Tag Archives: personalisation

Highers – Follow up.

Since writing about my step-daughter and highers last week, I’ve received some good feedback from and MSP, parents, teachers and educationalists.

Before I go into that, an update. It’s now Wednesday of the holidays and my step-daughter has been into school on ever weekday of the holiday, apart from Easter Monday. She’s also done lots of work when at home. She’s not really her normal self, is a bit tetchy and showing some signs of being fed up. (I offer cups of tea, hugs and chocolate feeling a bit helpess)

I have found out that the school my step-daughter attends is paying staff to work in the Easter holidays. For me that raises many, many questions. What else could be done with that money? What if your family have already booked a holiday in the Easter holidays (because booking in term-time is strongly discouraged by schools, but encouraged by pricing structures of the holiday sector), surely you don’t have equality of opportunity for this use of public money? Are the teachers being paid a universal teacher rate (i.e. teachers daily rater or supply rates) ? How much pressure is put on teachers to do this? Do the public know teachers are being paid overtime to get the grades which will be trumpeted as a triumph for Scottish Education/ Government / Political Parties when the results are announced? Do we have a true financial cost?

Feedback: You can read Amanda Wilson’s feelings in the comments below the original post. Thanks again for your time

Mark Priestley said:

and

Iain Gray MSP said:

Angela Constance replied:

I will publish her reply in full when I receive it.

Jak tweeted:

As well as these reponses I have received a long and sincere e-mail from a teacher who sympathises and dislikes the current system.

I have also received many favourable comments on FB as well as face to face when meeting parents of children of all ages in person.

I ended my initial post thus: 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.

It seems I’m not alone in those thoughts.

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.

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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What I want for my pupils and Scottish Education.

My Professional learning plan for the West Lothian Leadership course begins with a section of self-evaluation. The first part of that is thinking about and noting down thoughts about what we want for Scottish Education, our schools, ourselves and our pupils.

Here are my thoughts about what I would like for the pupils I teach. I’d be grateful for any comments, awkward questions etc, as that is the reason I’m posting aspects of my personal learning plan online.

 

What do I want for my pupils and Scottish Education?

 

A Google search reveals lots of articles listing the things that our young people should develop in their education to succeed in the now and the future. Feel free to have a search yourself, there’s thousands of links to interesting reads. Many of these articles contain similar skills and ideas such as critical thinking, problem solving, effective communication, ability to collaborate (which I find in practice means having a lot of ‘self-esteem chips’ as Richard Gerver calls them), adaptability and more. What these lists don’t contain in 2013 is much in the way of facts and figures (knowledge) – these being at our fingertips now. (The key skills for using facts and figures tend to be knowledge of how to internet search for them, a bit of curiosity and some source checking skills).

 

I want all of the above for the children I work with – who wouldn’t. However I believe that there are three key ideas which open up the rest of the ideas, and for me these are the things I believe are vital to education, Scottish or otherwise. These ideas will also allow our children to develop as societies themselves develop over time.

 

1. I want children to be inquisitive and curious and that means they need to enjoy their learning.

 

2. I want children to ask good questions of themselves, their peers and the adults in their lives.

 

3. I want children to have loads of self-confidence. This means they can develop their collaborative work, can accept having their work held to peer review and can develop better their own work.

 

If a child leaves my class/time with me with these three things, then I think they will be well placed for their future, wherever it may go.

Death Valley National Park, California (8)Death Valley by Ken Lund

Weeknotes 2013 – Week 8.

Here’s what’s been going on this week.

  • Our cluster was privileged enough to have Sir John Jones speak to us at our staff meeting on Friday. It’s the 3rd time I’ve hear SJJ speak, twice in person and once on a video link. I find him to be funny and inspiring which is a good combination for a teacher to have and something which we should all aspire to. Among the things he said which made me think were his ideas about Rock Thinkers and Water Thinkers and the idea that we can’t keep on doing what we’re doing (even when it what we do is brilliant). I thought of British Cycling who are always changing things up to maintain their success, but also companies like Kodak who were at the pinnacle of the photography market, had digital photography available, but rather than develop that stayed with their traditions of film photography for too long, they didn’t go backwards in the digital age, they just got overtaken by the ‘water thinkers’ who moved more rapidly than them. I will post more of the ideas from SJJ here in the coming days.
  • Minecraft – wow. Our digital leaders are trying to create their own minecraft club and are doing a fantastic job. It will be great when it’s up and running. They are so creative with their ideas for their club, creating challenges, creating simple wiki websites with links to good sites on and despairing of my general uselessness at the game. The children in our school (and everywhere else in the known universe) are desperate to play minecraft, to create their own worlds, objects, towns, cities, homes with it. It’s something us teachers should begin trying to use to develop deeper learning, the children would be delighted.
  • We had maths training on measurement delivered by the excellent John Sexton. The session was on measure and one of the key messages I took away was the need to allow more time for practical measurement activities. These concrete experiences are what the children will use to support them in their measurement learning when the context is more challenging. It’s not good enough firing up the worksheet of conversions and so-called ‘real-life’ problems and hoping. If you want examples of amazing maths problems look at Dan Meyer’s brilliant work.
  • I attended our parent council meeting (and volunteered to run a family quiz at school) on Tuesday evening. It makes for a late night but it’s good to hear about what our children tell their parents about school life and how positive they are about it. The parent council also do a brilliant job in supporting the school through raising money and our profile in the community.
  • Pupil council at school are doing brilliant work (with little help from me as ever!!) on developing diamond time, organizing comic relief events, reviewing school meals (answering questions pupils have about school dinners). They are true independent learners and thinkers and are dealing brilliantly with the responsibilities and frustrations that real life contains. I am incredibly proud of their work.
  • I made another video – I hate it, you hate it, we all hate videoing ourselves but… making a quick video (don’t worry about your hair, your clothes, fancy editting etc) can get across an idea in 2 minutes that might take 30 minutes to blog.
  • On a ukulele front I discovered Richard G’s ukulele song book which has some great tunes to strum!
  • I discovered that Sky Sports is available for £4.99 a month on iPad – thus allowing me to keep up with all things cricket without a) paying for a full subscription and b) hogging our TV.
  • Finally the baseball season is nearly here which means I am back in charge of my fantasy baseball teams. Great fun, lots of geeky stats, lots of banter a good stress buster.
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