Twitter in Real Life: #PrimaryRocks Live

Arriving at Primary Rocks Live I felt surprisingly nervous.  It reminded me of a feeling I got as a teenager meeting a girl for the second time, the first encounter being at a disco, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Fingers crossed she would meet the expectations of my memory!

I opened a Twitter account a few years ago, but really only started using it in the last year – and of that, like most people probably, I spent the first few months observing without contributing.  I can remember the butterflies vividly on my first contribution to a Twitter chat, hoping I wouldn’t be accosted for an opinion which might not be to everyone’s taste – that teaching children sales skills in school is worthwhile.  It was on #PrimaryRocks.  That was the first date, and having never been part of the online dating scene, meeting the Twitterati in person at PrimaryRocks Live was the second.  Hopefully they would meet my expectations!

On arrival at Medlock Primary School I was greeted by smiling children handing out our welcome pack and the all-important timetable for the day. They helped settle the nerves a bit, as did the freely available tea and biscuits on offer.  Armed with my cuppa and accompanied by a great guy called James from Edge Hill (shockingly not on Twitter – I’ve no idea how he heard about the event!) I went into the hall…

After a short introduction and history from @gazneedle of how #PrimaryRocks came into being, Shadow Secretary for Education, @LucyMPowell shared her thoughts on the proposed academisation of all schools – the problems that will pose – especially for smaller rural schools, and (perhaps just my take on it) why government should stop telling teachers how to teach – music to all our ears – if this is the tune other people heard?  There were a few interesting questions posed which she ‘part-answered’, (she was definitely slipping into politician mode by now) but it was refreshing to hear a politician relaxed and sharing thoughts that felt genuine and honest.  It will be interesting to see if any of these opinions change should she ever emerge from the shadows…

Next up was @Hywel_Roberts who introduced the concept of Imagineering to us – letting your imagination soar and then engineering it down to earth again.  This is a concept we ‘do’ in an innovation workshop with children in @steppingintobiz but the term is new to me – I quite like it!  His whole keynote was not only informative and full of ideas on how to draw creativity out of children; it was hilarious too!  Some people really have a gift, and while the fact that he is a drama teacher gives his some context, he is one of the most engaging speakers I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.

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It was now time to venture out of the hall and decide which one of the first 8 sessions to go to.  I chose @FarrowMr which was so popular I ended up sitting on the floor.  It was titled ‘How we can get kids to learn stuff better’ and covered a wide range of tips, from the Clever Classrooms survey by Salford University, which you can read in detail here: https://www.salford.ac.uk/cleverclassrooms/1503-Salford-Uni-Report-DIGITAL.pdf to the benefits of pre-testing children before covering a new topic, and giving children a chance to let their subconscious work.  There were many practical tips which any teacher could implement straight away regarding natural light, changing location for teacher input, feature wall displays, giving children ownership of the room and having less furniture and more open space.

Mantle of the Expert is a term bandied around in education circles frequently.  I have worked with a few schools that use it in varied guises, and thanks to @imagineinquiry I experienced another take on it.  With a deftly drawn life ring in the centre of the room, the class standing in a circle around it (a huge relief after ‘carpet time’ throughout the last session), we were encouraged to guess what the relevancy or topic was.  After many guesses and careful steering by our expert, we were led into a discussion on the moral vs legal rights to treasure found in the depths of the sea.  This was an interesting and enjoyable conversation, however it was far more in depth that you would obviously draw out of a primary school class.  Tim Taylor then described how you might apply this in the classroom as a stimulus for creative writing – inviting children to sketch items salvaged by the discovery team and then creating a back story to it – thus giving them ownership of the writing.  He had facts and figures a’ plenty which could be used and manipulated for maths, depending on the age group of the class too.  It was a very enjoyable session, Tim’s quiet demeanour concealing a very adept and knowledgeable teacher at the helm of the lesson.

