Piet Kääpä’s First Book

My good friend Dr. Pietari Kääpä has recently had his first book published. Myself and Piet first met each other when we both studying at Southampton University, where he lived in the flat above mine. Piet has always had a love  for films and knows more about the movie industry than anybody I know. In the time since I left Southampton Piet has gained his Phd from the University of East Anglia and now lives in China. Piet is based at the Institute of Comparative Cultural Studies at the University of Nottingham Ningbo in China. His research explores transnational connections in the fields of Finnish cinema, European cinema and the global marketplace.

His book is about the films of Aki and Mika Kaurismäki. This work examines the films that the Kaurismäkis produced, individually and in collaboration, between 1981 and 1995 – films which mobilise various methods to reflect, criticise, counteract and contribute to the globalisation of Finnish society in the era of late capitalist development. This work provides an in-depth analysis of these films, exploring the aesthetic and narrative content of the films as well as their production and reception in Finland. The theoretical scope of the work situates the films not only in the field of transnational cinema, but also that of ‘post-national’ cinema. Exploring the Kaurismäkis’ films in a post-national framework points to new, emergent understandings of both the fragility and the persistence of national culture and identity in a globalising world.

Myself and Piet have had several adventures over the years where both of us can tell many a tale about each other. He is a character and I wish him well with his book which is available via the Peter Lang Publishing Group.

Personal, Learning & Thinking Skills

I am slowly catching up with my blogs at the moment as it seems to be a very busy term so far. Recently I went on a course run by Dorset County Council. This was my first course in my new county having previously worked in Hampshire and Surrey. The course itself was based on ‘Focusing on Skills in Foundation Subjects’ particularly personal, learning and thinking skills and run by Katie Ashcroft, Foundation Subjects Consultant. Personal learning and thinking skills (PLTS), together with functional English, mathematics, and ICT, cover the areas of competence that are most often demanded by employers. Integrating these skills into the curriculum and qualifications will provide learners with a platform for employability and further learning. PLTS involve:

  • team working
  • independent enquiry
  • self-management
  • reflective learning
  • effective participation
  • creative thinking.

The course itself was split into three sessions;

  • Session 1 – Developing pupils’ independent enquiry skills
  • Session 2 – Developing pupils’ team work skills
  • Session 3 – Developing a cross-curricular approach in foundation subjects

It is was a very informative and enjoyable course. It was great that they re-emphasised the importance of PLTS in lessons. PLTS help prepare pupils for the future, in and out of school. They develop the essential skills and qualities for to be a life long learner, life and future employment. They also provide a common focus for learning across subjects and provides great opportunities for cross curricular collaboration. PLTS use functional, transferable and creative skills which can be applied to real life scenarios.

It was pleasing to be given the opportunity during the course to identify the skills our department might want to develop in geography and reflect. With the new GCSEs and A’Level syallbus’ this course has come at a good time for reviewing the schemes of work we have developed so far and want to develop in the future. As teachers we sometimes forget about the skills the pupils require and focus on the content we need to teach. It has to be a balance of both and is something we feel at Gillingham we are achieving. It is also vitally very important that the pupils are clear about the skills they need to be successful in your subject area.

There was particular emphasis on cross curricular links and their importance within schools. This is a requirement within the new Secondary Curriculum for all subjects to explore connections with other subjects. Cross-curricular links provide a more coherent and relevant experience for the learner. It enables all pupils to understand the importance of different subjects and in helping them make a sense of the world. It provides pupils with the opportunity to apply the knowledge, understanding and skills they have acquired in one subject to a different context. For those of you investigating to develop cross-curricular links I recommend looking at the subject comparison web-page provided by the National Curriculum, which can be accessed here.  

The course linked the theory of skills to what Ofsted are looking for within schools. This is key for any school to have an awareness of what Ofsted expect from us as practitioners. I have quoted below Ofsted’s expectations;

‘The school’s curriculum provides memorable experiences and rich opportunities for high-quality learning…The school may be at the forefront of successful, innovative curriculum design in some areas…A curriculum with overall breath and balance provides pupils with their full entitlement and is customised to meet the changing needs of individuals and groups…Cross-curricular provision…is mainly outstanding and there is nothing less than good. As a result, all groups of pupils benefit from a highly coherent and relevant curriculum which promotes outstanding outcomes.’

