EdCamps – What’s that about?

So, after attending the EdChange Global event, I reflected on one of the sessions, and quite a bit at that. It was titled, “So, you want to run and EdCamp” (the video will be shared soon). The idea that came to me upon first heading EdCamp was summer camp, where teachers came to support learners in a range of areas that children wanted to learn about.

I missed the mark a little but, but the truth might seem a little crazier: Edcamps are where educators go, in their free time, voluntarily and attend sessions without prior knowledge of what the session is going to be. Kind of like a blind date for professional development. Well, blind dates let you see the person as you walk across the restaurant to meet them, which is about all the warning you get at an EdCamp. Sound crazy?!? Well, yeah, it is. Until you attend. Then it seems like what every PD session should be.

Imagine it’s the beginning of the school year and you have your priorities. So, you pull out the master book with all the PD opportunities and leaf through until you find one that you want. Great, your happy, box is ticked. In two months, you’ll spend an hour or so, after school, with 30 other like minded educators discussing the topic you selected, listening to an expert sharing their successes, maybe resources, maybe strategies, and maybe other things. Box ticked, back to work and you have a lot that you can apply to your teaching.

Now, an EdCamp. You have a date and a venue. It could be a school, an office, another building, or it could be online. You don’t have a box to tick to choose your session. You know where /when and maybe who if there are others going with you or a known educator is advertising it. You don’t know what. Yes, that’s right, you’re going to a PD session without knowing what the session topic is going to be.

But, when you get there, you see a board, or a series of tables, or some other system of recording ideas: you get to suggest the session topics there and then. In fact, if you suggest it, you might have a hand in encouraging participation.

Example: I like being connected with other educators. I have a professional learning network (PLN), which is fairly diverse, but I am always looking for it to grow. Why not suggest that for a session.

So, my first EdCamp (which will also have video available soon), I did just that. I had no plan, no outline, no script and I did not have all the answers but I did have questions. The thing is, the other participants were in the same boat – they had questions, answers and were willing to share. What a lovely, organic experience. It didn’t matter how ‘off-topic’ the conversation got, that was the point! The point was that there be conversation, sharing, connections! A shout out to Sarah Thomas (@sarahdateechur) the founder of #Edumatch for being part of the organising (organizing) team, thank you for this opportunity.

My first EdCamp and I am itching for more. Maybe a physical one in the UK could be coming soon. I know there are connected educators on my side of the pond, maybe they just haven’t been exposed to this free system! Here’s another participant’s take on the EdCamp.

Let’s get connected! #CEduAD

A New Journey

Taking a step away from safety and security can be a very daunting prospect. The number of start-ups that managed only the first step is a testament to this.

Being a leader without any followers is an equally daunting prospect. The number of people looking at you as though you have lost your mind are going to far outweigh those that choose to follow, well, at the start anyway. Once you get that first follower though, and maybe a second, there are not quite so many incredulous looks. Your followers might even lead their own tribe too.

I am at the start of my journey and aim to go the distance. I know what I have left and I am glad that I have. I know what I want and feel I know the best direction in which to travel.

This road isn’t straight or smooth. There are no short cuts and the rest stops are few. But I have had successes already and when success is achieved it only encourages you to greater heights.

Where I was was safe and secure, but I had my place and was fixed there. I am looking ahead to greater freedom for myself, my family and others around me.

Who else wants to join me?

EdChange Global 18 has been wound up

EdChange GlobalWow, wow and wow!

What an amazing event built and run by an amazing group of individuals. I have never before felt so buoyed by others to stay and learn at the next event, and then the next one too.

When I first heard of EdChange Global, I thought it would be an ideal place to do some networking, build my PLN and maybe present something. I designed a presentation and clicked on 2 sessions that looked interesting. Then, the introductory session happened…

The energy was palpable, the enthusiasm infectious and, as the intro finished about 7pm BST, I thought I might attend a couple more. That was Friday evening. I went to bed at 12am. I got up just before 8am. 8am! On a Saturday! Yeah, I know!

