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Using Hexagon Learning for categorisation, linkage and prioritisation
Students at the International School of Toulouse studying the rise of Stalin using the hexagon approachStudents at the International School of Toulouse studying the rise of Stalin using the hexagon approach

Hexagon Learning Case Study: The Rise of Stalin

The ability to select, prioritise, categorise and link evidence is a valuable skill that students learn in History. It is also highly transferable to other subjects.

Using hexagons is a particularly simple and effective way of developing these skills, as the following case study seeks to demonstrate.

Historical Context

How Stalin was able to emerge as leader of the USSR against apparently overwhelming odds is one of the most intriguing questions which we study at IB Level. In the years that following the Bolshevik Revolution, due to a series of blunders and miscalculations, Stalin had lost the support of the party leadership: so much so that on his deathbed, Lenin dictated a formal ‘Testament’ describing Stalin as a liability who needed to be removed from his post. He was also hated by Lenin’s closest ally, Leon Trotsky, who was widely expected to step into the leadership position after Lenin’s death. Yet just five years later Stalin was undisputed leader of the USSR and Trotsky was in exile.

The story of how Stalin transformed his fortunes so dramatically is a great story revolving around Stalin’s treachery, cunning and downright charm. But the danger of this is that the essays that are then written become mere narrative, storybook accounts which do little more than provide a step-by-step account of the main events between 1924-1929.

The Hexagon Approach

After a study of the events culminating in Stalin emerging as leader of the party, I made a list of factors which could be used to explain why Stalin became dictator of the USSR. I then put these into my Classtools.net Hexagons Generator to create two single-page documents containing a total of 40 hexagons.

Stage 1: Selection and Categorisation

The class was divided into pairs for the activity. Each pair of students was given a copy of the first sheet of hexagons, which they cut up and started to organise on their desks into categories of their choice. This process, involving the categorisation of 25 hexagons, took about 20 minutes. Students were encouraged to come up with no more than five categories overall. They could also choose to leave some of the hexagons to one side if they were considered less important than the others.

We then spent five minutes comparing the different categories that students had identified. Each pair of students took turns to suggest one idea for a category heading until all the ideas had been shared.

Following this, I gave each students a blank sheet of hexagons. The challenge was to identify other factors which could help to explain Stalin’s rise to power and write these directly into the hexagons. After five minutes, each pair of students took it in turns to suggest an idea. If this was a valid (and fresh) idea, then the other students copied it into their pair’s version of the sheet, and the students who shared the idea were each given a sweet (we had a bag of these left over as a result of our ‘Rise of Stalin through sweet-eating’ lesson which had preceded this lesson!). This process was repeated until the students had run out of ideas.

Each pair of students then cut up this new sheet of factors and used them to develop their existing diagrams. In some instances this involved merely adding fresh evidence into existing categories. Sometimes though it involved adding new categories, or amending earlier categories.

Finally, each pair of students was given the second sheet of hexagons and the process of categorisation continued.

Stage 2: Linkage and Prioritisation

By this stage, the students had decided upon the main factors to explain Stalin’s rise to power, organised into key categories. Each of these categories could form the basis of a paragraph in an essay. However, it was still necessary to decide two things.

Firstly, students would need to decide in which order to deal with the points in each paragraph. It would not be enough to simply introduce the category title, then randomly write about each piece of evidence from the hexagons in that group. This is where the hexagons are particularly useful. The six sides mean that factors can be placed alongside each other in various combinations to highlight connections between batches of factors within categories. After students rearranged their factors in this way, they stuck them down onto sugar paper with a glue stick. They could then write the title of each category over each batch of hexagons, and annotate around each group of hexagons to explain why they were arranged in that particulary way.

Secondly, students had to decide how to connect their main categories together to create an overall thread of argument. They did this by drawing arrows between the factors and explaining their connections over them. For example:

“Economic problems in the country > created > Divisions in the party > exploited by > Stalin’s Cunning”

Stage 3: Essay preparation

The final part of the process was to use the completed diagrams as an essay plan. I photographed each of the diagrams and shared them with the students. Their task was to use the diagrams as the basis of their essay on “Why did Stalin become leader of the USSR?”. Each paragraph was to focus on separate categories of hexagons, and the points made in each paragraph should have some logical order and ‘flow’. Moreover, the order of the paragraphs should be dictated by the arrows linking the categories, with the opening sentence of each paragraph after the first one being based on the explanation over each arrow.

