Edublog Award 2013 Nominations

Awards_170px_02-2g51ob6It is time again to nominate tweeps from my treasured PLN and I have been thinking about who and what to choose for many weeks. There are so many superb educators out there who do their jobs superbly, day after day, just for the love of teaching and the joy that come from helping children be the best they can be. I feel very proud of my profession and by nominating a few of my colleagues I hope to show how proud I am of them.

My wiki page was celebrated in the Edublog awards as the ‘Best Educational Wiki’ in 2011, which has been one of the highlights of my professional career. I hope that all on my list below can be celebrated in the same way. To me, you are all winners.

Best individual blog

http://headguruteacher.com from @headguruteacher gives a blueprint for all senior management about how to succeed and administer an amazing school.

Best new blog

http://createinnovateexplore.com from @rlj1981 is a constant stream of wonderful, creative ideas and top tips. The posts are always inspiring and a joy to read.

Best edtech / resource sharing blog

http://ictevangelist.com from @ICTevangelist is a great place to find information about the latest tech and pedagogical gold. He is also an endless source of iPad information and tips. So if you have something beginning with an ‘i’ you should be following him on Twitter and reading his blog.

Best Teacher Blog

http://teachertoolkit.me from @TeacherToolKit is a wonderful blog with delights for every level and description of educator. His blog and ideas have resized my teaching on more than one occasion and he has make a contribution to so many teachers. Thank you Ross!

Best group blog

The growing Digital Leader movement http://www.digitalleadernetwork.co.uk of empowering a group of dedicated children/students to provide help, training and creative solutions for their classmates and teachers has benefitted countless people across the UK. It provides student the opportunity to engage with technology and collaborate to enhance to tech experience for everyone. Follow developments every Thursday at 9pm GMT with #DLchat.

Best class blog

I love http://www.edutronic.net by @Edutronic_Net and the students in his school. It is a wonderful example of how blogging has empowered the students to shape their own learning and explore the world with an audience from around the world.

Best Administrator (SLT) blog

http://johntomsett.wordpress.com by @johntomsett is an amazing blog by an inspirational headteacher. Each and every time he blogs he has make me think about how things could be better and that teaching really is the best profession in the world.

Best twitter hashtag

#ukedchat is the online hub for education in the UK. The weekly discussions cover a myriad of educational topics and push forward the understanding of what is possible in the classroom. In my opinion it is the best CPD on the internet. It’s based at http://ukedchat.com.

Best free web tool

The free tools that has made biggest impact in my classroom this year has to be http://www.classdojo.com. The children love it and it has continued to improve and it is now a vital part of my teaching.

Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast

I have recently discovered http://www.l4l.co.uk by @eyebeams. I’m amazed at the passion, insight, but most of all the fact that he is able to record a daily podcast/Audioboo on important, useful and relevant educational topics which keep me informed about what is happening out there. It has become compulsive listening.

Best open PD / unconference / wedinar series

The TeachMeet movement http://teachmeet.pbworks.com provides an amazing learning experience for all who take part. The format of micro presentations keep the events interesting and fresh. I learn so much each time I attend a TeachMeet, but more than that, I feel inspired in so many different ways and ready to try lots of new things.

Best Social Network

It has to be Twitter.com

Exploring the Blue Sky

I love learning new things to use in my classroom and to improve the learning opportunities and experience of my class and the children my school. A week ago I hosted my 3rd TeachMeet Essex along with the wonderful Tom Sherrington @HeadGuruTeacher. It was a great event with some amazing, insightful and witty educational thinkers.

But away from events like TeachMeets, professional development is usually very different in schools. It is usually focused on what are felt to be the needs of the whole school to aid progression with the school development/improvement plan to improve the teaching and learning experience. Very noble. It is often also deadly dull and often doesn’t differentiate to an individual teacher’s needs and situation. These insets and training sessions tend mark the implementation of a big policy change and thus the way I teach.

