Monthly Archives: April 2011

Why Do I Need a Teacher When I’ve Got Past Papers?⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better than Yesterday

Taking a meandering stroll through my local branch of a significantly large book store last week, I couldn’t help noticing that there were several concerned parents with several panicky looking children headed for the Education section. Aha.  It’s exam time. The time when parents begin to take an interest in their children’s prospects of success and when students begin to come to the terrifying realisation that, gulp, perhaps they should have worked a little bit harder; the time when battle weary teachers begin to develop that glint in the eye at the upcoming farewell to that difficult fourth year class. The sun is out; Bank holidays aplenty; Royals are getting married; the hard work has been done. Let’s hit the past papers.
 

I don’t know if you are aware – although if you are a teacher I’m sure you will be – but sales of past papers have become a growth industry in Scotland. They’ve always been around, of course, but the mountains of these things you have to navigate your way around in the book store nowadays beg closer inspection. If Mrs. Middle Class is buying past papers for all the subjects her children are studying, does it not suggest that something has gone wrong at some point here? I always feel the urge to whisper to the frantic parent that if you have to spend fifty pounds at Easter then it’s already too late. It symbolises to me exactly what is wrong with our Education system.


A few years back as part of a Chartered Teacher project, I conducted a little research into the use of Past Papers as a Teaching Tool in English. I, as all of us do at some point, especially early in our careers, would turn to these papers at times in the year, believing it to be a genuine measure of progress. Bearing in mind that I am an English Teacher and can only speak from that point of view, I found that unless we can recreate the true experience of an exam situation there is very little benefit gained. Yes, they do become accustomed to layout and type of questions but would it not be better to construct these questions around current reading or even topical newspaper articles? In English, which I consider to be a skills based subject, having students complete past papers in class or, even worse, for homework, merely confirms what they do not know rather than what they do know. And it is this negative experience which makes them groan every time they see them being churned out at the beginning of lessons.

Getting back to the large book store, the bottom line is that someone is making a fortune from the exam anxiety our Education system has created. You will also find, along with past papers, at least six books to help your child with Higher English. More still to help you with Curriculum for Excellence. They are not cheap. Add that to the endless photocopying sometimes required in the lead up to exams you can begin to see what a massive waste it all is. I think the over-dependence on past papers is lazy and, ultimately, not particularly beneficial. Nothing replaces regular challenging reading as the optimum way to become a better reader in any subject. No text book will help you with that.


 
When we, as educators, buy into the belief that past papers are some form of panacea, or we recommend them as revision tools, we are being lazy and confirming the myth that the exam is everything.  It may well seem to be at that moment but there are better, more productive ways to revise. Otherwise, why do they need you when they’ve got past papers?


 Incidentally, the next time you’re in your local large book store and feel the temptation to purchase past papers, ask them if they are available on Kindle. When the colour has drained from their faces, tell them that was for John Smiths and all of the other small booksellers they drove off the High Street. Then they will know how it feels.

Why Do I Need a Teacher When I’ve Got Past Papers?⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better than Yesterday

Taking a meandering stroll through my local branch of a significantly large book store last week, I couldn’t help noticing that there were several concerned parents with several panicky looking children headed for the Education section. Aha.  It’s exam time. The time when parents begin to take an interest in their children’s prospects of success and when students begin to come to the terrifying realisation that, gulp, perhaps they should have worked a little bit harder; the time when battle weary teachers begin to develop that glint in the eye at the upcoming farewell to that difficult fourth year class. The sun is out; Bank holidays aplenty; Royals are getting married; the hard work has been done. Let’s hit the past papers.
 

I don’t know if you are aware – although if you are a teacher I’m sure you will be – but sales of past papers have become a growth industry in Scotland. They’ve always been around, of course, but the mountains of these things you have to navigate your way around in the book store nowadays beg closer inspection. If Mrs. Middle Class is buying past papers for all the subjects her children are studying, does it not suggest that something has gone wrong at some point here? I always feel the urge to whisper to the frantic parent that if you have to spend fifty pounds at Easter then it’s already too late. It symbolises to me exactly what is wrong with our Education system.


