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School tests ‘kill joy of reading’, says War Horse author

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37422429

“The right book, the right author, the right parent, the right teacher, the right librarian at the right time, might have made the difference, shone a light into a dark life, turned that life around.”

Michael Morpurgo is a well known name in schools up and down the country and his books are real favourites in many, many classrooms.

Children and adults love his stories from War Horse to Private Peaceful and Kensuke’s Kingdom to the Butterfly Lion. These stories foster a real love for reading; a joy that can be taken from immersing yourself in these magical worlds.

However, the author argues that these principles are being lost as schools focus more and more on assessment and accountability.  He argues that we cannot forget these crucial skills that underpin our attitudes and skills throughout our lives.

Learning to read, but more importantly, enjoying reading and books can make a tangible difference to children early on and in turn their outcomes.  It is reassuring to hear voices such as Michael Morpurgo fighting this fight and driving the same message as iCanRead.

So what is the message…? Reading is fun, authors, teachers, politicians will all tell you this, however you cannot measure fun through a test…

Social division stays in online learning

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BBC News – Social division stays in online learning

Click Above Link!

This article makes interesting reading, both from an education point of view but also from a technology company perspective.

The academic divisions within schools between those children from poorer backgrounds and those from wealthier families has been at the forefront of the education agenda for many years.  Anyone in education agrees that this gap must close and the introduction of the pupil premium has driven this agenda at government and school level.

There is still a long way to go, but this article highlights further concern around how children choose to use the Internet and such technologies.  This is a deep rooted issue within societies across the globe, but it does highlight that the iCanLearn mission is not just UK-specific but is relevant across the world.

In particular, the assertion in this article “ that encouraging strong reading skills is the key to making the most of the internet” is crucial and only highlights our mission.  The article goes on to state “that there have been efforts to narrow such gaps in access, but a more valuable response might be to focus on making sure that all young people have strong literacy skills”.

iCanRead is uniquely placed to offer such a solution, a focus basic literacy skills, developing these in collaboration with parents, children and schools, whilst explosing all these parties to the latest technology in a focused and productive manner.

iCanLearn welcome this report and champion the cause and it’s findings, we will continue to work hard in this area, to use technology to close these gaps that are hindering progress for our children and ensure all children can access and use technology to its full potential.

Improving reading across the generations – Happy Birthday Biff, Chip, Kipper and Floppy!

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Biff and Chip

You will be hard pushed to find anyone that works in a school, or a child that has attended school over the last 3 decades, who has not read or at least heard of Biff, Chip, Kipper and Floppy.

See Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-36561958

Regardless of the type of school, geographical location or personal opinion, there is no denying the impact these books have had on children.

What has stood the test of time is a very solid goal and mission statement – “Good reading is so important to human development. So our vision was to get children reading”.

This is a pertinent today as it was 30 years ago, but it is also nice to see that these books are modernising and including new technologies such as tablets and smart phones within their stories.

iCanLearn recognises the achievements of Oxford University Press (OUP) and the Biff and Chip series over the past 30 years. In education, to still be relevant and impacting 80% of primary school children over this time is a significant achievement.

So, wishing Biff, Chip, Kipper and Floppy many happy returns and best wishes for the next 30 years.  Oh and don’t forget to log it on your iCanRead app!

TES – Workload

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shutterstock_296367998-2

Our very own Adam Robbins, Director and Head of Product Development at iCanLearn has been working hard at his ‘day job’ and spoke exclusively with TES about some of the hot topics in education that affect him and other school leaders.

As a deputy head, Adam is well aware of the work load and pressures facing school leaders and teachers.  This workload is not solely based in school and on teaching commitments, the article explains that leaders and schools are facing many more challenges.  As services in other areas are reduced schools find themselves providing social work and political implications such as the Academisation agenda.

Adam explained that ultimately it will be the children that lose out as a result of all the changes to the educational landscape.  Furthermore, the teacher recruitment crisis and further cuts to school budgets are also taking their toll.

He went on to explain that is why he is putting his efforts (when he has time!) into iCanRead,  “iCanRead is a tool that schools can really make use of. I know this from my current situation; not only does it offer key learning and skills to children, it is affordable for schools and offers focus and clarity for teachers that does not increase workload, but stream-lines it.  As one of those at the ‘chalk face’ every day I know iCanRead can offer fellow teachers the support they need and hope to extend iCanRead so it is accessible and available to many more of my colleagues”.

Adam also believes this is what makes the iCanLearn team unique and is one of their greatest strengths.  Our products and solutions are based on real need, Adam, and the other education professionals and partners we work with, ensure that we are always driving towards real solutions to real issues that schools are facing everyday.

You can read part of the article below but the full article and Adam’s comments are in this week’s copy of TES (available Friday 29th April).

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/pupils-suffer-school-leaders-are-forced-abandon-lessons-stand-heads

First Virtual School partnership for iCanLearn

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The coming summer term marks the start of a new partnership between a London authority’s virtual school and the iCanLearn team.

Over the last term the iCanLearn team have been working alongside the virtual head to create a working partnership that allows the virtual school to provide iCanRead to all the looked after children and carers in the whole authority, over 600 children.

This is an exciting new venture for both parties as this will not only support and encourage these children to read more but also provides a much needed tool for carers. Up until now there were no such resources that supported carers to support the children outside school.

Because of iCanRead, carers now have (at their finger tips) a tool to apply the latest methods that are used in school to support reading and to reinforce the learning at home.

We’d like to thank the authority for partnering with us; together we hope to further develop a much needed and powerful tool and look forward to seeing this develop in the coming months.

