Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Questions to ask. Part II

How useful is homework?

How much time do we expect students to spend doing homework? It depends on the school but if I take a very rough average of one hour per school night then that would be 5 hours per week. Equivalent to one more day in school per week!

So, if I offered you an additional day's worth of every student's time for learning would doing the kind of tasks you normally set, or your colleagues set, be your first choice for that time?

Why do we value homework?

Some ideas that have been given to support the use of home work are

  • Independent learning. How much learning goes on? What kind of learning? My guess is quite a lot of it is low level, reinforcement and repetition. How could we possibly leave proper learning to students working alone and with a variety of learning environments in which to carry out this learning? Is homework the best way to support independent learning? If we started from the premise that we wanted independent learning would we come to the conclusion that setting homework tasks would be the best way to achieve this?

  • Parental involvement. How many schools teach parents what their role is regarding their child's homework activities? Need I say more? What about equality? I have a physics degree and I supported my daughter well. She is now a very successful engineer. We would never stop that kind of support and nor should we but homework does lend itself to advantaging the already advantaged. Or do we just mean parental involvement is to see that we do set homework? Schools are expected to set homework and we visibly meet those expectations.

  • I'll add some more later... The dog needs a cuddle.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Ask the question. Questions schools need to be asking themselves. Part I

Schools need to take charge of their own destiny. It is noticeable that schools that gain an Ofsted grade of outstanding are schools that manage the external pressures on themselves to such an extent that they can choose to implement or not implement changes that some other schools feel compelled to adopt. I know my own school was like that. We adopted the changes that we felt would move us on in the direction(s) we had chosen ourselves. We effectively ignored some of the "legislation" because it would have distorted our planned progress.

I want to suggest some questions that schools need to consider. I want some "sacred cows" to be questioned, as deeply as possible, rather than just nodded at. Honest responses rather than justifications such as "We have always done it like that"; "It's not broke, so don't fix it" and many other ways that micro politically control schools.

I do think that we should pay good attention to tradition. If it has worked for schools in the past then we ought to factor that into our review of our systems and processes but not to such an extent that we change nothing.

First, let's ask,

"Can we make better use of the lesson observation processes that go on in schools?"

Most lesson observation is carried out using the Ofsted model. Why? Why do we do these observations? Are we trying to replicate Ofsted three times per year so that we are ready for when they arrive and do the process properly?

No. That can't be the reason we expend all the effort and resource. Surely the reason is for improvement in student learning? Odd though. The Japanese car industry realised in the 1970s that inspection alone did not improve quality. In fact it did the reverse if there was too much inspection. Targets, checking, measuring did not make the pig weigh more - to paraphrase the old saying. Who now makes most of the world's cars?

So the question to ask becomes

"What is the best use of our time and resource to support improvement in student learning?".

I strongly believe that involvement in the actual lessons that are going on, that are the main business of a school is critical in a school's improvement.

How do we do this so that teachers teach better and students learn better?

Have that discussion and then worry about Ofsted later. If you get the improvement right Ofsted will love you. That would be nice!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Collaborative planning

I was asked by a participant in a programme I run why the collaborative planning (Triad planning of lessons) did not work as well for him as for the others on the course. This is usually a very positive and high impact part of the programme. I replied:

  • Trust. One has to trust the other members of the triad are carrying out the process for the best professional development reasons. If they try to show how good they are, or to show that they are better than the other triad members - ie it is perceived as a competitive process, then that will not deliver the best outcome.
  • Humility. If one does not accept that one can learn from others. Or we believe that the other members of the triad have nothing to add. Perhaps their style of teaching is not one that we see as having much relevance to our teaching.
  • Planning. We do not actually plan collaboratively. That means giving real value to the ideas of others. Variety of learning styles etc is at play here. Perhaps we do allow the planning to happen but do not then deliver to the spirit of that planning.
  • Permission. Perhaps we are not allowed to impact on the planning of the others in the triad. They do not allow collaboration so our role is simply to know compliance to their planning.
  • Feedback. Perhaps this is not given or received in a professionally challenging and positively developmental mode. We are inspecting rather than developing with colleagues. Or we don't value the process so don't try.

