Tag Archives: motivation

Highers? The best we can do?

It’s Easter Monday, (Bank holiday in the UK) and it’s 8:47 PM. My step-daughter is holed up in her room. Listening to music? Watching YouTube vloggers? Reading? Watching Games of Thrones via illegal feed? None of the above. She’s studying. This time for English Higher. Saturday it was for Art, Friday for RMPS.  Wednesday night she was up until 2:45 AM working on her Graphic Communication project which was due in. (She was up against a wholly unrealistic time scale, as the previous teacher ‘misunderstood’ what was required for the exam. I wonder if they were up at 2:45 and then ready for school next morning??) To be fair to her she didn’t start work until 10:00 PM on the Wednesday night.

 

Would you like to guess why she began work so late? She was organising a music concert at her school along with other S5’s. This wasn’t part of her course: It was over and above. It was her and her friends taking a leading role in school life. The Curriculum for Excellence says this is a thing to aspire to for schools and pupils, yet due to some inadequate work from a teacher, her reward for this was working until 2:45 AM.

 

Well at least it’s the holiday now. Except it’s not quite the holidays, as my step-daughter is attending revision classes in the school on different days of the holiday. These are being provided by teachers who are clearly committed to their pupils getting the best grades they can in their exams, so committed in fact that they are ignoring national guidelines on holidays for pupils and teachers to deliver them.

 

Perhaps she’s having to cram as she’s not done enough work previously? Maybe she slacks off and works hard in the ‘exam season’. I can tell you she’s not angelic. She leaves the toilet lid up, doesn’t wash her food pots and has even been known not to replace the butter in the butter in the butter dish! She does work very hard at her studies however, pushes herself hard, as well as trying to develop other areas of her life (like attending animation classes, organising concerts for the school, volunteering in a hospice shop when she can).

 

Our ‘new’ Curriculum for Excellence (published in 2004) has strong ideals and ethics in it. It aims to create “successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.” I’m not sure how these fit with holiday revision classes, weekends where homework is all that gets done in a household, time taken off school to complete ‘vital’ homework tasks. To my mind they don’t. The conditions of work my step-daughter is working to are likely to turn our young people away from education for a lengthy period of time. I dare not think too long about the effects this amount of work and pressure has on her (and her many friends) mental health. This was not the aim of the 2002 consultation paper on education, yet this is where we are.

 

Charlie Love wrote a great blog post about National 4 exams and the effect that working Nat 4 courses had on pupils, it’s well worth a read. It is not just Highers, it’s the National 4 and 5 exams which don’t appear to be working also.

A quick google for problems with Highers brings up a few news reports but nothing too recent. It seems that the political will to create a system where our young succeed and lead balanced, healthy lives is not there. When I did my ‘A’ levels (in England), I (like everyone else) took two years of study to pass them. It was a wonderful time of my life, some hard work, some enjoyment of a different side of school life, even some maturing! The key was the time afforded to work, think and develop inside the school week. I had at least one 1hr 15 period of study time each day. Sometimes more. My step-daughter gets nothing, it’s wall to wall teaching.. Yet, apparently this amount of teaching time isn’t enough, she still has to work so much ‘extra’ time in the evenings and holidays.

 

I’d be delighted to hear from Angela Constance and Iain Gray about pupils being overworked in order to pass National Exams. I’d also be interested to hear of anyone else’s experiences. Please tweet me @robertd1981 or e-mail me at robertdrummond@gmail.com if you wish to contact me, but not leave a public comment.

 

This isn’t progress. This isn’t creating an education system better than the oft-mocked English system I described earlier. This isn’t good enough.

 

Why I teach…

2042 Saturday night, and I’m checking my twitter feed to see if my letter to the ECB has got a response yet and I come across…

which has also been favorited by Sam’s Mum.

I’m pretty certain I never showed this program to Sam, but I know I shared it with his older brother’s class.

I love Sam’s creativity with it and the fact that his parents are sharing with me and the world.

Like it says…why I teach!

Pedagoo Wonderland.

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.

Here are my photo’s from the day. They are not brilliant, but the school environment was so good you may find the content useful.

#Mozfest

I’m waiting to board my train back to Edinburgh, after a brilliant time at Mozfest, so I thought I’d collate some of my thoughts and learning tweets into one place and share them again. As you’ll see there bits that fit together and bits that don’t!

