Starting to feel more like mine…display boards

So I’ve been in my new school for 11 weeks now. After being in the same school for 6 years since my NQT year it has come as quite a culture shock, and it takes a while to get used to new systems and simple things like your own room.

When I moved in there was a lot of clearing out to do following a very messy predecessor and a lot of waste: gutting the department to mark a fresh start for us all, and updating Humanities as a whole to make us a bit more cohesive. My amazing parents came in during August to help – well, my dad did sleep in the corner bless him while mum and I got busy with backing paper and trim! Things are gradually getting there and it’s lovely hearing from staff and kids about how different it feels purely because the ambiance is more positive; there is space, the tables have moved, the boards are exciting and have decent student work, and it’s clean! I’m hopeful that a quality environment will have a subliminal effect on kids as well, leading to quality work and a pride in their own presentation…we shall see!

Anyway, just thought I’d share a few of the displays either in Geography or in Hums.

We’re aiming for a strong cross-school, cross-curricular message regarding numeracy and literacy. This idea was borrowed from a Maths colleague @NatalieLoveMath who has a ‘mood board’ with mathematical symbols linking to literacy creatively. In the image is a

Vowel-less words
Vowel-less words

‘Vowel-less Geography Words’ display. Key terms have their vowels removed then kids have to try to guess what the words are. Within 10minutes of it going up on the wall I had students of all ages wanting to have a go. Definite conversation starter.

Command words with reminders of key geographical terms are around the walls and are constantly referred to, as are the ‘heavenly’ and ‘banned’ words to push for better quality

Command words
Command words

geographical literacy. These were borrowed from David Rogers at my past school and then just adapted to suit me.

Humanities corridor numeracy board
Humanities corridor numeracy board

In the Humanities corridor we have a numeracy board with ‘thunks’ and maths questions tied to either History, PPD or Geography thrown in. We also have a key word literacy wall.

Humanities corridor literacy corridor
Humanities corridor literacy corridor

Again, these are referred to and you do hear students discussing them as they wait for the start of lesson.

The PEEL (Point Evidence Explain Link) graphic is repeated around the department to refer to. It’s always amazing how students can recall doing ‘PEE’ type paragraph writing in subjects like History or English when you prompt them, but fail to see that literacy skills are essentially the same across all subjects and therefore require the same skills. So consistency helps.

PEEL explanation
PEEL explanation

Cheesy it might be, but it does seem to get across the idea that extended writing is meant to be a continuous developing process of becoming more complex.

Lastly we are being encouraged to employ SOLO taxonomy more across school, particularly with a view to ‘life after levels’ and possibly using just comments for KS3 to guide progression rather than a summative score. There are benefits to SOLO, although I dislike the language

Solo board
Solo board

used in classification (personally I find ‘unistructural’ a bit meaningless to a young person and also would make me feel quite bottom-of-the-ladder to be classed as), but as with all taxonomies / methods it is not the only tool to use. However I do like the simplicity of the progression, and that you can tally the skills to the stages quite easily and students seem to find the logos very visual and easier to understand. So the display wall is again there to refer to, so that if a child gives the classic gut reaction one idea answer you can simply point to the board and explain ‘currently your answer is only……….you need to be analyse in order to……….’ type conversation.

I also like pretty things so there may be quite a few butterlies around the walls, and some plants…good to have oxygen eh?!

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RGS #Explore2014 workshop

2014-11-16 09.57.49 2014-11-16 10.00.48 If you were part of the Education workshop today, or if you were not but are interested in information on getting fieldwork and expeditions into school, then here is a summary of what was shared by the panel.

Jamie Buchanon-Dunlop shared how you can use the online resources of Digital Explorer such as Skype conversations with real explorers and you can see his presentation on the website.

Mark Ilott shared how you can train and prepare for expeditions and field trips using your expertise and knowledge, and with help of his website www.training-expertise.co.uk

Josie Beynon from Roedean School shared the benefits and logistics of sharing your expedition and fieldwork using film and written journalism.

2014-11-16 11.19.21

Phil Avery of Bohunt Academy Trust shared how to build international links and share the benefit of expeditions with the school, and in particular how to sell it to senior leaders. He highlighted the importance of it being student led, and of students taking charge not only in the build up and planning to the trip, but also in the follow up back in school. And how the actual preparation, such as fund raising, can almost be more beneficial to their development and confidence long term than the trip itself.

I felt like a little bit of a fraud being invited since I’m not a ‘risky expedition’ leader, I’m a teacher, but I shared how you might build fieldwork into the curriculum and how you can benefit the whole school. Otherwise, you run the risk that you take 40 kids on a trip and it becomes a one off event, not sustainable or beneficial to the other 1000 back in school! So change your curriculum to build in fieldwork links, get students creating resources while you are away, have them lead lessons or assemblies on return, and use virtual fieldwork as well. So resources from Digital Explorer or Discover the World are awesome for this, e.g. Discover-Geography and use Google Connected Classrooms, create tours, use social media to connect to overseas scientists or charity workers. There are also various really useful fieldwork apps / sites to use (thank you to the Twitterati for your suggestions too!)

The links are within this PowerPoint.

And Jamie’s for D:E is here.

Thank you so much to everyone in the audience for some fantastic questions and discussion, and for the glowing feedback. Good luck and explore! Don’t forget we are all ‘citizen scientists’!

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Reflecting on #GTAUK 2014

Well I should have done this sooner, but as ever life has taken over! Google Teacher Academy #gtauk 2014 was two weeks ago, and was thoroughly enjoyable though equally challenging. Led by No Tosh and Ewan McIntosh the purpose of the event, as outlined in the previous post, was not to be a ‘tools training’ session but a ‘moonshot making’ hotpot of educators from all over the globe coming together to share ideas, delve deeply into problems, and try to find solutions. It was mind blowing in many ways!

In the first place I felt honoured to be selected for the event bearing in mind that I don’t feel I have proven myself yet or stepped out of any shadows or footsteps. In the build up I was admittedly pretty nervous – I’m never that good at meeting people for the first time and don’t naturally ‘talk the talk’ or spout pedagogy. I’m just average Jo ;-) But we were in very safe hands.

I should say that since we had to sign a non-disclosure agreement for this it might be one of those cases where ‘I can tell you, but then I’ll have to kill you’ kind of things…but I’m not going to be breaking any giant Google secrets for you, or explaining how you can break into the amazing cafeteria (the food was amazing by the way). Sorry about that!

Day 1 was introductions and getting briefed on what we were in for. We had the loan of a Samsung Chromebook for the two days which was a really enjoyable device to use – quick, clean, intuitive, and a good size screen and keyboard. Very tempted. Ewan and the mentors and Googlers made it clear from the outset that this was to be pedagogy focused, on solving real issues in schools not on tech. Which I liked. And that it was to lead to something sustainable and tangible, not just your typical CPD event where you go back to school and forget you ever attended. Which I also like.

We were introduced the No Tosh system of ‘design thinking’, akin to project management for problem solving and creation. In our teams we were coming up with issues that schools face that can lead to a ‘moonshoot’ – so not a simple issue, but something that can be broad in scope and require more ‘out of box thinking’ (not that we were allowed to use such cliches). The structure for guiding this design thinking was excellent, with delegates being guided through a series of steps from discussing education issues, whittling down to our ‘moonshot’, then coming up with as many ideas as physically possible and ‘ideation’ and then actually trying to create a prototype to share. Throughout all of this we had input from mentors, other GTA participants, Googlers and designers to give suggestions and share how this works in practise. You can see the whole process and structure in Ewan’s book and on the No Tosh website. We were challenged to not think small scale but to think 10x – that we should be aiming to change the world, and reminded that if we are dissatisfied with something then that should be our driving force to change it. Don’t just be the person who complains but never tries anything else.

We were reminded that although the tools used in daily life have changed leaps and bounds in the last 50 years, classrooms have not. Anything we do should be focused on empowering the student, the teacher and the school. Always keep your target audience in mind and do for greater good.

Day two saw us mostly working in groups to try to prototype our suggested solutions. My group was led by Dai Barnes (of the barefoot running fame) and was a good mix of educators from UK and USA, and across all phases and subjects. It was really interesting to see that despite their being a variety of schools represented in the arena when it came down to it there were only really three main issues that groups chose to tackle: those of risk, curiosity, and collaboration. Our team decided to work on this moonshot question:

“How might we build a culture of confidence where everyone embraces risk, uncertainty and fear, in order to develop courageous individuals?”

By this we meant that teachers often feel nervous or afraid of taking a risk and trying something different, for fear that if it goes wrong they may be judged, lose face, or not help students to make progress. SLT may not encourage risk taking for fear of results (which are, at the end of the day, the important thing!) taking a hit. And more and more I’m seeing students who are nervous of taking a risk, of being independent, of being curious, because they have been drilled for so long to think a certain way, to expect a certain result, to be given answers, and are feeling so pressured about results themselves that they are worried about failing. So how can we encourage a culture where failure is acceptable (even celebrated perhaps), and where we feel supported enough to embrace something new even if it might go wrong?

Our prototype as a group was essentially a website (or a school display if you were in a more analogue environment) that is for showcasing, suggesting and celebrating risk taking. This is all in progress and no doubt will change immensely, but we needed to come up with something that would be user friendly enough in most schools. So the idea is:

- website (or a risk box if going for non-digital) that has suggestions for ‘risks to take’ (think risk / chance cards like you get in board games) that are written by teachers and students that each can take, e.g. ‘no pens lesson’, ‘give your answers in a different language’, ‘don’t use the internet for 24hours’, ‘flip classroom’, etc,.

- website (or display board / life tv) then showcases examples of teachers and students having a go to celebrate. It can be tied into a reward system in school for students so they get house points for trying, whereas students can nominate a ‘teacher of the week’ or something to celebrate teachers who have tried something new.

