What have you learned on Edu Twitter so far?

Following on from my Beginner’s Guide to Edu Twitter, I was going to write an Advanced Guide but I realised I didn’t know much – so instead I’ve written this….erm thing.

  • You’ve now got the hang of twitter – you’ve either given up in disgust or got totally hooked.

( I was listening to ‘Organised Mind’ on Radio 4 this week where it spoke of rats who received small rewards – these were similar to a favourite or a retweet on Twitter.  The rats became so addicted to the small shots of dopamine they got from these small rewards that they chose to forgo food and other comforts just to get their fix of dopamine.  So it looks like I am going to die alone and starving with only my iPhone and twitter for company.  Yes, I am a dopamine addict).

  • You will by now have experienced some true friendships despite never having met the person behind the Twitter handle.
  • You may also have found people who are:

A. Ridiculously liberal to the point of thinking they need not be in the classroom at all or,
B. Ridiculously right-wing and think all schools should be run under a military style regime.

  • You may be wondering if some of the teachers even like children or thinking that others are Patchouli Oiled funsters with no interest in rigour at all.
  • You may have gone from thinking all teachers think the same to realising OMG they want to test, teach rote and spend the majority of their time teaching students how to put their hands up or line up for break time. And there’s clicking – CLICKING. Google it.
  • Or you may be thinking OMG I thought I was the only person who felt like this – there are teachers on Twitter who think behaviour is a national scandal and that most children are illiterate – this is liberating – no wo/man is an island.
  • You will have heard straw man and false dichotomy a LOT.
  • You will have seen Friere, Dewey, Piaget, Hirsch and Willingham mentioned a LOT.
  • There’s Teach Like A Champion, 7 Myths of Teaching, Don’t Change the Lightbulbs and Punk Learning to read. Then there’s a lot of ex-teachers with books to write and a lot of teachers turned researchers.
  • There’s TeachFirst, School Direct, SCITT, teaching schools, PGCEs.
  • There’s Policy Exchange, Sutton Trust, the Education Endowment Fund – all appear to be run by private school boys evangelical about helping clever poor kids.
  • There’s Northern Rocks, ResearchEd, Pedagoo, TLAB – teacher led conferences and teacher led CPD in the form of Teach Meets.
  • There’s blogs and books and balderdash.

So this is the Twitter vacuum – a world of extremes.  But actually, stepping back a bit, there’s a middle ground – traditional and progressive, direct instruction and discovery – there’s sharing of resources, givers of advice and lots of support.

There’s @betsysalt Friday hugs, #teacher5aday, @staffrm; there’s stupid jokes,funny conversations and kittens – it’s the surreal and wonderful world of Edu Twitter….now, like my blog, I need a dopamine fix.



What’s your earliest memory of technology?
Is a typewriter technology? I signed up with a door to door sales rep for a Pitman typing course when I was 17. It was a big old typewriter with a backspace for corrections. When I went to university I invested in a small electronic typewriter which I did all my essays and dissertation on – it was the best buy.

Space Invaders :-)))))) we used to sit in Deal Beach Parlour with one drink for hours while we played – it was a table with screen in the middle – remember?


What bit of technology frustrates you most?
My work dock-in station – I spend hours waiting for it to synchronise – we have a token which we have to put in which doesn’t work half the time and then I spend 20 minutes on the phone to IT telling me where I am in the queuing system. They then have to reconfigure your token which takes ages and then you have to call back once your laptop has synchronised. It’s a huge headache and linked to the many security stages. I wonder when systems are not fit for purpose whether safety measures become defunct as people try to bypass them for ease.

What devices do you use most regularly?
1. My iPhone is with me always – I love it, it’s like a PA. I am using voice memo more and more as I do a lot of driving – I can put my thoughts down and then listen when I get back to the office.
2. My iPad in schools – it’s light, quick and easy. Lots of great apps, it never goes wrong and can be used online and offline.
3. An old brick laptop for work as we’re not allowed to write reports on anything else due to security. (I have a fondness for this though, it’s like an old Uncle who smells a bit of wee.)

What tips do you have for others?
Think about using tech for more than just word processing.

Social media is great when used appropriately but remember your digital footprint. When you’re impulsive (like me) it’s easy to say something you regret.

You can be outdoorsy and techy – I took this of my daughter abseiling in Swanage then uploaded it to techy Grandparents on Facebook within 30 mins (after walking back up the hill to get reception).


Finish this sentence: technology isn’t…
a replacement meal but great as part of a healthy diet.

Who would you like to answer these questions?




1000 years of experience

The wonderful @ChrisChivers2 has been collecting experience from teachers.  I feel a slight fraud here as the ones I have read are not only excellent but from the ‘grandetwitterers’ such as Chris, @raywilkinson and @Jillberry102. But as I created #genderedcheese which criticises the lack of women’s voices in education, I must practise what I preach – I have been asked, and although I don’t feel worthy, I will add my contribution.


First an English and Drama teacher from Year 9-13 – taught up to English Literature and Theatre Studies  A’Level. Deputy Head of Sixth Form then went to Falkland Islands.  Although I taught an English A’Level adult group at night school, my day job was Assistant Editor of News at the Falkland Islands Broadcasting Station.  On returning I was pregnant with my first child so did a bit of supply teaching then became a Parent Partnership Officer (supporting parents of children with SEN in education) and a part time lecturer of English, Maths, IT and Skills for Life at a land based FE college.  I then became a 1:1 tutor for students with specific learning difficulties (such as dyslexia) at the same college supporting students up to HE level before I returned to the Local Authority and joined the SENSS team.  Now I visit various types of schools in Dorset, teaching, advising, assessing and training. (what I write below is personal however and does not reflect my employer’s views)

Before teaching I was a spring onion peeler, typist, receptionist, Assistant Organiser for an Exhibition company at Earls Court, Chalet girl, then Group Leader, Instructor and Ski Rep for PGL.

What I reckon

  • differentiate through language and outcome not worksheets
  • be kind to staff and students – always put yourself in their shoes before acting
  • person first admin second (once I profusely apologised to one of my tutor group for asking for his sick note before asking if he was feeling better – I was horrified with myself)
  • be good enough – aim to teach one great session a day, the majority OK and allow yourself one not so good – just mix these up through the week so different children experience the great one
  • all students are worthy of your time not just the clever ones
  • find the glitter – did you know John who can’t read and write very well could somersault on his BMX?
  • parents have hunches about their child and they are usually right – they are worth listening to and will have great advice about how best their child learns
  • quality first teaching is knowing your students and adapting to suit them – this is not differentiation/SEN/Teaching Assistant’s role –  just good teaching
  • Less is more – an essay with bullet points and one superb paragraph maybe preferable to a terrible essay
  • Alternative assessments can allow some a chance to shine
  • The hardest to love are often those that need loving the most
  • Start each lesson afresh – try not to say ‘you always do this’, or ‘let’s see if you can do better than yesterday’.
  • Catch them being good – it’s easy to ignore challenging children when they are being good out of sheer relief but this is exactly when a hand on the shoulder, a quick nod of recognition or a smile can be most effective – they get to experience what the ‘good’ kids get
  • OK, Professor Coe says effusive praise is not effective but I think it is not the effusiveness but the genuineness – whether they believe your praise – you need to mean it

It’s really hard, I know, but keep the joy of learning a priority – working hard and being happy can go together

Too clever for your own clogs


The current government and dear old Michael Wilshaw, despite no evidence that it is efficacious, have toyed with the idea of making it a legal obligation for schools to set from the age of 14. The Education Endowment Fund (EEF) and OECD’s PISA report show that stratification in the education system appears to show no benefit.  While Professor Coe’s comments on the damaging effects of effusive praise were met with vigorous head nodding, his evidence showing setting was ineffective……tumbleweed.

The belief in setting is perception, pure and simple – a mindset which thinks children with various abilities should not be educated together. There is a fetishisation of cleverness in the current education system alongside a belief that mixed ability somehow lowers the standard of learning for bright children.

It’s usually our own kids who we think are getting bored and need pushing, but current reports about children’s mental health show I should be just as concerned about my daughters suffering from anxiety, self harming and eating disorders as I am with them being stretched and getting A*s to get into Oxford.

Now, I had the privilege of going to a Secondary Modern so nobody gave a monkeys whether I achieved – suited me fine to be honest, I was much more interested in snogging and smoking but I have friends who are far cleverer than me. Two tell me that now, their biggest concerns are how happy their own children are – they were both treated with reverence in school and university as they were so bright and the expectations they tell me were awful – one had a breakdown. The idea of this much pressure to achieve the First everyone said you should get was about as alien to me as bunking off school to meet Alan with his Capri in his drainpipe jeans would have been to them.

Alright, I could have been pushed harder – look at this picture of my tutor group in Year 7


compared to how we were by year 11.


But these women, these brilliantly clever and funny women should have been pushed less – they needed a night out with Alan and his Capri as much as I needed a school with higher expectations of me.

I hope I can protect my daughters from body image pressures but also from the almost maniacal pressure to be working at full capacity at all times in school. I don’t want them setted in all subjects but in mixed ability classes in a good, inclusive, comprehensive. I want more for my daughters than A*s.

School is not just about academic achievement – we need to recognise this, not just for the students like me but also for the clever ones.

Everyone needs an Alan and a Capri in their lives.

Some Mixed Ability versus setting research, blogs and bits and bobs

Sent from my iPad

A Beginner’s Guide to EduTwitter

Followers – you are likely to begin following people first but slowly and surely people will begin to follow you – best feeling.

Being unfollowed – usually when you get on your high horse or court controversy you will lose followers – to begin with devastation but more experienced Twitterers see this as collateral damage.

Being blocked – you happily go about your day to day twittering, disagree with someone, make a sarcastic comment then suddenly you are denied access to them- they have blocked you – outraged – how flippin dare they? More outrage – block them then claim you blocked first.

The favourite used as the Facebook like – this is good – they agree with/like you or just want to acknowledge your comment (I’m not ignoring you but will favourite as I have nothing else to say) – warm glow.

The favourite from quite renowned people when you put blog link up – this could be good, they’re bookmarking it to read later – this could be bad they may read later and utterly trounce it – butterflies.

The passive aggressive favourite – someone who disagrees with you and doesn’t follow you finds your tweet promoting a blog on the subject they disagree with and favourites it..how? HOW? The favourite means – I know you’ve written this – just so you know – slightly sweaty.

One of their followers forwards your tweet either with no comment or
‘I assume you’ve seen this’ written alongside – more sweat.

The retweet – just a plain and simple retweet – lovely – someone likes what you say, they want to share it – warm glow.

A retweet of your retweet – also nice like minded people – warm glow.

A reply from someone quite famous in Education – you tweet something not really expecting anything back and someone you are not worthy to converse with responds – slightly honoured, slightly scared.

# Hashtags – alerts you to a subject, event or campaign – interesting, often funny or great for research – stimulating.

Humorous hashtags – #usedasaslightjokewhenmakingapoint – can be funny or can be borderline Alan Partridge #aha – smiley or groan

You are tagged to read someone’s blog – this is nice – try and find time to read then tweet with your own thoughts – if pushed for time just retweet to help them promote it – honoured to be tagged

They tag you in a conversation – this is when someone thinks you’d be interested and draw you in – fuzzy pride.

You can however be drawn into a very long conversation which turns into something you completely disagree with and they’re still tagging you – my recommendation – if a person hasn’t responded in ten tweets – take them out of the conversation. – panic/frustration/slow death.

The *sigh* reply – this is designed to belittle you – it means ‘oh you totally naive, slightly stupid person, you know nothing, we’ve moved on from the 80s – it’s all about rigour and counter-Intuitive, evidence based research practice now – your concerns about happiness, too much testing and phonic mania belong in the past – catch up you idiot’ – patronised.

The hyena attack – this usually only happens to newbies to Twitter – you say something innocent like – group work is good or tweet an idea and say the students had fun – woomf – you’re attacked from multiple sides – who says? What research do you have? Fun, fun? What about learning etc – you may argue for a little bit but the attack is too much – you retreat – wounded and licking your paw. – embattled.

Once you settle into Twitter though, find like minded people and a few others you can argue with in a nice way – it’s engaging, informative and fun ( yes FUN) – enjoy.

Or as @dileed says ‘a source of much love and joy. Actually. Proper best friends. Which is weird but so is life’


How normal do you have to be for mainstream?


@tombennett recently criticised OFSTED for scrutinising schools on exclusion and @jarlathobrien has defended the segregation of children with SEND in Special schools in this excellent blog; http://jarlathobrien.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/entitlement-yes-inclusion-no/.

There are some children who disturb the education of others and need to be educated elsewhere and for some children with SEND, a Special School is more inclusive than being taught in the corridor with a TA. So, we’re all in agreement then?

Actually no, because nationally there are increasing numbers sent to Special Schools and alternative provision such as PRUs. Inclusion figures have gone down for the first time in 30 years. (https://news.tes.co.uk/b/news/2014/08/08/increase-in-special-school-numbers-reverses-trend-towards-inclusion.aspx) Is it becoming a mindset that ‘these kids just don’t belong in mainstream’? The first thought rather than the last resort?

When Jarlath says he is teaching a student of level 5 ability I want to ask why? Should they really be in a Special School? Maybe but my first question is are they with their typically developing peers?

I know parents who went to a tribunal to get their child with Downs Syndrome into a mainstream school and in contrast, parents who fought for a statement of educational needs to secure a place at a Special School.

Choice is vital but when it is no longer an option I worry – you have autism therefore you must go here. You’re a wheelchair user we can’t accommodate you. You have ADHD we can’t meet your needs.

These children are our collective responsibility, they are part of our community not someone else’s problem. I see much discussion on Twitter about closing the gap, the top 10%, the bright, poor kids – there’s an almost evangelical zeal to help this section of society (I am always suspicious of evangelistic help – I read Achebe’s Things Fall Apart) but actually our biggest problem is the growing numbers being sent to PRUs and at a younger age – how can we be excluding 6 year olds? Exclusion usually condemns children to a life of academic failure which can ultimately lead to prison.

Are we, as mainstream schools, becoming less tolerant? All students have an entitlement to be included in the right setting not the most convenient one.

And what message are we sending the other students? If we say we can’t cope, if we give up without even trying – they will see this as normal behaviour – I can’t help, you are too different, I will ignore you when you’re suffering as someone else will pick up the pieces.

I worry that we are becoming a divided society – creating gated communities and this (see below) preventing the vulnerable from sheltering.  (I wonder if this architect went to an inclusive comprehensive).


I think this person did though.


The current narrative is to blame the people rather than the poverty (see Teach First advert), blame the vulnerable rather than those who make the rules.

So Jarlath and Tom, I do agree, of course I do – you’re the good guys but I wonder if the boundaries of ‘normal’ seem to be narrowing with increased exclusion rates and a reversed trend for the first time in 30 years in inclusion – how typical does a child have to be to stay in mainstream these days?