Sunday, 23 May 2010

iPhone Apps

Since I upgraded to an iPhone in January my whole life has benefitted from the functionality of this fantastic gadget. My first instinct was to go app-crazy and download as many as I could. But after filling my phone with apps in a couple of weeks, I had to slim them down.

The following is a list of apps that have proved to have made the most difference in my lifestyle:

For some reason I could never quite take to the Google Calendar app on ths iPhone, but I have found this app to be much easier to use.

I never check Facebook on my laptop anymore, just on my phone.

My preferred Twitter client.

I know this one is free with the phone, but it is so convenient to just record quick reminders about things, school football match scores and other short messages. It's good that you can email the notes.

A really simple app that allows me to record my spending and to see my average daily expenditure. I wish that the app would be upgraded to show graphs of my spending, and the ability to set the expenditure to match with the dates that I am paid.

I adore this. It syncs with the website and is a great way to manage my tasks and to do list.

A basic, but handy, shopping list.

Quite possibly one of the best apps. It's hard to imagine an easier to use and more effective app for syncing files with different computers and your iPhone.

I like the way that I can add information on the computer and then access it on my iPhone. Brilliant!

I have always used Shazam to identify new tunes, but the iPhone app is simple to use and does it's job incredibly well. I also like the way that I can see where I was when I tagged the tune!

It's great to have full access to the Amazon store from my phone.

This great app works with Google Reader so I can read all of the blogs I subscribe to on my phone.

I use this app to record five things that I'm proud of each day.

I can view photos at my Flickr account, and my contacts using the Flickr app.

I'm experimenting with Tumblr at the moment. I think I want to use it to share resources and links. But I love the simplicity of the app.

This is a diary which also adds in my Flickr photos, and Facebook and Twitter updates.

Color Splash
In this app you can edit photos in a really clever way. You can turn the picture black and white and then colourise something you want to highlight.

Run Keeper
Perfect for recording the details of my running and cycling.

Love Flim
Used to choose the films we order.

Comic Twist
Add speech bubbles to your pictures!

Monday, 10 May 2010

2010 SATs

Given the number of schools that have boycotted this year's SATs, this experiment may not prove to be very popular, but here is a PrimaryPad where you can give you thoughts on this year's papers.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

SATs boycott

One of the biggest issues in our school over the last few weeks (and probably most others as well) has been whether or not to boycott the Year Six SATs. Rightly or wrongly, after much debate our school has decided to enter the pupils for the SATs. Now, I don't want to offend anyone who passionately believes that SATs should be boycotted, but I just wanted to record my thoughts.

Personally I felt that we should take part in the SATs this year. Now this is not at all because I agree with the idea of testing in the current format, I just felt that it was too late in the year for the school and the children to not take part. I realise that this is mainly our fault in not preparing suitable assessment alternatives. Had we had the foresight to plan ahead at the start of the year, we could have arranged something to happen in its place.

I am a member of a union, mainly as advice throughout my career has encouraged me to, but I am really not in favour of 'being told what to do' by a collective of teachers. Just because three-quarters of less than 50% of the teachers who voted decided they wanted to boycott, there is an expectation that everyone should follow suit. I appreciate that being in a 'union' implies that we should all do the same thing, but I dislike the idea that my own decisions do not count.

Of the many main arguments against SATs, I am sympathetic to all, but not all of them apply to our school.
  • Teaching to the test - this may be true to a degree, in that we use SATs questions as a plenary activity, or set a few questions as a homework based on what has been taught during the week. But in our school we aim to develop the children's skills for the future, not for the tests.
  • Narrowing the curriculum - our SATs revision this year has consisted of a week and a half of revision in Maths (revising the topics that the children requested) and in English we developed two units based on our visit to Liverpool in March, and our PSHCE study of alcohol where we explored several styles of writing (which the children have enjoyed). We have attempted two past reading comprehension papers and one spelling paper and no others. Therefore, we have spent around three weeks 'revising'. Throughout the year the children have taken part in three days of first aid training, a book day, an Africa day, an Eco day, been on two visit and attended a five day residential in France. There has never been more than one Maths and one English lesson each day. Now I really don't believe that our curriculum has been narrowed as a result of the SATs.
  • Pressure on the children - our message to the children throughout the year has been consistent - all we want is for the children to do their best. Levels are nice to achieve, but in the end we don't really care as long as the children are satisfied that they have done their best. We try to avoid the using the word 'tests' and prefer 'opportunities' as they are an opportunity to show what the children have achieved. Admittedly, some of the children are nervous, but we do our best to play the SATs down. The weeks before and during the SATs have been spent preparing for our 'Grow A Pound Week' which takes place the week after SATs. The atmosphere during the papers is relaxed and we try to be as encouraging as possible.
  • Pressure on schools - now all of the above has to be put into context. I am fortunate to work in a school where children traditionally perform very well in the SATs. We have been lucky enough to do fairly well in the school league tables. Parents are supportive and we are in a town suburb, with families (on average) with few socio-economic difficulties. I don't think we feel as much pressure on us to perform as with some schools in the country (in fact, probably within our own town.) I realise that the boycott is about making a stand on behalf of such schools, but in the end we have to do what we and our parents believe is right for our own pupils.
The decision to enter the pupils for the 2010 SATs was based on discussions with staff, governors, pupils (38 for, 16 against) and the results of an open forum with parents. However, the feeling from everybody was that we should not participate in the 2011 SATs, and measures will be implemented next year to ensure that, if SATs are still in existence, we will not be taking part, but will be creating our own assessment methods.

Despite not taking part, I completely support the decisions of others' to boycott the SATs and I wish every pupil and school the greatest success in their assessments in Year Six.