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The beginning of a trend?
September 28, 2014
0
uber protest2

On September 24, taxi drivers in London staged a 1,000-strong protest around Westminster.  Among their list of complaints included their concern over the growth in use of the smartphone app, Uber.  Uber allows users to book transportation using their smartphone’s GPS.  You can track the whereabouts of your cab as it heads towards your location, and, once your journey is complete, pay for your cab online: no money changes hands.

London cabbies are not the first to complain about the app, and Uber is not the only mobile internet-based service to come under fire.  AirBnB has been in the headlines rather a lot recently for causing ripples in the hotel world.  And no wonder: aside from tax and other regulatory concerns, their rate of growth is staggering.  It took Hilton hotels 93 years to build up a worldwide capacity of 610,000 rooms, while AirBnB beat it in only 4.

I guess the question is, are cabbies and hoteliers attempting to resist the irresistible: the tide of change brought in by the advancement in mobile Internet technology and by users’ changing preferences?  And if the Ubers and AirBnBs are to form part of a new economy, how are we investigating such ideas in our classrooms?

Uber and AirBnB could be classified as examples of disruptive innovation: ideas so appealing they completely alter an existing market, or they create a new one for themselves.  A number of emerging technologies and ideas fall into this category, including additive manufacturing, Internet of Things, collaborative consumption, complementary currencies, crowdfunding, biomimicry and Cradle-to-Cradle design.  Each of these has the potential to create transformational change; all will likely form a part of our futures.

For four weeks starting on October 20, the Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF) invites you to investigate such ideas, and to contribute your own.  Aimed at thinkers, makers, learners, doers and systems changers, the DIF is interested in exploring systems-level change for our economy.

Change doesn’t happen without education.  We have lined up a handful of key thinkers to contribute to the DIF.  Included in our schedule is Sir Ken Robinson, Guy Claxton, Alan November and Oliver Quinlan, and we will also have key educational inputs from experts in the circular economy and biomimicry. More than that, we want YOU to get actively involved.  You can apply to run your own Open Mic session within the DIF; or quiz those who have already put themselves forward.  The philosophy is straightforward: anyone can get involved, regardless of age, knowledge or experience.  Participate as a learner, contribute by asking questions, create by applying to run a session.  Just visit thinkdif.co to get started.

We hope to see you there.

 

* Image sourced from here.

Take your class on an Online Field Trip
August 19, 2014
0
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I have been a primary school teacher for more than 12 years, with the majority of my career being in the one school. I have always been a keen cook myself and take an interest in where food comes from and how it is grown. In my current post I have also been the technologies co-ordinator – part of that role is being responsible for increasing the education of food technologies throughout the school. Throughout the years I have always found that some children’s knowledge of where their food comes from is lacking. For example (taken from a lesson I conducted about healthy eating):

Me: Where do carrots come from?

Pupil: From a tin, Miss

Pupil: My mum gets them from the supermarket

Me: Who likes potatoes?

Pupil: Not me, Miss

Me: Do you like chips?

Pupil: Yes, of course

Me: They are made from potatoes

Pupil: Really, I thought the supermarket made them

Some children are unaware that fruit and vegetables are grown on farms and think that they just appear on the supermarket shelves – and they have no other experience or knowledge to contradict that belief. These children are unlikely to go and visit a farm or farmers’ market, unless it is on a school trip, so will continue to have this belief.

Due to there being less money for trips in school, and also parents can’t afford to subsidise the trips, classes are less likely to be able to go and visit farms etc.

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However Tesco have launched their Eat Happy Project, and part of the resource is Farm to Fork Online Field Trips. These field trips are free and a great way for pupils to see how different foods are produced and supplied without leaving the classroom, while still giving them the real-life context of a visit and interacting with the people involved in the process.

The resources and activities before the event allow the children to gain some prior knowledge and background about the food they are learning about, changing any misconceptions about where the food comes from, and as they are already prepared, it isn’t any extra work for the teacher. They are fun activities that build up the children’s enthusiasm for the certain foods. I also created a homework task, where the children researched about the food, so they were also learning facts independently.

