Today I’m speaking at the Leicester University PGCE ICT conference instead of being back with my year 4 class for the beginning of the summer term. As a 2012 Leicester University PGCE graduate, two-thirds of my way through my NQT year, the opportunity to share how I am using ICT in my classroom was a great chance to reflect on how I am teaching ICT.
I have used Scoopit as a quick way of putting a page of links for children to use for research before. Here are two examples for years 3/4:
Vikings : Vicious Vikings (used last term for our Invaders and settlers theme)
I have also started collecting ideas on Pinterest when a fellow student showed me her collection. These tend to be much more image based and as Pinterest is blocked in school, are usually for my own ideas. I started using it to gather ideas for my classroom, but it is particularly good for art (ideas for arts week themed around Diwali) and any sort of poster or display resource you could ever want!
For curriculum ideas, I collected pictures of maps and resources for our Around the World theme this term.
Yawning koala bear by National Media Museum
No known copyright restrictions
I’m not going to apologise for the lack of posts over the last two months, my first term as an NQT has been pretty overwhelming. The TES New Teachers supplement this week struck a resounding chord this morning. Phil Beadle has one of the best descriptions I’ve read of what the teaching workload entails:
“You are trying to do a job in which the amount of work you have to do is obviously not possible in a normal person’s waking hours… There is no other job that routinely and blithely expects you to run yourself so far past the point of exhaustion that you look back on exhaustion with overly fond eyes.”
So, here I am. I had a proper break at Christmas and managed to spend a considerable block of time planning and thinking. This has bought me some time in the rush of the first week back and I have resolved to keep ahead of myself. I’ve mapped out when I should do the rest of my planning for the rest of this (very short!) half-term and so my diary popped up this morning and told me what I needed to do.
There is little time to stop and think, let alone reflect in the week. I used to enjoy writing weekly reflections on teaching practice and realised how they improved my teaching. So, I’m back here, thinking aloud.
My two main targets for myself this half term are:
- Improve my maths planning (and hopefully become more comfortable with it, it is a very painful process at the moment!).
- A focus on behaviour and raising expectations for quality and quantity of work.
So this week:
1. Maths – I have been very slow to work with groups of children in a focussed way, this is finally kicking in properly this week and it has made a massive difference to my understanding of what the children need. I can see that I overcomplicate my planning, teaching and activities. For example, on Thursday, I was teaching written addition methods, the middle attaining children used a Google maths map I made to find sums to do (based on Tom Barrett’s collaborative maps). Whilst they loved exploring the map, they struggled with maneuvering effectively to be able to read the questions, and only one pair managed to do more than two sums in the time we had which clearly didn’t make for much time for learning the written method. In contrast, yesterday I was teaching written methods for subtraction and used a simple table of distances of cities from Leicester with a few questions where the children had to subtract on distance from another, then write a question of their own and swap to try someone else’s question. This worked much better, there was more work completed and when marking I could see which children had understood the method (counting on) and which needed more help. It is slowly sinking in that I need to narrow my learning objectives and the narrow the task to fit it (something my mentor has been trying to tell me for some time, but now I’ve finally seen what she means in action it will hopefully click).
2. Behaviour – this has been along hard slog for me and will continue to be for the rest of the year. I am trying to accept this and steel myself to the relentlessness of it. Over the holidays I thought a lot about how I have much higher expectations of my own children than I do of the children in my class. Having twins meant that I quickly had to learn to make rules and stick to them. I realised I had fallen into the trap of thinking that it is too hard to expect the children to do X or Y and I would work up gradually to it. I would fix it later, it would do ‘for now’. I never did that with my own children, they were expected to behave in the way I wanted and there was never any compromise, I did it there and then, I didn’t put it off. Why have I been different with my class? I’m not sure, but something clicked over the holidays and I tried to start the new term as I meant to go on, with high expectations and no excuses. I know it will be difficult to stick to, but I also know that they have improved already and we can only keep getting better. I am responsible for how they behave.
(I should perhaps say that I am not dealing with any severe behaviour problems, and I am well aware that behaviour is very subjective, and as NQT I realise that I will be learning about this for years to come. My class have a lot of low-level disruption, are very good at talking and very noisy during transitions. Standards for behaviour in my school are high and when I compare my class to those around the school I can see we have a lot of work to do.)
