Teaching Criminology has introduced me to a different exam board, assessment strategies and content. For the first time ever I also have a lesson a week in a computer room! Yes, that special room that only a few subjects get to experience, that is always booked out and unavailable, I now have every week. So never one to just do the ‘sit down and research’ task, I decided to pilot a new teaching strategy in my first computer room lesson. Padlet. Padlet is an online resource where students can create interactive notice boards of information. What better for socially distanced group work?
After 20 minutes of chaos trying to set up the padlets and send the links to the relevant groups of students, we finally settled into a research routine. The results were fantastic! Every group (there were five in total) were able to work together to create an interactive board with links, photos, videos, write ups, articles, research all that represented the topic area assigned to them such as Hate Crime or Domestic Abuse. The boards are immediately updated so everyone in the group can see what is being added in real time. The finished boards were then exported into PDF and shared with the classes to keep in their folders.
So how do you use it? First of all sign up for Padlet or access through Microsoft (if you use Teams through your school/college you will get immediate access). To set the boards up, go to ‘make’ and then ‘wall’, from here you can go to the top right hand corner with the settings symbol and alter the background and enable name visibility, authorising comments, allowing students to comment on each other’s posts etc. Then share the link with the students and they can start adding materials to it by pressing the plus sign in the pink circle in the bottom right hand corner. Once completed export the documents into PDF and save them. The bonus of using Padlet is that all the hyperlinks to articles etc. that were on the original board, still work on the PDF worksheet. So it really becomes an invaluable resource for future work and revision.
I highly recommend it! It would also work really well remotely, so could be a group activity that students complete from home.
Who would ever have expected last year to turn out the way it did! As we commence into the unknown of teaching amidst Covid precautions, I reflect on what went well, changes made and the lessons learnt.
Last year I aimed to try three new things: Consolidation Packs, half termly quizzes and folders. Two out of three of these were a success – well for the first half of the year they were.
Firstly the Consolidation Packs, a booklet organised with a Blank Sheet Summary and Essay Question for each topic. Each week my students routinely had a Consolidation lesson on the previous week’s topic, allowing them to forget and then re-learn the topic. Every consolidation lesson followed the same structure: revise for ten minutes, from memory write down everything can remember on a blank sheet, using notes fill in any gaps, test then essay writing. This routine emphasized more testing over revising, key to memory training (see The Science of Learning for more information on memory and recall).
I asked my students what they thought and there were mixed responses, mainly positive but a few, as expected, were not as keen. Some comments included: “I thought they were really helpful, gave time to ask questions and clarify any missing areas from the topics” and “The KKT’s and blank sheet summaries were very useful because they forced me to revise the topics as we completed them” and “The exam questions with a guide for structure were extremely helpful.” For more information on the Consolidation Packs see: Revision Must-Do: Blank Sheet Summary
Secondly the half termly quizzes, whilst only doing three, seemed to work really well. The aim was to test the students on their key words. So after October half term I created a table of all the key philosophical words encountered thus far e.g. A Priori and the students had to write the definition for each word. After Christmas they got the same list of words with new ones added. After February they got the previous two tests with all the further new words added. This is a retrieval strategy, once again designed to train their memory, moving the words from short to long term recall.
Lastly the folders never happened due to budgeting, however generally my students maintain very organised folders to support their revision.
Last year also had a few firsts for me. These included:
The charity event which exploded beyond all my expectations. The Philosophy Ambassadors and I collected donations to fill the local Yorkshire Coast Sight Support charity shop. Well my classroom was flooded with generous offerings. After one week of collecting, we have over 30 bin liners and multiple boxes which in two cars and many trips, delivered the collection to the charity shop.
Using the examiner’s mark scheme within assessments. I created a table which broke down the different exam criteria and students highlighted which sections applied to their work. Afterwards they awarded their essay a mark and grade, just like an examiner. This got them thinking about what the examiners were expecting and whether their writing portrayed this.
I ran a Teacher Toolkit Enrichment supporting students who wished to go into Primary or Secondary teaching. Every week I worked through a different educational theme from behaviour management to SEN and how to be successful in an interview.
Then lockdown happened… this led to a whole new world of teaching! From live lessons on YouTube to one to one virtual feedback sessions using OBS Studio to setting and marking work remotely. I also signed up for a short online course in Educational Studies which I enjoyed completing from my sunny garden.
So what does the future hold? Well I am going to continue using the Consolidation Packs and half termly quizzes to try re-establish some routine and structure. I am also teaching a new subject this year: Criminology, which I absolutely cannot wait! I have taught General Studies and Extended Project on and off over the years but never another full qualification. I am one week in and I am loving how similar it is to Philosophy in that we can explore and discuss interesting ethical topics such as honour killings, genocide and homelessness without the intense pressure of keeping up with the tight timeframe. Teaching wise I am going to start using my Surface Go during lessons to help make assessment lessons more interesting. Finally I have also started to teach myself Sign Language which I am thoroughly enjoying. I wanted to do something to develop my own skills beyond teaching and it seemed like an invaluable skill that could overlap with my job as well.