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The Online Field Trips themselves are interactive, using different methods of technology to keep the children interested and also engaging the children by allowing them to speak to the food producer. They also get to see other schoolchildren from different parts of the country.

The children get to pass round the food being discussed, as Tesco send a delivery to the school, they get to grow their own or make their own and then they get to take the food home, so they can share the experience with their parents and create a recipe.

My class took part in an Online Field Trip to a pasta factory in Naples, Italy. The children loved learning about Italy in the quiz prior to the event and then enjoyed seeing Guiseppe and Sam discussing the production of the different pastas – they were amazed at how many there were! This Online Field Trip was something that the children would never have experienced otherwise, as Scotland isn’t renowned for its pasta-making. The children took pasta and pesto home and we got to make our own fresh pasta as a class, as Tesco had provided us with all the ingredients. One of my pupils even made it with his mum at home from scratch! The children loved the experience of making it, just like Guiseppe!

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Prior to the Online Field Trip, we looked at the preparation activities; these fully engaged the children and built on their minimal prior knowledge, as they knew what Giuseppe was talking about when he discussed the different types of pasta.

The pupils loved interacting with Sam the presenter and Giuseppe, seeing the other schools and learning about pasta in such a fun and interactive way. We also took part in an Online Field Trip about mushrooms. The class took the mushrooms home and cooked recipes with them, some even brought back the mushroom dish for the class to taste. We also got sent ‘Grow our own mushroom’ kits.

I’d recommend this great project to any class who wish to learn more about healthy food and where it comes from. It’s free for schools and will ensure the children experience an engaging lesson whilst making great use of technology in the classroom.

Take a look behind the scenes at the Perfect Pasta Online Field Trip


The Eat Happy Project is:

  • a cross-curricular resource that fits into the experiences and outcomes of the curriculum and allows for children to gain a greater and more accurate knowledge of where food comes from and how it goes from farm to fork
  • fully inclusive for all pupils, whatever their learning abilities are, and can be adapted to different year groups and differentiated where needed
  • completely free, so doesn’t cost the pupils, schools or parents anything
  • suitable for all learning styles
  • a resource that encourages pupils’ interest in food, the health benefits and nutritional values that certain foods have, in a real-life context.
  • a resource that allows children to visit places they wouldn’t normally be able to visit, albeit virtually.
  • an easy-to-use resource for teachers that doesn’t involve time-consuming preparation time.

 

There are lots more Online Field Trips coming up in the autumn term:

Honey – 11 September 1.30pm

Sweetcorn – 18 September 1.30pm

Rice – 25 September (time TBC)

Broccoli – 2 October 1.30pm

Pumpkin & squash – 9 October 1.30pm

Baked beans – 6 November 1.30pm

Bread – 13 November 1.30pm

Potatoes – 20 November 1.30pm

Tea – 27 November (time TBC)

Clementines – 4 December 1.30pm

For more information about joining an Online Field Trip with your class or to use their fantastic free resources visit the Eat Happy Project website or follow them on Twitter @EatHappyProject

Cheryl Miller, P4/5 Class Teacher at Niddrie Mill Primary School, Edinburgh

Engagement in Deep Learning
ScreenHunter_107 Jul. 20 08.40

If we truly want to connect with students in ways that will activate them to be self-driven lifelong learners, then we must be authentic, deeply engaged learners ourselves. 

Deep learning is infectious and if the conditions are fertile, it will flourish.

Invitation from @fkelly

This post is a reflection on engagement in response to a recent Twitter invitation from Fearghal Kelly. As I am still a novice in the Twittersphere, with only a few months of tweeting under my belt, the invitation in the form of a Twitter notification from an animated squiggle with glasses was indeed a surprise! I approached this quite cautiously by doing some googling and was relieved and then flattered to learn more about Fearghal and the innovative pedagoo.org community of teachers that he has established in Scotland.

