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Showing posts from 2011

A learning resolution

Every child I have taught has been given the best teaching I can offer yet you denounce teachers like me as lazy and demand more.
How dare you.

Every child I have taught works to their potential but if they don’t happen to meet your ‘every child’s the same’ national targets you accuse them as failing.How dare you.

Every teacher I have worked with has shown strength in the face of media opposition, working tirelessly to ensure every child succeeds yet you accuse them of failing.How dare you.

Every school I have taught in has demonstrated a belief that every child is to be respected, valued as individuals no matter what their ‘level’ and has been given every opportunity to be a child yet you and your inspectorate victimise them, blame them and fail them.How dare you.

You are the cause of this. Your race to be the best in world league tables undermines the great work that thousands of educators do every day as you pursue results over learning.
You constantly berate rather than acknowledge and …

YouTube for schools - Pass or fail?

There's quite a bit of debate going on surrounding Google's recent release YouTube for Schools and I just have to dip my toes in and make my own views known. Will it be good for schools? Or will it constrict access to a wealth of educational material not deemed educational? Pass of fail?
YouTube for schools is described as being 'comprehensive, school-appropriate, customisable and teacher-friendly' and after trying it out with my own school's Google Apps YouTube domain I have to say that it is all of those. The 'comprehensive' tag is what seems to be causing the most negativity. Why? The videos that form part of YouTube for Schools are selected, from the many millions available on YouTube, by Google and a select group of organisations such as Stanford, TED and the Khan Academy. This at first caused me some concern as it meant I could have access to a very limited form of YouTube video content deemed suitable by others. I've been fighting against such res…

Set learning free in 100 words.

Throw away your planning and be the teacher you always should have been. Listen to your class, respond to what they need to push their learning forward. Assess their learning as you go, feedback to every learner. Try not to over-plan  forget the detail and be confident in changing direction as and where learning takes you. Let the learners control the learning, give them opportunities to decide what they want to learn. Give them control to set their own learning agenda even if it means they only do Maths all day. Take back learning in your classroom.

Set learning free.

Cross curricular gamified learning

Over the next 2 weeks I will be using a collaborative working plan based on the story of Santa being lost as part of my gamified learning in the classroom. I started the plan using Google Docs and posted a link to it on Twitter, within half an hour the plan had grown to 5 pages of cross curricular ideas and activities. You can acces the doc and add your own ideas to the plan here.
To begin the week I used the following presentation. The first slide takes time to work out but my class got there after a few questions and answers. One thing you must try to do is to take a step back, do not rush in with answers. Let the learners find the solution, give them time. Let them finish their ideas and accept every idea as part of the solution because even incorrect answers will help find the correct one. I decided to put ( ) around the 2 numbers and that did the trick, immediately a lot of voices told me the numbers must be coordinates. So off they went to find were the coordinates would lead to.…

Gamification - Rules of engagement

As part of the gamification of my classroom and the use of gaming techniques for learning I am using my blog as a base for my viewpoints on using it as part of my teaching style, collecting the viewpoint sof my class, observing their learning and how they work during the lessons and reflecting on the use of gaming techniques. I have been given a boost in using these techniques from my Head Teacher who has asked me to demonstrate them to other members of staff. I only have to look at the faces of engagement of my pupils to realise that something is working and to listent to the feedback from my teaching assistant who has enjoyed the past 4 days immensely.
Rules of engagement You must develop a strategy if you want to employ the use of gaming techniques in your own classroom teaching and learning. You can't just add game playing onto a lesson as an extra layer. Granted, using the winning of points as a motivator does work but winning points is only a small part of game play.You can us…

Gamification Day 2

Upon the advice of Alex Moseley, I thought about my "subjects, topics and learning objectives in game terms, rather than simply applying a layer on top". For today's Numeracy lesson I built up a strong narrative around the learning objective. I created a fictitious character, The Dangerous Spy, who was making his escape using his clever understanding of time. I broke the gamelearning into 3 stages, each having to be solved and demonstrated before moving onto the next stage and finally capturing the spy. And there was going to be a lesson observation by my Head Teacher too :-) Stage 1
Children had to demonstrate they could read the time using o clock, quarter past, half past and quarter to. This was used as my review lesson to gauge understanding of basic time concepts. For the class it was their first chase after the missing spy. With every moment that passed the spy would be getting further away so the discussions around the room centred immediately on who was able to com…

Gamification begins

I began using the techniques of gameplay as a learning style with my class today and it was a frantic, fast paced, period of learning. The buzz in the classroom was quite noticeable with another teaching assistant remarking at break how engaged the class were yet it was not all positive and that is to be expected with such a new approach.
Throughout these posts I will refer to gamification as gameplay learning (GPL) as that is the name my class have decided to call it.
I began the morning with a discussion about playing games. We created a list ofgameplaying techniquesthat gamers use when playing games. I then got the class to help me create a learning in the classroom list that compared with the gameplay list. The similarities had the class in slight disbelief that gameplaying is tied to learning but they soon made the connections. At this point I played my introduction video (watchhere) and they were literally sitting on the edge awaiting therules of GPL.These rules are a first draft …

Gamification in the classroom

What is gamification of learning? In it's basic form it is using the techniques behind gaming as a basis for classroom learning. Gaming involves problem solving, replaying parts of the game again and again until you get to the next level, finishing off an end of level adversary and can involve multiplayer opportunities where teams work together to solve the problems they face. As players progress through their games they collect power-ups, extra skills and always win points. A defeat encourages further gameplay until progress is made. Now imagine tying that into learning. Read more here.
How can it be connected to learning? The gamification of a classroom requires a lot of thought and careful planning. It can't be just used without some thought given over to the process of using gaming techniques as a method of learning. If you visualise your termly plan as a game to play through then that will give you a start. Each subject you teach during the term could be a mission that has t…

