Monday 12 December 2016

The Process of Refinement

to improve an idea, method, system, etc. by making small changes.”

In the 20th century, businesses developed the idea of having a continual refinement and improvement process, wherein all activities of the business are constantly examined to weed out inefficiencies and find better ways of carrying out tasks. At the same time, the concept of individual self-improvement blossomed, where people assessed their lives in much the same way. 
Having created something from an idea, through innovation and creativity, refinement is the next step in perfecting this new creation. Trial and error, accepting and rejecting ideas and consulting are all ways in which a new creation can be refined and improved in order to become the best version of itself.
“Sure, science involves trial and error. Scientists refine theories each day. But as they do, they help us grasp more clearly the wonders of the world and the universe”
Tony Snow – Journalist

“Each of the Arts whose office is to refine, purify, adorn, embellish and grace life is under the patronage of a Muse, no god being found worthy to preside over them.”
Eliza Farnham – Author and Activist

“Poetry should help, not only to refine the language of the time, but to prevent it from changing too rapidly.”
T. S. Eliot - Writer

Creativity in Action

“the action or process of bringing something into existence.”

Creativity: where something new and somehow valuable is formed, the process of turning original and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is distinguished by the ability to view the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns and make correlations between seemingly unrelated occurrences, and to produce solutions. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then creating. If you have ideas but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative
Academic interest in creativity involves many definitions relating to numerous disciplines including the application of creative resources to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning and the potential for developing creativity through education and training, especially as augmented by technology.

“I think it's fair to say that personal computers have become the most empowering tool we've ever created. They're tools of communication, they're tools of creativity, and they can be shaped by their user.”
Bill Gates - business magnate, investor, author and philanthropist

“Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.”
William Plomer – Author

“Creativity is the key to success in the future, and primary education is where teachers can bring creativity in children at that level.”

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam – President of India 2002-2007

Getting Ready

“the action or process of preparing or being prepared for use or consideration.”
“something done to get ready for an event or undertaking.”
Preparation is an organisational principle whereby people get ready for a final product or for a successful experience. It is to make something acceptable before you present it to others.
The concept of "preparation" has a relationship with the concept of "planning"; the two are separate but closely intertwined. In scholarly use, the concept of "planning" is often associated with open-ended processes of successive foresight, while the concept of "preparation" is more closely tied to immediate steps taken to achieve a tangible, closed-ended goal. In business use, "planning" is a management principle to set up details to achieve a goal, while the concept of "preparation" is tied to contemplation of a future event by making something ready now. 

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”
Colin Powell – Politician/Retired Army General

“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.”
Bobby Unser – Racecar Driver

“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.”
Confucius – Teacher and Philosopher

Thursday 8 December 2016

Setting the Wheels in Motion

“causing a series of actions to start, that will help you achieve what you want.”

“the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim.”

In common speech, the term action is often used interchangeably with the term behaviour. However, a distinction can be made: behaviour is defined as automatic and reflexive activity, while action is defined as intentional, purposful, conscious and subjectively meaningful activity. Thus, throwing a ball is an instance of action; it involves an intention, a goal, and a bodily movement guided by the agent. On the other hand, catching a cold is not considered an action because it is something which happens to a person, not something done by one.

“successfully bring about or reach (a desired objective or result) by effort, skill, or courage.”

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.”
Ayn Rand – Author and Philosopher

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense.”
Thomas A. Edison – Inventor and Businessman

“We are built to conquer environment, solve problems, achieve goals, and we find no real satisfaction or happiness in life without obstacles to conquer and goals to achieve.”
Maxwell Maltz – Surgeon and Author

Thursday 1 December 2016

Ideas and Innovation

a thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action.”

In philosophy, ideas are usually interpreted as mental representational images of an object. Ideas can also be abstract concepts that do not present as mental images. Many philosophers have considered ideas to be a fundamental category of being. The capacity to create and understand the meaning of ideas is considered to be an essential and defining feature of human beings. A new or original idea can often lead to innovation.

“the action or process of innovating.”

