Nick Dennis's Blog

Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.

Tag: TeachMeet


Saturday saw the culmination of months of planning with the launch of the Teaching, Learning & Assessment Conference, Berkhamsted.

One of my colleagues likened the event to throwing a party and taking pleasure from seeing others have a good time. From the feedback received so far, it seems that many got something practical to take away from the event. I can only thank the workshop leaders, main speakers, students and delegates for making it work.

The question is, where do we go from here? Alistair Smith in his presentation mentioned the problematic nature of events such as this and TeachMeets because they appear to be disconnected from everything else (a topic to be addressed in a further blog post). This was never in the plan for TLAB. I felt very strongly from the beginning that what was said and done at the conference should be spread as far and wide as possible.  The first thing we intend to do is release the video from the main sessions via YouTube (with Alistair Smith’s talk  available here and Bill Lucas’ talk here). The second thing in our plan is to include the video, summaries of the workshops and their resources  into an iBook that will be available via the iTunes store. There will be no cost for this.

We are already looking ahead to next year and your feedback (via a form coming your way) is needed. A couple of things we already have in mind are a stronger Prep/Primary focus and also a distinctive leadership strand where colleagues who have ‘walked the talk’ will share their experiences. One other thing I feel very strongly about is the ability to bring young people/students to the event and we are considering the possibility of providing childcare facilities for parents.

We hope to see you next year for what promises to be a more focussed event.


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Open Public Services and Social Media

In the last week of November I spoke to the Public Policy Exchange about the effective use of Social Media in schools. I can’t say who attended or what questions they asked as the meeting was held under the Chatham House Rule. What I can reveal is a brief summary of what I discussed.

In 2011 the government published a White Paper on the future of Public Services (schools, hospitals etc and which served as the basis for the the conference). One heading stuck out for me:

The old, centralised approach to public service delivery is broken.

This line of thinking has huge implications if made into a reality. Two other quotes struck me from the White Paper and the progress update released last year:

Public services should be decentralised to the lowest appropriate level.

We will ensure fair access to public services.

Within this context, how could Social Media help deliver or enhance Public Services? My view is that despite the desire to move away from centralisation, that is a fundamental function of the state (see Steven Johnson’s ‘Future Perfect’ for a recent example of this)and we should really think about how we can enhance or add to the existing delivery of centralised public services.

Why Social Media and Public Services? Brief context is needed. A recent survey of students at HE suggests that 72% of them spend at least four hours a week on social networking sites a week (25% said they spent upwards of 11 hours a week). Are Public Services ready to reach such people on their terms? Can Public Services incorporate this information into what they do?

Social Media Landscape diagram

Social Media Landscape 2012 by Fred Cavazza

As there are so many tools to think about, I limited my talk to three of the most common (Facebook, Twitter and Google +) and returned to the work of Simon Sinek for helping us to understand why, how and what Social Media can do in terms of a particular Public Service – Education. Purpose/principles are very important in any endeavour and Social Media can help schools fulfil their core purpose of providing opportunities, celebrating success and ‘living’ the idea as a organisation geared towards learning.

I provided three (nowhere near exhaustive) ways that Social Media tools can be used by schools.


On a basic level, Social Media tools can be used as reminders for students, parents and colleagues. This works for promoting events, homework etc. I showcased examples of tweets announcing public lectures, teachers/lecturers reminding students about assignments and to reminders to watch particular documentaries.

Celebrate work

On another level, Social Media can be used to celebrate work publicly and in a timely fashion. This is especially interesting as Public Services do not have the marketing budgets commercial companies to show the brilliant work that is often undocumented. I used a few examples of Sixth Form Colleges showing off their colleagues wining teaching awards, teachers showing work on walls and the picture below of a Motte & Bailey castle made by one of my Year 7 historians. This tweet was retweeted and picked up by a national organisation and when I told the pupil, he was beaming which would translate into increased effort in his lesson (benefits for all).

Motte & Bailey Castle made of cake

Amplify intelligence

The third example of how Social Media can help deliver effective Public Services was in the area of professional development. Twitter has been incredibly helpful in spreading ideas in terms of teaching and learning and I used examples of hashtags on Twitter to link professionals across the country and generate discussion  (such as #TeachMeet, #edtech and #SLTchat). Talking online is useful but what is impressive is how these discussions lead to action or physical meetings in an attempt to solve a common concern. Using TeachMeets, Meetups and the forthcoming Teaching, Learning & Assessment Conference, Berkhamsted as examples, I argued that the professional development that could be generated via Social Media could be more effective and targeted than what an instiution could sometimes provide. Using the example of TeachMeets and Meetups, I made the point that people gave up their time freely to discuss issues and learn from others which in a time of reduced budgets was something to seriously consider. The use of Social Media in this way was a clear example of  Steven Johnson’s ‘Peer Progressives’ – amplifying and developing expertise through distributed networks.

How could the example of schools using Social Media apply to other Public Services? In the first instance, it could be used to celebrate the work within the institution – something that is not done enough. With so many services under public scrutiny, Social Media could be used to raise staff morale in a very cost effective way – all you need is a smartphone (and an awareness of what is appropriate). Secondly, it creates the possibility to amplify what is already good within an institution not just through publicity but also through linking with other interested groups who can provide news ways of approaching a problem. If you have a common concern as a Public Service, would it not be useful to discuss this with other colleagues in different areas of the country?

I then suggested that there were three key things to consider when thinking about Social Media in Public Services.

  1. Does your use of Social Media fit the purpose of your organisation? For education it is a natural fit but if you are constrained by budgets, does it really fit into what is the main thing your organisation does? This is the ‘why’/purpose question.
  2. Do you have a framework to help schools/other Public Services to innovate? This means being able to take managed risks and a willingness to learn from mistakes (as this will happen).
  3. Be prepared for criticism as it will come. How will you deal with a disgruntled user of public services on Social Media channels? You need to plan ahead as it will happen.

The discussion and questions were really interesting (but I can’t say anymore than that)! I want to thank for the team at the Public Policy Exchange for their hospitality and understanding (especially Alex) that I had to leave after my talk to go back and teach my Year 10 GCSE History class. Yes, my class was also thrilled about it too.

Social Media Landscape image from Fred Cavazza.

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TeachMeet Mozilla #TMmozLDN2012

I am sold on the model of practitioners sharing their work in informal settings. I have attended and helped steer a number of TeachMeets over the years (and will be hosting a few in the near future) and I love the natural, easy conversations that occur between the presentations. With this is mind, when Doug Belshaw, announced that there was to be a TeachMeet in London on the 7th October hosted at Mozilla’s London headquarters, it was too good an opportunity to miss.

As usual, Doug’s organisation was spot-on and I enjoyed the presentations (especially a ten year old Mr Ross showing us how to use Mozilla’s ‘Hackasaurus‘ tools) and I was eager to learn more about Open Badges as an idea. Essentially, Open Badges are ways of displaying achievements and skills for all kinds of things, especially the things that are not paid attention to in the normal progress of education. I was keen to hear Zoe Ross’ experience about the use of Badges in her school. You can find out more about the work Zoe and her students have done towards the creation of their own badges here.

One thing that struck me in the conversation about Badges was the thought that they can operate on three levels. On a micro/Classroom level, they can be a great mechanism to structure expectations. In one sense, this is similar to merits/points but with slightly more specified in terms of behaviours. What was great about Zoe’s work was the students identifying and creating the badges for the attributes they expected of good learners. I can see a lot of ways this could be very useful within individual classrooms and especially with boys with ideas of ‘levelling up’ and being part of a larger structured learning game (see Reaching Boys, Teaching Boys with the Latin lesson example to see what I mean).  An effective school is full of effective lessons and this would be one tool which could really help create the right atmosphere for progress.

