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The next Primary TeachMeet organised by the #teachmeetchester team will be on Thursday 13th March 2014 5.00 - 6.30pm at the University of Chester Warrington Campus, Crab Lane WA2 0DB.  The venue is near Junction 21 of the M6 and easily accessible from all parts of the north west.

Further information and a sign-up form is available here: http://teachmeet.pbworks.com/w/page/70319015/TMWarrington

Download and print out the poster for your staff room notice board here: https://www.box.com/s/tbmawurego6re5ubcm7b
 
 
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Jane Tucker on 100WC
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Simon on XBox and Literacy
It's been a busy few weeks, so this is my first opportunity to jot down a few thoughts on #TeachMeetEP on 26th September at the University Church of England Academy (UCEA) in Ellesmere Port - many thanks to UCAT and the staff at UCEA who welcomed us and supported the event. Firstly, the lessons learned:
  • Like #teachmeetchester, several people who signed up for the event were not able to attend. The 4.30pm start was undoubtedly too early for some people who were intending to travel to Ellesmere Port from Chester or North Wirral. A 5.00pm start may have been better and we will look at that as a possibility for our next TM (read on for details of that). Twilight sessions are always going to be subject to the unpredictabilities of the end of the school day and an obvious solution would be to move to an evening slot or, maybe, Saturday morning? Or is that pushing expectations of professional commitment? I never cease to be amazed at the willingness of teachers to give their time and energy to unpaid professional development in their own time, but giving up an evening or precious time at the weekend maybe a 'bridge too far'? Only one way to find out, I suppose ....
  • Second lesson learned was admin-related, I suppose, and a bit trivial, but ended up being quite important, I think. The #TeachMeetEP sign-up form collected necessary information on presentations, names and organisations. For contact details, it asked only for a Twitter handle, if available. The assumption was that most who signed up would be on Twitter - mistake! In the end, only about a quarter of those who signed up gave Twitter contact, so it was not possible to contact them directly again (to give reminders or joining info). In future, the sign-up form will also ask for a contact email address.
  • Third lesson was also about making contact. #TeachMeetEP was aimed primarily at staff in local Ellesmere Port schools (with others very welcome, of course). Staff from three local schools came along, but despite many Tweets and several direct emails, we had no response from other schools. Email does not seem to be a very effective way of spreading the word about an event like this. Why do emails to some schools appear to disappear down a black hole? Not sure about a way forward for this one, though anecdotal evidence suggests that some schools and teachers have the impression that everyone attending a TM has to present. Maybe the whole concept of TM attendance - present if you want, 'lurk' if you want - has to be spread more widely?
  • Final lesson learned was technical and just a bit frustrating! At #teachmeetchester, the Gosoapbox website was used to collect questions, ideas and comments during and after the event. Despite a few glitches in subsequent attempts to use the site, we once more asked a people to share their views in this way for #TeachMeetEP. Result - Nothing! Either the site completely failed to work or nobody commented. I can't believe the latter is true, so the former seems the likeliest scenario. We won't be using Gosoapbox again!

On to the positives! There were six very different and thought-provoking presentations at #TeachMeetEP which fitted just about perfectly into the 1.5 hour time slot. My highlights were Si Poole's XBox presentation on the the big screen in UCEA's theatre, Dean Paton's engaging and entertaining tour of place names and Martin Little's fresh angle on fractions - apologies for not mentioning everyone; your contributions were much appreciated, but these three are the ones which spring straight to mind a month after the event. Resources and images from the evening are on http://chesterictproject.weebly.com/teachmeet.html as well as three extra presentations from contributors who could not attend in person. And Finally - the next #teachmeetchester TeachMeet will be  at the University of Chester campus in Warrington on 13th March 2014 - details here ....
 
 
I have just created a new page on this site devoted to programming in primary schools. It includes links to general resources, software, online tools and apps. Hopefully, it will be a useful source of ideas and information in preparation for the Computing curriculum in 2014. Please let me know if there are obvious resources I have missed!
 
 
Can't say the NSA/PRISM security services surveillance controversy has got me very hot under the collar. Maybe its just that I struggle to get excited about Big Brother-esque snooping, when privacy is something of a redundant concept these days  - CCTV is everywhere in the UK, even in Welsh forests!
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You are being watched!
Though phone tapping is another issue, I have always taken it for granted that electronic communication is a public forum. Though I must admit I have broken my own rule a few times in the heat of the moment,  I would never send an email or put a post on Twitter or Facebook that I wouldn't be happy for the whole world to see (including MI5 and Mr Gove). Which is why I am taken aback by those who very obviously perceive that these are private means of communication - they are not! 
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Only the other day, I had a very reputable company requesting that I send financial details via email (I didn't).  Last night's BBC Question Time audience (made up entirely of 16 and 17 year old 'digital natives') were getting very exercised by the idea that the security services might take a look at their Facebook accounts! If they genuinely think that social media is a secure means of communication, then our e-safety education is seriously flawed. And maybe it is? Perhaps the emphasis on caution, secure passwords and restrained profiles gives the impression that social media and digital communication can be private and safe if we do the right things. Yes, being e-safe is important in terms of avoiding contact by undesirables or those outside your social circle, but it doesn't mean that posts and images are private. Whether it be for the greater good or not, the state has the potential to see everything posted online, so we need to get over it ...

 
 
Some news for teachers in the Cheshire/Wirral area and beyond: the next Primary TeachMeet, organised by the #teachmeetchester team, will be on Thursday 26th September at the University Church of England Academy (UCEA) in Ellesmere Port. TeachMeetEP is aimed at primary teachers (though all teachers and trainees are very welcome), but we have the opportunity to use the state-of-the-art facilities at UCEA - also, a great chance to look around this innovative new building!

If you are new to the TeachMeet idea, then this short video explains what they are all about. We already have some really interesting presentations set up, but are on the look out for more. Although TeachMeets are usually about technology for learning, you don't have to show and tell about ICT - come along and share any good idea for enhancing learning in primary schools!

TeachMeetEP will run from 4.30 - 6.00pm (with registration and refreshments available from 4.00pm) and there is plenty of free parking.

You can sign up and find more information here: http://teachmeet.pbworks.com/w/page/66917919/TeachMeetEP

Please email info@ucat.chester.ac.uk if you have any questions or comments. For news and views about TeachMeet Ellesmere Port, follow @TeachMeetEP on Twitter.
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UCEA is worth a visit!
 
 
Bil Gates recalls his last conversations with Steve Jobs - follow the links here from Macworld.
 
 
I have been using Delicious to compile a set of links and resources to help in planning a more Computing-focused curriculum in primary schools. I am adding stuff regularly, so please re-visit - the link is https://delicious.com/tonypickford/programming
 
 
Facts
Pixabay/Creative Commons/Gerd Altmann
If the proposed new National Curriculum for England was designed to get a reaction, then it has been a very effective document. The fact that the ICT (sorry, Computing) proposals have proved to be one of the least contentious aspects, gives some indication of the reactions to much of the rest of the document. Without exploring the fine details of the controversy and debate (this gives a flavour for just one curriculum area), the responses have been sparked by a paradigm shift in curriculum requirements from the usual mix of processes, skills and factual knowledge to an approach entirely dominated by facts to be imparted. Though radical and informed by a deficit view of children's knowledge and capabilities, the approach is grounded in a fairly logical set of propositions. Whether it be simple reading comprehension or informed participation in a democratic society, all children (and adults) need to be culturally literate - imbued with a shared cultural knowledge across language, literature, humanities, arts and sciences. If all receive this body of incontestable factual information, then inequalities caused by different social and/or economic backgrounds will be addressed. The arguments supporting the approach are appealing, especially for politicians looking for simple solutions or academics out to make a name for themselves. Where the approach falls apart or, to be more kind, raises questions is in its implementation (and of course, the very idea of incontestable information) - delivery of a huge amount of knowledge across a relatively few years of schooling will mean that even young children will have to receive a diet of complex facts and very challenging concepts. Look at the key stage one requirements across the new National Curriculum to see what I mean - or better still, take a look at the Core Knowledge Sequence UK, developed by Civitas, which carries the approach to its logical conclusions.

It was when looking at the latter curriculum that I was struck by what is missing. Core Knowledge, or at least its UK form, appears to make only a few references to technology - Tim Berners-Lee gets a mention in Y6 science and data handling features in mathematics - but, there is little sense that cultural literacy in the 21st Century might include technological or digital literacy. Surely, an approach to curriculum making that values factual knowledge would expect informed 21st Century citizens to know something about the technology that surrounds them and underpins the functioning of society? If facts are all important, then a warning about the status of facts on Wikipedia might be useful? If Time-Berners Lee gets a mention, then what about Ted Nelson or Douglas Engelbart or Alan Turing? Shouldn't we know what happens across networks when we click the 'I'm Feeling Lucky' button on Google? Or is cultural literacy actually about the past rather than the present?

And the title of this post - of course the culturally literate will recognise it.
 
 
After a couple of days' reflection, our first TeachMeet seems to have been a positive experience for all concerned! Some really supportive comments were posted during the event and afterwards. There appears to be general agreement that the presenters and their ideas were inspiring. The turnout was OK with a good mix of teachers, students and others. So, what have I learned?
  • Some who say they are coming won't turn up and others will appear unannounced! Providing the two groups balance each other, then no problem.
  • Try to keep people to the five to seven minute micro-presentation time limit - all the presentations over-ran and the event ended about 20 minutes later than billed.
  • Think about ways of getting more interaction - presentations followed by Q & A worked OK, but discussion was quite limited. Similarly, opportunities for online feedback were set up, but more time needs to be devoted to how to connect and contribute. Probably the biggest flaw, however, was the lack of opportunity for nano-presentations by audience members - the TeachMeet concept is built on the idea of informality and spontaneity and our event didn't have much of that!
  • The mix of presentations, in terms of technical skills and platforms used was a strength of the TeachMeet. This was 'accidental', however, and next time more thought needs to be given to the order of presentations to make for a balanced experience.
  • An open event, such as a TeachMeet, always runs the risk of takeover by people with 'axes to grind' or personal or commercial agendas. This did not happen last week, but must be a consideration for any future events. Sponsorship, for example, would be useful, but needs to be handled with care!
And finally - apologies for the image. It's a bit of an in-joke for those who attended the TeachMeet.