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Using iMovie Trailers Across the Curriculum (#PedagooPerth Conversation)
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I first became aware of the idea of making book trailers about 3 years ago when the Scottish Book Trust launched a book trailer competition to coincide with the Scottish Book Trust Awards.  At that time I had a number of boys in P7 who were at that difficult stage of trying to find new books that were ‘cool’ enough to really get into.  The Scottish Book Trust Awards take place every year and are a great way of discovering new authors and due to the voting timescale it gives the pupils a clear deadline to work towards.  Essentially book trailers are exactly the same as film trailers but are created to encourage people to read books.  The group were enthralled with the book ‘Black Tide’ and were keen to encourage others to read it, after introducing the trailer concept to them they couldn’t wait to get started.  You can see the rather unnerving trailer here https://youtu.be/TSG0iLgZK6s

The key literacy skills involved link nicely with reciprocal reading strategies http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/Images/ReciprocalReadingGuide_tcm4-812956.pdf and also the skill of visualisation.  There is a really useful resource aimed at pupils aged 9+ I’ve included the link  below. http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/learning/learning-resources/resource/how-to-create-book-trailers-video-series Over the past couple of years I have adapted the activities to suit younger pupils too.

You can use any film making approach to creating your trailers however the simplest one I have found is the ‘trailer’ section of the free iMovie app on an iPad.  It handles all the formatting and sound and you just add your content, words, still pictures and short clips of video.  Deciding which theme to use is also a great way for the pupils to think about what genre the book is so they can use a relevant theme for their trailer.  Initially I had encouraged the groups to fill in blank story boards to plan out their trailers however the formatting for iMovie Trailers is quite specific so I was delighted to find that someone had already created a set of storyboards linked to the themes! http://learninginhand.com/blog/2014/8/6/plan-a-better-imovie-trailer-with-these-pdfs

We have included book trailers as part of our literacy programme each year using the shortlisted books for the Scottish Book Trust.  This year I have a much younger class, P1-6 with the majority being in P1-3, we went through the same process looking at examples of trailers, picking out the things we liked and things we would change.  P4/6 had the task of creating the storyboard, they then passed it on to P3 who had to interpret their storyboard and direct P1/2 in acting out the scenes.  You can view the result here https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/pk/GrandtullyPrimary/2015/11/27/book-week-scotland/

Trailers are clearly an excellent way of developing key skills in literacy and discussing the language of film, however I think there are many more uses across the curriculum and at all stages of learning.  Last year we created a trailer as part of our transition programme where pupils were encouraged to think about what learning & responsibilities  lay ahead for them.  We also filmed our new P1 pupils so they could see themselves as part of the school.  This was then shown at our celebration of success.  Similar to this we created a trailer to show parents what the planned topic was for the next term, this was also to get pupils thinking about what we needed to plan and what skills we might need to develop. https://youtu.be/J2QtXNe2DqY

During the sessionat #PedagooPerth there was great discussion about how the trailers could be used across a range of subjects and stages e.g. as a summary of learning in Modern Languages, to highlight skills taught in a project, transition work, to promote clubs, activities and experiences that some pupils can be unsure about and even to publicise the next Pedagoo event!

How could you use this in your setting?

If you would like any further information on how we’ve enjoyed creating trailers please get in touch.  CMGibson@pkc.gov.uk

 

‘An Education for Education’ in response to, ‘What is the purpose of education?’
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In response to the UK Governments announced consultation regarding the purpose and quality of education in England inquiry I was asked to offer my thoughts on the purpose of education by the EducationPolicyNetwork (@edupolicynet).

‘Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.’ (Freire, 2000, p.34)

Learning is a lifelong process of both passive and active engagement with the empirical and ontological world. It is a transformative process leading to a permanent capacity change, a process which, if actively engaged with and directed towards premeditated goals throughout ones life, can be called Education (personal enlightenment). From the cradle to the grave we learn with, from and because of others and the more we come to take control of these interactions the more effectively we come to learn about ourselves, others and the world in all its forms and strata. An individuals capacity for a lifetime of learning (Education) is shaped by countless variables, encounters, mechanisms and structures, yet one system plays a significant role in liberating an individual from dependance to independence, an education. 

In many cases formal education seeks to primarily induct an individual into the empirical and ontological reality of a given community and culture. Thus education systems provide a curriculum which imbues an individual with domain and non domain specific knowledge, embed that knowledge as understanding and foster the development of culturally prized skills. In the prevalent system this is important as mastering these grants access to later levels of education and is the currency of socio-economic mobility. Along the way a learner develops social skills, behaviours, attitudes, beliefs and in some cases attributes. But if we consider the work of Freire, Bernstein, Marx and to an extent Critical Realist philosophy, an education is more than a process of at best enculturation and at worst indoctrination. An education is an opportunity to liberate learners, furnishing them with the knowledge, understanding and skills, attributes and aptitudes to both master their learning lifelong and lifewide, enabling an individual to direct their personal Education.

Traditional transmission and ‘banking’ (Freire, 2000) approaches to education, and in turn teaching, which focus on the triumvirate of predefined knowledge, understanding and skills is no longer an appropriate preparation of todays adolescents for their place in our Brave New World (see for example Long, 1990; Field, 2000; Skidmore, 2003; Alheit, 2009). Top down and grass roots change have and will continue to undoubtedly occur within the how of learning, teaching and education. Yet the how without the why lacks true value. It is the question of why, and the purpose of an education, which still requires satisfactory address. An address not shaped by political and personal bias, but shaped by the hopes and ambitions we collectively have for humankind as it strides forward into an unknown future.

