Tuesday, 25 August 2015

#niedcamp Apps R Us

This is the powerpoint of my talk from #niedcamp which I made in case the technology failed me. I actually used http://www.popboardz.com/ on the day and then did live demos of Tap Roulette, Decide Now, Plickers, Padlet, iAnnotate, Kahoot and Nearpod.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

#niedcamp 2015 Trailblazers

With the cancellation of the annual RTU summer camp, a group of 14 teachers got together and said 'We can do this and we'll do it our way' And so we did. Today saw the exciting culmination of two+ months of very hard work and planning. It went better than we could have thought possible, going by the tweets with the #niedcamp hashtag. There were freebies galore from our generous exhibitors, a yummy lunch funded by GTCNI and Kainos and fab prizes for the Teachmeet. 
The feedback about all the talks has all been extremely positive and we've been left with an exhausted but contented warm fuzzy feeling after spending a day with like-minded educators who gave up the nicest day of the summer to come and learn more, to talk to others and to take all the new ideas back to the classroom. Here's to us all!

#niedcamp Teachmeet presentation

This would have been my presentation for the teachmeet at #niedcamp had I been selected by the random name selector.

Monday, 17 August 2015

#niedcamp 2015

It started with a tweet (or 10) and now here we are, it's #niedcamp eve. The presentation is on my beloved iPad and backed up in powerpoint on a memory stick, I've a 'just in case' Teachmeet preso and I've two chargers, two VGA cables and several extension cables. @curriculumni has my t-shirt and lanyard and the alarm is set for 6.30am (bleurgh) It's taken hours of my life and precious summer time, but it already feels like it's worth it and that's before we even get there. 

Why do I do things like this? Because, like the rest of the #niedcamp team, I am not only passionate about teaching and learning, I'm passionate about sharing and collaborating. And I'm not ashamed of that enthusiasm. The day I stop feeling enthusiastic about my job is the day I need to think about doing something else. 

#niedcamp is about a bunch of enthusiastic teachers and those associated with education coming together to share ideas and get inspired for the new school year. The takeaway resolution I have already made before I even get there is to blog more, if only to gather my own thoughts but hopefully to share ideas with other educators. 

Tomorrow we have one day to make a difference. Are you with us? 

Friday, 19 June 2015

Why I'm a proud magpie

"When ideas are shared, the result is always greater than the sum of the parts" Rich Willis

I have never set myself up as an original ideas person, I'm a magpie and proud of it. One of the great joys of my role as Teacher Tutor is chatting to the new staff and the students who come through our doors. Their 'homework' for our meetings is to bring an idea to share. I love hearing about pedagogical gems and observing others to inspire me in my teaching. 

I am also somewhat addicted to reading educational books to glean inspiration from them. My shelf in school is laden with books I have read and covered with highlighter and post-its as well as more I intend to read this summer. I lose myself for hours on Pinterest checking out ideas for my teaching, I have to set myself a time limit on the TES resources site and I am pretty active on the MFL resources forum. And as for Twitter... 

I cannot begin to describe the impact that Twitter has had on my development as a teacher. Firstly, it is one big, supportive staff room with loads of ideas, humour and support. It has also introduced me to the #mfltwitterati and to the #niedchat guys. Tweets on there have taken me over to Southampton, Newcastle, London and York, amongst others, mainly at my own expense, to share CPD with other like-minded teachers. And the ideas I have learned about have filled me with passion for my subject and for learning in general. The friendships I have made with other #mfltwitterati teachers are a constant source of support and a sense of "we're all in this together" We bounce ideas off each other, we tease each other, we get a buzz out of sharing with each other. 

Similar tweets led to the birth of Teachmeet Belfast, #niedchat and now #niedcamp. It is awe-inspiring to collaborate with fellow educators for the love of teaching and learning. And I love that it is happening in Northern Ireland. There is such a buzz starting about sharing ideas and getting to know other teachers. There is a sense of community. The word is spreading. 

It is a source of immense pride and joy to me that after 19 years of teaching, I am still enthused by the learning in my classroom and how best to teach and reach all pupils. I love it. It is therefore with pleasure that I am working with the #niedcamp team to help teachers share with teachers, educators inspire educators. 

Are you with us? 

Saturday, 7 March 2015

#ililc5 Lisa Steven's Keynote @lisibo Cooking on Gas

The #mfltwitterati legend that is Lisa Stevens who blogs at  http://lisibo.com/ gave us a splendid Keynote to finish entitled "Cooking on gas"  At times I put my iPad down and just listened and enjoyed so these are rough notes, apologies. Lisa has blogged about her session here http://lisibo.com/2015/03/cooking-on-gas-ililc5/

Cooking on gas has different meanings; giddy, really making progress and all is going well.  As Lisa said, we are all teaching different languages, we have different ways of teaching and we teach at different schools. Lisa tweeted re the essential ingredients for a language lesson and here are the replies:

What proportions will you use of the above ingredients in your lessons? 
Are the games the flour or the chocolate chips? What are the essential ingredients? 
Each group is different so therefore you use a different recipe. 
Do you always get the same result from following the recipe? 
We might all do some stuff from this weekend at #ililc5 and not have the same result. 
Cupcakes are a treat, a reward. Our ultimate purpose is to feed and nurture. Is all praise and no correction not going to spoil them if we feed them only cupcakes and no proper food? Is primary language teaching seen like this by some secondary teachers?
Lisa says that pupils need a balanced diet of "yes you're doing well but here's what you're doing wrong" 
She made reference to the Great British Bakeoff where Richard was often the star baker who made the best showstoppers, but he didn't win. Teachers can pull an excellent lesson out on the day for the inspector but their day to day basis can sometimes be poor teaching. Lisa compared teaching to bread - do some kneading, then leave it alone for a bit, the finished product takes a while to get there. 
She then made reference to the infamous scenes from the GBBO with Ian, where there were accusations of sabotage. In the same way, we can feel that losing pupils to music lessons, SATs, sports fixtures etc, you can be left feeling that they are out to get you. And we also feel like throwing it all away. Sometimes things go pear-shaped and we are tempted to never use it again. Don't give up. Sometimes we focus on the wrong thing (ice-cream melts) and actually there are bits that were very good in the lesson. 
Lisa then moved on to Celebrity chefs - what makes them a celebrity chef? Opportunity. Being in the right place at the right time. There are plenty of excellent chefs who aren't famous. We are no less teachers because we aren't talking at the conference and vice versa. 

There are kids who need our attention, it doesn't matter if positive or negative. 

Who is your language hero?  Your A level teacher? Lisa's teacher's pencil case used to come flying across room and it was your turn if it landed on you. She was eccentric but her lessons had great content, She wasn't there to pass an exam, but to make the pupils love Spain and Spanish-speaking countries. She used cultural titbits to keep the pupils engaged. She made kids feel valued and that they could do Spanish. 

There are things pupils are good at and not good at. Pupils need very basic instructions and to know where to look for them. 

Are languages les fruits moches of the curriculum? Are our pupils seen as that? The kids who find it difficult, who struggle, often benefit most from languages.  They often interact more in language, they want to contribute. Yet they are always taken out for extra help. Give him a break, he's enjoying Spanish. Do deals with them, get there. The only reason some pupils behave like that is because they are too bright for that group. 
Cooking well doesn't mean cooking fancy. It's good if it looks nice but it's not essential, that's not what we're interested in. 
Lisa talked about Herman the German friendship cake - people sharing, up to you to take away, make your decision which bit of recipe to use, what flavour etc 
A balanced diet is vital, use tech etc, just judge which tools to use at the right moment. 
Remember that following the recipe doesn't always mean success and you don't have to be famous to be good.  

This was a brilliant Keynote to finish off what was a fabulous and inspiring weekend. To quote Heather from TeachMeet Belfast "We are the people we have been waiting for"

#ililc5 Rory Gallagher @EddieKayshun Spaced Learning

Spaced learning 
I was very excited to hear this session and given the buzz in the room, so were many others. There was a lot of audience contribution and feedback as the session went on. 
As Rory points out, the brain is good at remembering but also at forgetting.  
Spaced repetition Ebbinghaus, 1885 - how do you avoid a drop off of memory? 

 Rory recommended that material be reviewed after one day, one week and one month. One day review makes a big impact so tell them when you would like them to do the HW. The month review is the issue. 

Old school is the Leitner system which they use in Germany (according to someone in the audience) pupils move forward a box as they learn the information. 

Rory asked if we did a test of 20 words and only had 1 min to learn it, what would we do? Suggestions from the audience included:
Make a weird picture in your head, place the objects in the picture. 
Tell yourself a story. 
Categorise words - classic cheat to learn words, more likely to learn a couple per category than 5 total. 

Rory then moved on to talking about Spaced learning, stating that the spaces between the learning are key, as they allow the brain time to process rather than cognitive overload.  It doesn't matter what you do in the rest sessions so long as it's not cognitive. It's good to do something physical. eg get them to follow you down the corridor, get them to think about how they walk, what do their legs do, etc

Here's a quick explanation of Spaced Learning in Languages (not as well expressed as Rory explained it)
1) Using Quizlet flashcards, do 10 minutes quick fire shouting out the TL and English for  c.75 single words. Tell the pupils not to worry about trying to remember them, to just let it wash over them. 
2) Take 10 mins rest doing something non-cognitive like making animals out of paper or Play Doh. 
3) Do 10 -15 minutes quite fast, going back over the flashcards, give them a hook or get them to think of one for as many of the words as possible. 
4) Do 10 minutes of yoga breathing. 
5) 10-15 minutes for the final test of the new information. Give them the flashcard on the board and the whole class shouts out the answer. Try to keep the whole class on board. 
NB A key point is that there is no writing down. 

The problem is the forgetting. According to Rory, kids can remember 30-40 words of the 75 at the end of an hour. They need to consolidate and revisit the vocabulary. 
Rory suggests doing this at the beginning of a chapter. Pull out the easy ones that they already have, depending on the class. Another idea is that you could do phrases e.g. You could do 20 A* CA phrases. 
You can measure progress because you can do a test (maybe for the 3rd session in the lesson) or set HW and do the test the next week. Testing is a good way of memorising. 


Spaced both ways - some key points. 

  • As teachers, we do something and move on, so it's not in their long-term memory, we need to come back to it but just at the right time (one week later and then one month later) 
  • Move on even if not mastered and come back
  • Interleaving (I need to check this out)
  • Drilling the perfect tense for two weeks = brain overload. This is a way round this. 
This session struck an immediate chord with me and after some gentle persuasion on Twitter,  the legend that is Rory Gallagher produced a 5 minute relaxation podcast for me to use in class. Our periods are 35 mins, so I did 30 words, 5 mins Play Doh to make the best animals, 10 mins to go back through the vocab finding hooks, 5 mins relaxation podcast and then a check on recall of the vocabulary. I have already done this with both Upper 6 classes as well as my class of 28 Form 4s (Year 10 in England) and all the pupils were very engaged and felt that it had helped them. I was particularly pleased with their attitude to the podcast, especially given that half of the Form 4 are boys and the potential for chaos was fairly high. I'll let you know the longer-term results and feedback.