I am presenting at TeachmeetNE10 this evening about a simple, rough and ready way to make progress in a lesson visible. It involves some very high tech tech in the form of a word document with textboxes (although there are other word processing packages available!). The basic idea is to create a thumb up, thumbs middle, thumbs down traffic light system in a word document and to add text boxes with your learning intentions for that lesson. I have started colour coding the intentions to indicate if they are mainly skills based, attributes I want to see my students demonstrating or skills. You can make this explicit to the students if you wish but I find it is useful to remind me not to focus on content to the exclusion of all else. Anway, a quick survey of the class to see who's thumb is up, down or middle for each of your intentions tells you where you are starting from and you should move the text boxes appropriately. At the end or in a mini plenary, you may wish to come back and visit these boxes to see if you have made progress in learning through that lesson. Obviously, this is a rough, whole class approach and just because someone has their thumb up does not mean they can actually do what they say they can, so it is extremely important that you challenge learners to demonstrate when they put their thumb up. Anyway, you can Download Tutmtd here if you don't have time to make your own!
After having talked to a lot of people about the way we approach teaching and learning in my department, I thought it would be useful to put up some photos of the learning spaces which are built with the core concepts of collaboration, technology and thinking in mind. Our new build was constructed out of a necessity as the local middle schools closed and we moved from a three to two tier system in Northumberland. Luckily, the school had been developing our thinking around learning spaces for a number of years and have been refurbishing rooms in the older building for several years, thus honing the design for the new build. So, are these rooms classrooms or learning spaces? I always think one sounds a bit too much of an edugeek when one talks about learning spaces but lets face it, I am an edugeek so no apologies. Moreover, a classroom is designed with a class in mind (i.e. the logistical concept of 30 bodies filling a room - as if the whole were more important than the individual). Learning spaces are exactly that - spaces which have been designed to promote good learning and to allow learning to be personalised to each individual student.
Exhibit A - we have round tables - no rows. Why? Very simply it obliges students to work together - there is an Arthurian equality to the tables which encourages students to work as teams. Obviously, this does not always work but it does mean that it is easy to facilitate. Whatsmore, the furniture is around the outside of the room (bar the two moveable central tables) which means that the space can be used flexibly for rehearsal, presentation, role play etc.
As you can see, we have two computers (or two laptops) per table - i.e. a 2:1 student to computer ratio. The fact that we have invested in this ratio across the school rather than having computer suites with 30 computers means that we have been able to integrate technology as a staple in our schemes of learning rather than a bolt on approach when we can access the computer suite.
On top of that, we have 8 video cameras per classroom and a department set of easyspeak microphones.
We have display in the classroom that we constantly refer to - our learning wall, with De Bono's thinking hats, our 5Rs (the attributes we expect our students to demonstrate). We also refer to Anderson's Revised Taxonomy (a 2005 revision of Bloom's taxonomy) and promote progression through higher order thinking skills.
So how would you design your learning space if you could start from scratch? What would your core concepts be? Please comment below!
Becta-X was a great experience today, not only for me (someone who has a vested interested in tech and education), but for my students who were involved throughout the day via twitter and eventually SKYPE in the afternoon.
The premise of Becta-X was to have the discussion about education and digital media but covered a vast array of issues from filtering in schools to the creation on a professional facebook/schoogle for teachers (which my students have already wire-frame designed....).
The day was extremely complex with one presentation, panel discussions and pitches with a live twitter feed from 15 schools across the UK and finally live feedback on pitches from my students via SKYPE. Kirsty Young from Just-b productions managed the logistics of the day beautifully, but I was once again wowed by a guy who I have always enjoyed reading and was delighted to see fronting the day - Ewan McIntosh. The wonderfully incisive and witty presenter skillfully summarised, teased out ideas, guided us through complex ideas and made the whole day flow beautifully (despite his comment about NUFC...)
To summarise my own humble thoughts from the day, I think that...
the technology is only as good as the pedagogical purpose behind it
teachers and learners need access to excellent resources and ideas which are easily transferable
although we need centralised support, we also need the flexibility to personalise technology to the school and individual context
schools should manage their own filtering depending on their own context
technology is ubiquitous and not going to leave us
learner voice is essential at all points in education - we can learn so much about tech and engagement from the "consumers" as the Play Station man said
ignore naysayers and do what is best for the kids at all times
the students at Cramlington Learning Village are awesome!
A brilliant day and hopefully just the first step on the path to a brighter future!