We live in the age of Google. A time when we can access any knowledge we want, supposedly. We often hear that students need 21st century skills as new technology has made the old ones defunct. The problem is, and most adults know this, that whilst the internet is good for finding small bits of knowledge, like what is the most popular name for a kitten, but it is pretty much useless when finding information about large ideas or nuanced thinking.
Ask any normal teacher and they’ll tell you that they’ve had an eleventh hour search for a lesson or resource and found nothing. You may hit the odd gold seam, but rarely do you find anything of merit. In fact, you often find a PowerPoint with forty billion slides and each one contains lurid colours and the clip art circa 1990. The Internet has a glut of information and it takes time, not 21st century skills, to find the right information. In fact, it often takes hours.
When you have a few hours a week (or in some cases one hour) to get information and knowledge into the heads of students. An hour ‘researching’ in an ICT lab is dead time. You end up getting students to find the first thing they find and copy and paste that on to a Word document. The academic flavour of your studious exploration of academia becomes a sophisticated exploration of fonts. The colour and the size of the font matters more than the quality of ideas.
As a teacher, my job is about explaining complex ideas. Whatever text I am teaching will have some level of complexity and I am the puppet master who helps convey that complex information to students. I think the Internet gives teachers, parents and students false confidence. It presents the idea that every crumb is accessible, easy and digestible, yet it largely isn’t. Since the increase in technology, I haven’t since an increase in geniuses. A teacher is needed to help with explanation.
As teachers, we need to think about what, how and when we introduce ideas and concepts. For my department this year, I have been looking at how we impart knowledge and concepts. For each unit, I have provided a PowerPoint. A very simple PowerPoint.
Each PowerPoint contains a list of the concepts / ideas.
And, for every concept there is one page explaining the idea / concept. Just one page. I have thrown some dual coding in for good measure. The main focus is explanation.
Then, as the teacher is teaching and they feel it is appropriate and relevant for the lesson, they can introduce the concept and idea. The slides contain extracts, pictures, art and text to convey the idea, concept or contextual point.
The great thing for me is that it so simple and easy to do, but it really helps with planning, pushing to the top and time management. You simply drop the slide into a lesson, when the teacher feels it is relevant and purposeful. This week we explored the use of uncanny in the opening of ‘Rebecca’. I hadn’t planned to explore the uncanny with the text, but it just came to mind, and there was a ready-made PowerPoint slide.
My overall plan is have a huge PowerPoint of all the slides from the various topics, so teachers can call on it when they feel a need arises. As teachers, we often like planning, but the Google search is often a drain. This way we can cut down time ‘wasted’ hunting for inspiration or a YouTube video that conveys the idea, so the teacher can work on explaining it to the class.
The great thing for me is that the whole process is organic. I can add slides and concepts as and when they are needed - or thought of. Or, it can build as you are going along. I am currently doing one for Romeo and Juliet and I am on my fifth slide so far. I have even used it for an Ofsted lesson observation last year.
When reading examiner’s reports, there is a large emphasis on ideas. I think we need to work intelligently on raising the profile of ideas. However, we have to be careful and pick the best moment when to introduce an idea. That’s the problem with readymade schemes of work. They force the points. Ideas are often borne out of something that occurs in a lesson. I feed these through my lessons over a term in no particular order. Some I don’t cover. Some I do. Overall clarity is needed for good explanations.
Oh, and did I mention how it saves time?
Thanks for reading,
Here's an example of another unit: