Monday, December 14, 2009

What have I learned in 2009?

At the risk of starting a bit like A Tale of Two Cities: It’s been a long year and yet it’s passed very quickly.

Just as a reminder I have very diverse roles in life (it keeps me young thinking, I hope): I am a Deputy Head Teacher in a comprehensive school in an outer London borough (this includes a role as Professional Development manager), I teach on the Masters and EdD programme for the Open University, I study with the Open University for my second MA, I have a family to look after and some writing/research to do.

In January 2009, I was looking forward to enhancing my knowledge of e-Learning with an Open University course H809. Little did I realise that this would lead to blogging and Twittering like – especially as I had only an inkling of what these even were! I had been dabbling with wikis for High School students and teachers for some time but these took off in a big way and I even ended up having a short article published in Education Today about using wiki technology to assist reflective practice for school teachers. I ran a workshop about this at the EdD residential weekend in July and have just been asked to run a workshop on the same topic at a conference at the Institute of Education next February.

I have gone on to study another Open University course which looks predominantly at the use of ePortfolios for teachers at all levels. This has been a challenging course, not least because of the online collaboration we were asked to so. It has helped me to restructure my own Masters level online forum and has led to greater participation levels on that.

That’s mainly about my study opportunities.

I have learned some other truths this year. I’ll call them truths although we all know that truth is elusive and possibly a personal perspective on reality. I have struggled with why some people feel they have little left to learn and with my role in that. On the positive side, I have been thrilled with the people (aged between 11 and 80 approximately) who have taken on new ideas and even run with sharing these with others – especially some of my younger colleagues at school.

I have learned the joy of achievement – even at my age.

At home, I have learned that one’s family do best when not nagged or goaded – actually I’ve learned that before and will probably learn it again.

It’s been a good year.

What have you learned?

Monday, December 7, 2009

reflecting on educational leadership

Just musing here really. Have been thinking a lot about leadership in education recently (see also sustainability of learning post on Janshs blog).

When I first became a Head of Department in 1992 I held an intial department meeting in which I said, "When things go right, I'll make sure the right person gets the credit. When things go wrong, I'll carry the can. I'll be here early every morning if you want to talk."

I don't know what they thought. I do know we were a happy band and I was sorry to leave them 8 years later when I moved 'on' to senior leadership in another school.

Now being a senior leader in those first few months and years was really hard. I didn't have a team to 'lead' as such. I felt de-skilled. As the years have rolled by, I have developed other ways of valuing folks (I hope they really know it's genuine). Saying thank you and how are you are two important ways.

I still like to give credit where it's due. I still carry the can (publicly) when things go wrong. Maybe I'm a bit of soft touch. Maybe that's not so bad.

I'd love to have comments on these musings ...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

taking a collaborative approach

Inspired by the presentation my study group did - (Janshs blog) and the great PD session run at my school with ideas from @vickitoria35 I have decided to change my end of term activity for my GCSE Maths groups in Y10 and 11 (14-16 year olds).

I am going to set up four or five wikis and split class into small groups. They are doing a project on properties of 3D shapes which I usually do as a cut, stick, write, summarise activity on paper. This time I am going to ask them to put their results into a joint presentation using a wiki and maybe other ideas like Voki and Wallwisher as well. I am hoping that all this will take just 2 weeks - we'll see how it goes.

If anyone knows any cartoon strip software that's free (like Dvolver) it would be good to hear about it.

I'm going to mention this on Twitter too so maybe some of my students will get a heads up.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

times tables

One of the two detentions I remember at school was for not knowing my 16 times table by heart (young people, this was for pounds and ounces). I still don't.

we all know our 2s? so 4s and 8s are easy
most of us know our 3s so 6s are easy
9s - use your fingers!
5s and 10s easy

just leaves 7s but not 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x, 6, 8x or 9x!

7x7=49 is the only one you have to LEARN

teach children to work them out not memorise them

BTW the other detention was for writing I love Donny Osmond on a desk - I didn't do it!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Learning Journals

Learning Journals – Brief Outline and further reading

Students are guided by me about what to include in their learning journals until they get to a stage where they are able to do this independently (although I maintain frequent references to it). Students use either marginalia or 'think' bubbles to annotate their work. Lessons generally have time built in for students to update their learning journals as they work and this also forms part of their weekly home work (private study). I am particularly interested in the ways in which learners develop problem solving and reflective skills and this is something which I ask them to record. When guiding students to become independent learners, it is necessary to aim particularly for ‘deep learning’ and ‘target setting’ although this is very difficult, especially with young learners. Deep learning entails personal evaluation of learning achieved and reflection on development as a learner.

