Posted by: carlsumner | March 27, 2016

Still Missing the Point

Education, as with all areas of public life and service, is such a divisive subject, not least within the profession itself as to what best practice should look like.

Personal viewpoint, pedagogical opinion and social complexity create a foundation for debate that engages many to question their own practice and to look constantly at improving method and processes. Too often the debate can turn political as agendas are hijacked for greater social constraining but the point is still that the conversation always looks to further educational causes.

However, much of this appears to miss the point of what education truly means to people and what it is fundamentally for.

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime”

If the concept of learning, wanting to discover and mentally grow, is instilled, promoted and endorsed then learners will look for opportunities to do this.  They will actively engage with what they need and want. They will be self-driven and motivated.

This becomes a much wider issue.  One of social acceptance that education, in its wide-ranging forms, is a positive thing, a good thing.  And can look different depending on the individual.  This will challenge the concept of standardised testing. It will challenge how resources, in particular adults, are utilised, how timetables are managed, how this is measured through ‘value’ and how the nurture and development of our professionals should be enabled to provide the very best learning opportunities for all and a system that is itself looked up to.

It should challenge the very fabric of what we consider education in this country to look like.  The complexities of how best this is delivered almost become moot points.  Because the learner decides, identifies, creates their own challenges for what is best for them and what works for them.

By respecting education, you will also, by definition, respect educators and all those related to the practice. As a young teacher, I will never forget a conversation with a parent of a local musician who had performed at our school one summer. She enthused over the work that we did and proclaimed that in her native home in Asia the work of people in education was held in the very highest esteem.  She simply couldn’t comprehend why this was not the case here.

The best school system in the world?

This article is far more articulate in making the point that our whole approach seems flawed and the future direction even further away from an ideal – and thus individual arguments over best practice appear redundant.

The question is how do we get there?

 

 

 

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Posted by: carlsumner | February 20, 2015

One to One Mobile Technology in the Classroom

For the past 18 months as a school we have invested heavily in Apple technology as fixed classroom and breakout area resources ( iMacs) as well as mobile devices (iPad and iPod) and related software that has provided additional enrichment opportunities (Green screen; Synergy radio) and integrated management support ( Emerge, ClassDojo reward system ). To begin with most classes had a set of iPads (14/15) to be used between all children.

A natural development has been to move towards a mobile device for each child. This has a number of notable benefits but also raises a serious question over value for money and the measurable impact on the quality of educational provision.

Rationale

The benefits of mobile devices can be seen through the support that additional applications can provide in specific situations. The independence offered by having a device that allows you to browse the Internet, record ideas in a variety of ways and automatically save and edit work as you progress helps to develop learners who have more responsibility over their own learning as well as retaining the ability to share and collaborate.

The move to one to one increases the independence and responsibility placed upon the children when managing their own learning. Each iPad is assigned to a specific student (alphabetically ordered and numbered with labels) with a specific school-based email address linked to each machine.

A student pledge was created that each child was required to sign along with their parents to ensure the responsibility was understood and as a potential precursor to allowing iPads to go home to aid learning. Each pledge was sent to their related iPad for reference.

image

In conjunction with the new iPad roll out, a set of apps and specific software was agreed upon in order to create a uniformity across school in terms of resources available to children. These were designed to provide the necessary blend of support and engagement to cover all aspects of the curriculum.

Aligned to this was our use of the app Showbie which provides users with a centralised learning area to interact with documents, video, voice comments, image and web links. This functionality creates a new element to the independent features of the iPad and a greater value to having one each.

The children are also developing a better understanding of the need for regular maintenance of their tablet through deletion of unnecessary images, videos, web history and documents. They are responsible for charging the device, ensuring they are replaced carefully and to keep to appropriate use of them at all times. Our e-safety work will cover these areas and more.

Ideally, research into impact will focus upon raising attainment, increased engagement, independence and responsibility towards learning, creative development and increased collaboration within a 21st Century learning environment that better prepares our children for future demands.