These are skills I feel all schools’ are trying to achieve. Unfortunately, they do not happen over night and they do take time to develop and integrate in the school community. By sharing good practice, an understanding of what we want to achieve and hard work these skills will start to appear in all schools.

The Apple Revolution

Over the last twelve months I have read and reviewed the merits of the Apple iPhone. Yesterday, after several hours (!) of decision making I finally gave in and signed up. Already I have seen the benefits this could potentially bring to my teaching and the students learning.

Apple themselves state that ‘technology shapes the way students interact with the world. So it only makes sense to teach them with the tools and media they’re already using. Creating digital content is truly simple, web research is quick and secure, and virtual collaboration is safe for young learners.’

The applications that the iPhone can offer is changing daily with an ever increasing amount of choice. Many education blogs have been written about the positive and negative factors mobile phones can offer education. Ollie Bray, National Adviser for Learning and Technology Futures at Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS), has been backing the use of mobile technology for some time in Scotland and has written several blogs and articles on this very subject. Back in January Dave Rogers, Curriculum Leader for Geography at the Priory School in Portsmouth, wrote a great blog about all the features the iPhone offers education. He clearly explains each app and its merits in teaching.

I Education Apps Review (IEAR) is a dedicated website for educational bloggers who contribute reviews of current educational apps available in the iTunes store. This is a great way to find out which apps are available for your subject area and what works for you.

The technology available to us as teachers is immense and is changing at a rate faster than we are able to keep up with. Students and pupils are far and away ahead of us as teachers when it comes to technology. As a teacher we are forever changing our teaching methods and resources. Mobile phones could help enrich a subject and make it more widely available for all students to participate. They have so much potential for the classroom. Mobile phones will enhance a pupils/students learning. They will give students skills that they will use in the wider world. They will bring benefits that will develop our own teaching. I am very much looking forward to working with my new piece of technology and improving my teaching.

Rockin’ All Over the World

In my lessons I always plan to include a variety of activities, different learning approaches and trialling out new ideas to help the students’ understanding and enjoyment of the subject. Music can entice a young person’s mind and start to make them think. Thinking skills are vital in education. Young people need to develop their thinking skills. Music works on many levels and can attract many different types of learners. It can spark their interest or reinforce their learning and make them more inquisitive. Music appeals to the auditory learner. Sections, lines or quotes could all be used to help a young person gain an understanding of a story, case study or theory. It is also a great cross-curricular way of working with another department. For example, your music department might be teaching South American music whilst in geography you teach Brazil. Simple, but effective!

I remember one of my geography teachers playing Dire Straits’ ‘Telegraph Road’ to us to help us with settlement change. As a guitarist I love Dire Straits and was immediately hooked by the lesson. My geography teacher at the time, Mr. Leach, started to explain the song lyrics. We listened again and wrote down what we heard and applied it to our topic we were studying – settlement.  He had used it as a lesson starter on settlement change. This was my first introduction into the use of music within geography. Thank you Mr Leach!

What would be your top ten music starters be? 

My Top Ten Geography Music Starters

  • Telegraph Road – Dire Straits (Settlement)
  • Paradise City – Gun ‘N’ Roses (City Change)
  • Why does it always rain on me – Travis (Weather)
  • Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash (Plate-tectonics)
  • Rocks – Primal Scream (Geology)
  • The Sea – Morcheeba (Coasts)
  • Starsky & Hutch Theme – The James Taylor Quartet (Crime)
  • Mas Que Nada – Tamba Trio (Brazil)
  • Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles (General Geography)
  • The End of the World as we know it – REM (Climate Change)

Fairtrade Fortnight 2010

Fairtrade Fortnight will be taking place during 22nd February to 7th March. For this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight they are asking the nation to join The Big Swap. For two whole weeks you will be asked to swap your usual stuff for Fairtrade stuff.

Swapping your usual stuff for Fairtrade stuff is a fantastic small step to making the world a fairer place. It means that you get to show your support for developing world producers through what you buy. For more information follow the link to the Fairtrade Fortnight website.

Proud to be a teacher!

