Monthly Archives: September 2017

H tension HW answers⤴

from @ fizzics

I’ve marked your HW jotters and will hand them back during tomorrow’s lesson. I’ll go over the main issues in class but many of you need to review the way you attempt tension questions; use a free body diagram and only use F=ma when you know the resultant force.  These two videos should help. HW ... Read more

Some Thoughts about Skills-Based Curricula⤴

from @ Learning Stuff About Stuff

I hear a lot of talk about skills-based curricula in Scotland these days, with the general vibe being that skills-based curricula are a Good Thing™. I'm not entirely clear what people mean by a skills-based curriculum, because it is one of those phrases which has slipped into the common parlance of educators without any clear definition (see also "learner conversations"). Try searching on the Education Scotland website for "skill based curriculum" and you'll draw a blank. I guess it means a curriculum defined in terms of the competencies being developed by our learners: a curriculum defined in terms of the things we want our learners to be able to do, rather than what they know.

I can see the appeal of this, but I am wary. Here are a couple of things which would worry me if they were true:

1.  Is this curriculum seeking to develop generic, transferable skills?

If so, we really need to distinguish between actual skills which are applicable in a range of contexts (such as being able to speak clearly, spell accurately, read well, be punctual, perform arithmetic, understand basic statistics etc.) and so-called "generic transferable skills" such a problem solving, critical thinking or creativity. The former are vital and should rightly be prioritised in a curriculum. The latter don't exist outwith specific domains of knowledge. If you are surprised to hear that, read this.

2. Does this curriculum prioritise skills development above the building of long-term knowledge?

If so, it fails to recognise that "in every domain that has been explored, considerable knowledge has been found to be an essential prerequisite to expert skill"? ("Expert and Novice Performance in Solving Physics Problems" -- Larkin, McDermott, Simon and Simon -- 1979-1980). Skills such as problem solving, creativity and critical thinking do, of course, exist. But they are developed by individuals within specific domains of knowledge, and rely upon the development of a considerable body of knowledge within that domain. It is nonsense to imagine that the expert problem solving skills I have developed within the domain of mathematics will in any way equip me to be a good problem solver in the world of graphic design, say. This article by Daniel Willingham looks at the challenges of teaching critical skills. If the curriculum recognises the importance of knowledge acquisition, focuses on that and then proceeds to provide learners with opportunities to apply their knowledge meaningfully, then it has a good chance of genuinely developing skills.

I am all in favour of a curriculum which focuses on the things learners end up being able to do, but such a curriculum must recognise that the principal means of increasing skill is to increase domain-specific knowledge. It is interesting to note that this message is entirely commonplace and mainstream in England, but is rarely voiced in Scotland.

Much of the work in Scotland on skills development is entirely rational and worthwhile. Take this example from Castlebrae, for example. The programme clearly understands that skills exist within domains of knowledge, and seeks to clarify what these important skills are, so that teachers can provide opportunities to develop them. The cross-curricular skills it identifies relate to literacy, numeracy and health-and-wellbeing. These all fall into the "former" category I identified earlier.

But schools only have 27.5 hours per week. Time spent on try to develop skills such as critical thinking in the abstract rather than within a specific domain of knowledge is time wasted, and there is no time to waste.

More than 140 characters in the wind?⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

I had been hoping to give a two minutes presentation at TeachMeet SLF 2017 this year, but had a calendar clash with parent’s night.

Teachmeet is famously aimed at giving an chance to teachers to present as opposed to educational experts 😉. Now I’ve been returned to the teaching fold I was looking forward to being a authentic voice again. Not that I was going to talk about classroom practice, I am still rediscovering my feet, but it would be nice to have ‘Classroom Teacher’ on a slide1.

I am fascinated by the ways that we share and talk about our work. I enjoy reading Twitter but love reading blog posts more. I was planning to frame this talk around a wonderful tweet:

‘Good works’ @MrMcMahonTPS & P7sThornlie. Deep thinking, critical reflection, positive action–“to generate possible worlds” #Bruner #Friere


and my response :

I love the inspiring tweets celebrating the work going on at Thornlie. Selfishly wish there were blog posts with details, recipes & more.

I later posted this:

But tweets are like poppies spread, You seize the flow’r,

It not that I don’t find value in twitter but I think it should only be part of an online conversation.

Comparing Blogs to Twitter

Given the two minute limit I was hoping to just provide some provocation.

It is in many ways a lot easier to tweet than to blog. But as my pal John Sexton reminds me

140 – skill in its own right! 2

There is a tendency for tweets to be a bit more knee jerk and the opportunity for Blogs to be more mindful.

Ownership, who owns your tweets, can blog posts can be more full ‘owned’?

Audience and community are easier to build on Twitter but I wonder how engaged the audience is?

Is it worth blogging if you don’t have an audience. I think so. I often blog about things that I don’t think others are interested in, this allows me to think, learn, recall later and perhaps through the power of google and serendipity find a friend.

