Visions of the Future: ten hipster thoughts…

By Nige Armitstead

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When I finished teaching, almost a year ago now, I wrote a long letter to an imaginary teacher in one of those books you can buy which are empty for such a purpose. At the end I wrote under the heading ‘Visions of the Future’. It was a personal wish list for education. Here is a shortened version of it. I hope it offers some food for thought. Perhaps it will spark more and better ideas…

1] Educational Psychology

There is a deeply thoughtful and creative problem solving at the heart of an EP team. Educational psychologists carry that intellectual dynamic within their service to schools. It is the hallmark of their input to work being undertaken with children who need help in order to learn. There is a partially but not adequately realised potential for educational psychologists to have a more general and greater positive impact on education. My suggestion is for educational psychologists to have a development and leadership role for an embedded thinking curriculum across all local authority schools. (NB. I was also an educational psychologist!)

2] Economics should be a core subject.

Economic literacy is now far more important than mathematical knowledge. A required standard of numeracy, and some useful mathematics, could be taught as a core subject up to the age of 14. Thereafter the core subject should be economics. An economically literate society might vote more intelligently at election and referendum time. Economics could be the avenue to strong minded independent thinking about the world (cf next heading). In thinking about the world students might involve themselves more in its big issues, and hence become more engaged students generally. It will take time, but we should work towards economics becoming a core subject.

3] Radicalisaton

I wonder if this word is misused when it refers to the inculcation of young minds with beliefs that draw them into slavish adherence to fundamentalist and violent agendas. Surely the word for that is brainwashing. Radicalisation is the way we can stop it happening. Encouraging young people to become independently willed, rationally minded, shrewd judges of opportunity and circumstance must surely be desirable. We may find that this kind of radicalisation leads to greater challenge from students, but perhaps only when we ought to be challenged, and possibly for the good.

4] Politicians

I appeal to politicians that they should back away from schools and education, which they fail to understand and tend to misjudge. Instead they should concentrate on enabling the teaching profession. Teaching is a vocational art, involving people with special personal qualities allied to a positive idealism and specialist training. It is the noble profession: ethically pure and intensely responsible in creating opportunity for other people to better their lives. It is the cradle of a better world, one in which the wisdom and compassion of teachers jointly sponsor a greater possibility for humanity.

5] Schools exist within communities

There are a variety of communities around a school: the parent community, the local community, the sports community, the intellectual community, the business community, the music and arts community, and the civic community to name but a few. Also religious communities may have much to offer, provided they can do so without indoctrination agendas. Schools should draw on, and contribute to, their communities as much as possible.

6] The academic year

For a while each school day the buildings are overcrowded. Then for two hours of the normal working day they are undercrowded. For thirteen weeks of the year they are empty! The teaching commitment within term time is over concentrated: teachers stagger to holidays as recovery opportunities. Too much time is spent during term in exhausted coping, which is bound to lead towards compromised well being. Long holidays are no compensation for this. When the holidays arrive, seasonal pricing arrives with them. We punish parents for taking students out of school for holidays during term. We all need it to be different. I suggest that teachers would be far happier with a lower intensity job more flexibly rostered over the week or fortnight; with shorter holidays with the facility (shared by students) to take two weeks of them outside a demarcated official school holidays, whilst not being taken during a small number of critical periods for curriculum delivery (which would vary between schools). Well, that or some other kind of reform, but something better than now for sure.

7] All children should learn to play chess

It involves strategic thinking, decision making, levels of analysis, risk taking, and the ability to judge potential dangers by seeking to view the board from another person’s perspective. We British voted to leave the EU in order to ‘Make Britain Great Again’. How absurd. It would have been far more effective in the long run to teach all our children to play chess.

8] An honours system

This idea would be easy to dismiss quickly on grounds of political correctness, but give it a fair think through first. I suggest five badges of honour which students can display on their clothing. The badges would cover (a) Participating; (b) Thinking; (c) Leading Learning; (d) Resilience, notably in relation to private study, and; (e) Positive Contribution. Notice that none of these depend on academic ability. With all five badges earned then at some point after the start of secondary school the student would be awarded a scholarship. This would involve some hand out of privileged resources, access to specialist courses for scholars run by the educational psychologists and others, along with an expectation that they would step up to an enhanced role in the classroom as leaders in learning. Clearly there are some ways in which this will seem elitist, selective, making public some students who are not achieving within the honours system, and promoting a notion that some students are held in higher esteem. I would reiterate that this a system in which all can succeed, and the public nature of it would make those who are not succeeding more obviously in need of help rather than hidden in the grey spaces of classrooms as they often are at present.

9] Management is a service

The important work of a school is done by teachers in the classrooms. The role of managers is to provide a service of facilitating teachers in various ways, including

coaching them in their quality of performance. Management is not something which should be done to teachers, it should be done for teachers. Fine that managers are paid more – they are doing an important job. But let’s all remember whose shoulders really carry the educational world and show teachers the respect they deserve.

10] Teacher retirement

There are some teachers who see the word ‘retirement’ begin to shimmer in the distance and find themselves unable to locate any other direction for their attention. To them I say, take heart and remember that you have been a teacher, and therein lies much to be proud of. There may have been difficulty and challenge along the way, but you were able to rise to that and you have done well. Your work was your vocation. Yours was the noble profession. You have helped to cradle a better future for humanity. Look to finish with your swan song – something that will help you bring a beautiful closure to the end of your amazing career.

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TED-ED could be the perfect platform to bridge the digital divide

By Alex More

Read time: 10 mins

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Recent explorations with the online platform TED-ED seems to be making an impact and engaging students, or at least that’s what the research is suggesting …

I have been asked recently how I source engaging videos for students to view for flipped learning or research tasks. In my endless quest to help the students I teach become architects of their own learning, I have stumbled upon a fantastic place to create learning; TED-ED. Could this be very thing to combat the enemy of happiness: boredom?

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So what is TED-ED?

Put simply, it’s an online platform for using videos to engage learners. After seeing an engaging 7-minute presentation from Joe B at a recent Teach Meet I was keen to explore TED-ED’s potential and have not been disappointed. Born from the mighty TED talks, TED-ED is an education initiative aimed at our youth, our digital natives. TEDEd’s mission is to spark and celebrate the ideas of teachers and students around the world by offering short, award-winning animated videos about ideas that spark the curiosity of learners …

Sounds pretty cool … and it is!

I had been searching for a new way to share videos or podcasts to help implement the Flipped 101 model (Check out previous blog on Flipped Learning here). TED-ED seemed like the perfect fit. It’s so simple to use and students really like it.

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I am half-way through a series of interviews to collect qualitative insights into what students like and dislike about flipped learning as part of my dissertation. One consistent that is emerging is how much students enjoy the TED-ED videos that I post for them to view. This is what they have said;

  • We like being able to pause and rewind our teacher. In the classroom, if we are absent or miss content we can’t pause time or the teacher but we can with the videos.
  • Access is 24/7, we can view the videos when we like. AUTONOMY 
  • Accessing the content ahead of time makes us more confident to answer questions in class because we already have a little insight.
  • The questions set relate to the content and the knowledge we need to pass the course. RELATEDNESS and COMPETENCE.

Those familiar with academic literature associated with MOTIVATION, specifically linked with learning will have seen Autonomy, Relatedness and Competence before. It seems that TED-ED is a catalyst for motivating our digital natives.

I wanted to create a quick how-to guide that teachers could try out in the hope that we get more people creating TED-EDs. It’s so quick, easy-to-use and effective. Give it a go!

Step 1 – Create a teacher account 

Just an email and password needs to be entered to get set up to gain access to the world of TED-ED. It’s free and TED-ED don’t bombard your email account with spam mail.

Step 2 – Check out the tutorial. 

This is a great place to start  familiarizing yourself with TED-ED and its most useful features. This tutorial How to use Ted-Ed to create a Flipped Classroom is great Check it here

Step 3 – Have a go at making your first TED-ED task. 

Just click the ‘Create a Lesson’ tab

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Which will navigate you to this page where you can type in any topic, video to set for your TED-ED. For this example, I typed in MACBETH

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Videos are presented in order of most views / hits

Select a video that you feel might engage your students. Remember, most students prefer to watch videos that are short and animated, so 3-5 mins the is ideal time.

Once you have selected your video watch it through (fast forward if you like) and make a note of what questions you might ask based on that video. If you are happy with the video, keep it, if not then select another.

Step 4 – Customise your lesson 

This is where I feel TED-ED really comes into its own when compared to other online education platforms.

In this window, you can change the video, crop the video and format the questions you want to ask. I have played around with a few variations and found the structure below to be the most useful in extracting knowledge, particularly in the Flipped 101 format;

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Let’s Begin – provide a brief overview of why you want them to watch the video, what’s the aim and how does it relate to the topic / their learning. Relatedness – linked to topic and future learning 

Think – I tend to use this tab to create some ‘hook’ questions, simple quick responses to verify they have watched the video, such as; how long was the video? Who was the star character etc? This low access, high challenge approach

Dig Deeper – This is my favorite tab. It’s a great place to really explore the depth of knowledge and set a few exploratory questions. In the true essence of Flipped Learning, you could direct students to another source here (another video, a journal and website) to deepen understanding and challenge the most able. Competence – a chance to test knowledge. An example from Macbeth might be, an exam question relating to the specification (see below)

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Discuss – This is where I encourage students to make their mind up about the video and the topic. A chance to balance views and form a conclusion ready to share in class. If they have made notes in class books ask them to show you or share key findings with the class.

And Finally … I tend to use this tab to create a message thanking them to viewing the video. I also offer a code here they can write down. Once they collect ten x codes/ coupons they get a prize. Students love this!

So, that’s it – simple. I thought it might be useful to quickly share a few other features TED-ED has.

Lessons 

When you create a lesson and publish it, it becomes live and accessible to all. The platform TED-ED uses to search videos is YouTube so worth checking that your schools filter allows YouTube. Remember, most students (97% in my experience) access TED-ED videos at home, mostly between 6 and 9 pm in the evening.

To access the lessons you have created, click the Lessons tab in the side bar Capture

You will then be navigated through to a page showing all the Lessons / Videos you have created, which looks like this …

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My lessons so far in TED-ED 

Other useful features 

The Discussions and Notifications tabs are useful in monitoring how students are interacting with your TED-EDs.

Discussions simply display what answers students might have entered and saved manually in TED-ED. I encourage students to make notes in their books so tend not to use this tab.

Notifications show you which students have either watched the videos or interacted with the videos. This is useful in identifying any students who have not done the task.

Sharing videos

Once you have finished editing your question/task boxes you can publish the video and send it to your students.

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Either Share via Email or Copy the Lesson Link (URL) 

One last thought 

I tend to email the link to the videos 5 days in advance and set a specific lesson by which students have to have viewed the TED-ED. I then put the TED-ED up on the screen at the start of that lesson and use the questions as prompts to direct the learning. This is the Flipped 101 model. This can take between 10 and 20 minutes depending on the topic, class and quality of the resulting discussions.

Giving students Autonomy in terms of when, how and how many times they view the TED-EDs really seems to be impacting on learning in my GCSE lessons. Give it a spin and let us know what you think!