Monthly Archives: March 2012

When Children Are left Alone⤴

from @ Not Just Any Brick In The Wall

Following my last post on Active Learning I thought I’d blog an example from my own experience.

Investigate the effects on the environment from the generation of electricity, that’s the challenge our new CfE S1 Technological Inquiry sets the pupils. They are instructed to do this collaboratively in groups of 2, 3 or 4 and to present their findings in a form that suits their group.

As a class we spend a few minutes chatting about their options (recalling what they did in Primary to present findings and what might be possible in my class) I also introduce them to Prezi as one option. In demonstrating Prezi to the class I simply showed them one I had made and one that was on the website. I then suggested that they sign-up and practice at home (flipping the classroom). Of my three classes about a third (5 groups) has chosen to use Prezi,  about half of those pupils have chosen to learn this new software by build their own at home. In most cases they chose a hobby or personal interest, the results were very encouraging.

One group of girls (Joanna, Alice, Dawn and Lois) overcame a particular problem by creating their own facebook group, this is their story in their own words.

“The investigation was about the effects on the environment from fossil fuels and the pros and cons of renewable energy.  We had to do it in groups of 3 or 4 and we had to present our findings in a media presentation of some sort.”

“We used a number of different websites, one of which where you had to build a town which was eco friendly. The other websites gave you lots of facts about renewable energy and fossil fuels.”

“We had used PowerPoint in primary schools and Mr Surgey introduced us to Prezi as one of the options we could use.  Our group chose Prezi.”

“To make the Prezi together, you can invite the rest of your group into the ‘edit together’ feature by sending them an invite then you can all work together on it.  We also phoned each other and we used Facebook.”

“We chose to use Facebook because you can communicate at the time that something isreally happening, if you are both, or if the people that you want to communicate with, are on.   So, we managed to discuss it over Facebook and it does not cost us anything.”

“Since Prezi didn’t allow you to have a ‘chat box’ to write in, to communicate, we went on Facebook so you could create a ‘group’ for the Prezi to talk to.  All of your members could talk with it, and me and Lois managed to chat on Facebook while doing the Prezi. On Prezi there was a little icon for the other person who was on Prezi so that showed you that they were editing.”

There are a number of challenges to collaborating with the limited ITC in school. This did not deter one group who, having decided to do most of the work from home, found the solution to the problem was to create a Facebook group. I was very impressed with their solution as it showed a degree of creative thinking and problem solving, something that probably would not have happened in the classroom environment.

So, here’s the Prezi in question, unedited by their teacher (there are one or two errors:

I picked this group because they stood out, but the rest have done remarkable well too. I’ve been very impressed with my S1 classes this year, more so than in any other. They seem more engaged, switched on and willing to have a go. They are certainly not passive. There is a maturity, in many cases, beyond their years and I can only thank their Primary School teachers!

So it saddens me when I hear comments about our youth, like – “You know what they’re like? If you take your eye off them for a minute…”. Yes, I know what ‘they’ are like and as ‘their’ teacher I would (do) trust them to behave when my back is turned. I would not punish the well behaved majority for the odd indiscretion of one or two, so I would allow them to use Social Media in class – if only I were permitted! You see, the vast majority of the children I teach are well mannered and well behaved and can be trusted. And who, if not me, is going to teach them how to use this tool responsibly, effectively, confidently and successfully?

When children are left alone they can behave, so trust them … they may just surprise you!

Technology – Evernote⤴

from @ Ruby on Wheels

I attended a session this morning, focussing on some of the recent applications that would be helpful for people with disability. One of the applications, that I’ve been using for a while, was Evernote. I had actually started taking notes in the session, on my iPad, using Evernote! However, I did learn something new – with Evernote if you take a photo of something it can recognise text in the photo (like a scanner that changes a picture into text) so that you can search your whole set of notes. I tried it, and it worked! I have a folder in Evernote with some recipes, and I put in “cherry” and it found the recipe.


I had already found out the nifty way it can link to your calendar. So when I opened Evernote, it started a new note with the title of the session I was attending (which had been in my calendar).

There were a couple of other applications that were mentioned and demonstrated in the session – Inspiration (for mind mapping) and Texthelp (for reading screens). Both are now available on university PC open-access computers (although it seems that they are not availalbe for Mac computers, which are more common in Moray House) :-( Luckily, I use a PC, so I’ll be finding out if they’re on my office computer. It’s good to know what you can recommend to students.

