Conference envy!

I am not at Learning@schools this year as I thought I would be recovering from shoulder surgery, but have been trying to keep in touch with what is going on through the Twitter Feeds. This organisation and another similar one seem to be making an impact. I think we already have a fantastic and stimulating environment for our students to work and develop in, but there is no reason why we can’t think how we can make it better. I have the good fortune to have a brand new, beautiful classroom this year and have enjoyed being able to put posters on the walls and create a pleasant and (hopefully) stimulating learning space. However, I am conscious that what I perceive to be an environment conducive to learning, may not be what the students see as stimulating for their learning. I will observe how the classes work in the room and we can move furniture around as appropriate. Unfortunately, I had no control over the types of tables and chairs so will have to be creative around what I have been given. Nevertheless, the lighting, the ventilation, the aspect and the layout is fantastic and I look forward to welcoming the students in and encouraging them to make it their space as well as my space.

Prototype is another organisation that seeks to look at how we and the students can best use the tools at our disposal for teaching and learning. I like this statement from their website under the heading “The shift from tools to learning”; “While many ideas celebrated emerging technology and the impact of architecture, the groups’s energy focused more on “what” students (and teachers) would be challenged “to do” in a truly 21st Century learning environment.” I constantly ask myself what I can do with a tool to make it work for my students and to help their learning. All too often I end up in lectures at conferences where people talk about how wonderful a tool is without giving us any concrete ideas or example as to how it can work in a real classroom environment. I know that I can use my own imagination to create new ways of doing but in the hectic madhouse that is the academic, teaching year, there is often not the time for thought and creativity. I am lucky because I enjoy creating and thinking and imagining, and I think I have said before that I get bored easily and so need new ways to teach old stuff to keep me motivated. However. I know that others are not blessed with the time I have, nor with the inclination, and prefer to have those concrete examples given to them so they don’t have to do the thinking that they have so little time to do. And, yes, I know you might be thinking that it is good for us to take a bit of time out to think, that it actually helps us to develop and ultimately makes us feel better, but I know that it is often difficult to persuade some people that it is good for them.
I was reading a blogpost by Steve Wheeler the other day; 7 Reasons why teachers should blog and I also read the many comments on that blog which suggested many reasons why teachers didn’t blog! Time, or lack of it, was the major factor cited by many. I responded by saying that I am a firm believer in using the tools available to us to enable learning. I too have found it difficult to find time to blog, and the long gaps between my blogs reflect that. However, one of my personal goals in 2011 was to try to reflect more on my lesson, what worked and what didn’t and what I could do to modify what I did to make it more effective. I have been using Springpad to plan my lessons and reflect on how they worked. I have found that making time for that daily reflection has been hugely beneficial and I hope that I have improved my practice as a result. I will continue to use it this year. I used to use Onenote which I think is a great product but when I bought a new computer, I went Open Source and so had to find a new tool. I tried several but Springpad works for me. I like the way I can add documents, links to websites, videos, sound files to it so that I can build a sort of scheme of work with associated resources. I can also add photos, sound recordings and videos that i take in class with my phone and it automatically adds them to that lesson so that I have “evidence” of learning for my teacher registration portfolio. O-oh! Spuds are burning, better go and sort them!

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