The second level would go beyond one classroom. It would tie in to an existing framework of educational achievements such as Guy Claxton’s work around Building Learning Power (with a useful badge type system similar to the implementation at Cramlington Learning Village). Another example is the International Baccalaureate Middle Years/Diploma Programme learner profile. The attributes identified by these systems would be useful for any school to aspire to and moves us to a more rounded view of education.

Were it to be successful in an institution, I think the third (macro) level would really offer the opportunity for Badges to be of value to the rest of society by considering the boundaries beyond the school.  It was Tony Sheppard who suggested that Badges could be like the Duke of Edinburgh Award, validated by an external body that has status and continually refines the expectations for the award whilst being mindful of its core values. Imagine Badges for IT skills validated by the Chartered Institute for IT but designed by teachers in schools. The day gave me a lot to think about in terms of my new role.

Beyond the discussion of Badges in education, I was very interested in Miles Berry’s presentation on using HTML5 to create presentations; something I think I will try with my IT student this year. I also had the inevitable ‘iPad is terrible’ conversation which I found entertaining as I use an iPad, Kindle, Chromebook, Mac and PC in my daily working life. No one device can rule them all (in my honest opinion and possibly another blog post).

I can only recommend that you get yourself to a TeachMeet soon; they really do help you to look at education (in all its forms) from a different point of view. Thanks once again to Doug and the Mozilla team for hosting a very interesting event.

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ISC ICT Conference and TeachMeet 7th November 2012

I am really looking forward to this year’s Independent Schools Council ICT conference. Part of my excitement stems from the fact that I do not have to travel far to attend (it is being held at Berkhamsted) and part is also due to the quality of the speakers we have confirmed:

  • Luciano Floridi, Professor of Philosophy and UNESCO Chair in Information and Computer Ethics at the University of Hertfordshire, and Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford.
  • William Florance, Head of Enterprise EDU – EMEA, Google UK Limited.
  • Miles Berry, Senior Lecturer and Subject Coordinator for ICT Education at Roehampton University and Chair of the National Association of Advisers for Computers in Education (NAACE).
Booking details for the conference can be found here and tickets are priced at £125.

We are also hosting a TeachMeet after the conference which is free to all (to be clear, you do not have to be at the main conference to attend the TeachMeet). If you would like to attend and share some of the excellent work in your school, please sign up here.

I look forward to seeing you on the 7th November!

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Proposed Teaching, Learning and Assessment Conference, Berkhamsted 16th March 2013

Card sort activity

I am very pleased to announce that we are fully into the process of planning a conference focussed on teaching, learning and assessment to be held at Berkhamsted School on the 16th March, 2013.

I always want to challenge myself to be consistently excellent in teaching and learning and I have been fortunate enough to connect with many people via Twitter and visit their schools. However, the opportunities are still limited to hear from practitioners in other schools/sectors and we wanted to do something about it. Hosting the conference allows us to get all these educators in one place and on a personal note, it selfishly allows me to learn, without too much travel, from educators I respect and admire!

Organise, in the first instance, quality CPD that enables colleagues to look at learning across the subjects and sectors and to use the conference as a springboard for reflection and effective practice.

We want to bring practitioners together to share their expertise explaining the why, how and what of learning in their classroom/institutions for a one day conference. We aim to keep the cost low (hence why it is being held on a Saturday to reduce cover costs) and we are currently aiming for the price of a gig.  The focus will be on learning and not policy (although I am sure that it will be touched upon by our keynote/plenary speakers). We are also investigating the possibility of a TeachMeet the night before to kick the weekend off and we are also thinking of ways to involve students from participating schools in a meaningful way…

Below is a small selection of the teachers who have agreed to present:

Laura Knight (@elearninglaura) MFL and Educational Technology

Zoe Ross (@ZoeRoss19) Computing

David Didau (@LearningSpy) English

Neil Watkin (@nwatkin) History/Project Based Learning

David Rogers (@davidERogers) Geography

Ian Yorston (@IanYorston) Computing/Physics

Dawn Hallybone (@dawnhallybone) Primary and Educational Technology*

Without coming across in a Lord Kitchener fashion, this is where you come in. We are still looking for outstanding teachers who are willing to share their expertise and also learn from colleagues in other schools, sectors and areas. If you would like to present, please sign up below. It will also be useful to gain some sense from fellow educators what they are are interested in as initial feedback suggests that there is a big gap that together, we could fill effectively. As we move forward with the planning, your responses will help shape what is becoming a very exciting conference.

Please fill in the Google Form below and updates will be posted periodically on this blog and also on the new Berkhamsted School website which should launch by September.

Look forward to seeing you on the 16th March!

*Dawn will present if she can tear herself away from the Wales v England Rugby match!

UPDATE: Alistair Smith, Professor Bill Lucas and Dr Bill Rankin will be speaking at the conference. Prices and workshops will be released the week starting the 5th November.

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Travelling without maps (I)

World Map - 1689

‘We could roll up the map of the Cold War and travel without maps for a while’
E P Thompson on the possibility of social groups affecting the Cold War in 1982.

The academic year has finished and as you often do when things end, I started to think about my assumptions at the beginning of year. In some cases, I exceeded my expectations and in other areas I have been left with an uneasy gnawing feeling that only exists when things are left undone or have been completed poorly. Thinking about my role as Assistant Head in particular, I have come to realise that the plans I made were just guesses, contingent on a range of assumptions (succinctly and brutally put in Fried and Hansson’s ‘Rework’) that I was not really in control of despite my best efforts. Of course, there were variables I could control myself but my ‘map’ of how I thought the year was going to go did not lead me to plan for all the changes I was going to encounter. It is impossible to plan for everything but one thing I can do is to get better at preparing myself before I start. I have learned from experience that the best way to challenge and stimulate my own thinking is by seeing the excellence displayed by my peers. It was obvious that a journey around the country to see and experience excellence would help me create a more detailed ‘map’ for the coming academic year.

Source work at Diana Laffin's workshop

Source work at Diana Laffin's workshop

The first ‘stop’ on this journey is the Schools History Project conference in Leeds. This is a good place to start as it provides an amazing opportunity to see many History teachers and trainers at the top of their game in one place. One person I always try to see is Diana Laffin. Her work with her A Level History students always forces me to raise my expectations on what can be done with History in the 6th Form. This year was no exception and the source analysis activity she and Emma Kelley modelled using Enoch Powell’s speech was brilliant. They gave us the text of the speech but also said that an extra sentence/paragraph had been inserted and we needed to identify it. What this neat trick did was to force us to read the source a few times, getting a feel for the overall speech and looking for a specific phrase or wording which would betray the inserted text. This ‘surface’ and ‘deep’ reading worked brilliantly. They also asked us to annotate, in silence, the questions we would like to ask and any observations we wanted to make before we could discuss it as a group. Finally, we were instructed to make up a tabloid headline representing a particular point of view using a variety of sources, making the seemingly ‘dull’ topic of housing an engaging and ‘live’ topic. There are so many ways that their work could be deployed in my planning and I hope the students feel the benefit of Diana and Emma’s inspirational workshop.

