Tag Archives: academic

10 points to Gryffindor! by @Mroberts90Matt

A brand new year, a brand new start. In our school we have a new Senior Leadership Team with a new Head and Deputy. It has been great so far and I’m personally happy with how things are going in the classroom. My class (predominately boys) are responding really well to our Behaviour Management system (Class Dojo – would recommend) and my TA and I are very well organised at present.

As with new beginnings there will be new initiatives school-wide. In our school we have now adopted a House System. When this was first suggested by our new Head, I couldn’t help thinking of the popular story ‘Harry Potter’ and the houses that were in the school, Hogwarts. I pictured myself in a robe taking house points off some meddlesome children who were lurking around our Forbidden Corridor where a great, big machine waits to gobble up small children (otherwise known as the photocopier).

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Not one to dwell on sterotypes for too long, I have embraced this new idea with relative optimism. In fact, I more than embraced it, I wrapped my arms around it as I volunteered to be one of six Head of Houses! As far as I understand my role is to motivate and inspire the children in Dunham House to be their very best and aim to win the House Cup. I also have to give an assembly once a half term – slightly scary as it was my first assembly but it went well.

My impressions so far of the house system? I’m actually quite impressed by the impact that it’s had in such a short time. This was especially clear after the House Assemblies. When we returned to the classroom the class were so engaged and ready to learn. Last Friday the first weekly winners of the House Trophy were announced and children from Year 1-Year 6 celebrated their victory which was a brilliant sight (our house was 5 points behind in 2nd but it was still good!) I think like most new things it will take time to see the extent of this new system.

As it turns out, it is possible to look at an example where the House system seems to be making a difference. In the current TV series ‘Educating Cardiff’, it is there for all national television viewing audiences to see. We are introduced to four houses in the Welsh high school which seems to work in a similar fashion, a Head of House with a student House Captain and competing to win the most House Points. There does seem to be more of a pastoral role involved too which hasn’t entered our House System (I’m not sure if that is the end goal or if that is more for a high school system).

Does your school have a House System? If not, are there any other ways that your school builds links between Year Groups? Would it be something you would like your school to try out?

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Resolutions Part II – RQT Version by @Mroberts90Matt

As I sit in school on the 2nd INSET day we have (thank goodness) I browsed back through my posts on Teacher Voice and saw a post created near the start of last year called NQT Resolutions. Not one to miss out on building on something that was successful, I’ve decided to pen the sequel – RQT Resolutions.

It probably gets tiring seeing post after post about ‘resolutions’ at this time of the academic year but resolutions are an important concept in the development of an excellent teacher. Unfortunately this does not mean if you design and implement resolutions you will be an excellent teacher, but I do think it gives you a much better chance at this. In terms of what my resolutions will be, I have looked at my NQT goals for guidance as there is no point to the resolutions made last year if I don’t build on/improve them. Obviously, the RQT Year is a lot different to the NQT Year and my goals will reflect those contrasts. In sharing these, I hope that other RQT’s that have graduated to having an ‘R’ rather than an ‘N’ might get some ideas, find their thoughts confirmed to them or they were not planning to make goals but now decide to do so.

1. Keep my home-work life balanced

Now, if you did take a moment to have a peek at my NQT Resolutions you will have noticed that this resolution is exactly the same as my first NQT resolution, and it may well be the first on my list every year in my career. My family are the most important thing to me. I will certainly not be trading them for a successful career in teaching – I would change jobs before that happened. Obviously it can be done but it will require time management and careful a selection of priorities. I look around at some of the staff in my school who have families of their own and wonder how they can manage to do what they do! Now, at this stage at the precipice of my RQT Year, my wife and I have a 3 year old son and a soon-to-be 1 year old daughter – so it is busy times in the Roberts household! Yet, as long as I keep this goal foremost in mind I know it will be fine – it was last year (if not a little rocky in places)!

