(Posted by Dughall)
Watching the school closures flooding in through the @kirkleesschools Twitter feed last Tuesday, I got to thinking.
In Kirklees, we have well over 100 schools subscribed to the same Virtual Learning Environment, DBPrimary. I was aware that shared online spaces could be created and managed in DBP, but I was unsure of how easy it would be to make such a shared community available to all users in all subscribing schools. It turns out, it is incredibly easy.
Putting all other work on hold, I set about creating such a community and called it ‘Snowy Days’. In it, I included:
- A survey for children to share the depth of snow where they were.
- A ‘Snowy’ quiz.
- Pictures in the gallery that could be rated and commented upon.
- A ‘contribute’ box inviting contributions about favourite things about snow.
- A variety of forum threads (more below).
After about an hour making it, it was sent out to appear on all staff and pupil homepages. I also emailed all the headteachers to inform them.
There was an instant flurry of activity as pupils started checking in and leaving contributions with their favourite things about snowy days immediately.
The forum was a particular success. I started the following topics:
- Things to do – This included links to loads of things to do around the theme of snowy days. Here is a single link to all of the links I included: http://bit.ly/bundles/dughall/1
- Description of the snow – I asked the children to write a description of the snow. Amongst the replies, this one struck me:
“Footsteps crunching as you wade past, the pure white crystals clinging onto your wellies at every step. At the human touch these crystals melt into liquid only too cold for words. Balls of snow are formed in palms, and thrown delightedly at a unknown passer-by, sliding down his neck and shivering his spine. The snow breathes out icy breath, whispering out your name. The pools in which you once swam are now simply ice, ready for skating. The fish are underneath, like bright gummy-sweets inside aqua-blue jelly. Snow angels fly about the ground, chattering earnestly whilst watching the children play. They hang up their baubles upon their evergreen trees, and watch in wonder at the pure lights in the shape of dancing snowflakes that tickle across the sky.”
- Can you make this sentence more interesting? – I posted the following sentence and invited children to improve it ‘The snow fell from the sky onto the ground’. Replies included:
“The white snow flake fell from the clear blue sky onto the snow covered grass.”
“The freezing crispy snow flew from the white tree onto the crystal pavement!”
“Slowly small crystal particles, floated peacefully down on the rocky ground, turning it into a crispy blanket of snow! “
There were many, many more!
- Winter Pictures – One of the brilliant features of DBPrimary is the fact that there is a drawing tool in the editor. This allows for equality of access for a very wide range of ages and I know that pictures were contributed from Nursery aged (3 yr old) children up to Y6 (11 yr olds). I have my suspicions that there may even have been some adult contributions… Here they are:
- Snow poems – Here are a few:
“Gently falling down,
Drifting to the ground,
Snow angels all around,
Snowballs being thrown,
Snow that never goes.”
Sparkling in the sunlight
Nicely glistening on the ground
Oh what a beautiful sight
Wind blowing the snowflakes all around.”
“snow is brillyant
but you myet not like snow
if you like playing in the snow you will be frizing
wow wow wow it is snowing just look at it wow
your car will be all coverd with snow
your garden will be coverd as well
look at your garden it is brillyant wow wow
i really like playing in the snow
and i have free choice today
you just like snow
you are poile
and you never want to play in the snow”
- What have you been doing in the snow? – This thread had hundreds of replies as children shared they experiences of playing out in the snow. Another fantastic feature of DBPrimary is the ability to record a short video message via a webcam with a single click and we had some great replies from children showing us the snow in their gardens via the video feature. The ability to share video in this way is secure and limited to partcipating schools.
All in all, the ‘Snowy Days’ community proved a great success attracting thousands of visitors and contributions while the schools were closed for a few days. Now, there may be those who believe that snow closure days should be all about building snowmen, snowballing and outdoor learning. I say to those people “I completely agree!”. However, if my own children are anything to go by, there were a few times when they got cold, bored or just wanted a contrasting activity. I made sure I put the following message prominently on the front page of the community:
“REMEMBER! Real snow is the best! You should only really be here if you get too cold or fed up with playing out, snowballing or building snowmen!”
Now there’s just the matter of a few songs to learn and scenes to rehearse with 3 days removed from an already tight schedule…