Category: Uncategorized

MS Teams vs. ShowMyHomework (Satchel:One)

When I first started teaching in 2005/6 VLE, or Virtual Learning Environments were to be the way of the future, all schools were to have one, and I believe there was ring-fenced funding for this initially. Then they died off in most schools, though most schools maintained some sort of online homework setting tools. In the current environment these tools have been pushed into the forefront.

We have for a number of years used ShowMyHomework (Satchel One), but as a school we use Office 365 so have teams available to us, and for a few years we had piloted teams. We have decided on a hybrid programme – for Years 7-9, ShowMyHomework, and for Year 10-13, MS Teams. Please find below a comparison document I put together to compare the two tools.

MS Teams vs. SMHW


  • Allow teachers to set work and share resources that students can access at home.
  • Link with our MIS to allow groups to be automatically populated and updated on class lists [for MS Teams this can be broken if group description is changed]
  • Allow teachers to provide feedback to students [SMHW has just upgraded with this feature so it is more comparable to teams]
  • Uploading documents.
  • Sharing Links
  • Both have iOS/Android Apps
 Show My HomeworkMS Teams
AdvantagesEasy to set the same task to multiple groups at once.
Allows auditing features to run reports to monitor student engagement and staff setting work in line with policy.
Parents have a separate account.
Uses school login -so one less password to remember.
Free. (included in our organisational Office 365 subscription)
Allows for collaborative discussion.
DisadvantagesFunctionality is quite basic and it is not as easy to review historic work.
Does not allow for collaborative discussion.
Paid for – we pay for the MIS integration and then per student user.
Difficult to see other groups, staff have to be added as a teacher, and then it becomes overwhelming when a member of multiple groups.
Lack of reports on student engagement.
Allows for collaborative discussion – students can post comments for the group to see (can be disabled on a student or group basis).
No separate parent access.
Less out of the box user friendly.
No way to easily set work to multiple groups at the same time.

Download Comparison as a Word Document:

What if… our main objective in education was to build wisdom? #IOEDebates

On Thursday 10th January 2019 the first UCL IoE debate of 2019 was held. The discussion was around the purpose of education and the role of wisdom as an objective. I was unable to attend in person but followed the livestream of the event; and then re-watched the event again on Saturday. My notes which provide a brief summary of the events are below. The event was chaired by Professor Becky Francis and each of the speakers began by summarising their views on the key question.

Tony Sewell, CEO, Generating Genius

Knowledge is for everybody. The importance of knowing stuff and giving that to children has come to him through two personal examples. Firstly, as a child being made to go to church; he managed to get a good understanding of the bible. Secondly, through a retired Latin teacher who gave him Latin lessons; and he took an O Level in Latin.

When he had his English class at university – with students who had had a privileged education – he was able to go toe to toe. It is very difficult to understand English literature without an understanding of the bible. The accidental knowledge that he didn’t get from his secondary modern gave him access on an equal footing when in university.

It has become an issue for poor kids as you don’t give them stuff that is related to their backgrounds, and you don’t give them difficult stuff. Tony argued that we need to allow working class children to access the classics. At the moment we don’t give them stuff related to their background; nor do we give them difficult suff.

Knowledge is what you know, and it is good for you in itself; there doesn’t need to be a purpose in it. Education should stop pretending it can build a workforce. Knowledge has value in itself. Education is about knowing the mind of god.

Peter Hyman, Co-Director of Big Education and Co-Found of School 21

Knowledge is needed to pass GCSE exams.

Wisdom is knowing GCSE exams are crap; but you need to pass them to get to the next stage.

You need both but the wisdom to put it in some kind of perspective. It therefore needs an expansive form of education that is curious and handling things to make sense of it.

If you are just teaching knowledge it is only one 9th of an education. A balanced curriculum is balancing head, heart and hand. Being able to pass on the cannon and the classics is important. But you need to also enter into the conversation of humanity and wrestle with big ideas and themes, not just nuggets of information. It is about knowing the debates and applying knowledge.

