Some people talk of ‘learning styles’ but I think that, really, we use each main type of style (kinaesthetic, visual, aural) depending on what it is we’re learning. In fact, as a teacher, I’ve observed this in the classroom.
Those (high-flyers) who have the groundwork understanding to quickly assimilate concepts need merely aural input to learn effectively.
Those (most of the class) who need some consolidation of the groundwork before assimilation need things explained visually.
Those (SEN, etc) who need to re-explain the groundwork completely before moving on need kinaesthetic activities.
Feel free to shoot me down, but that what I’ve observed. And the same is true for my own learning.
At the moment I’m trying to apply Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity to my Ed.D. thesis. Specifically, I’m interested in finding out how terms such as ‘digital literacy’ and ‘electracy’ are ambiguous. It’s confusing. So I did my equivalent of breaking out the Duplo:
Note that this is visual learning for you but kinaesthetic for me – I did something similar when doing my MA.
Thoughts/comments? Do you do something similar? :-p
Last week, Mark Warner asked how I put together my Things I Learned This Week posts every Sunday. It’s a week-long process, really, and one that benefits both author and reader. You get links that you may have missed, whilst it motivates me to read more than I would otherwise (and to bookmark and reflect upon it).
On a personal level, I learned that when taking a toddler on a trip to somewhere (reasonably) far away like the National Railway Museum it’s always a good idea to ensure they have a very good sleep the night before, and to take a buggy. Even if you think they’re too big for it… 😮
The following Dilbert cartoon explains a lot about problems I sometimes run into – especially with the opposite sex:
Some (big-name) people have had problems with their Twitter page outranking their personal blog or website. Lifehacker, as you would expect, has aquick-and-easy fix (which I’ve already carried out here!)
My mother’s in the market for a point-and-shoot digital camera, so this warning by Lifehacker to stay under 7 megapixels to avoid photo noise and diffraction in such devices is timely!
I love this video of mini-ninjas unboxing the Google Nexus One. Best. Unboxing. Video. Ever. 😀
YouTube has a multi-video uploader (I found out thanks to this post). Unfortunately, it would seem that Google Gears – which powers it – isn’t yet compatible with Mac OSX Snow Leopard?!
Charles Leadbeater has an article in The Guardian in which he expresses concern (quite rightly) about corporate control of cloud computing. You get what you pay for, I suppose…
RockYou, who provide apps and services for Facebook users, had a security breach recently and user account details were stolen. An analysis reveals, worryingly that some of the top passwords included ‘12345’, ‘123456’, 123456789′ and ‘password’. Unbelievable! 😮
Ethan from Flowtown.com got in touch to make me aware of what they do. Put in an email address, get details from various social networking (and other sites) about the person that owns it. Here’s what it has to say about me (not all correct!):
(I don’t live in Doncaster any more and I’m not on Facebook…)
Stephen Downes has produced an interesting visual overview of how ideas diffuse in the blogosphere in 2010 compared to 2005 (see above). I’d contend that it’s a bit more complicated than that – as a commenter points out, there’s no mention of Facebook. And what about half-way houses like Posterous? And Delicious/Diigo networks?
If, as I kept getting this week, you get the WordPress ‘Fatal Error: Allowed Memory Size’ error, here’s what to do!
Humble Pied is ‘one inspiring creative [person] sharing one piece of advice, all over iChat’. Interesting!
Apparently, cutting out grains from your diet temporarily could be a good idea: “Grains come preloaded with anti-nutrients, chemical defenses like gluten and lectins that are designed to dissuade animals from eating them by causing digestive issues and “leaky gut” syndrome.” (via Zen Habits)
He who knows enough is enough, will always have enough. Lao Tzu
It is never to late to be what you might have been. George Elliot
The man who is swimming against the stream knows the strength of it. Woodrow Wilson
Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils. Louis Hector Berlioz
Knowledge will give you power, but character, respect. Bruce Lee
There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning. Louis L’Amour
Disconnecting from change does not recapture the past. It loses the future. Kathleen Norris
And finally, as Nick Bilton from the New York Times states, and (appropriately) Scott McLeod links to, we’re all human aggregators now:
If someone approached me even five years ago and explained that one day in the near future I would be filtering, collecting and sharing content for thousands of perfect strangers to read – and doing it for free – I would have responded with a pretty perplexed look. Yet today I can’t imagine living in a world where I don’t filter, collect and share.
More important, I couldn’t conceive of a world of news and information without the aid of others helping me find the relevant links.
This is the first of a planned weekly series in which I reflect on what I’ve learned during the previous 7 days. As I explained in My digital reading workflow these links are culled from blogs and tweets I read.