Let me share some of my own thoughts on engagement in deep learning with you.

Tweeting in the context of engagement

As part of my sabbatical research early this year , I focused on deep engagement in learning and I explored the ‘tweets’ that young children from the Manaiakalani Cluster of schools in Auckland, New Zealand were sharing with links to their personal blogs. I was particularly moved by a ‘tweet’ on Anzac Day, a public holiday in New Zealand, that linked to a blog post from a nine year old girl.

 This was evidence of learning happening beyond the classroom. I went on to count 228 tweets via @clusterNZ with links to personal blogs shared by learners across the Manaikalani Cluster of schools during the two week holiday period at the end of the first term of school. A global audience provides comments and feedback to these learners who are motivated to continue their learning beyond school hours. The presence of positive motivation towards a learning task markedly increases the likelihood of students engaging in deep learning (Groff 2010).

Personal Learning

I decided that if young children could willingly share their learning via tweets and blogs, then I needed to take the plunge and do the same. I googled how to tweet and create a blog and I have continued tweeting @jennyljackson and blogging ever since. 

Without realising this at the time, I was moving out of my comfort zone into the ‘unknown’. I was also reconnecting and engaging as a learner. I  was pushing my boundaries beyond the surface and digging deeply within and stirring my dormant authentic self.

The reality is..

In the busyness of our day to day lives, rushing to and from work, going to meetings,caring for our families, a little bit of our authentic ‘learner’ self gets lost along the way. No matter how emphatically we articulate our dedication to being model lifelong learners, we inadvertently lose some of the passion, motivation and powerful love for learning that drew us into our teaching vocation in the first place.

The incessant demands for accountability in our workplace can mean that we engage at a surface level, in survival mode with our teaching and learning. This doesn’t mean that we are doing poor jobs but it does mean that we have the power and potential to greatly improve the learning environments that we are working in.

Instead of frantically searching for the latest programmes, trends and ideas to engage learners, I believe we need to start by looking inside ourselves.

But how?

Last term, I gave our staff a sabbatical from staff meetings. I wanted to give them back some time to play, explore, learn and let their creative , innovative juices flow. I shared the Eduardo Briceno video that linked to Carol Dweck’s  ‘growth mindset’  research and gave our staff the precious gift of time. 

Although I had shared my personal learning with them, I had no expectations about their own learning during the ten week term. Yet, within the first three weeks of the term, staff and students began to explore blogging. Although some staff members already had class blogs, the proliferation of new blogs generated a collaborative community of bloggers,supported by our school Facebook page and website. Suddenly, the rich learning experience that were normally privy to teachers and learners became tangible to families beyond the school walls. 

It wasn’t the blogs alone that engaged the families but the passion, enthusiasm and self-motivation that oozed from the very creators of the blogs. 

What next?

This term, we have ‘ditched’ the word ‘meeting’ from our calendar.We believe that if we are to truly engage our students in deep learning, we need to be experiencing this kind of learning ourselves. We agreed to replace the word meeting with the term ‘taonga’. A taonga in Maori culture is a treasure. We believe our love for learning is indeed a treasure. You have to dig deeply to find a treasure.That means we have to continually dig deeply within ourselves to reconnect with our passion and love for learning as educators. Engagement in deep learning is infectious and if the conditions are fertile, it will flourish.This is indeed the message from my  video.

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For the past few months, I have been reviewing chapter by chapter the inspiring book Open: How We’ll Work, Live and Learn in the Future by David Price. Price continually refers to the merits of going ‘open’ and the fact that businesses and institutions are more innovative and successful when they create informal, social networking environments for employees.

One of our teachers has innovatively created a blog for staff development. Lorraine Frances-Rees explains, “Why don’t we do all the reading and understanding before the meeting and then do the important stuff together – the conversation, the creation, the collaboration? Without permission and time to explore, I wouldn’t have had the impetus to do this. In fact I already had the meeting prepared with a PowerPoint guide. But I had the space to think about how I want us to learn and what I would need to do myself to make this happen. So I created a Blog.”

