Blooming marvellous!

I love Twitter! I have so much to thank it for. Not least, for the fact that it has connected me with so many amazing people, their inspirational ideas, resources and on-going support. Today, I am particularly grateful for my connection with Cristina Milos @surreallyno and her wonderful blog “ateacherswonderings”. Cristina teaches in an IB school in Romania and she is whole-heartedly committed to engaging her own creative powers to grow the creative powers of her pupils.

Today, after Cristina had commented on a TEDucation post I’d just published, I followed a link to her blog, and came across this great book that she had come across on Storybird by the amazing janeh271 (if you click on her name, you’ll get to see her other great works – well worth a read!). It  explains Bloom’s taxonomy in the most engaging & accessible way. I hope you enjoy it and can use it. Thank you Cristina, thank you Twitter and my Personal Learning Network. A good day to be connected today.

It’s all about learning…

G&T and PLTS – an integrated approach

I’ve put this together in response to a really good question, “How do we ensure challenge for our most able in a competency-based curriculum?”. A similar question that was posed to me when I gave a presentation to a regional group of English Local Authority Advisers.

I was explaining the potential of PLTS to support the development of gifts and talents using, as a case study, my work with a G&T Lead School to develop G&T provision through the Personal Learning Thinking Skills. This approach is working really well for the school, not least because it has prompted some in-depth discussion. They have been able to explore the tension between emphasising knowledge, subject expertise and generic learning skills in constructing learning opportunities. The group to whom I was speaking had similar reservations and were very concerned that in using the PLTS as the basis for identifying high ability in English, the distinctive subject expertise might be lost. I was able to reassure the group (I hope) that by using the PLTS as a start point and then linking this to subject-specific characteristics of high ability, identification of and provision for the most able would be far more complete. Following this discussion, I started to put together my thinking and came up with the following document (below).

Please have a read of the document (click in the centre for full screen) and I’d be very interested to hear your comments. I’m also keen to hear about what you are doing in your schools. You’ll see a reappearance of my underground maps and you’ll also see some of the practical activities I use in the classroom to create challenge. I will also post this entry on our PLTS Action Research Network blog, which is password protected at the moment, but we’ll open it up if there’s enough demand.
The meta-menus featured in this document are from the FABULOUS G&T Pocketbook by Barry Hymer – I HIGHLY recommend getting yourself a copy of this little gem of a book!
Much of the content in this document which will be featured in my book…consider this a teaser…!

The Power of Twitter (ONCE AGAIN)

Thanks to Jamie Portman for his cracking endorsement of the power of Twitter found here:

Jamie has been part of my personal learning network for a long time now. I’ve been through the lurking stage with him right through to mentions, DMs and emails to share resources with him (which reminds me that I have some more for him I MUST send – sorry for the delay, Jamie!). Next, I really hope I’m going to be able to visit and see the amazing work of Jamie, his staff and students since a fire ripped through the school buildings at Campsmount, Doncaster in December last year.

Please do follow Jamie on Twitter @jamieportman – he’s got some great follows and followers and is leading some very innovative, pragmatic learning in his school.

The real power of Twitter is all that I’ve said, but It’s also enough to bring me out of my self-enforced silence during my holiday in an attempt to SWITCH OFF. I try really hard to relax and clear my head when I take time off but to be honest, it doesn’t really work.
Just today I have been reading “Over-schooled but Under-educated” by John Abbott. I continue to lurk on Twitter during my ‘silent holiday’ (I’m not supposed to be interacting in this ‘switch-off’ mode) and this afternoon, I have researched a number of educational readings…I’m currently checking out a range of different teaching models including the Autonomous Learner Model and the Cognitive Apprenticeship Model ( with which I’m undertaking some action research in our ‘Confident Communicators’ Project’ (see previous post) at the moment and will be talking about at a number of conferences in the next few months.
I’ve also done some work on my book plus I’ve downloaded Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA (, which has been added to the RSA Animate series – check it out if you’re interested in finding out about intrinsic motivation, with some powerful scientific evidence to support the case…it brilliantly enriches the TED talk ( he gives around the same issues.

I also went on a four mile walk this morning along Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis and saw some spectacular fossils and the other side of the day involved a final circuit of the harbour and the Cobb. ‘Switching off’, it would seem, is very subjective…

Creative collaboration

Over the past 18 months, I have been involved in one of the most powerful projects in my career to date. At first glance, the role of facilitating a group of educators as they explore questions related to creative learning may not appear so very innovative. On closer inspection, however, any enquiring eye will discover a powerful and very real example of teachers and teaching assistants collaborating to build a purposeful and safe learning community. The result of which is having a powerful and sustainable impact on learning opportunities for children and on the professional confidence of all the adults involved.

I have learnt so much about the importance and value of investing time and space to provide quality regular opportunities for educators to reflect on, develop and evaluate their practice. At times it has felt so slow in comparison to the frenetic nature of everyday school life that I have worried that we’re not achieving anything. I have been acutely aware of my responsibility to demonstrate concrete outcomes (the production of ‘stuff’) in order to justify teachers’ time out of the classroom and away from their classes, but I haven’t known what ‘stuff’ we could present. Instead, I have focused relentlessly on documenting the conversations, discussions and reflections of the group members. I have subjected them all to their own documentations including writing, video and digital photography and insisted that they provide their own sources of evidence of impact throughout the meetings. They have kept their own learning logs, recording ideas they pick up from each other and things they have tried with their own classes and other colleagues back in school. I have set homework for them and required them to take a ‘Creativity Pledge’ at each meeting to state what they had done, the impact of this, their next steps and some possible outcomes. It has been rigorous for all involved, but this approach has, without doubt, sustained a purposeful, thoughtful and very very safe learning community.

I hope that the findings that the research group produce provide a way forward for all schools to support innovative developments in teaching and learning and take 21st century learning by the scruff of the neck once and for all. This is an 18 month snapshot and there will, I know, be much, much more to follow…

IDEO imagine the future of play

I love the way IDEO think. Some of their projects have clear opportunities with which educators can connect. More importantly, the questions that IDEO raise and use to inform their thinking are incredibly powerful. I’m involved in a ‘Future Researcher’ project with Year 8 students at the moment. I wonder how they would use this and the films that IDEO say are yet to come in their projects….

(From the IDEO website

As part of Living Climate Change, IDEO imagines a future shaped by electric power dependency – where schoolyard play offsets the cost of fossil fuel and kids take an active part in their powering their world. Tune into IDEO next week, when we’ll envision a brighter future. For more scenarios, click through to Living Climate Change, a place to discuss the most defining design challenge of our time.

<p>Escape from IDEO on Vimeo.</p>

Teacher Voice

I’m just returning from an excellent day with two secondary schools and their feeder primaries exploring ‘Gifted & Talented’ together for a whole day. This resulted in over 200 teachers coming together to think, discuss, share and plan for the last day of an exhausting, snow affected term. My role was to deliver the keynote and then I had the privilege of working with the teachers throughout the day as an on-site consultant. In truth, this role was simple…watch, listen, observe, answer questions (usually with further questions, such is my way) and then listen again as they developed their concrete plans for provision. The departments from the two schools either worked together for the whole day or worked for concentrated sessions on their own and then joined each other to compare and share their planning.

Doing this kind of work around the country reaffirms my firm conviction that commitment, passion and enthusiasm is very much alive and well in teaching. I wish the media would spend some time listening to this. I wish politicians would spend some time seeking it out and watching it.

We rightly develop strategies to ensure that learner voice is amplified in our schools and that young people have an authentic say in how they learn. I wonder whether, particularly at this time in the political calendar in the UK, it is time for us to develop similar strategies for teacher voice? We need to invest in the creation of a culture of reflection and learning conversations between teachers. There needs to be deliberately constructed, systemic collaborative learning opportunities for schools to come together in their entirety to share their values and develop their practice.

The day ended with everybody back in the main hall. Action plans for every department had been completed and evaluations submitted. 

An inspirational day. And, as ever, much more to think about for me.

Happy Term Break!

Making learning sticky (inspired by ‘Made to Stick’

After reading Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Tipping Point’ a few years ago, a group of us started to talk about ‘making learning sticky’. It was around the time that Mick Waters, then Head of Curriculum at what is now QCDA, was talking about ‘Making Learning Irresistible’. Since then, we have used this concept as the focus for many discussions around learner motivation, pedagogy and use of new technologies and Web 2.0.

Yesterday, I was following up a number of references to books from the world beyond education and ‘Made to Stick’ was one of them. The website is interesting, particularly the way in which the Heath brothers make links between communicating an effective an powerful marketing message in the commercial and business sectors and how the education sector constantly strives to engage students in their own learning.

To be honest, this is right up my street, all this connectivity stuff. I think there needs to be a lot more cross-over between what we know in education about organisational change, motivation and learning and how business, industry and the public sector address these issues. Anyway, I really like this pdf and I’m now working on translating it into ‘education-speak’ for future work. The book ‘Made to Stick is available on Amazon. (Click in the centre of the box to read in full screen).

Keep on Learning…

This article was Tweeted by @DerrenBrown today. I selected it because of the emphasis it places on the need for everybody to continue learning. 


“Until just a few years ago we doctors believed that the brain stopped making new neural connections ? meaning that your memory began to get irreversibly worse ? when the body stopped developing usually in your early 20s. And we knew that like any other body part neurons weaken as we age. Loss of brain function due to neural breakdown was assumed to be a normal unavoidable part of aging.

It turns out we were wrong. In the past few years it has become clear that you can in fact make new neurons starting in your 20s and continuing well into old age. You can literally rewire the brain with new parts as the older parts wear out. How? Simple: Keep learning. Just as your body can pack on and condition new muscle your brain can rebuild used-up neurons.

How strong is the evidence for this? Strong enough that a $200 million industry devoted to brain-boosting software ? products like Brain Age MindFit and Lumosity that supposedly improve your memory function ? has sprung up out of nowhere. The jury is still out on whether these programs actually sharpen the noggin as much as they claim to. But frankly you don’t need a fancy video game. All “mental fitness” means is keeping your memory intact ? everything from phone numbers to how to throw a football. 

Mehmet Oz is a heart surgeon and the coauthor of You: Staying Young (Free Press $26).