In terms of surviving to Easter, I’ve booked the first night of half term away with my family visit Stratford on Avon and take the girls to their first RSC production (The Winter’s tale). We have our oldest friends coming for lunch next Sunday and my parents are coming to watch our daughter in her ballet show the weekend after. My mum is retired teacher and even though she lives 120 miles away, has regularly booked herself in to visit us. She turns up, cleans the house, does all the ironing and puts a week’s worth of delicious home cooked meals in the freezer just at the points when I thought I couldn’t go on. She is amazing. My husband deserves a mention too, he has taken over the large majority of the child care, all the grocery shopping and most of the washing with out a fuss and without complaint. He is beyond amazing. So, I have lovely treats to look forward to, a great support network at home, purposeful days that I can take ‘off’ and spend time with my family, allowing me to work the rest of the time knowing I will get a proper break at least once a week.
Finally, I think the time has come for me to admit that I find being a novice incredibly hard. Much harder than I was prepared for. I was very good at my job before, I was used to praise and thanks on a daily basis. Teaching is an incredibly lonely profession and there is something that doesn’t go well or right every day, or many times a day. I am very slowly learning how to be resilient and cope with this, and while my ability to be self-critical is essential to my improvement and development as a teacher, I have a tendency to dwell on my failures too long instead of learning from them, moving on and trying again. Blogging is a way for me to try to record my successes, and exorcise the problems in public so they don’t eat away at me. I’ve been conscious that I have felt I should spend my time working on other things at the weekends and not blogging. This has been an hour spent thinking about my teaching this week. I think it is worth it. Time will tell.
I can’t believe that only 6 months have passed since I attend the Google Teacher Academy in London in April earlier this year. Since then, I have visited Slovakia on a European Teacher Trainee exchange, qualified as a primary school teacher and started my first teaching position with a class of 36 energetic and inspiring year 4 children (8-9 years old).
As I am just starting as a newly qualified teacher, the technology I love has had to take a back seat while I establish classroom routines, conquer a myriad of behaviour management techniques and generally cope with the 1001 things that you need to do as a classroom teacher that never occurred to you as a student. However, I have been very fortunate to find a position where the Senior Leadership not only support my interest in technology but actively encourage it and slowly I’ve started to have time to get our Google Apps account up and running. We have started three class blogs this week and have made blogs to share learning logs (homework) and the marvellous moments we have in school. One of the blogs is for my class, the other two are for the classes taught by the senior leadership team (foundation and year 6). It has been wonderfully inspiring to help them get started on this journey.
We will be publicising the blogs to our parents soon, having first built up a few teacher-written posts. Once permissions are sorted out from parents, we can start to give the children accounts and they will be able to write blog posts and comments themselves. So far we are on track for developing blogging at the school over the coming year.
Without attending GTAUK, I don’t think I would have had the confidence to set up the Google Apps for Education account myself. The Google Certified Teachers I met in London have been an amazing source of wisdom, help and advice. I hope that with this support and the encouragement of my senior leadership team, our use of technology in school will be transformed by the end of the school year to be relevant to children, practical and easy to update, child-led and reach out beyond the physical school and into the wider community beyond.
I am now into the second literacy unit of the term, recounts and newspapers. For a change, this is a unit I taught part of before, when I was on my second teaching placement. That has really helped me feel much more comfortable with the content and what the children may be expected to know already and where they may have problems. During my placement, we linked the final writing phase to our theme, which was Tudors, and the children wrote about the sinking of the Mary Rose. Whilst they coped well with the technical aspects of newspaper writing (using a headline, paragraphs, reported speech) they had a lot of questions about the actual facts of the story.
When discussing the timing of my unit with my mentor last week, I realised that I needed to condense the unit a little to make space for us to write our Christmas play next week (yes, Christmas already!!). I was worried that I would not have enough time for the children to get to know the story I wanted them to report on. Our theme this half term is aliens, so I was looking to Newsround’s space week to get some ideas, and a twitter colleague (TeaKayB) had kindly offered to answer any astronomy questions we had (by the way, I highly recommend his blog for any space questions you may have!!). Unfortunately we felt I didn’t have time to investigate a story, think of questions and get answers, so my mentor suggested a situation stimulus instead. I was a little hesitant as I had tried to set something up like this before and the children didn’t seem to want to suspend their disbelief to get into it and fire their imagination. However, I wanted to give it another try and my mentor encouraged me to give it a go.
