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Farewell Edublogs

Well, the introduction of ads on Edublogs has been enough to push me into hosting my own blog.

Further musings will be found at http://www.mrstucke.com .

If you are receiving this through an rss feed then I suspect you will need to head over to the new blog and subscribe to the feed there using the large rss button at the top of the screen.

EDIT: Comments have been turned off, all posts have been copied to http://www.mrstucke.com please feel welcome to continue the conversations over there.

The Fight Goes On

Many thanks to all those who commented on my rant last month with regards to Internet filtering etc within school, I know it’s something a lot of us come up against each and every day.

I thought I’d quickly update those who were interested on my progress.  I put together a list of exemplars of Teaching & Learning via the Web and passed these on to my Head.  He sees them as a persuasive argument and is keen to set up a whole-school debate on the issue.  I couldn’t ask for more than that, so fingers crossed that I can continue the persuasion at the next stage.

The quick examples I used were:

  • Youtube: As a random example, searching ‘Sequences Math’ returns over 300 videos.  There are great education videos available for free, particularly useful for spontaneous class discussion moments.
  • Google Docs: Allows multiple users (teachers & pupils) to edit the same text document / spreadsheet / presentation at the same time.  Would be greeat for collaboration / communication / AfL skills.  I’ve set up an AfL spreadsheet to share with pupils which I think will be powerful.  Could be used in Science/Maths for collecting data from experiments.  Could be used in Humanities for collaborative writing.  Tom Barret (a Primary teacher from Nottingham has been doing exemplary work on this) see here and here – his blog is full of stunning online work.
  • Flickr: Amazing collection of images and photography that could brighten any lesson.  Blocked for staff, some inappropriate images but only if you create and account, sign in and turn off safe-search.
  • Pupil blogs: Graham Wegner from Australia has some excellent examples of students blogging for all the World to see and engaging in conversations with people from around the globe.
  • Web 2.0 Storytelling: There are some great examples of telling stories using the Web.  One is the 5 Card Flickr game using the above website’s images as inspiration for a story.
Image courtesy of etrusia_uk on flickr

As I have just ranted about on Tom Barrett’s blog post about using Google Docs for online reporting to parents, I am becoming increasingly frustrated with trying to use the Internet both myself and with pupils at school.  It is to all intents and purposes blocked and Web 2.0 seems to be considered a security risk.

As an example, I arrived in school today to find that Google Docs is blocked for staff.  When pushed the risk  was explained that private pupil data could be copied onto GDocs and shared.  I was offered the opportunity to have the specific url of my spreadsheet unblocked after it had been vetted. This logic seems to wipe out the use of the entire read/write web in my school ( Here is the sheet I am trying to share with my class, I think it’s use is fairly self explanatory: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pi_Ik07yjYQaT9yf5YdsIPQ

I can feel creativity and spontanaiety along with a wealth of learning opportunities being lost at every turn.

The school is investing in a VLE, something I am losing interest in as it will be a walled garden / fortress if everything else is to go by.

I would like to present an informed argument against this to those in power over these matters at school.  The obvious starting places seem to be BECTAs recent encouragement of Web 2.0 use in schools (also see Ewan’s take), and their guidance on safe use of data.  I believe that the former encourages what I am trying to achieve and the latter does not preclude it.

I suppose my plea at the end of this rather self-indulgent rant is for any other resources I could use to help my cause, further guidance, exemplary examples of pupil/staff on-line work etc etc.

Any advice is gratefully received!

EDIT: Just to make clear and reiterate: I don’t want to get into a moan about specific staff on a public blog, I do have a good working relationship with the IT department and senior leadership, I just need to change their ways!

Ed Balls has, well, sorry, had the balls to ditch SATs for 14 year olds in England.

I can’t quite describe how elated I am!  Ignoring last years fiasco, these tests have narrowed the curriculum, the teaching opportunities and pupils enthusiasm for the subject for years.  The league tables that accompanied them often narrowed a school’s focus onto just the key Level 5 boundary pupils.

Can all of that really be gone?  Fingers crossed!

CC image from 713 Avenue on flickr

Inspired by my former colleague Mr Hill, I have decided to approach my time with 9X1 a little differently this year.

To cater for the range of ability and learning styles in this class I am going to offer them a platter of resources to learn from and a clear checklist of objectives for each topic.  What they choose to use to meet those objectives will largely be up to them.

I’ll post more on this when time permits.

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Creative Commons Image by deadeyebart a.k.a Brett on flickr

Are half of us rubbish?

Ofsted in their infinite wisdom have deemed that half of Maths teaching in England is not up to scratch.

The focus appears to be ‘teaching to the test’, now who’d of thought schools might reort to such a thing when the other option is to be labled as failing?

I hope that this is a shot across the Government’s bow about the high stakes testing / league table problem that blights our schools, but unfortunately the reporting in the press lays much of the blame at the teacher’s door.  I have seen no mention in the press of the shortage of specialist Maths teachers in relation to this figure of ‘half’.

We are working hard with out pupils to increase the understanding of Mathematics, in particular with our new Y7s and the focus on their Personal Learning & Thinking Skills and developing an understanding of cross-curricular links.  This is incredibly difficult to achieve in the time frames we have and the pressures of resluts and league tables.

Balls apparently wants to win the ‘hearts and minds of teachers’ today by enshrining in law the 10% non-contact time.  In my experience, schools have been good at granting this time for some years now and the strength of teaching unions ensure it happens.  Good headline-making it may be but this will have little impact on the real pressures that we face in the job.  I voluntarily give up some of my 10% time to mentor small groups of key pupils to ensure they get their grade Cs, and all because of the legacy of league tables.

As our city is besieged by MPs this week it remains to be seen if any real change will be promised to the profession.

Disclaimer: as with everything on this blog, these are solely my views and do not represent those of my school or my LEA.

Richard Taylor from www.tutpup.com passed his new site on to me in a recent comment on the blog:

We have just beta released a new free maths games website which is starting to get quite a bit of traction in the UK. It’s free, has no ads, and allows kids to compete head to head but doesn’t allow them to communicate directly. It is really KS1 & 2 focused but we are getting lots of use from secondaries (or we were last week before half term).

We have just added a few new teacher features (class registration, reports etc) and if you have any ideas or queries drop me a line, or if you like it you could put in a link.

I have had a chance to look at the site this weekend and to test it with a low ability class of 11/12 year olds today and I’m delighted with it!

The site allows pupils from around the world to compete against each other at mental maths questions in a completely safe environment, no actual personal details just clever usernames made from colours and animals (I’m bluepig22!).

The competitive element is the clincher, the class I tried it with today are difficult and disaffected but did more Maths today than they have for most of the year.

The site is simply designed and my class enjoyed beating not only each other but pupils from Brazil, Australia, France, Japan……

I’ve not even looked fully into the class reports feature but this could be most useful for identifying weaknesses and future teaching points.

A nice touch is the graduation medal that you get when you have done really well at a certain level, this really encouraged pupils to move onto a more difficult level rather than sticking with the easy questions all day.

An excellent, free resource, well done Richard!  Let me know what you think :)

The new KS3 Framework has a renewed focus on using and applying Maths along with developing the Personal, learning and thinking skills and the Cross-curricular dimensions introduced with the new National Curriculum.

On reflection the content which we need to deliver has changed little and so with some tweaking our previous scheme of work will suffice in structure.  This statutory change in the manner in which we deliver the content and offer opportunities to put the Maths in context, develop pupils personal skills and link in with other subjects can only be a good thing in my opinion.

There are a number of fantastic resource banks out there full of ‘rich’ mathematical tasks which we could use:

nRich: Hundreds of puzzles and investigations, updated monthly.
Kangaroo Maths: Particularly Using & Applying and Enrichment sections.
Bowland Maths: New resources designed specifically with the new curriculum in mind.
Defence Dynamics: Interactive resources / lesson plans based on real world scenarios from the MoD.

Of particular interest are the Bowland Maths resources, these have been produced by the Bowland Charitable Trust in conjunction with the NCETM.  To quote their site:

‘Bowland Maths makes maths fun for pupils aged 11-14. The aim is to help change pupils’ views of maths by increasing their motivation and enjoyment, which should help increase their confidence and their competence. A second aim is to help teach maths in a different way.

The Bowland Maths materials look very different from most maths teaching materials. They consist of innovative case study problems, each taking 3-5 lessons, designed to develop thinking, reasoning and problem solving skills – as in the revised Key Stage 3 curriculum. Each case study is different, but all provide pupils and teachers with problems that are fun and engaging, while also being a rich maths experience. The case studies are not remotely like answering questions from a book. For Portraits of the case studies, click here.’

As a department we will be reviewing a number of these resources and planning their integration into our teaching over the coming weeks.  I will add more in the future about any particular highlights.

Have you any other links to quality resources to enrich Maths teaching?  How is your department tackling these changes?

I have finally started one of my classes blogging. I decided to use a wiki from the excellent Wikispaces for this purpose rather than a blog. I took inspiration from Kristian Still’s excellent wiki at his previous school (which seems to have dissapeared now Kristian has moved schools?). I also made the choice as I’m a big fan of wikispaces, our Scheme of Work is now completed in a basic form on a wiki and I would like to get the pupils to add resources to this over time, so it seemed logical to keep the pupil blog on the same platform. I find that the ability to add code of almost any description means that you can embed a fantastic variety of resources using wikispaces.

It took some time agreeing how to go about this with my school, concerns over pupil safety and representation of the school were obviously paramount, but to be fair school have been wholly supportive of the project. I have kept the terms of use as simple as possible and spent half a lesson discussing the correct use of the wiki and how important it was the pupils used it respectfully. They have taken to it fantastically, they are taking great pride in seeing their work online.

At present I am simply letting 1 or 2 pupils per lesson be our blogging scribes, recording the details of the lesson and then afterwards I am adding copies of anything that I think useful (for example photos of pupils work and copies of the IWB pages). This has proved fantastically useful at the start of each lesson as a means to recap what we have done so far in the topic.

At first I asked pupils to sign up to wikisapces themselves as a homework, this was not successful and I ended up with only two users. Instead I spent a little time setting up accounts for each pupil using the gmail address trick, each pupil having an address of myclass+THEIR [email protected] This also has the advantage that any messages sent via the messaging function in wikispaces automatically get sent to my email account.

I must admit that wikispaces messaging function hadn’t crossed my mind at first, it is effectively an email system within wikispaces. The pupils found it within about 5 mins! This was a concern at first, especially as I read this at the same time the issue arrived at my door. However after a little reflection I decided that it shouldn’t be a great problem and sent a simple message to all pupils asking them to use it responsibly for discussion on topic and nothing else. AS I was receiving copies of all messages I was rather pleased to see a “maths has become cool” replied by “yeah!!!!! this is better than doing work” which made my day.

Please head over to the blog and leave the pupils a comment if you feel inspired, I’m sure they would be delighted. I plan to continue with this for the next half-term and if successful I’ll roll it out with some other classes. Some ideas in the pipeline at the moment are getting each pupil to add something as part of a homework, and also to get them all to take pictures using their mobiles for use with one of the forthcoming topics.

The £60m 2-year DCSF project has kicked off at our school.  For the uninitiated this is a government funded scheme to put laptops into some of the most disadvantaged homes in the country.

To quote:

Computers for Pupils

Computers for Pupils is a £60 million, two-year programme (2006–2008) aimed at helping some of the most disadvantaged secondary school children improve their education and life skills by putting a computer into the home and providing internet connectivity. It aims to narrow the achievement gap between those children and their peers. Up to 100,000 pupils in England are expected to benefit from the initiative.

108 local authorities are involved in the programme, with funding allocated through the Standards Fund Grant. Local authorities identified as having eligible schools and pupils attending in their area have been given funding to make this happen. They are also receiving help and advice covering all aspects of the scheme.

Our school has been allocated 270 laptops, which is obviously a fantastic thing.  However we have nearly 900 pupils so it has also become a somewhat divisive issue.  The allocation has taken into account a number of factors, including something of a post-code lottery.  Explaining to one pupil why they have a laptop and another why they haven’t has been awkward today.

With the possibility of  internet access also being provided in the near future this is overall great news.  We have been making good headway with online homeworks in Maths, using MyMaths and Achieve, and this will dramatically cut the number of pupils who cannot complete these at home.

I haven’t seen the machines yet, as ever with technology I suspect that had they will have missed the boat with the range of excellent low cost laptops that are seeping onto the market such as the eeePC.

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