SEN and Inclusion

For years we have looked at Inclusion when we are referring to students with Special Educational Needs however, in preparation for the conference in Kuwait, I have just got to thinking about this in a little more detail.

The term inclusion is often used when discussing student with special education needs.   The focus of inclusion is to identify and address a student’s individual needs in order to allow them to be integrated into lessons and to access the learning.

Now the term inclusion implies that those students without special needs are already included.   So, in other words, the majority already have access to the learning so don’t need specialist inclusion measures to be taken with them.   We are accepting that the learning opportunities presented will be sufficient for the majority and that either no or little modification is needed for these students to access learning.

This cannot possibly be the case as all students are different, with different experiences, backgrounds, cognitive abilities, skills, talents, fears and interests.     The fact that we need to focus on inclusion for SEN students highlights the fact that we may not be valuing the individual nature of ALL students within our classrooms.

Now maybe there is some learning to be gained from special needs support as it, for years, has been focussed on meeting individual student needs.   In addition SEN support has often involved a variety of technologies, each utilised in different ways, and maybe this is something else that can be learned from, in terms of technologies place in supporting students as individuals.     Whichever way we look at it, the important fact is we need to look more at how we support all students as individuals as if we truly manage this, why would there be a need for inclusion?



Leadership Discussions

The other day I was lucky enough to have time to sit and discuss the important issues of school improvement with Vice Principals of a number of schools.

A number of issues were discussed however 3 key points came out of the discussions:

  • School Culture and Climate
  • School Communication Systems
  • Vision

Now the issues are written down in the order them arose in the discussion so no priority should be read into the order above.   Let’s take each of the issues in turn:

School Culture and Climate

We discussed the need to improve the quality of teaching and learning and how those teachers currently delivering high quality learning experiences could be utilised to encourage this however this doesn’t happen unless a culture exists where staff feel safe in sharing ideas and where ideas are openly discussed and questioned.     Ideas and thoughts regarding how to improve a school often already exist within the school itself although unless a safe, sharing culture exists, these often go without being verbalized.

In addition to this a sharing, safe culture, encourages and supports staff in peer observation, collaboration and team working.    It also serves to support distributed leadership, where teachers are encouraged to take on leadership roles.

School Communication Systems

Now we are not just talking about a weekly briefing here; we are considering the communication system of the school in its most holistic terms.   How do staff and students within the school find out what is going on in the school, its priorities, its mission and its progress towards realising this mission?    Equally how does the school find out about how students and staff feel about the school, its systems and, in general terms, how things are going?     Consideration needs to be given to processes and systems but also to more humanistic issues like how do managers find out about their staff as people with lives outside school.    Communication is about ensuring that the right messages are heard and that all staff feel as if they too are heard, and that their contributions are valued.


How is the schools vision arrived at and who is involved in this process?    How do we turn the written vision into an espoused vision acted and believed by all staff within the school, independent of role or position?   Some discussion was had regarding whether or not all school vision statements were essentially the same, however I do not believe that this is the case as even although the words used may be similar and the general aim may be education, what this actually means within a given staff body in a specific school in a specific area, at a specific time may differ significantly.

Now overall the discussions were very interesting and identified three important strategic areas in need of consideration however one very important question remained:

How do we go about building on these 3 areas within your school?  

Kuwait Conference

Haven’t had an opportunity to write anything on here for a few weeks due to being rather busy however I am currently preparing to present at conference in Kuwait in the coming week, where I intend to discuss how ICT can be used to enhance access to learning for all students.    The conference is particularly focused on SEN students and the elderly however in my opinion the labels are not important.   What is important is trying to provide greater access to learning for all.

As part of the session I am going to mention 3 areas which are currently of interest to me:

  • The Flipped Classroom
  • MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses)
  • Lateral Thinking

Now my intention is to post some updates here and also to include links to some resources including videos relating to the session.



A lack of curiosity killed learning….

The human race has distinguished itself from other beings on the planet through its curiosity.   Curiosity about its surroundings, its place in the world, the universe and beyond, about its own inner workings; about everything.   Now I hasten to add, I am no expert on this, it is but my own humble opinion I am presenting.

Children are born with curiosity.   It is built in.   It is this curiosity that brings children to experience the world and to learn long before we start “teaching” them.

And then education kicks in with its “Right” and “Wrong” answers.   Are we not just presenting children with a 50/50 chance of being correct.   Now who would continue to be curious if it didn’t matter; you still would have a 50/50 chance.

We talk about encouraging creativity, problem solving, collaboration and other higher order skills however how often do we mention fostering curiosity.   And how can we go about fostering it?

Continual professional development

Once upon a time……

CPD or PD was all about either inviting an educational expert into your school or about sending your staff to an event, a PD session, at which an educational expert would present.   Your teachers would then, hopefully at the conclusion of the session, have new ideas, concepts or approaches which they had added to their teachers toolbox.

Since then improved teacher training, professional standards, etc. have helped to improve the general quality of teaching however this is based on an education system which itself has changed.   By the time improvements were made, the needs which these improvements were meant to address, had changed.     In addition the students we teach have changed, as has the world in which we teach, the technology we use to teach and the pace of change is not slowing.  If anything it is quickening.

So the old style CPD session no longer delivers what is needed.   The experts cannot keep ahead of changes.   Too many CPD sessions involve teachers hunting for the single idea of note, which would save the session from falling into the category of being a waste of time.  So where do we look to for the solution?

Could it be that teachers can no longer wait for the solutions, the professional development to come to them.   Could it be that, now as things are changing so fast, that they need to go looking for their own solutions.   But where do you look?

An article sent to me by a colleague suggested that one possible answer was twitter (   It provides access to people all over the world providing ideas and thoughts which can be quickly accessed and reviewed.   It provides 24/7 access to CPD opportunities.    In a tweet I recently read an educator agreed with the above stating he had learned  more from teach meets and twitter than he had ever learned  in traditional professional development sessions.        I suspect we could add Google to this, as well as Facebook.

So why is this the case?    I liken it to the concept of cloud funding; using the cloud, the Internet, to allow people to fund a idea or project.  Using the cloud to deliver CPD gives us access to a wider volume of people with more varied experience and differing perceptions and conceptual models.    The only issue is that the delivery model differs.   It is not the passive approach of listening to a so called expert or doing activities in a training session.   It is a personal activity.   You decide on what and when.   You explore the information available, disregarding that which you feel should be disregarded while exploring that which you feel is of value.   It is interactive, inviting others to contribute, discuss and share.   It is social as it involves groups of people albeit not sat in a room together.   It is dynamic as the content, information and ideas available are always been supplemented, complemented, contrasted, evaluated and revised.   At no point does it stop.  But it relies on you to be motivated to get involved rather than waiting for the next PD session to come along, hoping that something good will be included.

So why have PD sessions?  Maybe we should focus more on asking teachers: How are you developing yourself as a professional?


Bring back the magic!

For some years I have observed the argument within some education systems regarding whether it is qualifications or experience that teachers need to have before successfully gaining employment.   Many systems now require a Masters degree before a candidate will be considered, even when the candidate might have years and years of experience as a teachers.    What is important?

I had always sat on the Experience side of the fence, in that an experienced practitioner had a more developed set of teacher tools at their disposal.   Being in the classroom for a longer period allowed for more professional learning.   Now I am not ignoring the fact that some practitioners may end up stuck in their ways, however I believe most teachers, as professionals, would continue to develop from their continued experiences in the class with students.    How can studies in a university and a piece of paper compare with this?

I was quite happy in this belief until a colleague raised the issue of Qualification/Experience versus passion.   His comment grouped qualifications and experience together as opposed to seperate, against a passionate practitioner.   How could I agrue with this?      How can any number of years or number of pieces of paper compete against a person, passionate about what they do, about teaching and learning, about education?

Then I heard a gentleman from Google Education presenting at GESS 2013.   He mentioned making learning “magical”.   The term “magical” seems to match with my colleagues idea of “passion” but possibly building on it in terms of it being “magical” for the teacher and students.     I remember a comment I heard some year ago, that an Outstanding lesson “was one students will always remember”.    Isn’t this what teaching is all about, not about  Lesson Objectives on display on the board, 2 activities, a starter and a plenary; the checklist drive lesson?   Not dependent on whether the teacher has a Masters or 20 years of experience.   Teaching is all about a passion for supporting students to learn by making learning “magical”.

When was your last “magical” lesson?


iPads in Education: 2010s Answer to the IWB

Over the last 2 days I have had the opportunity of attending the GESS and GEF conferences where a number of speakers have presented their ideas and thoughts at to the integration of technology into learning and teaching.

As I was walking away from the conference venue I noticed the number of exhibitors using iPads to show off their software, apps, hardware, etc.   It then dawned on me that over the 2 days I had heard an unusual number of the speakers outlining the benefits of iPads in learning.    iPads had clearly made their mark on the conference yet thinking back to the presentations on the “benefits” of using these devices, all I could remember was anecdotal comments on the benefits or results from student satisfaction surveys.    Now I do believe that there are specific positive applications and uses for iPads however the generalised “benefits” provided did not strike me as being significant evidence as to the impact or “benefit” of using iPads.    The lack of evidence is made all the more stiking when you consider the costs of the devices, associated infrastructure, training, etc.     It was at this point I suddenly remembered another device which was heralded as having significant impact on learners without ever producing much in the way of solid evidence……

It was in the 1990’s that the Interactive Whiteboard first made its appearance.   The 90s and even 00’s were filled with advances in software and hardware, and claims of engaging learners and impacting on learning, yet little solid evidence exists as to the general impact of IWBs on learning.   Yes, I will admit some specific studies exist for a given subject, in a given school, with certain students, however these studies are that narrow in focus, that it is not appropriate to consider their positive results as an indcation of the impact of IWBs in learning in general.   So over 20 years later and after so much fanfare and there is still limited evidence as to the benefits of IWBs on learning in general.     Even stranger still is the fact that shows like GESS continue to feature such a large number of IWB providers.

So could it be that the iPad is the IWB of 2010s?    Promising so much, but delivering very little.   Even less when you consider the cost, or “Added Value”.