Archive for January, 2013

Start with the ‘why’


Have you ever wondered WHY a student is struggling in your lesson but looked at WHAT they can’t do rather than WHY?

After a chat with a colleague this week I have thought a lot about this little concept.

The most inquisitive mind I know is my 3 year old boy. He asks “why” about nearly everything. Though this of course at times can be a little tedious as we all know, it is how he is learning about the world around him. He is learning things at a rate that is quicker than he will in later life. Yet he has no outlined plan of what he needs to learn, no deadlines or targets, he just wants to know things.

When does this stop? When do children stop asking why and start thinking what? Is it the children that change or something else?

It has long occurred to me that relevance is key to anything that you do, the reason for doing something should be the start point in the exercise. If I am told to do something I may get it done but is it going to be my best? If there is a reason behind it that is part of a shared goal, something that I believe in and will make a difference, then surely the product will be better?
Take this blog for instance, I am writing it as I think it could help people, that is my why, I’m not doing it because I haven’t written one for a while or because I was told to. It makes a difference.

In class I think that too often students just go through the motions, they are not part of the process they are the process. They are on a conveyor belt of knowledge where they are expected to learn, to pass a test, to hit their target, to meet the school target. Does this inspire children to learn? What about starting learning with why?
Why will learning algebra help me in my life?
Why is knowing about nutrition going to help me as I get older?

Once children feel part of the process they should hopefully get more engaged. We have learning objectives and they give us a target to get to in a lesson. These help with maintaining focus but what about adding in the why, a relevance to the lesson, how will it help students?

Possibly looking at WHY might help us understand where we can help students more, maybe we will be able to identify why they are disengaged, reluctant to want to learn or simply misbehave. Step away from the process occasionally and maybe it will help.


My vision of an ‘iPad’ lesson

Now to start you have to know there is no such thing as an iPad lesson, I just needed a title. In fact this is just an idea of what a lesson might look like if you had iPads available.

Students enter the room having looked at the video posted on Edmodo the day before. The video is a starter of sorts to get the students engaged in the lesson. The students come full of questions and ideas to share.
On the board is the objective set out on switch incorporating pictures as well as text to look interesting and inviting. Underneath one word, Discuss!
The students sit down and start talking about the video, what did they think? What questions might they have? Meanwhile I walk around doing the register and listening to the conversation.
Discussion now starts as a whole group. Explain everything being used to capture the conversation and to write down ideas. This can then be shared later.
Students now get out their iPads, they use Evernote to make some notes. (Those with poor literacy can voice record their notes.)
iPads to the side and we look at taking what we have explored and making sense of it. We work in groups to explore different areas. 4 groups in total with a job of reporting back at the end, sharing their findings.
iPads back out, 1 for research, 1 for compiling notes (shared via Evernote with rest of group). All students engage in discussion.
Teacher is monitoring groups at work, documenting what is happening with photos, (this will be made into a comic strip on comic life for future revision)
Feedback happens, students stand and deliver their findings as a group, possibly having created a presentation but not essential, this is developing their oral literacy and confidence in front if others.
All students make notes on the presentations on their chosen style.
Now the fun part, what have they learnt?piecing all the research together each student needs to create something to show it.
This is where the iPad comes into its own. Choice. Could be a video, puppet pals, website, written piece if work, augmented reality, blog, podcast, drawing, the list is endless.
Finally all the work is completed, the teacher has moved around continuing to document the students at work, helping where needed (though students that were struggling used Edmodo to post a question for others in class to answer, stole this from Jenn Ludgates FAQ wall idea)
Back to Edmodo to check understanding, simple quiz to check understanding, using colours to see where students are.

Granted I am not saying this is an example of an outstanding lesson, but hopefully it shows the possibilities, you may never do the full session and in fact it is possibly too much. The device should be used to enhance what is done, to speed things up to maintain pace and to do things that interest the students and give them a personal choice.


