Saturday, 9 April 2011

PELC11 Day Two

I felt much more confident about the second day of the conference. I'd already met several new faces, and that meant more people I could mingle with and therefore more new people to meet! Such an opportunity presented itself early in the morning. Again, the advantages of picking the stand next to one Russell Prue were shining through, as I noticed Russell speaking to Stephen Heppell (@Stephenheppell), who was due to give a keynote speech to open the second day. With a little encouragement from @ethinking to make an introduction, I took the note-so-subtle approach and introduced myself during a break in their conversation (sorry, Russell!), talking to Stephen about the Student Teacher Resource and my aims. He seemed genuinely enthusiastic about it, offering me some key advice about possible things to share and we had a good chat about things for about 5 minutes. Apparently, some people at he conference would have given their right arm to talk to him for 5 minutes, but I guess 'right place, right time' would be an appropriate phrase.

I'd already felt like I'd achieved something for the day before I went into the keynote speech, but the day had barely begun. Stephen's keynote speech was titled 'What have we learnt from the virtual that we might build in the physical world of education?' and focussed on the idea that children have found so much online that they enjoy that they are now looking for similar experiences in the 'real' classroom.I put 'real' in inverted commas because I think that the spaces in which children learn effectively are no longer limited to a specific place in a specific school. With the advents in modern, mobile technology, children can learn anywhere and at any time. Some of the classrooms that Stephen showed during the keynote included shoeless rooms, unstable stools ('active seating') to allow children to fidget, ovens that freshly bake bread for the children first thing in the morning, and in general very playful learning spaces. A particular highlight for me was when Stephen mentioned that the new generation of teachers will likely be of the highest quality for many years. This made me feel proud to be part of the new generation, but not as proud as when he furthered his conversation by talking about one of the fantastic projects he saw earlier in the day - OUR project! Mentioned by Stephen Heppell in a keynote speech in front of hundreds of people? Hurrah!

So, after meeting with Russell afterwards to apologise for my lack of subtlety earlier, I noticed that we had a new neighbour to our stand. GCSEPod had moved on and were replaced by Education City, the interactive children's resource. I'd only used Ed City's maths games with Year 6 children on a recent placement, but found it to be a fantastic resource. The children loved playing the games and each game was focussed on a specific objective within the curriculum, which meant that it was easy to select the right game for the right lesson. I'd never used it before this, and even then, not outside maths. Talking to other student teachers, I found that they were also singing it's praises for different reasons, phonics, science, etc. So I got talking to the man running the stand and we discussed the possibility of our students getting free access to Education City to take with them on their placements, the idea being that if the schools we were placed at saw its effectiveness, or if we wanted it in our schools when we graduate, that they'd make more sales in the long run. Now (hopefully) all students at the University of Plymouth will have free access to Ed City on their placements, and for a month after they graduate. Not only this, but we discussed briefly the possibility of their involvement with the Student Teacher Resource, which was exciting!

It seemed that a lot had happened today, and yet it was merely lunchtime. After a good plateful of food (than you, University of Plymouth catering department!), I went to go and see what Dan Roberts (@chickensaltash) was presenting at his 'Xbox marks the spot' parallel session. Dan's students have created a virtual, explorable map of the school that formed a game, playable on PC or Xbox, to aid the transition from local primary schools to School. The game was coded in XNA entirely by the students. Dan openly confessed to them that he did not know (Breaking news: Teacher in 'I don't know' shocker!), and played the 'lazy teacher' card to spur the children to take control of their own learning and find out for themselves. The results become even more impressive when you consider the fact that the teachers gave only guidance and pointers and allowed the children to have near total independence. I think this must have been an absolutely magical moment for the teaching staff - When the children realise that there are other ways to learn and then go and pursue those avenues of their own accord, so I fully applaud the chicken man for being able to pull this off, truly remarkable.

The final event of the day was the keynote speech from John Davitt (@johndavitt). John's keynote was titled 'From Silo to Orchestra: The staccato progress of eLearning'. I think that because I'm fairly new to teaching and still getting to grips with the pedagogical side of things, some of this was a little over my head. However, I did take some key ideas away. Firstly, he said 'How will history judge teachers? You had all these tools, but what did you do with them?'. I think this is quite a profound quote, essentially saying 'Look at what you have - use it, don't waste it!'. Definitely made me think about the resources I have at my disposal, and how to use them effectively in my lessons. Secondly, (this man is very quotable, thanks for the help with my future essays!) he said 'Teach less so they learn more'. I think this is quite profound, that in effect we as teachers can get in the way of a child's progress. Just look at what the children at achieved without teacher input, or the children of Sugata Mitra's Hole-in-the-Wall project. The final thing he mentioned that resonated with me is that 'It's not about computers, it's about tools, activities and risk'. This was quite inspiring, and linked nicely back to his first quote. We have a wealth of exciting things, but if we don't try them and use them effectively, then they go to waste. There should be no fear of trying something new.

Just when you think that your day has been exciting enough, I get home, open my emails and find one from the Alumni Assistant, Jack Stevens, telling me 'You have been awarded an Enterprising Britain Student Enterprise Award, which is for an enterprising activity. This is for your activity which involves developing a website to support the development of teaching quality across the Faculty of Education.' Cue grin like a Cheshire cat. It's given me an immense sense of achievement, and I think that everyone involved in the project should be proud at this token of recognition. I want to thank everyone for helping our project take our first few steps, and hopefully we can use this as a springboard to really  hit our stride!

Friday, 8 April 2011

PELC11 Day One

I've spent the past three days at the Plymouth e-Learning Conference 2011. I initially planned to write about all three days in a single post, but I just don't think I would be able to effectively convey the amount I got out of the conference. So here is my PELC11 experience day by day!

Firstly, I arrived with one of the volunteers from the Student Teacher Resource to help set up not only our stand, but the conference exhibition space too. The first new face I introduced myself to was the person running the fantastic stand next to ours - Russell Prue (@russellprue), who was promoting his school radio system ( and streaming live radio and interviews from the event. From the first few minutes of conversation with Russell, I'd already picked up some invaluable tips on conference etiquette and presentation, and his useful feedback and vibrant conversation became one of the highlights of the conference over the next few days

On the stand to the other side of us on the first day was Gill from GCSEPod. Their product was a set of downloadable revision podcasts to help with GCSE revision, which was very interesting and I can imagine is very effective. GCSEPod were kind enough to fund nibbles for the Teach Meet later on in the day.

Amongst other notable people that I talked to during the first half of the day were two I already knew, my lecturer Pete Yeomans (@ethinking) and Professor Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth), who was organising the event. I also finally managed to put a face to the twitter name when I met Dan Roberts (@chickensaltash), Deputy Head at Community School. These are all people who have already proved valuable in my professional development and I hope I can get involved with any of their projects in the future.

Dan Roberts was hosting the event that i attended next - the Student Showcase. Children were invited to come along and show off what they had been doing with technology in schools, and the results were fantastic. To be fair to the staff on the stand, we swapped around looking after the stand and going into the seminar, so unfortunately I missed some of the presentations. I did, however, see the AMAZING (and I mean AMAZING) work done by the students at Broadclyst Community Primary on their BTV channel. The students record, edit and publish their own TV programmes related to their work. It's obviously made a difference to the confidence of the children too - seeing them present and talking to them afterwards was a real treat.

Next up was the e-safety panel discussion hosted by Steve Wheeler and presented by Simon Finch (@simfin,, Dan Roberts (@chickensaltash) and Dan Kennedy (@djkennedy), an ICT teacher at The Grange School in Christchurch. The panel presented some of the key issues and misconceptions about esafety and tried to present their solutions. As a student teacher, I found it very useful to see these issues being discussed, as I have yet to be so involved in school life and ICT that I've run into the problems, so to know the solution before they arise will be very useful. I do wish, however, that someone had played the devil's advocate, even if it wasn't their own decision, as this would most likely have generated a more lively debate.

Finally, the day ended with the keynote speech from Jane Seale, who discussed digital inclusion and exclusion, provocatively titled 'Technology doesn't exclude learners, teachers do: A critique of the nature and scope of digital practices within our education system that include or exclude marginalised learners'. Having just completed a module with a focus on inclusion and exclusion in the classroom, I felt that this was almost the culmination of the research and work I have done in the past few months. I'd already had the opportunity of a session with Jane Seale during the course of the module, so this followed on nicely too. Was fairly interesting to see Jane being pushed into joining Twitter at the end of the session too - she can now be followed at @janeseale.

Overall, I think the confidence I gained by introducing the Student Teacher Resource to positive response and  feedback was incredible. Not only that, but the experience of networking with some of the most important figures in eLearning will be vital for the future. I'll be posting my updates on days two and three, as well as my experience at my first teachmeet, as soon as my time allows!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

An Introduction to JC and the Student Teacher Resource

Hi everyone. If you know me, then you know that I'm trying to be involved as much as possible in whatever my time allows me to be. As such, I am beginning to lose track of events, as they're all starting to blend together. To remedy this situation, and with the bonus of sharing with everyone the benefits of my work, I've decided to set up a blog to talk about anything outside of the minimum requirements of the course that I've found to be useful.

Firstly, for anyone that doesn't know me, I'm JC. I am (at the time of writing) at the end of my third year of a BEd (Hons) Primary Mathematics course at the University of Plymouth. Towards the end of my third year placement, I had an epiphany that changed the course of my professional development from there on in.

I was up  at a very late hour planning a maths lesson for the next day, including an impressive (in my humble opinion!) mental/oral starter activity. Then something struck me. Here I was, creating these resources for my Year 6 class, when my next placement will be in KS1. Instead of letting these resources go to waste, why don't I give them to the rest of the maths specialists in the hopes that they are used again. Whilst I'm doing that, why don't they also share what they have with everyone else?

The seminar was a great success, so much so that it dawned on me to set this up across the other specialisms. This was quickly spiralling into something massive. I recruited other specialists to collate and share their resources with each other. However, it took another step forward when I realised that we were sharing our successes with other people in our specialism only - surely other specialisms would benefit from our resources in the same way that we night benefit from seeing resources from those specialisms that we feel less confident in? But where would we share these resources with each other, with everyone?

Step forward,

What started as 14 students sharing maths resources has developed and developed into a project that aims to have over 20,000 student teachers around the UK sharing not only their resources, but their collective knowledge, supporting each other through teaching practice, suggesting reading for essays, interview questions... basically ANYTHING that a student teacher would find useful in helping them with their professional development beyond what their course already offers.

Through the course of the development of the site, the number of opportunities that I have seen and taken has grown and grown, and for anyone reading this that sits back and simply does what the course is asking of you, I say do more. Do more and more and more, and you will find that the number of things that fall into place for you will be staggering.

My aim with this blog is not just to record my extra curricular activities for my own purposes, but to inspire more student teachers to do whatever it takes to be the best teacher they can be.