How-to guide: surviving teacher training.

Wise, true, and might I add, funny. And true. Definitely all true.


#ITTChat & #NQTChat meetups – reblog

Unusually, this isn’t a massive catch up post. Be prepared for one of those in about a week and a half, but today is all about having the details for all the #ITTChat and #NQTChat meetups in …

Source: #ITTChat & #NQTChat meetups


Starting PGCE? Don’t waste this summer!

I was briefly involved in the very valuable Twitter chat that happens every Wednesday night on hashtag #ITTchat. (I had to break off because I was actually attending my daughter’s end of Year 6 play – this year has been mostly SATs and Drama – on many levels).

I managed to answer one question, and my responses are attached in the image. But I will elaborate now. The question, with my responses below, was:

Question 1: With the year drawing to a close, it’s time to reflect. What advice would you have wanted/be giving ITTs in September?


What I meant by the above was: this summer is your last free time before the hard work begins. If you read my earlier “rollercoaster” or “Repeat after me” posts you will know that the PGCE is a tough year. It’s going to get manic, and you will never have enough time. What will go out of the window first, sadly, is reading time. You will get a long reading list from your tutor, and you will be required to reference a lot of academic material when the assignments come around – which will be quicker than you think. Also, this material helps you build your classroom practitioner skills, and develop your “teacher identity”. Ask your tutor for the reading list now, and borrow or buy some books to read over the summer. Ask other trainees or NQTs what they read, and read that. It doesn’t have to be academic literature, on my course reading list were some “mainstream” books including Mindset and Why do I need a Teacher When I’ve Got Google? and the “Teacher Toolkit” material is pretty much essential.

Get on Twitter too, and follow #ITTchat, #ukeduchat and #NQTchat conversations, build your “Personal Learning Network” (PLN) now, and subscribe to blogs, podcasts and YouTube channels related to teaching. Fill your head with teaching material. Going into teaching is a change of lifestyle, it’s a profession with its own language and codes, its own way of looking at the world, it is ever evolving and in many ways it is like a huge global conversation. Get involved now, to grow your understanding, develop your skills and – probably mostly important – to discover why you want to do this and what you hope to bring to the party.

There will be times you doubt yourself and your ability to teach. There will be what I call “kick the dog days“. On those days you will need to be strong: remember what you’re doing this for and who you hope to become. You will need to have at least the beginnings of what we call a “teacher identity”. It’s easier to cope with the lows, if you have a sense of what the highs might look like. It’s easier to keep going if you know what you’re aiming for. And it’s easier to cope with the challenges if you are well-prepared. If you have several books full of teaching experiences, ideas and strategies already in your head before you start, you’ll be better placed to cope with whatever the classroom (and your tutor) throws at you!

But don’t forget to relax, enjoy the summer and see lots your family and friends. Because soon it will be all lesson planning and late night assignments. It’s a tough year but one of the most rewarding. Teaching is a noble profession. Be proud of who you are becoming.


Ed Tech software costs

I am pricing up software for use next year. I really love Prezi, Socrative and Quizlet, among others. The free versions all have limitations, however, so I am considering “going Pro”.

The sum of the premium licenses for those three items comes to… $114 or about £88 at today’s (terrible) exchange rate. And I’m sure that I’ll discover, over the summer, lots of other software I want to buy.

What software have you bought for teaching and why? Let me know here or on Twitter, and I’ll do a longer blog post in a few weeks.


Manchester Baby 

I’m at Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (they used to call it MoSI but no more, something to do with branding…)

Ive been learning about Baby (see pics), rebuilt in the 90s to the original spec. It uses the Williams-Kilburn Cathode Ray Tube memory store, which I found hard to grasp until today, when a helpful volunteer showed me it close up. Never underestimate the value of physical demonstration to get across difficult concepts. 

The store holds 32 words of 32 bits each, or 128 bytes in new money. This was used to store programs and data, in the world’s first proper stored-program computer. 
They used to have iPads in front of the machine, to encourage people to compare computing power between 1948 and today. However they found that this distracted the kids and diminished the message. 

I’ve used clips of The Imitation Game showing another early machine (Turing’s Bombe) and drag/drop guess the year of the old machine exercises in my classroom, but I think I’ll plan a trip here at some point. 

How would you get across the difference between 128 bytes and 750 instructions per second, and the power of an iPad? 


Repeat after me: PGCE is hard!

I received my PGCE confirmation letter today. Although I knew the result, it’s nice to see it  become”official”.  I mentioned in an earlier post how hard it was. I just read this from 2010 on the TES forums: “however hard you imagine its going to be, times it by 100 and thats actually how hard its going to be. I never thought it would be THIS difficult.”

I’ve actually described it a few times as two years work in one. The coursework and study (if you do it properly) could consume most of the year on its own. As could the teaching practice.

What were your experiences? I am particularly interested in what teaching standards you found hard. Was it the Behaviour? Planning? Differentiation? Comment below, or tweet or DM me.


Computing Ed. Echo Chamber

I have just discovered this “echo chamber” blog, which curates the best Computing/ICT blog posts from the UK. I hope it is useful.


Teacher blogs I follow

I’ve just followed a handful of Teacher blogs mentioned in this article. If you know any good ones to follow let me know in the comments. Teacher blogs: who should I be reading? | Teacher Network | The Guardian

Incidentally, I use WordPress itself to follow other WP blogs, and Feedly for everything else. It pains me that some of the “kids today” don’t use RSS, preferring to distribute updates via social media, and don’t get me started on subscribing to blogs “by email”. What weirdo does that?


Trafford CAS Hub

If you are interested in Computing at School in the Trafford area, please see my new post here asking for input. This is your chance to suggest activites for the Trafford Hub.

Thank you.



Brexit and Accountability.

Like many in Education, I was dismayed by the referendum result. The EU may be flawed – what organisation isn’t – but on the whole it was a huge force for good, lending opportunity to young people to live, work and study overseas, protecting workers’ rights and defending equality.

More pragmatically, I am furious at the power vacuum and absence of any plan to take us forward after the vote was won. I believe the best option now would be an early General Election, before which all parties could set out their plan for Brexit (or indeed to reject Brexit as the Lib Dems have suggested). This would restore some measure of accountability to the result, sadly lacking in the ridiculous referendum we have just suffered. To that end, I wrote this letter today, to my MP Mike Kane. I hope this might be useful to others who are as despondent as me at the mess we’re in.

I am writing to ask you to vote against any motion to invoke Article 50
of the Lisbon Treaty, should it come to a vote in Parliament, and to
continue to campaign for the UK to remain in the EU. It is my wish that
Labour call for an early General Election wherein each party stands on
a Manifesto pledge to either Remain or Leave the EU. This way, we will
have a refreshed mandate which, crucially, comes with the
accountability that was lacking in the Referendum, thus ensuring that
each side is "on the hook" for their promises with respect to the UK's
future inside or outside the EU.

"Brexit" is a disaster for the UK, economically, socially and
politically. The referendum result has caused an unprecedented
constitutional crisis which may see the break-up of the UK, the
collapse of the Irish peace process and the deepest recession of modern
times. The Leave campaign and subsequent success at the ballot box has
stirred up racism and xenophobia and caused terrible rifts in the
fabric of society that may take decades to heal. The UK's reputation as
a globally respected example of political stability, economic prudence
and social harmony has been rocked to its core.

It is clear, now, that we have arrived at this point due to an
outrageously dishonest campaign from the official and unofficial Leave
campaigns. According to Michael Dougan, professor of European law at
the University of Liverpool, the Leave campaign was "criminally
irresponsible" and involved "industrial scale dishonesty". Promises
such as £350m for the NHS and curbs on immigration are rapidly being
walked back. It's clear that Leave said whatever it took to win the
vote, with no plan for the country on success.

As Professor Dougan advises, MPs have a "constitutional responsibility
to protect the national interest". I urge you to vote down any attempt
to invoke Article 50 at this time. I also urge you campaign for an
early General Election and ensure that the electorate get the
opportunity to properly decide between competing plans for implementing
the will of the people, be that inside or outside the EU.

Yours sincerely,

Alan J. Harrison, BSc, MBCS, CISSP, PGCE
Sale resident and teacher in Trafford.