Tag Archives: pedagogy

Life with an iPad – month 2

The initial buzz of excitement has never quite left. I am aware of how my own routines are changing even though I am very much in the ‘see what it can do’ phase.

I’d imagined that I would be looking for apps to use that would teach something, but what I’m finding are apps which allow me to learn something.

The biggest game changer has been the accessibility the iPad brings. Having a device on me with continuous web access (save the drive to and from work) means that using it is part of everyday life and not an event. This is made possible by the battery life as I no longer have to ration myself or look for places where I can plug in. That seems a very small deal indeed, but the effects are marked.

I discovered Twitter and now the benefits of building a Personal Learning Network are apparent. Using Flipboard to view these is now what I do (with a cup of tea) when I get home instead of reading the newspaper. I’ve tried to build up a ‘follow’ list gradually rather than adding everyone I come across. The conventions of tweeting are still a bit of a mystery, although I found this guide by Brent Ozar something of a help. Most exciting was when I found that some people are kind enough to reply to questions or comments. The ‘small talk’ is a great reinforcer of the potential of collaboration. It still feels odd that there is no difference between someone being in Hull or New York or where-ever; the world really has become local. There is some exciting work going on with Flipping Classrooms, SOLO taxonomy and the whole business of how iPad might enhance learning.

Note making has been the next big area for me. It came as a surprise that there is something beyond the basic wordprocessor. ‘Pages’ looks fine and I’m sure this will replace Word for me, but this is just substitution. What I’ve found far more interesting is the use of Evernote and, more recently, Notability. Their ease of use, ability to organise notes and then their additional functionality with photograph, web clips is just fantastic. I found myself making quick notes on group presentations in class by adding and labelling photographs, writing comments and then emailing them to where I keep information. They are a useful record, and the students could make great use of the app in recording, reviewing and collating their notes. Is this the end of the exercise book? The search facility in Evernote is stunning – particularly when I found that I could photograph hand written notes and search even those.

Do we need to recommend one particular note-maker as a school, a department, a teacher … Or do we simply let students find what works for them? I’m increasingly drawn to the latter.

And finally, for this note at least, the apps for thinking and demonstrating learning: ‘Show Me’, ‘Eduacreations’ and ‘Explain Everything’. These could be so important both for instruction and for demonstration by both students and teachers. Educreations is simple to use and is great for ‘in the moment’, but Explain Everything has more versatility and offers several options for saving and distributing products. These are making me think much more about how we might create resources to help students and personalise their learning. If we are to consider the idea of Flipping – or even just simply putting support material into their hands, then the look like being cornerstones. Mind you, since seeing some of the resources on Cherwell’s YouTube channel I quite fancy going I to full scale tv production!

The most significant feature of the last month though his been how the technology has taken the back seat and learning is driving things along. These are exciting times in education, despite all that is coming from Gove, Ofsted and others (that’s a little reference to education in England, by the way – if you’re reading from elsewhere I’m sure it will be easy enough to insert your own!). I’m really glad to be around to take part in it.


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Does Spaced Learning signal a way to a bright new learning future, or is it a modern spin on rote learning which addresses only the lowest and least valued aspects of learning?

The term ‘Spaced learning’ has been bubbling under in educational circles for a while now, and even finding its way into the main-steam newspapers.  In ‘Classes apart’, by  Judith Woods in the Telegraph magazine (18.04.09) she describes how ‘Education today has moved away from the ‘chalk and talk’ philosophy of previous generations’ and leads with the following description of lessons at Monkseaton School at Whitley Bay in the north-east of England:

‘Lucy Barratt is weaving around the gym with her 16-year-old classmates, all dribbling basketballs. First they walk, then they jog. There’s laughter and chatter, when a whistle suddenly blows. The youngsters quickly place the balls on the floor and file back to the tables and chairs set out at the far end of the hall, because the pupils of Year 11 aren’t doing PE; they are halfway through a science lesson.

