Thursday, March 01, 2007

Miles Berry - extending the primary school through learning platforms

Sat at the front in Miles's session which I'd plugged during my presentation. Appropriately for a primary school, I sat on the carpet at the front as it was so full. I've seen Miles present a number of times before and this is slightly different - perhaps bearing in mind the audience it was based much more around government policies and reports (the 2020 Vision Gilbert Review, Harnessing Technology, a fair few others which will be in his presentation when it's on the Naace web site) then the one for an audience at, say, MoodleMoot might be.
He's very up front about the main issue which could dissuade a lot of state primaries from taking what he's got to say seriously - namely that St Ives is a prep school, slightly smaller than average classes, a broadly similar socio-economic class (Surrey stockbroker belt) - but deals with this very well by emphasising the elements of good teaching which no-one can really object to:

...taking the best parts of what happens in the classroom and putting them online.
He's a very engaging presenter and backs a lot of his work up with statistical analysis & surveys (something I'd like to do more of) - done by himself and the kids, which is good to see.
Miles is an example of the sort of person who I believe should be doing the main sessions in the learning platforms theme - he's out there, "doing the stuff" and it provides a lot more "meat" for other sessions to take from. At this conference the Lead Presentations (non-parallel sessions) were the 'biggies' - Prof. Steve Molyneux on "Are LPs up to it?" and Andy Tyerman & Robin Ball from Becta on the Learning Platforms Framework. These are obviously relevant, but it feels (and it's just my feeling) that these were the non-parallel essential ones because they were a Professor and Becta - but to stimulate debate and inform other parallel sessions, someone like Miles would have given people real food for thought - plus he would have had more time to expand and develop his ideas - many of the parallel sessions felt really rushed (mine included, ahem...).
Informal feedback from other delegates showed that they didn't feel the main sessions told them anything they didn't already know - a feeling I recognise from previous conferences. Miles or someone in his position would have given specific, worked examples from the real world rather than just speculation (something I think the Lead Presentation was guilty of) or policy statements which have been heard many times before. The thing with general overview presentations is that most people at Naace are well aware of the issues - it's their job to be. Some specific, worked examples give one more to get to grips with and which would inform the more generic ones which could be offered as parallel ones. If this was a gathering of headteachers I'd make the Becta one essential as they all need to hear it - here at Naace it could easily be parallel so that people who didn't know enough about the framework could go - or is there a worry that it wouldn't be well attended?
Miles is now headteacher at Alton Preparatory school and is slightly less hands-on, but it was good to hear his experiences from St Ives being shared with a wider, more influential audience.

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