Monthly Archives: December 2010

Adventures in Twitterland

It’s that time of the year when we start thinking back over the previous twelve months. I’ve decided to use this last post of 2010 to briefly comment on my highlights-twitterwise

I feel like this year has been a huge leap forward in the use of twitter as cpd. I am not alone in seeing forums like edchat and ukedchat as great opportunities to extend professional dialogue beyond school. As @deputymitchell says, twitter can be seen as the biggest staffroom in the world. Much has been written about the positive benefits of twitter to support educators as this cannot be underestimated. It provides a wealth of support, advice, opinion and encouragement. Twitter has helped develop a worldwide conversation that can only help us to think more about our practice, make us better informed and connect us with likeminded souls to challenge, support and inspire us as we develop professionally.

Another benefit of twitter is that it is a peer network . People don’t engage because they have to but because they want to. This isn’t a directed package to support professional development, but a bespoke community, built through voluntary involvement. It is a network that also recommends and shares tried and tested strategies, approaches and tools to inform practice. Ask a question on twitter and you’ll likely be blessed with a range of replies to help you, from people who’ve been there and wrestled with the same issues and found solutions.

Looking back over my posts this year, it’s obvious that twitter has had a profound effect on me professionally and personally. I have benefited through my dialogue with a whole range of people across the world, where else could this possibly happen?


In Praise of Twitter

If you’re like me you’ve probably got one or two friends who are a little cynical about your use of twitter. I tell them that twitter is more than merely another social networking tool, it’s a way of staying in touch with educational thinkers and educational thoughts across the world. Not only through weekly forums like edchat and ukedchat but also on a daily basis, wherever you like, whenever you want. All you have to do is get in touch with your PLN and you are immediately engaged in conversation and dialogue with likeminded thinkers from around the world who selflessly provide support, encouragement, challenge and advice.

Many in education will say that during school hours the firefighting and cut and thrust of the day-to-day means you have to deal with a myriad of problems and situations as they arise, leaving you little time for thoughts about wider educational issues. That’s where Twitter comes in. Twitter enables you to pick up those conversations you miss and would dearly love to have during the day. It enables you to sit back in the evenings and at weekends and engage in a level of conversation it is very difficult to have during the day when there are so many immediate matters requiring attention. It’s great to be able to move beyond the operational, to put our heads above the parapet, to look at the bigger picture and think a little bit more about things. Twitter gives you that platform, it enables to you get involved in professional thinking above and beyond local networks. It is a gateway to education and learning worldwide, anytime, any place. I’m happy to be a part of the conversation.


Driven: A lateral approach to CPD

Twitter, teachmeet, PLNs, online support & courses, the unconference. These are the models of CPD that are increasingly striking a chord with our profession. And there is a significant difference to what has gone before.

The title of this post could have been ‘ Teachers are doing it for themselves’ if it didn’t sound so cheesy! But that is, in a nutshell, what is happening. No longer is the model a top down one, no longer is professional development about being sent on a course to be lectured to by someone who hasn’t been in the presence of children for some time. Today’s preferred model is about practitioners sharing what they do, what works, what they’ve wrestled with to make work, the journey they’ve taken and the success they’ve enjoyed.

Professional development is lateral, not hierarchical. It comes not from those who talk the talk, but those who walk the walk. Those who work with learners have credibility and fellow practitioners find this common ground and connection relevant and hugely important.

As a Headteacher I am conscious of asking staff to engage in any meaningful professional development at the end of a day’s teaching and carefully assess whether this is  going to be productive or not. I have heard at different courses and on many occasions, the line ‘I was told I had to attend’ or something similar – the impact for such teachers and their schools will in such an instance, be questionable, minimal at best.    How refreshing then that so many staff willingly attend teachmeets after school of their own accord. These  people are driven, they are the heart and soul of education, full of enthusiasm, open to sharing and new ideas.  Commited to their craft and open to any opportunity to improve their practice for the benefit of those we serve.   Many also will spend evenings engaging in professional dialogue with colleagues and educators from around the globe via the net and social networks such as twitter. Getting involved in conversations through twitter communities such as #edchat, #ukedchat, #cpchat, #elemchat and many others ensures there is always healthy debate amongst peers the world over.   Developing of personal learning network (PLN) by following likeminded thinkers on twitter is one of the surest ways of keeping abreast of current thinking, staying in touch with educators far and wide and connecting your pratice to that of others.   Reading people’s blogs, joining their conversations, that’s bespoke CPD at its best.

This grasping of the mantle, this seizing of the reigns of professional development has put the model back where it belongs, in the hands of the practitioners. We are entering a new era of CPD, it is no longer being done to us but with us and by us. The future is exciting!


Standing still is not an option – Reflections on the 18th SSAT Conference.

Last week the SSAT hosted their 18th annual conference – Excellence for All,  in Birmingham UK.   The conference asked us to consider what children learn, how children learn and how we can remove barriers to learning.   A central tenet was the changing role of the teacher and many of the key notes and workshops I attended challenged the traditional view with persuasive models that are working both locally and globally.   A conference such as this really does give you the chance  not only to hear great speakers expound on new approaches but also enables you to attend workshops to see what that thinking looks like in the classroom, to hear warts and all accounts of how new approaches have been embedded and the difficulties that have had to be overcome.

My highlights

There were some fantastic speakers and practitioner led workshops and I couldn’t do them all justice in this brief post so I will simply share a few of the many highlights over the three days.

Sugata Mitra (@Sugatam) gave a fantastic keynote on Wednesday that showed just what children are capable of given the opportunity, his’hole on the wall’ work in the slums of India is an inspiration.   Both Sugata and John Wood have taken their experience, ideas and enthusiasm to different parts of the world to the benefit of millions of children.   John left Microsoft to set up the charity Room to Read which has provided books, libraries, learning and schools for children across Africa and Asia.

My twitter timeline will have betrayed to anyone reading it, the effect both Dylan William and Andy Hargreaves had on my thinking, and not for the first time.   When I listen to these two voices of academic authority sharing their thinking on education, based on extensive research, I find myself wondering why on earth a group of politicians (with little educational experience other than their own privileged one) would believe they know better.   Dylan’s research into how we move beyond current teaching levels is common sense –  improving teaching practice involves changing habits not simply adding more knowledge, something successive governments seem to have missed.   Dylan shared some startling facts about the national strategies that support his argument that for teachers to get better professional development has to be suited to individual need.   His recipe for a successful school is simple:

1. Become a Catholic school

2. Move your school to a leafy suburb

3. Get rid of all the boys

I’m not sure the academies programme will stretch this far!

Andy Hargreaves shared some of his extensive research from education, business and sport about leadership which forms the basis of his forthcoming publication ‘Beyond Expectations’.   There is something decidedly down to earth about Andy’s presentations, maybe it is his sporadic references to his beloved Burnley!   He made some fantastic points during his keynote and again, you can’t help but think the government would be wise to listen:

  • Education measures what is easy to measure, not what we value
  • Quick wins don’t reflect authentic improvements
  • If you want to be average, prescribe and standardise.  If you want to be excellent, be flexible and creative, innovate and take risks.

Andy’s research into successful business and sporting organisations could be a powerful catalyst for education change.   Let’s hope those in a position to affect such change are listening.

I could go on but many have already written about the conference and shared how passionately Tanya Byron spoke about integrating new technologies into the classroom, how Professor Erica Mc William introduced us to ‘the meddler in the middle’ as a key element of 21st century pedagogy and how Professor Barry Carpenter‘s research will help us meet the needs of children with complex learning difficulties in the future.

My final words go to Daniel Pink (@DanielPink) another inspirational key note speaker who challenged traditional approaches to learning and shared how we can motivate learners to prepare them for the future.   Daniel began his presentation by highlighting the three key elements of a successful speech; brevity, levity and repetition.   The three key conference questions, of how we learn, what we learn and how we remove the barriers to learning were explored repeatedly throughout the three days, sometimes all too briefly, often with levity, ensuring the all who attended the conference left with some possible answers, some further questions and a clear understanding that, as we always knew, standing still in education is not an option.   As Dylan William remarked when discussing teacher development; ask your staff if they think they think they can improve.   If they say yes, give them all the help and support you can.   If they say no, ask them to leave!

For further reading on the 18th National Conference see:

Bob Harrison’s post http://www.agent4change.net/events/event/749-ssat-conference-learning-genie-out-of-the-bottle.html

SSAT Blog http://ow.ly/3ga08

The conference was made all the more enjoyable this year by the growing presence of  the twitteratti!   Among those I had the pleasure to meet and tweet with were:

@chickensaltash @DeputyMitchell @DianneSpencer @andreacarr @LibWithAttitude @tonyparkin to name but a few of the many!