Teachmeet Sponsorship: is this overdoing it? #tmBrum #tm5

Watch on Posterous

I read Protect the Teachmeet Format by Tom Barrett, with a slight feeling of guilt.


I had only been to my first Teachmeet in January (Teachmeet BETT 2011) and was so enthused about it I felt I should organise one in Birmingham – Teachmeet Brum. However, Teachmeet BETT was perhaps not a normal teachmeet, and so perhaps gave a skewed pictures of what normal Teachmeets look like. There were lots of people there and it was incredibly well sponsored – I felt we should get as many sponsors as possible on board for Teachmeet Brum, but now I’m wondering if we’ve overdone it somewhat. There are so many sponsors that I felt it necessary to make a video of their logos for the simple reason that I had made such a mess of the wiki trying to size and re-size their logos.


And I wonder if there’s a temptation to over-commercialise these events.


The great feeling I experienced at Teachmeet BETT 2011 was due to listening to all sorts of interesting teachers sharing their many and varied ideas.


Don’t get me wrong – the sponsors do a great job. All the sponsors of Teachmeet Brum have a proven track record for supporting education without an in-your-face sales pitch. They have been very generous in supporting the food, the venue and supplying raffle prizes. I also think there is a strength in schools engaging with the private sector. And yet I still have a nagging feeling about this…


As I read the posts inspired by the purpos/ed campaign and consider Tom’s words about small Teachmeets, I wonder if we’re heading in the right direction.


It’s Teachmeet’s 5th anniversary in May (#tm5). What will it look like by its tenth birthday?

How do we change something?


Every once in a while you hear something that makes you think “Ah! That’s how it is.” I thought that when I heard Mick Waters, former head of the QCDA speak to a group of Birmingham Deputy Heads last year. He left me with the memory of a quadrant graph (pictured above) of the four main ways he sees being used in schools to change things.


Schools have to change things. It’s inevitable. But how they choose to manage the change when it occurs varies from school to school.


Reference Control is when people say “We’ve got to do this because _________ says so.” The blank could be the Government, Ofsted, the Governors, the headteacher, the senior management, whoever – just someone else that you make reference to, without taking any responsibility yourself. A bit like when I said it was Mick Waters who gave me all this stuff – that way I’m not actually taking responsibility for this post myself 😉


People Pleasing is putting your staff first. Any change is couched in such a way that it makes staff feel completely happy and positive about it – making sure conditions continue to be as comfortable as possible for the teachers. It’s a laudable aim, but one that should be held in tension with the needs of the students. You can’t always please everyone.


Commanding speaks for itself. Changes are ordered and expected to be followed. Great in a crisis, but can reduce staff’s ability to think for themselves.


Carefully Reasoned Argument is when leaders use logic and reason to argue why change is necessary and how it should take place.


All four have their place – and it could be argued that a well balanced organisation would use all four at different points in its life, or during the course of a year, or term. But you should watch out if one becomes dominant. Because if it does, it is likely that everyone will start speaking that way. The headteacher to the other leaders. The leaders to the teachers. The teachers to the students.


It strikes me that one thing in common with all four is that they all involve conversation. Talk. Dialogue. Change can only happen if the changers talk to each other.


So how do we change something?


One conversation at a time, using a balance of arguments.

The Mental Maths SATs Lady – reflections by Year 6 children.

At Teachmeet BETT 2011 I tweeted that my year 6 had created various renditions of the SATs Lady using Audacity. I also realised that I had not at any point shared their musical productions. The year 6 children that made these recordings have left now (the project happened in Summer 2010), but maybe their creativity can serve to inspire future generations of Year 6 SATs musicians.

(Apologies – these files haven’t copied across properly from Posterous).


Google Apps after 6 weeks: the why and the how

Google Apps after 6 weeks.mp4
Watch on Posterous

We launched our Google Apps for Education account 6 weeks ago. Staff and students have been using it increasingly over this time, although there’s still a long way to go. This video helps to explain what I think about VLEs in primary schools, why Google Apps is a good choice and some of the ways we are beginning to use it.

Why I am bothering with Safer Internet Day


It’s 7:30 as I start writing this and I’m just about to visit my friend and CEOPS trained advisor Craig Gilman to make final preparations for ‘Safer Internet Day’ tomorrow.


Safer Internet Day was actually a coincidence. We’re about to start a collaborative project with 4 other schools to design, make and race Scalextric cars, part of which will involve the children staying in touch with each other’s progress via social media. I had decided ages ago that it would be good to have a week focusing around the issues of using the internet safely, and I chose this week, not realising that it contained ‘Safer Internet Day’.


So Craig is visiting us tomorrow and will help us train our parents and children to use the internet more safely. We’re holding 2 workshops for parents and have a list of parents who would like to find out more but can’t make these particular days. Despite mainly working with 11-16s, Craig has bravely volunteered to help us out each and every class, including the very youngest, who are only 3. For those of you are wondering how you can possibly teach a nursery child about the dangers of the internet, the ThinkUKnow website has some great resources.


I read Kevin Maclaughlin’s post on why he’s not bothering with Safer Internet Day and can see that it’s very frustrating to have an ISP that blocks everything. In Birmingham we are comparatively well-off to have an authority that is forward-thinking enough to let schools use nearly every tool out there. Education first, not locking things down, as this Ofsted report explains. Facebook is about the only social media place that is blocked by Birmingham.


The main reason that I’m doing this activity is that the kids really need it. Most of our 9-11 year olds are on Facebook, at least two years before they really should be. Some of them have wholly inappropriate pictures (I could make a link, but I’d be sacked) as their avatars. Others have 200+ friends including many they’ve never met. Some of them have included pictures of younger siblings in their photos. Some of them have left their walls and profiles open. All ‘dangerous’ stuff. So you see, whether or not I can access Facebook in school, I have to teach them to be safe.


I have a 5 step plan to achieve internet safety:
  1. Have a purpose. This scalextric project is a purpose. I want the children to learn to use the internet purposefully. OK, that’s not directly to do with safety, but I believe that with purpose the children will steer clear of activities that will lead them into danger.
  2. Raise Self-Esteem. Again, not directly to do with internet safety, but highly important. The children need to learn to value who they are and learn the meaning of belonging to meaningful groups of people. I have resources that I can share if you’re interested.
  3. Demonstrate the Dangers. Don’t do this first – you’ll just put people off using the internet entirely. The ThinkuKnow website includes some powerful and moving videos that aptly demonstrate the dangers in only 5 or so minutes.
  4. Teach the lessons. We will be teaching the children (using the ThinkUKnow resources) at their level about how to protect their profile (for the older children) and about not trusting everyone you meet online (for the younger ones).
  5. Involved the parents. The parents workshops tomorrow are crucial. It’s only together as a community that we can move forward to get their best out of using the internet without being distracted by the bad stuff.
In a couple of days it will be interesting to reflect on how far we’ve moved on as a school community on this journey, and how much further we need to go.


And to back up Kevin, ISPs – open up your services please – we educators need to teach as well as to protect.

The Rocket Launcher Lesson

Watch on Posterous

I taught, filmed and edited this lesson on Friday 4th February


It had been something I’d been meaning to do with year 6 for a little while, as it will kick off a short sequence of lessons of investigation and enquiry inspired by the first lesson that you see in the video.


The timing was good for me too, because I was hoping that it would be ready for Teachmeet East 2011, which was on the 5th February. Unfortunately it didn’t work on the day. It seems that one of the features of Google Apps video, where I had originally stored the video, was to deny Internet Explorer the ability to play the video – somewhat frustrating. In addition it was 60mb on the original – which is probably a bit much to stream over a wireless connection in the rush and hustle off a Teachmeet – so apologies to Tom for delaying the Teachmeet slightly. 

The good thing about Posterous, and Youtube (where Posterous will send this video next), is that they both seem reasonably compatible. I’ve also reduced the quality of the video by 1/3 to get it down to 20mb so it should be asier for streaming. 

So – lessons in compatibility for me. I need to play around with Youtube and Google Apps a bit more to see how I can combine the security of Google Apps with the compatibility of Youtube…

An idea about using connectedness in teaching (or Trivial Pursuits in the classroom)


I’ve often thought that the answers on the back of a Trivial Pursuits card are more interesting than the questions. The questions are always so closed, aren’t they? You can’t do anything with them apart from get them right or wrong. But the answers… well there’s lots of things you can do with them.


For a start you could come up with, say, five different questions to arrive at each answer.


Then you could come up with answers that re-categorise the questions. I see on the card before me that ‘Tea’ is the answer to the yellow History question. Could we think of a question that would make it blue (geography) or green (science) or even orange (sports)?


Then you could turn each one into a mini-project. On my card ‘Silicon Valley’ is the geography answer. Could I write a report, make a prezi, edit a video that would demonstrate the geography, entertainment, history, art and literature, science and sport and leisure of ‘Silicon valley’?


Finally could we do a 6 degrees of separation activity with the 6 answers on the card? Some amazing search that would connect all 6 things somehow? Let’s see – the answers on my card are:


geography: Silicon Valley
entertainment: Inflation
history: Tea
art and literature: Salvador Dali
science: Citroen’s
sport and leisure: The United States PGA


So a quick Google shows that Adam Nash, CA, blogged in 2008 that the extreme economics of the computing industry in Silicon Valley distorted inflation figures so badly that it changed US monetary policy. Meanwhile in the same year, Mayank Sharma writes that inflation can be explained by a cup of tea. Meanwhile one-time lead singer with Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry claims to have had tea with Salvador Dali of all people in the UK paper, the Mirror, back in 2010. Speaking of Dali, there seem to many comparison’s between him and Citroen’s cars, ranging from a positive, if surreal, driving experience, through thoughts about the Citroen’s bizarre rear windscreens, through less positive comments indicating that some concepts cars could well deserve to appear in a Dali painting.I then see that Ketel One, a dutch vodka company both make a variety called ‘Citroen‘ and sponsor the United States PGA (and have been doing so since 2005). Finally I see that the US PGA visited Silicon Valley in October 2010 at Cordevalle.



So do you dare me? Would this activity have any relevance, impact or meaning on a group of ten and eleven year-olds. Would they gain anything from it? Would they be able to do it? Is anyone out there doing things like this already?


As a postscript, while I’ve been writing this I’ve come up with some ‘connected questions’ you could throw in next time you’re setting a pub-quiz:

  • Admiral Horatio Nelson was a famous British leader who is remembered on a column at Trafalgar square, at the base of which sit statues of lions. What is the approximate number of lions that exist in the wild today?
  • Caesar Augustus was a the first Roman Emperor who led Rome from a Republic to an Imperial system, clearly demonstrating many aspects of leadership. The month August is named after him. But which gemstone is most commonly associated with August?
  • Adolf Hitler is the archetypal figure of many negative aspects of leadership, yet many consider Charlie Chaplin to be the man who championed the toothbrush moustache before Hitler’s fateful image tore it away from him. What are the names of the French pair who based their free programme on Chaplin’s ‘City of Lights’ (1931) to win the European figure skating ice dance title as recently as Friday January 28th 2011?


Tweet me and I’ll let you in on the answers, although it may be easier to Google them.

  • Social Slider