Try. Try again.

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I have grown to believe that the most important word in education is ‘Try’ and that the most important sentence is ‘Try again’. I believe that learning is spelt T.R.Y. Progress is spelt T.R.Y. Development is spelt T.R.Y and Innovation is spelt T.R.Y. However, ‘try’ can only be realised if we have culture where failure is not only accepted but expected. Why? Because failure (First Attempt In Learning) is proof that we are trying.

In my experience, people are often put off from trying and trying again because of the way in which failure is viewed and reacted to within their organisation.

What is the first thing you do when a bomb goes off? You treat the wounded, right? There may be a time and a need to send in the soldiers. There may be a time when policy change is required. In the following months, there may be a need for heightened security and monitoring. However, the FIRST thing you should always do is treat the wounded.

I have been in countless situations when the metephorical bomb has gone off –  when failure and disappointment have struck. On so many of these occasions, the first people sent in have been the soldiers, law enforcement, the policy changers and the monitors. In doing so, they have left the wounded lying on the floor. You see, when you’ve been injured by failure or disappointment, the FIRST person you need is a ‘medic’ – someone who is going to pick you up, check you’re ok and say ‘try again’… ‘Only this time, let’s do it together’… ‘Let’s evaluate what went wrong and try again’. When failure hits, when disappointment strikes, let’s not leave the wounded lying on the floor.

Only by treating the wounded, following a fail, will we create a culture where failure is not only acceptable but expected. Only by treating the wounded will we create a culture of ‘try’ and ‘try again’.

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The Future?

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Alan Kay

As an educator, I believe that our sole purpose is to see how education can change the world. In the context of Sinek’s Golden Circle, this is my WHY. When we look at the world ‘now’ and consider the possibilities for the future, it is easy and understandable to be pessimistic. However, when I listen to, and read from, the likes of Mark Stevenson and John Hagel, I see plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Stevenson describes advancements in the world of science and technology that are seeing scientists in North Carolina, 3D printing working kidneys. We are hearing about technology that will enable us diagnose our illnesses on our smartphones and 3D print the appropriate medication in the comfort of our own homes. There are many more examples of these kinds of advancements and if you are interested, I highly recommend checking out Mark Stevenson.

My issue, is that when I look at what is happening in the world and the possibilities for the future… and then I look at what is happening in our schools… it is impossible not to notice the enormous void between the two. Moreover, those of us who acknowledge the void and the need for change often ask ‘how are we going to innovate and change education so that our children leave school ready to enter this ever changing, ever developing world?’ However, I believe that this is the wrong question to ask because I don’t believe that the goal of innovation is to change education, but to see how education can change the world. If we only ever think about innovating education, education will always be playing catch-up and will have little impact on influencing and inventing the world and the future.

When I think about the future of education… YES, it needs to be REAL and relevant. YES, children need to learn to filter information, analyse it and think critically about it. YES, we want children going home at the end of the day asking more, bigger and better questions than they went to school asking. BUT, most importantly (for me) – and Ron Berger sums this up perfectly – we want children at school to be contributing something to the world beyond their classrooms. In Berger’s Hierarchy of Audience, right at the top… BE OF SERVICE TO THE WORLD. For me, this should be the baseline, the foundations on which the future of education should be built… its purpose.

However, if we are to revolutionise education in this way, many barriers, obstacles and challenges stand in our way. Here are just two…

1. The system

Government policy, tests, Ofsted, targets etc…

2. People

By people, I mean us; the people who work in our schools. Educators, teachers, school leaders, support staff; our cultures, our comforts, our mindsets and our traditions.

So how can we overcome these?

Sinek says that there are two ways to influence people… you can manipulate them, or you can inspire them.

Here is the brilliant part! There are hundreds of examples throughout history where people have inspired others with BIG dreams. Those inspired people have gone on to change culture, which in turn has changed policy. Martin Luther didn’t  say ‘I have a plan’; he had a dream. His dream inspired others, the inspired changed cultures which in turn changed policy. Want to see how education can change the world? IT’S TIME TO DREAM BIG!