Reflections and Conclusions

The ‘Hexagon Approach’ worked very well. It steered students away from a narrative approach and into an analytical frame of mind. It helped them frame categories of analyis, build up their command of the material step-by-step. It provided them with the opporunity to easily change their initial assumptions, connect factors together both within and between categories, and give them a very effective basis of an accomplished written piece.

It is also a very simple approach that can be transferred to other topics and other curriculum subjects. All that is needed is an initial list of factors – contributed either by the teacher or the students – which can then be written into a blank hexagons template or turned into hexagons automatically using my Classtools.net Hexagons Generator. Thereafter, all that is needed is a pair of scissors, some sugar paper and a glue stick. And, ideally, a bag of sweets!

 

Who Owns the Learning?
disruptive-innovation-festival

Alan November is an international leader in education technology.  He has been director of an alternative high school, computer coordinator, technology consultant and university lecturer. Alan has helped schools, governments and industry leaders improve the quality of education through technology.  

Tomorrow (Thursday) at 1pm GMT you can hear from and put questions to Alan about why he thinks students need to be at the centre of learning to develop critical thinking and receive continuous feedback.  Watch the live Q&A session here: http://thinkdif.co/emf-stages/transforming-learning-beyond-the-1-000-pencil.  If you can’t make the 1pm session (quite likely, I imagine!) then you can catch-up with this session at a later date.

Alan’s session is part of the Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF): a global, online festival which is exploring emerging technologies and ideas that have an opportunity to reshape our economy.

You can also listen to (and put questions to) Sir Ken Robinson tomorrow at the Disruptive Innovation Festival in his session at 3pm, here: http://thinkdif.co/headliners/sir-ken-robinson.  Again, you can catch up with this session at a later time and date if you miss it live.

 

The Story of Planet Play
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Tools to help Quiet and Shy Learners join in
fampic2

I have always felt nervous when speaking in front of groups.

At School, at University, and now even in Lecturer Meetings I have always been a bit worried and unsure when the focus shifts to me and I worry whether or not what I have to say is interesting and/ or correct.

It is unusual that I am a Lecturer now but I love my subject and I love learning so the fact that I am now in a position to help students like me get through their nerves transcends any anxiety I may have. Using educational technology in class has helped me to remove any barriers to learning that my quiet and shy teenage students may encounter when we engage in activities to assess their understanding of a lesson.

Twitter – We use hashtags to discuss topics at the start of every lecture as a starter or plenary to get the learners involved, analysing and debating the topic at hand. Learners are encouraged to tweet in on a tag we make that morning and I curate them as they appear on the screen using Twitterfall or Tweetbeam - by doing this it allows me a chance to ask follow up questions to the contributor once the discussion has begun (alleviating the worry of speaking first in class). We also often have cross college discussions with other students, guest tweeters hosting debates, and industry experts who can guide the learners through a topic to help them build confidence in their digital literacy, critical thinking, and communication skills.

Facebook – Learners can ask questions they may be too embarrassed about asking their Lecturers in front of their classmates on Facebook. We have found that when the students can see key information about the course, share interesting links/ videos and engage with links and materials from the Lecturer they are more likely to expand and consolidate learning outside of the class whilst building up rapport with their peers. Learners reluctant to talk in class can add comments or private message their peers once they have been rounded up in to a group and can use it to gather research, manage projects, and keep one another informed of deadlines whilst print-screening said evidence for their assessments.

Socrative – Learners can join in a gamified quiz on the screen by responding to open-ended or closed questions via their device or computer. This also provides a chance to receive feedback from the Lecturer about right/ wrong answers on screen whilst a report detailing each students individual performance can be analysed afterwards to see if they need further help on a particular topic. Socrative can be a useful starter activity to help you gather evidence of their development at different stages throughout a topic leading up to and including the exam/ final assessment itself. Teams of learners can even go up against each other in the ‘space race’ feature which help galvanize the students in teams as they compete to get the most correct answers quickest/ propel their rocket to the finishing line.

Once the learners gain more confidence you can try these…..