I am so happy that I did!

I had initially clicked on two events before the session started, I attended 15 at the end of the 24 hours. 15 PD sessions in one day. I didn’t even know that was possible. And sure, people were seeing my name and face and hearing my words, but that isn’t why I stayed. I stayed because I was learning. I stayed because the people were so happy to be there. This is at 2am CST, happy, to be there!

No where else and at no other time have I ever experienced anything like this. I need to be part of this again, and I am dying to be a part of something like this in the UK.

Anyone else interested?

Below I am adding in some movers and shakers you should check out if you happened to stumble across this blog post (and below that are the sponsors from the event, you guys rock):

 @ @   @educatoralex @LanguageToolbox @ireneamelia1 


Sorry for anyone I missed. Looking forward to the next one.

Edchange Global

Join me at https://www.edchangeglobal.com/ for a celebration of Global Change in Education.

Choose from a vast array of presentations – including mine, which discusses the need for building relationships before reporting on learning progress.

The link to my presentation is https://edchangeglobal.sched.com/event/03af2a497d47eea4bcd1b3493fae8921 and you can access resources to it in the previous blog post.

I hope to see you there.

Developing community before writing reports

How often have you made it through the year to the parent-teacher-learner conference and are meeting a parent for the first time? I am guilty of this in the past, but think the approach in the video below has supported change in this area.

I have a video as a walk through and the initial presentation I used to present to two years of newly qualified teachers. If you would like to contribute to the presentation, please either add your email in the comments below or email me directly at michael@fillthegaplearning.co.uk.

The Prezi presentation can be found here.

Learner Expectations

I have been reading about Pisa recently, and some of the findings of the most recent maths assessment. Of note, is the difference between how some countries manage learners who are behind their peers.

The most successful countries seem to follow one basic mantra:

Expect no less of learners who are facing challenges to their learning.

But how, you might ask? By beginning this from the beginning, is the answer: learners who are identified as have support needs are supported to achieve; they are not given diminished expectations, they are given support to achieve, and progress, with their peers.

How uplifting for teachers and learners to have ‘whole class learning’ all year round! How uplifting for all learners to experience progression over the course of a year! How uplifting for all learners to have a voice in the classroom at all times for all things, rather than some learners being taken out for support on their ‘alternate plan’! How uplifting for shared success for learners in a classroom, rather than the ‘best’ or ‘most confident’ receiving the majority of accolades!

For countries faring worse on the Pisa test, learners with difficulties had support plans, expectations were lowered and involvement with the life of the classroom was decreased. As you can imagine, if a learner, who has had a lower expectation of learning, takes the same assessment as a peer, who has had a higher expectation of learning, the results will not and cannot be the same!

This problem is easy to describe but difficult to solve, unless a forward thinking individual, with enough authority, encourages a shift in how educators approach expectations for all learners. If schools start supporting learners from the start, while maintaining high expectations for everyone, who’s to say what might happen?

Learning Through Technology

I had the privilege today, of attending an education conference focusing on technology in education. The refreshing outcomes were the almost united messages from all of the panelists and delegates that pedagogy comes first, technology is only a tool to support this.

As a comparison, there are too many articles on LinedIn that claim to be the next big thing for education – for learners and educators – and will fix, or, at the very least, go far to reducing or removing many of the current system’s failings: a device that will engage learners to write through the use of a fancy device; a system that will improve learning, by itself, with only 10 minutes a day; digital technology that will be able to reach the most remote learners. These articles all claimed this ‘thing’ would be what teachers need; a magic bullet, if you will.

I much preferred today’s discussion from leaders and experienced professionals working in education now, not selling to education. The stress, from the speakers, was that the human element was what is needed to inform learners of their next steps, analyse their current status and diagnose where and why any barriers exist to progression. A tool, or digital device, can inform you that a mistake has been made; if ‘intelligent’ enough, a tool could maybe even tell a teacher what the mistake indicates, but it is the educator’s role to investigate errors, identify the patterns and evaluate how to enable a learner to achieve to their potential: determine the root of the problem and how best to address it.

#ltt18 was a wonderful chance to listen to informed leaders and educators with experience about designing, implementing, changing with / through technology. Not one mentioned relying on it.

What a great day.

Marking Work

As a former teacher, I often spent hours marking weekly and learners’ daily efforts to check my instruction and their understanding.  But, it’s one thing to mark something right or wrong, another thing to discover why something is right or wrong and a further thing to decide how to either improve, for the learner or the guide.

I felt any lesson I gave where learners were able to contribute to discussion a success.  More success was felt when learners were successful with the suggested practice.  This success continued to grow when: I found something I had not done wonderfully well this time but could do better, and knew how to do it better; I found something that learners could have done better and found a way to improve their understanding; the next steps were already planned; the next steps weren’t ideal but I know how to make them so.

Teaching and learning are not fixed and should never be thought so as such, ever!  Every plan can be better, all learning can be enhanced and so can instruction.

Numbers or Numerals

“I can count to 10!!” Tim shouted as he ran in the front door.

“Fantastic!” replied his dad.  “Show me.”

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10!” exclaimed Tim, excitedly.

“Wonderful!” cheered his dad.  “Now,” he said, “can you show me how much one is?”

“Sure,” said Tim.  And he proceeded to write the numeral 1.  All smiles, he showed his dad, “There!”

“OK,” said his dad, “and can you show me how much four is?”

Tim took a moment to count in his head to four, scrunching up his face to concentrate, and began to draw some squiggly lines that looked a lot like the numeral 4.  “That one is tricky,” said Tim.

“Good work Tim,” said his dad.

The problem is, Tim doesn’t actually know how much a number is worth at this point, he knows a sequence but does not have a value for each one, he also has a symbolic memory for a number word.

Sequences are fairly easy to remember but more difficult to learn, think of your phone number, a sequence of numbers that doesn’t change; your address, if more than one digit; your birthday; etc.  These are sequences that we remember, but we do not attach  value to them, nor do we need to.

Numerals are symbols that take the place of a word.  Numbers are values that can be ordered as numerals or collections of objects.  Learning numerals is an exercise in comprehension, memory and handwriting.  Learning number is an exercise in value recognition and comparison.

Eventually, numerals can be used to great effect when the understanding of the value of the number is secure.  Numerals get in the way of said understanding though and really should not be taught until after the value of a number is understood.

Learning is an organic, fluid process

Learning should be fluid not compartmentalised into blocks or units that can be ticked off as they are covered.  For learners to meet their potential, they should have the confidence to know: their strengths and weaknesses are acknowledged and catered for; when they face a barrier, they know that a coach will help them find a door to overcome it; when they are faced with something new, they know how to use their prior learning to make sense of the new and make it familiar.

In a classroom, this does happen but is amazingly difficult.  Some classes have greater thirty learners with very diverse needs and abilities.  There are teachers who have their finger on the pulse and alter instruction, practice, assessment and feedback when needed.  However, there are other teachers who are either: new, and haven’t the knowledge base to support such a range; lacking in passion or drive and are looking only to tick boxes and collect a paycheck; toward the end of their career and either too tired to devote the needed energy or too stuck in their ways to keep up with new strategies to support or unaware of the challenges facing learners today; challenges that were not present 10 years ago or even more recently.

With an online platform, this individual learning progression is still difficult because, although the time given to each learning outcome can be extended or shortened, the order of progression is still largely fixed.  A program will, after successful completion of a piece of learning, suggest next steps for learners but this is often the same next steps that are suggested to every learner of the program.  The upside of this form of practice is that learners can repeat the practice again and again until they feel comfortable and confident about moving on.  This is not the same as instruction.

Learners need informed guides who can see where they are now, where they were in the past and where they are headed next.  Teachers do that but parents, or other adults who can devote time to more of a 1 on 1 relationship can do far more.  It is this tailored approach that will allow all to fill the gaps in their learning and pass what the average learner can.  This approach would allow all learners to meet their potential.

Who knows what that is?