Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

It's worth noting the odd tributary when I pass it. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was one.

Reading the Little Prince gave me permission to be childish again. As a young adult it broke me out of the urgent teenage years of self importance and over-philosophising.

To be honest, I can't remember the story too well - I had two copies one in English and one in French, but I lost my English copy. I do remember the point made at the start of the book that children are taught out of drawing - out of being creative by self-imprtant adults - the picture of the hat (or not the hat as the author points out) is a graphic illustration of adults 'not getting it'.

It's a point that Sir Ken Robinson echoes in his well known TED talk of a couple of years ago. Click here, if you haven't seen it.

It's also something I reflect on when I think of my own children's creativity. When my daughter was three she was painting pictures like this one. I predicted that someone at her school would teach her out of painting what she sees and start teaching how to draw an outline. Now I'm no expect on the development of observational art and it may well be that when she was three that was just a step she was going through. But the warnings of both Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Sir Ken Robinson tell me that I need to protect their creativity. I need to keep their learning enoyable, help them work co-constructively with peers and adults, and teach them how to be reflective.

All these are fundamentals to our change school programme at Paganel.

It's only a small tributary on the river, but seems significant today - thank you to Google for marking his 110th anniversary.

As a footnote, the other thing about Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is that I always planned to turn one of his quotes into a song. He said "Aimer, ce n'est pas se regarder l'un l'autre, c'est regarder ensemble dans la même direction." This means (roughly, as my French is not too good) "Love is not looking at each other, it's looking together in the same direction." I have some chords (well 2 of them - G and D) and a tune and also the idea to get people singing the line in different languages. Maybe that could become a Year 6 project for the future...

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Technology Tree Conference

It was my second year at the technology tree conference and I got to present my thoughts about how it links in with the primary curriculum. Marcus has already written a blog entry on his views, so for a different perspective, look here.

I mainly went there to show off our Paganel Scalextric project. 3 children came with me and were able to talk about the process of making their own car, racing the cars and commentating on the races. It was great to see the children commentate on the adult delegates as they raced the cars the children had built. It was also great to have at least 3 schools sign up for the project next year - we can now have a primary school scalextric competition - how FAB will that be?

In my presentation I wanted to say how the national curriculum has been a rigid framework for education over the last 15 years just as the rest of the world has been discovering that the network is more important than the framework.

I started with a slide full of words that Michael Gove had recently spoken. I know it's bad form to use loads of text on a Powerpoint but I wanted to make the point that the curriculum change wanted by the new government are just words at the moment. I highlighted words like 'prune', simplify' and 'over-prescitpive.'

I followed with this picture:

It shows a rigid framework - some scaffolding. It's my picture for the national curriculum of recent years - something that has helped build an educational structure of standards and rigour, but something that has also deskilled teachers from thinking for themselves. You can tell this by the use of the word 'delivery'. Teacher's 'deliver' the national curriculum. That verb really devalues the word 'teach'.

Next I showed this picture. It shows a network - rather a large one. Ewan McIntosh showed a very similar picture at a talk he gave a few months ago - the talk that got me blogging again. I said how teacher's had been deskilled not only from thinking for themselves, but also valuing networks just at the time when we need to be teaching our children how to network effectively.

Then I showed these pipes. I had been reading some stuff about educational theories and how all our education system is based essentially on two theories - behaviourism and constructivism. But a new theory has been developed in recent years called connectionism. This is summed up by the statement "the pipe is more important than the contents of the pipe". I held up my phone and pointed out how easy it is to access information through it and so we need to be teaching children how to use networks accurately and safely.

I then showed pictures of 2 different kinds of coffee cup.
Professer Anne Bamford had used similar images at the Creative Partnerships Conference back in February to illustrate the value of design. One coffee can cost£1.00, the other could cost£5.00. Design makes a 500% mark up - it's worth something.

Just as the processes learned in technology tree through working with business on designing and making somethingare also worth something.

I finished by pointing out the links inherent in technology tree - inspiring witing and maths, developing speaking and listening and also linking between teachers - all things that make more teaching more effective and efficient.

