Do you know what this is? Maybe you should

This is Nilla, my six-year-old daughter's Moshi Monster. Looking a bit sad in this screen grab but that is all part of the story. If you have anything to do with primary aged children (teacher, parent, principal) then you really need to know some things about Moshi Monsters and the many similar virtual worlds currently engaging our kids.

We relentlessly write about rich, real, engaging, authentic and relevant 21st century learning on our school brochures, in charters, on strategic plans and even nice signage outside our schools. So where are the virtual worlds in our junior classrooms?

"Successfully nurturing a Moshi Monster is no mean feat. It takes a variety of skills that your child can develop over time. Your child will need to think creatively, hypothesize, strategize, manage resources, collaborate with friends, and nurture a wide variety of other skills that could extend positively into their everyday lives." Publicity from the site.

I have been watching my daughter's Moshi progress with interest. She grabbed a laptop and googled it after seeing an advert on TV. Since then she has kept Nilla alive and healthy. To do this she has had to do more maths, problem solving and all sorts of thinking, participating and contributing, managing-self and relating to others than than most junior school teachers would set and expect in the classroom. All done at a slightly higher level than most junior school teachers would set and expect in the classroom.

I'm not pushing this on our junior team at school, just wondering if any junior teachers anywhere are capitalising on this learning opportunity and wondering how it works out if we 'schoolify' it. E.g. getting around the usual lock-down, aversion schools have to things that sound like social networks or virtual worlds.

Sure, we have to put the black hat on and look out for the pervert pretending to be a child lurking on the message board section and I don't like the unspoken Moshi messages about shopping and consuming being good leisure activities. But if you are aware of the issues you can mitigate the risks. Kids might get run over by cars if we take them walking outside the school gates, but we still do it - with care. These issues have given me a perfect, in-context reason to give my daugther her first internet safety lessons. So even the risks can be turned into teachable moments.

Please share your experiences and opinions. All I ask is that you don't go down that po-faced comment pathway which is all about children shouldn't be inside staring at screens, messaging each other, they should be interacting with real kids and climbing trees because in my experience those that knock virtual worlds and social networks also think it is great when children spend lots of time reading. And reading is GREAT but it ain't social or cardiovascular exercise. Everything is good in moderation. You will also find lots of kids at our school up trees.

Engage me or enrage me - an important consideration for teachers of  five-year-olds and 16 year-olds.

So what?

So... when you find out  - what are you going to do about it? So much teacher time is being spent hand-wringing about how we measure kids' progress. National standards, learning progressions, Asttle, PAT, 6 year net, running records, exemplars... the list goes on. Nationally we are developing an unhealthy obsession with how we 'weigh the pig' when good farmers always look to how we 'should fatten the pig'.

 This week I sat in one one of the best and most effective teacher meetings. The teachers were not debating which assessment tool to use, or trying to invent a new one. They were just getting on with working out new practical ideas for lifting  achievement. By whatever means, every month children at our school are identified as being at risk of not achieving. This identification on its own will not help the children concerned. What will make a difference is the ideas and strategies these teachers give each other while examining the children's actual work.

We don't automatically reach for the current fashionable range of technocratic solutions (more WALTS won't help these kids). All ideas are considered, and tried. If these ideas don't work the same kids will be back on the table next month. Good teachers don't keep trying the same thing if it is not working. There is no one recipe for educational success which fits all kids - sorry 'formulaic teaching' lovers, it is not as simple as that. The only thing that will reach all kids is a set of ever-changing approaches and ideas. Good teaching can't be bottled or recorded as a recipe. We have to do the hard yards every few weeks (together in teams) to constantly look for another way when the previous ways don't work.

How is teachers’ time best spent? Protesting about, or debating, the best way of measuring how kids are doing? Or just rolling up our sleeves and looking at actual work samples and sharing ideas on how to move the children on? If we collectively spent more hours doing what the teachers in this picture are doing rather than designing and re-designing ways of measuring progress we might actually make some progress.