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End of an Era…

The picture above shows my desk for the last 6 and a half years. Friday was my last day at Anglo European School. In October I resigned from the school that I have taught in for all of my teaching career. 

In January I take up my new post as Head of Humanities in St. Mary Magdalene Academy in Islington. This is an exciting challenge but one that I am apprehensive about. Change is always slightly apprehensive.

I was humbled by the send off I received from my colleagues.

I received a fantastic personalised card from my collegues in the humanities department.

And a fab card from my form:

I received some great gifts including a great globe which is now sitting on my desk at home.

 

London Festival of Education – Michael Gove

Yesterday I spent the day at the London Festival of Education. There were lots of interesting sessions and ‘fringe’ events. However I want to focus on the first session of the day which was an interview of Micheal Gove, the secretary of state for education, by  David Aaronovitch.

When Gove came on stage he was booed by the crowd. The theme of the interview was what does an educated person look like.

David Aaronovitch (DA) began by questioning Gove’s view of an educated person. He stated that he felt that Gove’s view harks back to his experence of 1970s Grammar School.

Gove (G) – View of an educated person was based on looking at the most improved education systems and what they value. He cited Poland (notable for its improvement and narrowing the gap), Singapore (east-asian nation), and Alberta, the  province in Canada with the best education system. The biggest problem of the English education system to sort people into ‘academic’ and ‘non-academic’. He then went on to argue that more children are more capable; a well educated society of the future more people are educated academically for longer.

DA – Isn’t there are worry that the bottom end will loose out?

G – Some children, very few, are not capable to follow a full academic program. 80-90% are capable of following a full academic programme; they can achieve what only 25% of children achieved 40 years ago.

DA – What could 80-90% of children achieve by 2025?

G – 16 year olds would be able to:

  • Use the English language to interact, and draft business letters.
  • Read and appreciate English literature.
  • Fluency in foreignlanguage.
  • In mathematics students will be able to understand riks, probability, buy an insurance policy and understand reports by Robert Peston.
  • Understand broad scientific principals.

Its only if your ambitious wehre children can have scores of opportinuites they are capable of.

DA – This is an admirable aspiration; similar to that of the British communist party of 1950. Is your view of the curriculum not too based on knowledge and not allowing critical faculty?

G – Students are bored if teaching is not good enough. External assessment can ensure that critical thinking is embedded in teaching and the curriculum. Critical thinking skills can be developed by understanding how body of knowledges interact, however to do that you need to have the body of knowledge. Current system focus on exam technique over love of learning. There is also a need to make sure vocational work is examined, rigourous, timed, and based on skills.

DA- You don’t deal with the pain in failing?

G – If you say to someone they are a failure it can have a devastating effect. However students know when they have been given unwarranted success. Need to encourage and support pupils to improve, so they can make them do better. There is a need to change the difficult edge between C/D. The foundation / higher tier papers in some subjects are a hangover from the previous situation, challenging the system to remove them. 

We need to concentrate on schools that succeed. Concentration of C/D borderline students has meant that other students have been neglected. This is a point that I agree with!

There is a challenge of setting an exam that is both challenging and captures the majority of the ability range. However if you don’t set ambitious groups you risk the country treading water.

DA – What about vocational education?

G – Need to make changes in funding to make FE colleges more likely to offer challenging courses. There should be the same amount of money per student rather than per course; there needs to be clear information about employability of course. Both jobs and skills will become obsolete  but there is a sense of satisfaction of mastering a skill.

DA – When you have EBACC it creates a core / not core. Why is it more important to study Geography than Religious Education?

G – There are  passionate and brilliant people who make pitches for every subject. For example he has heard passionate pitches to add gardening to the curriculum and to separate cooking from technology. However RE is a specific factor, its already a mandatory part of the National Curriculum to 16. Geography and History are not, and there have been a decline in numbers taking these subjects. EBACC is an encapsulation of what other countries have done.

DA – What would we do without international comparisons?

The final 15 minutes of the interview was set aside for audience questions.

Question 1 – Why do you have such a disregard for the teaching profession, the academy programme has harmed teacher’s employment rights and pay structure.

G – Resistance to academies programme is by people who want to swim close to the edge of the pool, they should come to the middle the waters loverly and they won’t want to go back. I have never met an academy principal who wants to go back. But what about teachers?

Question 2 – How do you define success for school leavers?

Students should be equiped to be authors of their own life story. Success means someone is a master or mistress of a body of knowledge.

Question 3 – Why the focus on more difficult assessments – weighing the pig does not make it fatter? Harder exams don’t equate to higher standards.

G – Can’t have education without assessment. We need to know what you have learn’t, otherwise it is just play. Making exams harder is a sign of higher ambition.

