Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Global Education Network...

I think it's safe to say I've had the usual manic start to term.... mad, crazy, hectic as always! Anyway, in amongst all this madness, I have received a few LOVELY emails.... from all over the world:

* One today from a teacher in Norway about my work on facebook (see here for the guidance Stephen Heppell and I wrote) and asking if I was interested in taking part in her government project (yes, for the record)
* Then I received a wonderful email from a teacher I made contact with last January from the Netherlands (he came to visit the school and see our work on playful learning - bbc story here) asking for an update and if it is possible to bring some teachers over again this year
* A lovely email from an Australian teacher trainer asking for more information about my century of centuries project and if any others can become involved
* And 3 emails from people asking to visit our classroom of now (IDOL project) in January so see how it has progressed!

I still find it amazing that other teachers can find me (or any other teachers) chatting on twitter, posting on our blogs, sharing information and swapping ideas all over the web, use it as a reflective training tool and just get in touch to share experiences!

It's humbling to hear from these people, doing sometimes simple (sometimes complex) and yet always inspiring, projects. Yet my pupils are growing in in a world where this is the norm..... for them, it makes sense to speak to those best placed to answer the questions, the most interested in the project and those who can share truly different experiences. The divides are shrinking in communities (and may it continue) but I do ponder.... when (if ever?) will education catch up?

Friday, 6 August 2010

Learning is so much fun!

I am spending the week with my sister, niece and nephew at my parents house. This is a photo of my niece, Amelie, learning about reptiles at the tropical zoo in Brentford (by my house).

Amelie loved learning about the food they eat and feeling how their skin is different to ours.. At just 3 years old every experience is still exciting and new! She is collecting stories about her holidays in a little book to show her teacher, whom she adores!

It makes me reflect on when this enthusiasm is lost...? It's interesting to see how my primary themed secondary school classroom, games and general mayhem brings back those memories for some of those who are so disillusioned with school!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Using Twitter in School

I've been using twitter for school projects for a while now, pupils tweet their progress and speak to teachers and students from around the world about their projects. It's totally brilliant for giving them a sense of audience (and making them aware of just how many people can access their stuff on the internet!) and pride, whilst also being far more reflective about their work; knowledge AND skills.

However, I am really struggling to get the school to actually unblock twitter. They are worried about pupils seeing inappropriate things, chatting to friends instead of working blah blah, the usual story!

So two things really, 1 has anyone got some nice examples of how the use twitter in the classroom and 2) any suggestions on how to get my school to unblock it?!?!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Comic life and istopmotion

There is something about macs which engages students! Our pirates from yesterday are spending today making pirate films, comic strips or animations.... Who said students can't concentrate for extended periods - one project, 1 day and the students don't even want to go to break or lunch!!!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Who says Secondary Pupils aren't just big kids...

Over the next 2 days our school holds 'Activity days'. All the different teachers organise a series of 2 day events focussing on different skills and activities that pupils might not experience in an every day curriculum. Obviously this involves a lot of trips (which can be pretty pricey!) for the students so my friend, Esther and I organised a pirate day (well.... if you can't pirate on an activity day, when can you?). Instead of trips, we had a series of team events to build pupils skills and to have tons of fun!

1) Build your ship (or make it using paper origami skills)
2) become initiated with your pirate name, booklet and lots of singing (how to say YAAAAARGH and YO HO A PIRATES LIFE FOR ME).
3) Signing the pirate contract for your boat
4) Designing your skull and cross bones and agreeing tactics
5) Shipwrecked and stranded we swim the obstacle course to treasure island (obviously this was great as we soaked the kids with super water pistols and hose pipes - just before the great course in the photo!)
6) Cutlass fighting
7) a bit more singing (yo ho a pirates life for me)
8) analysis of a pirate film

1) film and edit a pirate something.... (used comic life, istop motion or imovie)
2) final count of pirate prizes
3) treasure hunt (solve the clues about the history of pirates, pirate language and pirate geography) for the box of treasure!
As you can see from the picture - all the students really enjoyed themselves and so did the teachers!! 

