Innovation Day: Student Reflection

After organising the revelation that was ‘Innovation Day’, based on Google 20% time, last Thursday (8th March) at Wilmslow High School I asked the students who participated to give some open and honest feedback to a number of questions via the school’s VLE.

In this post I would like to share with you their responses to this  important question:

‘Has Innovation Day changed your opinion of HOW YOUR LEARNING should happen? Why?

My aim here was to get a glimpse into their mind on how they like their learning to be organised; do they prefer their normal, rigid, traditional 50 minute chunks of lessons or longer periods of project based learning.  Now, I understand the bias these students may have, given they chose to be involved in such a day where they design and execute their own projects, but this was their first opportunity (as far as I am aware) to control what and how they learn for an entire school day.

The students were a complete mixture of abilities (i.e. different sets for Maths, English & Science) with a variety of interests and talents.

So here are their unedited responses:

”I prefer to spend a long time on one project rather than 50 minutes on the same thing so that you can really concentrate on making it perfect”

”It is great to have a whole day to use for something you wouldn’t normally do in school. It is also good to choose when you have break so then if you are stuck with something you could have a break then go back to it”

”I am happy with the normal school times but I think it would be nice if we could have innovation days two or three times a year”

”I do prefer longer time periods opposed to 50 minute lessons because if you do not understand something, you might understand it by the end of the lesson”

”I am happy with just the 50 minute lessons but I would like to change my timetable because I don’t get enough time to do anything fun in art because its only a 20 minute lesson really”

”Yes, because, when you have more time, you dont rush, so you make less mistakes and your finished product is neater”

”Depending on certain projects.  In my opinion, I think some of them should be in longer time periods because if you don’t get it done in time, then there’s not much you can do”

”Yes I do prefer longer projects than 50 minute lessons because nothing compares to the great feeling of success when you finish a long hard project”

”I prefer longer time periods of project based learning because it means you can spend longer planning it, thinking about it and concentrating on it so you can produce a better piece of work at the end of it all”

”Yes, because you feel like there is no pressure (compared to 50 minute lesson)”

And this one, in some detail, from a talented, intelligent yet bored and frustrated Year 10 student.  This, let me assure you, is completely unedited:

”I have always believed the whole idea of GCSEs are terrible, you don’t learn anything, you just do stuff to pass a test.  This is why you get some students getting A*s in Science when, sometimes, they struggle to think for themselves.  GCSE’s are about how much you can regurgitate for an exam; they do not test any actual ability in the subject and often lots of the subject is wrong as it is dumbed down for the low level that GCSE is.  You could get a full A* student who goes into a scientific job, for example at CERN – a high level scientific job, and they would not be able to handle it as they would be treading on new ground, handling new things they had not already revised and some people are so dependant on being told how to think they cannot solve problems and struggle to complete a task without direction.  A better way for exams to be carried out would be mock real life situations in which a student is graded on their performance in that situation and the work they produced in it and by the result they got. This is all because i am frustrated of wanting to learn things and being told that won’t help you pass your GCSEs”.

Hopefully these thoughts (especially the last one) will make you question how your school day is organised.  Should we change it?  Should we have space in the curriculum for personal projects like successful companies Google, 3M and Atlassian have embedded into their culture?  Indeed, if world class companies create time for their employees to experiment, doesn’t it make sense to build time into the school timetable for such opportunities to generate world class students for these world class companies?

This idea seems common sense, but unfortunately, not common practice!

For example, how about on one school day a week students and teachers drop their text books and whiteboard pens to collaborate with each other on projects that excite and create passionate, deep learning on a grand scale? I think this would only have a positive effect on examination results anyway?

It will cause chaos in schools initially with organisation and resources but surely we have to challenge the staus quo and adapt and progress to produce a world class experience for the whole school community. In other words, we should aim to revel in this new found incompetency and co-design these experiences with students, parents and teachers with a clean slate and a fresh perspective.

Because surely, the primary purpose of education is to allow students (and teachers) to discover and pursue their passions….


PS.  I will blog in more detail about what was created on Innovation Day later this week…

New OFSTED tips via @paulginnis

These are direct quotes from tweets made by Paul Ginnis (@paulginnis), author of the ‘Teacher’s Toolkit’; if you have not used this book there will definitely be some teaching and learning guru in your school who has a copy.  It’s a great book to dip in and out for creative ways to engage kids in the classroom.

So here we go:

‘I discussed current inspections with a trustworthy inspector & HMI today. Very encouraging – much less rigid about lessons than I thought’

‘I asked the HMI what he most looked for in a lesson. He said ‘independent learning’ is top of the list. There’s too much spoon-feeding’

(Basically, make them think and think hard with opportunities to discover things for themselves)

 ‘HMI said ‘next is differentiation, which takes many forms. We are looking at the quality of individuals’ learning’

HMI also said lessons that just inch towards NC levels or exam targets will only be good. Outstanding involves a love of learning

‘Learning outcomes need to be clarified at some point, when it’s apropriate. I like it when the students can tell the teacher what they are’

‘The HMI said he starts to get twitchy if the teacher is still talking after 10 minutes into the lesson’.

‘The inspector & HMI stressed that observed lesson segments will be viewed in the context of overall planning and longer term pupil progess’

‘They confirmed that pupil engagement is the key & that plenaries are by no means the only way to make progress explicit

‘The HMI said some lessons contain too much assessment & not enough learning’

Hopefully this is useful information to have and can inform our future planning and delivery of ridiculously outstanding lessons (just like we do on a daily basis anyway!)