Perfect ICT Every Lesson by Mark Anderson – a review

Including an element of ICT can be a daunting prospect for some teachers. Mention the term ‘ICT’ and it can conjure up images of students being let loose in an ICT suite, the dangers of students going off task and finding a cheeky game instead of focus on the carefully prepared task you have spent hours on. That is not even mentioning what can be unwittingly thrown up on a search engine. I never forget a story from my old Deputy Head who had a lesson which demanded students to design a poster for a pantomime [well, it was Christmas] and one student went on Google and looked up ‘Puss in Boots’ ……. what came up made my Deputy Head never to venture into the ICT suite again. Challenges can be more practical, certainly for me trying to book a slot into any ICT suite is a major difficulty.

However, Mark Anderson – or as he is known by his Twitter legend @ICTEvangelist – tackles many of the issues of including elements of ICT in his first book in a skillful and approachable fashion. Like the other volumes in Independent Thinking Perfect series, this is a short but valuable guide on an important issue in education which you can easily pick up and dip into or read cover to cover quickly but always ensuring that you pick up a little gem which you can drop into your teaching with minimal effort.

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The book and approach is most definitely forward looking which some schools may find a challenge. For example, it gives a balanced assessment of using mobile technology in lessons which certainly gives food for thought. I particularly liked the methodology on how ICT can enhance literacy skills and this books offers alternative approaches with using ICT as a support to help students make progress in their literacy skills – a big focus in the current Ofsted framework. I also enjoyed how he saw the use of word clouds in lesson – a particular personal interest of mine.

The book is structured thematically and is comprehensive in the issues it touches upon from social media to e-safety. Each chapter gives reference to outstanding practice in a wide range of schools and has useful top tips section as a summary at the end. This is most handy when you are looking for an idea or theme. I particularly liked the attention given to Twitter as a tool to develop CPD. @ICTEvangelist guides an excellent easy to follow guide on how to set up a Twitter account either for a school or for an individual and gives a good overview on how it can useful to teachers. Twitter is a growing tool for many teachers interested in developing themselves in the days of cuts to CPD budgets in schools.

A very much recommended book and a worthy addition to my personal CPD library.

Reflections on Beaumont TeachMeet – 8th November 2013

With increasing budget cuts for schools in recent years, this has had the knock on effect of limiting CPD opportunities, such as being allowed to go on expensive one day courses in a luxury hotel in Central London. Therefore, teachers have had to look for alternative, and perhaps more creative, opportunities to grow and develop their own teaching practice. From this, there has been over the last couple of years a boom in teaching literature from experienced practitioners, such as Jim Smith and David Didau as well as blogging on a variety of levels. However, perhaps the most exciting development has been the trend for schools to hold ‘TeachMeets’ – informal meetings for teachers to network, share good practice and ideas.

For the first time ever, Beaumont School in St. Albans grasped the initiative and held the first TeachMeet by a state school in Hertfordshire, and I volunteered as quick as possible to participate. I was so glad I did despite the fact it has held on a dark, wet Friday evening when most of my mates were warm and comfortable in a local hostelry. Beaumont School has developed an enthusiastic and forward looking group of teachers who have formed the Beaumont School Teaching and Learning Team and it was they who led the TeachMeet which was overseen by Joanna Cavanagh – @JoCav. For further information on this group’s work as well as a detailed overview of the event, do visit their website – http://beaumonttl.wordpress.com/about/ – which is a developing area of sharing great practice and good ideas which are always credited with the original source so you can find out more.

Without doubt, the TeachMeet was a success with 70 teachers from a range of Hertfordshire Schools sharing good practice in a warm and encouraging atmosphere. Highlights included –

Gemma Harvey’s [@GemmaHarvey73] presentation on the value of Twitter as a CPD tool.
Simon Warburton’s [@Simon_Warburton] presentation on the application of Google Form’s as an aid to teaching and administration.
Caroline Creaby’s {@CarolineCreaby] presentation of a passport to check progress and learning.

There was so much more and all these presentations can be found at – http://beaumonttl.wordpress.com/teachmeet-beaumont/ But the real value of the meeting was to meet with teachers from other schools who were like minded in wanting to find new ideas and improve their practice. This generous and positive atmosphere was fostered by the Beaumont School’s Teaching and Learning Team, who deserved a full measure of credit for the success for this event. I look forward to attending their next event!

Learning Grids presentation at Beaumont TeachMeet

I had the pleasure to attend Beaumont School’s TeachMeet on 8th November and made a short presentation on the wonders on Learning Grids. Big thanks to all the organisers of such a fantastic event – the first in a Hertfordshire state school, i believe. Here is a copy of the presentation. Feel free to steal.

Learning grids – linking to learn – Beaumont TeachMeet

Reflections on TLAB13

It was during the Autumn Term that I first heard about preparations for a new conference called Teaching, Learning and Assessment to be held at Berkhamsted School. Its supremo, Dr. Nick Dennis, Deputy Head at the school, asked me whether I would be interested in leading a workshop at the conference. Without thinking twice, I said yes not realising the impact of this decision. Although, I am, by nature, quite an introverted person I had led a few teaching and learning workshops at school, district and county level and though this experience would be another string to my bow. Quite frankly, I did not realise what a rewarding exercise this would be.

The decision to focus upon activities that help show progress came from a number of influences –

– The current emphasis by OFSTED on showing progress in lessons. Modelling effective strategies in showing progress seemed to me a very attractive workshop that would be useful to others and make the basis for an effective raft of resources.

– The work of Jim Smith, David Didau, Andy Griffith, Marc Burns and Steve Garnett. Their ideas had revolutionised my teaching and make me think more radically about my teaching and how students learn. Their activities have influenced me as much as anything in my career and I have used/adapted/stolen/bastardised many of their ideas.

– The idea that CPD must focus upon practical activities and offer delegates who make the effort to choose and attend your workshop on a Saturday morning something which they can take away and use almost straight away with minimal preparation. Too often, I have attended CPD sessions and workshops that have either offered me very little to use or what has been useful meant that lots of preparation was in order – very off-putting.

I put together a series of the best starters/plenaries and main activities which I had used over the past couple of years and created a booklet which I was rather proud of. I was able to test this workshop with some staff at my school then for teachers in schools across the town. The reaction to the activities was extremely positive but I felt that the workshop need streamlining and I edited accordingly.

Now I was ready and was scheduled to present the workshop during the first round of workshops on offer. Unfortunately, I missed the wonderful Alastair Smith’s presentation as I wanted to get set up and ensure that everything was running smoothly because I knew if I did not take time over this then something would go wrong during the presentation.

The workshop was fully booked and the room was crowded as I did my thing. The reaction from the delegates was fantastic and during the workshop, I was given some great twists and alternative applications on what I was presenting – particularly on word clouds – which I am going to certainly use in my teaching. I think what went down really well was the freebie I had prepared – a 12 sided die. I thought that to make the session memorable one had to do more than produce a well presented booklet which could be easily forgotten. The 12 sided die came in to the workshop as part of the Learning Grids activity which I presented and must come close to my favourite activity on show. Giving something unusual like that gives the session a bit of a boost and it is always good to give a little something away.
12_sided

The feedback via my Twitter account was extremely positive and showed me that I am working in the right direction in my teaching and this leads me onto the real value of TLAB13. I found meeting like minded teachers at such a conference so inspiring. The atmosphere was buzzing and showed me that there others like me out there that are passionate about the areas of teaching that I care so much about. That they are willing to share, discuss, debate and enthuse just made it a fantastic experience.

After my workshop, I must admit to taking a back seat and soaking in the atmosphere and chatting to teachers and what I would call the ‘teacher faces’ like David Didau and Mark Anderson, whose work I admire. I really enjoyed Neal Watkins workshop. I have read his book The Exam Class Toolkit, which I would fully commend to anyone who teaches upper school classes. His TOWER principle of teaching essay writing skills gave me food for thought and his drama techniques in encouraging the development of literacy skills are certainly something I am going to use in the near future.

The main keynote speakers that I attended were class and offered something different. Prof. Bill Lucas I found engaging but too many times he seemed to be trying to sell you something – either a book or membership to an educational initiative he is leading which did grate alongside his fascinating ideas about knowledge. His idea of ‘teachers as enquirers’ certainly resonated with me and this I believe is the future of CPD for many teachers. Bill Rankin’s performance was pure charisma and certainly made me consider the differences in technology from what I started teaching in 1998 compared with today and how this is impacting upon education and its potential consequences for the future.

TLAB was certainly the gold standard in CPD and hugely rewarding and memorable. For all those who either attended my workshop or who I chatted with during the day you made it an absolute pleasure. But my biggest thanks must go to Dr. Nick Dennis for inviting me and having faith in my work. Thank you.