You win.⤴

from

Ok. You win.

I have fought and fought for years now.

I thought that what I was fighting for was integrity.

And love.

And justice.

 But clearly I was wrong.

About so many things.

I have spent my time apologising

Trying to do better 

To appease and improve and make amends.

But over and over I have failed.

Because the thing that is wrong

Is me.

And because of that

You win.

OneNote; Endless Possibilities⤴

from @ MIE Scotland

In the Wakelet collection below, I share the benefits of embedding media directly into OneNote to simplify workflow and bring content to life.

Click on the image below to access the collection 👇

 

Buncee image with the image of a notebook with logos for OneNote, Flipgrid, Wakelet. Office, Buncee and Giphy

 

About Me

I am an Additional Support Needs teacher at Lanark Grammar School. I am also an MIE Fellow for Scotland, MIE Expert, Master Trainer and MCE (Microsoft Certified Educator). I am also a Flipgrid Student Voice Ambassador and Grid Guide and a Wakelet Ambassador and Community Leader.

I was awarded MIE Expert of the Year for Scotland 2019-20 and I also won a global competition ran by Flipgrid to attend E2 Education Exchange in Sydney, Australia.

You can find me on Twitter: @cgerrard02

Photo of Chris Gerrard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ikea Approach to “digital”⤴

from

Photo by billow926 on Unsplash

Warning, this post might be stretching a metaphor a bit too far, but there is something that has been bubbling in my head for the last week so this post is an attempt to make some sense of it.

Last week I joined the Jisc Joint building digital capability and digital experience insights community of practice online event. Co-hosted with the University of Derby, it was a really useful day with lots of presentations from colleagues across the sector around what they have been doing to support staff and students over the past 8 months. There was also a preview of this year’s Jisc Digital Insights surveys, but lips have to be sealed on that one. It was a really useful event, so thanks to all at Jisc and Derby for organising and running it.

Anyway, as I was listening to the keynote presentations from Derby – a really comprehensive overview from strategic vision to hands on implementation, it suddenly struck me that in education, we might be suffering from a bit of an Ikea situation when it comes “the digital”. Bare with me as I try to explain. Apologies in advance for this very western metaphor.

So we have our shiny, glossy strategies that layout the vision, mission purpose and the high level overview of the where, what, why and when of “stuff”. They’re a bit like the Ikea catalogue, where every room has that look of if not perfect, but attainable, useful, organisation, practicality and comfort. If you’re anything like me, there’s always something in the layout of the rooms in the catalogue that appeals, alongside that nagging worry if anyone does actually live in that wonderment of perfectly organised storage . . .

So we have our catalogue and we can see the vision for the “perfect” and practical home. We all want a bit of that don’t we? That’s like our strategies – they all make perfect sense, who wouldn’t want to do all the things they set out. The implementation of the strategies – not always so straightforward. Perhaps a bit like when we actually go into an Ikea store.

Despite the homogenous layout, the friendly arrows, you can get very easily get lost, (I spent what felt like 2 hours trying to work out how to get back downstairs once) or distracted, or (in precovid days) get caught behind a family of 20 having a day out with no way to overtake them. It strikes me that this is a bit what has happened as we have tried to develop digital capabilities across universities.

Everyone has seen the shiny catalogue and has seen what they want or how they could possibly improve what they have. So they build their digital strategy. And then they let staff and students go into the store. Many get caught in an endless loop in the market place deciding on just what and how many digital bits and bobs they need. Others are a bit more strategic and know not to get distracted in the market place and just move to where they really need to be. Others are even more experienced (perhaps battle-scared) and know at least one short cut to get to where they need to be. They might even be able to do self check out without having to get assistance!

So I’m not saying that our institutional systems are built like Ikea wardrobes, tho’ at times it might feel like that! I think it’s more in terms of how we use technology, it’s like we all have a “billy book case”. We’ve past the test of finding and buying it we’ve built it but since March this year we really had to use it. I think pre covid, there were many people who treated the VLE (and lots of other learning technology) a bit like the Billy bookcase Ikea flat pack. Only use if you really have to, never read the instructions when you are building it, and you know as long as it sort of looks ok, and it doesn’t fall over, you can live with a degree of wonkiness and let’s just not worry about the left over screws and nails . . . they weren’t that important anyway . . . the shelf will stay up if you carefully balance things on/under it . . .

