Modelling⤴

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As teachers of art and design, I think modelling is one of our real collective strengths. Not because of our good looks and catwalk prowess(!) but because like other practical subjects, it’s really important for pupils to see techniques demonstrated by an expert in order that they can learn and master these themselves. So this blog will unpick some of my thinking around why modelling is so important not just in Art and Design, but across the curriculum.

This time last year I’d heard of a visualiser, but had never actually used one to demonstrate techniques. Now I wouldn’t be without it. A year ago, I’d never made an instructional video for my pupils, but always wanted to. Now we have a YouTube playlist with over 50 asynchronous video resources modelling key concepts in Art and Design.

Despite the huge number of difficulties we have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning has magnified the need for excellent pedagogy. And in art and design, it has really shone a light on modelling and explicit instruction.

Great art and design teachers do this every lesson. It may now seem like a distant memory, but pre-pandemic, our lesson ritual involved gathering all pupils close around a table to demonstrate the lesson. Sometimes, we might have done this at numerous points in the lesson to break down the task into stages. I remember the worry back in August when we returned to school but were having to teach from the front. How would we recreate a demonstration using a visualiser? How would we assist pupils, without sitting right beside them to help?

But we managed. And I would argue that the use of a visualiser actually improves our ability to demonstrate. Because it allows ALL pupils to see ALL stages of the learning. They can see our demonstration in close-up. It allows us to demonstrate our meta-cognitive process as we model and, (and this is a biggy in a practical subject such as art and design!) it means that there is zero disruption to learning because pupils don’t need to leave their seat. The modelling is now not just limited to the short time around the demonstration table. Instead techniques, concepts and common mistakes can be viewed by learners at multiple points throughout the lesson on the whiteboard.

So what are my top tips for modelling in Art and design, or indeed any subject.

Provide an example

I think this is really important for so many reasons. Firstly it lets learners see what they are aiming for. It helps boost motivation because usually the exemplar is impressive and pupils like the challenge (especially when I then go on to give them the steps to achieve success.) I often call it, what a good one looks like. In a frantic, busy timetable it can often be tempting to wing it and just go without but it really is an important part of preparing for your lesson. In many cases an exemplar, helps me as a teacher because sometimes practical processes take too long and it’s a good idea to have ‘one I made earlier.’ This avoids wasted time during a lesson. Finally, it’s a really important process for me to go through as it helps me identify the difficulties, mistakes pupils may make and helps me to think about to breaking down the modelling into steps. It also builds teacher confidence because especially in the early stages of teaching, it can be hugely daunting to demonstrate live in front of a class of young people.

Explore thinking

Whilst demonstrating I am asking questions. Constantly. I am probing pupils to check their understanding and guide their thinking. ‘What kind of line should we be using here?’ ‘Where is the light coming from?’ ‘How dark should this side be?’ This engages learners throughout and builds their confidence. It means they are not passive, but gaining the meta cognitive thinking to guide them through the process. I often think that in art and design, we are teaching pupils not, ‘how to draw’ but ‘how to see.’ This requires prompts to encourage them to see things in a way which will help them. I also want to give them the thinking process to ensure that when they get stuck, they have the tools and thinking skills ways in order to get back on track.

Ongoing demonstration

This is why visualisers are really useful. Pre-pandemic, there might have been a tendency to cram everything into one demonstration to avoid disruption to learning and having pupils constantly stopping and starting out of their seats. I’ve seen pupils become really frustrated because they are just getting into the task and then they are being asked to get out of their seat to watch something they can already do. They want to get on and make progress. And as teachers, we don’t want to break that flow of success. Visualisers mean that learners who need to can watch. Learners who are confident can continue working.

Demonstrate the process

Sometimes, as an early career teacher, demonstrations are the most daunting part of the lesson so the thought of having to demonstrate multiple times may be off putting. However, if we reframe ‘the demonstration’ as ongoing modelling throughout the lesson, it becomes a lot less high stake and pressured. It allows us as teachers to model the process and the stages which learners need to go through to achieve success. We can also use this to address difficulties identified as we scan around the classroom. Working together through the process is also really useful. I use the modelling process ‘I do’ (pupils all watch me) then ‘we do’ (pupils work alongside me – I guide the stages, pace and structure.) And finally ‘you do’ (as pupils build confidence, I set them free to work independently.) This structure really helps pupils to progress at their own pace and allows me to support those who need more practice.

Provide an opportunity for pupils to work themselves

This can often be difficult for teachers. It’s a fact that we like to talk! But the ‘you do’ stage of modelling is really important. We need to give time for our pupils to demonstrate their knowledge snd understanding of the learning too. So this is our opportunity to circulate, to check everyone has grasped the technique and stand back and let them go. It’s this bit which builds the motivation. As pupils realise that they can actually do it themselves, they are motivated to achieve more.

Identify the key learning.

When planning demonstrations and modelling I think it is useful to think of the learning and the knowledge pupils need, rather than the task itself. This helps to identify the aspects which we need to reinforce and concepts which a transferable. It can be tempting to become a Blue Peter presenter and create demonstrations which become a set of instructions taking through procedures in order to achieve a finished piece. Yes we need to model in a way which breaks down the learning into steps, but it’s important that we aren’t just telling pupils what to do. We need to explain why we are doing things, model the thinking and the visualisation required to see things in the way an artist would.

