Tag Archives: kidsmeet

Curriculum Hackers – using student voice to pull apart learning

working on the collaborative OneNote doc
working on the collaborative OneNote doc

Student voice has always been something that interested me. Back in my NQT year this started with simple surveys like SurveyMonkey samples to get an opinion on topics I’d taught and how to improve, or having a small focus group of kids back after school to talk through what I could do better or what they would like to study. I believe we should trust our young people to have more say in their education; they are more aware than some credit and can provide coherent well argued rationales for what they should study, how to learn it, and why this is beneficial. And I don’t mean we only ask ‘the nice kids’! Be brave and have a balance, include some disaffected children as well and figure out what it is that’s going on that is inhibiting them from engagement. Letting go of the reins and empowering your people is hugely inspiring. And at the end of the day, they are the ones that undergo/experience/endure/enjoy* (*please delete as appropriate) education – so surely they should get some say?

PiLI first put serious time and effort into student voice when my school was due to be rebuilt during the BSF phase. This work led to my being awarded a Microsoft Innovative Teacher award and a trip to Moscow with Partners in Learning that was an amazing experience but totally down to the kids! You can see some of their work on the Key Stage 3 blog (it was 2011) here – it was Space Explorers:Space Creators and enabled students to have their say about the future build design and investigate how spaces affect learning. They were incredibly mature and made real progress in their own confidence throughout the project – going as far as presenting their work to ‘real adults’ like architects and external professionals.

My predecessor, David Rogers, first set up the term ‘curriculum hackers’ for our student voice group in Geography a year or so ago when we trialled adapting a scheme of work with the assistance of Alan Parkinson – you can see some of his blog reflections on this here. Last year for BBC report I expanded this (again with the wonderful Mr Parkinson 🙂 facilitating) to get our hackers to share with other students and teachers from across the city focussing on how they could include technology in learning during Kidsmeet.

My school achieved the Unicef Rights Respecting School Award Level 1 in 2012/2013, in large part due to the work of the Geography department in terms of linking the Rights of the Child charter to our schemes of work and adapting these using student voice to make more explicit. We are working towards Level 2 and although the school has a growing student voice presence (youth council and youth parliament) it is still not embedded across every curriculum area. When I took over as Head of Department I was surprised at how little some departments had done in terms of inclusion of students, and so decided to roll out the Curriculum Hackers programme across school. We are in the process now of recruiting more and more students (mostly year 8 and 9 who have experienced some schemes of work already but are not restricted by GCSE pressures) and Geography is leading the way with offering training and practise hacking.

How does this work?

– advertise for students to get involved (I use the school website, desktop background, assemblies and the life channel tv around school).

– hold a recruitment meeting with potential hackers to explain the role.

– train hackers after-school using example lessons: we look at needs vs wants, practicalities, etc,. Students are coached through how to analyse a scheme of work or a lesson outline to see how it meets requirements of skills development and how it ties to curriculum outlines – we are particularly looking at the new curriculum at present).

– hack a scheme of work! I have students off-timetable (during my PPA usually) in a block of about 3 hours (seems most efficient) and we start off with some ice-breaker type activities such as mindmaps on topics such as ‘the purpose of education’ or ‘is their a conflict between what schools provide and what you feel you need in future’ – then we have a bit of a debate. After this we do carousel activities to analyse schemes of work, the new curriculum, essentials needed, how lessons can be improved, how different learning styles can be included, etc,. I have used an ideas funnel before to sift down through suggestions and children are really good at picking up on practicalities. I’ve not really ever had to say ‘no, that’s not appropriate’ or ‘that’s not possible’ – and children are surprisingly draconian sometimes!

Collaborating in analogue and digital
Collaborating in analogue and digital

– allow students some independent time free from my interruptions and influence to work collaboratively on a shared OneNote document. I set this up in advance with a series of questions to consider, and provide them with links and hard copies of Schemes of Work / National Curriculum framework. We use OneNote because of the nature of being able to work simultaneously. I can then add comments and prompts as needed ‘live’ into the document, and they can all see each other’s work and respond to this. You can see part of a document in progress here . It also allows us to have a conversation about public access, e-safety and sharing information online since they know this document represents the department and the school and is visible to external agencies.