Thing is we’ve had the instructions for quite a while, it’s just that not everyone saw how important and quite often, how easy they actually were to follow. Now people are having to engage with “the instructions”, and can’t really get away with wonky shelves. Not just at the event last week, but over the past 8 months I see /read/hear so many similar stories of how TEL/academic development units have become front and centre of the ‘pivot’ and the response to the pandemic. People are engaging in ways they never did before, accessing material, resources/support/courses they never thought to before. I have said it before but I’ll say it again, it’s quite sad that it took a global pandemic to get some staff to engage with their institutional VLE.

To me this highlights a couple of things. One is the gap between strategy and actual practice. Having a shiny catalogue doesn’t mean that all your ‘rooms’ will actually look (and work!) like that. Developing digital capabilities for all staff and students needs to to be centred in all university practice and strategic development, and units that support this can’t be seen as optional extras or something to forget about when we “get back to normal”. We can’t just provide instructions that no-one reads, we need to be helping people out of the market place, finding the shortcuts and routes they need and ultimately giving people the confidence to build all the furniture or make an informed decision about why they might just want to go to another shop.

Anyway, this might all be a metaphor too far, but would love to hear what you think in the comments.

Less but better?⤴

from

There are four full weeks of term left until our holidays. Having just entered level 4 of Covid restrictions in our local authority, these next few weeks won’t have quite the same feeling which the usual run-up to Christmas normally has. No frantic late night Christmas shopping. No Christmas coffee mornings or craft fayres. No Christmas dance or parties. No school nativity or church carol service.

Whilst there is undoubtedly some sadness around the cancellation of all of these forbidden annual celebrations, there is a small part of me that in some ways is quite glad that all the ‘stuff’ has been stripped away, and instead I can focus on quality time with my immediate family and what’s really important to me. Do we really need the vast commercialisation of Christmas? I’m trying to find positives in the challenges we are all facing instead of moaning about being unable to celebrate in ‘the way we’ve always done it.’

It got me thinking about how Covid could help us to see education in a similar way. It seems to me that in many ways the pandemic gives us a chance to really question why we’ve always done things this way. And whether, if by stripping away the ‘stuff’ we could impact more positively on the lives of our young people.

We’ve now survived nearly 4 months of teaching in this new normal. For me, it’s meant a fresh focus on pedagogy. It has involved slowing down to go faster. It has resulted in me seriously improving my digital skills. It’s definitely not been easy and I’m very aware of the huge pressure we are all under. But it has also been refreshing to be forced into discovering new and sometimes better, ways of working.

So therein lies the question. What’s important and what’s not? To answer this we firstly need to ask ourselves what the purpose of education is. If we consider this important point it perhaps gives us some clarity around what is central to our learning and teaching. For me, education is important to instil a love of learning, to teach our young people how to learn, and to inspire them to keep on learning. To give them confidence in their individual skills and knowledge as well as allowing them to find their voice in the world. So it’s important for me to consider what I feel contributes to providing the learning environments where this can happen. And question if it’s really effective just because it’s the way

There are many aspects of school life which look quite different to how they looked this time last year. It’s debatable whether these changes are impacting positively, but it’s an important debate to have. This disruption to normality and our assumptions is a real opportunity for conversations and questioning in education. I hope it’s a Chance for us to think differently about how we ensure the best for our young people.

Despite the many frustrations around the delay in relaying information about exam requirements in 2021, in contrast this has for me, been encouraging. I have instead, seen and heard teachers teaching to learn, not just teaching to an exam. I hope this has helped teachers to grow in confidence as they are reminded of the key concepts and learning in their subject instead of perhaps falling into the trap of teaching formulaic responses to exam questions. By focussing on the knowledge needed to confidently demonstrate the skills assessed, I hope our learners will be more prepared to approach whatever form of assessment they face. And perhaps cope better with further and higher education as a result.