2. Get more involved

This leads on from one of my goals last year. As an NQT I got clear advice from many teachers to not volunteer myself for extra responsibilities (and this turned out to be sound advice). However, as I move to being a ‘proper'(ish RQT) teacher, I recognise that I will need to do a little more to support the life of the school. I’ve already volunteered my services for a couple of things so I’ll see how they go but it is something that I think will be beneficial. Today I volunteered my services as a Head of House, for a new House system the new Leadership want to try. It will involve me leading an assembly once a half term, or organise it, and take on more responsibility – looking forward to that! I’ve also volunteered to be a NQT Mentor if needed – I’m very aware I might not have some of the experience needed for that but the request was posted and I thought well, why not make my willingness heard? We’ll see with that one.

3. Lead a Curriculum Area

I guess this one stems from number 2 but I feel it deserves it’s own heading. Obviously with casting off the shell of an NQT I’ll be expected (or at least I WILL want) to take on the responsibility of leading a curriculum. I’ll personally want to make sure this happens to benefit my career progression and development. As far as what curriculum area I don’t know – I think that’s up in the air for now with the new Leadership anyway but we have meetings next week so I’ll hope for what I want to do…

4. Begin a Twitter account for the school

This is a bold new world for our school. We have had a Twitter account but no one has used it yet. Our new Head has used Twitter at his previous school and is keen for it to happen in ours – fantastic! So I would like to try and make that happen more to give the school a more global audience. Also, it will give the children in the school more enthusiasm to show off their learning, so I’ll need to try to gather things from around other classes also!

5. Improve children’s progress in Reading

With being in Year 6 – I can’t help myself looking at results. As a school we had some pretty great things happen – the SPAG was fantastic, Writing was where it should have been, Maths was not as good a last year but better than expected. To be fair, Reading results were excellent too but I feel in my class (and my analysis shows it) some children did not achieve what they could have, despite reaching the national expected level. Therefore, I want to try and develop my teaching of Reading so that my class this year progress better across all abilities. I’m going to be working with the Head of Literacy in Year 6 this year who is brilliant with stimulating reading in her class so I’ll be able to learn from her experience.

Well there you have it – a humble RQT’s resolutions to make their second year of teaching as productive and effective as their first – hopefully a lot more plain sailing too but we all know how this profession works…

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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/90549040@N08/8258748688″>believe</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Green for GO! by @Mroberts90Matt

As the eagle eye of you may have noticed – I have not written a blog post for quite a while, most of the holidays in fact. I decided to take step back from EDUCATION for a few weeks, just so my family knows I still exist – you know, those people who I love the most in the world.

Anyway, this one is a short post sharing a thought I’ve had that is not original but I would like to try out in the classroom, then I’m hoping normal service will be resumed from next week.

Ever since I guest published on Teacher Toolkit just over a year ago about self assessment I’ve been trying to think of ways that I can integrate the principles of self-assessment into my teaching and learning without detracting time from the lesson and, at the same time, making it useful to inform my teaching in my Year 6 class. I’ve tried a few things over my NQT Year and toward the end of my ITT which have had benefits but also downfalls. As we go into a new school year, I have read that if a teacher does not do anything new or differently, they are not progressing. So this is what I’m thinking of doing…

I’m pretty sure most educators would know what I’m thinking about when they see the above picture. What I want to try is to have each child have a green, yellow and red paper cup in front of them and, during the activity in the session, the pupils display whichever ‘colour’ they feel they are at in their learning – green they are confident and may even want a challenge, yellow they are going ok but want to work on it a little more and red they are struggling with the learning going on and want a little support. In my mind, this is a marvellous idea…

Yet, in the back of my mind, I know there must be something that will make this a hindrance. Maybe the cups will be a distraction on the desk? Clearly there would have to be some sort of agreement between myself and the students to ensure that the cups are not misused, lost or damaged (they cost money you know, shall I send the bill to your parents etc). Maybe they could sign their cups at the start of the year, Starbucks-style, so they would have some ownership over the cups?

I’m sure there are probably other downfalls that I might not have noticed – has anyone had experience of using this self-assessment tool? Has it worked incredibly well? Any tips on how to make it work really well? Anyone think that this is a horrible idea that has no hope in working? Would love to hear your thoughts!…

Mathematical Fluency Part Three by @Mroberts90Matt

This is the third in a three part series around developing Mathematical Fluency (which has been highlighted as a key aim in the National Curriculum) in teaching and learning. The previous posts have dealt with using technology to enhance pedagogy and allow children to take on the mantle of the expert. The other discussed developing children’s conceptual understanding which would allow children to apply those principles with greater authority.

