Whether it is the winter months and / or the mounting gloom over the teaching profession, I could not say. Some people take to the the easel and canvas to get their feelings out, others go to a musical art form, but I felt like writing a poem. I always enjoyed poetry, and in some free time this morning, I roused the poet in me and put this together:
shadows fear the dark
in the absence where there is to laugh
where are those brighter sparks
where judgements are far too harsh
we look for the grass thats greener
where there is something, lack of fever
ever ascending upwards bound
take a breath and hear no sound
looking backwards, its been forgotten
ahead there is back, back to the bottom
where are we now, time to wonder
assessments of stature, assessments of sunder
where do we go from here
feelings of dread, feelings of fear
nervous stress, and lead in the mouth
a chest so tight and mind headed south
plus points gained, and rarely discarded
a reputations torn, but widely regarded
tis the little things that make the man
a man that runs, runs in the sand
This was more for me, but thought I would share it with the world.
Throughout my whole degree, I kept a blog. I posted at least once a month for the whole of the three of my academic years. There is some good stuff on there and it still gets a fair few hits from search engines:
If your interested in undergraduate study, learning technologies, action research, reflective practice and the mindless ramblings of a student under pressure then there might just be something for you there!
I have had this site running for a while now and it has more than served its purpose. I have had job offers through it, networked all over the world and had a single home on the internet to link to all the other occasional residencies I have. Over the past week or so, I have been tweaking under the hood and have made a few modifications to the base technology of the site.
The site is still hosted by the tremendously amazing and awesome x10Hosting who have recently supercharged their hosting platform, but that is not the only reason that this site is now 96% faster than all other sites tested with Pingdom. I am using Cloudflare as a Content Distribution Network (CDN) for the site. This means that while the site is still hosted with x10, Cloudflare basically caches most aspects of it and delivers that to visitors through its global web of servers. This is done by DNS magic, whereby Cloudflare is essentially providing DNS services for my domain as my registrar now points to Cloudflare and they do the rest.
The best thing about all of this is that it is all at the low low price of free! If you own a domain (You can even use this to speed up your sites on massive platforms like Tumblr and WordPress.com!) then I suggest you give it a try.
Teaching is a tricky thing and assistance is always welcomed by those who want to really get the best out of their students. Teaching however, does not always have to be lead by the teacher at the front of the classroom. Students are bright these days and many have the skill base for autonomous learning from a very early age.
To try and encourage this autonomy, this year I have set up a teaching website with the aim of students getting more than half of their information and resources from there as opposed to me in personal form. www.mradams.tk has been a success so far and has established a ‘buffet’ style of education among many of my classes with students dipping in and out at their own pace and level for what they need to progress their learning when working on coursework tasks.
The best this about it is that it was quickly picked up by other colleagues and resources from it have been used in their classes too. I also use it as a platform for documentation and proposals for the department as it is so much better for colleagues to have a single place to go to for information where they also know that it is always the latest version available. This is so not the case when talking about word documents via email!
A massive advantage is that the whole platform is free! Hosting, cloud services and everything web is provided by Google through Google Sites and the domain is provided by dot.tk This gives me unlimited traffic with no cost and the ability to sleep well at night knowing that my resources are being served and managed by Google themselves. The only limitation is storage with Google Sites only providing 100MB of storage for attachments (Pics, Docs, etc), but I have found this easily overcome by hosting documents through Google Drive and hot-linking to images on the Web. YouTube is of course my repo for Video.
I look forward to the further development of Google Sites and I am especially excited about it being included in Google Drive. As far as I can see, there is no other documentation saying that Google Sites will merge into Google Drive, but a screenshot (right) from Google’s initial demo video for the service leads me to believe it will soon! I am hoping this move will sidestep the 100MB limit too.
Throughout my teaching career I have studied, implemented and ignored many teaching methodologies along the way. Being the reductionist that I am and thinking broadly on the idea of models and cycles of learning, I thought I would coin my own:
Identify and agree learning requirements
Present learning resources
Support and facilitate learning
Assess extent of learning
This can be taken any way really and over any time scale. It is also cyclical based on either topic, idea, module or whatever unit of time you wish.
Let me provide a practical example:
Identify and agree learning requirements
I had noticed that my students had little concept of how document formatting worked, along with untrained ideas of how to appropriately manage files and folders including naming.
This requirement was voiced to the class, to which they agreed and were interested to see what I could show them about something they perhaps had not considered before.
Present learning resources
A sixty minute section of a ninety minute session was spent creating an exemplar document with focus on formatting. Students were lead old-school through how to create a document on a topic of their choice, step-by-step.
Support and facilitate learning
I showed students how to do each formatting concept at the front of the room and then circulated the room ensuring every student has grasped it. This also allowed time for students to share other ideas and even improvements to what I had suggested.
Assess extent of learning
Collect in each document at the end and assess based on how they had implemented the techniques demoed to them.
Simple and easy to follow for any given purpose. I see this as providing a potential guiding light to those new to teaching and perhaps a re-clarification of perspective to those who might just need that little bit of refocusing every once in a while. I know I do.
Today marks the falling raindrop that will cause a landslide. ICT is changing in a BIG way, very soon. The UK Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, has today announced sweeping reforms across all incarnations of ICT education within the UK. It has been a long time coming, but today the plans were laid out in some detail. From September 2012, ICT that is “so harmful, boring and / or irrelevant it should simply be scrapped” will simply disappear altogether if the plans are to be believed.