As many of us return to our physical classrooms this week, I know that modelling will be a real focus of excellent learning and teaching in classrooms across the country. And I hope this post will highlight many approaches which I know so many of us already do everyday in art and design, and beyond.

Have a great week everyone – I cannot wait to have all our pupils back in the building!!

The Biodiversity Heritage Library & Bird Bingo⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Somewhere or other1 I Saw a link to v.2 (1799) – The Naturalist’s Pocket Magazine or compleat cabinet of the curiosities and beauties of nature. Intriguing enough which lead me to discover the Biodiversity Heritage Library:

The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is the world’s largest open access digital library for biodiversity literature and archives. BHL is revolutionizing global research by providing free, worldwide access to knowledge about life on Earth.

About BHL – Information about the Biodiversity Heritage Library

There seems to be a vast collection of biological books that are free to read and download. There is also a twitter account, @BioDivLibrar and an amazing Flickr account: Biodiversity Heritage Library where there are over a quarter of a million images, many public domain. They have also contributed

over 2 million BHL images have been uploaded to the IA Book Images Flickr stream as part of the Art of Life project. These images are identified and uploaded in bulk using an algorithm. They offer a great opportunity for serendipitous discovery via browsing.

from: About Biodiversity Heritage Library | Flickr.

The Library are asking for people to help tag their flickr images and this might be a good activity for secondary pupils?

Bird Bingo


As a primary teacher, once I’d stopped just raking through some beautiful images I knocked up a quick Bird Bingo game for my class to help with bird identification. It has random cards and a caller.

There is page after page of beautiful pictures in the photo stream I defy anyone to leave it quickly. Example page 2094!

Featured Image: n456_w1150 | Natural history of the animal kingdom for the u… | Flickr public domain.

1. I don’t like not being able to attribute where I found this amazing resource.

Gasta time again #GastaGoesGlobal⤴

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Earlier this week I once again joined a great set of speakers (Maha Balil, Leigh Graves-Wolf, Martin Weller, Mark Brown & Frank Rennie) to almost a year to the day, take part in Gastas Goes Global 2. The brain child of Tom Farrelly, Gasta sessions are basically a set of short (5 minute) presentations, with lots of audience participation counting speakers in and cutting them off if they exceed the time limit. You can read more here.

This year the online organisation and facilitation really moved up a notch (tho’ it was pretty impressive last year too). So many thanks to everyone involved in the set up, streaming and feedback of the event. Having a 5 minute time visible on screen was both useful and slightly panic inducing. Particularly when it got to a minute and you still had about another 5 minutes of “stuff” to say!

Another addition this year is an open book to accompany the event. All the speakers have been asked to submit an article based on their presentations. I’m glad of the opportunity to do that as I did have to cut out quite a bit of what I had planned to say. More of that in another post!

In Tom’s introduction he said that one year on, this was a chance to reflect, to review and most importantly share experiences of the past year. One point I wanted to make, but I don’t think I got over as well as I’d hoped is that although it felt like everything changed last year, it also feels like nothing actually changed either. . The oil tanker of education (particularly higher education) is still traveling on the same, well worn route. There hasn’t (as yet) been widespread changes to core curriculum, to our “scheduling” of teaching, to notions of what “being” a student is now. But maybe I just haven’t seen them yet. The disruption of lockdown hasn’t really invoked any radical changes to the overall structures of our education systems. But, again maybe that’s just my interpretation, so please contradict me and challenge me, dear reader.

One element I that I know I did rush through was the importance of community. That has been so important for everyone in and outwith education. The Gasta itself is/was/ such a fabulous example of community action, generosity of spirit, of expertise, of time, of kindness, of care, of good humour and most importantly sharing. For me it was another energising experience. From the focus of care from Maha, to the wonderful poetry to help soothe the soul from Leigh, to the unexpected analogies with Jaws from Martin, all the speakers brought a wealth of stimulating thoughts to the session.

At the start of my talk I said I was tired, but on reflection, I think weary is a more accurate word to use in my context. I’m weary of lockdown, of restrictions, of missing places and people. I’m also wary of what might actually be ahead. There is some hope, but we are not over “all this” yet.

So many thanks to Tom and all team for putting on such a great event.

Here’s a link to my slides, and yes they are the same ones I used last year, which I felt was appropriate, as I’m still wondering “so what now?”

Dichotomy⤴

from

noun n.
a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different.

In life, few things are black and white. It would certainly be easier if they were. And yet as educators, we tend to separate many of the apparent issues into extremes. Our views become polarised. We fit things into neat little boxes and sometimes become unable to open that box up and examine the real nuance of the debate.

There seems to be a tendency in life; in education but particularly on social media, to label and categorise, to sit firmly at either end of a continuum unable to see other perspectives, which at best is narrow-minded, and at worst is divisive bullying. I wrote a bit about this here in a blog exploring knowledge and skills.

It’s great to have strong opinions on things. I believe it’s really important. Especially when they amplify the importance of issues which directly impact our young people. However, there’s a difference between passion for something you believe in and conversely a firm reluctance to shift your stance or see things from another point of view. I would argue that as educators we need to be more skilled at examining the shades of grey and finding the best viewpoint, not just the one which people are shouting loudly about.

Personally, I sometimes struggle to find a strong voice because my arguments are never usually either/or. (As someone who is known to do a lot of black and white thinking in my personal life, this in itself is a strange dichotomy!). I find it’s not always as straightforward in schools. Especially when it comes to the incredibly complex, wonderful individual young people in our care. For a while I somewhat downplayed my educational values because they seemed to cross too many extremes. But I’ve come to realise that it is entirely possible to believe two things at the same time – it’s not a weakness to be want the very best for young people through high expectations, boundaries and routine, teaching behaviour as a curriculum of its own, and yet at the same time demonstrate compassion and understanding for the individual circumstances. Often it’s precisely because of that strong sense of care and duty to the young person, that you want the best for them. It is possible to believe that excellent learning and teaching, high standards and nurturing classroom environments are not mutually exclusive.

‘’Dichotomous or black-and-white thinking can be dangerous and is often based on the premise of achieving perfection. It gives you only two alternatives, one of which is usually neither attainable or maintainable. The other then tends to be the black hole in which you inevitably fall after failing to get to the first. You set your sights so high, constantly chasing an ideal that you can grasp only moments at a time. When the standard for being okay is this lofty, you’re destined to feel lousy most of the time.’’ Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch

Often if we examine approaches more carefully; if we look beyond the attention grabbing headlines or the 140 character tweet, we come to realise that there are many subtleties, and it is absolutely key to understanding these if we are to learn as professionals and develop the best systems for our young people. Most of my educational views have been formed due to a professional learning ‘pick n mix’ of theory, research, practice and experience. Yes we can veer more towards one approach. It is quite possible to believe that a particular way of doing something is the best. And as leaders of learning, I think we need to ask ourselves if we have the conviction and direction to lead with purpose, yet the humility and integrity to adapt and be flexible within our approach to meet the individual circumstances of of our wonderful young people and their families.

And likewise, as human beings we need to accept that our feelings are not mutually exclusive. It is perfectly acceptable and indeed quite normal as teachers to feel absolutely exhausted, and still be hugely resilient. We can very much be independent, and yet still need others to support us. It is entirely possible to feel apprehensive about returning to school after the holidays, yet at the same time be very excited to see the young people and teach them face to face once more. It’s entirely normal to know that others have it way worse than you, but accept your own pain and hurt – something which has been a huge learning curve for me.

Let’s cut others, and indeed ourselves, some slack. Let’s realise that it’s ok for two opposites to exist in harmony. Let’s have a voice but use it for good, to shape things for the better and take people with us rather than knocking others down. Let’s practice what we preach to our young people, and be tolerant of other viewpoints. By all means challenge others’ thinking by sharing our views, but accepting that context is key. We may all be teachers, but no one knows your school and your pupils quite like you.

The problem with black-and-white thinking is that you never get to see the rainbow. Omar Cherif

For UKEdchat April 2021. How to be a professional human.⤴

from @ lenabellina

This week I was privileged to present a session at UKEdChat’s global online conference. This is the basis of what I said.

Hello there I’m absolutely delighted that you’ve joined me for this session today and that you are ready to consider the idea of authentic leadership or how to be a professional human.

Our focus for the next 20 minutes is going to be on exploring the balance and maybe the tensions of being both professional and human but also taking a bit of time and space to think about how we align our professional selves and behaviours with our values.

My contention, after almost 30 years in the classroom is that if we spend too much time playing a role in our working life that isn’t aligned with our true self and personality then eventually that will take its toll on us.. but also on those we teach and work with.

Now although my title for this session talked about leadership, I am coming out at that from the perspective of us all being leaders in our classrooms; leaders of learning but most importantly role models who have responsibility for shaping the lives of children and young people.

It’s my belief that the pandemic and the way that leaders at national and international level have acted has given us a good landscape and maybe a new and current example of what we need from people who are role models and have responsibility for us and our futures.

Without going into politics or commenting about any individuals I’m sure you can all look at the leaders out there and think for yourself which leaders you feel you have faith in, which leaders you feel you would trust with your life and which leaders you would trust with the future of our society and communities and the lives of those close to you.

Now I know you may think that your job as a teacher isn’t really compatible with the job of a prime minister or president …but actually one of the things that I’ve learnt over my career (and it’s backed up by some of the greats in educational discourse) is that we do take on a huge amount of responsibility when we choose this incredible job of shaping the lives of children and young people. And that responsibility is also a privilege.

Dr Haim Ginott who was was a school teacher, a child psychologist and psychotherapist and a parent educator working in Israel and the USA in the 1940s through to the 70s. He said, in his preface to “Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers” in 1972:

So, before I say more i’d like you to take a moment to think about this question.

How do you show up at work? I don’t know what stage of your career you’re in, whether you’re new to teaching, whether you’re like me, a bit long in the tooth and having done the job for many years…. but just for a moment, have a think.

