Monthly Archives: August 2014

Desktop Wallpaper for September 2014⤴


Desktop Wallpaper for September 2014

Here is my desktop wallpaper for September 2014.  The original shot was taken in Corisa and the image created using fd Flickr Toys.  If you like the image then please feel free to download and use it yourself.

Over the past few years we have started taking our main holiday during this month.  It makes for a long summer but is a wonderful release when it gets here.  During last September we took a 14 night cruise around the Western Mediterranean on the P & O Ventura.  We didn’t really know what to expect when we got to Corsica.  What a beautiful island.  You will find more pictures of Corisca and the rest of the cruise in my cruise Flickr album.

Apps for preschool/early years⤴

from @ teachitgeek

With school starting recently I had a number of parents ask if I could recommend apps that would be suitable for their children to use on the iPad. They know that my children use the iPad regularly and that they use apps that are specific to Mathematics, English and various others.

Below is an image showing the various apps that my children have installed on their iPad. Each includes a quick description of how the app could be used and a link to the iTunes store. Please note some of these apps are paid and also offer in-app purchases.

Into The Light: With Practitioner Enquiry⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

Yesterday I took part in a conference at Edinburgh University which was focused on Practitioner Enquiry and it's impact for teachers, schools, systems and educational research. As a Headteacher who has been using such an approach for over four years now, I was very interested to get a picture of where we were now with Practitioner Enquiry,  it's impacts and dissemination more widely within the system. Attendees included school representatives, local authorities, Education Scotland, General Teaching Council Scotland and a number of universities from across Scotland.

After the welcomes and introductions to the day, we began by hearing from Tom Hamilton of the GTCS. The title of Tom's presentation was Impact: 'What Impact? Whose Impact? Educational Practice, Educational Policy and Research Excellence.' This encapsulated a common theme for the day, which was around impact for learners at all levels, and the recognition that we are all learners. Tom pointed out the position in Scotland where Government Poliies, GTCS through professional standards and professional update, Education Scotland and Higher Education were very much aligned in direction of travel. He saw this as a time of great 'opportunity' for Scottish Education and one which fully supported the adoption of enquiry practices to teacher, school and system development. Whilst he saw this as a time of opportunity he also had a few words of caution. He warned against the 'snake-oil salesmen' who were often prevalent in education. The ones who offered magic cures, silver bullets and off-the-shelf solutions to our problems. He noted that whilst research was vital, it was important that we should look critically at all research and it's quality. Sometimes good and excellent research is ignored because it does not fit a particular Government's or Authority's politically philosophy on education. He welcomed and supported the adoption of practitioner enquiry approaches and particularly advocated the 'Inquiry-as-stance' advocation of Marilyn Cochrane-Smith, where enquiry is seen very much as a disposition and a way of being for professionals. He thought the new professional update process would support such a way developing. He pointed out that PU was positively motivated  and was about empowering teachers to take forward their own professional development. He saw teachers as enquiring professionals as central to teacher professional learning.

Tom did describe himself very much as the warm up act for the star of the day who was Marilyn Cochran-Smith. She was the next speaker.

Marilyn Cochran-Smith is the Cawthorn Professor of Teacher Education at Boston College in the USA. She has been developing her theories and practice regarding practitioner enquiry since the mid 1980s and has published and edited many books and papers on this subject. The title of her presentation was 'Inquiry as Stance: Local and Beyond.'

She too started with a couple of warnings. She cautioned that there was a danger that practitioner enquiry could be attached to lots of different agendas. Like any other well meaning and well intended approach it could become something completely different in order to fit different agendas. If that happens its impact will not be as it should. She spoke of two examples of what this might look like. One was in the USA where many districts 'require' teachers to take part in practitioner enquiry. To ensure this happens they then provide them with a step by step manual of how they will go about this. The second example was from Singapore where every teacher is expected to be in a Professional Learning Community focused on enquiry into practice. But when she and colleagues spoke to school principals about these it became clear that they didn't know what these were for or how they should operate. Two examples of how you can take the label 'practitioner enquiry' and change completely the principles behind it, or not even understand them, and produce something else without achieving the same results.

