Fountain of Knowledge: MOOCs free online courses

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.

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Perks of the Surface Go for Virtual Feedback

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?

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ResearchED: Keeping a finger on the pedagogy pulse.

rED-logo-printI 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.

Building Schemas:

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Online Teaching Strategies

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. online-education-on-laptop_1133-386

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
  • PadletCreate 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
  • Prezi: Presentations
  • Scratch: Programming such as music, graphics and photos used in gaming, animations and slideshows.

Quizzes:

Strategies for Teachers:

  • PowerPoint: With a completed powerpoint, press ‘Slideshow’ along the top and then ‘Record Audio’ to record a voice over to be saved with the presentation.

Student Discussion:

Don’t forget to join TES for free subject resources.

If you have any other strategies, websites, ideas or app recommendations please comment 🙂

Ensuring Questioning Impacts Students’ Learning

Just before Christmas I ran a short CPD session with staff on questioning techniques. Now the difficulty with such an area is that there is no secret ingredient or coverall fail safe approach (like with starters for example, you try an activity and it either works or does not.) However when it comes to questioning, this is not an activity it is a skill, so the first step is recognising what you are currently doing and asking if it is working or not. This is often best supported with an observation, another set of eyes that can listen to the questions asked and the responses given but this is not always the desired approach nor very helpful when running a training session. So instead I turned to my new set of books (and Google of course).

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I started the session by asking staff the reasons why we ask questions. Now I know this is not a very creative start however it was necessary to emphasise that we know as teachers why we question (e.g. to interest, engage and challenge students, to check on prior knowledge and understanding, to focus students’ thinking on key concepts and issues etc) but what the research points out is that whilst we know why we question, very few questions are asked that promote reasoning, problem solving and evaluation or to promote students’ thinking about the way they have learned.

This got me thinking back to my PGCE days and Bloom’s Taxonomy. Now I am not a big fan of teaching fads, however Bloom’s to me is different. Back in the 1950’s Dr Benjamin Bloom, educational psychologist and his team, designed a framework that focused upon Knowledge (cognitive), Skills (psychomotor) and Attitudes (affective). This developed into his Taxonomy, a six stage developmental programme of learning. So within my session I give teachers a blank triangle separated into 6 sections and they had to order the subheadings from least to highest order skill:Annotation 2020-01-16 152849

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The Science of Learning – What you need to know.

This morning Bradley Busch ran a CPD session at my college. Usually with CPD events it falls under one of these categories: loads of ideas that never actually become reality, some ideas that you have already been doing for years, fads or an opportunity to write your to-do lists whilst you wait for it to finish! Today was very different.

For me, Bradley Busch is the best speaker I have come across since Dylan William. Maybe the reason for this is that he is not a teacher by trade but a psychologist. Maybe it is because he worked with athletes for years rather than teachers. Maybe it is because he focuses upon educational research rather than teaching ideas. At the end of the day it is the research that helps us formulate new ideas, since we are all professionals in our fields after all. So here are the highlights:

Busch started the morning by presenting the question: “why do some students learn20191002_091200.jpg faster and more effectively than others?” Is it ability, motivation, resilience, hard work or is it the way they are storing their learning? He represented the research using a grid that questions: Am I aware of it (the learning)? and Do I really know it? Students who don’t know and are not aware are just ‘clueless’. Students who know the answer but not how they know it are working from ‘gut feeling’. Students that are aware and are confident with their answers sometimes leads to ‘blind spots'(over familiarity). We need students to fall into the final box = Deep Knowledge. Testing the confidence leading to ‘blind spots’, rocking the boat of familiarity and moving the learning into deep knowledge.

So how do we do this? The answers lie in the memory and what works…

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