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Work smarter. Be efficient with your time. Use technology wisely. Downloading Turnitin as an app for my iPad allowed to do all three in one easy hit. Existing practice would have been to download, and print out each uploaded document one at a time, to be marked by hand. Now, using this e-marking version, time taken to mark was halved, at no expense to the accuracy or detail of feedback for the student.
After downloading the app, which took a matter of minutes, my existing account was downloaded almost instantly. The front screen looks like this.
After selecting the relevant class, all students appear in a list, separated into who has and has not uploaded their assignment to Turnitin.
Marking a piece of work is simple. On selecting the pencil icon for a student, their work appears with the originality report shown; different colours corresponding to a different source. You can switch this off in a slider near the top right hand corner. Being touch screen, you can insert comments precisely where you want to. A comment box appears on touch, ready for a comment to be typed. The box collapses to a speech bubble once written. Both are shown here.
There are also a number of pre-designed errors/improvement to use if you like, such as sp. for spelling mistakes.
Student work downloads well and tables …
… and graphs …
appear as they would when scanned, ready for comments to be added anywhere as appropriate.
To complete the marking, you simply select the pencil icon, which is now in the top right hand corner of the screen, where several options appear on the ‘grade overview’ screen. I tend to write a general comment in addition to the feedback given throughout the text, and don’t take advantage of the voice comment – though that is available. A combination of always refusing to accept that my voice sounds the way it does, and my assumption that students will be too busy laughing rather than listening to the feedback, results in me ignoring this particular function.
There is, however, an excellent rubric function, so you can upload rubrics designed by you on the website – specific to any course – which will appear under the ‘open rubric’ button in the top left hand corner of the grade overview screen. Just above this is where you type in the number to grade the piece of work as appropriate. You can put more than one number if required. In the example show, I have given to marks, corresponding to two criteria from the MYP curriculum. The grade overview page as discussed looks like this.
If I did choose to print out the document once graded, all comments appear in an appendix, numbered, at the end of the originality report. This is particularly useful for moderation reports, where evidence of clear, accurate marking is obvious.
Finally, and importantly for me in a world where I can never be quite certain that wifi connection will be available, the Turnitin app offers me a solution. Once in an area of wifi, you can download all pieces of work – taking about 10 to 20 seconds per piece of work – so that I can complete the marking anytime, anywhere, without the need for wifi. The feedback will then upload once refreshed. The total time taken to mark the work was certainly reduced for me, and there was no wasted paper either – even the environment approves.
A couple of years ago we were lucky enough to get to work with Google at The Sunday Times/ Wellington College Festival of Education to design a unit of work in English.
They were a delight to work with because, fundamentally, they clearly cared about education. And one key element of their interest in our Education Festival was that they wanted to do something which would involve our children. There were several questions that needed answering: most obviously, what would interest (and challenge) them? And perhaps just as importantly, what could they work on which could be linked to a set of core skills, as well as be transferred to other subjects?
We took a risk: three 3rd Form MYP classes were studying The Road, the dystopian novel by the American novelist Cormac McCarthy. It’s a difficult, sometimes unbearably moving novel, and it does not flinch from scrutinizing many of life’s most fundamental moral choices in stripped-down, brutal language. For this group of 13 year olds this is the most complex novel most of them will have read.
We went to Google and said that we wanted to work with them on a project which would be focused on The Road, and which would bring in new technology, but only if that technology extended the students’ learning: in other words, if it was gratuitous, or done for the sake of promoting a brand, we wouldn’t use it. The learning was the priority, the technology secondary. It was with a little trepidation that we emailed this message to Google. Their response was immediate: ‘we’re completely cool with that’ they said.
And so we set to work. One important decision we made was to bring in @tombarrett, a Google-certified teacher, who could show us the real potential of Google tools. We then asked all the pupils to write letters of application for this role outlining why they should be part of the team (a useful exercise in itself). We chose 14 pupils and over a whole day mapped out ideas for the project with Tom. Several trips to Google HQ in London followed so that our pupils could get a sense of the ethos of the company, as well as their high expectations of the project.
