Monthly Archives: March 2011

5CH – Past papers by topic⤴

from @ i teach physics

Now uploaded for the whole course. All of you should be working through these over the holiday, picking out the topics you find most difficult in the first instance. Any problems, give me a shout.

5CH – Past papers by topic⤴

from @ i teach physics

Now uploaded for the whole course. All of you should be working through these over the holiday, picking out the topics you find most difficult in the first instance. Any problems, give me a shout.

National Recognition for Stonelaw High School Achievements⤴

from @ Interim reports

The Social Enterprise Awards, the nationwide competition that celebrates the work and achievements of the UK’s most inspiring and successful social enterprises took place last night in the 02 venue in London.

Stonelaw High School, Rutherglen won the Young Person’s Social Enterprise of the Year Award for the excellent work undertaken by the school’s Fair Trade group.

Ed Miliband, presented the Award to pupils, David, Carys and, Radika and teacher I Gilchrist who represented the school at the award ceremony.

The Stonelaw Fairtraders group has raised the amazing sum of £120,000 selling Fair Trade products this year which has been used to help support over 300 young people in other countries with Aids

Fantastic to see recognition for all the work undertaken at Stonelaw. Its a great school with lots of exciting things going on. Brain Cooklin HT and the whole school community must feel so proud!

Its sometimes easy to take for granted the work that goes on in our schools on a daily basis. Stonelaw is one of those places where work like this is so embedded that we sometimes need reminded about just how remarkable our young people and those working with them are.

Congratulations to everyone at Stonelaw!

 


Khan Academy and a Heretical Thought⤴

from @ Learning Stuff About Stuff

[disclaimer]This is a ramble, full of internal inconsistencies, born of a weary mind.  I post it into the ether like fresh meat thrown to a pack of wolves - go ahead and tear it to shreds![/disclaimer]

I guess you all know about Khan Academy.  If not: it's one man's collection of 2100 video lectures on maths, science, finance and more - all freely available.  In maths, it purports to provide a full progression from the basics of counting and place value up to some areas of university maths.

Bill Gates has endorsed it, whilst many educators are throwing their hands up in horror.

A heretical thought that popped into my head today.    What if young people decide one day that they want to spend all of the limited amount of time they devote to maths actually learning how to do maths instead of learning how to collaborate effectively, design bridges, play Mario Kart, be good time-keepers, produce presentations or whatever latest thing might be? And what if they then start using Khan Academy in large numbers to fulfil their needs? And what if they find that Khan Academy is actually much more useful to them than their school maths lessons in providing them with the exam passes that will open the doors to employment and/or further education?

How relevant will school maths look then?

As I look back over my 20 years of teaching, I can't think of that many youngsters who have been motivated enough to spend time at home on maths beyond homework assignments, so it's probably just a crazy, passing thought.

The broader purposes that we pursue as educators these days (under the banner of "A Curriculum for Excellence" in Scotland) are very noble - more than that, they address the real needs of young people growing up into a world of accelerating change.  But how good are we are getting buy-in to these broader purposes from parents, employers and the learners themselves?  Without that buy-in the project runs the risk of becoming irrelevant despite it's worthiness - because our customers can now get what they think they need elsewhere.

ICT Futures⤴

from @ Interim reports

Thinking about ICT future development a lot just now….

Loving this video which someone showed me from RM. The future of glass – may not sound relevant to learning and teaching but have a look and its great for starting discussions around possible future developments.

If you haven’t already read it look at the 2011 Horizons report – lots of food for thought.

And one of my favourite augmented reality type learning and teaching sites which Doug Dickinson directed me towards - zooburst

I’ve really enjoyed seeing Doug in action recently along with Richard Crossland – delivering some training in SLC – moments of magic where you see people in the audience nodding and answering the “so what” question in their heads about using technologies. For too many years its been about the how to work the stuff and not the “so what can this do for learning?” What Doug does looks simple from the audience but is anything but….


Today we are learning to…ask questions⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better than Yesterday

Can I be quite controversial here and say that I’ve always been a little disconcerted by Learning Intentions? Not that I’ve anything against intending to learn in the classroom, or even allowing the students in front of me to learn. Indeed, on some days I think it is a positive thing. It is, however, the very prescribed nature of how they are used and how we seem to have taken Dylan Wiliam’s original intention (Learning Intention) a bit too literally which discomforts me.
I had the recent pleasure of mentoring a student teacher who, I’m sure, will go on and be a fabulous educator. She worked closely with my lovely S1 class (eleven and twelve year olds) and they did some great work together. By the time her assessed lesson came around – or ‘Crit’ as some of you may better know them – she was well-prepared and ready to go. Indeed, the lesson appeared to go very well and I caught some the kids leaving class beaming widely and giving me the ‘thumbs up’. ‘She got the job’ said one of them, endearingly.
The feedback session, at which I was present, took me by surprise though. Student had not spent enough time talking through each of the three Learning Intentions. Even less going through each of the success criteria at the end. My God, I thought, how much time would there be left for teaching? I want the kids to know what they are learning, of course, but are we not getting bogged down in an overly homogenous approach to lesson planning? Over planning your lesson to the point where you are limiting yourself to two or three ‘things to learn’  is, in my opinion, a recipe for bad teaching.
 Dylan Wiliam, to my understanding, asked us to think about the way we teach. I don’t think he envisaged a world where we would be saying ‘Today I am doing Assessment is for Learning’ or ‘Today I think I’ll do some of that co-operative learning.’ So what’s the answer?

