By Rachel Walker
Forward by Simon Blower, experienced Primary School leader and Pobble Co-founder.
I always feel privileged, in my role as a Pobble founder and teacher, to get the opportunity to visit so many classrooms around the world. I regularly meet wonderful teachers who are doing great things to inspire and support their students.
As a classroom teacher of 16 years, I always found one of the biggest challenges was deciding which new resources to consider using in the classroom. For me this became even more challenging as more technology came into schools and with it more choices to make over what programmes and apps to use. As I visit schools now I realise this is still an issue for many teachers.
To help, I’ve reached out to a few teachers I’ve worked with recently and asked them to share with me a few ideas around how they use technology to improve writing in their classroom.
Rachel Walker is Primary School teacher, SLE and Digital leader at Sneinton Primary School, one of only seven Primary schools in the UK to achieve the World Class Quality Mark. Here is how Rachel uses technology to support writing in her class:
Using AR and VR to support knowledge and imagination
There have been so many occasions in my teaching where I have seen the stark difference between the child who has been and experienced something, and the child who hasn’t. Using augmented and virtual reality has completely changed this for me. When reading ‘Shackleton’s Journey’, we took a trip using Google Expeditions to the frozen landscapes of Antarctica. One child commented that they hadn’t really appreciated the beauty of the rainforest until they had had a tour of it via virtual reality. In addition to this, augmented Reality enables you to add something amazing to your existing classroom. For one lesson, I was able to make a dragon appear to fly into the room through a wall, and we then used this stimulus to explore prepositions. For Google Expeditions, you just print off their AR cards, and when you scan them you can see the objects appear in your room. Recently, the entire solar system made an appearance planet by planet, and we turned this into writing the script for an advert for the solar system.
Using Siri and Dictation for spelling, checking and improving writing
When I asked the children in my class how Siri and the dictation features on the iPad helped with their writing, they couldn’t stop sharing just how much this has supported them. Siri is so simple: the child asks, “how do you spell ‘astonishing’?”, and Siri obliges with the correct spelling, and it will suggest alternative words and the definition too. It saves so much time and removes the need for children to know the first few letters which they would need for a dictionary. One child said that he knows words but can’t spell them so it means it enables him to use that vocabulary. The other life-changer in my classroom has been the dictation feature. I use this in different ways; for some children, they really struggle with handwriting but have amazing ideas, so they can dictate their ideas into the iPad and it will show them how to write it, with them adding punctuation when they write it up. This removes the need to think hard about content and handwriting at the same time. I also use it the opposite way; children complete their first draft and then use dictation as a form of feedback; it shows them how their work sounds as well as spell checking. It doesn’t replace the teacher but the children find it so useful.