Intersections and frictions between disciplines are where the interesting things happen; going on about core knowledge is doing students a disservice. Wisdom also comes from understanding yourself and your background.

There is nothing more tragic than the exam factory at the moment that you stop taking the creative subjects when you choose your options. 95% of children do no music, art or drama from the age of 14. The things that make us civilized human beings are being drilled out of the curriculum. The curriculum does not have space for you take it if you are not taking it as an exam subject. Learning to create is important. You can create meaningful beautiful work while you are at school at any age. The currency of the school should be what you create not exam grades.

A curriculum of head heart and hand transcends debate over knowledge. What people need for their sense of fulfilment is a balanced curriculum.

David Lambert, Professor of Geography Education, UCL Institute of Education

As a geographer he is interested in how we understand and encounter the world. Due to the challenge of climate; we (collectively) need lots of ingenuity; and wisdom, and they are not the same thing. David goes on to state: I am a great believer in building wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding common sense and insight.

Need to be very cautious about what school can do; need to be very careful about what overclaiming education can do.

Need to be careful about the use of the term ‘main objectives’ – discreet, measurable, and short term. Lessons can have objectives, and exams can have objectives. Wisdom is not an objective; as objectives are staging points towards something less tangible. What about Wisdom or something more like it serving as our overarching curriculum goal.

Wisdom becomes very similar to capabilities. This approach must apply to individual subject components in a curriculum.

All teachers need to do something with the idea if wisdom is going to be our overarching goal. Teachers need to take responsibility for how content is taught, how it is sequenced and how they think students process in their context Teachers need to take back control. Teaching students someone else’s interpretation of what is significant inadequate. Teachers need to be in the business of knowledge building not knowledge delivering. We currently have too many complacent practitioners.

There is both the how, and the what. The what is what it means to be a teacher of a subject. The potential of knowledge building and the building of knowledge is so powerful. David make reference to Michael Young’s 3 futures.

Imagine young people who were able to think geographically about the Anthropocene, and how it might enhance the thinking and engage with the wisdom of the day.

Cat Scutt, Director of Education and Research, Chartered College of Teaching

Are we actually able to develops students who are wise? Or can we only develop that over time? Can an 18-year-old have wisdom – or does it take time. Is Wisdom individual or are we talking about building collective wisdom of society.

We can debate is it about knowledge and skills – is it important? The debate is not which matters more – but how we develop those. It is difficult to separate the what and how – and also the knowledge and skills. We need to talk about context and pedagogies.

When the debate is most polarised, they are talking about the hard to measure skills rather than the subject specific skills. The soft skills can be devolved through traditional teaching methods.

When we are debating skills and knowledge – it is also about thinking about the curriculum and pedagogy for teaching this. We need to think about what it is we want our students to have when they leave schools. Need to ensure our focus is high quality learning not just activities to engage pupils.

As Ofsted is more involved in curriculum, we need to ensure we are not moving from the pendulum swing just from skills to core knowledge and knowledge based curriculum.

It is about giving teachers wisdom, and knowledge to allow them to make good decisions.

Schools should be able to say this is what our curriculum is and why. Schools need to reflect on the key debate of what and why.


The second part of the event was questions from the audience to the panel; I did not take many notes from this section however a couple of points are below:

Peter – it is good if Ofsted are looking at a broader view of the curriculum. Schools that are exam factories are marked down will be a good move. All incentives for schools are still linked solely to exam results.

David – I don’t see the point of GCSE anymore; they are not as necessary as they distort education, experience, and students don’t leave school at 16 anymore. There is a lack of public trust in teachers; teachers should take more responsibility but there needs to be more trust and support.

The full debate is available on youtube to watch; and the event page is available here.

Bodleian Education Library

As part of my current research I have been visiting a number of libraries – this is two-fold; the first is to obtain books and other literature. The other is to find somewhere peaceful to work without distractions. This is the first of what I plan to be a series of posts about different libraries. The Bodleian collection is split into different libraries, and this post focuses on the Education Library which hosts the education collection; however, I will set it in the context of the wider Bodlelian library.