A few years back as part of a Chartered Teacher project, I conducted a little research into the use of Past Papers as a Teaching Tool in English. I, as all of us do at some point, especially early in our careers, would turn to these papers at times in the year, believing it to be a genuine measure of progress. Bearing in mind that I am an English Teacher and can only speak from that point of view, I found that unless we can recreate the true experience of an exam situation there is very little benefit gained. Yes, they do become accustomed to layout and type of questions but would it not be better to construct these questions around current reading or even topical newspaper articles? In English, which I consider to be a skills based subject, having students complete past papers in class or, even worse, for homework, merely confirms what they do not know rather than what they do know. And it is this negative experience which makes them groan every time they see them being churned out at the beginning of lessons.

Getting back to the large book store, the bottom line is that someone is making a fortune from the exam anxiety our Education system has created. You will also find, along with past papers, at least six books to help your child with Higher English. More still to help you with Curriculum for Excellence. They are not cheap. Add that to the endless photocopying sometimes required in the lead up to exams you can begin to see what a massive waste it all is. I think the over-dependence on past papers is lazy and, ultimately, not particularly beneficial. Nothing replaces regular challenging reading as the optimum way to become a better reader in any subject. No text book will help you with that.


 
When we, as educators, buy into the belief that past papers are some form of panacea, or we recommend them as revision tools, we are being lazy and confirming the myth that the exam is everything.  It may well seem to be at that moment but there are better, more productive ways to revise. Otherwise, why do they need you when they’ve got past papers?


 Incidentally, the next time you’re in your local large book store and feel the temptation to purchase past papers, ask them if they are available on Kindle. When the colour has drained from their faces, tell them that was for John Smiths and all of the other small booksellers they drove off the High Street. Then they will know how it feels.

Animation After School Club – Cumbernauld Primary School⤴

from @ ICT Hardware Loans

Cumbernauld

Posted on behalf of Helen Westell

Background

The animation after school club ran from January to April in two 5-week blocks.  15 children attended each block to learn how to use animation software and film techniques.  The first week the children looked at various animations using the Glow site and previous animations done in the school.  They split into groups and worked on creating a storyboard and ideas for their animation.  Week 2 the children designed props, backgrounds and plastiecne models.  Week 3, 4 and 5 the children filmed their animations using I Can Animate software and editing the films using imovie, following instruction videos on Glow from the computer centre.  Each child was presented with a disc of their film and these were uploaded to the school website for all to see.

How ICT supported learning and teaching

ICT supported teaching and learning and was used as a tool for language and literacy projects during the after school club. Reading, writing of storyboards and talking and listening in group work and editing animations.

Children worked co-operatively in groups using social skills and peer coached and mentored each other.

Impact / conclusion

The children are confident and successful in using animation software and setting up the webcams.  The animation club children will be used as peer coaches and mentors to use the software and hardware in other classes for interdisciplinary work.

Animation have been uploaded to the NLC  Glow site  ICT for Pupils – Animation

ePortfolios and Transition Stages⤴

from

My last post ended with a remark about what the future holds for for our class emerging ePortfolios. I was delighted that Jaye Richards took the time to write an indepth comment to the post shortly after reading it – it was Jaye, after all, who inadvertently led me to the concept of ePortfolios via twitter … and I’ve been sold on the idea ever since :-)

 I made an attempt to reply to her comment but after reading her follow-up blog post on the subject and her thought-provoking accounts of her own experiences, I decided that another blog post on here was the best way to reply. She got me thinking about the stumbling blocks that have been encountered when children I’ve taught in the past have moved on to High School. I also went on a trip down memory lane this evening and experienced (again) some of the frustrations that Jaye talks about in her post.  I’ll quote from Maryam’s transition blog posts to try to demonstrate what I mean.

  • Towards the end of primary 7 at Carronshore, Maryam wrote on her blog” My favourite thing ever is English. I love reading and writing. They are the only two things that are important too me. I have been writing quite alot of posts about reading and writing, well i just love writing and stuff. …. I can’t wait to get to high school  to ask my English teacher for advice for getting really good ideas. “
  • In this blog post she describes the excitement as her entry to High School looms ever closer: “I can’t believe we have finished primary school already! Its a bit quick. Well we still have a couple of weeks left of school but it doesn’t feel like it. We are finally the oldest in Primary school but now we will be back to the youngest in high school. That’ll be a bit hard. I’m looking forward too all the new lessons there and making new friends and stuff. I just cab’t wait for tommorow.”
  • Maryam is now in 1st year at high school (last term):  “I thought i would go on my blog just for old times sake. High school has been SOOO weird. It’s like i have been there all my life and not been to primary school once, but i have not forgotten primary school, I MISS IT SO MUCH. We have been doing all sorts of stuff and we have had sooo much .. drama? I think that is the word for it. It has been so BIZZARE. I have just chosen my subjects before the easter holidays. It was kind of depressing.”
  •  Her final post on her blog was when she entered 2nd year (she’s already regretting her subject choice) “So yes, it has been almost a month of school and i am in second year. It is alot harder than i thought, well kind of. I did choose the subjects i wanted , [i still regret picking some of them]!”

Maryam’s posts dried up soon after this, but her experience of her transition to High School echo the thoughts in Jaye’s post  when she wrote:

 ”my old school is now making children choose their examinable subjects two thirds of the way through S1 !!

If I had my way, they wouldn’t even get ‘distinct’ subjects until S3…”

Hmmm!!

Anyway – back to my post title! –  ePortfolios and Transition Stages.

 

I’m hoping that the ePortfolios might succeed where the blogs alone failed. Maybe if the children know that the purpose of them is to demonstrate progress in their learning journey, then the responsibility for the upkeep and the freedom to choose what is included would enhance the feeling of ownership. The wikis seem to accommodate the ‘growth’ aspect more than a blog (even with tagging, etc).

I love the way Kian has already set his pages up for Primary 7 and his transition to High School.  All the children choose their own layout and this one obviously made more sense to him.

I also really like his ‘Life Achievement’ section – others have used this phrase when referring to their ePortfolios. Check out Alyson’s ‘sticky’ post on her Glow Blog :-)

Click on the loveheart to see my ePortfolio.I have all my achievements  inside and outside school!!!

(All my achievement through out my life) Fingers cross it works!!!

I also really like Andrew’s ePortfolio layout. He felt it was important to include a page with links to his favourite Glow Blog posts:

I have a blog as well as this ePortfolio. Click here to visit it. I am going to put some of my favourite blog posts in this section of my ePortfolio. So use the links in the banners below to view my best blog posts.

 christmas post.gif

 winter report.gif

 signing.gif

max in the middle.gif

The children are already asking questions about what will happen to their Glow Blogs and Wikis when they move on to Primary 7 and then on to High School.

Ideally, I’d like to support them for one more year to continue to provide feedback …… but that’s not for me to decide 🙂 

Feedback is a very important ingredient if an ePortfolio is to succeed. It’s mostly oral in Primary, but the wikis have a comment facility that could be used by Secondary staff in S1 and beyond?

Too many questions still unanswered – time to publish :-)

‘He’s Not the Messiah, He’s a Very Naughty Boy’⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better than Yesterday



There is a scene in Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’, which reminds me, in a strange kind of way, of schools and their teachers. It’s the scene where Graham Chapman, as Brian, is being chased by a band of followers, who are convinced that he is the Messiah. As the group moves on, a character played by Spike Milligan shouts for attention, convinced he has the answer to their prayers. The group ignores him. They walk off in another direction. He shrugs his shoulders. He walks off in the opposite direction.


There are various ways to metamorphose this scene into schools, especially in the current CPD context. The group are completely ignoring the one man there claiming he has the answer. How many times has someone popped up in your department with a sure-fire way of improving Learning and Teaching, be it Writing/ Reading/ any other thing we do every day, badly, allegedly? And how many times has this person been ignored and dismissed as another ambitious wannabe manager looking for a foothold on the ‘golden’ ladder of promotion?

But what about Spike, himself? Giving up at the first sign of any obstacle to dispensing his vital, perhaps even crucial, view of the problem area. Give up. Nobody is listening anyway. Sound familiar?

However, you could see the real culprit as the so-called messiah figure who always seems to be disappearing round the corner at the least opportune moment. I’ve been teaching for almost twelve years now and in that time I’ve experienced several of these remote messiahs. Currently ‘Co-operative learning’. And very often I blindly follow, hoping for the answer, just around another corner, just out of reach.

In 2004, I undertook my first Chartered Teacher module and thus, became a potential Spike Milligan – without the good jokes, of course. Yes, I have found myself preaching to the ‘won’t-be-converted’ at times and a soul-destroying feeling it can be. But the point I am trying to make is that, unlike old Spike, it is crucial that those with a voice, be it Chartered Teachers or anyone who has something to say, keep on shouting until they are heard. The Chartered Teacher programme should have I think, in time, changed the perception that anyone shouting loudly has a hidden agenda. Perhaps we do have the…gulp…good of the profession at heart. The financial benefits are fairly transparent so why should we be looking for promotion?

There is a growing voice amongst teachers that effective and beneficial Staff Development will come more and more from inside our own departments. So why shouldn’t it be the Chartered Teachers who lead the way? All too often we bite our thumbs at outsiders who haven’t taught in years, coming into our schools on In-service days, claiming they know the answers. And very often the answers may be next door, in the classroom of a colleague who we’ve taught beside for years. The times they are a-changing and the days of searching for a hero are well gone, I’m afraid. Open up your doors, my friends! Walk six feet and listen. You never know. Spike might have something important to say after all.


P.S. I never got round to finishing the Chartered Teacher programme...maybe one day.

‘He’s Not the Messiah, He’s a Very Naughty Boy’⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better than Yesterday



There is a scene in Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’, which reminds me, in a strange kind of way, of schools and their teachers. It’s the scene where Graham Chapman, as Brian, is being chased by a band of followers, who are convinced that he is the Messiah. As the group moves on, a character played by Spike Milligan shouts for attention, convinced he has the answer to their prayers. The group ignores him. They walk off in another direction. He shrugs his shoulders. He walks off in the opposite direction.


There are various ways to metamorphose this scene into schools, especially in the current CPD context. The group are completely ignoring the one man there claiming he has the answer. How many times has someone popped up in your department with a sure-fire way of improving Learning and Teaching, be it Writing/ Reading/ any other thing we do every day, badly, allegedly? And how many times has this person been ignored and dismissed as another ambitious wannabe manager looking for a foothold on the ‘golden’ ladder of promotion?

But what about Spike, himself? Giving up at the first sign of any obstacle to dispensing his vital, perhaps even crucial, view of the problem area. Give up. Nobody is listening anyway. Sound familiar?

However, you could see the real culprit as the so-called messiah figure who always seems to be disappearing round the corner at the least opportune moment. I’ve been teaching for almost twelve years now and in that time I’ve experienced several of these remote messiahs. Currently ‘Co-operative learning’. And very often I blindly follow, hoping for the answer, just around another corner, just out of reach.

In 2004, I undertook my first Chartered Teacher module and thus, became a potential Spike Milligan – without the good jokes, of course. Yes, I have found myself preaching to the ‘won’t-be-converted’ at times and a soul-destroying feeling it can be. But the point I am trying to make is that, unlike old Spike, it is crucial that those with a voice, be it Chartered Teachers or anyone who has something to say, keep on shouting until they are heard. The Chartered Teacher programme should have I think, in time, changed the perception that anyone shouting loudly has a hidden agenda. Perhaps we do have the…gulp…good of the profession at heart. The financial benefits are fairly transparent so why should we be looking for promotion?

There is a growing voice amongst teachers that effective and beneficial Staff Development will come more and more from inside our own departments. So why shouldn’t it be the Chartered Teachers who lead the way? All too often we bite our thumbs at outsiders who haven’t taught in years, coming into our schools on In-service days, claiming they know the answers. And very often the answers may be next door, in the classroom of a colleague who we’ve taught beside for years. The times they are a-changing and the days of searching for a hero are well gone, I’m afraid. Open up your doors, my friends! Walk six feet and listen. You never know. Spike might have something important to say after all.


P.S. I never got round to finishing the Chartered Teacher programme...maybe one day.