Q. What do the following people have in common; Mark Knopfler, Chris Tarrant, Sheryl Crow, Nick Hornby, Frank Skinner, Stuart Maconie, Jim Bowen, Alan Bleasdale, Ian Drury and Sting?

A. They have all worked as teachers. 

What is it that drives us to become teachers? I say ‘us’ as we are different…I don’t mean to offend anybody but there is a certain type of person who becomes a teacher. I love teaching…it is simple as that. It’s not just a job I go to Monday to Friday but a way of life. Teaching has given me the chance to inspire and encourage a young persons mind to love the art of learning. But it isn’t a role that everyone will enjoy. There are of course disadvantages to teaching, so why do it?

Teaching is a popular profession for many graduates. Last year 38,918 (TDA Training Profile 2008) people completed a PGCE. The number of graduates completing PGCE’s has steadily risen over the last few years. It is a role that people find exciting, challenging and extremely stimulating. It is a profession where we are able to move people forward in their aspirations and assist their learning. Friends will know that I sometimes refer teaching to stand-up comedy. You have thirty pupils sitting in front of you expecting to learn. It is up to us to take it upon ourselves and show our worth. We need to work collectively together to make education great. We sometimes get too much bad press and the papers gloss over the successes and achievements that teaching has bought to so many thousands of pupils and students. We must praise each other in this very sacred profession.

Nicholas Hargreaves of Radipole School, Weymouth backs this up by saying, ‘Teaching is a wonderful career choice for anyone. From a young age several teachers and friends helped and encouraged me to aspire to become a teacher. To provide young minds with the knowledge, skills and passion to take control of their lives and become the experts of tomorrow. Personally it has given me the chance to inspire young people with my knowledge and expertise. Working with a group of like minded teachers and young people is extremely inspirational. It is a role I have always been determined to succeed in and work hard for.’

The role teachers’ play in their local community is also central to a student’s development. Schools’ and communities must work collaboratively together for an area to benefit. Economic investment is a necessity with schools. Schools are the training ground for our future generations and they need to be at the forefront of technology for our young learners with the very best facilities for them to achieve their potential. The local community and schools’ must be incorporated into working together to create an ethos of self belief and to achieve their personal best. The community must be involved in their local schools creating community centres, so local people can benefit from the facilities and technology a school has. A community that sees the benefit of an education can help generate our leaders of tomorrow but they must work in partnership with the local schools. We as teachers are the facilitators of this role and can help enrich a wide variety of lives in the process. Working with the local community to enhance the school ethos and help an area develop.

Teaching in my opinion is the greatest role in life that someone can do. To actually see the look of wonder and understanding on someone’s face is something that cannot be bought. To pass on knowledge and see where it takes a young person in life is amazing. To actually help young people in life choose a path in the life with your encouragement and guidance is breathtaking.  

Russell Wait, of Cove School, Hampshire; ‘I was inspired by my secondary school Headteacher who encouraged me from the tender age of 12 to reach my aspirations and goals. I find that teaching is an ever changing occupation that keeps you on your toes. To teach the future generation of Britain with a passionate voice can create change and can only be a benefit for the country.’

Many professionals from industry are turning to a career in teaching because of the many benefits the role brings. They bring with them a vast range of experiences from industry that can only enhance the profession. Experience from outside the classroom and shared with the students is vital. Young people do need to have role models and even though they sometimes might not want to admit it, teachers are a very important one. Only recently the government announced the newly planned PGCE changes where graduates can complete the course in six months. It is very clear that many people want to train as teachers but cannot afford to take a whole year off for training. With the recent credit crisis it is understandable, but it does show that people do want to be teachers.

When former pupils come into my school and remember certain times, events or even lessons, I am proud. Proud to be a teacher, proud to have had a positive effect on somebody’s life, proud to have taken on this honoured to have helped a young person. We have a wide pool of teachers with much experience. Working together we have helped create a career choice for many young professionals. Even Paul McCartney was planning to become a teacher if his band ‘The Beatles’ didn’t make it. Teaching is the best profession and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise! As Batman once said, ‘it isn’t what you say that defines you but what you do’ (Batman Begins, 2005).