In my opinion, reflection is innate for some, whilst for others it can be improved through guidance. For Moon (2005:2) “reflection is a fundamental feature of a deeper approach to learning” and “it enables learners to feel that they ‘own’ their knowledge because they have been part of its creation”, “ability in reflection often implies ability in metacognition”. I originally began to put these ideas together following my reading of some very important ideas about ‘multiple intelligences’ and ‘process folios’. The work of Howard Gardner (1999) was probably the most significant in guiding my thinking, along with Puntambekar and du Boulay (1999), as well as Patricia Murphy (1999).

Anne Langley (2002:78), in the SOL[1] Theoretical Reader, collapses Perry’s (1970) ‘positions’ of intellectual development into three stages: absolutism, relativism, commitment. Until learners (at any level) are at the stage of relativism, that is, they are able to perceive a world in which the teacher does not know everything, I believe that they can never make the jump to becoming independent learners. I needed to consider how to move my students towards commitment. I wanted each of them to be able to develop her/his own intellectual identity and accept that this may vary and change over time and with new information.

This is what I wrote for my GCSE students on their wiki (Moreland, 2008a):

Being a reflective learner means taking something that you already know really well such as how to read, or doing basic Maths, or something about how cars work, or your favourite music or artist. You then use that existing knowledge and apply it in new situations, usually to solve a problem. In so doing, you actually develop new knowledge and it is better than just being told or taught something by someone else because you will remember it so much better. Of course, at school, college or university, and even when training for a new job, you usually have to have someone to guide you. If you take the time to sit and reflect afterwards, write it down in a Learning Journal or mind map, or whatever suits you, you will find that you do something called internalising the knowledge - remember when I talked about metacognitive skills?

Elizabeth Holmes (2/10/08:1), writing for CPD Week, uses an analogy from children’s literature to begin her explanation of professional learning journals:-
Any Harry Potter fans out there may remember a conversation between Harry and Dumbledore about the 'pensieve'. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by JK Rowling, Dumbledore explains to the young Harry that the stone basin he calls the pensieve is used to hold excess thoughts from one's mind so that they can be examined at leisure. "It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form", says Dumbledore.

I believe that this would also make a good explanation of why student learning journals should be encouraged. Teachers strive to help their classes with pattern spotting and link making and it is my contention that by assisting them in making links across and between subject areas we are helping them to become independent learners for the future. Northedge and Lane (1997) describe a spiral of learning which begins at the point where we realise that we need some extra information in order to enhance our learning, moving on through study and lessons, using some old knowledge, to internalise new ideas and begin the spiral again. The issue which I believe exists even more markedly with young students is that they need considerable guidance to move sensibly along this spiral. Langley (2002: 21 – 24), based on a variety of other authors, provides some suggestions for developing strategies which students can use to enhance their independent learning skills. Bearing in mind that these are suggestions and not a ‘recipe’, they are:-

· Concept mapping
· Linking different parts of the course
· Emphasis on qualitative reasoning
· Check your neighbour in class discussion
· Using students in class illustrations
· Discouraging verbatim note-taking
· Linking subject matter with everyday examples

Gardner, H. (1999) Assessment in Context in Murphy, P. (ed.) Learners, Learning and Assessment, London, Paul Chapman
Holmes, E. (2/10/08:1) “Professional learning journals – making learning come alive”, CPD Week (
Langley, A. (ed) (2002) Supporting Open Learning Theoretical Reader (2002) Milton Keynes, The Open University
Moon, J. (2005) ‘Learning through reflection’, Guide for Busy Academics No. 4, Higher Education Academy
Moreland, J. (2008) private wiki for my GCSE Maths students
Murphy, P. (1999) Supporting Collaborative Learning: a Gender Dimension in Murphy, P. (ed.) Learners, Learning and Assessment, London, Paul Chapman
Northedge, A. and Lane, A. (1997) ‘What is learning?’ in Northedge, A. et al. The Science Good Study Guide Milton Keynes, the Open University pp. 20-2
Perry W G (1970) Forms of Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years, New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Puntambekar, S. And du Boulay, B. (1999) Design of MIST – a System to Help Students Develop Metacognition in Murphy, P. (ed.) Learners, Learning and Assessment, London, Paul Chapman

