Archive for the ‘Blog related’ Category

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Back To The Future

November 27, 2014

This blog is probably not the best advert for my organisational skills, very often it reflects whatever happens to be on my mind and topics get picked up, then dropped, pretty much on a whim. However, I’ve decided to finish off a long-unfinished bit of business this weekend. Unfortunately, I’ve left it all so long that I thought I’d write this quick reminder of what it was all about.

Back in 2012, I started a series of blogposts on how ideas about ways in which the future would be different were used to promote progressive education and, in particular, invalidate the teaching of subject knowledge and the use of traditional teaching methods.

I began with this introduction to the issue:

The Future Part 1: Another Argument for Dumbing-Down

Then I dealt with the idea that it was increasing globalisation and competition from overseas had changed everything:

The Future Part 2: Overseas Competition

Next was the idea that the job market was changing to be less stable and predictable:

The Future Part 3: Changes in the Labour Market

Following that was the claim that technological change was constantly making established knowledge obsolete:

The Future Part 4: Technological Change as Normal and Unpredictable

Then the contradictory idea that we were in a time of unprecedented technological change:

The Future Part 5: Are We Living in a Time of Unprecedented Technological Change?

This was followed by the idea that we now don;t need to know things like we did in the past:

The Future Part 6: Does New Technology Mean We Don’t Need to Know Anything?

I also provided an example that this sort of argument wasn’t new:

A Note About The Future

I had intended to finish this with a blogpost about the idea of Digitial Natives. However, this turned out to be something which led to quite a lot more thinking and writing and I did not get round to writing it until many months later, and never really worked out when to blog it. Anyway, I now plan to cover this in my next few posts, so I thought I’d write this recap for you to put it in context. Apologies for any links and media in the above posts which are now defunct.

Update 3/12/2014: The remaining three posts in the series have now been written and can be found below:

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A Guide To Scenes From The Battleground

October 26, 2014

I have updated this guide for the holidays.

This blog is about the state of secondary education. There is an introduction to it here:

And some reflections on it here:

Here is a summary of my main points:

Here are a few posts written purely for a laugh (although some of them perhaps make a point at the same time):

The following posts sum up what is typical in schools these days in various respects:

Behaviour:

Curriculum:

Teachers and Managers:

Special Needs:

School Life:

Miscellaneous:

As well as the advice for teachers included in many of the other posts, I have written advice specifically for new teachers:

These deal more directly with my own personal experiences, or the experiences of others:

I have also written a number of posts exploring and explaining how this situation came to be, discussing the arguments in education and suggesting what can be done.

Background:

Apologia:

Progressive Education:

Behaviour:

Initiatives:

Education Policy and Current Affairs:

OFSTED:

Teaching and Teachers:

Educational Ethics and Philosophy:

Education Research and Academics

Here are some videos I found on the internet which I thought were interesting, or relevant, enough to present in a blog post:

I wrote about some of the myths that are spread to teachers, often in INSET or during PGCEs:

I have also outlined what I would expect from schools willing to do put things right:

Here are my book recommendations:

This may be of interest if you are considering writing a blog:

You may also have found me…

I have also written sections in the following two books:

Please let me know if any of the links don’t work.

Finally, I can be found on Facebook (please “friend” me) or Twitter (please “follow” me).

If you want to keep up with education blogging other than mine, or to see some of these same concerns discussed by others, then you should follow my sister blog, The Education Echo Chamber. The blog is here. The twitter feed is here.

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Quick Tips for New Education Bloggers

July 23, 2014

My considered advice for education bloggers (complete with explanations of my opinions and discussion) can be found here.

However, below you read my quick tips. Some may be similar, but these were ones I posted on Twitter a few days ago, and as a result are based mainly on blind prejudice, no justification and little thought.

Hope they are helpful.

