Globally competent students have knowledge of the world they live in and a sense of responsibility for taking care of it and each other. How can this sense of global citizenship be fostered in the classroom? Continue reading
Author: Christopher Hill
Evaluating distance learning
I was listening to a radio talk show from Scotland recently where teachers and parents were invited to call in with their views on distance learning. I was curious to compare my experience with those of teachers in my native land. Among the difficulties some communities have faced has been the slow or non-existent internet access. While living in Sweden, it is easy to forget how privileged I am in terms of accessing reliable, high-speed broadband internet. Indeed, Sweden compares favourably with other countries when it comes to digitalisation – only Finland ranks higher in terms of digital competitiveness in Europe. Consequently, having access to a digital device, reliable internet connection and adequate IT-skills do not pose significant problems for most teachers or students in Sweden. The concerns lie elsewhere. Continue reading
How to cultivate a thinking culture in the classroom
Among the wealth of resources that can be found on the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s website is the Thinking Routine Toolbox. This is a collection of simple tasks that can be practiced with students to help develop a culture of thinking in the classroom – and beyond. The key word here is ‘routine’ and it is recommended that teachers use these tools regularly and in different contexts – after all ‘practice makes permanent’.
So what are they and how do they work?
NB Take Notes!
When I see my students engaged in a frenzy of note taking I get a warm feeling inside. Sure, it can be mildly frustrating to pause my lesson to allow students to catch up on their note taking, but there are few things worse than being engaged in a presentation and not seeing anyone scribbling down what I am saying. A lack of note taking sends a signal to me that my lecture is boring, that the material I find so interesting is of little interest to my students. When such moments arise I cajole my seemingly less than enthused pupils on the importance of taking notes and there is always one who, with a knowing look, taps their temple and says, “my notes are all up here”.
Surely this can’t be right. Can a student who doesn’t take notes really hope to learn as much as one who does? Continue reading
ResearchEd is becoming a regular feature on many teachers’ calendars and last month together with some colleagues, I found myself wrapping up warm to brave the Swedish winter once again as I ventured to the outskirts of Stockholm on this annual pilgrimage. The reason I keep coming back was neatly summed up by Alex Quigley (Senior Associate at the Education Endowment Foundation) in his keynote speech: attending events like ResearchEd gets us off the treadmill of classroom practice and encourages intellectual discussion. While the event may seem just as exhausting as a treadmill session at the gym it is ultimately good for us. A full day (a Saturday!) includes 6 lectures plus opening and closing speeches. There is little time to catch your breath let alone a coffee yet year after year educators flock to this event.
In past years, I have benefitted greatly from the reading tips gleamed from the sessions I’ve attended. As all busy teachers know however, finding time to keep up with the latest research is a challenge. One book recommendation I had not yet read was Graham Nuthall’s The Hidden Lives of Learners and for that reason I chose to attend Jan Tishauser’s session on this subject. Continue reading
Formative Feedback – a journey
When the half-term holidays come around I find myself looking forward to doing some hiking and hillwalking, however far too often the only mountain I saw during a break was a mountain of marking. This was typical for me – and I suspect, most teachers. We often spend our so-called free time catching up on marking and I was doing lots of it! As most people would be thinking of what to pack in their suitcase, I was printing off screeds of essays to take with me to the countryside. It’s not a good start to a holiday.
Over the years, I have struggled to reach the goal of work-life balance and I would point to the amount of marking I had as being the biggest obstacle preventing me from reaching this eldorado.
Keen to resolve this, I have sought new approaches to marking. Last year, I took a step back to reevaluate my practice and found a new, more sustainable path more in step with the practice of formative assessment. Continue reading
It’s autumn again and you’ll often find me spending my weekends unwinding from a week in the classroom by going for long walks in the forest with my dog. Over the years I have taught him a number of tricks. Some took longer to learn than others. It took a concerted effort on both our parts before he mastered the adorable ‘high five’ but fetch is a game he learned very quickly and he delights in bringing back a ball or stick for me to throw again. It has become part of our weekend routine and a morning walk is not complete without a quick game of fetch. This is not dissimilar to how I work with my students during the week – though they are not quite as effusive in showing delight when I play fetch with them. Continue reading
Teachnology or distraction devices?
This week I reviewed a presentation with my mentor students on the dangers of social media. This presentation builds upon the ideas espoused by Dr Cal Newport of Georgetown University. In his blog, Study Hacks, Dr Newport writes about “how to perform productive, valuable and meaningful work in an increasingly distracted digital age”. His book, Deep Work, refers to studying for focussed chunks of time without distractions such as email and social media.
In brief, Dr Newport concludes that social media reduces our capacity for attention, leads to loneliness and isolation, and causes a state of continuous latent anxiety. Continue reading
Teaching is not seen as an attractive career choice. Why would someone want to sign up for (and indeed stay in) a career which is often criticised for long hours, poor pay and piles of paperwork? Take a minute to think about your answer.
There is a good chance your answer goes something like this – to make a difference in young people’s lives, to have an impact.
It is easy to lose sight of why we became teachers as we go about the day-to-day job of planning lessons, creating material and marking tests not to mention the regular writing of reports on each of our students. And yet maybe, if we are to address the recruitment and retention crisis in teaching, we should encourage teachers to reflect over the impact they have on learning and the difference they can make. Continue reading
Train the Brain
This week spells the start of Spring break for schools in Stockholm. The week-long hiatus from school is called ‘sportlov’ in Swedish which translates as ‘sports break’. Traditionally this is a time for families to retreat to the mountains for a week of high exertion on the ski slopes. However, the long winter has had its toll on many who opt instead for warmer climes and a week of R&R on a beach. Indeed, one of my students quipped that the closest they would come to sport this week would be doing a Netflix marathon.
As we are encouraged to turn our attentions to the benefits of physical activity, we should maybe take some time to reflect on mental exercise too. Continue reading