How to use that digital dialogue effectively for LEARNING

services-marketingresearch-optimizedIt’s been a great year for visiting different places and last week was no exception. And, of course, the wonderful thing about visiting different places is that they are full of interesting people to talk to and learn from.  There were a few highlights for the week – meeting up with my tutor is always an enormous pleasure and it was great to catch up with David over a coffee, too, when I visited Chorley. But I never imagined being cast in the role of a pickpocket’s wife by Tim Rylands! Having heard so much about Tim’s work and having communicated a little via twitter, it was good to put a face to a name at the ICT For Education Conference. And even better to have an opportunity to hear him speak.

What a story teller! He talks about how we can use the digital world, games and the importance of breaking down barriers to learning using whatever means we can – SOOO true and a principle I fully subscribe to (as readers of my blog will know). He talks about using an analogue response to digital experiences.

I have first hand experience and I know really well how digitalization in education influence students  progress. Since I started working on the new online GED exam preparation, I learned that students adapted the digital learning super fast and they are successful.  … 


What to expect: a new school year

services-socialmediamarketing-alt-colors-optimizedIt’s a beautiful late summer/early autumn morning and the sun keeps catching my screen as I write. Yes, the sun! As we all know, it makes an appearance at the start of any new school year once we have suffered rain through the “summer” holidays!  I know I have rather neglected this blog lately but there has been a lot happening.  I’ve come to the end of a great 6 month secondment at Microsoft – what a privilege it has been to work with such innovative, awe inspiring teachers (and such fun, too!).

But things have been moving forward too – I’ve recently moved house and I’ve just started a new job, which takes me out of full-time classroom teaching (though I will still be regularly popping into classrooms and schools!). I’m really excited about my new role with TES resources and how the new team of subject leads will be developing over the next few months and this blog will continue to be my personal reflections about what I am finding interesting in teaching and learning. … 


The Secret Fears of Perfectionists

perfectionistI’m a perfectionist. I’ve come to see that as a bad thing and, as is my nature, I’ve got to fix it. Seeing it as a bad thing has to be half the battle because being diligent about doing quality work doesn’t seem so terrible. Perfectionism is a pretty glamorous problem to have. It sounds really sexy to want to be mindful about every detail.

As a student, perfectionism took a toll on my GPA. I’d turn in perfect work weeks late. My teachers were impressed. They’d say that I understood the assignment when no one else had. My papers usually dropped two letter grades before they were even read. And then, I wanted to overcome whatever impression they had of me. Did they think I was a slacker? I’d work extra hard. I’d prove myself.

As a writer, perfectionism has rendered me completely incapable. I maintained a blog for a couple of years in college. I wrote everyday. Just seeing my words on the screen was enticement enough at first. Then one day I looked at all the crap I was putting out there. I could no longer, in good conscience, waste people’s time.

I’ve had several short-lived blogs in the years since. Each of them failing because I failed to write. I failed to write because I could not meet my own ridiculous standard. This time will be different because I’ve thrown the standard away. It wasn’t working for me, so I fired it!

I’m thinking more clearly now, first of all now I write also tests, my recent job was writing the GED practice tests. The GED test is for people who didn’t get a high school diploma and want to do it independently without going back to the HS again. I wrote more than 200 GED questions, I finished, these questions are published. But I struggle with being a perfectionist through the whole process too.
I’d like to offer a few insights into what perfectionists are really afraid of, speaking for myself.

These are 4 of my secret fears: … 


What is Social Enterprise

illustration-mission-optimizedI attended my first logging conference, the first day was an “unconference”, affectionately called “moosecamp”. This is modeled on the popular “barcamp” which is usually a day comprised of computer geeks, who initiate informal conversations on topics of technical interests (and there is usually some of beer). I was particularly interested in Sharepoint, and it was suggested that we also attend the session on Social Enterprise first as the topics are related. The majority of the conversations circled around company culture and how it related to collaborative culture when the software was introduced. Why use collaborative software?

Some companies found that there were issues of permissiveness in emails. With problems opening email attachments, due to formats used and problems with viruses it was preferable not to send documents as attachments. One such solution was to use collaborative software to share documents. There were also the capabilities of using software systems such as Sharepoint as a closed system, in the case of certain documents not everyone is authorized to see all projects. I’ll try to give a summary of some of the points … 


Turning 30 and beyond

services-payperclick-alt-colors-optimizedI keep expecting some kind of philosophical epiphany to strike me… but it hasn’t. Mostly, I just look ahead to the rest of my life coming and think that by the time I hit 35, I will probably be in a completely different existence… babies, maybe even a mortgage (but I’m probably not ready for that kind of responsibility yet… the mortgage, I mean).

There are brown smudges of god knows what on my monitor. This house is disgusting.

I’m going to spend the hottest hours of my birthday playing Clean Sweep in my apartment. We’ve been discussing the possibility of a move to a house (or part of one) where babies couldn’t fall out of windows. I loathe the concept of moving, however. The only possible inducement would be a place within about 6 blocks radius of my office that has in-suite laundry and two bedrooms. It’ll be really hard to give up this place, however. Too bad we can’t just win the lottery and buy a lovely character house all for ourselves. … 


What Happened in One Year

map-pin-blueOccasionally when I’m driving to and fro (as I do a lot for work these days), I get a half-baked idea in my head about something that would make a good blog update. Unfortunately I don’t ever remember these things, and whenever I’m actually sitting at a computer I’m usually feeling too guilty about my pages-long to-do list to come up with an update.

So now, because I am taking a self-enforced “lunch break” and I’m just finishing up my fries & Coke, I thought I’d write a long, rambling update with no specific topic or importance. You can’t even call this a stream-of-consciousness update because the “conscious” part is highly debatable.



Spaced Learning Method

I was fortunate enough to have a fantastic couple of days in Newcastle this week – with two impressive school buildings featuring alongside the Angel of the North, the SAGE building and the Tyne bridges in my visual memories of the trip. It’s not easy to describe Monkseaton and St Robert of Newminster – I’m afraid I was so interested in what was going on inside the buildings that I didn’t take any pictures! But each building had been carefully designed – no hidden corners, lots of curves, impressions of space, breakout areas and lots of natural light.

But school buildings are only the packaging for the learning that is going on inside. Monkseaton are using a method called Spaced Learning, which builds gaps into a lesson by including something physical, something distracting and unrelated to what is being learnt, so that process of letting the learning sink in can take place.  It’s not something to use in every lesson – after all, we all know that variety is the spice of life and learning – but it certainly seems to be having an impact on the learning that is going on. It makes a lot of sense to me, as often it’s when I’m doing something mundane and physical – usually vacuuming or ironing(!) – that something I have been reading or learning or thinking about really sinks in to my consciousness so I can make sense of it. … 


Digital Dialogue – developing ideas

Communication takes so many different forms, but increasingly it is taking place online. The impact of digital dialogue is enormous – just look at the burgeoning networks that are being established on Twitter.

At the success of Facebook. If there was any doubt about the potential impact of digital dialogue, we only have to look at the social and political impact of online communication in recent weeks throughout the Middle East. Just look at how our teenagers organise their lives and identify with others through their online communications.

The internet has evolved from an information source, an online “encyclopedia”, to a tool for social dialogue, shared game-playing, collaboration. And it’s the dialogue that takes place that seems to be having the impact. … 


Is sharing important in learning?

I’ve been at the Partners in Learning European Forum this week.

It has been as interesting and inspiring as the previous Partners in Learning events I’ve been to – looking at the event and the projects through more experienced eyes and not as a competitor was a huge privilege. To see teachers sharing ideas, what’s going on in their classes, experiences and passions is an amazing thing – but begs the question why so many other teachers aren’t as open to sharing as these individuals. Hence the Shakespeare paraphrase that makes this blog post title.  I suppose one of the reasons that I think sharing is important can be summed up by another (paraphrased) Shakespeare quote:

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy  classroom.”



TEDxLondon – The education revolution

There was a call for revolution at the Roundhouse in London.  Not theservices-seo-alt-colors-optimized
sort of revolution that we have seen that involves civil unrest. Something much
more constructive and lasting – a way forward for education.  A way that gets
back to the basics of education – something that can have an impact on our
society, our economy, that values our culture and the cultures of others, that
is personal and personalised. If the bare minimum that is needed for theatre is
an actor and someone to watch (Peter Brooks via Sir Ken Robinson) and only things that enhance the theatre should be added in, then the bare minimum for education is the relationship between a teacher and a learner. I’d go even further than Sir Ken and suggest that teacher needn’t be “me” in a classroom – it could be another child, a friend, a parent, an aunt, an outside expert.  But I completely agree (and have often been heard to say!) that learning is dependent on relationships. …