So snow days are usually about playing in the snow but this time I actually managed to be productive and get something done i had been planning to do for a while.
I have found Edmodo really useful in my practice, not just with classes but also as a way of communicating with other staff.
I wanted to put together a simple guide to help staff if they decide to go down the same route. I decided to use Book Creator as it is a really simple but effective ebook creator.
The book simply outlines how to get up and running with Edmodo, I have included some video guides just going through the steps and some links to Edmodo help pages for further reading.
Hopefully this can get people up and running and finding out their own uses for the excellent programme.
If you want to get a copy just send me a message with your email and I can share via Dropbox
Please note to open the file from Dropbox click on the icon in the top right and select open in

Reflections on iPad presentation to SLT

Having presented to SLT on my vision for iPad deployment at school I feel it is useful to reflect on the event, the feedback given and next steps needed.
The general reception was positive, I think that the use of iPads to help is not being questioned but there are some very big questions that need addressing before making a huge decision.
The question of impact on students was raised and needs addressing. We have recently had a trial of 40 iPads with students across the school, this lasted from September through to December and showed me the issues and successes of using these devices in school. A lot of the impact evidence I collected was anecdotal, useful but still just students thought about how they felt it impacted them rather than real evidence. The problem here is the limited time to show real progression. The students with the iPads were all starting their options so difficult to show a different rate of progression, perhaps seeing progression since they were handed back may give an insight? There was some key areas that I can explore however; how did things differ in classes where teachers embraced the devices against those that were unsure in use? How did teachers observed lessons get graded? Was there any impact on attendance?
Another key point raised was about staff training. I know from the response I got when offering training that there is a lot of training needed in order for these devices to have any impact. Where staff were already using devices personally or engaged in the training I put on there were really good examples of learners producing some good work. In other lessons the device was seen as a distraction. This just shows how in order for these devices to really work we need a whole school approach, vision and plenty of CPD.
Before this happens though I feel it is important to learn from mistakes and learn from other schools successes. Having spoke to @jamiegodzy about his work with iPads, I think now is a great time to look at current iPad users and give them specific things to look at. How does the iPad impact literacy, numeracy, G&T, EAL, homework etc. if I can get a learning team together to look at these things then it will be a great steeping stone into first convincing staff of the use and then engaging them in future training.
One member of SLT pointed out the recruitment possibilities of the iPad, that although it was not a central reason for getting iPads, the fact that parents and students may choose our school over others is going to be a positive, which means we have to get the pedagogy nailed so it shows value for money.
I also received a devils advocate response. I had shown a few apps that are not solely iPad based and was quizzed about why we needed iPads if they could access it on computers. First, you can only access the programmes IF you have a computer room, whereas with students having iPads, every room (and outdoor space) is a computer room, secondly, there are lots of other apps I could have shown but was trying to keep within my time (which I actually failed to do anyway)
So next steps are to gather this impact data, hopefully the vision is understood and the potential has been put across, it has been hard work to get this far with lots of time put in both at school and at home but it has been worth it. Now I just need to show that our students will benefit from it.

In an attempt to try to drive the use of technology across school and to also impact literacy I decided to look at some of the things that were having an impact on my teaching and how they may help students.
One thing that I was really keen to get going was students blogging. This way they were being reflective and were using and developing their literacy skills.
We already had in place a sports council that was being led by @pearcy23 and this was having a good impact but one issue was that we were not getting the message out to the rest of the school. The sports council had a lot of good ideas, but no voice.
After doing some work on blogging within PE lessons I thought that combining these would be a useful tool and also lead to further developments.
We took the sports council and decided that they would be our first school news blog team. The initial idea was to give them a topic and get them to go away and write a report on it. The first results were really impressive, the students seemed to really enjoy the work and they were getting over 200 views per post.
Clearly this was something that was having an impact.
They now have specific things to report on from things going on in school, to media, film and games. They were also recently asked to interview students about their subjects to help our current year 8&9 students with their option choices.
It will soon become a really simple way to spread news about what students are doing in school and develop an interest in writing.
Really impressed with their work.

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