Posted by: carlsumner | December 9, 2013

A Day of Peace

Tomorrow, 10th December, will see a memorial service held in South Africa for the former president, Nelson Mandela, a true hero of the modern age.

Also on this day, in Stockholm, Sweden, the Nobel prize ceremony takes place to honour people from across the globe who have striven to provide benefit to humankind through physics, chemistry, medicine, literature or enabling peace across nations.  Nelson Mandela received this award, jointly with the then SA president F W de Klerk, in 1993.

As it is also the second week of Advent, of which the focus is Peace, it is the perfect opportunity to share with children the ideas contained within and to promote a better understanding of the wider world.

Nobel peace prize Mandela

Posted by: carlsumner | June 23, 2013

IPad Management

The introduction of class sets of IPads at Flakefleet has led to a range of management issues for us to deal with, ranging from the security and integrity of the machines for the children to use, to the implementation of educational apps on a wide scale that is both manageable and useful.  The tablets themselves are housed in a locked charging unit in each classroom, each class taking responsibility for the charging and general welfare of the machines, which can also be connected to  an adjacent iMac for syncing and easy transferral of stored media.  Each IPad was set up with a designated e-mail address that associates it with that year group.

In terms of the day to day use of the IPads it was necessary to ensure that staff were aware of the need to regularly monitor impending updates and clean photos, videos and visited site history that may eventually begin to impair performance.  For example clearing website history from Safari (Internet Browser) and cached cookies and data from websites. photo (3)

Encouraging the children to monitor their own media use has been important, helping them to understand the good practice found in deleting photos and videos that are unnecessary or have already been utilised in a piece of software.  Ensuring the children knew how sites could be tracked or that media was stored on the hardware has also helped to create a better sense of responsibility towards the resource as well as forming an important part of our developing e-safety work.

From a whole school perspective it has been vital to establish an agreed list of preferences within the settings to ensure consistency in the management of the IPads across all classrooms. photo (2)

This has included removing a number of possible functions such as; in-app purchases, deleting apps, potential explicit content from videos and limiting the age level of applications that are downloaded.  It was also necessary to remove the app store directly from the IPad screen and turning the facility for changing accounts to off.

photo

To access the settings menus a number code is required to enable restrictions – the same code is used throughout school.  Each IPad throughout the school has been set up across the school iCloud account for potential media transfers (although these accounts may become year based) and there is also an iTunes account that allows the purchase and download of our designated applications.

photo (1)

To keep track of the Ipads we use the application Find My IPad to monitor the location of each one.  For remote system management, and the potential co-ordination of multiple settings we have begun to use the Meraki app.

With such a large number of tablets across the school and potentially a similar number of IPods to come, it has become vital to ensure there is a systematic method to managing the resources in a way that enhances their effectiveness for children’s learning and enables staff to utilise them to best effect.

Posted by: carlsumner | April 28, 2013

TeachMeet Fleetwood

On Tuesday 23rd April we hosted the first TeachMeet at Flakefleet, primarily for staff in the Fleetwood area. Our dual purpose was to introduce the idea of TM as a way of generating enthusiasm and collaboration in technology across our local community and to demonstrate where we were in terms of the use of mobile technologies and how we were beginning to apply these to our children’s learning experiences.

A good turnout listened to a range of speakers sharing thoughts on Garageband, Book Creator, Augmented Reality, QR codes and their uses, advice on single IPad use, Foundation stage profiling and five minute lesson planning. A lot to take in but also a demonstration of where education could and should be going in the 21st Century, individualising learning opportunities in a manner that engages and enthuses with real purpose.

Posted by: carlsumner | March 12, 2012

Angry Birds in Space!!

Posted by: carlsumner | October 25, 2011

IPad in the Classroom

Having had an IPad 2 available to me for school use since mid-summer, I thought it was worth reflecting on any benefits or difficulties I may have found in that time.  This may be updated over time as I become ever more used to the possibilities and limitations, including a list of applications that have proved themselves worthwhile.

