Working in a 5,379 mile wide staffroom


‘There is just too much to remember’

‘I get confused between the didactic pictures and the institutional pictures’

‘I can never remember which quote goes with which person’

By the time the students started their practice paper in the lesson it was clear that the students needed some sort of revision tool. Something they could use to boost their recall. This dilemma is not new to anyone teaching exam classes! The clash between the volume of content required, the necessary development of subject skills let alone exam technique dogs any teacher of an exam class.

What could possibly be so difficult to remember?

I am currently preparing a year 12 class for their AS exam in Religion, Art and the Media on the AQA Exam Board. They need to remember examples of works of art and how they can be linked to different purposes, natures and expressions of Art. The students are good at remembering the difficult concepts. However, what they struggle with (understandably) is recalling specific examples of religious art to back up their reference to the concepts. Over the course we have studied a broad range of images to give the students a synoptic overview of the module. We have also focused on particular works of art in order to give real in-depth understanding. Remembering all this information can become a daunting task!

The solution came in a flash of inspiration!

It’s nothing particularly new or innovative –I’m going to provide the students with flashcards. One side will have the image on – the other side has the explanation. It was simple – I could contact our reprographics department and ask for some support in preparing laminated flashcards so that the students could carry this revision tool around everywhere with them. Reviewing the revision materials I had already made I worked out I needed something in the region of 25 flashcards.

You blogged about that?!?

The joy of the internet meant that I could go way beyond this. Rather than making my own template for flashcards I assumed there must be a template I could download from the internet to ease the process. Before long I was investigating whether it would be possible to create flashcards students could use on their mobiles or their ipods – specifically using this page by Mr. Coley.

This site offers a fantastic and simple step by step guide to creating your own flash cards which can be viewed on ipods, iphones or other devices. So simple that within an hour I had written 1 set of flashcards, loaded them onto my ipod touch and was busy working on a second set.

I cannot rave about this site enough. It has saved me so much work!! I was facing a weekend of fine tuning print outs, sticking print outs together or laminating them, cutting up print outs, ensuring the ordering was right in each set of flash cards I made, checking I had enough to cover the entire set, preparing a few more sets just in case some of the students lost their sets.

But now it is all done! The students just have to follow the instructions on the website (click here to see –although still a work in progress). Within an hour an entire class set had been completed. I had so much free time I made another 3 sets of flashcards. The issue of ‘Sir I’ve lost my cards’ is merely a few clicks away from resolution.

You can use the information on my school’s website to see the flashcards I have made if you are interested!

Good for you but what about the students, will they use it?

I only teach this group on a Friday so we will have to wait and see. However, I feel confident there will be uptake within the set of these cards.

  1. The students want to learn! Simple as that! They wanted a resource to help them and now they have one!
  2. There are 14 students in the set and nearly all of them have at one time or another looked at their phone in the lesson. They use technology. For example at the end of last term the students were asked to buy a copy of Lion the Witch and Wardrobe for their next module. 5 minutes later one girl piped up and said ‘Got it!’ On further enquiry she had not had, as I initially thought, a eureka moment, but instead had just searched for, ordered and bought a copy of the book which would be delivered the next day! Technology in schools is a wonderful thing when used in this way!
  3. Rather than carrying around a bulky set of cards for each module, they can simply find everything they need for revision on their phone or mp3 player! They can sit on the bus or in the car and revise! They can work at a desk and rather than lug 4 massive folders around they can just access their phone or ipod!

The 5,379 mile wide staffroom

The idea which I have used comes from the guides written by a man working 5,379 miles away in California. The internet suddenly makes this massive world traversable in seconds! His helpful advice and clear guides have meant that I have been able to perform the same task thousands of miles away to benefit my students. It has also meant that I have then passed on his ideas through my PLN through Twitter and blogged about it. It will also be going round my school’s email next week to show other staff how they might approach revision as the exam session looms!! So thank you Mr. Coley – my students will have benefited in their exams because of your sharing of ideas. I hope to emulate your approach as I pass this message on.

So what next?

As I mentioned I am forwarding this information to Twitter, blogging about it and then contacting staff in my school to pass on details.

Personally it has also opened up a world of ideas with regards to revision materials for other classes as well. Surely this is just the tip of the iceberg of technology based revision materials students can use! (Looking to investigate facebook resources though need to chat to school safeguarding team first!)

Thinking further afield, I am taking a trip to Rome and am thinking of asking everyone to download the itinerary to their mobiles before we go. I am going to use the process outlined on Mr. Coley’s page to provide the materials. That way if the students get lost everything is there on their mobiles! Not only can I give them information about the trip schedule, I can also give them information about where we are going and information about the sites we are going to see! Rather than shouting overt 40 people in the middle of Rome, I can give a brief intro and then suggest the students look on their phones for more information!

Reading Mr. Coley’s site made me wonder whether I am being read by someone thousands of miles away. I wonder just how big the staffroom is?


2 thoughts on “Working in a 5,379 mile wide staffroom

  1. It is indeed a large staffroom, I’m in Sydney, Aust. and have come to this post via Twitter. Thanks for sharing, I can see many staff at my school adopting this idea.

    • That’s fantastic news – there is something fantastic about the idea being shared between West Coast America, via the Uk and on to Sydney! Thanks for the comment! I will try and work out how many miles that makes it now!

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