My blogging is not what it once was, although some new posts are in gestation. But I thought I’d try something different, and slightly more old fashioned for sharing links and thoughts that I come across. In comes my brand new, very old fashioned email newsletter. Please sign up, Newsletter 1 out soon, and you can always subscribe if there’s nothing of interest in it :)
Editorial (iOS App) Tags
I’ve been using the excellent Editorial app on my iPad increasingly for all my writing and note taking needs. Editorial is a geeky combination of text editor and Python programming playground. You can create or install workflows that do everything from basic text formatting to highlighting verbs to sharing the text with other services like Evernote. It’s great, particularly if you’re writing for the web as it’s ridiculously easy to use the in built browser to find websites and then quickly copy links across to your writing.
You will quickly grow a large list of workflows that can become quite a pain to navigate. The latest update to Editorial has added tags. My top tip and the point of this post is to recommend that instead of using words to tag your workflows, use the inbuilt Emoji that come with iOS 🔡🔧↗️🔗💻🔎📝. You’ll end up with a simple menu bar that doesn’t scroll way off the sidebar. Something like this:
I hope someone finds this tip useful!
Confidence in predicting attainment
How accurately can we set targets and predict performance of pupil’s exam attainment?
At this time of year the pressure is on teachers and leaders in school to know exactly how their young people will perform in the GCSE exams that they are currently sitting.
There is an expectation from leaders, governors and of course Ofsted to accurately track, monitor and predict pupil progress and hence exam performance.
Our school, like every other in the country, set targets for individual pupils at the start of the year and then ask the teachers to measure the pupil’s progress in comparison to this target grade, and to predict their final exam grade. These are collated and a range of performance measures for classes, subjects and the whole school are calculated.
But how accurate are these and how confident can we be in these predictions and targets? Our school has 155 young people in year 11. And some subjects have as few as 15 learners. One or two students having a bad day in the exam, or realising too late that they picked a subject that they really don’t enjoy, can have a large impact on the results. How much should we take this into account when setting targets and holding teachers and middle leaders to account?
This train of thought has led me to look at the use of confidence intervals. I’ve used the binomial proportion confidence interval to calculate the 95% confidence interval on the number of students predicted to achieve a C+ in each subject. This takes into account the size of the class.
I’ve ended up with results such as: English C+ = 79% +/- 6%. So we’re 95% sure they will end up with results between 73% and 85%. Computing, with a smaller number of students, comes in at 70% +/- 16%.
Is this an appropriate statistical measure to use?
The confidence intervals are quite large due to the small number of students involved. I’m not sure if this appropriate though? This measure is normally used when sampling a small part of a larger population. Is that what we are doing here? In that our Computing class is a small sample of the national group sitting that examination? Or are we actually sampling the whole population where that population is simply all the students studying it at our school?
If this is not that right measure of confidence to use in this case then what is?
Lots of questions that I’m hoping some of the data / statistics community can help answer. The stakes are high in schools now and the targets that departments and schools are set have high levels of accountability attached to them. It’s only fair that targets and predictions come with a suitable statistical window attached. How should that be calculated?
Simple Things - 5 Minute Lesson Plan - iPad Edition.
The best medium I’ve found to date for using it is the good old fashioned piece of paper. It just works best when you’re scribbling down ideas. Typing onto it is just unpleasant.
But I don’t like paper, I lose paper, and next year when I want to see it again the paper is gone.
Step in the iPad, Penultimate and a stylus.
To set this up you can follow these simple instructions:
- Save the image above to your iPad camera roll. (Press the right arrow to get the blank image.)
- Inside any Penultimate Notebook, tap the Papers icon on the top right corner of your screen. Hit the (+) sign, then Continue to add a new Paper.
- Select the image you’d like to create your Paper from, and name the Paper whatever you would like.Click on your custom Paper to start writing or drawing, just as you normally would.
- It will now be the default Paper when you create new pages in your current notebook. If you switch Papers or Notebooks and then want to return to the last selection, you can find it in My Papers.
Hope you find this useful. The updated edition of Penultimate is great, and this means I can now quickly scribble down lesson plans and keep a permanent record of them in Evernote.
PS: I’m enjoying using the iPad more and more for my note-taking. I’ve ordered the new Adonit Jot pen, looking forward to it arriving and seeing if it means that I can finally move my notes out of my trusty moleskin and straight onto the iPad.
GCSE English, seconds out, Round 2!
It’s hard to believe it’s a year since Round 1 of the English GCSE fiasco. Is Round 2 about to kick off? Don’t be surprised if it does!
Will teachers and students be knocked out again?
