Times Education Festival 2013 Day 2 by Hannah Tyreman

This post continues with much the same warnings as my first did. These are my interpretations of what I heard. They may not mirror the way the speaker intended their words. They may not match what other delegates took from the speakers. They will give you an insight into my reflections of the day and its events.   

I arrived to day two much more prepared. I knew my way around (learning from failures in action here!) and my bag contained water and all important snacks. 

I decided to go and see Tom Bennett @tombennett71 on the importance of research in education. 
http://behaviourguru.blogspot.co.uk/
Tom was able to point out all the research that had fallen short and wasn’t based in science. I would have preferred him to identify successful research that was effectively based in science. However his speech did highlight the need for more rigorous research in education and tried to be entertaining. 
 
Bad science example 1- NLP
There needs to be a grain of truth in any lie to make it plausible.
There is no science to support it. The researchers wanted science to fit what they were trying to get across. Apparently the right kind of science didn’t exist!

Bad science example 2- Multiple intelligences
How can one intelligence in one area, be a different kind of intelligence? Surely it’s just that your strengths lie in different areas of intelligence. Not that there exist different kinds of intelligence.
Tom compared 
working out what kind of intelligent you were to completing a Cosmopolitan, ‘Are you sexy?’ survey. You know the ones where if you don’t get the answer you want, you go back and tweak the answers to make yourself that bit more sexy! 
 
Bad science example 3- Learning styles
Learning styles don’t exist. Of course learning preferences exist. Tom prefers sitting on his bed, with chocolates, in front of the TV. It’s probably not the best place for him to learn though! As trainee teachers, we accept learning styles (like many other theories of education) because it hurtles towards us from all angles: teachers, textbooks, even Ofsted inspectors. 

Bad science example 4- Flipped classrooms
Tom admitted that technology is driving social change. 
He asserted that a really great teacher could make a great lesson out of a bowl of custard and a carrot. It all needs training and it’s about how it’s used. Not enough research has been carried out into the impact of technology on learning yet. The justification against technology wasn’t really made and I personally felt that he threw it in there purely for the controversy. 
 
Bad science example 5- Thinking Hats
Tom urged his audience to continue using it as a technique or an activity but there’s no science to suggest it improves grades. Don’t pay for hats and definitely don’t pay for training!
 
His Education research conference in the autumn might be interesting, as long as it drives research forward rather than examining what’s not working. 
 
I was then luckily able to stay in The Spiritual Room for Tom Sherrington @headguruteacher speak on the topic of rigour, agility, awe and joy. 
After following him on Twitter for a while and having read his blog, I was more than looking forward to hearing him speak and I wasn’t disappointed. 

One of the key messages of his speech was that as teachers, we shouldn’t be thinking about tricks and gizmos but HABITS of practice. We (and presumably our students) are then able to thrive as a result.
Lesson 1: Probing
The importance of asking questions well has been at the heart of any discussion around ‘great’ lessons of late. Tom suggested that challenge is a central part of making questioning more effective. Students should feel pushed and stretched beyond usual thinking patterns by our questions. No student’s answer should be left hanging in the air. The ideal level of effective questioning is a teacher who is able to link students’ responses together in a seemingly effortless way: asking one student their opinion on another’s point of view and stringing the responses together to get a deeper picture. 
The elements of a rigorous approach.
Lesson 2: Rigour
There are teachers who are not comfortable enough with the material they’re teaching; they’re not subject experts (this describes me). Discipline in work is essential as we need to have high expectations and there should be rigour in getting the basics right in order to develop any higher levels of learning. We shouldn’t accept mediocre work. Expectations around student work should be insisted upon, modelled and supported.Skateboarding analogy

Lesson 3: Challenge
Skateboarding is something you could teach better yourself than be taught it. We shouldn’t be taking away students’ capacity to find their own limits. Further to this, limits certainly cannot be enforced. Students shouldn’t just do but understand the deeper meaning behind why they’re doing it. As teachers, we shouldn’t soften when a student doesn’t understand something. Instead, we should persevere. Otherwise, they’ll never learn independence and resilience in the face of challenge. We should model success whenever we can but also offer support to help them overcome their barriers. 

Lesson 4: Differentiation
Currently, much teaching is a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Whole class teaching is important but, like many things, it’s a matter of HOW it’s done.

Lesson 5: Journeys
Your lesson is part of a bigger process. You can’t plan a single lesson without knowing what comes at either side of it. The lesson is just a moment within this and learning at home is a part of this process. Journeys are about going from one level of understanding to another therefore lessons don’t always go to the original plan. 

Flipped learning is great. The technology isn’t important. It’s an approach to learning lead by the students’ learning. Homework is an opportunity to stretch our students. Suggestions it should be abolished are ludicrous.
Lesson 6: Explaining
YouTube makes it possible for us to watch explanations easily and see the varied levels of effectiveness. Explanation parts of lessons can be made more effective by addressing common misconceptions and working from there to aid understanding. Didactic instruction isn’t always wrong. The only reason it might be is if it’s not effective and doesn’t address students’ understanding. 

Lesson 7:Agility
We need to be lead by learners more often. We need to be agile in our response to their needs and what they’re asking for. Mini whiteboards are a joy but they pose a problem of agility for a lot of teachers. When presented with a whole raft of different answers, how can you respond to them all most effectively?
Lesson 8: Awe
We should be capturing students’ imagination. Don’t be too functional in your learning approach. At times, it can be enjoyable to slow the learning down and encourage the class to bask in new material before it is spoilt by dissection and problem solving. 

Lesson 9: Possibilities
What are your students capable of? They are all capable of the greatest thing imaginable- we just need to guide them towards that and show them that it’s possible. Don’t be afraid to show them the very best model answers; they will show them the light they are capable of striding confidently towards!

Lesson 10: Joy
If you’re not enjoying it then students won’t be either. Plan activities for your own fun and enjoyment.
We should enjoy being with students. We’re not teachers of the subject but the young people we work with and some teachers need to be reminded of that!
 
I left this session feeling as though all of these things were possible and I am still convinced. I will be striving for as many of these as I can in the new term!
 
I managed to duck most of the drizzle at break-time and headed to the wonderful Mandarin Centre for David Didau @LearningSpy 
The session kicked off early and began in my personal favourite lesson starting way- with a good cheesy song that connects to the topic for discussion!

David stated that Ofsted suggest progress in the classroom should be rapid and sustained. This is worrying. Kids being able to perform on cue isn’t performance or achievement.
As learning takes place, so does forgetting- this isn’t a revelation- we’ve known it for a long time.Learning takes time. Performance and learning are not the same thing. We can only infer learning from performance. Sometimes students look like they’ve got it, yet three weeks later, they don’t remember it. Sometimes students don’t look like they’ve got it and they have!Our ability to remember things is limitless but our ability to retrieve it is the issue. Like those questions you’re asked, and you sit racking your brains. Sometimes it’ll come back to you, sometimes you give in and Google it!David suggests that rapid progress prevents sustained progress. If students seem to be getting through learning quickly, everyone seems satisfied. Why is this? Why does learning have to be connected to speed?He showed this video:
 

I think I missed the point of him showing this but what I took from it was that because you focus on one thing, you miss many of the things going on around it. So by a focus on the speed of progress, you might miss the areas of learning that need deeper development or opportunities to insert joy or challenge as per @headguruteacher

Since writing this, in the true spirit of Twitter, I have been duly corrected. I guess mine was one possible interpretation. What David intended was that following our intuition is not always the right thing to do. I question how possible it is for us to ignore our intuition. We’d have to think one thing, ignore it, and go with the other. Often this can go badly wrong. The last session of the day, which I have chosen not to write about at all, was certainly far from what I had hoped it would be. My intuition told me as I walked in the room- LEAVE- This won’t be good! I chose to ignore my intuition and stayed, and then I was stuck in the horror. What I wonder is how we get ‘ignoring intuition’ right? Perhaps David’s more recent suggestion of being aware of the ‘illusion of knowing’ is a direction we can more practically follow. 
 
He then lost me- for a while. Partly because I was stood up and couldn’t see his slides very well but perhaps also because I’m not a science kind of person! See if you can make sense of the science here: http://learningspy.co.uk/2013/06/10/deliberately-difficult-focussing-on-learning-rather-than-progress/
I re-found the presentation at ‘generation’. This is the idea that you retain information better if you’ve had to generate it rather than just read it.There was then the suggestion that testing is vital to sustained progress rather than rapid progress. These tests don’t have to be dull though. Students can try mind maps, concept maps or writing to summarise what they’ve learned. 
 
Varying an environment can help learning in a more long term way. The more familiar the environment, the easier it is to remember things. Perhaps move content around the room, move the tables around, add in new materials or take things out. New environments can help to slow down students progress.Key messagesPerformance is not evidence of learning.Because it’s demotivating to not do well, you need to explain to students why you’re making things difficult.If it feels right- be suspicious- it means there’s been rapid progress!
I left feeling like this was a high risk strategy and seriously ballsy teaching. The kind I don’t think I’m fully ready for but the kind I’d definitely be willing to look into. 

I then had to abandon @PhilBeadle and @johnoasismurphy as it looked too busy and headed to find out about the impact of e-books on literacy. To be honest, this was a little bit of a sales pitch for RMBooks. I got a lot of information about how Shireland Collegiate Academy had seen e-books improve students’ experience in general terms. What I would have loved to see is what the students were doing with annotations and readings at home. The main advantages were discussed are that they have made personalised learning even easier. Reading has brought families together as students are reading more at home too. E-books aren’t a replacement for a library but they are more flexible. Everyone has been working in a flipped learning way. It has become the norm as the technology foundation exists to support it.

Not for the first time this conference, NESTA’s ‘Decoding Learning’ report was referenced- CLICK HERE

Students gave the message that they were accessing their reading material online and we need to adapt to that.

Post lunch saw my return to the Mandarin Centre for ‘Teaching like it’s 2099’ from @ICTEvangelist

http://ictevangelist.com/

He began by admitting that perhaps the year he’d gone for was a little too far into the future! 

What he presented was a showcase of the ways in which he had used technology in his school over the last few years. I attended this session with a colleague and we both left reassured that the College is certainly in a good position with ICT. 

This image helped to put technology in context as a learning resource alongside Bloom’s Taxonomy. In our lessons we should be planning e-learning and technology should be a tool in aiding that. 

Taking part in TweachMeet on Thursday 20th June, digital leaders were highlighted as a strategy I’d love to get started at College. Mark described here that at his school, these student technology experts run specific workshops for staff and other students as well as ‘genius bars’ on a lunchtime to aid with any problems. @ClevedonDL and http://clevedondigitalleaders.wordpress.com/

I also experienced augmented reality apps for the first time. I’m yet to work out how they will work in English but mark showcased a number of opportunities in the sciences and art, with the possibility of students creating their own. I’d need to investigate more but Mark showed an example of a student who had created one of themselves speaking to the viewer. This could be a fantastically engaging tool. Holograms are the future.

Technology is so embedded in society now. If we ask ourselves the question, ‘will it be less or more likely that they’ll be using technology in 10/15 years time?’ I think we all know what the answer is and we need to begin preparing them for that future as soon as we can. 

I left Wellington College feeling sad that I wouldn’t be returning the next day, and the next…

I also left really excited about planning for September. I’d say @HYWEL_ROBERTS‘ energy was the most inspiring. It left me thinking about my teaching in new ways. @headguruteacher offered a great deal of food for thought: teaching really is a lot to think about at once! 

Rigour and challenge were definitely the key messages coming out across the two days of the festival. I will be looking to ensure my schemes of work contain these things throughout- as well as everything else of course!

Seeing the fairly pathetic 4D pop up teaching space made me think about the use of tents in lessons to provide alternative teaching spaces- an idea I’m currently very excited by! 

Most of all, I had two days of space to reflect, evaluate and deeply consider my teaching. CPD like this is so valuable and more time needs to be made for it. So, who’s joining us next year?

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