A Guest Post by David Watkins, Head of Geography and Duke of Edinburgh Award Manager at St. Joseph’s College, Reading.
David has recently completed a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and is passionate about embedding excellence, high levels of challenge and metacognition in the classroom. You can find him on Twitter as @mrdavidwatkins
With the increasing challenge of the new GCSE and A-Level specifications one of our departmental aims this year has been to embed excellence. In order to achieve this we have adopted an approach based on Ron Bergers’s 2003 ‘An Ethic of Excellence’. Berger suggests that in order to develop an ethic of excellence the following principles should be adopted:
- Assign work that matters
- Study examples of excellence
- Build a culture of critique
- Require multiple revisions
- Provide opportunities for public presentation
Using a visualiser in the classroom has made our quest for excellence much easier. It allows us to easily display examples of excellence either modelled by the teacher or produced by the pupil. This ensures that pupils are aware of the success criteria before commencing the work and that they all aim for excellence.
Integral to this approach has been building in a culture of critique. In order for pupils to feel confident when having their work displayed to the class they need to adopt a mindset ready to receive constructive feedback. We have worked on teaching the pupils how to be constructive as well as ensuring a healthy dose of praise.
Once this culture was embedded more work naturally found itself under the visualiser – in fact usually everyone wants to have their moment! This allows immediate feedback from the class and the teacher in order for the pupils to make ongoing revisions. This is a great example of live marking and adds support and guidance to help all learners attain excellence.
Using the visualiser for modelling techniques has been particularly useful in developing geographical skills. Geographers need to develop a broad toolkit of methods and techniques in order to understand the world around us. When teaching how to construct a graph for the first time we now do it on the visualiser with the pupils following along. They match the steps and listen as I describe the process. This leads to fewer errors and takes much less time. They more confidently and accurately complete the task on their own once support has been withdrawn.
The process also helps to develop metacognition in our learners. As I complete the task, I am thinking out loud about the process that I am going through. I am instinctively informing them of the next task and why I am completing it in that order. This develops a more conscientious and questioning approach when they then do it themselves.
An added bonus of using the visualiser is that as a geographer it helps me to practise what I preach as I often now display handouts or question sheets on the board without having to reel off photocopies for every pupil. Geography textbooks suffer from going out of date very quickly as the world around us changes rapidly. I use the visualiser to show contemporary articles from magazines, newspapers and wider texts. Using the visualiser rather than photocopying is much better for the environment and saves money at the same time.
This is my second HUE HD Camera having had the previous model. The main advantage of the newer version is the ability for the camera to display a whole page of A4 or a textbook without having to elevate it on books as I did with my previous model. This makes it much easier to show the pupils a complete page or piece of work. The base is also much sturdier and the light is a nice feature. The camera was well priced and works straight out of the box. It plugs and plays into my school computer without any need to install drivers or hassle the IT department.