In our courtyard

Posted on April 19th, 2010 in thoughts | 1 Comment »

Something a little different from my usual posts. Yesterday I came across a video on a friends facebook page of the song Etzleinu Bechatzer featuring students of the Bialik-Rogozin school in Tel Aviv. The song title translates as “In our courtyard” and celebrates the many cultures and langauges around the world. You can see the lyrics here.

The video features children of many nationalities, all pupils at the school, and many children of foreign workers from rather deprived areas in Tel Aviv. I’m sure all is not always rosy at a school where 50 or so nationalities are represented but according to this article I came across the school is doing amazing things, especially with a group of Sudanese children, refugees from Darfur, brought to the school in the last year.

If anyone has an update I’d be very interested to hear. Of course we have similar schools in the UK and in London but I’m not sure how similar, maybe one day I’ll get to visit!

About a month ago I was contacted by a PR agency working for the TDA on teacher recruitment. They were looking to make a Youtube film to attract people into ICT Teaching following a similar successful campaign around maths in everyday life. Amazingly they approached me after reading this blog and hearing my interview for the Edonis Project.

I had a long and fairly tiring day at Waterfall Studios in Shepherds Bush filming in front of a green screen and constantly forgetting my lines and having to do things again and again from different angles. The results are below and I’m in awe of the computer graphics that they have put around me to make a totally empty room look full.

Film 1

Film 2

I find both videos rather cringeworthy to watch (I did have a cold and a cough on the day of filming!) but I hope they have some effect. I know for sure London and the South East are short of qualified ICT teachers. After completing my Computer Science and Software Engineering degree the world of programming didn’t have much attraction to me and I went into teaching as it brought together two passions of mine, education and technology.

Technology continues to bring so much to education and it is so inspiring being part of online communities such as twitter, mirandanet and edtechroundup where practitioners actively share the most inspirational and creative uses of tech in the classroom.

In common with many other ICT teachers I sometimes find what we teach a little frustrating. Sometimes students are not challenged by the curriculum, you often hear tales of students being fed up with teachers who know far less than they do (not in my school!) and the numbers taking examinations in ICT and Computing continue to fall. Again there are a number of inspirational people working to rectify this including the recently formed computing at school group who are pushing forward new ideas for getting computing into school.

Being a teacher and an ICT teacher isn’t an easy job, you have to learn to manage all the distractions that computers and the internet offer to children, you have to constantly keep up with all the new software and technology that change every year, and you have to help your colleagues out with all their ICT problems. But you also get to use technology that can be inspiring, children love computers, and once you get over the hurdle of realising that you can’t know everything, learning a new trick from an 11 year old student is a real joy!

Often good things come at once. Sometimes they come at the same time and you can’t make them all – but yesterday the all worked out fine and I had a busy but fantastic day that I had to share on my blog!

On a normal day I’m in school all day, teaching classes, preparing for them or doing work around my e-learning responsibilities. Most of my CPD nowadays I tend to do in my own time, via twitter, online groups such as edtechroundup or evening meetings like Mirandamods. Occasionally I get to go to a course, in the daytime – a real old fashioned Inset!

This Thursday was one of those days – I headed over to the institute of education for a morning session on mentoring. This was the third installment of this course aimed at people like me who are mentoring participants in the graduate teacher programme (a method of teacher training in the UK). The course was useful and we learnt about different methods of mentoring most of which was new to me. By the time we had finished it was too late to head back into school so I’d arranged to try and teach my A-level computing class online.

I headed over to the British Library, a wonderful place to work, and it has free Wi-Fi. I sat myself down in the cafe and waited to see if any of my class would join me in an online flashmeeting. Almost on the dot the first students arrived – 3 joined from home and 3 from the school library. We had a 40 minute online lesson and it went okay. The main problem was the other fascinated year 13 students in the school library who kept on coming over to see what was going on. One even joined the lesson. Aside from these disruptions we actually got some work done. I talked the students through database normalisation using a hefty powerpoint presentation. It was hard working out if students were listening, participating or learning. I gauged this by asking questions and getting students to summarise what I had been saying. Based on the answers obviously something had got through! I did get a few strange looks from people in the library cafe.

No sooner had the online lesson finished when I got a skype call from Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano also known as @langwitches . Her 6th grade class interviewed me as part of their project on Jewish communities around the world. I’ve tried to help set them up with different friends of mine on different countries. Apparently Silvia has managed to cover every continent even Antartica! The girl who interviewed me asked great questions and I really enjoyed our 10 minute chat and meeting some of Silvia’s students. I’m very jealous of their project and look forward to seeing the results!

After an hour to kill in the British Library (which flies by when you have work to do) I headed over to the Moorgate offices of Oracle UK where I listened and joined in with the Owers Lecture 2009. The title of the lecture was “Can we reverse the decline of schools’ computing especially with girls”. The two main speakers were Kate Sims and Stephen Heppell who gave plenty of food for though. This was carried on through an audience discussion (we’d by then reformed into a circle) where we heard many points of view. I hope some of the lecture will soon be shared online by the people that were recording it. It’s well worth watching and I will add a link here if it arrives.

Overall a fantastic day – I like to think my school gets value for money when I pop out for an inset!

This Summer I’ve been a bad blogger despite having so many posts up my sleeves and in progress. 2 weeks left until school starts and I’m setting myself up a mini office (a laptop ona table) to mark coursework, learn a programming language, get up to date on the new A2 course and of course write some blog posts.To put a little pressure on myself here’s some blog posts I’m planning on writing and finishing – if they don’t appear somebody hassle me until I do! I guess as I write them I’ll edit this post to link to them.

  1. A review of a year of VLE and e-learning at school.
  2. A few great examples of VLE use this year at school.
  3. My experiences of creating a scorm e-learning resource.
  4. Nintendo DS in the classroom.
  5. My MA research into “What gets kids on a VLE and what difference does age make”
  6. Some cool bits of a cool school I visited (in Boston)

Doing all of those in the next two weeks is a little ambitious but at least I now have a plan. Hope everyone in the Northern Hemisphere is enjoying their Summer and everyone in the Southern Hemisphere their Winter.