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

Going The Extra Miles For Sport Relief

Think like an athlete: Focus on what you want

Think like an athlete: Focus on what you want

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

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

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

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

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

Running a loooong way for Sport Relief

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

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

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

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

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

Inspiration

Inspiration

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running diaries

Running diaries

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

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

Andy Mouncey
www.bigandscaryrunning.com
CTS FinishCertificate

Flipping the classroom
April 19, 2012
5

Recently I came across the whole idea of flipping the classroom. Like everything else in education although this idea has been around for a little while it is only now that I am hearing about it. I am pretty sure though that I am not alone in this! So time to share what I have found out about flipping the classroom.

A nice couple of videos will it explain it a lot better than I could ever do:

 

When I first came across this idea it was a bit of an EUREKA! moment. It seems to make perfect sense. Time for me to be with the kids in my higher group during class time on those difficult end of exercise questions that I would normally set for homework. However as ever the little warning bells start to ring and I started asking myself where is the evidence of it working. So started another search.

For the academic amongst you I came across this thesis: http://etd.ohiolink.edu/view.cgi/Strayer%20Jeremy.pdf?osu1189523914 I’ll be honest I have not looked at all 244 pages but in general results/enjoyment/independence all seem to have improved. One of a few less intense studies I came across can be found at http://www.thedailyriff.com/articles/the-flipped-class-good-stuff-happens-715.php Now this is more the type of article that makes sense to me.

Ultimately, in teaching, there is no one size fits all.
You, as a teacher, must do
what is best for YOUR set of students.
So do I have the nerve to flip my classroom? Well not this year or next as I am away from the classroom out in secondment. I would love to give it a try though. I am attempting to incorporate some of the ideas into my role as an “Online Study Support” development officer but thats not really flipping more adapting. I would be really interested to know if anyone has attempted the flip or any further thoughts on this
In Praise

In Praise of #PedagooFriday, pedagoo.org, Teachers Tweeting and TeachMeeting

My “remote Hebridean classroom”
Having tentatively posted a few 140-character descriptions of learning experiences (from my remote Hebridean secondary English classroom) on #pedagoofriday since its inception (courtesy of the innovative and media-sociable Kenny Pieper), when I was asked by Fearghal Kelly if I would like to write a blog post about one of my #pedagoofriday posts for pedagoo.org I went into a bit of a panic. What could I write that would be of any interest to other English teachers? Why would anyone who is already so multi-media literate and so far ahead of me in their use of ICT in their classrooms be interested?

But then it occurred to me: It’s just sharing; it’s not about ICT or being innovative, it’s just about being a reflective teacher and learner and giving a little while getting so much more back from other teachers and learners in the online education community.

This blog-post was originally to be on an S2 series of lessons regarding building effective persuasive arguments, in preparation for a class debate leading to a piece of discursive writing. I had posted on #pedagoofriday brief details about using a short film entitled ‘Dangle’, available from the fantastic new ‘Screen Shorts’ on Glow (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzRD59r2j2A – apologies but this has to be a You Tube link as Glow won’t allow a direct link – not getting into that discussion!), to get pupils thinking about the use of metaphor in making an effective strong point in speech and/or writing. The film speaks for itself and the pupils enjoyed and did brilliantly with it. Their responses to the first question of what the film was about ranged from: ‘You should never pull a piece of string when you don’t know what’s at the other end’ (liked this, even if it missed the point a little!) to ‘We should not interfere with what God has created’ (this IS the Western Isles after all) to ‘We shouldn’t abuse the earth’s resources’ – fantastic! A lively, sometimes surprising and very switched on (!) discussion ensued and, at the end of the lesson, pupils were asked to bring other examples of the persuasive use of metaphor in advertising to the next lesson. We went on to look at the power of iconic images, emotional and sensory responses to images used to persuade, rhetoric, the power of language, etc…
twitter
However, what I actually feel more inclined to write about is the impact being on Twitter, sharing in #pedagoofriday and witnessing participation in Teachmeets has had on me personally; as well as its potential for encouraging engagement and discussion, reviewing (and revising) practice and inspiring all teachers. In April this year, I reluctantly joined Twitter when Bill Boyd (@literacyadviser) convinced a group of Western Isles teachers at a CPD session in Stornoway to try it and see its usefulness as a CPD resource. Many thanks, Bill – it’s been a revelation.

