The Staffroom🎙 #9: ‘The Science of Sketch-noting’ Oliver Caviglioli

‘The Staffroom’ is back! In the first episode of Series 2, we were lucky enough to speak to Oliver Caviglioli about the power of learning visuals and its basis in cognitive psychology. Oliver (@olicav) is an information designer who is widely known as an expert in visualising educational concepts. In recent years, he has worked with lots of different teacher-authors in illustrating their books.

Our chat with Oliver gave us some real insight into the use of visuals (such as sketch-noting) to conceptualise, categorise and organise information to enhance learning.

Here’s a break-down of our chat complete with time-stamps:

  • How did Oliver’s background and interest in ‘behaviourism’ influence his work as an information designer? (4:04)
  • Why does Oliver believe his visuals are becoming more and more popular with educators around the world? (6:07)
  • Why does Oliver think sketch-noting should not be ‘artistic’ and individualised? Why does he believe it is important to keep it simple? (8:30)
  • Why does Oliver think that all teachers should know about cognitive psychology? (10:09)
  • Why does Oliver believe it is important for teachers to use a balance of cognitive psychological research and educational research? (12:15)
  • What is ‘precis’ and why is it an important way of learning? Why does Oliver think that summarising/sketch-noting is an effective method of learning? (12:49)
  • Who is Ruth Colvin Clark and what does she say about decorative visuals and explanatory visuals? (14:29)
  • What is the main tip Oliver gives to people who want advice about their sketch-notes? (16:08)
  • How does Oliver think teachers should practice sketch-noting effectively with students? (16:50)
  • Is Oliver an advocate of technology to support and accelerate learning? (20:20)
  • If Oliver could recommend one professional learning book to a new teacher, what would it be and why? (20:35)
  • Where can people find Oliver’s work online? Where are his books available to buy? (24:01)

If you’d like further information about Oliver, you can check-out his work with Dr Megan Sumeracki (@DrSumeracki) and Dr Yana Weinstein who are the creators of The Learning Scientists project. Their book is called ‘Understanding How We Learn: A Visual Guide’ – check this out now! Also, if you’re interested in our colleagues’ Apple book on ‘The Science of Sketch’-noting, take a look at Jamie Clark and Daniel Budd’s digital book here.

We hope you enjoy this episode of The Staffroom and found Oliver’s words as fascinating as we did. We can’t wait to make sketch-noting and informational design part of our practice!

Until next time!

Jamie, Michael and Tessa

Twitter:

@XpatEducator

@Michael_Royall

@tessa_johnson2

 

The Staffroom🎙 Special Thanks!

We’d like to say a big thank you to the guests who have kindly given up their time to chat to us in our debut series of ‘The Staffroom’. We’ve covered a range of topics from technology integration to enhancing student engagement right through to managing our own well-being. Here’s a run-down of who we were privileged to speak to:

 

We’d also like to thank the following people who made the podcast possible:

  • Jamie Clark – Creator and Producer
  • Tessa Johnson – Host
  • Michael Royall – Host
  • Yun Chen – Sound Technician
  • Evan Georgopoulos – Sound Technician
  • Daniel Budd – Director of Learning Technologies

 

Lastly, a huge thank you to our listeners. We hope you have found as much value in the podcast as we have ourselves. We will return with the next series of ‘The Staffroom’ in the near future so keep a keen ear and eye out for series 2!

 

Until next time!

Jamie, Michael and Tessa

 

Twitter:

@XpatEducator

@Michael_Royall

@tessa_johnson2

The Staffroom🎙 #8: ‘Slow Teaching, High Impact’ Jamie Thom & James Ramsey

In this episode of ‘The Staffroom’, we chatted with English Teacher and author Jamie Thom (@teachgratitude1) about the way slowing-down and taking stock can lead to better teacher well-being and student outcomes. We also talked to Humanities teacher, James Ramsey about the way low-stakes, high-impact formative assessment strategies are making a difference in his learning area.

