Pedagogy First – Technology….

imgres

Has there ever been a more exciting time to be a teacher? There is certainly more choice and opportunity, with access to tools that were merely an idea a decade ago. Global interconnectivity through technology has transformed the world of work. Offices are paperless; conferences are virtual and information is shared instantly. This is the real world; the future for our students.  So how do we make the link? How do we ensure the learning is relevant? How does the pedagogy need to adapt to seize the moment and equip our students for success in this world? The journey is underway. Access to certain technology through which learning can be enhanced, means students can be interactive; enquiring, self- reflective and connected to the social, economic and global contexts in which they live.

However, we seem to be embroiled in a period of political meddling, which irrespective of motive, is a distraction and is causing disruption for teachers and students. Nevertheless the average student who is a product of our schools is evidence that current practices threaten to damage the education system for years to come. Is it not daunting that in recent international academic tests, our students’ ranking was more than a disappointment? Yet reaction to concerning levels of achievement is not helpful.  A government convinced by the need for ‘old fashioned’ examinations and thus more than likely outdated pedagogy is at odds with the technology available to teachers and students. In turn, owing to the emergence of the tablet, there has never been an easier time to curate, create and express learning than today. Yet, rigor and progress do not have to be mutually exclusive.  It is time to adopt a sensible and progressive philosophy on learning and thus pedagogy. It should always be pedagogy first.

‘Pedagogy first’ is of course a truism that you would struggle to find a teacher disagreeing with. You don’t have to look far for educational commentary and literature pointing to the need to address pedagogy in this time of disruption. The issue is that for many teachers a change in pedagogical methods is not easy or natural. Therefore, many might consider a pedagogical shift involving technology as merely adding to this period of upheaval. You have to question the extent to which technology is benefiting the pedagogy because it is disrupting education and this doesn’t sit well with all stakeholders in education.

Consider terms like ‘flipped learning’, ‘transformational feedback’ and ‘MOOCs’. These words alone can immediately present barriers to teachers who have really only known education to be about a school, the books and the examinations. The fact is those terms now exist because of the technology available but don’t they represent what we have always wanted to do? Haven’t we always wanted to transform our students through the feedback given?

Let’s take ‘flipped learning’ as an example. I am not necessarily in favour of the generalisation but in essence, students watch a video of ‘content’ prior to the lesson and then complete homework style tasks in the lesson. The benefit lies in the help the teacher can give the student, if they are stuck on a problem, rather than always delivering content in the lesson. Precious face to face questioning time is therefore more readily available. Students are developing the higher order analytical and evaluative skills with the help of the teacher. Skills are relevant to the outside world, aiding a grasp of content. Learning content alone leaves students without the independence to tackle new situations.  There are obvious benefits to using contact time in this way, and some pitfalls. It represents the need to consider the context and therefore the pedagogy. Who are the learners? What is the subject material? And what outcomes does the teacher expect to see? From my own practice I believe there is a real advantage to students arriving to my lesson with knowledge that I have conveyed to them. It isn’t out of a book or via a worksheet and is delivered with their context in mind. The key is that it takes very little effort to manipulate the resources and create the video because of the technology that is available. It is also easier for the students to view because of the prevalence and relevance of technology in society today. Again this comes down to context. The learners have to have access to resources that enhance knowledge and help develop skills for later life. If this is not the outcome, the choice of pedagogy is wrong in this instance.

The pedagogy behind ‘flipped learning’ is that the teacher will tailor a content based resource specific to their learners. A textbook or generic video cannot possibly do this for everyone. We have always wanted to be able to personalise learning for all our students and here is one way we can achieve it, depending on the context. Therefore the process should be based on how a teacher wants to enhance learning and then find the resources to help produce the best  outcome. Herein lies the rub, once a teacher has decided on a change in pedagogy, barriers begin to appear. If a teacher has never used the technology then it is not as easy as touching a screen a few times. Which brings me on to my next point…

We are all learners. Again another truism. It makes sense that we should be always be looking to adapt and develop in every walk of life. But, has that always been the case for teachers? I should state at this point I am not trying to undermine the profession and its outstanding practitioners of the last 100 years. However, it is often said that teaching looked very similar in the 1960′s as it did in the year 2000 and that teachers have often taught in the way they were taught in school.

