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.



DigIT Festival & TeachMeet Essex


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:


























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

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.