Gender stereotypes in life, in schools and in education

Certainly in the UK, and I know in many other countries we have problems getting girls and boys to study some subjects. As a Computer Science undergraduate at Edinburgh and Birmingham Universities it was hard not to notice the ratio of boys to girls, I would estimate at least 80% boys when I studied 10 years ago. Similar gender imbalances are common in subjects like physics, science in general and I know conversely some subjects struggle to recruit boys.

As a teacher I was always impressed by the efforts made by individual teachers to get a variety of students to take their subject. During one school fire drill, with all the kids streaming onto the field, it was unusual but great to see a boys PE class come out of the dance studio while a girls group were playing touch rugby on the field. Many national organisations have taken this up and I know in the world of ICT and Computing teaching E-skills UK were one group to take on the challenge especially with their creative CC4G programme which I led for 2 years in my own school.

Two recent events have reminded me of the problem of getting girls into certain fields.

First was the Royal Society’s Call for evidence on Computing in Schools. I made some small contributions to the Mirandanet response to this and received a copy of the BCS and Computing at School’s group response, (Computing at School CAS is a fantastic organisation that works to promote computing in UK schools). The CAS response showed the numbers of students taking Computing at A-level taken from the JCQ (Joint Council for Qualifications) website. I was astonished to learn that last year only 278 girls took A2 computing in whole of England. I taught 3 of them so actually taught over 1% of girls A2 Computing in 2009/2010. All rather depressing. But at least lots of good people are doing good things to try to slowly redress the balance.

That was the first shock I had, the second was a little more surprising. On a bored Sunday Tube (London Underground) journey I picked up a copy of the Toys R Us catalogue sitting on the seat next to me and had a flick through. I promise you I’m not a serial reader of children’s toy catalogues! I was rather surprised with some of the items they were selling and the pictures of each gender child next to the items.

First up the telescopes and sciencey toys

Science Toys
Boys like telescopes

As you can see it’s the boys who are enjoying playing with the telescopes though there is a girl enjoying an anatomy toy. Strike 1 for promoting physics to boys and not girls.

So let’s move to the next photo

Girls with shopping sweeping and ironing toys
Girls with shopping sweeping and ironing toys

Yes that’s right, the girls are not just playing with their ice-cream makers but shopping, sweeping and ironing. Hmm this is getting a little 1950s stereotypical now but it’s all innocent isn’t it. So let’s check on the next page.

Boy with DIY girl with the Cooking
Boy with DIY girl with the Cooking

When I saw these I had to look again, no not at the rather weird thought that a parent may buy their child a toy McDonalds kitchen, but by the other sterotypes. The boy doing his DIY, the girl playing in the kitchen. But wait what’s that in the bottom photo? Is it…

Girl serving boy a burger
Girl serving boy his dinner

…yes a little girl serving food to the little boy, how delightful.

I worry science and ICT teachers are fighting a losing battle.

Controlled Assessment on computers – how do you do it?

For those looking for an easy answer on how to do controlled assessments… I’m afriad I haven’t got it yet. In the UK the exam boards have come up with the concept of Controlled Assessment – this is a replacement for coursework, much of which was done at home which was seen to be too open for interference by parents or other cheating and discriminatory to some especially those who do not have facilities or people to help them at home. There are of course  other reasons for this change.

This seems to have caused a  problem that has suddenly jumped out of nowhere at many schools and certainly at our school with History, Geography, Drama, Citizenship, ICT and probably others all faced with the dilemma of how to get students to produce coursework in lessons without them having access to it outside lessons.

Each subject and each exam board seems to have a different set of rules which seem to include

  • No access to work outside of lessons
  • No access to sites on the internet to help them with work
  • No access to internet
  • No access to school network
  • No access to certain programs
  • No ability to save work in pupil area or e-mail home

I’m not a school network expert – for some schools who are well resourced and have the expertise this probably isn’t a problem. But for many who are stretched it is no doubt causing many headaches. It potentially means every student doing these assessments needs a separate login and account just to do this work – for my average sized school you are talking potentially 300-400 accounts – possibly setup differently for different subjects. For A-level Computing we’ve already had to deal with a similar dilemma – the new online AS exam is all done with access to a small subset of programs and no network or internet access – for the last 2 exams out technicians have reinstalled a whole suite of computers just for the exam students have logged in to do the exam (sometimes in 2 sittings) and then the machines were reinstalled back to normal! For our network manager and technicians this was the simplest way.

Here are a few solutions that we have used or thought up or heard from with for controlled assessments (not all tried and tested)

1. Memory Sticks – students use a generic login which restricts their access – students then save their work on the memory stick at the end of the lesson and the teacher takes the stick in. – advantages: simple! very simple. disadvantages: memory sticks can go wrong or get lost, work is not backed up with the school systems, lots of memory sticks need to be bought – again possibly for every subject.