In our first interview, Jamie Thom speaks about his book, ‘Slow Teaching: Finding Calm, Clarity and Impact in the Classroom’ and refocusing practice so that teachers only do things for the right reasons. Here’s a break-down of Jamie’s ideas:

  • What inspired Jamie to write ‘Slow Teaching’? How have his professional experiences shaped his reflective ideas on slow teaching and finding calm and clarity in the classroom? (3:40)
  • What does Jamie say ‘Slow Teaching’ is about? (3:40)
  • What is Jamie’s ‘tortoise and the hare’ analogy? How does Jamie believe this fable reflects the teaching profession? (7:55)
  • What made Jamie realise that a slower approach was the key to well-being and making an impact in the classroom? (11:13)
  • Why does Jamie believe nuanced skills such as classroom management, non-verbal communicationetc are essential in developing a slow and measured teaching style? (13:40)
  • Which strategiesfrom Jamie’s book have had a profound impact in his classroom? (18:31)
  • How does Jamie ensure modellingis used effectively with his students? (23:35)
  • What are Jamie’s views on well-being? What are Jamie’s top three well-being tips for a new graduate teacher? (26:17)

 

Head of Learning Area at Corpus Christi College, James Ramsey, spoke to us about the practical ways formative assessment and feedback is having an impact in his classes. Here is a break-down of James’ responses:

  • How have formative assessmentstrategies changed James’ practice in recent years? (32:50)
  • In what ways does James believe the shift away from frequent summative assessment has changed student mindset? (35:10)
  • What does James think are the main principleswhich under-pin his teaching and learning philosophy? (36:30)
  • Which tech-toolsdoes James believe have helped enhance his use of formative assessment? How do these tools work? (39:50)
  • What practical approaches has James implemented which help save time and/or reduce teacher workload? (42:50)

 

We hope you enjoy this episode of The Staffroom and found Jamie and James’ ideas as thought provoking as we did. The mantra of slowing down, stripping-back and streamlining teaching has certainly struck a chord with us! We wish Jamie Thom and James Ramsey all the best for 2018.

Until next time!

Jamie, Michael and Tessa

Twitter:

@XpatEducator

@Michael_Royall

@tessa_johnson2

The Staffroom🎙 #7: ‘The Cognitive Psychology of Learning’ Dr Yana Weinstein

In this episode of ‘The Staffroom’, we chatted with Dr Yana Weinstein (@doctorwhy), an Assistant Professor of Cognitive Psychology at University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Yana spoke with us about the way research-based cognitive science can be applied to education in order to enhance learning.

Together with Dr Megan Sumeracki (@DrSumeracki), Yana is the creator of The Learning Scientists project. Their website is becoming well-known by students and teachers around the world as it hosts a popular blog and offers a variety of practical resources and materials on cognitive science strategies. They also have an excellent podcast show, The Learning Scientists Podcast. Check it out!

In their work, Yana and Megan have identified what they call, Six Strategies for Effective Learning based on decades of research in cognitive psychology. In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Spaced Practice
  2. Retrieval Practice
  3. Elaborative Interrogation
  4. Interleaving
  5. Concrete Examples
  6. Dual Coding

In this episode, we were fortunate to speak with Yana about, spaced practice, retrieval practice, interleaving and dual coding. Here’s a break-down of Yana’s responses:

  • What are Yana’s Six Strategies for Effective Learning and how were they identified? (6:07)
  • Which of the six strategies does Yana place more value on? Why are they the most effective? (10:21)
  • How does Yana define retrieval practice and why is it a powerful strategy for learning? (11:40)
  • How can educators implement retrieval practice into their teaching? What techniques does Yana suggest are most effective? (12:55)
  • How does Yana suggest spaced practice can be combined with retrieval practice? (15:40)
  • What is dual coding and how does Yana believe teachers can make the most of it with students? (16:40)
  • Interleaving means switching between ideas and ‘jumbling-up’ learning. Why does Yana consider it a powerful technique, and how can teachers use it? (18:45)
  • What does Yana think is the most powerful way students can use some of the six strategies together? (21:39)

We hope you enjoy this episode of The Staffroom and found Yana’s six strategies as fascinating as we did. We can’t wait to build these strategies into our practice and teach students how to study properly!

We wish Dr Yana Weinstein all the best for 2018 and her continuing success of The Learning Scientists project.

Until next time!

Jamie, Michael and Tessa

Twitter:

@XpatEducator

@Michael_Royall

@tessa_johnson2

The Staffroom🎙 #6: Leading Change with Abdul Chohan & Karen Prendergast

In episode 6 of The Staffroom, we were fortunate to speak with award-winning technology consultant and inspirational change-management expert Abdul Chohan. We also spoke with our very own change-management champion, Vice Principal of Corpus Christi College, Karen Prendergast.

Abdul Chohan is a well-known leader and recognised for his integration of digital learning strategies in a number of UK schools. In the episode, Abdul speaks with us about his pioneering work in developing change through his philosophy of simplicity and reliability at Essa Academy and The Olive Tree School.

Here’s a break-down of our chat with Abdul complete with time-stamps:

  • How did Abdul’s change-management journey begin? How did he introduce technology to his school and what was the reaction? (3:40)
  • What does Abdul believe is necessary to lead successful change in a school? (5:09)
  • What is Abdul’s ‘island’ analogy and why is it effective in changing a school culture? (5:09)
  • Why does Abdul believe relationships are key when it comes to initiating change? (8:30)
  • How has Abdul changed the culture of marking and feedback at The Olive Tree School? How has the integration of technology included parents in this process? (10:15)
  • Which simple and reliable apps does Abdul’s school use to promote effective feedback? (12:21)
  • What non-negotiable policies has Abdul introduced at his school? How does this help maintain a ‘critical mass’? (13:41)
  • What is Abdul’s vision on printing and textbooks? How have digital technologies saved teachers time and saved the school money? (14:35)
  • How does Abdul think that the introduction of technology has helped to decrease teacher workload? (19:00)
  • What strategies does Abdul think are important in order to assist leaders with change? (20:00)
  • How has Abdul changed the professional learning culture at his school? (22:25)
  • How does Abdul measure the impact of change in his school? (24:30)

Karen Prendergast is known for leading change at Corpus Christi College by developing a school-wide teaching and learning philosophy with the University of Southern Queensland. Karen speaks with us about the valuable factors which underpin a change in school culture.

Here’s what we asked her:

  • What is a school wide pedagogy and why does Karen believe it is a necessary change for her school? (30:00)
  • How does Karen ensure the whole college community has a say in the organisation’s change in culture? (31:25)
  • What does Karen believe are the main challenges when implementing a change of culture in the college? (34:20)
  • What advice would Karen give to leaders before they go about changing the teaching and learning culture in a school? (37:06)
  • In change management, why does Karen believe it is important that staff set goals which align with the school’s strategic plan? (38:20)
  • How does Karen believe goal setting is supported by growth coaching? (40:50)

We hope you enjoy this episode of The Staffroom and find Abdul and Karen’s leadership vision as inspirational as we did.

We wish Abdul and Karen all the best for 2018 and the development of their organisations.

Until next time!

Jamie, Michael and Tessa

 

Twitter:

@XpatEducator

@Michael_Royall

@tessa_johnson2

 

The Staffroom🎙 #5: ‘The Learning Rainforest’ Tom Sherrington

In this week’s episode of The Staffroom, we were privileged to speak with former head-teacher, consultant, prolific blogger and author, Tom Sherrington.

With a large online following, Tom is well-known across the world for his wise, balanced and practical ideas which he shares regularly on Twitter and on his well-known blog, teacherhead.com. In the episode, Tom speaks with us about his hugely popular book, The Learning Rainforest – an accessible text which takes look at the big-picture of great schools and the invaluable detail of what makes great teaching.

We genuinely enjoyed chatting with Tom. His experience, insight and intellect shone throughout our interview.

