Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Digital footprint design



I recently noticed that my online presence, my digital footprint, was a little disjointed and the overall effect was a hotchpotch of images that didn't quite give my audience a picture of who I was or what I did. I had a background image for my G+ profile that was different from my YouTube background that was different from my Blogger header image that was different from my Twitter profile and so on. So today I have spent a few hours designing my digital footprint, my online identity, to ensure that who I am and what I do is no longer lost in a mess of graphics across the many platforms I use.

I started by looking at the three words that best describe me. I use these as a tagline across every platform I use: teacher, artist, musician. Next I thought about the design and I decided to focus on my YouTube Channel art first as this would involve the largest image size out of all the social media sites I use regularly. If you have a YouTube page then I suggest you take a look at Google's support page for further information. The YouTube channel art is the image that sits on top of your page, many people will choose an image provided or, as I did, upload a photo from their collection. The image looks quite small but it all depends on what device you are using to view the page. Google's support page recommends a single image of 2560 x 1440 pixels that is optimised for various devices. You create an image that works for your YouTube Channel, but also for a mobile device and viewed on a television. Depending on the device more or less of the uploaded image will be used so you need to design your layout carefully.

I used Keynote to do this as it suited my needs perfectly as I never needed the power of Photoshop or similar image editors. I used Keynote's colour picker to create a simple colour scheme and I also added a torn photo effect to some of my images. Whatever image editor or tool you use make sure you set the image size to 2560 x 1440 px otherwise the image you create, once uploaded, will not fit correctly.

My YouTube Channel Art
I then used this image as the basis for the rest of my digital footprints across the social media sites I use.


My Twitter banner


My Google+ cover photo

I'm quite happy with the cohesion that this design has given to my digital footprint. If you have suggestions about how I could improve it then let me know.

Image sizes required.

YouTube - 2560 x 1440 px (text and logo safe area is 1546 x 423 px)
Google+ - 1080 x 608 px recommended
Twitter - 1500 x 500 px









Sunday, May 4, 2014

Developing a sense of number in the Early Years


Children come into the Early Years Foundation Stage with an array of mathematical abilities and understanding of number. Their world may be filled with numbers (for example in books, television and film, nursery rhymes and songs, shops, signs, counting with parents) but that does not necessarily mean they have an understanding of number sense. 

Early Years and Kindergarten teachers will assess the children in their class within the first couple of weeks to build a picture of every child's understanding, skills and knowledge in many areas, number is one such area. When asked to count to 10 or 20, a 4 year old will happily plough through a mantra learned by heart to impress the teacher/parents/whoever asks. That child will think they can count to 10 but rhyming off numbers is not counting. This rhyming of a number sentence is certainly a skill that children learn at an early age, the next step is to learn the value of each number, its cardinal, and this is best done using practical, concrete objects. I have found when you give a young child a set of objects to count, the counting activity and its correct result could depend on the following.
  1. The number of objects given to count
  2. The number of objects the child is able to count confidently
  3. How long the number sentence mantra is the child has learned
  4. Whether a finger is used to count or not
  5. Whether the child looks at the objects whilst counting them or looks at you
  6. How the objects are placed
Point 6 is one which I started using more and more with children to assess whether the counting strategy used was a mixture of points 1 to 5 or if they had started to develop the cardinal of a number. Try this, look at the following groups of objects. How many are in each group? Try to do this without counting the objects individually then check by counting.


You will most likely have counted them using either fig. 2 or 3 as these use an arrangement we are familiar with. If you checked by individually counting the objects you will have found fig.1 to have one less than the others, it has 14. Now, how did you count the objects in fig.1? Did you start at the top and work your way across and down in lines, or did you start at the bottom and work up? Did you employ another method? A 4 year old child will probably not have developed such a method to work out the value of the group so may start counting from a random dot and go over the actual number due to counting over dots again, or count to a known high number in the hope of impressing you. What we take for granted is in fact a difficult and challenging concept for many young children to grasp. 

By counting the group of dots correctly in fig.1, the child has moved from merely using number names to recognising that numbers have a value. The next step is to develop an understanding that numbers can be added together and I'll explore this in my next blogpost. 







Friday, April 11, 2014

Creativity isn't a dark art



What does it mean to be creative? What exactly is creativity? If you search these two questions on the internet you will receive 267,000 results and 94,600 results respectively. If you check the same out on Twitter you can find ongoing discussions revolving around each question almost on a daily basis. Tonight has been one such night. David Didau (@learningspy) posted the following blog post 

The dark art of creativity

It created quite a stir, to say the least. 


As you might be aware, I now teach in Early Years. I can safely say that every day I encounter creativity.  There are 25 children in my class yet I can guarantee that every one of them will experience or directly create a creative moment every day. Young children are highly creative, their imaginations know no bounds. They say what they want, they will do what they want when they want and these outcomes are all creative. Early Years is filled with such creative moments, and as many creative moments are captured to give teachers a better understanding of every child’s needs. I base my planning on these moments and react to them instantly or as quickly as possible. Creativity in the Early Years is as common as plankton in our oceans. 

So why do other teachers argue about the loss of creativity throughout the rest of a child’s education? Does it mysteriously fade away due to natural causes or does the education system have no time for it, or worse, seek to eradicate it? 

After considering various definitions for creativity, I’m going with this - Creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas. There are many possibilities that we could use this creativity for, you may even disagree on the definition I have used so please feel free to provide your own but for the sake of this post, creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas. 

In primary school, children have many original and imaginative ideas. But do these creative moments fit into a school’s expectations? Do we take the risk of following through with a child’s creativity or do we stick rigidly to the given curriculum so as to meet our performance management targets? Do we constantly worry that children aren't creative anymore or do we ensure they understand and can use the basics in Maths and English which will lead to many of them finding that creative spark once again?


There is a balance. Creativity can be encouraged whilst still meeting the targets imposed upon us by SMT and your own expectations. All it takes is courage. It’s not that difficult. Feel free to deny a child's creativity in your comments below and please do read David's post

If we really want children to be more creative we must feed their imaginations. We need to teach them stuff before we can expect them to question and criticise. We need to show them how ideas coalesce into something useful before they we start seeing their own connections. And we need to give them rules if we want to give them something to kick against and escape from. Constraints force creativity: freedom stifles it.

That's made me think, creatively ;-)