I'm just about to push around a newsletter that is testament to all the hard work put in by teams and staff across the College. June will be just as busy with virtual events across the College and nationally . Hoping to finalise details of an ALT Scotland Special Interest Group meeting for end of this month - this week.
( with thanks to Tom Duff)
Here is a wee list of what we have achieved in 10 weeks.
We moved all support on line - our inbox every day has now dealt with around 1500 support requests ( at 27/5)
We immediately rolled out Zoom as a practical delivery tool for teachers and provided associated support.
We’ve run 2 webinars a day covering critical systems and support – with more than 700 staff attending sessions .Through online booking platform and we've had great feedback.
Our offer has tracked staff demand – initially focusing on communication tools , now focusing on assessment and evidence gathering tools and we will focus on learning design to make courses more digital and blended for start of next session. ( we are using our own version of ABC Learning Design.
We have continued both to support a number of commercial projects and have won more commercial funding during lock down – and we are still bidding for new business. ( we are just about to roll out a UFI Project - watch this space)
We documented our approach and it has been picked up as good practice and will feature in a future GTCS Magazine.
From 17 March we have offered a digital first library service with advice, support, guidance and access to resources for students and staff.
Our team has offered an online landscape to enable and support teaching teams to deliver online. With daily learning opportunities such as webinars to online learning courses that encourage and exploit digital technologies such as Teams, Zooms and many educational technologies and software.
The LTA has successfully created a team ethic that is centred on supporting academic development and enhancing teaching and learning within City and beyond.
We just managed to squeeze out a Jisc Digital Insights Student survey - which I know will give us some valuable data on how learners are coping in lockdown.
We are now well positioned to start the real work of transforming delivery at City of Glasgow College in a new working landscape.
In amongst this I've continued to support the College Scotland's #DigitalAmbition work now morphing into a more directed bit of work to deal with the immediate crisis . I've to completing data gathering for feedback to be in this week.
Another week of lock down and the death toll in the UK as I write is 38,376. One of the highest in the world. I am still very angry about the whole Dominic Cummings lockdown rule breaking fiasco I alluded to last week.
A week certainly is a long time in politics. Neither Cummings or the UK Prime Minister have had the decency to apologise for the quite extraordinary tales of lockdown breaches. The level that the whole UK cabinet have gone to defend Cummings is quite extraordinary.
This article by Guardian columnist Zoe Williams really summed up my frustration – particularly her description of “hysterical emotional response”. As she so succinctly put it:
“there is so much wrongdoing, so much plain nonsense, that we circle it endlessly, castigate it relentlessly, but we can’t see our way past the authority of those responsible, and can’t see any way of acting on our anger.”
Let’s hope it in the long term it will hurt them as much as their actions this week have dismayed and hurt the UK population.
This week saw the start of the beginnings of easing of lockdown here in Scotland as we moved into Phase 1 of the Scottish Government’s roadmap. This means we can go out a bit more and, more importantly see friends and family outside, but still within our local areas. I’ll have to wait a bit longer to see my family as they don’t live locally. However, I’m willing do that as long as we can try to keep the spread of the virus under control.
I have already found being among more people, even in the supermarket or the park to be quite unsettling and anxiety inducing. There really is so much we don’t know about this virus and how it works, and what effect it will have on all our mental health in the longer term.
Meanwhile the we see more of the beginning of the end for casual staff in universities, whilst more attention is given to technological solutions to ensure the ‘new normal’ is as much like the ‘old normal’ as possible. This article of the student experience of online proctored exams I found quite terrifying. Yet I suspect that some of leaders who will cut staff will invest in software like this as “the solution”, instead of taking the opportunity to work with staff and students to develop forms of assessment that don’t require this level of privacy invasion, and that are much more authentic, caring and appropriate for our context.
Meanwhile my working week has been relatively online meeting free and I have been able to concentrate on reviews and writing for clients. My term as Chair of ALT is coming to an end, and I had one of my last catch ups with Maren Deepwell and Martin Hawksey to prepare for the (now online) AGM in June. I’ll write more about that in separate post. Much as I have enjoyed being part of the leadership and governance of ALT, it is time for me to move on.
I also had a series of lovely catch ups with former and current work colleagues, including one with Mia Zamora. We had hoped to catch up during the OER conference but obviously with it going online that didn’t happen. So it was lovely to catch up and chat about a whole range of things. Once again I am so thankful for my PLN and the wonderful, inspiring, open and kind people in it.