 

Values of the web needs to be a part of digital citizenship learning in schools. #mozfest #dlchat

“We must find meaning in the time we spend online. Are we building our tools with that in mind?” #mozfest #openingkeynote @anildash

#mozfest about building real things for real people.

big theme of #mozfest is giving control and knowledge of the web to the learners and children. Love that idea. #dlchat

If 9 yr olds can be passionate about pollution, they can become passionate about privacy and the web. #mozfest #dlchat

#mozfest stuff I learned. Webmaker is brill and projects allow it to be accessed as cross curricular ICT tool. Kids can make rather than ppt

#mozfest stuff I learned. Badges are close to being school ready. Will pilot use with @makewaves with dig leaders. #dlchat

#mozfest stuff I learned. Mozilla is all about the ethics of the web and we need to cover this in our digital citizenship learning.

#mozfest stuff I learned. Citizen science looks great from what @MobileMaggie said. Love the Serengeti project. That’s real world learning.

#mozfest stuff I learned. Lambic beer. It’s the future. Like sourdough bread, but in a beer format.

#mozfest. Stuff I think. The web ownership debate is important to the kids we teach. It might be the most important bit of citizenship.

#mozfest. Stuff I think. Great point comparing environmental care to web ownership. Kids can get it if we allow them into the debate.

#mozfest. Stuff I think. Tomorrow I will not do badges nor teach the web going to visit the unknown bits of Mozilla.

#mozfest. Stuff I think. The Web Literacy Standards are a great guide for teaching our Primary Children about ICT and their roles with it,

#mozfest. Stuff I think. The WebLit Standards when aligned with webmaker tools and badges will be amazing for kids in schools!

#mozfest. Stuff I think. Pupil council could announce a schedule and any interested school members come along to a hackerspace & work on topic.

#mozfest stuff I think. Hive projects in learning spaces like Uni raises the aspiration of the young as to what they can achieve.

What is leadership without management?

This post forms part of my learning journal for the West Lothian Leadership Programme.

 

To begin to answer this perhaps it is first necessary to think about and try to define leadership and management.

My initial feelings would be that leadership is the Jed Bartlet, Nasser Hussain figure. The person who has vision, inspires people to follow that vision, ensures that the people they have working for them share that vision and work towards it.

Management often feels less positive to me. If something needs managing that for me has a connotation of a problem which needs to held in abeyance almost. It is the person who maybe stifles some of the vision of the leader in the cause of ‘a higher figure’. I’m thinking Tim Lamb trying to manage the Zimbabwe situation with Nasser Hussain in the 2003 world cup – not something conducive to progression .

 

As you can see I’m not exactly starting off with equally positive views of leadership and management.

 

My next part of the task was to read up on leadership and management. In these days of the internet information is but a click away, however finding information you trust and respect is not so easy. For my reading I chose an article from The Guardian, which then linked through to the Harvard Business Review and a blog post on Lifehacker.

John Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School feels that

“Management is a set of processes that keep an organisation functioning. They make it work today – they make it hit this quarter’s numbers. The processes are about planning, budgeting, staffing, clarifying jobs, measuring performance, and problem-solving when results did not go to plan.”

Clearly that is a more positive definition than mine, and reading it made me realise that management is necessary to get the jobs done, otherwise the vision of the leader will not be realised.

Johnathan Gosling, from the University of Exeter gives an example of a management technique,

“Target setting is a management technique used to focus attention on certain activities. A hospital, for example, might set targets around waiting times.”

For this exercise to work, someone within the hospital must show leadership by emphasising the importance of the activity.

“In this example, the wider purpose is helping patients to lead better lives. A leader needs to inspire employees by showing how meeting a target can contribute towards this aim. They also need to think of new ways of reaching that target.”

Again, that challenges my ideas around management. In this example management leads directly to the positive outcome which the leader wants (i.e. less waiting time in hopsitals). Gosling says that someone needs to show the leadership by emphasising the importance of the target setting. Does that suggests that the leadership did not create the target setting activity? i.e. they have to show someone else’s visions?

I also read what Kotter has to say about leadership.

It (leadership) is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it’s about behavior. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy. The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it’s a recipe for failure.

I think that is something which sits easily with my initial feelings around leadership. Bartlet and Hussain were people who changed things (ok one was fictional!!) for the better. My view of the captains who succeeded Hussain is that they were not the quality of leader Hussain was, although they were more successful.

Kotter talks about leadership from any place in the hierarchy, it would be interesting to go back in time and look at the role successful leaders played prior to them gaining the higher space in the hierarchy, and also how any leadership they showed was treated by their actual leaders and managers.

The question asks what is leadership without manage. It seems to me that management should be the mechanisms, which ensure delivery of the vision of the leader. In turn, the leader needs to share the vision, enthuse and inspire with the vision.

Therefore, I think leadership without management is a vision, a passion, a pathway, but with no means of delivering it – people may agree completely with it but without management (even self-management). The vision will remain unfulfilled as the actual changes required will never take place.

 

Sources:

http://careers.theguardian.com/difference-between-leadership-management

http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/01/management-is-still-not-leadership/

http://lifehacker.com/search?q=leadership

http://lifehacker.com/search?q=management

 

 

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.

