Posts Tagged ‘Community’

Topic – Reporting: What do you tell parents and when?

I had the really nice role of moderating the #addcym discussion group on Twitter tonight. If you don’t know what #addcym is, you should try to spare the hour between 8-9 on a Tuesday evening and search for the hash tag #addcym on twitter! To join the discussion keep following the hash tag and, if you want to contribute, simply send a tweet with #addcym somewhere in you 140 letters tweet. In this way, everyone else who is following the discussion can connect with what you are saying! #addcym is the Welsh discussion group for Education and we would love to see more people joining in and sharing their views and experiences with other Educators to form their PLN (Personal Learning Network). Many on #addcym have never met in person, but many others have and connect with each other through a wide range of tools, e.g. Twitter, Emails, TeachMeets, face to face meetings, collaborative projects, etc… So I am not saying that the Twitter hash tag is the only way you can connect with other Educators and create your PLN, but that Twitter is an enabler that could help you getting started and link with a wider community than your department, or school, or LEA, etc… In fact, quite a few people who took part to #addcym tonight have a PLN that stretches beyond Wales and U.K. and are part of a worldwide PLN and for many Twitter was not how these PLNs started.

On #addcym we are trying to discuss about topics that are relevant to Education in Wales, so if you are interested in some of these topics, join in. You can even vote the topic you would like to discuss with the weekly Tweet Poll, that gives you a choice of different topics to choose from.

Sorry for the digression, but I thought you would find it helpful to have a bit of an introduction to the concepts of Twitter, hash tags and #addcym, if you have not use these tools before. But this post is supposed to be about a summary of the #addcym discussion from tonight, so read below to find out what came up!

The main points from the discussion were:

– More personal comments are needed and we should get rid of statements banks, reports software, mail merging, etc… some thought those are useful as long as you spend time personalizing the reports.

– Too often reports are impersonal and full of ticks and comments on academic progress alone, with reference to levels and the curriculum, which for some parents can have little meaning. So, comments on how to help child improve skills and performance would be more helpful for parents, i.e. know how they can support their child.

– Not enough parent involvement in feedback on reports and pupils’ work is not celebrated enough. Some thought we should have more opportunities to send pupils’ work at home so parents can support and encourage their children. Some suggested that blogging and other ways of making pupils’ work available online could be a good way to engage parents. Parents’ who comment on Blog posts from their children’s class Blogs seem to have a positive effect on their child’s motivation! Other forms of sharing pupils’ work online suggested were broadcasting work live, or recorded. Getting pupils to present their work to the parents in a sort of Open Evening was another suggestion!

– Many thought that comments on reports should include social and pastoral aspects of the child’s life in school as well as academic progress and the first should be a responsibility of the classroom teacher and not only the Form Tutor, or the Head of Year (in a Secondary setting).

– A well established and confident School Council can make a real difference and voice their views very well and maturely. That could be used to gain feedback from learners on what they want reports to include. Some would like to see an “Unschoolcouncil”, where learners who are often not given the opportunity to voice their concerns are listened to. Also, feedback from parents should be taken into consideration.

– In Secondary schools often reports are disjointed and teachers from different departments haven’t got much opportunity to discuss the overall progress of a learner (both from a pastoral and academic point).

The above is a fairly poor summary of the many contributions we had tonight and my best attempt at summarizing clusters of tweets in single bullet points. But I think in conclusion we could say that it sounds like more involvement from parents and learners was felt as a need in reporting by many tonight and that less impersonal comments, but real personal knowledge of the child and their achievement would be enough to justify less reports per year, i.e. quality, not quantity is what parents would appreciate more. That applies to written reports, because maintaining a good relationship with parents is also very important! I am sure I have left something out, so if you can think of something else I should have added, please add it as a comment to the Blog post.

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When I wrote the blog post on my top 5 list of features in Office 2007 I mentioned INK for Office 2007 as one of them and one of the reasons I like it so much is that you can use it in PowerPoint to create very nice mind maps that blend beautifully your own handwriting and powerful images that you can find on the internet. It is very important in the mind mapping process to have the freedom to write and draw on your map by hand and so expressing your creativity. That is why no mind mapping software has yet been able to substitute your hand in this highly effective and enjoyable activity, although iMindmap is very good and the closest to fully hand drawn mind map in my view!