It is not for me to determine the why of education, but as someone actively involved in both my own Education and within the engineering and facilitating of the education of others I have come to recognise the following. My applied philosophy of Education is one which recognises that it is the duty of an education to enable learners to know enough about themselves, others and the world to find out more and to build a cognitive and social network of understanding. To enable learners to develop and practice a range of skills which they can hone, develop further and synthesise with others throughout their lives. To question, to be self motivated, self regulated and to be aware of how they, others and the world works. Education is about capacity building, facilitating an individuals ability to recognise, enable and enhance their own Agency. If an education is focused upon these goals then gender, race, background, socio-economic status should not hold an individual back. If an education provides the means to develop a lifelong-lifewide learning capacity through socialised-learning contexts where thought has been applied to how group interactions can be managed for the benefit of learners and learning then differences such as gender and race can became facilitators of learning rather than potential shackles on liberation.

To enable the above, systems of education, and associated pedagogies, must actively foster a learning orientation (Watkins et al., 2002), a willingness to learn (see Skidmore, 2003, p.15), and the attributes that could enable a capacity to engage with learning lifelong (Yaxlee, 1929) and lifewide (Ekholm and Hard, 2000, p.18; Alheit, 2009, p.117). Such an education would provide the route towards empowering all learners with the cognitive and social tools enabling them to positively interact with an undetermined future (see Costa, 1991; Broadfoot, 1996, p.23; Costa and Liebman, 1997; Skidmore, 2003, p.14; Watkins et al., 2007, p.18; Costa and Kallick, 2009). In addition to recognising the purpose of education expressed above, systems of education must also preach and practice the tenets of effective learning. Without experiencing a culture of effective learning how would an individual come to recognise and master their own effective lifelong-lifewide learning?

It is my fundamental belief that the most effective learning results from an active process of engagement with learning (Ireson, 2008, p.6) in order to achieve premeditated goals (Resnich, 1987). Illeris (2007) suggests that this active process is stimulated by the interactions between three dimensions of learning, content, incentive and environment, a theory supported by Claxton (1999), Watkins et al. (2002) and Ireson (2008). When such an interaction process is placed within a social context, such as the classroom or wider societal contexts, a further tri-directional relationship is activated between rules, tools and community, all of which shapes the activation, direction and nature of learning (Engestrom, 1987, 2009). At the heart of this active learning process is an acceptance of the enabling role of social factors, a central truth of constructivist, social-constructivist and particularly social-constructionist philosophies championed by Piaget (1923), Vygotsky (1978) and Burr (1999).

Learning, facilitated as a social process within education contexts such as schools, is explored throughout the literature relating to effective learning (see Lave and Wenger, 1991; Watkins, 2005), cooperative learning (Johnson and Johnson, 1999) and collaborative group learning (Gratton, 2015). The literature, drawn from diverse academic fields, highlights the varying cognitive, social, psychological and societal benefits of socialised learning, in particular learning which is collaborative in nature. Ding and Flynn (2000) highlight the relationship between an individual’s engagement with collaborative learning processes and the development of some of their more general cognitive skills, in particular, ‘intersubjectivity, planning, communication and inhibition.’ (p.3). Panitz (2011) furthers this, citing 67 benefits of collaboration including, improved learning and achievement, improved skills, improved engagement and responsibility and improved relationships. Bruffee (1993) believes that collaborative learning processes encourage learner autonomy through a development of ‘the craft of interdependence.’ (p.1). The development of this attribute promotes a shift from cognitive self-interest to mutual interest, the development of positive learning and social relationships between students and an increased openness to being influenced by and influencing others (Johnson and Johnson, 2008, p.12). Evidence also suggests that due to the way in which collaboration requires the use of dialogue, in problem solving and social mediation (Vygotsky, 1978; Mercer, 2002), verbal task regulation is stimulated (Biemiller et al., 1998, p.204), effective learning encouraged (Alexander, 2006, p.9; Kutnick, 2010, p.192) and personal identities developed (Bakhtin, 1981; Renshaw, 2004, p.1), helping to form socially adept individuals. From this it could be concluded that a learner may become increasingly more able to control their Education due to an education structured to engineer and facilitate socialised-learning as described above.

Applying the discussion above to an education raises numerous implications for pedagogy, curriculum and assessment. These aspects are widely researched, discussed and at times vilified, collectively generating much white noise within the ether of educational debate. I have written about and will continue to reflect upon how these aspects of an education may be reorientated to enable learning for the purposes of a lifelong-lifewide Education but other than promoting here a Collaborative Group Learning Pedagogy, a Connected and Collaborative Curriculum and Authentic Assessment I will say no more on these areas.

It is commonly accepted that Europe has socio-economically and culturally shifted from being “workshop of the world” to predominantly a “knowledge economy and society”. The post modern knowledge society and rapidly changing world we find ourselves part of requires much more from todays learners, their teachers and existing systems of formal education. An education must recognise this change and orientate itself towards educating todays adolescents with a capacity to engage with our rapidly changing world, directing their own Education throughout their evolving lives. Ultimately education should seek to build an individuals capacity to both actively and positively engage with and shape the world around them, enabling them to create their own reality; the defining element of ones liberation as a human.

Rob Gratton works as an Assistant Principal in a North London Academy with responsibility for Research, Pedagogy and Curriculum Design and continues to teach within the Humanities. In addition he works for UCL Institute of Education as Subject Tutor on the Teach First programme and is course lead on the Assessment for Learning Masters module. This work is furthered through a number of design and teaching roles which presently include working for the States of Jersey and the Government of Macedonia in the development of their ITT programme for Secondary practitioners. Facilitating this work within education is Rob’s ongoing Doctoral studies in the fields of socialised and collaborative group learning. Rob’s work in education is accessible at www.collaborativegrouplearning.com and @CGL_edu.

Creativity in teaching: Creative Pedagogy
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In a previous article (ICT enhanced teaching and learning or ‘digital pedagogy‘) I shared my current work, commissioned by UCL IOE on behalf of the Government of Macedonia, concerning ICT, pedagogy and more broadly creativity within education. This article outlines my thoughts relating to creativity in teaching and creative teaching or ‘creative pedagogy’.

Why do we need creativity in teaching and education? 

The post modern knowledge society we find ourselves part of requires much more from todays learners and their teachers. Traditional approaches to the teaching of the triumvirate of knowledge, understanding and skills is no longer an appropriate preparation of adolescent learners for their place in our Brave New World (see for example Long, 1990; Field, 2000; Skidmore, 2003; Alheit, 2009 for a discussion of how education systems need to respond to global economic and social change).

Creative pedagogies which actively foster a learning orientation (Watkins et al., 2002), a willingness to learn (see Skidmore, 2003, p.15), and the attributes that could enable a capacity to engage with learning lifelong (Yaxlee, 1929) and lifewide (Ekholm and Hard, 2000, p.18; Alheit, 2009, p.117), offer a route to empowering students with the cognitive and social tools that would enable them to positively interact with an unknown future (see Costa, 1991; Broadfoot, 1996, p.23; Costa and Liebman, 1997; Skidmore, 2003, p.14; Watkins et al., 2007, p.18; Costa and Kallick, 2009).

What is the relationship between creative pedagogy and effective learning?

If the most effective learning results from an active process of engagement with learning (Ireson, 2008, p.6) in order to achieve premeditated goals (Resnich, 1987) then what can activate this process? Illeris (2007) suggests that this active process is stimulated by the interactions between three dimensions of learning, content, incentive and environment, a theory supported by Claxton (1999), Watkins et al. (2002) and Ireson (2008). When such an interaction process is placed within a social context, such as the classroom, a further tri-directional relationship is activated between rules, tools and community, all of which shapes the activation, direction and nature of learning (Engestrom, 1987, 2009).

At the heart of this paradigm is an acceptance of the enabling role of social factors, a central tenet of constructivist, social- constructivist and particularly social-constructionist philosophies championed by Piaget (1923), Vygotsky (1978) and Burr (1999). Learning as a social process is explored throughout the literature relating to effective learning (see Lave and Wenger, 1991; Watkins, 2005), cooperative learning (Johnson and Johnson, 1999) and collaborative learning (Gratton, 2015). A valid interpretation therefore is that if we are to engineer effective learning processes and opportunities we must consider and exploit the social nature of learning and to do so requires creativity.

What is creativity and creative teaching?

Of the various creative attempts by teachers to socialise classroom learning and to facilitate effective learning, such as Dialogic Teaching and Learning (Lefstein, 2010), Think>Pair>Share (Lyman, 1981), AfL (see Black et al., 2004) and Collaborative Group Learning (Gratton2015), the most beneficial methodologies seem to be those seeking to engineer and facilitate cooperation-collaboration between learners. Whatever the methodology one thing unifies them all, creative teachers and creative teaching practices.

The most effective methodologies are created and delivered by the most creative of teachers working in creative educational environments. A creative pedagogy is recognised within a teachers ability to develop something novel and adapt to new situations in order to enable effective learning. Unusual solutions alongside originality are visible parts of creativity (Hackbert, 2010; Lemons, 2005). Lin (2011) describes creative teaching from three different perspectives: creative teaching, teaching for creativity and creative learning; referring to them as creative pedagogy. We are particularly interested in Lin’s (2011) conception of creative teaching in particular. Creative teaching, focuses on teaching and teacher’s actions (Lin, 2011, see also Sawyer, 2004, 2006). Lin (2011) draws on Craft (2005) referring to creative teaching as a creative, innovative and imaginative approach to teaching. These ideas are extended by Sawyer (2004, 2006) who emphasises a creative teacher’s ability to use improvisational elements within their lessons. The creative teacher lives in the moment, acting spontaneously, courageously and confidently taking the ideas that have arisen from the student learners and change the lesson to finish it in another and arguable better way (Sawyer, 2004, 2006). This definition of creative pedagogy reflects both a creative teaching practice and the widely  recognised tenets of effective learning facilitation. It also highlights a crucial aspect of creative teaching, the capacity to be creative within ones teaching.

Creativity is a multi-dimensional and complex phenomenon (Toivanen et al., 2013). Conceptions of creativity sit within four dimensions: the creative person, product, process or environment (Lemons, 2005; McCammon et al., 2010). We are interested in the creative person, specifically a teaching professional, their creative product in the form of creative teaching methodology (Aleinikov, 1989) and the environment which enables creativity to occur (Lemons, 2005). Creativity is described, within the research literature, as a process and an inseparable part of its surrounding culture (Toivanen et al., 2013).

How do we enable creative pedagogy? 