Vine – Create 6 second looping clips on their devices to communicate key information. For example, I ask my students to state an objective for their future self in 90 minutes time that they have to meet in that lesson. At the end of the lesson the learner watches the clip back to review whether it has been met or not.

Instagram - Photographing their work to evidence their process and annotate the pictures with text to encourage reflection and evaluation at each stage of the project. The video feature offers a chance to document mini-vlogs on their work as well in teams or individually.

Podcasts – If the learner is reluctant to appear on camera they can capture evidence of their learning as a discussion using SoundCloud or AudioBoo. You can challenge them to produce something succinct and specific to your criteria within clear parameters (3 mins/use 5 key words each) independently.

Vlogs – Using handycams, webcams, or their device the learners can respond to questions in short clips or, if they are more creative, as News Reports or in comedy sketches to demonstrate their knowledge.

Providing differentiation (learners always have a a vlog/ podcast/ written option where possible) like this gives my less traditionally able learners a real chance of performing and creating evidence of their knowledge.

Sometimes home-life, health, being awkward around the person they fancy in class, or any number of the other external variables that can effect a learners confidence in the classroom can stop them from participating in class.

By opening up and varying the streams of communication between us and our learners we can provide them with more chances to show how much they have learned while simultaneously providing us with more fun and valid conduits for measuring evidence of their progress.

Scott

Differentiation
July 11, 2014
0
Debating_chamber,_Scottish_Parliament_(31-05-2006)

I am trying my hand at ‘blogging’ following recruitment by Barry at a recent series of NCSP workshops. I am not sure how blogging really works (shocking I know) and this must make me something of a Luddite around these parts. With that in mind, the theme of my presentation for the NCSP was differentiation strategies and with this focus ever growing, why not start there?

The inspiration behind looking into differentiation was my department now being comprised of myself and 2 NQTs. My school also has a large number of new, very young teachers and a huge focus is placed on effective differentiation in each lesson we plan.

When producing the presentation and from talking to a number of staff, I often found that newer staff forgot to differentiate for the top. Each class we teach of course has a top student in there. Someone who performs even slightly better than the rest of the class. Another current focus being how to maximise A*-A grades at GCSE.

Some good teaching strategies which I have used are:

  • Market Place
  • Silent Debate
  • Putting a figure/character on trial
  • Mystery
  • Mapping from Memory
  • Radio Transcripts
  • Video Transcript
  • Peer Help
  • Diamond 9 Ranking

MARKET PLACE

  • Best suited to top set/MAT but can be adapted
  • You will need: sugar paper or A3 paper, varieties of text blocks, colours
  • Concept: split into groups. Eg) WWI causes – could be split into countries such as France, Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Serbia, Russia.
  • Summarise role using only a limit of words, eg 10 words but as many pictures & diagrams as you wish. Eg) Eiffel Tower = France
  • Pupils must summarise and then split groups. 1 stays at the ‘market place’ whilst others information collect.
  • Feedback & peer teach = all have peer taught & all have answers
  • Homework – give info (if necessary) and relate to examination style question
  • DIFFERENTIATION: 1) Groupings by topic, with harder topics to more able groups 2) Groupings with specific MAT or G&T leaders to assist others 3)Differentiating the word limit depending on group ability 4)Controlling who is the one who ‘stays’ at the market stall 5) Giving pictures for less able to help or cut out

SILENT DEBATE

  • Very much suited to end of topic & encourages reading, writing, questioning and ‘thinking on your feet’. Very effective for revision
  • Focus on core questions. Have plenty of space, connected sugar paper and board markers (surprising the impact these have!)
  • Key is no talking at all & circulation.

Differentiating: 1) Focus of the question 2) can split into smaller questions and put G&T to work

before peer assessing…G&T answers hardest first before returning 3)include ‘buzz terms’ for less able groupings 4) Have higher work at hand? 5) Can use for exam skills

 

TRIAL

  • Suits higher ability groups and controversial issues in topics. Eg) History – The murder of Thomas Becket – Henry II on trial
  • Put pupils into groups – assign lawyer tasks, witness tasks, defendant, etc. Good research/homework prep – links well to SMSC
  • Differentiation: select groups, lawyer & defendant for G&T – they will be working on questioning. Total G&T groups have to think on feet?