The Book is Dead, Long Live the Book

So it is finally here – the iPad. My initial thoughts were not that good to be honest, but with further research and looking at different points of view I am now starting to see its merits. Firstly, I don’t think it is the nail in the coffin for the traditional book. Most people are very used to this successful formula and will probably not change. But for education purposes it could be successful and make reading more widely available.

Apple has been very clever in the sense that they have announced partnerships with Penguin, Harper-Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and the Hachette Book Group. This enables Apple to set up their own in-house iBooks store like the successful iTunes that is currently available for music. Many people do find this method of shopping very appealing (especially young people).

The text could be enhanced by audio and visuals with the option of linking to the internet. This could help with many disaffected learners in the classroom.

The UK price for an iPad have not been announced but speculation has been around £400-£700 depending on the Wi-Fi scheme chosen and model. This is not cheap and I wonder if discounts would apply to schools?

Would Steve Jobs be willing for my school to trial some out?

Phone’s For You!

The intrusive ringing and sounds of a mobile phone maybe the future of education. This is a very bold statement for a teacher to make. In the majority of schools mobile phones are banned, but that maybe changing across the country. Mobile phones are an untouched resource that could be more of a help then a hindrance.

The technology available to us as teachers is immense and is changing at a rate faster than we are able to keep up with. Students and pupils are far and away ahead of us as teachers when it comes to technology. As a teacher we are forever changing our teaching methods and resources. Mobile phones could help enrich a subject and make it more widely available for all students to participate.

This is not a new argument; The Daily Telegraph stated on 4th September 2008 that schoolchildren should be allowed to use mobile phones in the classroom to boost education standards. The Daily Telegraph was reporting about research conducted by Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young, from Nottingham University. She led a team into mobile phone research, and said: “While the eventual aim should be to lift blanket bans on phones we do not recommend immediate, whole-school change. Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young and her colleagues reached this conclusion after studying the consequences of allowing pupils in five secondary schools to use either their own mobile phones or the new generation of ‘smartphones’ in lessons.

“We believe that teachers, students and the wider community should work together to develop policies that will enable this powerful new learning tool to be used safely.

“We hope that, in future, mobile phone use will be as natural as using any other technology in school.”

Recently Dave Rogers wrote a great blog about all the features the iPhone offers education. Dave is the Geography Curriculum Leader at the Priory School in Portsmouth who is very enthusiastic about his subject. He clearly explains each app and its merits in teaching. For those of you who are interested in what mobile phones offer a teacher I thoroughly recommend looking at his blog.

Personally, I whole heartedly agree with this argument. They have so much potential for the classroom. Mobile phones will enhance a pupils/students learning. They will give students skills that they will use in the wider world. They will bring benefits that will deve lop our own teaching.

Mobile Learning…Ringing in the Classroom

I was particularly pleased to see that Google has released it’s Google phone last week. The market needs competition. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Apple’s iPhone and find their app’s superb. But as we are all aware technology is changing and improving all the time. Apple released their iPhone in June 2007. What can mobile phones offer as tools in the classroom? Are mobile phones the future of the classroom?

Personally I think the answer is yes. They have their merits as a tool within the classroom, but used in the correct mature manner. I openly invite a mobile phone company to let my department trial a set of phones to see their potential. Any offers?

Is the Google Android the new phone of the future?

Is it better than the iPhone?

Is the Google Android suited for schools?

Are iPhones the future for the classroom?

My Top Ten Geography Films

As I have previously stated in my blog and from my article for Sec-Ed, films are a fantastic way in which to engage young learners. For interest (and a bit of fun!) I have complied together my ‘Top Ten’ Geography related films. This first appeared in my article Learning from Films in April 2009 for Sec-Ed.

  • Slumdog Millionaire – life in within the shanty towns of Mumbai
  • Brassed Off – industrial decline in the UK
  • The Day After Tomorrow – climate change has never been this traumatic!
  • City of God – the daily lives of young people in the favelas of Rio
  • Twister – the formation and impact of a twister
  • There Will Be Blood – industrial growth of a more economically developed country
  • Dante’s Peak – shows most of the features of a volcano
  • Lawrence of Arabia – illustrates desert features
  • Kes – life in 1960s Britain
  • The Full Monty – industrial decline within the UK

Q. What would be in your Top Ten Films for your subject? I look forward to hearing from you.