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

Whiteboard clips for GCSE Poetry


The Ruined Maid by Thomas Hardy

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The value of uncertainty and tomato sauce


Malcolm Gladwell’s wonderful talk and article on Tomato Sauce. Using this lesson from  Howard Moscovitz, Gladwell shows how the world of Tomato Sauce market research teaches us to move away from the search for universals to the understanding of variability in the world – when we pursue universals in food we do ourselves a massive disservice, and so, he suggests, in life.  How much more is it true of education. Educators often debate, like big endians and little endians over whether we should use phonics or real books for teaching reading and whether history should be narrative or source based. I wonder whether adhering strictly to one of those methods gives learners the best service. Particularly when opinion is so divided that there is little chance of them experiencing the other side of the coin.

In Moscovitz’s case, he was successful because his tomato sauce tasting experiment led him to believe that there are many ways to be valid. He didn’t try to change people to fit them into one perfect box, he catered for differences. He sold more than one kind of tomato sauce.

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.

Microsoft unveils new controller


BBC NEWS | Technology | Microsoft unveils new controller.

Looks like a whole  new toy for educators to exploit

Why games are better than school


The Value of Play IV: Play is Nature’s Way of Teaching Us New Skills

A lucid post from Peter Gray on January 1, 2009 in which he explains how play is a vital part of our successful evolution, how closely play effortlessly generates all the conditions for successful learning and how frustratingly our schools manage to block many of the conditions for successful learning.