Is the person who shows up at work the same as the person watching this presentation?

When you show up at work do you act differently to how you would right now?

When you show up at work do you talk differently to how you would right now?

When you show up at work do you dress differently to how you would right now?

Now when it comes to dress, possibly it would be a good thing if you dress differently for work because I imagine that some of you may have got into some of those lockdown habits, whereby you are in a state of dress or undress right now that is absolutely appropriate in your own home on your sofa but *possibly* wouldn’t be in the outside world….

Because of course we have social norms and conventions of what is acceptable in different contexts.

As a drama teacher I used to talk a lot children about this and I would explain to them about the fact that as human beings we often play different roles in our lives. whereby we change our language and behaviour to suit different contexts and relationships.

So for example I would explain how the language and behaviour that they might use when they were out with their friends would probably be different to the language and behaviour that they might use in front of their granny or perhaps if they ever got to meet the Queen.

I would explain that as we grow up we learn appropriate behaviours to use in different contexts and that school is a place where children can explore this.

However I also used to explain to children that under all behaviours and language we have a personality, identity and a character that shouldn’t have to change across the different contexts that we are in.

Because although in society we have to adapt our behaviours and language so that they don’t cause harm or hurt to the other people around us, we should never have to change the essence of who we are in order to fit in.

And of course that sort of teaching is absolutely underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child and in particular article 8 around identity, article 12 around the views of the child, article 13 around freedom of expression and article 14 around freedom of thought, belief and religion.

So what happens if we take those ideas and relate them to ourselves as teachers? How important is it that,whilst we may change our behaviours and language to suit the context of the classroom and the role of being a teacher, we also need to be clear that we should never have to change the essence of who we are, in order to fit into the role?

Of course it is important, when we explore what the elements of being an authentic professional human might be, that we also take a moment to look at what it is not.

It is not about over sharing or making lessons all about you. We can probably all remember the equivalent of the teacher whom we all adored and who told us everything about his family, dogs an holidays but from whom we learnt practically nothing about ..(insert subject).

It is not about subverting agreed professional codes relating to use of language or dress. (Tattoos, use of social media and hairstyles seem to constantly cause debate but the best advice I can offer is to check out the codes in any school you plan to work in.)

More about boundaries later.

I believe that it is very important and that, in fact, that it’s only by taking our true selves to work that we will make our classrooms the most conducive learning environments that they can be.

Rita Pierson once said that children don’t learn from people they don’t like.

I understand what she was saying but I think it’s about more than liking. In my experience, children will learn best from people they trust.

And how to we get people to trust us?

By being honest. By being consistent.

By showing that we are interested in them.

By giving something of ourselves.

When I was in my second year of teaching and struggling, as a twenty three year old, to manage some of my classes of young people who were just 7 years younger than me, I had in my head this idea that I needed to project an image of some sort of strict, sensible and mature professional in order to gain respect and establish control.

My teacher training has definitely instilled in me the idea that I should never consider smiling before Christmas.

Incidentally if you want proof as to why this was one of the worst pieces of advice that young teachers could ever be given, find the video of the still face experiment by Dr Edward Tronick on YouTube. https://youtu.be/apzXGEbZht0

Why was it ever thought a good idea to withhold from children the warmth, empathy and enthusiasm that comes from a smiling face?

But I digress. In desperately trying so hard to be something that I was not and suppress my personality, I ended up with lessons that were chaotic and a desperate attempt by me to “keep a lid on things”.

One day, my line manager came to me after a lesson observation and said “the one thing you need to do is relax and be yourself. You don’t have to control it all so much. Take some time to get to know the pupils, talk to them about their hair, their hobbies and their families. You know your subject and your stuff but you need to get to know them. And they need to get to know you.”

In following that advice, I found that my practice was transformed. And it is advice that I have used in every classroom and in every school and every role that I’ve taken on since.

And not just in my relationships with pupils but also in my relationships with colleagues and with parents and carers.

Children will work hard for you and learn from you if they trust you and feel safe in your company.

Colleagues will cooperate with you and, if you’re a leader, work most productively for you if they trust you and feel safe in your company.

And parents and carers will be confident that you are doing the best for the most precious beings in their lives if they trust you and feel safe in your company.

And trust and safety come when people see who you are, what your values are and what makes you human.

If you work in a school or setting where you feel that you have to put on a mask, or maybe worse still, a suit of armour before you step through the door, maybe take some time to reflect as to whether changing your behaviour and fitting someone else’s mould is really serving you and your values. If you are asked to do things that, in your heart or your gut, don’t feel right, if you are being motivated by drivers from someone else’s belief system, consider the toll that, over time, this may have on you.

Back in September I was lucky enough to attend an online conference with the psychiatrist Dr Bruce Perry who is one of the most inspiring and knowledgeable experts on child development and trauma in the world.

At that conference spoke of something called ego-dystonic behaviour in relation to employees who are expected to undertake actions and behaviours which they know are not in the best interests of those they are there to serve – so for example therapists who have to see 8 children in an hour when in fact they know that this is too rushed.

He talked about the negative impact that, over time, working in such a context will have on the health of the organisation and the individual.

