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Dusting off the blog, and setting myself a challenge

After half a term back in the classroom I’m going to have a go and resurrecting the blog. Half term week saw me finally catch up with all the blogs in my feedly account, and I’ve got a few things I’m keen to start writing about.

So, knowing that the best laid plans of mice and Dave’s are often derailed on the road of good intentions (or something), I’m going to set myself the challenge of posting something (anything!) here on a daily basis for the next month. As ever, they’ll be a mixture of stuff I’ve read, stuff I’ve tried and some random ponderings. I’ve got a few bits from last term term to reflect on as well, so hopefully I won’t run out of steam for at least the first week and a half. As ever, please feel free to add any encouraging words via the comments or Twitter.

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#TMSHP16

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Teachmeets have been a part of the ‘fringe’ of the Schools History Project (SHP) Conference for several years now, but this year I decided to try something a little different. Inspired in part by Ewan McIntosh’s account of the early Teachmeets and the rules that had been lost along the way (including the ‘No Powerpoint’ rule) and in part by David Rogers recent ‘#TMSolutions’ event, the conference organisers agreed we could run it slightly differently.

We moved it to the bar, and in doing so took away the option for people to present via a big screen and there was no space for people to sign up to present in advance. There was however, a bar!

The first 4 or so minutes were spent with people noting down specific problems they had encountered, or questions they had on post-its. One point per post-it. These were then brought to the front and I hurriedly grouped them (roughly) onto sheets of flip chart paper. These were then spaced around the room and the for the next 15 minutes people wandered around adding their own suggestions and ideas as solutions to the problems that had been raised. In the final couple of minutes of this section I asked people to identify and of the solutions that they especially wanted to talk about / hear about / have a discussion about.

While I reviewed these we had the one presentation (wrong word – more of an activity demonstration) that Lesley Anne had prepared in advance, which worked as a good break between the two sections and got everyone involved. If the video isn’t embedded below, click through to see what I mean!

We then spent the final 25 minutes discussion four (I think) of the ideas that had had the strongest indication on the sheets that people wanted to talk about. Discussions and ideas bounced around the room, people got up to share ideas on the flipchart and with one exception I think every problem that was noted down had at least one solution to it.

You can see what we ended up with here. You can scroll through them below or see the whole set on Flickr
TMSHP16

The feedback from those there seemed very positive, including from a number of people who had made a contribution to a discussion who would, but their own admission, not have signed up to present.

It was also interesting to talking to people afterwards who, until that point, had only encountered the large, sponsored, key noted events. I’m not knocking them – I think there’s a real place for them, but it’s always worried me that teachers leaving them might not walk away with that sense of ‘hey, I could organise one of these…’ that so enthused me at my early TeachMeets. Hopefully this got a little closer to that, and made sure that even those people who might not (yet) have the confidence to get up and talk for 2 or 7 minutes get to share their ideas and join the discussion.

One suggestion from a colleague was to limit the number of problems (perhaps to 2 per table) so as to make the sorting phase a little easier. While I don’t doubt it would, I think I’d like to keep the ‘all issues considered’ approach, but maybe move the ‘activity’ slot early to cover the sorting of the post-it’s into groups.

All in all, I think one I’m happy to mark up as a success! Thanks to everyone who’s contributions and enthusiasm made it so!

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Less surfing, more digging

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While the huge increase of the number of blogging teachers over the last few years is brilliant, I’ve become aware that much of what’s gets written is largely washing over me. I’ll tweet a few links, note a few ideas, but I’ve largely been surfing on a wave of other people’s ideas.

One the features I loved in Google Reader was the ability to search back through posts you’d bookmarked. In an attempt to regain that functionality, and to allow me to dig down into the goldmine of blog posts from the last few years I’ve just created a Google Custom Search. It’s a bit rough and ready for now – I’ve just dropped in the list of blogs I subscribe to, many of which are long dead (anyone else remember posterous?!). However it’s a good start and it’s allowed me to go back and find some really useful posts that may be a few years old, but have been helpful in shaping my thinking.

You can use this custom engine here. I’ll do some more tweeking with it next week, and maybe even embed it in this site too. But in the mean time the ability to create your own is available to anyone with a Google account, but seems to be one of the lesser known features.

Image credit: Dig byMatt MacGillivray. CC Licensed on Flickr.com

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#TMHistoryIcons – Reflections

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Yesterday I joined a room full of other history teachers who had come from far and wide (including Romania!) for the first #TMHistoryIcons – A day long event focussed on sharing ideas around the teaching of the best subject on the timetable!

While not a typical Teachmeet (and it’s becoming harder to say what one of those is), I thought it was an excellent day. The sponsorship was by companies who had something useful and interesting to bring to the table and hearing Kevin Hicks talk about bringing the reality of his experience of serving as a British solider to young people really was a great way to start the day.

