Kevin McLaughlin works as a Senior Lecturer in Primary Education at Bishop Grosseteste University Lincoln. Before that, he taught in Primary Schools for twenty years and also worked as a Deputy Headteacher in England and Spain. Kevin is also a Google Certified Innovator, Google Certified Trainer, and Apple Distinguished Educator.
Kevin wrote about personal journeys and learning zones for my books so I decided to reach out to him to discuss the state of education. We actually did the recording in January 2018 so this is a little late to put up but still “brilliant” according to Kevin. I added some excerpts from the podcast and his posts below.
About you and always wanting to be an artist – being a musician
In my spare time, I play guitar and have performed in many pubs in the places I have lived. I am also a drummer and I have played in 4 bands over the years – Down to Victoria, EQ, The Wedding Band and Lepanto Sessions. I started drumming when sitting in a pub one night, I was tapping along to ‘Double Trouble’, a blues band. My mate asked if I could drum, I nodded yes even though I had never ever played on a drum kit before and next thing I knew, I was in my first band, Down to Victoria.
Your journey as a teacher in Primary Schools for 20 years
I got into teaching quite by accident. I only ever wanted to paint and draw and had even got my own art studio in Derry. After another year ‘on the dole’ (unemployed) and making not much selling my paintings, I started voluntary work at my old primary school teaching kids art. I was supposed to stay 1 week and ended up there for 4 months, not just giving Art lessons but then ‘teaching’ other subjects. I graduated with a BA in Primary Education in 1996 and the rest is history.
I taught in an international school in Gran Canaria, Spain for 8 years. Almost every child was Spanish and they received a curriculum based on the National Curriculum in England. Apart from their daily Spanish class, they learned everything in English.
Personalised Learning and Personal Journeys (PJs)
I got into PJs by accident. I was very interested in how younger children learn by observing them so I took lots of notes. We used individual plans to keep them on track, and I decided to call them PJs.
Personalizing Learning is not something you can pick up and start in your own class tomorrow. You need to take into account most if not all of the following:
- It takes a lot of thought and effort.
- It takes time to build up a clear picture of every learner in your class and where they are in their own learning.
- It takes courage to stand back as a teacher and let the learning happen
- of its own accord.
- It requires a vision and belief that it will work.
- It needs careful planning but still allows for change at a moments notice.
- It needs the voice of the learner to be listened to, to steer the direction
- of the learning.
- It needs you to rethink your classroom layout.
- It needs you to rethink your approach to teaching and learning.
Angry Birds animation created by a child in my class from 2016
Let’s talk about the learning zones
Learning zones were based on the early years’ approach where children walk around the room to choose the best way to learn with the teacher as a facilitator. I needed to rethink the areas in the room for specific learning approaches.
In the corner of my graphic is my desk but I rarely sat there. The first area was #1 Discussion and Thinking zone which was where I modeled new concepts. Every morning they would be given their PJ and what is expected for the week and what they wrote that they expected of themselves. When they understood what they needed to do, they chose the zone they wanted to work at. #2 was the Discovery Zone when they have free time to extend their learning. #5 was the Creation Zone which is like a maker zone. #3 was the Show-Off Zone to show off their work. #4 Repeat Zone is where I was like the big boss using game-based learning and they could come to me to learn something through a game. The Free Movement was where they could walk where they needed or wanted to go. It was difficult at first but it worked really well.[https://barbarabray.net/2012/04/10/kevin-mclaughlin-shares-pjs-personal-journeys/]
Your current work as Senior Lecturer in Primary Education
My role as a Senior Lecturer in Primary Education has opened up a world of research that was just out of my reach as a primary teacher. My teaching approach has changed over the years and for the better. I barely remember the young, bright-eyed teacher I was when I first started in 1997. I’ve been at Bishop Grosseteste University since September and I am loving the opportunities it has provided me to further my interest in educational philosophy. I can now indulge my interests due to having access to a wealth of literature that continues to question my beliefs in education.
Creative approaches for Technology and Research
In 2007-08 I was trying to get Google Hangout to work from Spain to England where several of us were going to jam together simultaneously, but it didn’t work then. I’m looking at ways to bring music into my classes and may consider trying this again with my students. With my own lectures and seminars, I use Socratic for feedback and Kahoot for instant feedback to see what they learn. I also use Plickers that has A B C D orientation based on how they hold up the device and get immediate feedback. Students do a degree program for 3 years along with a mentor into the classroom. We want students to narrow down to what’s working and find out why some fads and gimmicks may not work. We use research-based approaches to make informed decisions to critically think and problem solves what to use in the classroom.
An example video from my ‘Teaching Tips in 30 seconds’ series of videos for educators
Division by ‘chunking’ instructional video
Kevin McLaughlin currently works as a Senior Lecturer in Primary Education at Bishop Grosseteste University Lincoln. Before that, he taught in Primary Schools for twenty years and also worked as a Deputy Headteacher in England and Spain. Kevin is also a Google Certified Innovator, Google Certified Trainer, and Apple Distinguished Educator. In recognition of his work with technology to improve teaching and learning, Kevin was awarded ALT ‘Learning Technologist of the Year 2010′ Award presented by Association for Learning Technology.
A favorite quote from Kevin is from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi author of ‘Flow, the psychology of optimal experience’.
“Most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person’s skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding.”