Archive for the 'Education' Category

Applying for uni

If you are thinking about going to uni next year, you should start thinking about it sooner rather than later.
Here are some useful links:
UCASConnect informal help and advice
Unistats get the facts and figures to make and informed choice.
Guardian University Guide is a good place to start.
The Complete University Guide does what it says on the tin!
The Student Room help and advice not only for applying but also for while you are at college.

Personal Statement advice

The personal statement is the toughest part of the UCAS form to complete.  You need to cram in all your achievements, learning and outside interests and career aims into 450 words.  The best advice is to be personal,  make sure that the real you comes  shining through.

Top tips

  • Focus on the subject you want to study
  • Only a small amount about your hobbies
  • Give examples of things you are interested in and say why – be ready to give more details in an interview
  • Don’t just list your achievements  or work experience, comment on them, show how you have developed
  • Use your own words

Open days

Most university websites have online tools like video tours and interactive maps, some have discussions, and question forums . You could also have a look at their Facebook pages  for updates and deadlines,  Youtube channels for tlaks and tutorials and iTunesU for lectures and tutorial resources.  Some unis have podcast channels with information and advice on the application process.

  • Do research in advance, find out about accomodation costs and course information
  • Talk to your guides to get a feel for the place
  • Ask questions of staff – about employment prospects, work experience  and so on
  • Take notes
  • Have a wander about by yourself to get an unofficial view.


Don’t let children lose sight of the pleasure principle.

Brilliant article in last Sunday’s Observer by Frank Cottrell Boyce commenting on the TEDx Observer talk by Plan B

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Here is the text of Franck Cottrell Boyce’s article:

“Every writer who visits a school gets asked this question: where do ideas come from? The standard response is to quote Douglas Adams (“Ideas R Us in Swindon”), but I feel uncomfortable fobbing off children with one-liners.

A newly qualified teacher asked me to visit his class. I said: “OK, but I don’t do workshops or worksheets or anything. I believe in reading for pleasure.” Fine, he said, then he introduced me to his class thus: “We’re going to use our listening skills (he touched his ears) to pick out Frank’s wow words and his connectors.” Great. Can’t wait.

If you’ve been made to list the wow words and connectors in a story, it will never haunt you. At last week’s TEDx/Observer ideas conference, at which I spoke, the talk by Ben Drew, aka Plan B, dedicated to inspiring kids, was terrific. If, when we give our children a story or a picture, we ask for some meaningless written exercise in return, we are making one of the most ancient forms of giving (“Listen, I’ll tell you a story”) as transactional as Ideas R Us.

I think pleasure is a form of attention. If you can take pleasure in something – an idea, an activity – then your brain will happily entertain it for years without aim or objective. It’s therefore a particularly open form of thinking that allows you to surprise yourself and the rest of humanity. If you look at Darwin’s account of the Beagle voyage, for instance, it’s a completely carefree book. It’s mostly an account of his adventures – watching volcanos erupt, being caught in an earthquake.

His days on Galapagos are some of the most important in the history of ideas, but the most vivid moment in this account is his description of repeatedly lobbing a marine lizard into the sea and watching it swim back. It’s like a paragraph from Just William.

The thing about pleasure is that it can seem aimless until it’s ready to deliver. Yet, thanks to the cult of testing, we are constantly chivvying our children to hand stuff in, to “feed back”. We encourage them to be focused and driven. There’s a time and a place for being focused and driven. The time is Saturday night. The place is X Factor.

The cult of testing has its roots in that great modern superstition: competition. Competition might sharpen the knife, but it will never invent the knife. The writer Neil Gaiman said: “Stories that you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you… if they touch you, they will haunt the places in your mind that you rarely visit.”

Clearly there’s a place for testing but there also has to be a place for giving – for sharing – those things that are great and amazing without asking for anything back. We have no idea what their future holds. How can we – tethered to the present – possibly know what their aims and objectives should be?” by


Here are some useful sources of rubrics and assessment tools. They are mostly American, but they are easy to adapt.

Assessment rubrics – Advantages  design support and templates

Authentic Assessment Toolbox how to design assessment tools including rubrics with samples

Project-based learning Rubrics

Rubistar – loads of rubrics by topic plus templates to design your own.

Teacher Planet – rubrics for teachers by subject and skill

Rubric assessment of Information Literacy Skills


Edu.glogster is a fantastic way for pupils to show off their knowledge, ideas and creativity in school.  It is a multimedia poster creation tool, which is free at the basic level.

“A Glog is created using a very easy to understand, drag and drop interface that is relevant, enjoyable, and scalable for students of all ages and learning styles. A Glog is an interactive visual platform in which users create a “poster or web page” containing multimedia elements including: text, audio, video, images, graphics, drawings, and data.”

Sample glog

Sample glog

Here are some examples.

Respiratory system a pupil glog showing what they have learned

The moon

Writing past tenses – a teacher built glog for her class

You can search through edu.glogster by categories covering school subjects like Chemistry or history or look at Glogpedia for the best ones.

Here is a link to a glog on creating glogs

Deep learning in an interdisciplinary context

The second seminar I went to at SLF was on Deep learning in an interdisciplinary context given by Keir Bloomer, Roger Talbot and James Goodall.   The title of their presentation was actually Preparing for a Low Carbon Future.

“Preparing for a low carbon future and dealing with the challenge of climate change are just two of the complex global issues that our society will have to tackle in the coming decades. They also present an opportunity for creating exciting learning experiences which promote deep learning and the development of higher order thinking skills relating to the understanding of interdependence, interconnectedness, collaboration and systems thinking.”

Materials to support the project are available on Glow at Sustainable Development Education.

Useful links

Nine Planetary boundaries

Rio +20

2012 International Year of Sustainable Energy for All

Criticial thinking

Critical thinking at KIPP King Collegiate High School in California.
Edutopia the website of the George Lucas Educational Foundation runs a series of articles called “Schools that work” taking a deep look at what school successes are made of. They also provide the blueprints that the the blueprints that the change makers used — the contracts, lesson plans, and teacher training tools that could be relevant to another school.

In this article, they show how one KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) high school prepares its students for the rigors of college by challenging and empowering them with critical thinking skills.

“Here at King, critical thinking wins the day,” explains Principal Jason Singer. “Almost every bit of work we do here, in either a directly related or tangential way, is aimed at developing disciplined critical thought within our kids.”

“Singer describes critical thinking as the ability to simultaneously comprehend, analyze, and evaluate a line of reasoning, a concept, or a problem relative to one’s own perspective and the perspective of others to arrive at deeper understanding. It’s considered a vital 21st-century skill in a society where information and innovation abound and where the intellectual flexibility to consider ideas from multiple perspectives is fast becoming a requirement for success.”

“The hallmark and foundation of critical thinking is Socratic dialogue, a process in which students engage in dynamic discussions, focused on the goal of reaching deeper meaning by questioning assumptions. Most students, when they start out at King, have had little to no training in critical thinking. All students are required to take a course called Speech & Composition, taught by English teacher Katie Kirkpatrick. A once-reserved student herself, Kirkpatrick strives to provide her students with the basic tools to join the conversation and empower their participation in the classroom.”

“It’s not just in the classroom that critical thinking shapes the life at King. It also greatly impacts the school’s culture as well. The maturity of thought the students develop, the perspective to think beyond themselves, and the ability to critically evaluate their decisions create an environment in which there are strong relationships between teachers and students as well as personal accountability. “

Critical Thinking: A Path to College and Career by Mariko Nobori , Edutopia 31st August 2011

For more on critical thinking and Socratic questioning go to Changing minds

Resilience – key to success

BBC News Last week had an item on an OECD report on how some students overcome their disadvantaged backgrounds and some don’t.  The key to success was resilience.

The report says  “All of these findings suggest that schools may have an important role to play in fostering resilience,”

“They could start by providing more opportunities for disadvantaged students to learn in class by developing activities, classroom practices and teaching methods that encourage learning and foster motivation and self-confidence among those students.”

Here is the link to the news item

and to the OECD report

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