- the website can connect classrooms globally, so you can see examples of what students and teachers are doing worldwide not just in your school

- tools like Hangouts/connected classrooms can be used to link schools up across the world to share their stories and celebrate trying something new

- create a RAG type app that suggests activities to do

- it can be run by digital leaders in school with teacher moderation if wanted

Anyway, as I said, it is a work in progress based on only a very very brief time of planning. Having said that, my headteacher is happy to trial this linked to our new school website in the next couple of months so even if it just encourages a bit more risk and curiosity in one school that is still something.

The whole two days were exhausting, but stimulating and exciting. We made good partnerships with others and got to work with people from across the world who were like-minded and all wanted to change the world. My takeaway from it? That we should replace fear, with curiosity. And that we should have a healthy disregard for the impossible. I hope I can keep that mindset going through the year.

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Looking ahead to Google Teacher Academy

So this week I am off to the Google Teacher Academy UK #gtauk for two days of educational geekery, sharing, learning and problem solving.

If you want to see my terribly cheesy and not brilliantly made application video it is here:

GTA application video

The event is being organised by Ewan Mcintosh of No Tosh and there is a focus on this being not a one-off event but a sustainable CPD opportunity where educators / technologists / innovators get together and try to thrash out some of the problems faced by teachers and learners in schools, to come up with solutions, and to then go back to our schools and trial these, adapt, improve and keep working with our teams and mentors.

I am excited and nervous in equal measure! I always find it hard meeting new people, and generally feel very inadequate when hearing stories of what other very innovative and inspiring people are doing. As I have only recently changed schools I feel it is difficult to share stories of success since I’ve not had an impact yet: other than ruffling some feathers and changing the decor of the rooms :-) But I’m hopeful that I will have something useful to say and something to share, and can’t wait to hear what people are up to worldwide when facing the same issues and same goals.

Part of the pre-work was a set of three immersion tasks, that required us to delve deeper and look carefully at our learning environment. We had to sketch out an area, interview others (staff/student/parent/other) about how they and we felt about the place (positive and negative), and create and ideas & bug list.

Being in a new school made me wonder whether the problems I have been experiencing are real or if it is just a case of getting to grips with a new vibe and way of doing things. Equally when you first start somewhere as a fresh pair of eyes perhaps it is easier to assess things and suggest change. The process of conversations with others has been really interesting, and not just in the school itself.

This lunchtime was a family meal back home in Kent. Parents and siblings (my brother-in-law is just another older brother) plus dogs having a good catch up. My family are awesome and I owe who I am and where I am to them. What is great is that nobody takes themselves too seriously, and that we are forever ribbing each other and making jokes – including the necessary black humour required when ‘telling off’ your dad for always getting ‘top marks’ when you find out his latest cancer check up shows his scores are tripling, and not in a good way. The conversation got onto what I’d be up to at GTA and we ended up having a real deep and meaningful chat about everyone’s experience at schools. Such variety. I consider all of us well educated, well rounded, full of the ‘right kind of stuff’, with good jobs and good relationships, and yet we all had such diverse and discordant experiences of school and education.

It was really eye opening. We talked about aspirations, commitment, resilience, bullying, results, pressure, ability, teachers, etc,. I hadn’t realised that one of us had been bullied badly and hated every moment of school, and when asked what could be done to improve the school experience they couldn’t think of a way to fix it short of being one-to-one with a teacher and no other students. This person being someone whom I look up to, who is a lifelong learner, very smart, very capable, and still collecting post-grad qualifications. The phrase that struck was that ‘going to school actually interfered with the learning process’. And this will be true of so many of our students. Anyone who is slightly different, who maybe wants to do better, who is considered smarter, maybe is less sporty or just doesn’t want to get involved in other social areas of young life. Fortunately this hasn’t stopped them from wanting to succeed and from wanting to learn – but this won’t be the case for many who lack that resilience.

So what can we do in schools to make them more appealing? To improve engagement in every aspect of youthful development? How can we ensure we are bringing out the best in every child in every way, and that we are not driven by the accountability and results machine to forget other ‘softer’ aspects that are equally if not more important?

So some questions I’ve had buzzing round this week following conversations with staff, family and friends, and students:

- How can we make education a fully social and interactive experience that benefits all?
– How do we ensure all kids are reading and writing at their appropriate age?
– How can you encourage independence, especially in able children, in those who want to succeed but are nervous of independent work in case they ‘get it wrong’?
– Is leadership more about intelligence or emotion?
– How do we raise kids to be entrepreneurs whilst still valuing education and nothing thinking ‘others became millionaires after leaving school with nothing’?
-How do we get kids to sleep, exercise, eat healthy and to explore the real outdoors, rather than being up til 3 on social media and computer games?
-Is endless access to information at your fingertips a good thing for young people? How can we ensure information consumption is productive and beneficial?
-How do we encourage independent learners in an atmosphere of worry that they must pass exams, where they have been cushioned at home and school and just want to be given the answers?
-How can we make the most of the hall at break times so that it’s not a venue of depression / nerves / fear associated with exams and assembly?
-How do we ensure technology is used for more than just consumption?
-How can we break the mindset (in students and in teachers) of ‘this is your target’ when it’s tied to accountability, and break that invisible ceiling of ambition / aspiration / ability?

