! Don’t you know how important *REAL* paint is? Don’t you know that children need to *talk* to other *real* children? Don’t you know that children need to use paper and pens? *REAL* books? Listen to you with your talk of touch-screens and smart devices. Tut, tut tut – what has the world come to?”
I believe this thinking is unhelpful. I believe it is founded upon a polar, ‘either-or’ argument that does not reflect my educational philosophy. As I have said before, what we are after is a rich balance. Technology is a tool. So is a pencil, a book, paint, clay, a saw, a stick or a pebble. As educators, we have a range tools at our disposal to help maximise learning. Our job is to deploy tools in a way that we think fit in order to maximise learning potential, whether we’re talking about an ipad or a beach. This is how I started my keynote.

I owe so much to my network, to the wonderful, benevolent people I know both virtually and in real life. Many of the ideas in my presentation have come directly or indirectly via the following:
Vicki McCormick, Lou Bristow, Catherine Heppenstall, James Langley, Tim Rylands, David Mitchell, Alison Lydon and Juliet Robertson.

Here is a selection of slides with the stuff I waffled on about.
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Firstly, the camera. This is probably the single most useful, versatile and potential-laden digital tool in your toolbox. As a simple recording and reporting back device in the hands of pupils or adults, it has so much to offer!

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Get the kids to take close-up, ‘guess what’ pictures. real money virtual games

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…or find pictures of patterns.

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PicColllage is a great, free app that can aggregate images and combine them with some funky text for sharing or display. Get the kids out, sniffing around for interesting things with their cameras. video poker download

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…such as green things, red things, soft things, hard things. Why not get them to make collages that we all have to guess what the theme is. Things beginning with ‘P’? Natural things?

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Geocaching is an engaging way to involve people in focussed, motivating, learning activity. You can create your own treasure hunt using either GPS devices or (I gather) any device equipped with the Geocaching app.

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Create your own geocaches to secret around your school grounds. Pop some interesting, topic-themed clues and goodies into them and away you go!

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Runkeeper. Tim Rylands provided me with some wonderful slides. Thanks Tim!

Runkeeper is an app designed to track your activity, whether it is a run, a bike ride, a downhill ski or a walk. It tracks and records your location, route, average pace etc and presents the information in some lovely graphs and maps on the Runkeeper website. This gives us some real potential for learning activities, particularly in Maths. Tim had asked a group of children to use the app to see if they could ‘map’ an equilateral triangle on the school field. This one idea, leaves my mind boggling at all the further possibilities for geometry, let alone what else could be done with an app such as this. (Post script: Matthew Pearson has since directed me to these amazing examples of cyclist-produced ‘drawings’.)
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QR (Quick Response) codes are another possible source of a ‘hunter-gatherer’ activity. They can be created easily; either via an app that reads the codes (such as QR reader) or via a website such as Kaywa. Codes can be created to link to text, or weblinks or even other files. A handy work-around for linking to *any* file is to store a file (video, image, document) in a cloud location such as Dropbox and then link the QR code to the online (Dropbox) file.

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We have a new subject in the National Curriculum called Computing. Now, you might think that this means we need lots of kids sitting at computers, computing away like mad. In reality, there are loads of opportunities for analogue or ‘unplugged’ computing that can be done outdoors. I showed this video clip from the wonderful CS Unplugged people by way of illustration.

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I’m sure that GPS trackers were never invented  with education in mind. These devices can record their exact location and movement across the earth’s surface and provide said movements on an online map whilst also coming equipped with a useful magnet for attachment to the bottom of, say, a car. Suspicious spouses or private Investigators may be the intended market, but there are some excellent educational possibilities for such a device.

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David Mitchell told me that he’d hidden one inside the Barnaby Bear teddy and set it off roaming the world in the hands of his pupils, only to review the journey later on an online map. Brilliant!

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Why not bring the outdoors indoors? With these couple of tools (Ambient Mixer and Sound Sleeping), you can instantly create wonderful soundscapes to evoke amazing atmospheres. What a great stimulus for language and discussion. Just close your eyes. There is also an app. real slots online for ipad

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Get yourself a cheap helmet cam and strap it to a welly, or a belt, or round a head. Go for a walk and then watch it back. How do the points of view differ? What was it like to be sitting on a welly splashing through the puddles and mud!? uk casinos accepting us players

Slide23 I wanted to anticipate a couple of questions, but these actually arose early in my presentation. The biggy was about connectivity. Many of the ideas I’d talked about depended upon some sort of data connection to a device and, outside of school buildings, this can be a challenge. One thing that occurred to me was the possibility of teachers setting up their own (pocket-based) mobile phone hotspots using their 3G data. When I discussed this on Twitter, a few people came back saying, variously, that it could work, has worked for them but is dependent upon good phone signals, plenty of mobile data and battery life. More highly recommended were Mifi solutions.

So educational technology is definitely my ‘thing’ but one of my other ‘things’ is the outdoors, and where analogue and digital meet is where you can often find me. wsj virtual casino

If you have any ideas that you would like to add, I’d love to hear from you!

I’m a Kid, Get Me Out of Here!

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Friday 4th April saw a conference on outdoor learning run by Kirklees Learning Services. The conference was at Cliffe House, a residential, outdoor learning centre to which I had brought many a class of pupils and that will be host to CampEd14.There were keynote presentations by myself  and Juliet Robertson. There were also some fabulous workshops.

Keynote
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Juliet’s keynote presentation was inspiring and grounded in countless case studies, research activities and practical examples, all illustrating the profound importance of learning outside the classroom. She described how for her as an educator, the outdoors evolved from being a ‘jolly nice thing’ to ‘an absolute need and necessity’. She made the point that zoos have a legal requirement to provide a certain amount of space to their primates: and yet, in comparison to that, we confine our young people in classrooms with a fraction of that space – and expect effective learning to happen. Juliet reminded us of the memorability or ‘stickiness’ that outdoor learning often has to it.
She also reassured us that risks are an essential part of outdoor learning and  to not get overly hung up on risk as unrepresentative perceptions can easily become barriers (a point later reiterated by Kirklees’ adviser for outdoor learning). She cited, by way of example, the fact that there had been not a single death of a young person in the UK from berries or mushrooms in the last 60 years.
I like the simplicity of Juliet’s approach, epitomised by her emphasis on the importance of forming circles with learners and handing the learning over to them, “Form a circle, ask them to go off and find something interesting, return to the circle and then discuss.”
For me, one of the key messages was Juliet urging us to have a go, and take a chance and a couple of quotes summed that up nicely:
“Of course you go out on a limb. That’s where all the fruit is.” Mark Twain
“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” Wayne Gretsky what is the safest online gambling sites

Workshops
Workshop 1 Maths from Sticks and Stones – Juliet Robertson


Juliet also ran a workshop throughout the day with an emphasis on mathematical development through the use of sticks and stones.
We warmed up in a circle, varying the formation and size of the circle as we went along (feet touching, elbows touching, sticks touching, shoulders touching). With a meter-long stick each, we worked on some simple counting games involving tapping our sticks, passing them, walking in different directions around the circle with ‘switch’ and ‘Fizz-buzz’ variations. We then moved into smaller groups where we were first introduced to Juliet’s bag of tricks – a variety of natural resources for maths such as pebbles with numbers and symbols, sticks of varying length and gauge, shorter sticks with coloured tips, rope etc. Importantly, she also has an old white sheet – invaluable if you want to ‘display’ a find or something interesting. The brief for the small groups was to simply ‘do something mathematically interesting’ with a resource-set. This is both challenging and empowering and I can see how the approach can really put the learning in the hands of the learners (as well as providing a perfect assessment for learning opportunity).
Groups were then able to see what others had done and share ideas. A final ‘plus, minus, interesting’ plenary rounded us off.
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Workshop 2 Bushcraft
My second workshop was with Cliffe House centre manager, Rosie Taylor. Delegates used a range of tools to firstly prepare and set a fire (without matches) before whittling skewers for marsh-mallow toasting.
Rosie emphasised the importance of careful briefing and tool-talk prior to an activity that involved bow-saws and fire. Again, the risk-assessment watch-words here are ‘supervision’ and ‘common-sense’. “For a fire this size, you definitely wouldn’t want the children to use gloves, you’d want them feeling the danger for themselves.”
Fires were set in little mini-barbecue containers and lit with cotton wool and ‘sparkers’ (no matches or lighters!).
Finally, sticks were whittled using potato peelers (good quality, wooden handles recommended here) before skewering a well-deserved mallow!

Workshop 3 Story time
My lovely next door neighbour and Cliffe House teacher, Catherine Heppenstall, ran an enthralling session on story. We gathered in a willow grotto to first listen to Catherine as she held us rapt, wrapped (herself) in story-robe and seated on her teller’s throne. She told the story of the unfortunate farmer who came a cropper upon the third sneeze of his donkey! Snip-snap-snout! Her story was out.
Catherine reminded us of the importance of oral story telling (as opposed to ‘read’ stories); how the narrative can be fluid, flexible and responsive – the hero’s hair may be flame-red one day and raven-black another.
We all know the ingredients of a good story: a setting (in place and time), a character or two (with certain dispositions), a problem etc. How wonderful then to wander the woods and pluck these elements from the trees and bushes and thread them onto a ‘story-stick’ that would later be the concrete framework from which we would tell our own stories! virtual roulette wheel download

Workshop 4 Cob-ovens
The final workshop was facilitated by conference-organiser Andrew Heath-Beesley and would be best described as a project. Over the course of the day, delegates devoted themselves to the construction of a cob-oven atop an impressive pediment (formed of recycled bottles and clay). Clay was ‘mined’ (shovelled) from a rich source elsewhere on the Cliffe House estate and transported via wheel-barrow to the construction site.
Constructing a cob-oven is such a great cross-curricular activity. There is so much in it: collaboration, planning, design-technology, changing state (dobbing the wattle & dawb was a particularly consuming activity!), art & design. I could go on.

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Keynote – Digitally Outdoors
I gave a keynote presentation about the use of technology in outdoor learning. singapore online casino

and finally
Juliet’s final message: ‘Leave No Child Inside’
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and, if the evaluation forms were anything to go by, we have provided some valuable CPD!
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