TeachMeet Virgin

1

Teachmeet Virgin

As promised, I am keeping you up-to-date with the going ons in my life as a teacher. Back in November, Ollie Bray, one time fellow geographer at Plymouth University, sent out a tweet to me about a TeachMeet taking place down on the Isle of Portland in Dorset, TeachMeet Dorset. I had heard of TeachMeet but have never had the pleasure or nerves (!) to attend.

TeachMeet Virgin

Well, after a few minutes of deliberating I decided if I was going to go to any TeachMeet my first one had to be within the county I teach. I signed up on the TeachMeet website and bravely decided I would present too. I had a couple of weeks to work out what I was going to present to other teachers from Dorset. I contacted the organiser of the TeachMeet Dorset, Gary Spracklen of Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy (IPACA) and South West Teacher of the Year, to volunteer my services as a speaker.

After a night of thinking I came up with the idea of 25 Ideas in 7 Minutes. A fool hardy challenge but all I could feel was excitement! TeachMeet was something I have wanted to be involved in for a long time. I couldn’t wait to get there. I persuaded my good friend Nick Hargreaves of Radipole Primary School to attend so I at least had one member of the audience I would know!

So what is a TeachMeet? TeachMeet is an organised but informal meeting (in the style of an unconference) for teachers to share good practice, practical innovations and personal insights in teaching with technology. These events are often organised to coincide with other educational events like the Scottish Learning Festival and the British Educational Technology and Training Show BETT.

Teachmmeet 1

Participants volunteer (via the TeachMeet website) to demonstrate good practice they’ve delivered over the past year, or discuss a product that enhances classroom practice. TeachMeet events are open to all and do not charge an entry fee.

I really like the idea that you are limited to only speaking for seven minutes which is a great way to keep things moving and interesting.

TeachMeet Dorset was a brilliant event. I had no reason to be nervous or worried. Everyone was lovely and wanted to develop as educators. It was great to hear lots of expert advice and ideas shared in a lovely informal environment. Gary Spraklen was an energetic speaker who did a fantastic task of organising the event who made everyone welcome.

Will I go to another TeachMeet? Yes! TeachMeets are an amzing opportunity to develop and share ideas. Later this year I shall be going to TeachMeet Pompey on 6th March. This event is organised by Dave Rogers, a brillaint geography teacher down in Portsmouth. I am very excited about attending my second TeachMeet so soon!

Would I organise a TeachMeet? Yes! Myself and Gary Spracklen have started talking about bringing TeachMeet to North Dorset to my school – a seed has been planted and I’m really looking forward to seeing it at Gillingham School!

TeachMeet Virgin

The Tools of my Toolbox (2 of 2)

This is part 2 of the tools of my toolbox. ‘It’s not about the tools but the toolbox’. This was a statement Dave Rogers posed on his blog last week. It is quite tricky as every teacher has different views on what they need to be successful and to help their everyday lives. Here are my remaining tools of the trade:

  • Thinking Outside the Box

Being innovative and brave within a classroom can bring enjoyment, success and respect. I admit not every idea I have tried has worked but those that do can enhance the student’s experience of your subject. Trialling new ideas improve your lessons and enjoyment as a teacher. It is not always easy trying out new ideas. It is very easy to stay in the comfort zone but without trying out new ideas we do not develop ourselves as teachers and will not improve. Idris Mootee, of  the innovation playground blog,  has said, ‘innovation is hard, it is not about getting the ideas at all, it is about managing ideas. So you have a few great ideas, so what? The future is never about the future but now.’

  • Reflecting

As teachers we must be more reflective of our own practice and make amendments where we need to. We must utilise our strengths and work on our areas of development. Observations are vitally important to watch other teachers and how students learn. This would be ideally done within the Department and with other Departments once a term where possible. This should therefore improve our own teaching and benefit the students .Working with other colleagues will help develop cross curricular opportunities to raise achievement throughout the school. I always try evaluate my lessons on a daily basis – you should be aware if you have taught a good lesson or not – and more importantly how could it be improved.

  • Teaching is Fun

As teachers we work long hours and spend many lessons preparing and planning work. We have the aim of teaching the National Curriculum and working with our students on achieving their personal best and gaining the grades they deserve. But…we must enjoy our working life. There are many pressures in the education industry and targets to achieve. 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. There is much to enjoy from teaching, just don’t forget the positives!

  • The Mighty Board Marker

Where would any teacher be without a board marker? Sometimes this little tool can be forgotten with the overkill of Powerpoint. Remember, simple ideas can make learning easy.

The Tools of my Toolbox (1 of 2)

‘It’s not about the tools but the toolbox’. This was a statement Dave Rogers posed on his blog last week. It is quite tricky as every teacher has different views on what they need to be successful and to help their everyday lives. Dave was clever to state that no matter how many tools we have – it all depends how good the toolbox is. In other words, how good the teacher is at using the appropriate tools! As a very keen guitarist I used to get annoyed with fellow musicians who would be picky about what equipment they used – if you are a good musician the talent will always shine through no matter what you use. Of course a better guitar does have a better sound but essentially the key to the sound is the player! This is part one of two on the tools that I would have in my teacher toolbox.

So, what tools would my toolbox hold:

  • Working Together

Teaching can sometimes be a lonely job, with yourself up against thirty students challenging you. It can sometimes feel you are the Lone Ranger but that is not so. Using people around you can make your life much easier especially when you need help or guidance. For a young teacher this is possibly the best tip I can pass on…talk to those around you. I have worked in some great departments where working together and sharing ideas/work loads makes everybody feel important and better about themselves. The success of a department should improve too with more minds working together then one. The work – life balance is very important and should never be forgotten! 

  • Blogs

For the last few years I have found blogs a great source to further my understanding and learn new skills as a teacher. I have always said that a teacher never stops learning. Just like our students we as teaching practitioners are constantly learning new techniques on improving our methods we use in the classroom. This is part of the reason why I love teaching, it is never dull and is a challenge I relish on a daily basis. Out on the ‘Blogosphere’ are some brilliant writers who share their teaching experiences, daily routines, ideas, schemes of work, lessons…you name it and teachers are writing about it! Reading about someone else’s experience can create and add to your armoury of activities.

  • Technology

Geography has prided itself on using technology where possible to improve our lessons and the student experience. I am never too far away from my laptop as I find it a great help with many of my lessons. As a geographer Google Earth and Google Maps have the best free Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software available. For students who need to include GIS in their coursework at Key Stage 4 and 5, this is the best start and easiest solution. Most students have access in some format to a computer and Google Earth/Google Maps can be used from a very early age giving them the skills and presentation techniques they need later on in their school career. Simple activities like spinning the globe round or locating places in the world from your location can make a young person make a sense of their place in the world.

  • Variety of Activities

We must keep teaching exciting for ourselves and learning fun for our students. The aim of all teachers should be the students doing 70% of the teaching – we just need to be the conductors of an orchestra. A variety of activities with a clear objective and learning outcome will help. Lets get planning!

Education Blog Awards 2011

It is with great pleasure to announce that nominations and votes are open for the Education Blog Awards for 2011. I am very pleased to say that I have been nominated and have received votes from the readers out there in the blogosphere! Thank you!

Why do I write a blog? Since I started writing my blog in January 2010, I have learnt and shared new ideas from many different teachers. I really enjoy sharing ideas with other practitioners and learning a new technique or way of doing something. Sometimes we are left to our own devices and perhaps we should be talking and sharing resources on a more regular basis.

For the last few years I have found blogs a great source to further my understanding and learn new skills as a teacher. I have always said that a teacher never stops learning. Just like our students we as teaching practitioners are constantly learning new techniques on improving our methods we use in the classroom. This is part of the reason why I love teaching, it is never dull and is a challenge I relish on a daily basis.

Out on the ‘Blogosphere’ are some brilliant writers who share their teaching experiences, daily routines, ideas, schemes of work, lessons…you name it and teachers are writing about it! Reading about someone else’s experience can create and add to your armoury of activities. Some of the best writers out there are Ollie Bray, Dave Rogers and Alan Parkinson who I wholly recommend on reading. It is also a great opportunity to network with other teachers around the world.

If you would like to vote for a blog – please follow the link here on at the top right hand corner which will take you to the Education Blog Awards website to cast your vote. Good luck to all the bloggers out there!

Tricks of the trade

Today I have an article printed in Sec-Ed. Sec-Ed is the UK’s only free national education paper that is sent to every school every week. I am a massive fan of this paper and love to read the stories and articles that appear every week. I have been lucky to have had some articles printed by Sec-Ed over the last two years. The article was based on the idea of ‘what tools does a teacher need?’ This was quite tricky as we all have different ideas but I hope you get the idea!

I really enjoy sharing ideas with other practitioners and learning a new technique or way of doing something. Sometimes we are left to our own devices and perhaps we should be talking and sharing resources more often.

The main tools I focused on were;

  • Blogs
  • Working as a team
  • Thinking outside the box
  • Enjoy your lessons
  • Assessment for Learning (Afl)
  • Reflective teaching

The full article can be accessed here. I hope you enjoy the read! Many thanks to Pete Henshaw, Editor of Sec-Ed, once again for printing my article – cheers!

Classroom Antics

What are the tools and key things a teacher needs?

This was a question I posed last week on my blog. It is quite tricky as every teacher has different views on what they need to be successful and to help their everyday lives. So I have come up with my own list. Enjoy!

  • Blogs

For the last few years I have found blogs a great source to further my understanding and learn new skills as a teacher. I have always said that a teacher never stops learning. Just like our students we as teaching practitioners are constantly learning new techniques on improving our methods we use in the classroom. This is part of the reason why I love teaching, it is never dull and is a challenge I relish on a daily basis. Out on the ‘Blogosphere’ are some brilliant writers who share their teaching experiences, daily routines, ideas, schemes of work, lessons…you name it and teachers are writing about it! Reading about someone elses experience can create and add to your armoury of activities. Some of the best writers out there are Ollie Bray, Dave Rogers and Alan Parkinson who I wholly recommend on reading.

  •  Google Earth/Google Maps

As a geographer Google Earth and Google Maps have the best free Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software available. For students who need to include GIS in their coursework at Key Stage 4 and 5, this is the best start and easiest solution. Most students have access in some format to a computer and Google Earth/Google Maps can be used from a very early age giving them the skills and presentation techniques they need later on in their school career. Simple activities like spinning the globe round or locating places in the world from your location can make a young person make a sense of their place in the world.

  • Working as a Team

Teaching can sometimes be a lonely job, with yourself up against thirty students challenging you. It can sometimes feel you are the Lone Ranger but that is not so. Using people around you can make your life much easier especially when you need help or guidance. For a young teacher this is possibly the best tip I can pass on…talk to those around you. I have worked in some great Departments where working together and sharing ideas/work loads makes everybody feel important and better about themselves. The success of a Department should improve too with more minds working together then one. The work – life balance is very important and should never be forgotten! 

  • Thinking Outside the Box

Being innovative and brave within a classroom can bring enjoyment, success and respect. I admit not every idea I have tried has worked but those that do can enhance the student’s experience of your subject. Trialling new ideas improve your lessons and enjoyment as a teacher. It is not always easy trying out new ideas. It is very easy to stay in the comfort zone but without trying out new ideas we do not develop ourselves as teachers and will not improve.

  • Enjoy your lessons

As teachers we work long hours and spend many lessons preparing and planning work. We have the aim of teaching the National Curriculum and working with our students on achieving their personal best and gaining the grades they deserve. But…we must enjoy our working life. There are many pressures in the education industry and targets to achieve. 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. There is much to enjoy from teaching, just don’t forget the positives!

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.