MYSTERY

Focus to a key question

Differentiation via literacy level in statements, pairings in groups, or giving focus questions like sheet 3

Key is reason behind judgements/justification – higher level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

MAPPING FROM MEMORY

  • Focus on team skills/group work/ communication & good for literacy aspect of speaking & listening
  • Re-create a picture. Split into groups and be numbered. Take turns coming to view and then returning to explain. If it was your turn to view the picture…you MUST explain to others in group who will draw. A lot a captain’s round if necessary
  • Differentiate via groupings or via carousel labelling and questioning. Also, can remove labels for higher so they hypothesise.

RADIO TRANSCRIPTS

  • Pupils write a transcript that has to fit a certain time introduction for radio. This could be 30 seconds, 45 seconds, 60 seconds, etc. The trick is it extends pupils writing without knowing it.
  • Differentiation can be via how long it is as it has to be exactly a particular length (decided by the teacher)
  • Time via mobile phone/watch/stopwatch – pair up and get pupils to read, write, amend (peer assistance) and also use timings for numeracy.
  • Works very well for Years 7 and 8.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPTS

Pupils watch a clip and have to produce a transcript to accompany. Bloom’s Taxonomy to ‘hypothesise’. Works on observation skills. Very good starter technique. Works well for G&T and more able.

Can differentiate with key words for some or via paired exercise if you use your seating plan as a support/push mechanism

Remember: switch the sound off!

Video Feedback

0:12 – 8:12

PEER SUPPORT

  • Time and effort into seating of a class –
  • 1) Seat with support mechanisms
  • 2) Seat via ability groupings to help give differentiated work
  • 3) Have home and away seating (if necessary) to suit the task
  • 4) Don’t be afraid to switch seating plans until it works
  • For G&T consider them not actually doing the main learning but acting as correctors and target setters from the start

DIAMOND RANKING

  • Focus is on judging, justifying & reaching conclusions = higher order thinking
  • Standard is to focus into diamond of 9 on a 1-2-3-2-1 basis with 1 ‘kicked out of the big brother house’
  • For G&T, MAT or those wanting push, consider allowing manipulation of the diamond into a shape that suits their answer best. (Make sure this not a vertical or horizontal line).
  • Works well in paired work for seating plan differentiation
  • Can also ask G&T to circulate to question logic and probe further
  • Cards can be differentiated via literacy for foundation pupils/literacy issues.

Just a few ideas and probably nothing new but I hope it helps! I will look into other differentiation methods next ;)

A New Approach for those in Danger of Failure?
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As a teacher, how does this grab you as a challenge? You are to be part of a team working with 30 pupils from the south side of Glasgow? They are identified as being at risk of disengagement, but with the potential to become successful apprentices and good citizens. You must remain true to the principles of Curriculum for Excellence. What might be different for you is that your organisation is ready to wipe the slate with your experience in the classroom. You are going to look at the pedagogies of what works and use them in your practice every day – with only three other colleagues.

“Three?” I hear you ask. Correct. The curriculum will be delivered by four teachers – Science, IT, Maths and English, but also by partner organisations, made up of the private businesses who are not only investing in the venture, but who are guaranteeing apprenticeships to those young people who complete the course and FE colleges which are guaranteeing places for the NJC leavers.

This is the plan for Newlands Junior College, the brainchild of Jim McColl, Scottish entrepreneur. His vision is to take young people who are heading for failure and give them a real prospect of success.

Scotland’s schools are very good. I don’t think that’s in question here. But there is – and always has been – a group of young people who just don’t get a good deal. They are not academically driven, have perhaps a challenging background or a family whose experience of education is entirely negative, but who nonetheless have some kind of talent or ability. They are not heading for university, but exist in a system which is designed to make them feel that the only achievement that really counts is getting in to university. Yet business is crying out for people with good practical skills and the right attitude to work.

These are exactly the people that McColl’s Newlands Junior College appears to be designed to cater for. If only they could be prevented from disengaging, as they often do.

The college has started to engage staff.  They will be working in a very special environment, with the best technology and with unrivalled opportunities to develop their pedagogical skills.