– hackers then share these ideas with the department at a department meeting and take feedback from teachers. We also having two hackers going in to department meetings routinely (once a half term) for the first part of the meeting to chat about lessons, give student feedback, and to discuss what they will do next. This is in the toddler stage at present in subjects of History, RE, MFL and English but teachers have been very positive and receptive so far. While it is in this new stage, I am making sure myself or another team member (or one of our older more experienced hackers from Year 10) is present as well in order to guide the conversations and provide support as needed).

– trial the lessons and get evaluations / comments from classes that take the lessons. Then in follow-up hacker sessions analyse these and make adaptations as needed.

Making their voices heard?

Part of the team presenting at TeachMeet Pompey!
Part of the team presenting at TeachMeet Pompey!

TeachMeet Pompey has been evolving from a tiny gathering a couple of years back to a fairly large scale event now. We’ve been lucky to have the support of some great sponsors and the Historic Dockyard who allowed us a free venue. 7th March this year saw over 120 educators / professionals gather for the latest #TMPompey and a few of our Curriculum Hackers / Digital Leaders were amongst those presenting. A really proud moment as their teacher to see a 12, 13 and two 14 year olds stand up and calmly and eloquently tell their story. Nobody forced them, and they sat and enjoyed the whole event as well – possibly lured by the chance to shoot teachers during laser quest afterwards but still! It’s a great feeling to see such independence, and from students who once upon a time were either disengaged or painfully shy but who have come so far and have the motivation to go even further now.

Making their voices heard globally?

Last week was the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum, where recognised Expert Educators from around the world gathered for all sorts of fun and hard work. I was very proud to see my friend and ex-colleague David up there representing Team UK along with some other awesome teachers. The twitter-sphere was pretty busy with #MicrosoftGF and #msftpil during the week and there were some great conversations going around. Although I wasn’t part of the event (not good enough see) I was keen to be part of the conversation and keep track of what’s going on (partly because I’m always concerned with big events like this – I went to the Moscow Forum in 2011 – that they don’t have as much of an influence on the outside world as would be nice, so if people get involved through twitter/yammer/PiL website maybe more sharing can be encouraged). I was really impressed and pleased to see the work of the @OffPerts student voice team there. During the event, there were requests from David and others to get some ‘real’ student voice from back in the UK so @priorygeography students got involved with this and shared their thoughts. The topic requested was ‘Why should students be involved with shaping their own learning?’ and ‘Would you like to collaborate with other countries and if so how?’ which fortuitously coincided with some of the work that my hackers had already done. So you can see their comments on the OneNote document, or in the images below. Some really interesting findings. And the kids were so so proud to see that their comments were going directly into the #microsoftGF feed and that hundreds of other professionals from around the world were considering what they said. That’s the power of student voice – that it brings pride, ownership, purpose, and can raise aspirations. I had some proper ‘spine tingly’ moments that day.

I’ll leave you with some of my favourite quotes from students involved:

“We are all global citizens and will be in charge one day, so we should know what other countries do…see with our own eyes.”

“Education is our key to learning about life and how to be part of our world”

“Education to me means freedom in future”

“Technology has helped me with being confident…”

“Technology means you will create something that is one of a kind…we want to be individual”

“We are the consumers, we have to ‘do’ learning so we should have some say in what is learnt and how”

“I know teachers know the curriculum really well and I do trust them, but I also want a bit of freedom to express myself”

“I would never have had the chance to act like a grown up if it wasn’t for Miss and being a curriculum hacker…designing our own lessons means independence and us learning new skills that we might not really get otherwise”

And my favourite maybe:

“I would never have had the option to present in front of 120 adults without doing curriculum hackers. Ms Debens gave us that chance and trusted us. I like it when teachers trust us, and when we work equally…I have pride then in what I do.”

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#kidsmeetpompey – What happens when kids are invited to hack the curriculum?

