Applying Milgram’s Findings to Teaching and Learning

Milgram’s classical experiment into obedience led to some surprising revelations, putting the ethical and bias issues to one side.  Milgram developed the Agency Theory (1974) which indicates that people will obey and take responsibility for their own actions (agentic state).  For example, those students who show concern, guilt and/ or remorse for their actions within school.  Whereas others will indicate that they were told to carry out their actions by another (autonomous state).  This is often been referred to as been deputised and thereby taking on authority. For example, “it’s not my fault, you put me in charge” or “John told me to hit him.”

Another way of interpreting this is when a teacher asks a student to act on their behalf, by acting as a teaching assistant (peer support) or collecting the bank of computers from the classroom next door.  This is all rooted in the concept of legitimacy (legitimate power), that is the person carrying out the activity (student) believes that the person who is making the request (teacher) as the authority to direct them, thus any consequence is levelled against the legitimacy of the teacher, not the student. However, there are other factors which influence the students’ obedience and conformity.

During the experiment, it was discovered that if the experimenter (person giving the instructions) was not wearing a lab coat (uniform) obedience drop by 20%. This indicates that legitimacy within the classroom is linked to the way a teacher dresses.  For example, physical education (PE) teachers wear sportswear whilst other teachers wear professional clothing such as a suit and tie. Some teachers refer to this as their professional armour.  What is interesting is that when the teacher (experimenter) was not present obedience dropped and the subject/ respondent cheated or attempted to circumvent the experiment to avoid giving the electric shock.  This is reflected in the classroom when the teacher leaves the room.  Students typically relax and start chatting, what Milgram discovered was that the proximity of the legitimate power (teacher) influenced obedience. For example, in the classroom, simply moving closer to a student who is talking will result in that student refocusing due to the perception of consequence (verbal reprimand) of their action (talking), behaviour management by proximity.  Other factors such as the number of students who are showing inappropriate behaviour can result in reduced conformity, leading to a poor learning experience for the whole class.  However, Milgram’s experiment suggests that if you can reduce the negative behaviour in one student, it is likely to reduce the negative behaviour in other students too (social modelling).

Finally, Milgram’s findings suggest that the location (classroom) has an impact on obedience and conformity. Indicating that the classroom and school is a teacher’s power based, linked to the students perceived value and prestige (high regard) of the school. Thus, if a school and/ or a teacher can build prestige within the classroom, students are more likely to follow and achieve the learning expectations. Along with other factors like a sense of identity and belongingness, this is one of the reasons of a student uniform.

A recent review of the Agency Theory (1989)

Visualising Learning: Differentiation and Scaffolding

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

Differentiation is another one of those terms which teachers interpret in many different ways.  For example, differentiation by outcome, differentiation by input, differentiation by learning level to differentiation by activity/ task.  Thus a simple definition of differentiation could be what will you do differently for each student/ group.  When I teach differentiation I use the RAGTOP acronym (Resource, Assessment, Group, Task, Outcome and Pace) as this gives the trainee teacher a framework to reflect and develop their personalised approach to differentiation within their specialised teaching domain. However, there are many items missing from this, such as questioning, modelling, and personalisation. Other acronyms have been presented such as PROMPT (Pace, Resource, Outcome, Modelling, Personalisation and Task). What is clear, is that these acronyms are starting points which aid the teacher in developing their own unique approach to differentiation for their students, classes and specific learning domains.

Each student brings their own needs and expectations to the classroom and the teacher needs to recognise and address these needs and expectations within the planning and delivery of lessons. The process of planning for differentiation is just a subroutine within the lesson planning process.  For example, based on student data the teacher could differentiate by assessment, where students produce different levels of work.  This is like the BTEC courses where the student(s) aim for either Pass, Merit or Distinction. (Ignoring the debate about how this type of provision results in reduced motivation and aspirations.) Similarly, differentiation by outcome, for example, can group one explain which muscles are used during the squat thrust, whereas, group two may be looking at the internal mechanism of the quadriceps during the squat thrust.  Semantically, it could be argued that the real difference between these two types of differentiation is that one has assessment criteria (BTEC) and the other is about establishing or consolidating knowledge.  However, at some point, the students will have to undertake an assessment to prove that learning has taken place and thus achieving the requirements of the qualification. I have provided a simplistic top-level view of this process in figure one. It is at this point where the confusion between differentiation and scaffolding starts to develop.

