Thursday, December 15, 2005

Merry ChRSSmas

Yesterday we had a team CPD day. The team has almost trebled in size over the past year and, even with a few absentees, we were fairly packed in around the table.

We started off with a "state of the nation" type overview from the head of our profit centre, which pretty much did what it said on the tin, giving us a fairly clear idea of where we are in relation to where we had planned to be.

Next, we each got the opportunity (in break-out groups) to share one problem we have experienced during the year and to brainstorm solutions with the rest of the group. This was an interesting exercise and served to provide fresh perspective on some of our frustrations.

After lunch, we reviewed some of our projects from this year, including a behemoth that I'm working on. I'm sure that will generate a fair few posts as it progresses, pushing me outside of my comfort zone and forcing me to acquire new skills hand over fist!

The next session surprised me. We had been tasked with exploring what RSS was, did and could mean to us (more or less). The title of this post was taken from one group's presentation. Full marks for lateral thinking I say. They went on to produce facts about RSS from within Christmas crackers. Three groups in total put forward their findings and, to my surprise, a fair degree of debate followed. I had kind of expected: this is what it is, this is what it does, this is how we could use it, next session. To me, it's a tool, like a screwdriver, and I wouldn't expect people to get hot under the collar disussing the merits of a screwdriver. I never cease to be surprised by the things people become impassioned about!

The final session was an attempt to support one of my peers who has drawn the short straw on a project. She outlined the nature of her challenge and, in break-out groups again, we tried to find some solutions. I can't say I helped at all, but I gather there were a few suggestions made.

All in all, an interesting and challenging day, capped off by a great Christmas meal together.

Friday, December 09, 2005

jisc-cetis 2005

I must remember to have a proper look at these presentations when I have the time.

Subversive learning?

George Siemens has an interesting recent post.

He talks about learners taking control of the learning process, moving beyond the strictures of the curriculum. These are the sort of learners any teacher would love to have in the group. Obviously, they have signed up for this learning on a far more fundamental level than a mere application form would indicate. Ownership learning, it should be called.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Personalised learning

This document is well worth the read. I particularly like page 9 - the Learner's Charter for a personalised learning environment.

Pushme Pullyou

I got (very gently) told off this morning for neglecting this blog. I was just surprised to learn that I had a regular reader!

While this blog started life as a "repository for memorable information I am likely to forget", I have increasingly used it as a place to vent my spleen and express my opinionated self. While I can see that the former use might have some benefit to someone other than myself, the latter must surely just be the rantings of someone with the proverbially dangerous little knowledge?

Anyway here I am, with apologies for the delay.

Recently, I have been involved in evaluating an organisation's annual plan for learning materials. The organisation in question is largely resonsible for the development of teachers in this country. The learning materials developed are intended to help the teachers improve their practice. The weird thing is, that the very things that the teachers are being encouraged to do are not being modelled in the development of those materials!

Teachers are increasingly encouraged to follow the global trend towards "pull". They are urged to make greater use of technology when teaching. Pupils are to be encouraged to explore and share their own learning. Collaboration. Sharing. Top-down and bottom-up. All good stuff.

However, it seems what's recommended for the kids is not recommended for the adults who teach them. Are to we to suspect then, that there is doubt as to the true efficacy of pull learning? If not, why is there a preponderance of websites being developed by exclusive teams and then made available to (foisted on?) the teachers? Where are the wikis? Why are there so many face-to-face dissemination events where teachers will be told what constitutes best practice? Where are the online communities?

It smacks of hypocrisy to me. It seems there is no attempt made to collect testimonials from experienced teachers. The value of their experience, informal learning and garnered wisdom is completely overlooked. They have as little say in their curriculum as the children they teach.

Within the evaluation team, I think the word modelling is in danger of being used to death. Time after time, we're finding that the nature of the learning material doesn't model what it's saying. It's the whole "do unto others" thing, I guess. The collective knowledge of the teachers in this country must surely be worth more than that of a group of ex-teachers miles and years from the coalface. To my mind, acknowledging that fact would go a long way towards affirming teachers as valued professionals whose impact on the future of society is arguably only second to that of parents.

It puts me in mind of a friend of mine. She definitely wore the trousers in the home, while her husband simply followed good-naturedly in her wake. One day she heard a sermon on marriage and decided that she ought to relinquish the headship role to her husband. She confided to me several weeks later that it wasn't working - no matter how much she tried to bully her husband into it, he simply did not step into the leadership role.

She honestly could not see why I laughed until the tears ran down my face.

The marriage didn't work. The husband went on to marry a naturally submissive woman and is now happily and confidently the head of his new home.

Pushing teachers into adopting pull teaching practice is just as doomed. Surely we are seeing enough teachers walking out on this "marriage" as it is?