Google Teacher Academy

I'm quite excited about the prospect of attending the Google teacher Academy in July this year. It's the first one to be held in London and I got in to it partly on the strength of my video which you can see here.

The video is a bit mad really - you obviously can't teach telekinesis to primary phase children - it's more of secondary school job if you ask me.

It also helped to start discovering some well helpful people on the internet who can give advice on technology and the like. Doug Belshaw was one. His blog lives at http://dougbelshaw.com/blog/

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Leaps in technology

Some of us are a bit slow in the uptake.

We're teachers.

We're a bit slow because we're so busy doing what we think we should be doing that we don't take time to make our lives easier.

If only we spent a few moments finding the things that would make our lives easier, then we'd be less busy and teach better.

The pipe is more important than the contents of the pipe.

Today I made my life a bit easier. I learnt how to do Twitter. It took me 10 minutes. Then I learnt how to e-mail remotely into my blog. I'm doing that now from my phone.

Leaps forward in technology - for me anyway...

Monday, 14 June 2010

Scalextric Track Build

The final commentary leading up to the scalextric day -it's of the track being set up.


A commentary of what the dinner hall is like during dinner time.

Dinner Clean Up

Connor's sports style commentary of how the dinner ladies clean up the hall.

Corridor memory

Here's another commentary piece, based on children's memories of being in the corridor years ago when they were much younger.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Scalextric Commentary

A big part of the scalextric project was working on commentary skills so that the children could commentate on their own races. We had tried this a year ago on Shine Day 2009 and found that many children became tongue-tied very quickly and did not have a wide range of words with which to describe things. I guess this makes sense - most adults would struggle, given something to commentate on.

We worked with Craig Stephens from Stan's Cafe to accomplish this. Stan's Cafe had run a 24-hour scalextric commentary event in honour of the 24 hour Le Mans race. I didn't go myself but I heard it was an interactive show with the audience racing the cars while Craig and his colleagues commentated and marshalled the race. I remember seeing Craig on the Monday afterwards and he looked pretty tired, having commentated for 8 hours non-stop during the middle of Saturday night.

Craig came in and worked with the children in small groups to develop their commentary skills. He played them different kinds of commentary, including sports style, nature and commentary of a royal event. What was fantastic about this project was that the childre made huge progress from week to week as they gained in confidence and skill. Thesauri and practice - two great features of a successful commentator I reckon. Here are some of the commentary pieces that led up to the main commentary day itself. As you will hear, they are not about the actual scalextric itslef, but normal day-to-day things that happen around school. I've had to make them into a movie file as I haven't worked out how to successfully upload files that are audio only - I've just stuck some pictures on, but they were originally intended to be audio only, so maybe you could close your eyes or something.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Scalextric Spring Term

So after Christmas the cars were yet to be finished and the commentary and racing was still to come. Here's how it happened.

First of all the clay models were vac-formed by the excellent Phil from Frankley City Learning Centre. When the plactic bodies came back we sprayed them white (with car spray) and the children painted them according to their chosen design.

The process of making the bodies took a few weeks, because it involved:
  • modelling with clay and allowing it to dry;
  • ferrying to and from Frankley City Learning Centre;
  • spray painting;
  • painting the sprayed cars.
Whilst all this was happening, the children began assembling the bodies. There were some excellent instructions provided by PTC on the scalextric4schools website here. The children attempted to follow them, allow they needed help with some things like pushing the cog and the wheels onto the axle using the vice. Also, I didn't allow the children to do any glueing, because the glue necessary to stick together the chassis was a little noxious. The children could follow some of the instructions better than I could because they had smaller fingers for threading the contacts onto the car. It was at this point that we could begin testing the cars only to discover that none of them would work at all unless you really pushed down hard on them. We tried everything - magnets, weights, even blue tack until we discovered that I'd directed the children to follow the instructions wrongly - we had put the contacts the wrong way round. The child who spotted this was most pleased with himself and we went on from there to get the chassis working and fix the bodies on to them.

Now, I have loads of pictures to show this process, but instead of taking ages to upload them I thought I'd put them on the video to show the approximate sequence of events.

With that all done the next thing to do was to get on with learning how to commentate and actually racing the cars. I'll get on with writing about that next time...