As the end of thebreak draws nigh, I’m left about the return to and all that this entails. My mind buzzes with lesson planning, resource-creating, teaching, assemblies; duties, , , parents, paperwork, meetings; the highs, the lows, the drama and the laughter… The list is endless.
The familiar shift from off-duty to switched-on has begun. Through this heavy mist of the things to plan before the term starts, poses one particular question to me, as clear as crystal as ice-water; the word ‘why’.
This word is the one thing that really staysfor me through all my preparations. Whether I am lesson planning or organising meetings, it won’t leave me. The question hovers overhead, smiling knowingly and nodding. If the answer to that makes you happy, then I guess you are one with the world, even on difficult days. I question ‘why’ most of the time, because it keeps me in check; it keeps me focused and relights my passion on the darkest days; I want this to be the case for my students also.
Professional development is cited as one of the main reasons to use Twitter. From questions asked to blog links shared, Twitter provides a ‘real time’ platform for anyone to discover information. Of course, there is the social aspect that dominates the platform, but a Twitter profile, with like-minded followers, allows for reasoned debate and conclusion in your chosen field.
Take the teaching profession. There are numerous educators on Twitter prepared to share experiences and resources. Once a Personal Learning Network has been built up, a teacher can usually find help/answers from one of their ‘colleagues’. Add to this the power of the hashtag and it is easy to see why the Twitter community is growing. Participation in an #edchat discussion with @tomwhitby, or a more specific debate, can lead to reams of information and links coming the way of the willing chat member. This helps to inform a decision or spark interest in a new activity.
So what does this have to do with a job interview?
Photo credit: Johan Larsson
Effective and positive behaviour management is achievable through the combination of a well-designed, robust IT system and properly supported teachers following a clear and fair behaviour policy. Sounds like a simple strategy, but putting a software system in place that enables a school to record, monitor, analyse and manage pupil behaviour can be problematic.
Teaching, learning and behaviour are inseparable issues in school: without good order in the classroom, effective teaching cannot take place and pupils’ learning is inhibited. Even low-level disruption in the classroom is a significant source of stress for teachers. Poor behaviour, whatever its severity, impacts on every aspect of school life, from exam results to teacher and pupil wellbeing. As a result, managing pupil behaviour effectively is at the centre of a school’s core business.
When we begin to appreciate just how much the past was shaped by people’s values and understand the extent to which positive and negative values are affecting the present, we realise more and more how, with well considered, carefully chosen values, we are empowered to create the kind of future we would like to experience and leave as a legacy for generations to come.
Values in action and the school curriculum
Whatever subject we look into, whether it’s History, Geography, Art, Music, Literature, Languages, Sciences, Physical Education, Religious Education or ICT, we can soon find instances that illustrate the effects of positive values, such as honesty, compassion and respect, and the results of applying negative values such as intolerance, irresponsibility and deceit.
Back in June I blogged about the collaboration between Physical Education educators world wide in the #PEBible and #GCSEPE Dropbox folders (#PEBible to #GCSEPE). In essence, teachers, researchers and coaches are sharing hundred of resources and lesson plans to share good practice and pedagogy with like minded individuals.
Since that post, a number of other shared Dropbox folders have been created that I am finding invaluable to support my teaching and development as a teacher.
Since the beginning of September, we have been trying to maximise the use of 1:1 iPods in year 6 in all areas of the curriculum. The potential of enhancing teaching and learning in mathematics through the use of this technology has been particularly interesting. We have been developing the creative use of a range of apps to support progress, engage childrena and add relevance to maths teaching with positive outcomes. We have also explored a wide range of maths specific apps which have helped pupils mainly in the areas of number fact and tables recall. Recently, we have extended the use of the iPods to allow them to support independent learning, and play a central role in effective formative assessment.
Each week the children complete regular short assessment tasks based on assessment criteria appropriate to the level of maths they are working towards. We have adapted the assessment resources provided by Andrell Education as part of the Big Maths approach developed by Ben Harding. For those unfamiliar with Big Maths, the assessment feature uses a 10-step checklist to identify the specific steps a pupil needs to secure before achieving a level and moving on to the next. As teachers, we have found this element of Big Maths extremely powerful and it is central to our developments with the iPods in terms of formative assessment and independent learning.
Since 2006, the Education Inspections Act has made it the legal responsibility of every headteacher to ensure their school's behavioural policy addresses the prevention of bullying in all forms. This is a huge responsibility and cannot be taken lightly. Have you taken time recently to consider how your school is confronting bullying?
Throughout Anti-Bullying Week 2012, Bully Watch, the anti-bullying experts, will be providing us with five tips (one per day) that you can follow or use as a basis to help form your own school anti-bullying plan.
The main emphasis of the COSPATIAL project is finding ways to adapt existing classroom technologies to engage children with autism in learning social skills. The project is being led by Dr Sarah Parsons of the University of Southampton and Dr Sue Cobb of the University of Nottingham. Thanks go to Dr Sarah Parsons for talking us through the project and, although we did not get to see the project in action, it was clear to see how the technology would be used with Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) students.