3. Problem Solving

One of the most potent forms of developing mathematical fluency is giving children the opportunity to apply basic skills in as many problem solving activities as possible. As a profession, I think we have a tendency to go through the basic concept first and then (and only then) introduce the idea of applying these skills into problems that relate. However, recently I planned out a few sessions focus on teaching volume to my Year 6 (a brand new concept for the vast majority of my class). The results have been really pleasing – not because they can just apply a formula I’ve given them, but because they really have grasped the concept.

The Golden Cube

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With a variety of Maths resources in front of them, I asked my class to close their eyes and picture the following problem as I verbally told it to them:

The Golden Cube Problem

“You create a larger cube from a number of smaller cubes. You decide to paint the outside of this larger cube all gold, every face. You go to put this golden cube on the windowsill to dry but you trip and drop the cube. When it hits the floor, it breaks into all the original smaller cubes. How many cubes have 3 faces painted gold, how many cubes have 2 faces painted gold, how many cubes have 1 face painted gold and how many cubes have no faces painted gold?”

I gave them no more guidance on how to solve the problem – and of they went. Little did the children know that they were not only developing their understanding of 3D Shape, but they were beginning to become aware of volume. As can be seen below, different strategies were used and we discussed that learning moment too:

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So, with the problem solved and some challenges completed along with that, the next session I asked the children how many base 10 cubes (because that was the main resource that was used) made up the cube. 64 cubes. What were the dimensions of the cube? 4x4x4 – what do you notice? The number of cubes used can be calculated by the dimensions of the cube. Visualiser up, we tested that hypothesis with a couple more cuboids. It worked. The children then went into pairs and worked on created cuboids which the partner had to calculate how many cubes were used to create the cuboid by just being given the dimensions by the pair creating the cuboid. I would include photos but they contain children focusing intently on their learning!

Finally, after discovering that we could create different cuboids with the same volume, the children then moved on to calculating the volume (and also a missing dimension when given the volume) on a cuboid given to them not to scale. The children, because of the problem solving activities that had gone before, were so fluent in applying the formula and working with it to suit their needs. These questions also involved converting measurements in the question and subtracting chunks of the cuboids that had been taken out. However, because of their grounding in the concept of volume, their fluency in applying the knowledge to a formula, these did not raise a problem.

Of course, after this three part series, I’m sure others to add ideas to getting children to teach, developing conceptual understanding and using problem solving. Please, if you have done anything in the classroom that has developed mathematical fluency really well, please don’t keep it to yourself, share it!

Mathematical Fluency Part Two by @Mroberts90Matt

This is the second in a three-part series that I have developed when I have been thinking about Mathematical Fluency. Fluency in Maths has been highlighted as an aim in the National Curriculum and it is down to us as educators to ensure children are equipped with the tools needed to access such fluency. Last week I posted about the power in children teaching others to develop their fluency. This week I will focus on building their understanding of concepts and in the final week I will unpick problem solving.

2. Conceptual Understanding
When we teach children methods in Maths, there is a danger that we overlook teaching them why we do certain things. A classic example is teaching a written method for addition. When children are eventually taught the standardised column method (as in the Appendix of the National Curriculum, following on from non-formal methods such as the number line) they are taught to ‘carry over the one’ or some other vague comment meaning we carry a remainder over from the previous place value. Do all children understand that ‘one’ is actually a hundred being carried over from the addition in the ten column? Maybe, maybe not. It is such conceptual understanding that is vital in developing the mathematical fluency in a child’s knowledge of working with number.

Recently, as mentioned last week, our school had an Ofsted inspection. In a discussion with Year 5 pupils, the understanding of this sign was brought up ‘=’. The children were fine with this (x+5=9, what is x?) but there was slight confusion when this problem was shown (x+5=6+y – what is the value of x and y?). These children, according to National Assessments, were competent mathematicians. The problem was not in being able to ‘do’ Maths but in ‘understanding’ – that ‘=’ doesn’t just mean ‘makes’ or ‘comes to’ but literally means ‘is equal to’. Our school has an extremely high proportion of children who speak English as an Additional Language so it may come as no surprise that the most challenging area in Maths might be in language and terminology rather than in ‘doing’ the Maths.

How do we help develop children’s conceptional understanding rather than just training them in the ability to go through the mechanics of methods? There will be a number of ways. Recently, my wife became an Usborne Independent Organiser. Basically she promotes a love of reading through organising parties based around the Usborne Book Publisher and tries to generate interest. In the Beginner Pack she received, there was a ‘First Illustrated Maths Dictionary’. See link below:

First illustrated maths dictionary

http://www.usborne.com/catalogue/catalogue.aspx?area=MTH&subcat=MD&id=5913

This was the first I had heard of a ‘Maths Dictionary’ (and this post is not to sell the book to you, I’m sure many other Maths Dictionaries are available – although if you would like a copy then let me know ;P)

Having had a look through it, I thought it was a brilliant book! Very colourful, engaging and goes through concepts found in the National Curriculum. There is also a 7+ version and 11+ version. These publications go through the language used in Maths (including the ‘=’ sign mentioned before) as well as many other mathematical concepts. I think this is another medium through which we can try to develop children’s mathematical fluency by consolidating their conceptual understanding.

Are there any other publications that you are aware of that could support children’s Maths understanding? It is pretty clear that if we develop children’s conceptual understanding then this will improve their fluency – but do you have any ideas or techniques that have worked in the classroom?

We Asked Nicky… by @Mroberts90Matt

Today I stumbled across an event that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed up until half an hour before it!

A chance to ask questions to and hear instant feedback from the Secretary of State for Education! I’m in! And in I was…

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45 minutes later and what had we learnt? Well, I’ll try to give my rundown of what I learnt – I’m sure many people will have picked out other things so this will not be an exhaustive list:

1. Teacher Recruitment has been recognised as a need

This was helped by the fact that just before this went live, a study was revealed that teacher training applications have dropped by 12%. I think that there are some pretty obvious answers that could be given to go towards solving this issue – all falling under making teaching more appealing or attractive – but at least it has been noted and something will be done to entice and inspire more people to become excellent teachers.

2. Nicky Morgan must not have a clue about the current climate of others’ educational views

When asked why there was not as much educational discussion in the General Election campaigns, we were told that this was probably because there was a lot of agreement on education. I am presuming this was referring to agreement amongst the political parties. I know someone who was running for Parliament for Labour in another region…this was clearly not the case. Labour do not have the same views in education, as far as I am aware with my fairly limited knowledge of politics. That one went past me…

3. Contradictions surrounding teaching as a ‘profession’ and allowing unqualified teachers

One big issue I have with the current government and their policies on education is free schools – and the main thing I have issue with free schools about is the option to employ unqualified teachers. We are being constantly told to raise standards and achievement in schools (and rightly so) but how can this be accomplished if more and more people who are unqualified to teach are teaching the nation’s upcoming generation? Nicky mentioned a few times the need to restore teaching as a profession…this will NOT happen as long as teachers do not need to be qualified – it is a major contradiction!

4. No budging on EBACC

When quizzed about EBACC and allowing the arts to have more weighting in the curriculum, this was pretty much rebuffed – the reason being that Universities are looking for the traditional academic subjects…but as was very well pointed out ‘Not everyone goes to University’. I love Maths, I can really get into English, I am fascinated by Science – but there MUST be an opportunity for a wider range of subject content. Nicky did point out that up until KS3 children should be getting a broad and balanced curriculum and then students can decide to have options in the ‘art’ subjects. Yet – as a Year 6 teacher – I know that even at the end of KS1 and KS2 (because of assessment and data) it is not as broad and balanced as it should be.

Q: Will there be any changes made as a result of this live discussion?

Probably not. I would have loved to see Nicky hear some of the comments given in and sincerely think about what could be done differently to what is currently being done (because some things do need to change) – but I was probably a little naïve for thinking that would happen in this setting. Maybe something said will spark a thought, maybe not – but something that was said promising to hear…

One of Nicky’s self-prescribed appraisal targets is to listen more.

