It's time to make the jump

During the last few days of Christmas, I like to have a bit of a tidy down in preparation for the busy year ahead (see Jays post about what we are going to be up to). Whilst sat with a few remaining mince pies, and a big cup of coffee, I went through some of the photos from the last year or two.

One album really struck me, and made me think of a (fairly) good analogy to what we are aiming to do this year...and I thought I'd share it with you!

A couple of holidays back, I was fortunate to be asked by two great teacher colleagues to help with a week long adventure holiday with a group of year seven students in North Wales. Now, being and outdoorsy person (and also being born in North Wales) I have an affinity to anything like this...I agreed.

The idea in the main was to take students and help them develop confidence and bond with their peers. This was done through typically outdoorsy activities; zip wire into a slat mine, caving, orienteering, river running etc. The one that 'got me' was coasteering, particularly because I don't usually like water, but do REALLY like climbing things. So it was a pleasure, pain thing...

When the day came, we packed the students up into a couple of mini buses, my colleagues and I (along with the coasteering guides) drove to a little cove on Anglesey and off loaded kit and kids. After a briefing and making sure everyone was aware of what was involved we waded out into the sea. For those of you not aware of coasteering, its essentially a paddle around the coast line, mixed with rock climbing and diving...basically...paddle out, climb up a rock face / ledge then jump into the water...repeat until happy!

The way we did it was fantastic! The guide told us to start by simply climbing up onto a ledge (less then 10 cm out of the water) and jumping in. All the students jumped with no hesitation. A little swim later, and we came to the next jump, a little higher (probably about a chair height from the water). This time some students were a little hesitant, most jumped first time, some took a little longer. This repeated a few times around the rocks, each stage getting a little higher or more tricky to access. Each time though, a guide would lead, and one would stay in the water with those who didn't want a go at testing their jumping skills. 


A few students, a couple of staff (including me) had started to see this as a bit of a challenge...who would reach the end, who could jump the furthest out from the rock, who would scream (etc). In the end I shared a platform with one guide and one student (incidentally this student had, at the start of the week, been so terrified of jumping / heights he didn't take part in many activities). This particular student had listened to the guide at each stage, perfected a somewhat awesome technique for climbing what at this point was a cliff face, and had over come his fears. As I was gasping to the top of the last climb with him and the remaining guide, we were trying to work out who would go first (I had pretty much reached my limit of 'jumping at height into rolling waves' and secretly hoped both would back out. I neared the top, the guide began explaining what was needed for this final jump - to get far enough away from the cliff face to avoid the rocks, and land in the swell - it required timing and distance. This particular student, who I was at this point REALLY hoping would back out so I could take him down, nodded and simply said 'its like the others, but a bit different?' then sped off to the cliff edge and jumped! A young year seven who 4 days before didn't want to take part had beaten his fact totally overcame them, and had now landed safely in the swell this point was also chanting up to me!

Through a day of small challenges, each building on the last he managed to hone a great technique for climbing the rocks, he worked out a logical process in his head for overcoming the increasing distance between him and the sea, and had enjoyed every single minute of the trip.


The Analogy

Technology and its use (or its integration into teaching practises) is every similar to the cliff face, if we try to paddle out to the biggest cliff and attempt to climb it inevitably we will give up / back down if we haven't 'jumped' a smaller one first. The same can be said for using all the bells and whistles of mobile tech in class. If we try all the whizz bang stuff all at once it can seem a little overwhelming, scary, vertical-inducing. 

Instead, over this next year (remaining academic one at least) try breaking the 'big jump' into little ones...

Classroom Content

Perhaps start with changing a little bit of classroom content, the way you present your slides, detaching yourself from the leads to the projector or using the camera in class to act as a visualiser on screen...


Then take the next little jump...perhaps look at creating some simple tutorial videos of things you do daily (the often spoken line of 'I don't know what you did...'), or maybe set homework through a shared Google Doc or Padlet?


Soon you can take on the large cliff face of Assessment and Curriculum Design, looking at encouraging interaction / engagement through student devices, or look at using Facetime and iCloud to record lessons for evaluation.

In short, this year I have made it my new year's resolution to start to break big things into smaller achievable things building up to a 2016 of BIG JUMPS. Hopefully this time next year I can call upon your adventures into the world of Mobile-teering (bad pun?)

This year, share your journey with us! We are looking for guest bloggers / teachers / students / and people wanting to share their ideas and passions with technology. Drop me a message if you are interested! @thelearnmaker or email me