The first day back at work after the Christmas break is not traditionally a time to look forward to. It’s dark, it’s cold, and the next holiday is weeks out of sight. But today, for me, was no ordinary first day back. In fact, having just finished, I’ve just driven back home down the motorway to my home in London in a fairly dreamy state. I don’t think it’s good for road safety, but I also don’t think my teaching will ever be quite the same again.
So what exactly made this day so special? Well, here’s how it went – you be the judge.
The reason I bounced out of bed this morning was that my head is full of inspiration. I joined Twitter on 22nd December 2010, and I feel more enthused in the past 2 weeks than any time I can remember before. I have read about teachers using technology in exciting ways, I have heard from teachers who value independent learning as much as I do, and I have heard the results of experiments in many other classrooms around the world. I am in touch with educators I could never have heard about before, and my professional network already spans the globe.
I have already told several members of staff at school. I intend to try and persuade key members of senior management to join, and the head of Maths has promised to have a dabble. For a school that is struggling (although currently succeeding) in maintaining its staff training budget in the face of harsh cuts (particularly in sixth form funding), this could well be just the way of improving teacher-learning we’ve been looking for.
Learning and sharing
This year my school has set sixth form (that’s 16-18 year-olds) learning as it’s professional development priority. We had an interesting survey and talk from Villiers Park last year on ways to improve our lessons. Today all staff sat in cross-discipline breakout groups. When we first arrived, in the typical British cynical way all talk was about “Oh what a waste of time”, and “How quickly can we finish this?”. However, even just a few minutes later I discovered my colleagues have some amazing ideas under their belts as fevered discussion and sharing ensued:
- One occasionally sets chapters from the Maths textbook as a homework in advance of teaching it, and asks students to collaborate and teach each other. In the next lesson he sets a quiz between the four class teams to assess what they have learned, and to correct any misconceptions.
- Another teacher sets passages from English texts as homework, and asks students to come in with 10 questions for their peers, or 10 subtle true/false statements, or 10 plot points in the wrong order to be sorted. They swap, mark, and then she assesses both the questions and the answers.
- A Chemistry teacher rewrites the specification and, over time, gives one to three students a section to prepare for the next lesson, with handouts. They present at the start of the next lesson, and must go through a Q&A with the rest of the class.
There were so many more brilliant ideas, from students self-assessing their effort, through regular “how is my teaching” questionnaires, to students blogging/saving outstanding work on Moodle, our VLE/LMS/CMS (take your pick of acronym!). This was just one of 7 groups that included someone from most departments and a couple of learning support and special needs assistants. I can’t wait to hear what the rest of them came up with!
In our subsequent science department meeting we decided to focus on expanding blogging during and after lessons, moving to some ‘flipped teaching’ for topics that suited it, and expanding our online resources. For a department with reputation for cynicism, this is wonderful and inspiring, and I can’t wait to get started.
My final excitement today was from a discovery that I read about, of course, on Twitter. Jing is an insanely easy to use way of recording a video of a portion of the screen, with sound from an attached microphone. I borrowed a microphone from our language department, plugged it in, installed Jing, fired up our interactive whiteboard, and away I went. I recorded 10 worked Maths examples for my year 9 class on using formulae this afternoon, and intend to try them out as a homework for my set tomorrow, with questions from the textbook to follow. It is so easy! I can’t wait to share it with my colleagues – this could absolutely revolutionise our teaching.
Education can be so creative, so rewarding, and so exciting. Now I’m looking forward to putting it in to practice, then carefully assessing its effect on student understanding and engagement, and finally discussing, improving, and sharing the ideas with others.
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