So this weekend I visited the BETT exhibition and TeachMeet. I haven’t been to #tmbett for a couple of years and had remembered it as being overwhelmingly big, impersonal and too rushed. Friday’s TM was, however, a good event. The atmosphere was buoyant and cheerful, there was jovial conversation between everyone there, the presentations were light but meaningful, and I even learned a few things from them. Huzzah! And of course @lisibo made some amazing cakes ;-) So thank you to the likes of Ian Addison and Dawn Hallybone for arranging it all.
On the Saturday I spent some time on the RM Stand with @ukedchat for a live chat with Andy Knill about our favourite apps in education, particularly in Geography and this will appear on the site later in the week. It’s always good to talk about what we use and how as it forces you to more critically evaluate the purpose of something. Do I use Twitter in the classroom for real benefit or because it is trendy? Are apps / sites / tech used wisely? Does what I do encourage engagement and achievement or is it just a gimmick? Having to rationalise and reason what I do and why is quite invigorating; a good reminder to myself if nothing else.
I also enjoyed some time on the Microsoft Education stand catching up with folks. Minecraft seemed to be the most popular part of the show with Ray Chambers doing a grand job explaining how he’s used it in class. This is something I’m starting to play around with myself. I can see the benefits of encouraging collaboration, and obviously learning coding, and have seen some very low ability children voluntarily create whole landscapes and then be able to talk about them and this lead to a greater depth of verbal and written literacy as a result. Something to consider anyway.
I was really honoured to be given the opportunity to present at BETT myself, in the Learn Live Secondary area. I was pretty nervous beforehand but had a lovely audience who smiled at appropriate moments and even forgave me when I threw the remote clicker around ;-)
Below is the presentation I shared, and a rough transcript of what it was about.
Slide 1 – Self explanatory!
Slide 2 – Just showing some of the main thoughts or concerns that teachers have been sharing about the new GCSEs. The focus of my talk was to hopefully encourage that there is still room to be creative, and that we as educators have a responsibility to be developing more skills in all students through any means, not just for the exams culture.
Slide 3 – Linking to Google Teacher Academy and the fact that no matter what country we came from, what phase we are, or what subject we teach, there is still a consistency that teachers (and students) are risk averse. We live in a bubble where we are aiming for a mysterious outside world that is reliant on getting certain grades, and while I’m not disputing this or down-playing it I believe that teachers have a responsibility to bend and break the frameworks in order to develop other skills. Tech is all well and good but at the end of the day students sit exams with a pen and paper. And passing a written test is all great but in the workplace you need to problem solve, collaborate, deal with failures. And being able to build relationships, communicate, play, is all part of growing up too. So (to quote David Rogers) we have a duty to subvert the statutory, in order to create what should be mandatory.
Slide 4 – We need to build time for messy learning in. It helps to break up the stress – for everyone concerned!
Slide 5 – BETT is full of shiny new electronic tech, but there is plenty of fun to be had with good old fashioned tech as well.
Slide 6-7 – Jigsaws. Blank ones available on eBay (other retailers also available!). Students can make revision mindmaps, diagrams, Q+A patterns and then play together. In one of my favourite examples I’ve seen a ‘jeopardy’ style jigsaw with the questions and answers mixed up.
Slide 8 – Snakes and Ladders. Decision making. Students have to create ‘chance’ or ‘event’ cards before hand, e.g. ‘earthquake strikes Haiti’ or ‘international aid sent to Japan’. When they land on a snake or a ladder they take one of the chance/event cards. If it is something positive then they can go up, if negative then they have to go down.
Slide 9 – Artefacts. Get hands on and messy! In Geography I’ve used bags of sediment from a river and keywords then students have to sort them into the correct order for a river profile. Or using food to make models, like coastal cake craft or model coral polyps. Getting hands on builds picture and muscle memory, helps to visualise, and makes abstract concepts more manageable.
Slide 10-11 – Scrabble. I’ve used in Geography and in my Numeracy intervention sessions. I was surprised at how much kids like it! Keyword building and points make prizes. Speed scrabble to make as many words as possible on a particular topic, e.g. hazards.
