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School trip to the WWI battlefields

James LRussell20 November 2015

P1010115-(2)Working in media/press at the UCL Institute of Education, I am dealing daily with issues and research around teaching and education. However, it is quite rare to get a chance to engage with schools, teachers, and pupils directly and witness the real-life aspect of the work that IOE is involved in.

I therefore found it a really interesting experience to be able to take part in one of the First World War Centenary Battlefields Tours Project (FWWCBTP) trips – a five year project running until 2019 by the IOE in conjunction with Equity Tours, and funded by the Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which allows every state secondary school in England to send two pupils and one teacher to the Ypres and the Somme to visit the First World War Battlefields.

It was insightful and hugely enjoyable not only to learn more about The Great War myself, but also to meet and the teachers and learn more about their jobs, the pressures and the satisfactions; as well as meeting some really engaged and bright pupils and witnessing how they immersed themselves into this experience.

The tours, which take place over four days, offer the pupils, who range in age from 14 to 18, the opportunity to see the First World War Battlefields, cemeteries and memorials first-hand. The aim of the project, as opposed to other Battlefield tours, is for the pupils to engage on a more personal level with the war; they are encouraged to research soldiers from their local areas who took part, and, where possible, any relatives from their own family. They then have the opportunity to follow the journey of these soldiers and locate their place of burial while in Ypres and the Somme.

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Is today’s educational technology (ed-tech) fit for purpose?

IrrumAli12 November 2015

ed-tech eventIs today’s educational technology (ed-tech) fit for purpose? That was the question posed during Tuesday 10 November’s panel session. A variety of speakers – academics, business leaders and UCL students – collectively sought to find out if there was an answer.

The evening began with short statements from the eight panellists, effectively answering the question before it had been ‘debated’. The starting points of the eight panellists showed how little consensus there is on how technology should work in education. Some argued that ed-tech needs to be productive for the teacher; it isn’t bespoke enough for what teachers are trying to do and often there is confusion about its purpose. Further comments pointed towards ed-tech’s lack of focus on the user experience.

Beginning with a challenge faced by ed-tech, the panel considered whether collaborative learning was enabled, or hindered, by today’s technology. The CEOs of tech companies on the panel argued for a more systematic, research-based approach to show its impact on collaboration, and suggested that there may be issues within higher education itself that work against its use. They also mentioned that teachers find ed-tech time consuming.

The two UCL students on the panel reported that technology is not currently being used to encourage collaboration, and that if collaboration is happening, it is not necessarily driven by the teacher. Meanwhile the academics lamented that managing content between technologies needs to be improved so that connectivity and collaboration become easier.

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English Grammar Day 2014

Sophie EPleterski29 July 2014

In a world where economics and technology dominate, what is the place of grammar in our society? Is it important?

The English Grammar Day 2014  (held on July 4) sought to tackle these questions. Organised by Charlotte Brewer (University of Oxford English Language and Literature) and Bas Aarts (UCL English Language & Literature) in association with the British Library, this conference brought together some of the preeminent authorities on language use: Debbie Cameron, David Crystal, Dick Hudson, Debra Myhill and John Mullan.

David Crystal

David Crystal

The event traversed the history of the “grammar debate” from Jonathan Swift’s Proposal for Correcting, Improving, & Ascertaining the English Tongue (1712) to Michael Gove’s new curriculum. Yet the overriding theme of the day was the teaching of grammar (or lack thereof) in schools.

Montaigne’s assertion that ‘the greater part of the world’s troubles are due to questions of grammar’ was perhaps hyperbolic, but as Dick Hudson (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) pointed out in the opening lecture, London is experiencing a literacy crisis. Citing an article in the Evening Standard from 2011 which claimed that one million people in London could not read, he discussed the consequences of the decline in the teaching of grammar in the 20th century. “From the 1920s to the 1960s grammar research died. The effect of a subject dying at university means that the next generation of school teachers never hear about it during their undergraduate years–a recipe for disaster”, he argued.

Each speaker had their own ideas of how this could be remedied, but the prevailing opinion was that a playfulness with language is imperative. As Debra Myhill observed, British humour is often based on grammatical nuance: grammar is the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit (not an example for the primary school kids).

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The Provost’s Teaching Awards and UCLU Student Choice Teaching Awards 2014

GuestBlogger11 June 2014

pencil-iconWritten by Luke Davis, Communications Manager (Education)provosts-teaching-awards-winners-2014

On a balmy Monday evening (9 June), all 22 winners of UCL’s two teaching award schemes headed to the UCL Institute of Child Health on Guilford Street to receive their well-earned teaching prizes.

The ceremony, which drew an audience of more than 200, gave colleagues, family and friends a welcome opportunity to hear more about the winners’ work and why they had impressed the judges.

UCLU Education & Campaigns Officer Keir Gallagher took to the stage to introduce the Student Choice winners, while UCL Vice-Provost (Education) Anthony Smith was on hand to review the achievements of the Provost’s Teaching Award winners.

The summaries painted a vivid picture of the scope and scale of work underway across the university, with several themes beginning to emerge.

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