In addition to this, in Art and design there has been a real shift of mindset to focus on quality not quantity of work. Rather than our young people churning out various similar pieces of art work – spending hours in class, after school and at home – to fill space on a sheet, we are instead encouraged to do less but focus on quality. For some of our learners, especial slow, careful workers, this shift is really advantageous. It allows their high quality work to shine without them being put off by the amount of work required. Many pupils have previously been turned off our subject by the sheer time it takes to complete folio work. Rather than the calming, creative outlet for young people which art and design should provide, it sometimes becomes a rushed dash to tick folio items off a list with teachers and young people both becoming stressed and anxious. I would welcome more discussion around how we help young people to capture and showcase their best learning. Let’s think about how we can best assess what we value.

Another consideration which I feel it would be useful to discuss is the structure and systems in place within schools. Do we need young people in the secondary building 5 full days? Do we need staff in School or could this open up opportunities for greater flexible working? Would later start times help young people to be less tired during the day? Can we learn lessons from the remote/blended learning timetable models many schools developed during lockdown, and which many young people thrives under? I know in art and design we were very excited by the possibility of seeing seniors for fewer but longer periods of time. In a practical subject this would be hugely beneficial. We saw the benefits this would have in terms of relationship building with pupils but also in terms of encouraging independent learning. There are so many questions which can be extremely unsettling and frustrating for staff, but yet it welcomes the possibility of a new normal.

Perhaps controversially, there are many other aspects which indeed contribute to a healthy school experience for learners but have had to be adapted. We must ask ourselves if these are essential or if there is another way we can give pupils these experiences.

I suppose it’s important to finally point out that every single person I know in education is currently working flat out in the strangest of situations to ensure the very best for our learners. School and senior leaders are under a huge amount of pressure at the moment, and I am personally in awe of how they are coping. The situation we find ourselves in in school is hugely challenging but it is no surprise that our amazing teachers are rising to the challenge. Right now might not be the right time to implement huge change. Capacity amongst staff is limited during current times. But I do think it’s important to debate the status quo. If we fail to have these conversations now, and go back to doing things the way we’ve always done them then nothing will change.

When things get tough this week remember that being positive is not pretending that everything is good, it is trying to see the good in every situation.

As always, it would be useful to hear your thoughts. Have a good week everyone!

Critical Reflections⤴

from @ EduBlether

As a teacher in Scotland, I am contractually bound by the GTCS standards where there is level of criticality expected in “the need to ask critical questions of educational policies and practices and to examine our attitudes and beliefs.” (P6)

Further to this, the standards for Leadership and Management also suggest that:

“Leaders have an enhanced understanding of the dynamics of political power and influence in the relationship between schools and society, and the consequent implications for the work of their organisation.” (P10)

I think the proposal and advocacy for this level of critical thought and awareness of the power relationship in education is encouraging. This speaks to a transformative, progressive view of teaching which empowers its teachers and leaders to engage with the system. To escape the every day humdrum, the (very real) procedural/operational concerns what Dewey referred to as the “anaesthetic”. We need to ensure that we exercise our right as educators in Scotland, to be critical of the systems that we operate within. The recent developments for our colleagues south of the border should be sobering and concerning.

Schools in England have been told they cannot teach about anti-capitalism and will see any attempt at doing so as equivalent to endorsing illegal activity. The claim here is the teachers should be politically neutral and should not take a political stance on any matter. However, I would like to argue that this is impossible. Education is inherently political. Claiming neutrality, is political. Banishing anti-capitalist thought is political.

If we were to analyse this through a Scottish lens, where in our very Standards we are reminded of the dynamics of ‘political power’, and we are reminded to ‘ask critical questions’, I hope that there would be a collective and fiery outrage at such limitations on our professionalism.

You only need to look to twitter to see that there was such an outrage from progressive and critical teaching colleagues in England, and it remains to be seen how much impact such a policy will have. Teachers always have the ability to make what Foucault referred to as counter moves in this power game. The implementation gap between official, government mandated policy and their practical enactment in schools is an exercise in critical reflection.

However, it is only with this critical reflection on policy and procedure that we are able to look behind the curtain and see the Great and Powerful Oz at work. We need to be as critical and reflective of all policies, not just the blatantly divisive. We need to challenge and interrogate all aspects of our profession to avoid subservience to status quo. We need to challenge the seemingly sensible or mundane, for it is here that we truly understand the relationship between schools and society.

