Sharing ideas and all things ICT… I am a Y2 teacher, AHT, ICT subject leader and mum

Posts tagged ‘Ewan McIntosh’

Enquiry Based Learning – encouraging problem finders!

Well, I’ve finally found the time to post my first post of the new academic year.  As I have got the class blog all  up and running with my new class, I was champing at the bit to get cracking!

Over the summer (mainly due to a change in year group and topics/themes), I have tried to embrace the enquiry based learning approach, especially to history.  Having planned an outline of where I wanted to go, I have then given more emphasis on the activities which will allow the children to make better and more meaningful connections.  I’d hope I had always done this but by asking the children what they wanted to find out about Invaders and Settlers really opened my eyes to what interests them.  I assumed (wrongly as it turned out) that the children would come up with fairly predictable ideas but how wrong I was!  They gave me a varied and greater breadth of enquiry which certainly fired me up.  From these initial ideas (which we used post it notes to record), I devised activities that I believe will deepen their thinking skills and expand their capabilities.  This ideas of planning together really enthused the children too as they were involved with not just the learning process but the planning one as well.  This ownership is just the beginning in our creative  learning journey.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Ewan McIntosh‘s ‘Problem finder’s not problem solver’s’ analogy certainly struck a chord with me and I wanted to incorporate much of what he said into my teaching practice (wherever possible).  I’d be lying if I didn’t say it takes more time and organisation but hopefully the experiential learning that occurs will be the reward.

Image from

Twitter – a year on…

I was fortunate to be asked to present at SWGfL ICT conference for a second time last week following on from a very successful GBL project Playing the Writing Game (PTWG) in Wiltshire.  I wanted to write a post about it because embarking on this particular project has sent me in an altogether different direction to that I was travelling before it began.  The project as you will probably know if you have been following previous posts was to use games in the classroom to inspire and motivate underachieving and disengaged boys.  More specifically, it was to improve their use of vocabulary (AF7).  I have documented the progress of the project both here and via my class’ blog so there is no need to revisit,  But what I wanted to write about was what happened as a result of the project.  At the beginning of the project, Tim Rylands was brought in to kickstart our journey, he gave us the benefit of his extended knowledge on Web 2.0 tools, links, devices, strategies etc all of which were invaluable.  But the advice to join Twitter was the first step to change.  Of course I had heard of Twitter before and had a quick look, noticed what some had had for breakfast, saw when someone was travelling by train and giving a blow by blow account of the journey, and others that were commenting on the daily news.  I couldn’t see the attraction if I was perfectly honest!  However, if Mr R. thought it worthy of a mention then it must be better than I had thought!  I signed up and started to follow all the people that Tim and Simon (our ICT advisor) followed.  I soon realised that WHO you followed was crucial, they then in time followed back and my following and follower tallies were creeping upwards.  A couple of weeks in and I was recognising a lot of names that I had heard of via the teaching community.  It seemed incredible that one minute I was beginning a GBL project and the next I was tweeting, collaborating and sharing with luminaries in this field – amazing!  Doors that I believe would be firmly shut by other routes were now being flung open and a warm welcome was being given.

That was nearly a year ago and I can honestly say I have never looked back.  I have met (virtually and otherwise) a host of lovely people who although not friends in the normal sense of the word, are giving and helpful.  I have presented at a Teachmeet in Bath (my first and definitely not my last).  I have built a substantial Personal Learning Network (PLN) of contacts, experts, colleagues and gurus who I feel happy to contact my fellow tweeps about a variety of topics and questions.  I can post a request and within 10 minutes receive upwards of 15 responses – fantastic!  The project’s success also enabled me to have plenty to say about my experiences of GBL and to share ideas.  I have liaised with Wiltshire and Swindon Learning Resources about content in their excellent multimedia boxes.  Simon and I have created a blog called the South West Games Based Learning network which harnesses  superb ideas and planning to enable others to ‘have a go’ and to read about others who have! This we hope will enable other contributors  share their experiences too and be a truly collaborative project.

This blog and my class blog were also created to reflect and publish our efforts and thinking as the year progressed (and as a direct nudge from the tweeting community, @deputymitchell and others) and my children have absolutely loved posting and even creating their own personal blogs, discussing their daily learning which I was personally thrilled about.

Last week I had the pleasure of presenting at the conference and to have Tim sitting at the back and tweeting about me made me feel very honoured and proud.  Several people have since contacted me as a direct result of the seminar who I am more than happy to help begin their GBL journey.  A few posts ago I wanted time to reflect and assimilate all that I had heard and learnt from the conference.  I’m still thinking how to implement a lot of what was said, especially from Ewan McIntosh’s keynote (he’s due to blog about it soon) – if you were there you’ll understand that I shall now be ‘conducting with my eyebrows’ to make learning a risk, challenging and meaningful.  If you weren’t there then go to his blog and find out more, you won’t regret it!

So, in summary I have taken a different route that has given me so many cpd opportunities to improve my teaching practice.  I have learnt more this year by joinging Twitter than probably in the last 3 by conventional means.  I forget who said it (apologies) but Twitter is like a river that constantly flows, you don’t have to row back to the beginning in case you miss something. You simply join in when you need to and glean what you feel is appropriate for your situation.  If the next year is as beneficial as this year has been, then I will have a lot to be thankful for by joining this particular social network.

SWGfL ICT Conference 5.7.11

I left writing this post until now as there were so many inspirational aspects to the fantastic conference held at UWE Exhibition Centre on Tuesday that I felt I needed to take stock, assimilate and then think about implementation.

The keynote speaker @ewanmcintosh opened the conference by immediately sewing seeds designed to challenge our thinking.  He said that children should be ‘problem finders’ and not ‘problem solvers’ (a subtle change with hugely beneficial consequences).  Children can only become ‘problem solvers’ by usas educators releasing the reins and allowing them to lead their own learning. ‘Capturing the learning as it happens’ was another theme that he linked to the general practice of EYFS teachers.

Ewan then went on to talking about ‘spaces’, 7 in particular:

– watching spaces

– secret spaces

– performing spaces

– group spaces

– data spaces

– participation spaces

– publishing spaces

It is in these spaces where learning can be celebrated and extended.  I was particularly interested in the final two as both myself and my class are relativley new to the world of blogging.  Our blogs are where I hope to capture the children’s learning and share photos, videos and their work to all who wish to visit to either blog.

I have recently completed an online ASD course and the idea of a secret place fits perfectly with the recommended environment for an autistic child.  A place that is safe, quiet, unstimulating and away from the crowds.  Although this is difficult to facilitate in a classroom, I want to try nonetheless.

While listening to Ewan speak, I intended to tweet what he was saying but instead I found myself captivated by the content and not wanting to lose focus on the fantastic ideas.  Later in the day I found Ewan behind me in a queue for coffee and we got chatting.  Provoking thought and challenging stale ideas were his motives and he certainly achieved that!

The closing speaker was Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University.  I had heard previously about the brilliance of his “Hole in the Wall” project which clearly showed that children can lead their own learning when their own curiosity is stimulated.   He has replicated his projects in different parts of the world with strikingly similar results.  I later learnt that his work inspired the book ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ that was made into a film.

Sugata demonstrated his dry wit when discussing how he approached the children with an idea to research.  He would give them the statement to learn about and then when the children asked “How, do we do that?” He would respond by saying “I have no idea and anyway I am leaving!”

I was struck by his view that only three or four should collaborate as a group using just a single computer.  The groups could swap around but the number of children to a pc should remain the same.  This made me think because I am keen for each child to have a pc each when researching, etc but Sugata believes that immersion, collaboration, talk, discussion and peer mentoring can only happen in groups which cannot be achieved when working independently.  Food for thought indeed!