This is a must watch for all Pedagooey teachers! Find out more here: thersa.org/teachers
This is a must watch for all Pedagooey teachers! Find out more here: thersa.org/teachers
When Hamlet says that “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” he isn’t too wide of the mark. We can think ourselves into all sorts of nonsense if we work hard enough. There are still Flat Earthers, people who think global warming is a myth, and that JFK was killed by the CIA (well, actually the jury may be out on that one…). Some people in my profession – teachers and parents – see the internet as a similarly polarising issue. On the one hand we have the advocates who argue that the internet has democratised access to knowledge and information and has fundamentally revolutionised the role of the teacher. On the other hand we have the opponents who see the internet as an unregulated hotbed of disinformation that undermines the pivotal role of the teacher as guardian of learning. Just to be clear, and in a spirit of full disclosure, I fall into the first of these two positions, and I would like to say why.
Good schools (and good teachers) are in the futures business.
Schools do not produce stuff for the here and now. Our job is to help build the future, one learner at the time. What we do now should be as relevant as we can make it, but the gauge of what is relevant must be defined by what learners will need for the future, not what they used to need in the past.
Good schools (and good teachers) genuinely put learners first.
Today’s young people live in a world that is saturated with technology – and it is developing at an ever-increasing rate. We all have a duty to make sure that today’s learners grow up as adept, skilful, discriminating and ethical in their use of the tools available to us. That means each and every teacher has that self-same duty. It cannot be outsourced to Tech Support. It isn’t somebody else’s job. Simply put, if you do not help young people to develop their use of technology for learning in your classroom then you are not putting their needs ahead of your own. Likewise schools that do not find ways to invest in technology cannot be said to be genuinely meeting the needs of learners in the 21st century.
Good schools (and good teachers) are excited, entrepreneurial learners.
There is not a teacher preparation system in the world that has prepared teachers for the world in which we now live. Back in 1987 when I qualified as a teacher, nobody knew what was coming. Only the occasional wild-eyed futurist could have foreseen the revolution that Web 2.0 would bring. But now it is here and we need to deal with it. The way in which we do this says a lot about our preparedness to be part of the revolution. If we take the path of suspicion, mistrust and denial, deluding ourselves that we are “holding on to traditional best practice” (sic), then our profession has a problem. We each need to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset committed to taking personal responsibility for our own learning. We need to embrace our professional duty to be problem-solvers and inquirers. People who wait around to be “upskilled” will not only miss the boat but they will undermine the learning needs of each and every student they share time with
Good schools (and good teachers) identify and hold on to fundamental principles.
In a world where change is a constant it has never been more important to identify and hold on to the fundamental principles upon which we believe schools are based: schools put student learning first; effective teaching is a thoughtful, planned activity; intellectual rigour isn’t a passing fad; and skills and values trump content every single time (but it is a fallacy to think it is one or the other).
Finally, good schools (and good teachers) practice what they preach.
If we want our young people to grow up as creative, knowledgeable, skilful, ethical, technologically adept inquirers then we have to have those self-same expectations of ourselves and each other. And that is a big ask. In education we face probably one of the biggest challenges any profession has ever faced: reinvention.
If you are reading this as a teacher or an administrator in schools, which side of the divide do you fall on? And before you start to prevaricate, there really are only two sides: you can’t be a little bit pregnant. Then again, you can’t get pregnant by kissing either, but is doesn’t stop some people thinking you can, or that the earth is flat, or that global warming is a myth, or that JFK was killed by…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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
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
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!
0:12 – 8:12
Just a few ideas and probably nothing new but I hope it helps! I will look into other differentiation methods next
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.
Going The Extra Miles For Sport Relief
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:
In return I would teach them how to think and behave like an endurance athlete so that they could:
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
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.
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.
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
Start of the lesson
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