Question 4 – Name one of these schools with an academic rout and 80-90% achievement.

Mossbourne Community Academy

Paddington Academy

Both have high aspirations for all students. Not every school has high ambitions for students, there are some schools that are inadequate.

Question 5 – Why have you excluded Arts from the EBACC?

Not including subjects in the EBACC does not mean that you exclude them from schools. I have never seen a school that is an academic success that does not take arts and music seriously.

Question 6- What about the inclusion of community languages?

It is important to recognise these languages but it is also important that students are introduced to languages beyond which they have grown up with; to help unlock doors for the future.

 My initial thoughts?

  • A number of times throughout this interview Michael Gove referred to consultation; how meaningful are these consultations? 
  • Gove made reference to international comparisons, how valid are these comparisons due to different contexts? In addition are these simply comparisons of convenience, picking and choosing international examples to fit his needs? 
  • My worry about Gove is many of his ideas appear sensible when looked at in isolation and superficially; however the devil is in the detail and they are damaging to the education sector if they are fully implemented.
I think attendance at events like this are important for all educators; we are often isolated in our own schools and classrooms and it is important to consider the wider field.

 

Interesting Ideas for Teaching Physical Geography

I currently run the subject specialist training days for Essex GTP. At the last session the trainees expressed a desire for interesting ideas for teaching Physical Geography. I have added a few ideas and will add more as they come to me. However I would be grateful for any ideas.

Please feel free to add to the presentation by editing it  here.

Alternatively send to me via twitter: @gceyre

Thank You!

Pause for Thought – Exam Results

This morning as I was driving to pick up the geography examination results I heard Sarah Joseph giving the Radio 2 ‘Pause for Thought’, on the Chris Evans breakfast show.

I think whatever the outcome of your own (whether they be the results of your own or your students – personally I am more nervous now then when I was a student!) it is worth while to put things in perspective.

My transcript is below:

“But 25 years ago [when I received my results] it did not fell like your whole life ahead of you depended on those results, which is rather in stark contrast to today, where children are told unless they get a clutch of top exam grades they can’t hope to have a future, which is ridiculous in my opinion.

Plenty of things go wrong in life, but the future still unfolds. 

Plenty of children are late bloomers and may not be ready the moment when the system says they must be. Its all too easy to become obsessed with grades and league tables and key performance indictors. And forget that children are actually human beings all with their own unique blessings. And surely there are better things to measure a person by. 

Whats the point of it all unless we are caring, loving, engaged human beings. For surely that is the proper judgement of a life.

I’m not diminishing that striving for excellence in any endeavour is important, including exams, but the truth is, whatever is in those envelopes this morning; good, bad, or in between it is not the end of the world.

For all of us every single new day is the beginning of something, our past and all that went before shapes us, but it does not have to define us.

It’s never too late to make a change, it’s never too late to think the path you have gone down is the wrong one.

Its never too late to commit more fully and more wholesomely to the path you are actually on. 

The important thing is to grasp life with both hands and be the very best human being that we can be.”

I think this is an important message; we can’t let exam results define us.

 The above was broadcast on Thursday 23rd August on BBC Radio 2; there may be mistakes in my transcript.

For the next seven days you can ‘listen again’ on the BBC Website http://beta.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/b01m0n49 ; pause for thought begins at 2:54.

2012 Resolutions

I don’t normally make New Year Resolutions. However this year I thought that I would set some goals for 2012. I have decided to post these publicly and the plan is to use this blog to monitor my progress.

GYM – to attend the GYM at least 12 times a month; this works out at three times a week.

My wife and I pay a small fortune for a gym membership; last year there were two months when I only went seven time and one month when I only went eight times. This makes the cost per visit very expensive. If I attend the gym more regularly I will not only be more healthy but achieve better value for money.

READ – to read at least 100 books in 2012.

I enjoy reading and can read fairly quickly; however too often in the evening I will put the television on and watch something of little significance instead of reading. 

I have joined the website Goodreads ( www.goodreads.com  ); this will record the boks I have read and provide suggestions for other books to read. Click here to review my goodreads profile

WRITE – write  and submit at least two articles for publication.

One of these will probably be a reworking of my MA dissertation; I don’t know what direction the other article will take.

BLOG  – write at least one post on this blog a week.

This blog is a useful way to organise my thoughts and gather together notes. I will attempt to write at least one post a week. In addition I will write a 365 day project. This will attempt to be a collection of short paragraphs on basic geographical ideas. This can be viewed http://365geography.posterous.com/.

In addition I will write a monthly post charting my progress towards these goals.

My Nominations for the Edublogs Awards!

I have this blog; however I am an infrequent blogger; Google Reader says that I post a blog post less than once every 10 days.

However I read blogs much more frequently; I use the Google Reader to aggregate blog posts and then read them when I have time; usually every few days. I have learnt more in terms of professional development from blogs and twitter than any CPD course.

I ‘subscribe’ to about twenty-five different blogs on Google Reader. There are however some blogs that I find myself constantly reading and ‘starring’ the articles.

There are a number of categories in the edublog awards; I am not going to make nominations for all of them.

However my nominations are below:

Best individual blog – Living Geography by Alan Parkinson

Alan’s Blog ‘Living Geography’ is the go to source for up to date information. Alan is persitently and constantly posting new information. Chances are if it is related to geography education it is on Alan’s Blog.

Best ed tech / resource sharing blog – Tony Cassidy’s Share Geography

Tony’s blog and his associated website is full of great, creative ways for teaching Geography. I don’t know how he comes up with the ideas; but he does. What is great about all of Tony’s ideas is they are creative but realistic. As a practicing teacher Tony must spend alot of his time on these resources and they must be used by a lot of teachers.

http://www.sharegeography.co.uk/

Best free web Tool – Triptico Teacher’s Toolkit

Although you do have to download part of this programme I think it is a fantastic free tool for teachers. I have blogged about it previously and can’t wait until it is fully running on the school network!

http://www.triptico.co.uk/

Good Luck; there are many blogs out there that are worth reading and this is just the tip of the iceburg!

Pop up Geography Books

While in Waterstones in London a couple of weeks ago I discovered two fantastic books. ‘How the World Works’ and ‘How the Weather Works’. These books are absolutely fantastic and in my mind they are what Key Stage 3 textbooks should be like. I know it is not practical because of how delcate they are but in an ideal world!.

 

 

Both books are incredibly detailed and reasonably priced, I paid £12.99 for each at Waterstones. However they are available for less than £10 each from amazon; click on the images above to see their amazon pages.

Pages from How the Weather Works

This page is great because their are pull tabs which you can pull out and the labels tell you about the qualities of different air masses in a depression.

A Pop-Up Hurricane:

How we are changing the earth’s climate:

Pages from How the World Works

Pop-ups showing plate tectonics:

Pop up Water cycle:

The above images only represent a sample of the pages. What I love about the books is how engaging they are. They really draw the reader in!

Tony Cassidy has some fantastic ideas for getting pupils to create pop-ups on his website.

http://www.radicalgeography.co.uk/Rivers.html – Pop Up Drainage Basins

http://www.radicalgeography.co.uk/Coasts.html – Pop Up Coastal Protection

Why I am on Strike Today?

The decision to strike or not is a personal one, today however I am on strike.

This is because my union, the National Union of Teachers, has asked me to withdraw my labour for the day. This is due to the ongoing negotiations with the government about the change to the teachers pension scheme.

This change is multifaceted; an increase in contributions by 3%; decrease in retirement benefits; and increase in retirement age; in my case from 60 to 68. The retirement age may continue to rise as it will be set inline with state pension age.

This is also in the same environment when teachers are in the middle of a two year pay freeze, which yesterday George Osbourne announced will be followed by a two years of a maximum increase of 1%.

I understand the need for austarity. However in the last few months my electricity bill has gone up by 4.5%; my rent has gone up by 3%; and last night I received an email from BT saying that they are putting up their prices. Prices are also going up for food, and petrol.

I think the government is treating public sectors unfairly; pensioners are receiving pension increases of 5.2% (which I don’t disagree with); however to then give most public sector workers no increase is in my mind very inequitable.

I have been teaching so far for five complete years; at the moment if I left the profession tomorrow I would receive an annuity of £2,092; If I continue working until I am sixty; under the old/current scheme I will receive approximately £18,000.  (this assumes that I don’t receive any further promotions and pay rises other than those in line with inflation).

Although I question some of the governments mathmatics I don’t disagree with the increase in contributions. People are living longer; though the teachers pension scheme was revised only in 2007. What I am against is forcing teachers to work until they are 68. This will have a negative impact on the learners of the future. I currently get to school at 7:30am every morning; and leave work at 5:30pm most evenings. I spend all the time I am teaching on my feet. I have to climb three flights of stairs to get to my classroom and do that at least ten times a day. I carry boxes of books around to different classrooms. Teaching is a physically demanding job. If I retire when I am 68; I will have been teaching for 47 years. Will I be able to do the same job I do now; who knows? Will the staff room look like the day lounge in a OAP home?

Teachers do get longer than average holidays. However I am in school on average a week and a half of holiday time. In addition I do a couple of hours work every evening and at least one day in the weekend in term time. I spend much of my ‘holiday time’ going to the dentist, the doctors, the opticians the garage. Things that I can’t do during term time. I have three days off sick in the last five years. So I although there are long holidays; they are not as good as they seem? I don’t receive any bonuses or other incentives (nor do I want or need them!).