Some pretty big questions in there! Certainly ones to grapple with. I’m hoping the next two days will give some food for thought and some strategies for some of these. Let’s break the ceiling, stop limiting ourselves and others, and have more #moonshot thinking.

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Discover the World – Presentation on Sustainability & Tourism in the Azores

This is the presentation given today at the Discover the World Climate Change & Sustainability conference. Within the powerpoint are some weblinks so do download and click into them to see what it was about. A commentary is underneath the powerpoint. Mostly this links to the original posts I wrote about the Azores in this blog during the April 2014 teacher inspection visit so you can read there for detail. The activities are based upon the Discover Geography website that has free resources for teachers on locations such as Iceland and the Azores. The Azores resources were mostly compiled by Simon Ross when you click into the website, so credit goes to him. On the powerpoint when it says ‘e.g. Resource 24′ that is what I am referring to! In true Louis Walsh style though I have generally ‘made it my own’ by taking the suggested activities and then amending them. I also refer to Digital Explorer resources which are great for looking at oceans. Anyway, have a look and if you like an activity then try it and let me know!

Background on the Azores:

The Azores is a volcanic archipelago of 9 islands located in the mid-Atlantic on a triple junction along the Mid Atlantic Ridge. Sao Miguel is the main island and by far the most popular with 69% of all tourists staying here. This is largely due to being the only island with direct flights rather than going via Portugal. Ferries and internal island flights exist across to other smaller islands. The least popular island for tourism is Corvo, closely followed by Flores. Generally most tourism is domestic from the Portuguese mainland (56% in 2013) with Sweden, Germany, France and the UK then being the most common countries of origin. Tourism has been reasonably steady for the past decade although with troughs due to global recession. There is a seasonal variation with July and August not surprisingly being busiest. When we visited the Azores it was clear that the infrastructure is still needed to be put in place to encourage mass tourism – and that copious E.U. funding is being gleaned on every street corner. Currently the islands still retain their distinctiveness and remoteness, with only 5% of the whole chain being urbanised. For four consecutive years the Azores as won the Sustainable Tourism Award for Portugal, and won a global award this year. There are multiple UNESCO Biosphere reserves on the island, European Geopark status and Quality Coast marks, and the main industries and employers are still agriculture and increasingly services.

Slide commentary:

Slide 8 linkhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5NiTN0chj0

Slide 10: Google Earth tour file. Email / tweet me if you want a tour file. It’s not that exciting but something!

Slides 12-22: I just described a bit of background on the main locations we went to on the trip to give some context on the Azores. You can read about all these in this blog if you search. In a nutshell just commenting that there are opportunities to use the Azores to teach about eutrophication and its reversal, land use change, social conflict (ie. farmers having land reclaimed), ecology with botanical gardens, geothermal power and comparisons to Iceland (43% of all Sao Miguel island’s energy is from geothermal power, aiming for 50% across the whole chain by 2050 with the Azores being part of the Green Islands initiative, coastal geography at Ferreria, Pico mountain, whaling and the rise of whale sightseeing tourism (in 2011 48’000 tourists did whale watching, supporting 200 jobs for previously unemployed whalers and fishers), Faial island botanical reserve protecting and breeding endemic species (since only 7% of all vegetation in the Azores is currently endemic), and Capelinhos volcanic peninsular and it’s interesting behaviour. You can see the whole commentary guide in the blog or on Slideshare here.

Slide 23: http://www.discover-geography.co.uk Just submit your email address and get approved then off you go.

Slide 24: Using Resource 23. I used this as either a categorising card sort, or to get students to locate each activity on a map or on GIS, or create a travel plan and evaluate the impact of each activity.

Slide 25: Using Resource 15 which contains key facts on the use of energy in different islands. I’ve structured the tasks using Solo language since this is now a common language in school, so students have the choice of either a Relational or Extended Abstract activity to use weblinks to compare and contrast two islands.

Slide 26: Using Resource 27 which asks about the challenges of sustainable tourism and gives information on the current issues and implications of tourism growth. I suggested creating a mock interview /  documentary based on the issues and internet research. A chance for some empathy and to consider different views (stressing the importance of a balanced argument and to ask questions and compare).

Slide 27: Using Resource 25 which has raw data on accommodation and country of origin for tourists this is a chance for some numeracy links. Students can choose from Bronze/Silver/Gold level and are encouraged to try a new skill. I would also correlate this with using the skills webs at KS3 and KS4.

Slide 28-33: Just simple photo stimulus using own images and questions. These would be a ‘Do Now’ activity in class as students enter.

Slide 35: General activities that could be used for a variety of lessons. http://www.bing.com for the every day changing image and reminding people about the free 1:25’000 OS maps layer.

Slide 36: Tell me a story. Always making explicit links to literacy. Also reading and sharing exemplar travel writing and descriptive writing.

Slide 38: Simple diamond 9 sorting activity with statements based on the DtW resources facts.

Slide 39-40: Venn sorting exercise with descriptive statements for students to categorise, sort, discuss – just emphasising that sustainability is a balance of all three.

Slide 41: Self-explanatory! Used this with KS3 classes as part of the Amazing Places unit to design a sustainable solution to different places.