A year earlier – as PT of a department of ten, at a time of change (with little clear guidance) in the Scottish curriculum and during a state of flux with the school’s SMT – I felt that English Department Meetings had become a source of dread and anxiety, not just for me but for everyone in the department: they had become admin-heavy and tedious, with a sense of being over-burdened / inadequate in the face of so many changes – we all hated DMs. It was hard to get through all the admin, find time and energy to develop new CfE courses, while at the same time encourage innovation, motivation and enthusiasm! We had also experienced a significant change of staff (nearly 50%) whereby several longish serving staff had retired or moved on and been replaced by an exciting array of NQTs, probationers and other younger staff. I had noticed that the best DMs were those when we discussed texts and other learning resources and activities, as well as sharing feedback on CPD regarding learning and teaching – when we gave ourselves time for professional reflection. Although some staff were stoically anti email / anything electronic, I decided to shift as much of the admin to email and sold this approach on the basis that it would free DM time for more positive and enjoyable discussions. I try now to limit emails to one weekly list of reminders and deadlines, and one brief daily bulletin of news, notifications, etc. I changed the focus of the DM agenda to Learning and Teaching first and foremost, leaving Administrative Issues as a lesser element of the meetings. Occasionally we do still have to have a meeting that is almost all admin, but, by and large, we now spend DMs discussing what we find more enjoyable and stimulating: sharing practice about the learning and teaching in our classrooms.

Twice per term-ish, the DM is in the form of 2 minute micro-presentations from all staff on something they are doing, are looking at, would like to try, new texts and text forms (‘Inanimate Alice’, Samorost’, ‘Machinarium’, graphic novels, blogging, wikis, etc), and also on ‘bog-standard’ English classroom practice. Here is a sample of one such DM Agenda from May this year to show the range:

1 New Creative Digital Media (Skills for Work – SCQF Level 4) course – AJ.
2 S3 Magazine Project – NM.
3 Scholastic Book Club, Reading Week and Readathon – MMD.
4 Issues involved in having 3 supported pupils (with severe and complex needs) in a mainstream Standard Grade S3 class – ES.
5 Experiences of a probationer teacher – LC.
6 Twitter and blogging – CG.
7 Online journal – ‘Crazy Guy on a Bike’ – DM.
8 S5/6 Literacy for Life (development of new Skills for Work) course – JF.
9 S1 Creative Writing project – KK.
10 Discursive Writing Focus S1 to S3 – LS.

These DMs have enabled newer teachers to showcase their innovative ideas and approaches. But they have also given a voice to older staff, some of whom were feeling sidelined, tired of innovation, under-valued – and, in some cases, downright offended by CfE – a sense that the good stuff still matters and their expertise is still very valid and very important. They have a forum at these practice-sharing DMs to describe activities that are more ‘traditional’, but are still relevant and are the bedrock of learning and teaching; for some previously cynical staff, they have discovered that they now have a role in leading innovation. I’ve been really impressed with the sharing that takes place at these sessions – we all get so much from them. In a way, DMs have become like a close-range teachmeet / #pedagoofriday type exercise. The practice-sharing model is so important.

As well as this, two years ago I set up an English / Literacy network group consisting of English Secondary plus Primary 7 teachers across the authority. It was mainly aimed at improving transitions – in the Western Isles as well as P7 to S1 transition, we have a number of P1 to S2 schools where pupils transfer to us at the end of S2, so we also have S2 to S3 transitions – focusing on sharing standards of assessment and moderation of reading and writing. As well as face to face meetings, because of our location and the remoteness of some of our schools and isolation of some of the teachers, the group has a Glow meet page and a Glow wiki for discussion, moderation and sharing of resources. (I can’t share a link here because it is an authority wiki and membership is by invitation – however, if you are a Glow user and would like to see the wiki, email me a request to lsutherland1a@gnes.net.) This network group was used by the authority as a model to set up CfE network groups – numeracy, health and wellbeing, expressive arts, etc – and we meet once or twice per term. The main focus of the Literacy Network group meetings has become sharing practice, sharing resources and discussion of English and Literacy in our classrooms and across the curriculum. We are fortunate to have had Bill Boyd commissioned by the authority as the group’s Literacy Adviser. This means he participates – in person or online – in all the network meetings and now manages the group’s wiki. Like DMs, these network group meetings have become like Teachmeets or #pedagoofriday sessions and all participants say they enjoy and value them. Again, the practice-sharing model is key.