Anyway, although drawing your own images is important in mind mapping, in a subject like Physics accuracy and clarity are also important. That is why using images that can be pasted on PowerPoint together with branches and words handwritten using INK (which you can find on the bottom left corner in presentation mode, or on the review ribbon, if you are using a Tablet PC) can be a very powerful tool. Well, pasting images from the internet can also save a lot of time and still make your mind map very beautiful and articulated.

I made the mind map in the above video to help my A-level Students to understand Magnetic Fields, but then it occurred to me that they would have probably been confused by it without an explanation of “my mind”. So, I decided to narrate the mind map to them! I did that in class, but I also recorded my explanation using Community Clips, so they could download it from our VLE and use it for revision any time they wanted (I would love to be able to say I can picture them with their earphones on the bus listening to my mind map on their iPods, but I can’t).

Anyway, that was the mind map and the idea was that they would have narrated the next mind map I made and the third one they would have both created and narrated. We had a very professional sounding narrator who would give a really hard time to any BBC presenter, but I didn’t think it would be fair on him to display his voice to the world without asking.

I hope you have enjoyed reading and listening to this post and that you will start using mind mapping with your classes too, if you haven’t already!

Any feedback is welcome. Thanks!

I have always been excited by the amazing potential of Deep Zoom in Education ever since I was given a demonstration by Stuart Ball (Microsoft Innovative Teachers Network, @innovativeteach on Twitter), when he showed me what the Hard Rock Cafe’ did for it’s Memorabilia. I tried to use the Deep Zoom Composer across the network in my School, but it did not work (apparently it conflicts with our RM network, any suggestions?). So, I was apparently stuck, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet and coming to a unit on Reproduction with my Yr 7 class I came up with a simple solution, which proved the inability to use the composer on individual PCs to be a blessing rather than a curse.

The objectives of the project:

–  To develop interdependence through a collaborative project in which all learners had to take into account the needs and objectives of other groups

–  To encourage collaboration between different groups by getting my pupils to develop and peer teach different aspects of Reproduction

–  To enhance Communication Skills through the creative and collaborative use of Deep Zoom, Community Clips and Movie Maker

–  To develop Thinking Skills by developing the project using the TASC Framework

The management of the project:

In the first lesson the groups were introduced to the project and were given an area of Reproduction to develop. All the work undertaken by the groups was their independent work and research and was carried out using the TASC Framework (see the TASC section below). In the second lesson one member of each group could use a PC to research appropriate images and diagrams to use in the whole class Deep Zoom composition, while the other members of the group continued the preparation of their displays and presentations. In the third lesson each group took it in turn to add their pictures to the Deep Zoom composition while the other groups worked on the scripts for their presentations. This was a very important part of the project, because, in composing a whole class Deep Zoom, each group had to take into account the contributions of other groups and make sure that their interventions would not affect negatively the work of others. This approach developed interdependence, creativity, flexibility and adaptability skills, and of course ICT skills, as every learner could use Deep Zoom Composer. In the last lesson each group used the Deep Zoom Composition made by the efforts of the entire class and zoomed in and out the relevant parts while they were explaining their topic to the class. They also recorded their presentations using Community Clips, but at this stage we became aware of a challenge. When they zoomed in or out Community Clips would skip a short bit of the narration, so when we played back the first clip, we realized we needed to pause between each zooming action. That has slowed down the narration a bit and it doesn’t sound as fluent as it could have been, but the results were still very good. The groups’ presentations could then be edited in Movie Maker to minimize the pauses introduced because of the above problem.

The impact on my students:

During the project I could witness a maturity I had not noticed before in my pupils. The class I run the project with behaved in a more responsible way than they had previously done in other projects not involving Reproduction and they were genuinely interested in discovering how their body works. I also noticed much improved behavior compared to the classes I taught Reproduction to in the past and I believe this is due to the collaborative nature of the project and the ownership the learners had not only on the format (as they could choose and collate their own photos in Deep Zoom), but also on the content, as they conducted all the research and produced all the resources they needed themselves (all I gave each group was a topic to develop). This proved to be successful, because many groups found interesting information that the usual text books did not have and that was a curiosity or a concern for some members of the group. In that my pupils were not only consuming knowledge, but became creators of a knowledge that better suited their needs and those of their peers. In addition, retention of these concepts was much higher than in the past and pupils from different groups could recall many aspects of the topics not developed by themselves, or their group.