We have clear license in our standards, and the moral imperative to engage in this level of critical thought. It is vital to escape the anaesthetic-like effect of the daily struggle, described by Dewey, which allows us to move from passively enacting policy to actively engaging and creating openings and possibilities.

Dojo and Data links⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Cash for Questions (pathwaystoinclusion.blogspot.com)
Bribing children is so tempting. What they want, especially when they're young, is sometimes so cheap, so easy to acquire, that the temptati...

Found via @dgilmour.

50 years ago, Edward Deci gave different groups of students a Soma cube puzzle to solve. Some were paid to take part, others weren’t. When he announced that the time was up, the students that were paid to work on the task just put the cube down and walked away.

David’s tweet also lead to

Comments on ClassDojo controversy and Killer Apps for the Classroom? by Ben Williamson

I’ve never been a great one for points and the like in class, mostly due to my inability to be consistent enough in their use and unexamined distaste.

There are echos in the Doing Data Differently project. I’ve been listening to some of the colloquium videos and finding them though provoking.

Open Education Policies: Guidelines for Co-Creation⤴

from

Cover of Open Education Policies: Guidelines for Co-CreationToday saw the publication of an important and very timely resource for open educators and policy makers: Open Education Policies: Guidelines for Co-Creation by Javiera Atenas, Leo Havemann, Jan Neumann and Cristina Stefanelli.  The aim of the guidelines is to: 

“support institutions and governments in the development of open education policies promoting the adoption of open educational practices and resources, and the fostering of collaborations amongst social-educational actors which favour the democratisation of knowledge access and production.”

In order to ensure policies have public value, the authors call for a “transversal and democratic approach to policymaking” and identify co-creation as a critical factor in policy effectiveness, in that it helps to ensure that policy makers and communities develop a sense of shared ownership, responsibility and purpose. 

One of the things I particularly appreciate about this work is that the authors very much practiced what they preach as the guidelines were co created with input from a diverse group of policy experts.  My small contribution to these guidelines centred on the relationship between normative (mandatory) policy and informative (permissive) policies, both of which I believe are necessary: 

“Campbell (2020b) notes that while organisations in receipt of public funding to create resources should be mandated to make these freely and openly available to the public, institutional OE policies focusing on the educational practices of staff and students should be primarily permissive rather than mandatory, thereby empowering those engaged in learning and teaching to come to their own decisions about whether and how to engage with OEP.”

My thinking in this area is very much influenced by Catherine Cronin who also contributed to the guidelines.  One of the points that Catherine and I both fed in is that: 

“OE aims to increase educational access and effectiveness, as well as equity, through fostering participation and knowledge co-creation, including by marginalised and traditionally under-represented groups.”

Centering the experiences and requirements of marginalised and under represented groups is just one of the reasons why it’s so important that open education policies are founded on co-creation. and the guidelines clearly articulate a step by step cycle to enable this process; from agenda setting, through development, formulation, implementation, evaluation and revision. 

The authors conclude by stating that.

“Co-creation of policies to support and foster inclusive, democratic approaches in education must follow an inclusive and participatory process.

And by co-creating these guidelines, the authors have done exactly that. 

Open Education Policies: Guidelines for Co-Creation is published by the Open Education Policy Lab and the Open Education Policy Hub and can be downloaded under CC BY-NC-4.0 licence from Zenodo.

We all have to start somewhere…⤴

from

For the last two weeks, we have had the privilege of having a PGDE student teacher on placement in our department. I’d like to think that this has been not only a learning opportunity for her, but also a chance for each of us in the department to reflect on our own learning and teaching in order that we demonstrate the highest quality lessons. It has prompted me to consider some of the most important aspects of our practice in this blog post and the valuable pieces of advice which might help new student teachers as they approach the midpoint of their first placement. I hope it might be useful for student teachers and NQT’s, but sometimes we all need a reminder, regardless of the length of our experience.