Evernote (free)



Also mentioned, as part of the “AccessApps” suite of products, was X-mind (free)

Filed under: gadgets, iPad, student life

MEGACYCLE 2012 Penicuik to Musselburgh: Sunday, 6th May⤴


East Lothian Council supporting… MEGACYCLE 2012 Healthy Working Lives are delighted to promote & support a fantastic day out on the 6th May, cycling from Penicuik to Musselburgh. Now in its 3rd year this event is growing in popularity for cyclists of all ages and abilities. Route is mainly on quiet cycle paths, at a […]

MEGACYCLE 2012 Penicuik to Musselburgh: Sunday, 6th May⤴


East Lothian Council supporting… MEGACYCLE 2012 Healthy Working Lives are delighted to promote & support a fantastic day out on the 6th May, cycling from Penicuik to Musselburgh. Now in its 3rd year this event is growing in popularity for cyclists of all ages and abilities. Route is mainly on quiet cycle paths, at a […]

Leave the delays to Scotrail… #CfEontrack⤴


My S1 Enterprise class is becoming the highlight of my week.  The class comes for a double period of study (one of the changes we brought in as a result of Curriculum for Excellence) and they leave exhausted (them and me!).

I used to see first year for a single period of ICT.  Using the 5-14 guidelines pupils learned how to edit text and sort data.  They worked at computers on their own.  If they were stuck they put their hand up and I told them what to click on.  The room was generally quiet and the pupils were engaged.  Talking was frowned upon and the learning was rote.

I have a confession to make.  We stopped using the 5-14 guidelines a few years ago. Before CfE (there, I said it!).  We gradually made the switch when we realised that we needed to teach young people more than the menu commands in Microsoft Word.  It was refreshing to see that the driving force behind Curriculum for Excellence was “to help every learner develop knowledge, skills and attributes for learning, life and work, which are encapsulated in the four capacities”.  We were onto a winner, vindicated that we had been doing the best for our young people for the previous few sessions.

This ‘new’ style of teaching is hard work.  Enter my CfE classroom on a Tuesday morning and you will see chaos.  There are groups of young people everywhere.  Some are working at a PC, others are planning on the board, some are even holding a meeting with their peers outside the classroom in our flexible learning area.  I’m not always in control and setting the direction of travel.  Pupils have carousel mindmaps scattered over the desks, they are checking each others work, discussing (sometimes arguing!) over who is doing what.  Two of my S1′s stand at the front and ask for silence!  They are the editors of the magazine the class are producing (on the topic of Sexting) and they are not quite sure at what stage everyone is at.  They inform the class that they will shortly be coming round to check who is doing what.  If someone needs help they suggest who they should pair up with.  I sit back and hope they will meet their self imposed draft 1 deadline (they did!).

We hope to have the magazine finished next week.  They have all uploaded their work to their Glow group for peer assessment:

They have kept me updated with their progress in the forum every week:

They are learning new skills all of the time.  They are used to me pointing a camera at them.  They are used to me challenging them.  They have chosen the tasks to complete.  They have demonstrated team work, meeting deadlines, using new software, encouraging others, compromise.  And more.  Their fellow pupils in S2 are doing the same.  They are getting used to the new way of being assessed.  I am getting used to the new way of assessing!  We are learning together, using topics, skills and experiences which we enjoy.  They will continue to enjoy learning as they progress through the school.

If we give them appropriate opportunities to develop at level 3 and 4, then appropriate courses which continue into National 4′s and 5′s, who cares what the exams look like.

We signed up to the experiences and outcomes.  Nobody is arguing that Curriculum for Excellence is not the correct approach.  Nobody is saying that we needed more time to develop courses in S1-S3, but mention qualifications as some colleagues wobble.  Right across Scotland, schools are delivering on the experiences and outcomes.  The draft Nationals (1-5) show the clear progression from the experience and outcome levels.  Internal assessment will be driven to meet the needs of our young people.  This is our opportunity to put learning first.  The exams have driven the learning for too long.  That is why I believe we need to leave the delays to Scotrail, and get on with delivering the track we all set out on together.

Original headline: Leave the delays to Scotrail (If TESS can do it! ;-) )