Wider reading and twitter

At a meeting this week, we talked about ways to improve whole-school learning. There was discussion about developing a reading culture, which is something that has been difficult to establish in the past: there are so many demands on pupils’ time here that wider reading falls very low down the list of priorities for the majority.

This lack of wider reading is particularly noticeable in Y13, where some students have very little awareness of current affairs and show little inclination to open a newspaper. It definitely hits them when they’re doing BUSS4 in the legacy Business Studies course. I’ve been pondering ways to improve this, but have found few definite answers; finding out what other departments do is definitely on my development priority list.

I like the idea of having a departmental twitter account, and there are some excellent departmental accounts out there. However, twitter is blocked for pupils on the school network and I can’t guarantee that they will all have smart-phone access: there’s no point setting up and curating an account if pupils aren’t able to access it through official channels.

Things are about to change, though. School has invested in Firefly to replace the existing intranet. Firefly supports twitter feeds, so we can at last have a departmental twitter account that pupils can access. A colleague set one up last year, and I’ve comandeered it: I feel a spot of re-tweeting coming on!

The visualiser…

…is brilliant! I set it up on Tuesday, and have already used it with three different classes. As I predicted, it’s been really useful for showing the Y13 how annotations help with BUSS3 case-studies, but I’ve also used it with Y11 as part of the preparation for their controlled assessment. One of the areas where GCSE pupils have struggled in the past is writing explicitly about the findings from their market research – far too much vague waffle, rather than specific, numerical analysis. I got my Y11 to choose a graph, and then write a “perfect sentence” to start their analysis. I then put various pupils’ work under the visualiser, discussed it and developed it, and then I got them to extend the sentence into a paragraph. I think there are a lot more ways of using it, so I’m keen to know what others do.

IT excitement

For a while now I’ve been looking for a simple way to project the pupils’ work up onto the board, whether that’s answers to an exam question, notes from discussion, or even good diagrams in Economics. We don’t have a wifi network in the building, so screencasting, in whatever form, is a no-go. I’ve been using a clunky solution which involves taking photos on my mobile, connecting the phone to the computer via USB, then opening the DCIM folder: it works, but it ain’t pretty!

Some time last year, John Tomsett blogged about explicity modelling thinking with his Economics class as a way of developing exam technique; he followed this up with another post about a teacher doing this process with a visualiser. A visualiser? THAT’s what they’re called! Clearly I am a long way behind the technological curve.

During the final week of the summer holiday, the HOD for Economics and I discovered that we’d got money left in the budget. After ordering all the new spec resources we could justify, I persauded him to let me spend eighty quid on my own visualiser. Technically it’s the department’s visualiser, but I’m not going to split hairs about that! It arrived on the first day of term, and I’ve only just got round to setting it up, but already I’m excited about the possibilities – my Y13 are tackling their first BUSS3 paper this week, and the ability to show them how I’d like them to annotate the case-study is going to be invaluable. As we read it together, I can make notes, which they can then see on the board – talk about making the implicit explicit!

Now all I need a long USB extension cable so I can use it in the middle of my classroom…