HMS WarriorLast week we hosted our first local kidsmeet’ the child version of a teachmeet. The original plan for the day can be found here. In essence, the idea was to have children from a range of secondary schools take part in a collaborative effort to hack and subvert the new curriculum and make suggestions for how to improve their learning. There was also a side focus of how to incorporate technology / ‘naughty learning’ in their lessons for the benefit of engagement and achievement.

Priory School’s Digital Leaders were involved with leading the day in a sense, sharing some of their experiences of the mobile@priory policy and the use of technology. The day was facilitated by the eminent Alan Parkinson who blogs his own thoughts here . I am hugely grateful to Alan for his hard work in leading this day, one which was a bit of a gamble and which had unknown parameters and outcomes in some senses – I believe the phrase could be ‘planned chaos’? By its very nature (as in being led by students and in their own hands) the day was difficult to plan for. Thanks also to Neil Ford and Jonathan Parrott (our PGCE student) for lending a hand. And to the teaching staff from each school who supported.

Kidsmeet took place on the HMS Warrior, a case of old tech meets new tech. It was hoped that the surroundings would be inspirational in a way – although it was a freezing March day and the wifi was unreliable so that was a difficulty (having said that, the kids (I am told) didn’t complain and worked steadfastly throughout). Alan introduced the day by discussing the absence of student voice in the creation of national curriculum policy, and within schools themselves. He explained the concept of co-construction and some aspects of investigative / creative learning through means such as Mission:Explore and mobile devices. Students then worked in groups to pull apart the new Key Stage 3 National Curriculum guidance and to identify areas of learning they felt were missing.

Those who can: teach

There was, naturally, a Geography focus, but the idea was to look not just at the content but also skills / learning styles / fieldwork / etc., that might be missing in the work of Her Majesty’s finest. After all, those who can;teach, those who can’t; make policy 😉

The day involved a crowd of 50+ students aged 13-15, from five local secondary schools, with their staff. This made logistics problematic in terms of crowding, and next time we need to think more about venue for practicality. The students worked independently in their groups with minimal teacher/professional input, the idea being to generate topics they would like to study and suggesting how to go about it. Basically planning out potential schemes of work.  Ideas were tweeted out and blogged to the school website as part of the BBC School Report day as well. During the day, students were able to record their progress and feelings through video reports and blogging, they also conducted interviews with the professionals there to gauge their reactions to proposed curriculum changes, the use of technology, and student voice. You can see some of their reports here . It was interesting how our students made the link between the activity and our involvement in being a Rights Respecting School – that co-construction, access to media, etc, are all part of the Unicef Rights of the Child, particularly Articles 12 (views of the child), 13 (freedom of expression) & 17 (access to media) – full details in the charter.

Alan’s blog shows the full list of kidsmeet suggestions, I’ll just pick out a few of my favourites here:

  • Creating ‘Applas’ – an atlas app to think, find, learn (a future topic for our future kids hack day I think)
  • The Wonderful World we Live In – accentuating the positives of Geography (students identified that sometimes the topics we teach can be a bit doom and gloom, the world is going down kind of thing and that we need a positive enthusiastic approach to celebrate what is wonderful)
  • Game-ography – games based learning, incorporating games such as Minecraft / Fifa / Kodu to look into climate, biomes, migration, development, etc,.
  • Iconic Places – virtual visits through Skype and Celebrity Geographers

I’m definitely keen to look more into these topics. The essential thing with a student voice / co-construction activity is for it to not be a one-off token gesture at inclusion. So each school that took part has a responsibility to provide follow-up sessions in school with their group, and to trial the lessons suggested and then seek feedback from students and adapt as necessary. It is a process of evolution that must rely on student involvement and scaling up to include whole year groups. For us in @priorygeography, we will be working to recruit KS3 Curriculum Hackers in the summer term and then develop their ideas.

In summary then:

What went well: kids were well behaved and focused even in difficult circumstances, in their words “we were happy because we felt empowered”, there were some great ideas that can be more tightly focused and explored in school to trial lessons, skills such as teamwork / collaboration / investigation, etc., were developed.  

