Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category
It’s a fairly well known fact that I am now an TeachMeet addict, so following the success of TMSwansea two years ago, and in attempt to get another hit of TeachMeet goodness, my school has agreed to host another of the events, this time on the 16th May
If you’ve never been to a TeachMeet, the idea is simple. You get a bunch of teachers in a room together, give them tea and coffee, and a few of them who have agreed to get up and speak for either 2 or 7 minutes on something that’s had an impact in their classroom. That’s it. The events are free to attend. In the past I’ve tried to get sponsorship, although generally speaking most companies are happy to give you ‘stuff’, but less able to part with cold hard cash. Given that time is of the essence I’ve decided we could do without a raffle and so we won’t be seeking sponsors for this event. Instead the school will provide teas and coffees, and attendees will have the chance when they arrive to put in an order from the local chippy, which we will have delivered for half time!
So, what are you waiting for? Get yourself over to http://TMSwansea13 and get yourself signed up either to speak or just to come and listen to some great ideas. You can also like the event on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter or have the details of the event tattooed on your forehead
See you on the 16th!
Back in October of last year I was honoured (and a little surprised) to be asked to be a member of a group established by Leighton Andrews tasked with reviewing the teaching of Welsh history, the story of Wales and the Curriculum Cymreig
We were asked to consider three questions:
- Whether the Curriculum Cymreig should be best delivered through the discipline of history and, if not, the best means of ensuring that the elements of Curriculum Cymreig are delivered across the curriculum;
- Whether there is sufficient emphasis on Welsh history and the stories of Wales in the teaching of history and the current programme of study; and,
- Whether the teaching of history, from the Foundation Phase through to the Welsh Baac, GCSE and A level sufficiently take account of the latest research and the new resources available about the historical development of Wales to the present day.
It’s worth noting that we haven’t been asked to comment on the current National Curriculum order for History beyond Q2. I’m assume that that will be part of the current and ongoing review of the whole of the National Curriculum.
After several months, and probably even more draft versions, our interim report has been published for consultation. The report is very detailed, and provides the setting and context for each question, as well as out comments and recommendations. The next stage is to seek the views of the wider community before we revise the report for submission to the Minister.
If you have a view on how ‘Welsh’ the Curriculum should (or shouldn’t) be, or how well represented the Histories of Wales are in the curriculum at the present time, then this is your chance to have your say.
You can view the report and complete the questionnaire from this page.
The report and it’s recommendations will be the subject of Tuesday night’s #addcym chat from 8-9pm.
#TLAB 13 – Rebooting my teaching: Stealing ideas from primary schools and shaking up my secondary classroom
On 16th March I was lucky enough to be the excellent Teaching, Learning and Assessment conference organised by Nick Dennis at Berkhamsted school. Much to my bemusement, not only was I asked to run a session, but several people actually came along! You can see the Prezi embedded below (or click here), but I thought I’d provide a brief overview as well.
I briefly talked through my background into teaching and the reasons for the time I’d spend volunteering with yr 6 at one of the local primary schools. I also posed a couple of questions for the audience to get them chatting, thinking and sharing some ideas. In this case:
If you could go anywhere to reinvigorate your teaching, where would it be?
What will you do on Monday morning (or sooner) to make that happen?
We had some great feedback, from international visits, to people reestablishing links with industry.
5 things I (re)learned
Relearned, because I think all of these things I knew when I started teaching, but the day to day grind, and the general secondary school culture had meant I’d either forgotten or ignored them.
I reflected on the way in which space is used more flexibly in primary, and how everything is arranged for group work rather than facing the front. I linked to some of the work done by Bianca Hewes based on the work of David Thornburg around the concepts of learning spaces as campfires, watering holes and caves. I mentioned that I would love to have individual desks, rather than double desks, which would make the potential for a flexible space even greater.
What did I change?
All my desks got arranged into groups. I try (although don’t always succeed) to move the tables around depending on the class and the activity.
