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The skills are key. October 7, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Teaching Idea, Tools.
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Our Learning to Learn programme is currently being redeveloped by a colleague who joined the school in September and has set about using Key Skills as the means through which L2L can be supported. This will be known as the ‘Skills Pledges Programme’ and whilst rooted in L2L, naturally support students’ studies across the subject range. There are 10 skills:

  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
  • Enterprise
  • Mindset
  • Research and Investigation
  • Planning and organisation
  • Reflection
  • Digital Exploration

Opportunities to explore and practise these skills will be provided through the L2L course and within all lessons. A series of assignments in the form of small challenges and tasks will provide a structure and progression through bronze, silver and gold levels will be made during the course of Key Stage 3. I’m grateful that the Digital Explorers project has been incorporated within the Skills programme, thereby raising its profile and hopefully ensuring more students undertake Digital Expeditions.

(The full and interactive version can be found here)

Currently we’re working on the framework within which all of this will sit. There’s the repository of challenges, mechanisms for monitoring progress (both student personal view and teacher overview) and providing feedback, an awarding system through which achievement of a level can be ratified and communication channels through which students can seek guidance from their L2L teacher and support from their form tutor (and each other?). Once we would perhaps have done this through a single interface – a Skills Pledges booklet. Useful though that single point of entry might be, it does of course have downsides: only a single viewer/editor at any point in time, can be in the wrong place when needed, potential for loss (esp. over three years). So delivering these needs by digital means is what’s been challenging us. You’ll perhaps not be surprised to learn that one tool/application to deliver all of that has proven rather elusive, so we’ve explored a range of options to cover different aspects. A database to contain and manage the ninety (or more) assignments or a list in our SharePoint Portal? Edmodo to manage the communications and recognise completion with its badging option … and maybe deliver the assignments too? An interactive image to provide a visual representation of the programme and offer introductions to the assignments – java-based? Image Mapper? Thinglink? So in the end we’ll settle for a combination of tools; a compromise yes, but only to be expected when you’re forging ahead with something new.

Now if you’ve followed any previous posts I’ve made discussing Open Badges, you’ll perhaps wonder why I’ve not mentioned them yet. Well yes, they clearly need to be in the mix:

Learning today happens everywhere. But it’s often difficult to get recognition for skills and achievements that happen online or out of school. Mozilla Open Badges helps solve that problem, making it easy for any organization to issue, manage and display digital badges across the web.

During early 2013 we should have access to the results of the projects from the DML Open Badge Competition 2012 winners and maybe, just maybe there’ll be something to emerge which aligns with our Key Skills programme. Ideally it would help deliver the assignments, monitor progress, enable feedback, make awards and display them for varying audiences in varying ways. So we’re not asking for much really.

30 skills a teacher should have June 17, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Musings.
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Yesterday a member of our team pointed me at this interesting post on the ‘30 skills every IT person should have‘ and asked what I thought. Well most of the points in the list made a lot of sense and as an ‘IT Manager’ of sorts, I hope I scored pretty well (you’ll have to ask my colleague how I really measure up!). But since most of my career was spent in the classroom, it also got me wondering what a similar list for teachers might look like. So I thought I’d use the original list as a starting point (Hope Richard the author doesn’t mind; there are after all some universals on there) and adapt where necessary. Here’s my stab at it:

  1. Model learning … often.Apprenticeship worked for hundreds of years and still does. If you want your students to become better learners, show them how and show them well by modelling good learning. If you feel you’ve little left to learn, time to leave the job.

