When the learning starts…


It is often thought that technology gets in the way of the rest of the curriculum. Many teachers will have stories of whole lessons that were lost because the technology went wrong or because the learners didn’t have the skills to use the technology in their learning.

I use the chart above to illustrate how we address this question. As a school we may invest in core IT skills with our younger children so that the curriculum becomes maximised later in school life. We also need to prepare the children at the begining of themes or projects so that the digital learning is front loaded. This may mean that the first two weeks of theme lessons are almost entirely based on teaching the technology, even through decontextualised tasks. Then the latter weeks can focus on the curriculum learning.

Of course, the skills can be taught throughout the theme or embedded in specific tasks but this approach at least stops the technology getting in the way. Then all we have to do is make sure it all works.


Taking Teaching Forward

I have been weighing up the implications of your the Crispin Weston’s post, “Education’s Coming Revolution”, as it poses the question:
“whether it is realistic to expect ordinary teachers, wanting to do an ordinary job, to meet the aspirations of the more ambitious educationalists”.
I have been troubled by this because I recognise the situation where teachers seem able to deliver programmes of learning but do not seem to invent teaching approaches or learning situations based on theoretical concepts or new ideas. I see the reality and I hear people say, “Good teachers are born not made.” I get it but I don’t like it.
Then I read his new post today (Good Lord! Where’s the Digital Literacy) and I agree, taking learning objectives or selected skills and creating irresistible learning opportunities is absolutely the teacher’s job. It should be incumbent on every teacher to see this as their responsibility and to have the appropriate skills to be able to ensure this kind of learning.
Weston recounts a presentation at a NAACE conference where the audience were asked to point out the creativity in the new Key Stage 1 Programme of Study. He suggests that it is the teacher’s role to take the statements and turn them into creative learning opportunities rather than it being enshrined in the objectives.
Any Key Stage 1 teacher who cannot read the programme of study and (a) not want to turn that into something that is engaging and creative for 5-7 year olds and (b) who doesn’t consider what Piaget or the pantheon of child development might offer to the planning process isn’t being the best teacher they can be.
I recognise there may be a shortage of teachers such as this and maybe these skills are rare but I challenge the idea that we have to make do. These staff are degree educated and they demand a professional status and salary. Then why do we not expect the same level of professional development and self study that we would expect of doctors, nurses, lawyers, civil engineers etc. If these are the required skills of teachers then they need to be expected and they need to be supported to be effected.
I’m not sure we can rely on good teachers being born, I think we need to ensure that good teachers are made. This begins with training and professional expectations. Then we all acknowledge that a teacher qualification is only the beginning and after that the learning begins. The current understanding of CPD in schools delivered through staff meetings and one day courses would need to change. Personal reflection, ongoing self study and mentorship would become the tools of change.
This echoes Dylan Wiliam’s view that we, “Love the one you’re with.” The current muscular leadership approach to dispose of every teacher who is currently underperforming has two problems. Firstly, there aren’t a wealth of teachers waiting to take up the positions of those we lose. Secondly, it believes the myth that teachers leave training as finished products that are ready to take up every challenge over the next thirty years. If we challenge this way of thinking then we need to accept that great teachers can be made and we need an approach to ensure this.
I want it all, a high quality curriculum providing creative opportunities and all teachers able to deliver it.

The 16 Habits of Mind


This article from Edutopia discusses how establishing Habits of Mind before academic or curriculum based learning can have greater benefits to the more effective learning.


Managing Impulsivity

Listening to others with Userstanding and Empathy

Thinking Flexibly

Thinking about our Thinking (metacognition)

Striving for Accuracy and Precision

Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations

Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision

Gathering Data through All Senses

Creating, Imagining and Innovating

Responding with Wonderment and Awe

Taking Responsible Risks

Finding Humour

Thinking Interdependently

Learning Continuously

Definitions of 16 Habits of Mind

Let’s move away from Transactional Motivation! #autonomy


This RSA Animate video, “Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us”, from Dan Pink clearly challenges the transactional approach to motivation that we find in education. In behaviour management, raising standards or in staff management the motivating phrase usually begins, “If you do this then…” or the corollary, “If you don’t do this then.” This has led to the insane situation where we now offer cash incentives to students so that they will try to do better in their exams. Teachers who stay in the profession for the moral purpose are condemned for not trying harder for the money. Many teachers use complex extrinsic reward systems to encourage children to work hard, be kind or even to eat their school dinner.

 This video shares research which shows that people actually do worse when they are presented with the transaction to try harder for greater reward. Unless it is a mechanical, low cognition task then people do worse when they are offered greater rewards. This makes sense from a natural point of view. Babies and young children are instinctively motivated to learn and explore but when they arrive in school they are offered rewards to learn. Is this because educators don’t actually believe that what they are providing would be motivating?

In the video Dan Pink suggests that there are three things more motivating than money: autonomy, mastery and purpose. If we can bring these to our school and into the lives of the children then perhaps motivation won’t be our challenge anymore.


Mike Eisenberg’s Constructionism: New Technologies, New Purposes @garystager

This great presentation (http://constructingmodernknowledge.com/cmk08/?p=1656) from Mike Eisenberg at the Constructionism Conference 2012 outlines the key elements in combining constructionism and technology.

  • A focus on children’s culture and interests beyond the classroom.
  • Continued interest in blending physical and computational media, making use of powerful fabrication tools, navel materials etc.
  • A focus on designing content-rich activities as opposed to skill-building.

This breakdown attacks a number of arbitrary segregations within education. For example, teachers often talk about ICT lessons or about teaching programming. Eisenberg promotes ‘blending’ the learning with one elemnt as impactful on other areas of learning. This leads to open ended content rich activities rather than skills practise for some future unknown purpose.

This approach is at the heart of intrinsic motivation. Beginning with purposes and activities that are interesting and vital to children, interacting with the media and tools of our environment to be productive.

Webmaking with Mozilla Thimble

Mozilla Thimble is a great web based environment for learning HTML, CSS and JavaScript. As yet it is still not possible to upload images (you have to link to images hosted elsewhere) and you cannot publish Javascript, yet. However you can publish your web pages and it highlights errors to improve your learning. The side by side view is great for seeing the effects of differnet tags. This type of interface was available from W3 schools but Thimble is a neat fully packaged solution.