Slide 42-43: Lovely links to numeracy again – we are all teachers of numeracy lol ;-) Again choice of activity of different complexity.

Slide 46-47: Using www.wordle.net or www.tagxedo.com to create word clouds based on impressions of the Azores, or using text from web research. You can then analyse the patterns and discuss these.

Slide 48: Flickr.com stimulus for a photo slideshow as your ‘Do now’ activity. Welcome to use my images if you want to.

Slide 49: Learning grids – which I’ve explained elsewhere in here so have a look.

Slide 51: Practise Decision Making Exercise just based on Azores tourism (just about the same as used for Iceland and Dubai etc.)

Slide 52: VCOP writing frame to structure writing / scaffold.

Slide 53-59: Just to explain SOLO bits briefly. Not because it’s the only tool I use or the be all and end all, but because there is some use for it to help show and guide progression sometimes through the descriptors. Slide 57 shows a template for guiding an increasingly complex answer through the stages. The sheet could be given at the start of a topic when students fill in what they can (most likely the first two boxes), then referred back to at mid point and end of topic to complete with what has been learned. Slide 59 Solo hexagons I’ve explained before but basically used to tessellate information about sustainability before writing an extended answer. The aim is to make as many connections / have as many sides touching as possible.

Slide 60: An example of how I model case study answers to practise doing 3 developed points using point, evidence, explain, link.

Slide 61: Sign up to Microsoft Partners in Learning to get free cool software like Autocollage. My year 7s used it to create a collage of distinctive features in the Azores based on the Flickr images, then they interrogated each other on their choice of image and whether something was really distinctive or not. They were fascinated by the spiral staircase on the lighthouse and the engraved whale bones bless them.

Slide 62: Get kids doing their own placemarks and tours on Google Earth then sharing with each other. Time consuming at first but worth it, especially if you want to create similar works in GCSE for skills.

Slide 63: Have a shared Pinterest board. You can invite by email in to a particular board and then can post links / images into it. Be careful in terms of it being social media so use kids school email addresses but it doesn’t give sensitive information. Can then be used to all collate resources for a project.

Slide 64: Digital Explorer another awesome website for free resources. Great for coral and polar oceans in particular with resources for all key stages, fact sheets, and even simple experiments you can do in school with buckets of water, ice cubes and food dye to show thermohaline conveyor system, impact of glacial melt, etc,. The Azores has cold coral reefs which are starting to become fragile from the impact of fishing nets and also ocean acidification, and there are resources in here that can help explain all that including some great student made videos.

Slide 65: Ocean Health Index shows global patterns of oceanic health and then specific data on 244 ocean regions. Oceans are rated and scored out of 100 based on health, fisheries, carbon storage, tourism, etc. and then ranked for their global position. The Azores is 91/244 and set to improve. You can then compare to other regions. The least healthy areas are predominantly coastal Africa, which leads on nicely to a comparison with a region in Africa and a region in Asia…ooh, did we just tick a statutory box somewhere? ;-) Also relevant for new KS4 curriculum.

Phewf. Hope something was useful in there for those that attended and any of you that made it to the bottom ;-)

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it connected to the rest of the world” (John Muir)

Prince’s Teaching Institute gearing up for 2014_15 cohort!

PTI It’s been a long time since I last blogged due to moving schools and needing to find my feet. I’ve not felt that I have had anything to share in a positive sense yet while I make the heady transition, but more on that in another post I am mulling over perhaps. It’s been a wee bit mental so I’ve struggled to find time to do anything apart from breathe, but I shall do better! Hopefully!

This Saturday 18th October marks the first of the new 2014_15 year for the Prince’s Teaching Institute Subject Days for new teachers. I’ve been involved with the work of the PTI for the last year as a teacher leader for Geography (other subjects are available ;-) ). The subject days are aimed at NQTs or non-specialists in particular (the PTI also offers other training days and residentials that are subject specific or for leadership) and cover a variety of content over six Saturdays including a fieldwork day. It’s a great opportunity to receive the most up-to-date theory from current researchers or lecturers, to spend time with colleagues discussing what has been heard, and then to work with teacher leaders and peers during focused workshops based around the lecturer content.

The structure of the days usually involves two lectures, plus two workshops, a lovely lunch, and time with colleagues to chat and plan how you would use the information back in the classroom. The workshops are led by current teachers / heads of department such as myself, Graham Goldup, Andy Emms, Helen Boxley, Kate Amis, Ed Chandler, and Paul Cornish at four different locations of London, Manchester, Harrogate and Birmingham. The events are tailored to suit the individuals attending, and I’ve certainly enjoyed being at them and the conversations you have with educators of different experiences and interests and backgrounds. We’ve enjoyed lectures from the likes of Professor Iain Stewart and Simon Reeve, Hazel Barrett, Alan Kinder and Jonny Darling as well as many others. So I am really looking forward to this new year and learning more from others and being involved myself.

