Monday, 13 April 2015

Learning with videos notes

SEN INSET got me thinking about myself as a learner and the learning process in general. Lazy notes to share whilst I'm dawdling.

Some motivations for engaging:

- Sensory stimulus -
The video is a flat screen and outside noises/happenings are either non-existant or minimised. For people (like me) who can need help to focus, videos do the filtering for you. Potentially why it worked well for  anxious, selective mute.

- Necessary attention -
In the latter ones for Cat Flap Project, there was no sound available so minimal subtitles were used instead. Attentional spotlight (psychology?) has to be on the video to get the information needed and an internal monologue kicks into action the same way as it does when reading generally (does this happen for everyone when they see text?)     

- Control -
Sometimes it's hard to keep up with what people say and process quick enough,which can lead to frustration or stress. A video allows the learner control and the new friend of the pause button. Learning goes at the speed dictated by the learner not the teacher. This applies to volume as well; teacher voice intonation and volume can be adapted to what the learner feels comfortable with.

-Repetition (of demos)
Learning and studying are full on, hard to keep up 100% all the time. Repetition gives opportunity to practice at any time - learner viewing videos in own time more likely to do so in a state of readiness to take in the info rather than be force fed it due to time constraints.

-Perceived social interactions -
Anxiety or raised stress leads to a 'getting through it' mindset instead of an engaging with it one. Teacher in videos means learner can watch for information and then take on board social cues second or third viewings, like being exposed to a text or how you're meant to watch videos for comprehension.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Reflections on risk-taking and wrecklessness

In two weeks’ time, I will be taking to the skies to fly a small plane over what will hopefully be sunny Britain, so if you live in Gloucestershire or Oxfordshire, *wave* (and take cover?)

 If I enjoyed flying or liked heights, having a flying lesson wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary; unfortunately, I’m not a fan of either. I’ve always had to have mints, listen to music and curl into a unique interpretation of the foetal position during take-offs as the changes in pressures wreak havoc with my ears and no logic in the world has been able to make me understand how a tin can as big as a Boeing can remain in the air with all the weight it carries. I love science, but just don’t get aeronautical engineering; Daedalus’ idea with the feathers makes more sense to me than a chunk of metal hurtling through the atmosphere.

I first thought of flying a plane after seeing Michael Crawford do it at Christmas in Some Mothers Do Ave’Em. His character seemed to cope, so why shouldn’t I? As an actor, he’d of had to learn how to fly, so why can’t I? That was the most thought I gave to it before deciding learning to fly would be my 2015 resolution. I hadn’t considered the fact I don’t really like being in a floating can. This spontaneous, snap decision making has led me to consider risk-taking and wrecklessness, and reflect on where I fit in in with it all.

I have always been described as ‘headstrong’ - I used to see it as a negative trait but it’s probably the root of most things I’ve done and a thread that runs through many of the risks I’ve taken. When writing this post, I listed things I've done that might've seemed a bit crazy at the time (usually risks that others have told me I'd be crazy to do as well - mistake making...). These are some of the risks that have lead me to this moment; the moment of needing rather than wanting to fly.

I don’t think I have any regrets (yet?) because every decision made has been my own and with a ‘better to know than not know’ attitude, life is for living after all. The risks taken have involved either a self-imposed limitation (a ‘tear it down’ approach) or a push the boundary need. I refer to it as a need rather than mindset because risk feels integral to my existence - I think it’s called something like self-actualisation in psychology. Risks provide adrenalin, a rush, excitement and often end up making what seemed a predictable path become unpredictable again. Sometimes, to take a risk is like pressing a reset button. Sometimes, it can be a symptom that something isn’t ‘right’. If this is so, learning to fly isn’t just something fun to do; it is providing an outlet for whatever’s bubbling under the surface, something I haven’t made sense of yet.

 Still thinking through: when do risks become wrecklessness? How do you keep a reign on the desire to be wreckless? Is a degree of wrecklessness needed for success? Do we recognise the risk-takers in our classes, if any? How do teachers perceive risk-taking in children?

Friday, 26 December 2014

Some thoughts on CPD

My plan to be Elvis was going well until I found out he was dead. He was the icon the masses needed; symbolic of breakout in every shape and form. This post is not about Elvis unfortunately, although I’d love to start a trend of ‘what my icon meant to me’ in educational bloggers (if you’re wondering, for me, Elvis epitomised where resilience and grit can take you, as did Muhammad Ali).

We all have icons. A dictionary definition is as follows:
 noun, plural iconographies.
1. symbolic representation, especially the conventional meanings attached to an image or images.
2. subject matter in the visual arts, especially with reference to the conventions regarding the treatment of a subject in artistic representation.
3. the study or analysis of subject matter and its meaning in the visual arts; iconology.
4. a representation or a group of representations of a person, place, or thing, as a portrait or a collection of portraits.

The field of education feels as though it’s evolving into some sort of celebrity style culture, whereby those who are deemed to be good at something in this moment in time are instant experts and many publish, speak or feel authoritative as soon as inspiration strikes. This on its own is not necessarily a bad thing - the sharing of things that have worked, advice from those who have more knowledge/experience or exposure to texts we wouldn’t have read otherwise are all beneficial to the profession as well as the people who offer them, provided the motives are rooted in genuine professional growth. There’s the saying of ‘don’t worship false idols’ but I feel anyone, or anything, which inspires one to live a better life (which can take many forms, not just morally) is worth engaging with.

 And for me, here lies the difference between current Teach Meets and grassroots meetups. Teach Meets, when they began (I’m led to believe!) were grassroots to begin with; just a bunch of educators, interested in sharing ideas, meeting up to talk with each other. In my opinion, this is pure professional growth - you cannot opt to be passive because you will meet and converse. You’re views are expected to be shared, discussed and your practice opened up, making you approach the event as an individual educator with something to bring to the party; there’s no being a wallflower. Somewhere along the way, the umbilical cord of integrity has been cut and Teach Meets now appear to have a corporate, everyone knows what to expect format and the line-up of speakers are ‘known names’, mostly from Twitter - in fact, this seems to be a main attraction! Is enthusiasm for teachers bettering themselves so low that we now only attend events if they have a hook to sell themselves with? What happened to educators just wanting to explore their profession and practice?

 Teach Meets are still free CPD, do still share ideas and are helpful but what has been lost is the engagement. Audience input is not valued as much as presenter input, making the audience necessarily passive to a degree. The people with an expectation that they’ll turn up and bring something to the party are the presenters. Some - not all - who attend these events look to the presenters as being better than themselves; the presenters become educational icons because of their position and status of being asked to share, and this I feel, is where Teach Meets are losing their value. Education is ever changing. Values change, ideas change, approaches and tools change (remember when PowerPoints were all the rage, now it’s ‘ooohhhh hello Ipad...’) Any CPD that is structured or designed needs to retain this at its foundation, or it will have a shelf-life. Instead of attending events with idols in mind, we should look forward to meeting other educators who care about their own practice and want to engage with the limitless possibilities of where it could go, regardless of experience or position. The notion of ‘polished teachers’ needs to be dismantled so that it is again, ‘this is what worked for so and so/me…’ rather than ‘this works brilliantly!’ The personalness needs to be put back into Ed if it is to regain and retain teachers for the future, otherwise, what opportunity is there for new teachers to develop themselves as professionals? In a way, it’s like exchanging a part of your own professional identity in order to be like someone you deem more successful - someone with tried, tested and approved ideas. If everything we do is an offshoot of someone else work, practice, idea, ideals, when do we reflect on our own? We are in danger of creating ourselves as professionals out of the parts of others, like little teaching Frankensteins.

 Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting some other educators. The organiser seemed apologetic for a lack of structure and smaller numbers yet this is what allowed CPD to take place. We talked. Not just about education, but life, culture, society and politics - all things which feed into our roles as teachers. We can be brilliant technicians capable of executing others tools, but without the opportunity to discuss (IN PERSON!) what we do, what challenges we face, why we even bother or muse on changing styles, themes, approaches to educating, what are we gaining from our time? It is good to be exposed to ideas and take away new things to try out, but we need to be careful that we do not overrate this form of CPD or else we could become passive.