I have been fortunate that lockdown has enabled me to explore those things on my ‘to do list’ that I never quite get chance to do. This includes reading pedagogical books, watching educational live streams (see ResearchED ) and signing up to my first MOOCS (a free online course database).
After enjoying browsing through the vast amount of courses available, in what seems like endless subject areas from institutions all over the world, I decided to choose: Testing Times in the Classroom: Challenges of 21st Century Education, provided by the University of Exeter through Future Learn. This seemed like a good choice in the current climate, I wanted to explore the pedagogy surrounding current education but also hear the thoughts and views of teachers and educators across the world during the crisis. I am currently only in my second week but so far it has lived up to everything I had wanted.
Each course works differently but this is a four week course, which releases tasks, articles, interesting questions to consider, polls and discussion forums each week. There are a number of activities that are easy to work through, manageable, engaging and you can easily stop and start according to busy schedules. It outlines a requirement of four hours each week, however this could go up or down depending on your level of commitment to the discussions, reading and adding to the comments as you go. It also doesn’t matter if you fall a little behind as you can still access the previous week’s activities.
During a routine learning walk last year, I observed a teacher mastering the use of a Surface Go in his Maths lesson. He passed the small computer around the students, who added their equations and workings out via a touch screen pen. These annotations were directly projected onto the main classroom board for the teacher to make further comments on. This ended up being an expensive observation! I left the lesson thinking of all the different ways this technology could be used within a humanities subject, from modelling essays to peer assessment strategies.
After researching the different styles and sizes, I decided to purchase the Microsoft Surface Go, a small, compact and entirely efficient touch screen computer. I now had this exciting piece of equipment, lots of ideas, students always willing to try new things and then I lost my nerve. I didn’t quite dare break the established routine of my lessons and I just didn’t know where to start! Then lockdown happened, every teacher had to reinvent themselves virtually and I had no choice but to think differently. And I had just the computer to help…
So how does the Surface Go differ from other technology and virtual learning programmes?
1. For face to face feedback with individuals or small groups then Zoom works well. You can share your screen with students and therefore go through PowerPoints or essays. However, I have huge issues with students sharing their locations with me and other students, they could be in their bedrooms or with family members during these meetings, so seeing their faces raises privacy issues for me.
2. For live streamed lessons with comments but no student faces, then YouTube works well. These videos can be unlisted so only students who you share the link with have access, plus you can store and share your video via YouTube for future classes.
3. What is missing from both options though, that the Surface Go provides, is a way to edit a document directly through the touch screen capabilities. This means that you can mark an essay or piece of work like you would normally, the only difference is that you do this onto a word document rather than paper. Now I know that you can highlight and add typed comments to a word document and share your screen via Zoom but this could be tedious and time consuming. The Surface Go allows you to provide written feedback as if a student were sat in front you and the verbal explanation can be recorded or streamed alongside it. This mirrors the feedback interactions given in lessons. This works by combining the Surface Go (writing equipment), filming software (OBS Studio) and YouTube (sharing platform).
So how do you use a Surface Go to give live feedback?
I might be a little late to the party but I have recently come across the live streams on ResearchEd with some very big names within current and recent pedagogical practice including Dylan Wiliam, David Didau and Rob Coe. This document outlines the upcoming live streams and has links for streams that have already taken place. If you would like to develop your pedagogical understanding and keep your finger on the pulse regarding research and practice, I highly recommend exploring the variety of options available. Most of the live streams are half an hour with the rest of the time on Q/A.
I have summarised the main points from two live streams I have watched so far.
Tom Sherrington Rosenshine’s Principles and Curriculum Design: What’s the connection?
Sherrington talks extensively about establishing an ambitious curriculum, as for him ‘curriculum is the weakness.’ He explores how it is the ‘simultaneous teaching [of] a whole group of people at the same time’ that is the problem. This is where Rosenshine’s principles come into their own. It supports planning a curriculum where ALL students can thrive in every lesson – ‘getting into the corners’ of your classroom.
I have been so impressed by how quickly so many teachers adapted to the current situation. Most of us have never considered whether our teaching resources and strategies would work long distance. Many of us have had to adapt extremely quickly in order for our students to continue their learning from home.
Now normally I blog on strategies that I have tried, practiced or recommend. However, as we are only a week into online learning my initial attempts to adapt include Live Streaming on YouTube, Zoom department meetings and Microsoft Team interactions. So I decided to do some research into E-Learning, Online Teaching and Distance Learning to see what else is out there to make teaching online easier.
I have collated this research into the most popular websites, strategies and apps so that you can see what is available and how these might meet your current teaching needs. My plan is to try a number of these websites and strategies over the coming weeks and blog on whether they work or not.
My top to try:
YO Teach: Create a student room with a discussion question
Padlet: Create a padlet board for students to share ideas
NowComment: Upload a document for students to comment on. One side is the document the other column is for feedback, interaction and engagement.
Strategies for Students:
SelfCAD: Cloud based 3D software to support designing in STEM subjects