Staff development, tech and FELTAG

Last week I attended a ‘No Pens’ session as part of staff development training. I read the information and the basic gist of it was how students often turn up to college without a pen but always remember their mobile phone. Therefore the idea was to explore ways to have ‘pen free’ sessions.

I wandered off to this training session armed with my iPad and iPhone (also a pen just in case) and a large Starbucks (one of the wonderful new additions to our college). It was a two hour session with twenty staff from various departments, a mixture of teachers and student support mentors.

The session itself was looking at a particular online software package. The package allowed you to engage students with open and closed question specific to your subject and in addition students had the option to ask questions themselves. All the data collated from each session could be shown to the students in various graph formats and more importantly stored for evidence of learning. The only problem with these types of training sessions however is that often you only get to engage in the tech as though you were the student. It would be more beneficial to have the opportunity to also explore and experiment as the teacher.

During the session we were put in to groups where we discussed tech issues and looked at ways to remove the barriers. The group I was in were discussing the use of iPads in the classroom. unfortunately we don’t have a large supply at college (to be honest many other colleges seem to be in a similar position). We have PCs and laptops and a decent wi-fi system, but like any building it can be difficult to connect to in specific areas due to ‘dead spots’ or the type of mobile phone network used. This means that sometimes getting students to do an activity on their phones can be frustrating if in said areas or using a specific phone network. So the barriers that we felt needed addressing were trying to solve those ‘dead spots’ and the financial cost of mobile devices, not sure what could be done about the mobile phone network one though. We also agreed that if we are going to be more ‘tech savvy’ using online resources in response to FELTAG (see here – FELTAG report) we clearly needed these barriers removing. If we can’t then surely it really isn’t going to work and be another frustration to deal with in the classroom.

Several days later I was still pondering over using tech in the classroom following the session (which was really good and would have been perfect if I’d been able to have the afternoon experimenting with it). I came across three blog posts specifically aimed at the use of iPads by @solvemymaths (see here), if you are interested in some of the issues it is really insightful. The issues for me (and many of my teaching colleagues) is ensuring that tech isn’t abused by our more crafty students, college iPads could be good as they would eliminate the distraction from students looking at personal notifications on their phones. In addition to this regardless of what device/software we use all staff need to feel confident using it. The only way we will feel confident using it is by giving us time and support to practise before letting us loose in the classroom!

I’d be grateful if anyone has any thoughts on what I’ve written as I’m only going off personal experiences.



Further information on some FE teachers thoughts on FELTAG can be found from the results of an online survey (see here). Survey was created by @UK_FeLearning.

Teaching Highlights

Last week I read a lovely blog post by @cazzypot (see here)on twitter, it made me think about past experiences. I’ve only been teaching for six years but I already have some memorable moments in teaching. A few days later I read another post by @cherrylkd (see here) where she also reflected on her teaching highlights. Following @cazzypot post @ICTEvangelist came up with the idea of #teachinghighlight. So here are some of mine, I hope you will join in and share yours.

My first year of teaching was like for many a mixture of trial and error. Some classes were a pleasure to teach whilst others were stomach churning. What it all boiled down to in the end was behaviour. I knew my subject matter inside out and back to front and I had the resources, detailed lesson plans, scheme of work and a shiny new folder to keep them in, sorted! What I didn’t have yet was a clear grasp on ways to handle specific behaviours from students who had been a challenge for quite some time. Enter my first experience of a student who enjoyed disrupting lessons by throwing things, getting up and rummaging in cupboards, trying to be menacing with scissors and so on. At first I had my ‘if Ofsted came into the room’ head, so I challenged the behaviour book like fashion and when no joy sought out senior management to intervene. This went on for several weeks. It was exhausting, frustrating and quite frankly nearly had me give up on teaching. Then I thought ‘stuff Ofsted’ and did what I felt was the right thing to do in dealing with the behaviour of this specific student. Rightly or wrongly I chose to ignore the negative behaviour and praise the positive. In addition to this I encouraged the other students in the class to ignore the student when she was trying to be disruptive. Suddenly the student started being less disruptive and started coming to me at the end of lessons asking for help on work. She also opened up about why she behaved the way she did, but that’s a story for another day.

I’ve had and hope to continue to have many more teaching highlights. However I’d like to mention briefly one more. One of my students who had severe dyslexia and like so many of our students was dealing with the transition from child to adulthood (with a few family issues thrown in). She was falling behind with assignments, not meeting minimum target grades and attendance was sporadic. It took several months of encouragement and praise to drag her out of the ‘I’m thick and I may as well quit’ stage. I’m pleased to say she completed the course and got her UCAS points to go onto university. Just a few months ago I bumped into her and she had just graduated at a local university. She thanked me for believing in her and for the support I gave her.

It is these moments that help us as teachers to not lose faith in our profession and reminds us of what is really important. It can be dealing with a students behaviour to seeing a student succeed. In the end it’s the progress you see in your students that counts, whether it’s controlling their own emotions to exceeding their targets.