Oxford Ed Kerboodle Tree

In the month of December Oxford Education gave away 24 free resources. This was one a day as an advent calendar with gifts under the Kerboodle Tree. I have collated the tweets here primarily for my own reference.

1st December


2nd December


3rd December


4th December


5th December


6th December


7th December


8th December


9th December


10th December


11th December


12th December


13th December


14th December


15th December


16th December


17th December


18th December


19th December


20th December


21st December


22nd December


23rd December


24th December

ChallenGEO – Week 1 – Close to home… #ChallenGEO1

Alan Parkinson on his Living Geography blog has launched a ChallenGeo; read more on his blog here (and if you are a geography teacher you should be reading his blog anyway!).

The first week’s task is to find a location within five minutes walk from home and take a picture that represents or captures its essence.

This was a difficult one – as the tendency would be to take a picture that is beautiful. However I don’t live somewhere that is particularly beautiful. It is a great location – but primarily because of how it is connected to other places.

I choose the view looking down the Whitechapel road; not because of its beauty but because of how it represents the place – the buildings of the financial district with the road heading in that direction; the Boris Bikes and the cycle superhighway to the left; the cars dominating the landscape.

 

Thinking about 2017 #teacher5aday

As 2016 comes to a close I am reflecting on what goals to set for 2017. This Guardian article puts new year’s resolutions in perspective:

“If you want to know what matters to people most, you need look no further than surveys of New Year resolutions. These are the top five according to the most recent YouGov poll: 1. Lose weight. 2. Get fitter 3. Eat more healthily. 4. Take more care of my appearance. 5. See more of friends and family.

So I think that puts us straight on where friends and family sit in our collective priorities. Also notably non-prioritised are resolutions to be kinder, to try to help the poor, read more and better books or stop watching junk TV. What we truly resolved to care about, it turns out, is quite simple – ourselves.” – Tim Lott “My New Year resolution is not to do better, but to do what I can”

2016 was a year of change. I got a new job, got an allotment, and gave up the allotment and moved from commuting to London to living in London. I also finished my seemingly never ending Masters degree in educational leadership. I also have began a process of simplifying my life – looking for small ways to remove complexity; for example storing all digital documents in one cloud service rather than four. 

I have decided to structure my goals for the year linked to Martyn Reah’s teacher five a day pledge (more details here). I have however changed some of the headings to meet my own aims for the year.

#simplify

To continue to keep it simple. Consider whether possessions are needed; following the principle of Marie Kondo’s Tidy. Does it bring pleasure? In addition living in a one bedroom flat – space is a premium.

Target: For every new thing responsibly get rid of an old thing. One in one out!

#exercise

Get more serious about exercising – specifically do more. I am going to continue running but be more specific. Over the course of the year I would like to attempt to run 1000km. This works out at about 2.7km a day.

Target: Run 1,000km in 2017

#notice

I am lucky enough to live in one of the great world cities, London, less than a mile from the Tower of London. This is an opportunity that might not last forever and I should ensure we make the most of it. My wife and I have joined Tate so plan as part of this to see the majority of the exhibits in both the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain.

Target: Walk once a week in the city – take a photograph or two – write a paragraph about it.

#learn

This is the area that I am being more specific about and want to split into three different categories. Continuing to read regularly, I have read 100 books a year for the last five years and plan to do so again this year. I use the website Goodreads to track books read and my progress, see here. This has been more challenging since September when I don’t have an hour on a train; however as I don’t have a TV anymore it is still achievable. Secondly, for the first time in a while I am not completing any formal academic study; however I want to stay in touch with academic research. I am aiming to split this between Geography research and Education / Leadership research. I think an achievable goal is one article per week; with two weeks off! I am also vaguely interested in starting a PhD – so want to spend some time researching the feasibility as well as writing a proposal.