Guy Claxton – 5 things to try.

I was able to attend a talk by Prof Guy Claxton yesterday. Despite the room being way too warm and forgetting to take my bottle of water, it was a really thought provoking talk and left me with some things I want to try in school on Monday (and beyond) and certainly made me want to find out more about the Building Learning Power programme.

1. Distraction fingers. Probably 1 to use with my younger classes. When a distraction occurs, ask the children to show fingers for how distracted they were. 1 to 5. The idea behind this being to raise the awareness of the effects of distraction across the class. The children then develop their own awareness of the distractions the make and adjust behaviour accordingly.

2. A learning diary needs to be an ongoing tool, almost like an artists sketchbook, by the child’s side every minute, ready to jot down ideas, things they find hard and how they tried to overcome those things. I’m teaching across the school music and RCCT cover currently. If I was in class I’d definitely being using learning diaries more in this way.

3. More open feedback, encouraging the child to find the improvement point more. So, rather than highlighting the words to be improved, the teacher (or peer ideally) would leave a comment such as ‘You could improve a part of this paragraph, can you find out which part, and try to improve it’. That seems a more powerful statement to me as it requires that extra bit of work from the writer.

4. Once again, the important role of questions was spoken about – this is an ongoing theme across many educationalists I hear and read. It’s something I try to work at, 3 question answers, lollipop sticks, the basketball approach, using higher level questioning. Something I would like to create in my room is a display of questions children could ask about pieces of music -published and their own music- to further their understanding about music. I also love the idea of a questions wall with ‘wonder questions’ about anything. Some may be answered, some may not, it’s not the answering that matters it’s the asking of the question.

5. A diving mark scheme. I thought this idea was simple and clever. Children choose their ‘level’ to work at and that ‘level’ has a tarrif which the final score is multiplied by. This encourages children to stretch themselves and moves them away from a ‘safe haven’ whilst offering an encouragement for this. I can see this needs careful observing but it’s something quite close to a techniques I’ve used before in maths lessons. I will have a range of sums for the children to do on addition, subtraction etc. The children choose their start sheet, but are allowed to move in lesson between sheets as they feel. If they are finding it too hard they can go to a sheet with smaller numbers and consolidate and if they’re up for it, they can go straight for the harder challenge. The children are soon able to talk about their choices and any moves they make in lessons.

 

I have made more notes than this so please get in touch for more information or visit Guy’s sites.

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New Skills, New Questions.

I read this article and it got me thinking about school, learning, young people today etc.

The article discusses how skills are learned, how creating neural pathways link and create stronger pathways and how a good way to develop these skills is by not using help guides, asking other people etc but puzzling it out for yourself.

My experience is that children are the masters at that. They use tech, never read an instruction manual, dive in and work it out. Only if they are really stuck do they ever seek help from a youtube video, social media friends or maybe sometimes…their parents.

How does that learning model compare to schools?

How many lessons does the same children sit through where there is an input (or teach) first and then a series of activities ‘designed’ to develop this skills/learning?

How does the waiting for help (if required) compare to the immediacy of youtube or other web based help technologies?

How does the ‘blocking’ of lessons sometimes days apart hold back the development of skills in those areas, when the best way to develop the skills is everyday practice?

Do we connect enough of our learning together? I think primaries do, but there is always talk of splitting back into more subject based learning and less topic/project learning? Why? Where is the evidence for success in this approach?

The role of failure is key to learning in this way, yet if our children do not have enough ‘self-esteem chips’ as Richard Gerver brilliantly calls them our children will not be able to enjoy the freedom to fail. Do schools do enough to balance out the differential between the haves and have-nots of self-esteem? If not, why?

Which countries ARE getting it right and how are they doing it? Our young people are going to develop more and more skills in these ways, are our schools going to support them in that or hold them back?

296747265_eef6c2e32cSkills Drop Off – by Squacco

 

5 Words to describe my class.

If you had to choose five words to describe your class, what would they be? -Dave Burgess
I found this idea and quotation here and thought it was a fantastic idea for teachers, but also a great idea to start the new school year off with a new class.
Messy.
Interactive.
Inquisitive.
Energetic,
Happy.
I wonder what words my class from last year would come up with?
Henti Smith fmgbain
Inquisitive Fascincation – Henti Smith

Badger, badger, badger, badger.

There’s a lot of work going on at the moment about using badges for crediting skills, experience in education and the workplace. I came across this template for designing your own badges and shared it last night in the #dlchat. People in the chat seemed to like it, so I thought it might be worth posting it here also. Getting my Digital Leaders becoming badge creators and awarders is an aim for my Digital Leader project next year, as it has multiple benefits. I hope they’re keen to be badgers.

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