The Bodleian Library System

The Bodleian is not a single library but the library system of the University of Oxford. The Old Bodleian is one of the libraries in the system but there are a number of others; on top of that there are the college libraries, which are managed by the individual colleges (these are not part of the Bodleian but their contents are listed in SOLO [Search Oxford Libraries Online]. The Bodleian is the second biggest library in the United Kingdom, after the British Library, and holds over 13 million volumes. As one of three copyright libraries in England it is entitled to receive a copy of every new book published in the United Kingdom. Due to the size of the collection, a large amount is kept in external stores; this can be collected and will be retrieved for the next day, or in some cases for the afternoon. As the books are coming from off-site they can be requested to any of the Bodleian library reading rooms. Some of the newer books that are deposited under the copyright library system are deposited electronically. This means that instead of a physical copy there is an electronic copy; this electronic copy can only be viewed on a Bodleian library computer when the reader is physically on site at the library.


Unless a student or staff member at the university of Oxford there is a need to register with the Bodleian library. This must be done in person at the membership office in the Weston during the office hours. The membership page here provides details of the documents required. Your card will be issued immediately; however if you need to request material to view that day you will need to follow the procedure on the website above so it is retrieved in time.

Scanning Articles and Chapters

Another service offered by the Bodleian library is the ability to request chapters of books or articles to be scanned and sent to you electronically. This has the advantage of saving a trip to Oxford, and is cheaper than the British library (£2.00 vs. £5.70). More details of the scan and deliver service can be found here.

The Education Library

The education library itself is a short walk from the train station and the city centre located within the School of Education. The library consists of two rooms main rooms of books and a couple of smaller rooms. The collection consists of texts related to the theory of education alongside a wide range of curriculum resources. There are also computers for use by visitors – these allow access to the aforementioned electronic resources. The library also provides internet access for visitors via Eduroam or via its visitor network for visitors who do not have access via eduroam.

Opening Hours:

Mon – Fri: 08:30 – 19:00
Sat & Sun: 11:00 – 18:00

Mon – Fri: 08:30 – 17:30
Sat: 11:00 – 18:00
Sun: Closed


On the day I visited there was only one other person using the library; I suspect it will be significantly busier during university term time. The staff were welcoming and helpful showing me around and providing me with the resources that I needed access to. It both provided a quiet place to work and access to needed resources. I also found a couple of other interesting texts by browsing the shelves. This is not as large as collection on the shelves as the UCL, IoE’s library however has the biggest education collection I have seen outside of the IoE. It is however more powerful as it has the ability to request any books from the Bodleian stores.


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

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:

“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.

Comparison of the New Draft GCSE Syllabuses

Over the last week the examination boards have released DRAFT syllabuses for the new GCSE courses. These are for first teaching from September 2016, with examination from Summer 2018. However if your school does a three year Key Stage Four this will be for first teaching from September 2015.

Although the specifications still need to be approved by OFQUAL and therefore there will be some changes it provides an initial incite into government thinking.

I have created a one-page word document overview which is downloadable below.

Comparison of New Geography GCSE Specs

Draft Specifications

These have been provided here for ease of access – the most up to date version can be found on the examination board websites.

AQA Draft Spec

Edexcel A Draft Spec

Edexcel B Draft Spec

EDUQAS A Draft Spec

EDUQAS B Draft Spec

OCR A Draft Spec

OCR B Draft Spec



#GACONF15 – Impact of 2013-14 Storms on Coastal Geomorphology in SW England

This was the first lecture I went to on the Friday morning and was a useful subject knowledge update.

The lecture was given by Professor Gerd Masselink, Professor of Coastal Geomorphology at Plymouth University.

Gerd began the talk by stating that last witner (2013-14) was fantastic for storms whereas this year, winter (2014-15) was disapointing, though I would imagine property owners and businesses in the south-west would feel differently!

