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Showing posts from June, 2010

What happens when you ban pens, pencils and paper.

It was time to get outside on Friday. I asked Year 7 class to pair off, think of a place in the school and then create a description of that place to share with the rest of the class. The only rule was that pen, paper and pencils were not allowed, and definitely no clipboards!
That was the input.

The results included a map created from what was laying around (in the photo above); three drama performances; a phone video and poems written into the notepad function.
The descriptions were imaginative and effective, and it was excellent to see the wide range of options that the class chose.
This is an example of Doorstep Geography: powerful outdoor learning and ICT combined.

Partners In Learning – Innovative Education Awards

Ollie Bray has a lot to answer for ;-) It was his post that spurred me on to enter the 2009 Innovative Education Awards. I created a Virtual Classroom Tour about the work the department had done on using Social Media when exploring 21st Century piracy. I thought it cheesy at the time, but I agree with Ollie that the single action of entering has resulted in an amazing journey where I have been professional challenged and developed.  I was lucky enough to be one of the four projects selected to attend the European Innovative Education Forum in Berlin, where Simon and Jan got through to the World forum in Cape Town.So what have I found?  The first thing is that the PIL team of Stuart and Kirsten are very approachable, helpful and completely focussed on learning.  Indeed, I have been struck by the unusual fact that more teachers than consultants and advisors etc, attend the Microsoft Events.  This means that it is easy to share information and ideas that are tailored to the classroom.  I…

Curriculum Planning Day – Department Vision

I have to admit, that I’m not a great fan of leadership jargon.  Having said this, I do agree that it is important to have a clear, shared and well communicated vision.  Part of our curriculum planning day was given over to this.  As with most activities, I had two aims in mind.  The first was to strengthen our existing department vision and ethos, and the second was to practice and explore some of the ICT skills I want to see employed with classes.I’m a great believer in learning new things by doing them as opposed to listening to someone talk about them.The aim was to create a short video, to be published on YouTube, that communicated our own personal view of what Geography is. Although we probably need to work on the soundtrack, this was put together in under two hours (including a lunch break). This makes the activity viable for use in class as Geography only has 1.5 hours of contact time per week.Here is the result: We are pleased with the result (better soundtrack needed but in o…

Building teams: Curriculum Planning Day

Today was the third annual Curriculum Planning Day for the Geography department.  These days are designed to enable the team to construct the curriculum.This post will outline some of the tools that were used during the day.Any day that the team are together, whether it be an off-site planning day like this one, or a residential, there is always the opportunity to strengthen the team. We used two collaborative tools today: Microsoft’s Office Live Apps and, an old favourite, Google Docs.  They were used for two reasons, the first was to familiarise the who department with how the tools could be used with pupils, and because I think that it’s a nice way to work (okay, I just lose paper!).Office Live a a recent innovation.  Through the Skydrive I created a shared folder:This contained all of the documents needed for the day.  I prefer using Office Apps because more people are familiar with the layout of Office documents.  With some of the team with relatively low ICT experience, and othe…

Why outdoor gear is like learning today

This is how much gear two blokes need for a three week Alpine climbing trip. Note the branding. there are a wide variety of brands. My philosophy when in the outdoors is to buy the best kit that I can afford. This means, buying kit that keeps me alive, as well as the gear that is on offer at the time. I also ensure that I have a huge range of gear so that I can take part in a wide range of activities.The result? Between the two of us we must have at least 10 different brands of equipment. As we are still living, were able to take part in a diverse range of activities, and enjoyed the experience. To me, the outdoors is not about kit, but enjoying the moment and, well, getting out there. I also won't reject kit for the brand name if a) it does the job well, and b) is at the right price.
So where is the link to learning today?
Well, to me, learning (doing the job) is the end result and is facilitated by a multitude of different learning tools (gear). This week, a few bloggers …

How outdoor learning can raise the profile of Geography in your school

I've been reading an interesting series of posts by Ollie Bray about outdoor learning and technology. I respect Ollie's work very much, especially as he uses what he learns to enhance, not replace, his existing knowledge and experiences.
In a similar vein, this post highlights a number of ways in which outdoor learning can raise the profile of Geography across a school. There are well documented arguments about the importance of fieldwork in geography, but the effects are far more wide reaching than curriculum development.