Will this ‘listening’ be a “that’s very interesting, now let me go and do what I was doing before” or a “hmm…that’s an interesting idea, maybe we can work with that”? Hopefully it will be the latter and I for one quite enjoyed the opportunity to hear our Education Secretary speak and voice her side of things, rather than the cynicism that can be down heartening about education.

We will soon see…

Too Much to Report by @Mroberts90Matt

As the Whit Half Term Holiday begins, so does the realisation that most of it will be spent focusing on reporting to parents how their little darlings have learnt, behaved, achieved, disappointed, excelled, shocked…all in all performed in (mostly) one room every weekday for most weeks of the year. Where to start…?

As I have sat and contemplated over the past week on how to tackle this overwhelming but exciting prospect, I’ve realised that this is an almost impossible task, for the following reasons:

1: Consistency

The things that I write in these reports are meant to be a reflection of a child’s entire year of learning in school. Ok, we have had two parents evenings and, where necessary, homework diaries to keep them informed up to now anyway so it shouldn’t be totally new news. Yet, this is an end of year report, not just a way to avoid having a Parents Evening in the Summer Term. So one would presume that everything should be covered and we should give an accurate snapshot of the child in school for the year.

However, things change. They are changing even as I sit and tap continuously on this battered, tortured keyboard. A perfect example happened just this week! By Thursday I had already written three reports despite Ofsted being in for a subject specific inspection this week (was feeling very impressed with my productive self). So as the day ended on Thursday and I was in my PPA Time, my teaching assistant popped in to give some news (never a good sign on a Thursday afternoon in my PPA Time). Four boys had been rude to another child in Maths and were being spoken to by the Head of KS2. I guessed three of the boys and said that I would also speak to them, but I could not think who the fourth might have been. When I heard the child’s name I literally dropped my jaw. HIM?! “But he’s been brilliant all year!” I exclaimed. The TA agreed wholeheartedly but assured me it was the case because he was seen and admitted himself he was involved. Not only this, but this child had also deliberately upset another boy. His words: “Yeah, I wanted to upset him.” (This being whilst the other boy was in tears)! I was astonished. Then, I remembered that I had written the report for this boy – and I had written that he was a perfect example of behaviour in and out of the classroom and could be counted on to always do the right thing…So now what? Do I change what I am sending home as a reflection of his whole school year and overlook this deliberate act of emotional maliciousness? Do I mention it as something to work on? This, I think, is one of the problems with report writing, it will be impossible to paint an exact picture of what the child’s year has been like as children do not learn, progress or behave the same way throughout the whole year.

2: Brutual Honesty, Woolly Statements or somewhere In the Middle?

I’m certain that those of us who have written end of year of reports may have wanted to say something like: “Your child simply can’t be bothered, has a detrimental impact on their peers learning, has the amount of respect for adults that I would expect a virus to have and just not a very likeable human being.” Now I would say that I would never make such comments about an actual child even to other members of staff that may feel the same way – but this illustrates a point. I am currently considering a report for a child who (whilst they are nowhere near the description above) has some areas to improve on in their attitude to learning. Surely if it is said to softly that message may not get across with the impact we need it to have. But, of course, if I were to receive a report like the one mentioned above I would wonder why that adult was being allowed to work with children (again, I have not even had those thoughts about an actual child, just to make that clear)!

3: Painting the Big Picture

I’m starting to liken the End of Year Report as a completed paint canvas. When we get the class at the start of the year we have a blank canvas, a new year to experience excellent education and create a masterpiece. We need to give the completed painting to the parents, to be able to say “This is where your child is now.” However, what I’m finding is this is most difficult because a painting is not made instantly, it is made brushstroke by brushstroke. Each little experience followed by another. It is impossible to accurately describe how their child has learnt over the year. We have books and data to help us orientate ourselves with how well they’ve produced an outcome, or done in a particular test, but not the journey itself. One thing I plan on doing to help me with this is to create an easy to access record where I can note down good things children in my class do on a day-to-day basis so when I write the reports at the end of next year I have this to refer back to and mention great things the child has done throughout the year.

These are just a few thoughts I’ve had – I’ve done 3/10 of my reports, so I’m getting along – I now need to try and get more done but make sure it is one they will remember for the right reasons.

How do you make your End of Year Reports memorable? Do you have any ways of making them effective snapshots of your child’s learning in the class?