As a result, the ‘taonga time’ is more focused and purposeful and the time together is reduced by half.

When we create collaborative cultures of educators deeply connected to their own passion for learning, then we are well on the way to engaging our students in deep learning for success.

 If we truly want to connect with students in ways that will activate them to be self-driven lifelong learners, then we must be authentic, deeply engaged learners ourselves. Deep learning is infectious and if the conditions are fertile, it will flourish.

 

Grouping Pupils
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Seating Plans are something that can take seemingly endless amounts of time and effort, particularly if you are going to include data for observers. I have often found that I have over-thought seating plans and they haven’t really worked, so I decided to take the thought out of it and develop a seating plan generator.

The first thing I decided to do was rank my classes based upon recent assessments, and use that to create groups of even ability. I split my classes into bands of 8, and put one from each band in each group. I realised that there was a systematic way that I could do this, and have a selection of different groups that still follow these criteria. I developed a set of group cards(see group cards 8 below) that I could assign to the pupils, that would allow me to group the pupils in 4 different ways, where if all groups were used, no pupils would work in the same group twice. I developed a spreadsheet(see blank groups 8) that showed the seating plans in these groups in a mode friendly for observers and a separate mode friendly for pupils when they change groups.

Group cards 8

Blank Groups 8

I have since developed it further to include an element of competition between groups. I used a points system to assign points to each group, each lesson. This led to more responsible behaviour, as a sense of “not letting the team down” set in. After complaints of unfairness, I added a random name generator to the spreadsheet, which allowed me to ask a targeted question to a random member of a particular band. I reward the winning group with school reward points at the end of each lesson, and enter each groups points on my spreadsheet. The winning group over a topic get more reward points, before switching to the next set of groups. My spreadsheet also totals up each individual’s points that they have earned in their different groups and gives an overall winner once all 4 groups have been gone through. This overall winner is rewarded even more and celebrated as a consistently good team member within any of their groups.

I have also developed sets of 7 groups and sets of 5 groups for smaller classes. For these, I was able to do more groups, and it gives you the opportunity to move on to the next group if the seating plan is not working.

This is something that has worked for me, feel free to try it, amend it and give me feedback.

Tools to help Quiet and Shy Learners join in
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I have always felt nervous when speaking in front of groups.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott

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

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

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

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

Some good teaching strategies which I have used are:

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

MARKET PLACE

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

SILENT DEBATE

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

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

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

 

TRIAL

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

MYSTERY

Focus to a key question

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

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

MAPPING FROM MEMORY

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

RADIO TRANSCRIPTS

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

VIDEO TRANSCRIPTS

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

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

Remember: switch the sound off!

Video Feedback

0:12 – 8:12

PEER SUPPORT

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

DIAMOND RANKING

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

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

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

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

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

This is how it worked

Before the lesson

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

Start of the lesson

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

Sentence Pong

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

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

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

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

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Why sharing should be at the heart of how we teach
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Following on from my workshop at Pedagoo Glasgow, this is a brief outline from my session.

Click here to view the Prezi.