Case studies such as High Tech High (San Diego), UCL Academy (London) and Ørestad Gymnasium (Copenhagen) reflect the existence of the four dimensions of creativity outlined above, in particular the creative environment or context. It has been recognised (Kim, 2010, 2011) that to enable creativity within teachers, education systems need to empower all to develop characteristics and attributes associated with creative practice; self-motivation, confidence, curiosity and flexibility. Flexibility within teachers and within school systems is the most important of these enabling states. Without flexibility, trust and the promotion of teacher agency, measured risks can’t be taken; with risk central to creativity (Cleeland, 2012). We can expect a certain degree of creativity from our teachers but to enable teachers to be highly creative in their approaches to enacting effective learning then the capacity to do so needs to be nurtured and supported.  Enabling teaching professionals, through training and support, to have a growth mindset (Dweck, 2012), to develop their own agency for enhanced professional practices (Priestly et al., 2012) and empowering them to form and use collaborative networks in order to enable a sustained application of a creative pedagogy are vital.

The type of society dictates the type of pedagogy. Our society requires a creativity, creative people and a creative pedagogy. As such it is up to those that shape education, in all its facets, to enable a creative pedagogy to be realised.

Presently I am undertaking some design and teaching work for UCL IOE on behalf of the Government of Macedonia. I am fortunate to be part of a small team developing a training program for the Macedonian Secondary Teachers ITT course and as part of this group I am leading on ICT enhanced teaching and learning and Creative teaching.

ICT enhanced teaching and learning: digital pedagogy.
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At the moment I am undertaking some design and teaching work for UCL IOE on behalf of the Government of Macedonia. I am fortunate to be part of a small team developing a training program for the Macedonian Secondary Teachers ITT course and as part of this group am leading on ICT enhanced teaching and learning and Creative teaching. Below are my initial thoughts concerning ICT enhanced teaching and learning or ‘digital pedagogy’.

Why do we need ICT enabled teaching and learning and what is its relationship with effective learning?

It is my belief that learning results from an active process of engagement with learning in order to achieve premeditated goals (Ireson, 2008; Resnich, 1987). This process is enabled through cognitive and physical interactions between three dimensions of learning, content, incentive and environment, (Illeris, 2007) with the environment conceptualised as a tri-directional relationship between rules, tools and community, shaping the activation, direction and nature of learning (Engestrom, 1987, 2009). As in the cases of an active, critical and creative pedagogy, ICT enabled teaching and learning and a possible digital pedagogy should reflect this articulation of effective learning.

Students beginning their secondary level education will never have lived in a world without the internet or computers. Those in primary level education will never have experienced a world without smart phones. Such rapid advances have arguably revolutionised the way in which we learn, play communicate and socialise (Mouza and Lavigne 2013). This Net Gen (Tapscott, 2008) have Grown up Digital (Tapscott, 2009) and with this have developed a capacity to engage with the multimedia landscape, without being fully conscious of such a process, in such a way as to become more knowledgeable and skilled.

A utopian view of digitally enhanced self-directed learning (such as that championed by Sugata Mitra) is not the consensus. Many signal warnings with relation to digitally enhanced learning outside and within the classroom (see for example Bauerlein, 2008; and Twenge, 2006). Without seeking to undermine the well constructed arguments of the critics of digitally enhanced learning, I am confident that educators were equally concerned when chalk boards and textbooks were introduced into the classroom for the very first time. Whatever our sense or personal opinion about this new culture, as educators we can not ignore its existence or its obvious value and potential for enhancing effective learning. This is particularly true when it is evidently such an important aspect of the rapidly changing youth environment (Weigel et. al., 2010) and a symbiotic facet of our post modern knowledge society (see for example Long, 1990; Field, 2000; Skidmore, 2003; Alheit, 2009 for a discussion of how education systems need to respond to global economic and social change). To prepare through a formal education for an unknown future a creative pedagogy which empowers learners, is required. ICT enabled teaching and learning, what may be called a digital pedagogy, would be an example of such a creative approach to teaching and learning relevant to todays student learners. Such a pedagogy should be based on 1: understanding how new digital media can complement or enhance effective learning processes 2: how new digital media skills can be taught through an adapted curriculum and 3: a sustainable capacity to harness technology and new digital media to enhance all functions of the ‘teacher’.

What is ICT enabled teaching and learning?

According to Halverson and Smith (2010) Technologies for Learning are generic tools that define learning goals, develop structures to guide students, and in some cases provide measures of learning outcomes regardless of motivation or the ability of individual learners (see for example Khan Academy and MOOCS). Technologies for learners emphasise student agency by allowing learners to select their own route through their learning journey. These have begun to be increasingly prevalent in out of school contexts. Yet the enabled teacher could seek to enhance their practice and the learning of others by adopting such technologies within classrooms, forming a greater interface between the learner and the duel facilitator (teacher and technology). Bridging formal and informal learning contexts through augmentation of the digital and physical classroom could stimulate the most effective forms of learning. These digital technologies which support effective learning could be separated into 4 areas: Technologies that support,

  • Learning to understand and create;
  • Learning by collaboration;
  • Anytime, anyplace learning; and
  • Learning by Gaming (Mouza and Lavigne, 2013).