Having started with a caution, she then went on to speak at length about why she saw practitioner enquiry as the way forward for teacher, school, leadership and learner development. As the title of her talk indicated she was looking at this through two lenses, the local and the beyond. She began by stating again that inquiry was for everyone not just teachers. Every individual, learner, teacher, headteachers, local authority managers, academics, everyone would benefit from the adoption of such approaches to their work and their positions. Next she pointed out the differences and commonalities between Professional Inquiry Groups and Professional Learning Groups, TLCs and the like. She felt that the former were very much 'social movement' groups, based on teacher and student learning, looked at means and ends, were concerned with data of practice and equity outside of the accountability framework. The later she categorised as 'school reform initiatives' focused on school effects, were seen as a means to an end, shared best local practice, used assessment data and were concerned with equity only within the current accountability frameworks.  She said the key was that it was the process that went on within Professional Inquiry Groups that made the difference, not the content. To be truly effective and embedded practitioners needed to adopt inquiry-as-stance, but what does this mean and what are the impacts? She saw three major categories of benefit:
  • This was a theory of action grounded in the dialectic of enquiry and practice
  • It repositions the collective intellectual capacity of the practitioners
  • It transforms teaching and learning, and schooling
'Practitioners take action because they are committed to improving the lives and the life chances of all their students.'

If you adopt inquiry-as-stance it is

inquiry as:
  • perspectful conceptual
  • a world view
  • a critical habit of mind
  • a dynamic and fluid way of knowing and being in the world of educational practice
  • carries across professional careers
  • carries across educational settings
 In contrast with inquiry as:
  • project
  • problem solving method
  • set of steps
When she looked beyond, Professor Cochran-Smith posed herself the questions. So what? Why? What is the impact beyond the local from the adoption of practitioner enquiry approaches? The first she identified was in improved teacher learning. They better understand their role, their impact on learning, how to improve this,  and this then becomes more widespread. Next she identified great benefits for student learning. In a world where the demands are forever greater for students, PE increases their ability to meet these demands. Equity and social justice is improved. Opportunities improve for all, especially our most disadvantaged. It allows teachers to partake in what she described as 'constructive disruption' where they are better able and informed to challenge accepted norms in the system. Finally she felt that adoption by teachers of PE approaches allows them to contribute to the development of the body of public knowledge.
She encapsulated her main messages as follows:

1) Inquiry is a powerful and critical stance on practice, not simply a project, tool or set of steps to solve a problem or produce a specific outcome (like boosting a studen's test scores)
2) When practitioners work from an enquiry stance, they deliberate on practice and generate local questions and knowledge that are often useful  beyond the local context
3) Educational transformation depends on the collective intellectual capacity of practitioners working with others on larger goals related to learning and social justice.

The final speaker of the morning was Professor Pat Thomson who is Director of Educational Research at Nottingham University. Her talk was entitled 'Getting Beyond 'What Works'' She contended that we need to get away from the concept of 'what works' where practitioners just copy some practice as it has been used elsewhere in the expectation that it will work the same in a different context or setting. ' Do this because it works!' She felt this was wrong for a number of reasons. These included, the frustration of inadequate measures of how something works, the real difficulty in sorting out cause and effect, the lack of information about why something works, the little assistance provided to work out how to do it better and finally the possibility of missing out on a better alternative. She contended that a lot of these approaches fail because at the outset no one has actually identified what the problem is that is being addressed. The challenge for teachers is that as life and children get more and more complex, what they need is a whole repertoire of approaches to meet different needs and situations. The worst example of this approach is the 'why not take it off the shelf' one. She exampled a number of these but was particularly scathing of VAK. 'For VAK read vacuous' she commented. She told us about the 'Get Wet Project' in Nottingham which was very cross-curricular and learning centred aimed at meeting the learning needs of the children, not just delivering a set curriculum. This was founded on principals of Action Research.The learning was real and connected, and largely driven by the children and, although in primary school, a lot of it was at senior secondary school levels. This project very much harnessed local expertise and was based on 6 principles:
1 start with the children's questions
2 connect to the children's everyday experiences
3 powerful knowledge helps children explain and evaluate their world and their place in it 
4 knowledges work together
5 connect local/ global past/present and future
6 go outside, get dirty and make art