I’m going not to attempt to sum up what happened. There was way too many amazing ideas shared to do justice to that. Rather, I thought I’d reflect on some of the themes that seemed to me to emerge from several of the speakers.

Hooking pupils –
Many people talked about the importance of a hook to engage pupils and get them thinking about such a wide variety of topic, be that through drama or photographs or linking the subject to a place or person that they know.

The creation of deep learning –
So many of these ideas where really pushing students to engage with topics in a deep way, rather than simply trotting through an atomised chronology.

The importance of the big picture –
Something I’ve been very aware of as something I perhaps wasn’t doing so well, and something I’d like to do better next year. I loved Scott Alsop’s idea of using the pictures from old text books and getting students to work out what the topic was going to be about, and how the areas were interlinked.

Students as independent learners and content creators –
For all the concerns expressed by some on Twitter about the issues around ‘progressive’ or ‘child centred’ learning, it seemed to me that so many of the speakers had found a good balance between delivering the key content to students and them allowing them to explore further themselves.

A final point which I don’t think any of the speakers made during their talks, but which was a common theme in conversation was the scale at which you can implement new ideas. I’ve written before about our mantra of one teacher, one class, one tool when it came to adoption of digital technology, but actually it would seem equally applicable when trying out a new pedagogy too.

My huge thanks to the organisers, the sponsors and everyone who spoke at the event.Well worth the journey!

You can find all the tweets from the day here – storify.com/davestacey/tmhistoryicons

You can find a link to the resources for my presentation here – http://blog.mrstacey.org.uk/?p=1101

Image: Me, pontificating in my StaffRm T-Shirt! Credit: HexatexEDU

Cross posted on StaffRm

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5 quick lo / hi tech ideas for extending pedagogy – #TMHistoryIcons

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I’ve come up to Chester to the first #TMHistoryIcons today, another variation on the Teachmeet theme.

My presentation is on 5 quick low and high tech ideas for extending pedagogy here. I’ll embed the slides below, and the relevant links under that.

Flipcharts!

Have a look at Ian Dawson’s excellent Thinking History site for loads of active learning ideas with (and without tabbards). You can also follow Ian on Twitter @bearwithoneear

Online Quizzes

There are loads out there but I mentioned Socrative, Kahoot and (for teachers in Wales) Hwb Playlists.

It’s worth giving some thought to how to make really effective use of multiple choice questions, and also read up on the idea of Hinge Questions too. Try here, here or here for stuff on Hinge Questions.

Post its and Hexagons and Tables Oh My!

A couple of good hexagon generators can be found on Pam Hook’s site and also on Classtools.net.

Ewan McIntosh writes about using Hexagons in the NoTosh Lab

John Mitchell shares a number of his visual hexagons on his blog

Get an online space.

There are so many options, including Twitter, Wix, WordPress, Padlet and many more. Give some thought to if you want a one-way ‘publishing’ platform or if you’re looking for interaction with users. If you’re creating videos from your Powerpoints with tools like Office Mix and Explain Everything you could consider creating your own YouTube channel as well.

Plickers

This tool is a great mix of high and lo- tech. Pupils get print-outs to vote / respond with and you use your device to scan the room.

Bonus Plugs!

Teachmeet is 10, and Ewan is collecting reflections on the impact Teachmeets have had on you. Please add yours to bit.ly/teachmeet10.

The School History Project Conference is coming up in July. If you’ve enjoyed today either in person or online and you can make it to Leeds you’d be very welcome. You don’t have to deliver the SHP GCSE to attend or benefit.

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Do we need more Ed Tech Librarians?

Neil-Gaiman-Quote

In preparation for the nano-presentation I may or may not end up delivering on Friday at TMBETT, I’ve been thinking about some of the things I’ve experienced in the last few months in my role as a Digital Leader on the Hwb project. In particular, about the kind of things that can make the difference between a school that is starting to make the most of the opportunities offered technology, and those where noting much seems to happen, perhaps beyond one or two classroom walls.

Versions of this bell curve graph have been around for a while, and while I think the details and the shape (and perhaps even the terminology) are up for discussion, I’m going to use it as a rough approximation of the situation of technology adoption within and between schools.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

While pondering this the other day, I also came upon this quote which I notice every few months

“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” – Neil Gaiman

(I went to Uni to be a librarian, only to end up a teacher a few years later. That’s another story, but may account for why I tend to notice references to librarians in things!)

It struck me that much of the front of the curve is relatively well catered for in terms of ideas, discussions and support through digital means, not least from the community of educators that have developed on Twitter in the last few years. Yet those further to the right are often not engaged with this for a myriad of reasons, not least that they are not interested in (or actively put off by) the ‘try it out, put it down, move on’ approach that can typify early-adopters use of technology.