Having just read Padgett Powell’s ‘The Interrogative Mood’ , a book in which every sentence is a question, I have begun to think carefully about the questions I use in class. Not necessarily questioning techniques- I happen to believe I’m pretty good at that- but the questions themselves.  Powell’s book is an infuriating thing, never seeming to be going anywhere but, for some reason, it works. The questions, seemingly unlinked in anyway, got to me at times, and the book began to make sense. It reminded me that the questions we formulate for our classrooms should supersede any Learning intention we might be tempted to write on the board.
Mike Schmoker, in his sometimes controversial but always thought-provoking book, Focus, says: ‘The quality and availability of good questions is essential to engagement and interest as students read, discuss and write.’
What if the most important part of any lesson or course was a series of well thought through questions which we would expect our students to be able address (not necessarily answer) by the end of their learning?  Just asking...

Today we are learning to…ask questions⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better than Yesterday

Can I be quite controversial here and say that I’ve always been a little disconcerted by Learning Intentions? Not that I’ve anything against intending to learn in the classroom, or even allowing the students in front of me to learn. Indeed, on some days I think it is a positive thing. It is, however, the very prescribed nature of how they are used and how we seem to have taken Dylan Wiliam’s original intention (Learning Intention) a bit too literally which discomforts me.
I had the recent pleasure of mentoring a student teacher who, I’m sure, will go on and be a fabulous educator. She worked closely with my lovely S1 class (eleven and twelve year olds) and they did some great work together. By the time her assessed lesson came around – or ‘Crit’ as some of you may better know them – she was well-prepared and ready to go. Indeed, the lesson appeared to go very well and I caught some the kids leaving class beaming widely and giving me the ‘thumbs up’. ‘She got the job’ said one of them, endearingly.
The feedback session, at which I was present, took me by surprise though. Student had not spent enough time talking through each of the three Learning Intentions. Even less going through each of the success criteria at the end. My God, I thought, how much time would there be left for teaching? I want the kids to know what they are learning, of course, but are we not getting bogged down in an overly homogenous approach to lesson planning? Over planning your lesson to the point where you are limiting yourself to two or three ‘things to learn’  is, in my opinion, a recipe for bad teaching.
 Dylan Wiliam, to my understanding, asked us to think about the way we teach. I don’t think he envisaged a world where we would be saying ‘Today I am doing Assessment is for Learning’ or ‘Today I think I’ll do some of that co-operative learning.’ So what’s the answer?

Having just read Padgett Powell’s ‘The Interrogative Mood’ , a book in which every sentence is a question, I have begun to think carefully about the questions I use in class. Not necessarily questioning techniques- I happen to believe I’m pretty good at that- but the questions themselves.  Powell’s book is an infuriating thing, never seeming to be going anywhere but, for some reason, it works. The questions, seemingly unlinked in anyway, got to me at times, and the book began to make sense. It reminded me that the questions we formulate for our classrooms should supersede any Learning intention we might be tempted to write on the board.
Mike Schmoker, in his sometimes controversial but always thought-provoking book, Focus, says: ‘The quality and availability of good questions is essential to engagement and interest as students read, discuss and write.’
What if the most important part of any lesson or course was a series of well thought through questions which we would expect our students to be able address (not necessarily answer) by the end of their learning?  Just asking...

Royal Society – the future of Computing in our schools⤴

from @ Digitalkatie's blog

My notes from the Royal Society meeting in Glasgow, 22/3/11

The Royal Society are producing a report on the issues affecting the uptake of Computing in schools in the UK.  Last week a group of teachers and other professionals got together to discuss the issues that affect Computing in Scotland.



Curriculum issues:

Timetabling was thought to be a big issue.  Often Computing has the lowest amount of time allocated to pupils.  Often we are trying to teach topics such as games design in one period of 40-45 minutes.  This reflects the perceived importance of the subject by the SMT to the pupils so they then view it as unimportant.  All pupils are entitled to learn about Computing and ICT as part of Curriculum for Excellence.  Amount of time given to the subject reflects how important the subject is to SMT and the kids pick this up.  We are expected to teach to the same quality with a quarter of the time.

It is also frequent that Computing is in the last column for subject choice, displaying again the unimportance of the subject to the pupils – it’s just something fun to choose once you’ve selected all the critical subjects.

Computer Science outcomes are entitlement for all pupils, not just as an elective but this depends on how the head teacher feels about this.  We wondered if the teaching of CS for all be enforced by HMI / Scottish Government?! Do they even know this is a problem?

