Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Topic planning

I thought I'd do a bit of cloud-sourcing, ask my PLN to help me with some planning ideas that I've got milling around my head.

The topic is, rather morbidly, DEATH, and I was hoping that some people could help me with enough ideas to last a term. Please have a look at the topic web below. It is in its infancy & will develop over time, but feel free to add ideas to it, I'll upload them as soon as I can.

Thanks in advance!


Read some of the Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Monday, 6 December 2010

Moby & Me - How an orange robot helped my class' imagination to soar.

Beginnings

I’ve always liked using the web to find tools that help my class to learn – even if at first the learning takes a back seat to the playing!

I first discovered BrainPOP at BETT in 2010; where a fellow teacher, Tom Sale, was exalting its merits on their stand as a BrainPOPer. If I’m honest, there was a lot I didn’t understand or chose to ignore at first. I spoke to Chris & Eylan, two fanastically enthusiastic people, who convinced me to go home and trial it. I left BETT that day dazzled by the array of talented teachers that BrainPOP had invited onto their stand to simply talk about the impact it had had on their respective classes. With their testimonials & Chris’ sales pitch, I vowed to use it straight away.

I went back to my school, walked into the finance manager’s office to find there was no budget left until April (the school was in the final phase of rolling out laptops across all classes & with a school of 570 kids, there wasn’t much left). I also had the difficulty of being in Year 1. BrainPOP didn’t cater for children that young then, but I have recently been pointed in the direction of BrainPOP Jr, which is American, but as yet I haven’t trialled that. 

April came and went in a blur, the ash cloud stranded the Year 6 teacher in Australia and it was all hands to the pumps, I went from Year 1 to Year 6 to cover her absence and all my thoughts of developing digital content went out of the window. Then came TeachMeet Bpool, an event that Tom & I were organising. BrainPOP came straight onboard and were amazingly generous – considering how neither Tom or I had a subscription. That was the key turning point for me. This company has supported and encouraged teachers to use it, without catches. They suggest having month long free trials, are flexible when you want extensions and help you by answering questions – even though they have no real justification to. In short, they are passionate about helping teachers.

Orange Robots & writing

I, at this point, had been successful at interview for a job at a new school, a position with senior management responsibility & a in a position to implement change. A chance email to BrainPOP’s Chris alerted me to a competition that they would be running in November & December 2010. This competition involved creating a short film in 3 settings, Horror, romance or adventure. I organised a 30 day trial of BrainPOP and set to work:

Being in Year 5, I was able to slot this in perfectly to the Film Narrative unit & the class promptly set to work developing ideas (& a lot of cameo roles) that they could use. Since Halloween had just past, the class unanimously chose the ‘horror’ genre & set about walking around like extras from Shaun of the Dead. As I was about to berate them for knowing far too much about a film rated 15, a conversation started that drew me in.

“When you watch Tim & Moby, Tim always explains what Moby’s saying and he’s generally saying something a bit like a joke.” The person saying this was one of my reluctant boy writers. He was talking to his friend, another reluctant writer and full time daydreamer.
“Yeah, I like it when they hold up the letter” (enter lightbulb moment) “Hold on!” the boy in question got up and went to my higher ability, who were busy making notes about how we could turn our school into a tackier version of a student fancy dress shop.

I followed the conversation as closely as I could without being obvious in my eavesdropping and listened as he explained that we needed to, not only get the setting right, but think about the other BrainPOP videos & make sure our video copied the layout & style of theirs.

RIP Tim & Moby!
After hearing this, I collected the class & set them to work on their play scripts, ensuring that all the children had a chance to hear this lad’s suggestion.

They created fantastic work, with lots of original ideas, both quirky & straightforward. The children then drew their ideas together the next day, with me acting as scribe handpicking the great ideas that each of them had thought of. Somebody’s letter here; another’s stage direction there; until piece by piece a complete play script emerged from the collective work of all the children.

3 weeks in and the children have split themselves into production teams, one focusing on a different element required to complete the task quickly. A set design team, actors, stage & film crew & post-film editing. All the children chose the roles themselves & have been independently honing skills that will benefit them in their role. Even the more assertive of children were following instructions from others; they were taking turns and thinking objectively, knowing that they needed to work together.

My 30 day trial has run out, but I’ve signed up to BrainPOP for a 24/7 access subscription, as the videos are emotive & engage with the children. I can’t imagine they’d be happy not to have access to the fantastic videos and the consistently sarcastic beeping from Moby. They play ‘BrainPOP’ on the playground & the conversations it has generated have been worth the subscription cost alone.

The filming was last week, but the creative spark generated by the BrainPOP competition and the Orange Robot will last far into the academic year. Regardless of whether we win or not; the real winners are my Year 5s, who have gained both enthusiasm & the knowledge that they can achieve anything by working together & giving it a go.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Reflections on TMX

I had a great time tonight at TeachMeet X, organised by Jan Webb (@janwebb21) Helen Morgan (@NellMog) & Zoe Ross (@zoeross19). The presentations were great. All informative, all of benefit.

This didn't feel like a course tonight. It felt like one of those staff meetings where everyone actually listens & actively engages. I was up near the end of the night and, to be honest, was feeling outclassed by the brilliant presentations that I had watched over the course of the evening.

The redoubtable Peter Richardson (@primarypete_) kicked off proceedings with 4 tools to use in school. I specifically liked the way he used posterous to create a weekend diary for his class teddy. Very good way of embedding awareness of technology & also a good way to reinforce to other adults that children simply accept that this is how to communicate these days (even with Year 1s)

He was followed by a plethora of great presentations, Ian Addison's (@ianaddison) Voki presentation showed how effective uses of simple animation can stimulate & enthuse children - even if the Gingerbread man's voice was scary....

David Mitchell (@DeputyMitchell) followed up with his inspirational use of blogging in schools with children, entitled: "Sprogs with  Blogs". He talked about how the simplest of ideas can become the most effective. It was really good to hear that he uses the shared expertise of his Professional Learning Network to develop and support the learning of the children in his school. Twitter working on many levels!

