Shielding Children From Learning


Over the last few months I’ve been working on projects teaching reading and speaking to three very different levels of readers. I’ve worked in a Primary school, with 7 year olds, in a Secondary school with 12 year olds and just recently on an ESOL scheme teaching adults to speak and read English. Reading with an adult is reading with a genuine partner, with a very active learner, who offers ideas and challenges the teacher effectively to improve their learning, even when their language skills are not great. These adults are focussed and learn well.

For too many of both the y3 and y7 pupils reading is an enemy, reading causes anxiety. It involves a lot of failure. Working with the children, you can see how complex it is to learn to read, and to feel powerful. One way we can make the difference is by giving children one to one attention. Not enough schools supply this valuable time but even in half an hour a week, a child can be carefully helped to acquire the  skills that form the basis of all other learning. Working one to one is different to listening to the rising clamour and disorder of the average classroom, with its perpetual restless ‘on the edge of control’ feeling. How can we get more volunteers into schools? The current system puts up barriers to allowing outsiders into schools but we’re also shielding our least privileged children from learning.

Whiteboard clips for 4-6 year olds


Rodd Christensen

Talkie Time is our new show for the BBC for 4-6 year olds, their parents, teachers and carers. It’s fronted by Balamory inhabitant Rodd Christensen (aka Spencer). You can watch a clip of parents and teachers using it on the BBC website
It’s the nearest thing linear video can get to game playing – a bit of karaoke/panto in these videos that adult and child can play together, reacting and having a conversation in role. The class supplying one half of the playful learning experience, by using the on-screen cues, the presenter supplying the other half.
Each short educational video will remain on the BBC website along with support materials
There are seven short ‘lessons’ to be played on a whiteboard or a laptop. We’ve had strong positive feedback from the classrooms and homes we’ve tested it in. It supports speaking and listening, turn-taking and increasing confidence for children as well as curriculum targets. It fits into EYFS and KS1 in England, the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland, The Foundation Phase 3-7 in Wales and the Foundation Stage for Northern Ireland

Plasticity of the Brain


Two of the projects I’m working on at the moment are wholeheartedly embracing the notion that physiotherapy, movement and brain plasticity are deeply connected. Gaming could be ideal for exploiting this learning, especially now so many games are using big body movements for motion control. Most of my interest has been in early years, looking at how the treatment of children with cerebral palsy can create new connections.  Norman Doidge has made this even more interesting by looking at how older brains can be changed through physical exercise. He cites the case of the 50-year old surgeon after a stroke left his arm ‘useless’. The surgeon regained excellent use after agreeing to master tasks using his affected hand. He recovered well enough to practice surgery again.

The case for 21st century teachers


A great 5 minute video making the case for a revolution in schools and the way teachers need to be allowed to cast off 19th century ways of working.
Many thanks to JeanetteMcLeod for tweeting this

Uninformative Government


The innovation select committees’ judgement on the overuse of jargon by the DIUS, is reported in Private Eye (issue 1229 p6).
The committee chastised the DIUS for the ‘inaccessibility of the prose’ and ‘jargon-riddled phrases, assumptions backed up with no clear evidence but designed to provide a positive tone, and euphemisms deflecting likely failure’
Here is the link to this marvellously entertaining report

Over 25 years I’ve seen the explosion of information in government outpourings to schools. Government writers regard a website as an opportunity to dump massive amounts of jargonistic waffle and then claim they’ve increased communication.
The QCA website the DCSF website and Curriculum Online (now deceased) have all left me speechless with frustration on several occasions. Cumbersome, disorganised and uninformative are the politest words I can find.

The sites often abuse the facility to link online endlessly to yet another 30 pages of mind-boggling inanity. These sites are dumping grounds for mountains of unhelpful verbosity piled high with no regard to the needs of the audience. Teachers are now enslaved to the whims of politicians, so they’re forced to try and make sense of this jumble of demands, however poorly expressed and organised.
Government Education departments have lost a sense of their duty to communicate powerfully, with precision and clarity.

Why are schools slow to exploit ICT?


An article by Maureen McTaggart highlights the latest Becta survey finding schools slow to exploit technology.  I’m surprised anyone is surprised though. I think the reasons are clear:

1. We tend not to take risks when our leaders have no room for failure and we are boxed in by irreconcilable demands. 

2. Many tech writers fail to make ICT accessible for busy teachers. Only the most dedicated teachers make it through the magic forest

Organisations like Becta  work hard to make ICT accessible for schools but it’s tricky to overcome a curriculum and structure that reflects the 19th century better than the 21st century.