So this morning, I set up the classroom. I used only a few props – an old hard drive that was broken and in pieces, a clockwork toy, a stone, some slime that my daughters had made in mad science and some dry porridge oats. I turned over a few chairs and opened a window. I then took some photos using the class iPad, making them from odd angles and blurring them. I had made some ‘tentacles’ from play dough rolled in oats, and used these to add into the photos. I left a talk tracker on the table with a message from the intruder (this sounded brilliant – it was the text-to-speech accessibility option on our old mac on a robot sounding voice that read a sentence I wrote).
I shut the classroom door and just told the children that there was a problem with the classroom and that they needed to go into the hall for registration. I explained that something had happened and the classroom was in a mess. I asked them to investigate with me and let them into the room altogether. The buzz and the questions were amazing! They found the talk tracker and the message straight away and the children were very concerned about my iPad, as they knew I didn’t let it out of the case and it was discarded on the windowsill.
I uploaded the photos from the iPad to the whiteboard and this gave us a chance to come together and think about what might have happened. I put four pieces of paper around the room labelled who, where, what and when and asked them to write their ideas down. We gathered these together and I created a plan for the article whilst the children magpied ideas on their whiteboards.
We set up blogs for some of our classes at the weekend, so I’ve added an entry on our class blog tonight (you can see the iPad photos and listen to the message from the alien there). To encourage writing for an audience I’ve told the children their final articles will be shared on that blog, and we will choose the best one to go in the school newspaper. The rest will be copied and bound into a class newspaper.
I can’t wait to see what effect this stimulus has on their writing! It certainly inspired me, and the children were full of questions all day. I always assumed before that stimuli like this for writing needed to be spectacular, with masses of props that took ages to set up. In fact, with just a few props from home, a bit of technology and a genuine look of shock on my face, the children were completely taken up in what we were doing.
This is the second of two posts in which I want to reflect back on my experience as a PGCE student. (First post was about using Turnitin as student).
I started this blog whilst working as an elearning technologist to share ideas, research and my thoughts. I worked on several projects with Alan Cann (+Alan Cann) about encouraging undergraduates to reflect on their learning. Of course, once I started my PGCE, it was my turn to reflect.
After a rather demoralising week in my final placement, I wrote my weekly reflection and sent it to my visiting tutor as usual. He sent me this response:
A very professional and exemplary reflection! You will make an excellent teacher not least because of your ability and willingness to look at your practice on both a micro and macro level.I really hope you find that you can consolidate this thinking into your practice over the final week. Good luck!!
It was wonderful to have some positive feedback and it made me realise just how far I’ve come. Reflection is something that is very personal, and I had always intended that my weekly PGCE reflections would be open and all online on this blog. In the majority of cases, this hasn’t felt appropriate, and having read a great summary of what looks like an interesting paper on a typology of reflection (via Zara Hooley) it is maybe because many of my reflections as a trainee teacher fell into the confessional category ! (See Reflexive Management Learning : An Integrative Review and a Conceptual Typology in the June 2012 issue of Human Resource Development Review 11(2).)
When I look back at my early reflections, particularly those about the course rather than teaching placement, (e.g.Reflecting in public) they are much closer to a diary with the odd comment into themes running across the teaching we received. This latest reflection (with only two weeks to go on the course) is a completely different animal altogether. My weekly reflection has become the place that I analyse my teaching, its effect on the children’s learning and my wishes to change my practice and how I will implement those changes in the future.
I know that many other PGCE students have struggled with reflections and asked for exemplars to see what they should be aiming for. The response from the staff has always been that reflection is personal and so sharing exemplars would be pointless. However, amongst us we have shared reflections with one another. I know that Alan has tried to demonstrate reflection by actively modelling it online using social media, and it would have been massively helpful to have access to this sort of support and personal feedback. Twitter does provide a space to reflect with peers and get advice from more experienced colleagues, but is usually not as in-depth as is needed for a PGCE course.
I thought it would be useful to add links here to some of my public ones:
and from my fifth week in my third and final teaching placement:
This week I have settled into more of a standard routine of teaching the whole class on an 80% basis. Whilst I have developed my written planning to use weekly plans for maths and literacy, I feel that I have not has as much time or opportunity to reflect on my teaching and it’s impact on the children’s learning.