Perhaps my main point is that twitter allows you to say “Look a a lovely fish” while a blog post allows you to explain how you catch a fish.

the best of both worlds

Optimistically I see the domain of ones own notion and the #indieweb movement as ways for us to embrace both forms of communication.

My recent playing with micro.blog and adding some indieweb plugins to this blog have been an interesting experience. I am attempting to own my own content but use silos as a distribution system.

Given the two minutes allowed for a nano presentation I can only leave you with some links and a plea for more educators to blog as well as tweet.

Credits: blog archive by Rflor, Fish by Andrey Vasiliev and Fishing by Vladimir Belochkin all from the Noun Project


  1. I am aware of the many many ironies and chuckles contained in this paragraph.  ↩
  2. This would not have been used at TM as John only tweeted it yesterday, but it is worth repeating.  ↩

Why we need to teach about Mental Health.⤴

from

 

On Wednesday evening I delivered a 7 minute talk at the Scottish Learning Festival Teachmeet. This is what I said.

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Today I am going to talk about why I believe we need to teach about mental health in schools. Some people like to argue that mental health education should be the remit of parents or health professionals or trained staff but I would argue differently.

I’m not very good at talking concisely. But I have to do so today. So if you are interested in hearing more of what I have to say, please check out my blog Lenabellina on WordPress.

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This is one reason we need to teach about mental health. I don’t disagree with reports like this when they are evidence-based and if they help raise awareness that we need to talk. But I also think that we need to be clear what we are talking about. Teenagers have always suffered from emotional difficulty; it is part of being an adolescent and it is really important that we acknowledge that and talk about it as teachers and as parents/carers. We also need to ensure that we don’t create a crisis of “mental illness” or teenage depression by somehow turning normal emotions into something pathological. In perhaps the greatest and most popular study of teenagers ever, Shakespeare presents adolescence in all its terrible, emotional beauty; “Romeo and Juliet” deals with the issue of teenage suicide.

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We also need to teach about mental health because of this. Because the world is confusing and hard to understand a lot of the time, not just for children, but for us adults too. And it’s only if we talk about it, that we will be able to manage it.

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So, I have tried to summarise my thoughts (aiming to be concise, remember!) in these four statements about why we need to teach about mental health.
1. Because there is still too much stigma surrounding mental health.
I did a twitter poll for teachers a while back and there clearly is still fear around judgement if you admit to sometime struggling with mental health issues.
2. Because we are role models and turnaround adults who shape lives.
When we choose to take on the responsibility of shaping children’s lives we become role models, like it or not.
3. Because by talking and teaching we can help to challenge the stigma.
4. Because children die when we don’t teach them to be mentally healthy. There is no expressing what you go through, as a teacher, when a young person in your care commits suicide.

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This is the World Health Organisation definition of mental health and I really like this. When we look at this, we have to question why there is stigma around talking about mental health. How is this any different to the broadest aims for education that any of us would aspire to achieve?

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And in fact, in spite of all the recent wranglings about the four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence, there is a huge resonance between the WHO definition and these capacities. I would not want to work in an education system that has anything else at its centre.

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But just to return to this slide for a moment, although I love this, I do have a slight issue with one word here and that is the word “normal”.

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When we talk about mental health we need to remember that there is no normal; my mental health is not necessarily yours. What is important is that each one of us understands what we need to do to keep mentally healthy.

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So, where should you start if you are going to teach about mental health? Just do it! ask pupils what they think, look at the World Health Organisation definition as a starter; why wouldn’t we talk about it? Use these fantastic resources which are freely available and if you need more help, consider doing a mental health first aid training course which will give you both confidence and understanding of mental health.

 

Before I finish, I would like to return to the idea of us being role models. It is important that, as role models to young people, we show our own vulnerabilities as well as our strengths. All my pupils know just now that my dad is not well and that I’m struggling…but they will also see me come out the other side of it and manage the emotions around this difficult situation.
They also know that I struggled with anxiety and perfectionism when I was in my early 20s because I have told them; I want them to learn from where I went wrong.
They don’t know the full details but I can tell you that it was a pretty dire time for me and that I fought some really difficult battles to stay mentally healthy. I am 100% certain that if someone at school had talked to me about mental health I wouldn’t have had such a difficult time. When we do talk and learn about it we can feel better and children need to know that.

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STEM Programme to be brought to over 200 Kinross Pupils⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

More than 200 pupils at Kinross High School will now have the chance to learn about careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) thanks to the support of WSP.

The global professional services consultancy which originally sponsored 25 pupils to take part in the Design, Engineer Construct!® (DEC) programme in 2016, has extended its funding of the project for 2017 so that more pupils can learn about STEM subjects.

Kinross High School is one of the first schools in Scotland to roll out the accredited programme and registered on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF).

The DEC programme at Kinross High School includes both theoretical and practical activities including lessons on the roles available within the construction industry and how a project goes from feasibility to construction.

Practical activities include site lessons on land surveying and how to use Building Information Modelling (BIM) software to create dimensional models of their own building designs.

Sarah Piscitelli, senior engineer at WSP, said: “We’re really excited to help bring the Design, Engineer Construct! Programme to even more pupils at Kinross High School this year.

“The feedback from last year’s programme has been excellent so we were keen to help extend this to allow more pupils to learn about engineering and the exciting career opportunities that can exist within this industry.

“We’re proud that Kinross will be one of the first high schools in Scotland to take the programme to this level and hope that more schools will get the chance to do this in the future.”

Richard Smith, design and technology teacher at Kinross High School said: “The pilot course that we ran, with the support of WSP, has been a huge success and we are delighted that this will now be extended to over 200 pupils across the school.

“It’s great to know that there is such a thirst from the pupils for these subjects and we hope that it will encourage more children to go on and study it further either at college or university or go on to pursue a career in the industry.”

Alison Watson, chief executive of Class Of Your Own Limited, the social business behind  Design, Engineer Construct!, said:  “The uptake of DEC in Scotland has been really exciting. Kinross High is a school with high aspirations for its young people, and the confidence and creativity simply oozes out of these children. It just shows what can be achieved with a great teacher and great industry support. These children will have an exceptional start to their working lives – just what Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce is all about.”

Projects undertaken by WSP in Scotland include the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, the Edinburgh Gateway Interchange and Glasgow 2014 Athlete’s village in Dalmarnock.

For more information about DEC, visit www.designengineerconstruct.com

Catching Up With Good Reads⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday

I’m getting to an age where being invited to other people’s houses fills me with terror. The small talk, the nibbles, the apologies for having to leave early after constantly and surreptitiously checking my watch every ten minutes; my ability to cope with the opinions of others is seriously receding. The concept of the book group is another level of hell. I’m unforgivably very set in my ways and my views. If I like something, I like it; I’m rarely swayed by reviews, whether from friends, strangers or newspapers. But that’s the nature of our tastes. My taste in books is better than yours; same goes with film and music.

It is in that context that I signed up for Goodreads. If you’re unaware of what it is, it’s a Social Media platform for readers, one where we can track what we read and record our progress. There is also scope for ongoing discussion with others and  it is an excellent forum for recommendations. And that’s fine if you like that sort of thing. I’ve not always been that bothered with it but signed up years ago just to see where it would take me. Like most Apps on my phone, however, I forgot all about it. Mostly.

This year has been a little different. In January, when we go through that resolution phase, I signed up to the reading challenge where you give yourself a target number of books to read in the year. I normally hate that sort of thing as it is quite okay if ‘War and Peace’ is the only book you read in a year as opposed to 18 books by Andy McNab or Jeffery Archer. However, I had spent years looking  at shelves of books I had bought and never read. Those were the books I, mostly, put on my list. If I couldn’t read them this year, I would get rid of them.

And it has been fine so far. That long line of neglected books has begun to shrink. That David Sedaris book I bought a couple of years back; finally discovering the joy of Magnus Mills; others that were ‘must-reads’ about five years ago. All moved to the ‘recently read’ shelf. ‘Goodreads’ has, bizarrely, provided a childish sense of achievement as I watch the list decrease and my ‘Reading Challenge’ overcome its targets. I’ve never given myself reading targets before. It has been okay. I do, however, miss  the rediscovered joy of reading an old book from my past; the digression from what I had planned to read to reacquaint myself with an old friend. Re-reading ‘Rabbit, Run’ was my greatest reading pleasure of the year.

The biggest problem is that when I look from my unread books to my newly purchased shelf I seem to have created a whole new, even bigger, pile. Of course I keep buying new books; of course I always will. And of course I’ll go back to reading old ones.

In his book ‘My father and Other Working Class Heroes’, Gary Imlach discusses the problems with televised football. ‘Every goal we see is remembered for us.’ Creating an online record of every book we have ever read creates a similar issue. Forgetting great books and returning to them unexpectedly can be a joyous thing; it can reintroduce you too old friends or enemies. And it reminds us of why reading consists of a lifetime of Good Reads.


Effective “Egyptians” Education⤴

from @ The Pedagogy Princess

Today’s first input for my Developing Effectiveness in Learning and Teaching module gave me a lot to think about and reflect on. I have to say that interdisciplinary learning is not something that I myself thought about when I was in school, however I remember my school days quite clearly. Now I think back to […]

Pedagogy for acquiring an additional language⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

https://schoolsonline.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/primary_languages_starter_pack.pdf

 

This resource, although it does not refer directly to Gaelic (Learners), has some useful information on second language acquisition. It may also be useful when planning the deployment of Language Assistants.

SLF 2017: DYW seminars – all presentations⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the SLF this year by providing seminar inputs on the topic of DYW or those who attended the sessions as a delegates.

Catch up on some of the inspirational messages around career education and diverse learner pathways by accessing the following presentations:

You also find more information about some of the presenting schools here: