> Mrs. O'Neill's Blog: April 2007

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Thinking about ...Feuerstein Training

Don’t you love it when you learn something that you genuinely believe will be significant to your teaching and your pupils’ learning?

This week I attended the first block of a Feuerstein training course in Glasgow. I’ve been trying to find out more about metacognition (thinking about thinking) for quite some time. I hoped Feuerstein’s programme of teaching thinking skills might be of use to me as a classroom teacher. Like most teachers I would love to know more exactly what blocks and aids learning. I am especially interested in that moment ‘when the penny drops’ or a learner actually understands something that was hidden before.

I admit I’m a bit sceptical about some of the 'thinking skills' projects. I’ve never really taken to stuff like Brain Gym. Unlike a lot of people, I found Edward de Bono’s presentation at SETT 2006, a bit disappointing. So I went along to the Feuerstein training with an open, but not uncritical mind. Some people might find the language initially off-putting. What was 'Instrumental Enrichment’(IE)? Was there actually a place called ‘The Instrumental Centre for the Enhancement of Learning Potential’?

It soon became clear to me that the terminology is used deliberately and with care. The course itself recommends that we use the correct terms with children when teaching them about the thinking processes. Why? I think it’s because language itself provides much of the route to improved thinking. When we know how to express what we are doing in an accurate and precise way we are much more able to translate that action into another setting.

So far, so good. I am now pretty excited about the next block of the course which takes place in two weeks time. Our trainer on this block of the course was Billy O’Neill. Billy is an excellent teacher and the Director of Scotland’s only Feuerstein Authorised Training Centre. Billy taught in Scottish schools for over twenty years, so his enthusiastic endorsement of Feuerstein's methods is backed up with teaching experience and nous. Interestingly his training centre's website contains a diagram showing the links between Instrumental Enrichment (IE) and AiFL, A Curriculum for Excellence and PLPs (Personal Learning Plans)

Feuerstein’s courses are based on his sustained research and work over the last 50 years in Israel. I wonder how many of the ‘thinking skills’ programmes we are investigating in Scotland owe their theories to this research and practice?

I understand that teachers in Scottish Borders have taken up IE training recently. The Future Learning and Teaching Programme (FLaT) produced a very positive Evaluation on this initiative. I’d love to hear from any Borders teachers who have used IE, and indeed any other teachers with experience of the programme.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Phase Two of GLOW

Phase Two of GLOW

I’m delighted to say that, thanks to Tess Watson I got the chance to have a look at GLOW from inside the trial, yesterday and tonight. Of course my webcam refused to work. Probably thought the sight of me, at that time of night, first day back was not advisable.

It’s easy to see how this sort of thing would work with pupils. They already are more comfortable in front of a screen. It struck me that it would also solve the problems that come from standing at the front of the class trying to keep their attention by the sheer power of personality. Actually that’s one part of my teaching that I don’t enjoy very much –what they call being the ‘sage on the stage’. In my case it’s more the midget with the widget (I’m five foot high and use my whiteboard control liberally). How much more civilised to be interacting online.

An important thing which struck me about the video conference was how relaxed people were when things didn’t quite work out. It seems to me that GLOW will move forward roughly at the same rate as the teachers who get involved with it. A lot of them will have to overcome the feeling of apprehension that new technology can create. And the best place to do that will be in a laid-back environment where mistakes are allowed.

I think most teachers would be pleasantly surprised at the atmosphere that I experienced in GLOW. It was nice sitting at the back of the class, just listening too.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Technology isn't always an improvement

I’m not a technophobe. But I do find myself from time to time in sympathy with the ‘Technology is not progress’ brigade. Some of it probably stems from the frustration that comes from the glitches or bugs that seem to plague computers.

Some of it is… something else. Example -You want to print up a little note to go on the door of your classroom, informing pupils that you have moved class. You misjudge the font size and print it off, only to find that ‘Mrs O’Neill’ has been split between two lines and become ‘Mrs One Ill’. You change the font and print it off again, feeling guilty about the amount of ink you have now used. Second time around the destination of your new class is now inexplicably $$£. Third time lucky? No. The printer, exhausted by those large letters, blinks stupidly at you that it is out of toner.

You ask yourself why you didn’t just lift up a felt –tip pen and write the message on a piece of scrap paper. The felt tip pen might have run out, but could have been replaced in a matter of seconds. You are unlikely to misspell your name- the tablets are working today – and you are fairly competent at block capitals.

Tell me that your heart doesn’t sink when someone says ‘ We’ve just been computerised’ or ‘I’m sure I saved it’ or ‘ It will just take a moment on the computer’.