It’s been 5 years, apparently, since Google first started blogging. They’ve no got so many blogs that it’s difficult to keep up with them all. If you, like me, are becoming overwhelmed by the unread items in your RSS reader, why not get everything delivered by email? If you’ve got a decent system (see my How I deal with email) it can be a very efficient way of keeping up-to-date. The trouble is, of course, that some blogs don’t have an subscribe-by-email option. That’s where FeedMyInbox is useful. Enter website URL and your email address and, hey presto! If you want a quick-and-easy way of getting all of the links from your Twitter followers, try ReadTwit. It creates an RSS feed of tweets that contain links from people you follow. You can put that through FeedMyInbox too. And if all that sounds like too much effort, why not try LazyFeed? (via @heyjudeonline) :-p
Talking of productivity, Hans de Zwart (who has recently been promoted to the cool-sounding Innovation Manager: Learning Technology) has a great post on The Influence of a Workspace on Performance. In it, Hans cites a book by Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness of which I wasn’t aware. His main thrust is highlighting the discrepancy between the exquisitely designed office space he works in, designed by David Leon, and the stupidity (his word) of being locked down to Windows 2000 and Internet Explorer 6. As Hans quotes David Leon as saying,
Innovation depends on bright people. These people cost more and are far more valuable than the buildings they occupy… but it is a proven fact that the environment in which they work has a major impact on their effectiveness.
For that reason we design workplaces and buildings round the needs of people and the business aims of their organisations.
He contends – and I agree – that should go for digital surroundings as well as physical surroundings. I recently reorganized my study, including building my own desk, to get things just right. 🙂
Motivation and productivity can be affected by surroundings, but a great deal of it comes from within. As Chris Guillebeau notes, there will always be people who say that you “can’t” do something. His reply (or rather, that of one of his readers) is:
Reading a lot of books is definitely a worthwhile thing to do, but one that takes dedication and motivation. How To Read a Book a Week in 2010 (via @chrisbrogan) is a useful reminder as to why setting yourself a definite target (e.g. one per week) is more useful than a hazy one (e.g. read more books).
This is perfect for me. One of my Performance Management targets for this year – the one focused on my own classroom practices – is about piloting enquiry-based learning with one of my Year 7 History classes. In addition, I’ll (hopefully) be presenting with Nick Dennis at the SHP Conference in July 2010 on this very topic – including the way technology can help! :-p
It’s always good to have some scholarly research to back up one’s actions, so if you’re planning to do something similar here’s some quotations to help you!
The most stunning thing about teaching people to help kids learn cooperatively is that people don’t know how to do it as a consequence of their own schools and life in this society. And, if anything is genetically driven, it’s a social instinct. If it weren’t for each other, we wouldn’t even know who we are. (Herbert Thelen to Bruce Joyce, circa 1964) p.95
The chapter is based on case studies across the age range, but also contains this nugget on p.98-9:
The assumptions that underlie the development of cooperative learning communities are straightforward:
The synergy generated in cooperative settings generates more motivation than do individualistic, competitive environments. Integrative social groups are, in effect, more than the sume of their parts. The feelings of connectedness produce positive energy.
The members of cooperative groups learn from one another. Each learner has more helping hands than in a structure that generates isolation.
Interacting with one another produces cognitive as well as social complexity, creating more intellectual activity that increases learning when contrasted with solitary study.
Cooperation increases positive feelings towards one another, reduces alienation and loneliness, builds relationships, and provides affirmative views of other people.
Cooperation increases self-esteem not only through increased learning but through the feeling of being respected and cared for by others in the environment.
Students can respond to experience in tasks requiring cooperation by increasing their capacity to work together productively. In other words, the more children are given the opportunity to work together, the better they get at it, with benefit to their general social skills.
Students, including primary school children, can learn from training to increase their ability to work together.
The authors go on to summarise the evidence about improved learning through collaboration on p.99:
Classrooms where students work in pairs and larger groups… are characterized by greater mastery of material than the common individual-study/recitation pattern. Also, the shared responsibility and interaction produce more positive feelings toward tasks… In other words, the results generally affirm the assumptions that underlie the use of cooperative learning methods.
It’s not hard to get started with cooperative learning (p.100):
[A]n endearing feature is that it is so very easy to organize students into pairs and triads. And it gets effects immediately. The combination of social support and the increase in cognitive complexity caused by the social interaction have mild but rapid effects on the learning of content and skills.
The authors dismiss claims from some teachers that ‘gifted students prefer to work alone’ as the evidence does not back this up (Joyce 1991; Slavin 1991). They believe it may rest on a misunderstanding of the relationship between individual and cooperative study; partnership still requires individual effort. There’s no need to be concerned about students’ ability to work together (p.101):
In fact, partnership s over simple tasks are not very demanding of social skills. Most students are quite capable of cooperating when they are clear about what has been asked of them.