With schools in Scotland beginning to contemplate how to re-open after a prolonged period of closure, I can’t help but reflect on how the last 10 weeks have gone and if there have been any lessons learned. Much like a yoyo factory, it has been full of its ups and downs. There have been moments of wonderful clarity and presence of mind where I have become almost philosophical. Then there have been days where I have been really sad, with only Salt and Vinegar Pringles and coffee to numb the pain. But one of the main victories for me has been the successes in collaboration with colleagues. In what is challenging times for collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity, I have witnessed first hand some incredible achievements in each of these areas.
In a recent EduBlether podcast (Episode 23- Digital Learning)we discussed the impact of digital technology on Professional Learning (as well as many other issues relating to digital learning). I would like to turn the focus of my attention to staff development and what we can take away from our current situation while moving forward into unknown territory.
The first area I would like to discuss is at first glance trivial, but in reality is transformative. With the ubiquity of video calls, I have joked that it is as if we have discovered a teleport button, where we can be in a meeting department meeting one minute, then 5 minutes later we can be at a professional learning event. Before lockdown, both events would have been punctuated by at least a 45 minute journey in the car, a 15 minute rage-filled search for a parking space, then an entrance to a room full of bad coffee and embarrassment at your lateness. We can now simply click a button and jump between meetings, like a character from a sci-fi film (albeit in this example a very dull and boring Microsoft Office version of the future). Not content with a teleport button, we have also discovered the ability to jump through time as well as space. If we miss any meetings there is the potential to catch up later at a time convenient to you due to meetings being recorded for prosperity. For example, Moray House has been hosting a series of webinars on a range of topics including Self-Evaluation, leadership and more. I have never been able to attend the ‘live’ event (having two young children at home), but I have enjoyed them later at a time of my choosing (after bedtime stories have been read and I feel more human).
These developments with digital literacy and confidence have prompted me to consider their impact through the lens of ‘Professional Capital’, the notion put forward by Hargreaves and Fullan. Professional Capital, they suggest, is made up of human capital, social capital and decisional capital. I’d like to quickly take each concept, in turn, to acknowledge how this new way of working can enhance each area, and ultimately on outcomes for children.
Human capital is roughly translated into the ability or the skills of the people in the school, for instance, a teachers subject knowledge or awareness of a range of pedagogical approaches. The new way of working, which is highly personalised and can be tailored to suit individual needs clearly builds Human Capital in a much more efficient and focussed way than was possible before. Kulvarn Atwal advocates in his book ‘ The Thinking School’ for ‘Dynamic Learning Communities’ where he believes that teachers must have choice and input on the nature and direction of their own learning to feel empowered and motivated. Never have I worked in an environment where there is as much choice in terms of professional learning. So many agencies from universities to private companies have offered appropriate learning for free to the profession.
Decisional Capital refers to the ability to analyse information and make decisions or judgements on how to deal with different situations. Again this is enhanced for me by the supportive online platforms readily available to teachers. From the incredibly supportive and richly experienced world of Twitter to more focussed and targeted online groups using an online collaboration platform like Teams. Teachers can now reach out and ask for advice or further information, in turn, increasing their ability to make sound decisions and judgements.
Social Capital refers to the collegiate culture of trust and respect that exists within a school. I have witnessed an increase in Social capital with the use of digital technologies. I have heard of or seen groups of teachers collaborating online to create videos for children to feel connected to their school and teachers creating team-teach writing lessons online to suit a range of levels. The collaborative functions available in Microsoft Teams or OneNote, for instance, are an excellent way to improve Social Capital in any establishment.
However, these advancements could also play in favour of another model for education. If we view these advancements through the lens of a Business Capital model, it becomes a more worrying and less enriching landscape. The argument could be put forward that these advancements in digital literacy could help reduce the cost of education. Questions from this perspective could be; how can we capitalise on the extra time teachers now have given there is less travel time between meetings? Can we increase class sizes using a blended model of online/in school learning? Can we hold teachers more accountable to decisions they make when everything is online and inherently more visible/open to dissection and criticism? (I heard of one school where they were giving performance reviews based on online lessons!)
In a business capital approach to education, teaching can be reduced to a set of procedures or routines, something easy to learn and master, something anyone can do. Hargreaves and Fallon suggest that this business capital view of teaching also claims that technology could potentially replace teachers. With the focus of professional learning being on gaining confidence with the tools and systems that help teachers ‘deliver’ learning online, we run the risk of subscribing too heavily to a business capital view of education. We need to keep this distinction in our minds when considering the impact of digital technologies on professional learning.