Targets:

  • Read 100 books in 2017
  • Read 50 academic journal articles (split between Geography and Education)
  • Complete a PhD research proposal (even if I don’t do a PhD go through the exercise of writing a research proposal.

#volunteer

As I am still settling into a new home and a new job I think it will be difficult to commit to a regular volunteering position. However I miss having an allotment so want to work with my wife to transform some of the garden space where we live.

Target: Create a garden where we live – develop a way to work with the other residents.

#balance

Ensure a meaningful work life balance. This is the last; as it is the most difficult; however I think it is important, in many ways the most important. As a teacher and senior leader the work is always never ending – but there needs to be a limit placed on work. 

Target: I don’t have a specific measurable target – I will revisit this later in the year.

It is now time to celebrate the changing of the year, but I will try and come back and reflect on the progress made at regular points throughout 2017.

 

Inspiration from ‘It’s a Don’s Life’

I am a regular reader of Mary Beard’s blog – ‘A Don’s Life’, and have read the two books that have been published with excerpts from the book. The ‘It’s a Don’s Life’. If you don’t read the blog I recommend you do: http://timesonline.typepad.com/dons_life/

“I kicked off the very first lecture by handing round a skeletal map of the Mediterranean – and asked them to mark several key places (including Athens, Sparta, Troy, Crete, Rome and Pompeii). The results are collected in for scrutiny, but entirely anonymously. No names are required.

The ideas is to demonstrate to the freshers that hey really need to get an atlas out before they start sounding off about the Peloponnesian War, or whatever… The don … have enjoyed shaking their heads at the very ideas that a student with straight As at A level still doesn’t know where Sparta is”*

As a geography teacher this idea is important – how much locational knowledge do our pupils know. This is the underlying grammar of our subject – and if pupils don’t know the underlying locational knowledge they will struggle to see the big picture. Ways to teach locational knowledge is possibly an idea for a future post!

*Page 55 – Beard, M. (2009). It’s a Don’s Life. London, Profile Books Ltd.

Excerpts from Alan Bennett’s Diaries “Keeping on Keeping On”

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I was drawn to reading the latest excerpt of Alan Bennett’s diaries when browsing at the Idea Store Whitechapel. I found the writing style clear, concise and agreed with his philosophy on life. I have put below some extracts that interested me and will be getting hold of earlier editions when time permits.

15th November 2006

Abu Hamza, the radical cleric, loses his appeal, the only obstacle between him and extradition ot the United States the decision of the home secretary. The judge in the case, Judge Workman, admits that the conditions under which Hamza is likely to be held in the United States are offensive to his ‘sense of propriety’, thus briefly raising the hope that his judgement is going to be less workmanlike than it turns out to be.

Hamza is not an attractive figure and his case is difficult to defend, but it should be defended and extradition rejected on Karl Popper’s principle that arguments should be rebutted at their strongest point. Nobody likes Hamza: his opinions are reprehensible and there is no question that he broadcasts them. But he is a British citizen and he should not be extradited to the United States under a non-reciprocal treaty which allows that country to extradite British subjects without due process. Let him be tried here and if found guilty imprisoned here, not in some super-max institution (offensive even to Judge Workman) where he will disappear without trace. Because next time the person the United States decides on may not have one eye and hooks for hands, disabilities which make him such a joke to the tabloid process. Next time the person chosen might be thought to be innocent and undeserving of such ridicule, and extradition might event bet thought to be unfair. But it won’t matter. The precedent has been set and gets stronger with every person so supinely yielded up to American so-called justice. Jacqui Smith, the vibrant successor to such champions of liberty as Jack Straw, David Blunkett and John Reid, is potentially a bigger threat to our freedoms than Abu Hamza has ever been. ITV News reports all this as ‘Britain has won the right to extradite Abu Hamza’. Translated this means that Britain has lost the right not to extradite anyone whom the United States chooses.