Glow Blogs and Wikis – A Closer Look⤴

from

There’s been a lull on here of late because I’ve been taking time to observe what’s been happening with our individual class Glow Blogs  and Glow Wikis. I’m hoping that the process of writing this blog post will everything intp perspective :-)

Our Individual Blogs

@cpsprimary6v usually update their Glow blogs from home, rather than at school. I think there are two main reasons for this:

  • We have two hours a week in our school computer suite – and the children need to share the 16 machines (it’s a class of 30) – we have been known to beg, steal and borrow it at other times, too, but there are so many exciting things to do there, that there is rarely time to put on blog posts :-). We have a computer in the class, but that’s usually taken up with other things such as AR Reading and Smartboard use
  • From the outset, I made the decision not to dictate how the children used their blogs. I’ve blogged before about the importance of a feeling of ownership if online spaces are to be sustainable. There have been lots of great posts made from home and we always share them in class. This has inspired others to write their own blog posts – and even just reading them out aloud has helped the writers and the listeners to think about how they might improve their writing. One very recent example for me of a feeling of ownership was when Mason chose to share his experience of travelling to Qatar to visit his dad  great :-)

Our Individual Wikis

The growth of our Glow wikis has been slower. The children understood the blog ’Online Diary’ concept but building an ePortfolio is much more complex and I’ve been taking a closer look to see what’s happening. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that there has been evidence of:

  • Gathering evidence of Learning and Achievement – For example, Robyn posted her Burns’ poetry comptetition entry and continued to update her Glow wiki from home. Have a look/listen – Robyn’s ePortfolio .

I was also very impressed last week when Andrew  suggested that he could add his thoughts about his love of books to his ePortfolio. He wrote:

“I have always loved reading and I have a card for the local library. At school we do a thing called AR Reading. It’s where you take a test at the start of the year and get given a level. You then choose a book from our school within that level and read it. Once you have read it you take a test about the book on a computer at school. You then print out a sheet showing your result. You have a big jotter where you record what books you have read and score you got on the tests. I am on the highest level for AR Reading, and I enjoy it.”

  • Showing evidence of how learning has progressed – reflecting on learning – Andrew  wrote about his attitude to maths and how he has “.. enjoyed maths from Primary 1 and have always tried hard in it. I find the work I do fun and I learn new things all the time. My favourite thing in math is long multiplication. My mum and dad taught me how to do long multiplication in P4. I can do most things I have been taught in math but there is a few things I could improve on. I mainly struggle on Rotational Symmetry, but I don’t think you will need to know that in life.”

            Charlotte also showed evidence of reflecting when she wrote about how she found it hard to work with someone else on a task – “Well at first we  could not agree on an idea but then we finally came to a compromise that we would combine both our ideas.”

What I’ve learned

I think allowing the children to use their Glow blogs and wikis in this way has provided me with evidence for assessment – I’ve seen a closer ‘snapshot’ of who they are. The children have shown evidence of achievements both inside and outside of school. Anna’s example is typical of an outside school achievement:

…..”We did our floor routine’s first. The judge would judge us on how slowly and neatly our routines were done. After that it was the volt. What I did was run, and then jump on a spring board, then land in squat jump onto the volt and then straight jump off. One of our coaches were compeeting. Then it was the award ceremony. It was team points. I kept saying to Alyson ‘ Were never going to win because we have 2 people and they have 3 or 4 ‘. In the award ceromony it was the 1-3 resuts, then 4-5 and then my one 6-7. I wasn’t even listening when the man called out the results because there was no chance we had one a medal because only the 3rd, 2nd and 1st got a medal. I heard the man say ‘Alyson’. It was then that I relised we had one a bronze medal! …”

… I’m already filling my head with more questions – I wonder what will happen to their ePortfolios in Primary 7 … and the S1 transition period. Hopefully they will survive as it’s the children themselves who are ‘in the driving seat’ :-)

 

 

Prof John Ellis Interview⤴

from @ digital learning foundation

As part of our research visit to CERN, for our LHC 3D show, we were extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to do a short interview with Prof John Ellis.

This is the first part of series of short interviews from that visit.

You can change the 3D viewing options, by clicking on the 3D button at the bottom of the video.

A gallery of images from the LHC visit can be found here : Gallery

Information about the 3D school show will be available here : LHC 3D School Show

Prof John Ellis Interview⤴

from @ digital learning foundation

As part of our research visit to CERN, for our LHC 3D show, we were extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to do a short interview with Prof John Ellis.

This is the first part of series of short interviews from that visit.

You can change the 3D viewing options, by clicking on the 3D button at the bottom of the video.

A gallery of images from the LHC visit can be found here : Gallery

Information about the 3D school show will be available here : LHC 3D School Show