Monday, December 26, 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 applaud the amazing work educators do.How dare you.

You consistently blame others for missed targets rather than accept your changes have been to blame.How dare you.

Who do you think you are? You do nothing to promote education. You promote enforced academia, rigour and discipline over creativity, collaboration and respect. You rush to shut schools to promote others that don’t need opening showing a complete disregard for those who have striven hard to make them happy places for learning.How dare you.

Happiness is not on your agenda, nor creativity, collaboration, community or vision. My resolution for the new year is quite straightforward. I will seek to stop this blight you cause at every opportunity. I will ensure my classroom continues to learn freely and happily. They will learn when they are ready not when your league tabled results nor inspectorate system says they should be. Because we are all different, we are not data, we are not numbers to be counted, we are not ticks on sheets, we are not comments, we are not driven by assessment, we are not comparisons.

We are all learners, we are learning to learn in our own ways, in our own time, whenever, wherever we wish. We will challenge ourselves, we will applaud each other. We shall not blame, tarnish, strike down failure but rise to it and flourish in the directions it will take our learning.

We are learners and we will learn because we want to.

This is a lost post found by using

Friday, December 23, 2011

YouTube for schools - Pass or fail?

Image courtesy of Alvimann 
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 restrictions for the last 15 years of my teaching career and my initial reaction was not to sign up to something so limiting. Fail.

But I consider myself a teacher that tries out new technologies, for better or worse, so that others can learn from my adventures. Let's go back to the descriptive tags. 'School-appropriate' gives schools access to material they deem suitable which means any video a school thinks is educational can be added to that school's YouTube for Schools site. As a teacher or admin, you have access to the complete wealth of material that is available on YouTube which you can then decide for yourself whether it is school appropriate or not. YouTube for Schools requires signing up for a school account, the creation of one admin account and then changes having to be made in the school network configurations. Additional video content can then be added to a school playlist which can be accessed by all users within the school's YouTube site. Admins can also grant unrestricted access to any user in the school site. Pass.

Is YouTube for Schools nothing more than a walled garden? Not quite. It's a walled garden with a large gate. You can restrict content to a water shed of predefined videos which contain quite a few chalk and talk presentations. Not very inspiring at all. But the gate can be opened and you have access to any video you as the admin or staff deem appropriate. You will still be able to search for that one moment that perfectly enhances the learning in your classroom and then mark on the playlist for the school to access. Students will be able to access YouTube at school with no worries that they will view unsuitable material, especially important in Primary schools. Pass.
It's too early to say whether YouTube for Schools will be successful or not but it's definitely not the closed garden that is being suggested. I'm not passing or failing it, yet.

What do you think, pass or fail?

After going over this post I have reconsidered one particular option, 'admins can also grant unrestricted access to any user in the school site' in the school-appropriate description. As the school ICT coordinator/Lead Technology Teacher I would consider myself as the holder of the school admin account and use it to set up other teachers with additional features to add content they too deem suitable. However, what if the school admin account is held by a member of staff that doesn't want additional content to be added? What if the admin account is held by technical staff that wish to keep access to YouTube content locked down? That's one too many ifs for me and therefore is a big FAIL.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Set learning free in 100 words.

Image courtesy of Jamsheed

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.