Now I am not trying to paint a picture of a bleak, post-apocalyptic, Black Mirror-style version of the future of teaching. However, it is worth considering the impact of these advancements in digital confidence from multiple perspectives.
It is clear to see that the benefits of digital technology have become a part of everyday life in the world we now live. Almost every teacher across the country will have taken part in an online video call, accessed professional learning online and collaborated with colleagues to solve a range of problems with a range of creative solutions. This has undoubtedly enhanced the Professional Capital of many teachers and educators worldwide. I believe passionately that by investing in professional learning using online/digital technologies we will see an improvement in outcomes for children and young people for reasons laid out above. I believe that digital technologies can help us improve Professional Capital and, while I am still cautious of the overly business centred, cost-saving narrative that could inevitably arise out of our current situation, I am excited to see how professional learning develops in Scotland and beyond.
Writing more poetry this week using Long Trip by Langston Hughes as a model. We worked on the poem everyday writing on Thursday & Friday. I play music for 5 minute writing blocks. This seems to work. Last week’s poem Our Magic Box Biggies is on the biggies blog, and this week’s will be up there soon.
Teams for iPad got an update promising hands up, but none of our iPads show this yet despite having the update.
It would be handy to copy the text of a conversation (or export it) in teams. Copying one message at a time is not much fun. I need to try the notes facility and see if it works for the pupils.
A we seem to be going back next session to a mix of home and school I think I’ll be starting to try out OneNote again. Last time wasn’t fun but if it works it will really help with organisation.
The plan to Flip our teems meeting a bit was a partial success. Quite a few of the class didn’t read the message so just turned up. So we had to go over things anyhow. I think I’ll keep going, despite the extra prep. The videos are pretty quick & dirty, just recording of voice over keynote slides. (I use screenflow for this as opposed to the built in recording ’cause I prefer it).
Presentations continue to lag on teams, despite a 800kb deck today. I could even see this on my iPad beside the computer! I don’t really think it is a bandwidth problem. Quite a few pupils went silent, leaving the meeting and rejoining helped with that.
I made a real effort to spend some time in Minecraft with the pupils this week, didn’t really happen as every time I found time someone could not log in leading to conversations in teams. Quitting the app and swiping away and trying again seems an iPad solution.
So far I’ve been following a pretty standard pattern for our class team meetings. 1 hour a day 5 or six items running from a prepared PowerPoint.
I think most of the pupils enjoy it or at least the ones that have turned up come back.
I try to give as much time to them to talk as I can, but it is difficult getting contributions when we don’t know who is going to talk. I do a fair bit of round the class and some shout out when you have an answer!
My main problem is the slides failing to show up on the pupils screens. I don’t think I’ve managed a meeting where everybody has seen the slides in a timely fashion. My screen is white/black is a common cry.
We had a meeting this morning where less than half the class turned up, so only 12 in the meeting. I gave up trying to use the slides as there were too many problems. This was with a 1.9mb powerpoint so I am not sure where the problem lies? I have generally a very basic approach to slide decks. No transitions, very few images, lean & mean.
I’d really like to know how to get the slides to work a wee bit better. I even tried turning my video off to see if that would help, but it didn’t make much difference. As I’ve no idea about the pupils connection it is difficult to even guess.
I had though earlier that flipped learning might be the way to go, and do link or embed some videos on our blog. I got the impression that they were not much watched. I am now thinking that it might be better to make my own videos and ask the class watch them just before the meet. This will of course mean more prep.
So my classes timetable for tomorrow looks like:
12:45 – 1:45 Minecraft
1:45 – 2:00 time to watch a couple of wee videos uploaded to Teams.
2:00 – 3:00 Team meeting
In other news:
I thought hands up in Teams had reached the iPad, but it seems not.
I am beginning. To see a drop off in participation, or in the sending me ‘work’ via Teams, e-Portfolios or email. I don’t think the May holiday helped, although I had a few pupils posting and even opened Minecraft up for a while on Monday. Maybe changing things up a bit in the meetings will help.
I’m a primary school teacher, passionate about digital learning but by no means an expert.
This is where I am in our class learning journey with Microsoft Teams after 8/9 weeks of lockdown.
I am now using Thinglink as an interactive classroom, below is an image of my example to show my interactive classroom, the blog does not support embedding so you will need to click on the image or link to be able to click on the hotspots in the Thinglink.
So I thought I’d tell you a little bit about the journey, where I started, what I did and why and where I am now.
Yes, I have been teaching Digital Literacy skills to every class I’ve ever taught from the first week, including this years primary 1b (brilliant). The trickiest thing I found for the wee ones is keyboard skills, learning phonics is tricky but ‘find the ‘a’ on the keyboard’ was just another way of identifying and learning the sound, playing with keyboards, typewriters, another choice.
Before lockdown all of the p1b boys and girls could login to a desktop, click on a shortcut and login to a website with little or no help using their own unique login.
The week of lockdown I showed them Glow and Teams, they logged in and logged out.
Microsoft Teams is where I communicate with my class
In the beginning
A typical day started with a post from me saying good morning and
asking the class to reply to the message answering a question, e.g. best part of your weekend.
Suggesting activities/tasks, e.g. Sumdog, Reading Eggs.
After 8 / 9 weeks in we had progressed to:
A typical day starts with an Announcement with a pretty image to catch the eye and mark a new day. The morning message can include lots of different things and reflects the morning meeting message we did in class at school:
What’s in store for the day
An MS Forms poll about something, e.g. vote on a story, when to meet
I have learned a lot of digital skills since becoming a MIEExpert in 2016, however I had not had the opportunity to explore Microsoft Teams fully with a class. When we found out that pupils would be learning from home I refreshed my memory of Teams by using the courses on the Microsoft Educator Community. I then took some time to explore using Teams and thought about how I could make it suit the needs of my pupils in a way that was organised and manageable for me.
I have taken an asynchronous approach to teaching and learning since many families have limited access to devices. Every day I post a class information document in the General channel; this includes the date and a visual timetable, using the same visuals that we have in the classroom. In the class information document I post links to the relevant curricular area channels that the children need to access for their learning for the day.
Use of Channels
I have found that having a separate channel for each curricular area has helped to keep classwork well organised, benefiting both myself and the pupils. When I post daily work I make an announcement in the relevant curricular area channel with the date and attach the relevant documents. This means that pupils can easily look back in the channel if they have missed any work on a certain day.
Initially pupils were having difficulty with accessing PowerPoints so I have switched to uploading PDFs. This has helped the class to easily access the work on the different devices that they use.
The pupils do not have permission to comment or post in the curricular area channels as I felt like their comments would result in the work I was posting getting lost. I still wanted them to have somewhere to socialise with each other and so set up “things to do when you are bored” and “random chat” channels. The pupils can all post and comment on these channels and it has given then a way to share fun ideas with their peers. The pupils can also post in the “questions about work” channel if they need some support. I have found that having this channel ensures that I do not miss any questions from pupils.
When in school my class use Seesaw to share their learning with their parents/carers. As the pupils and families are familiar with this I decided to carry on using this while schools are closed. Pupils have a home learning code which allows them to post their work directly to me. I can then mark their work and store it in their online journals for each curricular area. Some pupils have opted to post their work to me on Teams and do so using the “submit your work here please” channel. I then transfer their work to Seesaw. Due to the class being used to using Seesaw I have not explored using the assignments feature on Teams, however this is something I would like to use in the future.
Every Wednesday we have a class call on Teams. During this time pupils have time to chat to one another and then we do a class quiz using either Kahoot or Quizziz. When using Kahoot I share my screen in the Teams call so that pupils can see the questions and answer them on their device. If we use Quizziz I share my screen so that the pupils can see the live leader board during the game. The class have really enjoyed these calls as it gives them time to hear the voices of their peers and take part in an activity in a similar way to what we would do in school. It has been lovely to hear their voices and laughter during the calls. I feel like this has helped to maintain positive relationships with the class and helps the pupils to connect with one another during this difficult time.
I have found that organising my class Team in the ways described in this post have helped to keep the Team accessible and organised for everyone accessing it. After a few initial technical issues in the first week the online classroom has been running smoothly and successfully. If you would like to see examples of the work the class have been producing I have been uploading some of their work on Twitter.
If we first consider the notion that there is a distinct difference between learning and performance, that is when your students are providing great answers to questions in class they may simply be performing in the moment, later during a test, for example, you may find that they haven’t actually learned anything. This idea is much better articulated in this paper by Soderstrom & Bjork (2015).
So if there is a distinction between performing and learning, how do we know if our students are learning? First we must consider what learning is and there are a number of ideas on this theme.
Kirschner, Sweller & Clark (2006) suggest that “If nothing has changed in long-term memory, nothing has been learned.” Suggesting that if nothing has been retained in your long term memory then we can’t consider it to be learned.
Now edu-famous is the oft wheeled out quote from Daniel Willingham’s excellent Why Don’t Student Like School?. WIllingham says that “memory is the residue of thought”, meaning that what we think about what we inevitably remember.
On this note David Didau writes the following in this post from his brilliant Learning Spy blog:
“Students often remember the context of a lesson whilst forgetting the content. This can lead to the illusion of learning: we remember the memory of having known a thing.”
“I once observed a maths interview lesson where the teacher hooked the pupils in by appealing to their stomach. Pupils had to work out the area of a circle, whether it was more economical to buy one 16″ or two 10″ pizzas. This candidate certainly stimulated the senses, producing an elaborate takeaway menu resource. The boys solved the problems, the bell went and they trooped out for lunch, salivating. I asked them the following morning if they enjoyed the lesson. Absolutely, they told me. Could they explain how to solve the problem? Only one of them could. What they’d remembered were the toppings.”
I reckon that we have all delivered lessons like this and when it came to the crunch, the students could put none of their learning onto the lined paper. So what has this got to do with checking for understanding? A lot I think. Learning is invisible (it really is!) so how do we get to know what pupils have actually learned.
First a consideration of memory and how we remember (more on this next week!) We know from Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve (1885) that our memory quickly diminishes almost a nights sleep after learning something.
So perhaps during that one lesson a student is simply performing as they will have yet to shift the learning to their long term memory. Which makes checking for understanding a vital skill of a great teacher.
What we now know that through repetition of the same topic, we must then repeat the learning, we can improve retention of the learning so that after a few weeks the students are no longer performing they are demonstrating what they have learned. Suggesting that their long term memory has been changed, as suggested by Kirschner, Sweller & Clark (2006).
So for me checking for understanding becomes not just a tool for checking that a pupil has understood an instruction, asking ‘have you understood?’ or ‘do you have any questions?’ serves no purpose whatsoever, it becomes a key tool in a teachers arsenal. We must check that pupils understand and not simply remember what we teach them, this requires repetition and a demand for excellence (which I wrote about here).
Rosenshine suggests that great teachers ask a lot of questions. Who doesn’t want to be a great teacher. However, what we must take from this is that we ask a lot of the right questions. Questions that dig deeper, probe if you like, and really help us make learning visible and check that students understand what we are teaching.
To build this culture of checking for understanding there are a few strategies that a teacher can employ. Firstly they can Reject Self Report then they can get into deeper strategies such as probing, say it again, say it better and use show me a boards regularly. Show me boards are an excellent way to make learning really visible to us, this forces students to commit to an answer and will allow a skilled practitioner to really dig deep and check for understanding. Let’s take each of them in turn and explore a little more.
Reject Self Report
Teachnique #1 in Doug Lemov’s outstanding Teach Like a Champion is where we replace ‘functionally rhetorical questions with more objective forms of impromptu assessment’. This is where we ask ‘Everybody got it?’ type questions and as Lemov writes we are often greeted with silent assent. We must ask more questions that are direct, targetted and chosen to meaningfully demonstrate student understanding. These questions are usually done in a minute or less and can really tell us if a student has understood the material at hand.
probing is a skill of really great teachers and it really helps them go deeper. Tom Sherrington wrote a great blog post on Probing here. Examples of probing questions are when teachers ask ‘thats interesting, what makes you say that?’ or ‘is there a different way to say the same thing?’ or ‘what is the evidence that supports your suggestion?’ or finally ‘can you explain how you worked that out?’. As Tom says ‘to be able hold exchanges like this with individuals or a whole class is a key feature of excellent teaching.’
3. Say it again, say it better
In The Learning Rainforest refers to this technique as a silver arrow or better said a ‘quick win’. This is a startegy that teachers should use relentlessly. If you simply ask a student to repeat what they said but better they are able then to re-form their intital response into well structured and impactful sentences. This period of reconsideration will really help them to build their schema and develop their understanding of the learning.
4. Show me boards/mini whiteboards
Bruce Robertson, author of The Teaching Delusion advocates that show me boards should be as integral to a lesson as the humble jotter. Show me boards are great for a number of reasons, they make every student commit to an answer, they make every students thinking visible and allows the teacher to see clearly and quickly if there are any gaps and misconceptions. Bruce gives a few more important reasons as to why you should start using them in every lesson in this blog post.
Checking for understanding, for me, is one of the most important practices in teaching. Once a clear explanation, modelling and direct-interactive instruction period has taken place and the students are busy practicing it would be remiss of us to not check for understanding and dig deep, in every lesson, to monitor the progress of our students learning. I have, perhaps, ventured into other more nuanced areas of teaching but i place checking for understanding as something we could, well certainly me, be better at so that our students really learn the material and undergo a ‘change in their long term memory’.