Monthly Archives: February 2013

SOLO developments – #sologlobalchat ?

Hi, to those who read my blog posts. In the last 9 months I seem to have developed a reputation about being involved with the use of Solo taxonomy in my lessons. Am I a revolutionary? Visionary? No I’m a teacher, who even in his 25th year at the job knows he doesn’t have all the answers and wouldn’t claim to. As my use of Twitter has expanded and I access more ideas out there in Education-land, some make an impression and look like they may help my pupils to learn more and retain that learning.

At this point please note this is a cathartic review and may not offer much that’s new at this point.

I am a keen advocate of the term lifelong learning, because it’s what I do everyday. I learn some absolute trivia, but in there are some nuggets that I put aside somewhere in my brain or favourites, or e-mail inbox to return to later.

Last year I read about Solo, I read blog posts, I watched David Didau’s TMClevedon video. I searched out members of the #soloarmy and read what they’d done and thought this might just work.

As those of you who’ve followed my solo work, I started with trying out individual standalone lessons taking random topics suggested by the pupils to see if we could learn together about a topic and measure it in a single lesson. Yes we learnt about flesh eating “zombies”, Nicky Minaj, … I learnt from pupils I least expected to have the confidence to lead. We played with hexagons, we took a step outside the normal curriculum but it had a structure that lots of pupils hooked into.

I started to try more ideas in the first half of the Autumn term. I knew I had to test this idea out more comprehensively. So last November I commited to developing all of my Key stage 3 ego graphs lessons around SOLO structures. From my great friend John Sayers I looked at progress across a unit and not just a lesson although this was investigated too.

How to reflect on this work ? I blogged about my lessons which has set off more links and discussion with others. John, I and others from around the world had an international geogsolo twitter chat one Saturday (remember this idea). My work had also brought me to the attention of Tom Sherringham (@Headguruteacher) at KEGS in Chelmsford, Essex. We became 2 of the three organisers of a very successful Teachmeet Essex in November where I had my Head of Department Phill Crossley, James Abela from Cambs and Vic Goddard (Educating Essex HT) stood in front of about 150 teachers holding hands ( you had to be there).

By Christmas the blogging struggled to keep up and a new term was faced. End of term in class surveys had shown that 67% of my pupils found the SOLO structure helpful in how to extend their work. They had used self assessment, peer assessment and more discussion and modelling of answers to work at a key factor in our school, of better extended writing answers. For some it remains the challenge of using full sentences consistently. At the other end of the spectrum it encouraged my top pupils to go away and use extra case studies of their own to apply ideas learnt in class.
So where to go in the next half term? I decided a longer term strategy where pupils developed solo stages that used the same depth of learning and thinking as the levels they were targeting. Many had and continued to tell me to not confuse levels and solo stages. I agree but I was trying to find a compromise in between so we developed a common language in my classroom that allowed us to quickly identify how an answer could become more detailed. I am in the process of marking the latest assessment evidence, so I do not have clear conclusions yet.

Have I found my version of SOLO that works best in my lessons? No, not yet. I have many tools to explore yet. I need to read further around how the idea has been used by others. Am I convinced it was a good investment of time? Yes.

Next steps;

– under my performance management targets for this year I asked to set up a action research based pedagogy group to evaluate new ideas from outside our school. To trial them in classrooms and to see which ideas might stand further use across the school. This starts in March.

– talking at Teachmeeets about my SOLO development – my emphasis shifts to my developing use with pupils and as Tom (TMEssex) requested examples of pupils work / responses. This starts on 1/3/13 and I have 3 or 4 presentations due to be made in March.

– discussion with other SOLO practitioners – an example of this was last night 21/2/13 after #ukedchat where a link was posted from @deadshelley about his thoughts. Soon a crowd gathered and we discussed SOLO late into the evening. This morning there were links to a session being led in London this morning and a sharing of last nights post with Alice Leung in Australia.

How could more solo discussions happen? The hashtag is used well on twitter. Several of us blog about our classroom experiences. Alice asked if this was a regular uksolochat – we had these previously, but I find people referred to me onTwitter from across the globe. So our idea – a #sologlobalchat to be set up. It is likely to need to be on aSaturday lunchtime in the UK, spas many time zones as possible can be involved. No dates have been set yet but watch this space or get involved – this is just ONE teaching tool but it has global interest, let’s explore its potential fully.

Catharsis achieved.


The night before my appraisal which had been weighing on my mind a twitter pal @Gwenelope suggested try and see what people on Twitter think about me. It seemed very cheeky, but we tried it all the same. In the end I mentioned it, but did not share it in the meeting as their focus was on my impact in my own school. However I have said this on Twitter, but I was very grateful for the feedback and points raised by friends and colleagues.

So cheeky that I’m going to post screenshots of those tweets here:




Immodest to post the comments? I hope not. My blog is one of my ways of reflecting on my role and all the other stuff I do. It’s a good opportunity for me to reflect on what others think of me and whether they match the impression I think that I give.