I happen to like what I term ‘blue sky’ professional development which I encounter at events like TeachMeets and on Twitter, which is not necessarily focused on my particular needs, but offer insight in to how other educators do things and sharing the best that they do. I can choose want is useful and disregard what is not of interest. This provide what the Olympic GB team termed ‘incremental improvement’ – teachers learning and improving by tiny steps which quickly add up.

But is this personalised ‘buffet’ possible or even desirable in schools. I believe the answer to both is yes, but it is important that there is a conducive environment which allows and values individuals shaping their own CPD opportunities beyond the overarching framework – an environment which is lacking in many schools, where the minutiae of daily teaching is impose upon teachers.

Teachers need time to reflect and make any new knowledge, tricks and skills. They need time to digest, internalise and to make it their own. Teachers also need time to explore ideas for themselves and discussions on Twitter hones one’s thoughts which a wider range of educators.

Schools need to celebrate and draw upon the unique talents and different experience of its teachers and wider staff. Collaborate and share what brilliant ideas and techniques are being used in your school. You may be surprise what talents are hidden in plain sight.

Look out into the blue sky once in a while and explore possibilities from over the horizon.

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DigIT Festival & TeachMeet Essex

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Saturday saw the first, and now hopefully annual DigIT festival at KEGS in Chelmsford hosted by the wonderful @headguruteacher. Over 20 different organisations and educational technology groups came together to make the festival possible. It was a chance to meet up with some friends from Twitter, such as @rlj1981, @iTeachRE, @Edutronic_Net, @ICTevangelist and many more who were presenting and attending for the day.

During my first workshop I explored the possibilities of using augmented reality in class with a wonderful SketchUp plugin which can be found at here (http://www.inglobetechnologies.com/en/new_products/arplugin_su/info.php)

In the main presenting space I explored a range of websites for parents and teachers to use with their children. Unfortunately, not all the sites worked on the KEGS computer system, but the full list is below:

http://www.geoguessr.com

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http://www.shatters.net/celestia

http://calculationnation.nctm.org

http://htwins.net/scale2

http://padlet.com

http://classdojo.com

http://sumdog.com

http://rorschmap.com

http://goanimate.com

http://www.mathschamps.co.uk

http://www.nanoogo.com

http://www.safestyle-windows.co.uk/secret-door

http://tools.e2bn.org/pictureteller

http://neave.com/bouncy-balls

http://www.youtube.com/user/SpaceRip/videos

https://realtimeboard.com

http://www.jamwithchrome.com

http://www.kenken.com

http://www.nowykurier.com/toys/gravity/gravity.html

https://www.blendspace.com

http://www.aplusclick.com/index.html

http://www.ddaytovictory.ca

http://www.belugalearning.com

http://www.larkinheather.com/evolution

ImageIn the afternoon I presented and hosted TeachMeet Essex in the ornate Gothic library at KEGS. It was a beautiful setting for sharing ideas and being as geeky as possible at the same time. It was a small gathering for a TeachMeet Essex of around 50. The two previous events, both also held at KEGS, had around 200 attendees. But it was a great crowd with many attending a TeachMeet for the first time. I was very please to have some of my colleagues from Mersea Island School in the audience – @samloureed, @NaomiStears and @SailingTeacher. All the presentations will be archived at http://j.mp/tmessex and my own presentation is at http://prezi.com/jsj8lysmniti/teachmeet-essex/

Thank you for all the support from Tom Sherrington and the staff and students of King Edward VI Grammar School

A Better Way

The call has been made and a whole community jump into action. Professionals continue to act normally in front of the children, but under this calm exterior the feeling of dread and darkness fills their hearts. The thought of the stress and anxiety the will follow makes grown adults verge on the edge of tears. The inspectors are coming.

discussionFirstly, let me set out by saying that I do not have an axe to grind with Ofsted, the Government’s school inspection organisation for England. Quite the contrary. Each time the inspectors have observed me teach I have been assessed as outstanding – the top grade. Yet, like most teachers, when the O-word is mentioned a feeling of dread and insecurity takes over. It shouldn’t be this way.

