Oh dear. This blogging malarkey isn’t going too well, is it? My last post was the night before I started my NQT year in September. It is now January, so my “teacher blog” is feeling a little neglected. I must admit that there hasn’t been a shortage of things for me to blog about, but I just never got round to writing about them. Must try harder.
Anyway, yesterday I thought to myself that it was high time I resurrected this blog and started to share a little more with the world. I really enjoy reading other teacher blogs that I find on Twitter, so I’m hoping that over time, I can be just as good as some of the amazing people on there.
The reason that I had my mini-epiphany yesterday was because I was at BETT 2011. I got up very early (5am!) to catch the 6am train to London. Living in Newcastle has its perks, but being so far away from the centre of things in London certainly isn’t one of them! I arrived in London just after 9am and made my way to the Olympia. It seemed to be quite quiet, but I was one of the hardcore people who actually had to queue at the door, as the exhibition hadn’t opened yet! Here is my slightly customised badge:
When I got into the main exhibition hall, I couldn’t believe how big it was. It took me quite a while to get orientated, but I just spent the first hour or so wandering around, trying not to make eye contact with people trying to sell me products like pupil tracking systems and attendance registers etc, over which I have no control!
I had planned to go to a few seminars, but in the end I only managed to make it to two of them. Juliette Heppell’s Year 11 students from Lampton School in Hownslow were showing us how they’ve used YouTube in the classroom. I already use YouTube a lot in school, but went along to see if I could get any new ideas of how it could be used. Juliette started the session by explaining that before she went to her interview at the school, she entered the school’s name on YouTube to see what came up. As in all “before and after” stories like this, the results were not overly complimentary to the school, as it mostly brought up videos of pupils fighting or play-fighting at school. Juliette aimed to change this and after getting YouTube unblocked in school, set about using it with her classes. Many subject areas at Lampton now use YouTube with their students to help revise topic areas covered. They also use it as a parental engagement tool, so that parents can see what their children are learning about at school. The Year 11 students who led the seminar told us that producing videos for YouTube in school inspires them to work hard, as people all over the world will see their end result. One video that was made by Media students at Lampton is now being used by the WWF on their website. I would embed it here, only I can’t find it on YouTube! The school’s media department use this Youtube site to publish their videos.
I think using Youtube in this manner is a great tool in secondary, particularly for parental engagement and for assessment purposes. However, I have some reservations about using this in my own primary classroom. I know that some of my children are not allowed on YouTube at home and I have made sure that children in school do not have access to it, as some of the content on the site is inappropriate and should not be seen by children aged 11 and under. Although YouTube has some excellent tools for automatically moderating and deleting inappropriate comments, I would worry about some children seeing them before they could be removed. I really like the idea of producing videos at the end of a topic and I will definitely look into this, although I will most likely self-host them on a class blog, rather than on YouTube.
After this seminar, it was time for another wander. There really are some great products out there if you have thousands/millions of pounds to spend on ICT, but as we live in the age of austerity, this is not an option. I took great pleasure in telling one exhibitor, when he asked about the budget I had available to spend at BETT, that I was working on a budget of £0. Needless to say, he lost interest very quickly!
I was very pleased to see that SMART have brought out a new 800 series multi-touch interactive whiteboard. Just last week I was telling my class that I would love an IWB that could be touched by several people at the same time, but I didn’t know that they actually existed! As far as I am aware, most primary classrooms these days already have an interactive whiteboard. Keeping this in mind, I wonder what their sales will be in the primary sector, as schools are unlikely to replace an IWB until it has come to the end of its working life. Anyway, SMART were one of my favourite exhibitors, as they gave me one of these pointers for free (procured with the help of Chris Mayoh!):
Another fantastic freebie that I got was a 30-day free trial to Purplemash. I have heard a lot of people on Twitter talking about this, but I hadn’t really looked into it before. I’m excited to try it out with my class and to see what they think. Personally, I was very impressed when I got a very brief play on it at the 2Simple stand.
He was showing us the resources that he has uploaded to the TES website (and YouTube and his own website), all of which are completely free. Mr Thorne’s videos are a fantastic resource when teaching phonics. I found them particularly useful last year when I was teaching a Y1/2 composite class, as the sounds that come out of my mouth aren’t always as Letters & Sounds would like them to be. Northern Irish vowel phonemes bear no resemblance to their Proper English counterparts! I was disappointed not to win a copy of Geraldine The Giraffe though (Mr Thorne’s first published book).
Without doubt, my highlight of BETT 2011 was getting to meet the huge number of Twitter people who were there. I honestly don’t think I could list all the people I met without offending someone by forgetting them, so I’m just going to avoid all that by not listing anyone! It was great to finally meet these people who really are inspirational. In a way, it was sort of like meeting celebrities of the teaching world! A special mention, however, must be made for Natalie Allan, better known to those on Twitter as @Natty08. Natalie and I have chatted for a long time, 90% of which is not about teaching and more about coffee or Northern Irish bread! It was great to finally meet her in person, and we fulfilled an ambition to have coffee together. This was made even better by Mr Thorne coming with us. However, he didn’t like us enough to finish his coffee before running away:
He says it was because he had to go present on the TES stand or something, but we just don’t believe that at all. I should also point out that Natalie and I are not weird coffee-cup-checkers – we discovered the leftover coffee as I moved the cup when the lovely Nicki and Phil Allman joined us for coffee a while later.
So that was it – BETT 2011. I have brought a lot of ideas back to try out in my classroom, but I have some things I will change for my BETT 2012 visit:
- Go down on the Friday for the BETT Teachmeet and Teacheat (if they’re happening!).
- No 6am trains.
- Bigger backpack to carry more freebies!
This visit has inspired me to do something online to share with other teachers, using my MFL background. No more news on that just yet – I need to do some work on it before it can be publicised. Watch this space though.