There is a cool little video that is currently going viral at the moment called 'Caine's Arcade'.
Many of the messages about learning are far too explicit for me to explain here… pretty much everybody will see that it is a parable on the theme of creativity. However, there are also other, more implicit, messages for those of us “in the business of learning”.
- Caine would not have been able to create his arcade if his Dad had not been willing to let him “make a mess”. In how many classrooms could Caine’s talent have bubbled to the surface. How many teachers are willing to let students “create a mess”?
After watching ‘Road to Glory’, about the inexorable progress of the Sky Pro Cycling team, it foregrounded the mantra of “The Aggregation of Marginal Gains” that is at the core of David Brailsford’s philosophy. In essence, it is the drive to perfect every controllable detail in the process of performance – the ‘marginal gains’ – with the result being a cumulative significant gain. Watching Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France, as well as the Great Britain cycling team in the 2012 Olympics was nothing short of inspirational – like most teachers it was considering how to harness the idea to make it useful in my teaching.
The other evening, after – ‘Road To Glory’ – I had a fruitful Twitter conversation with @fullonlearning and a fellow teacher @macn_1. We discussed ideas related to the ‘marginal gains’ concept; how it related to learning and how it may be useful for grouping students etc. One idea I was struck by was how it could be used to promote “learner effectiveness”. Throughout the summer I have been thinking about how ‘learning’ should actually be given as much focus, if not more, than ‘teaching’ – a subtle semantic shift. The ‘marginal gains’ model therefore becomes not simply another teacher motivational mantra (which, sadly, too often becomes verbal wallpaper for students), but how it could become a model for nuanced and revealing self-assessment and potent reflective learning.
For many years the teaching profession has been familiar with the term ‘best practice’; sharing what is working well in one setting so that it might be implemented in another. It is happening within schools, between schools at conferences and TeachMeets, and online through both ‘top-down’ websites and ‘bottom up’ blogs from teachers.
Even the recent review of the English National Curriculum has been influenced by a comprehensive review of ‘best practice’ in different subjects from across the world (DfE, 2012). There is a problem with taking such practice at face value. The ‘best practice’ that is often held up is Finland due to the high levels achieved in international PISA league tables (OECD, 2009). However, when looking at international comparisons ’best practice’ is only part of the story. Practice in schools is coupled with the Finnish culture, which places a high value on academic achievement, and a high status for their teaching profession. How can we replicate Finnish achievement unless we take the complexities of Finnish culture and implant them on the English?
Popular Culture is something I have always wanted to integrate into my classroom. I have approached this in various ways during my time in the classroom. Primarily I focused on deep integration of popular culture through themes and digital technologies in projects. I have also tied together units of work under the banner of topics. I will write about these over the coming months but I want to write today about another way I spread themes of popular culture across the whole year. This approach is probably more relevant to Early Years and Key Stage 1 classrooms but can be adapted to Key Stage 2 classrooms too.
During my visit to a Disney theme park in 2010, I realised that every time I had visited a Disney Park there was some sort of year-long ‘celebration’ happening. I realised that in the current state of education we don’t celebrate a great deal (well I always had within my classroom), so thought about developing this idea. Last year I developed a ‘Dream’s context where the children celebrated their dreams for the future, this linked primarily with a project we were involved in linked to Enterprise and living healthy and productive lifestyles. We transformed our messy cloakroom into a ‘Theatre of Dreams’ and linked other areas of curricula subjects to dreams:
Here is a list of ways for students to become active participants in the learning process:
Speed dating. Students sit in a line, in a row of desks. They each have a piece of information. Other students sit opposite them. The first row of students then have to teach the student opposite them the piece of information they have. The second row of students then all move along one and receive new information. At the end, they share all of their new knowledge.
Tag team questions. Teacher has sets of envelopes with questions in them, written on strips of paper. Teams of students are given one question that they have to take back to their team to answer. Once they have answered it, they come back to the teacher to get it checked, before picking up another question strip. The team that has collected the most question strips after a set period of time wins.
