Tuesday 8 January 2013

Crisis of Giving? Not in Hounslow!

Another year and another YPI competition! Before Christmas, we held our annual YPI final awards evening. The students (Y10) presented to a judging panel, a room full of business owners, parents and local charity workers with their members.

Winning students with proud parents!

What strikes me every year is the way the students embrace working with people who improve their local community. Each time the competition runs, it builds, the students become more involved and they are keen to continue to work with/help out at their local charity. I don't see a crisis of giving, as was reported in some newspapers recently. I see engaged, enthusiastic students who (many of them) do not have an easy time of it themselves, keen to become involved in their local communities and make a difference in their local community.

Really, on nights like this, I am even more sure that despite the many, many serious issues in the UK at the moment, the terrible policy decisions..... my future at least is in safe hands!

Note: see lovely article here.

Wednesday 28 November 2012


There has been much discussion on Twitter recently, about 'Bring Your Own Device' or (my much preferred) 'Bring A Browser. As a basic premise, it saves schools money - allowing them to invest in specials equipment, helps model appropriate behaviour to students (and sometimes teachers!) and develops some really great, thought provoking learning (if you plan it in the right way).

Understandably, because of the negative press and fear of bullying etc, many teachers are worried about all sorts of implications, but these same schools are usually keen to learn from schools who are following this policy. The problem is, when examples are asked for... things often go a bit quiet! Fortunately, there are schools willing to share who have been doing this for a while - you just need to know where to look!

So, there are a few key rules when using handhelds. Nominet ran a classroom practitioner focussed project, where classroom practitioners from around the world worked together to produce and evidence good practise. The report, which is still very relevant (and handy!) can be found here. It's filled with excellent evidence and suggested policy starting points which might be of use. There's also quite a nice e-safety policy you could have a read of here (Saltash.net is an inspirational school so maybe have a wander around there site whilst you are there too).

So what about if you, a classroom teacher are keen to start this, but the school is a bit nervous. Well, I'd say any sensible school will run some sort of a trial using handhelds first... and this is where you come in! My proposal to the school was: we know many students have phones, we can't all have access to the internet, can we trial using the phones in some lessons. We explored this and agreed it was worth a shot! To be clear, our school policy was students may bring in phones but they are to be turned off, in the bottom of bags. If they are seen out, they will be confiscates, handed to student services and parents will be required to come into school and collect the item. The was our starting point, and we built from there. We began with some simple rules:
  • Phones are out, on the desk, on top of homework diaries at all times.
  • Phones can be used to aid learning, but you can be asked at any time to evidence this.
  • Blackberry Messenger, Whats App or any other messaging tool is acceptable but if a teacher asks to see what is written, you must be prepared to show it!
  • If a phone is hidden (i.e. messaging under the table etc) we will assume it is inappropriate use and confiscate the phone.
  • If you are filming or taking a photo, you must always asks the persons permission first (and explain how it will be used!)
  • If you are not on task, you will receive 2 warnings and the a detention, in line with school policy.
  • If anything inappropriate is sent to you, please do not delete it, show it to the teacher so the appropriate sanction can be issued.
  • If you exit something on screen or move the phone away as the teacher approaches, the phone will be confiscated.
  • It's always one between two. Share the learning!
Clearly, these rules tend to focus on the sanctions, but they worked for us and made the less hesitant teachers feel like they could manage the use of technology. As the use of phones in our classroom has grown, the devices the students bring in has too. I'm hoping, in the not to distant future we can move to Bring A Browser as the default position, but in the meantime, I hope this is useful to some of you! :-)

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Amazing Y10 Students!

Wow! What a long time since I posted last! So sorry! Teaching and having fun in the classroom seems to somehow have got in the way!

Anyway, I have resolved to be better and post weekly! In the meantime, I wanted to post this picture of our fantastic Y10 students (and parents) having won £3000 for the West London Rape Crisis Centre. They had tough competition from the other fab students, but did an amazing job!