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In contrast to Tim’s style of delivery, @grahamandre’s bouncy #geniushour was last before lunch.  He claims it was the aftereffects of cider consumed on the long journey from the Isle of Wight the day before, but it is hard to imagine him in any other way, especially as his style of tweeting reinforces this characteristic!  This, more than any session I attended, encouraged children’s ownership of a topic – completely of their choosing.  Imagine Show ‘n’ Tell on steroids!  Six weeks of 1-hour sessions planning and preparation, the teacher really taking a backseat, culminating in a presentation to their class on a topic they are really interested in and consider themselves a genius – a fantastic concept with great scope for encouraging independence, building confidence and developing real life skills.

Lunch was another time where that butterfly feeling surfaced – potentially an hour on my own – but talking to @MissKingsley85 – @PeteTweach – James from @InnovateMySchl – @computinggeek81 – @ChrisChivers2 – James from Edgehill – allayed any such feelings.  Perhaps the sugar rush from the delicious cakes baked in aid of @NatalieHScott ‘s great work and the free ice-cream played into the giddiness on display in the hall…Who knew a simple ”Stand up and wave if you’re reading this” tweet on the twitter periscope feed could have such a camaraderie effect too!?

Primary School teachers – it’s very hard to escape the child within, even with no children in sight!

There was only time for one choosing session in the afternoon.  This was a tough choice yet again, but having decided to attend Julian Wood’s @ideas_factory session, I knew it was the right decision only a minute in.  He really could not have chosen a more appropriate Twitter handle – I would have liked to spend the rest of the day in his company, picking his brains on ideas to use in the classroom but alas, we were limited to 30 minutes.

That was the only downside of the whole day – the sessions felt too short.  Some were pitched just right for short slots and whetting the appetite, encouraging us to delve further into things that float our boat, but mostly it felt like we were just beginning when the intercom interjected telling us politely to move on to our next session.

There was a panel discussion and a final keynote to round up the afternoon. I was delighted to hear @MrLockyer speak – his love for the job and empathy for the children was inspiring.  Comparing schools to yoghurt, rather than prisons, was genius!  As was @RedgieRob ‘s hope that teachers will be taking on board the Brew Dog Charter – we bleed teaching!  Watch this space for #J4L (Jaws 4 Learning) – let’s see if it takes off!  I wouldn’t be surprised – as proven by the first #PrimaryRocks Live – anything is possible!

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There were interesting panel discussions on creativity in the curriculum, science and SATs; with some differing opinions, but that helps in debate, even if it is just to stir the discussion pot.  We can’t all be singing from the same hymn sheet – just like the varying school environments we all teach in, our experiences will impact on our version of what is right, and required, in educational policy.  There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ model and that is the beauty of teaching.  We, more than anyone, should understand that.

Teachers do all agree on one thing though and that was very evident – government should stop meddling and using education as a political bouncing ball to be thrown from one side of the House of Commons to the other.  For me, the most important question that needs answering is how we can make education a stand-alone department, where people involved in education make the decisions affecting it.  Where waging war and the language of constant attack is buried, and the language of support is excavated from the depths to which it has been submerged.  It is up to us to do this – the teachers – the only thing missing is a media outlet willing to give it the exposure required.  We need to be brave and stop blaming SLT, SLT need to stop blaming the HT, HTs need to stop blaming OFSTED, and OFSTED, well they need to….{insert own ending here}

 

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Published by: Dylan McCarthy

Primary school teacher for 10+ years; I am always looking for ways to engage children in their learning and encourage independent, self-motivated learners. Giving lessons context by making them relevant to students, regardless of age, is the key to unlocking even the most reluctant learners potential and enthusiasm; ultimately helping them find their own route to happiness in life. A big believer in building up resilience and promoting teamwork! Talent X Effort = Achievement

Categories Creative curriculum, Education, Learning opportunities, PrimaryRocks, Real-life learning, Twitter1 Comment

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