2. VLE handin – similar to the above students login to an account only allowing access to certain features. They upload their work to the VLE and the teacher locks the work: Advantages: No USB sticks! Disadvantages: Requires internet (if VLE hosted offsite), fiddly for students and teachers, requires ways to open and close work every lesson.

3. Networking knowhow – The experts at Edugeek have a few solutions including this one – – for some of these solutions it requires an assessment role to be created (like students and teacher roles) and this is turned on and off at the start and end of every lesson.  I imagine this would be done manually. Advantages: It should work and hopefully less fiddly for the less techy teacher – Disadvantages: Network administrator workload heavy

4. Yacapaca – this is similar to the VLE approach. We love Yacapaca in our ICT department for lots of types of quizzes, homeworks and assessment – it’s very easy to use, easy to setup and completely free (though you can pay a reasonable price for support should you wish) In their last e-mail they sent instructions on how to use their system for controlled assessment as explained in this blog post Advantages: Simple, fast Disadvantages: Still need to restrict certain features on school network (though not as complicated) Need to setup Yacapaca accounts (though this is easy to do) Restricted file formats, needs internet access.

2 post publishing additions:

  • do it on paper by hand – this is seriously being considered by some people – Advantages: It doesn’t get any simpler technology wise, no worrying that an exam board will tell you that you are a cheat. Disadvantages: No spellcheck, redrafting means rewriting, hard to read, moderator may not like hand drawn submissions as much.
  • Just do things as normal with your regular system but keep a close eye on students (suggested by Mr Thomson in the comments below) – I like this one! Advantages: Easy, you treat your students as responsible people rather than potential cheats. Disadvantages: Some qualifications may not allow this, need to monitor students to ensure they do not save copies of work elsewhere, possible sleepless nights if you are paranoid about exam boards deciding this isn’t correct.

So what do I recommend – I recommend whatever is easiest for you!

Please do add your suggestions to the comments and if I have made any mistakes do correct me.

Teachmeet Moodle reflections

Thanks to all the organisers of Teachmeet Moodle. It was a well spent 5 hours or so! I have a few reflections, some on the great Moodling I saw, and some on the Teachmeet format.

Moodle Reflections:

There were some superb presentations on the day – many of which are linked to on the Teachmeet Moodle wiki – James Michie has also summarised and linked to some of the presentations on his Blog

My top highlights were:

James Michie‘s  comprehensive but fast paced 72 slide presentation on Moodle in his school. It gave so many great example.

Gideon Williams fantastic presentation on Moodle plugins at his school

Helen Morgan’s presentation on how visuals can improve learning and participation – blindingly obvious,  so simple to implement and proven good practice.

Dai Barnes presentation on quizzes in Music (with embedded music)

and Miles Berry on how he now uses Moodle in teacher training

But of the above I have to again mention Gideon Williams – it was the second time I have met him and both his style of presentation (lighthearted!) and amazing moodling were fantastic. If you want to see a great school Moodle I don’t think there is a better example than that of Perins School

Teachmeet Reflections:

I’ve lost count of how many Teachmeet’s I’ve now attended – probably around 10 now including one I organised at the Computing at School Hubs Conference. There is always discussion about how they should be structured and this one again was very different and I think very good.  Here’s a few points of note about the structure on the day.

We started with a speednetworking session – everyone was given a table to fill in names, e-mail and expertise of other people and we went round to a whistle meeting person after person for a few minutes until we were told to move on. It was a great and simple way to network and get a good atmosphere in the room (especially as we has started at 10.30 am and there was little of the beer in the room that facilitates the networking in many teachmeets!)

We had one commercial presentation at the start – from the sponsors SchoolsICT – I think this was received well by the audience partly because they didn’t think to protest. But also because of the ethos of many Moodlers that if you are developing something to enhance Moodle then you are a good person. Personally, I thought it was a shame to start with this presentation, but I have no problem with a presentation from a sponsor – though there is an obvious red line when it becomes a sales pitch (this one wasn’t).

Time Limits were not kept to – I think some flexibility with time limits is good, some great presentation take a little more than the 7 minute teachmeet limit. But some timekeeping is necessary and Nano presentations become pointless if other presentations are allowed to go on and on. Short presentations also keep the audience attentive!

Video presentations – One pre-recorded screencast was shown – I don’t really think this is necessary as we schlepped all the way in we could have just watched the presentation in our own time. Live video presentations are another thing.

Overall, it was a very good teachmeet, it had a great friendly, informal and collaborative atmosphere. I think that’s what happens when you bring two great communities, teachmeet and moodle together.

Teachmeet Moodle and Teachmeet Fishbowl

There’s a great run of Teachmeets on at the moment – where I am just North of London there have been about 4 or 5 within an hour’s drive of here in the last month.

