Looking Forward to Junior Year

Red Royal Typewriter

The second year of writing and maintaining this blog was both the most rewarding and at times the most difficult. Rewarding, in that I believe my writing improved, the blog saw more traffic and consequently more meaningful discussions were generated. It also provided a useful space for me to share my latest journey; working towards an MA in Education. But, there in lies the rub. My commitment to both my actual job and the aforementioned MA made it difficult to find time to write; and resulted in extended periods of inactivity here on the blog. About this, I am philosophical. It was my decision to take these breaks and I am pleased with the progress I have been making with my studies. Moreover, some time away from writing here, did me good. I returned with renewed energy and a plethora of material to write about and share.

12 posts of note

I am going to keep the rest of this post brief. Here are twelve posts from the last twelve months that I think are worth reading. They are a combination of the most widely read (according to Google Analytics) and those that I enjoyed writing the most.

…on writing and maintaining a blog

I wouldn’t say that I have not learned anything new about writing or maintaining a blog this past year. But as my energies have often been engaged with other endeavours I will point you instead to the post I wrote one year ago today. I believe that it remains sound advice for fellow and aspiring writers/bloggers:

And with that, I will close. To use an American analogy, having gotten past the sophomore slump, I am looking forward to life as a junior.

Image cc: 500CPM on Flickr

#mainedu: One module down, two to go…

Having begun the MA in Education, promising to blog my learning journey, I have found that time has been at a premium and thus blog posts have been in short supply. With that in mind, I have squared away a moment or two to provide an update.

As tweeted out earlier last week, I have completed Module 2: Assessment for Learning, achieving a distinction. I subsequently tidied up the corresponding page on this blog to include a summary of the unit; the texts that influenced my understanding and impacted on my assignments; and also added links to both my 1000 word critique of Black and Wiliam’s: ‘Inside the Black Box’ and Action Research Assignment.

While I may be finished with the module, AfL remains an area of significant interest to me. Particularly, because of the way that I have been using Google Docs with my students. Moreover, this is the focus of my School Based Enquiry, for which I continue to collect data.

Based on the feedback I received from my Module 2 tutor, I am planning a trip to Oxford Brookes University Library over the half term break to expand my reading; there are some texts that look useful but I am struggling to find in PDF format online.

Module 3: Developing eLearning began earlier this month. This module will likely prove to be the most enjoyable of the three. As an area of education that I am significantly immersed in, I hope that it will afford me the opportunity to broaden my understanding and refine some of my current practices.

In order to ensure that I don’t simply fall back on tried and tested tools however, I completed an audit of the technologies that are embedded in my current teaching practice and those that are not. It is my intention to develop a series of lessons wherein one of these technologies will be used to facilitate the learning in some way.

Reading for the module has also commenced and for me a number of the texts are old news but nevertheless I will revisit them, making the necessary notes in Evernote to use later in my assignment. We have been given the already well critiqued Prensky articles: ‘Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants’ and ‘Do They Really Think Differently?’ (Digital Natives: Part 2) to read. For some up to date debate on the concept of digital natives, these posts from Simon Bostock and Doug Belshaw are definitely worth checking out:

Finally, I hope that as the unit eveolves I will get the chance to tie in some of the material I have been reading and writing about recently with regards to learning technologies, taxonomies and literacies. Only time will tell.

Sharing What You Do Online – FTW!

A little under two years ago I had been teaching for six years but had not considered keeping a blog and I wasn’t on Twitter. Both of these outlets have had a significant impact on my teaching and the learning that takes place in my classroom. This morning I was reminded of just how valuable sharing what you do online is.

Catching up with tweets during New Years Day, I decided, very much on a whim, to have a go at a #365 project. A 365 project is where you take a photo a day for 365 days. I already had a Posterous blog set up that I had been using for posting photos and thoughts that didn’t really fit on this blog. Therefore, I had to do little more than start adding the photos. Having had a significantly hectic day yesterday, I got home, ate dinner and then, while working on my MA realised that I had not posted a photo for the day. In fact, I had not taken any photos at all during the day and there was nothing on my phone or laptop that I felt like posting. Instead, I decided that I would simply post a screen grab of what I was working on at that moment.