Colin Graham (@ColinTGraham) talked about how Leonardo Da Vinci found the angel inside each piece of marble, looking at different solutions to problems and figuring out how to achieve goals. He also talked about manipulatives too, by showing them on his blog: http://www.colintgraham.com.

Colleen Morgan (@colleenJMorgan) presented about Metacognition & how trending software could be used in schools and development of children's learning based on their needs, linking with a range of pedagogy. It was really interesting stuff and I'm not ashamed to say I didn't understand it all, but was, nonetheless, blown away by the implications it could have.

Kevin McLoughlin(@kvnmcl) gave a quick presentation on why people should use social networking & what impact it's had on him. Brilliant, down to earth presentation that reinforces why we do these types of events.

He then followed up talking about Domo Animate & Aviary Education. Domo Animate looks awesome. I will definately investigate that and post at some point about what I've done with it! Aviary Education linked to what Peter Richardson was talking about before, & @nellmog interjected with the point that it's a great (FREE) starting point for all budding photoshoppers @janwebb21 talked about apps4class wiki

David Mitchell returned to the floor to talk about the amazing hidden features in google & how these could be used in class situations.

Bill Lord (@joga5) followed up; with a brilliant & entertaining presentation on how children shouldn't be always forced to read for a purpose, such as finding adjectives, but should be allowed to read for the sheer joy of actually reading. He gave some fantastic examples of books, including his read for joy wiki. All information can be found on his blog: http://lordlit.wordpress.com.

Retweeted by  and 2 others

Mike McSharry (@mikemcsharry) brought us all down to size by reinforcing how amazingly oversized pictures we use in school are. He showed resizr.com as a tool for reducing the amount of redundant space that oversized photos use. Amazingly simple & obvious - now that he showed us, that is!

Colin Graham took to the floor and talked about the importance of differentiation. Lots of good info, but unfortunately ran out of time at the end.

Then I popped along (@mister_jim) and started to chat about how I have implemented change in schools and what I think has helped. video is on YouTube



I was followed by Julian Woods (@ideas_factory) who gave a thoughtful & inciteful presentation on Storytelling using QR codes made at www.delivr.com & iPod Touches. The idea is brilliant and I'm sure he'll post about it soon. Really thought provoking stuff.

He followed up with a whistle stop tour of 20 bits of tech you can use with your kids for FREE.
CLick here for the full list with links

In between those two presentations, Bev Evans (@bevevans22) popped up virtually and showed us how fantastic Audacity can be, when used properly. An example of it being used by her class can be found here.

The simple truth is, I got more than one good idea out of it, I got loads. Loads and loads to be honest. I can't wait for the next one, where I can hopefully share how I've taken someone's ideas and done a bit with them myself.

Thanks to everyone for a cracking night.

Monday, 6 September 2010

New Starts

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.  ~Anatole France
 Wow. A deep quote for the start of a new year. I think that this year more than any it is time to leave behind a part of my teaching self. As a result of this, I have purposely removed previous planning or ideas from my teaching and am starting from scratch as of now.


Change isn't something that you undertake painlessly, but the outcomes will be worth the graft. I am in the process of changing from teacher to middle leader and there are elements of my personality & style that will have to take a back seat - especially when it comes to voicing my opinions (which those of you who know me will realise I have no problem with!).


I think that, for the last few days, I have been trying to fit in what I used to do at my old school, with what I must do at my new school. Big Mistake Number One. 


What I will be doing is shifting my perspective to take what fits from my old school and help to enhance what we have at my new one. That way, I can grow into the role safe in the knowledge that I am not cobbling other people's ideas together in a mish-mashed way.


I'll let you know how I get on.  

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

In loco parentis - via a webcam?

He who rejects change is the architect of decay.  The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.  ~Harold Wilson.

This afternoon I started to join in to #edchat on Twitter. The conversation was heavily leaning towards the emergence of online learning and it's potential impact on education in the future.
A lot of people were voicing the new regime of online or virtual learning, against the more conservative, traditional view. This got me thinking about jumping on the bandwagon before the path has been thought out. I am of the opinion that the best changes often happen slowly, affording seamless transitions between sections. This, in itself, is a great management technique, although there is, on occasion, the need to rip out bad practice quickly and noisily.
But I digress, as usual. Where was I? Change.

Because things are the way they are,

things will not stay the way they are.

Bertold Brecht

Trust a playwright to sum things up so well. I welcome change, but I do not rush to the dam and open the floodgates, as I fear the effect will not be well received. I think that a shift in educational priorities is essential for effective teaching to take place. As I said in a previous post, we are teaching tomorrow's teachers, today. We must be careful, as we were yesterday's learners.
I think that all the discussion in regard to teachers not being face to face with their classes is pie in the sky - at this point. As a primary school teacher, the main role I have to play is not using the Educator Hat (nod to DeBono), nor the Facilitator Hat, but the Nurturing one. We, as teachers, act as in loco parentis. The last time I looked, no one was suggesting their job should be done via a computer.
I would not class myself as a traditionalist, 'jug & empty vessel' type of teacher. More the opposite, in fact but I can't help thinking that jumping to a complete reliance on distance learning will not answer the problems properly.
I think that the speed at which the digital revolution has taken hold of education has been the largest factor in school change. A catalyst of sorts, affording us, as teachers, the opportunity to try new things out and utilise new technologies in class. It has also reduced even the most tech-minded adult to a second-class citizen. An Analogue visitor in the world of the Digital Native. I think our biggest worry is being left behind. As a result of this, we panic into changing too quickly, without first thinking about the whole picture.
I think there needs to be some corroboration and organisation of the integration of online learning in classroom contexts. What is to be classed as what?
In primary, a child goes online to play a game, say http://www.poissonrouge.com  - a great website to introduce children to basic mouse control, puzzle & interactivity. Is this classed as Online Learning? As a teacher, I merely told the child to go on it, I needn't have been in the room but, when I turn my back and the child accidentally clicks on minimise, I need to be in the room to show them how to correct their mistake.
I understand that I am probably not getting the point. That's true, but education isn't about what's easiest or most readily available. If learning was supposed to be like McDonalds, we'd all be getting the McDiploma in 5 clicks, but we don't. We look back on the hard yards and cherish them, mostly because we recognise that they were the ones that helped us become who we are today. I wouldn't have made the hard yards on my own. I would have quit. Does that mean that in tomorrow's education system, am I just the webcam that doesn't tune in? Am I the plagiarised German essay translated badly by Google? I hope not.
I honestly believe that it is the human interaction which shapes the learner into a person able to adapt to change themselves, rather than simply using the most convenient method at the time. My view is obviously based on primary education, where the need to support physically as well as mentally is balanced. I'm sure that, as we move further up the education scale, the balance shifts, affording more  freedom & independence as befits the learners. But please, don't write the importance of human interaction out of the education process. 80% of our communication is through non-verbal & often subtle body language & mannerisms. Hard to pick up via a pixellated webcam.
I'll leave with a line that, although not education based, fits quite well I think:

There's a reason why people go to stores. It's for good old-fashioned customer service that involves human interaction. We seem to be getting away from that somehow.

Quant Je Puis - To the best of my ability

It’s funny how quickly 5 years passes in the blink of an eye. On Friday, I’ll leave Hawes Side Primary School, in Blackpool, the school that I started my teaching career at. It’ll be strange, starting at a new school – with different coloured uniform for a start off! There’ll be new expectations, roles and colleagues too. Like anyone would, I worry that I won’t be what they are expecting; some strange unknown quantity who’ll park in the wrong car parking space and usetheir cup to make a brew at break time. I worry about my way of thinking in regard to education. Has it been rigidly shaped by the organisation I work for, or is it flexible; able to settle over the unfamiliar new routines with aplomb?
I am fortunate, too, to have created some fantastic links with people in different schools and authorities with whom I can talk to. I believe that communication is a pivotal to staff development as anything & affording ourselves opportunities for professional dialogue is a priority that I am wholeheartedly taking with me to the new management team.
Mostly though, I’m grateful to my current head teacher. He is a visionary who has an unerring knack of backing the right horses, in terms of initiatives (although he’d be the first to admit there have been a few non-starters at times). He has introduced me to a range of learning pedagogy & practitioners that I would otherwise have been ignorant of. It was he that talked me into using Twitter (a fact that I often use in defence against my wife’s arguments) and we still have conversations about different technology that we use in and out of school.
I think you know when you’re ready for a change, but deciding to make the change was harder than I thought. I was eager to move on, but reluctant to leave as I really feel my whole teaching identity is intrinsically linked to my experiences at Hawes Side & the ideology of the school.
I also worry about taking on a management role. I sometimes wonder whether Homer Simpson has better multitasking abilities that me. I’m sure he and I are on a par when it comes to paperwork, though! I am worried that people will view me as a threat, a joke and a b^llsh!tter all at the same time.  How will I cope with being the link to the Head & Deputy? Will I still be able to bitch in the staffroom with the teaching assistants or will they all stop talking when I walk in, worried that their conversations will be reported directly to the boss? It’s new territory & the fact that I’m going to mess up at some point regardless of how hard I try and get it right is inevitable.
That simple fact reminded me of two quotes, both of which are displayed in my classroom and both of which I have talked to previous classes whenever failure or the unknown was a possible outcome for them.
“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practise being brave.” Mary Tyler Moore
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius
With these in mind I stop typing and start thinking positively about my next steps, safe in the knowledge that whatever the task, I will do it to the best of my ability, Quant Je Puis”.

Consultancy and me - part 2

Well, the nerves have cleared now and the day is done.
The morning started off well at a fantastic, newly built school called Murton Community Primary School (or 'The Ribbon' as it's known locally). Their resources are phenomenal. Loads of iMacs, Dell notebooks & plasma screens instead of whiteboards.
I started off with twitter, displaying the fantastic response from my PLN and their tips as to why you should use twitter. The staff were all geared up to signing up, when twitter reported being 'over capacity'.. grrr! Still, most people said they would go away and sign up. A fantastic response about the generosity with which the people I know on twitter share. Thank you, for convincing others of how beneficial it can be.
We then looked at primarypad. A great piece of kit, I'm sure you'll all agree. I went down the road of explaining that technology - however fancy - needs to be used in the correct context, in a structured and beneficial way. There's no point using it when a piece of paper will do the job more effectively. That seemed to get their attention. Eh? Isn't this guy all about tech? Why's he not telling us we have to use it?
I like the idea of thinking clever, not thinking lots.
After showing the staff twitter & primarypad - both of which went down really well, the unthinkable happened. At 10:30, a mere 1hr into my day, the servers crashed. Completely.
We took an early break. In my head I was repeating various obscenities & wondering whether the staff there would want to come back afterwards. They did. Luckily, my blagging abilities came into their own and we talked about various things that I would be showing them (if the server fixed itself...), StoryBird, VoiceThread, Learning Logs, Blogging & I talked about how I use  it - For an hour and a half. After lunch, which was lovely, we were told the problem wouldn't be resolved today, but a school 20 mins away had a room we could use. The problem was, there wasn't enough tech for them to be interactive (which was one of the main points of the day). I felt that the staff there were receptive though, understanding that we had to make the best of it.
After a whistle stop tour of blogging, a look at storybird & voicethread we finished early. I'd have kept it going for longer if they were able to participate, but I get conscious of how tedious it can be to simply listening to someone at the front who won't let you actually have a go at using what they're talking about - and how many training sessions has that happened at....
Still, tomorrow is a new day, the technical issues from today have been resolved (hopefully) and there are teachers & children to work with tomorrow. I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone via twitter who contributed today, either on the wallwisher or on #tweetmister_jim. It's very much appreciated.
I'll let you know how tomorrow goes... tomorrow!

Consultancy and me

Tomorrow I am working with a group of teachers at Murton Primary School, Co. Durham, who are coming to learn about engaging through technology. It's a big leap for me as I've never really done any sort of teacher training before.
The usual questions leap to mind. Will I be any good? Will they get anything out of it? That sort of thing. I also think of the cost of getting me here, accomodation, day rates, supply cover for the teachers attending. It starts to make me nervous. Am I really able to provide good value for money?
In my worrying, I turn to the content of my day's work: I'm introducing Twitter as a way of creating additional communication for students in the classroom and also for teachers to expand their professional learning network.
I'm looking at PrimaryPad and the impact it can have when used correctly.
After that, I'm talking about storybird & voicethread. Two fantastic tools that can be used in creative and effective ways - and that can be linked in seamlessly to existing plans.
I'm also talking about our learning logs. The homework that revolutionalised parental & child attitudes towards home learning.
Finally I end with blogging. What we've done, why it's worked and how they can make it work in their schools.
All in all, when I reflect on the content, I know I'll deliver the goods. It just worries me that I won't be able to do it perfectly. Still, as Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." Let's hope I have the chance to turn my act of consultancy into a habit.

New(ish) technologies I like vol.1

Right, this week I've been having a play with some different things that I can use in classroom situations. I've interested in storytelling at the moment and affording children an opportunity to share their work.
1. Storybird
This is by no means new, but I've found it really useful for a range of topics and year groups. It's ability to pitch at specific age ranges is great for focusing upper juniors into writing for an audience.
storybird
The pictures are emotive and the vast selection of topics ensures individuality in the finished product. It's really easy to make an account &  the kids get loads of enjoyment out of it.

2. Zooburst
I've only had a quick play on this, but the possibilities of this for classroom use are quite varied.
To sign up for an account, you simply fill in a quick form and Craig, who I think created it, emails you back within a day.
The bit I like is that you can use your own pictures or photos so, combine this with a visualiser or a class camera, and you can start to really personalise it.
zooburst1
It would be useful in topic lessons, where you could create non-fiction pop-up books, or recounts of learning. In fact, it could be used as a review tool, asking children to create a book based on their learning of the unit.

3.  Voicethread
This is a great website for both staff & pupils to develop speaking and listening. For examples of how this has been best used, you need to go to www.primarypete.net the website of Peter Richardson, a Year 4 teacher in Preston. He's created peer assessment opportunities and we, as teachers, have moderated work to ensure consistent levels. It's a really adaptable tool which affords collaborative approaches to learning.
Right, more to come at some point, but these are a few of my favourite things!

TeachMeet Blackpool June 16th 2010

Before I go into detail of the event itself, I'd like to thank everyone that turned up - physically or virtually. It was really great to see you all.
Tom and I had such a blast in January that we thought it'd be a good idea to run another TeachMeet. Well, that was the beginning of a whole horde of silly ideas we had. But do you know what? They were the best type of silly ideas. They were silly ideas that worked.
Last Wednesday, just shy of 140 teachers descended on our school. They came both locally, nationally & internationally. In fact, one teacher from Germany was so impressed that he's gone back already plotting his own take on it. I'll admit now, I don't really remember much about the event, which is why it's taken me so long to actually post on it - I've had to read other people's blogs and go, "oh yeah, that was good." or "I presented...really?" This post isn't going to be a generic recap of the event, however. I'll endeavour to keep it short, light and humourous.  We were fortunate enough to have Professor Stephen Heppell open the event. His first words were great, epitomising the whole movement when he said,
 "this is the most fun and the most autonomy you can have in your whole career, so why wouldn't you enjoy it?"
Well put. We did enjoy it as well. There was one major difference in the way that this teachmeet was organised in as much as some schools attended instead of staff meetings. The support from Senior Management afforded all staff the opportunity of finding out about new technologies from the TeachMeet regulars. This is fantastic, in my opinion, as it provides them with an instant fix of technology that they can become enthused about. I've bumped into teachers from other schools over the past few days and they have all said how much they enjoyed it and how they have used things that were presented on.
Power to the Masses.
I'm not implying a revolution in the way CPD is run, but the feedback forms all suggested that they were prepared to stay til 7 or 8 -granted my timekeeping meant that people were still here at 9:30 (if it's any consolation I still blush about that now). Interestingly, most people have asked for it to be run as a shared inset day - which I think could have great potential as a quango busting economic alternative.
One, slightly, errm, jaundiced teacher was happy that she had someone else finding things for her. I smiled as I knew secretly that she had really enjoyed herself and has subsequently used poissonrouge and storybird in her class - to great effect!
The goal that Tom & I had was to open up the TeachMeet model to everyone. Especially as so many teachers were unaware of it. I'm pleased to say we managed to do that and I think we did it pretty well.
When we totted up the numbers, we saw that over 80% of attendees were either teachers, or working in schools (heads/deputies etc). Compared with other large scale TMs, this is by far the best attended by classroom practitioners and I couldn't be happier.
Of course, this event would never have been as successful as it was without the support of lots of different organisations and businesses. It also wouldn't have been a success without people giving up their time to help. Leon Cych, our director behind the lens, spent not only 9 hrs in school on the Weds itself, but also edited and uploaded and tweaked into the wee hrs after that - and still now! Chris Ratcliffe provided some truely brilliant goody bags (blackpool rock & the 'eye pad' notwithstanding) and Andrea Carr's generosity (£250 worth of e-books per person) was heartwarming. Others also supported with similar aplomb. Chris from BrainPopUk came up from Oxford to support us, and gave away a full year's subscription worth over £750. The plus side of this? All this went to teachers. They can use it in their classes. Now.
The SSAT, Vital, TES Resources, PTS, 2Simple, PrimaryPad all donated either time, money or resources which allowed the event to be organised and those who were there were professional in their approach. They didn't sell, theysupported. And we were grateful for that support.
My favourite part of the event was looking at people who were told it would last til 6, stay til 8. That, to me, spoke volumes about the impact they perceived it was having on them.
I'll stop rambling now, but if you go to the links below, you can see the posts of people who came, who spoke and who inspired.
Leon Cych interviews me about teachmeet
Better posts to read than mine:
Leon Cych's Video Channel - Presentations from TeachMeet Blackpool
Jan Webb (Microsoft European Innovative Teacher Award Winner 2009) http://bit.ly/bIPOmA 
Bev Evans (ICT Teacher & creator of www.communication4all.co.ukhttp://bit.ly/bczx6r
Zoe Ross (Head of IT) http://bit.ly/9SVuj6
Dianne Spencer (Head of Heathfield Primary) http://bit.ly/btrz5o
Michael Shepherd (Head of Hawes Side) http://wp.me/pvUIF-4p

TM Future? No, vive le TeachMeet Evolution

I've been reading various posts about the proposed future of TeachMeet & its events and I worry that the very act of regulating it, will cause people to shy away from a movement that I have got a tremendous amount of information, ideas & enjoyment out of.
I came across TeachMeets last year, and since then have been to 4, organised 2 & caught up on more than 3 others online. I have used ideas and implemented them into my teaching - and shared them with colleagues who have subsequently implemented them themselves!
I can't pretend to know the origins of TMs, but I know what I perceive them to be now. I perceive TeachMeets to be a refreshing alternative to formal CPD. We live and work in an increasingly informal environment, where we take learning opportunities when they arrive, rather than following prescribed textbook activities - at least most of us, anyway.
Over the last few years, CPD has changed for teachers in schools in the UK. With the inclusion of PPA time, schools simply haven't been able to afford to send teachers on as many courses as they used to - and teachers feel hesitant about losing their PPA time to go. This presents a quandary that TeachMeet offers a solution to. Could schools club together to utilise each other's existing resources? Could teachers share experiences in a way that is mutually beneficial and, most importantly, non-threatening? The very format of TMs is a fantastic model for staff meetings & insets (or even assess & review days).
Obviously, then, I was a bit worried when I read that:

Organising TeachMeets should not be easy.

Why? If it is to be organised by teachers - who already have tremendous amounts of work thrust upon them, why make it hard to organise? Isn't this just another elitist restriction to ensure the purity of the TeachMeet Brand?
I suggest an alternative. A TeachMeet Evolution. Rather than creating a Limited Company who would oversee the events & structure it - therefore potentially restricting the content & organisation of individual teachmeets (say those that are rough & ready or extremely informal), I suggest looking at the component parts of the TeachMeets - specfically the way in which it is organised - for teachers & by teachers; random presentation selections; inclusion of free & accessible techs; social as well as informative; informal; specific; useable talks.
I think that these components should be transferrable. Let's face it, TeachMeet doesn't fit the general masses in regards to CPD. It is embraced by those who want to challenge themselves, or push the boundaries. Surely the Evolution would be by allowing these adventurers to take the model and force it to evolve to fit the needs of the people around them, rather than forcing the people around them to evolve to the needs of the TeachMeet Hegemony.
This would allow a real polychotomy adding strength in depth to an amazingly unique and effective idea plus it would actually reach the teachers who wouldn't necessarily turn up to the existing TeachMeet setup.
Now before I end, I want to add that I fully believe in the premise of TeachMeets, but I worry that if it is regulated, it will lose it's appeal and its charm.


People in glass houses...

Every so often, you start to think about things in more detail. With me it is not a regular occurance. I have what my wife calls selective ignorance syndrome (my apologies if this actually exists - as far as I know she made it up). All the more reason why this particular wave of fresh thinking has perturbed me. Over the last few years, I have been amending my teaching based on the needs of the children I taught and my own desire to better myself and become the teacher I wanted to be. No harm in that, but I was looking inwards, seeing myself as the only one who needed my help.
Selfish. In a way, yes. What I perceived was that by furthering myself as a teacher, I would be better able to meet the needs of the learners in my care. If I had been a deeper thinker, or a more humble person, I might have considered how I could help my colleagues by looking outwards. Be that as it may, I have reached a point in my career where I feel that a strong, well-rounded collective is far more beneficial to the long term success of children than any one maverick teacher - however good he purports to be.
That's one reason why I am ready for the next step. A new challenge where I am able to provide opportunities for others to develop their skills with my support - and where I can develop my own through theirs. There's really nothing groundbreaking about this type of thinking. What's new is that I seem to have somehow changed my perspective on my individual role. When did this happen? Seemingly overnight as far as I can tell.
With the disappearance in the UK of various Quangos & agencies due to the new hegemony, I fear that schools will potentially lose the support networks that they have relied upon for the last 10 years. Networks which supply CPD, resources, advisors & opportunities. That's why looking outward is more important than ever. We are all in glass houses, but rather than cover them up in our own individual maverick ways I suggest we could open the doors and paint the outsides of each others, showing our colleagues across districts, counties & countries that, actually, together we are able to provide CPD without the approval or consent of the status quo.
Take the upcoming event at our school - teachmeet Blackpool - for instance. Tom Sale & I went to an event last year, around autumn in Manchester & were so enthused by the potential of it, that we immediately set about planning our own. Once that was done, the response from local schools - those away from the 'twitterverse' prompted us to rethink our approach to the next event. We wanted TeachMeets to reach everyone, rather than solely those who were actively looking for the next challenge. So far we think we are on the way to achieving this. Lots of local teachers, to whom the concept of a TeachMeet is alien, are attending. The hope is that, very soon, they will take the benefits back to those who didn't want to come & the next teachmeet will be bigger, locally & nationally - perhaps even internationally.

PhotoStory3 +5yr olds

Photostory + children = chaos

A few weeks ago at TeachMeet Yorks & Humber 2010, I presented on how effective Photostory had been when used by Key Stage 2 children (7-11yrs). Ever the optimist, I decided that I would attempt to use photostory with my class (5-6yrs old). On top of this, I thought, I know, let’s link up with a year 1 class in a different school, switch children so we’ve got half each. Design, plan build and watch the photostories – all in 50 minutes.
The work was aimed to fit in with our literacy unit of information texts, and hit various other curriculum areas such as PHSE (teamwork & collaboration), Geography (locations), Speaking & Listening and others besides.
Children were to organise pictures of their school into a storyboard, looking at including either key words, a phrase or a sentence for each one. Children worked in groups of 3 to collaboratively create a photostory. The theory behind this was to incorporate discussion & compromise into the activity and to provide children with a peer support system if they felt that they were struggling or were less confident with using technology.
One last minute addition was to include year 5 pupils as helpers. Not as a get out for me as a teacher, but as learning mentors for the Year 1 children. It meant that they could problem solve and ask questions, keep the task moving forward and provide a link from the class to the teacher. They were brilliant and were a key factor in the success of the lesson (I would say, however, that if were I to not be able to expect this support, I would have had to have scaffolded activities over a series of lessons). Their role meant that the children were better supported and the yr5s acted as a catalyst for learning, prompting & engaging the children in my class well – without doing it all for them.
I took my new ‘class’ which consisted of my naughty/untrustworthy ones and the other teacher’s (Caroline Lang, Anchorsholme Primary School) ‘nice/well behaved’ ones up to the ICT suite to work on the computers up there with her Teaching Assistant, Miss Croft. Caroline stayed in my classroom with my Teaching Assistant, Karen Walker and had, surprisingly, my ‘nice/well behaved' ones and her 'naughty/untrustworthy' ones (Teachers will be teachers after all)!
The only difficulty we had was a technical one. The laptops wouldn’t connect to the strongest network signal (in my class) and were pulling off the office (admin) signal which is rubbish at the best of times. This in itself isn’t the worst thing, but the children were still engaged and busy and had a good time.
So, the success criteria of the lesson was as follows:
1. Children can use Photostory3 to create a movie
2. Children can work in groups
3. Children can select pictures, uploading from a file
4. Children can select music, uploading from a file
5. Children are aware of differences between the photostories of other children and can comment on those differences positively.
Ouch. Quite a lot there when you think about it. The children achieved the first 4. Some with support, others with 'help'. The most interesting point was looking at the children who were working ahead of my instructions. They were so engrossed in the activity that they were actively developing an understanding for the software themselves. That was great to see.
To have a look at some of their fantastic photostories, go to http://1m.hawes-side.net/photostories

NEXT STEPS

Our next step is to peer assess over a program called VoiceThread. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it is simply great. Click on this link to see our early attempt at using it. Pete Richardson (a yr 4 teacher in Preston) uses it extremely effectively and you can link to an example of it here it's call peer assessment 2.
As an addition to this, we are planning a reciprocal visit for my class to their school. This affords us the opportunity of experiencing a different classroom and school – and celebrate our differences and similarities.
I sincerely hope that this is the beginning of a good and long-lasting working relationship that the children can have throughout their Primary School lives.

Cage Builders & Key Throwers

I was on twitter a few weeks ago and I saw a tweet, I can't remember who by, highlighting someone else's blog.@chrisguillebeau's to be exact.  You can find it here.
The article itself was ok and had some salient points, but there was a quote on it from Hafiz, a 14th century Persian poet, that mesmerised me, in fact it made me think very deeply about my teachers and me as a teacher.
It described, in far less words than I could possibly manage, the type of person I am and, more importantly, the type of person I strive to be.
Hafiz
I guess that everyone has a moment that makes them evaluate what they're doing with their lives. Are things turning out the way they planned? Are they serving themselves, or others? What is the purpose that drives them to succeed?
Big questions. All of which were prompted by this poem.
I looked first at the opening line, 'The small man' and thought, is this me? Have I, as a teacher, ever done this? Have I limited children's expectations or ideals. Honestly? I have.
It's easy to do and doubtless others have done it as well.
It also made me think of the good teachers I had and why their teaching impacted on my learning. What did they do that was different? What ingredient was missing in my teaching that was prevelant in theirs? The answer was simple. Consideration of the learners' needs. They empathised rather than patronised. They encouraged rather than intimidated. In my case, they were trying to catch a 8lb fish on a 4lb line...
The remainder of the poem talks about the sage, the knowledgeable one, illuminating those who have been imprisoned. I inferred a teacher, a considerate teacher, to whom falls the task of re-engaging those who have been switched off to learning. Providing opportunity to inspire, encourage and educate. I feel that through concentrating more on what is beneficial to the children in our care, we can become the sage that Hafiz refers to. Not as the font of all knowledge disseminating it as we see fit, but as a facilitator of change, inspiring children to push out of their comfort zone and discover things that might have seemed out of reach. To lead children toward life-long learning,  not whip them into shape with the yard sticks from yesterday.
I am striving to be like Hafiz's sage. I seek to better myself and improve the quality of my teaching. I am sure that I will have slip ups, but I hope, over my career, I will unlock more potential than I imprison. So I ask, which one will you be tomorrow?

TeachMeet Doncaster

Educo (v)– to draw out, to lead, to raise up, to praise, to rear
Online Dictionary (University of Notre Dame)

While writing this, the main thought buzzing around my head was: it is my job to create tomorrow’s teacher? If this was so, the focus then became what impact we have on the creation of the next generation of teachers.
Tomorrow’s Teacher will be the same as the teacher of today. It will require the same empathic nature that makes us able to communicate with others. It will require determination to push those who need pushing; the composure to restrict those who must be restricted; the compassion to comfort those who hope for comfort; the passion to inspire those who dream of greater things; the skills to influence those without direction; the knowledge to develop those who must be developed. In short, these things will always need doing; it is the nature of the job. What we must ask ourselves is what setting will these actions take place in? How will these skills and attributes be developed in order to fit into the wider world view? How can these be taught in an effective and modern way?
I’d like to say that I’d be tomorrow’s teacher. I think in some ways, that title is a misnomer. It is impossible to be Tomorrow’s Teacher today, unless you have a Delorian and Dr Emmett Brown. The most important consideration for Tomorrow’s Teacher, is that he must be allowed to teach in Tomorrow’s Workplace. Our education system is retrospective, harking back to regular factory jobs – a clocking in and out mentality. This is no longer the correct system in which to educate children. Schools were designed to prepare children for life in the outside world. Even now, as these children sit in lines, waiting for the bell to go, the need for this approach is dwindling. We must allow for this change and adapt our system in preparation for it. Otherwise we, as Today’s Teachers, are failing tomorrow’s.
Tomorrow’s Teacher will be resourceful; making use of whatever tools or time is available. He will be open to change and approach work creatively, varying the delivery and style of lesson. He will be realistic and honest with the children he cares for. He will be reflective in approaches and review his lessons proactively. He will be resilient, working through problems effectively and conscientiously.
As for the influx of technology and its integration into everyday life, those who ignore change, become obsolete. We need only look at the world around us to see that as true. Today’s Teacher needs to think about how he or she can improve and adapt in order to continue to be professional and relevant. I think about the lessons I do and how, I hope, they are tailored to the needs of the children. But part of me wonders if I, too, should be watching Hannah Montana or other programmes that my children watch? Should I go out and buy their music? The answer must surely be yes. Our career is based around a responsibility to prepare children for life in the real world. We need to know and understand their world and their needs, fears, hobbies. I’m not suggesting for one moment that Mrs Smith, a Reception teacher of nearly 40 years should suddenly go to Austria and learn to snowboard, but I am suggesting that she should have researched it and be equipped to talk about it if necessary.
Tomorrow’s Teacher needs to be flexible. With modern technology evolving at a tremendous pace, Tomorrow’s Teacher must embrace it and use it effectively. Yong Zhao, Head of the Confucius Institute at MSU, talked during a seminar about allowing today’s generation to access today’s technology. He stated, more eloquently than I do here, that they are simply ‘the best equipped to use it’. We guard it like a prized possession, afraid to use it in case something goes wrong; they break it in their efforts to push it to its limits. How many of Today’s Teachers think that by writing up their worksheet as a PowerPoint presentation, they are computer literate and embracing modern technology? I say they have not been given the opportunity to see the potential that these technologies bring.  They are simply rehashing the same worksheet, just making it tidier, more up to date.
The essence of innovation and growth is that it encourages change. No, it requires change. I feel that it is essential that teachers acknowledge the styles and approaches by which modern children live their lives – as this impacts directly on the way these children learn. You only need to look at the high proportion of children that learn better through ‘doing’. At least 50% of our children are now kinaesthetic learners, compared with a smaller percentage 7 years ago. Why? Technological advances for the Playstation Generation: The more interactive; the better.  I say that if teachers have not adapted to the needs of today’s children, then they are potentially failing Tomorrow’s Teachers.
The best way to improve the quality of teaching across the country is to be more rigorous during the application stage for trainee teachers. By this I don’t mean exclude those whose grades are not up to scratch, there is much more to teaching than just being able to write pedagogical essays, but rather be selective in the qualities of the individual selected for the course. There must be a higher academic bench mark for all of tomorrow’s teachers than there is today, but the basic assessment of their professionalism must lean more towards their competencies in the classroom, rather than the evocative rhetoric of their essays.
Teachers must be multi-faceted. I don’t remember every being taught this, but why should that be the case for teachers of tomorrow? Why can’t we teach children how to change their outlook, persona, style? When are we taught to be facilitators, co-workers, leaders? Not very often. We teach these life skills rarely in primary schools. Why? Because we are scared about getting it wrong. Surely teaching this would be more beneficial in the long run. We would then not have to rely on finding those people who inherently have the pre-requisite skills or those who are able to more effectively learn them; we could provide all children with opportunities to hone those skills and teach them how to learn more independently.  
Creating the teacher of tomorrow should have already started. The business theory of Kaizen – small incremental improvements, holds truer as a model for success than ever before. Efficacy and excellence are achieved through getting the little things right. It is through constantly re-assessing the relevance of what we do that makes us professional, not the framed qualification collecting dust in the loft. That is the real key to finding and keeping tomorrow’s teacher. It is by accepting that we still have something to learn, something to change. We still make mistakes and know how to correct them.
The organisation of today’s school system needs to change in order to allow this sort of teaching. By working with a more flexible approach to learning and individual learning needs, we can hope to raise standards in schools and also develop more adaptable and dynamic employees. I ensure that all children know how they learn best, and must decide for themselves what resources and help they require for each task, from a range of different sources. Some may choose a cue card, others to ask a partner, more still might attempt the task one way, stop and re-evaluate. The content of the task then becomes secondary to the skills developed when completing it. This, I believe, is the way we must approach teaching. The cries of: “Children still need to know facts!” falls on deaf ears. My reply is simple: No. They do not need to know facts. They need to know where to find facts.
The title, Tomorrow’s Teacher, again leads us to a quandary. Today’s Teacher will always be Yesterday’s Child. We constantly, as human beings, return to familiar settings and scenarios. We will, therefore, relate things in class to things we have done, use phrases or expressions that amuse us, link to, seemingly (at least from the children’s perspective), archaic programmes that would be relevant if only they were our age. We do this because it makes us feel safe or better about ourselves. So in order to prepare Tomorrow’s Teachers we, the children of yesterday, must teach them well today.

