Thursday, 20 October 2016

Resources for PLT Day Training

Thanks to all those who survived the PLT day training I ran and hopefully didn't get too bored. Here's a link to all the resources from the day. Enjoy!

Teaching the Internet

You know when get stuck in a rut teaching the same topic each year, but you only ever seem to teach it one way? I had that with teaching how the internet worked. I reckon it's because by the time the internet pops up in our scheme of work were getting close to the first half term and everyone is knackered, but maybe that's just me. Either way, the teaching I was doing at the time just wasn't up to scratch. So this year I decided to do something a bit different, I introduced a really simple activity that I had thought up on the fly (normally either whilst otherwise engaged or running). We were going to model the internet using chocolate!

Now I don't know what your school's rules on using chocolate for teaching are, but ours is "we don't like it but if they're not bouncing off the walls we can sort of ignore it." I scrapped my original plan to act it out with pupils walking along paths marked by masking tape after a single attempt (too much distraction). Instead we mapped it out on the bench as you can see above. Different chocolate goes in the IP addressed envelopes on the left and the post-its act as the data packets.

Pupils gave their "orders" in the form of plain text (eg mars), they then had to describe the function of every component the "packet" passed through on the way to collecting the chocolate, from the client (cut off in the picture) throught the router and the modem, to the ISP, to the DNS, to the ISP and out to the server (collecting the chocolate), and then back to client. The pupils got it! I was surprised, but I'm really chuffed with them :)

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Data Analyst Anyone?

In this age of Multi-Academy Trusts, five zillion data collection points an academic year, and measuring the "progress" of pupils with summative assessment every time they enter the school building, we are generating loads of data. And that's not counting the data we generate on a day to day basis as teachers by completing a register, filing behaviour incidents, etc etc.

Whats the point of all this data? Well, in most schools I've been in, I would suggest there's not much point. This is not down to the desire to see normal teachers die under a workload of data recording by SLT, rather I would put it down to ignorance. Schools feel they have to record everything to cover all the bases, most importantly that when the dreaded OFSTED show up they can produce some nice case studies of pupils with their full back story, progress history, what they had for lunch etc. There is also the knowledge that some kids, whilst they may not have made "enough" progress academically, have made progress in terms of their behaviour, ability to stay in lesson etc, schools know this is in their data somewhere, but because it tends to be spread out over different systems it is difficult to show this using the data recorded. The majority of data goes to waste because people, genuinely, don't know what to do with it to turn it into some sort of meaningful information which can better the learning experience for the kids.

So are we stuck in this mess? No! Lots of tools are out there for teachers to use to have a look at their data. However, all of these require time to learn to use effectively, then we can begin the process of analysing data to produce information. So at very least investigative data analysis should be a TLR if not a full time job, and it will take time to produce results. It also helps if the person doing the analysis is up to speed with data and statistical analysis methods (I'm a science teacher so I'm going to take the biased view point that a science graduate would be best, but I realise that's a pretty narrow view).

So what would a school data analysts job look like? I would suggest that their time would be split between producing reports for progress etc on a regular basis, highlighting for staff anomalies in the data and disparities (to lead to higher data reliability), but they also need at least 25% of their time devoted to "blue sky" research. By this I mean they are free to investigate a hypothesis and questions, for example can we detect kids at risk of exclusion in KS4 early from their KS2/3 data and thereby setup an "early warning" system for future pupils? Obviously the data analyst would need some fairly serious computing resourcing if they're analysing data over the past 10 years, but in the age of cloud computing on demand that should be doable.

To conclude. I reckon it would be a good job! I'd quite enjoy it, I also reckon it would allow schools to turn piles of languishing data into information that has an impact on pupils education.

Useful links

As my old university tutor (Dr Paul Kenton) used to say "the plural of data is not information" (or similar)

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Back online

Either because I've found some more time (unlikely) or I've missed blogging (more likely) the blog is now back online - new content coming soon!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Blog mothballed

I've decided to mothball my blog for the time being. At present I don't have time to properly research and write decent posts, and there's plenty of rubbish online without me adding to it! Twitter will stay active though :)

Friday, 22 January 2016

Please more open source

As per previous post I'm at BETT, sat in my hotel room and waiting to go and eat breakfast.

I wonder how much open source stuff I'm going to see today? My guess would be not a huge amount aside from the Raspberry Pi-ness, but I'm hopeful. Don't get me wrong, I really like a lot of closed source software, but can't help get the impression that education would benefit from broadening its IT infrastructure horizons. The cost saving alone would be huge.

That said, Google Chrome OS and android are Linux, so open source at the core. The Google classroom system opened up a world of savings when that kicked off, and it's only got better. 

Plus teaching pupils to use Linux is teaching them how to use the core underlying systems that run the majority of internet servers, and that's got to be a bonus!

I can't but help think we're missing a trick somewhere....

It's BETT time again!

I'm at BETT!

I came for the first time last year and I'm smitten, so this time me and my department head bought 10 other colleagues with us. Why? Because it is almost impossible to stay even vaguely up to date with everything the world of technology has to offer from Plymouth. However, I know that bringing this many people, some (or all of whom, including myself) will get over excited about the latest and greatest educational toy. To keep the focus on what will actually make a difference to the lives of the disadvantaged youngsters (there is no other type in a PRU) we teach is tough in the face of many shiny and bleeping gadgets. 

So I've set myself a little checklist this year-
1) does it actually do what it claims to do?
2) can it be implemented, bearing in mind our wierd but excellent IT infrastructure?
3) how long will it take to train staff?
4) can it work near enough instantly in a lesson? (If in lesson tech)
5) is it value for money? Or am I paying through the nose for a rebranded eBay buy...

Bring on BETT!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

New Year!

New Year's resolutions are not really something I do, they tend to be forgotten as soon as the school term kicks in again. However, if I was into New Years resolutions, maybe the following would suit my teaching-

  • Buy the finance staff more chocolate in the hope they put my departments stuff on English's budget
  • Make more cool raspberry pi stuff :)
  • Mark smarter, not more (as if this one will happen)
  • Always be pleased to see my classes (even if I inwardly want to bury 11TL under the car park...)
  • Use worksheets even less than I do (or I'm fed up with the photocopier jamming constantly)
  • Remember to eat lunch close-ish to lunchtime
  • Attend more teachmeets (especially those with free food and drink)
  • Become more competant at python programming (this should be easy given the start point!)

I'm hopefully going to be working closely with a local school on some curriculum stuff soon, which has got my thinking, more on that later. But for now I'll leave you with the following quote. I came across it in "Quartz and Feldspar" by Matthew Kelly, but it references "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" by Edward Gibbon-

"Gibbon argued that great civilizations declined when they lost contact with their foundational principles and become decadent and ill disciplined. To be ignorant of a nation's history was to be blind to what made it great and might, given continued vigilance, ensure it remains so."