Through close collaborative planning, using tools such as Google Maps, Google Plus, Docs, Sketch Up, Google Sites, embedded clips from YouTube, as well as other tools (such as Skitch and Garage Band) the pupils were able to construct a diverse, interactive website which explored McCarthy’s novel in a number of different ways, but each extended their learning, and each approach developed skills which could be transferred to other subjects.
When the Education Festival kicked off our pupils were installed in the Google classroom and it was clear that for many of those attending they were one of the highlights of the two days: they explained clearly and perceptively the choices they had made in designing the site to the many adults who wanted to know more. And in so doing they made crucial transition: they were no longer students but, through their learning, had become teachers.
By Arielle Jennings
We all want students to think for themselves, take responsibility for their learning and growth, and have a strong sense of identity and well-being. In today’s increasingly test-driven and highly-pressurised systems, it can be hard to find the time to cultivate a learning environment that promotes these outcomes.
Last week, I completed a training course on coaching in education. By the end of this course, I was convinced that we should put coaching at the heart of education. Coaching has the potential to create an environment that promotes the learning environment described above. Let me explain.
Coaching can occur both in a one-on-one environment like a tutoring situation or a group environment like in a classroom or on a sports pitch. Whatever the case, there are a set of assumptions that underpin a coaching relationship. The first assumption is that pupils have worth and the ability to make their own choices about what they value and how they will live their life. If we truly trust them to do this and give them the space to explore what it is they care about, they will end up making decisions that are right for them. The second assumption coaches adopt is the ‘ask not tell’ rule. In order to show pupils that we do believe they can be in control of their decisions, we have to constantly ask them to come up with their own ideas and make decisions for themselves, rather than influencing or telling them what they should do and how they should do it.
When presented with these first two assumptions, I was floored by how often I doubt my students and don’t fully embrace the idea that they are capable and can make decisions for themselves, often stepping in to do things for them. Embodying these two assumptions, I think, is the hardest part of coaching.
In practice, coaching looks a lot like a conversation that is very one-sided in terms of favouring the pupil, or “coachee”. The coach acts as a listener, with strong active listening skills at the heart of their practice. Through a series of non-leading questions, the coach invites the pupil to take the reins and identify problems they might face and come up with solutions to those problems. Questions that start with ‘what’ and ‘how’ tend to be more open than those that start with ‘why’ or ‘is’. Coaches don’t give answers, but rather pick up on things that particularly resonate with their coachee and ask the coachee to elaborate or to focus on those things. A pupil might report, for instance that they hate English lessons. The coach will continue to question and listen to the student to discover the root of their feelings about these lessons, holding the student accountable to explore their opinion about English rather than taking it at face value. This often reveals a larger, or different, conflict that can be addressed.
Coaching is not just about exploring the intricacies of challenges pupils face. The coach must also engage the coachee in a goal setting process, asking the coachee to set realistic goals to solve or begin to solve their issue. This is because through the coaching process the pupil is allowed to identify an issue and come up with a solution all on their own, all of a sudden the buy-in for actually carrying out the goal is significantly higher than if you had told that student what to do.
Coaching is not just about getting pupils to make goals and then carry them out – although this aspect of it is very useful in an academic setting. It is so much more than that. It is about sending consistent messages to young people that they have power over their lives and are in control of making change for the better if they work hard at it and take responsibility. They are no longer told that the teacher holds all the power, answers and knowledge, but instead, that they, the young person, are the bearers of them. This can sometimes be scary for them, but ultimately, it builds resilience, self-worth and a person who thinks for themselves.
I highly recommend those in education, parents, or really anyone who interacts with others, to take a look at the ethos of coaching and find ways to adopt it into their own practice. Putting coaching at the heart of education could surely do a lot of good in promoting the next generation of intelligent and engaged young people.
On our new “whitewalls” in English
Ironically, the most popular technological tool introduced to the English department this year is, in concept at least, as old as civilisation itself – and as tempting as an unguarded drum kit: it’s a floor to ceiling wall (aren’t all walls?) turned into a whiteboard.
Students and teachers have responded with a crypto-anarchic enthusiasm, as though graffiting were suddenly allowed. It’s led to large-scale, aggressively visible, wide-screed collaboration; blizzards of quotation exercises; lesson planning in an unthreateningly scruffy and editable way (wipe it off! use a different colour!). It’s the antithesis of a the clipped and pruned folders-within-folders, look-at-my-neat-links aesthetic of the digital age. This is mass scrawl. Kids are as happy to get out of their seats and play the teacher with a squeaky whiteboard pen as we were when we were 10 years old.
The outcomes are massive in every way: what could have been 20 mins slightly inert ‘planning’ or ‘discussing an idea’ has suddenly become a lurid, vibrant, kinetic, Pollock-esque snapshot of thought / debate / evidence. It’s process-as-product in the most liberating of ways. You step back and then rush forward again to sort, swipe, select and signpost. At the end, someone takes photos, loads them onto a Shared Google Drive before the tabula is rasa-ed leaving not a rack behind and the next lot come in. Even more excitingly, however, is walking into the room when it’s still there : it’s like stepping into a genius’s head.
The students are as proud as punch with what they have achieved and the teacher has usually managed to simply sit there and watch the kids slide down the long inky slide to happiness (and a spot of learning).
Our Head of Sixth Form talks about his use of “Harkness” tables and teaching at Wellington
The Mallinson Library was the venue for our departmental “Ideas Exchange” on 26th February.
The Physics Department showcased some of their experimental work.
The Geography Department proudly showed off their wonderful use of GIS technology.
The Art Department presented a range of superb student portfolios.
The PE Department were looking at a range of revision techniques.
For P&R the session focused on discussion in the classroom.
Chemistry demonstrated their use of iBooks.
For Biology, it was a chance to look at differentiation techniques.
The Mallinson Library proved to be a fantastic venue.
One thesis & five mini case studies
Last year, a team of us went on a learning tour across the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. We visited schools across different sectors, contexts and age-ranges.
Amongst our many discoveries was this: that often the most interesting schools are those with the clearest mission. From the best-funded, most rarefied private schools, to very small state primaries, to charter schools working in challenging areas of great cities, there are easily recognizable common strands to schools’ DNA. We all talk about “mission statements”; some schools live them.
In many cases, these very interesting – and often equally high achieving – schools are driven by a great single organizing principle.
Here are 5 very brief case studies of schools we visited which are clearly on a mission:
1. At Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology just outside Washington DC, it’s all about science.
This school is remarkable. It is state funded (although it does a lot of development work and many of its projects and its equipment are sponsored) but it has a unique specialism and an impressively unified mission.
It is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) school and its focus is unwaveringly on project-based scientific research work. It transcends the idea of co-construction: students are the architects and authors of their own research, often conducted using cutting-edge technologies, sometimes embedded within industry and professional laboratories.
The students who showed us around exuded pride in their remarkable school (as indeed did students at all the most interesting schools we visited). TJHSST is a unique and quite extraordinary place. You can read more about it here.
TJHSST’s core skills and values are: critical inquiry and research, problem solving, intellectual curiosity, social responsibility. Expectation and common purpose are everything. For TJ, that unified mission is excellence in scientific research.
2. At Phillips Exeter Academy, one hour north of Boston, it’s all about Harkness.
Phillips Exeter has astonishing facilities. But its greatness lies not in its privilege but in its principle. And that centres on one, simple philosophy: Harkness.
All classes are taught around “Harkness” tables. Pupils and teachers learn and teach together; classes are characterized by debate and collaboration unconstrained by traditional boundaries. The quality of discussion and the responsibility the students demonstrate for their own learning are very impressive.
