It has been an (academic) year of growth for me, and I’ve been really lucky to meet and learn with some great people and organisations.
A bit of Culture…
Like most people who work in education, I knew that there was a lot of great work being done for kids and teachers from places like museums, galleries and arts organisation. So, I was excited to be asked to guide research for Arts Council England to explore this area further.
It was only when I started looking at the digital offerings from the world of Arts and Culture for schools that I discovered how rich the pickings could be! Thanks to the hundreds of teachers who responded to our survey, and for the time that teachers shared to talk to me in interviews. Thanks to all the contributors to the #UKEdChat special that I hosted. Special thanks to Bill Lord for his extended interview, which can be seen here. Our final report was published on the Arts Council website and can be found here.
Chris Unitt, who brought considerable experience in the digital side of the arts and culture world to our research, invited me to join him presenting our findings to an event for education teams at museums and collections from around the country. You can see our presentation here.
Teachers, as a place to start, you’d be mad not to take a look at www.show.me.uk
All the new clients, contacts and friends I have developed as a result of this work are, in part thanks to the incredible Matt Locke, who runs storythings, and who gave me my introduction into this space. *deepbow*
In the Charts
In November, I was shocked and pleased to find myself in the Top 40!…. of TeacherToolkit/Ross McGill’s (AKA @TeacherToolkit) top 100 teachers to follow on Twitter. I have struggled a bit to keep up with the wealth of amazing tweeters – not least since I have gone through a bit of a review/reduction of my tweeting since reading The Circle by Dave Eggers – a book anyone who uses social media in their work really must read!
Finally, a special note to the #primaryrocks team for introducing the best new #discussion for education anywhere on twitter. Loads of fun and super useful chat, every Monday at 8pm!
College of Teachers
Towards the end of the year, I got increasingly involved with the College of Teachers, helping out behind the scenes and writing about my own views about the proposal. I still think it is the best chance teachers have had to take ownership of our profession, and to depoliticise some of our work. To get up to speed, sign up for info here.
Into Inanimate Alice
I was hugely surprised to get a return call after a conversation that started some four years ago, from the team behind the multi-award winning Inanimate Alice! Just about to release the next brilliant instalment of this unique resource, I was asked to support their strategy to answer new opportunities in connecting their international markets. Looking at business models, partnerships and development plans, it was a hugely satisfying piece of work, as Inanimate Alice is one of the best digital resources for educational purposes out there – built by a passionate team, who really understand how to inspire young people to create.
Project Based Learning
In January, I shared some of the findings of my experiments in using PBL in the primary classroom. Thanks to St Francis CE Primary in Oxford, for their support and the opportunity to try some new approaches.
This Spring, I was invited to provide education input on a very exciting new resource coming from IntoFilm, the charity that connects young people to the UK film industry. Though I cannot name the IP we are working on, I can say that one of the best loved characters from the world of picture books is about to make a splash into the digital world of resources for schools. Watch this space for more!
I have finally been able to catch up with some of the more exciting technologies that are coming into schools, thanks to the folk at Black Country Artelier, who bring 3DPrinting (and more) into schools.
Not only have I been able to learn about 3dPrinting, Arduinos, and other new #digitalmaking tools, but I have been able to investigate the pedagogies and issues around assessing them. Huge thanks to the children and staff at Heyford Park Free School, as well as the BCA team for making this so exciting!
Attending #CampEd15 at the start of June was a wonderful start to the Summer (proper!) and a chance to reconnect with old friends, make new ones, and to learn. Leisle Ezekiel and I shared our learning about Introverts and Extroverts, and my kids made a computer in less than 5mins!
Award for Yorkshireman of the Year goes to….
Finally, it has not been the easiest of times for me over the past few years, and I have had a little struggle with depression. This year has seen me leave the worst of it behind, and I could not have done that without friends reaching out and supporting me to make both professional and personal steps forward. There are many who have helped, but special thanks are due to Tony Parkin: edtech guru and Yorkshireman without porfolio. Tony has been there at just the right times, to encourage, support and guide me – and who heard my coded call for help ( I was/am too proud and stupid to just say I was having a hard time) and knew how to do so without ever making me feel like a drag.
Thank you Tony.
That just leaves me to wish you (dear reader) a fantastic Summer, and a great 15/16. Be well.
The education sector is huge, with many audiences, providers, policy makers and perspectives, and I spent part of last week getting to know the Arts and Culture world better; and it was a joy. I was grateful to the nice people from Culture24 for inviting Chris Unitt and me to talk about our work for Arts Council England at the Connecting Collections Conference, held at the impressive and wonderful National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
We shared our research looking at how teachers see digital resources from arts organisations, museums, galleries and libraries. Arts Council England have published our report here.
Our slides are here:
VanGoYourself (Brilliant !!!! Check this out!)
The slides will be available on Slideshare shortly. Chris has a post about this too!
Arts Council England commissioned Storythings to carry out research to investigate and understand ways that teachers access and use online and digital resources to provide cultural education. The survey was developed to help us encourage arts and cultural organisations to develop the right tools for teachers.
Download the ACE Education Resources report here (PDF)
We’d also encourage you to check out:
Are you an Innie? Do you leave a party happy, but drained?
Or are you an Outie? Do you feel energised by meeting lots of new people?
This very simplistic dichotomy has started lots of new conversations for me recently. As an extrovert, married to an introvert (quite a common pairing!), I have become obsessed with the ideas raised in Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that won’t stop talking. I have written about it’s impact in a previous blog post, read around the neuroscience, and talked to adults and children about introverts and extroverts.
At #CampED15 last weekend, Leisle (Mrs Ezekiel) and I ran a workshop on this topic, with parents and children. Of all the ‘teachmeeters’, bloggers, tweeters, and their families, it seemed that all the introverts came to our table, set calmly with colouring pencils and paper, while the extroverts seemed to club together to do a much more active task.
Thanks to Dawn Hallybone for sharing all the lovely pics from the weekend, of which this is one!
Of course, there is a spectrum between the two extremes and, depending on context, individuals might change, even within a day. There are excellent articles out there, helping to understand both introversion and extroversion better: try clicking here to start that journey for yourself
One of the best aspects of our session at CampED15 was how clearly people reacted to the chance to draw a picture to show how they would spend their dream day. Our introverts clearly drew themselves, happy and focussed on a task, without being disturbed by other people! These were not people ‘alone’. They were recharging and revelling in the opportunity to live a rich inner life. My picture of myself cooking for friends with a dancefloor in the background was huge contrast to the gentle, isolated beach scenes of others in the group.
When I asked kids and adults how many people they thought were introverted, most assumed a minority, 30% or so. When we discussed the downsides of a mismatch between type and work/learning environment (stresses, and fatigue), most raised that number as they recognised more and more people they knew.
We also discussed the negative vocabulary around introverts: shy, loners, misfits, partypoopers, etc. One of the teachers noted that we tend to call these kids the ‘Good’ ones; but that this a very simplistic label which means that although they might not be much trouble, we do not help them thrive by providing the setting or time for them to be at their best.
It is not just about the quiet introverts missing out on all the social learning and fun. We must consider the way we frame teaching, learning and assessment for both types: and this is as important for staff and children.
For example, we place enormous pressure on assessments where kids sit alone for hours, expected to carefully consider detailed answers, without interacting with anyone; after months of revising (which they are told is best done alone!). Now this might suit introverts, but is a real killer for extroverts!
Introversion is not the same as shyness, and we often treat introverts as though they are brittle. Just because a child is quiet and good at the exams, does not mean they should not be challenged to shine throughout the week. Not all members of staff want to lead insets, speak up at a staff meeting or blog. Instead of expecting people to be good at everything, why not allow colleagues to play to their strengths; for example to dive into the data and share with each teacher.
We should be showing children positive role models for both extroverts and introverts; and making schools a place where they can learn what they need from the environment, and people they work with.
If you’d be interested in hearing more about this topic, or would like me to bring this workshop to your school or organisation, please get in touch.
My views on how we run schools has been totally shaken since reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking (2012). Yes, very late to the party, but as a card carrying extrovert, I have been ignoring introverts for most of my life, so perhaps there’s no surprise there.
Except that is not entirely fair. It’s not so much I was ignoring them, I just did not really believe that they existed. I knew that some people defined themselves as such, but I thought it was a bit like,…. well, trying to cover a deficiency with a label. I often confused shyness, a lack of confidence, anti-social behaviour, hating music, nothing to say, or easily offended, for something that is much more complex and widespread.
At the simplest level, an introvert is ‘fed’ by time on their own and focussed activities. They might love being at a party, but are drained by the end of it. An extrovert is the opposite and ‘feeds’ on social encounters, new information and ‘buzz’. Few people are at the extremes, and we might have aspects of the other, however most will recognise themselves in these simple questions.
Somewhere between a third and a half of people call themselves introverts and, if we accept the ideas in Quiet – that introversion is becoming harder to fit with modern culture – then we can assume that most people avoid being labelled this way. So, let’s just say 50% of people are on the ‘introvert’ side of the bell curve.
So, in reading this book I realised that half the people I have spoken to are fundamentally different to me. Not a little bit, but a LOT. It was like discovering that half the people you know are women! It was like seeing a whole new gender for the first time.
I’m really interested in what this means for schools. Susan Cain has a few thoughts here, and teachers guide here; but lots of others have thought about this, and there was an #eltchat on this topic here.
I had a few insights I wanted to share:
Extroverts need help too!
all children (but extroverts especially) need help understanding the differences between extroverts and introverts and accepting it
extroverts need a positive language for introvert peers: focussed, reflective, etc, rather than shy, distant, uncooperative.
extroverts are energised by social activity, and work better when they can learn in these settings, but need a chance to learn from and with introverts
our schools,classrooms and playgrounds might suit extroverts more, but our testing suits introverts more.
We are really good at harming introverts!
School environments are rarely friendly places for an introvert – and teachers don’t have an interest in this changing, at the moment. Susan Cain covers this really well in her book, but there are very few quiet places in a school, where a child is not being judged, observed or forced into groups. There are lots of things we could do to help introverts:
Allow kids to stay in at breaktime
Allow kids to be out of view at breaktime, in the playground, but safe from bullying.
Allow for solitary activities in the playground
Allow kids to opt out of groupwork
Allow kids to learn at their own pace
Reorganise our classrooms so that there is space for reflection and quiet.
Do less groupwork.
But, try to imagine implementing even half of these before September. I bet it would stretch the patience of your staff and the potential in your site. Yet, can you imagine creating an environment so prejudicial to, say, women? Think how hard we allow for other minority differences (and so we should).
We MUST think harder how our space, pedagogies and assessment makes sense of these differences in our pupils. I think a move towards project based learning would support the sort of shift we need, where the strengths of an introvert can be proven valuable to group outcomes and assessments.
Teachers are losing out too!
Finally, I also think we need to reflect on the staff we have. Are teachers evenly split between extroverts and introverts and do we get the best of our colleagues in their current working approach?
I wonder how many teachers are unclear about why they find teaching so draining. They might think it is workload. Perhaps it is that they are introverts, and a day being social is great – but saps their energy. Without time and space to re-energise, these people will always suffer. Perhaps they leave teaching and become bloggers, researchers, artists, etc… because the profession could not accommodate all they had to offer schools?
What do you think?
- Are more teachers extroverts than introverts?
- Does this even matter?
- Is there a way to measure the impact of appropriate settings for introverts and extroverts?
I have just started working with a new client, who offer an emergency communication service to schools.
Callmy is a new business, and are a small team; with a service that offers a simple service for schools to let parents/carers know what is going on in the case of a serious emergency.
Fortunately, serious ‘Hazchem leaks’, terror incidents, floods and fires are rare events for schools. But, they do happen, and when they do, parents / carers want to hear the voice of the school team; to reassure and inform. This clever mix of telephony and web technologies will ensure coverage even when the mobile phone network is down, and does not need a database of upto date contact details.
It is a service to have in place, but hope you will never need to use.
Over the next few weeks, I will be tweeting, blogging and posting about my work for Callmy, and I might ask for your help.
It is a new service for schools, and we are trying to understand better how schools might use it; especially as part of the wider school emergency plan.
So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m being paid to help them communicate with the schools sector and develop the marketing strategy.
Andrew Old makes a simplistic, but consistent, argument for how the members of the new College of Teaching should be constituted. Just teachers, he says. Simple. But, in seeking simplicity, he seems to miss equally simple ways to enhance the profession through the rich diversity of our profession.
Given he was at the same fantastic ‘founding’ event in Birmingham yesterday, to think through these issues, I am surprised he did not consider many of the sensible suggestions that were made.
I was asked (at short notice) to be one of the facilitators, which perhaps made it easier for me to be on ‘listen’ mode, rather than ‘broadcast’. I came away from the day enormously impressed with the positivity and problem-solving ability of the colleagues in my group. Assuming this was multiplied across the country, I found myself believing, and not hoping (for the first time), that we could do this ourselves.
I have had doubts and concerns about the way that this College of Teaching is being formulated - but I found myself with others who also had concerns but were prepared to work through them to develop a professional body to raise our status and protect education from political interference.
My group included a Headteacher, a f/t head of department, an ITT lecturer, a senior leader, and a p/t teacher who has been in and out of the profession doing other things (me)!. Together, we were able to form effective and thoughtful prospective solutions to some of the knottier problems we were asked to discuss.
On the key issue of “Who is a Teacher?” – we resolved it with a solution that I think even Andrew might compromise on.
In order to be a full member of the College of Teaching, a teacher:
has Qualified Teacher Status
must be teaching or have taught, in the classroom, on a p/t or f/t basis for at least a term, within a two year period (including SLT, Heads, DHTs).
teach children (not adults) upto and including the age of 18 (see exception below)
can also be those involved in ITT who also teach children, as part of training adults to become teachers
We felt it was essential to allow freedom of movement in and out of the profession – to explore other roles, conduct research, develop new skills and maybe even just take a break from teaching – but still be allowed to develop professionally. Of course, people can take a ‘membership break’ – but we felt a 2 year gap might be a clear enough marker for most.
So, what do you think? Does this solution work for you? Would this keep everyone in the COT, and stop a few from throwing their dummies out?
There is a lot to learn from failure, and each year I find that I have found new lessons to learn, and each year pass with flying colours in all the set papers.
In return, I seem to gain experiences (which I can share), shed assumptions (most of which were given, and prove based on prejudice), and discover the limits of my abilities (which are often closer than I’d hoped, but further than I’d feared).
So, like any lifelong learner – I love all the New Year blogging, and learn much from the posts from this time of year. Yet it is those I know who have failed along the way who I listen to hardest, whose stories they can share without shame.
You see, I cannot help but struggle to listen to those successful, vocal and over-confident voices who have not really risked or lost. You know they type – they seem to go from one successful placement to another, seem to take risks that work out, or seem to say what the majority have been thinking- and say it better. Though I like these people, and even consider some of them friends, I struggle to consider them authentic.
Oh, hang on a minute – you might be thinking – isn’t that a tad hypocritical?
It’s true, there have been times when my life has seemed to go on rails, if not straight, then at least smoothly. Like many people, these are the times I feel more able to share. In fact, reading from my tweets and public profiles alone, one might think that I have achieved and succeeded way more than I have.
It is true, I have been guilty of preening and parading my successes, and hiding the pain of my failures.
Partly this is because I do not blog very often, and rarely feel compelled to publish my feelings and opinions; though would always be more than happily discuss in person. But partly, this is because our culture does not value this level of honesty. So, I have not been honest. Reading the many New Year blogs I have cause to question my own voice, and my part in creating a myth around failure.
Those of you know have met up with me in the past 3 years will know that things have been pretty shit – and that since leaving BrainPOP UK, I have ‘failed’ in a series of projects. In terms of what I mean by failure – that is a whole different post, which would need more context than I can give here.