I resent the fact that secretary of state for education has criticised the fact ‘we’ are going to leave parents without child care arrangements. I do feel sympathy with parents and their childcare arrangements; however my job is not to provide childcare. My job is to provide education. I am a qualified professional not in childcare but education.

I know this seems like a rant; and that is because it is!

There are a number of others who have written more eloquently on the subject.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-15909788

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/21/striking-teacher-30-november

So today I won’t be doing school work. I will be doing some DIY; cleaning the house. This will then allow me to spend more time on the weekend doing schoolwork to deal with the backlog I am sure!

Image of Micheal Gove on Strike as a member of the NUJ

This is the same person that has told teacher’s to think again about striking.

On a final note I would like to praise the Brentwood Gazette who yesterday ran a very balanced piece on the strikes. Unfortunately I can’t find the same story on their website.

It was especially good to see the level of public support as that is something that has not always appeared in the media.

 

Creating Apps for the iOS (iPhone/iPad/iPodTouch)

I have spent the weekend looking at the logistics of creating an application for GCSE Geography revision. This is something that I have never done before. This would need to be free for students to download and distributed via the apple app store.

There are three options:

  • Pay someone to develop the app – this is cost prohibitive as it would start at £200.00 and then would incur additional costs every time something needs to be changed.
  • Use App Builder software – there are a number of sites / programmes that will build iPhone apps for you for free. The problem with using these is they are often supported by Advertisements and you are dependent on third party software.
  • Create the app from scratch – This is the option I have decided to choose so I have control of the process. This will involve more work than I originally thought.

Apple provides XCode software free of charge; this is the software needed to develop applications. It is however only available for a Mac.

I have begin to experiment with the software; and I have created some very simple applications. XCode provides a built in iphone/ipad simulator so you can test the applications on a Mac.

There is one limiting factor; before installing the application on a iDevice you must be a Apple Application Developer. This gives you an electronic certificate that will allow apps to work on an iPhone; it also allows you to submit apps to the App Store. The cost of this is $99/£59 per year.

I have purchased ‘iPhone Application Development for Dummies’ and am currently working through the book. The problem is the edition of the book that I purchased is written for XCode3 and the latest version of XCode that I downloaded is XCode4. This however should be enough to get me started; and there are some other book for XCode4 that are published in December; and a revised version of the Dummies book is out in January.

This will be an ongoing task; to put it in perspective the Dummies book is 850 pages!

I will try to post regular updates.

Android Screenshots using a Mac

 

I am happy to be proven wrong but there is no simple way to take screen shots on an Android Phone without installing some rooting software which I am not willing to do. This instruction guide was written using a MAC however most of the steps are similar on a windows based computer.

There is however a way to do this. This is time consuming the first time however gets easier. The only downside is that to use this the phone must be connected to a computer; not a problem to show off most apps; it does however limit the use of screen shots with location based services. It also means that you can’t spontaneously take screenshots.

 

1. Download the Android SDK (Android Software Developers Kit)

The android software developers kit can be downloaded from the Android Developers page. This can be found here ; there are both Windows and Android versions of the application.

2. Activate USB Debugging on the Phone.

The next stage is to activate USB debugging on your Android phone. Go to the main menu -> settings -> applications -> development -> and select “USB debugging”.

3. Connect the phone to the computer using USB.

Plug the phone into the computer using the USB lead.

4. Open the Android Software Developers Kit

Open the folder that contained the SDK that was downloaded earlier. This is a zip file however you MAC will have probably already unpacked it.

Open the programme; this is the Android file located within the tools folder.

There is then a need to download packages to get the SDK to work with different Android versions. This can be done by going to available programmes within the software; you can either check the box for the android version you have installed on your phone; or do as I did and install everything for maximum compatibility. You only need to install SDK Platform Android for the version of Android that you have.

If you have selected everything this will take a while. If you are like me at this point you will go and make a cup of tea!

You can then close the SDK application.

5. Open the Debug Application – the final step!

This can be found in the SDK folder that was downloaded in step one. The application can be found in tools -> DDMS

After a slight delay the following window will appear:

Ensure that your phone is selected; click on the phone under the name box (unless you have multiple phones selected there will be only one!).

You can then take screenshots by going to Device -> Screen Capture on the top of the screen or use the shortcut (? + S ).

You will then be presented with a screenshot from your phone and you can either save the image or copy it.

The resulting screenshots are extremely high quality, see below (click for full version).

Once you have completed this once you only need to activate USB debugging, connect your phone, and open the debugging application.

Hope this helps and please contact me if you find any mistakes or this doen’t work for you.