I recently came across a quote by Jennifer Gonzalez where she interviewed Cognitive Scientist Pooja Agarwal “Retrieval practice: The most powerful learning strategy you’re not using” (you can listen to the podcast interview here) and this resonated with me because it wasn’t a strategy I was using for many years during my teaching career. Teachers often have so much content to get through that little time can be spent revisiting prior learning and subject content previously covered – I was guilty of this. Each lesson or week I would work my way through delivering new content on the specification or scheme of work and return to recall knowledge and understanding at a much later date. On reflection, it seems obvious that revisiting a topic 12 months later (or longer!) in the classroom just before the exam won’t be as effective as regular recall and retrieval.
Twitter is (or can be) a wonderful source of networking, sharing, discussion, debate and learning. There are so many communities on Twitter. I was quite oblivious to most of these communities as I have been in my own Twitter bubble with the wonderful “EduTwitter” community. There are even smaller communities within the EduTwitter community – such as WomenEd, BameEd, Edtech, leadership and subject-specific groups such as the History teacher community. These online communities are not exclusive and everyone is free to read what others share ( private accounts can restrict who can view their profile). Recently I became a finalist in the UK Blog Awards 2018 within the Education category, winners to be announced in April. There is now a community of #UKBA18 finalists communicating on Twitter (sharing their excitement) and this has opened my eyes to all the other bloggers and writers online in their chosen fields including arts & culture, events & wedding, fashion & beauty, food & drink, green & eco, health & social care plus much more! The finalists in these categories also use social media such as Twitter to connect with their audience and promote their material online.
Over the holidays I always enjoy spending time reading – from a John Grisham thriller to a historical or educational book. I love to read in different locations too – from my own home, the pool, beach, coffee shops – anywhere nice, quiet and relaxing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Made to Stick by the Heath brothers – perhaps more so because I read it during the holidays where time becomes a luxury and it’s easier to switch off from the to-do list usually on my mind! The book Made to Stick: Why some ideas survive and others die is a very interesting book because it was not written specifically for teachers, although it is a very useful and informative read for teachers with a chapter of the book actually dedicated to teachers. The authors’ Chip and Dan Heath have written other well known and New York Times best-selling books such as Switch and The Power of Moments which I have yet to read but they are now on my 2018 reading list! Chip Heath is a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, teaching courses on business strategy and organizations. Dan Heath worked as a researcher and case writer for Harvard Business School, he has founded the Change Academy, a program designed to boost the impact of social sector leaders and he is also the co-founder of a publishing company called Thinkwell.
I am delighted to be featuring a guest blog post by Carmel Bones. Carmel is a former History teacher, Head of Department, Teacher trainer, AST and she is now an education consultant providing CPD for teachers across Europe. Carmel is also a well-known author amongst the History educational community and Fellow of the Historical Association. It was at TMHistoryIcons 2017 where I first heard Carmel share the idea of summarising pyramids. In a short amount of time Carmel managed to explain the resource with such enthusiasm and show various examples. I think this is a great idea and resource for the classroom. Carmel has kindly agreed to explain summarising pyramids in more depth. You can read her post below:
A few weeks ago I presented at the second Digital Innovation Summit in Dubai at Jumeriah English Speaking School ( known as JESS). I have written an overview of the event that will be published in the upcoming edition of Education Journal Middle East (so apologies if this blog post seems self indulgent as it is just about my presentation which I didn’t refer to in the EJME article!). Many people have contacted me since my presentation to ask questions or provide feedback. I thought I would address any questions and share my slides for anyone who wasn’t able to attend my session or the event.
I was in WH Smiths London Heathrow waiting for my flight to Abu Dhabi when I discovered a book entitled The Secret Teacher. It really is a secret because the author is unknown, despite people online trying to solve who the mystery author is! You might be familiar with The Guardian – Secret Teacher articles where teachers use anonymity to write about something connected to education that is bothering or frustrating them or something they simply could not express and publish for fear of losing their job! The Secret Teacher book isn’t a collection of secret teacher articles from The Guardian archives. Instead, it tells the story of a struggling Newly Qualified Teacher in an inner-city state school and his journey through the early years of his teaching career. It is clearly written by a teacher – with so much insight into teaching today in the UK. I’m not sure how much of the story is fiction or fact but there will be stories, scenarios and people that all teachers can relate to in this book!
Adding captions, speech and thought bubbles can be done digitally with ease and simplicity. Although this can be achieved by Word, Power point, Keynote etc the quickest method in my opinion is using the app Balloon Stickies Plus. This great app is also FREE! The app allows the user to insert speech and thought bubbles and captions onto images very quickly (there is another free app called Bubble but most of the features are locked unless you are willing to pay). Balloon Stickies Plus app also allows the user to convert spoken word through recording into text – this has a lot of potential in the classroom for SEND and/or EAL pupils. Here I share some examples of how I have used the app with my pupils.
QR (quick response) codes are not new and certainly not just for the classroom but they have so much potential for teaching and learning – I think they are great! There are a wide range of websites and apps to create and read/scan QR codes, I would recommend the app QR Reader. If you haven’t created QR codes before they are very easy to do so, I was surprised by how straightforward and quick it was! If you haven’t tried QR codes in your classroom then it is worth trying, because again its very simple yet effective so here is another blog with some advice to get you started.
Learning grids are a fantastic resource that can be used across different subjects and with different year groups/key stages. If you are not familiar with this resource it is simple; it is a grid consisting of 36 boxes ( 6 vertical and 6 horizontal). Dice are required – dice can be bought cheaply online or at stores such as Poundland or Tiger. Pupils will roll the dice twice – to give them a number they can use for the horizontal and vertical line (for example 2 across and 4 down). I have used learning grids in a variety of ways; to re-cap previous learning, support literacy, as a plenary and much more! The idea of a linking learning grid is more complex and challenging.
The Confident Teacher : Developing successful habits of mind, body and pedagogy by Alex Quigley really surprised me – as the book covered much more than I expected it to. I have never met Alex Quigley, yet I follow his educational profile online via his Twitter account @HuntingEnglish and I am a regular reader of his blog, also titled The Confident Teacher. I thoroughly enjoy reading his blogs and they have been great resource to me as a teacher, so I was very keen to read his book. Alex is a Teacher of English, that is evident as I think he has a wonderful style and use of language as well as many literature references made throughout his book. He is also Director of Huntington Research School, this book is heavily research informed and influenced which also supports many of his arguments and points. The Confident Teacher is obviously not some sort of quick fix self help guide to give teachers a transformation with confidence overnight, but it does focus on a wide range of strategies to develop confidence for both teachers and pupils. This book is filled with many stories from his career as well as anecdotes about various well known individuals from Pablo Picasso to Michael Jordan and Albert Bandura along the way!