Next time: would be better to share expectations / conduct prep work in advance in every school, arrange for mixed school groups from the start to encourage more sharing of skills and experiences, provide some ‘student friendly speak’ curriculum guidelines / SoWs / lesson plans to help students to access the terminology, have better access to wifi!

This was the first, but will not be the last kidsmeet. Next time will be better 🙂 Thanks to Sam and David for putting up with me that week, I probably owe a few cakes.

I’ll finish with the kind words of Alan :

“This was yet another excellent event conceived and organised by Priory Geography. If Carlsberg made Geography departments….”

BBC News School Report 2013–live from Action Stations

logoI have mentioned in previous posts how we have a good history at Priory School of successful School News Report days. And how this year we were aiming to be bigger and better. There were quite a few different activities going on for the live day on 21st March, including the Kidsmeet which I’ll write about separately.

I’ve led School Report for 5 years now and am always impressed with the support from the BBC. This year was even better in terms of input as we had a mentor Hannah Johns from HQ who came to share her experiences of journalism with the group in preparation, and we also had our local BBC reporter Dominic Blake who supported with pre-recording and radio.

School Report for us was again based at Action Stations at the Historic Dockyard, with the support of the Learning Manager Phil Wright. This space has the advantage of being off-site so less distraction or disturbance, its own independent press office, access to exhibits / personnel for interviews and research, a large conference room and quiet ‘green room’, and helpful staff for technical support. However, there are some challenges with access to internet/wifi, pupils needing escorting everywhere (it is an open public area and still a military space), and there also being another local school doing School Report there with 100 students spread out whereas we prefer smaller groups.

The very first time I led School Report I did it through curriculum time with a top year 8 class. Subsequently I led it as a voluntary extra-curricular club all taking place with after-school clubs. However this year that proved to be tricky, with so many students taking part in other clubs that it was nearly impossible to get all together at one time. I want the project to be open to all and not selective in terms of ability, but it would also be better to have use of curriculum time and make the impact wider scale. So next year I plan to have a lead-in time with all year 8 classes through a series of 2-3 lessons introducing them all to the project, then for the final live day let it be voluntary with up to 30 students taking part. I also intend to have more time preparing the technical side, with students learning more about live blogging / uploading and editing video, and producing green-screen broadcasts. This all proved to be more time consuming on the day this year than previously (although this was also due to wifi problems). I also intend to ensure more staff are trained in advance in the technical side.

So what did students report on?

All the articles and interview videos can be found on the school sitepriory blog www.prioryprojects.wordpress.com so have an explore. You can also see the twitter feed through @priorygeography and @priorysouthsea for the day. Students researched and reported on a variety of topics including the mobile@priory policy, kidsmeet, Ralph the Penguin, Les Miserables, HMS Warrior, the new Mary Rose Museum, the Priory QR code poetry orienteering project, etc,. Various interviews were conducted, and written articles produced. Unfortunately the final news bulletin summary was not filmed due to technical and time issues which was a disappointment, but there is still a wealth of work that went into the website.

Two exciting events did take place. Firstly, Radio Solent live interview with myself and Robbie (a year 9 student whose birthday it was and who was Photo 21-03-2013 08 35 18involved in kidsmeet as a digital leader). And secondly, two of our year 8 girls (Beth & Alex) were chosen to be the anchors for the professionally filmed BBC South Today school report special section. So they appeared on two news bulletins across the South and looked incredibly professional. They got to work with real live reporters and radio/tv crews which was very exciting for them and I was hugely proud of them.

So how did it go?

The point of the day is for students to be in the lead, teachers to encourage independencePhoto 21-03-2013 11 33 42 and let go of the reins a little. This can be hard to do if you are like me and a bit of a control freak with a certain end product in mind! The day goes incredibly quickly and you need to make sure you have a supportive team of staff around you, well organised students, clear roles and accountability, a schedule and clear protocols for all to follow. Below is a link to the schedule I shared with all staff taking part for us. I’d like to say we followed to the letter, but I suppose it wouldn’t be real journalism if we had. You do need some flexibility. For example, one student did some research and discovered she could get an interview with a creative director who had been involved with the filming of the new Les Miserables movie that day if we were quick. So we needed to fit that in. I was impressed that students worked so independently and with enthusiasm all day, under huge time pressures and in an unknown environment. I only had to ask one student once to get back on task. Other students suddenly got to 12pm and realised they hadn’t even eaten, they’d been so caught up in the moment that they’d worked through the allocated break time. (Don’t worry, we did feed them!)

