Friday, 31 January 2014

T2T is a new and ambitious service initiative that we established this year, supported by the college to create an opportunity for teachers to work with teaching colleagues in Cambodia.

The 'Teacher to Teacher' (T2T) training initiative is currently in its pilot year of what is anticipated as a sustained commitment to provide both curricular and pedagogical support for teaching colleagues in Cambodia and Burma.  This project has the specific aim to build capacity in educational practice.

I work with the T2T Cambodia team, where we are working with teachers at Cambodian Children's Fund (CCF), which operates six centres in Phnom Penh.  CCF provides educational support for students from preschool to university.  The CCF kids are vulnerable children, most of whom used to work on the Phnom Penh dump site.

Requests for training in the following areas have been requested by CCF:

  • Child centred practice
  • Curriculum development, planning, and assessment
  • Instructional strategies and classroom management
  • English language training
  • ICT skills development and integrated practice 

The commitment is considerable but we felt anything less would be prone to the sorts of ineffective support that are so common with these kind of initiatives; the kind of support or 'voluntourism' that is often given by well-meaning but impractical volunteers. We knew that the only way for change to be meaningful and really effective would be for it to be ongoing, so we travel to Cambodia three times a year to provide teacher training during our school holidays in October, Chinese New Year and March.

We work with the team in Cambodia to plan a syllabus that responds to evolving needs of each of three core groups: Early Childhood Education (ECE), English language (EAL), and ICT/ digital literacy development and integration as a discrete focus, and eventually as an integrated element of ECE and EAL.

After each visit, we continue support through regular communication with partner teachers in Cambodia, reflecting on our previous visits and planning and preparing for our future is it in an iterative, collaborative process of improvement.

Continuing Professional Development 

An unexpected, but nevertheless impressive aspect of this initiative has been its impact on my own practice as a teacher.  What this kind of experience really does is force us to really consider what it is about teaching practice that really is absolutely essential. When working through a translator you really have to strip away anything that could be superfluous and refine everything down to the absolute minimum, something which is a cathartic process in and of itself. The process I intend to document from time to time here on this blog using the label #T2T. 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

FOCUS Lessons

Having just returned from a few days of training teachers in Phnom Penh, at the magnificent CCF I have to confess that within 15 mins of my first lesson observation (of a planned 6 lessons in 2 days) I was seriously struggling with the rationale for this.

Observation without action?

Just watching, knowing that that this lesson, now could be better. If so, then why not act, do what we can, while we can, now.

And a FOCUS lesson was born—a lesson that could be described as an observation, cum intervention/co-teach/sharing/skilling/teaching/reflecting/advising/adjusting lesson.

A FOCUS lesson is largely inspired by Dylan Wiliam's (2011) 5 key strategies for formative assessment, just substituting 'learners' for 'teachers'.
  1. Clarifying, sharing, and understanding [teaching] intentions and criteria for success
  2. Engineering effective classroom discussions, activities, and [teaching] tasks that elicit evidence of [teaching] 
  3. Providing feedback that moves [teaching] forward 
  4. Activating [teachers] as instructional resources for one another 
  5. Activating [teachers] as owners of their own learning

(Adapted from Wiliam (2011) Embedded formative assessment)

And being a huge fan of acronyms I ended up with:

F: Feedback & Feed Forward
O: Observe (Learning not just teaching)
C: Co-teach & Constructively Criticise
U: Upskill & Unlearn
S: Suggest & Share (good practice)

Alphabetically Coded Reminder of Names You Misremember
A Contrived Reduction Of Nomenclature Yielding Mnemonics
A Concise Reduction Obliquely Naming Your Meaning
A Clever Re-Organisation to Nudge Your Memory

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Embed a swf file into a Google Site

Shockwave files or 'Flash' files are incredibly useful things, they may be virtually obsolete due to their inability to play on Apple iOS devices, but they are still thriving in the world of education, and will likely continue to do do for some years to come.

There are a few ways to do use these with Google Sites, but remember, that while Google Sites will display on an iOS device, none of flash content will work, you have been warned...

The easiest way is to just place them into a Google Drive folder, students can then open, download and run the flash file on their computer, but there can be problems if they do not have the 'Adobe Flash Projector' installed.

The good news is all desktop OS browsers already have built in Flash players, so we can use that instead. To do that just attach the relevant swf file to the Google Site page, (or attache it using the File Cabinet template) when kids click on the attachment it will launch in the browser, try it with the swf attached on this Google Site.