Simplistic Top-Level View of Differentiation

Figure One: Visualisation of differentiation within a lesson

Scaffolding (Wood, Bruner, and Ross’s (1976)) is about dripping information to allow the students to progress, which leads to attainment. For example, use capital letters and full stops, then moving on to capital letters, full stops and compound sentences and so on. Thus, Scaffolding is linked to the concept, ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD) which is attributed to Vygotsky and his theories of learning.  I will purposefully avoid the debate about who coined the phrase ZPD. However, in simple terms we can visualise ZPD as a journey to becoming a Master, with many hurdles along the way, I will refer to these hurdles as ‘points of frustration.’ When a student becomes frustrated it is because they ‘do not know what to do,’ they have hit a point of frustration and require additional input from the master (teacher, knowledgeable peer or video) to move to the next stage. This input may need to be differentiated based on the student’s needs, skills and knowledge. However, as the student begins to develop mastery of the subject they hit fewer points of frustration as they have more knowledge and skills to draw against, see figure two.

ZPD as Learning Journey

Figure Two: Visualisation of the ZPD as a learning journey

The key message is that differentiation supports the scaffolding process, although there is an argument that they are not mutually exclusive, thus, are dependent upon each other. Another way of looking at this is, how will you differentiate learning to avoid points of frustration, whilst move learning forward.

To visualise differentiation within lesson planning I have provided a simplistic lesson plan below, in figure 3 (for a discussion about lesson planning click here). Remember that progression is about identifying any improvement or the creation of skills and/ or knowledge (what does the student know now which they did not know before?). From the simplistic lesson plan example, figure 3, differentiation is based on the students learning level (Pass, Merit and Distinction) and their outputted work (Assessment). The objective is the students learning target and the visualise progression, is how the student will see that they have progressed. Scaffolding is achieved at two levels a) by completing each learning episode, which in this case is separated by the teacher’s input and b) within the learning episode where students can progress through the levels. Similarly, a group of students could spend the full lesson just completing the first learning episode, on the assumption that this is the core learning for the assessment and you need the pass students to achieve all the requirements for all levels (Pass, Merit and Distinction).

Notice that in the lesson plan, learning episode one leads into learning episode two. If during the first teacher input, the teacher’s assessment (Assessment for Learning) shows that some or all of the students achieve that requirement the teacher can skip the first learning activity. Making students who already have this knowledge and skillset, complete the first learning episode, is not progressing their knowledge, understanding or skillset and therefore no progression is taking place.

.

a-simplistic-lesson-plan-showing-differentiation-and-scaffolding

Figure Three: A simplistic lesson plan showing differentiation and scaffolding.

Visualising Planning By Learning Events

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

In 2011 I reviewed all my lecture presentations and teaching materials for reoccurring patterns and discovered that over a six month period. I went from having presentations which were inconsistent, illogical and all but ineffectual to developing a consistent repeatable cycle. This cycle can be summarised and is displayed in table one, below.

Table one:  Traversable Learning Cycle

Stage Outcome
1 Visualise Video, image, real-life, narrative
2 Conceptualise Create own definition and a list of indicators
3 Transfer new knowledge Content, theory, principles etc…
4 Challenge new knowledge Questioning (verbal, paper etc…)
5 Apply new knowledge Case study, scenario, poster etc…
6 Affirm learning Challenge and confirm new insight

If we assume that the hierarchy is traversable, a teacher could be in stage four (challenging new knowledge) and realise that some students have missed key points of the concept.  The teacher could jump to stage one and ask ‘do you remember the video at the start of the lesson, why did I show you that?’ or stage two, ‘what was your definition at the start of the lesson? …. (stage three) how does that link to this theory?’ This ability to traverse across the planned lesson and its content, allows the teacher to quickly locate, where within the scaffolding process, the miss-concept took place and therefore, address it at the correct location.  Critically, it is the process of helping the student(s) to make links between the information at the different learning stages and thereby restructure their understanding. What I have outlined is linked to concepts within the instructional design domain.

I realised, I was planning lessons based on learning activities.  The process was based around the following key questions.

  • What do I want the students to learn?
  • Which activity is best to transfer this knowledge?
  • What activity will promote maximum student engagement?

Based on the answer to these questions, a best-fit sequence of pedagogical or andragogical activities is identified. These activities are integrated to generate a planned lesson.  Figure one, below, provides a very simple illustration of the stages of the Traversable Learning Cycle highlighted in table one, above.