Remembering back to my own early student teacher days, I am constantly reminded of just how tough it was as a student teacher. I had a brilliant first placement but even so, there was So much to learn, so much to remember, so many new people and not enough hours in the day. Not to mention how exhausting it all

was. Then of course there’s the small issue which our current student teachers face: learning how to be a teacher during a pandemic. With this in mind, I hope this post will encourage and inspire our student teachers, yet remind more experienced teachers of the challenges those new to the profession are facing so they may act with compassion and empathy. Yes it is tough. Yes it is challenging. Yes there are lessons which don’t go as well as others. But it’s also the best job in the world and an absolute privilege for us to play such an important part in the lives of young people. Hang onto the good moments. See the positive. Remember the difference you are making.

Something that we as teachers perhaps don’t admit as often as we should: Everyone has bad lessons. Things don’t always go to plan. Sometimes learners just don’t get it, no matter how much time we’ve spent preparing. There are times we overestimate how much we’ll get through in a lesson. There are occasions when a disruption to the lesson makes it really difficult to get back on track. We have all experienced it. Student teachers shouldn’t think that after so many years, teachers magically become perfection personified, and don’t encounter these trying instances anymore. And it’s equally as important for us as supporters and mentors to remember this too – so we are able to empathise and relate to the difficulties faced in a way which supports and helps move forward. A bad lesson doesn’t make you a bad teacher. It is how you use the experience to shape you as a teacher.

A really important quality which I think is integral to the success of any teacher, is the ability to self-reflect. It’s so important to be able to look back honestly at lessons and pick out the areas of strength and areas of development. I believe this is one of the key areas which will help any teacher to get better. And although reflection can be something which slips down the priority list when demands on our time become pressured, it’s so important to help us identify where to turn our attention to in order to further improve. Many teachers become so experienced at this, that they do it almost without realising. Were we clear enough on what it was we wanted the young people to learn? Did we communicate this clearly? Did we model our expectations? How did our questioning help to make students think? How could we do it differently next time? Often these questions subconsciously fuel the planning of our next lesson. But early on in our careers it can be more useful to dedicate time for this and make a conscious effort to consider how it could be better. Striving to continually develop and become the best you can be is a quality which will ensure you are an excellent practioner, long after your student placement.

I do fear that with experience and a lack of self awareness, it can sometimes be tempting to look less at our own part in the lesson, and instead blame the young people. This is sometimes easier to do than admit we ourselves might be able to make changes to improve learning. The pressure to get through courses, stick to plans and plough onwards despite issues can sometimes seem more important than slowing down and stopping to reflect. By unpicking the pedagogy and content of the lesson, it can help us to see things through a different lense, giving us alternative strategies to try. The aspiration to become better and better at what we do is a very visible and very desirable quality. It will take time. But the desire to want to be better is the first step in getting there.

Becoming a better teacher however, doesn’t always mean having the flashiest lesson with the best resources or an activity which encourages the most engagement. Remember that sometimes these tasks can actually distract from the knowledge you want the learners to retain. Your time as a student teacher, and indeed an experienced teacher is finite. You can’t possibly create elaborate, handmade resources for every lesson. So concentrate on the learning, not on the activities. Start small. Think about what will have the biggest impact on the learning. Your presence, your voice, your words, your pedagogy, your modelling, your relationships, and your encouragement in the classroom will all be far more powerful, and sustainable, in the longer term.

A fairly new development in the world of teaching and is Edu-twitter. Twitter is a place of huge encouragement, support and connection for teachers. Like me, you may already use it to share ideas and approaches, connecting with others to adapt ideas and ask questions. But like all social media, there are downsides. It’s important to acknowledge that often teachers only post the best bits of their practice, which can sometimes create a false illusion of the reality of the classroom. It’s important not to be drawn in to comparing ourselves to other teachers. Yes, use social media to reach out to others and create your own important professional learning network. For me, it’s been invaluable. But beware of the curse of becoming obsessed with creating lessons solely to share on twitter. And don’t be disheartened when you see examples of amazing practice – remember this is just a snapshot of the best bits! We don’t see many posts from teachers of the chaotic tidying up routine, or the mess left over at the end of the day! Focus on the learning and everything else will fall into place.

Remember, It’s a huge learning curve. You are doing brilliantly. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Celebrate every small success. And reach out to others – conversation always helps! Have realistic expectations of your progress and take it a lesson at a time.