19th January 2010

D. Cameron’s notion that the better degree the teacher has the better the teacher is so wrong-headed as to be laughable; except he may be shortly in a position to put his cockeyed notions into practice. Somebody should take him on one side and tell him that to teach well you don’g need a degree at all. I got a first-class degree and was a hopeless teacher. Russell Harty got a third-class degree and taught brilliantly. There was a great deal he didn’t know but he know how to enthuse a class and made learning fun, much as he could work a studio audience.

19th April 2010

A propos the transport shutdown due to the volcanic cloud there have been the inevitable outbreaks of Dunkirk spirit, with the ‘little ships’  going out from the Channel ports to ferry home the stranded ‘Brits’. It’s a reminder  how irritating the Second War must have been, providing as it did almost unlimited opportunities for bossy individuals to cast them selves in would-be heroic roles when everybody else was just trying to get by.

8th September 2011

A directive must have gone out from the National Trust high command that in future notices telling members not to sit on the heritage chairs should be eschewed in favour of a more subtle message. These days seats that are not to be sat on sport the head of a thistle or a sprig on holly. Other possibilities that occur would be hawthorn, nettles or even a stuffed hedgehog. One wonders whether this genteel initiative had the prior approval of Health and Safety.

8th May 2015 (day after the general election)

A feeling of bereavement in the streets. I shop for supper and unprompted a grey-haired woman in the fish shop bursts out, ‘It means I shall have a Tory government for the rest of my life.’

In the library they say, ‘Good morning…though we’ve just been trying to think what’s good about it.’

I wanted a Labour government so that I could stop thinking about politics, knowing that the nation’s affairs were in the hands of a party which, even if often foolish, was at least well-intentioned. Now we have another decade of the self-interested and the self-seeking, ready to sell off what’s left o fa liberal institutions and loot the rest to their own advantage. It’s not a government of the nation but a government of half the nation, a true legacy of Mrs. Thatcher. Work is the only escape, which fortunately moves along a little.

keeping-on-keeping-on

Tony Benn’s Diaries

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Over a few years I have read most of the books that have been written by Tony Benn. Below are some of my notes and thoughts.

Part of the Editor’s note, written by Chris Mullin, from ‘Arguments for Democracy’ (1981), sums up Tony Benn quite nicely. “Mr. Benn asks questions that a lot of important and influential people would rather were not raised. Questions which large numbers of people who do not enjoy power or influence are very keen to see raised. What is more, he has not been bough or silenced by office or the prospect of office.

I really liked the book ‘Arguments for Democracy’ and would be an interesting read for all AS Politics students.

Unfortunately it is out of print; I have however scanned a chapter Arguments on Democracy

Some Quotes

Dare to be a Daniel

“Father once said to me, ‘Never wrestle with a chimney sweep’, which was a curious piece of advice to give an eight-year-old, but I now understand exactly what he meant: ‘If someone plays dirty with you, don’t play dirty with him or you will get dirty, to.’ My attempt to keep personal abuse out of political controversy has been shaped by that simple phrase about how to steer clear of chimney sweeps.”

‘Free at Last’ – Diaries 1991-2001

“Breakfast in the hotel [currently in New York]. Worked on my speech and then took a taxi to the Peace with Cuba Office, and the cab driver was a Hispanic, I would think. HE had served in the Vietnam War, HE said there wasn’t a single homeless person in NY who wasn’t responsible for it, either through lack of education, because they were illiterate or had mental problems. A real potential Nazi supporter.”

– Saturday 24th January 1992

“Went to St. Pancras, where I had agreed to meet Danish television at eight, before I caught the 8.30 to Nottingham. Left my bags on the train and went and the interview on Maastricht and the referendum.

As I went back into the station I heard over the loudspeaker: ‘Leave the station immediately. Everyone is to evacuate the station.’

I got to the platform and the security officers and I couldn’t go on. There were two security women and a huge gathering of people. They said ‘There is an unidentified bag on the train.’ And I said , ‘It’s mine.’ So I took them and opened my bag and showed my thermos and sandwiches. They were a bit cross”

– Friday 12th June 1992

In addition to Tony Benn’s diaries I have also been reading Alan Clark’s; they are very different in tone and reveal a very different persona.

This quote personifies Alan Clark for me:

“I was in a vile mood this morning, even on arrival. I had done a lot of washing-up, drying, wiping, etc., at Albany, and I always find this enervating. I do it so badly and so slowly. For someone as great and gifted as me it is the most uneconomic possible use of time.”

– Tuesday 10th April 1984 (Alan Clark Diaries – In Power 1983-1992).

Notes from ‘An Astronaut’s Guide to Life’

This was first drafted just over a year ago – but I never hit the publish button. So it is one of a few posts that I am finally publishing.

Notes from ‘An Astronaut’s Guide to Life’

astronauts guide to life

This is a great autobiography that combines Chris Hadfield’s philosophy on life with his biography. When reading I have distilled some of the advice that Hadfield gives. This is well worth a read.

  • To solve problems Hadfield pictures the most demanding challenges; he visualises what he would need to know and how to do meet it; then he practices until I reach a level of competence where he will be comfortable that he will be able to perform.
  • Anticipating problems and figuring out how to solve them is actually the opposite of worrying: it’s productive. Likewise, coming up with a plan of action isn’t a waste of time if it gives you peace of mind. While it’s true that you may wind up being ready for something that never happens, if the stakes are at al high, it’s worth it.
  • Hadfield said “My dad could be a stern taskmaster and on principle didn’t believe children should complain, but he also disapproved of whining because he understood that it is contagious and destructive. Comparing notes on how unfair or difficult or ridiculous something is does promote bonding – and some-times that’s why griping continues, because it’s reinforcing an us against the world feeling. Very quickly, though, the warmth of unity morphs to the sourness of resentment, which makes hardships seem even more intolerable and doesn’t help get the job done. Whining is the antithesis of expeditionary behaviour, which is all about rallying the troops around a common goal.”
  • Never ridicule a colleague, even with an offhand remark, no matter how tempting it is or how hilarious the laugh line. The more senior you are, the greater the impact your flippant comment with have. Don’t snap at the people who work with you. When you see red, count to 10.
  • Over the years I’ve learned that investing in other people’s success doesn’t just make them more likely to enjoy working with me. It also improves my own chances of survival and success. The more each astronaut knows how to do, and the better he or she can do it, the better off I am, too.
  • [When talking about spending time with his wife] I also make a point of actively looking for opportunities to spend time together. On Sunday mornings for instance, no matter what else is going on, Helene and I try to walk the dogs, then go get coffee and do the New York Times crossword puzzle together. Prioritising family time – making it mandatory, in the same way that a meeting at work is mandatory – helps show the people who are most important to me that they are, in fact important to me.
  • Over the years, I’ve realised that in any new situation, whether it involves an elevator or a rocket ship, you will almost certainly be viewed in one of three ways:
    • As a minus one: actively harmful, someone who creates problems.
    • As a zero: your impact is neutral and doesn’t tip the balance one way or the other.
    • As a plus one: someone who adds value. – Everyone wants to be a plus one, of course. But proclaiming your plus-one-ness at the outset almost guarantees you’ll be perceived as a minus one, regardless of the skills you bring to the table or how you actually perform. This might seem self-evident, but it can’t be, because so many people do it.

Key Stage 3: the wasted years? – A Summary

In September Ofsted published a report which examined Key Stage 3 provision in secondary schools – this is part of the Ofsted survey and thematic reports; more are available here. This is my summary of this report.

“The importance of a good start to pupil’s secondary school education cannot be over emphasised. Leaders of successful schools set the right culture for learning that is embrace by their pupils from the outset.”

