I’m pleased to announce that I’ve finished working on version 0.4 of #uppingyourgame: an educator’s guide to productivity. Three of the five chapters are now complete:
The Philosophy of Productivity
Productivity & Motivation
Productivity as ‘getting on & doing’
#uppingyourgame is the first book to be published using the OpenBeta publishing model and will be completed over the course of 2010. The chapters yet to be written are provisionally titled Productivity 2.0 and Making others more productive.
Buying into the ideas that this book contains (and will contain) NOW costs £5. You will receive free updates and notifications as each version is published. Buying into the contents means you have access to each subsequent version up to 1.0. If you decide not to purchase now the price will increase as I complete each chapter (and release each version) – up to a maximum of £10.
Once you’ve completed the payment process clicking on the orange button to ‘Return to DAJ Belshaw’ will take you to the download page. 🙂
I’m delighted to announce that v0.3 of #uppingyourgame: an educator’s guide to productivity is now ready! Two chapters are now complete – The Philosophy of Productivity as well as Productivity & Motivation. #uppingyourgame is the first book to be published using the OpenBeta publishing model and will be completed over the course of 2010.
Buying into the ideas that this book contains (and will contain) NOW costs £4. You will receive free updates and notifications as each version is published. Buying into the contents means you have access to each subsequent version up to 1.0. If you decide not to purchase now the price will increase as I complete each chapter (and release each version) – up to a maximum of £10.
Once you’ve completed the payment process clicking on the orange button to ‘Return to DAJ Belshaw’ will take you to the download page. 🙂Permanent link to the book’s page at http://bit.ly/uppingyourgame
Due to having a bit more time on my hands than I anticipated recently, I’ve pressed on with #uppingyourgame: an educator’s guide to productivity. I’m delighted to announce that v0.2 is now ready! This is the first version to contain a chapter, in this case The Philosophy of Productivity. #uppingyourgame is the first book to be published using the OpenBeta publishing model and will be completed over the course of 2010.
If you want to buy into the ideas that this book contains (and will contain) NOW costs £3. You will receive free updates and notifications as each version is published. Buying into the contents means you have access to each subsequent version up to 1.0. If you decide not to purchase now the price will increase as I complete each chapter (and release each version) – up to a maximum of £10.
I’m delighted to announce version 0.1 of #uppingyourgame: an educator’s guide to productivity is ready! This means it currently comprises of the cover, preface, introduction and contents page. #uppingyourgame is the first book to be published using the OpenBeta publishing model and will be completed over the course of 2010.
If you want to buy into the ideas that this book contains (and will contain) NOW costs £2. You will receive free updates and notifications as each version is published. Buying into the contents means you have access to each subsequent version up to 1.0. If you decide not to purchase now the price will increase as I complete each chapter (and release each version) – up to a maximum of £10.
For some reason I didn’t do this last year – post which books I’ve read for pleasure over the last 12 months, coupled with a short review. And my 2007 version seems to be sans images now. Oh well. I’ll do it properly this year! Note that these books aren’t those I’ve read for my Ed.D. thesis – you can see those over at my wiki (along with notes)
Here, in chronological order, are the books I’ve read this year (click on images to see them at Amazon UK). If you’re impatient, scroll to the bottom for my absolute must-have book, one that I’ll be re-reading for the rest of my life!
Dave Eggers – You Shall Know Our Velocity (2-15 January)
After reading nothing but positive reviews for all of Eggers’ work, I thought this was a fairly safe bet to start off my year. Despite finishing it, however, I was left thinking it was nothing more than average and ‘not my sort of book’. He had some interesting observations at times, but it certainly wasn’t re-readable, for me.
Iris Murdoch – The Sovereignty of Good (16-22 January)
This consists of three essays. I though the first two were thought-provoking, whilst the third not so much. Not really one for non-philosophically trained folk.
E.H. Gombrich – A Little History of the World (22 January – 10 February)
Absolutely marvellous. One for children and adults alike and one that, as a (sometime) teacher of History, I wish had been available in an English translation when I was young. Utterly re-readable. 🙂
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – Flow: the psychology of optimal experience (11-26 February)
A life-changing book. Not only did change the direction of my Ed.D. thesis (I’m going to be investigating ‘digital flow’ now) but will illuminate my thinking and actions in everyday life. Instant classic!
Ayn Rand – Anthem (1 March)
This novella promised much. It had been referenced several times in things I’d read, so I thought I should read the original. It was disappointing. 🙁
Joseph Cummins – History’s Great Untold Stories: obscure events of lasting importance (2-26 March)
The tragedy of 2009 for me was when Borders, my favourite bookstore chain, went into administration. At the beginning of the year it offered this at half-price in one of its London stores (I was down for a meeting with Nick Dennis, who also availed himself of the opportunity). It was an eye-opening read: some stuff of which I’d never even heard which had a huge bearing on history. Essential.
Sun Tzu – The Art of War (27-28 March)
Again, a book that is referenced often but which disappointed. Didn’t find much in the way of inspiration or advice within it.
John Burrow – A History of Histories (29 March – 12 May)
Overly academic in places, but overall an interesting and informative read. Probably only for lovers of History.
Georgina Harding – The Solitude of Thomas Cave (13-22 May)
Easily the best of the works of fiction I read this year. The story of a man left behind in the cold. Really different, interesting (and relatively short!)
Clay Shirky – Here Comes Everybody (June sometime)
A great explanation of how social media has changed everything. Not only interesting in and of itself, but useful to give to people who don’t ‘get it’.
Joseph Cummins – Cast Away: Epic true stories of shipwreck, piracy and mutiny on the high seas (June – 14 July)
After enjoying the author’s History’s Great Untold Stories: obscure events of lasting importance I was delighted to find two more of his works (in a similar format) on offer. Perfect bedtime reading. 😀
Joseph Cummins – Great Rivals in History: when politics gets personal (15 July – 8 September)
I enjoyed this as the format is perfect for bedtime reading, but I’d recommend Cummins’ other two above this particular one. A useful background to stuff I already knew, nonetheless.
Seth Godin – Tribes (11 August)
Just like his blog posts. Eminently readable, empowering, and with a call to action for leaders (i.e. everyone!)
Brian Clegg – A Brief Guide of Infinity: the quest to think the unthinkable (20 August – 2 September)
Mind-expanding. I can’t say better than that!
Ann Patchett – Bel Canto (10-11 September)
This book won several prizes, and so I was looking forward to it. However, the author’s style began to grate and, after a while where nothing much happened, I gave up on it.
Edward Said – Beginnings: intention and method (12-29 September)
I got about half-way through this before I realised I didn’t really understand any of it and gave up. Far too heavy for (predominantly) bedtime reading. 🙁
Joseph Conrad – Nostromo (30 September – 3 October)
Really high hopes for this after enjoying Conrad’s Heart of Darkness last year. However, it was depressing and written in a slightly different style. Gave up.
C Leadbeater – We-Think: mass innovation, not mass production (3-15 October)
Poorly written and researched and, overall, didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. Avoid.
Michel Faber – The Fahrenheit Twins (16-26 October)
A wonderful find. It was in the absolutely-last-chance-don’t-miss-it-these-are-the-books-we-haven’t-been-able-to-sell-in-years section of a discount bookstore. I think it cost me about 49p. It was, however, really, really good! Stories from the margins of society and the last one (which gives the book it’s title) is downright bizarre. Recommended! :-p
Peter Watson – Ideas: a History from Fire to Freud (19 October – 29 December)
The author is a Professor of Archaeology and you can tell. The start is much better than the rest – which isn’t too bad itself – but he’s best when not having to rely on other people’s work. Fairly polemical towards the end.
Haruki Murakami – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (8 November)
Truly inspirational. Murakami, in a humble way, talks about how he’s been wildly successful as well as the synergy between his life as a runner and his life as a writer. Superb.
