Lessons in Feedback #3: instant images

This week I could see that some pupils weren’t getting it and others clearly were. When this happens I like to the use the good work of some as exemplars to those who haven’t ‘got it’ yet.

But how to do this?

Of course, I could wait, mark the good work and the bad work and then start the next lesson by showing some how they have failed. But this seems a little harsh to me.

Or I could hold up the good work and talk about what makes it so good. But then some can’t see it.

The best thing for me is to instantly show an image of the good work so that all can see what their successful peers have done and work towards getting it.

Now I’ve had very efficient ways of doing this in the past at previous schools:

  • visualisers are great, but I don’t have one in my classroom.
  • I’ve found an iPad connected to an Apple TV to work great.
  • I’ve tried to use an Android tablet with a Chromecast, but the wifi settings of a Chromecast are often not geared for the networks found in schools and so don’t work.
  • a tablet with Reflector App on your PC works well, so I’m told, but I haven’t got that working in my classroom yet.

And so, without the required technology, I was forced to take a photo on my tablet, share the photo with my computer (via the cloud) and then display the photo on the screen. Rather an inefficient process.

Although this took a few extra seconds, it was still a more efficient way of feeding back than holding up the work and expecting everyone to see from all over the classroom.

And now I’ve added the ‘more efficient image feedback’ heading to my New Year’s resolution mindmap – so I have to find a more efficient solution by the end of the year.

Lessons in Feedback 2: Video

Recently I moved from teaching Key Stage 2 pupils (aged 7-11) to Key Stage 1 (aged 5-7). Suddenly my written feedback had no meaning as, being five, most of my pupils couldn’t read anything I wrote. They also didn’t have the self awareness for feedback to actually make an impact beyond that lesson. I needed something that would enable them to reconnect with their learning, both later on (like after a weekend), and at home.

The answer was video.

I started using a service called Magisto. This collects your videos and photos, then edits them into a splendid-looking short movie with sound and effects. It is free if you want to do 20 videos or less, but if you need to add more you have to pay a yearly subscription. Here’s an example of some stop-motion videos I collected into one Magisto movie.

Each week I would take a few photos and videos of work and activities in the classroom, then put them into Magisto and share the resultant video with the pupils and parents. It often took less than ten minutes.

What I found was that it was a great way of getting 5-year olds to remember what they had done in the previous week and therefore connect them with their learning. Also it provided a way to engage the parents with their child’s progress, so that they too could talk to their child about their learning.

The children and the parents loved having this and it became a far more effective way of feeding back than marking. One father told me that his son, who had made tremendous academic progress during year 1, had only done so because of the video feedback.

It made me realise that for this age of children engaging the parents is the most important thing you can do.

Lessons in Feedback 1: Marking

For a few years now, educators have been working with the influential Sutton Trust Teaching and Learning Toolkit in their back of their minds. This states that the best value, most effective thing you can do is provide effective feedback.

Many schools have taken ‘feedback’ to mean ‘marking’ and this has arisen to a whole load of both sad and funny stories about pen colours. The best of these, in my opinion, is this one. While for some schools, the marking policy has resulted in a greatly increased teacher workload, others have seemed to have a more enlightened approach. I was surprised to find my son who is in Year 10 at a local grammar school asking me for a particular colour of pen similar to one I use. It seems that at his school, the teachers ask the students to do their own marking. Brilliant – not every teacher is being beaten by the marking policy – some get their students to do it.

My own experience of ‘being beaten by the marking policy’ involved my handwriting, which to be honest, did tend to get a bit spidery, especially towards the end of the a set of thirty books. I also had a conversation with a school leader in which I was criticised for crossing out a word. Apparently a teacher should set the best example and use Tippex when they make a mistake in their marking.

Sometimes I wonder if we’ve drifted from the idea of providing effective feedback so that a student can gain greater understanding and have become more concerned with how books look so that external visitors will get the best idea of the school.

No balance, just blend and binge.

Of course it was a mind map. Despite the lure of Tibet, I just don’t have the time, what with term starting on Friday.

But how to keep track of all the things I want to achieve this year? It looks like I’ve put about thirty different resolutions in there. There’s no way I can keep all those in balance and it’s going to be difficult to keep track of them without a spreadsheet (although I can feel a spreadsheet coming on).

No. The only way is to blend and binge. In fact I think that might become my motto for this year.

So I’m going to do a day here on this thing, a week there on that thing and a month on something other.

Here are some facts so far.

BMI: 28.76 – 28.43 – 28.53 (too high)

ED: 2 hours 67 million

HS: Rank 14.

Maybe I do need a spreadsheet.

New Year’s Resolutions

“What’s the one thing you could do that would help you?”

I had been trying to express to my wife my frustration with the plethora of ideas I was having earlier today. This New Year’s Day. When we are all supposed to be making a fresh start into the bright new shiny 2018.

I had so many things I wanted to do: God stuff, family stuff, home improvements, education, music, video, gaming, gardening, brewing, writing… I knew I wanted to do all of them.

But I also knew that if I started out trying to do all of them I would fail because there are just too many things on the list to keep in my head. Failure would then bring demoralisation and I would end up doing nothing.

This stilted thought process had then brought about frustration – I knew I wanted to do stuff but couldn’t work out how to do it all – it was just a big mush of ideas in my head.

And so my wife asked me this one simple question.

There is only one thing I can do at a time. I needed to do one thing that would contain all my ideas and dreams.

What would it be? A plan? A list? A mindmap? A three month sabbatical in Tibet?

I don’t know yet. But I’ll do it tomorrow.