I attended that conference as, over the last couple of years and through my work with care experienced children and young people, I’ve been involved in some work around what is known as trauma informed leadership. This is specifically to do with making sure that the practice of anybody working with children and families takes account of the trauma that people may have experienced in their lives and how we as organisations make sure that we don’t traumatise or re-traumatised people through the work we do with them.

If you’re interested in this work more generally I would encourage you to look at the work of Dr Karen Treisman or Lisa Cherry and Dr Bruce Perry at an international level.

However as part of my work in this field I began to explore what it might be like to be a truly authentic trauma informed leader. As part of this I began to talk about my own personal experiences of trauma and the impact on my development and mental health over my formative years.

Two years ago, I stood up at a Head Teacher conference in my local authority to speak to my colleagues about our Trauma informed work.

Many of my colleagues knew me as a respected teacher and education leader with many years of experience. They knew I had worked in a number of countries and schools throughout my career and I had a reputation for speaking and writing on a number of educational issues including leadership, inclusion, curriculum design and pedagogy.

They didn’t necessarily know some of the other reasons that I feel so passionate about this project and this work. But as part of modelling courageous and trauma-sensitive practice, I decided to tell them about the abuse that I had suffered as a child about the coping strategies and behaviours that I developed to help me survive in a world that I saw as unsafe, scary and sad and about the subsequent mental health challenges that I had faced throughout my life.

I had actually already written about these experiences in a book. I first wrote that book three years previously under a pen name but had gradually been sharing it as “me” because I had a strong belief that my authenticity as a leader is what might help change things for others.

I know I took a big risk in doing this. I know my bosses and my colleagues will never see me in the same way again. 

I know it is possible that this has had and it will have negative consequences for my career but I feel strongly that it was necessary for me to take that risk.


I know that, on the whole, people are “either” an “education professional” or an “inspirational speaker on trauma with lived experience” but what I have tried to show that it is possible to be a hybrid, a professional human and simultaneously outstanding and flawed.

But on the whole, my risk has paid off because some of our most “dis-engaged” families have reached out to me because of what they know and because, rather than creating a barrier, it has built a bridge.

It’s not “me over here in my comfortable world as a leader” and “you over there in your family with your trauma and mess”. It’s us, in the middle.

Now to go back to what I said previously about boundaries, I have never mentioned these issues directly to pupils or families who I have worked with. I have never discussed them in classes I have taught or in conversations with pupils.

I have touched on them with colleagues, on occasions, as part of coaching and when I felt that a shared experience might help them.

But my writing is out there and my contributions at events like today are out there.

Because to me, anything else would be inauthentic.

I am absolutely not advocating this approach for anyone else, if it doesn’t feel right or comfortable.

But I do advocate today, as an invitation to you, thinking about whether you make take a little bit more of you to your work.

If you want to find an example of someone who has been an absolute inspiration to me in this respect, I would recommend that you find out about Rae Snape who is a primary head teacher down in Cambridgeshire.

Rae unrelentingly takes her whole self to work and I asked her permission to share her recent avatar which I think sums up the idea of being a professional human.

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So before I do that, thanks so much for joining me today. I hope you have taken something from the time you have spent with me and above all I hope this gives you the power to be the person you want and need to be at school.

OERXDomains21 Conference 21-22 April Tune In #openscot #OERXDomains21⤴

from @ ...........Experimental Blog


Registration is open and conference numbers are growing hour by hour.  Just a reminder to book your place   and a reminder too especially to those in the further education community not used to paying conference fees that
  1. This is great value to get a grip on what you should be doing to open up your own learning materials at institutional and as an individual.
  2. If you struggle to get institutional sponsorship - there are still scholarship places available. 

Yesterday I got a great run through of the open technology that will be used to stream the conference. The conference will be run through Streamyard through to a YouTube Live broadcast for each session with dedicated social spaces provided by Discord 

And fabulous graphics by Bryan Mathers https://remixer.visualthinkery.com/

Looking forward to seeing your press pass !


Here's my streamyard test piece 


And find out more about Streamyard here 


Life in Links 41⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

The Spring Holidays, like others will increase my blogging. It has been a busy term both home learning and back in school. Looking forward to a holiday of wee walks (still stuck in Glasgow) and some random browsing.

The Featured image is Maxwell dynamic machine, 1961 | Science Museum Group Collection © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Licence found via the Never Been Seen | Science Museum Group Collection page, which I learnt about from Ian Guest

Impact⤴

from

#MonthlyWritingChallenge

Have you ever thrown a stone into a glass-like pond and noticed the ripples spread outwards long after the initial impact? One tiny pebble, breaking the surface tension of the water, and causing the water to spread, influencing the water around the initial point of contact, and the water around that.

