Nick Dennis's Blog

Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.

Tag: Laura Knight

Thank You

Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore opens #TLAB15

Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore opens #TLAB15

I want to thank all the speakers, workshop leaders and delegates for making the Teaching, Learning & Assessment Conference, Berkhamsted (#TLAB15) a memorable one.

You can find a collection of the tweets from the day here.

Blogs posts on the day:

Sally Thorne:

Drew Thomson:

Jonathan Peel:

Nikki Able:

Emma Kell:

Amy Harvey:

Kevin Carson:

Kamil Trzebiatowski:

Helena Marsh:

Workshop materials:

Dave Stacey:

Tom Boulter:

David Fawcett:

Darren Mead:

Mark Steed:

Candida Gould & Crista Hazell presentation


An excellent team is taking over next year. Alastair Harrison and Laura Knight will be leading things from the Berkhamsted School end. They will be joined by the Astra Teaching Alliance  & Chesham Grammar School in planning future events. I was asked yesterday whether it is hard to ‘let go’. My answer then (and it is the same answer now) is that the conference was never meant to be linked to one person, school or sector and the teachers attending and leading workshops are proof of this.  I know my colleagues at Berkhamsted and beyond will take the day to new heights as the workshop leaders and speakers already do. They are the leaders we have been waiting for.

Professor Barbara Oakley closes #TLAB15

Professor Barbara Oakley closes #TLAB15

One of the most interesting conversations yesterday was around the need for such events in other areas of the country and beyond. It is just an idea at the moment but will now be floating around in ‘diffuse mode’ so feedback/comments are welcome!

One tweet stood out for me yesterday:

Great education and professional development is not the preserve of a particular education sector yet certain social forces and loud voices seem to suggest otherwise. I hope that when the conversation occurs again (as it will), there will be one concrete and successful example people can point to where all involved are seen as educators who care about the ‘work‘.

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Berkhamsted IT Open Day, 12th Feb

We are running an IT Open Day this year after many requests from schools to come see our network infrastructure and talk about iPad/Google Apps use.

The day will have two main strands: technical and teaching/strategy. Draft agenda below:

Tickets at £50 (£45 for early bird discount) can be ordered from hereThe agenda and further details will be available on the ticketing page. Look forward to seeing you in February!

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The Teaching, Learning & Assessment Conference on March 16th, 2013 at Berkhamsted has been a pleasure to organise. Helped by Neal Watkin, Dai Barnes and Laura Knight as a Steering Group and the workshop leaders giving their time freely, we have been able to create something which is focussed on learning and improving the craft of teaching.

I freely admit that the model for the conference comes from the Schools History Project national conference held in June/July every year. To be part of that conference is inspiring; excellent teachers freely giving up their time to share with the purpose of improving the quality of teaching for all.

Aware of the financial burdens schools are under, we deliberately picked a Saturday for the event. This would remove cover costs for people attending and also allow us to get as many great teachers sharing their experience without feeling they were sacrificing the progress of their students on a school day.

We were also very mindful about keeping the costs as low as possible. From the beginning, it was never intended to be a profit making exercise. As a result, it has been agreed that £40 for entry is about right as it will cover costs.

The price covers talks by Alistair Smith, Professor Bill Lucas and Dr Bill Rankin. In their own right, each one is an excellent speaker and you would be very fortunate to hear just one of them at a conference priced five times the amount we have settled for. Each speaker was invited specifically because they have a deep appreciation of the learning process and the practicalities that need to be considered if students are to progress.

The price also includes three workshops by excellent teachers and I would urge you all to break out of your subject areas for at least one session so you can benefit from the talent and wisdom of people who are ambitious for their students and who work very hard to improve their own professional learning.

The price also includes breakfast, lunch, refreshments and other resources for you to take away on the day. We are still working on elements and further announcements will come appear on the conference website next week where tickets can also be bought (there will be limited numbers).

I do hope that you will be able to join in this celebration of collaboration, learning, teachers and teaching next March.


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Conference Update #4 – Workshop leaders

A brief update on workshop leaders. I am incredibly pleased that colleagues from the state, independent, HE sectors and outside institutions around the country have given up their time and expertise freely to share at the conference. Without your generosity and desire to improve, it would be a poor event and I want to thank you all.

Confirmed workshop leaders so far (additional info in brackets):

Zoe Ross (ICT, Social Media, entrepreneur )

Neal Watkin (AST, History and TEEP Trainer)

Eric Wareham (Science, SLT, TEEP Trainer

Jen Ellison (Head of Science)

John Mitchell (History)

David Rogers (Geography, Jamie’s Dream Teacher winner)

Laura Knight (Director of eLearning, HoD of MFL)

Dr Tori Herridge (Science, Natural History Museum, London)

Dai Barnes (Head of ICT)

James Michie (Head of Media and KS4 English, ICT)

Dave Stacey (History and ICT)

Chris Gibbard (Maths)

Kristian Still (PE, SLT, ICT and English)

Alex Battinson (HoD PE, Boarding)

Nathan Lowe and Flitch Green Academy (Primary, SLT, whole school use of technology)

Wren Academy (Building Learning Power, Student Voice)

Ashlyns School

Andy Kemp (Maths, SLT)

David Didau (English, SLT, Learning and Teaching)

Tait Coles (SLT, Learning and Teaching)

Sarah Capewell (SLT, Latin/Greek, Classics, mobile learning)

Bill Lord (Primary, SLT, Learning and Teaching)

Ian Yorston (Science, ICT, Computing, being unreasonable)

Adam O’Connor (History, Learning and Teaching)

Dr David James (English, Leadership, IB)

Mark Anderson (ICT)

We still have more workshops to confirm in the coming weeks so please keep checking the blog. With such an impressive array of teaching and learning talent, I am sure that you will walk away from the event with something that will sharpen your work and improve the learning in your classrooms. Combined with presentations from Alistair Smith, Professor Bill Lucas and Dr Bill Rankin, this really is a year’s worth of inset in one day!

All of this does come at a cost and I would like to reiterate that we are not making a profit on the event. Ticket prices will be announced shortly and we are working hard to keep it as affordable as possible which is helped greatly by the fact that workshop leaders are giving their time freely. The price we are aiming for is significantly cheaper to comparable inset sessions and we think it will be pleasing to all (just check how much it would be to book one of our speakers/workshop leaders for an hour). However, we do still need help. If you would like to support an event that spans sectors and key stages with a focus on inspirational teaching and grounded in helping students do their best, please get in contact.

Update: Twitter hashtag is #TLAB13

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Goodbye to all that – Apple RTC events April 19th, May 31st and July 6-8th 2012

And so it begins – my final participation in the Apple Regional Training Centre events at Felsted this academic year. My colleague and new Assistant Head, Sarah Capewell, will be taking over the running of the Apple RTC at Felsted and will be available to discuss how to make the best use of tools to support learning. What you will get from Sarah is a learning focussed approach with a keen eye for detail (she is, after all, a Classicist!) and she has some exciting projects in the pipeline for the next few years. If you would like to attend the final two events at Felsted where Sarah and I will be leading the sessions together, please go to this page and sign up. My final appearance as a Felsted employee/Apple RTC Manager will be at the national Schools History Project Conference in Leeds in July where I will be showcasing some of the work at Felsted using History as a focus.

Reflecting on the journey over the last few years as an Apple RTC, there are a few things that I have learned which spring to mind (a longer post will no doubt appear in the last few days):

  • Technology amplifies professional knowledge. Poor professional knowledge of the learning process is still poor when technology is used to just ‘engage’ students. And it shows. Clearly.
  • Excellent integration of technology in the learning process requires deep thinking about the learning that needs to take place. Sometimes, the best way to use technology is not to use it. Yes, you can be an excellent teacher without using technology in your lesson but if you are an excellent teacher, you will most probably be looking for other ways to develop your excellence and technology may help you.
  • For all the keynote talks about improving schools using technology or new approaches to learning or 21st century skills (and I have no idea what these skills are as they sound very similar to previous skills in my opinion), implementing these ideas is not easy; they all require hard work. I’ll say it again. It requires hard work, being disciplined and rigourous. Then again, if you are a teacher or in education, you know that supporting young people develop can be hard work but you do it anyway. The key thing is that after a while, the effort lessens and your capacity to use the technological tools at your disposal improves.
  • A tool in itself does not transform education or ‘change the game’. Transformation and ‘game changing’ happens because someone has thought carefully and explored ways in which the tool can be used to help learning. The human dimension is integral but gets neglected or obscured by the focus on the tool.

Next academic year I take up the post of Deputy Head (Academic) at Berkhamsted School which is not an Apple Regional Training Centre. However, there are a number of excellent practitioners using ICT there and I am looking forward to working with Laura Knight (director of eLearning) and Rosie McColl amongst others. They and others are doing some amazing work with iPads and Google Apps and I can safely say that if you would like to visit and see the work in action, you are more than welcome.

Despite being the public ‘voice/face’ of the Apple RTC, the success of the relationship with Apple and the events themselves are down to a number of people. They are too numerous to mention here (and they will get their personal recognition in other ways) but I can say that without their help, Felsted would not be the successful RTC it is, and will continue to be, with Sarah’s stewardship. Finally, I must thank you, readers, for turning up. There is no point in holding training events if people see no value in them, which strangely enough, occurs when things are free! We have been privileged to host colleagues from Devon, the North, the Midlands and closer to home in Essex. Your questions and experience has validated what we believe and has also challenged us to be better. So, if you haven’t had the opportunity to visit, learn and share with us at the Apple RTC, please do. It is not long before I have to say goodbye to all of that at Felsted.

Image: Lanier67@Flickr

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