Iain White, Principal of the College and former Head Teacher of Govan High, which serves one of the most deprived areas of Scotland, makes no secret of the formula “This will be an organisation built on relationships – there will be no room for messing around, but we intend to be like a family, where – like every family – we will have our moments, but we are all here for the same reason. We will all be motivated towards what we want to achieve together. That togetherness will be based on mutual respect and a mutual understanding of what we are here for.”

And for the young people who, through the selection process, get a place, that achievement will be quite something. With resources available to equip every pupil with a handheld computer, cutting edge IT provision and links with future employers who will not only provide curriculum input, but mentoring relationships and guidance, the prospects for these otherwise potentially-failing pupils are suddenly looking dramatically brighter.

Of course schools try very hard to prevent young people dropping out. But Newlands will have some crucial advantages. It will be able to guarantee the outcomes (apprenticeships and college places for every successful leaver) . Also, it is not school. Whatever Hollywood tells us about inspirational teachers and innovative and ground-breaking approaches to learning, sometimes the problem is simply that school is the wrong place for disenchanted teenagers. Newlands Junior College, based in real place of work, with its top quality adult environment is clearly not a school. So many things are different from the quality of design to the close involvement of students in everything including the preparation of meals. At Newlands, they not only know what works, but (more importantly) for these students they know what doesn’t.

An education for the 21st century has to very different from the classroom of the past. It has to be suited to each individual in a way that is unique and inspiring. It has to connect to adult life and the real world in ways that every student can understand. Every day, every student has to feel valued and believe in the possibility of success.

I look forward to schools and indeed, colleges, of all descriptions providing a wide and varied menu of education, utilising top technology, demanding top professionals and producing top quality graduates upon whom employers can rely, as they have had an input to their education and training. The destinations are guaranteed – not as some kind of social responsibility policy – but as a real engagement between young people, their parents, teachers, employers and trainers. I look forward to more initiatives like this and not only that, but I look forward to them being supported as complementary to the current school system.

Newlands Junior College is still looking for a Science teacher and a Maths teacher, so if you think you might enjoy this kind of opportunity, check out the website and application form here.

Running-based Learning Along The Pennine Way
Ultimate ultrarunner?Ultimate ultrarunner?

Going The Extra Miles For Sport Relief

Think like an athlete: Focus on what you want

Think like an athlete: Focus on what you want

This is an account of a unique pilot project designed and delivered by Andy Mouncey to a selection of schools in the north of England. Andy is not a teacher – he is a record-setting endurance athlete who is a professional speaker and trainer across sport, business and education. A list of participating schools, reaction and film clicks can be found www.bigandscaryrunning.com This account was written by Andy not long after Sport Relief day earlier this year:

Unless you were the TV personality Davina McCall, most people ran a mile for Sport Relief back in March. What Miss McCall didn’t know as she called into Edale primary school during her Edinburgh to London fund-raising triathlon was that pupils, staff and parents were also near the end of their own endurance challenge laid down by me some five months previously:

  • Run 268 miles – the equivalent length of The Pennine Way (TPW) – with the final mile as the Sport Relief Mile
  • Raise money for Sport Relief
  • Record their experiences in a training diary

In return I would teach them how to think and behave like an endurance athlete so that they could:

  • Raise aspirations and learn to persevere through setbacks
  • Develop a goal-orientated mindset
  • Experience the challenge and pride of working together to help others
Running a loooong way for Sport Relief

Running a loooong way for Sport Relief

Skills they could use to make any future challenge – like sitting exams or moving school – seem simple, straightforward and compelling.

It just so happens that Edale primary school sits directly opposite the end of The Pennine Way national trail. This is important because the catalyst for this challenge was my attempt to complete The Spine Race, Britain’s most brutal ultramarathon in which runners have seven days to cover the full length of TPW most walkers take three weeks to complete. The catch? The race takes place in January in winter and I had already failed once – only getting as far as 105 miles in 2013. For Edale primary school there was another hurdle; with a total number of 13 pupils there were not very many children to share the miles around. Step up mums, dads and members of staff…

By the time race day arrived in January I had recruited 13 schools along or close to TPW and 1600 pupils to my ‘Cracking The Spine’ challenge. I had visited all those schools three times which made for an awful lot of new friends. Pupils could watch the race in real-time online and send messages via social media because all the runners wore tracking devices. Despite the combined will of 1600 children urging me on I dropped out of the race at 160 miles having battled creeping hypothermia for most of three days. My visits back to the schools after the race were ‘interesting’ to say the least!

To the staff, however, my failure to finish for a second time was an unexpected bonus because it challenged some of the key messages children see and hear via the media:

Success is easy, quick, and it’s something that someone else gives you

Inspiration

Inspiration

I – who they had got to know as someone who did some mad stuff and was really quite like them as well – had just made personal a lesson that we all come to sooner or later:

‘(Meaningful) success isn’t easy, it rarely happens in a straight line or when you want it, and it’s something YOU need to work at. So when it does happen – as it will if you practice the skills of perseverance – it is a life-enhancing experience.’

I will be back at The Spine Race in January 2015.

I have to because I am also making a film of the whole project and every film needs an end. There is also 1600 children who want to see me finish the job. ‘Cracking The Spine’ will be an improved version available to schools from September. A first grant has just been awarded by Big Lottery Awards For All scheme and other grant funding routes for participating schools are opening up.

Outcomes from the pilot? Money raised £7,200.  All the schools reached their 268 mile target and many clocked up much more. Total miles run stands at 4572.

One secondary school pupil ran the full 268 miles on his own, one primary school pupil covered 100 miles and raised £1000, four families from one primary school clocked up over 300 miles per family, and a group of secondary school girls made a film about their weekend runs.

Running diaries

Running diaries

There was race week themed lessons plans and related learning on history, geology, physiology, maths, creative writing and speaking, science, and technology.

I was formally adopted as a Learning Hero role model, there are at least three school running clubs now set up, and many schools formalized the project into learning menus and creative curriculum design. As many of the schools were rural and relatively isolated it was, said many of the staff, just a relief to have something brand new and exciting for everyone to get involved in during the dark wet winter months.

Andy Mouncey
www.bigandscaryrunning.com
CTS FinishCertificate

Sentence Pong
IMG_0175[1]

I recently blogged about Moosing about, a table cloth I used with my Year 7 SEN Class. The ideas and stories generated from this were fantastic and it really helped them with their paragraphing however they all started pretty much the same way- The, Then, I and She/He.

So I decided my class needed to do some more work on making their sentences interesting and the thought processes/ editing that takes place.

This is where Sentences Pong comes in, I have used ‘sentence roll a dice’ exercises and I have a few laminated boards in my classroom with mixed success. So I decided to cut up the boards and put them into yoghurt pots and then students could throw a ping ping ball into the pot which would generate a sentence opener/starter.

This is how it worked

Before the lesson

  • I cut up sentence criteria for example use alliteration, a metaphor, simile, indicate a location, personification ( If you Google sentence roll a dice activities some fantastic ones pop up)
  • I put them into the yoghurt pots

Start of the lesson

  • Went through the terms with the students to refresh/ recap what the terms mean and why they are used
  • Explained the classroom rules and that if there was silly behaviour with the ball then they would not participate

Sentence Pong

  • Students ( I only have 8 in one SEN class and 6 in the other) throw the ball and aim for a pot
  • Once landed in pot, the group stopped and came around the table
  • As a group they then came up with a sentence, I then wrote this down

As the game went on, they decided they didn’t want to do it one at a time and instead wanted to write a few sentences together, they worked collaboratively and generated some fantastic creative writing.

I have now typed up the writing that was on the table, so next lesson they can D.I.R.T and write their own paragraph using the techniques used during the group lesson (they will have the sentence openers/starters grid with them).

I really enjoyed this lesson and so did my class as for once on Friday P5 they were not rushing for the door to leave :)

IMG_0173[1]

Why sharing should be at the heart of how we teach
Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 21.09.24

Following on from my workshop at Pedagoo Glasgow, this is a brief outline from my session.

Click here to view the Prezi.

The presentation element of my workshop had three sections, each of which is explored below:

Philosophy

If you work in the public sector, then your work should be public

  • This may be slightly controversial because, yes, it does apply to people writing ‘How to Pass’ guides as well, but if you work in the public education system, and your professional knowledge has essentially been funded by taxpayers, then whatever material you can produce to help students should be available to everyone, everywhere, for free.