I was meant to be in an overseeing capacity, the plan was to be quite free so that I could visit different areas and particularly get to see the events in the synchronous kidsmeet as well. Unfortunately I found I was needed to be more hands on than I’d planned. The moral of the story being that more time is needed in advance to train students, and other staff, particularly in a technical skills sense. I will make better use of the Practice Days in future.

Photo 21-03-2013 12 41 37For myself, I am a fairly harsh self-critic. Because the day didn’t run as smoothly as I’d anticipated, and because there were technical setbacks (such as internet access), I found it hard to see the bigger picture and to get my head above the parapet long enough to appreciate all the good that was going on. As a result, I’ll be honest and say that by 1pm I was thinking I’d rather be hiding in a corner somewhere else – and even that I’d rather be in a different job! I always used to say to my granddad that ‘if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well’ and it frustrated me that it seemed like all the hard work and preparation of everyone involved was going to be lost in chaos. I really appreciated it when David Rogers turned up for a quick visit, since he was able to drop in to the different areas and give me a heads up from an outside perspective that it was actually going ok. I couldn’t see it.

What went well?

– kids engaged, enthusiastic and happy

– a range of different stories researched and reported on

– real life skills learnt, real collaboration took place

– no behaviour issues and general public/Dockyard staff commented that students were the best behaved group they had seen

– support from our teaching staff was excellent ; English teachers Kim Bell & Hannah St Ledger could not have been more helpful, enthusiastic or supportive. Couldn’t have done it without them.

What needs fixing?

– I need to be leading more, and managing less. Less doing, more overseeing.

– Better technical training and advance preparation for students and staff

– Reliable fast internet access

– More staff on hand so more flexibility of movement

– Whole year-group input with curriculum time as lead in to project

How do I feel with hindsight?

I need to remember that at the end of the day a group of 12-14 year old children who hadn’t worked together before, and who were completely new to journalism, managed to independently research, analyse, report, edit and broadcast a range of stories from scratch. And that is some success. They were self-motivated in a challenging environment. I still have some disappointments, and I’m always going to want better, but all I saw at the end of the day was a bunch of smiling faces from the kids. They made no complaints all day. That’s got to mean something.

I’ll finish with the ‘cheer up’ quote that my boss tweeted:

“The sky isn’t the limit, it’s just a view’”

Coming soon…..BBC School Report guest blog by students

Tomorrow, 21st ImageMarch, sees the Live Day for BBC School Report. 

As mentioned in a previous post we run School Report every year but this year it has grown bigger and bigger.

We have a local schools’ kidsmeet taking place on HMS Warrior with 50 students and staff – looking into hacking the new curriculum and engaging learning through technology which is exciting. 

We also have QR code poetry orienteering being created to guide visitors around the Historic Dockyard, with our students investigating poetry and the different exhibits.

And this is all on top of the regular BBC School Report journalism where our team of intrepid reporters will investigate current events & produce their articles and video reports to be uploaded to www.prioryprojects.wordpress.com for sharing.

Excitingly, we have already had one telephone interview with our Head Girl for a BBC website article on technology that will go live tomorrow morning, and we are booked in for a radio interview live on BBC Solent at 0850 from the side of the HMS Warrior plus phone interviews throughout the day. We also know that BBC South Today are visiting us during the day and we hope to film a live bulletin for the 1pm news tomorrow. Fingers crossed for good weather!

So, at the end of tomorrow there will be a guest post on here by the students to sum up their day and the kidsmeet. Should make interesting reading. They will also be writing for http://www.daviderogers.org.uk . Students and staff will be live blogging and tweeting throughout the day for @priorygeography and @priorysouthsea so keep checking!


“I believe that good journalism can make our world a better place”

Christiane Amanpour