  1. “Musings” and “Ramblings” are massively overused in blog titles. Try “meanderings”. (Or maybe not)
  2. Use WordPress. Hosted on WordPress. Really.
  3. Pick an unambiguous title. I’m still justifying and explaining mine almost 8 years later.
  4. If you use the words “learning” or “teaching” in your blog title make the other words memorable. eg. Learning Hippo. Seriously, these two words are much overused. There are actually two different blogs called “Learning Science”.
  5. You don’t have to write only about education, but set out your stall early. Don’t start write about dieting 6 months in. (Or your children, pets or favourite songs).
  6. Tweet. (I organised a curry for bloggers a few months back. The one person that almost everybody asked “who’s he?” about was the one person who doesn’t tweet. It has to be done.)
  7. Don’t call yourself a “guru”, “expert” or “leader”. There are more fun ways to make everyone hate you. Hours of “fun” can be had on the internet arguing over who is actually an authority about teaching and who a) has too little classroom experience, b) has left the classroom too eagerly or c) is now a vested interest who can no longer be trusted.
  8. Try to keep blogposts usually under 1000 words, mostly under 1,500. Split into more than one post when necessary, even if you post them in rapid succession. I swear there are bloggers out there whose first paragraphs are read by thousands, but you can’t find anyone who ever got to the end.
  9. A picture is worth a 1000 words, but after the first picture it starts to feel like reading 1000 words too. Or, at the very least, it starts feeling like watching a Powerpoint presentation. Assume blog readers can get through several consecutive paragraphs of text without having a panic attack.
  10. Criticising people without naming them is not politer, it’s just cowardly.

 

 

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Top Posts of 2013

January 1, 2014

The following posts got the most views in 2013. Some of them weren’t actually written in 2013.

  1. What OFSTED Actually Want
  2. A Christmas Miracle – OFSTED Get It Right For Once
  3. What OFSTED Say They Want
  4. How to be bad SMT
  5. How to Destroy NQTs
  6. A Guide To Scenes From The Battleground
  7. The Darkest Term: Teacher Stress and Depression
  8. Does Sir Michael Wilshaw Know What OFSTED Good Practice Looks Like?
  9. Why That OFSTED News Is So Important
  10. What I’d do about OFSTED
  11. Progressive Teaching Methods In the Primary School
  12. Why I’m against Performance-Related Pay
  13. Lies, Damned Lies and Things You are Told During Teacher Training
  14. OFSTED Under Fire
  15. A Very Short Summary of the Phonics Debate
  16. Good Year Heads
  17. Why those of us on the left should support Michael Gove’s efforts to “clever-up” the curriculum
  18. Some Quick Tips for NQTs and Trainees
  19. Marking and Workload
  20. More OFSTED Nonsense

I’ve resisted doing a full review of the year post, mainly because as somebody who tries to read all the education blogs, they have been driving me mad and partly because it’s not long since my 7th birthday post. However, I will allow myself 5 highlights my blogging year, in no particular order and with no more of a sentence on each.

  • Quite significant growth in the number of hits to this blog, from averaging less than 350 hits per day in each year from 2010-2012 with no upward trend, to 970 per day in 2013 as a whole and 1450 per day in the last quarter of the year, as well as a large increase in the number of Twitter followers.
  • The OFSTED campaign which started in February, and was described in detail here, which, at the very least, seems to have blown the whistle on any number of attempts to promote a particular, ideologically driven, style of teaching.
  • The High Court agreeing with my supposedly controversial position on the English GCSE farrago.
  • The creation of the Echo Chamber and more generally the growth of a community of education bloggers, particularly those expressing views which the media never seem to acknowledge as being held by teachers.
  • Political and media recognition for this blog, most notably being mentioned by Michael Gove (starting here; resulting in this, which I don’t regret, and continuing with these) and getting to meet Liz Truss.

As for the year ahead, I have a few things I’d like to see or do. I’d like to see the education people on the opposition benches engage with bloggers, and with the difficult arguments, as much as government ministers have. I’d like to continue looking at some of those issues raised in my blogposts above, like teacher stress and depression, bad management and workload. I’d also like to come out of the shadows a bit, but this will require finding a job (or combination of part-time jobs) where my opinions won’t threaten my employers and where I have more time to spend on research or on blog-related activities (and where I am still teaching in a school for at least part of the week; I haven’t actually given up on teaching).

So, happy new year to all my readers.

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Now We Are Seven

October 30, 2013

Well……. apparently my blog has been going for 7 years.

It originally appeared on a couple of other websites, before finding its long-term home here in January 2009. Between the sites it has probably had in excess of 900 000 hits. That said it really only took off in the last year or so, as more teachers joined Twitter and certain posts became particularly highly visited. Prior to that I used to pride myself on being read only by a small elite of deep thinkers. The style has changed a fair bit, going from a frequent mix of anecdotal material and tedious essays to a less frequent, but less tedious, style of essay which verged on a cry for help, to its current emphasis on immediate & frequent reactions to whatever is annoying me, particularly topical issues.

My original inclination, after leaving a school I hated, was to catalogue some of the outrageous things I had seen in a couple of schools that would be considered fairly average and to share my own thoughts about the ideas that informed our education system, mainly focusing on behaviour. As time has gone on, I’ve become less interested (and more restricted) in how much I can write about personal experience, and more focused on policy, teaching methods and the broader teacher experience.

After being ignored, even in lists of teacher blogs, for most of those years this blog now gets a fair bit of publicity (see here) and has been name-checked by Michael Gove a few times. After years of being told that I was expressing the views of an insignificant and unrepresentative individual, I’m more often criticised nowadays for being the leader of a mob.

Through my blog, I’ve met a host of new people, including some such as Katharine Birbalsingh, Tom Bennett, Toby Young, Daisy Christodoulou and Daniel Willingham (yes really, how cool is that?) who I guess you would have to say count as celebrities in the strange parallel universe of the education debate.

During this time I have maintained my anonymity through carefully cultivating a career of such deep insignificance that if you arrived at my school’s reception and asked for me by my real name they wouldn’t be able to help. (I’m not joking, David Didau tried this.) At some point I will need to go public, but first I need to work somewhere that the opinions I express, and that thousands of teachers follow, aren’t going to be considered controversial or a liability when OFSTED visit. However, working in a school and seeing every day the things I’ve been describing for 7 years, continues to be my main source of inspiration.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with links to a few of the highlights of the last 7 years.

  • This, from my first month of blogging, is probably the one where I most often get people telling me that I nailed it (although this gets a pretty similar reaction)
  • This from 2007 is probably still my funniest post.
  • This, or at least the final part of it, had the most impact on political debate after prompting a controversial part of a speech by Michael Gove.
  • This from 2009 covers some ground that still comes up a lot.
  • People still ask about this on A.P.P., an initiative that apparently still hasn’t died in some schools:
  • This sums up my attitude to OFSTED, an organisation also mention in my two most read blogposts: here and here.
  • This sums up one of the debates that helped bring attention to this blog.
  • This still makes me angry.
  • The post that prompted the greatest number of hits in one day was this, from a few days ago.
  • And this has changed the lives of all who saw it.
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Scabs

September 30, 2013

teachingbattleground:

I’m not sure I’d be quite as vitriolic as I was when I wrote this for a strike 5 years ago, but I think it’s worth reblogging ready for tomorrow. My more considered views from earlier this year are here.

Originally posted on Scenes From The Battleground:

I wrote before about how I support the strike because, although pay isn’t that bad (well not unless you are in a shortage subject) teachers are discontented and should start kicking up a fuss.

However, my school will be remaining open with only a minimal number of us on strike. Overwhelmingly, my fellow NUT members would rather be scabs than rock the boat, even though some of are a lot unhappier at work than I am. It was not an option I considered, even as I began to feel more and more exposed on the issue. I suppose I have personal reasons for this. My grandfather worked on the railways before the war and used to tell me stories about how workers would be maimed at work, then sacked for being disabled (even though they could still work), and the only way to stop that was for the rest of…

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Advice For Education Bloggers

June 25, 2013

Since I first started blogging 57 years ago I’ve picked up a few ideas about how best to go about it. Also, scouring the interweb for reblogging fodder for the Echo Chamber, I have learnt a fair bit about where some bloggers go wrong. What follows is my advice. However, be aware that I am not claiming I have been, or will be, great at following it myself.

1) Think carefully about anonymity. If you are not going to be anonymous be very, very careful about what you write. Don’t mention your current school, current pupils or anything that might have a bearing on your professional life at the moment – even discussion of theoretical matters that have consequences for anything you are currently doing. If in doubt make sure you are anonymous. If you aren’t you will have to accept that what you can say is highly limited in terms of information you can give out and who you can risk annoying.

2) If you are anonymous, be careful. Anonymous bloggers are always being found out and often quitting as a result. There are definitely people who know who I am who I wish didn’t (nobody from last weekend, don’t worry). Often it is simply because when people start blogging they don’t particularly think it matters who knows and this comes back to haunt them later. Think through a contingency plan for what to do if you were found out. Limit the number of people who know who you are even if it’s tempting to do otherwise. That said, people who meet you in real-life are probably not going to be the biggest problem, it’s people who only know you online and don’t like what you say. So the key thing is to make sure there is no connection between what is written about you on the internet under your real name and under your blogger identity. Don’t do anything to express your views in public under your real name at the same time as you express them under an assumed name. If you can be uncovered using Google then there is a problem. If a work colleague would recognise you if they read your blog then there is a problem. When writing about real-life incidents then a delay is often advised.

3) Expect to get better with time. I won’t spend a lot of time on this point as I don’t really want to go on about how bad I was when I started, but blogging is something people tend to grow into and while the best often had something great about them from the start, they do still tend to improve with time.

4) Avoid cliches (like the plague). The three worst phrases I see in education writing are:

  • “regurgitation of facts”
  • “[education is] used as a political football”
  • “the factory model of schooling”

Metaphors and similes should, as far as possible, be original and at the very least they should not be familiar. This is not just about style, but also about the amount of thought put into an argument. As Orwell pointed out “the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts” and the worst arguments are invariably those expressed in stock phrases. It’s almost guaranteed that if you use one of the above then you haven’t thought through what you are saying.

5) Use Twitter (and other social media) to support your blogging.

Twitter is where you can expect to get most hits. Tweet 3 or 4 links to every blogpost, varying the time of day if possible. Encourage the readers of your blog to follow you on Twitter. It really works. Other ways to get people to see your work are:

  • Link to it in the comments of other blogs (where it’s justified);
  • Share it on facebook;
  • Let me know about your blog so I can put it on the Echo Chamber blogroll.

Be careful to ensure that you don’t overdo it and become seen as a spammer. Also, blog titles which give a clear indication of the content of a blogpost will also encourage people to follow links on social media.

6) Don’t use your blog to support your Twitter account.

Twitter is great as a source of inspiration, and a discussion on Twitter will often provide the basis for a good blogpost exploring an issue or an idea in more depth. However, you should not be assuming that your blog readers will have read your Twitter feed. Try to avoid in-jokes from Twitter, or assuming prior knowledge of a Twitter discussion. If you do continue a debate from Twitter then try to represent the Twitter argument first. Some of the worst blogs I have read recently have been written apparently as direct responses to something on Twitter that was not clearly identified.

7) Give credit where it’s due.

If you are answering or criticising something, please provide a link. Only in the most extreme cases should you respond at length to anything you haven’t clearly identified. Firstly, it’s very rude to talk about people behind their back. Secondly, it suggests that you have a problem with people hearing the other side of the argument. Thirdly, it may cause people to wonder if you are getting at them when you are not. Even if you are being critical of an idea, at least giving credit (particularly with a link) gives somebody a chance to respond and demonstrates that you are not responding to straw man.

Any time you are referring to someone else’s ideas, whether positively or negatively, identify them. We tend to remember ideas better than people (or at least I do) so we are always likely to repeat without credit the ideas of others accidentally, so it is important not to do it deliberately as well. People like to be credited with good ideas.

8) Use a popular platform and make your work easy to share.

This is something that might not have occurred to me before I started the Echo Chamber, but your work is more likely to be shared if there are other bloggers using the same platform. I would recommend WordPress (the actual site rather than using WordPress software on another site) as it is particularly easy to reblog. Blogger/blogspot is probably the next best option but pick a theme with the button for posting links. The “orange cogs of death” on blogspot are difficult to share even on blogspot (and difficult to read on some devices). Also, an established blogging site is less likely to be suddenly shut down. Early on I lost almost my entire blog when the hosting site was shut down without warning.

9) Be careful when repeating what you have heard elsewhere. Don’t blog what you read in the Guardian this morning. It’s good to share ideas but if the ideas were originally written in a national newspaper (especially one with an easily accessible website) they probably don’t need sharing in much detail. It is also worth checking facts before repeating them. False information seems to spread at incredible speed. Never use a quotation if it is not from a reliable or familiar source. “Inspirational” or “wise” quotations are routinely misattributed (See the Quote Investigator website for multiple examples). Also sometimes a quotation may turn out to mean something other than what you thought. As well as there being far too many education writers who quote the wisdom of Jean Brodie approvingly, I recently heard of a technology company using the slogan “A Brave New World”. Don’t make a literary reference if you don’t know the book; those who have may be shocked and appalled.

10) Don’t quit. As far as I know the only UK based education blogger who regularly gets more hits than me is Tom Bennett and a lot of his hits might be people desperately trying to find a way to navigate past the orange cogs of death. However, I haven’t become (possibly, I admit I don’t really know) the second most read education blogger in the UK by doing anything as difficult as being the (second) best. I have got here because all the people who were better than me when I started have quit and all the people who are better than me now haven’t had as long to find readers. Longevity seems to be the key to success as an education blogger. That and writing posts with “OFSTED” in the title.

As an additional point about not giving up, don’t get disheartened because of criticism. Expect it. The best of it will help you improve. The worst of it will only bring attention to your blog. Some of the worst blogs are written by SMT members who delete every comment disagreeing with them and block anyone who disagrees with them on Twitter. Blogging is essentially a public performance, so you should expect critics, and it’s better than being ignored.

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