Archive for May, 2013



Today saw the first ever City Academy Teachmeet for all staff.  I decided to hijack a staff meeting to really put across all of the great things that are going on at school.

For the last two years I have been looking at digital innovation in teaching and learning and in that time have been able to first of all impact on my own curriculum area of Health and Expression and then further across the school.  This has largely been done through bombarding staff with emails, tweets, blogs and more recently the teaching and learning newsletter.

Last term I met with our SLT in charge of T&L and asked for some time to present what I had done to the whole school, but to show real impact, get those that I had impacted on to spread what impact it has had in their lessons.

From a Deputy Curriculum Leader position I think people do not expect you to do whole school impact work but in a climate of limited movement in job positions I felt it was important to look beyond my job title and do something strategic and with high impact.  My personal CPD this year has been to develop myself as a practitioner who has whole school impact from a very strategic point of view.  Today was a bit of a signposting moment to highlight the progress I was making in the journey and also to continue spreading the message about digital innovation.

Now I did not expect all staff to instantly jump on board and embrace everything that was being presented but the initial feedback has been really positive and I did end the session asking for any queries to come my way so we could address staff concerns.

What I really enjoyed about the session was hearing staff talk about the things they had been introduced to but then had made them their own and grown them.  This to me really highlighted the impact I had, not merely copying something I had introduced them to but to really personalise it in their lessons to meet their students needs.  To be honest I felt quite proud.

When looking at CPD I always feel it is important for everyone to get something out of it, not just the audience.  In this case the audience were made aware of simple things they could do in their teaching straight away, the presenters had the opportunity to share their good practice and develop themselves as leaders to the whole school and for me, I have reinforced to myself that I can definitely lead on whole school strategies, develop these and then share the vision to the whole school body.  This is just the beginning of a movement to empower and develop staff confidence in their own practice and sharing it with others, as well as further developing digital innovation at the City Academy Bristol



The paperless classroom

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Over the last two years i have tried to reduce the amount of paper that I deal with on a daily basis.  This in part is due to organisation but more importantly to encourage learners to work better away from school.

I have looked at several different methods to achieve this, from Evernote to Dropbox, finally resulting in using Edmodo and Google Drive.

Google Drive gave me a platform for tracking progress and providing feedback to students in a digital way, so that work could be accessed anywhere, I have blogged on this before (link).  What Google Drive also offers is a variety of ways to interact with students.  You can comment on their work, directly annotating on the work and also add voice comments which opens a whole new world of options when working with students with different needs.

Though Google Drive gave a wealth of improvements to the course, it still was a bit messy and i needed something to combine it all in to one place, somewhere where all students could access their work, communicate with me and find extra resources.

Enter Edmodo.  This has a whole range of options to really build a platform for interacting with students.  For the paperless classroom it really gives a central place to file all of the evidence created.  The real beauty of Edmodo is that it links in really simply with everything i had done in Google drive.  In the library section of Edmodo there is an option to link your Google Docs, this gives access to everything in Google Drive and with a simple click it can be shared with your class.

Now students are encouraged to use Google docs to create work, it leads to better collaboration and i can give ongoing feedback to inform progression.  From a staff point of view, all of the tracking and feedback sheets can be shared internally through Edmodo, all of the coursework is stored in one place, I can simply track who has or hasn’t submitted work.

Now There is no real need for paper.  Students can create their work in whatever way they want, Videos uploaded via a link, Documents via Google Drive, Podcasts even their own apps via iBuildapp.  I can mark their work, give brief ongoing feedback on the work on Google Drive and in the comments section on Edmodo.  Detailed feedback (which BTEC require) on Google Drive.  I can then also track ongoing progress, modular and overall.  Not only is the course now paperless it also encourages independent learning and students to work in a productive manner when away from school

Sat at home on a friday night watching Moneyball, the movie based on the book about American Baseball and the idea of using stats to create a team. (good movie, great book) But this is neither a review or one of those, “this is what I am doing tonight” posts.

