MA Education at last!

This blog has taken a back seat and it shouldn’t have really. Even though it was started as part of my PGCE study and I guess was meant to fizzle out after that I have kept it going with updates now and then and it still attracts a good few views. I’ve decided to officially revive this blog now though and use it to share and reflect on my current educational education. It seems a better place to do that than my personal blog.

So what’s happened since last year when I updated? In a nutshell …

My businesses have begun to thrive. I have a handmade outlet which keeps me sane – nothing like creativity to absorb stress and I delivery training and consultancy on a variety of business (particularly small business) areas on a recommendation basis only which keeps things manageable and personal which I prefer. I’ve also branched into the world of demonstrations on online tutorial which is quite an interesting adventure where I’m learning a lot of new skills.

I finally got around to signing up for that MA in Education which I’m part way through now. When I thought the time was right for it I signed up and then at the beginning of semester one devastating things stuck my little family and we had some major adjustments to make and a new way of living to get used to and it kind of took it’s toll big time. In semester two now everything is under control I have some catch up to do but I’m confident that I’ll get there with the support of the uni and my family and friends.

I’ll talk about how I got onto the course, the requirements and details of the course as well as fees in due course but for this semester I have one module to study and I chose Digital Technologies in Education which already is proving to be really interesting and we have a great small group of students with lots of diversity to add richness to discussions, so it’s pretty much the perfect set up. I’ll talk more about the assessment for this module in due course too but let’s just say it’s very different to anything I’ve done before and is very much in keeping with the subject material.

So if any of this might interest you as a mature student, a prospective MA student or somebody who specifically wants to study further in the education discipline check back and have a read of anything relevant to you over the next few months.

As always happy to answer any questions.




Parent Teachers

I don’t know how I would cope with testing this modern tech for lessons without my two little home grown guinea pigs. I get so excited about tech and love to try everything out and my two children always help me, no matter what they are doing. They are willing to come and log onto various devices, pretend to be my students, sit in different rooms shouting through to me that something is working or not working, be bored rigid by developmental Prezi’s, role play as task participants… you name it they do it.

It’s interesting to see the different perspectives too. If the 14 year old is home and the 20 year old isn’t he might give me his full approval that something is really engaging and fun. The elder one will come home and I’ll try it out on her and she will recommend the odd adjustment or two, often the same bits that the younger one had suggested or approved earlier. It just shows that pitching at the right age group or ability or even knowledge level is important and not an easy thing to get right.

I feel very fortunate to have my own built in little focus group and wonder how much more difficult this teacher training would be without them. My fellow trainees have my every sympathy if they have to go in blind on just a hunch and armed with intensive scrutiny of various theories. I guess it helps that we are all teaching in the lifelong learning sector and we are ourselves adults but even so nowadays that means anyone from 14 years old and upwards and it is a long time since any of us were 14..

If I’m guilty of anything I guess one thing my kids and students have shown me is that I underestimate what young people know. I think I am from an era when we didn’t have access to as much information as young people do nowadays, from a time when the news was something for adults and children remained children longer, protected from what was going on in the world. Kids seem so much more aware nowadays than we did and I think that’s a good thing, it’s just something I have to keep remembering.

It’s not all bad though, you do see a certain satisfaction in the eyes of some students when they shock you with their knowledge, so it’s good for their self confidence. Usually those flashes come from my asking a question I really don’t anticipate them knowing the answer to, it would be far worse if they came from my telling them something they knew already and making them feel patronised.

It’s all good stuff and I’m so grateful to my kids for all they do to encourage and support me in my change of career. It wasn’t easy for them going from having an executive mum with an executive lifestyle to a struggling, stressed student wondering if she had made the right decisions, but they have supported me every single step of the way and I adore them for that…as well as everything else that they are to me.

Classroom Behaviour

I’ve found a number of interesting articles and resources on classroom management and behaviour so thought I’d share some of my favourites:

Fun item from TES could also apply to older learners: What_you_should_never_say_to_children This next one kind of links into it: Common_mistakes_teachers_make_by_Tom_Bennett

As a bit of a humanist I found this interesting and challenging of my personal views in some respects:

This is interesting for FE/HE teachers: (if this link doesn’t work try looking for an academic paper by Catherine Deering entitled Managing Disruptive Behaviour in the Classroom

This is interesting and a quick read: Adult learners

Top ten tips here:

I loved this little article for trainee teachers on Classroom Presence: you might have to subscribe to TES to read this but then you should be subscribed anyway, fab resources, tons of info on teaching and education policy and job search advice PLUS vacancies

This is one of those ‘sign up and get free stuff and if we don’t hear from you in a month we’ll charge you but keep your free gift’ things, it looked good, so I got it and it is really useful, just don’t forget to unsubscribe if you don’t want to continue paying the relatively modest monthly charge

The TES behaviour forum: really useful read for tips on general and specific issues regarding classroom management

Check out the gallery over there >>> for some fun classroom management images and this poster might be useful too.

Classroom Management Mantra

Music in the classroom

I find it difficult to study in silence, I like some background noise in the shape of music or the television on a low volume or just people bustling about around me. I’m not sure if this came from being part of a very large family stuffed into an average sized 3 bedroomed semi where silence was hard to come by.  Whatever it was, I find that if there is silence my mind starts to wander and I lose focus.

It doesn’t matter to me if the music is instrumental or if there are lyrics, I can happily sing along to something and focus on my work at the same time. OK so I’ll admit that at times I have been known to type the words to Moves Like Jagger into the middle of an essay which thankfully I have become aware of before hand in.

Recently I was having a look into Gestaltism (as some of my course mates will know) for a group presentation on learning theories and found a paper written by Michael Griffin that’s attached here: Background music in classrooms which identified key benefits (and potential pitfalls) of music in classrooms. Another useful advice leaflet has been prepared by Janet Elder phD and is available here: 1_Brain-Friendly_Classroom_Music. Another interesting perspective is contained in this Journal of Music article by Mangram and Weber (2012) which discusses the uses of music in the classroom, the type of music used and what it says about the teacher: Classroom Music

Last time I was on placement I asked my students how they felt about music while they studied, having noticed a tendancy for a number of them to plug themselves into smart phones when working on computer based assignments in class. I realised, following a non-invasive stroll around the classroom and a bit of over the shoulder reading, that those who were wired for sound were working industriously and productively.

About a third of the class, equal numbers of boys and girls, had chosen to listen to some music the others who had the technology with them said that music while studying was not for them. One student pointed out that she liked the classroom to be very quiet when she was engaged in independent study and she said from her perspective it was a good thing that the others were able to listen to music as it prevented them from chatting and making a noise which would irritate her. She felt that it was the students who talk the most who were the ones who like to listen to music. This struck a chord with me because perhaps they are like me, not wantonly disruptive, just needing some background noise to help them focus… something worth bearing in mind when dealing with classroom management issues perhaps.

I asked them if their usual teacher allowed them to listen to music and gave them license under number 9 on the Learner Standards document posted in each classroom, the one that states “Mobile phones are only to be used appropriately to support learning”. They said that it was something that nobody had ever really stopped them doing and so they felt that it must be OK, it had never been discussed it was just not something their teacher seemed to object to. I took that to mean then that it had been decided that the use of mobile phones for music was deemed to support learning appropriately and I kind of liked that.

I did become aware of the tinny sound of someone else’s earphones on one occasion but when I tracked down the culprit a tap on the shoulder, an unprompted, polite apology later and the volume was set at a less invasive level.

When I wanted to gain the attention of the whole class, a slightly raised tone sufficed to bring everyone back to focus on the classroom and music was turned off, ear phones removed with no protest or issue.

In short from my microscopic study I couldn’t see a problem with it and could see obvious benefits.

I wonder if Griffin’s suggestions are too complex and over thought. Is there really any need to go to the lengths of controlling the type of music and volume for piped music? Why not simply allow students who wish to listen to music to choose for themselves? After all whilst music might be a useful aid for some students, it could irritate others, particularly those who like to study in silence, so does piped music have a place at all?

I’m going to relate this to some learning theory now, like a good student…

Whilst the use of background music in a classroom to add to the holistic learning experience, allowing for another branch of creativity to be opened up and for care to be given to the environment of learning is arguably Gestaltist in nature, would a Humanist approach allowing students freedom to choose for themselves be more appropriate?

Does it make a difference depending on the age of the students, or their ability, or their level of engagement perhaps? Hopefully I’ll find out as my journey progresses.