Friday, April 20, 2012

AWOL website

In 2005 I created our school website after attending a training course run by our LEA. It wasn't that I was particularly passionate about website building or ICT at that time, in fact I found a lot of it mundane, but I was excited to be learning new skills. I was also very proud of what I achieved. I was a bit obsessive about it and so our website became quite big, quite quickly. I needed to find a way of managing this. The solution was blogging. From 2006, each class had their own blogger blog, thus lots of other staff contributed to the school website. Our website has evolved over the years and we get many compliments from our extended community and prospective employees.

So, imagine my horror at the beginning of the week when I found out that we no longer had our website. It had indeed gone missing without leave. We were not the only schools in this position; 49 other schools had also 'lost' their websites. Whilst I shall refrain from going into any details about what happened, it needs to be said that there has been a lot of anger in Norfolk this week and a few sleepless nights for some teachers.

My headteacher was placing adverts for teaching posts this week and we were in a position that we had not been in for a long time; we could not offer prospective candidates a snapshot of the school. So I felt something needed to be done about this, quickly. Fortunately a lot of our content was stored on blogs, so it was relatively easy to create a google site to host them.

Click here or on the picture above to access the new temporary website

So we have a temporary site, which incidently my digital leaders prefer! As the week has progressed I have thought more and more about my belief in 'fate'. I had been saying for a while that our website needed a facelift, but it was always at the bottom of my 'to do' list. It would have been nice to have been given some notice about the loss of ours, but at least it has jogged me into action. The temporary site will do for now, until something new and whizzy replaces it.

My final thoughts go to all the other schools in Norfolk who have lost their websites, especially those who do not have the time or skills to replace them quickly. I think we have all learned something from this experience, though it may not be a positive learning experience for everyone.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Learning objectives with WALT and WILF

After reading a very interesting blog post from Stuart @Mr_SJS , which started with

a somewhat provocative statement (à la Katharine Birbalsingh) the other day - 'A good teacher
states clear Learning Objectives. The best don't. Discuss.'

I have been inspired to add my own thoughts and experiences. I very much agree with what Stuart says and am in fact quite passionate about not needing learning objectives, that they can sometimes limit children's learning. Certainly in some maths lessons I will use an 'I can ...' title, because I want the children to self assess at the end. Mostly I want the children to develop inquiring minds, to be able to problem solve, collaborate and consider their own learning objective. When we drop into a drama and begin learning using the mantle of the expert approach it is the children that lead the way. Do you need to state a learning objective for that? It would ruin the anticipation, the thought processes, the discussions and all the other juicy skills that do not require a teacher telling them 'We Are Learning To'. Our children are quite able to create their own personalised learning objectives.

To give an example, imagine this scenario. A bag has been found. I don't know what to do with it. I need help from others. What would the learning objective be? Why would you need one? The children made decisions, did a lot of thinking and sharing of ideas and were quite clear about what they were doing. (If you are interested in reading about this drama/enquiry day, you can do so here.)

What about if you started a lesson with something like this.

Would you need to give the children a learning objective?

I have had this discussion with many professionals and in general have found that schools who have been awarded satisfactory or below have also been given poor advice or have been made to become hung up on over-planning and setting learning objectives.

In one 2 day inspection three different inspectors visited four of my lessons (they had not seen the mantle of the expert approach before and were intrigued). During this time they did not see one learning objective, but they saw learning happening. They saw enthusiastic children pushing themselves, working collaboratively and independently from me. I was an observer.
This is not a one-off, OfSTED have returned and have sen the same approach, with no learning objectives. They have not questioned it and have judged my lessons as outstanding. Not my teaching - they saw very little of that - they were making judgements based on the children's learning and progress.

So, if your children are inspired, enthusiastic, learning and pushing themselves to their limits without having been given a learning objective, have LO, WALT etc become surplus to requirements?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Google academy blog posts

Many of my fellow google certified teachers have written blog posts that are helping jog my memory of the many things I learned. So I thought I would start to collate their posts - mostly because it means that I will be able to find them easily. So here are some great examples that I have seen already:

I was fortunate enough to talk to all of these people and know that I will continue to learn from them in the future. Please let me know of any more that you have seen!