There is a better way. I understand that it is important to have external visitors visiting the school to improve that school and keep things fresh, but does the current system do this? I propose a more balance relationship with the inspectorate with allows a proper discussion about how to improve the educational opportunities and achievement in a school with ‘inspectors’ who are on the educational front-line. Two of the main criticisms of Ofsted is that they are unaccountable for the decisions they make and that they point out what is wrong about a school or lesson without in depth feedback of ways that they could be made better.

I envisage a system with elements of jury duty and the scientific peer review which selects a group of practising teachers from a range of other schools who form teams which go in and provide fresh eyes and help a school to improve as a ‘critical friend’. The visits could take place for one day per week for a number of weeks, so the teams could get a real feel for a school and so to not disrupt their own classes to much. I believe that teachers, pupils and the school community would much prefer to be helped to improve rather than judged. The teams would observe lessons, the management and the school as a whole and then help tailor CPD needs and offer suggested improvements the systems of the school.

I believe that a ‘report’ is still necessary for the community to know how a school is doing, but the focus needs to be on what will be put in place and development for the future. A ‘statement of intent’ if you will, which outlines areas seen as weaknesses and an outline of how the school intends to tackle them – Similar to a school improvement plan.

Schools deemed to have more need to improve would have more visits than schools deemed to be doing well.

I have never been to a school which didn’t want to improve and schools should continually look over their school wall to find innovative ways of doing things to provide better learning opportunities for their students. Hosting teachers from other schools to help identify areas to improve and create a dialogue between colleagues with similar issues is now becoming increasingly common and it provides some of the best opportunities to improve a school. Ofsted take note.

Reach Out and Teach

The door closes and I am alone, but all eyes are on me. Walking to the front of the room with the excitement and anticipation of what is about to happen and what may occur. Ideas are swirling, plucked from a myriad of minds. The plan has been shaped by many, but I alone know what the result has been. Yet in a few seconds it will belong us and the possibilities are boundless. Then the thoughts are spoken, “Good morning class. The world has planned a great lesson for you.”

There is a seismic shift happening in education. It has been happening for years and it affects almost all educators. Yet many teachers are not engaging fully with the possibilities. Many educators share a great deal of their resources and ideas online. But these educators are far from the majority. Most educators squirrel away vast quantities of fanatic resources and lesson ideas, which languish on tiring laptops and on over stretched school servers until they are deleted by a mistimed mouse click or by a frustrated computer technician. Sorry to be confrontational – but how selfish! My class could have benefitted from that…

I’m sure that you have searched, downloaded, adapted and taught using many other educators’ ideas and materials. But how much do you contribution to the online collection yourself? There are a range of ways how other educators could benefit from the resources and ideas that you make anyway in your daily teaching practice.

Firstly, start at home… well… your second home… school. Do you share ideas and resources widely in your school? Is there a place to publicly display and share resources openly in your school? Perhaps your idea was designed with Year 6 in mind, but it may inspire your Year 1 colleague to produce a valuable lesson for their class.

ImageSharing in your school is a great beginning and a ethos of collaboration and team work is vital for schools. Yet there are millions of other educators from around the world who may benefit from your ideas.  Make your ideas and resources available online for all to find. There are many ways to do this. Many teachers choose to upload resources to a corporate resource sharing site, which is easy and a good start. But there are other ways.

Many educators choose to blog there resources and ideas as they make, design and think of them and upload documents and posts for other teachers to use and adapt. Setting this up in relativity simple and acts as a great searchable archive for you, your colleagues and others. Another option is to curate your ideas by uploading and sharing to sites like Pinterest where there is a huge and growing educational community of teachers sharing resources and ideas from across the web.

Many educators have begun using services like DropBox, Copy or Google Drive to keep their files accessible where ever they go. It is easy to make a folder public and every time you put a files into the folder on your computer, it automatically syncs to the web making it accessible to everyone. I have started a directory of these cloud resources on website at ictmagic.wikispaces.com/Resource+Bank

You may even wish to take things to the next step and write a book about your teaching ideas to appeal to the masses, like Ross Morrison McGillMark Anderson & many others.