In any organisation, we all have the power to make an impact. It doesn’t matter the role you hold – your actions, your words, your smile – can effect someone in ways we simply might not be able to imagine. I’m sure lots of people will have heard of the story of the caretaker working at NASA headquarters. According to the popular legend, during a tour of NASA HQ in 1961, John F. Kennedy encountered a janitor mopping the floors. “Why are you working so late?” Kennedy asked. “Mr President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

This commitment to a cause, this determination to do our best and make an impact no matter how small, really resonates with me. Especially when I think of education and schools. Like the smallest of pebbles hitting the water, no matter what part we play in the life of a young person, we have the opportunity to make an impact. It might be the canteen staff, office staff, cleaning staff, janitorial staff, teachers, support staff, middle leaders or senior leaders. I think of my own P1 boy who talks so highly of the friendly support assistant who always talks about sweets at interval. Or the kind dinner lady who gives away cakes at the end of lunch time or stops for a chat at breakfast club. Or the lovely office lady who always has a wet paper towel to fix any playground injury. Our interactions matter.

I’m the teacher who will happily volunteer for lunch duty; who will sign up to help at the school dance; who will go along with my own boys to support the fundraiser. And all of those things are so important because we should value the community in school and beyond. These aren’t ‘duties.’ Instead they are opportunities to make an impact. To positively effect someone’s experience outwith the classroom. To show ourselves as human first, teachers second.

I love this quote by Haim G. Ginott,

‘’I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.’’

Our impact as educators can be positive or negative. We can choose the adult we want to be and how we respond to our young people. It won’t always be easy. We will experience disappointment. We will feel infuriated. There will be times when we feel like giving up on a young person because we are so frustrated by their choices. It can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle. That we aren’t making any difference. But those are the very moments we are having the biggest impact. We might not see it at the time, but your reaction in those testing times won’t be forgotten. Young people are learning to be grown up, by watching you.

Unlike the ripples in the water, our impact as teachers isn’t always quite so instantly visible. And often that makes it hard. As performers at the front of a classroom, we can seek instant gratification. But often we don’t come to realise our impact until long after our pupils have been sitting in front of us. Yes the assessment will tell us instantly whether we’ve done our job in terms of the teaching of knowledge, but it might be years or even decades before we understand the impact of our kindness or our determination not to give up on a young person. Pupils are incredibly astute. Your interactions never go unnoticed. In fact, positive or negative they will make a very definite imprint in the hearts of those on the receiving end.

This week, news of my new job and imminent departure from the school I’ve been at for 10 years, was made public. The messages and kind words I’ve received this week have confirmed to me that our impact as educators is very real. We just don’t always hear about it day to day. But never forget the impact you are making. It may be months or years before a young person looks back and realises just how much of a positive influence you were. You might never find out. But know that you were.

Most of us are now on holiday. Please use this time to recharge and reset in order that we have the patience, and resilience to make that positive impact when we return to school. Have a fantastic break.

Will you dance on a Sunday?⤴

from @ lenabellina

I am no Messiah.

That complex is not one of mine.

I am no daughter of God. And yet.

Maybe, this Easter, resurrection is on the cards?

Have I been brave

Letting the words fall out?

Maybe.

Will the truth be heard

So that the voices of the pharisees and haters can be shaken off?

Or will they carry on strangling

In the solitude they prefer?

Until they win

And I can breathe and speak my truth no more.

One thing is for sure.

I shall not any longer aid that process by trying to hold my breath.

I am actually good, tilted or not.

No more show.

I cannot wait for those

Who hold the power

To push back that boulder and help me escape.

Waiting is no longer an option.

And of course the obvious irony:

That the boulder

Is partly of my own making.

Gathering up the shit

That others have thrown at me

Over time

Like a scarab

Until I have become trapped by it.

Unable to escape.

Even pushing it up the same hill

Over and over

In some perverse morphing of Sysiphus and Groundhog.

But hell is not other people.

No one else can push the burden away

Until I am ready to accept

That it needs to go.

And then the helpers will be there.

To help me rise again.

Dance again

And fling off that devil on my back.

And to smile more

Talk less and in so doing

Say more.

Love more

Save more

But before I save someone else

Save me.

I request forgiveness where I have sinned

Maybe, not least, for these shocking allusions

And offer forgiveness

To those willing to repent and change.

I am worthy of redemption.

Resurrection.

I am no Messiah

That complex is not one of mine.

I am no daughter of God. And yet.

Maybe, this Easter, resurrection is on the cards?

JDX: a schema for Job Data Exchange⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

[This rather long blog post describes a project that I have been involved with through consultancy with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.  Writing this post was funded through that consultancy.]

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has recently proposed a modernized schema for job postings based on the work of HR Open and Schema.org, the Job Data Exchange (JDX) JobSchema+. It is hoped JDX JobSchema+ will not just facilitate the exchange of data relevant to jobs, but will do so in a way that helps bridge the various other standards used by relevant systems.  The aim of JDX is to improve the usefulness of job data including signalling around jobs, addressing such questions as: what jobs are available in which geographic areas? What are the requirements for working in these jobs? What are the rewards? What are the career paths? This information needs to be communicated not just between employers and their recruitment partners and to potential job applicants, but also to education and training providers, so that they can create learning opportunities that provide their students with skills that are valuable in their future careers. Job seekers empowered with greater quantity and quality of job data through job postings may secure better-fitting employment faster and for longer duration due to improved matching. Preventing wasted time and hardship may be particularly impactful for populations whose job searches are less well-resourced and those for whom limited flexibility increases their dependence on job details which are often missing, such as schedule, exact location, and security clearance requirement. These are among the properties that JDX provides employers the opportunity to include for easy and quick identification by all.  In short, the data should be available to anyone involved in the talent pipeline. This broad scope poses a problem that JDX also seeks to address: different systems within the talent pipeline data ecosystem use different data standards so how can we ensure that the signalling is intelligible across the whole ecosystem?

The starting point for JDX was two of the most widely used data standards relevant to describing jobs: HR Open Standards Recruiting standard, part of the foremost suite of standards covering all aspects of the HR sector and the schema.org JobPosting schema, which is used to make data on web pages accessible to search engines, notably Google’s Job Search. These, and an analysis of the information required around jobs, job descriptions and job postings, their relationships to other entities such as organizations, competencies, credentials, experience and so on, were modelled in RDF to create a vocabulary of classes, properties, and concept schemes that can be used to create data. The full data model, which can be accessed on GitHub, is quite extensive: the description of jobs that JDX enables goes well beyond what is required for a job posting advertising a vacancy. A subset of the full model comprising those terms useful for job postings was selected for pilot testing, and this is available in a more accessible form on the Chamber Foundation’s website and is documented on the Job Data Exchange website. The results of the data analysis, modelling and piloting were then fed back into the HR Open and schema.org standards that were used as a starting point.

This is where things start to get a little complicated, as it means JDX has contributed to three related efforts.

JobPostings in schema.org

The modelling and piloting highlighted and addressed some issues that were within schema.org’s scope of enabling the provision of structured data about job postings on the web. These were discussed through a W3C Community Group on Talent Marketplace Signalling, and the solutions were reconciled with schema.org’s wider model and scope as a web-wide vocabulary that covers many other types of things apart from Jobs. The outcomes include that schema.org/JobPosting has several new properties (or modifications to how existing properties are used) allowing for such things as: a job posting with more than one vacancy, a job posting with a specified start date, a job posting with requirements other than competencies — i.e. physical, sensory and security clearance requirements, and more specific information about contact details and location within the company structure for the job being advertised.

Because schema.org and JDX are both modelled in RDF as sets of terms that can be used to make independent statements about entities (rather than a record-based model such as XML documents) it was relatively easy to add terms to schema.org that were based on those in JDX. The only reason that the terms added to schema.org are not exactly the same as the terms in JDX JobSchema+ is that it was sometimes necessary to take into account already existing properties in schema.org, and the wider purpose and different audience of schema.org.

JDX in HROpen

As with schema.org, JDX highlighted some issues that are within the scope of the HROpen Standards Recruiting standard, and the aim is to incorporate the lessons learnt from JDX into that standard. However the Recruiting standard is part of the inter-linked suite of specifications that HROpen maintains across all aspects of the HR domain, and these standards are in plain JSON, a record-based format specified through JSON-Schema files not RDF Schema. This makes integration of new terms and modelling approaches from JDX into HROpen more complicated than was the case with schema.org. As a first step the property definitions have been translated into JSON-Schema, and partially integrated into the suite of HROpen standards, however some of the structures, for example for describing Organizations, were significantly different to how other HROpen standards treat the same types of entity, and so these were kept separate. The plan for the next phase is to further integrate JDX into the existing standards, enhance the use cases and documentation and include RDF, JSON Schema, and XML XSD.

JDX JobPosting+ RDF Schema

Finally, of course, JDX still exists as an RDF Schema, currently on github.  The work on integration with HROpen surfaced some errors and other issues, which have been addressed. Likewise feeding back into schema.org JobPosting means that there are new relationships between terms in JDX and schema.org that can be encoded in the JDX schema. Finally there is potential for other changes and remodelling as a result of findings from the JDX pilot of job postings. But given the progress made with integrating lessons learnt into schema.org and the HROpen Recruiting standard, what is the role of the RDF Schema compared to these other two?

Standard Strengths and Interoperability

Each of the three standards has strengths in its own niche. Schema.org provides a widely scoped vocabulary, mostly used for disseminating information on the open web. The most obvious consumers of data that use terms from schema.org are search engines trying to make sense of text in web pages, so that they can signal the key aspects of job postings with less ambiguity than can easily be done by processing natural text. Of course such data is also useful for any system that tries to extract data from webpages. Schema.org is also widely used as a source of RDF terms for other vocabularies, after all it doesn’t make much sense for every standard to define its own version of a property for the name of the thing being described, or a textual description of it—more on this below in the discussion of harmonization.

HROpen Standards are designed for system-to-system interoperability within the HR domain. If organization A and organization B (not to mention organizations C through to Z) have systems that do the same sort of thing with the same sort of data, then using an agreed standard for the data they care about clearly brings efficiencies by allowing for systems to be designed to a common specification and for organizations to share data where appropriate. This is the well understood driving force for interoperability specifications.

it is useful to have a common set of “terms” from which data providers can pick and choose what is appropriate for communicating different aspects of what they care about

But what about when two organizations are using the same sort of data for different things? For example, it might be that they are part of different verticals which interact with each other but have significant differences aside from where they overlap; or it might be that one organization provides a horizontal service, such as web search, across several verticals. This is where it is useful to have a common set of “terms” from which data providers can pick and choose what is appropriate for communicating different aspects of what they care about to those who provide services that intersect or overlap with their own concern. For example a fully worked specification for learning outcomes in education would include much that is not relevant to the HR domain and much that overlaps; furthermore HR and education providers use different systems for other aspects of their work: HR will care about integration with payroll systems, education about integration with course management systems. There is no realistic prospect that the same data standards can be used to the extent that the record formats will be the same; however with the RDF approach of entity-focused description rather than defining a single record structure, there is no reason why some of the terms that are used to describe the HR view of competency shouldn’t also be used to describe the education view of learning outcomes. Schema.org provides a broad horizontal layer of RDF terms that can be used across many domains; JDX provides a deeper dive into the more specific vocabulary used in jobs data.

Data Harmonization

This approach to allowing mutual intelligibility between data standards in different domains to the extent that the data they care about overlaps (or, for that matter, competing data standards in the same domain) is known as data harmonization. RDF is very much suited to harmonization for these reasons:

  • its entity-based modelling approach does not pre-impose the notion of data requirements or inter-relationships between data elements in the way that a record-based modelling approach does;
  • in the RDF data community it is assumed that different vocabularies of terms (classes and properties for describing aspects of a resource) and concepts (providing the means to classify resources) will be developed in such a way that someone can mix and match terms from relevant vocabularies to describe all the entities that they care about; and
  • as it is assumed that there will be more than one relevant vocabulary it has been accepted that there will be related terms in separate vocabularies, and so the RDF schema that describe these vocabularies should also describe these relationships.

JDX was designed in the knowledge that it overlaps with schema.org. For example JDX deals with providing descriptions of organizations (who offer jobs), and with things that have names and so does schema.org. It is not necessary for JDX to define its own class of Organizations or property of name, it simply uses the class and property defined by schema.org. That means that any data that conforms to the JDX RDF schema automatically has some data that conforms with schema.org. No need to extract and transform RDF data before loading it when the modelling approach and vocabularies used are the same in the first place.

Sometimes the match in terminology isn’t so good. At some point in the future we might, for example, be prepared to say that everything JDX calls a JobPosting is something that schema.org calls a JobPosting and vice versa. In this case we could add to the JDX schema a declaration that these are equivalent classes. In other cases we might say that some class of things in JDX form a subset of what schema.org has grouped as a class, in which case we could add to the JDX schema a declaration that the JDX class is a subclass of the schema.org class. Similar declarations can be made about properties.

by querying the data provided about things along with information about relationships between the data terms used we can achieve interoperability across data provided in different data standards

The reason why this is useful is that RDF schema are written in RDF and RDF data includes links to the definitions of the terms in the schema, so data about jobs and organizations and all the other entities described with JDX can be in a data store linked to the definitions of the terms used to describe them. These definitions can link to other definitions of related terms all accessible for querying.  This is linked data at the schema level. For a long time we have referred to this network of data along with definitions, which were seen as sprawling across the internet, as the Semantic Web, but more recently it has been found to be useful for datastores to be more focused, and the result of data about a domain along with the schema for those data is now commonly known as a knowledge graph. What matters is the consequence that by querying the data provided about things along with information about relationships between the data terms used we can achieve interoperability across data provided in different data standards. If a query system knows that some data relates to what JDX calls a JobPosting (because the data links to the JDX schema), and that everything JDX calls a JobPosting schema.org also calls a JobPosting (let’s say this is declared in the schema) then when asked about schema.org  JobPostings the query system knows it can return information about JDX JobPostings. RDF data management systems do this routinely and, for the end user, transparently.

That’s lovely if your data is in RDF; what if it is not? Most system-to-system interoperability standards don’t use RDF. This is the problem taken on by the  Data Ecosystem Schema Mapper (DESM) Tool. The approach it takes is to create local RDF schema describing the classes, properties and classifications used in these standards. The local RDF schema can assert equivalences between the RDF terms corresponding to each standard, or from each standard to an appropriate formal RDF vocabulary such as JDX.  Data can then be extracted from the record formats used and expressed as RDF using technologies such as the RDF Mapping Language (RML). This would allow us to build knowledge graphs that draw on data provided in existing systems, and query them without knowing what format or standard the data was originally in. For example, an employer could publish data in JSON using HR Open Standards’ Recruiting Standard. This data could be translated to the RDF representation of the standard created with the DESM Tool. Relationships expressed in the schema for the RDF representation would allow mapping of some or all of the data to JDX JobSchema+, schema.org JobPosting and other relevant standards. (The other standards may cover only part of the data, for example mapping skills requirements to standards used for competencies as learning objectives in the education domain.) This provides a route to translating data between standards that cover the same ground, and also provides data that can link to other domains.

Acknowledgements

Stuart Sutton, of Sutton & Associates, led the creation of the JDX JobSchema+ and originated many of the ideas described in this blog post.

Many thanks to people who commented on drafts of this post, including Stuart Sutton, Danielle Saunders, Jeanne Kitchens, Joshua Westfall, Kim Bartkus. Any errors remaining are my fault.

Writing this post was part of work funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

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