It reminds us how important enjoying learning and being able to relax and have fun with the students is. I think in the land of continuous target setting and constant focus on progress, the sheer enjoyment of learning can get a bit lost! We should take some tips from the primary schools and look at their fun ways of learning - our pirates are learning about crafts, history, human rights, team work, film editing, maths, building their literacy and getting great exercise over the next 2 days - and enjoying themselves as well - what could be better?!


Sunday, 18 July 2010

In memory of Kajil....

One of my students died this week. It was a total shock - just a very sad accident. It's taken me all of this week to be able to write this post, but I wanted to remember her here...

Kajil was a lively, funny, (very loud!), enthusiastic and loyal student and friend. She arrived in Year 8 and left in Year 10, and even after leaving used to write me the funniest emails describing her new school and her new friends there. She stayed in touch with many of the form and she will be remembered fondly by all of us.

She loved a good bit of drama, and my over riding memories of her will be the day she insisted I should make more of an effort with my hair, brought in her curling tongs, and proceeded to curl my hair all through extended tutor time - and then insisted on a series of pictures(!) and the last sports day she spent with us - we'd been disqualified (again!) from loads of races and the form was getting really despondent, but every time anyone tried to sit down and stop cheering, she insisted they all stand at the front and cheer louder than everyone else!

She was a wonderful young lady who made the most of every second of her life. That she will be missed by many shows how much of a difference she made to the lives of us all.

Sherri, Kajil and Fatima at Christmas...

Georgia, Divya, Hirali, Ritika, Fatima & Kajil (leaning out) cheering the form on at sports day

Goodbye Kajil. You'll never be forgotten...

Friday, 2 July 2010

Busy department?

We were writing a list of all the outside agencies we work with, the consultancy I do, our active citizenship projects and the teacher training/development work we are involved in for our local authority inspection today.... it is 9 pages long!!! Busy department!

This sparked a debate with some friends in other departments about the value of after school activities vs delivery (traditional) of the curriculum.... quite shocking that some friends still believe that traditional imparting of knowledge is more important than projects that build learning skills and encourage reflection.... back to the knowledge vs skills debate - sigh!

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Praise and Rewards

I have been thinking about potential masters topics for a while now... I was going to do a case study on our new classrooms (being put together over the summer hols - phew!) but my masters tutor suggested that I use the new rewards system some students have implemented in school. Although overseeing the system, I initially felt like a bit of a fraud as I have just supported their ideas and presented to SLT, not actually build the system but my tutor observed this is why its pretty cool.... Basically, some students, parents and teachers got together, researched praise and why its important, looked at the current school system and then re-wrote the entire system so it focusses on 3 things;
  • a tangible, physical reward
  • informing parents and the local community
  • celebrating ALL achievements
The first stage of the roll out happened this half term. This consists of tiny cards the students can be rewarded for resilience in their learning, building or developing good relationship inside and out of school, being resourceful in their research or lessons and being relfective about their lessons, skills and general every day learning.

The cards work like a loyalty card and students can save them for a number of reasons; to earm money off school trips; to enter a raffle for 2 tickets to experience days; to buy school equipment or sports equipment in the rewards shop at lunchtime; to earn money off prom; to buy a fast track card for the lunch queue.

The system is whole school and seems to be working really well. All the students have responded excellently to the system and they seem keen to use it all the time - in fact, teachers who have not taken it up immediatly are now being asked why by the pupils! Great stuff. I guess only time will tell but the most interesting point is the y11s I was speaking to today said that the school equipment is the most useful as you can buy things before exams, but also, you feel like the teacher notices the good things you do! Great huh?

Time will tell if it really works but 2 weeks in, it seems to be pretty sucessful! It just shows, the students who designed it have been really reflective about their own motivation to learn and what helps it.... :-) They really a great bunch!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Busy day at the silicon face!

Lovely, exciting but manic day today! Arrived in school after day out yesterday, ran around sorting out a room for the BBC London News to come in and film. This was followed by a lovely discussion about managing stress with my Y11s (ha ha).

Went and met the BBC chaps (who were lovely), spoke to them about playful learning (games based learning) and showed them how this project came about (Feltham clc IDOL project, students designed classroom of the future, researched game based learning, spiralled from there!). Had a lovely chat about how schools are changing and watching children grow into young people (and continue to be creative, enthusiastic learners).

Ran off for 10 mins and met some wonderful Dutch teachers who were really passionate about learning. They were over for BETT and came into school to see how we use technology. Sent them off with respective member of PSHE and Citizenship and my life saving Head of Year who took my form class and let them use technology.

Ran back to the BBC chaps with a couple of the dutch teachers and 10 year 10s. Played the Wii, was interviewed about playful learning and what parents think (hesitant at first, when they see passionate proud, engaged pupils are pleased and enthusiastic and proud themselves!). Young people showed their classroom of the future design, were interviewed about playful learning.

Went to lunch and spoke to Assistant head who reminded me we had a Citizen Schools meeting. Taught 2 more lessons, met with BETT young people to go over logistics for tomorrow - uniform, games, technology, etc etc). Ran over to Citizen Schools meeting.

Met with the Citizen Schools leaders (also lovely!) who are super enthusiastic and jolly supportive. Spoke to other schools about what they are attempting to change about Hounslow (project is research in local community, ID something to change, agree how, change it!) and we are at the 'make it happen part'. Discussed power players and supporters. Citizen Schools chaps helped fill in the blanks. Shared final ideas, dropped young people home, just walked in the door!

About to write list of tasks for Y10s at BETT for the stand and cover for tomorrow (but thought I'd post here first!!)


Monday, 11 January 2010

Bafta: BVA

Went to Bafta: Be Very Afraid today with 2 of my year 9s. It was running the same time as the world learning forum so over 600 educationalists came through the doors and spoke to some of the schools there. What is always lovely about BVA is the young peoples passion for their work, they are so proud, so engaged and so keen to show off their brilliant efforts - its a joy to see....

This year a few projects stood out for me - A college who have asked pupils to research classroom design and are implementing it across the college (had many similarities to our local CLCs IDOL project - entirely centred around student voice and participation), the Isle of Mann running some themed learning projects based around Pompei (the young person presenting was just so keen and proud of a simple little project but which utilised a whole host of technology) and Jonathan Furness with his pupils using Twitter (and taking it one step further with video).

Our safety project - research Hounslow, interview the local community via YouTube and facebook, design a project around safety plotting (with the police) safe and unsafe areas in Hounslow on Google Earth, designing a safety game for Year 6 pupils and running a borough wide poster comp and putting the winning posters in bus shelter ad spaces - was really well received with many local authorities asking how they could roll this out to their local schools. Lots of discussion and questions but best of all, new links with other teachers and schools just as passionate as us!

Ultimately, whatever your fave parts of BVA were, it leaves you feeling confident in our young people - if our future is in their hands, it will be a safe and exciting one :-)

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Snow days

The UK had been covered in snow and ice for the past week! Most of the schools have been shut, either because staff and students cant get in or because the ice is so thick across the playground its causing a health and safety issue! I was really worried about the pupils finishing up their projects for Bafta: BVA, but social networking came to the rescue - all week pupils have been discussing and posting info in the fb group and making help videos for one another and posting them on youtube!

Who says you need to be in school to be learning?!?

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Social Networking

With BETT fast approaching (we are on the playful learning stand) both the young people and I have been working really hard all holidays to make sure we have all our evidence and projects in one place - as well as working with some of the equipment from the sponsors of the stand.
It's been manic as usual, but what struck me this year, was how easy Facebook has made it to communicate with the pupils. Usually, we are speaking on messenger, arranging times to meet and talk through issues - its reliant on everyone remembering and having internet up and running at the same time, and being able to run messenger on phones as well as computers (not all our pupils have computers at home!) Nightmare! This year though, everyone has facebook apps (or similar) for phones, facebook pages etc etc and so our little BETT facebook group has been brilliant - helping one another, discussing progress, developing info.... it's been great!
Speaking to another teacher, she was surprised when I said I had been facebooking with young people.... why? Safety is often quoted as an issue but in reality, it’s much safer (both for me and the young people) than many other methods of communication. I have simple rules with the young people and I follow, which means all discussion, comments, work is in a public forum, safe and it also allows them to see it as a learning space - not a void to be filled!
It's made a huge difference to the young people and I over the past year. There is a wealth of evidence out there about how it helps learning..... so why are more schools not embracing social networking?