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Steve Wheeler

Steve Wheeler has spent his entire career working in educational technology. He is currently Associate Professor of Learning Technology at Plymouth University, where his research interests include social media and mobile technologies in education. He has conducted research into learning technology in all sectors of education and training and, having been invited to present his findings at conferences in more than 30 countries, he is truly a global educator.

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Publications by Steve Wheeler

Learning with ‘e’s

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Author Blog

Teacher Voices: Stewart Matthews

April 25 2017

Here's another post in my continuing series on teacher voices. I'm interviewing some of my former students who have gone on to become teachers. In this post, we hear from Stew Matthews, who graduated from Plymouth University in 2010. He is now director of computing for the Park Federation where he is responsible for the technology provision of several schools near London. In his busy schedule he still manages to teach specialist sessions in computing. You can follow him on Twitter at @ExmouthBull.

1) What made you decide to become a teacher? What/who inspired you? What were your motivations? 
The decision to become a teacher was an easy one for me. During my childhood my parents separated and during this time I had several times where I arrived in school in tears. My teacher at the time spent lots of his time helping me settle during those tough mornings and helped me to continue learning even when I was distracted by the events at home. His care and support meant a lot to me, so when it came to thinking about beginning a career teaching was my obvious choice. I wanted to return the support I was given and hopefully, during my career, I would be able to offer the same support for the pupils I teach (should the need ever arise)

2) What is the best thing about being a teacher in a primary school? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I love the challenge that being a primary teacher offers. My day can vary so much. I can be a sports coach during a PE lesson and an hour later I become a conductor of a class of 30 children playing musical instruments. I have never had two days the same, every day is unique and this keeps me on my toes. I also believe that primary teaching offers a unique option of playing a huge role in the lives of 30 children for a year (or more)

3) What does it take to become an excellent teacher? What characteristics do the best teachers have? 
I do not believe there is a magical formula for what could be an excellent teacher. Within my career I have been able to work with many excellent teachers. Some are extroverted, some introverted. Some had specialist subject knowledge, some had passions that went beyond the classroom (one teacher I worked with was interested in the emotional and mental welfare of pupils so introduced meditation and relaxation session with pupils). For me, in order to make an excellent teacher you need to remember what is most important: the pupils that are in your care. Above all else, the class (or classes) you have responsibility for should be the number 1 priority for every teacher. 

4) What do you consider your greatest achievement to date as an educator?
Being thanked by a parent for being their child’s teacher at the end of my NQT year. It had been a challenging year for me professionally (making the adjustment from trainee teacher to class teacher) but for a parent to thank me for a job well done made the whole year worthwhile. 

5) How can we improve education? If you were the Secretary for Education, what would be your first priorities? 
Priority 1) All people making decisions about education policy have to be from an education background. Many decisions seem to be made without a proper understanding of the impacts that will be felt within classrooms or by school staff. 

Priority 2) Focus less on test results and focus more on the overall wellbeing of a child. Save the in depth “technical” subject knowledge to be taught in Secondary schools and instead allow Primary schools to teach thinking skills, growth mindset and the skills to work as a team. All of this to be taught though child led subject engagement to keep children engaged in learning and to allow them to develop their own love of learning. 

6) What are the most innovative uses of technology in education (that you have done yourself, or have seen)?
The use of webcams to stream the hatching of eggs with reception children really allowed staff to break down the home/school divide and provided an opportunity for children to engage in their learning environment at home .

7) What is your favourite story or memory of teaching children you would like to share?
For me there is no single moment that stands out. My most enjoyable memories of teaching are those moments where you can see a child “get it.” They light up and suddenly are so much more passionate about a topic or subject. Seeing their enthusiasm explode and watch them begin to become more and more engrossed in their learning is just magical.

8) What advice would you give those who are just about to start out on the pathway to becoming a teacher?
Listen to advice. Experience is powerful in education. We all believe we are able to reinvent the wheel but at the end of the day 99.9% of our “new” ideas will have been trialled and tested by somebody. However, also be willing to take risks and challenge the ways things have been done. Improvements and changes can be made all around us. Never be happy with what has always been done. 

9) What will schools of the future look like? What would you like to see happening in the next 10 years?
I see schools working more towards the flexible learning model. Maybe not so much in Primary but most definitely in Secondary schools. Flexible learning from home, more focus on e-learning and modular curriculum units of work rather than a 2 year long course on a specific GCSE. 

Primary will still need the face-to-face interaction and nurture which we currently provide. I cannot imagine too much to change in Primary over this time. Most certainly not having teachers replaced by robots (something a child in one of my Year 5 classes suggested would be possible last term)

Overall the biggest change will be the focus on collaboration across vast distances. Tools such as Google for Education are already linking children across counties/countries and I see this being jumped onto even more by educators, allowing teachers to bring together children from across the globe to learn from each other.

10) What are the most significant challenges facing education right now?
Budget cuts and poor guidance seem to be crippling the education system. There seems to be lots of conflicting reports of how budgets are going to change and how many teachers/staff schools will have to lose in order to balance the books. Most politicians are well educated people, they need to remember who educated them and ensure the financial support is provided to keep the standard of teaching as high as possible.

Photo courtesy of Stewart Matthews

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Teacher Voices: Stewart Matthews by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's

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Coach class

April 24 2017

There's a wonderful scene in the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire. It's where English sprinter Harold Abrahams (who believed he was the best in the UK) has been unexpectedly and soundly defeated by former Scottish international rugby player Eric Liddell in the 400 m.

After the race, Abrahams is sat despondently in the deserted stands, holding his head in his hands. Suddenly, a voice from below interrupts his misery. Down on the track, gazing up at him is the famous athletics coach Sam Massabini. He says: 'Mr Abrahams, I know why you lost, and I can give you another 10 yards!' He goes on to explain to Abrahams that he lost the race because he was overstriding. It took an expert coach to observe this flaw in technique and point it out to the sprinter. Harold Abrahams improved his technique and went on to win gold in the 100 m at the Paris Olympic Games.

At the gym this morning I noticed several young people who have the potential to be great athletes - even world class - if they can get their techniques correct. They are at a very high level of fitness and stamina, but what are their throwing, running, jumping, or catching techniques like? One of the most important things that separates world class athletes from the rest is technique.

When I'm reading my students' work I often see technique errors. All of my undergraduates are there on their own merits. They have passed interviews and taken exams that indicate they have the potential to be great scholars. And yet quite a few fail to reach their potential as students of their subjects because they cannot apply their knowledge directly to the assessment. Some errors are trivial, such as spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. Others are more serious, such as not supporting statements, or making inaccurate claims. Other common errors are inconsistency, repetition, changing verb tenses, bad referencing, or simply failing to answer the question. Even exceeding the word count and running out of space can be addressed with some small lessons on how to reduce words whilst maintaining the meaning of a sentence.

All teachers have the potential to be great coaches. You need to know two things: Firstly, what does the assessment require? Secondly, what are the most effective ways to respond to the assessment task? My students often get hung up on the trivial aspects of their assignments, when in fact what they really need to do is convince their reader that they know what they are writing about and can articulate themselves confidently and critically. Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement, of five minutes spent talking about how they can improve their techniques.

So, next time, when you see your students struggling with their grades, step in and show them how to gain that extra 10 yards!

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Creative Commons License
Coach class by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's

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