There is a governmental push for more computer science in schools that will provide fuel for the employees of tomorrow in the 21st century economy. I wrote about this exact issue back in November last year and I am broadly glad to read what Mr Gove had to say today at BETT. What surprises me is the sense of severity and rapid arrival of the proposed plans. The plans are said to be in effect from this coming September, leaving teachers, departments, schools and organisations little time to act.
I have been openly critical of my own subject, ICT, and welcome the move to a more fundamental computing curriculum in schools. There is even talk about inclusion of the subject in the ever more prestigious EB, “we will certainly consider including Computer Science as an option in the English Baccalaureate” as Michael Gove said earlier today.
So what is ahead? My interpretation is something along the lines of KS3′s curriculum consisting of Flash animations with ActionScript, Creating interactive games with Scratch and creating interactive websites with HTML5. I see KS4 taking these logic and structured thinking skills to go onto build basic desktop applications and even branch into mobile applications. I also see the teaching of the anatomy and workings of computer systems and networks be embedded throughout KS3-5 so students develop a deep appreciation of the technology they are using and an opportunity to harness it.
That all sounds great, but what does that look like in practice? Does this country have the ICT teachers to do it? Do we have the resources in most schools to do this? Are there the right thinking senior staff around to drive these changes? All of these questions will need to be answered come September and if the answer is no to any of these questions, the path ahead just became that bit more interesting.
There is a theme in Education at the moment of monitoring, testing and evaluating most aspects of the Education industry, and the spotlight too often than not passes over teachers and they are judged. There are however, nuggets of feedback that mean more than any other, from the students themselves especially when it is out of the blue and spontaneous!
I thought I would share some of the most heart warming tweets I have received from ex students recently who took the time to get in touch:
@tobyadams I haven't had a chance to say this but thankyou for helping me with my cisco gcse I'm extremly grateful
I love staying in touch with ex-students (and current!) on Twitter, many of them still feel like my students as we keep in touch and keep learning from each other. Further testament I suppose to the power and connectivity of twitter as a communication medium.
A man who started life without prior privileges such as money or even a stable home or family, and ended it having made an impact on the world like few others ever have. A controversial, but universally inspirational leader who we can all take inspiration from ourselves.
Though not about himself, I feel these words, spoken by himself sum him up rather aptly:
There is quite the discussion about that very question at the moment. From educators referring to mainstream ICT as “passively pushing buttons” to employers complaining that school leavers and even graduates do not even come close to the level of digital literacy demanded by the 21st century workplace.
Whilst there are those from the education profession who will instinctively defend their subject, I am not one of them. Well at least not entirely. I came into teaching from a (brief) stint in industrial ICT, having been trained for it beforehand. Seeing ICT in the workplace explode over the past ten years and having experienced the work demanded from those looking to start their careers leaving education, I can say with some justification that there needs to be a shift in what is taught in schools.
There are the naive comments that ICT is basically making text Bold and Underlined (<- Can you see, I am well trained) to those more assertive remarks that students can leave after studying an advanced level course in ICT, not knowing what Operating System they did it on, or even the realising complexities of what happens under the keyboard to make that poster that will get them their qualification.
Would we teach Science showing only the result of the respiratory system? Would we deliver a PE curriculum only focusing on how to score a Goal? Then why are we (mostly) teaching ICT without allowing students to realise and appreciate the amazing technology they are utilising. Once the majesty of computer science is realised by a young learner, it can be like a touch-paper being lit that can initiate an entire career. I say this from first hand experience.
I was 14 when I first saw inside a computer and realised that it was not just a noisy box. I then learnt the anatomy of the machine itself and within months I was upgrading my own machine at home. ICT is now an exponential independent learning curve for me that was all started ten years ago and has never stopped.
Learners should leave education as either school leavers or graduates with the very least a structured appreciation of computing and general ICT, delivered to them through a holistic curriculum that keeps the best of the traditional approach that we are used to and weaves in knowledge of a vocational nature, supported by industry and tailored by employers. A curriculum that keeps updated and delivers learners to the workplace that can utilise the tools of the 21st century and be open to learning further as the landscape undoubtably shifts continuously beneath their feet.
I have read this letter to every class I have taught today:
Each day I look in the newspaper or hear on the news that employers, schools, the system, etc need to try harder to help these people who are desperately trying to find a job. Well from my experience as a recruitment consultant, that simply isn’t true.
I work in the heart of London supplying candidates to law firms, accountancies and property companies. Of late, I’ve found the role of a recruiter is getting harder. It’s not because there are too many jobseekers and not enough jobs, the truth is I can’t find the right candidates for the jobs. I have so many jobs, I’d probably make the Jobcentre jealous.
People are making themselves unemployable, with slang, poor vocabulary, negative attitudes, lack of common sense, lack of business dress, lack of personality, lack of skills, lack of education and a lack of drive.
I see great CVs sometimes but I meet the candidates and I am deflated because they are a mess: hair dishevelled, chipped nail varnish, bland expressions on their face and no suit jacket.
I meet people who speak as if they are texting their friends. The art of shaking hands seems to have been replaced with an awkward pincer movement and the outgoing personality that I so desperately want to see never appears.
It makes me so sad, because employers are crying out for good candidates – they pay me, don’t they?
My advice: upskill yourself,market yourself, package yourself and sell yourself. And if you’re not sure where you’re going wrong, ask your recruitment consultant for the truth. They may know more than they feel comfortable telling you.
-Recruitment consultant, London
The hook is that School is not a discreet part of your life, but like life with training wheels. Make a mistake or misguided choice like above and you might get a detention, or a corrective word in the corridor. Make the same oversight in the outside world and you might just not get the job you need to pay your increasing mortgage payment, or ever find work at all.