Finally there is a way to embed the flash file so it plays in the actual page, like a YouTube video, but it is a bit fiddly to do ... you need to use the code below, but edit the code to replace the location of the source file, (highlighted in yellow below) with the code of the actual swf file, which you can get by right clicking on the Google Site attachment and choosing 'copy link address'. Paste that link into the place below highlighted in yellow and you may need to adjust the sizes highlighted in green to make it for on the page nicely.

<embed xmlns="" height="600" pluginspage="" src="" width="600"/>

Edit the site page, then paste in the HTML, by using the <HTML> button to reveal the HTML code in the site page. This will work in any HTML context, like this Blogger page as well, example below.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The 10 Commandments of Word Processing

This has to be one of the most commonly used ICT skills, even be the most tech reluctant, but unfortunately as most of us are self taught, there are quite a few aspects that have been poorly learned, are poorly practised, and are now inevitably poorly taught...

The good news is that once you know what you don't know, it's easy to fix, the chances are, no matter how long you've been word processing, you will find a few surprises in this list:

  1. Thou shalt use spell check (but don't rely on spellcheck—homophones much?). 
  2. Thou shalt use the built in thesaurus (and use 'Command+F' to check for repetition!).
  3. Thou shalt not ignore the grammar/proof reading tool—if it's got a squiggly line under it, check it!
  4. Thou shalt use the tab key to indent, not the space bar (also useful for adding a new row to the bottom of a table).
  5. Thou shalt not do things manually that can be done automatically; like adding page numbers, numbered lists, or creating a table of contents.
  6. Thou shalt use the 'paste unformatted' or 'paste as text' option to avoid reformatting all the text you paste in. Every. Time.
  7. Thou shalt use the styles menu to structure your document with headings etc (and you can't use some automatic features without this).
  8. Thou shalt insert a page break if you want a new page (don't just repeatedly hammer the return key).
  9. Thou shalt not hammer keyboard keys— NEVER press a space bar more than once, or a return key more than twice. 
  10. Thou shalt make sure to reduce the file size of the document if thou hast inserted gargantuan images into it, before sharing it with others.
Last but not least, this article has a similar guide to the skills I've outlined above, but specifically tailored to Microsoft Office, and with lots of nice pictures! The key takeaway is that these skills are conventions that apply regardless of the platform, device or application you use, from MS Word, to Pages to Google Docs, they all utilise and provide these features.

Teaching Teachers Tech Integration – 4 Fantastic Strategies

I have recently completed my Practice Based Enquiry as the final element of a Master's in Teaching (MTeach) for the Institute of Education in London, which culminated in a gargantuan 22,000 word dissertation* (not including appendices!)

This post attempts to 'cut to the chase' 4 years and 200 pages later, what, exactly, did I find was worthwhile? What really seems to work?

This was not 'action research' but 'practitioner research study', something my tutor was careful that I should understand, action research seems to be an 'in' academic sounding term at the moment, but is easily wittered while few understand its iterative and longitudinal nature... The ‘practitioner research’ model was more suitable than an action research model, in that it is expected that practitioners will learn from their research into practice, it also aims at improving rather than proving as an approach to research (Campbell, 2007).

The focus of the enquiry was to consider:

What are the most effective strategies for overcoming the barriers to the authentic integration of digital technologies in schools?

The enquiry considered barriers to ICT (information communication technology) integration, and possible enabling solutions. Traditionally, the development of ICT expertise is facilitated by the provision of ‘training courses’. However, for the duration of this enquiry this approach was suspended, in order to explore more learner-centred, collaborative approaches for managing teacher development; utilising opportunities for teachers to learn through interactions with their colleagues and with their own students. This practitioner research study explored barriers to the integration of ICTs and the factors that inhibit their use of ICTs for teaching and learning, and the constraints on that use. The data indicated a strong consensus that the barrier of time was the most significant, with the barriers of training and tech support as contributory factors. 