If you help others, you help yourself, which helps the pupils

  • By opening up and helping others, we become more likely to be helped by them which, consequently, makes us better teachers who are better able to help our students (and, going back to the start, puts us in a position to be of more help to other colleagues). In all honesty, I believe that a focus on openness and collaboration could have more of an impact on teaching than lesson observations, taxonomies and learning intentions ever could.

Barriers

Time

  • OK – everyone is busy, and most people agree that the last twelve months have been some of the most draining ever experienced in a classroom. As budgets are squeezed teachers are pushed closer and closer to minimum time, and that’s not even including all the ‘extra’ activities that some teachers are expected to ‘volunteer’ for. Surely, then, setting aside time for sharing materials with others is out of the question? Well – unsurprisingly – I’d argue not; in fact, I’d strongly suggest that time spent on getting into the habit of sharing should be seen more as an investment than anything else.

Skills

  • There is an entirely legitimate argument to be made by some that they simply don’t have the skills to, for example, share all of their materials on a personal website, but there are two counterpoints to be made here: firstly, you don’t have to set up your own site to share your work (more on this later); secondly, in 2014, our pupils are perfectly entitled to expect an education system capable of engaging with them on their own technological terms – us teachers expect a whole host of support material to be available at the click of a button from the SQA, Education Scotland etc. and it simply won’t do any more to deny the same treatment to our students. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the development of these 21st Century skills can go a long way in relation to the new Professional Update process.

Confidence

  • It is perfectly natural for people to worry about the quality of their work and, as a consequence, be reluctant to put themselves out there for potential criticism, but it is clearly hypocritical of us as a profession to hide behind this excuse whilst expecting precisely the opposite from our students. Every day we tell them to be brave enough to make mistakes, that only through failure will they ever progress – why should it be any different for us?

Culture

  • In reality, the fact that this workshop even took place (and that events such as PedagooGlasgow are still well outside of the mainstream of CPD) is evidence of the cultural change that is still required within education, where too often valuable material is hidden away in store cupboards, pen drives or personal servers. As the world becomes ever more connected and accessible, it becomes increasingly important that the culture within the teaching profession keeps pace.

Examples

Social media

  • More than anything else, Twitter has had a massive influence on me as a teacher, allowing me to connect with a range of colleagues holding both similar and competing views to my own. The first piece of advice I was given on my way to becoming a teacher was: “Get on Twitter and join the conversation” – four years on I cannot endorse this suggestion strongly enough.

VLE

  • There are various options for Virtual Learning Environments around now and, aside from Glow (which I don’t use), Edmodo is probably one of the most popular – this service allows you to share resources with your pupils and specific colleagues, thus encouraging a more open and collaborative culture.

Online communities

  • I expect that I’m largely preaching to the converted here, but I really cannot overemphasise the potential value of joining groups such as Pedagoo.org ! The other community-style service that I mentioned during the workshop was www.nationalmoderation.co.uk – an open, online resource (created by me) for sharing assessment, exemplification and teaching resources for the New Qualifications under Curriculum for Excellence.

Personal / class / department websites

  • This is the area that I believe that the most potential as it allows us to easily share whatever we feel like for free. I few months ago I decided to share all of my Nat5 Course Materials on this site and, since March, a quite incredible amount of people have viewed and downloaded the resources that I have made available (so many, in fact, that the site became one of the top Google results for search terms such as ‘National 5 English’). Based on the comments and emails I received, a huge number of these individuals were students, which just goes to show how much value our pupils could find in teachers developing a more open culture amongst ourselves.
“Why is revision boring sir?”
June 15, 2014
1
GCSE Revision Monopoly

Why is revision boring sir?” A year 11 student asked one Friday afternoon, “can we make it more fun…?”

I then went home that evening thinking about how I could get “fun” into revision.  I created a blank monopoly board and begin to put exam type questions around the board on the property tiles.

The next lesson, they walked in to see a a series of these game boards around the room, along with practical tasks to help them find the answers.

The students loved the session and requested to play the game time and time again, I then started to give the students the blank boards and they would create questions and pass their boards to a friend to complete.

Having shared this resource on several social networking sites and having had several hundred requests for it, with many follow up emails thanking me. The real person who should be thanked is that student who felt my lesson was boring and made me reflect and up my game. That single student has no idea on the impact they had on me, and the amount of other students they helped by simply speaking out.