Evernote and MA

As you can see I am using Evernote to organise my MA. I have folders set up for each module and within those folders I have note books where I have recorded meetings, research proposals, notes on readings etc. I shared this on a whim, more out of ensuring that I kept up with the #365 project than anything else. I didn’t expect anyone to really look closely at the image. But in this I was wrong. If you zoom in on the image you will see that I was working on my ‘Action Research Proposal’ for my ‘Assessment for Learning‘ module. I have decided to put a ‘No Hands Up’ policy in place with two of my classes. This morning, checking my email, I saw that I had a comment from Christine Roberts (@Christiner733). She shared with me how she deals with the idea of ‘no hands up’ in her classroom and also shared her feelings on how her students respond.

365 Comment

What had been for me more a formality of keeping up with my #365 project; an innocuous post which had no intended outcomes, led to the sharing of good practice and ideas. Once again proving that sharing online is valuable.

For those of you who are not into your acronyms – FTW stands for ‘For The Win’ and I believe this to be true of sharing what you do online. Take the time to reflect on the teaching and learning that takes place in your classroom. There is no better way to do this than to write about it – IMO! Blogging is so simple, particularly with platforms such as Tumblr and Posterous that require almost no set up or web expertise to get started. And join Twitter, there are a plethora of talented and genuinely nice people out there who are willing to share ideas and help you grow as an educator.

In these tough financial times, the sharing of ideas and resources online may just well be the best way forward…

School-based Enquiry: Google docs & AfL

I attended my third MA session this evening; the first session of Module 2: Assessment for Learning. Unlike Module 1: School-based Enquiry, this module centres around reading and secondary research. After receiving my ‘Module Reader’ it prompted me to knuckle down this evening and try to finish refining the focus of my School-based Enquiry.

While I have had a clear idea of what I wanted to focus on it has been quite difficult to put it concisely into words. I feel that I am close and hope that writing this post will help me to add further clarity.

It is my intention to investigate the impact Google docs can have on assessment for learning. I wish to build upon and refine practices that I put in place last year. With careful thought given to the pedagogy, I believe that Google docs can transform assessment for learning, making it more efficient and effective for students; increasing the rate of progress that they make.

One of the keys to this is the ability to re-use a piece of students writing multiple times  – conducting self, peer, and teacher based assessment; each time allowing the student to develop and improve their work. This continual input combined with the ability to re-edit without ‘recreating’ the writing, each time, puts greater emphasis on the learning than on the assessment. This is arguably the most important feature of AfL; too often neglected in favour of grades and target setting with little consideration given to what the student should do with that information. The response can be instant rather than: “Here is your target, think about that next time we do assessment”. I am saying: “Here is how you have done, now edit your document, correcting, adding, deleting, changing etc…”

Using Google docs in this way removes the dreaded ‘red pen’; removes the finality of assessed work on paper; and in my own experience – removes the urge to stick a grade on the work. The process is more that of author, working through a draft, editing and refining their work. The feedback from peers and teacher take on equal status, acting as the voice of the editor with the student able to acknowledge the criticisms and act upon them focussing on learning and improvement.

Have you used Google docs to support assessment for learning? If you have, I would love to hear about how you used it and what the outcomes were. Please respond to this post or send me an @reply on Twitter using the following hash tag: #mainedu.

MA in Education

I recently began an MA in Education. The MA is delivered by the Westminster Institute of Education; part of Oxford Brookes University. A modular course; it begins with the Postgraduate Certificate in Advanced Educational Practice (CAEP). Made of three modules; accounting for a third of the full MA, the course is delivered part-time with sessions held at my School.

The first module is a School-based Enquiry in which I have chosen to focus on my use of Google docs. As an enthusiast in the use of technology in the classroom; Google docs was one such technology that I believe had a significant impact on my student’s progress last year. It is my intention to try to quantify that by completing research into its impact on an individual class’ progress this academic year.

Building on the work that I did last year and recent improvements made to Google docs I am going to limit my research to one specific use of Google docs: How does it improve the quality of one-to-one assessment for my students? At the moment I am in the latter stages of planning this research. You can view my progress here.

The other modules that I will be undertaking this year are Assessment for Learning and Developing E-Learning.

Ii is my intention to document my progress throughout each module on my blog. To do so, I have created a dedicated page here. I hope, that by documenting it publicly, it will help me keep to a strict schedule while also providing opportunities for wider input and feedback on my research.

To maintain my organisation and productivity I have installed Evernote on my MBP, Android phone and in Google chrome to store and record notes. I have also linked my Oxford Brookes Library account with Google scholar to ease the logging of journal articles and essays. I will be mainly downloading these to read on my Sony eReader allowing me to attach notes. Finally, I will be tagging posts and tweets related to my research with #mainedu.