Just to recap:
- Accountability pressures from league tables etc led to lots of schools entering students for their GCSE English in January and/or July.
- This skewed the January results and led to exam boards / Ofqual setting boundaries that made it a bit too easy to get a C grade in the January exam.
- In July, exam boards / Ofqual realised their mistake and moved the grade boundaries for students that sat the exam in July. This made the headline C+ figure fit with Government expectations, but meant that students who sat the July exam sat an unfairly harder exam than those who sat it in January.
- Thousands of schools and young people cried foul.
- Results stood.
- Ofqual & Gove announced changes to try and stop this happening in future. January results haven’t been released this year, they will be moderated in the Summer at the same time as the July entries. Going forward early entry is being squeezed out as an option. Controlled Assessments will be wound back in due course to alleviate alleged (but not to my knowledge, evidenced) cheating by teachers.
The impact of this is still being felt across the Secondary sector. Schools dropped below floor targets, I’m sure people directly or indirectly will have lost jobs. English departments with many years of experience were left questioning their knowledge of the curriculum, not quite sure what a Grade C student looked like any more.
The pressure on schools to get students through English and Maths at a ‘pass’ grade of C has not diminished. Moves to focus on levels of progress in the future are welcome but I don’t believe they will impact on the tendency for %C+ in English & Maths being the headline measure that schools are held to account with.
But it’s not just the pressure on schools, it’s also the pressure on young people. The constant rhetoric of students achieving ‘good’ GCSEs or ‘passing’ their GCSEs from Government and through the press means that it’s never been more important for learners to leave with a C in Maths and in English. Not having these grades puts them at a huge disadvantage at every possible next (and future) step of their education or employment.
So schools have been looking for ways to increase the number of learners getting this magic grade. Early entry, multiple entry, iGCSE entry or combinations of all three have taken place. Ofqual have been getting in early this year with warnings that this will skew results next week. This feels slightly ominous to me.
Many schools have looked to enter students for the International GCSE or iGCSE. Entries are up from 18,000 to 63,000 this year, including 20,000 late entries. The logic is clear, it’s seen as an ‘easier’ option, with clearer controlled assessment requirements, clearer exam questions and a more reliable structure. Some schools have switched entirely to the qualification, some have moved key cohorts to the qualification and some have entered students in addition to the normal English Language GCSE as a ‘second chance’.
The Independent have a sensationalist article claiming the ‘gamble’ has failed. It’s poorly thought out. Yes the percentage of students getting A* and C+ grades have fallen, but that fails to take into account the makeup of the population sitting the qualification this year. iGCSEs have historically been the preserve of Independent Schools (who have clearly been wise to it’s charms way before state schools). Talented, well supported learners who have been paying for very expensive educations tend to get pretty good results. The extra 45,000 entries this year are very different, almost all will be state school students, and in particular the majority of these will be C/D borderline students. Ring any bells? This is exactly what happened with the January GCSE entries last year.
We entered our borderline students for the iGCSE. They seem to have done incredibly well. Excitement will be reserved until all the results are in next week.
If lots of schools have entered borderline students for the iGCSE and if lots of them have done well then the next week could be interesting.
iGCSE results are out and set in stone now. Combined with the effects of multiple entries etc., they could positively influence the overall national figures for English C+ and 5A*-C with English & Maths. Which makes me nervous. Ofqual & Gove will not want to see any dramatic jumps in performance. The only other way to influence this would be to tamper with the grade boundaries for the normal English GCSE again. And they have form.
As long as the league tables and press / Government obsession with grade C’s remains, this merry go round will continue. Schools have to look for every opportunity to get the best figures they can, they would be letting the students down if they didn’t. We should of course be looking to give students a rounded education and a love of both English and Mathematics but that ignores the results driven culture that pervades every aspect of Britain today.
I’ve written a post on Medium.com exploring the idea of using it in school as a blogging/writing platform. Medium is a very slick new place for writing online brought to us by Ev Williams and team (creators of Blogger and Twitter). Head over there to see the article and explore Medium, I think you’ll like it.
Draft National Curriculum Programmes of Study - My Response
April the 16th is the deadline for responses to the Draft National Curriculum Programmes of Study. Much has been written and said about the creation of the Computing nee ICT programme of study and it’s creation process. I’ve written myself around the topic a number of times over it’s journey from the Nesta report to our decision to start a Computing GCSE back in 2011 (feeling pretty smug about that decision!) to the diss-application of the old PoS to our new KS3 curriculum.