Another stimulating experience was chairing the TeachMeet session with able assistance by John Heffernan, Sarah (Head of Classics at Felsted) and the brilliant ICT technicians at Trinity and All Saints. 39 people turned up to find out what other teachers were doing in their classroom and I was impressed and challenged by all the presentations. I would like to thank all the people who volunteered to present, Steve Bunce for booking the Flashmeeting and Doug Belshaw for keeping things running virtually. In addition, I also want to thank the sponsors: Beedocs, Vital, Heinemann and Toucan Computing. After the frenetic pace of the TeachMeet I had hoped for a rest but I readily volunteered to became a ‘common soldier’ in Parliament’s Army as part of Ian Dawson’s brilliant Saturday night extravaganza on the English Civil Wars in the North of England. Ian’s work is interesting as he has the knack of making the fiendishly complex easy to understand through active learning and this session was no different. The weekend was rounded off with a session delivered by Christine Counsell on Change and Continuity. What I loved about this session was Christine’s use of the Cambridge PGCE students’ work to illustrate her points and the understanding that her thinking on the issue was still developing. I was also struck by her use of Playdoh to get the delegates to represent key concepts in a visual way. This is a brilliant way to get the students to genuinely show their understanding of a concept even though it appears to be simply making shapes to represent a word.

Christine Counsell at the SHP conference.

Christine Counsell at the SHP conference.

Christine’s activity with the Playdoh resonated with most of what I had seen that weekend in terms of the role ‘play’ has in learning; being a journalist or a common soldier increased my enjoyment and understanding of the topic we were looking at. How could I thoughtfully use such activities to increase engagement but also develop ‘deep’ thinking to allow my students to see and touch the different textures of the stories within my lessons? A possible answer to this question was given by visiting Dawn Hallybone at Oakdale Junior School in East London. This was an unusual place for me as a secondary teacher but Dawn is well known in UK educational technology circles as an advocate and leading practitioner of Game Based Learning. Seeing her class ‘On Safari’ radically altered my perception on Game Based Learning and my own teaching. Using the Nintendo Wii game, ‘Wild Earth: African Safari’, Dawn’s class roamed around the virtual Serengeti national park taking ‘pictures’ and recording information meticulously about the animals they encountered. When they were given a task by the game to find an animal they did not know, Dawn directed a student to find out and they shared the information with the class (like the case of the Zorilla, which I had no idea about). Always mindful of the environmental impact of their exploration (due to the bar on the top of the interactive whiteboard), they continued to record information about the animals they encountered in their notebooks until the game clock had elapsed. From a secondary school point of view, the level of concentration displayed really impressed me and what happened next really made me rethink writing at secondary level. Without the use of a writing frame, the pupils in pairs (via Purplemash) began to produce fantastic descriptions of the animals they had seen, using the facts they had gleaned from being ‘On Safari’ in their notebooks. I realised in that moment that what I had just seen was a creative approach to knowledge acquisition augmented by the intrinsic motivation of the pupils within a context where saying ‘I don’t know’ was seen as a necessary and normal part of learning. Dawn did guide her class at times but they were merrily recording information and writing without much external pressure. For a secondary teacher, it was revelatory and I would like to thank Dawn and her class for sharing their learning with me.

Both the SHP conference and the visit to Dawn’s school made me challenge my ‘map’ of priorities for next year. I still have two more schools to visit this week but it has become clear that in order to renew my focus and deal with the rapid changes and demands, I need to roll up the map of my current way of thinking and travel without maps for a while.

Front and first image: Chuck ‘Caveman’ Coker @ Flickr.

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Apple RTC Reflections

The end of term is almost upon me and the theoretical ‘free time’ I should gain by losing my examination classes has been filled with other important bits of school work. This is usually a critical time for me as I start to plan ahead in detail and the need for ‘thinking time’ as part of the process is vital. I was provided an opportunity to think very carefully about plans for the next year by attending the Apple Regional Training Centre (RTC) conference in Manchester last week.