I stuck to the behaviour management system, making use of the visual representation on the board of the different levels of sanctions. I restated the rules and my expectations clearly at the beginning of the week, particularly as two boys had been away for two weeks before the half term holiday and had not been taught by me for any length of time. I quickly settled back in to using the system rigorously and noticed that by Wednesday children’s eyes were already flicking to the board and the visual representation of the system behind me whenever I called out their name to be quiet when I expected it to. However, towards the end of the week this began to slip, as I was feeling tired and constantly writing names down or calling them out was interrupting the flow of my thought when talking to the class. It wasn’t until I discussed the class motivation in my observed lesson with my tutor on Thursday that I realised I had been concentrating so hard on the behaviour system that I had forgotten that the other main element of managing behaviour is having appropriate and engaging tasks for the children to complete. As I have been moving through different topics in maths and literacy, I am still finding out a great deal about the children’s attainment and ability to work together. I have therefore not always been applying this knowledge to change the activities I have been setting during the main part of the lessons.
Having talked it through and reflected on this discussion over the last two evenings, I can see that I have grasped the classroom management techniques for reinforcing my expectations for behaviour but that I now need to combine this with more engaging tasks at appropriate levels. Combined, these should help the flow of my lessons and enable me to move forward more quickly. I had even commented to the children on Friday that the constant stopping to ask for attention was getting boring – and they agreed! This week I will review my weekly plans very carefully to ensure that the activities are well thought through, aligned to the learning objective and that I am sure of what the children will achieve and how they will carry it out. (Q31, Q25a).
For various reasons I have had less opportunity to discuss my lessons with my mentor or LSA this week. Looking back over the week, I think that this has led me to reflect less on my teaching and the children’s learning. When I have my own class next year, I realise that I will need to seek out my NQT mentor to discuss my teaching regularly. I have found that talking my lessons through, even quickly, really does help to move me forward and develop further (Q7a, Q7b, Q9).
Purpose and timing
Whilst I am often clear in my own mind about the purpose and timing of work to be completed by the children, I do not always explicitly share this with the class, particularly when planned to be carried out over several days. This leads to the children not having an overview of their work, or ownership, in that they do not know how long to spend on tasks as they are not sure when we will move onto the next piece of work. This leads in turn to children repeatedly asking me when they finish a piece of work and if they can work on various pieces at other times of the day. I will endeavour to share the bigger picture with children for my final week of lessons (Q29, Q25b).
The wider aims of my teaching
A discussion with my tutor this week and the publication of the draft primary national curriculum this week has caused me to think more deeply about the wider purpose of my teaching. It is easy to slip in to a very narrow view, particularly when working on a fixed length placement with a ‘borrowed’ class. There are several times that I have realised that with my own class there will be certain routines that I will want to establish when I have the opportunity to work with them over a longer period of time. These will include practical things such as where workbooks are stored, how they given out and collected in, how whiteboards and other classroom resources are used and accessed. I have also thought about how I would like to set a homepage on the classroom PCs that provides children with 3 or 4 quick activities that they can do to productively work on during spare time in the day (such as typing skills, or google search techniques), and how I would like to add access to podcasts of stories and audio books to my guided reading sessions.
Some of these practical elements have a wider impact, however. I tried to ban the use of rubbers when I was teaching the year 5 children in the community room during SATs. This worked while we were away from the main classroom, but I failed to continue to use it in once working with the whole class, as there were just too many rubbers (and sources of children’s own rubbers!) to deal with. In my own classroom I will not allow rubbers (and I already know that they are not permitted in the school except for art). The practical impact is for children to work more quickly, rather than spending time looking for rubbers and then reworking something they had already done. The wider philosophical aspect, however, is much more important to me. I would like to encourage a feeling in my classroom that it is a safe place to make mistakes, that in fact, mistakes and risk taking is encouraged. A place where as a teacher I can see the mistakes that children make and praise them for learning from them.