This whole project was a huge success and this was due to the enquiring approach taken by all the participants, including the children. By adoptin these approaches, Pat felt there was benefits for all in the system. She talked about Action Research and how reflection was a key component of its success. This she felt needed to be systematic, using good tools, contains regular, open,trustworthy shared and public dialogue and sharing and which needs to be institutionally supported to succeed. Such enquiry approaches needed a collective effort from all in the system. 'Despite difficulties, change is still possible.'

The afternoon consisted of workshops around the theme of the day and these generated lots of lively discussions and debate. My own looked at what was happening around practitioner enquiry already, how we could all support this and what needed to happen to spread this practice further afield? Gillian Robinson from Edinburgh University echoed the speakers in the morning when she cautioned against the 'lethal mutations' that might emerge and that we should look out for. The general consensus was that the day had been thoroughly stimulating and thought provoking, with most of us having much to consider in our daily roles. I do hope I have done justice to the main speakers from my scribbled notes. I have added my own interpretations of what was been said, when my notes let me down! Hopefully, we may all now consider your own thinking and practice as we all seek to move 'into the light.'

 Tweets from the day can be found on #Light14

 More information about the Get Wet Project at get

Book creator in early years development⤴

from @ teachitgeek

My son has recently started Primary 1 (5 years old). He is a confident iPad user and loves sharing his love of superheroes with everyone. He and I sat down today and made his first eBook using the wonderful Book Creator app.

This was a quick and simple task and shows the power that using apps like this and the right technology can have on helping pupils share their knowledge of a subject or topic.

RSS Serendipity⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

I woke up the other morning morning to a bit of serendipity in my RSS reader that cheered me up.
First I read Alan’s great post Don’t Be a Platform Pawn. Next up was Marco Arment Linking and quoting Waffle on Social Media which quoted in turn Community Services which pointed to What’s a Twitter Timeline?. On the back of these posts and more Doug Belshaw posted Twitter, algorithms, and digital dystopias (I got the last link via twitter, but it arrived in my rss reader too).

At the heart of all this the current worries about what you see and who curates your reading. It is also linked in my mind at least, to worries about who owns the space you publish in and the idea around being the product if you are not the customer. It cheers me to see so much pushback against the commercial monoliths.

I’ve read and even posted about this before, as have many others, but it bears rethink or more mulling, it is pertinent again with the redefinition of the twitter timeline and various facebook problems that are popping up.

Doug points out:

they need to provide shareholder value which, given the web’s current dominant revenue model, is predicated on raising advertising dollars. Raising the kind of money they need depends upon user growth, not necessarily upon serving existing users. After all, if they’ve provided the space where all your friends and contacts hang out, you’re kind of locked in.

And we are ‘kind of’, we can also use a mix of tools and spaces and give them up when the discomfort is to great or the utility is poor. Doug has given up RSS in favour of twitter, G+ and facebook. I’ve stuck with it along with scanning twitter (and harvesting links to my RSS reader) and a smidgen of G+. I lack Doug’s guilt at a pile of unread links in my feedreader and I am more than happy to mark all as read now and then.

I think both Alan and Doug would agree that it is ok to use and be used by the silos as long as you are aware and the positives outweigh the negatives?

What is great about Alan’s post is he gives you recipes for how he gains the benefit of flickr, twitter and the like by having control over them, there are a lot of different recipes and links to follow. This presumes that you will use the tools with care, though and a willingness to learn. I’d argue that it is also good fun. here are a few tips of my own.

Know RSS from your elbow

RSS is still useful, an old trailing edge technology I still find my RSS reader better that twitter for finding interesting things to read. Perhaps because things pile up rather than steam by, perhaps because I follow around 2000 folk but have only a couple of hundred feeds or so in my reader.

