Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Session 9 - 8th February 2012

Dealing with Teacher Workload

It was obvious from the conversation that many teachers feel overwhelmed in their jobs. Many work late into the evenings and report 50 hour + weeks. The causes of this are many. Among those cited were

  • Pressures from the inspectorate to show evidence of Self Evaluation and the need to leave a paper trail for every decision.

  • Many teachers and schools still lack sharing culture although many of the participants reported that they were seeing more sharing taking place.
  • Many teachers are incredibly conscientious and often adapt and re-adapt resources to suit different learners. It was stated that it would be easier to teach out of a textbook but that this would be short-changing the learners.
  • Teaching is a never ending job; finish one task and there are countless others that can be done.
  • More experience usually means more responsibilities but same amount of time. This is a struggle for teachers who have reached a certain level of seniority in their schools but who still retain a large amount of teaching.
  • NQT’s find it a struggle to adapt to the pressures of teaching.

Half way through the focus switched to strategies to take some of the burden off of teachers.
  • @hezmar spoke of her schools Digital Leaders programme were the children take responsibility for coordinating ICT activities in the school including the delivery of a club to their peers. A great idea!
  • C3B4Me was seen as a good way to take some of the pressure of the teacher to do menial tasks during lessons by fostering a culture of independent learning.
  • Peer Assessment was having mixed success with teachers being reluctant to trust the judgments arrived at by students however many teachers reported that they do now try to make the marking of work an integral part of the learning experience.
  • Students creating resources such as worksheets and information booklets/wikis can be rewarding in terms of learning and provide a resource for the teacher.
  • Resources Sharing was a popular idea amongst the mfl teachers present and Dropbox was considered to be an excellent way for teachers across the world to share resources. For more follow #mfltwitterati
  • Wikis were also mentioned as a good way for a learning areas within a school to collaborate on resources. A good example here from Grosvenor .
  • Giving students in each class responsibility for checking attendance sheets or distributing resources.
  • Using self marking assignments such as those on Yacapaca

General Advice
  • Learning to say no was seen as important (if difficult)
  • Prioritising – being able to differentiate between the desirable and the necessary
  • Keeping your focus on Teaching and Learning and being prepared to speak out when administrative tasks are impinging on this.
  • Think about how much control you have in the classroom. Is it really necessary for you to always control everything that is done and said.
  • Get children actively involved in teaching and learning. Try to limited teacher talk as far as possible (100 words challenge!)

As if to reinforce the importance of tonight’s topic two teachers reported that after the was finished that they were returning to marking books and preparing lessons. The time was 9.30pm…a full 13 hours after the beginning of the school day!

Tweet of the Week

“Key is to not do it all yourself, I’m realising, and realising that makes me better leader - not worse,”

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Session 8 1st February 2012

 Tonight’s NIedchat was a topical one with the announcement by Apple the previous week  that they were ‘giving away’ the authoring software ‘iBook Author’ which enables Mac users to create interactive textbooks and make them available for students with iPads to download via iTunes.

The interactive textbooks allow students give students the ability to create notes on pages, highlight text, watch embedded video and manipulate 3D images and they can also keep a track of their progress via in-build tests.

You can see a demo of the interactive textbook by visiting the link below (via @dmurray742)

I terms of the possibilities I was generally thought that the development was to be welcomed. @dmurray742 described Apple’s announcement as
 “the most disruptive thing in education in the last 400 years” 
the adjective ‘disruptive’ being used in it’s most positive interpretation.

A number of the participants were concerned about how ready teachers were to embrace this change and the question was asked about how would teacher’s find the time to create interactive textbooks. A number of the languages teachers who took part remarked that as they produce most of their resources already then this would not be a problem. What also emerged was that interactive textbooks can be updated and that these updates will sync with the student’s iPad meaning that the books could be written during the duration of the course; the modern equivalent of being one page ahead of them!

The next issue was cost. This is possibly not the domain of teacher’s however some were worried that access to this technology would be costly and that in may cases this cost could not be met by parents. 

A general discussion then ensued on the use of other devices in the classroom including mobile phones. The new IT contract ENNI came in for some praise as it intends to open up access to student owned devices and this was largely welcomed with the usual worries around responsible use. A topic for another day maybe.

A very productive meeting and it was clear that those present welcomed the possibilities that new technologies offer to education and that they would like to see some investment into this area in their own schools and in the eduction sector in general. 

Tweet of the Week goes to @AnGaeilgeoir1 who reminds us that technology is only a tool which requires a skilled user if it's to be effective:

"iPads and iTextbooks aren't the answer on its own. Knowing when and how to use them is more important."