Bring the National Zoo to your classroom with Windows 8

We are pleased to introduce our next Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator (MIEE) Charlotte Beckhurst from Hartsbrook E-ACT Free School in Tottenham. Hartsbrook E-ACT were the first primary school in the UK to be using Windows 8 in the classroom. Charlotte has put together a series of blog posts that demonstrate how she has used Win8Apps to help create 21st century learning experiences. In this first post from Charlotte; see how her students have been helping the zoo keeper keep an eye on the animals at the National Zoo:

The children in my class live in one of the most deprived areas in the country and the majority have been in the U.K for less than six months. I have 20 students in my class and only 3 of them are British. Fourteen different languages are spoken.  So far I have seen how the use of technology has enabled students who speak limited English to communicate, instruct others, share ideas and collaborate on their learning. Not only that, but the opportunities that Windows8 and Office 365 provide them are crucial for their future in the workplace. The MIEE program will enable me to develop these skills further, deepen their knowledge, personalise their learning and allow them to have greater control over knowledge creation. The journey ahead is exciting for both myself and my students and I am looking forward to sharing it with other educators around the world.          
Primarily I want to look at the impact on my Year One students and their learning of 21st Century Skills. Furthermore, I intend to use the framework written by the Innovative Teaching and Learning Research project as a way of critically analysing the impact Win8 and Office 365 have on the practice in my classroom. In other words, I will be using the 21st Century Learning Design Rubrics to explore learning through the eyes of my students. Further information on the rubrics can be found here.

Bringing the Zoo to the classroom

National ZooThe National Zoo Win8 app provides its users with live webcams and pictures of the animals at the zoo. The most engaging feature of the app is the live webcams of the animals, in particular the panda’s enclosure where you are able to view the panda throughout the day and night.

My students have found this app exciting and love to check in regularly to see what the panda is up to. The app has provided the class with many topics for discussion including what we know about pandas, zoos versus natural habitat and comparisons between a panda’s life and our own. For this particular blog I am looking at learning in literacy and writing recounts. A brief lesson outline can be found on my Resources page as well as on the Microsoft Partners In Learning website. One app = Six skills:

Collaboration Students worked together as a class to keep an on-going daily schedule of the panda’s activities. In pairs they were able view the panda at hourly intervals and write down on a shared sheet of paper what the panda was doing at their given time. They had to make a decision to decide what to write down and how to form the sentence. This record of observation was only complete once each and every student had contributed and this was then used to form the basis of their recount, the following day. While the National Zoo app has the potential for further collaboration to be undertaken, for example, plans could have been discussed with the class as to how often and for how long the observations were to be carried out for (linking to Self-Regulation too), the collaboration level for my class was sufficient at this time.
Knowledge construction The following day, students took this information and considered how to use it to write a recount. Through modelled writing, we looked at how to convert the information into sentences, using time as well as how to change it into past tense as it had already taken place. They then had to write a recount of the panda’s daily routine.
Problem Solving and Innovation This particular activity seemed to lack a real-life problem to give purpose to the learning. However, upon reflection, they could have used this information to write a time table/daily outline for the zoo keeper. In doing so, the students would have been able to come up with a design or solution for others.
Use of ICT In this particular instance the National Zoo Win8 app supported knowledge construction. Without the app students would not have been able to gain information about the panda’s daily routine.
Self-regulation Students were made aware at the beginning of the teaching and learning what the learning outcomes and success criteria were. At the end of the second day, students were able to share their recounts with the class and peer assess  according to the success criteria. For older students more planning and monitoring opportunities could be incorporated throughout the observations such as reviewing each observation as it was written to scaffold the next pair of children’s learning. E.g. If one pair wrote a sentence without a full stop, this could be highlighted to support the next set of children’s writing.
Skilled communication The  ITL research writes that communication needs to be extended and multi-model, however for Year One students and in particular my cohort of Year One students, extended communication will look extremely different to students in Year 3-6. To give you an idea of what my students were able to produce, the higher ability students were able to write 5 sentences and my lower ability were able to verbalise a sentence about what the panda did at a specific time and use their sounds to write 2-3 word sentence. Communication was also multi-model in that the observations were recorded in a table format and then this information was recorded in a written recount format. This could have been extended to re-write a copy using One Note or children could have sent an email to the Zoo Keeper with his daily outline.

This app has lots of potential for all ages of students from reception all the way through to Key Stage 2 and possibly beyond. You can download it from the Win8 app store and do let me know if you come up with any other learning opportunities to use it in your classes. Stay tuned for another review of the MIEE’s Top 10/20 Apps by me soon.

Charlotte Beckhurst (@CharBeckhurst / ChickMeek Blog)


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