  • In 2013/14 HMI reported that primary schools continued to improve but secondary schools had stalled; with one of the contributory factors being poorly handled transition from primary to secondary. Gains made by pupils at primary school were not embedded and developed at Key Stage 3.
  • In MFL, history and geography lessons too often failed to engage and challenge pupils. In part the weaknesses in teaching and progress can be attributed to the lack of priority given to Key Stage 3 by school leaders.
  • Leaders prioritise the pastoral over the academic needs of pupils during the transition gem primary school. This can have a detrimental effect on progress and engagement of the most able.
  • Secondary schools do not build sufficiently on pupils’ prior learning; repeating work is more of an issue in mathematics and English than in the foundation subjects.
  • Developing literacy is a high priority but there is not the same level of priority evident for numeracy. Schools should ensure they have literacy and numeracy strategies that build on pupils prior attainment.
  • A number of pupils interviewed made an explicit link between quality of teaching at Key Stage 3 and their option choices for Key Stage 4.  When pupils had not continued to study a subject, reasons most frequently given included finding the subject difficult or dull.
  • Only a small number of the senior leaders spoken to were able to articulate a clear vision and rationale for their Key Stage 3 curriculum. In one of the most successful schools visited the headteacher had changed the philosophy and culture of the school. He believed this was the bedrock of future success, commenting “If you get Year 6 to Year 10 right then Year 11 looks after itself.”
  • Homework is not consistently providing the opportunities for pupils to consolidate or extend their learning in Key Stage 3.
  • The importance of secondary schools working closely with their partner primary schools was clear from the good practice visits; where primary and secondary schools worked closely together the results were powerful.
  • Only half of the pupils that were interviewed said that their Year 7 teachers built on what they had learnt at primary school. One Year 9 pupil said, “when I began Year 7, it was as if I had started my education again; nothing from primary school continued”.

Overall the findings indicate that too many secondary school leaders are not using Key Stage 3 effectively enough to develop pupils’ learning. Key Stage 3 must become a higher priority for secondary school leaders. They must not allow Key Stage 3 to become a lost opportunity.

For the full document click the link below to the full Ofsted document.

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This is how I work (March 2016)

This blog post was inspired by a similar post on Oliver Quinlan’s blog here; which I was directed to through his weekly Quinlearning newsletter (find out more here – it is a useful weekly round up of developments in edutech with other wider information).  This it itself is based on the lifehacker ‘this is how I work’ – which make interesting reading and can be found on the US Lifehacker site or the UK lifehacker site.

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Location: Live in Brentwood and work in Islington, North London

Current Job: Head of Humanities teaching Geography and Politics as well as managing a team of teachers.

One word that best describes how you work: Efficiently – I am quick to try and get through things and clear them off the list; though sometimes it means that I don’t proof read as much as I should.

Current mobile device: An iPhone 6s. I love the phone though recently the battery life has been awful. I need to investigate whether it is an app or a malfunction – as the phone is too new to just suffer from an elderly battery.

Current computer (and what OS is it running?): My school laptop is a Dell laptop – though that stays at work. It runs Windows 7.

My personal computer is a mid-2010 MacBook pro that is still going strong. I have upgraded it to 8GB memory and it is currently running OSX El Capitan. I keep thinking I should replace it – however there is no need at the moment as it is still works like a charm.

What apps, software, or tools can’t you live without?

Dropbox – it syncs my key files on all the computers I use; allows me to access files on my phone and effectively backs up all my files. It is also a really easy way of sharing large files without clogging up email.

Evernote – in the last few years I have essentially gone paperless; this allows me to maintain a virtual filing cabinet which I can access anywhere. I use it for keeping electronic copies of financial statements, periodicals, and anything else that traditionally would have been kept in a filing cabinet.

Endnote – this is used as a filing cabinet for academic papers – storing copies of PDF and creating references and bibliographies for writing. The iPad app is perfect for annotating papers on the go without printing. Its integration with Word makes writing  academic papers much easier as it automatically compiles bibliography and formats references.

Lastpass – this is a great way to remember passwords; I use this with the yubikey 2-factor authentication and I am just experimenting with their authenticator app.

Google Drive and Docs – at school we use Google Apps for Education. This allows sharing of documents among the team and with students. It is great value for educational institutions (free); and I currently have 85gb of files in the drive – this can be accessed from any computer and by mobile app.

hp-laserjet-p1005

Physical tools that I can’t live without is my HP printer and Canon flatbed scanner; sometimes you need things on paper and my HP P1005 is cheap to run (if you use compatible cartridges), quick and good quality black and white. The scanner is essential in scanning paperwork and then getting them into evernote.

 

What’s your workspace setup like?

Both at home and at work I have a twin monitor set up (the laptop screen and an external screen). I find working across two monitors a huge time saver; particularly when looking at data or putting together lesson resources. I also have my iPad docked on my desk at home – this is great as it stays charged and can also function as a third monitor if needed.

I have stuck on the wall in eye line my teaching timetable. I will always have my moleskine notebook at arms reach. This is where I keep notes from meetings, to do lists, and facts that I use correctly.

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I also have a book shelf with textbooks that I regularly use and other reference tools at arms reach. I try to keep this well curated – with less use texts being demoted to other bookshelves or stored in the garage.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?

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Using the same calendar for both home and work (I use google calendar) – and putting everything into the calendar. School deadlines, birthdays, even down to every lesson on my teaching timetable. This means I can instantly look either on my computer or phone and work out what I have coming up and if I am free to meet with colleagues or not. I used a free tool called timetable convertor – however just checking it seems to have disappeared – so will need to find a new tool next academic year. It took a couple of hours to set up at the beginning of the year but pays dividends many times over.

What’s your favourite to-do list manager?

I don’t use one – I have tried doing all kinds of electronic apps and websites however I find nothing beats pen and paper. I use my notebook for medium and long term to-do do lists. I sue a post it stuck on the outside of my notebook for that days list.

I also obsessively file emails – anything sitting in my inbox needs me to do something with it.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

My external battery pack – my phone will usually run out of juice on the commute home unless I charge it at some point (particularly if I have been watching TV on the journey in the morning). The one I am using at the moment is this RAVPower 16750mAh; it is not the smallest but I find it convenient that it lasts the whole week so I only need to charge it at weekends.

I also really like my google chromecast. It is great to be able to steam digital media to my non-smart TV.

What are you currently reading?

With two hours a day spent commuting I read a significant amount; I usually manage about two books a week. Though recently I have read less, and been watching more TV on the train – this is something I need to redress.

At the moment I am reading:

freak

bounce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I read about 100 books a year; and use goodreads to manage my reading; you can see more information about what I read on Goodreads. However I will frequenly just mark a book as currently reading when I start reading – and every few months tidy up the finish dates by estimating when I finished the book.

How do you recharge?

I recharge through getting outside. This could be through walking in the countryside or just pounding the streets and people watching in a city. I also will spend time geocaching, particularly more rural geocache trails (my geocaching profile).

I also watch TV, currently working my way through DVDs of Chicago Fire.

What’s your sleep routine like?

My alarm goes off at 5am every weekday morning; therefore I am normally in bed around 10pm. I don’t have any problem sleeping most nights. The only problem is it means on weekends I am normally up by 6.30 as I can’t get used to lying in bed!

I try not to take my phone to bed – and instead put it on charge in either our office or the living room.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.

I don’t have a named individual, instead it is a group of people. I am not a personal fan of all politicians; though I think politicians do a fantastic job of multitasking. They have to manage pressures of Parliament, Party, Constituency, along with family and personal life.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t go to work to get your love. That doesn’t mean that you should not love your work; but don’t do things at work for love, praise, or approval – do them because they need doing or are in the pupil’s best interest.