Students at Phillips Exeter, working together around the Harkness table, exhibit extraordinary manners and support for each other. This must also have a transformative effect on the pastoral life of the school: these students are genuinely kind to each other, they accept each other’s mistakes in lessons.
This amazing Harkness philosophy really does infuse everything that the school does and, as a result, gives Exeter students quite exceptional experiences. The Principal spoke to us about reading about “flipped classrooms”. “That’s exactly what we’ve been doing for almost 100 years,” he observed, wryly.
3. At Glasgow Middle School in Fairfax County, Virginia it’s all about MYP.
MYP (the IB’s Middle Years Programme) is the agent of chain, the engine for Glasgow’s reform and improvement. It starts with the key purpose – the everyday business of teaching, learning and assessment – and ratchets up expectations from the curriculum upwards. It’s also about service learning – a key component of the MYP.
The Principal of GHS talked to us with enormous integrity about the process of introducing the MYP, of getting the parents on board, of changing the whole culture. She’s taken a school which was struggling and made it into a centre of learning. And she’s done this with a rigorous, unflinching focus on an academic curriculum driven by formative assessment, planning with the end in mind, service learning and learning in context. MYP provides Glasgow with the focus to achieve their mission.
For them, it’s all about the MYP.
4. At KIPP in New York City it’s all about getting students to College.
KIPP stands for the Knowledge is Power Program. “Work hard, be nice.” The message couldn’t be clearer; it’s emblazed around the school. And KIPP charter schools have one simple mission: their students go to college. In the lower Bronx where, on average, 7% of students go on to further education, KIPP sends 85%.
The students all have “college” sewn into their uniform. The philosophy is just as permanently woven into the DNA of the school. You can read more about this transformative approach here. A simple idea, simply and brilliant integrated. That’s KIPP’s mission. It’s a progamme that’s not without its problems, as those of you who have seen the documentary Waiting for Superman will attest. But, it’s a mission and it’s all about getting to College.
And it’s a mission many have benefited from.
5. At Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston, it’s all about music.
The final case-study is perhaps the most interesting of them all. CLCS is a tiny charter primary school in the Boston suburb of Brighton. Entry is blind and by lottery. The school could be filled many times over. Its mission is simple: everything is infused with music. Every child plays an instrument, they sing, listen to music, practise throughout the day.
When students first join the school, they make papier-mâché instruments with their families. The care that is put into this is quite extraordinary. They then form a paper orchestra – learning respect for instruments, posture, control and team-work whilst singing the notes and holding the instruments. When they graduate to the real thing they are already in control of their bodies musically.
The student ambassadors talk with such pride (it’s there again) about their instruments, their music-making and how lucky they are to be at this school.
Conservatory Lab is inspired by the incredible work in Venezuela of El Sistema. It is remarkable. But don’t take my word for it; have a look at some of the work they do with expeditionary learning: music-infuses a 3rd Grade project on snakes; listen to their orchestra (remembering that this is a small, state primary school).
In many ways these are great schools all. But isn’t it interesting that there’s that clear organizing principle behind everything they do?
Last term, being out of school at a conference, I had to set cover.
Feeling guilty about missing my A2 English lesson (especially as this was early in the term), I made sure that they would be occupied and challenged in my absence. I asked them to come along to the classroom (in my absence) and to bring their computers (we run a BYOD programme and have school-wide Wifi) and a copy of the text we were currently studying: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
I set up a Google document that the whole class could edit, sent the link and these simple instructions: read one paragraph at a time, after reading each write two or three questions that you want answering then have a go at answering (as best you can) some of the questions that other members of the group have asked. All questions and answers were to be typed into the same shared document.
Sitting in one of the sessions at the conference, I opened the Google document on my iPad and started watching. An amazing thing happened: an extraordinarily rigorous conversation and debate started unfolding on the page in front of me. And I was able to take part: to answer questions, to challenge ideas, to affirm great readings (I know – I should have been concentrating on the conference presentation).
When I got back to school in the afternoon I caught up with some of the students who were positive and hugely enthusiastic about their ‘virtual’ lesson. The levels of engagement had been extraordinary. I was interested to see if there were further applications of this method (beyond providing virtual cover!)
The next day, Tuesday, I was being observed teaching an AS set by a New Zealand teacher looking at the use of technology in various British schools. I felt duty bound to ‘do something with tech’, and decided to repeat yesterday’s experiment.
The class were studying Robert Frost and we spent about 30 minutes reading and discussing the wonderful “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. No technology in play except paper and pens. We then ran a 20 minute “virtual conversation” along exactly the same lines as the day before: one Google doc, all students editing, questions and answers.
But why do this with all students and the teacher present in the class rather than just have a discussion? Well, here was some of the feedback from the students at the end of the lesson:
- They really liked the relative anonymity;
- They felt they could work at their own pace;
- Several commented that they could ‘go back’ to a discussion and add comments and noted that in ‘real time discussion’ the class would often already have moved on;
- They enjoyed adding to and qualifying each other’s ideas in a way they felt they wouldn’t necessarily always be able to do in conversation;
- They loved the fact that they ended the lesson with a full transcript of the questions and answers (which they reviewed for homework, before writing up a reflection on their blogs).
My New Zealand observer (another English teacher) also started taking part in the online discussion. It was almost infectious. There was a buzz of engagement in the room.
I’m not without reservations: I certainly wouldn’t do this all the time and classroom discussion will remain a key element of virtually all of my lessons. I also worry slightly about the lack of moderation (how do I help the students to understand why some responses might be more successful than others?)
Nevertheless, I will definitely be using this relatively simple tool again. A class collaborating on one document is powerful. It’s a good example of technology letting me do something I couldn’t do a few years ago with, hopefully, tangible benefits for students’ understanding and engagement.
How do you feel when you hear the word ‘lecture’? How do you imagine your students feel? Sometimes, we hope, inspired and enthused; quite often, though, is it more likely that they feel suspicious and wary?
And yet the lecture or talk is such an effective means of communicating a message to a large audience with relative clarity and speed. We want students, across the full age-range of our school, to enjoy and appreciate lectures. And we already have lots of successful and well-attended talks.
However, we also want the idea of listening to a talk to be sometimes as exciting a night out as a concert or musical.
So, in the spirit of leveraging intellectual aspiration and increasing excitement about the world of ideas, we’ve devised a programme of evening events each featuring 4 micro-lectures, each exactly 10 minutes long. We were partly driven by the conviction that many much longer lectures could be delivered in 10 minutes with more careful planning and focused consideration of purpose and audience; partly, by the attraction of the concise and precise. The brief for the speakers is simple: take one central intellectual idea and play around with it for 10 minutes.
Our inspirations will be pretty obvious to most of you; however, we wanted to develop a powerful in-house brand that was personal to Wellington. And in searching for that brand we stumbled upon this visual pun, which has rather stuck: WellingTEN.
It was also important, we thought, that each evening of talks should include a range of speakers and a range of topics. We brought in our visiting philosopher and astronomer but we also put teachers – from all departments – and, latterly, students up on the stage as well. All have risen to the challenge most impressively. It’s been competitive in the very best ways; and it’s amazing how many of our teachers and students want to put themselves on the spot and deliver one of these micro-lectures.
So far we’ve listened to talks as diverse as: The most frustrating discovery in the history of Science; The fourth dimension; Crossed out: the importance of writing wrongs; Philosophy shopping: an antidote to economic gloom; Fifty shades of frivolity; Being green – it’s black and white; Blinded by sight: sometimes not seeing is believing; Pockets of silence: How does Art communicate?; There’s no such thing as a dirty book, it’s just the way you read it: Ovid and the Poetry of Exile; Redefining leadership for social change; The apple that changed the world; Euphemism: Why we hardly ever say what we really mean.
The sparky title is another aspect of our marketing of the evening. As is the overall timing. All out, all over in less than an hour. It’s important to be concise and precise. The evenings are also genuinely inter-disciplinary.
