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

indispensible tools for teachers and learners


links to good things for classrooms

indispensibletools / FrontPage.

Why we learn – and don’t learn


Laughter and Forgetting by Nick Shackleton Jones

a superb description of the role of emotion in learning. 20 minutes long but gold dust for educators from start to end.

Site also contains the less gripping but very useful ‘100 really useful and free learning tools for teachers’ which is just a great reminder of the long list of digital tools you can use in the classroom.

Speaking and Listening resources


New whiteboard clips will be transmitted on BBC 2 on 21st April at 11.40 and repeated on 9th June in the overnight service on BBC2 between 04.00 and 06.00. They go out as a 20 minute chunk on TV but will also be clipped up and added to the BBC’s Broadband Class Clips service so you can use them freely. They’re aimed at speaking and listening skills for top primary and lower secondary but you may find other uses for them.

Clips include:

999 call: What’s the wrong way to call the emergency services?

Explanation: When is an explanation not an explanation? When it uses jargon

Interviewing Skills: How can an interviewer miss the most important bit of news?

Debate: Should the driving age be raised or lowered?

Job Interviews: 3 candidates apply for a post as an office junior in a games company. Who would you give the job to?

Explanations: a demonstration of making a cheese sandwich and making a cup of tea.

Whiteboard video clips for Eng Lit teachers – shameless plug for my work


60 minutes of HD video clips for secondary schools based on popular texts for Literature.
They go out as a programme on BBC2 in the Learning Zone from 5-6am on March 19th. Soon after the BBC will make them available as individual clips on the BBC’s class clips website, where they can be streamed in the UK.
The texts are:

  • Opening two chapters of Hard Times as a period and modern drama and as a reading
  • My Last Duchess by Robert Browning, performances of the orginal text set in two contrasting locations. These also contrast with the original version we made, set at an asian wedding, still available as a class clip
  • the Gettysburg Address from the point of view of contrasting audience members, with some of the positive and negative press that followed the event
  • War Poetry: Anthem for Doomed Youth and The Soldier, alternative readings in battlefield and home settings
  • Sonnet 17: readings by male and female characters in contrasting moods 
  • Go, Lovely Rose: readings by male and female characters in contrasting moods
  • Inversnaid: reading by Hardeep Singh Kohli

The clips are between 1 and 6 minutes long. I hope they can:

  • provoke questions about what writers mean 
  • to show how meaning may change depending on viewpoint. 
  • show how these very old stories continue to have great resonance and relevance in the 21st century.

Produced by me and made by a very hard-working team

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.