Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in comments
Search in excerpt
Search in posts
Search in pages
Search in groups
Search in users
Search in forums
Filter by Categories
Admin
Assessment
Book
Creativity
Curricular Areas
Curriculum
English
Expressive Arts
History
ICT
Ideas
Implementation
Involving Pupils
Leadership
Literacy
mag
Maths
Modern Languages
PE
Pedagoo
PedagooFriday
PedagooLondon
PedagooReflect
PedagooResolutions
PedagooSunshine
Professional Learning
Qualification
Resource
Resource
Science
Scottish Learning Fringe
SLFringe
Social Studies
SOLO
TeachMeets
Technologies
tmlovelibraries
Uncategorized
xmasparty
Teaching and Learning Toolkit
1

My toolkit contains tips, tricks, ideas, strategies, suggestions, resources and information for teachers across all subjects, ages and phases of education!

The toolkit is a central location for teaching and learning related posts laid out in a simple to use and interpret fashion. The information is short and snappy and links to what is needed are always provided.

2

You can search for a post using a particular keyword or you can filter the posts based on their tags. Such as literacy, group work, independent learning and so on.

The toolkit is designed to allow teachers to become more creative, more inventive and most importantly allows them to save time by using some of the effective ideas that have been shared. The posts usually contain images showing the activity in action and provide links to further reading if relevant.

Currently the toolkit contains over 215 activities that have been tried and tested by teachers. I know they are effective because the activities I post are ones that are being used in classrooms. Ones that have been used and been successful with the students I teach.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 15.14.17

To date the toolkit has had over 550,000 views and is used worldwide! Many posts are currently being edited/updated to include the variations educators have made having seen the original idea from the toolkit.

3

The principle behind the toolkit is to create more agile teachers who want to liven up the learning of their students. The toolkit is also a central hub to share important information such as the changes in Special Needs provision in the UK and so on. Some ideas you will love, some you will think about, others you may not agree with at all. That’s the beauty of the toolkit- it is guaranteed to cater for some of everybody’s teaching methods. If an activity doesn’t sit well with you, simply ignore it and try another? :)

If you would like to guest post and share an activity that you have used in your lessons on the toolkit then please email me on aal@cheney.oxon.sch.uk over 30 teachers have written a guest post to date.

Get in touch… @ASTSupportAAli

P.S-

The toolkit was recently featured on BBC News show BBC Click in the #Webscape section as a fantastic tool for educators worldwide.

4

The toolkit is also linked to many websites/blogs.

You can help spread the world by sharing posts on twitter, facebook and google +.

5

www.cheneyagilitytoolkit.blogspot.com

or

www.bit.ly/agilitytoolkit

Ofsted Prep: How 5 good habits can lead to excellent teaching and learning
Habits

I recently had an observation with my line manager. I used to dread observations, especially when being judged by an expert teacher. I think the thing that even the most experienced teachers fear is an Ofsted inspection. Having received positive feedback for my recent lesson observation, I looked back on what I did and realised that most of it was automated, I do these things every lesson without thinking.

I came to learn about these techniques through our head of CPD (@HFletcherWood) whose numerous techniques come from the books of Doug Lemov and also talks and inset by Dylan William (See Youtube for a taster). By automating these good habits, we can free ourselves (literally and mentally) to address student’s queries more effectively. Since the beginning of the year, I have managed to automate 5 techniques which have had a huge impact on my teaching:

1) Start the class with a “Do Now”

This should have a low threshold for entry and plenty of room for growth. My example was simply to state what you like/dislike about the following posters and to suggest improvements.

 

2) Positive framing (Catching them when they’re good)

By using positive framing; only announcing names of people who were doing the right thing, it encourages those who are slow to start. “I can see James has started jotting down some ideas…I can see Megan has put one point for improvement”. Within 30 seconds, everyone is settled, they all have opinions and are scribbling away. This is the most challenging class in the school. Those who looked like they had finished were asked to suggest improvements to the posters or think of general rules to make the posters better.

