New Teaching Job? A brief guide to survival…

This post is a year in the making. As soon as I started my new job in September 2013, I vowed that if I survived the first year at King’s, I would write and share some guidance that may prove helpful for any teacher brave enough to break the shackles of their comfort zone, and take on a new position in a different school. Therefore, throughout the year I made notes on my iPhone observing things I did right and perhaps more usefully, things I did wrong; hopefully it won’t be just me who learns from my mistakes…

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The Old Golf

Let’s establish some context first. My first year at King’s was my ninth year teaching. The first three years were spent at St Pancras Primary School in Lewes. Leaving the South Coast was one of the hardest things I ever did, but I knew to expand my experience and develop my career, a change was required. And change is what I did… I jumped into my battered old VW Golf and set off down to the South of France to take a Year Six teaching position at the International School of Monaco! Five awesome years in Monte Carlo flew by and then I was fortunate enough to be offered my current role.

Anyway – these are the notes I took, I hope they are of some use:

BE YOURSELF:

The fact you got a new job suggests that what you have already done has been pretty good! Assuming you were yourself in the interview – that also means that the SLT want you to work for them. I found this particularly difficult but give it time and you’ll be able to let your personality shine through.

BE POSITIVE

Kids thrive off positivity. They learn better knowing that you actually want to be there (Even if you don’t!) Making learning fun in the classroom is such a huge step towards success.

BE TOUGH BUT FAIR

Reputations quickly develop at school, you need to make sure yours is a good one, otherwise it can take a while to shake off. I was certainly not tough enough to start with; partly because I was so used to not having to be particularly tough in my old job – one of the attraction of the aforementioned comfort zone! You have to remember that pupils don’t have any preconceptions, negative OR positive of you – therefore first impressions count.

ENGAGING LESSONS

The best way to get a great reputation is simply to be a great teacher. The more that goes into planning and preparation, the better your lessons will be. In one year group, I tried a no-planning approach to see what would develop organically – bad idea…

LEARN PUPILS NAME

This may sound obvious but it should be an absolute priority. I had 250 names to learn in September and should have made more of an effort to do this quicker. Knowing names helps to build positive  relationships and certainly helps in terms of behavioural management.

BE POLITE, PUNCTUAL AND MINDFUL OF OTHER STAFF

Enough said…

TAKE TIME

Finally, take time to get used to your new surroundings. Every school is completely different, each with its own idiosyncrasies, take time to learn how things work and see how best you can compliment what already goes on.

If you are embarking on a new job, then I wholeheartedly wish you the very best of luck.

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The Versatility of Blogging

Blogging improves writing standards. Fact. David Mitchell (@deputymitchell) was among the first to realise the potential that writing to a real world audience has for raising writing performance. After introducing school blogging at his school, SATs levels in writing shot from 9% Level 5 in July 2009 to 60% Level 5 in July 2010. Indeed, the DofE have gone as far as too publish research on the matter.

However, the power of  school blogging does not end there. The versatility of blogging is of equal appeal and the fact that a whole multitude of content can be published means that using genuine audience and purpose to boost standards should not be limited to writing, rather it should be used to encourage the raising of standards across the whole curriculum. Indeed, the opportunity blogging provides for student reflection and self/peer assessment is completely cross-curricular and on our fantastic King’s School Blog Site superb examples of work and interactivity are starting to appear. I’d thought I’d share a few examples of the versatility of blogging with you:

Challenge Based Learning

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CBL or PBL can take many different forms but using a blog to post the outcomes adds real value to student work. For this project, the students created interactive revision guides for other students to utilise as exam season approached. They created podcasts, popplets, revision notes and films about specific curriculum areas and then compiled them using the awesome ThingLink. The blog then proved the perfect place to share their work; providing an easy place for other students to access their work and help with revision. This is a good example of redefinition of learning using the SAMR model; computer technology allowing for new tasks that were previously inconceivable.

Computing

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I’m new to teaching computing but have found that having a blog to publish content has proved motivational for students and great for reflections and feedback. Students have used blogs to publish Photoshop portfolios, GIFs, Scratch games, animations etc and have found the interactivity highly rewarding.

 

 

 

 

Podcasting

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Using an easily embeddable podcasting App like Audioboo makes publishing audio content incredibly easily. As long as you have some headphones, students love listening to podcasts and commenting on them. It is also useful for students to listen to their own podcasts

 

 

 

Film Making

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Students love making films and they encourage creativity. Moreover, what is the point of making a film if you don’t have an audience for it? Filmmaking and blogging go hand in hand. The easiest way to put your film on a blog is to upload it via either Youtube or Vimeo. The main difference is that you can password protect your Vimeo films. It’s worth setting up a school account (links above) and make sure that all films produced are uploaded to the official account as the administrator can monitor and control comments etc. Once your video is uploaded, you can embed on your school blog and make your film available there. This also means viewers will not be distracted by other options on YouTube or Vimeo.