What about the practicalities? Well, so far, we’ve:
- run the events on a Friday evening from 7.30 – 8.30 in our theatre
- had music playing in the auditorium as the audience arrives
- taken time with the set (as you can hopefully see from the photos)
- wired the speakers up with head-mounted microphones
- used a large digital countdown timer in front of the lectern which changes from green to amber to red for the last minute
- ensured the evening is hosted by a charismatic student who fields one or two questions at the end of each talk
- worked carefully on the branding (and one of our students has made a wonderful video ident)
Is the 10-minute rule a gimmick? Yes, and no. It certainly adds a ‘Countdown’ quality to the event. However, the intellectual discipline required to bring a considered argument in on time – to the second – is not to be dismissed lightly. One or two have argued that the timer is a distraction; we’ve been amazed, though, at how articulately the students are able to summarize the theses of these talks (especially in comparison with how much they remember from more traditional lecture formats).
The audiences have loved the shows. We’ve put students, visiting experts and teachers on stage with an equal billing and this has been a great success.
We set out to make lectures more fun, to associate an exciting night out with being intellectually stimulated in a number of different disciplines. After a year of WellingTENs, how do we think we’re doing? Judging by the audience numbers and their feedback: remarkably well. We think we might just have stumbled upon a great formula.
Last summer I spent seven weeks at Phillips Exeter Academy, New Hampshire. I was there to learn about their unique classroom experiment: Harkness.
Harkness means beautiful tables. But it’s not just about the tables; there’s an amazing philosophy too.
I worked with Harvard Varsity Knowles, a 35-years’ veteran of teaching around these tables. He recounts with authority the early days of Harkness development. On 9th April 1930 the philanthropist Edward Harkness wrote to Exeter’s Principal Lewis Perry. He had given a substantial donation to the Academy and was thinking about how it might be used:
“What I have in mind is a classroom where students could sit around a table with a teacher who would talk with them and instruct them by a sort of tutorial or conference method, where each student would feel encouraged to speak up. This would be a real revolution in methods.”
The result was the Harkness table: oval or round in shape to ensure all could look one another in the eye, its great smooth plane connecting students and teacher in mutual investigation. The principles underpinning the pedagogy are simple: teacher as facilitator; students as collaborative learners. Students work best when they forget the teacher is there; they own the issues being discussed and the learning that follows.
This is still true today. Every Exeter classroom is a Harkness classroom; every lesson is taught according to the original specifications of its benefactor. Students arrive at the lesson having laid the groundwork for their explorations through independent reading and research. Journal keeping is commonplace. At Wellington we call homework “Prep”. Here I saw prep as genuine preparation for the lessons.
In a Harkness lesson the teacher often rarely comments. And many struggle. As one teacher told me: “My own enthusiasms are sometimes hard to contain. Put another way: my ego is always ready to get between the students and their explorations.” Teacher contributions are carefully tailored. At Exeter they call this “listening pedagogy”. Teachers challenge; then they listen as open-minded witnesses to the students’ conversations.
The teacher makes observations and asks questions. But they do not tell the students what to think. They focus on how the student is learning rather than obsessing over what they are learning. The students sense the growing respect the teacher has for their ideas and over time the students feel safe and nurtured. An ‘answer’ becomes merely one solution to a problem, one result of a thoughtful process.
The first time I saw Harv Knowles teach, he used this analogy: exploring a text in English is like walking into a darkened room. At first it might seem like all is obscured from sight, but after a while shapes and textures begin to appear. The students have to let their eyes grow accustomed to their new environment and work together to make sense of the fabric of their surroundings. The teacher has to resist the temptation to turn on the light.
I now use Harkness in all my classes. Not every lesson is a Harkness lesson (yet) but I aim to create a cultural shift over time. Word on Harkness is spreading within our community: our eyes will soon grow accustomed to the possibilities that lie ahead.
You might find these links interesting: