The Next Step…

Hastings Pier

After 16 years, I am leaving The Chalfonts Community College (on Thursday!) to join The St Leonards Academy as Vice Principal.

Jennifer and I are relocating to Hastings to live and work by the sea. I took the photo above on the day I interviewed for the position. The role itself was certainly enticing but this view sealed the deal.

I am very excited about this opportunity. It is the ‘next step’ I have been working towards for some time now.

🚀🏖️🌞

Make No Assumptions

Merlin Mann (Back to Work; Roderick on the Line; Reconcilable Differences) often quotes the following line:

“Every day, somebody’s born who’s never seen The Flintstones

He recently revealed the origin of the quotation and why he thinks it is important:

This simple and somewhat obvious line is so important, particularly for educators. Far too often, I hear colleagues exclaim their disbelief about a child’s lack of general knowledge. I have been guilty of this too. However, what I have come to realise is that we should not make assumptions when it comes to educating young people.

For my primary colleagues the application here is fairly obvious, not least for those brave individuals who teach ‘reception’. Everything is new for their students. But I would ask that my secondary colleagues also take heed of the underlying message of Merlin’s oft-quoted line. Assume nothing. Borrow from ‘Make it Stick’ and use a low stakes quiz at the start of a unit to evaluate the existing knowledge of your students. And don’t be surprised if at least one of them has no prior knowledge of the references, ideas, events or skills that you are about to teach/develop.

As an English teacher this is brought home loud and clear when teaching literature. All too often, students at both GCSE and A-Level struggle to recognise religious, cultural or literary references within the texts that we are studying. The first time that I taught the poem ‘Hour’ by Carol Ann Duffy I was shocked that half of my top set class did not recognise the references to the Greek Myth of King Midas or the Fairy Tale of Rumpelstiltskin. Even more appaling was the fact that once pointed out at least half of them had never even read the stories to which Duffy was making reference. Both of these tales, among many others were read to me by my parents and re-read by me many times as a small child. I can still see the illustrated covers of my ladybird books sitting atop my bookshelf in my bedroom.

Ladybird Rumpelstiltskin

It would be easy to bemoan this lack of knowledge and experience. It would be easy to spend hours debating the causes. However, I believe it is better to accept it and plan accordingly. Look at what you are teaching and assume nothing. Where you feel that your students should have prior knowledge, test this early on and plan to plug the gaps. You and they will make far greater progress this way, as for one student in your class they are encountering ‘The Crimean War’; coming face to face with the challenges of algebra; or picking up and learning how to use a hand plane for the first time.

Remember:

“Every day, somebody’s born who’s never seen The Flintstones

Image CC: Ladybird Books via Nicole’s Collector’s Site

TSA – KS3 @ CCC (Slides)

Ever since I began working at Chalfonts Community College I have been impressed by the role the school plays in teacher development. Currently, we offer teacher training placements for ITT students; an impressive middle-leader programme; funding and support for teachers who wish to complete Masters level study; and this year we were invited to be a pert of the Hearts and Bucks Teaching School Alliance.

On Monday, we will be convening with St Clement Danes School and Parmiter’s School for our first TSA Conference. During the morning we will be working in departmental teams, sharing best practice and forging links for the future. I am really looking forward to working with the other English departments and I hope that my team get a lot out of the day.

Our time together begins with an opportunity to present our vision for Key Stage Three, following the introduction of the new National Curriculum. In all honesty, we have not made significant changes to what we have been doing over the last two years. Many of the key areas of learning that have been emphasised in the new NC were already priorities in our programme of study, having sought to create a greater degree of continuity between Key Stage Three and Four.

However, putting this presentation together has been a useful process. And I am looking forward to presenting it, along side Joanna Green (Deputy Leader for English), tomorrow.

*The slides can be viewed in full screen and you can access speaker notes by clicking on the cog. If you have any questions please leave a comment.