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

Philosophy

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

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

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

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

Barriers

Time

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

Skills

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

Confidence

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

Culture

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

Examples

Social media

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

VLE

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

Online communities

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

Personal / class / department websites

  • This is the area that I believe that the most potential as it allows us to easily share whatever we feel like for free. I few months ago I decided to share all of my Nat5 Course Materials on this site and, since March, a quite incredible amount of people have viewed and downloaded the resources that I have made available (so many, in fact, that the site became one of the top Google results for search terms such as ‘National 5 English’). Based on the comments and emails I received, a huge number of these individuals were students, which just goes to show how much value our pupils could find in teachers developing a more open culture amongst ourselves.
Letters for Leaders
June 18, 2014
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There’s still something special about receiving a letter; I mean a real letter too, not bills or junk mail as we get plenty of those. I think it’s a wonderful tradition that still has real value in this world of technological marvels and instant communication. It’s because of this I like to run my ‘Letters for Leaders’ project from time to time. Students write a letter to influential public figure about an issue that matters to them and we wait for responses, simple.
I’ll admit there is a little more to the process but the benefits are worth the effort. Once the students have crafted their letters they develop their editing skills, working through multiple drafts and really focus on the method of letter writing. Let’s be honest writing to a real world leader has a bit more gravitas when asking for multiple re-drafts than pretending to write to someone. It makes it real, it makes it matter.

The Process:
1) Get them angry/passionate. Use a powerful stimulus to get them involved, I like to use Amnesty International (@AmnestyOnline) as they campaign heavily for human rights issues which are both important and relevant to my subject area. Scientists could be getting students excited about cloning or genetic engineering, IT teachers about internet safety or privacy, PE teachers about drugs issues or technology in sport.
2) Decide who would be good to write to about the issue. There are a lot of opportunities to interact with influential figures for the price of a stamp. Your local MP is obliged to write back, there are the leaders of the other parties, The Queen, The Pope, Sports Managers, basically anyone with a lot of influence who might write back to your students.
3) Draft a letter. Students write their first attempt at a persuasive letter.
4) Edit. Talking through with the students give them advice on developing their letter.
5) Re-draft.
6) Repeat 4 & 5 until both the students and you agree it is an excellent piece of writing.
7) Post to the leader. Wait. (Remember to have it posted back C/O your school.)
The Response:
As I mentioned your local MP is obliged to respond and generally will with a high quality letter. We’ve also had success with a number of others including the Prime Minister and the head of another political party. Sadly we’ve had no luck with President Obama as yet. The students are always hugely excited upon receiving their replies and it’s a special experience for them. Make sure you get a copy of the letter, and then give the originals to the students; it’s their letter after all.

Other Opportunities:
1) You can use this as a literacy learning experience by analysing the letter.
2) Sticking copies up on a wall display next to pictures of those who write back makes for an excellent celebration of the project for students.
3) Use it as a stretch activity to challenge your hardest working students.
4) You could even use it as a #unhomework or #takeawayhomework task.

Moosing about!!
Moose

This is by FAR.. the BEST 80p I have ever spent!! and this lesson had me hanging off the edge of my seat…. but also in fits of laughter!! and turned out to be one of the highlights of my Y7 (SEN/LA) class.

I was reading numerious tweets about #poundlandpedagoo and decided that I wanted to go on a hunt and track down all the bits and bobs I had seen. So off I went and got the post it notes and eggs etc and then I found this… an 80p party table cloth (from Wilko).

So… how I used it! I simply put across the table and gave each student a multi link and advised them that today we were going on a journey… where we went was completely up to them….

This is how I set it up…..

  • Students placed their counter on a location
  • Then roll the dice and move across the squares in any direction
  • They then need to describe the journey, surroundings, use 5 sense, adverbs, adjectives and to try and create a vivid image and engage their audience (me and class mates)
  • Students were peer assessed throughout, as class mates could hit the buzzer if vocabulary could be improved, sentence could be improved or if they had any questions.
  • On some of the squares I had placed prompt cards- if they moved to one of these they had to include this in their story
  • I also had a buzzer that sounded like a klaxon, when I pressed it ALL students had to include what ever I said into their story (a text message- used laminated Iphone post it notes, seeing something or simile/ alliteration etc.)
  • All the sentences (mainly in green) are the fabulous sentences, vocabulary that my class generated. They then copied these into their books (some drew little pictures) so they could be used when they start to write up their story next lesson.

The students really enjoyed the lesson, they stretched each other, engaged each other and I was able to listen and be transported into their stories.

This could be easily adapted, as students could create their own table cloth.

 

Moose Moose

 

Moose  Moose