CPD

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At King’s we have recently established a CPD blog. Teachers are now posting ideas, presentations, TeachMeet details, reflections etc. which is allowing other members of staff the opportunity to access what is going on across the school and beyond. It is very rare that we get to meet as a whole staff and therefore using a portal such as this to share good practice is yet another great use of a school blog.

 

Presentations

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The point of a making a presentation is having an audience to present it to. However, I am still amazed by the amount of students who are told to make a presentation (invariably on PowerPoint) and then it never makes it further than the school server. Really, what is the (power)point? Having a blog solves this problem! Presentations can be easily embedded and then actually presented or even simply shared with whomever one desires. Feedback on your presentation can then also be gathered form the whole entire planet!

School Clubs

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Got a school club? Why not blog about it? Blogging provides the perfect platform to share whatever you are doing with a global audience whilst providing a platform for conversation, sharing ideas and reflection. Take for example our new school running club blog. By embedding the GPS mapping of each run, the interest of participating students has soared. They can see where they ran, how far they ran, how many calories they burnt etc. Additionally, by taking pictures and video footage whilst running it is easy to then embed short films of our activities!

In conclusion the versatility of blogging is endless. Whatever is going on in your school, there will be a way to blog about it. It makes learning fun and interactive and encourages conversation, feedback and reflection – all of which are invaluable life-skills. Tomorrow sees the dawn of the final half-term of 2013-14 (where did that year go?) and with the World Cup less than a fortnight away I am currently thinking of ways to combine the magic of our school blog to the wonder of the greatest show on Earth. The power of blogging is as limitless as the creativity of those that use it.

BETT 2014 – iPad Apps For Learning

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This is the presentation I gave at BETT 2014. The idea was to demonstrate how my students and I have used six, non subject-specific, iPad Apps in a variety of different contexts across the curriculum.

http://prezi.com/asnlltmcowev/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

The WiFi-less Classroom

Before starting at King’s I had to prepare myself for a major pedagogical shock;  no WiFi…

Instead of the 1:2:1 iPad environment we enjoyed at ISM, my new classroom consists of 23 Windows based desktops; a traditional computer lab if you like.  So although we still now enjoy a 1:2:1 situation, the device was completely different and so was the context. In my previous life, I was a Year Six teacher who was using mobile technology in my class, across the curriculum, wherever it presented an opportunity to redefine learning. Now I am an ICT teacher faced with a room full of Windows PC’s and see each of my fifteen  classes (Y4 – Y9) for a 3 x 35 minute lessons a week. A huge, and indeed challenging, change for me.

However, there are a few web-tools that I have been able to utilise to good effect and helped me to rise to the challenge. Even better, they are all completely free.

Popplet:

screenshot-2013-11-20-15-59-53 Popplet is a fantastic brain storming tool that can be used from lower KS2 up to PHD level. It allows the user to construct simple mind maps/ brain storm and include video and images in each ‘Popple’. The free version allows the user up to 5 Popplets and your account syncs with your mobile device. They are easy to embed upon a blog so work can be easily shared too.

 

WordPress:

WordpressWhere would I be without blogging? Ever since seeing Deputy Mitchell and his pupils advocate school blogging so brilliantly at BETT 2011, I have loved blogging and the motivational benefits it brings to learning through real audience and feedback. The King’s Rochester Blog is still in it’s infancy but already we have some super keen bloggers who have already used their blog in a whole host of contexts.

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Edmodo

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King’s currently uses Moodle as it’s VLE/LMS. However, I have been using Edmodo in class as a way of exchanging links, files and video’s. It’s user friendly interface, versatility and class/group functions have made it invaluable in a WiFi-less classroom. It allows a level of teacher-student-teacher workflow that can enhance the continuity of lessons. Although Edmodo is capable of much more, using it to structure lessons, and share resources during them, has been highly successful.

Padlet

padlet_c++Padlet allows instantaneous contributions from your whole class. It has proved it’s value in a whole host of different ways but in particular, class brainstorms/discussions. It allows quieter children the opportunity to have a voice in a classroom and, when used in conjunction with Edmodo /Wordpress, can form part of a cohesive and fluid workflow. It is  easy to use, although you should be careful with the security settings ; ensure comments are moderated and locked once the Padlet is finished, especially if you choose to embed the Padlet.

Go Animate

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Go Animate is a superb, cloud-based, animation tool that allows students to express their understanding, ideas and indeed narrative in a fun, dynamic and exciting way. It proved to be hugely popular across the ability ranges and the students were very enthusiastic about completing their work. The only drawback in the free version is a 30 second limit, but that in itself can be an advantage when trying to avoid long-winded presentations.