Slide 12-13 – Musical Chairs. I’ve mentioned these before at my TLAB session as a revision tool. Again this is just another method for Q+A but does work. Students take part in having to create the questions as well as the answers, and the musical but is just for fun but surprisingly makes them feel very under pressure.
Slide 14-15 – Paper Planes. Ever had a problem with these in school?! More often than not the most dangerous thing in the classroom for disruption is the humble pencil/pen and paper. But these can be harnessed. For example, a student writes a question or statement on a piece of paper, turns it into a paper plane and throws to someone else to ask it. Or the case study option: student answers a case study question in full then throws to three other students who in turn, with different colour pens, highlight ‘key words’, ‘place specific fact’, and ‘developed points’ before the last person gives a final score and a comment then returns it.
Slide 16-18. Keyword twister and Jenga. You can see these explained on another post here.
Slide 19 – Lego. Good for construction and for numeracy! I’ve used with making models of settlements or earthquake proof buildings, but also in numeracy. For example, you allocate different lego piece shapes or colours with a numeric value then students have 2 minutes to make the shape of an animal or a building, then at the end of the time have to calculate the value of their shape. Highest value wins.
Slide 20-21 – Board Games. Make your own version of classic games. The aim of Pointless is you ask questions on a topic and students have to get the most obscure answer possible (so if you ask the whole class then students who have unique answers will win) – the lowest points win. 5 Second Rule: literally a naming / stating game. You are given a category (e.g. name 3 river landforms) and have only 5 seconds to name all three. Articulate is a describing game based on key terms, definitions, case studies and similar to Taboo there are words you cannot say. And Charades is the same but acting out!
Slides 22-23 – Balloons. Students write questions on a balloon, blow it up (with a pump!) and throw to someone else to answer. Use soft felt pens so it doesn’t burst!
Slide 25-26 – Using OneDrive for collaborative revision. OneDrive is available as part of Office 365 or you can get a free Microsoft account to create documents online and store in the cloud. You can share these documents and collaborate live with others even if they do not have an Office account. In school, Year 10 and Year 11 have a shared folder with past papers, model answers, example lesson ppts and more importantly collaborative revision work. For example, year 10 were working on Settlement and at the end of the unit worked in groups to complete a OneNote notebook with different sections of the topic so that they can all share.
Slide 27-30 – Triptico. Has a free version or paid version. A web based app that can be downloaded and includes various tools from timers to photo selectors or quiz makers.
Slide 31 – Fotobabble. Available on any platform and web-based. Take a photo on a device, then record audio over the photo for up to a minute. Great for revision ‘speaking flash cards’. These can then be shared with others via email. Also good for virtual fieldwork!
Slide 32 – Photosynth. Another photo tool, this one from Microsoft and linked to Bing maps. You can stitch and create amazing 360 panoramas using a guided photo app, then when it is stitched you can zoom in and out of areas. Good for virtual fieldwork and as a prompt for revising landforms, places, processes, etc,.
Slide 33 – Minecraft. I’m only just starting to dabble with this. I’m not a coder or anything like that but students came to me a few weeks ago asking if they could use Minecraft for their homework. I said yes and they brought in a video tour of their landscape that was a real access-point to their own verbal literacy. They could articulate what they had created, the landforms and features, why they had chosen then. And they had collaborated to do this. The website minecraft.edu has various resources and tutorials available that other teachers have shared, and there is a programming book available from Microsoft Education via Partners in Learning. The minecraft.edu site has resources such as example worlds like the Tropical Rainforest challenge that guides students through challenges and concepts such as resource management, tribal conflict, land use, deforestation, etc,.
Slide 34-35. Microsoft Partners in Learning free tools reminder. Join the network and find free resources, software and case studies of what other teachers are trying.
Slide 36 – Google Forms. Use this tool to make simple quizzes, or get students to create them for each other. Really only takes minutes and share-able.
So there we go. Basically just different random ways of asking questions or knowledge checking, but it all helps to break up the normal routine. Plus having time constraints or ‘competitive pressure’ like that found in games situations helps with learning how to cope with exam pressure and stress. So, don’t be risk averse, just have a go. And if it doesn’t work? No matter, learn to fail and then get over it. Build some ‘bounce-back-ability’.
“Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.” C.S.Lewis