Benidorm, Bars & Education 

I recently went on a 5-night stag-do to Benidorm; not ‘MY’ stag-do I hastened to add! I know what you’re thinking… ‘You’re too old for that’… Correct? Well, yes, you are probably right!

There were 9 of us on the trip and many of us have been friends for many years. However, as with any group of people, we have different interests, listen to a wide range of music and enjoy a variety of social activities. Bearing that in mind, on the first day, we went to a bar on the sea front called Daytona’s. There are hundreds of bars in Benidorm and I have no statistical evidence to say whether this bar is any ‘better/worse’ or ‘more/less popular’ than any other. However, we went back to that bar everyday… and stayed all day… and the decision to do so was unanimous.

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So… Why was this?
Well, interestingly, unlike 75% of the bars in Benidorm, there were less ‘stag-do type antics’ in this bar and the beer was slightly more expensive than everywhere else too. Moreover, the toilets were not as clean as they were in other bars and there was a strong smell of vomit near the DJ booth… SO WHY ON EARTH DID WE GO BACK ALL DAY EVERYDAY!?!?

Well… After just a couple of hours on our first visit, the bar staff knew what we were drinking and would have our drinks ready as we approached the bar. On the second day, the bar staff would serve us first, even if we were 2nd or 3rd in the queue. The band (the same one played twice daily) began to play our requests and reply to our banter. On day three, two gentlemen (who were a little worse-for-wear) gave our group some grief and they were asked to leave immediately. On day four, we passed a member of bar staff in the street and she greeted us like old friends.

Put simply, we went back because of how we were made to feel.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

In the context of Sinek’s Golden Circle, this is a bar that understands its WHY. WHAT they do/offer is not that much different to any other bar in Benidorm; in many ways, WHAT they did was less appealing. However, whereas most other bars in Benidorm focus on WHAT they offer and use manipulation (price, offers, deals etc) to draw you in, Daytona’s focus on their WHY: to have fun and enjoy yourself… Moreover, their HOW and WHAT ‘lives, breathes and communicates’ their WHY; a perfect example of how loyalty is formed when people buy ‘why you do it’ not ‘what you do’.

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What’s more, this example also perfectly demonstrates the importance of relationships. But, because they started with the WHY, the importance of relationships formed part of their HOW, which in turn sold their WHAT.

If I were ever to return to Benidorm (which is questionable) you would find me in one bar… Rocking out to Dire Straits with a beer in my hand… Having fun and enjoying myself… Why? Because people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. The WHY creates a culture that people want to be a part of; it creates a sense of family and generates loyalty.

If we are honest with ourselves, how many of us (teachers, schools etc) focus on WHAT we ‘do’ (often without a clear understanding of WHY we’re doing it) and use manipulation to get ‘buy-in’ from our pupils? How do we use our WHY to create a culture of learning, that people want to be a part of and that generates loyalty, meaning, excitement, purpose and enjoyment?

Sugata Mitra recently said, ‘the purpose of schooling is to enable people to live happy, healthy & productive lives’. Is this your WHY? If so, do your pupils know? Is it clear? Do the things that you do (your WHAT) represent your WHY?

Not a particularly thought provoking blog-post, I know. Perhaps the biggest question to come from this is… HOW DID I GO ON A 5-NIGHT STAG-DO & COME BACK THINKING ABOUT SINEK’S GOLDEN CIRCLE?

SOLE Part 2

In my last post SOLE Part 1 – I outlined the reason/purpose and methodology behind this study. This week, the sessions were delivered.

Here are the phases/year groups BIG questions and a selection of photographs from the week…

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It is possible that this weeks SOLE based Lesson Study has raised more questions than it has answered. However, one thing is certain; if SOLE is to be implemented/used effectively, it requires as much strategic planning and rigour as any other pedagogical method – such as CBL, PBL etc – to be successful.  We have witnessed incredible learning this week, including Foundation Stage children discussing and understanding scientific concepts from KS3 programmes of study. However, we have also encountered difficulties, particularly with regards to individuals’ collaborative skills and reading ability. This is where careful planning needs to take place; what skills do children need to possess to participate/be successful in a SOLE session? This is about developing skills and attitudes that children need to initiate their own learning.

Whether you agree, or disagree, with this…

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…or this…

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…surely, as a profession, we can agree that developing skills and attitudes that children need to initiate their own learning, is vital… can’t we?!

Add your ideas here – http://padlet.com/chris_edwards/SOLE

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SOLE Part 1

In April 2015, I had the pleasure of meeting Sugata Mitra. As part of the Eos International Conference, I was privileged to observe Sugata Mitra deliver a SOLE session at Harstholme Academy and listen to his keynote at the conference itself. Prior to this, I had also watched all of his TED Talks. Since then, I and other colleagues have experimented with SOLE sessions with our pupils. I have also, via Twitter, read numerous blog posts both for and against this method of learning. To be blunt, SOLE is a bit like Marmite; you either love it or you hate it. When it comes to SOLE, it is safe to say that educators have very strong opinions on both sides!

As a result, I decided to make SOLE the focus of our latest Lesson Study at school. For 2 years now, we have used Lesson Study (with great success) as a way of experimenting with and embedding new ideas and pedagogies.

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Before the study started, I asked staff to peruse the School in the Cloud website and I posed the following questions…

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Although we call what we do ‘Lesson Study’, we do not follow the process set out at http://lessonstudy.co.uk to the letter. At our school, teachers (in groups of 4-6) plan, deliver and evaluate a lesson. We conduct 3 studies per academic year and each study has a specific focus – e.g. Math through CBL or Writing through SOLE.

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Today, groups planned their SOLE sessions. In my next post (SOLE Part 2), I will share these sessions and attempt to answer MY BIG QUESTION… Are Self Organised Learning Environments an effective way of learning?

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Peer Feedback

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As @Daniel_Eos and I evaluated progress in my Y6 pupils’ books one autumnal aftertoon, we found ourselves asking the same question over and over again… ‘What impact is teacher marking and written feedback having on pupil progress?’ The answer was simple, very little!

Given that the findings of The Sutton Trust show feedback to have high impact, where was I going wrong? Was the quality of my written feedback to blame? Was it the quality of pupils responses and the time given to this that was failing? Or was it a combination of the two?

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@Daniel_Eos found this on Twitter (source unknown) and we decided to adapt it slightly and use as tool for pupil response time.

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This left me to consider the quality of feedback that the children were receiving through written comments in their books. Over the coming days, I conducted a vast amount of reading on this matter. A common theme quickly emerged; peer feedback.

Having seen the impact of Critique at Hartsholme Academy, and with child-directed learning/metacognition high on my agenda, I decided to focus my efforts here.

I stumbled across the idea of TAG on Twitter (original source unknown). This seemed to provide a basic structure for pupils to provide peer feedback.

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The next step was to provide children with a criteria to provide feedback against. In my NQT year, I remember asking my Y2 class at the time to ‘write something positive in a peers book’… Only to find one child had written ‘I love you’ in another pupils book… Nice but not particularly helpful!

@Daniel_Eos, @crizzlerizzle and I developed the following. Y6 were writing narrative poems at the time. We now develop one of these for every genre that we teach and this goes into the pupils’ books at the start of the ‘block/genre/unit/whatever the government say we are supposed to call it these days’. This provides the children with a criteria to provide feedback against.

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Every time a pupil produces a piece of work, they ask another pupil to TAG it. They then use the DIRT tool to improve their work based upon the feedback given. As a teacher, I have provided feedback on the quality of feedback if and when needed.

Four weeks on from the implementation of this and the impact has been staggering! Evidence in books shows large numbers of ‘level 3’ writers producing independently written ‘level 4’ pieces of work. Children are showing a greater understanding of writing and genre in the feedback they are giving and they are responding to feedback in a way that is enabling them to move their own learning forward. I believe that children have risen to the challenge of being empowered to improve each other’s work. Moreover, expectations (across the attainment range) have risen.

Here is one example of the poetry produced. This pupil achieved this outcome by responding positively to peer feedback.

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I have been blown away. As a result, my next challenge is to develop a similar system for peer feedback in reading and math.