So, without further ado, here’s a break-down of our chat complete with time-stamps:

  • How has Twitter and social media developed Tom as a leader? How has Tom’s blog grown over the years? (4:05)
  • What does Tom’s metaphor, ‘The Learning Rainforest’ mean? Who is Tom’s book aimed at? (6:50)
  • How does Tom break down his metaphor? What are the main three elements of the ‘rainforest tree’ and how are these explored in the book? (8:58)
  • What does Tom see as the characteristics of a ‘plantation’ school environment and a ‘rainforest’ environment? (9:28)
  • What does Tom believe are the main challenges for leaders aspiring to establish a rainforest thinking culture and ethos? (12:15)
  • How does Tom feel about the debate between progressive (student-centred) and traditional (teacher-centred) approaches to teaching and learning? What are his views? (16:35)
  • How does Tom believe we can strike a balance between traditional and progressive teaching? (19:50)
  • What does Tom call, ‘Mode A’ and ‘Mode B’ teaching? (22:24)
  • Why does Tom think it is important that we shift away from summative data tracking and move towards authentic formative assessment? (26:00)
  • What is responsive teaching and what does Tom think this looks like in an effective ‘rainforest’ classroom? (29:15)
  • What are the top three practical approaches Tom would recommend a new teacher to implement into their practice? (32:34)

We hope you enjoy this episode of The Staffroom and find Tom’s educational philosophy as inspirational as we did. You can grab a copy of The Learning Rainforest which is available on Amazon now. We highly recommend you introduce this book to your school leaders, and plant the seeds for your own learning rainforest! Be sure to subscribe to Tom’s blog and follow him on Twitter @teacherhead.

We wish Tom all the best for 2018 and the growing success of his blog and consultancy business.

Until next time!

Jamie, Michael and Tessa

 

Twitter:

@XpatEducator

@Michael_Royall

@tessa_johnson2

 

The Staffroom🎙 #4: ‘Engagement, Mindset & Well-being’ Dan Haesler

This week on The Staffroom we were lucky to chat with education expert, Dan Haesler from Sydney, Australia.

With over 14,000 followers on Twitter, Dan is well-known across the Asia-Pacific region for his dynamic, energetic and passionate Keynote speeches on authentic classroom engagement, growth mindset and well-being. In this episode, Dan also speaks about his book #SchoolOfThought, a collection of blog-posts and essays which offer thought-provoking ideas and real-life insight into his experiences with students. We genuinely enjoyed chatting with Dan, finding his words open and honest and his ideas captivating.

Here’s a break-down of our chat complete with time-stamps:

  • What does Dan believe real (authentic) engagement actually looks like in schools? (3:50)
  • What tips and advice can Dan offer to teachers who want to authentically engage their students in the classroom? (5:16)
  • What kind of learning does Dan believe has a real sense of purpose and creates the conditions for authentic engagement? (9:00)
  • Why is Dan an advocate for Phillip Schlechty’s ‘continuum of engagement’ and what are the main steps? (10:20)
  • How does Dan believe we can pull-up ‘retreatist’, ‘passive’ and ‘ritualistic’ learners to higher levels of authentic engagement? (16:18)
  • Why is Dan passionate about Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset? (18:40)
  • What are the five things Dan thinks teachers need in order to instil a growth mindset and build resilience in students? (20:54)
  • What does Dan think are the main barriers within our schools and communities that have a negative impact on mindset? (26:48)
  • Why is mental health and well-being so important to Dan? Why does he think anxiety is so common in students today? (28:30)
  • How does Dan believe we can improve well-being in schools and in school communities? (34:13)

We hope you enjoy this episode of The Staffroom and find Dan’s words as inspirational as we did. As always, we have a lot to take away from our chat – we discuss some top takeaways at the end of the episode. Like us, I know you will have a lot to think about.

Go purchase a copy of Dan’s excellent book, #SchoolOfThought which is available internationally on Amazon and can be ordered in Australia from Dan’s website, danhaesler.com. All profits from the book go to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation who work in remote areas of Australia delivering books to hard-to-reach children. We wish Dan all the best for 2018 and the growing success of his business Cut Through Coaching and Consulting.

Until next time!

Jamie, Michael and Tessa

Twitter:

@XpatEducator

@Michael_Royall

@tessa_johnson2

 

The Staffroom🎙 #3: ‘Mark. Plan. Teach.’ Ross McGill @TeacherToolkit

In Episode 3 of The Staffroom we were privileged to speak with Ross McGill, known online and world-wide as @TeacherToolkit.