Compare that to negative framing where you call out people’s names for being slow to start, “Ryan, you’ve been in here 5 minutes and you still haven’t got out a pen…Janet, why are you walking around?”. This type of framing adds a negative vibe to the lesson and may also lead to confrontation.

3) No hands up and no opt out

Asking only students who put their hands up is probably one of the worst habits you can get into according to Dylan William. The shyer students never get to contribute, those who are feeling a bit lazy will simply opt out and those with their hands up will get frustrated when you don’t pick them. Using nametags or lollipop sticks on the other hand keeps the class on their toes.


Source: goddividedbyzero.blogspot.com 

In combination with Doug Lemov’s “No opt out”, it ensures that all students will contribute when asked to give an answer. If a student answers “I don’t know”, you can respond with “I know you don’t know, I just want to know what you think”. Every student has something in their head. If they’re still hesitant, simply reinforcing that there is no right or wrong answer will build their confidence and even the shyest students will usually contribute an answer.

Extra tip: There are times when the question is so difficult that there is a good 30-40% of students who do not know the answer and do not even know where to start to think. In these situations, it is a good idea to do a “Think-Pair-Share”. A think pair share with a written outcome means you can quickly see if the majority now have an answer to give or if you need to go from pairs to fours to widen the pool further.

4) Student routines

All the aforementioned are teacher routines. As a Computing teacher, you will appreciate that we have one big distraction in front of every student, their own screen. For some teachers, they dread laptops or a lesson in the Computer lab as it just leads to students going on Facebook. Social networks aren’t even blocked in our school, but a student has never gone on a social network in any of our classes as far as I can recall simply because the consequences are so severe. Some teachers also find it difficult to get students attention. I would recommend asking students to close their laptop screens to 45 degrees on a countdown of 3-2-1. Some people call this “pacman screens”, I’ve heard of teachers literally holding up a hand in the shape of a pacman which seems quite novel and efficient. I just call it “45″-efficiency in routines is important!


Source: itnews.com.au

By having routines for handing out folders, getting students’ attention, you make your life as a teacher much easier. Expectations are clear and students do not need to think about their actions, they just do it and in turn you’re making their lives easier. By having clear consequences for not following the routines, most students are quick to latch on.

5) Ending with an exit ticket

Ending with an Exit ticket is the quickest way to find out what students have learnt in your lesson. No student can leave the room before giving you their exit ticket. With these little slips (No smaller than a Post-It Note and no bigger than A5) you can quickly spot misconceptions and it also helps plan the start of your next lesson. It’s one of the most efficient forms of assessment. Some teachers sort these exit tickets into piles, one for those who will be rewarded with housepoints next lesson, one which is the average pile and the last pile is the one where students simply “did not get it”. The last group can also be pulled up for a quick lunchtime mastery/catchup session before your next lesson with the class. As mentioned earlier, these piles go directly to inform your planning. Very quickly you can plan for the top and the bottom.

Closing thoughts

When you get the dreaded Ofsted call, remember that there is no way that any teacher can change their teaching style for one lesson observation without seeming un-natural about it. The kids spot it, your observer spots it and you just end up running around the classroom sweating whilst trying to do a load of things you’ve never done before. Yes, I’ve been there loads of times, in fact probably for every single observation in my first 6 years of teaching! It took a school culture which does not believe in “performing for observations” or “pulling out an outstanding lesson with lots of gimmickery” which really changed my practice. The most important lesson I’ve learnt this year (mainly from my amazing head of CPD), is that in order to be excellent, you have to practice (and practise) excellence everyday. As your good habits become automated, you end up freeing up some of your mental capacity and therefore you are able to do even more for your students.

Using pupil feedback to improve teaching
input

At the end of every lesson, I try to evaluate my teaching. Sometimes I manage to do this, othertimes, there’s simply not enough time. I’ve even thought about giving myself DIRT on my timetable so that it’s not just the students who are doing explicit improvement and reflection. Towards the end of a major unit however, it’s difficult to evaluate how effective your teaching has been. Of course, I could look at test results, but sometimes the test doesn’t catch everything. It may tell you that your teaching of x, y and z was ineffective but it won’t tell you why. This is where pupil feedback can help.

