Teaching & Twitter

Teaching and Twitter 1

For the past six months I have become a fan of Twitter (@tiddtalk). It has enabled me to network very freely with other like minded teachers and educators around the world. This can enable you to spread information very quickly on what is happening now or a particular moment. It is an excellent resource to spread information especially if you have updated your blog and are looking for instant readership. It is a great use of technology and is something I have found to be a great source of learning and enjoyment.

Two weeks ago the BBC reported that Scottish teachers are being warned that their use of social networking sites could put their careers at risk. The Scottish Secondary Teachers Association believes teachers can reveal too much personal information on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The full article can be found here.

The General Teaching Council of Scotland is preparing new guidelines on social networking sites. This follows a number of recent cases brought before the GTC’s regulatory body.

Jim Docherty, assistant secretary of the SSTA, told BBC Scotland that teachers should follow his advice: “First thing is don’t bother telling anybody else about your social life. Secondly, never make any comment about your work, about your employer, about teaching issues in general. There is always a possibility it will be misinterpreted.”

I totally agree with these sentiments. We have to be very careful with what we write and who we share this information with. As long as we are professional and think before we tweet we should not fear this medium of sharing information and knowledge. Twitter is here to stay and is the future of learning. Using technology in the right way can only improve our lessons and sharing of ideas.

The Courier Mail of Australia have written a very interesting article today on Twitter being used in the classroom. Research from Southern Cross University has found strong benefits for the use of Twitter by students too embarrassed or uncomfortable to ask teachers questions in the time-honoured raised-hand method.

Southern Cross business lecturer Jeremy Novak, along with Central Queensland University’s Dr Michael Cowling, studied the use of Twitter among university students as a method for asking questions and gaining feedback without having to stand the stares and scrutiny of fellow students.

The positive feedback from students, particularly international students, has convinced the research team the use of Twitter technology could also be embraced by classrooms at high school and even primary school level.

“Twitter is another exciting teaching aide that is highly under-utilised by lecturers and teachers in the education sector,” Mr Novak said. The full article can be found here.

I would really like to hear from other educators who are using twitter in their classrooms. I do think social networking sites can be used correctly in schools and can enhance the students learning and interaction. School portals and virtual learning zones are the just the beginining and we need to embrace the technology that is out there in our schools.

Schools could have their own Twitter accounts, for example, where parents and students could follow what upcoming events the school would be holding i.e. parents evenings, fetes, school productions etc.  Please follow me via twitter @tiddtalk.

Please complete the poll below – I would really like to read/hear your comments and experiences of Twitter.

Teaching with Movies

With the Christmas holidays approaching and the cold nights by the fire, I was going through my DVD library at home and it got me thinking about the importance and usefulness of films in education. I do use films in my lessons as I find the footage and content can convey a message that can help a students understanding.

Back in January 2010 I wrote about this very issue on my blog and for Sec-Ed in April 2009.

I have always been using documentaries and footage from DVDs and videos in my lessons but I had not realised what films could offer. It got my mind racing on different aspects of films that could be shown to pupils within different subject areas. I soon realised that films could enhance and develop a pupils learning and encourage them to be life long learners.

Films can enhance a lesson and excite a young mind with their powerful and thought-provoking subject matter. My good friend from my Southampton University days, Dr. Pietari Kaapa of the  University of Helsinki, has stated that, ‘cinema as both a popular form of entertainment and a means of artistic and political expression, is a crucial area of classroom teaching. The pedagogical potential of film provides an immediate and invigorating addition to established lesson plans, while the history of the medium and its contextual socio-cultural relevance function as sources of study in their own right.’

As a Geography Teacher I have used a wide variety of different films to help show and back up key terminology or sometimes complex geographical features. The world today has created a generation of young people with very active minds. The days of a teacher in a classroom talking for 50 minutes are long gone and would not generate much enthusiasm from today’s young learners. Interaction and variety is what is needed to engage learners and film is one medium that can grip a young person’s attention. Film can enthuse and generate much debate and help a learner.

Pupils are requested to use and take part in different types of media within their learning from the National Curriculum. Films like music should be encouraged to be used within the classroom. My good friend and former flatmate, Nick Hargreaves, of Radipole Primary School in Weymouth, Dorset, believes that ‘films are a really valid text as much as books. With the National Curriculum we have to look at various types of media within a child’s learning and film is one way.’

‘Films are not always easy to understand and it does take time sometimes for a young learner to fully understand the complexities of a film like the music changing in relation to the mood of the film.’ As we are aware there are three types of learners; visual, auditory and kinesthetic. A film is one medium that incorporates all three learning styles and can hold the attention and pass on knowledge and understanding to all three main learning styles.  Nick Hargreaves says ‘film takes into account how a learner learns…it attracts the three main types of learners and engages all of them in one sitting. It reaches out to all target levels especially boys’.

I remember reading Great Expectations at school and found watching the David Lean adaption a much-needed guiding hand when it came to revising for the GCSE. A film may not always be true or correct, but in the right hands, us as teachers, we can filter out the bad and use the great pieces of film there is out there waiting to be used. I would really like to know what films you use in the classroom – do you have a ‘Top Ten Movie List’? Please send in your comments via the comment box below or by twitter @tiddtalk – I look forward to reading your choices!

Grappling with Geography

Recent press coverage has put geography, my subject, under the spotlight. According to Hannah Richardson of the BBC; ‘geography is declining in many of England’s schools as pupils turn away from a subject they find “boring and irrelevant”, Ofsted Inspectors have said in their report “Learning to make a world of difference’’.

‘Ofsted said that in one in 10 primary schools visited by Ofsted, geography was said to be disappearing. The report also points out shrinking numbers of secondary pupils are taking the subject at GCSE and A-level. The number of students taking geography GCSE fell from 173,800 in 2008-9 to 169,800 in 2009-10, official figures show. The report found the number of state secondaries schools not entering pupils for the subject has been rising steadily, increasing from 97 in 2007 to 137 in 2009. However, this is a tiny minority in the context of more than 3,000 secondary schools across England.’

It is apparent that geography has entered into the fight for its very survival as a curriculum subject. As a Head of Geography in Dorset, I am extremely passionate about a subject that has always been close to my heart.

Geography is more important today than ever before in today’s uncertain times. When I was at school I was taught by some inspirational teachers like my old Geography teacher Graham Currie. I was transfixed by the awe and wonder of our planet from the amazing landforms of glaciation, the climatic changes on the earth; how people brace themselves against a sometimes cruel world…Geography has always been a fascinating subject.

Young people need to become global citizens and encouraged to learn about their local area, their county, their country and about the world. Geography has for sometime been losing its position of importance. In KS3, 4 and 5 elements of geography are taught in other subject areas especially science.  With science as a core subject where is geography’s place? We need to define geography as a subject in its own right. The importance of geography needs to be made clear by the Department of Education. We need to reclaim our topics and rebrand ourselves as a twenty-first century subject.

With an ever-changing world geography must be at the forefront of educational thought. Being versatile, experimental, and very much of today it should be leading the future of education. As a teacher I have worked in several forward thinking schools where opportunities to attempt new ideas were welcomed. I am very lucky in this respect. I have been fortunate to have witnessed great teaching in my eight years as a teacher.

According to David Lambert, chief executive of the Geographical Association, ‘geography is not just important on its own account. It is a linking discipline, connecting to science, to the arts, to history and languages. In primary schools where geography in strong, the subject can help to knit the curriculum together as well as satisfy pupils’ curiosity about people and places. In senior schools, geography offers the opportunity to develop a broader and very contemporary skill-set. It also helps many students to keep their options open, rather than having to narrow their courses down to either the sciences or the arts. Geography straddles both, using diverse sources and data, and asking challenging and engaging questions about the change pupils can see in the world around them.’

‘Given the vast ambition of the topic, it is easy to see how it can be badly taught. But it would be a betrayal of young people to give up on what geography can contribute to their education, just because it is hard to teach well.’

Last year I wrote an article for Sec-Ed. Sec-Ed is the UK’s only free national teaching paper that is sent to every UK Headteacher and staffroom. The article is titled  ‘Where now for geography?’, it focuses on geography’s fight for survival as a curriculum taught subject. The article can be accessed here for your perusal.

Geography deserves its place on the curriculum and it is the subject of the 21st Century.

How Earth Made Us

Great news for fans of Professor Iain Stewart’s television programmes as he is back!  The press release for the new series is as follows; ‘following on from Earth: The Power Of The Planet, geologist and presenter Professor Iain Stewart returns to BBC Two to continue the epic story of the relationship between human civilisation and Earth.’

How Earth Made Us explores how geology, geography and climate have influenced and continue to shape human history. Each episode examines a different force, including the effects of deep earth, wind, fire and water. The series concludes with a look at how the human race has become a geological force in its own right.’

‘Travelling to some of the most iconic locations on the planet, Iain Stewart discovers how the river Nile caused Egypt to dominate the ancient world, how the break up of a super-continent 200 million years ago shaped an energy revolution, and how wind changed the history of China and Australia.’

I am a big fan of his previous programmes for the BBC. Iain Stewart is a Lecturer in Geology in the School of Earth, Ocean and Environmental Sciences at the University of Plymouth (my old University). The new series starts on Tuesday 19th January at 21.00. Happy viewing!

The Big Chill

Like many teachers, I have found myself working from home today with the snow causing many schools to close. From my house in Hampshire, the snow fall has not stopped and certainly does not seem to be easing off. It has so far reached a depth of seven inches in my front garden! This is incredible and from watching and reading the weather reports it certainly will be around for a little bit longer. The BBC has announced this is the worst weather conditions that Britain has faced since 1981.

The Met Office website has been brilliant for up to date weather reports and has some fantastic free educational weather resources available. These might be very useful in explaining the current cold snap to our students when we finally return.

Be careful on those roads over the next few days!