Where's your head at?

Project based learning, thinking on learning and amazing Art projects

August 29, 2012
by Pete Jones

Monitoring the learning experience in our classrooms.

I have designed this for my department to use as a tool to analyse what is going on in lessons, what we should be seeing if we are as good as we say we are (not just basking in our amazing GCSE results and thinking we know it all). I don’t expect to see all the evidence all the time, but I do expect to speak to students about their experiences, I should feel the buzz of learning happening and always see the little bleaters being constantly stretched. See what you think. Obviously done with Art in mind but easily adapted to any department or whole school for that matter. Click on the PDF link below.



Monitoring the learning experience in our classroom


August 5, 2012
by Pete Jones

Creating the Olympic spirit in schools

Olympic athletes are given a very tough time, excruciatingly tough at times. But every day, they get up and train to be better, everyday they reflect on their progress and push themselves to become better, faster, stronger. From first place to last place, every athlete that takes part has striven for perfection; to perform at the highest standard they are capable of.

As teachers we need to be designing learning which give students the opportunities to make students better, faster, stronger. We also need to find ways to support, encourage and at times make them pretty uncomfortable to move students from the also-rans of this planet to becoming the best they can be.

In my head I’ve just broken the world record for being bored at school

Victoria Pendelton has one more race before she bows out of cycling. After all the pain and rigmarole of training day after day, week after week, year and year, she can look back on her Cycling career knowing that she has done her best on the biggest stage. How many of the students we teach leave school with the same sense of satisfaction as her? I have a feeling it wouldn’t be that many.

We need to get our students to consider that each year is their ‘biggest stage’ and that training to be the best they can be is worth every single ounce of passion they can draw upon.

The crowds have been one of the most amazing ingredients which has created such an incredible atmosphere at the London 2012 Olympics. The rowers have commented it’s made them push that little bit more than they ever felt they could, the athletes have certainly be spurred on by the fervent crowd, the cyclists have been breaking record after record in the ‘pringle’ thrusted forward by the passionate cauldron .

It can certainly be said that having an audience really encourages you to push yourself that little bit harder. How often do your students have an audience of more than one for their efforts? How often do they have a crowd of passionate people recognising their search for excellence? As I have wrote in previous posts, my ambition for the next academic year is to recognise students in their search for excellence in ways which I hope will give them their ‘Olympic moment’ to help students recognise the importance of the quest for excellence and to push them further forward.

I’m not advocating that every maths exercise book being placed in a guilt frame nor an English essay should be read  in a national newspaper, but when something really is the best that they can do right now, how should we give them recognition and inspire our students to be even better?

High Tech High school in San Diego creates opportunities to have their work recognised publicly; through designing learning experiences which encourages excellence. Through professionally publishing books and exhibiting work they create ‘a culture that values beautiful work’.  It has seen students become highly motivated knowing that they have an audience; students strive for perfection recognising that their work has purpose and value.

All too often in schools, we ask students to do their best; all for it to be marked with a grade and a comment and given back or worse still, left in a cupboard somewhere as an example of a 5c. How does this allow students to revel in the purpose and value of learning? How does this entice them to strive for better? If a red pen tick and a grade is how we respond to their efforts, do we need to reflect on what we are teaching students and look at crafting learning opportunities which recognise the value of their work in a more profound manner?

If we want students to make an ‘Olympic effort’ of their time at school, we need to place a huge emphasis on what we see as excellence in our subjects, in our learners, in our schools. We also need to back those who are part of the race with as much encouragement and challenge as we can throw at them. We also need to create those podium moments to recognise students when they begin to reach their potential.

First week promise…


In September,  I want that first week of lessons to demonstrate to students the potential they have to become brilliant through an extraordinary level of commitment, determination and resilience. Is that too much to ask?


August 2, 2012
by Pete Jones

QR codes and documenting brilliant learning

One of the most powerful influences on a student’s passion for learning is how others notice their efforts. To notice what they have done; the hard work, the progress made, the energy used, the mistakes learnt. This is going to be my number one priority to work on developing this year. I have always been a teacher who gets ridiculously enthused about what students are capable of creating (I am an Art teacher after all), but apart from letters home, praise in lessons for genuine hard work and creativity and displaying of work in it’s most traditional form, I don’t exactly push the boat out.

The  passion which students have to develop, improve, to search for greatness can be seen as an intrinsic quality. If you looked around your class, you probably only think this quality relates to some of the students you teach. As I have spoken about before, this may have a lot to do with the mindset of that student.

A fixed mindset; where people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. How many times do I hear ‘I can’t draw’ (to which I usually quote Paul Klee about a ‘line being a dot going for a walk’…now jog on…)

Do our schools make students believe that through determination anything is possible? That the sky is always the limit? How do we get the message across that ONLY through hard work can we possibly get better. It was the film producer, Samuel Goldwyn  who famously said ‘the harder I work, the luckier I get.’ Wise words.

I look back at the awe inspiring opening ceremony of the London Olympics, devised by the remarkably grounded Danny Boyle. It would take a thesis or two to unpack the depth of creative thought and sheer determination which made that happen, but it is a great example of the sky being the limit in terms of making an extraordinary vision come to life.  What can we do in schools to help celebrate our own ‘history of learning’? What would make students think every day that I can do more? Be  better? Aim higher?

A growth mindset; where people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.  Me thinks Danny Boyle must have this in spades.

So how do we talk about, display and celebrate and nurture the growth mindset to make sure that when students leave our school, they still believe anything is possible, with dedication and hard work?

There were times watching the Olympic ceremony where I felt passionate about my country. Passionate that we can create such a remarkable vision. The visual feast created on that evening makes me think about how my school should celebrate the culture of learning in our school. Celebrate the achievements of every worthy student and essentially, to get students to notice what hard work can bring by making a ‘big deal’ of achievement.

Since writing my last post ‘Judging a book by it’s cover’, several tweachers have clearly had similar ideas about the vision of learning and how to recognise the learning culture within their schools. (Particular respect to @ICTEvangelist, @Davidfawcett27 and @karen_macg).

So here is an idea for celebrating and archiving brilliant learning. With massive thanks to Mark Anderson’s recent post on this, the use of QR codes could be such a revolutionary method of spreading the brilliance of learning at a school. Take a look…


Imagine seeing this at your local bus stop..

Now.. Imagine this poster put up in your community.

Imagine posting a link to a brilliant poem written by a Year 7 or a French conversation on ‘sound cloud’ or bench designs for the local park, the persuasive letter writing examples to the local MP (and the responses?!) The possibilities are phenomenal. By getting your local paper or free posh magazine to run a feature on it, how to get a QR reader onto your smart phone etc. You can immediately engage students learning with the outside world. Documenting the history of learning within you your school. You could also engage lifelong learning by getting the community to question their own approaches to learning; take this example and use your QR reader!

Scan this with your phone

So as an Art teacher, I can see two ways of using QRs straight away. The sketchbooks I order for school have a free foil stamp on.. Now If I put a QR stamp on with a link to our virtual gallery or examples of excellent sketchbooks…

Or again. How about students recording what’s inside their sketchbooks and creating their own QR which documents it. Again, just an example, but you can use your QR reader below….

So. Like said, just how amazing is this idea? With a bit of head scratching about logistics and permutations, this could be a wonderful way of publishing the learning of great minds. In Ron Berger’s book, the ethic of excellence, he speaks about the importance of public displays and this could be another powerful tool for schools to publicise the brilliance of learning happening within their walls.

As Danny Boyle gave us his extraordinary vision of Britain, what can we do to create an extraordinary vision of learning in our schools? This is one idea which I will be developing next academic year. Oh and for those who like Banksy, I know this could get me into trouble, but I am an Art teacher..

Next blog… ‘Pop-Up learning shops’ and Guerrilla marketing…

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