Individual stories, personal geographies and being a real person.

The photograph above was taken on Bristly Ridge, an interesting scrambling route that links Tryfan and Glyder Fach. My foot is in the bottom right of the image, and the guy on the left is a university friend who is now a regular climbing / mountain biking / mad challenge partner. I often share my experiences (and those of others such as Ollie, Mark Kalch, Mark Beaumont and Joe Simpson) in cla…

Atlantic Rising live from South America!

Just spent part of a Year 9 lesson chatting via live via Skype to the Atlantic Rising team.Lynn, Will and Tim providing an entertaining and informative talk and responded to a number of questions.I was really impressed by their enthusiasm and the class was left buzzing from the encounter – and went on to explore the Atlantic Rising project further.Worth having a look at include:Photo Gallery – stunning images that would be great to use a starters. Also check out the videos (wish there ere more of these!). Again, these are a great resource to use in geography lessons, and tell more of the human story behind the adventure.Schools section – the team are engaging the school community which is great to see from a project. I especially  love the message in a bottle resources.My next mission is to get a group down to the sea front in order to take part in the photographic competition.  The video below outlines the Atlantic Rising story so far and has details of the competition.My Coastal Lif…

Uses of Microsoft Photosynth in Geography

I’ve been aware of Microsoft’s Photosynth for a while now, mainly via a post from Ollie Bray.  However, I’ve never had time to sit down and explore uses until now.I’ve created a quick example and have thought of a number of ways in which these could be used in Geography.  I will write more about Photosynth next month as we will be using it with pupils as part of our 21st Century Learning Alliance Fellowship project.Teacher using Photosynth using a projectorThe Photosynth below shows an area of the Geography department at my school.  It’s not great, with a matchup of only 65%, but I wanted to reflect the time and ability of students.  I took 85 pictures using an Olympus uTough 8000.  The software was easy to use, but did take some time meaning that complete Photosyths would not be able to be created within the space of a one hour lesson.This could be used in class in a number of ways:1. Space and a sense of Place are core principles of Geography.  What do pupils like about this space? …

What fatherhood has taught me about education (so far)

I'm not pretending to have been totally transformed (yet), but as Henry approaches his first birthday I have a few reflections on what I get up to as a result. Most are niggles that have been at the back of my mind for a while. These reflections are gathered from a wide range of schools. Also - I don't pretend that education is unique.
1. I have become lesstolerant of people who waste my professional time. The lovely young people I teach every day never waste my time, however, meetings, Inset and people out to climb the ladder rather than improve learning. For example, when I'm in a meeting after school I know that I'd rather be at home. This is especially the case when the meeting isn't achieving anything. Some solutions: If a meeting is for information only, email it out.I find that speaking little and often is far better than long, after school meetingsMeetings should have a clear purpose, for example to discuss how a new unit should be tackled. Then, stick …

Motivation and Learning

I've decided to throw my hat into the ring for the Google Teacher Academy. Sounds like an excellent opportunity to me! My attempt at a one minute video is below, and links to the themes in my last post. It has been presented in widescreen, so is best viewed on the YouTube site. As I'm sure there will be loads and loads of applications for the 50 places, I hope to see you there? Maybe?

What makes a learning experience profound? Personal reflections and possible implications for classroom practice.

I have recently begun a Leadership Pathways journey.  As part of the first core day, we were asked to reflect on a profound learning experience. This got me thinking about how many profound learning experiences I have both been involved in, and how many I have been able to give to others.  Our group came up with a huge long list, but these are my five.Emotional ConnectedDemandingReflectiveCollaborativeAs always, these are personal thoughts and quite mixed up.  I put them here so that I can look back on them (plus they’d get lost inside my world-cup-free brain)1. EmotionalI can’t think of a time where deep learning hasn’t engaged my emotions.  From being awe inspired to that tingle feeling when a student gets a light bulb moment.  From this-is-the-happiest-day-ever, to I-think-I’m-about-to die.  How often do we engage the emotions of those we teach?  Here, I would argue that having a safe learning environment is not always conducive to profound learning.  I think we sometime need to ta…