2011-2012 Looking back. Looking forward

Time to reflect. Image taken from: http://0.tqn.com/d/taoism/1/0/p/0/-/-/Yuangshuo_reflection.jpg

2011 has been a busy year in education. Emerging technologies are making computing more ubiquitous and communication easier. By following the feeds of many wonderful educational blogs, I have seen a real mind shift happening in education with many teachers embracing technologies to change the way that learning happens in their classrooms for the better. I feel confident in saying that I will look back at 2011 as a year when many learning mini-revolutions began, when education systems around the world started thinking about moving on from the lecture-style model of learning they have used for the last 120 years. Maybe these emerging trends will pass as edu-fashion and fads or perhaps they will make a lasting positive impact as their proponents suggest. As 2011 comes to a close I’m going to take this opportunity to reflect on key innovations and events of the last year and to stargaze into the future with my predictions for 2012.

2011- Looking Back

Three big trends in education in 2011.

The Flipped Classroom Takes Hold

Turning the learning model 180 degrees is becoming increasingly popular, particularly in classrooms in the USA. The idea of the Flipped Classroom is that pupils learn new concepts at home, rather than at school through watching educational videos (quite often made by their teachers). They then work in class collaboratively on problems that they would have traditionally done for homework. Teachers who have tried the flip successfully say it’s a better model for learning as pupils learn concepts without the distraction of their peers and then when it comes to practising applying their new knowledge they do it in an environment surrounded by people to support them. See this link for a fuller description of the Flipped Classroom.

I have followed the blogs of teachers who use the Flipped Classroom model for a while now and am convinced in its benefits and plan to trial the approach with one of my classes next academic year.

Particularly towards the second half of this year I really noticed much more chatter about the Flipped Classroom approach within the blogging community. I believe the excellent work of Salman Khan through his Khan Academy website, which has now received funding from Bill Gates, and his TED talk (see below) raised the profile significantly to a whole new audience.

With the efforts of people like Salman Khan, MyMaths and the excellent CGP MathsTutor (click here to see my review), and with video creation becoming simple through apps like Educreations on the iPad (click here for my review), the resources and the necessary ease of use in the technology is now available to realistically support teachers who want to use the Flipped Classroom approach.

iDevices make quality technology for education available to the pupils

This year I was fortunate enough to attend an ‘iPads in Action’ conference at Longfield Academy, Kent where every pupil has their own iPad with them in every lesson at school. My thoughts and comments can be found at this link along with an excellent write up of the day by Rob Harrison on his blog. I left Longfield in no doubt that 1-2-1 iPad schemes can be implemented successfully with a real benefit to pupils’ learning. The pupils were fully engaged in their lessons and were using their iPads for quality learning, not just fun.

I ran a student survey at my own school and discovered that 50% of pupils own an iPod Touch. There are enough for one-between-two in nearly all my lessons and I have started making use of them for learning. For example, Quick Graph is a superb free graph plotting app that makes graphics calculators look like dinosaurs. The intuitive, simple, colourful user interface is so good you literally do not have to teach pupils how to use it. Click here to read my review of Quick Graph.

2011 is the year where lots of teachers realised the potential that iPods/iPads/iPhones have for learning. I think that potential is in its infancy at present and I hope that the blogging community continues to share ideas for teaching with these devices so we can all benefit.

Using Social Networks and Blogs for learning becomes more widespread

For years the education system fought the introduction of the calculator for fear that pupils will lose all their mental calculation skills. Mobile phones must be ‘turned off and in the bottom of your bag’ in most schools at present, although that view is certainly wavering in many schools. The educational benefits of mobile phones and iPod Touchs etc are now being realised, particularly over this last year. Social networks and blogging are also on the education system conveyor belt of being banned originally and then realised as great tools for improving learning. As using mobile phones and other mobile computing devices in lessons has become more ‘socially acceptable’ over the last year, the early adopters who have the mandate to experiment with social media and blogging have found them another good tool to support learning. I have myself run a blog for my pupils this year, which in the first 14 weeks of the academic year has been visited 4747 times by the 200 or so pupils that I teach. I am convinced by the comments I receive from pupils that blogging is an excellent way to engage pupils in your subject and make them realise that it is bigger and more wide-ranging than what you cover in class. I would thoroughly recommend blogging in particular to fellow teachers as I have not found any other technology medium yet that seems to engage so much student interest.

I could not finish off this section of looking back over 2011 without mentioning that this is the year that Google+ was born. In only a handful of months I have built up a social network of 545 like-minded teaching people with whom I share ideas, resources and laughs. Google+ will be the demise of Facebook, I am certain of it. Not only is it less cluttered, yet more functional, you can also do free video chats with up to 10 people simultaneously, called Hangouts, which are great fun. The Hangout video of the Dalai Lama chatting to Archbishop Desmond Tutu has now definitely entered the YouTube viral-video archives as a truly unforgettable moment. Google+ allows you to control which of your followers see which of your posts in a very easy to use way, handling your online privacy much better than its rivals. Go Google, Go!

2012- Looking Forward

And now for my predictions for 2012. Don’t hold me to these (unless they are right!)  😉

Twitter supports collaborative learning in the classroom

How do you get all pupils in your class to engage with your questions, ask ones of their own and continue this outside of the classroom as well? How do you get knowledge that is learned shared around your classroom without needing to stop the class whilst they are on task? How do you get quality feedback from all the pupils in your class without needing to speak to them individually?


Check out this wonderful article which forms part of series of pieces written by a South African teacher who is using Twitter in the classroom to answer these questions and more. I believe, done right, this could take assessment for learning to a whole new level and promote quality discussion of learning between pupils in our classrooms. I have experienced this style of learning and communication myself at conferences and really seen the benefit. I think this could be very big and am certainly going to give it a go myself. I will of course keep you up to date with the results of my experimentation on Great Maths Teaching Ideas.

The Flip It movement grows supported by more technology and resources

The Khan Academy has really supported the Flipped Classroom movement, providing resources to allow teachers to try the new model. I am big fan of the Khan Academy but I do think there is room for improvement. Taking a UK maths teacher’s perspective, I often find that the Khan videos contain language differences which confuse my pupils. For example, Khan talks about ‘Greatest Common Divisor’ rather than ‘Highest Common Factor’. Whilst you could argue that the language should not be a problem, my pupils tell me it confuses them.

Early into this academic year I discovered the CGP MathsTutor product. It is like the Khan videos but more professionally produced by a maths-specialist teacher and designed for the UK maths curriculum. Click here to see the demo website. I am very excited about using these with my pupils to take independent learning to the next level.

YouTube has this month released ‘YouTube for Education’ which features filtering to ensure content is appropriate for pupils and no related video links at the end of videos. Early impressions are good and this may be another channel that supports independent learning.

My second prediction for 2012 is that the Flipped Classroom model of learning will become more popular as the increase in quality independent learning resources makes it practical for teachers to plan and deliver this model of learning. To truly embrace the model I think pupils will need their own mobile computing device in school which is a trend I predict will continue to rise throughout 2012.

Project-based and enquiry-based learning methods become more widespread

Presuming my first two predictions about 2012 are correct, what our pupils do in class will be different to what they do at the moment. Teachers who Flip say that it frees up a lot of class time for practice in applying knowledge through project-based and enquiry-based learning activities. Both of these approaches promote Higher Order Thinking Skills on the upper-reaches of Bloom’s Taxonomy and are desirable if you can ever fit them in, which the Flipped method allegedly gives you time to. Proponents argue that this teaching style is more like real life in the world of work and also makes learners much more active in ‘constructing their learning’ rather than ‘passively receiving it’ from the teacher. A move in this direction might even please the government who have recently introduced the ‘functional skills’ focus on the maths GCSE. The problem solving skills promoted by these teaching methods would support the focus on functional skills type questions.

One well-known apostle of enquiry-based learning is Dan Meyer who writes Dy/Dan, his blog that promotes teachers being less helpful with the purpose of getting the pupils to think more for themselves. Dan is not a fan of traditional textbooks which break a problem down into its solution steps and then makes them ‘part a, part b, part c’ sub-questions. He argues pupils should be deciding what the sub-steps are themselves. Dan got huge recognition of his cause on the back of his TED talk (see below) where he articulates his views in a clear and humorous fashion.

My third prediction for 2012 is that project-based and enquiry-based learning styles will become more prevalent. Dan’s blog, his ‘three acts activities‘ and projects on sites like YummyMath and Real World Math will become more popular and important.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and please feel free to leave your own thoughts and comments either in the comments section here or get in touch with me via my Google+ profile. I wish you all the very best for a happy 2012 with lots of exciting teaching and learning developments!

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Happy New Year from Great Maths Teaching Ideas

Great Maths Teaching Ideas wishes all of its readers Seasons Greetings and all the best for a very happy New Year. Thank you so much for your continued interest in and support of the site and here’s to some great teaching in 2012!

2011 for Great Maths Teaching Ideas in numbers:

150, 797 page views

67, 251 unique site visitors from 176 different countries

85 posts

544 followers on Google+

617 followers on Facebook

2683 followers on Twitter

9012 Tweets

24, 350 views of MathsMaster.Org videos on YouTube

28, 727 downloads of MathsMaster.Org videos from the iTunes Store

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Sierpinski’s Triangle- fun with fractals

animacio del triangle de Sierpinski

Image via Wikipedia

Today two of my classes made Sierpinski Triangles, the famous fractals, and then linked the whole class set of creations together to form a bigger Sierpinski Triangle. Check out these pictures:


It was a lovely way to spend an end-of-term maths lesson. Why not give it a go for yourself?!

Download the Sierpinski’s Triangle resources from this website.


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Educreations- make fantastic videos for your pupils quickly, easily and for free on your iPad

Educreations is a free iPad app that allows you to make educational videos for your pupils on you iPad and then distribute them easily. There are many things that Educreations does particularly well which fit together to make to whole process of creating and then sharing the video very quick and straight forward.

Easy to use interface for producing your videos

First download the Educreations app from the iTunes Store. The whole interface is very intuitive. The toolset is currently quite limited as you are just able to write (in 10 different colours) and import pictures from your iPad Photos app or your Dropbox. You can create ‘slides’ as you would in a Powerpoint presentation. Then recording your video is just a press of the record button and off you go. When you have finished it automatically saves the video to the cloud at www.educreations.com and gives you the option to share it through email, Facebook or Twitter using the generated URL link.

Uploading, resizing, rotating and moving around images is easy

It’s not without it’s niggles. The company is a two-man startup and the product is still in its infancy. One frustrating thing is that if you create a video and then send someone the link to it they cannot view it on an iPad! The player uses Flash which isn’t supported on the iPad. Viewing it on any other device is fine but it does seem a little silly that you can’t view the web-published versions of your videos on the device they were created on. You can of course view them in the app itself and everyone else can watch them online on any device except the Apple mobile i-devices. I have been in contact with the founders and they are working on a fix for this niggle which should be sorted soon. To be honest, for what I am using it for this is not a problem. All my pupils have access to computers even if they have iPads so they can watch the videos.

The playback quality of the video is high with the transitions being very smooth

Overall, the whole process really couldn’t be made any simpler. It’s by far the easiest way I have found of recording and distributing educational videos to my pupils and I strongly recommend it to you.

13/12/11 UPDATE: Educreations have confirmed with me and on their blog this evening that they have put developing a solution to the viewing videos in Safari issue on their development roadmap.

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The power of Google Hangouts- key elearning figures discussing the future of online learning

Google Hangouts are a part of the Google+ social network. They allows up to 10 people to have a live video chat for free! Watch the video below to see what this technology can enable. Key figures in elearning discussing the future of online learning…

Watch the video

If you’d like to have a hangout on Google+ to discuss any aspects of maths education please feel free to add me to your circles then get in touch!

Online gaming to practice your maths- Tutpup.com

As teachers we sometimes feel like we are losing our kids to the online gaming world. The lure of Xbox Live proves too much for some when they should be doing their maths homework.

Tutpup.com combines the fun pursuit of online gaming against other human beings with maths practice! You play 1 minute maths games where you answer as many questions as possible. These can be addition, subtraction, multiplication, division or a mix of all of them. You have an animal avatar and are racing against the avatar of another online person answering the same questions. You can see the national flag of the person you are competing against.

I thoroughly recommend Tutpup as an engaging way to get kids practising their maths basics and use it often as starters or plenaries.

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iPads in Action Conference

On Tuesday 6th December  I was fortunate enough to attend the ‘iPads in Action Conference’ at the brand new Longfield Academy in Kent. The school are three months into running a 1-2-1 iPad scheme with their 1150 students.

The day discussed the academy’s vision for the scheme which included:

  • To redefine the relationship between the students and teacher
  • To provide every student with the chance to use technology in multiple locations and so improve their learning where ever they are, at the Academy or at home
  • To develop exciting and engaging lessons that allow cutting edge learning experiences

They went into the planning and implementation considerations and gave us a tour of the place to see iPads being used in lessons.

An excellent detailed write up of the day was done by Rob Harrison on his blog here. I suggest you read it!

I left Longfield that night realising that 1-2-1 iPad schemes can be done well. The devices were being used in many imaginative ways to improve learning and the teachers were embracing the technology.

If you are looking into an iPad 1-2-1 scheme you should definitely read this website made by the Victoria Government in Australia.

I’d love to chat with you if you’ve got thoughts or experiences with this idea. Please get in touch with me on Google+ by adding me to your circles. We could even do a video hangout if you’d like.

Click here to get in touch on Google+

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