Prezi

Prezi

Prezi is now well established as an alternative presentation tool to PowerPoint and KeyNote. It is intuitive, has beautiful templates and is a stunning way to visualise information. It was used by y7 as part of their Challenge Based Learning project on sustainability to great effect and could be used across the curriculum. Once more, it’s ability to easily embed on a blog is another huge advantage over PowerPoint and KeyNote in a classroom workflow context.

Storybird

Storybird

An awesome web-tool that enables the user to make visual stories in minutes. You can set up your class(es) on Storybird with individual log-ins and even give them specific assignments. As teacher you have instant access to their work, so when used in conjunction with an IWB, is great for a WiFi-less workflow! The pupils at King’s have really enjoyed using it and their work will be published on our school blog when completed. Another bonus is that the books are easy to embed on blogs.

 

Conclusions

There are various other educational tools that we have utilised; Youtube, Wikipedia, Audacity, Google Docs, Scratch to name but a few and all of them have proved beneficial. My experience has told taught me that there are plenty of fabulous webtools out there for teachers to use in every subject. Indeed, Martin Burret documents all of these wonderfully in his ICT Magic wiki.

Therefore, in an ICT lab with wired web-access, children  are able to inquire via the internet, cross reference, create podcasts or films and blog their work and reflections to a global audience.  With WiFi they can do this across the curriculum using mobile devices and I am hugely excited by the possibility of that happening at King’s.

Challenge Based Learning – What’s The Big Idea?

The ADE institute in Cork was inspiring in a multitude of different ways. However, one of the seminars in particular, resonated with me. It introduced me to the power of CBL, or challenge based learning, and the impact multi-disciplinary, real-life learning could have on students. Perhaps though, I should say re-introduced as Jenny O’Fee, the Head of Primary at The International School of Monaco, has long been an advocate of similar practice and indeed, developed the ISM Exhibition around this concept.

Challenge Based Learning Continuum

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The Big Idea

The process starts with a Big Idea; a broad but engaging concept that forms the umbrella under which all the resulting work resides.  I decided that each year group would have the following Big Ideas and relate them all back to our school. (Links are to the accompanying blogs)

The Essential Question

Next came the formation of the Essential Question.  The students used the Big Ideas to formulate of a whole host questions that connected them back to King’s, eventually each year group/class (depending on context) narrowed their thoughts to one Essential Question. Padlet proved to be a great tool to complete this process, as every single member of each class participated and voiced their ideas. This is of particular significance when considering the importance student ownership and engagement has within CBL.

The essential questions each year group/class decided upon are:

Year 5

  •  “How Can We Help Keep Our Community Safe On Line?”

Year6

  • “Rochester Castle is decayed on the outside, but what secrets lie behind those walls?
  • “Rochester Cathedral is on our doorstep, but has it revealed all its secrets?”
  • “King’s School has existed for over 1400 years, but what do we actually know?”

Year 7

  • “How Can We Plant For Future Generations?”
  • “Do we re-cycle enough at King’s?
  • “By re-using old equipment at King’s, can we make our school more sustainable?”

Year 8

  • “Could the lobby TV inspire us to make a difference at King’s?”

The Challenge

Each class has now sub-divided into smaller groups, and within those groups children have developed their own individual focus of study. They are now developing their next steps and already I have seen plans to collaborate with peers, teachers, experts in their communities and around the world. They are keen to utilise the technologies at their disposal and incredibly excited to create solutions that will result in concrete, purposeful action.

Like them, I can’t wait to see where the journey takes us…

Old School

Old School

My first two weeks at King’s have been exciting, challenging but ultimately rewarding. The similarities between my old post at The International School of Monaco and my new one at King’s end with the job title. However, a brand new blog-site and twitter account have already made things slightly more recognisable.

I have also had two WiFi site surveys carried out at King’s and had a very interesting meeting with some iPad solution experts. The way in which iPads can be managed now blew my mind and further added to my conviction to ensure learners and teachers at King’s get the opportunity for their learning & teaching to be redefined by using these remarkable tools.

During these WiFi surveys, I explored the ancient grounds of King’s in real detail. My adventures allowed me the liberty to take photos of the technology I came across and very quickly confirmed why my conviction to get iPads was so strong and necessary. I used them to make the poster above, that summarises things quite clearly. Things have changed, and so should our teaching.

Blog On…

Tomorrow, on my first official day at my new school, I am introducing school-blogging to the staff. To support my presentation I put together the following Prezi. If you find yourself purveying the huge benefits of school-blogging , you may find elements of it useful.