We want to thank Ross McGill for being an excellent guest and sharing his expertise with us. We’re so excited to broadcast his ideas and perspectives to educators in Australia and worldwide. Being a new podcast, it’s a credit to him that he didn’t ask for listener figures or turn a blind-eye. He simply wanted to chat about education and his passion for having common sense approaches that reduce workload, save time and have a big impact on learning.

Ross’ new book, Mark. Plan. Teach is built on research and psychology and evolved through social media connections and ongoing discussions. The book has been a huge success in the UK and offers punchy practical advice for teachers who are looking to keep it simple! In the podcast, Ross speaks at length about why working smarter, not harder is important for teachers in the current climate of accountability and increasing workload.

In our 40-minute chat, we covered a lot of ground. Here’s a break-down complete with time-stamps:

  • Why did Ross write Mark. Plan. Teach. and who is it aimed at? (5:30)
  • Why does Ross emphasise quality not quantity? Why is working smarter, not harder his philosophy? (9:00)
  • What are the demands of excessive teacher workload and what does Ross think about teacher wellbeing? (11:40)
  • How does Ross think social media has widened teachers’ perspectives and developed opportunities for professional learning? (16:45)
  • Why is Ross a massive advocate for verbal feedback? (18:40)
  • How does Ross believe we can make learning ‘stick’ in the minds of students? (20:45)
  • Which practical idea has made a real difference in Ross’ own classroom? (22:10)
  • From Ross’ experience of lesson observations, what are the main qualities that all good teachers share? (24.20)
  • What does Ross think it takes for good teaching to develop and thrive in a school? (27:20)
  • Does Ross believe it is important for teachers to be familiar with educational research and cognitive psychology? (29:56)
  • How can schools inspire a culture of good professional development? (33:01)
  • What are Ross’ views on accountability and bureaucracy in education and does he believe mindsets will ever change? (weaved in throughout our chat)

 

I hope you enjoy this episode of The Staffroom and find Ross’ words as inspirational as we did. At the end of the episode, we reflect on some takeaways which resonated with us from our conversation – like us, I’m sure you’ll have lots to ponder!

Please, pick up a copy of Ross’ book, Mark. Plan. Teach which is available now on Amazon. It’s a fabulous ‘hand-book’ to share with your department and is practical enough to be used for professional development sessions. We wish Ross all the best for 2018 and the growing success of teachertoolkit.co.uk.

Until next time!

Jamie, Michael and Tessa.

Twitter:

@XpatEducator

@Michael_Royall

@tessa_johnson2

 

Bart Gets an ‘F’: Was Bart Simpson let down by his teacher?

It is obvious that Mrs Krabappel is a jokey parody of an elementary school teacher, complete with all the trimmings: she’s jaded, sarcastic and bitter and it shows in her teaching…

‘Bart Gets an F’ is the first episode of ‘The Simpsons’ Series 2; airing in the US on the 11th October 1990. The episode that prominently features everyone’s favourite 4th Grade hell raiser, Bart Simpson, is generally seen as a ‘classic’ episode of the beloved show. Here’s a quick run-down of the episode to give you some context (so if you haven’t seen the episode yet, and want a surprise, spoiler alert!).

Episode Synopsis

Bart fails four History examinations and is given an ultimatum: pass his re-test or repeat the fourth grade. Horrified, Bart finally attempts to apply himself by roping in class boffin Martin Prince to teach him how to study, in exchange for Bart teaching Martin how to be ‘cool.’ The plan goes awry, however, when Martin becomes too cool  to assist Bart in his studies, hanging him out to dry. After a desperate prayer, Bart is seemingly granted, by God Himself no less, one extra day in which to study. The snow day is spent in his room, reading his text books and making notes, while trying his best not to become distracted.

