Learning highlights for 2012

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I have spent the last few days immersed in putting together my first book ‘The Thinking Teacher’, and it has made me realise that if there has been a theme to this year it has been that; developing my thinking.

The tail end of last year saw me getting to grips with the move from school teaching to higher education. This year I have been able to get really deep into this new area, and challenge my thinking with lots of reading and discussions with my great colleagues and students. I have also learnt from both applying this thinking in the classroom first hand, and discussing with my students how they have applied our discussions and explorations in their own classrooms.

Lots of that thinking is published for you to share here, and here is my run down of thinking from my own blog posts. It’s a long one, but skim through and hopefully it will highlight some thoughts worth revisiting, as writing it has done for me.


January saw the annual trip to the BETT education technology show; increasingly less of a pilgrimage to the altar of technology and more a chance to share and meet up with colleagues and friends. I blogged a presentation I did on the Google stand about children using Google Sites to document their learning, and my presentation at the TeachMeet on how our students have been using social media to join the field of education from day one of their studies.

I also continued to reflect on what I had learnt from working on an educational business, and collaborated with some ambitious 8 year olds hoping to raise £12,000 for learning technology for their school, which they managed in a matter of months (two posts here, and here).


At the end of January I was blown away by a presentation from my student Megan Douglas, which I shared my thoughts on at the start of this month.

I also reflected on the issues around teaching tech savvy children who know more than their teacher, the problems of trying to use ‘child friendly language’, and an approach towards encouraging thinking Dan Meyer coined as ‘be less helpful’.


Early this month I was asked to ‘live blog’ from the House of Lords, which prompted me to share my story of sharing online in the moment. Doug Belshaw’s TED talk got me thinking about different ways of framing learning, and my developing interest in photography got me reflecting on the creative process as one of editing. I also presented at my first academic conference in Florence this month, although neglected to blog about the experience.

March saw me begin to explore the ideas of discipline and generalism relating to the primary teachers I work with, something which I have continued to unpick since and has been a big influence on the book I am writing.


A busy month offline and in other areas meant a quiet month on the blog. I reflected on the strange contexts we often put learning in in schools, but spent most of my time taking charge of the social media around the PELeCON conference at Plymouth University which is all documented here.


Alec Couros’ keynote at PELeCON really got me thinking, and I blogged my thoughts about the importance of intuition and the nature of intelligence. I also reflected on some of the tensions around ‘child led learning’, and the importance of balance between teacher led and child led learning in schools.

With colleagues from our school of computing we ran a day of coding for year 8 pupils, and I learnt a lot from working with both these young people and the students and staff from a different department of the University.


This was a prolific month, with a webmaking session with Mozilla, some interesting challenges from the Frog conference, and the discovery of some amazing examples of children learning for themselves and getting actively involved in the wider world (here, here and here).

An introduction to the work of John Hattie prompted me to start thinking deeply about impact and research, which influencde my continued thinking about teaching as scholarship, sharing, and education as a discipline.

I also shared a lecture I did on the continually developing field of ‘games based learning’, and a thought provoking case study of young people’s attitudes to online safety which I think is well worth revisiting.


Following the provocation in June, I read Hattie’s work and reflected on his main point about how teachers measure impact. I also discussed one approach to ensuring teachers continue to develop their ‘next practice’ rather than ‘best practice’.

I learned far more than I made time to blog from the presentations at the ‘South West Digital Educators’ conference I ran with colleagues, and am looking forward to continuing to develop the sharing of digital practice with impact as we develop the 2013 event.

Once again I found myself presenting on students using social media to join the profession they are studying for with Steve Wheeler and Peter Yeomans, and found myself reflecting on the opposite side; why students sometimes don’t value their academic experience alongside their practice in school.


A deservedly quiet month, with one post resolving to pay less attention to students’ previous experience and more to their thinking.


The beginning of the academic year saw a thought provoking day exploring technology in school with Bob Harrison and our students, and my first wholesale use of a ‘Design Thinking’ methodology with my students.


The Design Thinking work continued to develop with my running an entire course on teaching PSHE with this approach, which I would judge to be one of my most successful so far at University level. I also reflected on the idea of ‘Praxis’, and how it could break down the divide between theory and practice which exists in teacher education.


This month saw me sharing my thinking on ‘generalism’ and disciplinary thinking at a TeachMeet in London I co-organised but managed to miss due to the terrible weather causing train issues. I did manage to make it to a ‘KidsMeet’ in the same place, and learned lots about teaching programming from working with some enthusiastic children.

I also ran an interactive session at the London Festival of Education debating much of current UK education policy, and had a blast at the Mozilla Festival, taking away some serious thinking about their ‘Open Badges’ approach to assessing informal learning.

I often find myself deep in discussions with teachers about the nature of ‘creativity’. This month a book from the 1940s struck a real chord for me and catalysed my thinking on creativity a lot.


Always a month of reflection, December saw me ponder the way we sometimes set up learning as lying, and how the concept of ‘future proofing’ can be both a waste of time and really rather unhelpful.

I ended the year reflecting on changes and how we all could approach making some big changes in our personal and professional lives.


In this run down it seems this blog has become increasingly about ideas, and less driven by both technology and descriptions of classroom events. I think this is a reflection on my professional life. When I was a school teacher I would teach everything once and snatch what lessons I could out of it, now I have much greater time to read, think, and refine what I am doing with students and the other groups I now work with.

It’s been a great year, full of surprises  and no doubt the next will be the same. On the horizon are lots of interesting projects, a book to write, and lots more learning to do. Thanks to those of you who have joined me on the journey this year, and here’s to another year of learning…


Image: (cc) fligender on Flickr






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