Tackling the Declining Standards in Language Skills!

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http://www.naht.org.uk/welcome/news-and-media/magazines/leadership-focus/leadership-focus-72-january-2016/

In this recent article, the NAHT highlights the rising number of children that are joining primary schools without adequate language skills.

The poll, conducted by Save the Children, goes on to explain that 75% of new children cannot speak in full sentences.  78% of those questioned in the poll also believed that despite interventions in classrooms and good quality first teaching, these children may never catch up with their peers.

This is a concern that is echoed by teachers and school leaders across the country and also the iCanLearn user schools.

This problem is two-fold; if children miss out on their early years education, they suffer later down the line in their educational journey.  A good start and a good early years education readies children for later challenges they will face.

Adam Robbins, ICL’s Head of Product Development and assistant head teacher recognises this issue, “there is a significant amount of research that shows that if children receive a solid start to their education, the key skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening will underpin future academic success”.

Adam goes on to explain, “this is why we believe iCanRead can be a key tool to support early years education – it focuses on the key phonics to support early speaking, listening and reading skills. But more importantly it provides a tool for parents to support their children at home”.

This key combination of early intervention, parental engagement and a cost on making reading for pleasure fun for young children, makes iCanRead a powerful tool for children, schools and parents. iCanRead can help teachers and parents to effectively tackle the declining standards for children entering the first stage of their education.

Tackling Poor Language Skills

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A recent survey of primary teachers has highlighted an important snapshot of the challenges teachers face in addressing the issue of poor language skills.

http://www.naht.org.uk/welcome/news-and-media/key-topics/funding/an-early-years-place-for-all/

The survey goes on to illustrate that three out of four teachers have seen children arriving in reception who struggle to speak in full sentences. This illustration is disappointingly echoed by our own members’ experiences.

The report goes on to say that eight out of ten teachers believe that investing more in the quality of preschool education is key to improving school results:

“We know from experience that investing in early years pays off in future years, with children more engaged, more confident readers and more able to readily access other challenges that the curriculum throws at them. It’s time to see education funding, including for early years, as an investment, not a cost.”

Data compiled over the last two terms from schools has shown that iCanRead has a direct impact on language skills particularly in the early years and SEN. The audio dictionary provides sound clips for all the phonemes and key words children need to know and the use of audio files via a tablet or mobile device brings these sounds direct to children and parents to support further learning. This is a means that has not been used before and is providing schools with a new tool to tackle this issue early.

We expect that in the course of a full year, schools that use iCanRead will see significant improvements in pupils at the Nursery and Reception age. This is a crucial learning period in young children’s lives and if we can support this then schools will benefit as children will enter KS1 and KS2 with much i
mproved levels of language that will underpin their learning and progress across the curriculum.icanreadaliens

More than 12 million fall into UK digital skills gap

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-34570344

The BBC recently published the above article suggesting over 12million people do not have the skills to prosper in the digital age and that this ‘digital exclusion’ gap could widen. It argues there are 5 skills needed to succeed in the digital age – ‘if you can manage information, communicate, make payments, solve problems, and create stuff online then you are in good shape’.

The research also argues that poverty and lack of infrastructure contribute to this problem. iCanLearn works closely with a number of schools in different parts of the country with varying levels of need and deprivation. We provide these schools with easy-to-use technology that they can share with children, parents and teachers. Our technology encourages the sharing information and communication. By providing this technology to early years and primary children, they are being exposed to the latest mobile technology. Whilst using this technology, they develop different aspects of all 5 of the above skills. The children quickly become the experts, often teaching the older generations and helping to introduce them to the digital age! The digital age is an exciting time!

From our experience, the children embrace this change and thrive on it. We are playing our part to close this gap and equip our children today with the skills and knowledge they need for tomorrow.

iCan… Impact!

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This is an exciting month for the iCanLearn team as it marks the release of our impact case studies.

Over the past two terms, iCanRead has been used by children in classrooms, schools and homes across the country.  Teachers were asked to focus their trials on certain groups such as pupil premium, boys, SEN and early years.

The trials were a resounding success; progress and outcomes were significantly improved for the children involved.

We are incredibly proud that iCanRead has helped children improve their reading, whilst helping parents support their children at home with their reading.  This has always been our goal and we are delighted that in these schools, we are reaching our goal and making a difference.

We are also thankful to all our trial schools, teachers, parents and most importantly the children, for their help, support and feedback in making iCanRead an initial success.

You can access these case studies via the iCanRead homepage on the website.

Please contact the team if you would like any further information or details regarding these case studies. Also, look out for our Gifted and Talented & EAL case studies in the 2015 Autumn term!

Breaking The 1000 Mark!!!

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Breaking the 1000 mark!

We are pleased to announce that last week one of our trial schools broke the 1000 mark. Let me clarify – one child read over 1000 pages in a week and logged this via the iCanRead Reading Log. A stellar performance that would ensure he was top of his class for the week.

Given the National Literacy Trust’s report published this week on reading which examines the habits of children inside and outside of school, there are a number of links we can make here. Firstly, the child who logged this reading record was a boy. The report identified the reading gap was widening between boys and girls, even though the general trend was positive increases across the board. Secondly, the report indicated that access to technology in the home is increasing with 77% of KS2 having access to a tablet and remarkably 58% having their own smartphone. Access to smartphones or technology to use an app is less in question now than ever before.

This helps to prove our hypothesis: Children’s engagement in reading outside of the classroom increases when we combine interactive reading technology with parental involvement, and blend with an element of competition. This is an early view on what iCanRead can do; the mission now is to increase adoption across schools and record even more 1000+ scores in a week.

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