Nov 302013
 

We’ve begun formulating some ideas for improving on the way we use feedback at school. I was impressed that for the first time during an INSET activity we were encouraged to reflect on recent ideas from influential teacher bloggers. We found the following blog posts particularly useful:

Tom Sherrington on Closing the Gap

Alex Quigley’s posts on DIRTy WorkImproving Written Feedback and Make Your Marking Policy a Feedback Policy

Shaun Allison on Verbal Feedback

Andy Tharby on Marking: Minimum Effort for Maximum Pleasure

David Didau’s classic piece  Marking is an act of love

Joe Kirby’s What if you marked every book every lesson?

Part of the twilight involved a book scrutiny which provided plenty of reassuring evidence that a variety of interesting and effective practice was flourishing in different departments. We established some core principles that could underpin a new policy on assessment and feedback and then began to list a range of helpful strategies.

Towards the end of the session the accountability agenda injected itself somewhat uncomfortably into the discussion by raising the perennial issue of what constitutes a reasonable time interval for marking books. Feeling that a rigid policy  in this regard could actually undermine any transformational practice, we suggested that teachers should be required to demonstrate understanding of the principles of a new assessment and feedback policy. The implication is that we need be able to make feedback work more effectively and that the days of ticking and flicking to suit a marking timetable should lie firmly in the past. Closer scrutiny of assessment and feedback at department level will be required to ensure not just compliance, but understanding of good practice.

The presentation below represents the very start of our thinking and the plan is that by sharing it via our Google Apps-based network, all teachers can contribute to a dynamic resource that improves over time.

Nov 062012
 

What makes an outstanding Geography lesson? Following a three part lesson format? Checking progress every 5 minutes? Lesson objectives on the board? Err no. According to Leszek Iwaskow, HMI and National Geography advisor, speaking at a conference in Somerset it’s pretty simple…


There’s a message in there for leadership teams attempting to impose an imaginary perfect lesson format on the rest of us. And if you ever need to deploy Geography Catchphrase

Nov 012012
 

A demonstration of how easy it is to use pre-made SketchUp models from the 3D warehouse to augment Google Earth. I’ve mentioned this idea before. The rationale is to get students thinking more creatively in decision making exercises, environmental impact assessments etc. by incorporating Google Earth imagery and other data into the learning.


An imaginary quarry redevelopment on the Isle of Portland

The activity allows some interesting “what if”? hypothesising. The Burj Dubai in Wellington, Somerset for example…

The point to be made is that it’s not necessary to have much more than a basic grasp of SketchUp, though I’ve found that some students will not be able to resist improving their skills in 3D design once they have been introduced to the software.

Scribd has done it’s usual hatchet job on the notes, but they also be downloaded here.

Creating Virtual landscapes in Google Earth and SketchUp.doc

Oct 192012
 

Somewhat shamefully, I’ve neglected my networks recently and nearly missed out on a place at Clevedon TeachMeet 5. I was a little disappointed as I’d been badly needing a motivational dose of the Teachmeet kind. Fortunately, spare capacity opened up just in time, so with a car loaded up with colleagues from work, I headed up to Clevedon to the sample the INSETuous ™  delights that were promised by the programme.

Quite honestly I’d turn up to the Clevedon TeachMeets just to watch organiser Mark Anderson introduce them. Driven by his inner game show host/demon, Mark manages to surpass himself each time, though where he takes the game show parody from here is something that is surely going to start keeping him awake at night. Possibly some kind of zip wire construction?

After the usual delicious food, and confirmation that @GeoBlogs had made it to @Pekabelo’s brilliant Tweachers Tube map it was on with the show. Vic Goddard from Passmores (Cooperative) Academy, delivered the keynote, combining a delicious mix of inspiration and subversion, a cocktail that was bound to go down well with the audience. As far as I could ascertain, Vic is looking for the following qualities in his staff:

Despite familiarity with the themes of Educating Essex, it was good to be reminded of Vic’s “no student fails” philosophy.  David Didau was quick to retweet Vic’s suggestion that ’We can’t accept being part of their success if you don’t own up to your part in their failures’.

I wasn’t aware the work of Taylor Mali, with which Vic ended his talk, but it was entirely fitting…

Ben Keeling then joined us from live from Jakarta to talk about his new book on school improvement. Maybe we should consider a rethink on the benefits of doodling?

In a new twist to the format, there followed a choice of expert seminars. I joined the Head of Clevedon School, John Wells, who galloped through the philosophy and leadership decisions that underpinned the journey from Ofsted Notice to Improve to Outstanding. I’m looking forward to watching his presentation again as my brain wasn’t processing fast enough. I’ll conceal the one part of his talk that caused me to nearly choke on my stick of rock, but his reflections on the benefits of project based homework, streamlined management and “live” lesson observations are all points that I’ll take back to my own SLT. The best teaching tip for me concerned reflection time. This week I took in a piece of work from an able student, that once I’d settled down at home to mark, turned out to be a five second copy and paste job. To avoid this happening again, I’m going to build in time to allow students to reflect on their work, before they hand it in.

Finally, it was time for the five minute presentations…

Gavin Smart opened proceedings by encouraging the audience to consider how to engage the services of family and friends as video “experts” illustrating the point with his Grandad-powered acid rain resourceAmy Wells and Leigh Almey outlined their collaborative work on a “museum of learning”. Students considered what kind of museum exhibits would they like to see as an outcome of their work on the Black Death. Logistical concerns cast aside, the class then brought their ideas to life for the benefit of other students. Andy Hutt highlighted the The App Builder and AppShed as simple tools for constructing mobile phone learning resources, and PE specialist Mat Pullen described his Google Drive based progress tracking scheme that allows students to receive feedback from any member of his department.

Gabrielle Murtagh’s presentation described the “Imaginarium” a collection of curious artefacts used to provide a stimulus for hypothesising, deducing, creating and story telling. The Imaginarium is part of Clevedon school’s programme of activities for students in isolation, and my colleagues and I were completely sold on the idea. Hyper-enthusiastic  Chris Baker overcame a particularly long mobile phone distraction of the farmyard variety to share his maxim of Do It With Them rather than Do It To Them, the idea being to use student voice to determine the direction of learning. I’m really looking forward to watching a video replay of his presentation.

Clevedon’s brilliant Digital Leaders talked about their motivations and how they like to learn. They are challenged to apply for the role in creative ways, but for me an application form in binary takes the prize. They have a dedicated blog and twitter feed to communicate with other DLs. Alessio Bernadelli demonstrated several ways to put audiences off Prezi, before showing us a presentation on planets to remind us that a little thought and creativity can lead to compelling Prezis, especially to illustrate scale. I’m going to revisit Alessio’s work next time I’m preparing a resource on a physical geography topic.

Mark Anderson stepped up to invite us to consider the potential of ICT to transform learning, illustrating the SAMR model. A little Googling reveals more; the image below is from SBISD Coaches Corner

David Didau initiated the first of several talks by “Daves”. His focus was on Project Based learning, and the potency of a public dimension to create meaningful learning outcomes. I’m fully supportive of this approach, which has been a cornerstone of  my practice for many years, though David’s project engaged with the students and local community in a really creative and ambitious project, and even recreated Checkpoint Charlie around the entrance to the reception! I’d expect nothing less from the Learning Spy.

Dave Gale, illustrated the power of crowd sourcing and Google docs, to extend his jokes, and more importantly his Ultimate Maths Faculty to the Ultimate Faculty,  while Dave Stacey spoke about 10 things he’d learned from rebooting his teaching. Dave mentioned that he’d worked for an afternoon a week in a local primary. For me this was the tip of the evening and one that I’m hoping to try for myself. David Beesley reminded us of the humble post-it note for eliciting instant feedback and the final Dave, David Morgan aka lesson hacker, implored us to make better use of VLE’s. THEY ARE NOT FILING CABINETS! Dave’s idea of giving students 20% time for their own explorations is fantastic. Last year my Year 7′s and I introduced “Year 7 Takeover” where I handed them a lesson a fortnight so they could plan and teach their own lessons. Maybe I’ll share the outcomes at a future TeachMeet!

Donna Hay discussed Apps for Good which takes on a competitive journey to design a real app and looks like a brilliant idea, especially for more able students and Helen Rogerson summed up her approach to lesson planning with the 5 E’s: Engage, Elicit, Explore, Explain and Elaborate – in that order. Finally, Kat Crocker shared more of her solutions to tutor time, this time Guardian Eye Witness which has a particularly impressive iPad interface.

As usual, a massive thanks to Mark Anderson,  all the presenters, the Clevedon School staff and students and all the sponsors including Western Computers, Three Cherries, Independent Thinking Press and Crown House publishers. Apologies if I missed you out.  Videos of the presentations can be found at the TeachMeet Clevedon YouTube channel.

And now, back to school with a renewed determination to Make a Difference! 

 

 

Jun 232012
 

I was lucky enough to be invited to the Google Teachers Institute held in London over 20/21 June at Google’s new London office. Unfortunately I could only attend on the second day which was broadly devoted to SketchUp. I really wanted to learn more about this application having briefly dabbled a few years ago.

My own presentation (no PPT) focussed on the value of Google Earth as a decision making tool, and as a great vehicle for student created content, such as this example from a current project where the student has created proportional bars to represent the depth of sand on each side of groynes at Dawlish Warren.


The files I used are here.

Highlights of the day…
There were super presentations from the enthusiastic Google Outreach team as well as other teachers. One outcome of the day is that I’m now confident at geo-modelling in SketchUp. Here’s my classroom block at school:

Beryl Reid who took us through the techniques for geo-modelling also mentioned AR-media. I was familiar with this augmented reality application, but hadn’t realised that there was a dedicated iPad app which makes downloading and displaying AR models a cinch…

Le Mont-Saint-Michel augments my desktop…

It was great to hear Richard Allaway talking about some of his Google Earth work. I was very much taken with the elegant simplicity of his Imperial Airways to Cape Town activity, which I’d like to use myself.

Julie Brown from the National Geographic Education Program took us on a spirited trot through the latest educational materials on the National Geographic website and highlighted some wonderful resources that I’m looking forward to exploring further.

Many thanks to the Google Outreach team for organizing the event. Come back soon!

 

Oct 152011
 

This is a presentation I gave at the Somerset Geographers conference. I’m exploring how to incorporate social networking into my GCSE teaching, while encouraging the learners to make the best use of online resources.

Accompanying this presentation was a video by Oasis:

and a Google Earth file incorporating Gavin’s unofficial OS maps overlay (not to be used in Google Earth!)

Thanks to the students whose work is featured in this presentation.