One of the things I look forward to each week is Doug’s newsletter, Things I We Learned This Week. It is an email list, but I subscribe in my RSS reader, I’ll leave any readers to work out how this is done:-) I’ve also got siftlinks hooked up to my twitter account, this give me a feed of tweets with links from my timeline, it also gives me a feed for my favourites with links. This is great, I use the favourite button in twitter to give feedback to folk (I liked this) and to ‘save’ interesting things. IFTT has several recipies that will convert stuff to RSS so you may find something useful there.

The nice thing about RSS is you can move from laptop to desktop to mobile and keep reading the content. The other major factor for me is how inoreader (web) and FeeddlerPro (iOS) allow me to post links to twitter, tumblr and more importantly to pinboard.

Email is still interesting

I go out of my way to get Doug’s mail in my feed reader because it is content I want to hold onto for a while, but there are an increasing number of email services that provide reading, link or a mix, katexic clippings being a favourite example at the moment. Email lists are also a great way to get information pushed to you from a group.

Play with new things

Along with the old trailing edge technology.

As twitter and facebook and flickr evolve watch out for the new things that are popping up all over the place, I am currently kicking the tyres of Fargo, known and keeping half a eye on Little Facebook Editor. Both known and Little Facebook Editor can post to silos and other spaces, WordPress for LFE and known published to itself and optionally twitter, flickr and Facebook. I am pretty sure that I’ll not adopt these tools for major stuff anytime soon, but it is good to keep up with some different ways of doing thing.

Update, I didn’t post this yesterday because I got distracted by MDwiki, and ended up building a quick test wiki in my dropbox.

Scottish Government MA Administrative Officer- St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh – 12th September⤴


A3 Job Decription – SVQ 2

Scottish Government MA Administrative Officer- St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh – 12th September

Attached is a job specification for a Modern Apprentice opportunity for an MA Communities Administrative Officer based in Victoria St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh

Please can you alert the relevant teams to this vacancy and ask that they encourage eligible young people to apply (16-24 years old, unemployed, who are capable of completing an SVQ level 2 in one year). Young people contracted to work less than 16 hrs per week are also eligible.

Unfortunately the Scottish Government cannot support to SVQ level 3 therefore young people who have already completed the SVQ level 2 in business administration would not be eligible.

Candidates should explain in their CVs specifically how they meet the competencies indicated in the job description attached and should include a short covering letter.

Closing date for applications is Friday 12th September 2014. Can I please ask that all CVs and covering letters are sent electronically to

This position has an attractive starting salary of £16,442.

The department is keen that the successful candidate start as soon as possible, although security checks may take 6 weeks.

Out Now! How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make The Happen⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

How To Come Up With Great Ideas iTunes

Finally! How To Come Up With Great Ideas And Actually Make Them Happen is out, in iBooks, at least. You can buy a copy now in your local store, and get your own ideas to fruition quicker and better, with your community in mind:




The book is available in every iTunes store globally. The beautiful, full-colour paperback is currently in printing in England, and will be heading out to pre-orders from September 9th, and available for general sale shortly thereafter (

Thank you to all those who pre-ordered and waited patiently for it. I'm delighted that my first book is finally out there in people's hands, and cannot wait to hear back from readers on how they develop their innovative ideas.

Here's the blurb for those of you who've not yet dived in:

How can students, teachers and school leaders in the education world innovate, share and build on new ideas, taking them out of individual classrooms to have a wider impact? What could schools ever learn from luxury fashion houses, political campaigners, global tech, media and telecommunications companies, and the world's biggest businesses of tomorrow, the startups? 

You can achieve ambitious visions for learning through swift innovation by borrowing from the people who invent, create much from little, and refine their ideas with a swiftness few of those large corporations, Government or schools have seen.

Learn more through practical steps, workshop activities for your own teams in your learning environment, and plenty of real success stories, to help kick-start the innovation for you.

How To Come Up With Great Ideas And Actually Make Them Happen can be purchased on the iTunes store as an iBook, and in paperback on