Year 6 child: ‘Miss, do you think God is real?’
Year 4 child: ‘Miss, what is the answer?’
Among the many useful pedagogical skills we can learn from the Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, one of the most interesting is that of Socratic irony.
The Chambers dictionary says that Socratic irony is "a means by which a questioner pretends to know less than a respondent, when actually he knows more."
Zoe Williams, of the Guardian, says that "The technique [of Socratic irony], demonstrated in the Platonic dialogues, was to pretend ignorance and, more sneakily, to feign credence in your opponent's power of thought, in order to tie him in knots."
At the core of all drama is the concept of shared experience: of sharing thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions and information. Drama also, by its very nature, encourages participants to explore personal and social issues and builds self-esteem. But drama is at its most effective when used in the primary classroom to support and enhance thinking and learning.
For example, when reading and discussing the traditional story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, drama could be used to explore behaviour by placing certain characters from the story on the ‘hotseat’ – this can involve either the teacher or pupils working in role.
Politicians often remind us that we live in a modern world. A modern world, they say, requires a modern approach.
The first statement - that we live in a modern world - is so obvious that one is tempted to accept the second as equally self-evident, when in fact it is not.
The fact that a thing or idea is new or recent (which is all "modern" means) does not necessarily make it better than something older.
Of course, those in power want us to think that it does, because they want to bring in their own new ideas, or have recently done so. For them, admitting the superiority of an older way of doing things would mean conceding that there is no need for their new ideas (and no need for us to pay for them) or that the ideas they recently introduced have failed.
So they don't admit it. Instead they try to trick us into thinking that newer is always better: they use words such as modern and progressive as if they were synonymous with good; they scorn opponents for wanting to "turn back the clock", as if doing so would be unquestionably bad.
The education discussions, in the online space, are filled with efforts to find the appropriate role for technology in the classroom. No longer are desktop and laptop computers the main focus; it is the new "kids" on the block, such as the iPhone, iPod and iPad, that have moved the discussion ahead at warp speed. Mobile devices, no matter how excellent, are not an answer onto themselves -- they have to fit into the holistic concept of a teaching system. In response, teachers are literally grappling with these new platforms vis a vis teaching and their integration into the classroom.
Teachers understand the need to have a coherent structure within which mobile technology is incorporated. Therefore, in addition to technology discussions, there are new theories and paradigms on how best to teach students. Or, from the students' perspective, which teaching methods best align with how they actually (naturally) learn. Unlike a computer diagnostic program, students cannot provide teachers with a printout of what works best. There is enough history, however, using real world data, to deduce what has worked and what has not worked.
In our last post, we discussed how to use apps more effectively and what to look for in a mobile app to achieve better memory retention and thus a higher learning acumen. A couple of questions remain; what does an effective, study-enhancing app really look like and how would it function? In this issue, we examine how mobile apps can enhance study habits as well as help students master independent tasks--and even achieve developmental milestones. There is a great deal of research and discussion amongst experts regarding milestones for the first few years of child development. Unfortunately, the amount of research decreases drastically with regard to pre-adolescents, which is the second highest stage of change (development-wise) and occurs around the age of eleven (averaged for both genders). Puberty usually gets a lot of attention (and blame) for irresponsible behavior; however, I often hear from my students that the real reason that they did not complete an assignment was because they either felt overwhelmed or were unsure how to complete the task--not because they were being disobedient.
This post looks at keeping one's own schedule organized as a developmental milestone resulting from the ability to form abstract thoughts, age, and parental guidance toward independence. We specifically address practical tools using mobile apps to help students during this major transition. When choosing an app, pay close attention to the things that are important not just for functionality and flexibility, but also to visual aesthetics. For students, specifically, it MUST be visually attractive and age appropriate for it to get used! Students have different values when it comes to product selection--often indicative of what the newest technologies offer; follow the current technology trends and compliance from students is improved.