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David Garland

David Garland

David Garland

David Garland was without doubt the most accomplished professional I have ever had the honour to work with. I first met him when interviewing candidates for the headship of Holly Trees Infants in May 1997. He didn’t interview as well as some – his charming self-deprecation didn’t show off his strengths, but luckily we saw through that, picked him and never looked back.

He worked hard to create the most effective education for local children by organising the merger of the infants and junior schools to create the current Holly Trees Primary School. Not content with that, he organised the building of the current premises, moving from one of the worst buildings in Essex to one of the best. He did all of this whilst maintaining a hands-on, compassionate and high-standards job running the school (both schools for a short while) and did this through effective delegation, systems and support for colleagues. He earned their respect through his willingness to muck in and teach classes when needed and showed everyone what clear vision can do and how to go about making it work. When he was obliged to apply for the Primary headship, every member of staff wrote to me offering their support for his application.

All this I learnt through my professional relationship with him, but on a personal front he also welcomed my own son as a pupil, diagnosed on the autistic spectrum, with open arms. He built trust and friendship for my son from the whole community at Holly Trees to nurture his strengths and manage his weaknesses. Subsequently, my son went on to Cambridge, gained a Masters at Guildhall and is now studying for his Doctorate. I believe the teachers, assistants and pupil community at Holly Trees together made this possible, but David was at the heart of this community. My gratitude to him and all the team knows no bounds. I feel nothing but love for this man and deeply regret the lack of opportunity to show it and return the kindness and service he made possible with his vision and his heart. To his family, I can only say how sorry I am that he is gone and offer my thanks to them for their support for him, a man who I feel shaped so many lives for the better. He will never be forgotten.

David passed away on December 26th 2015.

Bianca’s “MakerMeet”

I had the privilege of attending the funeral for Bianca Ní Ghrógáin on Thursday 11th June in Clondalkin, Dublin.

Here she is, relaxed at a meeting last year, where we were discussing technology and learning. She has a half smile playing on her lips, a familiar look of sceptical inquiry as I pompously drone on, and a sense of sassy clarity as I introduce her to the audience. She was someone who had a lot to tell about making learning meaningful, delightful and successful.

Bianca Ní Ghrógáin and Richard Millwood at AUECi 2014 in Trinity College Dublin

Bianca Ní Ghrógáin and Richard Millwood at AUECi 2014 in Trinity College Dublin

 

 

 

 

Her untimely passing – she was 32 –  leaves a legacy of powerful educational ideas, but more importantly action. She benefited from technical confidence, educational inspiration and powerful moral purpose. The students and children she taught were challenged to question everything, fired-up to take meaningful action and reminded to be both sceptical and open-minded.

Today, at the Computer Education Society of Ireland meeting, I was reminded of her version of the flipped classroom. Normally this means flipping the content, otherwise presented by the teacher during a lesson, so that information is accessed beforehand. The time released is then given over to activity rather than passive listening –  mutual exploration, problem solving and discussion. In her case there was a further flip – the learner taking the front-seat, managing their inquiry, pursuing a problem and acting-up to the status of adult with responsibility for their learning. She found that her 9 and 10 year olds were hungry to be the teacher  – the highest reward she could offer for good work or behaviour.

Lessons with Bianca tackled problems normally thought suitable for much older learners, but she found no difficulty in balancing their immaturity and lack of experience with a young person’s ambition.

Her humility would mean that she rarely bragged about these success – I think she thought them to be vital and obvious as ways for her learners to ‘become’, paying attention explicitly to adult dispositions in development.

Naturally, this attitude spilled over into her work with adults. I am proud to have worked with her (and best friend and collaborator Susan Nic Réamoinn) in workshops at the CESI conference, learning about the Makey-makey kit for turning programming into real-world, tactile problem solving and design. She understood the value of making working prototypes as a way of understanding complex abstractions and was a supporter of the Maker movement and involved in running MakerMeets to bring like-minded makers together.

It wasn’t until today, listening to Mags Amond, another of Bianca’s best friends and collaborators, that I realised that Bianca’s ultimate “MakerMeet” was on Thursday 🙂

Mathematics and ICT

Searching through an old computer back up recently, I found this foreword I wrote for a colleague’s book over ten years ago, back in 2004. I found that I still felt I agreed with these earlier views, and that it might be useful to others:

There is a relationship between the human mind, the modern computer and mathematics which is often misunderstood. Indeed over centuries, humankind has used the developing concept of the computer as a metaphor for the mind, and the growing knowledge of the human mind as a metaphor for the computer, and it is now unclear which was the chicken or the egg. This interchange of conceptions suggests a central place for the computer in our culture, that the often heard, but rather dismissive remark, “it’s just a tool”, can underestimate.

It can be persuasively argued that tools and technology have been at the heart of intellectual endeavour since the stone age, and that the sciences and mathematics owe a debt to tools, rather than the reverse, as a source of intellectual development in our culture.

Since mathematical concepts and logic lie at the heart of the computer’s function, it comes as no surprise that the study of mathematics and the use of ICT may be profitably intermingled. The concepts of algorithm, function, operation and set all have concrete manifestation in the world of computers to parallel their abstraction in mathematics. One consequence is that the computer, through the spreadsheet, database, LOGO programming and modelling & simulation environments, has the delightful capacity to make concrete of the otherwise abstract ideas of relationship and process. For example the mathematical variable in algebra is often a mysterious object: “Please miss, tell me how much x is?”. The same (but subtly different) X on a computer, although capable of varying, can always be known as a value at any given time. A spreadsheet cell containing a function always shows an answer, for the moment. Suddenly, elusive mathematical ideas become tangible and may be played with, bringing dead algebra to a ‘what if?’ life.

So far so good – it seems that there is already an impressive case for doing mathematics, practically, with a computer.

But in fact, there is even greater scope, because the computer has added to this capacity for logic and computation a unique facility to integrate and generate visual and dynamic material – multimedia – and to portray the most aesthetically pleasing visual and musical outputs based on mathematical data. Using LOGO and other software to discover geometry empowers us to pin down elusive abstractions with concrete experiences. LOGO also encourages us to benefit from our kinaesthetic, body-centred capacities when solving problems by acting ‘turtles’ ourselves.

In all of these ways, mathematics and the computer can combine to appeal to our multiple intelligences and raise the stakes for capability in learning mathematics.

But sadly, the potential identified here is often missing – why? – perhaps in part because such experiences have not been lived by many of today’s teachers. Hence the purpose of this book: to begin to unlock the genie in the bottle and promote creativity in mathematics teaching and learning through practical advice and relevant detail.

Such advice is legion in this book, with valuable commentary to reassure the inexperienced teacher so that they may tackle both statutory and unspoken expectations, from the National Curriculum and the Numeracy and Literacy Strategies, with carefully explained and justified lesson ideas.

Pupils will also benefit from the appropriate deployment of ICT in Mathematics advocated here: the handling of data and creation of graph & chart which may come from speedy ICT tools and the teacher’s knowledge, enhanced by this book’s exposition, coupled with the generation of their own data and purposes conspire to make the exploration of mathematical concepts both meaningful and relevant. Genuine ‘what if?’ questions may be asked and answered, alternatives judged and genuine inquiry fostered – the ‘quantitative’ improvement in the speed of production brought about by ICT begins to change the ‘qualitative’ nature of engagement with mathematics.

With the confidence that this book will inspire, the truth and beauty that excites successful mathematicians may begin to be appreciated by a much wider audience of teachers and learners, and the symbiotic relationship between our society and its most powerful tools may be continued, to all humankind’s benefit.

Richard Millwood

Reader, Ultralab, Anglia Polytechnic University

This text was the foreword to:
ICT and Primary Mathematics: A Teacher’s Guide
Nick Easingwood and John Williams
Published by Routledge 5 Aug, 2004

Reflection on Reflection™

No this is not a treatise on reflective practice, it is reflective practice.

Today I took friend @benjeddi ‘s advice and decided to RiskIT (for only seven minutes rather than two weeks). A key RiskIT element is to be ‘Not afraid of failure, but learn from it’ – an attitude I have nearly always benefited from, despite some pain.

I was presenting at TeachMeet Essex, in front of an unusually strong gathering including many head teachers. The meeting exceeded my expectations of this novel form of CPD with excellent food (thanks KEGS’ chef and kitchen), excellent organisation (thanks @aknill and @ICTMagic) and clear evidence of the power of a good head’s sanction, thanks @headguruteacher!

My risks were:

  • to demonstrate from an iPhone via Reflection on my laptop;
  • to present my ideas using VideoScribe;
  • to test a proposal for developing modern apps based on lost ideas.

It all went wrong, as it often does when you use technology in a presentation for the first time, but since I am going to do it all again at #tmbolton on Friday, I fruitfully learnt from the experience.  For all those let down by a slightly duff speech, here is the video from Videoscribe I would have like to shown:

Incidentally, I created the video by using Reflection to record the video as it was played by VideoScribe on the phone. A subsequent re-compress using Quicktime Player 7 to half size and H264 yielded a video only 3.3Mb in size.

Alive Babbs


Alice Mitchell 1942 – 2010

  • Creative linguist, learning media developer and pedagogue,
  • Head of Language Centre at Anglia Polytechnic University
  • Unique Ultranaut
  • Dedicated wife to Colin Babbs
  • Informal, enthusiastic tutor to my son
  • Personal friend
  • Favourite remembered saying: “half the time in English we mispronounce French and the other half, German”

Alice’s work in the middle nineties to develop language learning multimedia material and virtual spaces for language learning was a decade ahead of its time – Alice was an unusual mix of imaginative ideas and perfection in detail who understood ‘delight’ and made every attempt to foreground affect in her designs. Sorely missed doesn’t really say it.

Elle ne s’en ira pas, elle ne redescendra pas d’un ciel, elle n’accomplira pas la rédemption des colères de femmes et des gaîtés des hommes et de tout ce péché: car c’est fait, lui étant, et étant aimée.

(from Rimbaud)

National Archive of Educational Computing moves

Boxes and crates of the National Archive of Educational Computing

On Monday 15th Feb, the National Archive of Educational Computing moved to its new home, bringing it to a spare school science lab from a storage facility. Now the work can begin to make sense of it all and enhance the web site.

Thanks are due to Keith Lashmar of Chelmsford Van Hire and his tireless workers, together with Maureen Gurr and Patrick Millwood for helping to make it a smooth and well-organised move.

Ultralab's last room is demolished

By coincidence I was in Chelmsford the next day, and saw the last room of Ultralab about to be demolished – we were on the top floor of this building. A sad day.

iPodTouch Conference Oldham

Richard Millwood at iPodTouch2010

A real buzz of learner-centred excitement surrounds the reports of iPod projects presented here – especially the desire to create rather than simply consume resources. Interesting reports of large and small scale use including ESSA Academy’s 1 to 1 roll-out. Working with Friezland‘s Year 3 was a treat and reinforced what I learnt from listening to delegates, that iPod and App store had simplified the whole management issue so much that kids and teachers could take charge and feel empowered.

More at the iPodTouchConf2010 Ning.

TreeMeet

treehouse

The ephemeral TreeHouse Gallery in Regents Park London provided a magical venue for an enjoyable discussion on new forms of teacher CPD. Initiated through Twitter by Drew Buddie who facilitated the meeting, which attracted myself, Leon Cych (who broadcast it on TwitCam), John Davitt, Merlin John, Anthony Evans, Dave Smith, Bill Gibbon, Andy Broomfield, Will and Daren Forsyth.

We got excited about TeachMeets, punchy presentations (whilst acknowledging the scope for lengthier, compelling presentations), Twitter and Blogs and the value of global networking. But we couldn’t tackle the challenge of recognition for such learning – could it be that informal learning should be left alone and valued for its own sake? Perhaps its value is in developing risk-free peer-learning, light reflection and seeds for the adoption of new practices –  formal learning undertaken for rigour, recognition and career progression will always benefit from such experience.

All-in-all a valuable moment to pause for thought before tackling the new academic year (and a chance to see how a hobbit might feel in Lothlorien 🙂 .

The act of digital lobotomy

Hugh D’Andrade‘s article on the Electronic Frontier Foundations web site, Orwell in 2009: Dystopian Rights Management, shows how Amazon have fulfilled in part the provocative predictions made by Mark Pilgrim in his blog in November 2007 The Future of Reading (A Play in Six Acts).

In the sixth act, ‘Act VI: The act of learning’ Mark Pilgrim quotes from the Kindle Terms of service (still accurate at the time of writing this blog entry):

Termination Your rights under this Agreement will automatically terminate without notice from Amazon if you fail to comply with any term of this Agreement. In case of such termination, you must cease all use of the Software and Amazon may immediately revoke your access to the Service or to Digital Content without notice to you and without refund of any fees.

Amazon, Kindle Terms of Service

Suppose I was the kind of modern, 21st century learner who augmented their memory with notes and annotations on electronic devices such as the Kindle?

Suppose I was the kind of professional who carried their digital notes to work to augment my performance in real-life work situations?

Both of these augmentations would be out of my control if I subscribe to Amazon’s conditions and  slip up – even if I did not stray from their compliance, their recent act could be tantamount to a lobotomy…

Regardless of my rights, my augmented mind is being controlled…

UPDATE 31st July 2009

A student is suing for loss of learning – from the lawsuit:

“28. As part of his studies of “1984,” Mr. Gawronski had made copious notes in the book. After Amazon remotely deleted “1984,” those notes were rendered useless because they no longer referenced the relevant parts of the book. The notes are still accessible on the Kindle device in a file separate from the deleted book, but are of no value. For example, a note such as “remember this paragraph for your thesis” is useless if it does not actually a reference a specific paragraph. By deleting “1984” from Mr. Gawronski’s Kindle 2, this is the position in which Amazon left him. Mr. Gawronski now needs to recreate all of his studies.”

Opting for innovation

Just read Paul Haigh’s blog on opting-out of Building Schools for the Future ICT , in which he speaks of the injustice for leading & innovating schools –

“The DCSF will say there is a fair procedure in place for schools who feel the way we do- they have 42 days to produce an Alternative Business Procurement Case that the business experts in their Local Authority will have had 18 months to work on (in our case 107 pages long).”

and he continues to say –

“This is a trick, there is no way any school can show economy of scale (even though I actually have the figures to prove we can- it won’t be accepted, it’s sacrilege to suggest it) or show ‘transference of risk’ (we don’t talk about transferring the risks of educating our children elsewhere, we talk about professionals taking responsibility in house- isn’t this a lesson from the credit crunch?)”

It’s hard not to sympathise, but I wonder: can schools like Paul’s club together across the UK and share the burden?

Isn’t this an excellent opportunity for open source procurement thinking?

Leading CPD in the School – Using Web 2.0 Tools

The logo of TeacherNet UK - a project to revitalise CPD for teachers using the online community and the internet from 1998

(This is the logo of TeacherNet UK – a project to revitalise CPD for teachers by using online community and the internet from 1996-2000, after which it became the name of the governments’ website to provide unified information for teachers.)

This seminar lead by Professor Marilyn Leask at Brunel University, feels like a revisit of the work we did over ten years ago when the internet was fresh.

The question is how to best exploit technology to enhance continuing professional development for teachers? I have five minutes to answer…

… and of course the easy way out is to pose two further questions:

What is it about Facebook?

Facebook is highly successful in maintaining vibrant relationships between people, which leads me to ask:

  1. Is it a successful online community or is it a social network?
  2. How is it achieving this without facilitation?

I think it’s a tool which permits both online community and social network and there is a need to reconsider these terms and their meaning. Its success perhaps derives from these four things (amongst others):

  • simple ownership and participation, the ability to make your own space and express creativity by putting your own material in it;
  • automated gossip, the reporting of other user’s activity;
  • some control over privacy and membership in hands of the user including identifying relationships with others;
  • a route for creative developers to extend the system.

Such features continue to be innovated and prevent us from settling on a specification – we need a platform able to change without confusing participants.

How should we conceptualise CPD?

I have been working at the University of Bolton in the Institute for Educational Cybernetics to build an undergraduate and masters degree framework, the Inter-Disciplinary Inquiry-Based Learning project (IDIBL),  which permits any professional practice to be explored in the workplace and online. In devising this framework, we tried hard to leave the subject discipline to be determined by context and to focus on inquiry discipline. Nevertheless there remained  a problem of how to form viable online communities to study in this way, and our solution was themes.

In the world of teacher CPD, I argue that a multi-professional theme such as ‘Every Child Matters’ would form the basis for such a theme. In this kind of CPD, masters study is undertaken together with the social worker, health professional, special needs expert and police in order to gain a rounded understanding of a learner-centred improvement in practice.

Thus I would applaud the GTCE for considering action inquiry a central process in the Teacher Learning Academy, but extend that thinking to include a broader online community of the professionals that surround the challenge society faces in transforming schooling. And, benefit from the know-how in higher education of action research methodology and the opportunity for peer evaluation at a high level of rigour.

The price of cheating seems low

I was surprised at the size of the fine, £7,015 plus £1,000 costs, handed down to  the London College of Business and Accountancy which had cheated by claiming accreditation from the British Computer Society and from the Association of Accounting Technicians.

This surely isn’t a great deterrent, considering the potential damage to the reputation of its students…

The business of training looks troubled to me – a new credit-crunch to come?

Online community

I have enjoyed discussing with colleagues at Manchester University the nature of online community, which made me think about the various terms used – hence the above slide. It was also fun to explain the work done over ten years and how we came across many of the concepts we take for granted. Here are the slides as a PDF file, which miss out on the many videos I showed of participants talking about their experience.

Surprise, surprise

Times Higher Educational Supplement logo

Tara Brabazon in the Times Higher Education Supplement when discussing coursework masters degree courses:

“They are squeezed between the crowd control of undergraduate education and the over-bureaucratised doctoral programmes that dislodge the historically functional relationship between a PhD candidate and supervisor.”

She draws attention to the remarkable creativity of her students, when unleashed with a little flexibility:

“Although there is a science – and craft – to curriculum, we never know how our students will remix our aims and riff off our structure to create melodies and syncopations beyond our lesson plans.”

I know what she’s talking about and we have designed this thinking in to our new degree framework for batchelors, masters and doctorate at the University of Bolton.

Although her article is flowery in its language and this begins to grate as I get to the end, the sentiments and concepts are important:

“These students want a second chance to remake their careers and lives. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and their examples show that change and creativity emerges when courageous students decide to live their lives differently.”

Our take on this fertile opportunity is Inter-disciplinary inquiry-based learning founded in an action research philosophy.

At this point in her article, Tara switches to talking about the link between research and teaching, through the students’ inquiry referencing the HEA report Linking Teaching and Research in Disciplines and Departments.

My worry is that this paper, and her language, are not radical enough in conceiving students as co-researchers in the 21st century. Surely now, ivory-tower academic authority is no longer seen as the know-it-all top of the pyramid (to mix a few metaphors myself), but still has a vital role to play in gathering the best, modelling excellence and rigour and wisely critiquing and deferring to the evidence base from professional practice.

Tara pleas:

“I hope that through the stress and the marking, the stress and the moderation, the stress and the exam boards, academics feel buoyant at their teaching achievements but humbly reflective about what our students can teach us.”

Agreed, and I suggest we should focus on how to make these important teaching acts as delightful and stress free as possible.

Lost for Words

Lost for Words

Not a complaint I suffer from, but the hot potato of synthetic phonics mashed well at Channel 4 by uncompromising feisty primary heads, publishers, educators, authors and reading experts alike.

It seemed to me there is not enough recognition of the power of a school staff team, working together and determined to eradicate poor reading skills, which almost certainly makes more difference than which variant of phonics you employ.

e-Learning Lisboa 2007

Lisbon street

My task at this conference was to talk about the delightful development of e-tutors and trainers. This gave me a chance to re-read John Heron’s ‘up-hierarchy’ (don’t ask*) which when interpreted in a learning context gives strong support for offering digital creativity, inquiry-based learning and opportunity to negotiate and choose the curriculum. Delight in learning is not just an entitlement for moral reasons, but effective when seen in this way.

By the way, got completely obsessed by the suspension bridge out of my Lisbon hotel window, which constantly found its way into every photo!

*Heron, J, Feeling and Personhood: Psychology in another key. London and Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992.