Where I feel the real value of Twitter, #pedagoofriday, websites like pedagoo.org (and other blog sites) and the sharing of Teachmeets lies is in their power to draw staff from across all sectors and subject areas together in a supportive e-community where we can share practice across the curriculum. It is CPD at its best.

Curriculum for Excellence Abroad
September 2, 2011
0

I studied for my BEd Primary at Edinburgh University and have just completed my probation year.

I have recently started a new job in a school in the UAE. At the moment, the school works with the English National Curriculum. Yesterday we had a curriculum training day and the more we went on the more I realised how dated it is! From the perspective of this school there is no scope or opportunity for child centred learning, instead they have child led – group work, active learning etc – these are not the same things!

I have spoken to my head about this and told her to just have a look at the new CfE and let me know what she thinks. My idea is to really push certain elements of CfE in the school and if I get the go ahead I would like to share how it is perceived by foreign teachers with those teachers in Scotland.

CfE: a student’s perspective

“A student’s experience of the curriculum for excellence: friend or foe? Discuss…”

In order to adequately answer this question, I rallied up an army of exhausted yet enthusiastic fourth year students and probationers to answer me one question:

How do you feel about the Curriculum for Excellence?

No restrictions were placed upon the survey, no limitations or specification was given within the question; just an open canvas available for praise or reproach at will.

Soon into the two week time period, themes began to manifest themselves within the views of the group – as shown in the tagxedo above – and it is those themes that form the undertones of this article.

“We like the Curriculum for Excellence, but… “

Generally, all we know is the Curriculum for Excellence. Unlike some who may feel like square products of a 5-14 curriculum being pushed through a round hole, we have no comparison.  We enter schools full of E’s O’s and singing the 4 capacities from the roof tops, but many feel they are met with disgruntled sighs. It was felt that many schools could still be running their 5-14 curriculum with a mere “CfE” sticker stuck on top and equally many teachers could have already been running a “CfE” compliant classroom for the past ten years. Is the Curriculum for Excellence just a facade or is it making a real difference inside classrooms, on the front line?

Many felt that possibilities and opportunities open to a teacher were vastly more accessible under the new curriculum – “the Curriculum for Excellence rewards innovators– and experimentation and creativity within the classroom was met with praise rather than scepticism; as one student commented when I utter the words ‘I would like to take the class outside for this lesson’ I am no longer greeted by shock or derision”.

The flexibility offered with the new curriculum also resounded as a huge positive, alongside cross curricular benefits and the encouragement of ‘pupil-led’ learning styles. Many also felt the curriculum allowed them to further meet the needs of individual learners within their classrooms and supported the ‘real-word’ emphasis encouraged within the curriculum.

Support and enthusiasm was clearly shown for the Curriculum for Excellence; however most appreciate that there is still a way to go and improvements to be made. Interestingly, these comments also followed a common trend and I have taken the liberty of summing up these views for you:

Excusing the tongue in cheek, this – I felt – was an interesting representation of the themes that appeared during the short survey.

Uncertainty appears to surround the Curriculum for Excellence – many students, probationers and experienced teachers alike have expressed concerns alongside their praises – and all these concerns seem to fall into categories mentioned above.

There is no doubt that The Curriculum for Excellence has clear positive attributes and many have experienced a considerable ‘positive overhaul of classroom teaching’ since its introduction. From a personal viewpoint, I support the changes the Curriculum for Excellence intends for the Scottish education system – and although perhaps it isn’t perfect just yet – if we were able to successfully achieve, recognise and fulfil the genuine potential behind the new Curriculum, we could once again become ‘one to watch’ within international education. We are not there yet, but it’s one step in the right direction.

“Curriculum for Excellence is handing back power to classroom teachers, let’s use it before they take it off us again.”

………………

Many thanks to all the Moray House students and post graduates for their time and efforts within this survey, much appreciated. Particular shout outs to: Shona Tait, Fiona Jenkins, Leith Whale, Ellen Henretty, Barry Fraser, Charles Thornton, Suzie Kerr and Anita Ann LeTissier.

(FYI – Tagxedos creatable here: http://www.tagxedo.com/)

Call Me: 07708912031
Tweet Me: @evedickson

www.evedickson.wordpress.com

Evolving Literacies in the New Curriculum

Originally posted on the Scottish Book Trust teachers blog

Like many teachers in Scotland at the moment, I am trying to evolve my classroom practice to encompass the spirit of Curriculum for Excellence. Below is a little of what I have discovered in developing and delivering a new unit for S2 on vibrations and waves – sound, light and radiations beyond the visible.

Firstly, I set out to write an exemplar teacher’s guide covering from first principles, the route through and some resources supporting the course. I started with the experiences and outcomes within the curriculum suborganiser and then looked across to the other curricular areas to see what I could pull in to enrich the experience. Needless to say, it was a much bigger task than I anticipated.

Secondly, my second year classes are no walk in the park. One particular day, twenty minutes into a period, having failed even so much as to get the learning intentions shared, I finally blew: I don’t have time to recount the details here but I had the class write me an essay on why I should even bother trying to teach them. What came out of that exercise were several examples of passionate, articulate and intelligent writing.

One example worth quoting from had:
“… I was doing well in first year and now I’m doing worse than I was last year because people in this class have wasted my opportunities for my dream job as a chemist.”

These responses brought me up sharply as I realised that the children already had developed literacy skills, enough to express the frustrations some of them were experiencing.

I saw my task as being to provide them a context within which they could develop these, possibly to a higher order. Two things emerged.

Listening and hearing – active engagement in traditionally passive learning
I thought of Pauk’s Cornell method and set a variant of it in context in the new unit. I was intending on using video extracts to support the learning, including one small 7-minute piece from Julian Treasure on sound health. I had the children make messy, contemporaneous notes on the key things that struck them as the video played. I made my own at the same time, then used these to challenge the children on the content of the video they had just seen. I was impressed by the quality of some of the notes – some hadn’t bothered – and the ability of those who had the key points noted down, to answer even the most difficult questions on the content. This was a rich seam for assessment of developing skills, providing evidence and opportunity. A good example* was from a girl, normally not a big hitter in the summative tests, who enthusiastically used the powerful weapon of good notes to outclass the others in her responses. The point was well made. Many students now take notes as I am talking to them.

Using new media and HHD
The other thing that impressed me in the class response to the new unit was how the childrens’ literacy overlaps and includes digital media fluency. I had another enthusiastic response from several pupils who, when asked if they had anything to share for (optional) homework, produced mobile phones with recordings of sounds they had made, answers to questions and even a video* submitted by email.

It is clear to me that the boundaries are being reset on literacy. Our task as teachers is to make sure we ourselves are sufficiently competent in the new literacies in order to challenge and develop children within them.

Getting to know the E’s and O’s

I know, I know. The experiences and outcomes have been around for ages now. Surely we’re long past getting to know them? In my experience however, this simply isn’t the case. Many of us seem to have taken something from them first time through, but now that we’re approaching the blunt end of assessment and reporting we’re beginning to wonder if we got them right.

Through our work with Myra Young, we’re being encouraged to take another look at the experiences and outcomes – this time starting with the purpose. This can often lead to a quite different approach to planning. Rather than looking at the experiences and outcomes and jumping straight to the activities we’d carry out, we think first about what the purposes of the outcomes are in terms of learning, how this could be evidenced and what the success criteria are.

On our inservice days next week at my new school, we’re lucky enough to be receiving CPD from teachers at Cramlington Learning Village with a view to planning our lessons using the accelerated learning cycle. But first I’m going to suggest that we need to ensure we understand the curriculum before jumping into detailed collaborative planning of lessons based on the learning cycle.