If you’ve not been to a Teachmeet try one out, they are great opportunities for learning, entertainment and networking and the best ones have an equal mix of each. To read about my Teachmeet Experiences you can take a look at all of my posts tagged Teachmeet.

I won’t explain the format here as it does so on the Teachmeet website – but I wanted to share my excitement for Teachmeet Moodle tomorrow and reflect a little on Teachmeet Fishbowl.

Teachmeet Moodle is the first Moodle Centric Teachmeet and is bringing together a great looking list of Moodle users – – I have become a big fan of Moodle over the last few years, it’s one of the many tools we use in our school (A VLE on its own doesn’t do everything!) And many of my Teachmeet presentations have covered work we have done in Moodle. The sad part with Moodle and VLEs is that Teachers’ work is often locked behind passworded areas of the site – this is usually quite right as I don’t want strangers joining my class of Year 7 pupils – but it is a shame that we don’t find the time to make open copies of our course for other teachers to peruse. It’s not even that I want to download and use courses from other teachers (though sometimes I do!) but it’s getting that inspiration and seeing how other people use the same bit of software but for a very different purpose.

I shall try and report back tomorrow or over the weekend on what I learned from the Teachmeet.

A fortnight ago I attended my first Teachmeet Fishbowl in Oxfordshire. It was an interesting evening and an interesting format – it is important that the Teachmeet model doesn’t remain static though I would call the Fishbowl more of a brainstorming session – there were no presenters but a group of people sitting round a table working out a solution to a problem along with interjections from the audience and a few brave people switching in and out of the table. By the time the third session/fishbowl had started boundaries had dropped and there was no longer a real inner table and outer circle but just one big melding of minds with everyone in the circle chipping in. For me the Fishbowl was not a revolutionary format – but it is a structured way of getting people to collaborate informally (is that an Oxymoron?). It was fun, it was reasonably effective and it was fast paced and fun. We certainly came up with a large variety of ideas. As a technique I could see it working if you had a specific problem to solve and I guess the biggest problem we had is that the issues we were discussing were not issues that we had brought up ourself. The evening was also rather Primary focused with only three Secondary teachers present, but this in itself was a learning experience – there should be much more collaboration between Primary and Secondary teachers both in terms of pedagogy, school transition and subjects knowledge – we all have something to gain. 

Thanks to all those who organised and are organising or sponsoring these Teachmeets and I look forward to many more.

Using Ducks to promote our school VLE

Our biology staff recently refurbished our school pond which had  been lying empty of  both water and life for many years.

School pond in the snow
School Pond in the snow

About 2 months ago a pair of handsome ducks decided to take up residence at the pond. As you can imagine this was rather an exciting event both for the students and staff at the school. The staffroom became a staff  bird hide and the benches near the pond a focal point for students. Many a parentally prepared sandwich ended in a ducks stomach. Everyone started thinking of names for the ducks and insisted their name was the correct one – I spotted a chance for the VLE to offer a bit of pupil voice and democracy.

I set up a “Duck Group” on our VLE Rickypedia (a moodle course named duck group) with a forum to suggest names, a forum to share duck trivia and advice and a database to share photos. I posted a news story on the front page of the VLE to encourage people to nominate names for ducks and ask for any volunteers to help. Students immediately started nominating names, a few gave suggestions (with links and references) on how to care for ducks and what to feed them (some say not at all and some say sparingly and not bread). One volunteer, a talented Year 7 student called Owen, came forward and I gave him control of the duck group.

School Ducks

Before long students had nominated around 20 names for a vote and Owen had totally revamped the duck group adding great graphics, a spot the ducks forum to report news of their locations and a duck survey using google forms. At the end of term we closed the nominations and Owen set up a poll (I sent him a link to a YouTube video showing how to set up a poll and he did the rest). The poll opened and a few weeks and 150 votes later we closed the poll.

I must say I was a little disappointed by the choice of name but the students had spoken and the result was even more surprising than the general election – the winning pair of names was “Green Head” and “The Other One” followed by Donald and Daisy and Gavin and Stacey!

I shall leave you with a recent photo of the ducks and the wonderful graphic created by Owen to celebrate the winners.

Ducks in Pond
Ducks in Pond
Ducks and Students
Ducks and Students
Duck Winners
Duck Winners

Goodbye Year 11, Certificates and Facebook

Yesterday I had my last ICT lesson with my Year 11 GCSE ICT class. They leave school for study leave on Thursday.

We had a little party with cake, took a group photo and I printed them all certificates with a different award for each pupil. (A good bit of mail merge revision too!)

One girl took out her mobile to snap a photo of her certificate and uploaded and tagged it on facebook (via her mobile).

Did I…

(a) Marvel at how technology is used by teens and schlep nachas (take pride – yiddish) that my student had liked the certificate.

(b) Ask her to delete the photo and confiscate the phone.

(c) Phone her parents and warn them of the dangers of a 16 year old having unfiltered access to the internet on their phone.

Answers on a postcard…

ICT certificate

In our courtyard

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!

Staff E-learning Newsletter – Issue 2

Below is our latest staff e-learning newsletter that was supposed to get sent out in the last week of term but got caught in the chaos of the snow! It’s been slightly edited for privacy reasons.


Here’s what in this newsletter

1. Reminder of how to get on the VLE
2. It’s Google Time
3. VLE Teacher of the month
4. VLE teacher targets
5. Online tool of the month
6. Reminder about Nintendo DS Consoles
7. 10 Great online tools with tips on how to use them in class

1. Reminder of how to get on the VLE –
Just log in at using your eportal username and password. A helpsheet is available for students but all KS3 students should know how to log on from their ICT lessons.

2. It’s Google Time
Regular Rickypedia users may have noticed the new google icons on the top right of the page when you log in. Click on them and have a try, all students and teachers have accounts for Google Apps and once you have logged into Rickypedia you don’t need to log in again just click on the shortcuts.
Here’s a few things you can do with Google Apps
Make on online survey with a few clicks – results go into a spreadsheet
Have upto 20 students working a single presentation simultaneously
Share a document with a student and put your feedback directly on it.
I’ve you want some tutorial videos just ask me, there are plenty around!

3. VLE Teacher of The Month
November saw great new courses from Geography, RE, History, Science and ICT but the winner this month is Mr. White and his PE Course.
Although Mr. White hasn’t used millions of fancy features his course is a great example of how to lay out a simple and attractive course that students can use to find resources and homework in lessons and at home.
I’ve attached a file with 2 pages of his course (I had to cut it at bit as it went to 7 pages!) Mr White A2 Exercise Physiology
This kind of course will be especially useful to students come revision time as it has all the work neatly organised for them!

4. VLE Teacher Targets
Not many people have been to see me to pick up their gold stars for meeting a target!
Beginner: Create a new course and add something to it.
Intermediate: Add a picture to your course
Advanced: Set up a glossary for students to add in their keywords.
If you finish a challenge come and see me and I’ll give you a ‘well done’ sticker, 3 stickers and you can have a certificate!

5. Online tool of the Month
If you like mindmapping, brainstorming or for the overly political correct thought showering try out these 2 website. a great simple tool – click start brainstorming and you’re away – you don’t need to register but if you do it lets you save your diagrams online – if not then you can save your diagrams as pictures on your PC – a more complex and sophisticated tool. You need to register – this lets you attach files or links to websites in your brainstorms, it also lets you invite other people (or students to collaborate with you)

6. Nintendo DS Consoles
Another reminder about them! They are great for lessons but also really great for filling long form periods. They are a great reward for students that get planners signed – you’ll never get an unsigned planner again!

7.Nic Peachy is a language teacher into his online stuff. He shares many great resources including this one with 10 web tools and 10 ways you can use them in your classroom

Wishing You a great Christmas Holiday

BETT 2010 Fringe Events, TEDx, Amplified & Teachmeet

If you are lucky enough to be going and haven’t already made plans for your evening(s), I’d like to draw your attention to some events that might prove a welcome and invigorating contrast to the hurly-burly of the exhibition floor.

On Wednesday 13th Jan at 6pm there will be a free TEDx event with a stimulating line-up of inspirational speakers from diverse backgrounds. TEDxOrenda at BETT is an individually organised TED event that epitomises the tradition of TED as a vehicle for ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’.
More details of the TEDxOrenda event can be found here:
The event is FREE and tickets are available from here:

On Thursday 14th Jan there will be a free AmplifiED event, again from 6pm. AmplifiED follows a Barcamp, unconference model and is essentially a participatory event that involves table discussion around topics and themes. In this case, the topics for discussion will be education-based and possibly provoked by the BETT show itself.
More details of the AmplifiED event can be found here:
The event is FREE and tickets are available from here:

On Friday 15th at 6pm a Teachmeet will take place. For those unfamiliar with the Teachmeet format, it is an event that consists of short (2min or 7 min) presentations given by practitioners. These presentations are about great ideas and what works well in the classroom.
More details of the Teachmeet event can be found here:
The event is FREE and although there are no formal ticketing arrangements, you are encouraged to sign up to the wiki (above).

If you are going to be at BETT, do consider spending an evening or two/three at the above event(s). Whether you can attend any, some or all, I am sure it will add considerable value to your visit.

If you are not planning on going to BETT or if you can’t make it to any of the evening events, keep an eye on the links above for archives, livestreams, twitcams, flashmeetings, etc.

(Thanks to Dughall McCormick for putting the above message together and distributing)

Hope to see many people there!