It got me thinking about whether the concept stretched to other areas and ultimately into teaching.
The basic premise is that you look at your situation and what your goal is, you then look at how you can fill the needs using the collective skills of what you have.
What skills do you have in an organisation to fill the gaps made by people leaving or people moving up in the organisation?

Is it the case that in schools we look at who is next in line for jobs or do we really look at what they offer to the whole establishment. Do we sometimes look at how someone can do a role or do we look at what they can do additional to the role?
It strikes me in looking around that there are a great many teachers that are doing some fantastic things in their classrooms but they are not seen as leaders because they do not have responsibility. That’s the point though. All teachers have responsibility, to the people we work for, the students.

When looking to appoint a member of staff it is straight forward to look at what you had and then what needs to be replaced. The thing that gets missed in this is that replacing someone will lead to a lack of change. You can teach someone to do the role but you can not teach them passion or the “extra” that they are prepared to bring.

It appears to me that there is an opportunity in this process to make small changes, to really think about what you want to achieve, when someone new takes on a role do they fill in the gap that was left, to fulfil a role that already existed? or can they do that and more? In speaking with a colleague today we discussed personality. Leadership can always be taught and developed, but personality shines through and without it, without a personal touch, it is difficult to get people to follow.

So with the Moneyball approach this is how it might look.

You need a new head of department. Your first thought is probably to who is currently in post that could step up. Possibly based on time served, desire to progress or several other things. Are you looking for the right things. A replacement will come in and do the job, hopefully in a different way that changes an approach and freshens things up, but ultimately its the same thing.

Instead you use the opportunity to look at what you need in your school, what big gaps are there and what could be developed. When you then search for that new member of staff you look for the extra they give, how can you capture their passion to do something and really make an impact. You may employ a head of department that also has a real skill for something that your school is missing. You then fill two roles.

it may already work like this, I hope it does. You can always teach someone the job, but never teach someone the passion.

Joined up thinking?????

So, I have had a bit of time recently, left alone with my thoughts, to think about what I have done over the last couple of years.  To say I am a reflective person is an understatement, at times it is great, but can cause me to over analyse things.

Hopefully this reflection will be constructive and lead to a real transformation in my teaching.

In my drive to better myself and develop skills in areas that I need to improve I have taken a huge interest in Teaching and Learning.  Using twitter, blogs, attending and presenting at teachmeets and generally reading more than I have ever done before.

It has occurred to me that my passion for digital technology and teaching and learning are not always joined up enough and they need to be in order to really change what happens in schools.

So to start with the iPads and iPods, I think by now it is clear to most that these devices can have an impact in the classroom and in many ways.  Mark Anderson (@ictevangelist) opened my eyes to the fact that it is not about just changing how we do things but to really impact on what we do.  (See his posts on SAMR). What I want to look into now is how the whole concept of school can be changed to allow students to learn in their own way, to extend their study how they see fit and to become true independant learners.

This is where I think digital tech and new pedagogies really come in.  iTunes U, iBooks  and Edmodo are just some tools that can really help to redefine how we approach the teaching and learning progress.  I am already seeing huge developments in increased distance learning opportunities but the real impact will be when students are creating content that can then be used to help teach others.  In this way they can see the relevance of what they are learning and see the benefit it brings to others.

I would like to think that in the same way that I have self taught about digital tech, the same approach can be used with students.  Not just a syllabus that needs to be recalled in exams or regurgitated in coursework but a real opportunity to create something with long lasting impact.

How this can be facilitated will be where I will focus my ongoing efforts.  Looking at curriculums, project based learning, digital technology etc and how it can be used to create a different approach to learning.  Students that have timetabled lessons for face to face interaction, to share ideas and what they have learnt, to develop ideas and test out theories.  All the learning having taken place away from the classroom.  Digital tech is pivotal to this, to help with the communication and collaboration so that progress is constant and monitored.

I feel my PLN are going to have me asking them a lot of questions over the summer as I try to make more sense of this, but I know that as always, they will be there to help.

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