This can be illustrated with one of our science experiences and outcomes. Whilst in the past this might have led to us planning a series of lessons covering all the various organs of the systems we feel we need to ‘cover’, a fresh look at the purpose of the learning outlined in the curriculum brings a different emphasis and therefore quite different lessons.

We often complain the experiences and outcomes are vague and complex (which they are…but do we really want a version of the National Curriculum instead?) but if they are how can we expect to be fully familiar with them already? As difficult as it is to accept from the perspective of development work (which is going to get worse when the new NQs start arriving), the reality is that our understanding of the curriculum is going to evolve over time and I’m doing my best to try to keep my mind open to that…

Cross-posted on Fearghal Kelly’s thoughts

Motivated Reasoning
May 3, 2011
4

When you are confronted by something new, how do you react? Are you curious? Do you try to understand what the new thing is on its own terms, or do you try to evaluate it using the frames of reference you are comfortable with? Your answer to this question, and approach to this scenario, may help explain your attitude to Curriculum for Excellence.

I Don't Believe In Global WarmingThe serendipitous nature of my RSS reader (NetNewsWire) landed me on a recent New York Times opinion piece about why 45% of Republicans in America believe that President Obama was not born in the USA. It’s an interesting, albeit brief, explanation by Professor David P. Redlawsk, professor of political science and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University.

It turns out the reason many Republicans do not trust the evidence is because their existing beliefs, those they have spent so long cultivating, are sufficient to reject any new evidence, no matter how compelling. This is “motivated reasoning”. As Prof Redlawsk writes:

We are all somewhat impervious to new information, preferring the beliefs in which we are already invested. We often ignore new contradictory information, actively argue against it or discount its source, all in an effort to maintain existing evaluations. Reasoning away contradictions this way is psychologically easier than revising our feelings. In this sense, our emotions color how we perceive “facts.”

I think it was the phrase “existing evaluations” that gave me my Eureka moment, because what I realised was that the above paragraph could just as easily be applied to many of the critics of Curriculum for Excellence. We have spent so long teaching in a specific way, of assessing in a specific way, and learning in a specific way, that we are effectively ‘hard-wired’ and predisposed to reject anything new that is presented to us. In fact, I suspect this also goes some way to explaining why so much INSET time is perceived as being wasted. We are unable to accept new information at face value because we are comparing it to, and with, what we already know.

Perhaps the problem lies in the reliance we have on our feelings. Again, to quote Prof. Redlawsk,

It’s not the evidence that matters. Feelings come first, and evidence is used mostly in service of those feelings…

If we feel unsure — and with a new Curriculum, who isn’t — we will allow our feelings to overrule any evidence presented to us. No wonder CfE is proving such a hard sell. As well as changing what and how we teach, we are up against good old irrational fear! It doesn’t really matter what evidence is produced to show the benefits of CfE as many are still in the dark about what is involved… And we’re all, at an instinctual level, afraid of the dark.

What is the answer? Well, one thing the Education Futures: Scotland blog is intended to do, is throw light on good practice. Teachers need to share what works, and, just as importantly, what didn’t. In a sense, we need to do what parents do for their children who need to sleep with the light on: reassure, be patient, offer support and show them there is nothing under the bed. (Actually, I did have a sudden mental image of looking under the bed and seeing an HMIe Inspector there, but that’s maybe just me!)

It is not easy to do, but it is possible and the alternatives are too awful to contemplate. For me, the fundamental difference between Curriculum for Excellence and what has gone before is that CfE is trying to bridge the gap between testing and learning. Instead of comparing CfE to what you already know, try to look at what it is intended to be. If you don’t like the Principles and Practice documents, ask yourself if this is because you are comparing them to what you already know, rather than looking at what they are meant to do. And finally, remember that CfE is not really designed for us. We were taught in a different time and when society had different needs, and where it was easy to write learners off because they would still be able to pick up a job. At its heart, CfE is designed to help prepare our learners for the world they will enter on leaving formal education, not the world we entered.

We are wary of change, but change happens. By recognising that motivated reasoning is real — though irrational — but can be addressed, we are just a few steps closer to shedding some light on the future for our learners.

Cross-posted at http://nwinton.wordpress.com