The following day, Bart takes the test again, and fails. In a very touching scene, Bart weeps over his failure, claiming that he ‘really tried,’ yet ‘still failed.’ Fortunately, Mrs Krabappel awards Bart an extra mark on his paper after Bart is able to link his own feelings of despair to that of a historical figure he came across as part of his studies. As Mrs Krabappel puts it, he’s passed, but ‘just barely.’ The end of the episode sees Bart dancing home and joyously displaying his D- paper on the fridge.

barts-d.jpg

What can we learn from this episode?

I loved this episode as a kid, finding it both hilariously funny and painfully sad. But, years later, watching this episode has given me food-for-thought. What can we, as educators, learn from this episode?

What strikes me strongly is that students want to learn as long as the learning is meaningful for them and they are aware of the big-picture. Bart struggles mightily in school and is repeatedly shown as being the ‘class clown’ who finds his lessons both boring and difficult. However, when he is able to relate to a situation in his History topic, he is able to then apply his knowledge successfully. Making lessons meaningful for students must always be a cornerstone of our practice. After all, as Daniel Willingham puts it in his book, Why Don’t Students Like School, “memory is the residue of thought”. In other words, learning happens when students think about meaning. For material to be learned it must reside in the working memory – students must pay attention to it, as Bart eventually does when he showcases his knowledge to Mrs Krabappel.

Next, perhaps it is somewhat unrealistic to expect Bart Simpson, a boy who readily (but perhaps wrongly) refers to himself as ‘dumb as a post’, to show the exact same level of ability, engagement and achievement of that of his more able classmates. Less able students can achieve, and achieve well, but parameters generally have to be shifted in order to see that level of progress. Differentiation, as far as Mrs Krabappel is concerned, does not happen.

Finally, a wonderfully positive message is that success, no matter what the grade, should be celebrated, with real joy, excitement and sincerity. This is something that most modern teachers are (thankfully!) very keen to do.

Evaluating Krabappel’s ‘old-school’ practice!

Yes, this ‘old-school’ style of teaching is just that – old school, and nearly 30 years old at that (and now I feel like a serious crumbly). I recall my own days at Primary and Secondary school, and don’t recall differentiation being utilised as often as it is now. In my own experience, less able children were either repeatedly sent out of class with a TA, or simply left to struggle (that was me, with Maths, sadly). So perhaps it’s unfair to examine Edna Krabappel’s lacklustre teaching through our 2018 lens and criticise, but hey, it’s fun, and she’s not real, so that’s OK!

So how could Krabappel have developed her practice? How could she have helped Bart make small-step improvements? Well, here’s some questions which provide something to think about:

1. Could Krabappel have given Bart regular feedback before the test?

As all teachers know, formative assessment is your best friend – and your students’ best friend too. Timely, appropriate feedback is essential for showing children where they have done well, and where they need to improve. Feedback also shows students how they can improve: do their answers lack detail? Do they need to cite their sources? Do they need to show their working? Do they need to evaluate their learning in a more meaningful fashion? As the test Mrs Krabappel gives to Bart appears to be a standardised test assessing learning at the end of a History unit, it is certain that Bart would have written papers or answered questions on this topic prior to the test. His misconceptions could have been addressed earlier on. He should have been given advice on how to improve. Perhaps, he could have been given an opportunity to show what he knows in a different, less formal way. (For the sake of this post, I’m assuming Mrs Krabappel didn’t do any of these things, of course!).

2. Could Bart have been given intervention and support prior to the test? 

Internal and external intervention happens in all public schools, with children selected for this support after rigorous examination of data and individual needs. Teachers have different views on intervention – some prefer groups to go out of class where they can concentrate away from the hustle and bustle of the classroom, while others favour keeping students in class to receive quality first teaching and (in the views of some teachers I have spoken to personally) to avoid ostracising certain students. Either way, most teachers agree that intervention and support needs to happen with any student showing signs of educational risk. Support could be anything from assigning TA time to certain students, to periods of teacher-lead learning, to differentiated work. Maybe Bart could have received assistance in a small group of less able students, focusing on learning dates and figures relating to the topic. Mrs Krabappel could have given Bart (and other struggling students) explicit teaching in a small group setting while the other children worked independently. Perhaps, even some simple graphic-organisers, flash cards or cloze-activities could have helped Bart arrange his thoughts and memorise facts. Nowadays, there are many possibilities.

3. Could Krabappel have taught the class about the importance of failure? 

Another popular concept considered and used in schools is that of growth mindset. Put simply, a ‘fixed mindset’ is believing that all traits within an individual are fixed and unable to change. People with a fixed mindset tend to believe that they are either smart or dumb, talented or untalented, and document their intelligence or talents without trying to develop them. The person behind the idea of fixed and growth mindsets, psychologist Carol Dweck, found that students with fixed mindsets tended to fail at tasks, were slower to learn, and shied away from challenges. They were also more likely to blame themselves or other factors for their lack of success: ‘I’ll never be able to learn cross-cancelling equations……’ ‘If I’d had more time to study, I’d have passed that test.’ Who does this remind you of? Bart’s miserable and frustrated assertion – “You know it, I know it…I am dumb, OK? Dumb as a post’ – is a perfect example of a student with a fixed mindset rationalising their own failure. I just can’t do it. I’m not smart enough. 

Conversely, growth mindset teaches students that brains and talents are just the starting points, and that hard work and perseverance are also important. As Dweck writes: “This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” Over time, Mrs Krabappel could have instilled this concept into her students by emphasising how challenges and failures are crucial to a learning journey, and key opportunities to improve learning and skills. As a last example, take the character of Lisa Simpson, a gold-star overachiever. A Series 6 episode, ‘Lisa’s Rival,’ sees Lisa discovering that she may no longer be the ‘smartest’ in class. On making this discovery and no longer feeling that she is the ‘perfect’ student, Lisa proceeds to hyperventilate into her paper lunch bag. It’s a hilarious but telling illustration that shows us fixed mindset can occur at either end of the intelligence spectrum.

4. Could Krabappel have modelled higher expectations? 

It is obvious that Mrs Krabappel is a jokey parody of an elementary school teacher, complete with all the trimmings: she’s a jaded, sarcastic, bitter, underpaid chain-smoker with a miserable home-life, and it shows in her teaching. The idea of the less-than-inspirational teacher is again used in The Simpsons in the character of Miss Hoover, Lisa’s 3rd Grade Teacher, who frequently smokes at the back of the auditorium and bores the class to tears with endless movie reels. And then there’s Principal Skinner, a well-meaning but rather ineffectual square who is roundly mocked by the pupils and sneered at by his staff. These are all tropes, sure, but be honest (and you’ll have to be honest with yourself here) you’ve probably been a little guilty of pulling a ‘Mrs Krabappel’ yourself at times.

Think of those days you’ve gone into school running a bit of a virus, or frightfully tired, or worrying about something at home or even – cough, gasp – a little hung-over from the staff Thursday night blow-out. Have you taught to your best standard? Of course not, you’re only human. Apart from the hangover example (come now!) you could argue that the other cases aren’t even down to your own fault or lack of interest. Well, they’re not, you can’t help being sick, but consider the effect on your teaching. It was less than spectacular, wasn’t it? Now, rack your brains for perhaps a more egregious example. A time when lacklustre teaching really was your fault. Perhaps, you had to teach a unit you found really tricky, or boring, or irrelevant. Perhaps you simply hated the unit in question. What was your teaching like? Did you approach the topic with the same flare? Were you as hyped as you normally are? Did your excitement and enthusiasm rub off on the class? Well, perhaps it did… if you’re an exceptional actor. But I feel we’ve all been guilty of teaching a few topics in our careers that just haven’t been as engaging or inspiring, and sometimes we have to blame that on our attitude.

Think of Mrs Krabappel with her cynical laugh (Ha!) her sighing, her eye rolling, her barbed remarks to the class, and ask yourself if you could find anything she had to say interesting. As teachers, we’re the starting point. We’re the role-models. And if we’re not invested, the kids sure as heck aren’t going to be either.

I hope you found this post remotely entertaining and perhaps even helpful. What do you think of the character of Mrs Krabappel? Can you think of any more inspirational fictional educators in popular culture? Is there anything in your own practice that is remotely, possibly a little Edna Krabappel-like? (Be honest!) What’s your favourite education-related Simpsons episode?

