2014 in review

WordPress has prepared a summary of the activity on the Learning@Loreto website during 2014. It’s nearly a year now since it all began!

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,200 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

But, because, so

If you’re teaching English writing skills, or looking for plenary ideas in any subject, then take a look at Doug Lemov’s excellent summary of an idea in Judith Hochman’s Teaching Basic Writing Skills

As a teaser, here’s an example of but, because, so in action.  You simply take a key idea from your lesson and then ask the pupils to extend it in three different ways:

Eva killed herself … BUTmany people are to blame for her death.

Eva killed herself … BECAUSE  … she had fallen victim to an unpleasant chain of events.

Eva killed herself … SOthat she wouldn’t have to suffer any longer.

As a plenary activity, this would work with any subject, and it might well lead to some interesting revelations about the pupils’ thinking.   If this idea sounds interesting, you might also want to check out this popular article on exit tickets.


A simple recap

One of the most popular posts on this site has been this explanation of exit tickets.  Here’s a variation on that idea recently shared by @RemindHQ.  I don’t think the idea needs any explaining – see the exit ticket post for ideas on how to follow up …

stuck with you

Snipping Tool

If you’ve ever found a great image you’d like to add to a presentation, or a piece of text you’d rather not have to retype, only to find that you cannot copy it to your clipboard, then you will  certainly like Microsoft’s “Snipping tool”.  This is a simple little gadget which basically gives you a better alternative to using the “print screen” button.

snipping tool

Unfortunately Snipping Tool is not available in school due to Microsoft’s licensing set-up, but if you’re using a Windows PC or laptop at home, you’ve almost certainly got access to it there.  To find it, just click “Start” and then type “snipping” into the search bar.  You can see a short video explaining how the tool works here.

Thanks to Peter for sharing this.

Festival Feedback – A few snippets

What with all the end of term fun and frolics, I have not had a chance to share as much from the Festival of Education as I had hoped.  So, to make up for this, here are a few pearls of wisdom from various presentations I made it to …

Putting Evidence to Work – Kevan Collins

Kevan spoke about the work of the Education Endowment Fund (EEF).  This organisation is keen to reduce the impact of fanciful fads on educational thinking by collecting evidence to establish how effective different approaches to pedagogy really are.  It has taken the idea of effect sizes, which John Hattie’s work is currently the best known example of, and taken it a step further by relating the impact of a certain approach to the investment it requires.  The Foundation’s work is still in its infancy, but based on their work to date, the most cost effective ways of advancing pupil’s learning are providing better feedback and equipping pupils with more ability to self-regulate – both ideas which are already high on our agenda! Good to know we’re on the right track here!

Accidental Learning – Hywel Roberts

Drawing on his own diverse educational work, Hywel recently published a book called “Oops – helping children learn accidentally“, and in his festival presentation he shared just a few of the insights contained in this book.  What struck me most about this session was the way in which Hywel practised what he preaches, modelling with his audience of educators the sort of approaches which have made him a very successful educator himself.  I’m now half way through the book, which is highly readable, and I can honestly say that every page has given me something to think about.  Yesterday the RE staff kindly indulged me as I tried out his “Chilean Miners” hook, and I certainly enjoyed our session – I can’t wait to use this and other suggestions from Hywel in the classroom next year.  It would be unfair on Hywel to share all his ideas here, so … buy his book!

What’s worth learning these days? – Guy Claxton

Having looked at Guy’s work on Building Learning Power, I was curious to find out how he would answer the question posed in his presentation title.  In actual fact Guy said very little about what should be learned, and a great deal about how learning should take place.  A lot of what he said struck a chord with Dweck’s ideas on Growth mindets.  Again, it was good to know we’re on the ball with this one. He also shared a couple of thought-provoking quotes:

“Intelligence is knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do.” – Piaget

“Doubt is an uncomfortable condition.  Certainty is a rideiculous one.” – Voltaire

The phrase that stuck most in my mind though was one shared with Guy by an Oxford admissions tutor, who said that when interviewing student applicants he deliberately asked questions designed to make them flounder, just to see whether they could “flounder intelligently”.  And in this lies the answer to Guy’s question: if we are to produce truly reflective and articulate students, then we need to give them any opportunity we can to develop these skills – in other words, everything is worth learning …

The Teenage Brain – Sarah-Jane Blakemore

It’s hard to imagine that anyone could ever understand how any brain works, especially a teenage brain, but Sarah’s illuminating talk made it clear that neuroscientists are constantly discovering more.  She covered a lot of ground, and I cannot possibly do justice to it all here, so here are a just few interesting points to ponder …

Adolescents are three times more likely to take risks when in the company of their peers.  Most have a particular fear of being excluded from that peer group, and in order to prevent this from happening they may well take risks in a bid to retain their credibility, such as smoking or driving too fast.

When people are tested on their ability to see something from someone else’s visual perspective, the average adult makes errors 40% of the time, but youngsters between the ages of 9 and 14 make errors 75% of the time.  This is because their brains are basically different at this point in their lives, not just because it’s a skill they have yet to acquire.

Because their brains are different, teenagers have markedly less ability than they will go on to develop as adults when it comes to:

  • self-control
  • planning
  • problem-solving
  • decision-making
  • self-awareness
  • social interaction

Teenagers are not just being awkward!  Their brains are still developing and are highly malleable at this age.  This is very sensitive period in their development, and they are heavily influenced by their environment.  Risk-taking and susceptibility to the influence of their peers are both very notable … but this need not mean teenagers are unmanageable!

Word Cloud Generators

Nothing new here: just a few links to various online word cloud generators.

Wordle is the best-known and most widely used application.

Tagul Clouds allows you to put your words into a custom shape, to use a variety of fonts, and to orientate the words in a variety of ways.  Here is an example drawn from my recent article about the Times Festival of Education:


Tagxedo is a similar package, but has a different variety of shapes on offer: it would lend itself well to Biology and the Humanities as it includes the outlines of countries, plants and animals.

VocabGrabber takes a all this a step further by analysing the text you want to feature in your word cloud.