Monday, 9 March 2015

Don't promise ice cream and serve vegetables


Don't promise this 

and serve up this!!

If you are demonstrating to learners about technology and getting excited about the clever things it does, and the ease and speed of it all. . . . don't then give learners a photocopy of the technology and ask them to fill it in by hand in tiny boxes!  (especially if the technology is already in the room ready to go!).  That would be like promising ice cream to a child and serving up vegetables.

If learners need to spend 5 minutes getting to grips with a spreadsheet or a simple piece of tech - do it . . .  this is what we call embedding technology!!!  If you don't have the technology in the classroom - ask them to complete it for homework and then share what they have done in the next lesson.

Extra note for spreadsheets:
If you are using spreadsheets that automatically do things where the user punches in the numbers and it works it out (e.g. risk assessments, sport analysis etc)- get learners to punch in different sets of numbers according to different scenarios and then peer assess. Everyone eating the same flavour ice cream can be terribly dull - try creating an ice cream parlour instead!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Teacher prep time vs Learning prep time

'Time for teacher to prepare teaching' 
'Time for teacher to prepare for learners to learn'

Recently a colleague observed a session where the teacher talked to learners for 45 minutes with a very well put together PowerPoint.  The PowerPoint included images from various websites, text that had come from respectable sources (on the internet), it also included visual effects of "spin in", and "cosmic fade".

This presentation must have taken the teacher a good couple of hours.

2 hours preparation for 45 minutes??? This is unsustainable (and also quite boring for the learner, and does not stretch & challenge, with limited checking of learning) - plan for learning - don't plan for teaching.

Plan how your students can access, digest, argue, compare, contrast, communicate and justify the information that you think they "need to know"

There are 100's of ways of getting students to actively engage with this information.  

Try this:
  • spend 30 minutes googling a new active learning strategy. 
  • spend 30 minutes collating your information (website links, or printing chunks of information for a carousel type activity
  • spend 30 minutes writing some really good stretching, challenging checking learning type questions
  • spend 30 minutes drinking a glass of wine and putting your feet up, feeling smug that the you, the teacher has planned for learning.
Invest time in googling new active learning strategies and you will save yourself even more time each week!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Warning - the 'Noughties' are soon to enter FE

WARNING - the 'Noughties' are soon to enter 
Further Education

In the early Noughties (Year 2000), the internet became really wireless, social networks blossomed and mobile phones/laptops/tablets, with all of their wizzardry and apps, started to take pride of place in our homes.

Both my children were born in the opening few years of the Noughties, just after the year of the "millennium bug".  Both have never experienced the world without google.  Both, (aged 11 and 133/4) have their own laptops, tablets, youtube accounts, mobile phones, socialise on instagram, and most importantly have access to google.

Last weekend, just before I was about to leave the house, one of my children wanted to learn how to use Logic 9, a complex music software package I wrestle with on a regular basis.  I could afford 2 minutes of my time - "click here", "make sure you have this turned on", "drag that there". . .  and I jumped in the car and whizzed off; they were left to fend for themselves.

30 minutes later I had a phone call in the car.

"Dad, how do you email to someone the music that you have written?"

There are numerous buttons to click, things to check, things to drag over etc - it's just not something that can easily be explained over the phone whilst driving!

"Sorry, I can't talk you through it . . . . Just google it . . . . good luck!" I replied. 

3 hours later I returned home.  They had googled it.  They had googled several other instructions and watched other kids & adults completing the processes on Youtube and learnt how to do it themselves.  They had then added this music to their own titles in another video editing package, finally mixed the two together and proudly uploaded to youtube for all "8 subscribers", and the whole world to see.

So, is the teacher now redundant?  
Has the precious moments of child listening to father pouring out knowledge been lost?
Does anyone need to "know" stuff anymore?
Why should the teacher test the memory of knowledge, when it is not needed?

My thoughts?

In 2015, most knowledge does not need to be remembered and instantly recalled; yes, some does, but only small amounts as we have it all at the press of a button on our phones (or even a 'spoken instruction' - "Hey google, can you find . . .?"

So why teach knowledge and why test it?

Our teachers needs to be ready for the "naughties learner". Teachers have to be the facilitator, the inquisitor, the kindling; rather the brimming bottle of knowledge ready to fill the empty vessel.

So let's make sure that when the "Naughties learner" start to turn up on our FE door step (in just another 8 months time), we are prepared for a learner who already knows how to "find out stuff" for themselves, if and when they need it.  Let's make sure that we don't fall into the teachers trap of teaching "stuff" and transferring knowledge.  

We now have the amazing possibility of spending time with our learners, not teaching them "stuff" ("stuff" we teach and then test to see if they were listening , yet we are sure they will never need again!), but engaging with them in thinking, inquiring, investigating, arguing, justifying, creating, experimenting, summarising and most importantly, communicating.  After all, communication is the skill that is used in nearly every part of employment - regardless of technology!

Bring on those "Noughties" children!

Saturday, 31 January 2015

The "Micro Teach" - advice and guidance for teachers

Matt's Thunk - number 2
(Rather than a "thunk" - this is just a little bit of advice.)

Having sat through quite a host of "20 minute Micro Teaches" in FE (short sessions for teachers to show off their skills) , I thought I would share some advice; both as an observer and a student.

  1. Introduce yourself to the class as soon as you can - then perhaps give them something to do while you set up ready for your micro teach (name badges, signs, a task sheet, a 1 minute chat about "X")
  2. 20 minutes means 20 minutes - sort your resources out, take a deep breath and then signal you are ready to go . .  keep your eye on the clock
  3. Be prepared to be the 6th teacher who has taught that same subject to the same group of learners that morning . . . . adapt it slightly, and turn it into a recap rather than a delivery session . . .  plan for the possibility of adaptation! 
  4. Share a lesson plan & resources with the observers
  5. Don't waste time on getting names from individuals unless you are going to use them. The classic waste of time is to ask everyone their name and then say "I probably won't remember any of them, so please forgive me"
  6. HOWEVER, the students do like to be called their names! Why not ask everyone to write their name on a label, a post it on the desk, a little sign out of A4 paper - it shows that names are important - but you only have 20 minutes!!
  7. The observers score you on certain things - so make sure you include these 2 things:
  • introduce the lesson with some sort of aims, objectives e.g. what is the point of the next 20 minutes?
  • sum up the lesson in the last few minutes - get the learners to recap & to check learning
  1. Make sure you do the 2 things above in your session - even if you start to run out of time; the thing that gets forgotten most of the time is the recap - make sure you/your students sum up what you have learnt.
  2. If you want to use IT, check the computer files will work - ring up in advance and ask.  ALWAYS have a back up - e.g. printouts, handouts, or something else up your sleeve
  3. If you are not using IT, make sure any images or text can actually be seen by all in the classroom
  4. Get students active . . . ask them to regroup while you set up . . . Active learning is a key thing to demonstrate . . . the students have probably been sat down for ages
  5. Rather than spending ages loading up a powerpoint that just has 2 objectives on, write them down neatly on a piece of flip chart paper in BIG writing, and blue tack it to the board and get on with the lesson. Don't waste time on IT.
  6. Engage the students in doing something write from the start
  7. Question students to think further, outside the box and really challenge them to think hard - this is SO much better use of 20 minutes than ploughing through lots of content delivery.
  8. Don't plan what you are going to do in the micro teach . . . plan what the learners are going to do, and check progress throughout
Some of you may have noticed that the numbering system above goes from 1-7, then 1-8.   This is a reminder that everything in the first 1-6 is what you should do for a micro teach . . . everything in the second 1-8 is what we should be doing in every lesson - regardless of length!

Good luck.  If you have any extra advice, add it in as a comment below.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Matt's Thunk - number 1

Matt's Thunk -  number 1

I started a conversation tonight with a student, age 11, who attends a very good secondary school.  Have a read:

:-) Happiness in education:

Me: Do you enjoy school?  Are you happy?

Student: Yeah.  I'm happy

Me:  Do you have lessons that you come away from thinking . . . yeah, that was Ok, enjoyed it, nothing special. . .?

Student: Yes.   

Me: So you're happy with school?

Student: Yeah!

Me: How many lessons a week do you come away from thinking . . .  that was boring, didnt' understand that, or what was the point of that hour?

Student: about 1 or 2 lessons a week

Me: How many lessons a week do you come away from thinking . .  that was great, amazing, loved it, learned loads, want more of that?

Student: about 2 to 3 lessons a week.

:-( This makes me sad.  (and this student is at a very good school!)

During a week, this 11 year old student (at this very good school) is still having a couple of lessons a week that are boring, and don't have any relevance to the student.  I think they have 6 lessons a day - so about 30 lessons a week.  About 7% of a week is wasted time. On the bright side, 10% of the time spent at school is really interesting and this student want's to learn more.

7% of school time, out of 40 weeks in a year is . . . . wait for it . . .  (reaching for calculator) . .  2.8 =  3 weeks of their time at school a year is wasted, boring, and no point . . . yet . . . THEY ARE HAPPY!!!!!?????

So when teachers ask students, are they happy, and they respond "yes",  is this good enough?

Teacher misses a trick!

A bit later, the student offered some more thought:

Student: "I've been thinking . . . there are some lessons which are really fun, and I love it, and would like to go back again . . . . but what was the point? - I didn't learn anything."

Me: Can you give me an example?

Student: A lesson yesterday.  Great fun.  Teacher listed 15 things we could take to a dessert island.  I  had to choose just 5 things to take.  Then I had to share my list with a friend and we decided our top 5.  We then had to share with another pair and agree our top 5.  We then had to tell the class and explain why we had chosen them.

Me: Sounds fun!

Student:  Yes . . . . but when would I ever be stuck on a desert island???  In fact none of us will probably ever get stuck on a dessert island!

The teacher had missed the most important part of the lesson - What did you learn?  What skills did you use and develop?  When might you use those skills as an adult, or in your exams, or with your friends?  Who found it hard?  What got in the way? . . . .

So, final thoughts:

1. Students can be happy with their learning - even if for 3 weeks of the year they are wasting theirs, and their teachers' time.  Should we be satisfied with this? . . . . NO - not as a student, not as a teacher, not as a school, not as a parent.

2. Students can have fun . . . if they have fun they will join in, want to come back, tell their friends - but it is the teachers job to make sure they learn something from the fun - that they value this learning . . . . .

If teachers made sure they don't miss the trick after fun, then the student might turn round soon and say:

"Most of my lessons are great, amazing, love it, learn loads, and want more of that.  Sometimes lessons are OK.  Hardly ever are they boring".

If more students said this, I believe we will getting closer to a better standard of education and developing young adults to their full potential.

Final quote:  from a student survey - I would love to see this more often about education:

"I attend my course every Monday through to Wednesday.  When I finish Wednesdays, I wish the rest of the week and weekend would be over quickly.  I love my course."