Really I should respond to the proposals, so here in the interest of sharing and discussing are my (personal) responses to the official consultation. I’ll try my best to avoid the politics and keep our young people and their futures at the heart of this response.
The response below largely refers to Computing/ICT, much as I could be tempted into discussing other subjects.
1.Do you have any comments on the proposed aims for the National Curriculum as a whole as set out in the framework document?
It is sad to see English education being reduced to “core knowledge”. There is a real danger that an overly prescriptive curriculum, based on too much core knowledge, combined with the ongoing pressures of league tables and Ofsted will lead many weaker teachers and schools to cramming facts into our young learners. Will this develop the skills and competencies for future learning and work that they will require? I don’t think so. I’ll never argue that learning times tables and other key pieces of knowledge are crucial, but that’s not al there is to education is it?
2.Do you agree that instead of detailed subject-level aims we should free teachers to shape their own curriculum aims based on the content in the programmes of study?
In principal yes. But where there are extensive changes, the Computing curriculum being the most obvious, it is important that sufficient support is available for schools and teachers to create effective curricula.
3.Do you have any comments on the content set out in the draft programmes of study?
The Computing programme of study is a massive change from ICT. I’m in support of replacing much of the old PoS, as is evident in much of my previous writing. Programming and a more detailed understanding of how computers work is important.
The PoS that has been proposed seems to be heavily weighted towards Computing/Computer Science, at the expense of creative pursuits and digital literacy. Whilst they are clearly left in the final two points of the KS3 PoS, they seem to have been left in as an afterthought. Whether that’s the intention, it is certainly the appearance that is given.
Some of the Computer Science points are somewhat extreme. I’m not at all convinced that all 13 year olds need to understand 2 sorting algorithms and two searching algorithms, and I’m quite convinced that they do not need to be able to represent text or images in binary by hand! There is plenty of time for those students who wish to continue with Computing at GCSE level to pick up these more detailed skills at this point.
For those who will not work in the IT industry or go on to develop their programming skills in more detail this proposed PoS does not offer enough opportunities for learners to develop their skills of safely, creatively using IT to solve problems, something that every one of them will need to be able to do for the rest of their life.
4.Does the content set out in the draft programmes of study represent a sufficiently ambitious level of challenge for pupils at each key stage?
See answer to section 3.
5.Do you have any comments on the proposed wording of the attainment targets?
See answer to section 3.
6.Do you agree that the draft programmes of study provide for effective progression between the key stages?
Progression in knowledge maybe. But it is very unclear how this progression is to be measured. I’m no huge fan of National Curriculum levels as can be seen in our research work on Badges for assessment. But they have certainly served a purpose, particularly in core subjects. If we are still to be measured on the levels of progress from KS2 to KS3 and KS2 to KS4 then what will these measures be based upon? It’s not even clear if KS2 levels will continue within core subjects - but that’s a whole different conversation. As ASCL’s quality response suggests, educators are more than capable of replacing NC Levels with something better, but again we need the time and collaboration opportunities to develop these. The complete lack of clarity in this area is of real concern.
7.Do you agree that we should change the subject information and communication technology to computing to reflect the content of the new programmes of study?
What’s in a name? I have no issues with the change to ‘Computing’. Politics and policies have muddied the name of ICT so a change can’t do much harm.
8.Does the new National Curriculum embody an expectation of higher standards for all children?
If standards are measured in facts committed to memory by a certain age then yes. If standards mean skills for lifelong learning, and knowledge and understanding that develops at different rates for different learners, then I’m not sure it does.
9.What impact - either positive or negative - will our proposals have on the ‘protected characteristic’ groups.
There is significant danger that learners from protected characteristic groups will be turned off the use of IT in their future lives. The heavy focus on Computer Science will be a considerable learning challenge for them. Combined with the issues of delivering these (see subsequent comments on CPD) effectively they may well fail to progress in Computing, quickly become disaffected with the subject and leave school without basic digital literacies that they will need to access employment.
10.To what extent will the new National Curriculum make clear to parents what their children should be learning at each stage of their education?
The majority of parents will have little or no idea what the majority of the Computing points mean.
As far as clarifying which facts should be known by what age things should be relatively clear. Does that explain what students should actually be learning and how?
11.What key factors will affect schools’ ability to implement the new National Curriculum successfully from September 2014?
