UKED Magazine Apr 2015

Page 5

Phenomenal Technology

Making Connections

By Martin Burrett

I used to work in a creative school. In fact the creative curriculum at this north Essex island community primary school was celebrated as one of the best features of this high achieving school. Teachers and senior managers came from miles around to see how we taught using topics, yet provided true coverage of the national curriculum. I have moved away from the school and the school has also moved away from a creative curriculum to follow a more rigid approach. Sadly, the school is no longer high-flying and I believe that is is in no small part to the change in direction. In recent years it seems that there has been a shift away from a thematic approach to the curriculum. Yet, with the recent news that Finland, the PISA education powerhouse, is dropping the notion of individual subject and will begin teaching by topics, what the Finns are calling 'phenomenon teaching', will cross curricular teaching be back in vogue in the UK? What will be the implications for educators' subject knowledge and professional development? Would this mean that the silos of specialism will be torn apart and all teachers will be generalists? Finland isn't the only country moving in this direction. On a recent visit to China I was proudly told by educators, headteachers and government officials that in the years to come there would be an expectation for all teachers to teach across traditional subject barriers at all levels of compulsory education. Whether you prefer teaching in subjects, as a cross-curricular topic or somewhere in between, all teachers and pupils can benefit from knowing what others do in their classrooms, both in their own school, and across the world. Educational technology, one of my specialisms, is uniquely placed to help educators and students communicate and collaborate. I will forego the more obvious examples, such as widely used collaborative tools such as Google Docs, blogging, educational event like Teachmeets, or of the educational community on Twitter, naturally including the ever helpful and inspiring #ukedchat on Thursday evenings, and delve a little deeper. Communication For all schools communication is key, but even in relatively small schools this can be an issue. There are no easy answers and schools need to carefully look at how they communicate with teachers, students and the wider community. and its Android and Apple Apps is a well established social platform for educators to communicate, with as a free alternative up to 50 users. Email seems to be a necessary evil of the teaching profession, but their are ways to make it more manageable. is a popular Apple and Android app which turns your emails into a chat platform for quick reading and informal responses. For those longer emails, policies and documents you can use apps like on Android or on Apple to read out the text while you are doing something else. Communicating with students and parents outside of class is vital for everyone keeping up to date. Two useful tools, and, are prefect for sending short messages via email/apps. Of course, most schools under use the potential of their learning platform and looking to see what else can be done with your existing tools should be your first step. 05

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