However you choose to share, you may want to tell someone that they exist. A great place to do this is on Twitter where you can find thousands of educators from all over the world. Educators in the UK may like to check out the #UKedchat hashtag, follow @UKedchat and visit http://ukedchat.com for details about how to get involved. International educators should start from #EDchat. In both cases, groups of educators swap, share and discuss teaching ideas and resources which can help you in your class.

You may wish to meet up with other enthusiastic educators in your region to discuss would works for them in their class and share your experience and expertise. EDcamps and TeachMeets are a wonderful way to reach out to to other teachers and share ideas, resources and tips in an exciting and informal way. These are organised by a group of enthusiastic educators and usually anyone can share ideas to the group or simply listen to other teachers who face similar challenges to you.

However you choose to share and collaborate, whether it is with the teacher along the corridor or to thousands of educators on Twitter, the 21st century educator should no long be alone in the crafting and planning of learning experiences for their class. There are simply too many great ideas passing you by. You owe it to your class to find the best ideas and activities for them and you owe it to my class to share it once you have found it.

So thank you to all those educators who have reached out and helped teach the children in my class. I hope that I have played some small part in the learning of your children.

Educational Hashtags – Connecting Educators to Improve Teaching

The Internet is awash with tantalising treasures and imaginative ideas that teachers can use to immerse their classes in a perpetual voyage of discovery. Ideas proliferate from thousands of educational professionals who have tried, failed, improved and succeeded using an array of lesson ideas and techniques. But the trouble is locating this treasure when it is needed.
 
Teachers currently spend hours pouring over search engine results looking for the perfect resource. But this is beginning to change as a growing number of educators discover that they can connect with other teachers, and that someone has already found that interactive quiz about Brunel that they have been looking for. Thousands of educators have turned to Twitter to build a network of educators to share, debate and help improve their teaching. The focal point of this network for teachers in the UK is UKedchat.
 
UKedchat is a weekly discussion which takes place at 8pm on Thursday evenings. The topics of discussion focus on education, schools and what it means to be a 21st century educator. A volunteer host guides the discussion and keeps the conversation moving. The host also chooses which topics are polled and chosen by the community. The conversation is open and visible to everyone and anyone can add they comments and opinions to the debate. To take part in the conversation, participants will need to have a free Twitter account and to include the #ukedchat label or ‘hashtag’ to their message so they can be found by others. The messages are archived and the host writes a summary of the dialogue soon after the discussion has finished. These summaries are posted to http://ukedchat.com.
 
The weekly Twitter discussion was founded in July 2010 by Colin Hill. He saw the potential of the American EDchat and the difference it was making for teachers and students by educators exchanging teaching ideas and resources during the hour long discussion. Colin adapted the concept and imported it for the UK. More than two years on, UKedchat is one of the main hubs for UK teachers online both during and between the weekly discussions. For every major educational event in the UK the #UKedchat hashtag is used to inform other educators about what is happening.
 
There are a number of other specialist discussion forums on Twitter which allow educators to find other teachers with similar responsibilities or subject areas. #SLTchat focuses on the needs of school senior leadership teams and takes place every Sunday night at 8pm. #DLchat shares ideas and successes about how to improve the digital skills of pupils to raise the standards of everyone in a school. #EngChatUK and #SENchat look specifically at English and SEN topics. The #battt hashtag or ‘Bring a Teacher To Twitter’ helps educators new to Twitter find great resources and people to follow and tips for encouraging colleagues to join and share. The recently launched #planningpanic hashtag from the TES allows teachers to talk to TES staff directly to point them in the direction of suitable resources.
 
These discussion hashtags are more than a label. They are the symbol of a paradigm shift that is taking place in the UK education system as teachers begin to catch up with their students in realising the vast opportunities the digital world and social media present. Teachers are using Twitter to improve their teaching with the help of a community of dedicated educators who are sharing their wealth of experience, resources and advice one hundred and forty characters at a time.