First of all I need to make it clear that this is not a comment on the benefits of Apple versus Android – the school choice was made to go with Apple based on personal experiences of similar technology, the consistency of the software available and recommendations made as we were going through other design programmes to develop the school.  We also bought 5 for teachers on the leadership team to develop evaluations before potentially enabling all school staff to have one.  Essentially this is a look at the use of a mobile tablet as an educational resource.

From a classroom management point of view, the IPad has proved invaluable.  Using the Groupcall Emerge Application, access can be enabled to our SIMS whilst mobile. Ease of use for registering, up to date and handy information on pupils and staff and even the availability of Messenger to send direct messages home, particularly useful for praise and reminders. The system does depend upon a readily available wireless network but is easy to use, safe and best of all portable.

The addition of a camera/video camera facility to the IPad 2, that allows straightforward download to e-mail or cloud based file sharing, makes redundant the need for another camera source – a usual expense for schools’ budgets.  The size is not always the easiest to manage but the picture quality is adequate for usual classroom needs – assessments, display, upload to website and blog posts. However, if you require better quality for special events then you might want to have a particular high quality alternative available.  Additionally, the camera allows for the reading of QR codes through any number of free apps including Scan.

Whilst not wanting to just create a list of available apps (too many to mention) that I have found useful, a number do make the IPad an essential resource in the classroom for both teachers and pupils.

Office2HD allows the reading and creation of Word documents, Excel and PowerPoint – transfer can be made through e-mail and cloud sharing.  Both Box and Dropbox provide excellent cloud sharing apps with good entry-level free storage.  Next Thing is a handy app for organising and prioritising events and forthcoming tasks or the more advanced Evernote.

A number of apps, including Saisuke or Google’s own, provide organisation through a calendar but a huge advantage we have found is being able to link our school based calendar to the built-in calendar on the Pad (something we were told initially we couldn’t do) – this then links events and invitations in meetings and notes straight to the calendar which is updated instantly and passed on to all who are linked to it also.

The built-in voice recorder and notes applications are excellent in their own right for use both on a management scale and for within the classroom.  The fact that you may play music is an added bonus too and I have found this useful for stimulating ideas, creating atmosphere or generally entertaining myself and the children (Planetary is a fabulous app for storing and playing your music).

I have found the ability to group my applications an added bonus. Giving the folders specific names keeps organisation easy and where there are many available, makes particular ones easy to find.

In terms of working with children, the IPad has worked very well in small group settings and with individual children.  It can be used as a Whiteboard, a source of imagery for ideas and stimulation (Flickr), reference tool (Qwiki or Discover), or a specific learning machine with designed apps for a whole range of subjects.  It’s vital, as with any program used, to investigate the value of the software before use.  It is even available to children at lunchtimes with a specific games folder created.

Because it is on a tablet does not make it an essential educational tool.  What I have found is that it generates huge enthusiasm, can explain or reinforce ideas where ordinary class-based techniques do not and provides opportunity for both individualistic and group involvement that can be collaborative and fun – the fact that two or three children need to huddle around the machine lends itself to more thoughtful learning.

The fact that it also looks (and actually is) quite expensive has also created a sense of calm and better purposefulness around the resource that may not always be there.  Children take care of it and value it – this may be very relevant if the thought were to buy more in for a class – would it still have the same value for them?

As an aside, I recently visited a newly built school as part of an information gathering exercise into our own design proposals within Fleetwood.  The availability of an IPad was, for some staff, cause for interest and potential enthusiasm.  But within the school they were lacking – they still took registers on paper.  There was one LCD screen in a corridor, interactive whiteboards were poorly positioned and the ICT suite was a scrum of machines.  The distinct feeling is that, despite being in the 21st Century, our children’s education and their accessibility to the technologies that will dominate their lives, is clearly not.  Thoughts for another post, but a worry nonetheless.

Posted by: carlsumner | August 10, 2011

Whose Fault is it Anyway?

This has been manifesting for years; generations.  Every society in history has seen the class with the perceived least make some attempt to aggressively assert what power they have over those that they judge to be oppressing them.  Not all of those with the least will seek to assert themselves in this way. To the majority of those within the society, myself included, the actions are abhorrent and without obvious justification.  But that alone does not prevent the actions.  It does not remove the perceived injustices or wipe away the cloud of disaffection and disengagement from their communities, whether we believe them to be real or no.

Expensively educated politicians pontificating that young people should be grateful for what they have, will not work.  Newspaper editors deriding people who have shown a blatant disregard for basic human qualities, as scum and rats, will not work.  Mocking an inability to communicate as we see fit, ignoring divided families, drug and alcohol addictions, gang intimidation, simple greed and chaotic circumstances, will not work.

The trigger was the police shooting of an (alleged) armed suspect, Mark Duggan.  This has become almost irrelevant as hundreds of people across a range of cities throughout the country have taken advantage of weaknesses in the law, fears and suspicion within communities and the security of a mob and its mentality, to make their own personal short-term gains without thought for the future ramifications.

Is this inability to look beyond the immediacy of our own lives a national disease? Or even a global one?  Is this selfishness ingrained to the point where a £10 donation to http://bit.ly/qtI39T allays our misgivings over starving humans in Africa?  Debate continues to rage, and inaction continues to fester, over the ravaging of the planet and it’s natural resources, that could leave future generations at the greater mercy of disaster and conflict.  Yet, still nothing is done.

Ultimately, as a society, we have only ourselves to blame.  We knew there was an underclass of people, for whom the decencies by which we live meant little or nothing. Instead of enabling educators to engage more and provide hope and aspiration,  it is made more difficult.  We test, rush, isolate and blame.  Instead of creating role-models to aspire to through the media and within our own communities, we promote narcissism, greed and the separation of effort, dedication and discipline from success.

There is no excuse for the behaviour witnessed.  There is hope in the decency shown to individuals and communities as a whole and the way in which, even in the face of utter wickedness, some people still find the ability to show inspirational humanity http://bbc.in/rhDy4s

As a society, and for the sake of our future generations, we must find the solutions.

Strong leadership in all walks of life requires many characteristics, not least the ability to plan and prepare for the future.  Too often, short-term popular gains are tolerated or encouraged and this concept has manifested itself throughout society with the instant 15 minute-fame of celebrity culture and access to media that allows one and all to publicly express themselves, to potentially millions of people.  It is possible to achieve this with little or no effort or application and we see examples of this everyday to varying degrees of success.

On a global scale we have been subjected to the ramifications of the economic fall-out of borrowing more than we could afford.  Governments make decisions based upon their terms of office and  their electoral viability.  Again, a short-term gain masks an inability or unwillingness to make decisions that may not yield their outcomes for many years.  Even the measures of austerity that have been introduced in recent months, which are obviously unpopular in the extreme, have only come about in the face of a catastrophic ‘other reality’ that we would have faced with little or no action. These measures aren’t the preparations of well-laid plans.  This isn’t through careful thought and reasoning as to the effects on people and communities in 30 years time. This is attempting to shut the door even as the hooves are throwing mud in our faces.

The point?

In April 2010, prior to the General Election, Nick Clegg predicted riots if the Conservatives were elected, as they would have no overwhelming majority and would be faced with difficult and unpopular decisions to make http://bit.ly/ncQ9xH

How prescient; but what contingencies were subsequently put in place?

To put a blunter edge on it, a member of the current government, partly through political point-scoring, saw trouble ahead and yet nothing appeared to be done.  Cuts were made, jobs were lost, homes were repossessed.  Yet, expenses were fiddled, bonuses were paid, wars were fought and the media was allowed to run amok.  An already divided society (by race, class and opportunity) was given no means of reparation; no ability to heal rifts other than political phrasing (Big Society!) and the assertion that if you wanted to fix it you had to do it yourself.

These people cannot be cut adrift.  For David Cameron to deem elements of our country ‘sick’ reflects on him as a leader and on those who had the ability to influence and do something good over the last 50 years.  If people’s values are warped or at odds with the beliefs of the majority then society must take responsibility for the consequences.  Brushes and brooms are too little and, for some, too late.

Posted by: carlsumner | March 3, 2011

Education in Jordan

During the half-term February 19th – February 25th, I took part in a TIPD visit organised through the British Council to Jordan.  The main focus of the trip was to investigate primary science in the Jordanian education system and methods to develop creativity in teaching and learning practices.

In addition, myself and 4 other colleagues from the Lancashire region travelled as part of the Connecting Classrooms project http://www.britishcouncil.org/learning-connecting-classrooms.htm whereby we are looking to develop strong links between schools in the UK and Jordan using technology as a focus to enhance communication and interactivity between children in different communities.

Jordan is seen as a leader in the region for developing high standards in maths and science and has a dedication from the very highest level to providing a significant portion of the country’s budget towards the education system as a whole.  There has also been an impetus over the last few years from the Ministry of Education towards enhancing the ICT skills of teachers and embedding greater opportunities for children to utilise technological advances.  The aim is to be an ICT hub for the region.

Teacher training is seen as integral for the sustained improvement of educational standards in Jordan and significant funding has been provided to enable this development.   Government run agencies such as the Queen Rania Teacher Academy (the Queen being a vociferous ambassador for equal rights and education in Jordan) and private organisations such as CADER (ChangeAgent for Arab Development and Education Reform) are leading the way in spreading methodology that has been seen in other countries, notably Western Europe and North America.

To the age of 18, the Jordanian education system is divided between 4 types of school.  Military schools provide education for children of serving personnel, private schools with fees ranging from 1500JD to 25000JD per year, public schools and UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) for Palestine refugees in the Near East.

Competition for places at University within Jordan and abroad is incredibly high, with intense pressure on students to attain near-perfect standards to be accepted (98% and above is considered a realistic target).  Incidents of suicide have been reported of students failing to reach the highest levels.

At ground level, the foundations for a solid education system were witnessed, as learning is considered to be significant and a right to be cherished by all Jordanians. Teachers have value in society, even though their pay dramatically fails to reflect this, and each institution we visited harboured a welcoming and open attitude that captured our attention throughout the visit.

Posted by: carlsumner | September 10, 2010

Fun to learn?

Making learning fun – the postulated theme for #ukedchat on Twitter 9/09/10 provoked an interesting debate on the variety of methods/resources that could aid to achieve this , but perhaps more significantly, on the seeming necessity in society today for educators to ‘perform’ and create a fun environment for learners to learn.

It is very easy to get caught up in the semantics of education – what to one person is ‘fun’ is another’s idea of noise, or rowdiness and a lack of control.  The very word ‘fun’ provoked debate on what is expected in a school and what the role of an educator should entail.

General acknowledgement appeared to focus upon the need to create learning opportunities that are challenging and engaging and that allow the learner to develop their own sense of fun from the activities undertaken.  To catch them unaware at their learning was popular – although at some point we must surely recognise when we are, so that we understand the value in discovering something new or becoming better at a skill and making progress?

Life isn’t a constant, fun-filled arena for most people, so is it unfair to present children with education that only focuses upon learning when we are happy or attempting something we like? Are there situations or topics and skills to learn, whereby ‘fun’ isn’t appropriate as a tool for learning?  And yet it was generally agreed that in situations where people have fun and enjoy they are very positive towards learning and are likely to engage more.

Finding the balance is key, identifying individual needs and understanding the environments and situations that children learn best in is an essential requirement for all educators.  ‘Fun’ isn’t always required, but is certainly a required tool.

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