We had a fantastic meeting with the fantastic centre manager (Bear Montique) who does an amazing job with limited finds to help women across the whole of West London (6 London Boroughs). Her information about rape, sexual assult and it's perception by young people in London today was astounding (and just a little bit depressing). Raising awareness about these issues, educating young people and empowering them is the only way we can reduce these statistics.
What's really lovely to see is their determination to keep these links going, to continue to help the charity and raise awareness about sexual discrimination. I really couldn't be prouder...

Hope it makes a difference for the charity!

Sunday 24 July 2011

Goodbye 11L

My form class left this term. They have been my school family since September 1995! They spent the whole week before hand telling me with sheer delight how I will cry when they leave. So for their final morning, I had made them photo albums with my favourite memories of them, their best moments, and all the things about them each that I feel should be celebrated! This, combined with a film with some silly pictures really made them (and me!) smile.

However, they then surprised me with a handmade (and laminated!) book with their best memories and comments about their time with me.

The minute I read it the tears started! It was just lovely. This was followed by some beautiful presents from them all, some lovely things said, and some simply inspiring cards from their parents! Most of all though, I love the fact we all thought the same thing!

When I started with them, I said I wanted them to feel like we were a family. In fact, they chose the tag line 'A Family of Achievers'. They started as the EBD class (over half on the behaviour register or with problems at home). Noisy, hardwork, but simply lovely, keen and enthusiastic!

In their time at Lampton, I watched their confidence grow. They presented to ministers all over the world, they represented the school, me and, most importantly, themselves, at a host of events reflecting on their own learning experiences. They started to believe they really were fab at learning. As one commented in his card to me "I can't believe the stuff you made me do. You'd tell me I'd be doing a little talk and then stick me in this room of 100 people and I just had to get on with it. It was scary, but I always felt so good when everyone came and said well done after".

We lost some along the way: Exclusions; moving; changing school; a death and through it all, we stuck together and worked to the end! I could not be more proud of the young adults they have become - both as individuals and as a cohesive group. I have no doubt that some of you will be reading about them in years to come! And most importantly, I know they will continue on with a love of learning for the rest of their lives.

So this is them (and me!) at prom (missing 2 who couldn't go). And you know what, this little reflection got me thinking.... how much of a difference could we all have made to one another if this was an all through school? If this is the difference after 5 short years - what impact could a teacher make after 10? Or even 21 years? Wow!

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Calling all teachers - I need you!

If you are a teacher, no matter what age range you teach or where you teach but if you have an interest in using mobile devices (phones, ipads, hand held consoles etc) in your lessons then I really would like to hear from you.
I am looking for teachers to join an online closed community on Facebook over the next few months.
This group has been created to invite practitioners to discuss the use and access to mobile devices in the classroom.
The cloudlearn project starts from the premise that the culture seen in many schools and colleges of blindly 'locking and blocking' in the classroom is no longer acceptable: 
* it does not prepare young people for the real world 
* it is liable to be dangerous (you wouldn't try to enhance water safety by keeping children away from water until they were 16 then throwing them off the pier...) 
* it misses some outstanding learning opportunities 
* it is disengaging ("every turned off device is a turned off child") 
* it is wasteful of resources 
...and as many, many teachers students and schools are finding, it is unnecessary. 

The key aim of the Cloudlearn project is to source, collate, reflect on and publish proven effective practice from experienced classroom teachers and practitioners - building from what worked for us, in our respective cultural and educational contexts, to offer a portfolio of general and proven approaches. 

The end-of-the-year outcome is to provide sets of strategies and advice, both specific and generic, for adults and organisations, and for teachers and their students, to help them to see the need to move beyond "locking and blocking". These sets would be given to those involved in education around the world, not just in the UK. 

Over the next few months we will discuss as a group our thoughts, views and personal experiences on this and share the successes of mobile devices and the impact on teaching and learning in the classroom. This forum will become a 'closed and secret' forum once everyone has joined. This is because, we will not only be discussing the successes we have experienced but the challenges and issues that teachers and students face in using this type of technology. 

For more general information on this project visit:http://www.cloudlearn.net/
If you would like to take part then please contact me by email or via twitter @julietteheppell as soon as possible, there is a limit to how many teachers can take part so it will be first come first served.

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!