Climate education and school sustainability inset training video for secondary school staff

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I've been watching the climate education and school sustainability inset training video for secondary school staff from UKSSN / GAP / Transform our World.  It sets out to provide a brief overview of the key issues and why all school staff need to take action. You'll find it here.

As the NAEE weekly news round up explains, it covers Climate Science (c/o AimHi), Emotions (c/o Thoughtbox), School Operations (c/o Let’s Go Zero), Curriculum (c/o the NEU), Partnerships (c/o Purpose) and Diversity & Inclusion (c/o Sheffield Environmental Movement and Black & Green Ambassadors).  There's also a call to action from former education & environment minister Lord Jim Knight, and a variety of messages from staff and students from the UKSSN networks.

I should say, perhaps, that I did not have high expectations for this venture.  Not because of the organisations involved, but because of the inherent difficulties in producing a 60 minute video that would be useful to all the country's secondary teachers.  The very idea that they would take the time to watch it seems implausible, but then the compilers envisage a cascade effect whereby one teacher encourages its wider use amongst colleagues.

Then there was the notion that one video could meet the very many needs of so many individual teachers each of whom works in a specific content quite unknown to those producing the video.  It's surely the essence of effective INSET that the resource is tailor-made for those investing their time in the experience.  The impossibility of doing this through an off-the-shelf video seems clear.  But then, to brand this resource as INSET is a mistake.  It's better seen, perhaps, as a resource with awareness-raising potential.

Significantly, however, most of it is not really raising awareness of climate change; rather its purpose is to raise awareness of organisations and initiatives (large and small) that might be of help to teachers in schools who want to do more about climate change or to do what they currently do better.  Although the introduction to the video talks about providing ideas and tips, these mostly relate to the organisations schools might work with.  As such, parts of it may well be useful for any teacher who works their way through it.

And work their way through they will have to do as there is no signposting.  If, say, you're particularly interested in what the NEU has to say, you just have to wait about 31 minutes for Kevin Courtney to pop up onto the screen.

A lot of people on the screen are selling themselves or their organisations by stressing what they offer.  Fair enough.  Some do this with flair and wit; most do not.  Far too many rely on a "talking head" to do the communication.  It would have been much better had more of them taken Rachel Musson's approach of using a powerpoint display for the majority of the presentation.  This set out in clear graphics the essence of her message and argument with herself shown talking in the corner of the screen.  Musson was thinking of the audience and not herself.  I thought that her's was the most professional presentation and an effective one as well as it set out a coherent argument with practical advice which was easy to understand.  I learned that "the climate crisis is a crisis of human emotion".

One person who desperately needed the powerpoint approach was the National Education Union's Kevin Courtney who laboriously worked his way through a 5-point wish list from Education International (it has a zillion members, it seems) which he then called on the government to implement.  I hope Nick Gibb was recording this as I was lost long before Courtney got to the end of point 3.

A great advantage of powerpoint (etc) is that the audience is not watching you.  This means that they'll likely not notice that you're reading off a script.  So many of the presenters were reading, and it was obvious.  But then, anyone can look polished with an autocue.

Inevitably, not all the presentations were as tightly argued as they might have been. When one the many presenters (it seemed like a dozen) from Aim HI started taking about the width of the Milky Way I sensed that they had misread a few intergalactic signposts.

Finally, a challenge: see if you can spot what I take to be the Freudian slip just after 27 minutes.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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