Thursday, March 25, 2010

Teachers TV

Teachers TV is an online site that provides education video resources, lesson plans, inspiration and ideas to use in the classroom. However, it is more than that, Teachers TV also broadcasts on the television in the UK which means that they produce a large volume of high quality content to support teachers in their everyday jobs of teaching and learning. This site is worth a visit. From my point of view they have cutting edge ideas for the display of digital media and discussed the fact that digital media should not replace text but provide teachers with things that are not possible in just text.

We were fortunate today to meet with John Richmond, the international development executive of Teachers TV, to discuss how Teachers TV works. This is part of our PD to develop our skills in digital media for CORE Education. John took us out to Brook Lapping which is an internationally acclaimed independent documentary production company who make many of the films for Teachers TV. We came away with a wealth of ideas of where to next for our processes and procedures for digital media in our projects at CORE.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Leigh Academy - Dartford Kent

We visited an innovative secondary school today. Leigh Academy is a new school that was purpose built. Frank Green, the CEO of Leigh Academy explained that the school was designed as a result of being required to find new ways to raise educational standards.

There are some interesting things happening in this college. Firstly they employ vertical integration where students from 11 year olds through to 18 year olds are integrated into the same classes. This is based on research stating that students learn best when they can learn from, and teach, each other.

Another innovation is around class sizes, operating classes of 50 to 60 students with three teachers, in large open spaces. This is a technology rich school and as we walked around we saw students working in all different types of groupings and purposes. We saw a large space with a lot of students and three teachers walking around, and we saw smaller spaces with students working one on one or in small groups.

And one more innovation is around school sizes. Based on research it was found that the optimal size of a school was no more than 500 students. Above this and there is less achievement and more chance of behavioural problems and so on. This was a hard issue to overcome in a very large secondary school and their answer is, I think, genius. The secondary school of over 1200 students was separated into four different colleges. These colleges are all housed in the same building as their own blocks. Each college has the exact same layout and their own speciality. DaVinci college specialises in (you guessed it) the arts, Chaucer - humanities, Darwin - the sciences, and Brunel - technology. Each college has its own principal to run the school and staff, this ensures that every child is known well as an individual by the head teacher and staff. Frank's role is as the CEO over the entire academy. Students belong to one college, however move between colleges for the specialities.

It was quite a treat to visit this school and see how new answers can be found to old problems. We recorded interviews with Frank Green and these will be available on EdTalks shortly.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Training day with Urban Fox

Today I was fortunate enough to spend the day in one-on-one training with Christina Fox of Urban Fox. Christina has an extensive career as a camera woman for the BBC, working on projects as diverse as the news and playschool and so many other genres in between.

It was a treat to have her all to myself for the day. Christina had viewed some of my work before I arrived for training and had devised a programme to move me on. It was amazing. I didn't know how little I knew until I worked with her. I had been doing an okay job as a self taught videographer, but I now needed to step up to the next level.

Firstly we started with the bare bones essentials - the techie bits. We explored my camera and I am now confident to shoot video with the camera fully in manual mode. This answered a lot of my questions about how to get the image crisper, clearer and with the right tones and colours. I apologise to those I have shot who have turned out an orangy colour because I didn't know how to set the white balance!!

Once the techie bits were mastered Christina offered me some suggestions on what she considered as my next steps in editing based on the work I had previously shot. We talked about the effective way to shoot interviews and some of the techniques for shooting sequences to cover editing points. The video above is just a quick exercise at using different shots to portray the same story - master shot, over the shoulder, close up, and face shots. To get these shots the actor (in this case Christina) has to act out the scene four times over. This gives you four different angles to use to make the sequence more interesting.

I'm a little annoyed that I didn't do this training before I shot the video at Sawyers Hall as I can see so many places to use my new knowledge, but luckily, tomorrow I am shooting video at Leigh Academy, so I can try out my new skills then.

Triumph over adversity - Sawyers Hall College

My colleague, Christina, and I were fortunate enough to win a professional development scholarship from CORE Education which has enabled us to travel to London for professional learning. Our plans while here are to shoot a digital story at Sawyers Hall College, attend a day's training with Urban Fox, visit Leigh Academy to shoot an EdTalk, and visit Teachers TV. Our aim is to build on our skills in digital story telling.

We visited Sawyers Hall College in Brentwood. They are using CORE's EPS web based self review tool and our task was to shoot a case study of videos with management, teachers and students about their experience with the tool.

The story that made me sit up and think though, is based in student voice.

Sawyers Hall was a school that was going downhill fast and facing closure due to bad performance. Stephen Capper was appointed as the head teacher (principal) and slowly started to turn things around. He told us this story, which is the philosophy of the school:

A wise old man was sitting at the beach watching a young boy. There had been a storm and hundreds of starfish had washed up on the shore and were slowly dying. The young boy was walking along throwing the starfish back into the ocean one by one. The old man walked up to the boy and asked him why he was wasting his time, he couldn't possibly make a difference with so many starfish washed up on the shore. The boy looked at the old man, then picked up one starfish and threw it back into the sea, "made a difference to that one," he replied.
Because of the care of the staff and the philosophy of the school to put students at the heart, the school has slowly turned around and is making progress now in leaps and bounds. They are truly making a difference. This difference was not because of measurement, but because of seeing each child as an individual.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Technological nomads

I have been reflecting on my time as a facilitator and have noticed that you have to have a certain temperament to be good at this job. I think I have finally developed this temperament now. It has a lot to do with patience and caring.

When you work with people (teachers) there are often a lot of things that come into play. A lot of teachers are frightened and threatened by being faced with something they are unfamiliar with. In the past teachers have always been the holder of all knowledge, the supreme authority, the buck stops there ! With our wonderful new curriculum we are encouraged to be learners, to admit we don't know and then embark on finding out with enthusiasm.

There is one type of teacher that I work with a lot and it makes me wonder about how far we have come down the track of letting go of authority and embracing learning. I have called these teachers the technological nomads.

They kNOw nothing and they get MAD at you :)

I'm okay at working with these teachers now as I can smile and lead them gently until they understand and feel familiar and less threatened. But I wonder what would we do as teachers if our students did the same thing? Is that student who is struggling with reading coming to mind now? Those struggling students who play up all the time and display aggression?

Anyway, just my thoughts... How do you cope with the technological nomad?