Future Proof

Educo (v)– to draw out, to lead, to raise up, to praise, to rear
Online Dictionary (University of Notre Dame)

While writing this, the main thought buzzing around my head was: it is my job to create tomorrow’s teacher? If this was so, the focus then became what impact we have on the creation of the next generation of teachers.
Tomorrow’s Teacher will be the same as the teacher of today. It will require the same empathic nature that makes us able to communicate with others. It will require determination to push those who need pushing; the composure to restrict those who must be restricted; the compassion to comfort those who hope for comfort; the passion to inspire those who dream of greater things; the skills to influence those without direction; the knowledge to develop those who must be developed. In short, these things will always need doing; it is the nature of the job. What we must ask ourselves is what setting will these actions take place in? How will these skills and attributes be developed in order to fit into the wider world view? How can these be taught in an effective and modern way?
I’d like to say that I’d be tomorrow’s teacher. I think in some ways, that title is a misnomer. It is impossible to be Tomorrow’s Teacher today, unless you have a Delorian and Dr Emmett Brown. The most important consideration for Tomorrow’s Teacher, is that he must be allowed to teach in Tomorrow’s Workplace. Our education system is retrospective, harking back to regular factory jobs – a clocking in and out mentality. This is no longer the correct system in which to educate children. Schools were designed to prepare children for life in the outside world. Even now, as these children sit in lines, waiting for the bell to go, the need for this approach is dwindling. We must allow for this change and adapt our system in preparation for it. Otherwise we, as Today’s Teachers, are failing tomorrow’s.
Tomorrow’s Teacher will be resourceful; making use of whatever tools or time is available. He will be open to change and approach work creatively, varying the delivery and style of lesson. He will be realistic and honest with the children he cares for. He will be reflective in approaches and review his lessons proactively. He will be resilient, working through problems effectively and conscientiously.
As for the influx of technology and its integration into everyday life, those who ignore change, become obsolete. We need only look at the world around us to see that as true. Today’s Teacher needs to think about how he or she can improve and adapt in order to continue to be professional and relevant. I think about the lessons I do and how, I hope, they are tailored to the needs of the children. But part of me wonders if I, too, should be watching Hannah Montana or other programmes that my children watch? Should I go out and buy their music? The answer must surely be yes. Our career is based around a responsibility to prepare children for life in the real world. We need to know and understand their world and their needs, fears, hobbies. I’m not suggesting for one moment that Mrs Smith, a Reception teacher of nearly 40 years should suddenly go to Austria and learn to snowboard, but I am suggesting that she should have researched it and be equipped to talk about it if necessary.
Tomorrow’s Teacher needs to be flexible. With modern technology evolving at a tremendous pace, Tomorrow’s Teacher must embrace it and use it effectively. Yong Zhao, Head of the Confucius Institute at MSU, talked during a seminar about allowing today’s generation to access today’s technology. He stated, more eloquently than I do here, that they are simply ‘the best equipped to use it’. We guard it like a prized possession, afraid to use it in case something goes wrong; they break it in their efforts to push it to its limits. How many of Today’s Teachers think that by writing up their worksheet as a PowerPoint presentation, they are computer literate and embracing modern technology? I say they have not been given the opportunity to see the potential that these technologies bring.  They are simply rehashing the same worksheet, just making it tidier, more up to date.
The essence of innovation and growth is that it encourages change. No, it requires change. I feel that it is essential that teachers acknowledge the styles and approaches by which modern children live their lives – as this impacts directly on the way these children learn. You only need to look at the high proportion of children that learn better through ‘doing’. At least 50% of our children are now kinaesthetic learners, compared with a smaller percentage 7 years ago. Why? Technological advances for the Playstation Generation: The more interactive; the better.  I say that if teachers have not adapted to the needs of today’s children, then they are potentially failing Tomorrow’s Teachers.
The best way to improve the quality of teaching across the country is to be more rigorous during the application stage for trainee teachers. By this I don’t mean exclude those whose grades are not up to scratch, there is much more to teaching than just being able to write pedagogical essays, but rather be selective in the qualities of the individual selected for the course. There must be a higher academic bench mark for all of tomorrow’s teachers than there is today, but the basic assessment of their professionalism must lean more towards their competencies in the classroom, rather than the evocative rhetoric of their essays.
Teachers must be multi-faceted. I don’t remember every being taught this, but why should that be the case for teachers of tomorrow? Why can’t we teach children how to change their outlook, persona, style? When are we taught to be facilitators, co-workers, leaders? Not very often. We teach these life skills rarely in primary schools. Why? Because we are scared about getting it wrong. Surely teaching this would be more beneficial in the long run. We would then not have to rely on finding those people who inherently have the pre-requisite skills or those who are able to more effectively learn them; we could provide all children with opportunities to hone those skills and teach them how to learn more independently. 
Creating the teacher of tomorrow should have already started. The business theory of Kaizen – small incremental improvements, holds truer as a model for success than ever before. Efficacy and excellence are achieved through getting the little things right. It is through constantly re-assessing the relevance of what we do that makes us professional, not the framed qualification collecting dust in the loft. That is the real key to finding and keeping tomorrow’s teacher. It is by accepting that we still have something to learn, something to change. We still make mistakes and know how to correct them.
The organisation of today’s school system needs to change in order to allow this sort of teaching. By working with a more flexible approach to learning and individual learning needs, we can hope to raise standards in schools and also develop more adaptable and dynamic employees. I ensure that all children know how they learn best, and must decide for themselves what resources and help they require for each task, from a range of different sources. Some may choose a cue card, others to ask a partner, more still might attempt the task one way, stop and re-evaluate. The content of the task then becomes secondary to the skills developed when completing it. This, I believe, is the way we must approach teaching. The cries of: “Children still need to know facts!” falls on deaf ears. My reply is simple: No. They do not need to know facts. They need to know where to find facts.
The title, Tomorrow’s Teacher, again leads us to a quandary. Today’s Teacher will always be Yesterday’s Child. We constantly, as human beings, return to familiar settings and scenarios. We will, therefore, relate things in class to things we have done, use phrases or expressions that amuse us, link to, seemingly (at least from the children’s perspective), archaic programmes that would be relevant if only they were our age. We do this because it makes us feel safe or better about ourselves. So in order to prepare Tomorrow’s Teachers we, the children of yesterday, must teach them well today.