Three key factors put the success of the proposed KS3/4 PoS for Computing at huge risk of failure:
The content, as detailed in previous responses, risks turning many learners off the subject of Computing. Unless they are delivered with skills which leads on to…
Most schools in England will not be able to deliver the KS3 (&KS4) Computing programme of study from September 2014 without a massive investment in training. Our school has a talented ICT department however we consist of a Maths teacher, a Business Studies teacher and an unqualified ICT teacher (who fortunately understands programming). This is not atypical. I do not know the percentage of teachers teaching ICT at present who have degrees in Computer Science, or who can program, but I would estimate it at around 10%. That leaves approximately 90% of the ICT teaching workforce who do not know the content proposed in the PoS.
To teach well and deliver difficult concepts to students at an early age it is vital that teachers are experts in the field, that they have a deep understanding of the subject matter and hopefully experience of teaching it. This is all missing at present.
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) demands to deliver this PoS at all, let alone by September 2014 will be huge. Most ICT teachers will need to learn to the concepts behind programming, then learn a programming language, and then will need to learn how to teach that knowledge effectively. That’s hundreds of hours of training for most staff. Most teachers will receive around 25 hours of CPD a year on average. CPD budgets in schools are falling in line with overall falls in school budgets under the current government.
Where will the CPD programmes to support this proposed PoS come from? Who will fund them? Who will fund the supply cover required to back fill staff while they are out on this training?
All at once: Surely it would be sensible to stagger the introduction of the new curriculum. We will be elected to teach KS3 students this curriculum, which is very different from previously, despite those same students not having been exposed to any of the new Computing knowledge in the new KS3 curriculum. Are we to play catch up with everything that they would have learned in KS2 had this been introduced bit by bit?
12.Who is best placed to support schools and/or develop resources that schools will need to teach the new National Curriculum?
Local Authorities? Nope! Becta? Ha! Vital? Oops! Teaching Schools? Not sure the majority of them have Computer Science teams!
Joking aside, this is an issue. Following the issues over the drafting of the PoS are the relationships between the likes of Naace & BCS strong enough to develop the required support together? There will be plenty of people rubbing their hands with glee and offering expensive training courses and pre-packaged schemes of work for schools at a cost. Will these be tailored to the individual schools? Of course not.
The people best placed to support schools and develop resources are the teachers themselves. There is great creativity, ingenuity, dedication, skill and enthusiasm in the current ICT teaching community. Those with the Computer Science / programming skills will be all too happy to help. This has been seen for the past 7 years or so on Twitter and across teacher blogs. There is only so much work that these volunteers can do in their spare time, could funding be sought to allow them the time and space to collaborate. The Primary National Curriculum for Computing in ITT Expert Group’s work at Primary level is a great example of what needs to be started at KS3.
13.Do you agree that we should amend the legislation to diss-apply the National Curriculum programmes of study, attainment targets and statutory assessment arrangements, as set out in section 12 of the consultation document?
Really not sure about this. What will Ofsted be looking for in classrooms in this ‘fallow’ year? Is this just a sneaky way of introducing the new PoS’s a year early?
I’m not against the proposals. A balanced increase in Computer Science and a bringing up to date of the other areas of the old ICT curriculum are well overdue. However the proposals that have been produced do seem to be overly weighted towards Computer Science, based on what evidence and research is unclear. If this PoS is to go ahead then there are huge issues with it’s successful implementation in the proposed timescales. The creation of this document to this point has not brought the communities together and has left teachers in particular feeling completely left out of the process.
Letter Rush is yet another word game for iOS devices. I’m looking forward to trying this out with learners at school next week. The twist is that the words that need spelling are provided for you, you then make them from the word grid as quickly as you can. Games like Letterpress or Wordtower where the player has to come up with words themselves often turn off students with weaker literacy skills, their lack of vocabulary makes the games too difficult. If they don’t feel like they’re doing we’ll they’ll quickly turn back to Minecraft!
1. Lots of people will do small-scale innovative projects with no funding or resources, because they love trying new things and doing awesome stuff.
2. Some companies or institutions will “invent” or “discover” something that one or more of these people have been doing, and it will be branded as their own.
3. This branded “innovation” will become co-opted and corrupted, so that it doesn’t really do anything innovative, or anything other than building the reputation of the “innovators”.
4. People will hype the crap out of the “innovation” as The Future of Education, and The Saviour (or Disruption) of Universities, and present it at conferences and write papers and travel the presentation circuit explaining it to the masses.
5. The people from 1. will largely ignore the hype, shrug their shoulders, and continue doing awesome stuff because they enjoy doing awesome stuff.
Don’t like to repost practically a whole blog post, but Darcy Norman’s EdTech predictions for 2013 hit a chord!
Would add in the middle:
3b) People fail to realise why this innovation worked so well in the specific learning environment it was originally designed for in 1. and claim it works brilliantly for them when in reality it probably doesn’t.