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Using Technology in the Classroom

The world that young people live in is very different from when we were kids, with technology and digital tools used for everything from checking facts to connecting with people around the world. Though many schools prohibit the use of smartphones, there are some interesting ways of integrating tech into your lesson plans.

Virtual field trips

When the budget won’t stretch to a field trip, modern digital platforms offer a virtual alternative. Google Street View is an excellent opportunity to wander around a capital city without having to leave the classroom, plus there are virtual tours and panoramic views for multiple cultural attractions, such as the Sistine Chapel, the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building.

Videos bring lessons to life

There are countless online videos that can be used to strengthen a lesson, from popular educator Eddie Woo’s maths lessons, to the delightful Art for Kids Hub, which shares daily exercises by a highly creative family.

Try video conferencing

If you contact a subject specialist, such as a children’s writer, illustrator or entertainer, but they can’t manage to visit in person, there’s a chance they could speak to your class via Skype or Google Hangouts. This way they can squeeze a session into their busy schedule much more easily and answer all of your students’ questions in real time.

Listen to podcasts

By mixing relevant podcasts with traditional teaching, you not only make the content more engaging but also blend auditory learning into the occasional lesson. There are so many podcasts out there, including those by children’s authors, experts in a range of topics, and interesting people who have tons of insight to share with your class. By listening to the podcast beforehand and making note of useful snippets, you can then pause and fast forward so that the children hear the most valuable bits.

Make all presentations visual and colourful

A far cry from overhead projectors, modern presentation tools allow animations, videos, sound effects and all kinds of other audio-visual elements to be added. This will greatly help to keep the students’ attention and can be great fun, which adds to the content being memorised.

Is your class on Twitter?

Many schools have individual year groups and classes that have their own Twitter accounts. This needs to be run by the teacher and permission does of course need to be gained from parents first, but once up and running it can be a fantastic way of finding information, joining Q&As and sharing successes. Mundella School in Sheffield is an excellent example, as every single class has its own account.

Set up a student blog

Websites such as Blogger.com provide multi-user blogs free of charge. Through a student blog, the children can talk about what they’ve learnt, their goals for the year, their personal achievements and much more. As always, the teacher needs to be in charge of adding content and must take into account any privacy/confidentiality factors, such as only referring to children by a first name or initial. You can have a lot of fun with this and if you’re looking for inspiration we recommend checking out the blog of Harrison Primary School in Hampshire.

If you’re interested in marketing and design services for the education sector, get in touch at hello@bigpinkfish.com or call us on 0161 507 3365.

Encouraging Questions in the Classroom

A good teacher makes a difference to young lives by opening up a world of knowledge and discovery on a daily basis. Whilst structured topics, lesson plans and your individual wisdom are key to an effective learning environment, young children should also be encouraged to ask their own questions. This is easier said than done due to many pupils being shy or lacking self-assurance, so here are some tips for getting them to express their thoughts and make enquiries that could greatly strengthen the lesson for everyone.

Read stories together

Starting with a classic approach, a group reading session is a great way to tempt children to ask questions. What they ask could be anything from the meaning of a difficult word to clarification of an unexpected plot twist – whatever the case, a shared narrative gives everyone the opportunity to ask a question that will help to bring the subject matter to life.

Create a wonder wall

This has grown in popularity in recent years, as it’s an easy way for even the quietest students to contribute. Simply place a board on the wall where they can stick post-it notes presenting their questions, which can either be about all kinds of things or themed around the curriculum. You can then answer the questions any way you wish, such as a short session each morning or perhaps a dedicated slot on a Friday afternoon before home time.

Use thin and thick questions

There are many types of questions, and a simple way to explain this to children is the idea of them being thin and thick. A thin question could be one that has a yes/no response, or which is easily answered by searching on Google or picking up a reference book. Thick questions, on the other hand, can go into great detail and may sometimes have multiple answers. Some teachers encourage pupils to only ask thick questions in class, as it acts as a means of starting interesting discussions. Others prefer to only have thin questions asked, as they’re quick to answer and therefore don’t disrupt the flow of the lesson too much. If in doubt, adopt a happy medium.

Nurture a communicative classroom culture

All of the methods above are highly effective and can be combined to inspire curiosity, confidence and conversation in all students. However, at their core is the need for pupils to feel that they’re not only allowed to ask questions in class, but actively encouraged to do so. This lies in the roots of how you teach – whilst discipline and respect are crucial, a teacher should also be friendly, open, patient, energetic, fun, supportive and fair. When this is in effect, young people will feel more comfortable around you and the questions will start flowing – just make sure to be prepared for some interesting concepts, as children can come up with fascinating conundrums.

Do you have a question about marketing and design for the education sector? Get in touch at hello@bigpinkfish.com or call us on 0161 507 3365 – we always have the answer.

From University to Teacher Training

Moving on from university to the big world of work is often a serious step up and change of pace. There are exciting challenges, fresh opportunities and new anxieties. However, it’s important for the future workforce’s new trainers and employers to minimise the shock of this significant change. Doing this well can increase the morale of new employees, ease their transition and aid their development. Doing it badly can be damaging for both employee and employer.

Against a background of unprecedented hiring difficulties and high drop-out rates, these are important considerations to make. Training providers need to focus on making the transition from university to teacher training as smooth and straightforward as possible.

From education to vocation

On entering an Independent Teacher Training programme, most trainees coming straight from university will have had a long history of mostly theory-based education, where the objective is to familiarise oneself with a subject in the abstract. Moving from this kind of education to vocational training involves a change in working structure and objectives that can throw off even the smartest student-turned-trainee. Training aimed at understanding how to apply techniques in order to fulfil a new role can be a very new experience. Support in the new modes of learning and working involved in this can be valuable to the trainee, ensuring that they begin to realise their full capability as quickly as possible.

Useful and accessible mentoring programmes oriented around the personal, as well as the professional, needs of trainees can make all the difference in this stage. It can help people have a reference point for these new and unusual challenges, as well as a go-to guy or gal for the unique problems and questions that aren’t covered elsewhere.

Step changes and stress

The other major change is the increased level of stress that many new trainees, fresh from the potentially relaxed schedules of university, experience. No matter how supportive school centred training providers are, there will always be an initial shock of anxiety, but it can be minimised.

Having an individual to talk to on a personal level at work can help here; sharing issues of stress and anxiety can be cathartic, as well as aiding resolution. In structural terms, there are well developed ways of incorporating stress relieving techniques into work environments, such as teaching in a constructive way. Many of them are well documented online both formally and informally. These include mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and classic relaxation techniques, such as moments of quiet during a busy and noisy schedule. All of these help the trainee to feel and perform better, thereby aiding the institution.

Every Lesson Shapes a Life

We’re sure you’ll have seen the Get Into Teaching campaign from the Department for Education, a couple of months back . The video follows the journey of school pupil Abbie, starting as a young girl and stretching all the way through to when she’s moving into adulthood. The story is simple yet powerful, giving honest and realistic insight into how children grow up with teachers.

Rather than focusing entirely on achievements and smiles, the video also includes tears and low points, yet maintains an uplifting and inspirational feel throughout. Even the fleeting detention scene bears a positive message, with the teacher saying that he doesn’t want to see Abbie and her friend there again as they’re “better than this”.

Presenting excellent attention to creative detail, numerous backdrops and actions are repeated over the years, including Abbie’s walk to school, moving through corridors, and even close-ups of her feet during lessons and exams, giving a hint of how she’s feeling during certain tasks.

Filled with language that triggers confidence in children, such as “we’re getting there” and “well done”, there are also multiple questions asked by the teachers to encourage curiosity, continual improvement and ownership: “Have you thought about trying it like this?” and “How would you define identity?” being prime examples.

Whilst Abbie is the protagonist, representing a child in today’s education system, the teachers have supporting roles in every sense, helping her to excel in her learning. This is the crux of the campaign, showing how teachers have the power to give every student the best start in life through proactive advice, dedicated support and a clear understanding of individual needs.

This campaign really is wonderful, as we get to see how Abbie develops her skills and grows as a person, all within a two-minute story. With motivational messages the likes of “this is going to be a challenge but you can do this” and “you can achieve whatever you want to in life”, it’s impossible for the heartstrings not to be tugged by each moment and milestone.

The tagline at the end is clear and heartening: “Every lesson shapes a life. Whose story will you inspire?” This is fortified by heaps of fantastic resources, events and support on the Get Into Teaching website, which give aspiring and trainee teachers everything they require to pursue a career as a leading educator.

How do you help to shape lives? Let us know on your social media channels by tagging in #BigPinkFish

When it Comes to Teaching, Age is Just a Number

Training to become a teacher through a SCITT is perfect for people of all ages, from recent graduates who have always known that they want to teach, to those in their forties, fifties and even sixties who are looking for a more fulfilling career.

It’s easy to think that people who are barely out of school themselves have the advantage due to being more familiar with modern trends, yet there are so many factors that work in favour of older generations and complement the role of an educator. Below are a few examples in case you’re worrying that your age will negatively affect your success in the world of teaching.

Life experience

The most obvious point is that the older you get, the more life experience you gain. From working in various jobs over the years and moving around (which is a great way to respond to new environments), to usually finding it easier to make friends and get along with a range of personality types, it’s amazing how life helps us to naturally adapt to unique circumstances.

Happier and more self-confident

As we get older, we tend to lose much of our negativity and stop constantly finding flaws in our own looks, behaviour and abilities. Simultaneously, we increase in self-control and look for more opportunities to help others, which in turn boosts self-esteem and makes us more capable of finding satisfaction in small wins as well as major accomplishments.

Brain plasticity

The phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has been abandoned as poppycock. In fact, the brain continues to produce fresh neurons and is able to reshape its functionality according to the information it assimilates. This means that middle-aged people are often able to adapt to change even faster than their younger counterparts, as their grey matter is more accustomed to transforming in response to its environment.

What’s more, whilst younger people use only one side of their brain for specific tasks, age results in both hemispheres being able to tackle a problem together, which is called bilateralisation. The result is greater power of reasoning and enhanced problem-solving skills, which will certainly not go amiss in the classroom.

Prioritisation

Becoming a teacher further down the path of life means that you’ll most likely have ticked a lot of boxes on your to-do list. You’re probably married and have kids of your own, along with a mortgage, a comfortable financial situation and a fair few travels under your belt. You will of course still have goals and dreams, but they’ll be easier to incorporate into a hectic work schedule, therefore allowing you to focus on career development without worrying about juggling too many things at once.

Higher work satisfaction

Because you’ve either had a few jobs over the years or worked in another sector for as long as you can remember, moving to a vibrant, interesting and valuable new career will prove incredibly rewarding. It’s certainly not a case of being able to sit back and put your feet up, as teaching comes with its fair share of challenges and stress, but your role as a worldly-wise educator will make everything very worthwhile, not to mention a lot of fun.

Are you entering a career in teaching a little later in life? Let us know about your experiences through social media by tagging in #BigPinkFish