    from oneiroi on Flickr


  2. Be punctual and expect punctuality from students. If you’re at class before them, you can welcome them to the lesson and have the chance to speak with individuals if you need to.
  3. Do public speaking. At least once, you should present a topic to your peers. Not your departmental colleagues; the whole school.  It can be as simple as a five-minute tutorial on effective marking, but being able to explain something and being comfortable enough to talk in front of a crowd is a skill you need to have. If you are nervous, partner with someone who is good at it, or do a roundtable. This way, if you get flustered, someone is there to cover for you.
  4. Train someone. The best way to learn is to teach. Explain to someone ‘how to’ … reveal hidden text on an interactive whiteboard for example.
  5. Listen more than you speak. Telling students what you think they need to know is pointless if you don’t know what they already know.
  6. Know basic networking. Teaching is a tough job, but one full of bright, resourceful people. The tools and technology exist to help you nurture a support network of colleagues across the world from which to seek guidance and inspiration. No-one is an island.
  7. Devise an effective marking strategy. What matters is quality not quantity. Ticking and flicking books regularly is far less effective than providing quality feedback which moves your students forward. Peer assessment done properly can be a win, win, win.
  8. Make the most of parents’ evenings. If you have several groups of students, your time will be precious. Get straight to the point – ask what parents need to know and tell them. Don’t repeat what you might already have said in a report.
  9. Know the difference between summative and formative. Summative assessments provide information of how much students know, understand and can do at the end of a topic of study. Formative assessments should provide students with continual feedback on their performance to enable them to improve their learning.
  10. Spelling. Poor spelling is not an option. Be grateful to anyone who corrects your errors.
  11. Back up. Whenever you do any work using a computer, for your own sake, back it up.
  12. Meet deadlines and expect students to meet yours. If you fail to meet a deadline, you are inconveniencing a colleague who is equally strapped for time as you. Give students ample warning of future deadlines and stick to them. Every time you give an extension, you discourage them from planning their time effectively.
  13. Blog. If you had a great lesson, share it widely so that others may benefit. If you had a toughie, share that widely so that others may benefit … you might just gain a few suggestions on how you can turn things around next time.
  14. Read “The Craft of the Classroom.” The definitive guide on how to become a successful classroom practitioner, from Michael Marland.
  15. Work one evening on a team project. Working through a hell project that requires an all-nighter to resolve stinks, but it builds very useful camaraderie by the time it is done.
  16. Have you tried turning it off and on again? If a computer or laptop isn’t working as expected, before calling for IT Support, try turning it off and on again
  17. You should know about total cost of ownership. For example: If you are thinking of buying a printer for your department, it’s more than the purchase price + the cost of ink/toner. There may be software which needs loading on the computers which attach to it. How reliable is it and how much might it cost to repair over its lifetime? Who will maintain it and how much will their time cost? How much will the paper that goes through it cost? How much will it cost to replace at the end of its life? How much electricity will it consume and how much will that cost?
  18. Manage at least one project. This way, the next time your line manager asks you for a status update, you’ll understand why. Ideally, you will have already sent the status report because you knew it would be asked for.
  19. Understand the principles of cost-benefit analysis. If you need to adopt a new course or buy new textbooks or equipment, first evaluate the costs – money, time, (re-)training, additional resources and weigh them against the benefits – improved student learning, improved departmental efficiency, more effective parental engagement. Then decide whether to proceed.
  20. Be collectively responsible and engender it in your students. We all work within a community and need to be supportive of each other. Nothing should be seen as ‘someone else’s job.’
  21. Don’t be afraid to debate something you know is wrong. But also know when to stop arguing. It’s a fine line between having a good idea and being a pain in the rear.
  22. If you have to go to your boss with a problem, make sure you have at least one solution.
  23. There is no such thing as a dumb question, so ask it … once. Then write down the answer so that you don’t have to ask it again. If you ask the same person the same question more than once, you’re an idiot (in their eyes).
  24. Even if it takes you twice as long to figure something out on your own versus asking someone else, take the time to do it yourself. You’ll remember it longer. If it takes more than twice as long, ask.
  25. When you leave a classroom, make sure it is fit for the next colleague and class. Make sure the teacher’s desk is tidy, tables and chairs are tidy any litter is picked up. It’s a simple, common courtesy you and your class should extend to the group and teacher which follow you.
  26. You might already know the answer, but ask the right questions for your students to get the solution; don’t just give the answer. This is hard when the rest of the class is waiting, but it will pay off in the long run. After all, you won’t always be there for them.
  27. The first time a student does something wrong, it’s not a mistake — it’s a learning experience. The next time, though, be more robust in your response.
  28. Always set students challenging tasks. Give them ‘busy’ work which just occupies their time and you do them no favours at all.
  29. Square pegs go in square holes. If someone works well in a group but not so effectively on their own, keep them as part of a group. Applies to both students and staff.
  30. Stop saying ‘you don’t have the time.’ Yes you have chosen an incredibly demanding profession. Yes term-time can be unbelievably intense … but you’re all in the same boat. If a colleague offers an interesting idea, never say you’d love to try that, but don’t have the time. Instead be honest and say it’s not important enough for you to prioritise … or better yet, make the time and give it a try, since they’ve probably done the hard work for you.

I guess they’re not all going to be popular, but which would you discard and which ought I to have included?

ICT Skills (2.0?) Audit November 28, 2009

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD.
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Teachers ICT Confidence?

from ltsScotland on Flickr

We’re currently engaged in a detailed review of ICT within school – largely following the Becta Self-Review Framework.  Having taken a whole-school view thus far, and with a departmental (faculty) perpsective still to come, it’s clear that an individual focus is also quite crucial.  In fact it is almost five years since our previous ICT Skills Audit . . . a lot’s happened since then!

Of course there’s no point re-inventing the wheel, so I cast around the Web for anything that might guide us in composing our latest version.  Well there’s quite a variety available, from Word docs to PDFs to spreadsheets to online surveys and spanning the years from 1997 until more recently.  Many are distinctly dated and are perhaps less relevent in today’s environment; most focus on discrete skills in the usual areas (file management, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations etc).  But I was wondering whether we ought to be asking the same (similar) questions we asked last time.  For most staff, it would show progression in most areas – there are many things that they now take for granted, they once found difficult.  And perhaps that’s just the point – the majority of staff have now embedded the basic skills in their practice.  Where once  an announcement “I’ve put a template in the teacher shared area for you” would have been met with many a rolling eye or blank gaze, now there’s not even a blink.  But now we’ve climbed that peak, we’re confronted with a new vista (with a small ‘v’) and we’ll need a more extensive skill set  to explore this new world.  And perhaps most crucially, we need to be able to adapt and develop new skills as we go to exploit what we find in this ever changing landscape.

skills audit draft

Draft document

With all that in mind, I wanted to consider statements which begin to explore the degree of confidence staff have in their skills across a wider range of areas.  However I’m conscious that I also need to manage the tensions of obtaining meaningful results whilst not placing too great a demand on teacher time.  So I’ve started a Google doc with some possible areas and statements we might consider.  If you’d like to take a look, or better yet add or amend the document, clicking here should open it.  Any feedback you have on the statements or the process or my thinking so far would be greatly appreciated – just add a comment at the end of the post.

I suspect it won’t be particularly popular with colleagues – self-reflection rarely is, and that’s a shame.  The intention and hope is to celebrate what we already know, explore those areas we may want to improve and inform us all of the paths we might want to develop as a school.  As with everything we do, there is one single overriding aim: to provide the best learning opportunites for our students.