In addition to technologies for learning and learners, differing models of the relationship between humans and the digital domain where learning, of some form, happens can be conceptualised. The ‘Solarian model’ (Sternberg, 2010) of people in isolation learning online, a second model of distance learning where learners nominally work with unseen others, a third model of students working physically together in a 1:1 technology rich classroom undertaking lessons presented online, a fourth model of ICT enabled interactive group-inquiry taking place within a classroom environment where physical and online interactions can take place and a fifth ‘blended’ model where a fluid (solo-local-global) relationship of learning networks with pre-meditated and/or collaboratively co-constructed goals emerge (see for example the investigation into the causes of SARS in 2003). For the classroom teacher seeking to develop a digital pedagogy the above models may be considered but the most effective practitioners of a digital pedagogy will be those that collaboratively construct models relevant to their own contexts.

An effective framework has been developed by Law et. al. (2011) which can be used to model, implement, assess and evaluate levels of innovativeness within six dimensions of ICT enabled teaching innovation. These dimensions of Learning objectives, Teacher’s role(s), Students’ role(s), ICT used, Connectedness, and Multiplicity of learning outcomes exhibited, reflect features of professional practice within the online and physical classroom. Application of such practices combined with an understanding of the technologies and models of an applied ICT enhanced approach to teaching and learning is what is commonly being called a ‘Blended Learning’ methodology.

How do we enable a digital pedagogy? 

Plomp, Brummelhuis and Rapmund (1996) discuss the concept of emergent pedagogical practices arising out of the implementation of ICT within classroom based teaching and learning. They consider issues related to the management of change associated with integrating ICT into teaching and learning. Process is not just adoption of new technologies. The process must also, if it is to be sustainable and highly effective, produce new learning outcomes and new ‘creative’ modes of learning. Exposure to good practice case studies and the creative use of digital tools such as the Google Apps package or the educational use of so called ‘learning platforms’ is vital, but to impose ‘off the peg’ solutions such as IWB’s (see the 2007 IOE study) or expecting digital literacy from educators would fail to create an ecologically sustainable model of digital practice within education. This process of innovation is gradual and must begin with ITT and maintained throughout the lifespan of an educators professional practice. The approach outlined by Law et. al. (2011) should be coupled with,

  • ongoing teacher exposure to existing innovative practices;
  • awareness of developments in new digital media and technology;
  • the creation of an enabling environment for creativity and innovation; and, fundamentally
  • a teachers capacity to ask the question How will this enable and enhance the most effective learning?

Tools such as those developed by Law et. al. (2011) and an application of a taxonomy of digital and information literacies linked to Bloom’s Taxonomy,  such as that developed by Beetham and Sharpe (2013), would begin a learning focused engagement with ICT enhanced teaching and learning. To direct training and ‘innovation’ is ‘to do to’, but to empower and enable an educator to direct their own engagement with ICT enabled teaching and learning would reap a more fruitful digital pedagogy.

As has been discussed in previous articles on this site it is flexibility within teachers and within school systems which enables creativity in teaching, and what is more creative than coopting technologies and new digital media to the pursuit of organised effective learning? Without flexibility, trust and the promotion of teacher agency, measured risks can’t be taken; with risk central to creativity (Cleeland, 2012). Enabling teaching professionals, through training and support, to have a growth mindset (Dweck, 2012), to develop their own agency for enhanced professional practices (Priestly et al., 2012) and empowering them to form and use collaborative networks in order to enable a sustained application of a digital pedagogy are vital.

Blendspace
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As one of our digital leaders at school, responsible for raising our digital prowess and use of technology to enhance learning (rather than just a bolt on), I am often asked what are my most recommended apps/tools to use in the classroom. I am by no means an expert – in fact, quite late to the technological game when it comes to it being integrated into the classroom. I have learnt a great deal from experts in the field, such as Mr P ICT and Rob Smith (founder of Literacy Shed). As an avid fan of all things technological, I spend my CPD time learning from them and gleaning whatever I can from the trail they, and others, have carved out. So, with all that in mind, I apologise now if anything I share might be ‘old news’ for you.

My favourite at the moment is ‘Blendspace’, which does exactly as it says on the tin – blend the ‘digital’ space with that of your classroom. I have found this tool invaluable with any children I teach (KS1 – KS2). It allows me to create a digital pinboard, for the children to access online content that I have chosen and selected beforehand. I have used QR codes for a while (another post to come) to allow children to quickly access a website, without having to enter in the inordinately long address. When I have needed them to access multiple websites, I have given them multiple QR codes, which in its essence, is fine. Except there is something better. Blendspace.

You can access this website (soon to be an app also, I hear) through your TES account. If you don’t have one of those….you’d be the first teacher I’ve met who doesn’t. Go get one! It’s free and is a whole remarkable resource all of its own. I don’t have time to unpack the genius of this place here and now. Alternatively, you can just sign up for Blendspace.

Blendspace allows me to compile any digital content that I want in one central place for the children to access. I can upload directly from TES, Google, Youtube, images….etc.

Here is a screen grab of a lesson I delivered a few weeks back to Year 6 on Charles Darwin. I wanted them to research, using the questions they had generated. By ‘googling’ Charles Darwin, they would have spent too much time sifting through to find relevant KS2 appropriate information. Here, I provided it for them.

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Here you can see that I found a PDF, links to websites and a video, through the search function on the right. I then just clicked and dragged into the available boxes on the left. Here, all the research resources they need are in one location. Now, for them to access this ‘digital lesson’ I have done one of two things. Either:

1 – Used the link above as a hyperlink on our class blog. I tend to do this if I want them to access this outside of school.

2 – Clicked on the green ‘share’ button at the top and then copied and pasted the QR code onto a document. I usually display this on the board, or print off for tables. All our children have access to ipads and so can scan the QR code, which will take them to what you can see above.

Saying that – it isn’t the longer address and they could type it into the address bar. Not my first choice, but not a problem either.

Once created, I named my lesson and it became forever in my library of lessons. Others can access it too, if they search for ‘Charles Darwin’. On that note, if you click on ‘blendspace’ at the top, it will take you back to your dashboard – your homepage, if you will. From here, you can search for lessons that already exist, that others have made. Super useful.

You could differentiate the ‘lesson’ by creating a different pinboard for each group. I have also used it in a carousel activity, when I needed multiple stations, each with different research. My students have also used this to create ‘lessons’ on a topic they researched for Home Learning, to make the websites/resources they used available to all. After we have finished, the QR codes are added to the display board, for anyone to continue to research in their own time. A number do.

I was using this before we purchased iPads. Whilst I believe they do make it smoother, they are not essential to using this excellent tool.

I used this weekly in some capacity or another, in a range of lessons throughout the curriculum. Sometimes, it has just been set up as a station for those who are ready for challenge/early morning work, with websites to SPAG revision, phonics games etc. We have even used it to upload the children’s actual work, be it writing, calculations or art work, so that it can be seen by others (parents, children, teacher) all in one place – a gallery of learning.

If you are already using it, I would love to hear about other ways you have used it, whatever your setting. If you haven’t, please let me know if you started using it and what you thought of it. My staff were really excited to discover this and have found it invaluable already. I hope it is for you too.  Happy blending!

A Play Odyssey

This term I seem to have embarked on something of an odyssey through play. I keep having enjoyable and unexpected encounters with all things play-based, and it has got me questioning many things in my practice. It all began last year, when I led a collaborative enquiry into encouraging children to talk more – which sparked a rather geeky obsession with Vygotsky! I drew on his theories of language development and play to introduce “talking time” sessions, where children and adults played together at a variety of activities. You can see a summary of this at: Getting Children to Talk More: Prezi. At the height of my Vygotsky obsession I was lucky enough to attend a seminar led by Galina Dolya, author of the Keys to the Curriculum, and bona fide academic from the Vygotsky Institute in Moscow. A couple of great concepts I have introduced following this are the idea of external reminders (e.g. editors glasses; a king ring to support good pencil grip; presenters microphone; a magnifying glass for comprehension questions) and focussed work on encoding and decoding, using symbols and social tools such as venn diagrams. If you ever get the chance to hear Galina speak, I highly recommend it.

Following on from this work last year, I heard that my school was looking at introducing more play-based learning opportunities, and offered to lead a working party on this. Our intention is to run this working party along the lines of a collaborative enquiry, and so our group has been gathering evidence of current practice and looking into theory and practice of play-based learning in order to gain more insights and ideas. As frequently happens when you get a group of teachers together to actually focus on learning, the ideas have been flowing thick and fast and I am really looking forward to trying out some new approaches in the new year. Meanwhile, two further opportunities presented themselves to learn more about play-based learning.

The first was at the Pedagoo #EnquiryMeet at Grangemouth High School in November. I attended a session entitled “Throwing out the Plastic; Constructing an environment which supports the development of high quality creative play”, led by Catriona Gill. Catriona (@LintonLass) shared her work developing play in a nursery setting using Froebelian principles. I had never heard of Froebel before (too busy reading Vygotsky!), but as these things seem to happen, I am now finding the Froebelian approach popping up everywhere! The approach, I learnt, involves providing children with “an environment which allows free access to a rich range of materials that promote open-ended opportunities for play, representation and creativity” (The Froebel Trust, 2012). Suddenly I understood what my HTs obsession with “loose parts” was all about! One of the great opportunities in all of this, is that many of the materials which provide greatest stimulation (stones, shells, mud, water)  are free!

This tied in nicely with the second event I attended, just last week, the Midlothian Association of Play Conference “Un-popping the Bubblewrap”. The keynote speaker was Tim Gill, presenting on “No risk, no reward: Liberating the bubble-wrapped generation”. Unbeknownst to him of course, Tim led on nicely from Catriona, reminding us that children are naturally boiphilic and that we have a responsibility to provide them with play spaces which allow them to interact with nature, with one another and with the challenges and responsibilities we want them to become skilled in dealing with. Listening to Tim I felt incredibly lucky to live in a town blessed with some great play parks, not to mention woods and beaches – but it also made me wonder at how often these spaces are devoid of children playing. There is clearly a need to change attitudes, and again if you ever get the chance to hear Tim speak, then I would highly recommend it. You can also download his book for free from his fascinating website Rethinking Childhood.

Following the keynote speech, I attended two inspiring practical workshops. The first looked at making toys with junk – I can’t wait to make my first water rockets with a class! And the second explored a myriad of simple activities you can do with young children in the woods, including tin can cooking, painting stone people with nail polish, making fairy homes and framing transient art with a lashed stick frame. It rained all day, but I left with a big smile on my face.

So where has all this led to? Firstly, thanks to so many people sharing their ideas and experiences, I have a sackful of practical ideas that I can’t wait to try out. Secondly, thanks to Tim Gill (my new Vygotsky?) I have a deeper understanding of the value of play, some of the barriers to play for today’s children, and the absolute necessity for ourselves as educators to help redress the balance.

Visual Hexagons
Battle of Britain Hexagon

I am an unashamed admirer of hexagons in the classroom. Hexagon activities (which can be found on my blog – www.jivespin.wordpress.com) promote deeper and independent thinking on any topic as well as focus on different elements when answering a specific, exam focused question. They encourage students to make links between different elements of a topic and forces them to e plain and employ higher order skills.

With such an activity, some students can find hexagons a challenge – especially Key Stage 3 and less able students. This is because the very skills hexagons encourage are higher order ones that students can struggle with. As a result, I have been thinking about modifiying hexagon activities to make them more accessible to all students without diluting the outcome of sharpening students’ higher order skills set. Coupled with this I have experimenting with a variety of visual resources, such as creating comic strips and word clouds – some of which you may have seen elsewhere on the blog.

Putting these two together, I have experimented with usual visual hexagons. I create them using the Moldiv app, as recommended by Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist). I give my students a fixed hexagon pattern like the one below with images relating to a central question or topic in each hexagon. Usually, I give students an A5 size copy of the hexagon pattern so they can stick it in their exercise book and write next to it.

Firstly, students must identify the images and how they relate to the central question. The image can represent not only a specific person or event but also a larger point that may summarise an area or bigger aspect which link to the set question. This can be part of a starter exercise in a lesson. Once students are clear about each image, students can then complete the main task which is to explain each link between the images where the sides of the hexagons touch. To add competition and engagement, this can be completed in pairs under a time limit. Once the time runs out, there can be a class discussion where each pair share their links and students can fill in any links they have missed or write improved ones from others.

This task can be extended by asking the class extension questions to promote thinking, such as –

What other images can fit in the middle of the hexagon pattern?

What other images could be used in the pattern?

If you had to replace one image from the hexagon pattern, which one would you remove?

Once students have completed the visual hexagon task a few times, you want to place greater challenge, freedom and independence by giving students blank hexagon patterns for them to fill in on a given question or topic. Alternatively, visual hexagon tasks can also be used for –

Revision activities – reviewing a topic and preparing students for an exam in an active and engaging way.

Plenary – summarising learning in a lesson and encouraging students to demonstrate their progress utilising higher order explanation skills.

Planning an essay – visual hexagons can be used to prepare students for a specific exam question. 

These visual hexagon activities create engagement in lessons and can provide students with a visual learning aid which gives the hooks to prompt memory as well as attractive summary of a topic or question within a students’ notes. Many visual hexagon resources can be found at www.jivespin.wordpress.com, where if you type in visual hexagon in the search engine you will be present to links to the resources. Although these resources are history subject based, they can act as a guide on what other subjects can produce.

Find below an excellent example of a student’s work on a visual hexagon exercise, explaining the links and exhibiting higher order thinking to an outstanding level.

Mini portraits and time travel to engage our budding historians
timetravel

The world of twitter was never something that I was interested in, until I completed my teacher training. Now in my NQT year I eagerly scroll through the #PedagooFriday tweets on a quest to steal new ideas and strategies from everyone else. Having posted an idea last Friday I was approached to write about it on the blog. Please forgive any ‘blogging faux pas’ I may commit as I am completely new to this too!

During my training year I had a conversation with a fellow teacher who suggested using portraits to explore pictures, so this idea really is the result of that conversation. This technique encourages students to put themselves into the pictures and let their imaginations run wild. I have used this idea recently with my year 7 groups, who have been investigating what it was like to live in a Roman town; however the idea could be adapted for almost any subject.

Initially provide each of your students with a small piece of paper, no more than a 2-3cm square. Instruct them to draw a portrait of the person they are sat next to; give them no longer than two minutes to complete this task, it does just need to be a sketch not a masterpiece. Then let the students hand the portrait to the relevant person. There will of course be lots of laughing and joking at this point as a result of their creations.

Portrait

In this case the whole process hinges around the idea that each of the students has had the opportunity to time travel. I explained this idea to the students and then revealed the picture we were going to explore. In this case I used a lovely view of a Roman town. A large colour version of the picture was on the projector and each student was given a smaller copy with a number of descriptive words and key features of a Roman town, as a scaffold for their discussions. Initially I asked each of them to place their portrait into the picture and imagine they were there, in this case back in AD55. I gave them a demonstration as if I was the person in the picture and then gave them ten minutes, in pairs, to discuss the picture and describe their surroundings.

Roman town

Roman town worksheet 

To consolidate this work each of the students wrote a letter to a friend describing their time travelling experiences. Overall, the students produced some amazing letters talking about their experiences and this technique was one that all students could access. Very pleased with the results so I am looking forward to using this idea again with future topics.

 

Why blue sky?
question-mark-457456__180

At some point while thinking about our approach to education we asked children 1 question: What would you like to find out from scientists?

What did we do at school? 😉

We had of course some responses in our heads (it was not THAT bad, you know), but we got to the point where adding some additional “but why’s” made us realise, that we just don’t get it really :) – and also, that we CAN (and do) live with that. It left us wondering how at some point we just accepted the level of our lack of understanding and moved on skipping yet another “but why?”.

Who to ask though? How many “but why’s” of an average kid can an average person handle?:) Some of us are parents and – believe us – we know what we are talking about here: the constant inflow of ‘Why’s?”, ‘When’s?”, ‘How many’s?”, ‘Which’s?”, ‘For’s?” and  ‘How’s?”…

Because it is so, okay?” :) We read somewhere that an average 4 year-old asks 437 questions a day. Scary?