2. Generating Questions
One of the things that struck me about the class I visited was the way in which their questions relating to various current topics were on permanent display around the classroom (in fact, the use of display was something else I changed as a result of my visit). The classroom was driven by their questions, rather than those imposed on them (much like Tait Coles had been mentioning in his excellent session on Punk Learning)
What did I change?
I started to encourage more student questions to be at the heart of activities, including building on a unit developed by others in the department where students have to develop questions about everyday life in a particular historic period and then go and find and present their answers. I also tried to incorporate KWL grids more and use activities like the excellent ‘Shall we join the Chartists‘ from Ian Dawson
Quick plug – There are loads of great ideas for this in Hywel Roberts’ book ‘Oops’
I was blown away by how much responsibility students were given in year 6, and how little we take note of that when they arrive in yr 7. I know they’ve gone from the top of the school to the bottom, and they need to learn a new set of norm and values, but I do think this is one area where we need to trust our students more.
What did I change?
Be willing to try more adventurous projects with students. With open-ended projects if the students asked the question ‘can I…?’ I do my very best to make sure the answer is ‘yes, of course!’
4. Cross Curricular
I’ve made no secret of the fact that one of the first things I’d change about secondary schools is the way that the curriculum is divided up into desrete little boxes and then we ring a bell every hour to move students to a new one.
Now, I’m not in charge, and there’s nothing I can really do about this, but I can do two things within my room…
What did I change?
Make sure that plenary questions from time to time focus on the links with other lessons and other topics. I also regularly ask students what they’re doing with other teachers, both in terms of topics and more importantly in activities so I can steal the best ones!
Another big structural difference between Primary and Secondary is the flexibility they seem to have over time. While I don’t have that (when the bell goes, it’s all over), I have been interested in using technology to try and bring some of that flexibility in.
What did I change?
More use of Edmodo to provide links and reminders to students
Use of Google Apps for students to create shared documents and presentations – this allows me to monitor and feedback in a more timely manner than if the first time I see it is when it arrives in my classroom on a bit of paper
I then threw out another question to the audience – What have you forgotten about how you want(ed) your classroom to be?
Project Based Learning
For part three of the workshop I introduced the audience to the ingredients of Project Based Learning (as defined by BIE) and gave some examples of how I’d tried to bring those into my classroom.
* Turning over part of the A Level Syllabus to groups of students to teach. The key part of this project was that they had to do their presentations twice, getting peer feedback after the first go.
* Having year 8s build a website on Stuart History so they could explore an area of interest to them.
* The open projects, where students can investigate any topic they want to within a given historical period, and present their findings any way they want
More questions: How could you use PBL to structure a unit of work?
Finally, given that many of the previous keynote speakers had tried to find an analogy for teaching, I threw in mine – a magpie. For me, the power both of the day, and of what I’ve been able to do over the last few years is picking the best ideas from other people and adapting them to my classroom and the learners there. In that spirit, I threw over three more ideas that I suggested people went to investigate:
Finally, inspired by Juliette Heppell at TMBett, we ended with a snowball fight – everyone wrote down one idea that they’d picked up from the day along with their twitter id if they had one, and lobbed it across the room. This meant they even if my session hadn’t been of much use, they left with one more idea and hopefully a contact to follow it up with!
I’m very grateful to everyone who came, and hope it was of some use to you.
I’m delighted to announce I’ll be speaking at the Teaching, Learning and Assessment Conference taking place at Berkhamsted School on Saturday 16th March.
The event has been organised by Nick Dennis, who has put together a line up of amazing speakers (and me) for the amazingly small sum of £40. It’s also on a Saturday, avoiding all those awkward conversations about the cost of cover for your classes. So you’ve got no good reason that I can see for not signing up right now!
As well as day packed with keynotes from Alistair Smith, Prof Bill Lucas and Dr Bill Rankin, there will be workshops let by some of the best classroom practitioners going, who will be sharing their experiences with you. All that, plus breakfast and lunch for £40.
It’s an early start, so if you’re going to go up the night before (as I will be) there’s also a Teachmeet planned for the Friday night.
My session will build on some of the stuff I’ve been writing about here over the last 18 months under the ‘rebooting my teaching’ tag – the ideas I got from volunteering in one of our feeder primary schools and how I’ve tried to embed some of those in the secondary classroom. I’ll be covering links to Project Based Learning, use of digital tools and I’ll share some concrete examples of both projects that worked, and some that didn’t.
There’s also so many workshops I want to go to, I suspect I shall get a headache just trying to choose!
Click here to sign up and I’ll see you there!
“I’ve just spent a cheerful hours of my time writing a program on my computer that will tell me instantly what the volume of the mound was. It’s a very neat and sexy program with all sorts of pop-up menus and things, and the advantage of doing it the way I have is that on any future occasion on which I need to know the volume of a megapode nest, given its basic dimensions, my computer will give the answer in less than a second, which is a wonderful saving of time. The downside, I suppose, is that I cannot conceive of any further occasion that I am likely to need to know the volume of a megapode nest,… ” (Douglas Adams – Last chance to see, p.37)
The current focus in school is on marking. To be fair this has probably always been my weakest area and it would true to say I’m still not quite operating at quite the standard the school is expecting in this regard.
Having never been one who is simply able to do something because I’ve been told to, I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about how and what I mark in order both to fulfil the requirements of the policy, and to do as effective a job of providing feedback as I can.
I’ve developed some marking stickers for KS4 which allow me to give some feedback on the state of their exercise books every three weeks in a quick and effective way, and we’ve adapted them for KS3 as well (although I’m not teaching that this year). They’re designed to be printed straight onto A4 sticker sheets from Staples, but I’m sure they can be easily adapted for other brands!
Then, inspired by this post from Headguruteacher Tom Sherrington, I’ve designed a feedback sheet for KS5. It contains a judgement on where the essay sits in the Solo taxonomy, a tick list of the things I’m looking for in an essay, a space for WWW and EBI, and most importantly a space for students to respond to a particular comment. That might be to write an introduction or conclusions, or rewrite a paragraph or replan the whole thing in a different order (or anything else I think will be beneficial)
They’re all available from the resources page of my site, or you can download them directly below. All files are Word Documents
I need to go through and sort out the resources section of the site, but I suspect that will end up as a summer job.
In the mean time I’ve added some new posters that I’ve created in my room, including question posters, extended writing, source work and SOLO. Feel free to use them if they’re of any use.
So I unintentionally and fairly unexpectedly had a mostly analogue Christmas. Just kind of left the laptop where it was, didn’t really look at Twitter (much) and had a really great time with my family.
Now, with only a few days until we’re back to school I’m feeling… well, mostly overwhelmed actually. I’ve done that thing two or three times where you look at something you need to do and your brain just goes
‘…… huh? what? that? no… no idea…’
So, I’m aiming for a few things I can easily achieve to try and overcome the large mental block.
Inbox is now zero, and is my feed reader. Tick.
This (rather than any of the intense, interesting, but only half written pieces) is my first blog post of the new year. Tick.
(Happy New Year by the way)
Tomorrow I shall take myself off the library and mark, but now I shall post this and flushed with success hopefully move on to one or two other things before I head to bed.
At least the panic that this feeling used to induce is now replaced with the sensation of meeting up with an old, if slightly annoying friend, and the comfort that I will be able to ping back into the pace of term, even if I may struggle to get into my trousers…
1. I commented on one of the things that impressed me most about the plans for Hwb was how it joined the dots between a number of existing plans and technologies.
2. The previous week the National Qualifications Review recommended that:
R28 The Welsh Government should work with awarding organisations and stakeholders to develop a new Essential Skills Wales qualification in digital literacy to replace the current Essential Skills Wales in ICT, with a revised assessment method.
4. Doug now works for Mozilla on their Open Badges project
5. (One of) the problem (s) with old ICT ESW qualification was (is) that it assumed all students should be able to complete the same (fairly narrow) tasks to the same standard.
How about a new qualification in digital literacies, developed with Mozilla, that utilizes the idea of Open Badges to accredit what students actually do, with Hwb+ becoming an Open Badges displayer for students across Wales?
From there all kinds of things could grow, but as a first step this seems very achievable, and a vast improvement on trying to take something with a huge number of possibilities in a very fast moving field and trying to shove it into a GCSE shapes hole.
As well as Hwb, one of the recommendations from the ’Digital Classrooms’ task and finish group to the Welsh Government in the ‘Find it, Make it, Use it, Share it’ report was for a National Digital Learning Event, which is now timetabled in for June next year. It was mentioned again last week at the Hwb briefing meeting, and I started wondering is that was one thing the group might have got a little bit wrong.
If you’ve read much of my stuff, you’ll know that I’m a firm believer in only using digital ‘stuff’ when it adds value, and it struck me that perhaps this is one of those occasions when we might be better off without it.
I’d rather see a Wales Learning Festival (in the model of the Scottish Learning Festival) where digital technology is there, being used and taken for granted as just another tool that can be used for learning. Calling it a ‘digital learning’ event run the risks of putting ‘digtial learning’ on a pedestal that it doesn’t need and may actually be counter productive if people focus on the ‘digital’ rather than the ‘learning’
After all, as Clay Shirky points out in ‘Here Comes Everybody’:
Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring… It’s when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive as to be invisible, that the really profound changes happen.
Is it too late to change the name?
As a few people have asked, I thought it would be useful to put together a summary of what we found out.
Hwb will be a public facing content repository. All the NGfL Cymru content will be migrated and it will include an iTunes U Channel. In the future it will pull together user generated content from around Wales for QA and translation, and so the collection will grow and evolve (much in the same was an NGfL has). This will go live to everyone on 12th Dec this year. The only thing that won’t go over is the ‘My NfGL’ sections where you could save favourites (This relied on a user database which won’t be transferring . I also got the impression (although I can’t say this with 100% certainty) that it would provide access to a number of other digital repositories including things like ‘Gathering the Jewels’ from the National Library of Wales
Hwb+ is the Learning Portal. Provided by Learning Possibilities, and built on their LP4+ programme. It is designed to provide a learning platform for schools that want it, but also to integrate with existing systems and solutions that schools and local authorities have in place. It is already being tested by a small group of pilot schools in Cardiff, and another tranche of schools (including Olchfa) will start beta testing from 12th Dec.
Following that other schools will be provisioned in a further three waves, to be allocated by the regional consortia. These schools will be supported by the 8 strong digital leader team who have been seconded for two years to help schools make the most of the opportunities offered by Hwb. All schools should be on within 18 months.
The exception to that will be if LEAs want to move all their schools over in one go. If that’s the case, and they can demonstrate that they can provide a level of support equivalent to that provide by the Digital Leader team they can all switch as once. If you’re a school who would like to get in early, I suggest you get on the phone to your LEA and find out what they’re doing about it!
As part of Hwb+, all schools – including staff and students will get access to Office 365 – the online version of Microsoft’s Office Suite. This is great news for several reasons. One it reduces the need for parents to buy the software, and it reduced the headache for schools where students turn up with work created in Microsoft Works which can’t be opened it school. It also opens up the possibility to reduce licensing costs for schools and LEA. As part of that package, schools would also have access to video conferencing via ‘Lync’. It seems that plans for additional national licences are being drawn up. Personally, I’d love to see a national license for Brainpop, including getting them translated into Welsh.
One of the most impressive things about what I saw at the meeting was the effort the team have gone to ensure is that this joins together existing ideas and platforms, rather than simply ignoring or trying to replace them. It connects all the elements of existing school improvement plans, and has a strong focus on the 3 government priorities of literacy, numeracy and reducing the impact of poverty. It has a look and feel that connects it to other sites, such as learning.wales, but in Hwb+, it also provides different themes depending on the age of the user, all of which can be customized by individual users.
I’ll be able to give more detail once we’re up and running after the 12th. There are a huge number of opportunities for collaboration and development with this platform, and I’m looking forward to trying many of them out! You can find out more about the plans for Hwb at this page on Learning Wales.