They sit down and for eight minutes are shown a Powerpoint presentation. Facts about the nervous system, diet deficiencies, hormones and the menstrual cycle, drugs and pathogens whizz on and off screen at a dizzying rate. After which it’s another 10 minutes with the basketballs, followed by the same eight-minute drill at their desks.’



Ray Fleming, writing in Microsoft’s UK schools News Blog, attempts focuses a little more on the details of the methodology:


 ‘The mechanics behind spaced learning are straightforward: the teacher gives a quickfire Powerpoint presentation, of about three slides a minute, and the pupils listen and read the screen, effectively taking in the information twice. After a gap, the same presentation is run, but there are missing spaces where the children have to fill in the missing words and repeat them aloud, which keeps their minds active and thinking. At this point they can also ask questions. After a second break, a similar presentation takes place’


The school’s own website, credits how Douglas Fields of the National Institute for Child Health and Development in the US led the team investigating the science behind how the brain actually creates a memory and  focused on how each cell was ‘switched on’ and became linked to other cells.

The most important point of the teaching system though seems to have been rather brushed over in much of the other writing on the topic of ‘spaced learning’: the role of the spaces themselves.


‘Surprisingly, constant stimulation of the cell did not make the cells ‘switch on’.  Stimulation had to be separated by gaps when the cell was not stimulated.  The breakthrough came when the team ‘began to realise that the important factor was time’. 

 Fields’ research team showed that to form a pathway which would be fixed and therefore remembered, cells had to be repeatedly stimulated and then not stimulated, in a particular pattern.  The length of stimulation was not vital, but the gap between stimulations was.  Fields’ team demonstrated that when three stimulations were separated by two 10 minute gaps, the cells ‘switched on’ and a pathway – a long term memory- was formed.  

Their model adopted at Monkseaton then is as follows:


‘The core structure of spaced learning is based rigidly on Fields’ discoveries, with three stimulations separated by two ten minute gaps:

·               Teacher input of key facts/explanations ( and therefore pathway stimulation)

·               10 minute ‘break’ from the input

·               Teacher Input  of key facts/explanations

·               10 minute ‘break’ from the input

·               Teacher input of key facts / explanations’


None of the articles featured though, seems to address the nature of the learning going on. Presumably this has been researched but not reported. Trying to reduce the learning content into bite-sized chunks seems to suggest that it is likely to be of most benefit when there is a discrete area of knowledge to be learned and explicit answer given. This might explain the comment  reported from the school that ‘Some subjects, such as English, are harder to compress, but it can be done.’

In term of the hierarchy’s now at the heart of much pedagogy – particularly that linked to creating ‘future-proofed’ education –  this sort of thing seems bedded firmly at the bottom cognitive models such as Bloom’s taxonomy

That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its place, but surely it has to be considered as one tool in the ‘kit’ teachers use. But an interesting question for any teacher is how it would be received by those ‘Managing Performance’ and performing ‘Quality Assurance’ of teaching and learning? Would they be content to see the focus on these necessary but lower-order levels?







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Leap | Your Approach to Learning: Self-Assessment

Your Approach to Learning: Self-Assessment

What’s Your Style?

The notion that each of us has a particular style and approach to learning is appealing in that it offers some explanation as to why we are successful in some situations and not in others. This appeal has led to a booming learning styles assessment industry. However, at this point, very little empirical evidence seems to support the notion that learning outcomes improve when learning styles are matched to instructional methods. Further, researchers and others interested in learning styles theories and applications are divided among various camps, each with somewhat different concerns: theoretical, pedagogical and commercial.

Most would agree, however, on the following points:

  • The process of learning is developmental. We learn differently in our childhoods, adolescence and in adulthood and, perhaps, as we move from novice to expert in particular areas.
  • Approaches to learning are not static; they change over time and in different contexts depending on what you are learning, your prior experience with the subject and how and where you are learning it.
  • Context for learning plays a critical role in how well you are supported. Context includes the fit between you and your instructor, your social environment, your own values, approach and preparedness for learning, the learning materials and activities, and the institution (and its values about learning and learners).


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