I hope this post has been helpful. If any of it has been useful, please feel free to connect – I am always happy to chat further.

Have a great week.

Doing Data Differently – Virtual Launch⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Wednesday evening I hurried home after school to join the zoom meeting for the launch of the Virtual exhibition Doing Data Differently.

In the current climate, discussions about data in schools are usually linked to pupil attainment, data are represented using charts and graphs, and teachers rarely initiate data collection themselves or use it for their own purposes. The widespread use of attainment data in schools has been widely criticised for its impact on the curriculum, on teaching and learning, and on teacher and pupil wellbeing.

I’d heard of the project from Ian Guest, @IaninSheffield, an academic working on the project and an online pal. Ian did interesting work on teachers use of twitter. We talked to him about this and many other things on Radio EduTalk. Ian took a rather individual approach to gathering data during his phd.

The virtual launch was a great taster for the Doing Data Differently site or exhibition. If the idea of data in education is unattractive this will change your mind. The recording of data was done on postcards in very creative ways. A quick scroll down the Metaphors, for example, collection gives you different view of “data”.

I was particularly interested in was the amount of discussion and excitement generated by the postcards. One mention returning to change something in her class immediately. Perhaps I heard someone saying that the project vaccinated them against data. An interesting idea.

I felt that these postcards gathered more complex, subtle, less easily simplified data. This could be approached conversationally as opposed to mathematically.

The project is continued in a colloquium on vimeo. I’ve listened to the first, thanks huffduffer, Data harms and inequalities and queued up a couple more. The first was an interesting discussion of data misuse, bias, and bad algorithms. I am guessing that the videos are more academic than the postcards and should compliment thinking about data use in education in the round.

There is a lot more for me to read and think about on the site. It is facinating seeing an unusual view of other teachers practise.

Climate Change Mitigating Technologies⤴

from

I had the chance to sit in on the cross-party group on science, in which there were two presentations on the topic, the first from Rebecca Bell, Scottish CCS1 on Carbon Capture and Storage. The second was given by Richard Gow, Drax2 on Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage. The latter presentation called for policy help in rewarding negative carbon emissions, which are an odd omission from the accounting model used in climate change impact measurement.

Both provided a really useful understanding and overview of what carbon emission and capture is about and how it is working, with an emphasis on what is happening in Scotland within a very clear European context. I found the presentations, both neither slick nor sales-focused, extremely engaging and helpful in thinking about CO\(_2\) emissions.

There was a lively and wide-ranging Q & A session chaired by Craig Denham of the RSE. Questions were both technical and social: there was good representation of young people through, for example, asking about the skills required to find careers in CCS. My own question:

For teachers, are there any behaviours they can model for young people that will enable them to take a specific personal responsibility for action in tackling CO\(_2\) accrual in the atmosphere?

I suspect this was a question outside of the scope of the presentations (focusing on individual action) but it was picked up by Craig, which I am thankful for. Richard picked this up first and acknowleged the criticism of BECCS for being remote from personal action but pushed back against this by linking to personal choices such as taking less flights. Rebecca added to that by pointing to transport choices like taking your bike, or wearing a jumper instead of turning up the heating, which are easily modelled and reinforced by educators. She also pointed to SCCS resources related to CfE, and the LfS Scotland resources. I particularly liked the GeoBus Education Resources site which is designed to provide teachers with an introduction to CCS, providing experiments, activities, lessons and homework ideas as well as links to a number of other useful CCS education resources, which are linked to English Key Stage 3 and Scotland’s CfE: this pdf links the resource to the Experiences and Outcomes.

The resources available in the websites of both organisions are very accessible and immediately useful in schools in, for example, projects within the interdisciplinary topic of sustainable energy production. It is particularly warming to see the interest and promotion of positive problem solving through the cross-party group. I am thankful to them for opening up this session to interested parties and applaud the the work being done by SCCS and Drax.

Footnotes

The header image is part of an infographic available at SCCS.

  1. Scottish CCS is “a partnership of the British Geological Survey, Heriot-Watt University, the University of Aberdeen, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Strathclyde working together with universities across Scotland.” 

  2. This is the group that operates Drax Power Station which is moving from coal-fired to biomass and leads on innovation and development in the technologies of Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS).