Cameras in class: A positive use.

There are almost always two sides to technology.   In a post from a few months ago I cast a rather negative viewpoint on the use of cameras, in this case teacher body mounted cameras, in the classroom (You can read the post here).   I didn’t, and still don’t, like the idea of cameras for the purpose of policing poor behaviour.    The need for cameras for this purpose says a lot for the culture and climate in classrooms, which is unlikely to be conducive of learning, with or without body cameras.

This got me thinking of what the other side, the positive side, of cameras in classrooms might be.     A quick review of various articles I have read led me to come across a post in the Telegraph which discussed the introduction of meditation in class however within the content the plan to introduce cameras into “experimental” classrooms to aid in professional development was raised.   You can read the article here.

I came across this idea of using cameras for PD some years ago and I liked it.    The idea is that cameras are installed in classroom with a clear purpose of allowing teachers to review their own teaching in a bid to bring about improvement.   Teachers can therefore review their lessons via video footage to identify areas which went well and areas which went less well.    While in the UAE I made use of video footage with teachers as part of a programme of professional development.   Video provides an un-biased and accurate recording of the lesson whereas our memories of a lesson do not.    The actual act of first reviewing the lesson from memory and then watching a video of it can be quite informative in showing the errors which creep into our recollection of events. Quite often the video brought things to light that either the teacher hadn’t noticed or just hadn’t considered during the busy and complex process of teaching a class.   If the teacher wished they could then share the video with colleagues so that they could work together to review the lesson and discuss alternative approaches and ideas.    The whole approach is built around wanting to improve the quality of teaching and learning using technology and cameras as a tool to aid in this.   It is also clearly stated where cameras are used that the cameras are not used for the purposes of appraisal, performance management or any monitoring purpose.    The cameras are all about improving teaching and the footage is belongs to teacher.   This is important in making the teachers feel safe in the use of cameras in classrooms.

Technology is just a tool which is neither good or bad.    It is our use of that tool which is positive or negative in nature.   Using cameras in class for Professional Development is just one, in my view, positive approach to using technology.


Kings ICT Conferenece 2017

On Monday I was involved in the King Edward VI ICT conference where a number of interesting presentations and workshops were put on.   This is the 2nd time I have attended the event, this time being involved in presenting as well as listening.

I found the talks on offer to be both topical and interesting starting off with the keynote on Online Safety, previously known as e-Safety, by Karl Hopwood.    I have now seen Karl present on a number of occasions.   As always his focus on the “how students are using technology” as opposed to the “what” comes through clearly.   It doesn’t matter which app students are using, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Yellow, etc.   What matters is the purposes and the method of use.    He also explained using personal anecdotes the reasons why students may not raise issues with the adults who may be able to assist them through fear of losing their access to technology and to personal devices.    This represents a key challenge in opening up channels of communication with students such that they both know who they can speak to and also feel comfortable in doing so.

The presentation by Cal Leeming on hacking was a very interesting session in terms of Cal’s frank discussion of the risks associated with hacking plus his view on how students should be supported where they are beginning to experiment and explore technology.    I found he made a lot of sense in his comments around making vendors “criminally responsible”.   If a vendor is processing another organisations data and a breach occurs, and where the owner of the data has carried out all required due diligence, should the vendor not be considered liable?   Where a vendor suppliers hardware which has poor security capabilities should they not be considered responsible.   I think this makes a lot of sense, and it aligns with some of my thoughts as included in previous postings.   The new GDPR regulations will help move us in this direction in some respects however there is further work to do especially in relation to hardware vendors of IOT devices and other home network devices.

On a related topic to Cal, Christopher, the director of IT at Harrow, presented on Data Retention and Records Management.   Given the impending introduction of the GDPR rules in May of next year this presentation was very well timed.     It was useful to hear the process which Chris and his team went through as they looked to move towards a paperless record system with a clear policy and processes around data retention and destruction.   This will be key area on which I will need to work over the coming months.

Overall the day was a worthwhile event, and it was even sunny for the drive home.   I left with plenty of ideas and areas to work on between now and next years event.     I am sure time will fly, and before I know it I will be preparing to attend next years event.   I look forward to it.

Motivation and CPD

Have been thinking lately about how I have been able to be successful in some of my resolutions and not so successful in other.

I have almost successfully managed to complete the full #29daysofwriting despite repeatedly finding it difficult to find a topic to write about each day.    Somehow I have managed to overcome the difficulties and progress onwards.

I managed to complete #teacher5adaysketch while also working on #29daysofwriting.   Somehow I managed to find the time and motivation.

In the above cases it wasn’t my ability that was trying to stop me or hinder my progress however I must admit I am neither an author or an artist.   In both cases it was motivation and the difficulty level of the task in hand that were the hindering factors.

Overcoming these involved my own intrinsic motivation, my “want” to complete the tasks in hand.   I felt it was important that I completed the tasks and I saw the purpose and reason behind the tasks in hand.   I also could see the benefits of completing the tasks.   This meant that when faced with difficulties I still retained the motivation to move forwards.

I also had extrinsic support in the form of comments and suggestions from people with the educational social media sphere.   They helped keep my motivation up and helped make sure that I had ideas for moving forward.    There was also the social aspect of discussion and also some joking which further made the tasks in hand more pleasant to undertake and more engaging.


The experience of #29daysofwriting has been very positive although I will write more on that tomorrow as my last posting.    The key thing I see is how can we make more our in-house CPD in this format.    If we could then I suspect such CPD would be significantly more effective and successful.   TeachMeets are one way however they are limited in that they take place after school including on weekends and therefore are unlikely to engage the majority of staff.      We need to achieve professional learning with all staff across all CPD events.


Connected Educator Month

It was 2012 when I first created my twitter account however at the time I wasn’t sure why I had created an account or how I might use the account.    Some months later it was a colleague who planted the idea of using twitter for professional development.   This resulted in my logging back in to my, at that stage, dormant account and beginning to search for people discussing education and edtech in particular.   It wasn’t long before I was hooked on the access to a multitude of new ideas, opinions and resources.     Twitter proved to be a quick an easy way for me to dip in and out of professional development as and when I had the time and felt like it.    I found myself stealing 5 or 10, or if very lucky 30, minutes of time during which I could quickly scan through twitter on my phone for interesting posts regarding educational research, edtech apps and software and other educational resources.

I quickly found that I was finding more articles than I had time to read in the limited time I had managed to put aside to access twitter.   At this point I came across a number of twitter posts and through them blogs discussing how Evernote could be used.   So I started filing the tweets and blogs I found in the few minutes I managed to steal using Evernote so that I could then access them at a later stage when I had more time.

I have grown to be an avid fan of twitter and its potential to help teachers grow as professionals.    Personally twitter has allowed me to communicate with people I wouldn’t normally have been able to communicate with.   It has allowed me to access new creative ideas, which in turn has helped and encouraged me to be creative in my work.    Twitter has led me to work with others in sharing ideas, in discussing topics and in solving problems;  I have worked collaboratively.    It has also allowed me to see and discuss other viewpoints and ideas, often requiring a critical response.     Basically twitter has helped and encouraged me to use the 21st century skills we often talk about in terms of students.

Twitter has supported me to develop my 21st century skills and in doing so model for students the traits we wish them to develop.   It has also allowed me to access resources and ideas.

Tomorrow begins Connected Educator Month 2015 so I hope you will join me in sharing and in developing the teaching profession as a whole.     I also hope you will share and promote Connected Educator Month with those colleagues who have yet to experience the potential of twitter so that we can increase the number of educators sharing and collaborating to ensure  our students receive the best learning opportunities possible.

I look forward to connecting!


Categories in education

Within education we often make use of a variety of models in our everyday job and in discussions, as well as on social media.   Currently the model of a fixed or growth mindset is reasonably popular however it isn’t popular with everyone, with some people suggesting that the concept of fixed and growth mindset is very artificial.


Other models which have been common at one time or another including the concepts of blooms taxonomy, learning styles, the SAMR model for tech integration, students and gifted and talented students, to name but a few.   The purpose of each of these models is to help in our understanding.

Going back to the idea of fixed and growth mindsets, it is easier to make a comparison between these two models when we assume they are very much different.   Therefore it is easier to understand the two concepts by making such comparisons, with these comparisons reinforcing the distinction between the two concepts.   This leads to the view that distinct categories exist such as people which have a growth mindset and those that have a fixed mindset.

The truth is that in the real world things are not quite so simple.   Firstly humans change with time and dependent on the situations they find themselves in, the company they find themselves with, along with a variety of other factors.   As such a person may display characteristics associated with a growth mindset in one situation while displaying characteristics associated with a fixed mindset in a different situation.   In addition the actual concepts such as that of the growth mindset and fixed mindset are not binary categories with people being one or the other.    It may be better to describe categories such as the growth and fixed mindsets as two opposite ends of a continuum.   As such, within a given situation, a person may be more or less engaged in a growth mindset, displaying more or less prominently the characteristics of this mindset, with the same equally being possible for a fixed mindset.

So considering the above it might be appropriate to suggest that we could describe people as having a magnitude and probability within a given model, such as that of the growth and fixed mindset.   So a given person may have a high probability of displaying a moderate level of growth mindset characteristics, with a low probability of displaying strong fixed mindset characteristics when presented with a given situation, person or event.   This description may be more accurate in terms of describing a person, however I doubt it will catch on given the resulting complexity of the description.   I think a person like that indicated above would just be considered to have a growth mindset.

The main issue here is that the models we use, including the fixed and growth mindset, help us in understanding concepts and make descriptions easier.     This being said this ease is at the expense of accuracy.   It is important to remember this and not to take the models we use as being literally correct in that the distinctions between one and the other are knife edged, clear and provable.   They are not!   Plus people are complex and therefore tend towards unpredictable behavior and on some occasions even randomness.   The best any model can provide is a guide or a probability however a guide or probability is better than nothing.




Twitter: Shifting Paradigms

Was working with teachers today in a school during which time we were looking at lesson planning using the 5 minute lesson plan from @teachertoolkit.    During the session I used my usual prompt for ideas as shown below:

Now a couple of teachers raised some issues with regards student behaviour and suggested that they had already exhausted their 26 available letters.   My response to this was to suggest that as a group of teachers, together we may be able to share ideas.   If each of us has 26 ideas, corresponding to the 26 letters in the alphabet, then there must be a high likelihood that as a group we will be able to collectively generate more than the 26 ideas which we can generate individually.   It was at this point I realised that “if plan A doesn’t work” quote is only the first part of the process.   The second part is if Plan A to Z fail, widen your pool of ideas.    So at this point we seek the advice of our immediate colleagues for more ideas.   I would suggest that this group of teachers would increase the available number of ideas however on reflection I would suggest that the increase would not be significant.   All teachers in the group are most likely working in the same school and as such will have a shared perception of the issue at hand.   As such they are likely to have approached the problem in similar manners meaning that the ideas generated will generally show high levels of similarity with only a small number of new ideas being generated by enlarging from an individual teacher to a group of teachers within the same school.   Enlarging the group further to encompass local schools or teachers still within easy communication, or geographical distance would result in still further ideas however again if teachers are within the same national educational context, curriculum context, etc, there are likely to be shared perceptions which again will limit the ideas which will become apparent.

Enter twitter.   Twitter allows teachers to contact and seek ideas from teachers across the world from totally different contexts.   This means that there is a higher likelihood of original ideas which may not have been considered among the groups previously discussed.    We have effectively widened our pool of ideas about as far as we can do.   Now this advantage does not come without some disadvantages, namely those with polarised beliefs as to the “truth” and “fact”.   Where people come from totally different contexts it is possible that one teachers “fact” may be another teachers “fiction”.   Some tweeps are a little too forceful with their expressions as to their “fact”.   This disadvantage, however, should be minimal as teachers are after all professionals and therefore should be able to have professional disagreements plus should be able to appreciate differing viewpoints and contexts which may exist.

Overall, twitter is not just about opening us up to more people and therefore more ideas, but about opening us up to ideas from totally different contexts.   It opens us up to ideas we may not have been able to arrive at ourselves given the paradigm within which we operate.    Access to these ideas may also in turn spark new ideas in us born out of the paradigm shift which may result from seeing a problem through a totally different viewpoint.


Not the definition for Differentiation

Education is littered with technical terms and jargon with a few acronyms thrown in for good measure; differentiation, AfL, SEN, G & T, inclusion, PBL, personalization, EFL or ESL or EAL, to name but a few.   Most of these terms and their associated definitions come from the western educational world.   As such they rely on certain assumed background knowledge and experience plus on a certain cultural background.     What are the implications where these terms and their definitions are applied in other parts of the world?     Remember, in a different part of the world we have differing cultural and contextual backgrounds plus the added issue of translation.

Our understanding of something new is grounded in what we know already, in our experiences, etc.   As such explanation of something new requires concrete examples, so in the case of differentiation the concrete examples might include providing challenging extension tasks for the more able, or providing additional teacher or other staff support for students who are less able.    So to the teacher experiencing the term of differentiation for the first time, they might come to think of differentiation as meaning they should provide extension tasks to the more able and additional time and support to the less able, as these were the concrete examples provided.    Now I know this is quite a simplistic view, and that if we were introducing differentiation to teachers we would include a variety of techniques for challenging the more able and supporting the less able, however does this truly get to the heart of what differentiation or any other term for that matter, truly is?

Another approach is to look at what a term is not.    Here we can ground the ‘NOT’ version of a new term in things teachers already know and have experience of.    So continuing the differentiation example we might discuss teaching all students the same content at the same pace and at the same time.    We can then ask “why is this not appropriate?”.     The answer which teachers, and even those who have never encountered differentiation, should reply with will be the fact that students have differing needs, abilities, interests, etc.     So differentiation is the opposite of teaching students the same content at the same pace and at the same time.    From this, discussion can be generated into how this can be done practically in the classrooms of a particular school, with particular students within a particular context.   I would suggest that this approach would generate a “better” understanding of what differentiation or any other term is, as opposed to the explain and model approach.

So next time you need to explain something new, to teachers or students, give some consideration to NOT explaining it.