The COSPATIAL project focuses on two types of technologies:
- Collaborative Virtual Environments
- Shared Active Surfaces
In this post I am going to concentrate on the Collaborative Virtual Environments. These allow multiple users to interact and communicate within a shared virtual space. They do this by accessing the space on individual laptops that are in the same room. There are 3 different programs that the students can use, each working on different elements of social interaction from communication to working together to complete a task.
Over the past few weeks I've been privileged to read so many great blog posts by fellow teachers on the numerous benefits of both tweeting and blogging. Having an online presence in order to collaborate and learn from others is now fast becoming one of the most popular and interesting ways to improve your day to day teaching. More and more teachers are getting involved in this online community, which means there are more and more opportunities to network with like-minded people.
My motivation to write this post was not to re-invent the wheel, but instead to bring together the best posts that have been written on this area. It should be seen as a one-stop guide for both teachers looking to dip their toe in the online teaching community, and also the more experienced 'Tweachers' amongst us.
When it comes to learning, feedback is critical. So when it comes to one's writing, the principle is no different.
I have been teaching English for only six years but have struggled with this feedback process time and time again. I realise it is the most important part, and yet to do it effectively, I must commit literally hours to making sure I do it right. It's the proverbial thorn in my side.
Then when we went 1:1 with iPads in December of 2011, we discovered Notabilty. I played around with it and at first was impressed. I thought it to be a very versatile note-taking app. Then I discovered that it also has the ability to record audio along with the notes. And that's when the lightbulb exploded.
It is great to know that peer assessment can be a time saving, effective form of feed forward. However, we cannot expect our pupils to complete all of our marking… can we? Teachers hate marking books! I have never met a teacher that said: “I have a lovely big pile of books waiting to be marked on my desk; I can’t wait to get started!” Marking takes time that teachers just do not have.
Assessment of any type is completed to provide pupils with a way of moving forward with their learning. It should not be completed in one large batch just before a work trawl. The marking method that follows was developed as a result of me wanting to mark every piece of work that pupils complete but simply not having the time. I took an existing idea named plus, minus equals and developed my own method of delivery that helps me save time while still effectively assessing pupils’ work.
Today I went on my first geocaching experience. For those that don’t know, a geocache is a container that is hidden somewhere in the world. It has coordinates assigned to it and then using these coordinates (or an app) people go and look for the boxes. Inside the box could be a number of things, but usually there is a notepad to sign to show you found it.
Why did we do it? I’ll come back to this later.
We started with getting an app. I used the official geocaching.com app called Groundspeak. This is £6 which in app-world, makes it very expensive, but consider the fact that I was out and about using it for two hours today and it only cost me £6. Plus I get to use it over and over again. It is well worth it in my opinion.
People who have read my #marginalgains blog posts will know I am going over old ground here – intentionally so – as I am looking to dig deeper towards the key marginal gains that have the biggest impact on learning. For me, formative oral feedback and questioning are the two key ‘hinge point marginal gains’ that make for great teaching and learning. My previous #marginalgains blog identified new teaching strategies for these two key area of pedagogy, but here I wanted to use this blog to reflect on what I view as the most high impact formative oral feedback strategies that I have been using in my everyday practice. I want to use my list as a reminder, each time I plan lessons, of the key strategies to use – as it is too easy to forget and slip into autopilot planning, forgetting even our most effective of strategies.
In the latest OFSTED guidance, they have clearly stated that lesson planning should not be inflexible, that teachers should react to the progress, or the lack thereof, of their students. This is heartening recognition of what we have known all along – and that is that teaching and learning are contingent activities. Learning is often problematic, changeable, non-linear, beset by a host of unique factors that cannot be exactly replicated (but with experience we can determine common patterns). We must therefore be constantly tracking the evidence of learning with as much precision and skill as we can. That is why effective teaching hinges absolutely on oral formative feedback and questioning on a lesson by lesson basis. It appears to me that the greatest benefit of experience that I observe in excellent teachers is the recognition of how and when to elicit feedback, with the nuanced understanding of what questions to ask, how and when. I have drawn upon this wealth of experience for my top ten – indeed it is my inept stumbling near the shoulders of giants that is responsible for the whole lot!
This post was inspired by the #ipadagogy hashtag I came across recently on Twitter. This basically involves learning about the iPad. But I would like to suggest an alternative to this: ipedagogy. It seems rather a small change of just one letter, but it does change the focus rather fundamentally. I would like to suggest that we should try to foster the kind of environment in our classes, where students would learn everything in the same way as you learnt how to use an iPad.
We need to hide the ‘manual’. Learning becomes so much more meaningful to young people when they feel they have discovered facts and solutions for themselves. Serving it all up for them takes much of the magic out of learning, just as you lose out by not figuring out how to use an iPad on your own. One of the ways of doing this might be if we replaced textbooks by teacher-moderated, student-created, constantly evolving wikis. Surely this is not such a far fetched idea? We could even issue them with the textbook or study guide… But only after they’ve discovered most of it for themselves.
Photo credit: Yutaka Tsutano