I’m left wondering therefore if we shouldn’t be looking to redefine some of those at the front of the curve as edtech librarians (although I feel a better name is needed- suggestions below please). People who talk to other teachers about what they want (something we often seem to forget to do in our haste to show off the latest bit of kit) and help them to identify one thing that may help them with that.

Any takers? Anyone doing this already? Or am I barking up the wrong tree here? Comments are open…

 

Header image credit: Friends of the Aurora Public Library

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Happy New Year – Have some resources!

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It’s about time I was blogging again. I’ve been updating various bits of software here and there, and remembered that none of the links on the resources page were working.

I’ve moved all the materials that were there over to Google Drive, and re-linked the files. There’s a variety of stuff there, much of it KS3 History related, but also a selection of posters and other bits and bobs. As I say at the top of the page, some of the stuff is getting on a bit now, and could probably do with a bit of a spruce up and tidy. None the less, if there’s anything there you can use, please feel free to take, adapt and pass on.

You can find the resources page linked at the top of the page, or by clicking here.

I may well dig through a few of the things there and pull together individual posts on them in the next few weeks.

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Practical Pedagogies 15 – My session

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Image credit: Pete Sanderson

My workshop at the Conference was (slightly too grandly?) titled ‘Collaborating within and beyond the classroom in the cloud’. Despite that, a room full of people turned up. This blog post serves as a summary of what we talked about, and some links to resources / sites discussed.

You can view the slides below, the icons should be hyperlinks to the sites for the various tools.

We kicked off with brief survey about the delegates using Google Forms.

We then clarified what we meant by ‘The Cloud’, the importance of being platform / browser neutral and discussed how it was possible to develop and extend any type of pedagogy with the right choice of technology.

Our first group of tools took the idea of using a survey with students (or colleagues) both as a way of capturing understanding at a given point in time, or of getting ‘pupil voice’ and other forms of feedback. We then also discussed tools that allowed us to provide feedback by creating online quizzes. Many schools (my own included) still don’t allow students to use devices in the classroom, so a service like Plickers allows teachers to use their device and printed cards to achieve a similar effect.

Tools discussed:

Google Forms, Survey Monkey, Poll Daddy, Doodle.com (this tools allows a group to identify the best times for a meeting)

Socrative, Quizlet, Plickers

We then moved on to discuss the fact that many teachers highest demand is a way of sharing resources with groups of students. Once you’ve started to do this, it can be a short hop to have students either responding to even co-curating content, either teacher produced or gathered from the web.

Tools discussed:

Dropbox, Youtube, Twitter, Today’s Meet, Padlet.

The group then spent some time working together on this Padlet (now locked) sharing some ideas and experience.

In our third discussion we talked about larger online spaces, including Blogs and Wikis, and the various ways in which they could be used – from completely teacher controlled (with pupils consuming the information) to learner created. We also mentioned Edmodo as an online VLE service that allowed the submission and return of work that was a feature important in some aspects of school, especially secondary. We also mentioned Blendspace as an example of a new range of tools that pulls together lots of existing content (in a similar way how Playlists work in Hwb). That link comes with the caveat that I haven’t tried it yet!

Finally, we talked about how both Google and Microsoft are now rolling out free education versions of their cloud suites for schools, with Google’s including Google Classroom and MS now with OneNote Class Notebook creator. We had a quick play with a shared Google presentation, with the whole group recording their ideas and experiences with similar tools. We also had a chance to show how quickly you could adapt things on the fly, as we realised having each other’s twitter addresses would be useful, so we added an extra slide to share that.

We discussed pros and cons of using these, especially issues around what data it is / isn’t ok to hold in the cloud (true for all the tools discussed here) and the importance as a teacher to check your school has a clear policy to help you. We also discussed what ‘free’ meant, including the fact that in many cases there was no guarantees that these services would be available long term.

Hopefully the session was useful, please feel free to use the comments below for any questions / follow up.

 

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Practical Pedagogies Conference – Day 2

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Image: Photo from Ewan McIntosh’s session on questioning and feedback. More info / links below

 

A slightly less rushed reflection of day two, written in the airport after a lovely day strolling around Toulouse, but only posted now as the airport wifi didn’t seem too willing to load my blog!

Following an excellent meal at the end of Day 1, Day 2 through everyone straight back in with another four workshops!

Workshop 1 – Theory of Knowledge

In hindsight, perhaps I wasn’t really in the target audience for this workshop and so this was probably the least useful for me as I didn’t really have the context to make sense of some of it.

None the less, from talking to other people on my table I got the idea that ‘Theory of Knowledge’ (or as one delegate put it ‘asking how we know what we know’) is a key element of the International Baccalaureate. There seemed to be lots of cross over with the old ‘Critical Thinking’ AS level in the UK, although there was the potential for it be to be much more applied.
I got the impression that it wasn’t especially valued by many students, perhaps because it was often taught as an add-on, rather than a key element of the subject.