Feel free to leave a comment and d’ohn’t forget to check out this blog again for more content. Thanks for reading.

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A Multi-Touch Experience

On the 16th of March, my latest multi-touch book All Hail, Macbeth! was published on the Apple iBookstore and became available to download in over 52 countries. For me, it’s a huge achievement as it took many hours of blood, sweat and tears to perfect and complete. In this post, I thought I’d share a bit about it by giving you an idea of what it is and why it’s a powerful resource. So, here goes…

IMG_3801
Cover art designed by @danielbbudd

What is a ‘multi-touch’ book?

A multi-touch book is Apple’s glamorous name for a digital textbook. They can be multi-layered with information, galleries, video, interactive diagrams, 3D objects, mathematical expressions, and more. In my opinion they bring content to life in ways the printed page never could. Multi-touch books are created on Mac by using the Apple app, iBooks Author. They are designed to be used primarily on iPad, although iBooks on Mac supports them too. If you’d like to check out more English examples, have a look at my first book on persuasive speeches, The Power of Persuasion and Crafting Fiction – my second book on creative writing.

How is it different to a normal study guide?

Good question! Well, the book is similar to a normal study guide in the way it comprehensively covers the main aspects of the play from context through to key scene analysis. Personally, I believe that the main differences lie in the presentation and interactivity on offer. Every page of the book is designed to engage readers with high-quality, atmospheric visuals, supporting sound effects, and narration. I tried really hard to bring the dark world of ‘Macbeth’ to life so that students could experience the play (and its history) by seeing and hearing characters, events, and major plot-points. The interactivity of the book trumps a traditional textbook too. This resource contains a huge range of ‘widgets’ which store worksheets, quizzes, puzzles, assessment questions and more. The best bit? They’re all saved in the book and can be emailed to the teacher!

How’s it organised?

The book is organised into three chapters and is 53 pages in total. Chapter one is simply a welcome section which provides tutorials and information on how to use the book. Chapter two, ‘Information’ – like a traditional textbook – provides contextual and historical information whilst giving an overview of characters, plot and themes. Finally, chapter three proves a run-down and analysis of each key scene. These pages are supported by video readings and quotation revision widgets!

How do I use this resource with my students?

I’m lucky enough to work in an Apple Distinguished School. This means that students all have iPad which is integrated across all subject areas. Year 10 students will use this resource later in the year. If your students do not have access to iPad in school, you can still use it as a teaching tool. Either AirPlay or link up to your iPad to the whiteboard/projector and teach directly from the book. Since its release, a lot of teachers on Twitter have advertised the book to their students as a private study tool for extra revision at home. Remember: this resource can also be downloaded in IOS for iPhone.

I want to make my own! Where do I start?

Firstly, make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve. To avoid copyright issues, I would advise you to start with a skill or concept rather than an actual text. For example, you could focus on postcolonialism rather than postcolonial poems or texts. There are plenty of iBooks Author tutorials for beginners available on YouTube. Alternatively, I’ve put together some Clips Tips for iBooks Author. These are short 1 minute long videos which cover some basic and intermediate tips and tricks. Check them out below:

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Where can I get high-quality images like yours?!

Perhaps the most time-consuming part of creating my multi-touch book was finding the right images. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I often trawled the internet for hours finding the perfect photograph (sad I know). My favourite website to find high-quality, attractive, royalty-free images is www.unsplash.com . The website hosts a range of stunning professional images which beautifully coexist with shapes and text inserted into your book. Another website which offers royalty free images and graphics is www.pixabay.com. I would advise to use these websites to avoid any copyright complications later down the track!

Thanks for reading my post. If you’d like to see an overview of the book, watch the YouTube preview video here! Hopefully, I’ve encouraged you to download and check it out or even better – inspired you to go-ahead and create your own. If you’ve already used the book or have any feedback, don’t hesitate to get in contact via Twitter @XpatEducator or leave a review on the iBookstore .

Jamie Clark