Visualise Conceptualising Transfer Challenge Apply Affirm
Letter Letter Letter Letter Letter Letter
Essay Essay Essay Essay Essay Essay
Defining Defining Defining Defining Defining Defining
Poster Poster Poster Poster Poster Poster
Flyer Flyer Flyer Flyer Flyer Flyer
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Video Video Video Video Video Video
Presentation Presentation Presentation Presentation Presentation Presentation
Narrative Narrative Narrative Narrative Narrative Narrative
Student Voice Student Voice Student Voice Student Voice Student Voice Student Voice

Figure One: Lesson segment by activity

It is worth highlighting that for this approach to lesson planning to be successful, the teacher needs to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each activity in terms of learning.  Of course, there are practical considerations as well.

Now read: Visualising Learning: Lesson Planning

Visualising Learning Through Lesson Planning

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

Lesson planning is one of those issues which never seems to be resolved and is often associated with questions like ‘this is a waste of time,’ ‘I don’t have time to plan lessons,’ ‘what are Ofsted looking for,’ ‘why can’t we use the five minute lesson plan,’ and ‘they don’t plan like this in my friends school.’  However, this blog will not directly address these questions, rather it will take the standpoint of ‘how does a lesson plan visualise learning.’ Through visualising learning, teachers can explicitly show the key learning steps, associated assessment and student outcomes during a given lesson.  After all this is the fundamental purpose of a lesson plan.

Taking the five-minute lesson plan, presented by McGill at TeacherToolKit in 2010, see figure one below. It is clear this process is about visualising, in an explicit way, the intended learning for a given lesson.  However, Ofsted expectations have changed over the years which has led to the ‘leading to’ concept.  The ‘leading to’ concept simply means that everything you do is leading to something else, in this case leading to an increase in learning, through progression and attainment.  For example, upon completing activity one the learners will have the knowledge/ skill to tackle activity two. This infers that there must be some form of assessment at the end of activity one to make sure that the learners have successfully mastered the knowledge/ skill. In old school money, this is the ‘mini plenary’ where the teacher would formally challenge and check learning has taken place, using quick and simple assessment activities like questioning and quizzes. This would be the informal, yet explicit, monitoring of learning gained through teacher observation and student intervention and support.

SampleFiveMinLessonPlanFigure one) Five-Minute Lesson Plan, McGill 2010 (access from)

This highlights the critical element which good and outstanding teachers do autonomically and that is, using learning (reflective) cycles.  For example,  a) Plan, Do, Review or b) Teach, Try, Apply, Test or c) Activate, Share, Consolidate (See Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction). The learning cycle concept is one of the key features which lesson plans are trying to explicitly capture. Thus, any visualisation of lesson planning needs to reflect a learning cycle. The principle issues with this, is that, as teachers, we all have our own special version of a learning cycle. Indeed, I have three core learning cycles which I use with different learners.  For example, if I am working with learners who require more support I would use a learning cycle like: Activate, Tell, Explain, Demonstrate, Try, Address, Consolidate, Test.  For a more able group of learners, I may use the following cycle: Activate, Explore, Consolidate.  This links back to that infamous statement, ‘this lesson plan does not reflect the needs of the learners.’  I will purposefully ignore the sub-debate about the meaning of keywords within a learning cycle i.e. does the word apply infer the word test.

On the five-minute lesson plan, this learning cycle could equate to one learning episode (activity), depending on how the plan is filled in. However, there are some practical issues with this approach.  For example, the learners are completing coursework/ controlled assessment.  It could be argued that a lesson of this nature only has one learning episode (student log onto computer and continue with controlled assessment).  However, if we take a more micro approach, even this type of lesson will have discrete learning episodes.  Teachers do not sit silently, without interacting during the controlled assessment.  There is a continual monitoring and tracking process where the teacher is informally, either directly or indirectly, monitoring the work rate and engagement of the learners. This process, in its self, creates a cycle and therefore, can be explicitly indicated on the lesson plan.

Figure 2, below, offers a restructured and modified five-minute lesson plan which attempts to explicitly express the cycle within each learning episode. Using the coursework/ controlled assessment lesson, it highlights that there is still a repetitive cycle which the teacher is following.

FiveMinLessonPlanMod_V3

Figure two) Five Minute Lesson Plan – Modified (download Ms Word version here)

Why Is Visualising Learning Through Lesson Planning Important?