But, each one hurt and took something away from me.
Over the past year I have worked my way out of depression and have no intention of going back. In large part it was the love of my family what saved me, but also the knowledge from previous failures that I can survive, and that pain is temporary. I have had successes in the classroom, for clients, and in playing ultimate frisbee.
There is a lot on twitter and on blogs about failure, and how important it is. Much of it is wise, inspirational and clever. Yet, there is an assumption that failure is a necessary component in learning. This is clearly not a simple truth.
If real failure leads to great success, then 2014 should have been the most successful year of my life. Instead, it was one where I learned a huge amount (about myself, and those closest to me), and even more about the near miss, the nearly there, the almost got it, the catch that was out of reach.
So, here’s what I learned in 2014: Failure as part of a story of success, is not real failure. Describing failure as be an ingredient in a future success is a false trail.
Yes, we all need to risk more, not be afraid of failure – but, believe me, there is no inherent good in having risked almost everything and losing. It sucks.
In 2015, I may not achieve as much as I once dreamed, but realism has it’s own rewards (as do age and experience. I intend to work hard, work ethically, and work effectively. I will try to play more often, play with others (nicely) and play fair. I hope to laugh more, smile more, hug more.
Hope to see you soon.
Have a happy, healthy and successful 2015.
I am stepping back from supporting the College for Teaching, for now. I have already written about my thoughts, hopes and dreams for this proposed professional body for teachers, and encouraged others to do the same. I have engaged in the debate, and tried to help in practical ways the well intentioned group of people and organisations behind this noble idea.
I have been as supportive as I can be. But, that is changing today. I am taking a step back and detaching my active support, for the moment. Why?
Not be because I have concerns, or because I want it to happen quicker, or because I want it to go in a specific direction.
Because, although there has been the desire to make this campaign by teachers, for teachers; the will and infrastructure has not been there to make that happen.
I believe that, from the start, there should have been a programme for all parts of the profession to be involved, carefully working through the key questions any professional body must answer. This may yet happen, but, until it does, I’m out.
Because there are key aspects to this project that should be in place, and are not. I want to help, and to know what I can do, and where it fits, and be able to fit this into the rest of my week. That sort of public plan, so I can see how my efforts are helping, is not there. Again, maybe it is too early for this, but I’d have expected this to be in place.
Because I expected more readiness for the complexity of the questions the College of Teaching would raise. Because in order to claim back our profession from the politicians, we need a plan for how we will do this.
Yes, I have ideas about how to do this, I would love to have a way to help make it happen, and I hope to in the future.
But, for now, I will rejoin the sidelines.
In previous posts, I have applied lessons from evolutionary theory to the early development of the new College of Teaching. I hope it will also find a way to channel the creativity, innovation and diversity of our profession; a channel for all our voices.
By setting up a professional body within terms set by the current coalition government, we are in danger of locking our work into a mechanistic and technical model, losing the creative and progressive power of the work we do. We are NOT like doctors, or actuaries – there is no simple evidence-based relationship of intervention to outcome. Yes, we want the raise in status (and better pay) but we’d be wrong to think we can appropriate the professional approach of these technical fields without losing our trusted place in society.
This is not a concern about politicisation, but of setting the terms of a single voice and direction for a profession that should be diverse.
How would the College of Teaching have responded to Ofsted’s recent comments about the stagnation of secondary schools in England? By agreeing we must work harder and that we need better teachers? That is what I am afraid of! That is not the answer I want given.
I want a professional body which can speak for those of us who question the assumptions that underpin the political debate – and enable teacher to wrest control over pedagogy, assessment and curriculum from politicians.
More than the suggested representation of all unions, regions, etc – I believe the College of Teaching must also represent all pedagogies and have a formal place to access learning from educational technology; eg – the success of project based learning in raising attainment, or new models of CPD using twitter.
A monolithic College of Teaching will lead to our richly diverse profession stagnating. The College of Teaching must find a way to represent the multiplicity of voices within the profession and show we can handle the debate, on our own terms, with maturity – and space for all.