My notes, including several photos from walls around the room are here.

 

Workshop 2 – Questioning and Feedback – Ewan McIntosh

Another excellent, thought provoking session, bursting at the themes. As with yesterday’s workshop I’d seen some of the ideas Ewan was talking about on his blog and in the NoTosh Lab, but talking them through with others and getting more of a context really helped to make sense of them.

A few takeaways for me:

  • You need to separate the process of generating ideas and evaluating them for quality – we tend to combine them and that just stifles ideas
  • UnGoogleable questions are more interesting and lead to deeper thinking, but that doesn’t mean the Googleable ones are not important, especially as part of learning deeper
  • Questions need to pass the ‘So what, who cares’ test – and it may take some tough love to get students (and teachers) there
  • Get lots of feedback in to early versions of ideas and iterate often. (There’s a link here, I think, to the 30% vs 90% feedback I read about a few years back ( I think via Doug?) and Tom has written about recently. It take 4 -5 prototypes to get something good. I’ve also seen Austin’s Butterfly in a new context
  • For this, this provides a valuable structure to help me help my students improve the quality of their independent learning projects when I go back to school.

I need to go back and reread the Mindset, Skill set, Tool set stuff in light of what I’ve heard and thought about here.


Workshop 3 – Embedding Coaching and Mentoring to improve standards in Teaching and Learning. Pete Sanderson (@Lessontoolbox)

A very interesting session, exploring how Pete has used Mentoring models to help separate out ‘Performance Management’ and improving the quality of teaching, by ensuring that all teachers are entitled to support in reaching a goal of their own choosing

I must confess I didn’t realise how fought over the ideas around coaching were, and several of the audience seemed to have issues with how it had been deployed and there is clearly a tightrope to walk in terms of empowering teachers to improve, and ensuring quality across the school. None the less, it sounded like a very positive process to me, and something I hope more schools (including my own) look to implement.

There were a couple of interesting discussions with people around me about the use of peer mentoring as a way of further developing this, and the power that can be accessed by changing observation from something that is done to them, to something that they get to do.

My notes are here

Pete has blogged a summary here

 

Workshop 4  – Reading like a Scientist, Writing like a Geographer. Angela Cooze

I was interested in this session even before I knew it was Angela (who is from UWTSD – the University I did my teacher training in) who was running it.

My interest around subject specific literacy was sparked by Dr Steve Wilkinson at TLAB, and this session contained some really interesting, practical examples of how writing can be improved in a subject specific context.

Before I come on to those, I was again left thinking how important it is to let students draft ideas and structures on post-its before coming to write. I’ve often done it with A Level students, I need to make sure it works it’s way down to KS3.

There was a plug for Geoff Barton’s book ‘Don’t call it Literacy’, which I’ve never read but heard very positive things about.

A few of my takeaways from this session:

  • Can another member of staff work out what the challenge was if you remove the title from a student’s piece of work?
  • Modelling is key – but not of the final product, but of the process (A link here I think to the work done by John Tomsett and others around annotating exam papers with their thought processes rather than their answers for students to read through)
  • Starting with a teacher version and having students improve it to a point they can use it as a starting point for their own version (eg a piece of writing about a particular river)
  • This can lead to writing that is a little limited, but it provides a better scaffold for students that we current offer, and as David Didau says, the point of scaffolding is that you’re supposed to take it down after a while. I think you’d need to plan for this though.

Closing session – Ewan McIntosh

There was so much here, I’ve discovered my notes have stopped as Ewan prompted us all on to Twitter to outline our Objectives, Strategies and Tactics (from his original Key Note). I think I’ve managed to capture them all here.

Key takeaways and reflections

  • It’s ok to aim big (sometimes I forget this)
  • Don’t be fearful of mediocrity – it’ll stop you innovating
  • How do you get those around you to join your orchestra, rather than playing like soloists?
  • I can’t help thinking we need this kind of provocation in the next few years for the team who are drawing up the new curriculum for Wales.

Final reflections

This was an amazing, intense, thought provoking and (at times) headache inducing two days. I loved it!

Huge thanks to Russel and the team at IST for organising it so well, and to Ewan for being so thought provoking. Also to everyone I got to catch up with again, to everyone who I finally turned from a Twitter follow into a real person and friend, and to everyone who I had never heard of before, but who nudged my thinking in various ways and who are now filling my Twitter stream with their ideas.

I suspect more posts will follow as I start to digest everything I heard.

A few other people have already started blogging their reflections. I think Ben was first out of the blocks, and Simon Gregg’s post is here. Keep an eye on the #pracped15 hashtag on Twitter for others.