It’s been mostly non-fiction for me in 2009 – I plan to remedy that in 2010. 🙂
There’s been one book that, despite not being very long, I’ve been reading since June. The reason? I don’t want it to end! Schopenhauer described it as,”Absolutely unique . . . a book made for constant use—a companion for life,” whilst Nietzsche commented, “Europe has never produced anything finer or more complicated in matters of moral subtlety.” It really is a gem.
And the name of this book?
The Art of Worldly Wisdom, published in the 17th century by the Jesuit scholar Balthasar Gracián consists of 300 maxims. You can view the full text at Google Docs but I really would recommend purchasing your own inexpensive copy. It really is, as Schopenhauer says, ‘a companion for life’! 😀
I want to write a book, but none of the traditional models really appeal to me. Seth Godin puts neatly the opportunities available in The magic of dynamic pricing:
When you produce a physical good like a book, it’s really hard to change the price over time, especially if there are retail stores involved. But changing the price on an electronic good is trivially easy.
So, for example, you could charge $24 for the Kindle edition for the first two weeks, then $15 for the next two weeks and then $9 for the year after that. Once it’s a backlist classic, it could cost $2…
Technology puts a lot more pressure on your imagination and creativity, even in pricing.
I think Godin has missed a trick here as there’s no reason why dynamic pricing can’t be used for physical media as well. Taking the Software release cycle as inspiration and Lulu.com as a method I’d like to expand on the idea of creating an Unbook as understood by Dave Gray. Dave’s creating a book called Marks and Meaning and releasing it as one would with software. As I write this post it’s up to version 0.5.
Whilst I admire the Unbook model, it’s not what I want to use in 2010. Why?
An unbook is never finished (but I want mine to reach version 1.0 and then be ‘complete’)
An unbook is a community product (whilst I respect the views of my readers, I want to be the author)
So I’m going to call the model OpenBeta. Here’s how it works:
I’ll be releasing v0.1 of my upcoming OpenBeta book early in 2010. Want to give it a go yourself? Feel free to use the logo:
Apparently I’m ‘hard to buy for’. I probably don’t make it easier for people by proclaiming – quite rightly, I think – that if you have to ask people what they want for a birthday or Christmas then it’s not really a ‘gift’ as such.
I usually relent (slightly) by pointing family and friends to my Amazon wishlist. As you can see, I’ve been adding a lot of books related to infographics recently. But what about if you know someone a bit like me – someone ‘hard to buy for’ who’s into education, technology and the like? What should you go for? Well, my wishlist is a start, but here’s 10 definite recommendations. I’ve placed them in order of how much they cost – clicking on the image will take you Amazon to purchase them.*
1. Indexed (Jessica Hagy) – £4.58
Jessica creates graphs and diagrams on index cards ‘weekday mornings as the coffee brews’. A great book to have either on the coffee table or, dare I say it, in your toilet for casual reading. I find her blog hilarious at times.
2. The Power of Less (Leo Babauta) – £5.21
The author of this book writes one of my favourite blogs, Zen Habits. If the book is anything near as good as the amazingly practical advice Leo gives on his blog then this will actually do what it says on the front – i.e. ‘change your life’.
3. Ignore Everybody (Hugh McLeod) – £10.03
Hugh McLeod is a great guy. Acerbic, but great. Many of his gapingvoid cartoons adorn both my office and home study. In this book he expands on the ideas that he draws on the back of business cards.
4. Very Short Introductions (The Picture Box) – £12.47
The Very Short Introductions series is excellent. Concise, scholarly, readable introductions to topics that would usually take a university course to even begin to comprehend. I highly recommend them. I’m into design and infographics at the moment (which is why I chose this one) but I haven’t read a bad one yet!
5. Logitech Alto Express Laptop Stand – £12.99
It’s a piece of curved plastic with rubberized ends, but one of the single best accessories I’ve ever bought. I use a Macbook Pro as my main machine and it really does make using it so much more comfortable!
6. Hitchcock DVD box set – £17.99
This really is such a bargain – 14 classic films for £17.99! This is the only item on this list that I already own. Quality. (N.B. Amazon say this will take ‘3-5 weeks’ to deliver – just go for one of the ‘Used & New’ options, which may be even cheaper!)
7. Colloquial Icelandic (Audio CD) – £23.67
Not only does speaking a rather random language mark you out as ‘interesting’, but learning Icelandic means being able to read the sagas in their original form! But seriously, this was recommended to me as a fantastic example of how to structure learning and teach difficult concepts and content.
8. The Complete Far Side (Gary Larson) – £62.72
Despite it being almost 15 years since Gary Larson retired from drawing his Far Side series of cartoons, they’re as popular as ever. This compendium includes all those Larson has drawn. According to the Amazon reviews it’s impressive both in form and content!
9. Flip Mino HD camcorder – £119.99
This really is the world’s easiest-to-use camcorder. One big red button for start/stop recording. Preview on wide screen to rear, then press the button to ‘flip’ out the USB connector to attach it to you computer. I’ve got one similar to this at work. It’s legendary.
10. Asus Eee PC 1008HA ‘Seashell’ netbook – £280.52
I’ve had a few netbooks in the time they’ve been available, and the Asus Eee range has always been the most reliable and aesthetically pleasing. The 1008HA ‘Seashell’ is no exception – gorgeously thin and very mobile. Oh, and you can always ditch Windows and go with Linux. :-p
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’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!
I read Dave Eggers’ book They Shall Know Our Velocity a few months back. In it, one of the main characters talks about the ‘slow suffocation of accumulation’ and seeks to give away a large amount of money. I’ve been feeling that suffocation recently, as I explained in the introduction to this week’s focus on ‘divesting’.
Way back in the sands of time (OK, less than 10 years ago) I was an undergraduate student in Sheffield I and I used to work part-time for HMV. I didn’t actually take home that much money as most of it was invested in DVDs and CDs. I even got 40% off the Sale stuff! I say ‘invested’ as I funded a large chunk of my living expenses whilst I was doing my MA at Durham University by selling part of my collection. Although not to the same extent, I did similar working at various bookshops both before and after university.
And therein lies the rub. I’ve been lulled into a belief that one should own a physical collection of DVDs, CDs and books. As though having a personal library somehow defines you, makes you look more intellectual, or even constitutes some kind of artistic statement. I’ve realised that’s not the case.
As I commented in my introduction to this series [link] I’ve been prompted recently into reflecting on my relationship to ‘stuff’. I’ve realised that, having moved house twice within 18 months, I’ve spent a great deal of time and physical labour moving things I will not watch, listen to or read for a very long time. Yet I’m responsible for it. I’d be upset if it were stolen or I lost it for some reason. Why?
So I’ve decided that it’s going. “What, all of it?” I hear you ask. As far as I see it, there are two approaches I could take:
The over-the-top, ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ approach.
The Pragmatic approach.
Pragmatism is a philosophical approach and method that I’m applying in my Ed.D. thesis. To summarise very briefly and in relation to what I’m talking about here, it holds that for something to make a difference, it has to make a difference in practice. For example, a book may have had a profound impact on my way of conceiving the world and my development as a person. That doesn’t mean it has to sit on my shelf. I may really, really, love a particular album. That doesn’t mean I have to own the physical CD as opposed to a digital version. The same goes for DVDs.
But I need to be careful or I could end up trading one problem for another. In divesting myself of physical clutter I could gain, as it were, ‘digital clutter.’ This is something I shall be discussing and wrestling with later in the week.
What’s my plan, then, to deal with physical media? It’s a fairly straightforward 4-step process:
Anything I can, and feel should, replace with a non-physical version (e.g. CDs, DVDs) I shall do.
Any book I haven’t yet read or DVD I haven’t watched stays until I have done so.
Those physical objects that are collectors items, worth more than a nominal value and fit into one box I shall keep as they are likely to gain in value. I can then sell these when Ben is older to add to his trust fund.