SAT in the SATs (Mock ones anyway) by @Mroberts90Matt

Last week we carried out a couple of practice SATs assessments in our school in order to give the children a chance to get used to the process, protocols and procedures of those oh so very important tests they would be taking on in the coming weeks. As we prepared to start the time, I looked out across the hall filled with those 10-11 year olds. Every single pair of eyes was transfixed on me or one of the other two adults at the front of the sea of students. I could not help but think…”Why are these children being forced to sit in such stringent conditions?”

There were many of those eyes that looked nervous. What have they got to be nervous about? The answer, for me, is clear. There is an undoubted amount of pressure on these children. Pressure from themselves because they honestly want to do the best that they can. Pressure from their parents to reach their potential. Pressure from the teacher to achieve their best because they do care for the child’s future and because they want to be seen as having made an impact. Pressure from the school to achieve results which show they are a ‘good’ school…and so on.

Is there not another way? I’m sure many others had deliberated about ways to get an accurate, national snapshot of children’s attainment. I’m sure those others felt as uncomfortable as I did when I looked out over that collection of nervous faces…

And yet we are set for another 5 years of a Conservative Government. What will this mean for assessment? With discussions over resits in Year 7 for those children who fall behind and previous discussions on Times Table Assessments and a Year 2 SPAG Test to name a couple, it does not sound like the assessment culture will be easing up any time soon. The question now is – what do we as educators do to work with the situation? How can we motivate the children we teach to in the face of looming formal assessments? It must be possible – what are your thoughts? As a Year 6 NQT Teacher, any advice is very welcome!

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Temple Run in Writing by @Mroberts90Matt

Once again, another attempt to get onto the blogging bandwagon – however, we are into the midst of the Easter Holidays and I am fully aware of the fact that when we get back into the run-up to SATs, this will fall flat on it’s face again…

Just a quick post to share another idea. This was not my original idea but it’s one that created a lot of enthusiasm for writing so why not?

In January we began our Topic on the Mayas and so I was contemplating ways to link our writing into the Meso-American civilisation. Ancient temples, mysterious lands, ancient artefacts, varied landscapes…I then thought of this:untitled

Of course, when I mentioned that we were going to use Temple Run as a stimulus for writing the children were hooked immediately! Then I showed them news stories about how film makers were looking into creating a ‘Temple Run Movie’ (see http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/warner-bros-david-heyman-bring-650948 as one example of a possible example). Instantaneously this created discussion, talk, communication – How? What? When? They expressed that it would be a boring film because all the game involved was a man running away from a monster…

We used post it notes children to consider some questions: Who is the man running away? What is the creature in pursuit? Why is the creature chasing the man with the idol? Why is the idol so important/valuable? Where is this Temple? What traps did the adventurer have to avoid? When did the creature start to chase the man – before or after he grabbed the idol?

After these discussions, in pairs, the children used a six block storyboard to assist them in building a story, using the ideas that had been generated with peer-assessing along the way. There was only one condition: there had to be two boxes that involved traps in the Maya Temple which could build suspense in their story.

The results were amazing. Unfortunately they are at school and I am not so I will have to upload some examples later – but I would strongly encourage using this idea (which again is not originally mine – see Lee Parkinson’s excellent blog for the original – http://mrparkinsonict.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/using-popular-ipad-games-as-stimulus-in.html)

Teacher Voice Weekly Poll w/b 1st September 2014

The last results of Teacher Voice Weekly Poll were quite split – what is considered the most effective method of CPD? The most popular option was observing good practice. Interesting results considering which options are the most used in schools…and they tended to be viewed as the last effective!
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Anyway, onto this week! The basis of this week’s question comes from the petition I signed and posted about concerning teachers receiving free access to academic research journals on education. As I mentioned in my blog post I’m sure we wouldn’t say no to free stuff. However, the focus of the poll is if you think that you personally would benefit from having free access to these e journals and if it would positively impact your practice? If not then we can assume that it would not be worth the cost to make them freely available.

As always, please take the few seconds it does to vote and then invite others to take part. The more teachers that are heard, then the more likely it is that we can influence educational change!

Photo Credit: Blue Square Thing via Compfight cc