[1] Supporting Open Learners

Sunday, October 25, 2009

article published

Take a look at Janshs blog for details of a recent aricle based on my EdD thesis

Saturday, October 24, 2009

book review - what makes a great school

A review of: What Makes a Great School? Andy Buck (2009)

A few notes and a suggestion of how we might use this for our own G2G journey: J Moreland

Buck’s formula is g = (3p + 2(c + t) + m + o) 5l

He is not suggesting this as a template but as a set of questions to ask which might then enable a school to frame its own formula for success. In fact, Buck is keen that leaders (at all levels) should concentrate on asking the right questions rather than always being seen as providing all the solutions. (2009: 17 and 62)

p= people (hiring/firing); developing staff, developing students

c= clarity, consistency

t= transparency, trust

m = motivation

o = outward looking

l = leadership (communication, performance, actions, courage, humility) and it is a power.

A few key ideas

The first thing that resonated with me was Buck’s assertion that “great schools maintain outstanding performance over a significant period of time” (2009: 14).

He also identifies a “deeply embedded shared culture” (2009: 15) and a commitment to what is often termed system leadership – what Fullan (2003) describes as the ‘moral imperative of school leadership’ – the effect we have on education and the community in much wider terms than just those involved directly with our school.Recruitment procedures (from attractive advertisements, through the interview process, to being unafraid not to appoint) and also competency procedures are rated as key features in securing outstanding performance across the whole school (I would add that this is not just pertinent to teaching appointments). Buck states that the interview should include an assessment of whether or not the candidate’s core values match those of the school. (2009: 20)

Buck returns to one concept quite frequently, when writing about individual members of the school, leaders, and teams – the following is just one example.

“Effective colleagues will ... demonstrate a genuinely mature team approach .... For example, when things are going well they will identify the people who have contributed to that success. When there has been a problem they will take responsibility rather than blame others.” (2009: 21)

Gaining consistency of approach, Buck suggests, comes from building a sense of pride and collaboration, from nurturing a no-blame culture, and from encouraging risk-taking and innovation. It is enhanced, he writes, through regular coaching, mentoring and self-evaluation. Buck uses Fullan’s (2007) notion of lateral leadership based on peer support – from within or across schools – to further emphasise the fact that great schools build on strengths rather than constantly focusing on the problems. (2009: 26-28) Perhaps this is related to a senior colleague’s recent question – “what is it that we are not doing?”

According to Buck, students need to be nurtured to develop self-discipline, high aspirations, appropriate response to challenge, and choose their own learning paths. He goes further, describing schools where students have participated in curriculum design and constructing schemes of work. Other successful strategies centre on extra-curricular activities and intervention procedures. Most importantly, in my opinion, is his point that these things need to be part of the daily dialogue between staff, students and parents – not just for assemblies, parents’ information evenings and so on. (2009: 32 - 35)

One idea which I found very interesting was the concept of a school defining its own approach to pedagogy. (2009: 43). Whilst he is certainly not advocating a prescriptive approach to lesson planning, Buck is suggesting that a set of underpinning principles (such as ‘the effective classroom’ - see recent blog post lesson 'observations') might go a long way to enhancing consistency of learning for the students.

The analogy of the airline pilot – we want our take off, flight and landing to be good a hundred percent of the time, not ninety five percent – is used to further highlight the need for consistent application of processes and procedures. This will facilitate easier relationships with students, parents and all staff. Some schools issue a parents’ handbook. Naturally enough, those who do not comply need to be dealt with appropriately, Buck states –with the addendum that sometimes policies need to be reviewed if they are not working. (2009: 51- 56)

Next, Buck turns to the use of data for action planning at all levels, with a suggestion for around only four key improvement priorities at any given time. (2009: 61)

Building trust is also seen as vital for success. Buck refers to Covey (2006) and I would also mention Bottery (2003) in pointing out that low levels of trust, unrest, political camps will lead to staff expending energy on those issues rather than on developing good working practices. Leave of absence is one situation where, Buck states, higher levels of trust are needed. He also cites schools which leave most doors unlocked – I remain unconvinced about this one but I am prepared to be swayed.