Coastal Risk is caused by Hazard x Exposure, and coastal risk can take the form of erosion, damage to property, flooding and financial loss.

In the storms that cause the most damage large waves are found at the South of hte pressure system.

fistal beach

Fistral Beach, Newquay (source)

10m waves are 100 times more powerful than 1m waves.
In the four months between December 2013 and April 2014 there were 20 events where a 6m wave height was exceeded. The impact was larger when tide was high. Specific key events were Hercules 6/1/14 and Petra 5/2/14.
The 2013-14 winter was the most energetic period in the last 60 years (far exceeded the 1990 winter which was the previous highest).
The storm impact was not just a regional event; it also impacted Soulac, SW France.

Images of Damage















The destruction of the SW Railway line at Dawlish cost between £1-20 million per day, the total cost over 60 days has been estimated between £60 million and £1.2 billion.

How can you compare impact of storm event?

  • Beach survey – profile.
  • Real time kinematic GPS
  • Airborne LIDAR survey (from before or after)

These allow the researcher to quantify the sand lost (erosion) or gained (accretion).

In some beaches after the storm event a 1m strip of beach lost 200m of sand.

Where has the sand gone? (and will it come back)

  1. Offshore Accretion – primarily happened in the North Coast. The sand was washed to 3-4m off low tide level. It is not lost and some is making its way back.
  2. Alongshore (around the corner) – primarily happened on the South Coast, for example at Slapton.
  3. Onshore (over the top) – particularly a feature of gravel beaches, where sediment is washed over the top. There is no natural mechanism to recover the sediment can only be returned by humans.


Storm waves are related to the Atlantic pressure system; storm frequency, intensity and path will be effected by climate change (this year two major storms have missed the SW as the centre of the storm was further North).

Storm impacts show a larger geographic variability – the North Coast with offshore sediment transport and beach erosion, has already half way recovered, and it is expected to be fully recovered within two years. The South Coast had longshore sediment transport and beach rotation will not recover unless there are storms of the same magnitude in the opposite direction.

Increase in coastal hazard due to climate change because of sea level rise, increased storminess (more and more energetic).

There can be be a decrease in exposure to coastal hazards due to coastal management this includes, zonation, protection and managed realignment.

Gerd also shared details of the following website:, the Plymouth coastal observatory which contains beach profile data.

This post was based on my own notes and any errors are my own.

This is a one of a series of posts on the GA Conference 2015; the main post is here.

Parties in Crisis


This are the notes from the second book that I have been reading about the decline in American political parties.

  • Parties have increasingly seen their major campaign services slip away one by one as historical eras and the nation’s needs have changed. Party services have also been severely curtailed because of modern technology. Candidates are relying increasingly on the mass media, public opinions polls, and public relations experts instead of the parties. The parties thus being challenged by non-party political actors for the delivery of campaign services.


  • The function of the American political party can be summarised in six points:
    1. Educating the public.
    2. Mobilising and structuring the vote.
    3. Aggregating and articulating interests.
    4. Formulating policy
    5. Organising the government
    6. Recruiting leadership and providing campaign support for candidates.
  • A number of changes in the parties’ environment have helped to bring about their decline. These changes have occurred since World War I and may be summarised as follows:
    1. Changes in the party-clientele relationship: The replacement of patronage systems with merit appointment programs.
    2. Changes in the electorate: The increasing education and political sophistication of the voter.
    3. Development of the “new politics”: The replacement of the candidate’s traditional campaign techniques with the political management firm’s use of public opinion polls, advertising techniques, and mass media.
    4. Changes in the government-electorate relationship: The increasing role of government in dispensing social and economic aid to its clientele.
    5. Changes in the relationship of parties to other political organisations: The proliferation and growth of alternative political and interest groups.
    6. Changes in finance: The new legislation limits parties in their acquisition and expenditures of campaign funds.
  • Contemporary parties have lost their historical role of socialising Americans into the political system.
  • Absentee ballots are available to those who cannot vote in their districts on election day. The complexity of the process, the need for far sighted planning, and the tendency of businessmen and travellers (often Republicans) to cast absentee votes leads to a majority of absentee votes being cast for Republican party candidates.
  • Since the 1960s voters have shown their disdain for parties and candidates either by crossing party lines or by staying at home. In 1974 only about one in three Americans of voting age bothered to vote.Among those who did, ticket-spiting was at an all-time high.
  • Parties perform several basic functions that are aimed at either promoting or blocking legislation:
    1. They  select leaders who are responsible for advancing the business of the chamber.
    2. Party leasers help choose those who will fill subsidiary leadership positions.
    3. The leaders appoint members to the various committees.
    4. The leaders control the legislative agenda.
    5. The leaders serve as liaison between Congress and the executive branch.


  • The image below explains some reasons for incumbent advantage (click for larger image)


The Party’s Over: The Failure of Politics in America


As part of my teaching of Political Parties in the US Politics I have been reading a couple of notable texts on the theory of political parties. This is the notes from the first.

  • “Political parties in America have a peculiar status and history. They are not part of our written Constitution. The Founding Fathers, in fact, were determined to do all they could to see that they did not arise. Washington devoted much of his Farewell Address to warning his countrymen against “the dangers of the party in the state.”
  • By 1970, half again as many called themselves political independents as had done a generation earlier. In the 1968 election, more than half the voters reported splitting their tickets.
  • But the heritage of the Eisenhower era has not been so easily obliterated. Once broken, the links between the public and the political parties, the government and teh parties, have not mended. The fateful separation between national policy and party responsibility that began sixteen years ago continues today.
  • Traffic jams, smog, pollution, crime, inflation and a dozen other problems measure the failure of the government to anticipate, to identify and to remedy the unwanted side effects of America’s prosperity and growth.
  • The dirty little secret of American politics in the 1970s is that every single essential service we depend on some public agency to provide is seriously under financed. In an era of general affluence, we are simply not paying enough in taxes to maintain the necessary basic community service.
  • The classic, academic distinction between parties and interest groups was given us by the late V.O. Key, Jr “Pressure groups seek to attain the adoption of those policies of particular interest to them; they do not nominate candidates and campaign for control and responsibility of the government as a whole. Their work goes on regardless of which party is in power in the state, city or nation. Theirs is a politics of principle. “We must be partisan for a principle and not for a party,” and Samuel Gompers, speaking for the American Federation of Labor. “Labor must learn to use parties to advance our principles and not allow political parties to manipulate us for their own advancement.”
  • An interest group that is old and well established has an advantage over one that has just been formed. One that has a single narrowly-defined objective, directly related to the economic well-being of its members, is likely to be better financed and more successful than a group with a long agenda and an altruistic approach to issues. The first rule of interest group government is to “look out for yourself.” This means to the extent we rely on interest groups we resign ourselves to a significant degree of stagnation and selfishness in our public policies.
  • What is true of the South is true of the nation as a whole: It is not a single bloc of voters, but many such blocs which have cut loose from all their past allegiances and are on the move. While the South has been growing more Republican, New England and some suburbs have been growing more Democratic. Blacks have shown increasing political independence; like other minority groups – the Mexican-American, the American Indians – they have demonstrated their growing political consciousness by showing their willingness to shift partisan alignments in order to achieve their own specific goals. As the members of congressional Black Caucus said in 1971, “We do not intend to have our vision obscured by partisan blinders where the interests of our constituents … are concerned.”
  • Presidential press conferences have been carried live on television for fifteen years; each of the last four Presidents has used the medium more extensively for speeches than his predecessor. Senators, governors, congressmen, mayors all do their TV “reports to the people.” Political expenditures for purchased television time increased sevenfold between 1952 and 1968-one of the major reasons for the inflation in campaign costs. Television not only bypasses the party as the middleman in political communication, it tends to de-emphasise the party as part of the political process.