Here comes that old cliché, ‘to ensure that the learners are moving forward with their learning.’  However, it is much more than this.  It is how teachers move from novice to good and outstanding teachers, as expressed above.  Critically, it is also how teachers become reflective practitioners. Teachers who recognise the structures which are in play within the classroom are more able to control or manipulate these structures to their advantages e.g. control behaviour, accelerate learning, capture students’ imagination or re-engage learners.

Personally, I would argue, that teaching is the integration of a multitude of cycles or subroutines which good and outstanding teachers do, for the most part, autonomically.  These cycles interact and in many cases act as a symbiotic relationship, as the teacher becomes good these symbiotic relationships are formed and become implicit (hard to explain).  I will write more about this in the future but allow me to illustrate. As teachers, we are continually asking key questions, such as ‘are the students engaged,’ ‘do the students know what the lesson is about’ or ‘does the student know how to be successful.’ A novice teacher explicitly considers these questions because they have not developed a) the skills or knowledge to recognise if a student is not engaged, b) select the best approach to tackle none engaged students and c) integrated these broad themes to create a seamless approach (symbiotic relationship) to tackling none engagement within the learning environment.

I have suggested how lesson plans are used to explicitly visualise learning and assessment, highlighting that this process promotes professional development and learners progression, whilst inferring that these two factors are positively collated.

Visualising Deep Learning

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

The idea of DEEP learning has been batted around for mainly years but few people truly understand the implicit knowledge which is being inferred to when it is used. The word DEEP is an acronym based on cognitive brain research, which discovered for learning to be retained for a period of time it needs to achieve one or more of the following: Distinctive (Eysenck & Eysenck (1980)), Elaborate (Craik & Tulving (1975)), Effort (Taylor et al (1979)) and Personalised (Rogers et al (1977)). I will purposefully avoid talking about fast and slow thinking, which is also referred to as parallel and serial thinking. However, DEEP learning and thinking are much more than the long-term ability to recall surface knowledge such as facts, it is how we use this knowledge to critically engage within the world around us.

The brain does not remember information and events in our spoken language, rather it uses pictures, sounds and meaning (semantic) (McGill 2016). Therefore, every time we speak our brain has to translate from the stored format to a language format which creates a pattern specific to the person’s native language.  This is empathised by the statement, ‘we know more than we can say and we can speak more than we can write.’ This statement is often attributed to David Snowdon from the Knowledge Management domain but there are references to similar statements from other domains too. However, the point I am making is that the brain brings together stored memories or information chunks which is used to construct meaning, thought or a response. If the pattern (sequence of sounds i.e. word) is correct the connections between the information chucks, become stronger increasing recall potential. It is important to acknowledge that others have proposed different approaches to understanding long-term memory such as Tulving (1985) indexing, who suggested that memories are group by semantic, episodic and procedure.

There is an argument that the learning process is explicit (easy to explain) in the beginning, as the connections need reinforcement before they become implicit (hard or impossible to explain). For example, when learning to ride a bike we learn to hold the handlebars and push down on the paddles. However, as this action is reinforced and practiced it is refined by considering how hard we hold the handlebars and how much force is applied through the peddles. Then, somewhere along the way, we stop thinking about it and it becomes autonomic.   This is the same for learning to write or draw. These patterns are typically referred to as schemas (the name can vary between domains), which firmly situates the learning process within the cognitive domain.

Piaget (1952 and 1964) is often accredited with the development and application of schemas, however, philosophers such as Aristotle (BC350) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) also refer to similar concepts. (Top tip, if you want to know about schemas ask someone with a childcare degree.) In very simple terms a schema is used to recognise objects and events. For example, ‘cup’ is a schema and, for argument sake, a cup has a handle and holds liquid. However, there are different types of cups i.e. mugs, tea cup, fine china cup and so on. The problem is that as individuals we all have our own personalised schemas.  For example, is a plastic bag a cup? It comes down to how the different types of cups are categorised. For a person like me a cup is anything I can drink out of and I have little or no interest beyond this. However, for my wife, there is an extensive range of cups and etiquette around using different cups.  The argument could be made that my lack of specific terms for ‘cups’ suggests that a) my schema is limited by my vocabulary or b) I do not know the difference between the different types of cups. This brings us back to how information is stored in patterns within the brain.  Where the schema is a visual representation of the pattern within the brain and the idea that the brain or knowledge and understanding can be represented in a three-dimensional spider diagram.