Laura Mcinerney once asked the daring question, “Should teachers publish the test scores of their classes” . I wondered what would happen if I published the pupil feedback of all my classes. It has certainly forced me to reflect more honestly and openly about my own practice.

You can find the original pupil survey here: http://goo.gl/W2mRPk . I have been selective with the publishing of my results, generally ignoring repeats and responses where students replies were too general and not actionable e.g. “Mr Lau was great”.

What could Mr Lau have done differently / better:

    - let us figure out what has gone wrong with our code.
    - Maybe give us more time to actually try ourselves rather than watching the board quite often. I also think it would be useful to sometimes have a quick break from python and try something else like scratch for one lesson
    - Explain coding simpler and talk a bit less so we have time to get the work done better.
    - he could have showen a demo of what he wants us to do
    - Mr lau could have simplified the technical language.
    - come round to every one
    - Maybe explain in more detail.
    - Explane more clearly
    - put more computing lessons on the time table.

Analysis and Response: Students have raised the issue that I help them too readily. Whilst a growth mindset and persistence is abundant in the majority of our students, it appears that in my teaching, I could demonstrate these learning habits more by helping students less, offering more waiting time and responding with questions rather than answers. Several students also thought that explanations could be clearer; teaching computer programming for the first time, I think this is to be expected but I will try to observe more experienced Computing teachers. Key words and language was also raised as an issue, so I think a Vocab list for each unit would be helpful. On the positive side, many students replied with “nothing” on the improvements list with the last comment of putting “more computing lessons on the time table” brightening up my day.

What would you like Mr Lau to do more of:

    - Letting us work on our own, a bit more .
    - more of prasing people
    - Demonstrate code before sending us to do work.
    - more work on your own
    - come round to more people
    - explained things and use more visual things like pictures

Analysis and Response: Firstly, Praise praise praise, it’s an invaluable currency. Secondly, many students preferred working on their own. I think I have done paired programming for several reasons, firstly because the research suggests it can be the most effective way of coding:

http://www.cs.pomona.edu/classes/cs121/supp/williams_prpgm.pdf

http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?PairProgrammingBenefits

http://www.summa-tech.com/blog/2013/05/16/pair-programming-benefits-part-1-the-good/

The second reason is because our laptop trolley rarely has a full class set of working laptops. However, I will certainly pilot more independent working and solo tasks next term.

What would you like Mr Lau to do less of:

    - Speaking to the whole class about something a few people have got wrong.
    - work sheets
    - stop showing people what to do if they are stuck.
    - Keep on showing us the board
    - To do less talking when teaching and to pick people to come and try the code on the interactive smartboard.
    - canstant doing hardcore lessons may be sometimes we could fun lessons
    - I would like to get on with the work straight away on the and have a learning objective on the table
    - stopping the how class when only a few people need to know things
    - speaking less at the start and giving us more time to practical work time.
    - dont explan to fings at wons

Analysis and Response: Early on in my career, I had a lot of helpless handraising. This was partly to do with my teaching and partly due to the culture of the school. I decided to combat this by judging when it would be appropriate to stop the whole class. If a student asked a question that I thought the whole class could benefit from hearing the answer to, I would stop them. No teacher likes repeating themselves afterall. It appears that my students don’t like this strategy as I am stopping the majority in order to help a small minority. I therefore plan to get around this by helping Student A with their problem, then when Student B asks me for help on the same problem, I could direct them to Student A. If Student C asks the same question, the chain continues. Whilst there are clear literacy issues (perhaps distorted by the use of computers and their association with txtspk), the last student makes a point about working memory and helping students remember. This reminds me of Willingham’s work on helping students remember and learn.

Any other comments

    -stop 5 minutes early to put the computers away
    - computer science is fun
    - Thanks Mr Lau I am getting Better .
    -Nice.
    print(“Thanks Mr Lau again”)
    I think i need a new account sorry :( i will try to remeber please dont give me a detention soryy

    - It was very useful to work in partners and also rate and and have your own work rated.
    - my mum is impressed
    - Computing is such a unique subject to learn in a secondary school and I am so happy to participate in it as it is intresting, inspiring and useful if you want to have a future career in game making or something like that.
    - I have really enjoyed computer science this term I have had fun playing and exploring around laptops. Making chat bots and having challenges I have learnt a lot about computers and how they work. I am looking forward to doing more work this term and learning different things.
    - I have really enjoyed codeing i really like it some times i do it at home with my dad because he enjoys it to just like me.
    - PLEASE show us how to do spreadsheets through the medium of dance like in your old school.


Analysis and Response:
Timing is an issue for me. I need to fit in an exit ticket, house points and packing away. That’s a good 10 minutes before the end of a lesson. To close on a bright note- clearly computing is having a positive impact on many of our students. The highlight for me is the student who wrote a print command in Python in her comment!

How useful was this process for improving my teaching in general? I think it provided a great deal of stimulus for reflection and improvement. Using Google forms, I also managed to sneak in an exit ticket, which I quickly evaluated using conditional formatting.

As a result, some students will be due housepoints, whereas others will need mastery classes.

After all this analysis, hopefully I can put some of these ideas into practice and feedback on the process.

#PedagooWonderland

0530 on a Saturday morning is difficult, cold and after another long night of the ashes, very miserable. However, I was off to a Pedagoo event, packed with exciting speakers, thoughtful teachers, inspiring individuals and I was pretty confident that my chosen Saturday CPD event was going to be brilliant. It was…

The first thing that blew me away (after registering with the very welcoming pupils of the school) was the amazing building. It was bright, clean, tidy and very much the type of modern building I come to expect when I go ‘somewhere nice’. Just as our children know when they are being shortchanged as regards use of windows XP on old PC’s, they know it when they walk into a dingy building which is in desperate need of a paint job. Michael Gove said that the building and environment of a school makes no difference. I drive past these buildings at Fettes and Stewart’s Melville on the way to my school every day. Clearly, environment makes a difference.

The other thing about the building I loved was the use of images of Joseph Swan children working, often with ideas about how they work, or slogans/quotations about respect, reading etc behind them. That is something I will try and create in the next couple of weeks if energies allow as it looks so good and inspires.

Whilst having my complimentary tea and danish pastry (which would contravene the bring your own tea and biscuits policy of many councils) I set about reading my welcome pack. I loved the Happy Mondays leaflet which contained loads of great, ready to use, ideas for enhancing and reinforcing learning in the classroom. The Happy Mondays reference is because the teachers at Joseph Swan receive and e-mail every Monday, with a new idea or resource in it from their SMT. I love that idea!

MY first session of the day was in the Reading Room (and what an amazing space that is…) with David Hodgson. David talked about how we learn and how we can use techniques in the classroom to help children learn and remember how they learned things. As a primary teacher I get asked lots of questions from the children and my most frequent answer to them is good question. I don’t believe in throwing the knowledge confetti about for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’m not convinced the children will remember it whilst they walk back to their desks and secondly I (or A.N.Other teacher) will not always be there for them when they have a question or want to learn something. The things we did in his session were all practical examples of an NLP approach, and I was so impressed I bought his book for my Kindle this morning. He used this pupil feelings graphic in his session too which I find a useful tool to have by my desk in the class room. Something David said which rang a bell was that we should ensure our children ‘Have a get out clause for children when they don’t learn’. This is vital, so often our children get way more stressed than we ever do about a wrong answer. We need them to take risks, get it wrong, change it and get it wrong again, smiling all the time! That is a successful learner right there.

The next session was with Rachel Orr who is HT at Holy Trinity Rosehill Her workshop was about developing writing through Primary Learning and specifically using Pie Corbett’s talk for writing work. I had worked on a Pie Corbett workshop for writing day before (January 2007??) and it was amazing. I’ve bought a few of his books and love his approach to writing. There is a lot of material on the internet too to supplement his written work. I also liked the punctuation sounds and actions which children are to use when they are talking and can then reinforce the assessment process in class. Rachel has used Pie’s work in two differing schools now and shared with us examples of the successes her young writers had, and these examples cal be seen on her school blogs. Rachel gave us a disk with loads of fantastic resources on, many her own work (the learning keys are a great idea!).

During lunch I met some great folk including @spiceweasel77 who is doing some brilliantly exciting things with his class!

After lunch it was on to Hywel Roberts session. Hywel spoke passionately and humourously about creating contexts in the curriculum, allowing the children to view the learning they are given through their own filters and engaging children in their learning. I made loads of notes during Hywel’s session and later tweeted many of them. Here’s the quotations I tweeted:

‘It’s our job to get the World thinking.’

‘We need to dig learning holes for our children to fall into.’

‘we are the people who make sense of the curriculum we are given. ‘

‘Have a what’s great 2 mins at the start of staff meetings’

‘we need to induct our kids into learning’

‘all of these things are just doing the job we’ve been asked to do. That we’re paid for. ‘

I’ve got Hywel’s book and it’s a great read. I need to do more of this in my classes. It’s great stuff. I was incredibly impressed with Hywel and the way he works in schools.

Finally, my last session was about using enquiry based learning in maths. Stephanie Thirtle took this session, she is a maths teacher at Joseph Swan. (I’d love The Girl to have her as a maths teacher, lessons would be so interesting!)
We did some enquiry based openers which really got us thinking and she talked about the approach of letting the children work things out for themselves, rather than an I teach then you do model. I love the work things out idea and think the way she’s bringing it to maths in a high school works really well. Much of the rationale for enquiry based learning was on her presentation and clearly showed examples of enquiry based learning which we could use as one-off lessons or develop for a maths topic. Such things investigating square numbers, straight line graphs using algebra, and one which P7 will be seeing soon – 12 Days of Christmas maths.
Her room displays were wonderful and I snapped many of them on my phone and you can see them here. I particularly liked that ways she put maths into context making it real for the children.
That chimed so well with the session from Hywel previously.

I came away with my head full of wonderful ideas and a bag full of goodies!
So, what next…well before Christmas I will make some posters of children and their ideas about learning to go up in school and I will also make some musical posters for the music room.

After Christmas I will take loads more of these ideas and run with them. It’ll be different, fun and learning will happen.

NationalModeration.co.uk – a new(ish) approach to assessment moderation

As requested by @fkelly , I’ve decided to throw a quick post together about www.nationalmoderation.co.uk – a service I created to allow Scottish teachers to share their own unit assessments for the new National Qualifications.

Essentially the creation of this website was spurred by one glaringly obvious reality – the unit assessments provided by the SQA are simply not up to scratch, and as a consequence everybody is creating their own material and hoping that it meets the standards. Ón the face of it, this may be no bad thing – if we create our own unit assessments then we can tailor them to our own courses and our own pupils, and surely that is good idea?

To give an example, I have consciously themed my entire National 5 English course around the concept of ‘Coping with Conflict’, selecting texts which can be woven together across the whole year (‘Spiritual Damage’, ‘War Photographer’, ‘The Man I Killed’ and ‘Bold Girls’) – now that I am no longer forced to use a few set NABs I have also created reading assessments which follow this theme, thus enhancing the pupils’ overall understanding of what we are studying this year (at least this is the idea).

Several months ago, however, I realised that if EVERYONE does the same thing then there will be hundreds – perhaps thousands – of unit assessments being created across the country and many of us will be replicating the work that colleagues are doing (or have already done). Frankly, we all work too hard as it is to be reinventing the wheel hundreds of times over, so a system for sharing material is essential.

Of course, Education Scotland and the SQA are providing something along these lines, but there are two reasons why I believe it would be helpful for a service which is independent of these bodies. Firstly, the websites of these organisations (especially Education Scotland) are – to be kind – not particularly user friendly, and I (like many others) don’t have the time or the willpower to fight my way through Glow to find material on a regular basis; secondly, I firmly believe that the only way for us to ever really become confident in the development and delivery of our own materials is for us to move beyond a dependence on official bodies to confirm that every little thing is up to scratch.

If – or, depending on your philosophical view of the amount of fluid in a glass, when – Curriculum for Excellence fulfills its potential it will be because of the incredible work of teachers, not Education Scotland, the SQA or the Education Secretary, and I hope that NationalModeration might play a small part in that development.

Basically, it works like this: teachers upload their unit assessments, other teachers moderate them by leaving comments, alterations are made as required and, eventually, gradually, standards become clearer and are met across the country.

At present the site only has English assessments but it would be great if other subjects could begin contributing materials as well (I’ll create however many subject specific pages are required in this instance). In order to sign up you must be teacher in a Scottish school (and verify this, usually by means of an official email address) – this means that the material can be kept secure, allowing us to continue to use it in our classes as our official unit assessments.

If you think that the site would be of any help to you as you continue to develop your approach to the new qualifications please do sign up – the more people are involved the more effective our approach will be.

My Journey to the Scottish Digital Leaders Network.

On Wednesday 25th September, I presented at the SLF teachmeet on the topic of the Scottish Digital Leaders Network. Here is that presentation

 

2 years ago I taught ICT across the school as RCCT cover…it nearly killed me. Not the ICT bit, I loved it for enabling children to do fantastic creative work, and powerpoints, the way they could discover things, share things and be enthused and curious about learning. Parts of it were like an advert for the teacher training agency.

What nearly killed me was the day to day problems which got in the way. Flash updates, word templates not working, no access to colour printers, flash updates, using IE 6, aspects of filtering, flash updates, java…you get the picture. It really got in the way of me extending the children’s learning in ICT. As part of my ICT role I spent two days at a NAACE conference in Crewe where I met some amazing people and was introduced to the idea of Digital Leaders.

 

Rather than me try to define a digital leader, I thought I’d share with you a child’s own view of the role, taken from an Edmodo post…on a Sunday afternoon.

Slide2

And then rather than get you to read loads more, made a quick wordle which highlights helping, technology, responsible, and for some reason curtain.

Slide3

Digital leaders are a group of children in school which help with ICT in loads of different ways. They have expertise in ICT, are responsible and are given positions with real influence and real responsibility in your school. They exist in every school.

Last year I decided to turn our ICT group at Uphall into a Digital Leaders group. Something I felt would go beyond an after school group and something where I wanted the children to have more of a leading role.

So, having decided to give digital leaders a go, we asked them to apply online and we interviewed them and selected our first 13 digital leaders.This interview and application process is an important part of the digital leaders ethos in my opinion. It helps create a standard and expectation for the children, parents and staff and it is a process our children took very seriously and were brilliant at. I was fortunate enough to have my headteacher involved in the process which added loads to the process.

 

Over the year they made videos, created a resource website to help replace education city’s maths games, taught numerous children how to do many things, helped install firefox, used webmaker tools and finally the P7′s wrote the interview questions for this year’s cohort. Much of this work we shared on our blog space.

Slide4

This was great, but what they desperately wanted was to meet other digital leaders, online and in real life for meetups and beyond…and I had some ideas I thought they could develop too!

Slide5Many of these ideas also involve taking digital leaders beyond our school and meeting up with similar groups.

So I thought I would try and set up the Scottish Digital Leaders Network. The network exists currently on Google + and we have an edmodo group. I am happy for the resources and network to reside anywhere where we can easily do the things we want to do, so we’re not tied to any medium. These are the things you’ll find there.

Slide6

One of the really exciting things going on this year is the badges for DL-ers from digital me. Digital me help young people gain skills and confidence through new technology and work alongside groups such as Nesta and Mozilla to develop young people’s skills. The badges look brilliant, and there you can view the prototype designs in the G+ group.

Slide7

What I would like you to do, is, having seen this, consider whether Digital Leaders is something you could start at your school. If it is please drop me an e-mail and I’ll organise you joining the network and hopefully we can support you and share ideas and solutions.

If it’s something you’re already doing under a different name, it would be great if you’d consider joining the network and making connections with people, I really think your children would enjoy the opportunities of working with other people.

Obviously, any questions please get in touch via e-mail, twitter or the comments below.