Part of the extended work of the PTI also encourages curriculum leaders to join the Schools Programme with their department. This is a scheme that involves a department self-evaluation against a range of criteria, setting of targets to aim for as part of your department development over the course of the year, the submission of an end of year report for review by teacher leader consultants, and an invitation to come to training days and share resources through the PTI website. PTI home PTI staffroom imageAdmittedly this website isn’t the most user friendly at present, but it is a work in progress and the PTI are aiming to improve their use of the site and social media over time. The programme is to be completed over the course of three years so that the actions taken are meant to be sustainable. The aim is to choose development points that are beyond your usual department development focus – a bit ‘above and beyond’, and could include whole school influence, network creation, etc. . I worked through the Schools Programme with my team at my last school and did find that the added level of accountability knowing you were working with mentors and sharing with others was a good extra incentive when plodding through the year, and added some extra clout for those discussions with SLT that needed it.

During the review sessions in the summer this year we read all the reports, moderated them and then decided whether a department would pass through to the second year at different levels of quality – similar to the GA Quality Mark in that sense. I loved hearing what was going on elsewhere – where departments were turning their results around, or changing their teaching strategies, creating local networks of change, embedding technology, etc. . Departments can also go on to the Associate Department scheme after three years so there is always something available. The scheme does cost money, but does also include the training days and mentoring throughout the year – and there is a deduction for schools with multiple departments involved. It’s certainly not the only scheme that can offer that sense of progression and structured development, but I can only speak from own experience with having enjoyed the whole process and the support available. I suppose the thing I like most is that anything offered by the PTI treats you as an intelligent professional, and I love the ‘back to uni’ type feeling where you are being fed information and taught by specialists who are currently researching that issue – it just makes you feel topped up with knowledge, enthused and ready for more. Unless I’m the only person who ever feels a little ‘dumbed down’ from just teaching to GCSE standard and not getting the thrill of the challenge of learning something hard like you did back at uni? No? ;-)

“Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets.” (Leonardo da Vinci)

Thinking about formative assessment

Mathematical Bridge, CambridgeStory has it that originally the Mathematical Bridge (in the picture) was built without bolts through geometrical genius, but that when later generations had to renovate it they couldn’t reassemble and had to add bolts in. The legend isn’t true, it’s just that the original iron spikes would have been unseen by the eye as you passed. My point? Wouldn’t it be sweet if students could have their knowledge and understanding all held seamlessly together with everything connected?

Last year David Rogers showed me an example of a Skills Web that his art department had been working on, as I was working through some changes at my place. I’d seen similar elsewhere and really liked the idea as a simple visual way for students to see what skills they require to make progress, to check their confidence and self-assess, and see how skills cross-correlate between different units and subjects. I lose track of how many times we remind students that what they do in Geography correlates to skills in other subjects, and that I know full well that they can do graphs! Anyway, I like simple things and so this year introduced the skills web to trial it.

Below is a GCSE skills web based on the new themes of ‘think like’, ‘know like’, ‘apply like’, ‘study like’. I really like those strands in themselves for building a curriculum around ‘thinking (or knowing) like a geographer’ and make a nice explicit focus on terminology / literacy / numeracy that students need in order to make progress not just in Geog but in essential English and Maths.

 

web web2

 

Usage: students are given the colour version as above with a tracing overlay that has scores on it like the second image. This would be to stay with them for a whole year perhaps and the idea behind having the tracing overlay is that over time you might need to replace the overlay if it becomes too full / overused. You don’t have to do the tracing paper version (bit of a faff maybe) – instead just ask them to use symbols and a legend that dates each symbol so you can track over time.

Students then self-assess confidence from 0-10 along each strand. I wouldn’t get them to assess each strand at once, but at the start of a particular topic and then revisit periodically. Get them to date each time they self-assess then you can track over time. I make it a focal point by displaying on screen and highlighting which spoke of the wheel we are looking at then. Great for them and for you at identifying weaknesses to then work on.

We’ve also dabbled with topic specific skills webs for GCSE. Same principle of marking confidence along the line but this is just for one topic and I would revisit more frequently.

The Key Stage 3 example is below:

ks3web

 

I’d be interested to have feedback on what colleagues think and what is being tried elsewhere. I’m running with this in my current school and will introduce to the new place in September as our department AfL most likely. It’s not a replacement for summative assessment, this is still needed too (and hopefully the path here with tracking student progress in life after levels will become clearer soon!) But maybe it can help hold the strands of learning together.

Redacted literacy challenge

I’ve been trying to embed more literacy challenges this year as this is always something students struggle with and is a whole school focus that Geography can really contribute to.

 

Year 9 have been looking at Extreme Environments and with a focus on Everest at the end of this due to the recent events at Easter and the conflicts here. We often try to incorporate travel writing and non-fiction novels into lessons as well and encourage students to learn skills through these for extended writing, creativitity, grammar, etc,. With the Everest focus I’ve been sharing extracts from Beck Weathers’ Left for Dead novel about the 1996 disaster and other texts. This week I decided to try something different and set my students a ‘redacted text’ challenge.

 

Think top secret files and redaction, where text is obscured in order to inhibit meaning and keep a file secret. I thought that maybe this could be a good literacy tool. So, here’s what we did.