The leadership section is not an attempt to summarise leadership theory. A few points do seem worthy of note, nonetheless. Sending thank you or get well cards, really caring about the staff and students who may be experiencing difficult circumstances, mutual respect, mutual loyalty, small acts of kindness – even free tea and coffee and organising plenty of opportunities to socialise and have fun, these all get a mention. Of course, making sure teachers are not bogged down with tasks that make life more difficult, building in time to be reflective, and modelling this approach, are both mentioned, as is the fact that it is no use listening to staff, student or parental concerns unless we also are seen to act upon them. (2009: 102 – 117)


The grid below is one which we might wish to use with ourselves, middle leaders, all staff (including non-teaching). It might be a big risk of course ....


Bottery (2003) The Management and Mismanagement of Trust, University of Hull

Bottery (2003) The Leadership of Learning Communities in a Culture of Unhappiness, School Leadership and Management, 23, 2: 187 - 208

Buck, A. (2009) What makes a Great School, City Challenge

Collins, J (2001) Good to Great, Harper Collins

Covey, S (2006) The Speed of trust. One thing that changes everything. Simon and Schuster

Fullan, M (2003) The Moral Imperative of School Leadership, Corwin Press (SAGE)

How far have we got on the journey from Good to Great?

Key concept

What we already do

What we might be doing

Sustaining high performance over a significant period of time

Outward looking – partnerships with other schools and organisations

Embedded values

Robust recruitment and monitoring procedures

Team approach – credit where’s it is due and taking responsibility rather than blaming others

All staff and students self-motivated to improve

Sense of pride and true collaboration

Risk taking and innovation encouraged

Sharing best practice, coaching, mentoring, self evaluation, peer to peer work

Asking the right questions rather than always trying to provide all the answers

Students are self-disciplined, have high aspirations, respond well to challenge

The curriculum allows students to choose their own learning path and contribute to the design of the learning process

Extra-curricular activities contribute to the learning experience

Intervention strategies are well thought out and implemented

The values and strategies above are demonstrated in daily dialogue (between staff, staff/student, staff/home) and not just at special events

We have our own clearly defined approach to pedagogy

There is a high level of consistency and clarity in all that we do, including communications systems

Policies and procedures are regularly reviewed

Data is well used to define priorities for improvement

Staff have opportunities for self development, to socialise and have some fun

Mutual trust, respect and loyalty are features of all our relationships in school

Based on Buck, A. (2009) What makes a Great School, City Challenge

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pythagoras rap

sorry I have no video of me performing this rap but there are actions...

If you want the hypotenuse
You gotta use Pythagoras
Square root

you'll have to search for the trigonometry rap

Monday, September 28, 2009

using wikis to encourage reflective writing

Please see - 'what's new' page and find the three attachments for an article about using wiki technology to encourage reflective writing for teacher PD. This article is published in vol 59, no 3 of Education today, journal of the College of Teachers and will soon be accessible on their website

Saturday, September 19, 2009

using wikis in school

I have three main ways of using wikis in high school.

With students, we have the relevant wiki page for that lesson on the IWB and they can type up any time they like during the lesson - even when they are doing assessments - e.g. I'm stuck on Q3 - they can type up ideas to help each other or if we are at a stalemate I type up hints [Thanks to @jimwysocki for a comment via Twitter for querying this so I'm making it clearer - I hope - I don't do this in tests that 'count', only in practice tests so that they can share strategies]. This way their reflections and collaborations are saved for them to come back to any time. They also have regular homeworks which ask them to summarise a topic and what they have learned or to post about key words. I blog my lesson evaluations so that they can see them (not stuff about individual students obviously). This year, I am going to experiment with getting collaborative group work going.

With staff we have two wikis, one private and one public. The private one came first and people added resources and their reflective writing.

The new public one (SPLAT) has resources attached to our weekly professional development sessions and I am hoping that people will blog their reflections on each session on the wiki. I am also hoping some collaborative work will develop here.

It would be great to hear from anyone who has done anything like this and how I can improve it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

latest post on ePortfolios

first thoughts about ePortfolios some thoughts that may be applicable to my work as CPD leader at school

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

blogging my self evaluation so students can share

First attempt at blogging how my own lesson evaluation went in student-speak (age 15). I am going to ask them next lesson what they think of it.

This is what I wrote:
8th September 2009 - solving equations
Well we have had two lessons so far (1 single and 1 double). I am pleased that every student has made progress during those lessons. Some of them have also made a good start on keeping a learning journal - I need to persuade the rest that it is well worth it.

I am glad that all but a few have really concentrated on their work. I still got that old favourite ' I was chatting but I was working as well' - I need to show that you can do even more if you don't chat off task - if we can get the technology working better, they will be coming up and typing on the board to maintain their attention a bit more.

I'd be really grateful for comments or if others have tried something like this

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

using student feedback

I was browsing through the two new wikis I have set up for my High School students for this new year. They'll have their first lessons on 7th September. I always put personal pages on the wikis so that students can keep their learning journals online if they wish to do so. I also always put my own page on - but why? I think that this year I will use it to reflect back their evaluations of our lessons to them.

I generally ask students to use traffic light cards during and at the end of lessons to say if they think the lesson objective was met, partly met, or not met. This is helpful for me to plan the next lesson and also to target students who need help or extension work.

So here's my idea. I'll use my personal page on their wiki to reflect on how the lesson went - using their feedback. Hopefully, they will contribute to it to say if certain activities went well or not.

Has anyone else tried anything like this? I'd love some comments and ideas.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

small group work in class

Following some ideas from Larry Ferlazzo's blog on how to make small group work I started thinking about extending my 'don't pass notes in class' idea to group work. So I immediately added group pages and instructions to my two private class wikis for next term. The idea is that when they are working on an assignment in a group, they can add a page for that project and type up a group learning journal with ideas about who said what, who had an idea, who brought some resources, and final presentation of work.

I'll let you know in a few weeks' time ...

Friday, July 31, 2009

new wiki

After following a link on Twitter from Alec Couros (@courosa), I asked him if it was OK to use his idea and he kindly said yes.

The idea led to a new wiki It is really only going to interest people at my own school in that it contains the specific learning and teaching CPD sessions for next year but some of the resources may be of interest to others (especially high school teachers). The resources for a couple of sessions are up already and more will follow during the year 2009 to 2010.

My hope is that this wiki may take off in terms of the discussion threads, as it has such a specific focus. I am thinking that my existing CPD wiki (private for staff) has done a good job but was perhaps too diverse. Sometimes, smaller projects can be much more successful. Here's hoping.

Since some staff are on Twitter and some do check into the existing wiki during the holiday, I've advertised it on both so we'll see what happens next. Let you know in September!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

lesson 'observations'

Just spotted this on Twitter:

BeckyFisher73#blc09 What if students were the ones who did the formal observations in school? Would teachers get more useful feedback than they do now?

It got me thinking about how I regularly (ie almost every time) evaluate my own lessons. Students have red orange and green cards in their planners - they are used to indicate if they are struggling with a concept for example - they leave the card on the desk.

I also use them at various points during the lesson to 'rate' how things are going by asking them to just raise cards to see if things are looking like meeting the lesson objective.

Next term, I'm going to display the following characteristics of effective classrooms and ask the students to use the traffic light cards for these too. If it goes well, I'll ask other teachers to try it.

"Effective schools are full of effective classrooms"

But what makes an effective classroom? What does an outstanding lesson look like? It's not about what the teacher does - it is about what and how the students learn. This must be true at all ages although the list below is more geared to High School.

Here are some ideas:-

  • probing questions - not just answering the question for them, really getting them to think (metacognition)
  • students keeping learning jorurnals
  • collaborative learning
  • scaffolded learning
  • good rapport
  • not escalating too quickly up the sanctions scale
  • evidence of Asessment for Learning
  • lesson objectives phrased as questions
  • differentiation - target students
  • pace - don't take 15 minutes on starter
  • make sure students know how to improve
  • try to move away from stand and deliver (idea from Howard Rheingold on SF gate)
  • try to avoid too much copying
  • use display as teaching tool
  • make good use of diagnostic marking
  • use the traffic lights cards in the student planners to demonstrate understanding and evaluate lessons
  • think of innovative ways to use the Interactive White Board
  • consider using social media netowrks
  • consider using neuroscience ideas in the class room

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Assessment actvities to assist learning

Just read 'Using Rich Assessment Tasks in Mathematics to Engage Students and Inform Teaching' by Doug & Barbara Clarke which I spotted via @samgrumont on Twitter.

It reminded me of something I used to do a lot of when I was a full time Maths teacher and have moved away from a little. I think I'll go back to it next September. Actually the first part is something I still regularly do:

1. start a new topic by getting students to do a spider diagram of all they already know about the topic and then sharing this in pairs and then reporting back to class

2. a hot seat game where anyone (including the teacher) can be in the 'hot seat' and have questions fired at them about the topic but are allowed to pass - good for some manageable formative assessment but you do need to build rapport before you can attempt this

Towards the end of the topic, the above two activities are repeated before a more 'formal' test.

Something 'Ive done a lot of in the run up to external exams - and the students have loved it - is the idea of 10 minutes presentation from me or a student, no notes to be taken, just lots of verbal interaction. This is followed by an activity which is completely different such as balancing ping pong balls or building a house of cards. Then the presentation is done again (almost the same as before) and this time students make notes in their learning journal (the presentation is on their private wiki). Then we have another brief activity. Finally a 10 minute 'test'. If I can afford it, we'll do the test part on handheld voting systems that we trialled last year - again lots of engagement value and also no marking!

I don't suppose these ideas are restricted to maths teaching or even to High School level.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

plans for the new academic year

Well, I have just 'broken up' for summer (or the students have - I still need to do a bit in work this coming week) and already I am bursting with ideas for next year.

It looks like I'll be taking on a Year 11 Maths GCSE (age 15/16) class from someone else so will basically have 2 terms (Sept to Easter) to get them working my way - or perhaps for me to be working their way?

The last two years have seen me experimenting with and having some success with using a private wiki for each class. Due to age and such issues it's best to keep them for invited members only and to have just me as moderator.

It started as an extension to the idea of a learning journal (LJ). For quite a few years now, I have asked students to keep a learning journal after each class with key ideas and their 'thinking out loud'. I cannot exactly say I have irrefutable evidence but it appears that those who do a good job also tend to exceed their target grades. Of course, there are many other variables such as do they tend to be the ones who study harder or are more motivated anyway? I do strongly believe though that the LJ helps motivate and helps them to develop a degree of metacognition.

So the wikis began with each student having her or his own page and sharing their LJ with others. I developed it this last year to share useful resources and links and revision ideas and games to hone their skills - they loved that! It remains to be seen in August how much that development has helped. I later started using an idea taken from Michael Wesch of putting keywords on the wiki as an assignment and everyone had to make an entry and/or edit each other's - like wikipedia. Of course I had to monitor that carefully in case of misconceptions but it was no more onerous than marking homework.

Just before the final exams ( about 6 weeks before) I read a blog from Howard Rheingold about Twitter back channels. I did not feel that I could encourage phones or social networking in school as it is against current policy - and I know many positives and negatives for that policy which I won't go into here. So I hit on the idea of a page called "Hey! Don't pass notes in class!" When students were working on exam prep questions. they could come up to the interactive white board any time they liked and either offer tips for classmates or ask each other for help. Once again they loved it and it really made them focus in class. There was absolutely no off task chatter. By having the wiki page for that lesson displayed whilst they did this, I could save it for them to access at home or any time they wanted to remind themselves of a technique.

So on to next year - what do I have in store? All of the above plus:
  • I'm going to put collaborative projects like the Google Earth Maths projects on
  • I am going to encourage the LJ as a blog
  • The lesson plan and classroom rules will be added
  • Assignments will be set so that they can hand them in via our school VLE which will be linked to the wiki

I can't wait!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

using a managed learning environment

We have just started our MLE at school. The Head of ICT has trialled it and most of the students now know about it and how to use it. It has the features you'd expect like lesson pages with lesson objectives and also a 'hand in' box for homework or classwork.

My class enjoyed the creativity of the last session and actually asked if they could use the MLE to hand it it! So I have taken the plunge and created the appropriate page. We'll see how that goes after the mid term break next week.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ideas for Year 10 now - the Metric system and photo storyboards

So Year 11 come to the end of their course. I still have a Year 10 class and need to engage them more fully with leading their own learning. I decided to take one of the literacy ideas fro Ideas To Inspire (see link on left) and try it out with a Maths class.

So this afternoon, we will plan and then after the holiday, I'll have a go at putting it into action. What I want them to do is to do a photo storyboard about the metric system. I have a feeling they will need quite a bit of guidance on how to structure this. Watch this space (if you're interested that is.....).