Osmosis of skills was also highlighted.  It is a common parental view that “My little Susie doesn’t need to take Computing because she’s really good at that, she’s always on Facebook….” People/parents also think you can learn Computing on the job but so many people don’t ‘work smart’ and spend hours on things that would take seconds with the right skills

It was suggested that we could do an audit of skills for new S1 pupils to research and record the difference in the skills they have and the skills we feel they should have.  This would demonstrate the need for Computing and ICT in the curriculum.

There needs to be meaningful progression from the work done by pupils in ICT.  For example if pupils have used Scratch then we need to challenge them with proper programming concepts using BYOB or similar (I am not saying Scratch isn’t proper programming but that pupils may not have been introduced to the theory behind the fun of Scratch).

It’s crucial to have meaningful, relevant and engaging contexts for learning and not to teach theory in a dry isolated manner.  There were some great examples of contextual learning given today (Jason Bain from Fife talked about a fantastic murder mystery topic run in his school).  We need to have this exciting teaching happening to ‘win’ the pupils at course choice time.

All this good practice HAS to be captured!  We need a way of sharing all the learning and teaching resources being developed in schools across Scotland.  Glow Futures / Glow 2 needs to have a way of easily sharing materials, although I’m not sure if we can wait until September 2012 to be doing this sharing.

We need a lead teacher at the council level to help with the strategy and representation.  I am very aware that not all councils have someone providing the role I play at Edinburgh Council.  I also involve other nearby councils when I share information and have positive feedback from them.  This role will become more important as the number of Faculties increase and we lose Heads of Computing.

Web filtering is also a problem.  We can’t teach cyber bullying and social networking effectively.  We also can make use of national resources such as the CANVAS OpenSim virtual world by LTS in many councils due to the firewalls not being opened up.  We need national guidance on this.


Resources issues:

Computing is an easy subject for schools to justify reducing as it is one of the more expensive.  Annual costs for maintaining computers, network costs, software updates every few years (and the resulting time required to learn new packages and adapt teaching materials), printer costs and other peripherals all combine to make Computing more expensive than teaching History with the same textbooks every year.

In the olden days programming BBC Microcomputers was a way to get kids enthusiastic about coding.  Nowadays the equivalent is games design or mobile phone app development.  There seems to be hurdles to any teachers wanting to introduce new initiatives such as app development.  In my council we have the enthusiastic teachers, we have companies willing to train the teachers for free but we don’t have the right operating system installed and there seems to be all sorts of issues in getting that resolved. 

Too many hurdles for new projects and initiatives means teachers lose enthusiasm, lose the skills they have learned in training and lose the will to live!

There was general consensus that there is no money for CPD yet it is the one subject that changes the most.  English teachers don’t come in and find the plot of Hamlet has suddenly changed.  We need regular, focused CPD to keep us up to date.

Teachers are generally allowed to go to CPD if it is free and in our own time.  Events during the day are out because cover costs too much.  There is very little suitable or relevant CPD.

We’d like content based CPD (eg applications such as Flash etc) but also general CPD on what’s happening in Computing.  The sessions that have been run by the University of Glasgow have very well recommended but are difficult to get to from outside Glasgow.

Linking a project I heard about at Game to Learn with a school in England teaching games theory and game design via Adobe Connect and Moodle with lecturers in Fife and Chicago and featuring guest speakers from the games design industry (Heads of big games development companies worldwide).  I think this would be a great way for teachers to learn new skills and keep them current without the expense of traveling somewhere else in Scotland or getting cover to be out of school.

We talked about the use of mobile devices and engaging with the technology in class while managing class behaviour.  There is a real benefit to utilizing technology plus we can use pupils enthusiasm for mobile devices.

Virtual Worlds were also discussed.  CANVAS didn’t get used because only a few councils opened their firewalls.  It will now use Unity and be ‘single-player’.  There are huge benefits to using virtual worlds in education though.

We need people to realize the generic skills learned from studying computing – information gathering, problem solving, etc.  Not every kid will become a programmer or a systems analyst.

We need a good publicity campaign!  For example, the Royal Society had a “not all Chemists wear white coats” campaign.  BCS could do this very well.

Economic arguments for Computer Science: there is a shortage of computing graduates.  The industry has continued to grow despite the dot com boom, recession etc and Computing has become the second most lucrative career (behind Medicine but before Law). There is a huge variety of jobs and careers involving Computing and other disciplines that utilize computing skills.  This message not getting through to pupils!

Computing introduces a new way of thinking about the world.  Alan Bundy from Edinburgh University ran a series of talks by people from other fields on the effects Computing has on their lives (http://www.inf.ed.ac.uk/research/programmes/comp-think/previous.html).  A Geologist said that when they worked on paper they were restricted to flat models, but with Computing they can have computational models.  Computing changes how we think about the world!

It was overall an interesting and fairly positive day.  England seem to be looking to Scotland as having the answers but there was generally consensus that we have problems here too but just less extreme at the moment.  The time to resolve issues is now – before we lose too many Computing departments in schools.