We haven’t read anywhere though how many questions an average adult asks a day, yet we’re pretty sure it would probably be MUCH less than 437. Even scarier? Do grown ups already know the responses to questions they do not ask? (which was definitely not the case in our little experience with kids’ questions) – or is it that we just do not notice the “question-opportunity” anymore :) – or not give ourselves time to wonder. Why is the sky blue?  Do you know? If not, what would it change for you if you knew? What would be different if you gave yourself some time to think about it?

And this is how we knew we would engage our actions in appreciating the ability to wonder why, or simply – the CURIOSITY – as one of the most important competences for life.

We’re WhyBlueSky
Check out our all open source LESSON PLANS that respond to REAL QUESTIONS of real children! :)

 

Differentiated CPD – It’s The Future! I’ve Tasted It!
Garlic Bread

Have you ever been forced to sit through a whole day training session on an area of teaching you consider to be one of your strengths? Has a trainer visited your school to say that you should be teaching in a style that really wouldn’t work for you? Did you go to the same Teachmeet as me last year where an ‘Educational Consultant’ stood up and spent ten minutes telling a room full of qualified teachers what the difference is between formative and summative assessment? (She gave me her business card if anyone’s interested.) How about a death by Powerpoint experience? An evangelist with an annoying amount of enthusiasm for an idea that’s a tiny bit rubbish? If you are like me, the answer will be yes to all of these questions.

It’s funny how we are all busy differentiating our lessons for the benefit of the children we teach. But what about our learning? How can we make sure that we are getting the CPD we need to be the best we can be? The answer is something like Pedagoo Hampshire.

A menu selection of 40 mini seminars, each delivered by different speakers who ranged from primary, secondary and further education teachers from across the south east of England, was available to choose from before arrival. After a talk by @graham_irisc which set the tone superbly, it was off to the starter course – Telescopic Education by @chrischivers2 and Collaboration by @hayleymc2222. Hayley bought to the table a plethora of suggestions on who to follow in the Twitter world as well as some wise words on how to organise a Teachmeet – something I would recommend to anyone looking to develop their own, as well as their school’s teaching and learning philosophy and delivery. I love the fact that Hayley organised one in her NQT year – amazing! It was nice to get a mention on one of Hayley’s slides (they say everyone is famous for 5 minutes don’t they?) but I didn’t let this go to my head. Instead, I concentrated on the importance of learning from each other. Next, Chris Chivers stimulated a discussion between a group of primary teachers on the barriers faced when trying to implement a bottom-up teaching model to secure progress. Admittedly, the group digressed into a sharing of ideas on curriculum enrichment and CPD opportunities and what the barriers to these are instead. The message was loud and clear – lots of teachers feel scared to digress from the core subjects – a terrible shame in my opinion, and that of my peers in the group.

The sorbet course to cleanse the pallet came in the guise of @basnettj on giving pupils feedback and @lizbpattison on how differentiation might just be counter-productive. There were some great discussions generated around the importance of involving students in feedback. I raised the question of peer feedback in mixed ability groups and whether this can work for the higher attainer – I haven’t yet found my answer. Then my clever (sorry I mean able/gifted/talented *delete as applicable) friend Liz stepped up with some fascinating thoughts on the effectiveness of differentiation on the growth mindset we are all looking to expand. What did I take away from her talk? Well, it reinforced my view that differentiation is brilliant when done properly but can be disastrous when done badly – as it was for Liz during her school days when she was labelled ‘middle ability.’ (You wouldn’t know it to hear her now!) Unfortunately for Liz, but fortunately for us, she still can’t let it go, which means I am very much looking forward to hearing about the research she continues to do into the subject.

The main course was a corned beef and pickle sandwich (me) paired with a fillet steak and triple cooked chips (@graham_irisc). Graham invited a discussion on what is important to focus on – is it inspection? Is it budgets? Is it the standard of biscuits in the staffroom? No, the room came to the conclusion it was teaching & learning. Although, in my opinion, biscuits definitely feed into this. (Pardon the very accidental pun) Then it was my turn to evangelise on the benefits of empowering middle leaders along with some tips on how these vital members of staff can empower themselves to deliver brilliant learning experiences for their pupils. Thank you to everyone who turned up – I hadn’t slept for a week wondering if I still would have delivered my presentation to an empty room! I think I would have – it would have been a terrible waste to have not given it an airing.

And then, just when the full-up sleepy feeling started to take over, there was @natalielovemath to wake us up from our slumber with a very inspiring talk on using objects bought from Poundland to enrich Maths lessons. I don’t teach Maths anymore and this session only served to make me sad about this fact. Although, the idea of pasta graphs, children writing on disposable table cloths and sticking numbers on fly-swatters have been enthusiastically received by the Maths teachers at my school! Then, just when I thought things couldn’t get any more surreal (in a brilliant and inspiring way!) @haslemeremuseum extracted woolen brains from a poor Egyptian rag doll. Learning through objects is very under-rated and can be the key to unlock the door of learners who struggle to take an interest.

Before departing, the classy port and cheese board came in the form of @lcll_director who pressed home the need for using days like this to actually make changes in our practice. “All of these brilliant ideas are no good just stored in our heads,” murmured the rag doll from session 4.

So there we have it – a day of differentiated CPD just for me. Imagine if groups of schools got together to do this at the start of every school year – giving teachers a choice of CPD suited just to them through the sharing of strengths and passions of their peers. Would that be better than a whole-school INSET day which doesn’t differentiate for the needs of every learner; in this case, teachers? I think so. How about you?

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