Yesterday we had a Kaizen Network meeting with the principals of two of our partner schools in Australia. We often speak via skype but it is great to have the opportunity to meet face to face, to share what is happening in our schools and talk about exciting new ideas and initiatives.
We spent the morning discussing how to apply learning theory to practice. Both Ross and Jenny have taken the work of Lane Clarke as their starting point, using her enquiry model as the basis for all the learning in their schools.
Ross explained how this approach was introduced to staff by asking some searching questions that tapped into their moral purpose. What are we here for? What does learning look like? What do we want it to look like? Such questioning encourages a reflective practitioner approach that is further developed by staff having ‘buddies’ who they discuss their professional practice with regularly.
Some of the core areas for our Australian partners are thinking, technology and skills for life these are considered when planning learning experiences for the children and feature heavily in their work. The process of learning and the process of thinking are central to curriculum planning and ‘rich learning tasks’ are planned together by staff in dedicated sessions. These planning sessions start with the end in mind and ‘backward map.’ Staff have to include ‘must use technology’ and look for opportunities to include natural problem solving.
Visual portfolios are created by children to share with parents and build an ongoing record of their learning. The children use Lane’s Think Charts-these help them in learning how to learn. We talked about the fact that children need a process they understand. Ross and Jenny make good use of organisers that help with this e.g. De Bono‘s models. Such approaches enable the children to talk confidently though the learning process and deconstruct their learning. The use of task cards means more learning tasks can be facilitated. Different groups share their outcomes in a number of different ways so children enjoy a rich learning experience and support and encourage peers to do the same.
It’s great to discuss such things with passionate colleagues and always leaves me fired up and excited by the possibilities of what we might achieve together for our schools in the future.
Today we held the first kidsmeet at Hawes Side, Blackpool. The format was similar to a teachmeet with one or two differences. The schools in the most part, signed up via the wiki, presentations were limited to seven minutes (although timings weren’t too precious) and presenters were randomly selected over the course of the afternoon. What made this event different was the fantastic efforts not of teacher, but the children involved. Pupils ranging from Y1 to Y6 stood in front of a packed hall presenting their exciting and innovative approaches to learning with, and without, technology.
As adults we stood in awe of our young learners. Many presenting for the first time but so confident in their delivery, so sure about the tools and techniques they shared. It was a great sight to behold, those in attendance (children and adults) left with a whole host of new ideas to try out back at school, but confident in the knowledge that others are doing the same for what they shared was tried and tested, in the classes and homes of these primary pupils. What today did was open up huge potential for this kind of sharing, both face to face and virtually and today I’m sure, will be the first of many such events.
When discussing the day we toyed with a number of different formats and styles but we were keen to keep it as close to a teachmeet as possible and this worked really well. The children showed respect for each other’s presentations and great support for their peers going through the same emotions before, during and after their talks. The time sitting and listening was not a problem for even the youngest there as they were all fully engrossed in the experience. A primary pad was set up by @primarypete_ to enable children to converse in real time as we tweeters do at such events. Indeed there were plenty of tweets flying around the room as well and it was great to see the presenters receiving such encouragement and support from the wider world. The whole of kidsmeet was filmed and broadcast live via http://www.kidsmeet.org.uk as set up by @mister_jim and children back in classes were able to sit and watch their friends. If they had any doubt, the children knew the event was more than just those in the room when @oliverquinlan presented via skype from Robin Hood Primary in Birmingham and @ianaddison’s pupils shared their work from Hampshire. Tom Sale (@tomsale) kept the event moving along and played additional presentations during the break including one all the way from Princeton New Jersey USA! The break also gave the children time for the children to try out games consoles, enjoy the buffet and mix with their peers from other schools.
Many made long journeys to be here in person and it was fantastic to see @chrismayoh and his pupils from Bradford and @raff31 and his children from Liverpool. Schools from Preston, Blackpool and Fleetwood made shorter journeys and none came as far as two visiting principals from New South Wales in Australia who had a fantastic time at the event and were blown away by what they saw. Ross and Jenny stood up at the end to say a few words and are now keen to take the idea back to their schools on the other side of the world.
The event was compared by Bill Lord (@joga5) with humour, consideration, excitement and understanding. Bill made the children feel comfortable and confident when presenting and kept the afternoon ticking along. When there are pauses between presenters it is great to have someone who can expand on the themes and provoke discussion. Bill did just that and also gave a short keynote which was both fascinating and fun hitting the right spot with everyone in the room – not an easy task!
Kidsmeet was a huge success and one that we all want to build on in the future. The children have a taste for presenting, I don’t think they’d let us drop it now anyway! For a full list of all those in attendance check out the kidsmeet wiki. I’d like to thank them all for making the day so special. The fantastic efforts of everyone involved will no doubt ensure the event lives long in the memory of all those who came.
Most teachers never get to see beyond their own classrooms. As a profession we don’t get out much! We rarely see others in action, observe their pratice in an informal way and talk about pedagogy from the front. Opportunities for reflection are generally given little time in CPD programmes as other priorities jostle for our attention.
It is with this in mind that we are embarking on school visits for our next teacher training day on Monday. 25 teachers will be making trips to various partner schools across the north west and beyond as we try and give staff the opportunity to get into other classrooms, other schools in different Local Authorities, to learn from each other, to share thoughts, ideas and innovations, to see practice in action. It is something we have been keen to do for some time and we’re excited about the potential to develop stronger links and delighted so many of our partner schools have agreed to the visits. A reciprocal arrangement has been agreed and our partners will be visiting us in the autumn. Our first staff meeting of the half term will provide the opportunity for everyone to share their visits, it is something I’m really looking forward to.