Appraisal follow up

Last week, before half term, I had my appraisal of my TLR for Cross Curricular ICT. I prepared a detailed summary of the responsibilities I consider fall under my whole school post. The report was well received and my training and information role was praised. The area identified as needing development is the collection of data that will demonstrate the impact of my role from an “O” perspective. So, after half term it has been one thread that I have been considering.

Where could I start?

D’oh of course put a tweet or two out and see what comes back, within 5 minutes I had ideas offered – what a great resource. This week I have had ongoing discussions by email and today by phone linked to the charity Teacher Development Trust. I will come back to this as my practice develops and how we work to show the impact of CPD.

Posterous Demise and a fix

Half term has seen a number of varied discussions with colleagues on Twitter and beyond. The holiday started with the news that Posterous would shut from April 30. Various posts went back and forth on how to move files to other blog sites. I have to say much easier than I expected. I have now moved both of my Geogmemo accounts across into Mishmashlearning.

In effect three blogs in one. From Jan to Dec 2011 I completed a “365” photo blog which I have to admit was hard to sustain at times but gives a photographic record of a year of my life which is interesting ( for me at least! ) to look back on.

Near the end of 2011 I felt the need for a reflective blog but one that mainly I saw. This was running when I went to BETT in 2012 and met 2 or 3 twitter friends.

March 2012 I started the Mishmashlearning blog after using the name for two Teachmeets as an opportunity to share my myriad interests.

This has obviously increased the number of posts significantly. Please have a look at the pics and if you like any of the pics especially as a teaching resource – use them, just let me know.

BETT 2013

Well, 4 days later and time to post as I’ve now had time to reflect. I attended BETT on Friday 1/2/13 missing my school’s first day as an Academy. This year I’d applied for leave of absence back in October so that I could attend on the Friday and attend the Teachmeet if one took place.

After a while notice was posted about the TMtakeovers. I have now done a number of TM presentations so I was tempted by the idea. Dawn Hallybone and I had discussed getting a geography presentation together after my apps one at TMiPad in Nov. 2012. She already had a title ready “Geografree”.

DIgital leaders was another topic crying out for more BETT attention and after the RaspberryJamTM in July in Cambridge, Sheli Blackburn and I had agreed we should do a presentation together. I spoke with both ladies and book us in. There was a minor panic when Sheli was then booked up for the Stone stand. But we worked out that we could start together before she moved on to her next talk.

In 2012 I had met up with Penny Patterson and David goers via Twitter before the event and saw a couple of other people I had chatted to previously including Juliette Heppell. Would 2013 be the same?

Time dragged and I kept checking that yes I was still ok to go which was a relief as by now Pearson and Classroom Monitor had signed up to give us stand space. Luckily as both TMtakeovers would run one after the other the two stands were adjacent to each other.

Presentation ideas were stopped online and I promised to put the final slides together in keynote on my iPad. In the end not completed until Thursday – the night before. Meanwhile I had got a TMBett13 ticket in the first batch and signed up to help somehow. Digitalmaverick contacted me and asked if I’d take on the job of investigating how we could donate to Sandy Hook Elementary.

This was an interesting challenge, very conscious of not knowing if the school would accept contact after the events they had experienced. I searched online to find there is a fund being run through a bank in Newtown, Connecticut. One evening I rang the bank and had a good chat. I explained how we would like to donate the money directly for an educators award. They emailed me back the next day with the email of the PTA board’s VP. I emailed her and we established that the board would like to use the money to give grants to classroom teachers for additional projects. We agreed this would be a good use of the manner in the spirit in which we were offering our support. Digital Maverick made contact after me when the details of setting up this fund was discussed in more depth.

Now to prepare myself. Each year I have considered a t-shirt with twitter tag etc to make it easier for people to recognise me. The Sunday before I went to my local Staples store and ordered some personal business cards so I could make it easier to contact means attract more blog readers. That was easy to do. While they were organised I went into the local mall where I ordered two t shirts with some of my tags on ( these were not eventually ready in time). So no t-shirt. I know I could wear my A4 DIgital Leader badge – already on my profile pic and known to many from TM appearances.

Ok the day itself, an early start train then a local bus to see more of the area of London around the Excel centre I was there by 9 ( I never got to Olympia that early). A coffee and first twitter contact spotted – Edintheclouds. Mark was in a hurry and didn’t hear me. Then is potted Mary (EBD.) , Bev Evans, Bill Lord and someone I didn’t recognise – grumbledock without face paint.

An encouraging start. I’d planned my day so into the hall alongside Anthony Evans. I went off to explore stands at the far end of the hall. I made my way from side to side of the exhibition.a couple of time stopped by stands – the badge eliciting the comment ahh Andy Knill I follow you. This was very pleasant. I worked down until I passed Learnlive theatre E where Penny Patterson was setting up. A quick hello and on towards the Stone stand. Some of the people I sought were it at their stands a return visit or more would be needed later.

I watched Chris Sharples and the LLS Digital leaders presentation, meeting Johnnycake Ball and a number of other tweeters some of whom I did not recognise ( Daniel Harvey especially). It was good to congratulate the DLs and meet Chris at last. Sheli appeared and there was a DLN get together. Then off to Promethean to meet my advocate contacts. I agreed to be filmed for a company piece and also to discuss the new tablets on show.

I located the two afternoon stands for takeovers and got my bearings. Off again, more stands and arrive at Learn Live D for the DL piece inc ICT Evangelist Mark Anderson, another first face to face meeting plus Mike Lane, Tracey and other DLN members. The audience numbered about 120 and after met other familiar faces – Simon Warburton, Kev Bartle, Rachel Jones … This post is becoming a who’s who of tweeters – what a difference a year makes.

The afternoon – tmtakeover with Dawn on the Pearson stand inc an ex pupil fromMark Hall,Harlow (my last school) on the stand. The presentation was a hit and some follow up chat afterwards.
Off to Classroom Monitor and meeting Sheli to set up for second takeover. I bellowed, heckled- Sheli later referred to it as market stall approach. I was in my element and greasy enjoyed both talks. More I the afternoon watching friends present, meeting more people I know in the aisles or on stands. A DLN coffee meet up was nice when I demonstrated how an A4 laminated badge can save you when you spill your very hot coffee.

A drink with friends in the Fox nearby then back for Teachmeet Bett – how good would it be? Would my 2 min nano be selected? A good day became even more memorable – a fantastic range of presentations, more twitter mets, an Action Jackson mug, no my nano wasn’t selected. But. For me a new name – Raffle Guy. Mainly alone I sold raffle tickets in a energetic manner – best to ask for others of their impressions of this. Did I sell many? Hoped to at least match £250 from TMiPad. But eventually took £650. A great amount to pass on to Sandy Hook. Teacheat followed with a range of spicy Caribbean morsels then back on the train with Danny Nicholson to Essex.

WOW a truly great experience .

On reflection – I’ve already offered to sell raffle tickets for 2014 Teachmeet, do another takeover presentation with Dawn, take my school DLs up for a day and to make presentations. More twitter followers and people who have since realised that andy @aknill is also “raffle guy”.


TMTakeover Geografree


DLN meet up at Learn Live Theatre D

A modified A4 badge with bees


Watching the DLs from LLS at Stone computers – spot Johnny Ball on the right hand side, when I’d arrived he was chatting to the group.


If you know these two (lol) this was taken on my iPad while I was off selling raffle tickets – your moment of fame!

SOLO and using it all the time

I apologise to readers who have not seen many SOLO posts recently. I am still using it and I am including it as the framework for my teaching in all of my geography classes. I am now looking at piloting it in my ICT lessons once I’ve shown the Head of Department how it can be used and what it is !

Contact this week from teachers looking for people using SOLO in all lessons – @Gripweed1and @mike_gunn were sent some of my recent materials – I hope this can be the start of a SOLO collaboration link, especially as I’m now looking to take it into my ICT lessons too.

I am flabbergasted by some of the credit I receive for my SOLO work. I am still very new at this but I am keen to share and learn from each other.

Who’s on board for sharing practise??

We’d like to know about Digital Leaders

A busy week started with a rescheduled visit to Brentwood County High School to discuss what digital leaders are / do / setting up. It was an informal collaboration which I hope will grow into a strong link between our students. The initial contact came out of my nano (2 minute) presentation on Digital leaders at TMEssex back in November. I’d hoped to be selected o use the same presentation at TMBett13, but it was not to be.

I’d like to see this as the first step in recruiting SDLs (secondary digital leaders) in Essex and East London. If you read this and are intrigued, please take a look at the collaborative blog: which includes secondary examples from Mark Anderson (Clevedon, Somerset) and Chris Sharples (Pickering, Yorkshire).

Come on schools – join us – it’s free, we celebrate the skills that our students have and we also get to share ideas across many schools and primary / secondary phases.

Keeping in touch globally

This week while teaching about flooding with Year 8 we’ve had more floods in the UK and in Queensland, Australia. So having promised the pupils to not teach out of date examples from texts how could we resource this?

UK- I have made extensive use of the BBC news links online and the Environment Agency’s Floodwatch. We used comparative screenshots over a two day period to show fluctuations in the flood warnings and linked snow melt reference was made to the make snowmen advice given and why this would slow the release of water back into the drainage basin.


Queensland – I follow a few locals on Twitter after last years floods around Brisbane and Toowumba. I use YouTube footage of Toowumba's "inland tsunami" to show the results of flash flooding. So I have information from the area.



Our lead Humanities TA (G. Conroy) also contacted a friend in Queensland and passed on some photos taken of the floods – just after discussions about the need for rain. Well after the bush fires affecting Australia that’s not surprising, but maybe not this much rain

These resources will be used to conclude the unit.