What do I think is potentially valuable about the process?

  • Working with other, outstanding teachers. Must be good to get their view on our job.
  • Collaborating and breaking down the glass door of professional isolation that might allow someone to be in our classroom but does not really allow them to be part of our development.
  • Dealing with the limitations we have because we have our own learning style set. So we plan lessons that would be good for us as a learning rather than for our students as learners.

  • We don't do it the way we have always done it but we consider other methods.

  • We HAVE to focus on the learning we want as the others in the planning triad MUST understand what we are trying to achieve. This gives us a learning focus rather than a task focus. (This a critical point.)
  • Trying out new ideas; some that we have seen on the OTP.
  • Exploring what it is like to take risks, try something new, in a safe environment. (This is a learning process and so we will try things that sometimes don't work as expected.)
  • Increasing our repertoire of techniques with a deeper understanding compared to just observing good practice.

  • Improving our ability to provide quality feedback on learning rather than on delivery. Focus on student learning rather than teacher actions.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

QR Codes

Ok. Just started thinking about this new type of barcode.

As far as I can see a QR code, hopefully as seen in the image with this post, contains information which can be input into a mobile phone, by taking a scan of it. The QR Code can be scanned if it is printed on paper or even scanned if on screen. I use an iPhone and a super scanner app called Qrafter.

But how can this be useful in education? In secondary and primary schools?

Friday, 4 February 2011

Using Twitter as an Education Tool - Search Engine Watch (SEW)

Using Twitter as an Education Tool - Search Engine Watch (SEW): "Facilitate Active Learning

Educause produced a PDF article that talks about using Twitter to help engage students to facilitate active learning. It points out that 'Metacognition, which is the practice of thinking about and reflecting on your learning -- has been shown to benefit comprehension and retention. As a tool for students or professional colleagues to compare thoughts about a topic, Twitter can be a viable platform for metacognition, forcing users to be brief and to the point -- an important skill in thinking clearly and communicating effectively. In addition, Twitter can provide a simple way for attendees at a conference to share thoughts about particular sessions and activities with others at the event and those unable to attend.'"

Friday, 28 January 2011

What is learning, a process or an outcome

In response to a question, "What is learning, a process or an outcome", I got this response, copied verbatim, from one of my ex secondary school students. Made me proud that she would give such a thoughtful response.

Hi Peter,
Kelly D***** commented on your post.
Kelly wrote "well, the fact uve used the word 'learning' surely means that we're speaking in present tense which would signify that ure still within the process. if we've 'learnt/learned' something, then that to me would show an end result of some sort which could be seen as an outcome. that said, we have learned all sorts throughout our lives but i dont believe that means that we're not still able to learn something new about these same subjects or matters. u learn to drive, obtain ur licence as proof that u have a sufficient amount of knowledge about driving but each day u can learn something new about the art of operating a car...even many years down the line. i think if u think u know all there is to know on any one particular subject, uve closed ur mind to learning more and personally, i think there's always more therefore, in answer to ur question, after all of the above lol, a 'process' would probably be the best way to describe what it is to learn."

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Yeah, more tests, please.

I have to say that I hoped this was/is true. I used to give more tests than the average teacher in the UK. Certainly in the schools I taught physics in. I just felt, rather than knew, that it was good - for physics learning. I used as wide a variety of testing as I could. Short, ten question tests, half termly exam practice questions etc.

What is your view about testing, given this evidence?

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Twitter for homework

For teachers: You can give out homework at the end of the lesson and trust that students write it down and write it correctly. Takes time for them to do that.

Could you use this time more profitably? And still set homework?

Perhaps you want a little time to think of the best homework to set and to invent it at the end of the lesson is not the best way to set an appropriate homework.

Perhaps you have homework already mapped out for the whole term. Perhaps not.

Have you thought of emailing homework to all your students? A bit of a pain as you have to keep their email addresses up to date.

What about using Twitter?

Yes, students have to log onto Twitter to receive the homework but that has advantages.

Advantage 1 - You can include links to web pages and other resources in the Tweet.

Advantage 2 - You have to compress the homework to 140 characters. You have to think about that.

Advantage 3 - Students HAVE to seek out the homework. They have to be motivated to do this and we know that intrinsic motivation is better than extrinsic for creative work. See "Drive" by Daniel Pink.

Advantage 4 - You set homework once, and don't have to think about email addresses at all. All students need is a Twitter address to look for the homework. (You know that you can have more than one Twitter address - see, for example, Hootsuite which can manage more than one Twitter name)

For me all of these are good but advantages 3 and 4 are the most attractive.


Blog post automatically reposted to Twitter

Have you tried yet? Seems to work. This post stared life as a post in Blogger and will, I hope, appear in Twitter, soon.

Last test

Can it do text above the pic and...

Test of pic and text

Does this post both to my blog?

Oooh... It works! Great stuff.

Oooh... It works! Great stuff.

Now, how can I send a picture with text?

Sent from my iPhone
ManYana Education
Building Tomorrow, Today

Just a test to see if I can email this to my blog from noted on my lovely, new iPhone.

Just a test to see if I can email this to my blog from noted on my
lovely, new iPhone.

Sent from my iPhone
ManYana Education
Building Tomorrow, Today

What has this to do with coaching?

Quick Blog - an iPhone app I just discovered for making quick blog updates

What else is there to say. Just check it works.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

More on Twitter for teachers

Twitter for Teachers

This post will be a list. I like lists. Easy to write...

As a teacher you should be on Twitter because:

  • It is a communication device and teaching is about communication
  • Your students may well be on Twitter and it is good to know what they know

  • Other teachers from your school may be on Twitter

  • Teachers from other schools may be on Twitter

  • Teachers from other schools in other countries may be on Twitter

  • You converse with the ideas not with the person. The teacher you may be following (Twitter term for reading their posts) may be an NQT, or an Ex Headteacher, or me! You can think about the idea, not the personality.

  • You can say something dumb and it does not stick. You can ask the "silly" question you would never ask, face to face. "How do you use KS3 results to estimate GCSE results?"

  • You can create a network of folk you enjoy communicating with. You also then can link with their network. This can get a bit big!!

  • You can unfollow someone. They don't Tweet stuff that interests you, so you just click unfollow. Happens all the time.

  • You can ask for help, advice, or just ideas.

  • You only have 140 characters, including spaces so you have to encapsulate your idea. A good skill.

  • You can try out a wacky idea and see what happens.

  • You can repost, retweet, someone else's interesting idea, or resource, or website link.

  • You can attach a link to a picture. (To show what you had for breakfast)

There are many more ideas and reasons for teacher to Twitter.

If you sign up to Twitter and you want someone gentle to follow then I post as @peterbbb1

Hope to see you there, sometime. Hello, Jess. Want to lie down on my arm again?

Twitter for Teachers

Twitter, a micro-blogging service.

I have been using Twitter for less than a year now and I was quite suspicious and not convinced that it would be at all useful. One of my ex colleagues said, "You on Twitter! That's for celebrities to say what they had for breakfast".

That is true but with Twitter you choose who to listen to and who to talk to. If you want to know what someone calling themselves Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, had for breakfast, you can. I don't make that choice.

I prefer to link up, read the Tweets, you I know it is twee, of folk who seem to me have something to offer.

As the cat, Jess, is now lying on my hand on the keyboard I will stop and when she gets off, what a life our cats have, I'll add another blog. I want to explore why teachers might want to use Twitter.

Back in a while. Sometimes she sleeps for an hour...

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

What behaviour bugs you the most?

As a teacher what student behaviour is most annoying? Is it the same as the most difficult to deal with?

What annoys you most? Inattentiveness? Off task? Talking? Slowness?

Tell me. Please.

Twitter is good. Use @peterbbb1