For the schema adjustment (change based on new information) or assimilation (integrating new information) process to take place, learners need to challenge their own understanding (effort) through active engagement with the learning process, which Piaget referred to as active learning.  By making the learning or content distinctive and elaborate the learner is more likely to remember and engage within active learning and apply effort, helping the learner to personalise the content. However, to support schema formation and cross-referencing, between different schemas, targeted vocabulary needs to be reinforced. Critically, problem-solving success is linked to a person’s ability to merge or cross-reference multiple schemes (Chi et al (1981), Marshall (1995, pg62)).

In summary, I have outlined the core components of deep learning and situating it within the cognitive domain of learning through the use of schema adjustment or assimilation. I have suggested how teaching and learning can be shaped to consider this approach to promote deep learning.

Link to info Proc Model: http://www.livescience.com/32798-how-are-memories-stored-in-the-brain.html

Visualising Assessment Words, Blooms Taxonomy, Objectives and Essay Titles

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

Updated: 15th Nov 2016

Please remember that I am not an English teacher and this is an exploration of a quick and dirty method of developing a student’s writing skills.

 

Since the mid 90’s I have been using the mobile comparison table to teach essay writing. More recently, my teaching colleagues have been adopting the same approach to support their students in understanding how to write their assessments or achieve lesson objectives. What is great about this approach is that it is accessible to all and can be used with any subject, as it is transferable. I have outlined my approach below, using learning objectives and tables.

First I identify the phones and keywords (figure one, below) and explain to the students that all their assessed work will include an analysis, evaluation and justification. This creates a growth mind-set by encouraging them to think about higher grades.

 

 phone2 Identify

Discuss

Explain

Compare and Contrast

Analysis

Evaluate

Justify

 phone1

Figure one) Pictures of phones and keywords

 

I explore with the students what each keyword means, keeping it very simple by using the following:

Identify Make a list.
Compare and contrast What is the same and what is different?
Analyse Compare and contrast – which includes the strengths and weaknesses
Evaluate Link the analysis to a context/ scenario
Justify Make a recommendation based on the evaluation

 

Using the following learning objectives, I will demonstrate how I use this approach to scaffold and focus student attention on what is important, thereby increasing the student’s potential to achieve higher grades and improved writing skills. I also regularly reinforce this method within my teaching, learning and assessment.

 

Objective: Identify the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

I use a very quick and simple process to help the students achieve the objective by creating a comparison table (see table one), which you find on most shopping websites. This creates a visual learning episode for the students and structures their thinking. It also allows the teacher to quickly assess student understanding of the keywords within the learning objective. The activity can be restricted to identifying three items for a) features, b) functions and c) properties. Students can then readily demonstrate their understanding of the keywords.

 

Table One: Identify the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

Features Functions Properties Phone One Phone Two
Keypad Y
Emails Y
Plastic Y Y

 

Objective: Compare and contrast the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

By completing table one, the student’s learning has been scaffolded.  This will also act as a reference or checklist which the students can use when comparing and contrasting the two mobile phones. For example, the teacher’s learning instruction may be; ‘From your table, compare and contrast three features, three functions and three properties.’  This might look something like this:

Phone one has a keypad, whereas phone two projects the keys onto a touch screen. Also, phone two can send emails but phone one cannot. However, both phones have a plastic body.

At this stage, I would spend a lot of time talking about how words determine the students’ overall grade. For example, by using the word ‘however’ or ‘but’, you are signalling to the reader that you are about to create an argument.

 

Objective: Analyse the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

The analysis could be considered as part three and is about adding the strengths and weaknesses to the compare and contrast content. To extend the table (see table two), you can add two additional columns; strengths and weaknesses.

 

Table Two: Analyse the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

Features Phone One Phone Two Strengths Weaknesses
Keypad Y
  • Can be visually seen
  • Letter on each key
  • Location never changes
  • Keys fall off
  • Key stops working
  • Lettering fades

 

I have learnt/observed over the years that it is important to focus on getting the students to integrate the strengths and weaknesses, rather than writing separate paragraphs. This integration helps the students to develop their writing skills quicker. The analysis may look like this:

Phone one has a keypad which can be seen and felt by the user. The position of the keys never change, whereas phone two projects the keys onto a touch screen which allows the phone to be rotated, or the button size to be changed. However, the use of a keypad could result in the keys falling off, letter fading or even stop working, whereas the lettering never fades on the touch screen, although the screen may fail and prevent the keys from working.

At this stage, I ask the students to use a highlighting pen to emphasise all the signalling words in their own work. This allows the students to recognise the effect of keywords in their own work; prompting them to write at a higher level.  This is a really good peer marking activity.

 

Objective: Evaluate the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

To evaluate we need a context or situation:  in this case, who will use the mobile phone and for what purpose? This is about two main factors a) the user needs and b) the environmental needs, see table three. The student also needs to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the features, functions and properties of the mobile phone, see table two.

Simply, the evaluation is an extension of the analysis, as the analysis is an extension of the comparison. Using this concept, quickly allows the student to develop and refine their understanding of the required writing skills.

 

Table three: evaluate the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

User Environment Features Strengths Weaknesses
Blind person Everyday life, Two children, Office worker Keypad vs. touchscreen
  • Can be visually seen
  • Letter on each key
  • Location never changes
  • Keys fall off
  • Key stops working
  • Lettering fades

 

An example of an evaluation may look like this:

Phone one has a keypad which can be seen and felt by the user. The position of the keys never change, whereas phone two projects the keys onto a touch screen which allows the phone to be rotated or the button size to be changed. For a blind user, being able to feel the shape of the key and knowing its position is the strength of the keypad phone.  However, the use of a keypad could result in the keys falling off, letters fading or even failure to work, whereas the lettering never fades on the touch screen but the screen may fail, preventing the keys from working. For a blind user, the lettering fading is not a concern and both phones could experience a failure to accept an input. It is worth considering that phone two can convert voice to text, thus, removing the need to press a key or use a touch screen.

 

Objective: Justify the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

Justification or recommendation is an extension to evaluation, just as analysis is an extension to the comparison. You cannot recommend or make a judgement without first analysing the two phones. This justification or recommendation can be integrated within the paragraph(s) or written as a separate paragraph(s). For example:

It is recommended that if the user is able to use phone two, with a touch screen, then they should opt for this phone as it offers more features and functions, which can be used to speed the communication process. It also offers a wider range of features and functions, which allow the user to engage with their two children. However, if the user cannot use the touch screen than the keypad is a good alternative.

 

Now consider reading these:

Mobile Devices: Getting A Bit More From The Battery

In the last five years we have seen an explosion of mobile devices within the general population so much that it is estimated that the typical British teenager owns six mobile devices, with 84% owning a smartphone, BBC (2013). Where as my generation grew up with vinyl, cassettes and the ZX spectrum this generation is firmly plugged into connectivity and instant gratification.  Where the operation of technologies such as the touchscreen computer is as second nature to them as feeding their addiction of ‘looking charging points.’

As a business we can harness this almost inherent link to touchscreen devices to reduce the staff training and development cost through converting our systems to mirror the operating systems found on these devices (iSO and Android).  By taking this pathway we reduce or ICT hardware cost as these devices start at £50 unlike laptops and desktop computers. When combined with the development of online software such as MS Office 365 and Google Documents businesses and organisations no longer require local installation of software, only a platform to view and interact with the internet.

However, there are some key issues, well one key issue, that of power.  For using touchscreen tablets with a fix location such as in the office or other backrooms it is a matter of having the device plugged into the power socket. However, for roaming it is much more problematic especially when roaming is offsite. The quickest and simplest solution for roaming on site is to provide a recharging bank which offers fully charged batteries or devices. However, offsite is somewhat more problematic where spare batteries offer a short-term solution, it is by no-means a true solution.

Get Full Article Here

Recent research by Carroll and Gernot (2010) and  Perrucci, Fitzek and Widmer (2011) suggests how smart design and intelligent usage can extend the battery life. Please note that this is not a definitive explanation of all the influencing factors on battery life.  These findings show that If you need to use a wireless connection use a Wi-Fi not 3G as you get an extra 3.5 megabytes of data for the 1400 mW’s of power. However, the frequency of remote connection needs to be reduce to a minimum and where possible a hard-docking, synchronising and charging approach should be used to remove the need for all wireless connections. The brightness of the screen needs to be lowered to about 60% intensity saving 273 mW’s for a white background and 161 mW’s for a black background. Suggesting that interface design needs to use darker colours to reduce power consumption. Finally, data should be written to the flash memory as this will save 22 mW’s for every megabyte stored.

Understanding Mobile Apps: Is There A Difference?

Avatar_Dan_Campbell

We all use Apps (application) on our phones or touchpads but have you ever thought about how they differ?  There are many ways in which we can classify or group App’s but I want to explore how we group App’s in terms of accessing and storing data.  (For the full article see Understanding Mobile App’s)

This means that App’s can be grouped into three categories

  1. Native App
  2. Integrated App
  3. Web App

The Native App

Installation: The Native App is downloaded and installed on your device and everything it needs and saves is done so on the device.  For example, alarm clock, phone lock or sending a text message.

Advantages: This means that it does not need to access the internet but as access to all functions and resources (hardware and software) on the device. Can be referred to as Install and forget.

Disadvantages: The biggest issue of this type of App is that it is not updated unless the user manually undertakes this process. This in turn opens the App to security risk as coding practices change to counter hacking risks.

Quick StartPhoneGAP and RhoMobile

The Integrated App

Installation: This is middle ground as the App is install on the device giving access to all the functions and resources whilst allowing “occasional connection” to the internet to update the software or stored data.  Now the term occasional is a little misleading.  For example, the Facebook App requires almost constant access to the internet allowing for regular updates where software used to unlock the phone my check for updates every ten weeks. So we could say that the unlock software is more like a Native App and the Facebook App is more like a Web App.

Advantages: is having the ability to use all the function and resources of the device and been able to synchronize with a remote site.  For example, fitness app’s use the devices global position satellite function (GPS) to track your position and the bluetooth to connect with external devices such as a heart monitor. This data is stored locally (on the device) during exercise and synchronised to a website after exercise. Once synchronised to the remote location the data is used to provide a vest array of information about the training event.

Disadvantages: The three main issues with this approach is the synchronisation of multiple uses of the same record (data), which version is correct. The second is the security of data during transfer (hacking) but encryption can reduce this risk.  Finally, any changes to the remote server will result in conflict issues with the installed App, especially if the database configuration is changed.

Quick StartPhoneGAP and RhoMobile

The Web App

Installation: is little more than a icon and a weblink to the webpage which you want to display. Think of it as a window in which a website is displayed and as such the App requires constant access to the internet to allow usage.  Or you are view a webpage in a web browser without the address bar and toolbars.

Advantages: with this approach it takes less than five minutes to create a App and all function and resources are available via the website not the device reducing issues linked to synchronization, software updating and data security.

Disadvantages: is that you need to be connected to the internet which is a fight between internet availability (lack of signal or strength) and the cost of internet roaming.

Quick StartApps Geyser

Try this one…. download my Web App

dancampbell website QR Code

Teaching Assistant – How Do You Compare: Pay, Training and Performance Management

A Review of The ATL Teaching Assistant Findings

Working Hours and Conditions

Support staff are working more than 21hrs per week (86%) and undertaking additional hours (70%) which is due to workload demands (67%).  It is very likely (74%) that support staff do not get paid for additional hours which have increased compared to last year (68%).  Suggesting that support staff are taking on ownership and professional responsibility for their performance within school.

The additional working hours is related to more demands from students with behavioural or educational needs (74%) which is likely to be related to the statutory requirements of the inclusion policy, along with the increase diagnosis of students additional learning needs.  Although 49% of support workers indicated that the additional working hours were due to taking on extra duties and responsibilities.

The employment trend suggests that most support workers have contracts which mirror the school timetable and offer few additional hours outside of the timetabled day. However, 52% of support staff are on a yearly contract but the survey does not make it clear to the nature of the contract regarding pro-rata payment.

Nearly all support workers have a contract and job description (91%) but only 25% indicated that their job description was reviewed annually. Suggesting that the support workers performance management is not directly related to the terms and conditions outlined in their contract.  Although many schools may use a generic specification to allow for flexibility within the support worker provision as 60% of support workers said that the job description broadly represented their average working day.  However, there is a group of support workers (35%) who said that the job description does not reflect their current roles and responsibilities.

In terms of wages and pay agreements only 18% of support workers saw an increase in wage last year and very few support workers (16%) were paid an “enhanced rate” for undertaking additional duties such as lesson cover. Indicating that school management sees the provision of colleague (support worker) cover as part of the roles and responsibilities of a support worker.