The case study centred on the role of a Digital Literacy Coach (DLC) in the design and exploration of interventions focused on these areas, with three non-technologically proficient, but experienced teachers. The enabling strategies explored, were not focused on a barrier-by-barrier basis, but to overcome a number of barriers simultaneously. Interventions that focused on utilising time in class with students, and ‘non contact’ time during the school day, were found to be particularly effective. Teachers became more confident about drawing on the strengths of their students as a support strategy. A concern that emerged in relation to ICT integration was that the teaching of ICT skills were becoming neglected. Practices to mitigate this were found to be effective but required careful monitoring to ensure that they are pedagogically driven, not skill driven. The data indicated a significant positive change in teacher response to these barriers, indicating that the interventions that were explored were effective in mitigating these barriers, interventions that could be applied in other teaching contexts.

So—What Works?

Emphasise ‘continuing’ in Continual Professional Development (CPD) over InSET

In short InSET (one off training days) is not effective unless it is a part of CPD, and regarding CPD it was generally felt that relying only on making time after school for CPD is ineffective. InSET (In Service Educational Training) ‘Training’ and ‘Courses’ do not really take account of the actual needs of teachers, “there can be no one size fits all training (Hu and McGrath, 2011, p 50)”. When teachers can see the explicit relevance of the technology to enhancing their practice, their motivation increases, along with willingness to make the effort and to find the time to change (Daly et al, 2009). For some teachers a certain amount of ‘unlearning’ is need, especially in terms of assumptions about what constitutes ‘training’ and when and where this is most effective... Where the PD is more about certification than transformation.

So this approach to CPD could be described as ‘less is more’. Less efficient, but more effective—specifically, often teaching identical, or very similar, skills to several small groups of teachers, at times and places more efficacious to them, rather than once, to all of them, at a time more convenient to the school. 

Essential to the success of this change was the reframing of the dominant school paradigm of ‘training’, from a didactic, ‘instructor as expert’ approach, to that of working with a mentor/mediator; positioning learning around a ‘gradual release of responsibility’ (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983), where all ‘instruction’ is scaffolded for learners, learners who become capable of handling tasks with which they have not yet developed expertise, in effect, ‘learning by being’ (Brown & Adler, 2008)—a form of apprenticeship. With this in in mind, traditional ‘en masse’ teacher training was suspended in favour of a core set of ‘little and often’ strategies that were developed with the case study teachers and piloted with their grades; these 4 strategies  (3Ts & a J) are described below: 

'Team Time'

Teachers were asked to use a ‘timetable audit’ to reflect carefully upon a typical week at their grade level. What emerged was that at least twice a week, during the school day in each grade, all the teachers were ‘free’ at the same time.  This was dubbed, ‘Team Time’, a time when the DLC would be available specifically to that team to facilitate collaborative and individualised (Hixon & Buckenmeyer, 2009) teacher-generated opportunities to learn from and with each other (Pickering, 2007). These shorter, smaller and more frequent meetings are the kinds where collaborative work is more effective than larger, infrequent meetings (Cordingley et al, 2005; Devereux, 2009). Most weeks these are informal affairs, that provide a forum for collaboration; teachers are able to discuss technical and curriculum questions, classroom management issues and assessment practices, as well as how to use available technology, and share tips and short cuts they have learned with/from their students (Ciampa & Gallagher, 2013). One teacher’s efficacy (often a 'Tech Mentor'—a teacher designated as having a particular role in the development of ICT within the grade level or department—but not always)  with a particular tool can quickly became ‘viral’ with two or three other teachers eager to learn from a colleague’s expertise, very much imitating the way they observe their own students learn from each other.

‘Trickle Down Training’ 

Teachers benefit far more from informal, home based activities (Hustler et al, 2003), so when they (somewhat guiltily) request assistance with personal uses of ICT, they are often pleasantly surprised to learn that it is precisely this ‘self-centred’ use of ICT that can provide a synergistic, symbiotic ‘cascade effect’ on the development their own ICT skills, such as for creating a ‘home movie’, or cropping an image for use with a social network profile. This kind of CPD, based on personal interests, takes account of how adults learn, and recognises the importance of individuals taking ownership over their own personalised learning journeys.


Many students are quick to learn many of the skills and potentialities of digital tools, what Mishra & Koehler (2006) call technological knowledge (TK), yet are not necessarily skilled at, for example, sharing them. The involvement of students through skilled facilitation (Ruddock, 2004) creates a collaborative ethos that harnesses the time spent in the classroom as time for ‘training’ by taking advantage of the students’ natural facility with digital technologies, while also harnessing the pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) of their teachers—their unique perspectives based on many years of experience. This is a repurposing of Mishra & Koehler’s TPACK model (2006) I describe as TK + PCK = TPCK.

Scenarios become commonplace whereby a student finds a new way of doing something or makes a discovery that the teacher has never come across before, but rather than feeling threatened by this, the teacher facilitates this and turns it into a “teachable moment” (Crook et al, 2010). In this case the teacher could give the student control of the screen, eg, via a projector, to guide the class (and often the teacher) through the process. The students have a natural sense of determination and perseverance when faced with technical problems; even though they accept that these problems happen, they see this as an inevitable aspect of using technology - not an exception.

At present I run 'classes' during a lunch-time each week, with 2 to 3 students per class (In a grade of 9 classes, that means a manageable number of about 20 Techsperts) are invited to attend and pick up skills (from the DLC and from each other) to share with their classes. This started off just being for certain units, but it's popularity with the students and teachers led to be being established as a year long arrangement.


JITT or ‘just in time teaching/training’, is an organic, serendipitous or spontaneous intervention that occurs on a ‘need to know’ basis, when needed or “just in time”. These are, "spontaneous and short tutorial sessions—both student to student and instructor to student—driven by immediate requirements (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p 1036)." Teachers acquire ‘problem-solving’ technical skills to overcome first order barriers (Ertmer, 1999) as ‘short, sharp, specific’ interventions at the point of need, within instructional practices that incorporate meaningful uses of technology (ibid). In this way collaborative learning can be achieved which is “shorter, smaller and more frequent”, the kind of ‘needs-based training’ advised by Karagiorgi & Charalambous (2006, p 406), tailored to each teacher’s needs. This is a form of ‘training’ targeted directly at the point of need—assuming the teacher makes a point of noting how the recovery was improvised—so it can become a learning opportunity in and of itself, and not just reinforcing their dependence on what could easily become just another form of technical support.

The final report [pdf] is available here


Campbell A and Groundwater-Smith S (Eds) (2007). An Ethical Approach to Practitioner Research: Dealing with Issues and Dilemmas in Action Research, London: Routledge

Hu Z and McGrath I (2011). Innovation in higher education in China: are teachers ready to integrate ICT in English language teaching? Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 20: 1, 41 – 59. 

Pearson P D and Gallagher M C (1983). The instruction of reading comprehension. Contemporary educational psychology, 8 (3), 317–344.

Brown J and Adler R (2008). Minds on Fire. Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0. Educause Review January/February

Hixon E and Buckenmeyer J (2009). Revisiting technology integration in schools: Implications for professional development. Computers in the Schools, 26(2), 130-146.

Pickering J (2007). ‘Teachers’ professional development: not whether or what, but how’, in J Pickering, C Daly and N Pachler (eds), New Designs for Teachers’ Professional Learning. London: Bedford Way Papers, Institute of Education, University of London. 

Ciampa K and Gallagher T L (2013). Professional learning to support elementary teachers’ use of the iPod Touch in the classroom, Professional Development in Education, DOI:10.1080/19415257.2012.749802

Cordingley P, Bell M, Evans D and Firth A (2005). 'The impact of collaborative continuing professional development (CPD) on classroom teaching and learning. Review: How do collaborative and sustained CPD and sustained but not collaborative CPD affect teaching and learning?' Research Evidence in Education Library London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London. 

Crook C, Harrison C, Farrington-Flint L, Tomás C, Underwood J (2010). The Impact of Technology: Value-added classroom practice Final report. Becta. 

Daly C, Pachler N, Pelletier C (2009a). Continuing Professional Development in ICT for Teachers: A literature review. WLE Centre, Institute of Education, University of London. June 2009. 

Devereux C (2009). Beyond the curriculum: The positive effects of Continual Professional Development for a group of post-16 science teachers. WLE Centre Occasional Papers in Work-Based Learning. London: WLE Centre, Institute of Education, University of London. 

Ertmer P A (1999). Addressing first-and second-order barriers to change: Strategies for technology integration. Educational Technology Research and Development.

Hustler D, McNamara O, Jarvis J, Londra M and Campbell A. (2003). Teachers’ Perceptions of Continuing Professional Development. London: Department for Education and Skills. 

Mishra P and Koehler M J (2006). ‘Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge’, Teachers College Record 108 (6) pp. 1017– 1054.

Rudduck J and Flutter J (2004). How to improve your school: giving pupils a voice. London: Continuum.