A final thought. I wonder if any other attendees are considering going for google certified trainer award? I'm very tempted ...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

That video ...

Here it is, the video that went with my application, which I now feel very proud of.

When I saw some of the other entrants (after I had sent my application) I had that awful sinking feeling that I had misread the expectations. There were so many serious messages and polished films and I thought mine was too silly.

Being accepted on to the academy has confirmed something I really believe in (but sometimes doubt); be yourself. If it's meant to be, it will be.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


I have had a couple of days to reflect on my experiences at the google teacher academy and have decided at long last to keep a reflective journal. It is not the first time I have considered it; I think that the learning journals that we keep for our youngest children at school contain many things that our children will enjoy looking back at in the future. What has prevented me keeping a reflective blog is the amount of sites that I have on the go already, but this does not have to be (and will not be) a daily diary.

Pre academy preparation

I kept questioning whether I deserved my place, especially as other tweeters that I admire and respect had not been so fortunate. Maybe as a kind of justification I made sure that I completed all of the google apps tests beforehand (something I had started as part of Norfok cloud educators) and tried to get my head atoung google+. Meeting my team mates in my first ever google hangout was a great way to make me feel more at ease before the day.

I was fortunate enough to be able to travel down with Jill Duman, who kindly loaned me a chromebook to play with. Once in London we then met other tweeting friends - Claire and Simon - in the pub, with lots of others joining us very soon. It was great to finally meet so many lovely tweeters and of course the members of team biro.

GTAUK day 1

I had very little sleep the night before (rural living makes city sleeping hard), but I think the excitement kept me going. Or maybe it was the huuge breakfast?! Google food could have a whole post of it's own ...

The first day was a whirlwind and as soon as I realised I was not going to be put on the spot or made to do something unachievable I started to relax. Unlike many of my British friends, I have no problem whooping - or 'hurrahing' as we had decided. There were many times when I felt like doing so and some truly jaw-dropping moments.

My magic moments included the google hangout with the amazing (and very young) Jeff Harris, Lisa's search (sexy Snape?! lol!), Dana's 'slams' and Tom Barrett's maps. I loved the way that Zoe used sites on an Olympic theme (definitely nicking that idea) and I could listen to Jim Still's voice forever. The passion of all the people who made up the google team was inspirational.

GTAUK day 2

Aside from my growing list of things to review, learn and play with, day 2 brought more opportunities to network with other people. I had already got to know some of the members of my team a little better and had some great conversations with others in the pub the night before. Day two allowed me to spend a little more time playing with Tom's maps, to attend then politely leave a scripting session (way above my tired brain at that point!) and to find out what projects other people are doing.

I have no clear idea as yet what I am going to do next, so have not ventured near my action plan. I do know that I am going to do the following:

  • Make some maths / history / storytelling maps
  • Share everything I have learned with colleagues at school
  • Make my existing google sites a bit more whizzy
  • Follow up on all the websites, links and ideas that I have learned
  • Make a QR codes quiz trail
  • Explore Mark Allen's method of report writing
  • Create a youtube channel for the digital leader network
  • Make more use of youtube than I do already
  • Make sure that my colleagues at school start to save time by using google docs and forms

There are far too many people who inspired me during the two days to mention, but I cannot end without thanking Zoe Ross for being an amazing team leader, Jill Duman and Jo Badge for their kind loans of the internet and a chrome book and Simon for organising a great first night. What an experience! No wonder I spent Friday in a post gtauk daze!

I think (hope) I only made one faux pas whilst there. Hearing the name 'Ollie Bray' in reception made 'Oooh! Ollie Bray!' pop out of my mouth, which was met with an uncomfortable silence from those around me. Well, what can you say to that really?!

If google did evening wear ... yes, it's a google apron and I like it! I even managed to convince some weary, newly 'badged' certified teachers that I had baked the cupcakes ... Slam!