This was my first RTC conference and it brought home how wide and diverse the RTC programme is for Apple covering schools, City Learning Centres (CLCs) and other educational organisations. The theme for the conference was mobility and we were taken through some astounding numbers in terms of mobile device adoption in relation to other kinds of technology. One thing was made clear in relation to the adoption of mobile technology; content, provided by the teacher/web/company, was a key driver for use. After the introductory sessions by Apple staffers, delegates and Apple Distinguished Educators took the floor. I was particularly drawn to what Gillian Penny, a Headteacher from a primary school in Scotland, had to say about ICT. She made it clear that the learning has to come first in the use of technology. Abdul Chohan, Director of IT at Essa Academy, echoed this but I fear the message may have been lost on the conference by the sheer scale of the project at his school. Essa made the news last year when it gave an iPod Touch to every student. Whilst the media focussed on this aspect and the cost, Abdul in his presentation touched upon the change of ethos that governed the use of the iPods; All Will Succeed. This belief has led the Academy to reshape its curriculum and its teaching methods and the interim results look impressive.

On the technical side of things, there were two highlights to the conference. The first was Steve Beard’s ‘Making an iPhone app’ session using Xcode and Freeway, which he did in about 10 minutes. The second was Chris Jinks’ talk about the deployment and configuration of devices using Snow Leopard Server and the free iPhone configuration utility which allows you to manage the use of the device (you can disable the camera or remove the ability to browse the web for example). My colleague, the Head of Classics felt this was a great feature and would help allay fears surrounding behaviour management issues.

I was also reintroduced to a technology I had first heard about in 2006 from Doug Belshaw. I have also been looking at it again in relation to discussions with folk on Ed Tech Round Up and Johannes Ahrenfelt (especially in relation to Augmented Reality). Richard Clark’s talk about the work at Leicester CLC and QR Codes has reinforced my desire to look at this technology again more seriously. He and his team have used QR codes in primary schools to embed links to video on worksheets to model the learning so the pupils could complete the tasks. The potential for this technology is huge and all I really need for this to be work within my classroom is an iPod Touch with a camera…

Overall, I found the conference to be an enjoyable experience – I learned some new things but the key aspect for me was speaking to other RTCs about what they are doing. It also left me with some questions about the emphasis placed on the technology and missing  the context that gives rise to the use of it in the first place. For example, Joe Moretti gave a workshop on Stanza and Calibre for producing Ebooks. It was useful to be reminded of the tool, but as a teacher, I was particularly interested in the way it was used to help literacy.  I could not get to grips with how the technology would allow me to do something beyond what I could replicate in the classroom with a computer or with a piece of paper. I suppose the reason why I was so concerned is because this is something I constantly struggle with/ask myself about; does the technology helping the learning process or not? Is there enough pedagogical thought behind it to make it a genuinely useful tool which allows you to do something more quickly or even beyond your current set of tools? I don’t think this is a particularly innovative thought; this is something I am asked by many people I meet and to be frank, this keeps me, and my work, honest.  Thanks to the Apple Education team and the Cornerhouse in Manchester for hosting us and for giving me the time and space to reflect. The next RTC conference is in November and I, alongside some of the other members of the mobile research team at Felsted, may present our project there.

The learning journey continues over the next month or two as I am heading to Cramlington Learning Village on the 25th June for their conference on teaching and learning.  The following week sees me heading to the national Schools History Project conference in Leeds to present some work on technology and History teaching and chairing the TeachMeet session there. I’m really looking forward to the sessions on Change and Continuity by Christine Counsell, Diana Laffin’s presentation on A Level History teaching and Ian Luff’s workshop on active learning.  After the conference, I am going on a grand tour of Teaching and Learning. First on my list is  Neal Watkin‘s classes to see how John Hattie’s work on visible learning has affected the progress of students in the History classroom. I am then off to Essa Academy to learn about their framework for the use of technology and finally, I plan to see Dawn Hallybone’s school in action.  I am also hoping to teach some History lessons at the local primary school (Flitch Green, also an Apple RTC) in the last week of their term.  If you have any other ideas about what I should see, let me know. I will document each visit here on the blog.

Finally, a word about the mobile learning project. I’ve had a few requests for information about it and once we have ‘sharpened the saw’ on a few of the research issues, it will be publicised on the school website and on this blog. It is taking a little longer than expected but we want to make it as good as we can before the end of our term. I’m really excited by what the team here have come up with and we can’t wait to share it with you and our students.

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The conference/learning season approaches…

With the exam crush looming ever closer (especially for my lovely IB class) and the need to consolidate learning that has taken place over the last year/two years, I often neglect the fact that I also need to reflect and learn about my subject. Two upcoming events this year should help me stay on the path of classroom refinement/enlightenment…

Next month Doug Belshaw and I are going to give an address and two workshops on History and ICT to Turkish History educators as part of the European Association of History Educators (EUROCLIO) which is funded by the Netherlands Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The way how History is taught in Turkey is being rethought and there is a desire to incorporate/develop more innovative methods;  our role is to suggest how this can be done using examples of work in the UK. Doug and I will stress in our presentation that ICT is more than an ‘add water and stir’ approach and that it should support the work in the classroom rather than become the determining factor. This may seem pretty obvious but I sometimes lose sight when I come across a new/exciting tool and articipating in the conference reminds me to keep asking questions about what I do in the classroom and what direction my school is heading in.

The second event is the TeachMeet Doug and I are organising at the Schools History Project (SHP) conference in July (we are also presenting a workshop at the main event). This conference is THE conference for History educators and sessions are always informative with ideas that you can take away and use on the first day back in school. If you haven’t come across a TeachMeet before, it is a fantastic way to share teaching ideas through volunteers giving two or seven minute presentations in an informal and supportive atmosphere. This video made by BrainPop UK for another TeachMeet will help:

My experience of the TeachMeet at BETT was fantastic and I found out some really useful tips that were too ‘small’ for a seminar but very practical which stimulated much discussion at dinner and this is what we hope to achieve with the SHP version. We are currently looking for volunteers for the SHP TeachMeet so if you are intending to go and want to share your ideas and get involved in the conversation about teaching and learning in History, please get in contact via the TeachMeet page or Twitter (me or Doug Belshaw). Details on the conference can also be found on the site. The outcomes of both of these events will now doubt appear on these pages and I look forward to creating exciting (or crazy depending on which student you ask) activities for my students as a result of the conversations!

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It is all happening…

Just a quick update before a longer post later on this week…

On the Hans J Massaquoi wiki project, I started teaching women in Nazi Germany this week and used part of his biography as a starter. It surpassed my expectations. Students were not only able to glean some information about women in Nazi Germany but explore issues of Nazi racial ideology and the unique nature of Hans’ story as a ‘minority’ (setting up their thinking for a future lesson on the treatment of ‘undesirables’ during the Third Reich). Besides setting the scene for the rest of the lesson, I was peppered with questions about Hans and his mother and a few students asked if they could read the book as it had gripped them. I can’t wait to see what they do once we get to the writing part.

Like many others, I went along to the British Educational Technology and Training exhibition (also known as BETT) the week before last. Many others have written about their experiences but the one thing that has had an impact on me was the TeachMeet. This is a simple format where educators volunteer to showcase classroom work in either 2 or seven minute presentations (no powerpoint or equivalent allowed). A few History teachers (@dajbelshaw, @ahrenfelt, @nwatkin, @danmoorhouse and myself) have decided to plan something similar for the forthcoming national Schools History Project conference in July. If you teach History, the SHP conference is the ultimate place to share ideas and resources and see some inspiring classroom work. We believe that the TeachMeet model would be a great addition to the SHP conference and allow others to participate in the sharing/collaboration process. Details will be finalised in the next few weeks but if you want to get involved at this early stage of planning either to help with organisation or present some work, please get in touch.

Finally, there are some very exciting projects coming up in the next few weeks in relation to handheld learning and using technology to support classroom History teaching and I hope to announce the ‘big’ one in the next few days. It is all happening…

Image: Helico @ Flickr

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