Electronic lesson planning

For years I have used a paper diary – having trialled a PDA some time ago and moved back to paper.  Being a user of technology I decided to look for a better way of planning using technology.

First of all I trialled Google Calendar as advocated by Doug Belshaw in his blog.  I liked the idea of the planning being available anywhere, even on my phone.  Setting up repeating slots for my lessons was easy but then I found several other snags that made me give up on Google Calendar for now.  I actually liked way you could integrate different calendars (eg public holidays).  I could cope with not being able to customise the time-frame displayed on the calendar.  But I found that entering the lesson details was fiddly and that there was no satisfactory way to view them.  I would have liked them to be displayed on my calendar .  I could even have coped if my emailed daily schedule information had included the description for each lesson that I had entered.  I decided to give up on Google calendar for now.

Determined to try out electronic planning I searched the internet and found the TPIM (Teacher’s personal information planner) which appears to be the best implementation of lesson planning and personal time management I’ve seen in a commercial product.  I downloaded the trial and found the interface very simple to use – with information readily at hand (this is a daily planning sheet).

Even with extra options such as an electronic register and markbook, electronic post-its and reminders I still found it more convenient to plan using my old paper teacher’s planner/diary!

Is there really nothing to beat planning on paper or am I just set in my ways?  I’d be interested to hear how anyone else has used technology to help with their planning….

New KS3 Science Scheme

With the new slimmed down National Curriculum for Science comes a change in emphasis.  Quite wisely the QCA have decided that it is no longer acceptable to just fill children with facts that they will regurgitate in an exam.  There has been a change in emphasis from facts to skills.  Accompanying the statutory requirements is a new framework which gives helpful advice on progression through the key strands of science.

I looked at commercial schemes available from a number of publishers (who went to great lengths to send me sample packs/CDs in glossy folders).  Scratching beneath the surface many of these didn’t seem that different to what we did already.  I wanted a new scheme of work that broke away from the flawed (in my opinion) QCA modules we had been following.   I came upon the Wikid Science scheme from the ASE (which I found out about through the Upd8 site.) I was accepted to trial the new scheme and we piloted the “Cook” module – looking at cooking methods and the science behind them,

What I liked most about the new scheme was the way that pupils are given a role for a topic which sets science in an everyday context.  Since Wikid science was written after the publication of the new KS3 framework, How Science works is fully integrated throughout the scheme and referenced to the framework documents.  The final carrot was the adoption of Web 2.0 technologies to develop materials further through an online community (hence the name).  For those of you who haven’t seen the scheme you can find out about it here.

For those of you question the need for a change in the approach we take in science check out this video – Shift Happens.

Assessment for Learning

It’s amazing how many people I meet on my travels who struggle with the concept of assessment for learning (AfL). Some people think it’s a new invention, others think that it is something that must be shoe-horned into schemes of work in a formulaic way along with a 3 part lesson. Some people get obsessed with the idea of tests.

The cartoon explains simply the AfL cycle. It’s a simple process of assessing where a learner is now (that’s the assessment part!) and looking to see where the next step is. Knowing how to get there is an important step and completes the cycle.

So what does AfL look like in action?

  • Marking of work: Comments that tell pupils what they need to do to improve their work, so the pupil knows what they have to do next
  • Oral feedback: Do comments given to pupils in lessons deliver the 3 steps above? (telling them where they are and what they need to do to improve and how to go about it?)
  • Self assessment: Pupils assessing themselves against a set of levelled learning outcomes. They can see how they are performing and where they need to focus their efforts.
  • Peer assessment: Pupils are very good at assessing the work of their peers. I’ve worked in mainstream schools with pupils who have been very good at assessing each others work and setting a target for improvement. Even at a special school level the pupils are very good at recognising success and giving helpful advice for improvement.
  • Level assessed tasks: These have suddenly become very popular in science amongst other subjects. Free and commercial tasks are given to pupils which have a set of levelled outcomes, so pupils are able to see what needs to go into their own work, they can assess each others work and see how to get to the next level. (This is classic AfL and also very good for getting pupils working together).
  • Target setting: IEPs are a classic idea of setting targets that are not only achievable but give the learner an idea of how to reach that target.
  • Learning objectives in lessons: If you’ve heard of WALT (we are learning to/will all learn today) and WILF (what I’m looking for) when you’re doing this already. Setting learning objectives at the start of lessons and then checking pupils have reached this learning objective is nothing new. Good teachers have always done this – but it is still good AfL practice.

I hope that this overview has been useful. Feel free to get in touch (contact us) if you have any comments or questions.