BYOD

BYOD - Bring Your Own Device
Imagine a classroom with a wide array of laptops, mobile devices and handheld games consoles all at the fingertips of the learners to use during class time. What would be your immediate reaction to this scene? Honestly? There has been quite a bit of discussion about this very idea among not just educators but those in industry too and there are those who champion it and those that vehemently oppose it. Yet the concept of 'Bring Your Own Device' (BYOD) really isn't all that new. For as long as there have been tools that could be used in the classroom for learning, learners have attempted to bring their own similar and at times comparatively better tools with them only to see them at first being confiscated, then banned, then allowed with parental consent and finally accepted as the norm.  From pens to rulers, pencil cases to calculators schools have taken objection to students bringing their own tools into classrooms usually due to poorly concei…

Is fun disappearing from learning?

I've spent 20 years of my life in educational establishments as a learner and I'm currently on my 14th year as a teacher in them. During my learner years the most vivid learning experiences I recall centred around individual and group projects, themes, and fun. As a teacher in these establishments I can safely say my best teaching has occurred when I have not followed a curriculum, nor taught to achieve end of year targets but solely because the teaching was centred around the needs of the learners, project based and fun. The word fun is quite important in my life as a learner and teacher. It has helped me and those around me to make sense of the world we live in, to understand the questions posed of us, to enrich our learning and teaching experiences. Learning does not require rigour as one politician would have us believe. Nor does it need pointless constant testing that only satisfy analysts and their league tables. Assessment is vitally important for the right reasons but s…

20 time

When I attended the Google Teacher Academy in July 2010 I discovered that Google gives its workers '20 percent time' so that they can work on projects that they are passionate about. '20 percent time' has been used to develop Gmail, Google Talk, Adsense, Orkut and a few other features that would never have seen the light of day unless this philosophy existed within Google. And that got me thinking. In school, we spend almost all of the time teaching from a National Curriculum and making sure that the children in our class meet the targets of that curriculum. Some of us stick to it rigidly, some of us don't. So trying to fit in any additional learning that doesn't necessarily come from that curriculum should be difficult to manage. Shouldn't it? the use of '20 time' or any type of project based learning theme is a very effective part of the learning journey that children can make in your class.
There's no room on the timetable
My timetable is full.…

Switching off the interactive white board for good

IWB's have had their day. I personally can't see any future for them in classrooms and the sooner schools stop buying into them the sooner the money can be spent on better educationally interactive tools. The hype surrounding these boards is what makes removing them from classrooms difficult. Many teachers will reel in shock if they were told that their IWB will be removed but if you ask them what they really use the board for, you will discover that it in general, they use it just like a normal white board except they can 'put the internet on it'. Occasionally you will meet those in teaching who use their boards as an interactive learning tool, creating content that engages their class. But this is not the norm. Most schools will have older IWB's which only allow one user at a time, if you want real interaction you need to upgrade the board and that costs a lot of money especially if you are looking to upgrade the whole school. Training is also a cost factor - yes t…

Apple Distinguished Educator

During the first weekend of this month I attended the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Event in London along with just over 80 other educators from all over Europe. We spent 3 days in the hands of representatives from Apple Education who led the event and other ADE’s who came to guide us and present their work and research to us so that we too could start our own journey as an ADE.

Being an ADE involves 4 primary roles – advocate, advisor, author and ambassador. Each is connected to our relationship with Apple and the devices we use in our teaching and learning.

Advocate – passionate users of Apple technologies and able to present to others how to use these tools in education
Advisor – feedback to Apple how these technologies influence education
Author – publish examples of work using Apple technologies for others to learn from and use
Ambassador – build global communities to “expand the walls of the classroom”

Expanding the walls of the classroom was a theme that resonated throughout the…

An education that's alive

The ‘living bridges’ of Cherrapunji, North Eastern India are not built, they are grown. They take many centuries of careful guidance to grow in the desired direction. What is started by one member of a family may be finished by another many generations later. The bridge becomes stronger as it grows, some are over 500 years old, and they have been truly tested by rapids and floods with not so much as a scratch. The growing takes time, determination, a strength of character and a vision for its future.
Imagine an education with that sense of purpose.
Education today is not grown. It has already been built, upon a bedrock that the Romans left behind. But is the structure sound? Throughout the centuries, parts of it have been demolished to make way for new builds whilst older, established builds have been reinforced with scaffolding or even extended. But if you look carefully, this bridge has had various smaller bridges running parallel for many ages whose only purpose is to get an elite …

Learning Objectives

In a few weeks time I will be writing my own thoughts on the purpose of education for purpos/ed but before that I thought I might let you know where I stand with regards to education now.
The Learning Objective has been a bane in my teaching since I first heard of it back when I began teaching in 1997. I was enthusiastic and wanted to impress so followed the examples of others and went along with what was considered best practice. Three years went by and my enthusiasm had waned to the point of leaving teaching in the UK for teaching English in Venezuela then teaching in a primary school in Gran Canaria. I honed my skills there as we never had to follow best practice according to governmental guidelines but that of our own. It was a revelation and one which helped me become the better teacher I am today. It wasn't until I returned to the UK that I discovered the learning objective teaching and learning culture, and how pervasive it had become throughout the whole profession since I …

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