 

1) Students were given a four page extract from the novel and asked to read this silently for themselves, or aloud to each other in pairs. They were then given three minutes to contemplate and reflect on the story, on what it was conveying, on what style of writing had been used (specifically mood and atmosphere) and the literacy techniques used (eg. adjectives, metaphor, etc,.).

 

2) Using felt pens, I set the challenge that students had to go through the text carefully and redact it themselves by blocking out sections of the text leaving only certain parts visible. They were given two options here:

 

a) For a more accessible challenge: redact as much text as you like leaving only a selection of individual words visible (particularly adjectives or geographic words). From these, then take the words and rearrange them into a story or a piece of poetry in a similar style to the original story but in your own words.

 

b) For a harder challenge: redact the text very carefully leaving individual words but also short phrases visible. These words and phrases must be in a logical order and punctuation inserted as needed in order that the visible words now form new sentences that can be read as a new story, or poem. This is actually really hard! It requires text analysis and logic, having to plan ahead and have a vision of what they want the story to look like first and then to be able to create it. Very tricky. I trialled this first with top set students and they found this a real challenge but really interesting. The new stories they created from the visible words had to flow, had to make sense, and could either be in the same style as the original story or actually change the plot.

 

3) Students have to check the punctuation and grammar makes sense for their new stories, and then these are shared with others.

 

When I first suggested and explained this activity to a class, one of the (admittedly somewhat lethargic) boys asked ‘Miss, what’s the point of this – aren’t you just making us do something hard for the sake of it?’ To which I replied that yes I was in a way, that sometimes having to do something hard and learn to overcome it is as much the objective as anything specifically ‘geographic’. By the end of the lesson though he, and the rest of the class, were commenting on how they’d had to really push themselves to do well on this. That it was a difficult challenge that required some real logical and lateral thinking, that tested their creative and literacy skills. And they were pleased with themselves.

 

I wasn’t planning for them to be able to regurgitate the text by the end of the lesson, but I was expecting them to develop essential literacy skills that they have to be good at in order to succeed at anything – if they don’t get their English qualification, life gets pretty hard doesn’t it? It’s also a good tool to be able to say to SLT ‘look here, this is how Geography meets your whole school improvement plan on literacy with this, this and this…’.  The follow up is students making their own geographic adventure novel that must be a blend if fact and fiction.

 

The images show some works in progress, as the kids wanted to take home and finish some extra pieces bless them.

 

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TES Geography week article – resources I love to use

Below is an article that is published in TES this week as part of Geography Week, a review of resources I commonly use. All free ;-)

 

Investigating a new topic and not sure where to start? Planning your curriculum changes and finding it hard to get inspiration? Or simply ploughing through exams revision and looking to liven it up? Sometimes hitting the ‘search’ button on the internet throws up so many myriad suggestions it is overwhelming, but there are a few reliable places to turn to first.

 

Discover the World: Study Guides

Discover the World have been working with specialists and teacher advisors to create free study guide resources for use with a range of ages, particularly focusing on Key Stage 3-5 but adaptable. At present the online resources are for Iceland – the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption and Solheimajökull glacier, and for Norway – Hardangerfjörd mountain plateau and tourism. These resources are very high quality, with a range of lesson-by-lesson activities and superb videos and photographs for your use. Topics that can be taught from these include tectonics and hazard management, tourism, sustainability, energy, rivers, resource management, glaciology, cold climates and human-physical interactions. The site requires registration, which is free – simply give an email address. Then you can download and adapt to suit your needs. You can also get lovely free posters to display in classrooms, plus the Discover team are really helpful to sort queries.

 

There is also a new resource bank being created atwww.discover-geography.co.uk in conjunction with the Geographical Association that will provide quality teaching aids for other locations, as well as tips on planning overseas fieldwork. This is currently under construction with resources being updated in the next few months including a new destination of the Azores (looking at tourism, sustainability, biodiversity and volcanism). Again this site is free to register – well worth checking and then referring back to in June.

 

Digital Explorer:

Digital Explorer seeks to engage young people in a range of global issues, and has a range of resources for different themes that can be used in the classroom as well as links to useful articles and competitions.

Expeditions around the world can take on real meaning for your students by personalised accounts that are shared on the site, such as the Scott Expedition or London 2 London round the world journeys. I’ve used these to look at changing environments, extreme environments, or for students to grasp the idea of interconnectedness.

 

There are lots of resources available on the site – again registration is free. They are divided up into Oceans, Culture and Tech – with Digital Explorer even providing training in GIS. They are appropriate for a range of key stages. I’ve particularly enjoyed the Coral Oceans and Frozen Oceans (which, although aimed at Primary education is easily applicable and adaptable for 11-13 year olds). There are photographs, lesson guides, Google Earth downloadable .kml files, worksheets and even experiments to try – why not investigate changing sea ice porosity and the impact of climate change on sea levels? Or be cross-curricular and investigate how art changes geographically to reflect culture, identity, diversity, and religion – perhaps comparing British culture to elsewhere.

