There’s beauty in boards


Photo of Dan’s own whiteboard (Dan Baines @QuietBitLoudBit)

If you regularly observe other teachers, you must have often asked them to save their boardwork to discuss later. How about taking this idea further and use it for professional development of the whole teaching team? This is what Dan Baines recommends in his  guest post in Sandy Millin’s blog.

He tells a story of how pictures of whiteboards helped him make professional development relevant and accessible to a very busy and diverse team of teachers, offer them something that they would be able to do in their own time and not find too taxing or intimidating.

What he did was upload pictures of boards and discuss them with teachers in a Facebook group (comparisons seem particularly effective!). Sounds simple, but Dan has reflected on what worked and what didn’t and describes a very useful and practical model (do check the original post for more interesting details). I hope his whiteboard discussion group is still alive!



Researching research methods


If you, like me, are concerned with how to provide evidence of student learning, you might find this website quite useful for ideas. I particularly like the Which Stats Test (this is a tool that can recommend which statistical method would work best in your situation), but the library of methods also looks promising. I don’t get annoyed if some content is locked: at least it can point me in the right direction.

So, which research method would you like to play with tomorrow?



Red pen hate


Do you still use the red pen to mark your students’ writing? Apparently, this type of feedback is seen as more aggressive and less helpful. This article suggests an excellent alternative: making video comments. You can show the students’ work on the screen, or your face, or both – and the feedback will be much more effective (and take you less time than writing out all the corrections). For more examples and a set of guidelines check the website mentioned in the article. I am definitely going to try something along these lines (once I get myself a proper mike!).


Rhizomatic learning via websites


Here is an interesting take on using student websites and blogs for learning. Nguyen Minh Trang describes how students can be encouraged to build their own knowledge repositories and interact with each other. The learner needs are managed by the learners themselves (self-regulation), the learners’ creativity and social skills are developed, as well as their critical thinking. The personal learning structure that the learners create is seen as a root (rhizomatic) system where different elements are interrelated and, supposedly, feed the whole knowledge network. It’s a very general text, but can be quite useful if you need to consider the theoretical background of a similar activity or are looking for a new approach to try.

So, how are your rhizomes today?

Language, literally


Did you know that the Oxford Dictionary has acknowledged the figurative use of ‘literally’? The author (Fiona McPherson) goes on to explain why and how certain word uses tend to irritate speakers, and even quotes Chaucer and Shakespeare to illustrate the history of other contentious language phenomena like double negation,  ‘sick’, ‘wicked’ and ‘non-plussed‘. A riveting read (not literally)!


Teaching in beta mode


I discussed an interesting post about agile in ELT some time ago, and here is another take on using IT project management principles in teaching. Jennifer Gonzalez (she’s amazing, as always) speaks for the concept of ‘beta’ to be used in everyday teaching. If we see every new teaching idea and every lesson as a work in progress, we won’t reject good ideas just because they didn’t work in their first iteration. We will try again, use student feedback and our observations to improve, and achieve greater results – and greater job satisfaction.

I think the idea goes very well with this article on seeing lesson observations as experiments. So, are you beta-teaching yet?


What does the book say?


Have you  ever used the AI function of GoogleBooks? It’s called Talk to Books, and it’s a lot of fun: you type in any question you have, and the system looks for quotes that answer it. For example, when I asked, ‘How to be a good teacher?’, one of the books said:  “To be a good teacher, you have to have a good sense of humour.”  (from Why We Teach by Sonia Nieto).

A more serious voice chimed in: “Effective teachers offer support consistently, listening carefully to students’ thoughts and needs, and demonstrating compassion”  (from The Routledge International Companion to Educational Psychology by Andrew J. Holliman).

Another added: “To be a good teacher, you must know your subjects thoroughly (Ward, 2013) so that you can teach in ways that are engaging and productive for your students.” (from Teaching Children and Adolescents Physical Education by Graham et al).

I kept asking it questions, and got sometimes hilarious, sometimes really profound answers from the AI.



Why is it important? Well, I can see how useful this tool can be in a reading or speaking lesson for extra ideas, or as preparation for debates, or for initial research into a topic. Do you think your students would like it?

Hyper about HyperDocs


What a great concept! Matt Miller’s post sums it up very well: you can have pedagogy, content and technology in one place. There are tremendous opportunities to develop learner autonomy, achieve differentiation and engagement, encourage collaboration — and all this can be achieved with a humble GoogleDoc template. I am definitely checking this tool out.

P.S. Sorry about the all-too-obvious headline, some things just have to be said 🙂

It’s a business of trust


Call me a hopeless romantic, but this post really resonates with me. Jeff Zoul writes about trust in an educational organisation, ‘in the trust business’. He speaks about a culture of trust which forms when principals trust their superintendents, those start trusting their teachers, and the teachers trust their students. He also lists ten top factors of trust like ‘show you care’ or ‘value diversity and dissent’, or ‘support innovation’, but to me the most important factor is to trust your team and their work ethics. I remember how I told someone exactly the same words: ‘I trust you to manage your time well’, and her eyes lit up.  Don’t you want more of this in your life?

The dark side of motivators


After psychological misconceptions, here is another great article warning against the danger of popular psychology in the classroom. It seems that when we focus too much on motivation, we may be putting the cart before the horse. The author quotes: “At the end of the day, the research reviewed shows that the effect of achievement on self-concept is stronger that the effect of self-concept on achievement.” In other words, telling students that they are amazing is not helpful, we should teach them to become amazing instead.

As an added bonus, the article leads to a very interesting term and another article about it: ‘negative capability’. Apparently, this is how educators should function — hold opposing views in their mind without conflict and choose what is best for their particular context. Nice!