Whilst I have a clear idea about the wider principles I would like children to develop in maths over their year with me, such as reasoning, explanations and application, I am not as certain about the language skills that I would like to develop. I have so far taken a rather functional approach to teaching literacy and grammar, and not concentrated on the wider richness of language and development of a love a reading or writing. Interestingly, a similar argument is happening around the draft national curriculum proposals, and the author Michael Rosen’s blog on the topic of grammar rules this week, struck a chord with the discussion I had with my tutor this week (http://michaelrosenblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/grammar-rules-or-patterns.html). He argues that teaching grammar only by a set of rules denies the joy and pleasure of the English language. I think this is an area that I will develop more confidence in as I teach more, but I will seek some input from my NQT mentor and literacy co-ordinator on the school’s wider aims for skills development in literacy which will help to guide me initially. (Q14, Q17)
[note the 'Q14' etc. refers to the teaching standards that we need to meet as trainees. These are changing in September 2012 and some tutors have asked for them to be referenced in reflections, whilst others have explicitly asked for them to be removed]
I’ve been working without a laptop that connects to the whiteboard all week and today decided to make more use of my iPad instead of the laptop. The whiteboard works only as a dataprojector, and I’m limited to not having sound, as I connect the two using the VGA apple adaptor, but we managed fairly well today. I had saved two presentations I wanted to use in lessons as pictures (a save as feature in MS PowerPoint) and uploaded the photos to my iPad via iTunes and syncing.
As the iPad was out and connected to the whiteboard, I made more use of it with the children than I have done before:
- I used a photo background in doodle buddy for children to mark on the angles they could see on the structure of a roller coaster as a plenary to a lesson on using protractors and measuring angles.
- I made an impromptu visualised by having a child hold the iPad while another demonstrated how to use a protractor (a bit wobbly, but it worked!)
- I took photos of the work that children produced in a science lesson on laptops when the network went down and they could save what they had done. Displaying these back on the whiteboard made a great plenary and enabled the children to see other examples of work when we would have otherwise lost their efforts.
- I used audio to record children’s ‘radio plays’ to retell the story of the Trojan horse. I hadn’t planned to do this, but again, because the iPad was out, I realised that this would be a much better way for the children to share their work than performing it as I knew that if they stood up in front of their peers they would begin to act ‘visually’ rather than putting their thought into the ‘audio only’ context.
The main restriction with using the iPad with the whiteboard is the lack of sound output and connection. It looks like this may be possible with another cable to connect the AV. I shared the audioboos online so the children listened to them on the PCs in the classroom, but it would have been much better to listen to them as a class.
The interesting point for me about the day was that having the iPad out and in use lead to several different uses of it that were inspired in the moment, when the tool suited my need at the time. All of these things I could have done with other devices, but the iPad did a pretty good job today!
I managed to join in #ukedchat last night which was about cross-curricula planning for the Olympics. I tweet two ideas (neither of them mine!), and a few people were interested in more details, so here they are with the proper credits too!
1. Beebot Olympics (via Doug Dickinson @orunner)
This is a great idea from Doug that he suggested in our last ICT session with him. Steal the BeeBots from reception and get KS2 children working with them. The idea is to have the children to create challenges for one another (Olympic events) and then run a competition to see who can score the most points and win the gold. Suggested activities here, but I’m sure that children could come up with some of their own! Perhaps a long jump? Can you get your Beetbot to go the furthest within a set area, not going over the end line from a standing start?
Using a 6 Bot set. Divide class into 6 groups
Can be made to score points … better as a set of experiences
Activity 1 Bulls eye target
- Put a ‘bulls eye’ target out and a big stating circle
- Bot starts outside the big circle and tries to score as many points as possible in 3 mins
- It must come back the way it went and pause for 5 seconds inside the target
Activity 2 There and back
- Start line and 3 lines various distances away
- Bot programmed to get over first line
- And back over start
- Then programmed to go over second and back over start
- Then over third and back over start
Activity 3 Point and go
- A set of circles spaced around a central circle
- Team must aim Bot to PAUSE inside each circle
- Programmed one at a time
Activity 4 Maze
- Use skipping ropes to design a simple maze
- Pilot Bot through by direct programming one section at a time
Activity 5 Dice Bot
- A 20 number line
- Bot starts on arrow
- Throw die and program Bot to move to that square
- Throw die again and reprogram
- CLEAR each time
- Repeat until Bot passes 20
Activity 6 Bot Zig
- Starting circle
- 4 cones
- Bot to be programmed to zig zag around cones and run straight back
2. Maths project to design an Olympic Stadium (via @keilystrett)
This sprang from an idea that Keily has used with her year 6 class for some time to consolidate and apply maths skills. I’m teaching a mixed year 5/6 class on my final placement and just finishing off National Numeracy Strategy block D unit 3. She suggested doing some project work in the last week of my placement so I could work with some guided groups on areas that children had difficulty with earlier in the block while providing some challenge and independent work for the everyone. She asks children to design their ideal bedroom, starting with a set area for the floor space, then introducing a budget to fill the room with furniture. Over a few days, she varies the tasks by introducing sales or budget cuts (using percentages), restricts the value of some items to a maximum, asks them to decorate and work out the amount of paint or wall paper needed (using area). I thought this was a great idea and as our theme at school was the Olympics this term, I thought I could do something similar with an Olympic stadium. Here are my ideas so far for the week:
Day 1: Start the investigation: set the challenge of designing a new Olympic stadium. Limit the stadium to a particular area and/or perimeter (the size of their building plot) . Children to research what shape different stadia are and how they would work out their areas.
Day 2: Budgeting – buying equipment to go in the stadium – use calculators (Keily usually uses a few Argos or other catalogues for this, but I think I’ll need the children to look online for sports equipment specialists!)
Day 3: Budgeting – work out discounts and restrictions on various items (no single item over £x)
Day 4: Measurement/ conversions: Running track to be changed from m to km, mm, cm.
Day 5: Design a scale to measure the long jump or pole vault.
Another idea from last night was to work on angles – this could include angles for throwing games like shot put, javelin.
Any other suggestions or ideas would be most welcome! I’d like to leave it fairly open for the children to take in a direction that inspires them, so they may design football pitches, beach volley ball pitches or maybe even white water rapid courses! Who knows?
(note: Image found and created using http://johnjohnston.info/flickrCC/ which automatically adds a stamp with the attribution to any image you find)
I was delighted to be invited to be interviewed on EduTalk radio by David Noble and John Johnston. Here is how they explained the programme to me:
Since 2009, the Edutalk project has enabled educationists to create, record and share educational audio. Almost five hundred audio contributions have been posted at http://edutalk.cc.
Radio Edutalk was launched towards the end of 2011. Shows have featured phone-ins, policy discussions between panelists contributing via telephone, and audio-only presentations by experts within various fields of education.“
I wasn’t sure I would have much to contribute, but fortunately a slot available just after I was fresh back from Google Teacher Academy meant that I had plenty to talk about!
We discussed some wide ranging subjects, from the impact of CPD on learner outcomes to whether personal history and experience with ICT is a factor those teaching with ICT to feel confident and competent in doing so.
Of particular interest to me was the last question that David posed, asking me to comment on which area of ICT I may be able to make an impact on as a Newly Qualified Teacher next year. He cited a recent paper that looks at good practice of ICT use in Finnish schools.
Niemi, H., Kynaslahti, H., Vahtivuori-Hanninen, S., 2012. Towards ICT in everyday life in Finnish schools: seeking conditions for good practices. Learning, Media and Technology.1-15. DOI: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439884.2011.651473 (Taylor and Francis journal, likely to be pay-per-view. If you are a student or staff member and are off campus, look for the journal in your university e-journal library to see if you can get access for free).
Abstract: The article discusses how to strengthen educational use of information and communication technology (ICT) in Finnish schools. The conceptions and experiences of the successful integration of ICT in everyday school settings are reported. Participant observations in 20 schools in different parts of Finland were carried out, including discussions with principals and teachers. The results show that when promoting new technology and practices in schools, many components overlap and support each other. The following six main characteristics of successful integration were identified: (1) ICT included in strategic planning, as part of school culture, (2) teaching and learning methods facilitating participation and leading to empowerment, (3) flexible curriculums, (4) high investments in communication, (5) optimum leadership and management, and (6) teaching staff’s strong capacity and commitment. The research indicates that an open school culture allows staff to take risks when applying new technology, creates learning environments and empowers learners.
I chose ‘teaching and learning methods facilitating participation and leading to empowerment’ as an area I felt I could explore with my own class, thinking particularly in terms of individual involvement through tools such as wallwisher, or participation with a wider audience through blogging.
