UK

Every minute counts

Andy Hargreaves
@hargreavesBC

2015-10-02 08.58.22

‘Every minute counts’, began Hargreaves, opening the final day opening keynote, a presentation I was looking forward to a lot. He began with a personal story of his own life and his mother.

Hargreaves argued that the need was well beyond the basics, beyond 21C skills; it was about finding identity, engagement with history and the world.

He reminded us of old things, Delors in 1925 (learning to know, do, be, live together). He talked big picture, of being bold, of a national priority for ‘joy’ in the curriculum (Finland), of knowing where you want to go.

He made a case for PISA, arguing that evidence matters, especially in revealing matters of equity.

He admitted that boldness was harder to measure, and therefore perhaps riskier to go for; how will you know you’ve got there? But you need to try: to be bold and specific.

He argued for professional capital, for collective efficacy, ‘what do we believe we can do together’, not the star system of programs like Teach for America.

It was all bit scattered in the end, and if I hadn’t read his work, I would have thought even a bit shallow, but the key messages were very strong.

learning:now

I enjoyed a short session this week UK educator, Stephen Heppell, under the heading, ‘learning:now’. It was a kind of meandering tour of projects he’s been involved in, with a particular emphasis on learning spaces and some key messages that resonated with me.

I liked the way he used his desktop as the presentation tool, (see his website image above for a sense of that) pulling up images and doucments and movies as he thought of them (or that’s how it seemed) and now a powerpoint slide in sight. It did mean that at times the talk lacked the dotpoint focus that comes with those tools, but it was a lot more interesting and engaging for it.

He showed lots of learning spaces he’d been involved in co-constructing with students, or he just thought showed the kind of surprise and delight that thoughtful spaces give us. I liked his image of the UK system of everyone stopping for lunch at school at the same time (‘the only place in London where you can seat 1000 people for lunch is the Dorchester and every high school’) and what that meant for how the day involved. He was all for immersive learning, teach the first week of February for a month, and time at task.

The classroom spaces he showed were ‘shoeless’ places, often where every surface is a writing surface and where the student work was celebrated and maintained. He wanted places where students could sit, perch, slump, lie (did anyone ever choose to sit up straight to read a book he asked?) And what was the point of staff rooms, he asked. If we’re all learners, why have a special space for old learners?

He talked a lot about a classroom space at Lampton, UK, that the students had designed: mood lighting, writable surfaces, skype enabled but, signficantly, the students didn’t want the room filled with technology. We’ll bring our own, they argued, and plug in. That way it will be up to date! He drew a lot on the idea of family, showing us a school that had a bread oven near the entrance so that students could smell that fresh bread cooking as they arrived and talked in this way of ‘a learning family, not a learning factory’ and schools that moved beyond placement of students in age-related groups to peer support and peer learning. He argued for ‘in-betweeny’ time, keeping the day fresh and inviiting and playful ways to do the hard stuff.

He was in favour of social technologies like Skype and Twitter (he tweets here) and flipping the classroom, so that the routine work was done at home and the interesting and challenging stuff done collaboaratively at school. He showed us some slides of stupid things that schools ban, mostly mobile phones which were often the most powerful computers in the room, turned off or banned completely.

And he DID have some key messages that resonated with me:

  • Listen to the students
  • The most risky thing you can do as a school or a system is to do nothing.
  • Teachers needs to lead this discussion – the future competitors to our schools will be Pearson
  • If you can astonish kids with the place you create and the expectations you bring, they will astonish you

Meanwhile, on another island…

Not sure what it is with my latest habit of titling my posts with old references to film and TV (the title here is from my old fave ‘Gilligan’s Island”) but it just seemed to fit.

Just as we are sitting the students down to NAPLAN testing, news from the old dart is that those tests are being boycotted for the very same reasons many teachers have reservations about NAPLAN here.

The BBC report said:

Many head teachers say that the tests damage children’s education because they encourage teachers to “teach to the test”, so that other subjects are squeezed out of the curriculum.

And the league tables, they say, humiliate schools and do not show what they and their pupils really achieve.

The industrial action is being taken by the National Association of Head Teachers and heads and deputies in the National Union of Teachers but members are free to stage the action or not.

Mick Brookes, the general secretary of the NAHT, said it was wrong that a whole school should be held to account by a set of tests taken by one year-group.

“Of course schools need to be held to account. But they need to be held to account for what every child is doing in the school and the breadth of the curriculum, not just narrowing it down to English and maths.”

and from the GUARDIAN:

In Camberley, nine primary and junior schools that are members of the Surrey Heath Confederation of Schools had pupils sit old papers.

In a letter to parents, they explained: “We have no objection to testing and assessing children, but firmly believe that this should be done at a time, in a place and in a manner that is right for the children and that testing should underpin teacher judgment, not override it. Our objection relates to the way the government uses the test data, much of which is flawed by inconsistent marking.”

David Harris, the headteacher of one of the schools, Ravenscote junior school, said: “Obviously the children and staff have prepared all year for the Sats and what we wanted to do was provide a solution. Our problem is not with the testing, the issue we have is how the results are used.

“The schools in our confederation are doing an amazing job with the children they’ve got. But they have children with different needs and from different social backgrounds, and Sats don’t appreciate those things.”

Secondary schools could get a better picture of the performance and needs of individual pupils in next year’s intake by talking to teachers and hearing their personal assessments than through Sats results, Harris added.

Meanwhile, on this island…