 

Students can also take part with current expeditions and interact live. For example, in the past we had students interact with Atlantic Rising through Skype and Twitter to ask questions, share ideas and share images live with those on expedition. At present there is an expedition 360 Extremeswhich is travelling the world. They are currently in Brazil andwill carry on until 2017 – lots of time to get involved! Imagine interacting live with them to fit into your new curriculum, perhaps when they are in Russia and China?! Topical.

 

Free Microsoft Tools:

If you want more information about free Microsoft tools being used in various ways, then either check this blog or see davidrogers.org.uk as both have different examples of use in schools.

 

The Microsoft Education team have provided a range of tools that are free, as well as some that are free just for teachers. All you need is a Hotmail account, which is free. Nothing complicated. Once you get a Hotmail account, you immediately get access to various online tools through OneDrive – Microsoft’s cloud. This includes simplified online versions of Word, Excel, OneNote & Powerpoint. These versions can be used on any device whether mobile device,PC, tablet, iOS or Android as they are web-based. This also means they are continuously saved online so you cannot lose work. OneDrive gives you 10Gb of free storage, and I’ve found this really useful for sharing documents and resources with students – for example Year 8 were working on Rainforests completing a decision making exercise so I shared the resources via OneDrive with students, and then they submitted work online to me. The beauty of this is that you can give and record feedback instantly by adding you own comments.

 

I really like using OneNote with classes. You can have multiple users all logged in to the same notebook (you share this with them) and then they can edit and adapt the documentsimultaneously. You can see in my blog how I used this with my Curriculum Hackers student voice group to edit our schemes of work. The teacher can simply create a notebook, perhaps with different key questions to focus on or stimulus images or links to follow, then students edit the document using this. Then you let them lead their own learning while you provide feedback.

If you join Microsoft Partners in Learning – also for free – then you get access to a range of teacher resources, such as AutoCollage and Songsmith, which can be easily used in class. There are also teacher guides to help learn new skills.

 

Reference links:

www.discover-the-world.co.uk/school/trip/en/study-aid/

www.discover-geography.co.uk

www.digitalexplorer.com

davidrogers.org.uk 

www.pil-network.com

GA conference review – opening lectures with Professor Iain Stewart

Professor Iain Stewart & Professor Hazel Barrett: the opening lectures

The theme for this year’s GA Conference was ‘Crossing Boundaries’. The opening lecture was given by twitter.comte who gave a fantastic talk on Geoscience vs Geocommunication, which had many parallels with teaching.
Iain commented that from the media point of view, there is a dilemma between what the public should/need to know and what they want to know. Geo-scientific media programmes aim at the ‘non-attentive’ public in order to grab attention and to educate, which means that issues have to be simplified and exciting in order to gain interest and spark curiosities. Sound familiar? Is this not what we as educators have to do every day?

He discussed the need to capture the wonder of the world, to not let science and theory get in the way or ruin the sense of awe and wonder. How apt this is when considering the new national curriculum and the need to inspire students with fascination and curiosity. This is the boundary that needs to be crossed: between what students want to know, until they become engaged in what they need to know.

After a very interesting section on the issue of fracking, and all the socio-enviro-political conflicts involved here with environmental damage, energy management, cultural attitude, etc., Iain stated that there appears to be almost a schizophrenia of Geography. The artificial separation into ‘human’ and ‘physical’ Geography which can lead to sometimes forgetting the inextricable interconnectedness of humans and nature. The division does appear obscure, since the human world is controlled and constrained by the physical world just as the physical world is influenced and altered by the human world. Interlinked. Interdependent. Inseparable. So why try to study them separately?
Why not lose the divergent, divisive classification and just be….Geography?

This was echoed in GA President Professor Hazel Barrett’s keynote who asked ‘what is Geography today?’. Hazel queried whether we have moved too far along the lines of ‘what does the government say’ and become constrained by policy, programmes of study and pedagogical fashions at the expense of the subject itself. Have we forgotten what Geography is?

She asked whether we need a debate on what Geography is today, on how this dynamic subject has changed, and challenged whether we have lost focus on the heart of Geography. Geography has always been crossing boundaries, the boundaries between the human and physical world – this is the beauty of the subject. It requires and demands and interdisciplinary approach that crosses subject boundaries and removes constraints. Whether you are studying climate change, refugees, trafficking, tectonics or any of a limitless number of topics you will find these are dynamic and multifaceted. They could be studied by any one of many disciplines in super-specialised, highly focused ways that only look at a small part of the whole topic – it is only Geography that has the privilege and the challenge of combining all these approaches into one. We blend demographics, ethnography, climatology, environmental science, politics, GIS, technologies, numeracy, literacy, critical thought, etc., in order to investigate and draw conclusions on an interdisciplinary topic. Only Geography takes the world as a whole, and applies a spatial approach in order to funnel all these myriad methodologies into something concrete, applicable, and embed this into the real world.

Geographers are uniquely equipped to understand and address global issues, we should be at the forefront – and more importantly we should be teaching and training the next generation to be at the forefront of solving world issues. The division into ‘human’ and ‘physical’ is not helping.

So, let’s just be…Geography.

"I am still learning" (Michelangelo)

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