Staff Training And Continued Professional Development (CPD)

Support workers stand a 50/50 (51%) chance of receiving an induction programing suggesting that schools are not delivering the required health and safety knowledge and skills to be both safe and maintain a safe workplace for staff and students.  It is also likely that support workers do not understand or are unaware of whole polices which can be highlighted by the fact that 62% of support workers said that they did not know if their school had a rare cover policy.

Most support workers are paid for inset day (83%) but these often fall within the normal timetabled day (75%). With specific reference to CPD related to the support worker’s role, again they stand a 50/50 (53%) chance of attending offsite CPD.  Suggesting that schools are dependent on collective knowledge and skill sets offered by internal staff.

This approach to CPD could lead to a stagmentation in skills, knowledge and awareness of policy changes within the support team, reducing the quality of intervention and developing a sense of isolation.  This is support by the fact that 26% of support workers only received in house CPD and a further 28% had not asked for CPD.  Indicating that support either do feel that they are able to access CPD or see not reason to undertaking CPD. Furthermore, 20% of support workers were told that there was no budget for CPD.

Qualifications and Awards

There are very few support workers who do not have a formal qualifications (13%) and most hold (31%) a NVQ level three award.  However, 35% of support workers hold qualifications between a foundation degree and the degree equivalent award.  This suggests that 66% of support workers have qualification at A’level or higher.  However, this does not translate into academic capacity as few support workers (10%) planned to take on line manager roles (3%) or become a teacher (7%).  To support this 35% of support workers said that they were happy with their current role and position but 30% indicated that they would be happy to progress within their current job role. This makes internal policies and support workers access to CPD critical.

Performance Management

Most school (85%) have a performance management system in place and of these 13% are based on performance related pay which represents a move towards support staff accountability.  To support this move 45% of support workers said that the school had a policy on lesson observations for support workers and 60% said that they had been observed by the senior leadership team within a whole class situation (87%) but most (64%) indicated that this was with a small group.  This highlights the critical need for support workers CPD and access to good pedagogical practice.

To quantify this point 71% of support workers have been in a classroom during an Ofsted lesson observation.  If the support worker does not have the correct skills to achieved the expectation of the ofsted criteria for a good lesson then the teacher who is being observed will gain an unsatisfactory lesson grading.  This will be reflected in the schools overall Ofsted grade.  However, 59%  of support workers feel that teachers are unskilled at deploying them within the classroom suggesting that support workers are underused and underperforming.

ATL survey of teaching assistants 2013

Teaching Assistant – How Do You Compare: Roles, Duties and Responsibilities

A Review of The ATL Teaching Assistant Findings

Job Title

Most support staff (40%) are still employed under the label of Teaching Assistant or Learning Support Assistant with the array of other labels been used in relatively low frequency (20%).  The Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) is still a relatively rare occurrence (17%) but only 76% of HLTA were paid at the specified rate.  This suggests that schools are providing a learning support package which is focused on one-to-one or small group intervention and there seems little point of training to be a HLTA (55%).  We can also assume that other labels such as mentors are used to provide specific support packages.

Roles, Duties and Responsibilities

Support workers are likely to be involved in three main areas a) exam invigilation, b) group work and c) lesson cover.

  • Small Group Work

Support workers typical delivers small groups (40%) on daily or weekly (26%) basis which is supported by the number of TA or LSA (40%) who are employed within schools.  However, it is not clear what intervention these small groups are targeting but considering the curriculum needs it is likely to be numeracy, literacy and specific educational needs of individual students.

  • Lesson Cover

Support workers can expect to provide limited cover for other support staff (38%) and teachers (36%) during absence or illness which is supported by the number of support staff  who undertook lesson cover (32%). Where lesson cover is provided it is likely to be daily or weekly which is a cause for concern for human resources, budgeting, support worker training needs and has litigation implications for the school.

Although 55% of support staff said that they did not provide cover for teaching staff they did provide cover for other support staff which has increased (22%).  This suggests that the use of teaching assistants to cover teaching staff who are ill or absence from the classroom is not widespread across the sector.

With regard to the provision of lesson cover support staff said that when providing cover they had to use teaching skills (72%) and needed to modify pre-set work (45%) and believed that the cover they provided was no different to a supply teacher (63%).  Suggesting that the training program offered to support staff needs to include lesson delivery skills and lesson planning skills. The logical assumption which much be accept in the absence of further data is that the quality of learning is below the Ofsted standard of Good based on a lack of formal teaching qualifications (6%) associated with the role of the support workers.

ATL survey of teaching assistants 2013