Open – Connected – Distributed: Learning [#TLAB14]

TLA Conference Logo

On Saturday 22nd March I’ll be joining a host of other educators at the Teaching, Learning and Assessment Conference hosted by the Berkhamsted School. This is the second instalment of the conference, following last year’s highly successful inaugural event. A wide range of keynotes and workshops were delivered by a diverse group of educators. I am pleased to say that I was one of them and I’m even more pleased to be able to say that I was invited back this year to run another workshop.

Like my previous workshop, I will again be focussing on independent learning. Over the past two terms, I have been reflecting on, and evaluating the various approaches that I employ to help foster independence in my students. While in my previous session I encouraged attendees to ‘take the leashes off’ of their students, this time I’ll be asking them to consider ways to make learning in their classrooms:

Open – Connected – Distributed

In a continued effort to subvert the educator/learner dichotomy, I have ‘pushed the envelope’ in developing in(ter)dependence in the students that I encounter each year. In doing so, a set of principles emerged; whereby learning inside and beyond my classroom became: ‘open’, ‘connected’ and ‘distributed’. This workshop will illustrate the pedagogies and practices that have informed such an approach, including the use of social networking, collaborative writing and self-reflection. Moreover, it will seek to generate thought and discussion as to how you might tread a similar path with your own students.

Why Open?

Openness has become a core tenet in my educational philosophy. As a teacher and as a learner I believe that learning should be transparent. Nothing should be hidden. A part of this has been putting students at the centre of their education, inviting them to participate in setting the direction of their learning; giving them a voice.

Why Connected?

Having participated in and also having run my own Open Online Course, I believe that forming connections is a key part of how we learn. Underpinned by the pedagogical concept of connectivism there is clear evidence to suggest that independent learning is most effective when it is interdependent.

Why Distributed?

I believe that learning should be distributed and shared. Learning does not occur in a vacuum, nor does it have to be constrained by the curriculum, timetable or by physical space. Utilising a range of tools, learners can not only improve the way they learn as individuals but they can distribute their knowledge and skills for the benefit of others.

I walked away from #TLAB13 far richer as both an educator and learner. I fully expect #TLAB14 to be just as valuable if not more so. I am also looking forward to re-connecting with many friends and to making some new ones. If you are attending the conference and the concepts that I have commented on above are of interest to you, I hope that you will join me in exploring them further.

*Slides for my session are available here in HTML5. Double click on any slide to view them full screen.

First Steps into Learning & Teaching in Higher Education [#fslt13]

I have just enrolled in the MOOC: First Steps into Learning & Teaching in Higher Education (#fslt13). This post serves as my introduction and outlines the reasons why I have signed up.

I am currently completing a dissertation for a Masters in Education, seeking to answer the following:

To what extent can virtual courses support the development of independent learning beyond ‘real time’ curriculum delivery?

To explore this I have recently completed the data collection process, which involved running a MOOC titled: Critical Skills 101. The course sought to  develop in(ter)dependent learning skills in 14-18 year-olds. I am currently analysing and evaluating the collected data and will be submitting my dissertation in August.

Taking the M.Ed has not only continued to fuel my interests in Independent Learning and Online Learning but has also made me question what it is I want to do next with my career. I had often felt that it would follow a path that would take me into senior management within Secondary Education. However, I am not at all convinced that I wish to pursue such a career.

As such participating in #fslt13 is going to serve several purposes:

I wish to explore another MOOC. As well as running the aforementioned MOOC: #crit101, I participated in #moocmooc  (A MOOC about MOOCs) during August 2012. While that MOOC explored open online courses themselves, I wish to participate in a course that is teaching a less-meta topic.

Moreover, having just completed  the delivery of #crit101, I hope #fslt13 will provide some useful reference points in terms of pedagogy, participation and assessment, as I continue to analyse and evaluate my course. In addition to this, I want to see how open badges are put into use in #fslt13 having implemented them in #crit101.

Finally, I am beginning to feel that studying towards a PHD and/or teaching within HE may be a career path that I wish to pursue. I hope that participating in this course will give me some further insight into that as well.

Posts relating to my participation in #fslt13 will appear here. Being in the middle of my dissertation poses a significant challenge to my time but I hope to be able to keep up with the course reading and get involved in some useful discussions around learning and teaching.