I followed up and read the paper. The Finnish education system is renowned for the high quality and standards it achieves, with very little variation in outcomes across different schools. In the UK we can only dream of a system where there is no national testing until children are at the end of the secondary schooling. The suggestions made from the research in this paper are that schools that have effective use of ICT, where ‘ ICT was used in a sustainable way with an aim to empower learning for all children in a school community and was not only a temporary project or owned by some individual teachers‘, had six characteristics of successful integration. If you could wave a magic wand, they are exactly the elements you would put in place:
(1) ICT included in strategic planning, as part of school culture
Schools had an effective overall vision of how to use ICT in their teaching and to engage with the wider community. A culture of sharing good practice was established and supported. The thing that surprised me here, was that this happened by teacher observation – going into a colleague’s classroom to learn how they taught with ICT. This wasn’t a system of communication or teachmeets or other ways of sharing, this was good solid observation and reflection.
(2) teaching and learning methods facilitating participation and leading to empowerment
A focus here was on ‘learner-centred knowledge creation methods and practices‘.
(3) flexible curriculums
Schools develop their own curriculum within the National Framework in Finland, here ICT was either a tool used within other subjects or in some cases a specific subject curriculum in it’s own right. Both were flexible and changed by teachers in response to their needs and their learner’s needs.
(4) high investments in communication
Promotion of internal and external communication – examples here were given os the use of blogs to communicate with the wider community and teachers sharing good practice with other schools.
(5) optimum leadership and management
Even this section on leadership discussed the view from the student perspective, but overall focussed on the need for commitment from the top and the enabling provision of infrastructure.
(6) teaching staff’s strong capacity and commitment
This followed from the overal culture and philosophy of the school and was evident in the sharing of good practice to promote a more homogenous approach to ICT across a whole school.
It was an amazing and jam packed two days. I’ve tweeted and bookmarked and blogged on G+ but I felt I needed to take some time to pull together the stand out moments from Google Teacher UK 2012 for me.
The community – sitting in a room full of incredibly inspiring and talented educators cannot be under estimated. While the Brits in the room winced at the whooping and cheering, I’m sure we all felt just as excited and privileged to become part of this community, we just don’t like to shout about it I know that I will rely on the help of those I’ve met in the last few days, and I know that I will help them too. Connections to people are incredibly important. I feel I have made some invaluable connections to people that will sustain my teaching career for a long time to come.
The tools – I’ve picked up so many tips and tricks that it is going to take me months to digest and think about how I can make best use of them all. I have bookmarked as much as I can on delicious and will steadily work back through them when I can.
The kit – I used a Chromebook borrowed from google to blog and tweet and take notes. I was really impressed with it, fast start up, easy to use and once I had got used to the fact that there was no storage on it (still not sure where screenshots and files went from the ‘file shelf’ that popped up when I downloaded or saved stuff) it was a great workhorse. Chrome was central to that, being able to access all the bookmarks, settings, extensions, etc immediately. They were all set up there waiting once I had signed in to the chromebook and it was a massive boost to my productivity. What’s more I know that when I go back home all the stuff I’ve added over the last two days, will be there ready and waiting for me on chrome on my iMac. Working on the chrome book made me realise that 90% of my work is now online, so I really should pay more attention to the workhorse behind that, my browser.
The philosophy – the tone of the meeting was undeniably American in it’s positivity (whoops and all), but the genuine passion and enthusiasm for everyone to do their best for the children or other educators that they are working with was truly inspiring. We can be particularly rubbish in the UK about celebrating our successes and having a ‘can do’ attitude, we love to be the cynical one in the back, disrupting the backchannel, but I was grateful to be in a room where is it was cool to be a geek and cool to love teaching. Personalising learning was a huge theme across many presentations and discussions, and I’ll give that a whoop any day!
The mission – taking this knowledge and these personal connections forward and back to my own community of teachers and students is going to be difficult but an essential part of the programme. We were given some amazing stats about the number of people and children we can influence as Google Certified Teachers, I’m thinking carefully about my GCT action plan and how best I can share what I have learned and begin to build some communities of practice in my local area and amongst the my peers in the PGCE cohort at Leicester University. I know I need to start with some practical tips that will give quick success and some of the tips I’ve learned about YouTube may be the starting point.