Historically technology has changed the normal methodology, but has had little impact on outcome and teachers have been delivering excellent lessons in a ‘standardised’ way for decades. This way has been challenged by the introduction of tablets into schools. And, it is a challenge to understand the change in pedagogy that comes along with a device that acts as a portal to the world. The ability to access information; give instant feedback and communicate outside ‘lesson time’ restructures the learning process. This is difficult for some teachers to comprehend because the process they have always known is content, followed by homework and test.

Consider the ‘Feedback Loop’. The typical loop involves the issuing of an assignment during a lesson and submission of the completed assignment the following lesson. The teacher will then give feedback on the assignment and hand this back in a subsequent lesson. The student will then act on the feedback and perhaps submit a final piece of work, again, in the following lesson. The time taken for this process could easily be two weeks from start to finish. With new technology this ‘Feedback Loop’ can look very different.

Students can now submit their work online at a time when the teacher has an allocated period to provide feedback. The teacher can then annotate the work and provide audible feedback to the student which can be sent back to them on the same day. Essentially the tools are now available to ensure the next contact time with a student is more meaningful. Not only is the material still fresh in the mind, but also the feedback can inform the content of the next lesson.

Reducing the time taken for the ‘Feedback Loop’ is something teachers consider to enhance learning. It is not using the technology for its own sake but rather using it to achieve something they have always wanted to do, make feedback as effective as possible. The barrier is understanding how to use the technology to facilitate this feedback. It shouldn’t be knowing that the sooner a student receives feedback the more effective it is.

So we return to the concept of a school is full of learners. Teachers need to understand the pedagogy first and then know how to use the technology to facilitate the pedagogy. Teachers require support to understand what a device can do and then help to normalise its use so it doesn’t present a barrier. However, without an understanding of the pedagogical philosophy, the technology is a barrier. This is an ongoing issue for schools and it is a concern that tablet implementation has not been suitably resourced with the training required for all stakeholders in schools. Without ongoing support, tablet implementation will fail because it has to become a tool that is used when and where it is appropriate. I’m sure there are teachers who understand the pedagogical opportunities of tablets in education but are put off by not knowing where to start with the device.

With reportedly over 10 million tablets in education across the world it seems that a host of school decision makers have taken the plunge and introduced the technology. Did they all consider pedagogy first? I’m not sure, but there is no doubt in my mind that the technology enables teachers to do what they have always wanted to do, but found it very difficult to make happen. The device allows teachers, students and parents access to opportunities that can’t be ignored. As well as succeeding in examinations, students learning with tablets are being equipped with the independence, organisation skills and creativity required in today’s world. The key to success with technology in education is ensuring schools understand how usage works as part of the learning process. Pedagogy first….

I look forward to discussing this further at the OSPedagogy conference. Details can be found here

Top 10 Apps in an Established 1:1 iPad School

TOP 10 APPS

The Stephen Perse Foundation has had a 1:1 iPad programme running for two years now. Whilst there are many subject specific apps utilised for learning, it is interesting to note how the top 10 apps are all multipurpose. The list below also includes an indication of how workflow is developing for the school and how an app is chosen when and where it is appropriate. For more information about how we are using the iPads as a tool for learning please visit SPFlearning.com

Explain Everything

search-5

Simply the most versatile education app available. Explain Everything is an interactive whiteboard and screen casting tool that suits the needs of teachers and students alike. The app allows you to animate, annotate and narrate presentations and explanations to your audience. It is widely used across the foundation to record plenaries and provide audio feedback. It is also the app of choice for students when they are required to provide more than written material. The key to its success can found in its intuitive interface and export options. A must have app in education.