Innovation: a new idea, device or method. However, innovation is also viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements or existing needs. This is achieved through more effective products, processes, technologies, services, or business models that are readily available. The term innovation can be defined as something original and more effective and, therefore, new, that "breaks into" the market or society. It is related to, but not the same as, invention. Innovation is generally considered to be the result of a process that brings together various novel ideas in a way that they affect society. A form of Fusion, if you will.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

My Learning Launches New Release v33: Peria Lamis

Our team has been working behind the scenes to come up with the best version of My Learning yet! 
Here is a taster of some of our new and improved features. (For the full release notes click here).

Homework Manager and Marking Tool

One of our most exciting updates is to the Homework Manager and the brand new Marking Tool.

In response to requests from schools, My Learning has incorporated some suggested features from the community with regard to the latest update of our popular homework manager.

Many of the changes have been made to save teachers time and effort when reviewing and marking batches of work.

When viewing homework, teachers can now view, mark and grade all students’ work from a single page. Files submitted by students appear in a list next to the student’s name and can be clicked, marked and graded from there. Any comments from students will also be flagged on this page and accessed with one click. Teachers will still be able to click on a student folder to view all of a student’s work and comments together.

Student List

Our new marking tool allows teachers to mark any student homework submitted on a docx file.

Marking Key

Teacher comments and configurable marks that reflect your marking policy can be dropped anywhere into a student file. It is also possible to use the editor to mark files which you can edit wherever they are stored.

Marking Tool Example

When a teacher edits a document that a student has submitted as homework it is returned to the student as a new ‘Teacher feedback’ file rather than the student’s original submission being overwritten.

Attendance Module

We are also pleased to release an entirely new “Attendance Module” within My Learning for any schools who use our “Standard”, “Pro” and “Enterprise” products. If you own these editions, you will now benefit from the ability to record AM and PM attendance for any user. This new feature also operates on tablet devices too. Teachers can record attendance and this data can be stored and viewed within My Learning.

Attendance Screenshot

Year Group Editor

My Learning have now created a Year Group Editor which allows the administrator to quickly create and populate year groups from existing classes.

The advantages of creating year groups include quickly sharing content, blogs, forums or even establishing a year group website for particular needs. It is also possible to communicate to year groups and create events for them.

Year Group Editor

Year Group Manager

Administrators can assign managers and members to year groups to delegate ownership. Students can only be part of ONE year-group, and the platform will automatically remove a student from a previous year group if you add them to a new one.

Another simple method of populating year groups is to edit the properties of a class, and then link it to an existing year group.

Year Group Options

Year groups can also be used in the module manager to switch modules on by year group.

The My Learning ‘People chooser’, used throughout the platform, now also includes the ability to automatically select all the members of a year group.

There is an added facility to send a message to an entire year group.

Important: Only schools who are NOT linked to an MIS will see this new feature. If your school is linked to an MIS, My Learning will be releasing a subsequent update v33.1 to provide management of year groups automatically based upon data from your MIS.

For the full version 33 release notes click here.

Monday 25 July 2016

Pokémon Go in Education

Pokémon Go is the latest craze to hit the gaming world. The location-based, augmented reality game has proved to be hugely popular across the globe and has been praised by some medical professionals for potentially improving the physical and mental health of players.

Pokemon Go Logo

No doubt, schools have been full of students searching for rare Pokémon during break and lunch times but can Pokémon Go provide meaningful learning experiences for students within the classroom? We think so and here are a few ideas how!

  • Encourage students to learn about the history and geography of the local area by creating a Pokémon-themed game map. Print out a map of the town and ask students to identify significant landmarks where they would place a PokéStop. They can then research the landmarks and justify their choices by giving information as to why the locations are relevant to the culture or history of the area.
  • Develop mapping skills by using Google Maps alongside the Pokémon Go app to identify all PokéStops within a certain radius and map out a route to visit each one. Students could try and find the route that will be quickest, shortest or most scenic! Add some maths practice by putting a time limit on their walk or working out how long each route will take to complete.

  • Google Map, Telford
  • Pokémon Go measures distance in kilometres, something especially relevant for eggs which are incubated until the player has walked a certain distance. Task students with converting the hatching distances from kilometres to miles. If they have eggs incubating get them to work out how much further (in miles) they need to walk before they will hatch.
  • Use the information found in the Journal and/or Pokédex to develop data literacy. Get students to analyse the Journal data collected and work out their average number of events per day or create a graph of their allocation of items from a PokéStop. The Pokédex provides information on individual Pokémon. Challenge students to calculate the total weight of the Pokémon they have collected or how many of a certain Pokémon you would need to stretch across the length of your classroom/football field/town/country!

  • Pokedex, Pokemon Index
  • Encourage digital storytelling by asking students to write stories about the Pokémon they capture in the game. Students can use screenshots of their game play in augmented reality mode to incorporate into their stories.

In Australia, Craig Smith, an academic specialising in Autism research, found that his students’ social skills had improved and they appeared more engaged with their learning though being allowed to use the game both in and out of the classroom. Speaking to The Independent, he said “We wholly embrace whatever it is that kids are interested in and use that as a window into their world and bridge into further educational opportunities for them”.
“For many of the children I teach it’s hard to engage in social activities – even going down to the shops can be socially overwhelming. But what we’re seeing with the Pokémon craze is the same students are making conversation and engaging in social activities through the game.”
Mr Smith’s iTunes U course, ‘Explore Everything with Pokémon Go!’ aims to inspire children with and without autism to practise social skills, explore senses, to learn and to teach others.

Monday 11 July 2016

Summer Holiday Learning – Ideas to Keep A Child’s Brain Active During School Holidays

The summer break is nearly upon us and teachers and students alike are looking forward to a well-earned break. 6 weeks of lazy days and lie-ins may sound appealing but, in reality, children quickly become bored and restless. We have come up with a list of ideas and activities to keep kids active and learning during the holidays. We would love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

  1. Special Events/National Celebration Days etc. Fill them in on your calendar and plan ways to celebrate!
  2. Learn to cook. A brilliant way to get children to follow step by step instructions, measure ingredients accurately, and learn about health and safety in the kitchen. Also, great for older students going off to uni!

    Baking Cookies
    Children Baking, Outdoor Cake Stand
  3. Read a book and then write a spin-off, sequel or prequel using the characters from the story. You could also create a picture/puppet/physical version of a character or scene.
  4. Create musical instruments using stuff from around the house. You could even start up your own band, record your performances and upload to YouTube!
  5. Make BFG Dream Jars. With the release of the new BFG film just around the corner you could combine a cinema trip with this fun activity! It's also a great excuse to read (or re-read) the book.
  6. Plan (with your child) a family activity day. Decide on budget, research possible events/locations, create an itinerary, plan for meals etc. On the day, take lots of photos and collect memorabilia to put in a scrapbook.
    Family Adventure, day out
  7. Have an indoor balloon rocket race!
  8. Make a recycled paper bead bracelet. Eco-friendly and fashionable! Experiment with other accessories and creations.
  9. Start a summer book club.
  10. Design some frugal fashion. Using newspaper, bin bags, masking tape etc. then have a fashion show.
  11. Make blow painting pictures or a button tree. NetMums has a fantastic list of arts and craft ideas. We particularly love these Superhero capes!
  12. Paint some plant pots and then plant seeds in them. You could plant a sunflower at the start of the holidays and see how much it grows!
  13. Write letters to family and friends and post them. You could even find a pen pal overseas and find out all about them. Take the time to hand write a letter or postcard and enjoy a stroll to the postbox to send it off.
  14. Make your own boats from old tubs, straws, lollipop sticks etc. then see if it floats (in the bath or elsewhere).
  15. Make a den or a fort 
  16. Why not host your own mini-Olympics
  17. Make a marble run. Use cardboard tubes, boxes etc. Make it as long as you like then have fun rolling marbles through.
  18. Make fruit (and veg) ice lollies. You could use some of these delicious recipes!
  19. Get into Geocaching. Go an adventure with the whole family and see what you can discover.
  20. Learn to code! Create stories, games and animations and share them with people around the world. Great for a rainy day.
Why not create a summer blog! Upload photos and videos of what you are doing during the holidays to share with friends and family. The 'My Diary' area of My Learning is the perfect tool for creating a blog within a safe environment. Check and see if your school is signed up!

Wednesday 27 April 2016

My Learning and GEMS Education: Rapid Growth in the UAE

GEMS Education is an international network of award winning K-12 schools; with 85 schools worldwide it is the largest operator of K-12 schools in the world. Founded in Dubai, its first school opened there in 1968. GEMS now has 46 of its schools in the UAE and is the largest education provider there. In keeping up with technological advances, GEMS in the UAE has implemented a customised virtual learning environment (VLE), provided by My Learning UK, across its schools.

“As the core component of the GEMS personalised learning ecosystem, My Learning is the vehicle through which we are transforming teaching and learning at scale, across our global network of high performing schools."

Phil Redhead
Senior Manager, Digital Strategy

According to data published in the new Market Intelligence Report for International Schools in the United Arab Emirates by ISC Research, the UAE continues to be the leading country in the world for English-medium K-12 (kindergarten to grade 12) international schools. English-medium schools use the English language as the medium of instruction, although it is not necessarily the first language of the students who attend. According to the report there are 548 English-medium international schools in the UAE with more schools due to open in 2016 including GEMS International School in Mudon. The total number of students aged between 3 and 18 attending these schools is 545,074, the highest enrolment of any country in the world by a substantial margin. 36% of all international schools in the UAE have over 1000 students.

Chart depicting the enrolment growth from 2011-2016. According to ISC Research there has been a further 5% growth in the four-month period between January and April 2016.

The use of Ed-Tech (educational technology) within the English-medium UAE schools is also gathering momentum and growing at a fast pace. “Most of the international schools are very keen on good, quality ed-tech to support student learning and many have good resource budgets for this,” says Diane Glass, Head of Business Development at The International School Consultancy.

My Learning are proud to be working with such a prestigious organisation and to see our product being used extensively in the UAE and across the globe. We look forward to continuing our partnership with GEMS Education and seeing what the future holds!

Tuesday 26 April 2016

The Flipped Classroom: Turning Traditional Education Upside-Down

What is a Flipped Classroom?
The flipped classroom is a teaching model in which the typical classroom and homework elements of a course are reversed. Students watch short videos/lectures at home before the class session, while class time is devoted to exercises, projects or discussions. The video element is a key ingredient in the flipped approach and is either created by the class teacher or selected from an online repository. Within the classroom, activity learning and concept engagement takes place with the help of the teacher.

What is the Value?
The value of a flipped class is in the workshop style class time where students can inquire about the lecture/video content, test their skills in applying knowledge and interact with classmates in hands-on activities. This shifts the focus of the class from the teacher onto the students, making learning intentionally learner-centred and allowing students to explore topics in greater depth, creating meaningful learning opportunities within the classroom. Teachers are able to provide instant feedback on student work and are on hand to help students and explain more difficult concepts. They are able to give support to students who traditionally may have struggled completing work at home due to lack of provision or guidance.

What Takes Place in the Classroom?
Class activities vary but may include:  in-depth laboratory experiments, using math manipulatives and emerging mathematical technologies, debate or speech presentation, current event discussions, original document analysis, project-based learning, peer reviewing, and skill development or concept practice. Because these types of active learning allow for highly differentiated instruction, more time can be spent in class on higher-order thinking skills such as problem-finding, collaboration, design and problem solving as students tackle difficult problems, work in groups, research, and construct knowledge with the help of their teacher and peers. A teacher's interaction with students in a flipped classroom can be less instructive and more personalised, and students are actively involved in knowledge acquisition and construction as they participate in and evaluate their learning.

In 2011 educators at Clintondale High School flipped every classroom. The school Principal led the effort to help teachers develop plans for flipped classrooms. He worked with the social studies teacher, to run two classes with identical material and assignments, one flipped and one conventional. The flipped class had many students who had already failed the class — some multiple times. After 20 weeks, students in the flipped classroom were outperforming students in the traditional classroom. Further to this, no students in the flipped classrooms scored lower than a C+, whereas the previous semester 13% had failed. The traditional classroom showed no change.

The next year when teachers used a flipped model in the 9th grade, the English failure rate dropped from 52% to 19%; in math, from 44% to 13%; in science, from 41%t to 19%; and in social studies, from 28% to 9%. After 2011 the now-flipped school's failure rate dropped from 30 to 10 percent. Graduation rates soared above 90 percent. College attendance went from 63% in 2010 to 80% in 2012.
Clintondale teachers found that shorter videos (3–6 minutes) were the most effective for students. The school uses audio files, readings and videos from the Khan Academy, TED and other sources. Students favoured the changes. Students unable to watch the videos at home watch the videos in school.

“In addition to flipping the classroom, we wanted to give our students the opportunity to learn about each subject or topic from someone who is a recognized expert in each area. So we decided to team with other schools across the country and world. Now, some of our calculus students are able to watch video lectures from a math teacher in a private school in Virginia, and our students learning about the Holocaust can watch videos made by a teacher in Israel who just brought her class to Auschwitz. This type of learning network will enable us to close the gap of inequality that schools are subjected to because of their financial standing, and provide all students, no matter what district they’re from, with information from the best teacher or expert in any field.” – Greg Green, Principal at Clintondale High School.

My Learning and the Flipped Classroom
The My Learning Fusion VLE provides an ideal platform for flipped learning, making content easily accessible across devices and locations. Teachers are able to upload or link to videos and resources in customised class and learning spaces, as well as having the option to create blogs and forums to encourage student interaction and discussion online as well as in the classroom. Content remains available for students to revisit for revision or consolidation and is also a great way of minimising the effects of student absences. Features such as ClusterPad, Content Library, MLTV, Blogs and Forums make Fusion the perfect platform for a Flipped Classroom.

Friday 22 April 2016

My Learning Launches New Release: v32 "Ocaria Thales"

The latest release of the My Learning platform focuses on streamlining the interface and creating a more responsive, fluid and enjoyable experience.

For our full release notes click here: Release Notes V32 Ocaria Thales

Major New Additions

New Responsive Design: 
The My Learning team have now merged the traditional desktop and tablet editions into one user interface meaning you can now use My Learning in exactly the same way on a desktop or a tablet device in any orientation or screen size.

Improved Page Speed:
We have introduced a 2nd level caching engine to the platform which has further increased the responsiveness of the application in both desktop and mobile editions. 

Audio Memos:
My Learning now has the ability to allow instant, on-demand sound recording. This can be used to create recordings directly within My Learning, and can also be used to store voice annotations and comments directly within files. Please see the release notes for information regarding compatibility with Apple devices.

This is a really exciting feature as not only can audio recordings be created and saved into the My Files area but audio memos can also be pinned to any file type within the VLE. Great for Teachers creating a commentary or students presenting their thoughts and opinions. Check out the Skills Blog for more information!

PDF Embedding:
You can now embed PDF files from the system into webpages and documents, a brilliant method of sharing school resources and documents.

Additional Metrics:
If your school is linked to an M.I.S (Management Information System), My Learning will now allow students to add a new dashboard panel which will display attendance, behaviour and reports. Timetables will now also show the name of the lesson.

Profile Editor:
Our team has entirely re-written the profile editor for My Learning. The layout and arrangement of buttons and functionality has been adjusted to reflect the manner in which Social Networking websites also operate. We have also added four additional moods.

Notification Manager:
My Learning has now introduced the first phase of it’s “Notification Manager”. This feature is an administrative module which enables the Administrator of each school to decide who can receive different types of notifications and how often they receive them. End-users (if allowed by the Notification Policy) are also allowed to further customise what type of notifications they receive.

Phase two of this feature will add support for Push Notifications to personal mobile devices.

For more details on other exciting features and updates in this release see the full release notes.