Monday, May 18, 2009

almost the end - this year

My current Year 11 had paper 1 today (for non-UK readers this is a Big Deal, they are 16 and then they decide whether or not to go on for 2 more years before University). 4 more lessons and a week's mid term break (aaarrrgh - timing) then paper 2.

It was a good paper but let's see what happens next. Again, for non-UK, the papers are externally set and unseen by teachers until the day!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

getting started

First off, I am going to copy and paste some blog posts from H809-JM in here just to set the scene.

31st March
more twittering and networking
This is a nice link about why teachers should use twitter and this is a nice one about social networking - I haven't really tried it yet though .....

13th April
Twitter Backchannels
From Twitter @hrheingold Professor uses Twitter as backchannel in class gives me an idea for my GCSE Maths class.As they are minors I don't feel they should use twitter in class - or at least I shouldn't encourage it. Anyway they are not allowed mobile phones so it would be difficult.However, they have a private wiki which we already use mainly for homework and revision for exams.I am going to have a page (or maybe a series of pages, depending how it goes) which I will have up on screen with link to internet during class. Whilst they are working independently to solve Maths problems, I will invite them to come up to the front whenever the whim takes them and they can type up a question for me, a hint for each other or just "help I'm stuck".I am going to try this next term when we have a mock Ofsted - hah! why not? risk taking is the *in* thing. I'll let you know, it may be yet another of my doomed experiments but if you don't try ....

22nd April
using the twitter type idea with GCSE students
As I said in last blog post, I don't feel I can actively encourage twitter with minors (ethical issues here).So I had the first try today of just putting a page on private wiki up on the interactive white board and they came up and typed what they usually whisper to each othere.g. how do you do ratio?start by adding the numbersand so onIt went really really well - and is now stored on wiki for revsion purposes as wellmock Ofsted tomorrow - let's see what they make of it .....

23rd April
Guess what? The mock Ofsted team did not visit me! Never mind it was a FANTASTIC lesson. We had audio, visual and kinaesthetic learning, used the IWB idea I mentioned before and looked at how neuro-synapses help us learn - also they agreed that they knew more about vectors at the end than at the beginning - all in 50 mins!
SF Gate
You might find this link of interest: SF Gate I work in a UK High School and although many of my students do use Twitter and Facebook I don't feel that parents will necessarily want me to encourage this. So I have started a private wiki with them (about 8 months ago now). I recently thought more about the idea of getting 15 year olds to pay attention to one another as well as they pay attention to me. So *borrowing* an idea from Twitter, I have trialled putting the wiki on the Interactive White Board. Whilst working on individual Maths problems, they can come up any time and type on the screen. Sometimes they just put "help" other times, they give each other hints or ask direct questions. Not only have they started to respect one another more, they are actually more focused on the task in hand with hardly any off task chatter (in fact none at all!).hrheingold4/22/2009 1:48:45 PMI love your example, janshs. And I'm always interested in learning what other exercises and strategies work for people -- educators and others. So much of the social aspect of learning is absent from standard stand-and-deliver-the-facts methodology of teaching, and, if anything, learning and constructing meaning are increasingly social. I'll talk about credibility in a later blog post. Some evidence seems to indicate that assessing the credibility of web information is social -- that is, we turn to our trusted networks to find out what is bogus and what is not. Those of us who test online claims at all -- too many don't. But critical thinking is another missing element from much of today's pedagogy that I hope to address in a future post.

26th April

Effective classrooms
"Effective schools are full of effective classrooms"But what makes an effective classroom? What does an outstanding lesson look like? It's not about what the teacher does - it is about what and how the students learn. This must be true at all ages although the list below is more geared to High School.
Here are some ideas:-
· probing questions - not just answering the question for them, really getting them to think (metacognition)
· students keeping learning jorurnals
· collaborative learning
· scaffolded learning
· good rapport
· not escalating too quickly up the sanctions scale
· evidence of Asessment for Learning
· lesson objectives phrased as questions
· differentiation - target students
· pace - don't take 15 minutes on starter
· make sure students know how to improve
· try to move away from stand and deliver
· try to avoid too much copying
· use display as teaching tool
· make good use of diagnostic marking
· use the traffic lights cards in the student planners to demonstrate understanding and evaluate lessons
· think of innovative ways to use the Interactive White Board - see earlier blog
· consider using social media netowrks
· consider using neuroscience ideas in the class room
reflection and collaboration in learning - in practice
I have been thinking for some time about the nature of collaborative learning at all ages and stages. The wiki that I have been championing for my school staff for about 8 months now has had quite a different outcome (so far) to the one for my GCSE students - started around the same time. The one for my MA students has been different again.Staff wikimainly publishing and lurking going on here, see below for what I intend to do about thisGCSE wikiagain, lots of publishing BUT the recent addtion of the page called "hey! don't pass notes in class!" has been a major turnaround because they are now really collaborating in their learning in class time and to some degree with their assignments as wellMA wikiquestions asked of one another has made this more collaborative in nature from the outset, with students eager to help each other and to discuss openly, however, room for improvement, again see below.Linking to my last post about theories of learning, and to Howard Rheingold's SFGate (see earlier blog post) and his ideas about attention literacy, I think that the next stage for the staff wiki and the MA wiki is to actually get participants to start blogging themselves and to link this in to the 'master wiki' or 'master blog'. I'd like to use twitter for this as well.For the MA wiki, I will start this with the next cohort in September since the current one are nearing the end of the module.For the staff wiki, am starting tomorrow! There are four newly Qualified Teachers who have to produce some action research as part of their assessment. Tomorrow I am running a session with them on how to undertake this project. I am going to ask them to blog their progress and use collaborative reflective writing to put it all together. if this goes well, I will also approach just a few more experienced staff and ask them to blog risk taking lessons 9with videos perhaps) and again to put together some collaborative reflective writing.Watch this space.

2nd May
Catch up on how my GCSE maths group are doing
With just two school weeks left until their first paper, I'm not sure who is more nervous - them or me. After 31 years, I still feel the same!Anyway, the idea of using the wiki page on the white board for them to type questions and hints to one another is going really well. Just wish I had thought of this years ago - thank you Twitter!I have also devised two sides of A4 with 'sticky note' sized messages with the facts I expect them to need to 'learn'. The idea is that they keep eliminating stuff that they feel confident with until they are left with about five facts to remember overnight before the exam - or less hopefully!I've also posted their sheets on their wiki but here they are in case anyone is interested. I'm afraid that some of the language is esoteric as it relates to how I explain things but lots will be familiar to anyone. (It's not the A* stuff by the way.)click to enlargeI forgot their trigonometry rap so that is separateSOHCAHTOA is a very strange landIn right angled triangles everyone must stand.Here comes that hypotenuse againIt's the longest side, remember that my friend.Nothing written on it? Then you mus use tan.The other two are harder make the sign with your hand.Nothing on the free side? Then use must use cos.If there is then use sin and don't ask 'because'.If the angle is known and x is on the topJust multiply it out and then you can stop.If the angle is known and x is on the bottomFlip them over and divide - nothing can stop 'em.Finally remember if the angle is not knownDivide, use shift, and the answer will be shown.The Saturday just before the exam, we'll have a three hour revision session in school too - not sure what more I can do now.....

4th and 5th May
an exchange on Twitterhrheingold@Janshs Maybe even more important -- how can teachers induce the right questions from students? In particular, how to start out that way?@hrheingold sometimes think it's partly to do w/ building trust & culture where OK 2 say teacher doesn't know everything; culture of explorehrheingold@Janshs Absolutely - the fear of letting students know that one doesn't know everything is paralyzing for a teacher@hrheingold I found Perry's "positions of intell'l develop't" good: once jump 2 realis'm that teachers don't know all- independent learners@rheingold Perry is old though 1970 but still interestinghrheingoldFirst Day Questions for the Learner-Centered Classroom:
Monday, May 4, 2009
just reflecting on how students can be guided
I was just using Twitter to do some ‘thinking out loud’:-what makes my heart sink? "will this be on the test?" how do we encourage metacognition in subjects like Maths?perhaps the answer to my question is (at least) two fold: questioning to develop thinking, collaborative learning through web 2.0 ideasI am just thinking - it's all about getting young students to ask, listen to and answer each other's questionI have been getting my young students to use learning journals for a few years now; now I want to move into collaborative LJs using wikisit's all about @mwesch and 'asking the right question' and @hrheingold attention literacyI think the idea of using the wiki page on the interactive whiteboard that I've been trialling is a way forward to develop focused dialogue