Socrative 1.0 and 2.0

images-1

Socrative is a very simple and effective assessment tool that can be used during any part of the learning process. A teacher can pose questions to a group which they answer on their device with the information directly relayed back to host. It is available as long as there is an internet connection. The most common use for Socrative is as an ‘exit’ ticket. Students answer four or five questions at the end of a lesson so the teacher has feedback to base the next lesson on. All data is sent directly to the teacher’s email account as soon as they end the quiz. Very useful for planning. Socrative 2.0 is currently in beta and has added functionality and analytics that makes the franchise a simple yet import part of the digital toolkit.

iMovie

unnamed

iMovie has always been a favourite with students, but it is interesting to see how it has developed as an educational tool. As well as an obvious movie creation and editing app, iMovie provides a platform to express learning. The ‘trailer’ option guides students to capture snapshots to show learning as well as input text to frame their ideas. These ‘trailers’ are then interesting starter videos or revision tools. iMovie projects take over where a student or teacher may want to add greater depth. Only today a reception class were using iMovie to show their understanding of joining words when describing a recent trip.

iTunes U

images-2

iTunes U is often referred to as our learning platform. The iTunes U courses provide the framework and resources so the teachers can get on with what they do best. Removing the need for photocopying, internet searching and distribution, iTunes U supports a culture of creation and collaboration. Having access to everything required on one device can’t be underestimated and its popularity is growing by the day. Add to this the ability to update any resource and make it available to all at the tap of a screen and you have a very powerful learning platform.

Showbie

search

Showbie allows you to assign, collect and review student work. As a tool it meets a demand that used to be supplied by a school VLE. The difference here is the ability to ‘open in’ a multitude of apps to create content or provide feedback. A couple of taps sees a student assignment opened and annotated with audio feedback or viewed in the teachers app of choice. It is then just as simple to return the assignment to the student for immediate viewing. Showbie works very well with larger classes where the transfer of information is common and often.

Edmodo

edmodo_splainer

Edmodo fulfils the need of a collaboration and communication tool within the school environment. The secure site is suitable as nobody can gain access to a group without the unique code. Many students use Edmodo to question their peers over challenging questions and as a platform to collaborate on projects. It is interesting to see how groups communicate under the tutelage of a teacher. Edmodo is also used as a tool to model good practice on the internet. For many students it is their first interaction with social media in a controlled environment and Edmodo has proved a very useful component of our esafety programme.

Notability

search-6

As a note taking app, Notability stands out from the crowd. With all the tools available to record information, Notability is a real favourite with our students. The most common use can be seen as students take a picture of a resource or experiment and then jot down information to highlight key terms. Whilst we encourage handwritten notes as well, it is interesting to see how Notability folders are an important part of the learning process. The export functions within Notability also make it suitable for the students as they develop their digital portfolios.

Keynote

search-2

Keynote is the presentation tool of choice for students particularly when faced with a class or school presentation. The students are very positive about the ease with which they can convey a message using multimedia. There is distinct attention paid to the use of transitons to emphasise a point and interestingly an engagement with the requirements of the future world they will work in. Students often equate job applications and progress with presentations so using Keynote to express learning is very desirable. Ask a student to convey their learning and it is likely to be Keynote they turn to.

Book Creator

search-3

From simple projects to a school terms worth of learning, Book Creator has become a handy vessel for curation and creation. With the ability to add video to explanations as well as ‘widget’ type effects, students of all ages enjoy using Book Creator. It deserves its inclusion due to the ease with which all tools can be used and the export functions available. Stand alone projects are ably supported by Book Creator as it acts as a working portfolio to document the process. A favourite of the Visual Arts department.

Pages

search-4

Pages is simply the ‘go to’ app of choice when Stephen Perse Foundation students are asked to produce a piece of written work. Functionality and ease of use again mean that this app is a favourite amongst students. There are further layers to the app though that enhance the learning process. Firstly, the templates remove the need to spend time over layout and formatting. When the task requires a student to convey their learning, time no longer wasted on making the document look good. Secondly, the multimedia aspect of Pages elevates it as a document creator. As well as the written word, our students submit photos and video to support their views, all professionally laid out. If Stephen Perse Foundation students are submitting a formal piece of work, then Pages is the app they’ll chose.

It is worth noting that our iPad 1:1 programme is underpinned by GAFE with Google Drive as our cloud based storage solution.

Why Innovate?

_DSC0062

A quick glimpse into the arena of education debate highlights just how disrupted children’s learning is in 2014. From changing curriculums, inspection madness and the implementation of new technology, this is a period of instability and concern. As a profession, teaching is driven by so many outside influences that it is easy to see why teachers often take to forums to voice their displeasure with this or that. We all know the only thing that matters is learning, yet I wonder how much precious time is wasted on the distractions?

Right now I could make a case for or against innovation in education. The need to consolidate, meet standards and react to government pressure, points to innovation being yet another distraction. Yet, in my opinion, this is the wrong way to look at our situation. I grow weary of the debate over pedagogy and teaching methods.  A teacher will look to provide as rounded an experience as possible for their students, given their context. Of course, the number of students seen per week will have an effect. Naturally there isn’t enough time to see every student on a 1:1 basis. So we all strive to teach to the best of our abilities. We are all learning every step of the way and we will make mistakes. So why do some educators worry about innovation?

To put my own situation in context, I currently work at the Stephen Perse Foundation, a school with exceptional results. It would be easy for the school to rest on its laurels and continue to do things as it always has. Yet it doesn’t. Led by its principal, Tricia Kelleher, the foundation seeks to innovate in order to enhance the learning process for all its children. An environment where 1:1 iPads are the norm and conversation is driven by  ‘the best possible conditions for learning’ the school will strive to innovate where appropriate.

foundation

Take the current learning space development as one example. The library has been converted into the ‘Cabinets of Curiosity’. A place where the physical, digital and print worlds are brought together. Concerned about the instant connection to digital platforms, the school took the decision to create an innovative new space. Physical artefacts lead the individual to a digital resource that includes an iBook and video content about the display, adding layers of information. In turn this leads the learner to the books that are available from the shelves. The school seeks to engage the learner with an understanding that not everything should be viewed on a screen. Of course this also leads to an ever changing environment that is much more flexible than the library of old. Our next two exhibitions point towards the thinking behind the project:

Sherlock’s Clues: the physical exhibition will contain no text at all, consisting only of 6 object-clues  from the original stories and TV series (walking stick, fob-watch, top-hat, iphone etc), raised on plinths. An Aurasma-linked iBook will take students to the crime that the clue helped to solve. It will also encourage them to explore more complex topics such as deductive reasoning, media representations of Holmes and forensic science. One of the clues will be a written code that can be solved inside the book.’

World War I: A larger-scale exhibition that will spill out into the garden outside the cabinets. Again, the iBook will allow us to connect the two areas, and free us up from using too much textual interpretation in the space itself. This approach also encourages students to focus on the historical peculiarity, and material texture and detail, of the artefacts in front of them, before they are confronted with reams of explanation.’ (Digital curator – Ms K Joice)

The iPads and ‘Cabinets of Curiosity’ are an indication of what is available to us because of technological developments. The cabinets are a vision that has been realised by the iPad acting as a portal into a world that was much more difficult to access before. It would be wrong not to take advantage of these innovations.

_DSC0603

At this point it is worth mentioning that the debate around iPads in the classroom will continue for many years to come. I’m not here to extol the virtues of the device, suffice to say it was the right tool for the Stephen Perse Foundation two years ago and it doesn’t appear to affect grades, if that is your metric.  However, I would debate the argument that students are better off without some form of personalised technology in the classroom. Of course they are only a tool and the teacher is still the most important resource in a child’s education. But, denying individual access to resources and tailored content alongside video/audio feedback? I’m not sure anyone could defend the teacher/textbook model in that context.

Which brings me to the next stage of innovation. The development of a space twice the size of a ‘normal’ classroom that is informed by mobile technology. Flexible furniture, airplay enabled projection and collaborative areas allow teachers and students to adapt the learning environment. Coupled with our digital platforms, iTunes U, Google Drive and Edmodo this will allow teachers to mould the learning process with the typical barriers removed (photocopying, set classroom layouts etc). Take a look at Don Orth’s iLab as an example of the type of learning environment we are trying to provide:

To answer the question  ‘Why innovate?’ Because we can. If we aren’t using the tools available to us, then we aren’t developing the learning process. We would never seek to innovate for the sake of innovation, but now is the time to grasp the opportunities available.

Please do get in touch if you would like to discuss future plans or if you have similar projects in your school.

How do we prepare our children for tomorrow?

Our current education system is dominated by grades. A metric by which to compare and judge. We celebrate and justify in equal measure and our curriculum is driven by the outcome. Yet here at the Stephen Perse Foundation the ethos and vision isn’t controlled by the ‘grade’. The animation above serves to illustrate how important it is to put the child at the centre of all decision making and prepare them for the future.

To put the school in context, the average UCAS entrance score in 2013 was A*A*AA and the Stephen Perse Foundation is one of the Sunday Times‘ Schools of the Year. The Sixth Form College also achieved the highest points average in the world at 42.2/45 for the International Baccalaureate. However, the grades aren’t the be all and end all.

The importance of the animation is to convey that a school that ‘performs’ well in examinations does not believe they are the most important thing. An ethos and vision that is crucial to the future of its students is there for all to see. It is a positive example that decisions made in the best interests of the child can navigate through the murky world of examinations and analysis. I’m not for one moment implying that all schools don’t share the same values. Rather that schools who are constantly judged by Ofsted and held accountable to certain criteria will always concentrate on those areas.

For more information about the Stephen Perse Foundation – click here or contact @StephenPerse

Do let us know what you think about the animation, we would love to hear your views.

This Is A Great Time To Be A Teacher

ACS_Learning_Spaces

For the purposes of this blogpost the political football that is education has been ‘kicked’ to one side.

Choice. A frequently used word when talking about pedagogy in 2013. The options available to teachers and their learners are countless. The variation in a child’s school day should be applauded and the engagement with learning is an obvious consequence. This is a great time to be a teacher.

I’m convinced that the way I was taught in the 80′s and 90′s didn’t prepare me particularly well for 21st Century employment. This is not to lay blame at the door of my teachers. They were well equipped with the ‘tools of the trade’ at the time but lesson after lesson was largely filled with note taking. I do remember facts from my schooldays and I was well prepared for the exams. However, few aspects of my classroom learning helped with my post school days. I had very engaging teachers from a presentation point of view, but, on reflection, I don’t remember being challenged frequently. If I’m honest I learnt more from the non-examined areas of school life that allowed me to understand the importance of teamwork, leadership and collaboration.

The last three months of my own teaching career have cemented the opinion that pedagogy is shifting for the better. A change of schools has introduced me to the International Baccalaureate that is streets ahead of its A level counterpart. As well as its breadth and depth the Theory of Knowledge component challenges learners and teachers to think twice about the process in which they are involved. It is so important to our Foundation that every student takes the ToK course in the sixth form even if A levels are their chosen certificate. Indeed upon visiting a 2013 school leaver at Utrecht University it was interesting to note that she believed the ToK course was the most useful aspect of her sixth form learning.

At this point I should state I have moved past the debate of whether tablets or smartphones should be used in the classroom. A tool is just a tool. If you want students to write notes in lesson time and listen to the ‘story’ then a tablet isn’t necessarily worth considering. This is an excellent option for learning in some circumstances and should not be challenged for the sake of argument. However, because of the availability of tablets, we can now change the learning process and vary its components. Five years ago it was virtually impossible to expose learners to the wealth of resources we can now at the touch of a screen. Tablets allow the learner to record video evidence of their science experiment and more importantly their explanation. Tablets provide a platform for real time feedback from every learner. Tablets allow the learner to access multiple resources at their desk in the classroom where appropriate. Tablets allow the learner to collaborate with peers in the classroom, down the hall, across the country and the other side of the world…. you get the idea.

These options are available, where appropriate, in the learning process and are made possible by the technology. As a teacher it is my job to select the right time to use a tool and guide the learner. It has never been easier to challenge a group of students with various stimuli. I am grateful that the technology exists to remove the barriers to the lessons I have always wanted to teach but found impossible to put together. Even a simple back channel (using Twitter or Edmodo) allows students to have a voice where they otherwise might be shy or fearful of asking a simple question. A challenge that every teacher faces. (As an aside it is interesting that the technology that exists to connect our students is having a dramatic effect on teachers. The power of social media to engage, provoke debate and challenge opinion has led to a platform that can only benefit the profession.)

It is a great time to be a teacher because we have the tools available to us that provide increased scope for engagement, stimulation and creativity. It is a great time to be a teacher because there are qualifications available that challenge the exam factory ideal. It is a great time to be a teacher because we are so connected with information and each other that opportunity is presented daily.

It is a great time to be a teacher because we need to learn with our students.

 

The New No.1 App in Education? With Video and User Guide

images-1

I have made no secret of my fondness for generic apps that enhance learning. Explain Everything, Google Drive and Evernote can aid the educator and student alike. However, there is a new contender on the block for the No.1 app in education. Socrative 1.0 was very good – Socrative 2.0 looks excellent.

This brief introduction to Socrative 2.0 highlights its potential and possible use in the classroom. I look forward to hearing about the effect it has in schools.

For the user guide go HERE

Education – do examinations get in the way of learning?

images-1

Talk about learning and educators will enthuse about creativity, discovery and development. Add the term examination or grades and the conversation takes a different slant. The post below from Tricia Kelleher (Principal of the Stephen Perse Foundation) skilfully highlights the importance of ‘space for development’ ahead of a ‘collection of grades’.

“Watch out for the sharks! The plank is for the bad pirates.” This snatch of conversation between two 3 year old children in our Pre-prep captures brilliantly their learning experience. Adults tend to equate learning to the amount of time children sit behind desks. The children I observed today were outside, creating a world of buccaneers, princesses and sword wielding heroes. I was even given a lesson in ballroom dancing by two little girls keen to share their skills with me.

Of course, the principle underlying the lesson was independent learning. The teachers had skilfully configured the spaces to support discovery and creativity. Each child was encouraged to explore the possibilities offered to them and “to play” – by play I mean problem solving, creativity, showing initiative. Essentially developing a positive learning disposition.

The year 2 children meanwhile were coming to the end of plan-do-review day and were reflecting on what they had learnt. They had complete freedom to design their own project. Sadly the pressure of time had prevented the completion of a model of Henry VIII, the painting of a cottage and the markings on an aeroplane. All the children had learnt an important lesson about time management and, as one boy observed, how much they enjoyed “collaboration” (his word).

This window into the world of young children’s learning was a timely reminder to me about the importance of providing space for children to develop. The national obsession with measuring progress places a premium on cognitive development which, whilst more easily measurable, is not about the whole child.

Interestingly, at the other end of the educational spectrum, the International Baccalaureate offers a sixth form programme which is about breadth both in terms of subject content and assessment. Students enjoy an intellectual challenge which stretches them and an assessment framework which requires more than performance in a terminal examination – group work, extended essay, presentations are an integral part of this programme. Intellectually coherent and clearly valuing so much more about the student, there is much to recommend the IB. The learning is embedded in this programme.

And then we have our national qualification. It strikes me as someone with responsibility for children aged 3-18 that our examination system almost gets in the way of learning. With national exams required to fulfil different purposes – measuring a school, value added, individual’s attainment – is it any wonder that the development of an individual can get lost in the exam conveyor belt? The current debate about standards in education has become subsumed by proposed changes to the national examination framework. In my view this is the wrong way round. Surely the big debate should be focused on learning and exams configured to capture what we truly value.

Yet I also know that we measure what we measure because we always have done it this way. The exam machine is grinding away and our children are destined to pass through it for better or worse. This is their passport to the future. As a school we are determined to add stamps to this passport – for us it is about the education of an individual and it is our responsibility to ensure this is about more than passing exams. A young person is surely more than a collection of grades; they are the future.

View the original post on Tricia Kelleher’s blog 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 20,743 other followers