I’ll not go into them here, but the authors mention a number of ways in which teachers can foster ‘positive interdependence’. They also suggest the ‘division of labour’ into specializations. Instead of learning only a part of what every is supposed to be learning, they have found, ‘jigsaw’ activities and the like lead to more learning across the spectrum. Many of the activities they suggest are, in fact, featured alongside others in one of my favourite education-related books, The Teacher’s Toolkit.
The teacher’s role in cooperative learning moves from that of instructor to ‘counsellor, consultant and friendly critic.’ (p.107) The authors note that this ‘is a very difficult and sensitive’ role ‘because the essence of inquiry is student activity’. Teachers need to:
facilitate the group process
intervene in the group to channel its energy into potentially educative activities, and
supervise these educative activities so that personal meaning comes from the experience
The upshot of this is that ‘intervention by the teacher should be minimal unless the group bogs down seriously’ (p.107).
The authors suggest a 6-phase process for cooperative learning:
Phase 1 – Students encounter puzzling situation (planned or unplanned).
Phase 2 – Students explore reactions to the situation.
Phase 3 – Students formulate study task and organize for study (problem definition, role, assignments, etc.)
Phase 4 – Independent and group study.
Phase 5 – Students analyse progress and process.
Phase 6 – Recycle activity.
In conclusion, the authors note how universally cooperative group investigation can be used (p.111-2):
Group investigation is a highly versatile and comprehensive model of learning and teaching: it blends the goals of academic inquiry, social integration and social process learning. It can be used in all subject areas, and with all age levels, when the teacher desires to emphasize the formulation and problem-solving aspects of knowledge rather than the intake of preorganized, predetermined information.
I’m very pleased to see that other educators have run with the #movemeon idea I floated. There are now literally hundreds of tweets that have been tagged – you can view them in real-time here, or an archive here.
My favourite way of viewing them, is via visibletweets.com using the ‘rotation’ animation:
Once we reach a significant number of tweets – I suggested 1,000 – then I’m going to collate them. Using the self-publishing service Lulu.com there will be a freely-downloadable e-book along with a book purchasable at cost price. 😀
I’ve put together a wiki at http://movemeon.wikispaces.com to depersonalise things – it’s about the ideas and the collaboration, not me, after all! You’ll find the same links as I’ve given above over there.
We do, of course, need a cover for the book and so it’s time to crowdsource that. On the wiki is a page with a template to provide your contribution. You know you can do better than my feeble effort, provided to get things started:
Please do share this with as many people as possible. Not only would I like the book to look as good as it can, but I’d like to make sure that as many educators as possible can tap into the wealth of tips and ideas that have been shared. I’ve certainly learned a lot! 😀
I’d love to mark blogs (or even Google Wave) rather than exercise books. In my previous school I used Posterous-powered blogs with my Year 10 History class. However, in some situations it’s just not practical for various reasons. This isn’t the post to go into the ins and outs of why this is the case. This is the post that explains how I mark books with some justification behind my actions. One reason for putting my system online is to get feedback as to how I can improve it.
Let me just say right from the outset that I don’t mark as often as other teachers. Or as often as they claim to, anyway. In fact, during these half-term holidays is the first time I’ve marked my classes’ books this year. I would have ordinarily have liked to look at them before now (after 2-3 lessons) but setting up a new Academy kind eats into any free time you’ve got…
One more thing by way of context. It’s usual, but not universal, in England for Key Stage 3 students – whom I’m talking about here – to get one lesson of History (my subject) per week. Marking their books at the end of the half-term means they’ve got a maximum of 6 lessons work in there.
With that out of the way, let me explain how I go about marking. I do it in two ‘waves’:
In the first wave I’m concentrating on the following:
Completion of work
Understanding of key concepts
Spelling of key words
Factual errors (to correct)
If I notice a pattern across books (either all or a subset of them) then this informs my teaching and/or direction of Learning Support Assistants.
I used to mark in green, after hearing that some students find red a ‘confrontational’ colour. However, after having students in two separate schools complain about this, I’m back on the red. That’s handy, as green pens are more expensive and harder to get hold of!
Sometimes I fall into the trap of ‘ticking’ work. There’s really no point in this, but I do it to reassure students that I’ve seen a piece of work that doesn’t really require any comment. I focus my time and effort on things that are likely to make a difference to their learning. Sometimes this is reinforcing/correcting understanding of a key concept; sometime it’s encouraging a student; sometimes it’s drawing attention to spelling of key words. It depends on what you’re teaching and who the student is.
Once I’ve been through exercise books with a red pen, I revisit them (the ‘second wave’). The purpose of this is to:
Make a summative comment on how each individual student is doing.
Inform the student on work that’s missing from their book.
Highlight 3 ways they can improve.
Enter data into a grid showing homework completion.
Add notes, comments and indicative levels to my (online, Google Docs-powered) gradebook
Before I started to do this (or an iteration of it) I noticed that students wouldn’t read the comments I made on books. Having an obvious bookmark (such as that provided by the full-page feedback) gets them reading what I’ve said. By observing a colleague at my previous school I’ve also realised the importance of building time into a subsequent lesson to let them read what you’ve said. :-p
This marking system takes time. The thing that actually takes the most time is the chasing up of books that haven’t been handed in for marking, students who haven’t completed homework, and monitoring the catch-up work of absentees. Once students get used to the system, however, they seem to like it. After all, they know that I’ve been through their books carefully and given personalised feedback. They appreciate that. 🙂
Comments? Suggestions? Use the comments section below!
This evening I’ll be attending TeachMeet Midlands 2009 at the National College for School Leadership in Nottingham. If you’ve never heard of a TeachMeet before, they’re based around the idea of an unconference, ‘facilitated, participant-driven conference centered around a theme or purpose.’ (Wikipedia) I’ve been to a couple before – both of which were additions to the BETT Show – and they’re great events. There’s a fantastic buzz around the place, people passionate about what they do, and it’s a wonderful way to not only meet up with people you’ve only talked to online, but to come across new faces as well! 🙂
I’ve signed up on the TeachMeet wiki to do a 7-minute micropresentation. Initially, I was going to talk about my role this year as E-Learning Staff Tutor and a bit about my Ed.D. on digital literacy. However, TeachMeets should be a lot more focused on classroom practice, so I’ve decided to instead talk about what I’ve been doing with my Year 10 History class.
This year I saw my having a new, fairly able GCSE History class as a good opportunity to try out some new methods and approaches to the course. As students at my school now have four lessons of their option subject per week instead of three, I decided to have one of them timetabled in an ICT suite. The room I was allocated has tiered seating and laptops, which was even better! :-p
After looking at various options, I decided to use Posterous for their homework blogs. Reasons for this include:
Blog posts can be written by email.
It deals with media in an ‘intelligent’ way (e.g. using Scribd to embed documents, making slideshows out of images)
Avatars allow for personalization.
I set almost no homework apart from on their blogs. This means that on a Friday they start an activity using (usually) a Web 2.0 service and then add it to their blog via embedding or linking. The only problem with this has been Posterous not supporting iFrames, meaning that Google Docs, for example have to be exported to PDF and then uploaded. Students are used to this now and it doesn’t really affect their workflow.
I should, perhaps, have asked for parental permission to video students’ opinions about this approach. From what they tell me, they greatly enjoy working on their blogs. In fact, a Geography teacher at school has hijacked one of my students’ blogs so she does work for both History and Geography on it! I think they appreciate the following things:
Presentation (a lot easier, especially for boys, to produce good-looking work)
Multimedia (they’re not looking at paper-based stuff all the time)
Collaboration (they get to work with others whilst still having ‘ownership’ of the final product on their blogs)
It’s a system that I’d definitely recommend and I shall be using in future! 😀
‘There is something about the Procrustean bed about schools; some children are left disabled by being hacked about to fit the curriculum; some are stretched to take up the available space, others less malleable are labeled as having special educational needs.’ (C. Bowring-Carr and J. Burnham West)
I mentioned the above quotation in a blog post way back in 2006. I was concerned then about the various ‘agendas’ in education, and that’s even more the case today. The ‘personalising learning’ agenda is supposed to be about tailoring educational experiences to each and every child yet, in 2009, we still have classes of 30 or more children with one teacher standing in front of them. The focus seems to have moved onto technology as some type of ‘saviour’. In that respect, it’s sad to see Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), compulsory in English schools since the beginning of this academic year, being used simply as file repositories.
Whilst some schools may talk about ‘appropriate’ or ‘accelerated’ entry, it’s difficult to see how this is in the best interests of students. In most cases it’s a strategy for schools to squeeze as many exam passes from their students as possible: whilst those studying the highest level of exams have extra lessons in those subjects, those at the other end of the spectrum are re-taking basic examinations until they pass them. It’s hard to see how this completely examination-focused approach is ‘personalisation’ in any important, meaningful sense.
What is needed is a complete rethink – of the curriculum (based on competencies?), of learning spaces (like any of these Futurelab suggestions?), of the structure of the school day, of staff/students ratios and relationships, of the nature of ‘schooling’ and education in the 21st century.
What do YOU think? Is ‘personalisation’ working in YOUR school?