That was my presentation and slides and I’ve been really pleased with the feedback so far. There are a few hoops to go through to get into a google + group. You need a google account and you need to have activated your G+ account. I went for G+ as it offers webmeet capacity across the UK and beyond, which sadly Glow doesn’t yet and Skype calling seems unavailable in many schools.

The Edmodo group for Scottish Digital Leaders is here. You need to drop me an e-mail or DM for the code.

The Big Draw – drawing techniques
big-draw-thumb

We are excited to be partnering with The Big Draw this year in delivering a workshop online that you can all take part in, for free! Anyone across the globe can take part using your GPS location tracking system on your mobile device along with a simple GPS Drawing app. This type of drawing technique is fun, experimental and really doesn’t require any previous experience.

In true Portfolio Oomph style, we have a free eBook that guides you through the process of setting up the app and using your body position on the earth as your pencil!

Read more

Digital Leaders @ Uphall Primary School.

A couple of Saturdays ago now, I presented at the brilliant #tmlovelibraries at Edinburgh Central Library.

My presentation/discussion was about using Digital Leaders, from set up to the end of their 1st year at Uphall Primary School.

Digital leaders are an idea I picked up at NAACE hothouse last year in Crewe. The idea was shared there by @shellibb, @chrismayoh and @largerama.

The basic idea is that you have a group of children who have a keen interest in computing in any form and who are happy to develop their interest and taken on responsibilites around the school which had previously been done by adults (or adult!). They will also get to review new pieces of software, try out some new apps in school, act as experts in the classroom, run CPD for teachers and other pupils, represent the school at digital events and teachmeets.

The recruitment of Digital Leaders (DL) at Uphall was by an initial online application using google forms . Once this had been completed we interviewed all of the applicants, giving them the questions prior to interview.

We decided to offer all of our interviewees the chance to be a digital leader, which meant our first group was 14 children from P4 up to P7. Some schools use P6 and P7 and let P7 lead the way, having cut their teeth in P6. I guess it’s up to the feeling of the teachers involved. I liked having the full range, and there has certainly been no time when the P4 child has been out of his depth…far from it.

Once selected we began holding our DL meetings. (Thursday afterschool). Initially I led the way with our meetings sharing some desktop apps and web based programs with them – things like screenr to make screencasts, wordpress for blogging and moved into Scratch and the mozilla webmaker tools. The children began to bring in their own devices and share their blogs, apps, creations etc with each other. The DL Thursday evenings soon had a good buzz! I encouraged the children to share their work on our own DL blog and on the Digital Leader Network Blog. The DL’s were excited by this and enjoyed using Edmodo groups to share ideas too.

As the year progressed the DL’s began to find the things that really interested them. The initial interest in blogging waned and a love of making movies and minecraft took over. I was happy for them to use their tools in the direction they wanted to go and much video was created and many, many minecraft worlds!

In the last few weeks I have felt there has been a return to wanting me to provide some stimulus for them to use, so we have gone back to mozilla’s webmaker tools (which have developed since we first used them) and done some work with them. Our final few weeks have been taken up with developing ideas for next years DLers, creating the interview questions, creating logos and posters for the DL interview process and some badges for ICT skills across the school. I’ve also taken the opportunity to discuss where the DL-ers might want to go next year.

I feel the meetups for the DL have been successful, with a mix of teacher led and child led activities and opportunity for children to spend their time and develop ideas as they wished to some extent.

Support in school is a key area for DL work (and should be a time and hassle saver for teachers and schools). Our DL’s have supported staff in many ways. Creating powerpoints for assembly, teaching teachers how to use certain apps on their iPads, having a go at podcasting, creating video for transitions events in school, setting up, operating and putting away AV equipment for assemblies and the like.

The digital leaders came up with a series of ideas for next year. These include interacting more with other digital leaders (which is why I’m trying to create a digital leader network for Scotland), speaking at more events, running a junior digital leaders group in school (p2 and p3).

Personally I have made a commitment to developing the digital leader in school and beyond as part of my Leadership course application for West Lothian Council’s course. As such I’ll be blogging more about the digital leaders role over the year and how the network develops. I will share those posts (if there is an interest) on this site, as well as my own.

If you wish to start your own digitial leader group, wish to contribute to the Scottish digital leaders network, or just want to to ask any more questions, feel free to get in touch.

To text poll or not to text poll, that is the question?

Although I have come across online text polls in the past, I hadn’t used them myself until last week in one of my lessons and came to the conclusion that they are more time and effort than they are worth – let me explain why…

The group of learners I used this with were Entry Level 3 and in a nutshell the objective of the session was to identify and demonstrate skills, qualities and values required when assisting at a sport and active leisure event.

So after providing learners with their personalised targets for the session I asked them to place their mobile phones on their desks. Out of the 12 learners in attendance, only 10 had a phone…already the task was not going to plan!..so, I paired the learners without phones with somebody with one.

I then provided the text number and opening question…”what skills are needed when helping to lead a sports event?”… Learners were allowed open ended answers and the premise was that the answers that were text to the number would appear on the smart board…what I didn’t realise until the time was that learners who didn’t have phone credit, could not participate…another two learners out of the task and requiring a partner. Those that did have credit began to text their answers and they started to appear on the board – great!

However, it soon became apparent that it wasn’t clear who was texting what answers (thus making it difficult to target questions to the learner concerned and also ensuring that all learners answered). Moreover the answers that came through were not just skills, but also qualities and values… Not such a bad thing, but in order to differentiate between the three areas I had to write everything on the white board (almost defeating the purpose of this e learning tool) and ask learners to dissect the information into the relevant categories.

So after almost 20 minutes and the disengagement of those without a phone/credit, I came to the conclusion that I could have provided the learners with a much more effective learning environment had I used ‘post-its’ or any other traditional strategy which allows all to be involved, whilst allowing me to see who answers.

Despite believing that there is room for e-learning in the classroom, I do feel that we need to ensure that whatever is chosen as a strategy is effective and not just used because the school/college has an e-learning agenda.

On the other hand, perhaps I approached text polls in the wrong fashion, so if you have used them with success, please share your comments.

The Missing Skill

There’s a skill that I was taught nearly 30 years ago, which over the intervening years has saved me literally years of wasted time. It’s a skill that is completely missing from the current National Curriculum in England, and indeed the new draft curriculum. But it’s a skill that both teachers and students need to use on a daily basis. Indeed, the further we move into the future, the more valuable and vital this skill will become. It’s a skill that is crucial in the vast majority of workplaces as well, and yet we completely fail to include it within the world of education.

When I’m in the classroom, and I show my students this skill, they are totally astounded. Comments range from: “How do you do that miss?” to “Miss, that’s like, magic innit?” They simply cannot believe that it’s possible, and yet it’s a relatively easy skill to learn. Like most skills, it just takes a bit of practice and commitment to get the hang of it. And the more you do it, the better and faster you become, until you can do it without even thinking. A handful of UK schools teach this skill, but the vast majority do not.

It’s a skill that I’m using right now, as I create this blog entry for Pedagoo. Have you guessed what it is yet? A couple more clues … I can do it at a speed of about 80, while those people who haven’t learned the skill can only go at a speed of about 8. So, that means I’m ten times as fast at this skill than someone who cannot do it. If you have mastered this skill, you can do it at the speed of thought. If you haven’t mastered this skill, then your thinking processes (and those of your students’) will be slowed right down.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? And yes, you’ve probably guessed by now, that I’m talking about touch-typing. There are various ways to learn. There’s the old fashioned way I was taught, which in those days involved a book of exercises, an hilariously huge BBC computer or even (gasp!) a typewriter. But these days a quick Google search will bring up software options suitable for schools, such as the ‘Englishtype’ programme. I recently bought my own children a Pokemon DS ‘Learn Touch Typing’ Game, with wireless keyboard included, which would work brilliantly in a school environment and which is great fun.

So this blog post is a plea to all you technologically minded teachers out there, to seriously consider teaching this skill in your schools. My ‘missing skill’ might not make it into Gove’s controversial new curriculum, but that doesn’t mean you can’t teach it in your classroom. Your children will thank you in their digital future, I promise.