Sept. 29, 2020
Martin Bailey, Digital Enrichment Leader at Lanchester EP Primary School, spoke to us at 2Simple recently about how his school used Purple Mash during the national lockdown, and how Purple Mash is currently helping the school with a blended approach to learning and ensuring that effective learning is still taking place for their pupils online.
I have been a keen user of Purple Mash for almost a decade now and in that time I have seen the resource grow and develop and become an integral part of our teaching and learning tools for both in-school lessons and for home learning activities.
During the national lockdown earlier in the year, Purple Mash was an invaluable resource to us for providing pupils of all ages with online learning activities across the curriculum. Using the teacher tools and the creation of groups, these activities were able to be easily differentiated for pupils of all ages. The ability to assign and collect work as 2Dos made the planning and administrating of work really easy and our pupils benefitted greatly from the many tasks which they were set.
We received great feedback from our parents for the work which we set during the spring and summer period, but as we started this new academic year we decided that we wanted to learn from our experiences from earlier in the year and further develop our online learning provision. It was clear that there was the potential for further national or local lockdowns and that certainly there was a high probability that at some points during the academic year that individual classes would be self-isolating. We, therefore, gave focus to ‘Blended Learning’ on our September INSET day and worked together to develop an effective online learning policy.
We identified that two main areas for development were to provide more structure throughout the day (during national lockdown we had a high percentage of pupil engagement, but most of the online activity was prior to 11am) and to provide more comments and feedback on pupil’s online work.
During the summer term, we had experimented with the use of Zoom and had delivered some whole-class sessions for the likes of ‘Meet the Teacher’ day etc. This had been very well received by pupils and parents and so we decided that in the event of having to flip to online learning that each teacher would deliver three live twenty-minute Zoom sessions per day. The first would be at 9:15am and would start by reflecting on the previous day (if applicable) before introducing and modelling the first activity. The class teacher would also direct the pupils to where they will find the appropriate links, resources etc for the lesson. The second lesson is at 11:15am and starts by reflecting on the first lesson of the day (opportunity for pupils to share their work etc) before the second lesson is introduced and modelled. The third live session is at 1:15pm where the second lesson is reflected upon and the activities for the afternoon session are demonstrated.
Like all schools we hoped that the plans in which we had put in place would never have to be implemented, or at the very least we would have quite a few weeks before we had any confirmed COVID cases and pupils needing to self-isolate. However, after just two full weeks back to school we received notification on the Monday afternoon that we had a confirmed case in two of our year groups and that four classes of over 100 pupils would now have to self-isolate for the next fortnight.
Our online learning policy was immediately actioned and by 9:15am the following morning our Year 3 and Year 5 pupils were now accessing online learning and live lessons from their class teachers.
My role at the school involves the teaching of Computing with multiple classes and as I had been teaching the Year 5 pupils the previous Thursday I was also forced to self-isolate. My pupils weren’t to miss out on their weekly Computing lesson though and actually all of our specialist teachers delivered live online lessons (from school or home), so that pupils could still benefit from staff expertise in Music and French, alongside Computing.
The lesson I planned for Year 5 was a digital literacy lesson using Purple Mash linked to their current ‘Space’ topic. Using the teaching tools I was able to easily differentiate and personalise the activity and assigned it to all of the pupils as a ‘2Do’.
At 1:15pm I joined almost 50 Year 5 pupils online on Zoom and started by reflecting on previous learning and giving an overview of the activity for today’s lesson. I was then able to login to Purple Mash and share my screen for all of the pupils to view. I used the ‘impersonate pupil’ tool so that pupils were seeing an accurate view as to how to access the task.
Having this ability to share my screen, to talk to the pupils and explain the task worked really well with Purple Mash and complimented the various features of Purple Mash. I love for example the word bank, the writing prompts and sentence starters, but sometimes pupils are unaware of these and so by being able to direct, demonstrate and model the writing made a huge difference.
Normally when using Purple Mash I would provide written feedback for the pupils and this would then be visible when they login for the following lesson. I wanted to try something slightly different though for this lesson and for the benefit of home learning. Pupils would be working on this activity throughout the afternoon, but with the two classes being taught as a single large year group written feedback would not be instant enough and would not allow for corrections and improvements to be made. What I used instead, therefore, was the oral feedback button.
Once the lesson had been explained and modelled the Zoom called was ended and the pupils were left to independently access the activity at home via their computers, laptops and tablets. At this point, I switched my attention to the Purple Mash portal and within about ten to fifteen minutes work started to be submitted. I was instantly able to view the pupil’s work and by using the audio recording feature I could quickly and easily give feedback. Normally I was giving around 30-45 seconds of feedback and this allowed me to be detailed in areas of strength and where improvements were needed in their work.
Pupils were then able to act upon my feedback and resubmit their work. One of the things I like about 2Dos is that it does not save over the top of previous work and instead automatically saves it as ‘version 2’ and so, therefore, you have a record of how pupils have reacted to comments and the improvements that they have made.
These are unprecedented times and we are all adapting to new ways of working. As schools develop and update their online learning policies I can thoroughly recommend this approach of combining Zoom and Purple Mash and of using the audio recording for feedback. Within a session of just over an hour, I was able to share my screen, direct the pupils to the task, model the introduction as a shared writing activity, provide feedback on all submitted work and then see the improvements which were made based on comments.
We will continue to tweak and refine how we deliver our online lessons, but initial feedback this academic year has been very positive for pupils, parents and school staff. There is undoubtedly going to be disruption in all schools during this academic year, but tools are now available that enable us to easily have a blended approach to learning and to ensure that effective learning can still take place for our pupils.
Martin Bailey – Digital Enrichment Leader at Lanchester EP Primary School (Co.Durham), Lecturer in Primary Computing at Durham University and Director of Animate 2 Educate Ltd
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