Monthly Archives: November 2014

30 November 2014: #01⤴

from @ I'm not sure I do either

This week I’ve been:

wondering what it would have been like to board at school. By Vicky Allan’s account in The Sunday Herald it seems no fun at all.

helping organise the East Kilbride branch of the Radical Independence Campaign.

watching the videos of a workshop at the RIC conference where Liam Kane argues that RIC’s campaigning approach could learn from the popular education movement of Latin America.

reading Sandra Smidt’s Introduction to Friere, as a consequence of Kane’s talk.

participating in the SECTT, East of Scotland College Consortium.  I spoke about my experience writing the SCQF accreditation paperwork for the new SVQ in Electrical Installation. I also gave a brief update on my progress towards writing a new Electrical Installation Science course unit.

thinking about how to salvage what should have been a blog post about the SCQF process and ended up being a 3,000 word essay. It wasn’t a good blog post and it wasn’t a good essay either.

catching up with Ally Crockford to discuss possible MPhil work on the research topic of ‘Education in a radically independent Scotland’ (or something like that anyway). We chatted about the research angle and some engagement work.

finding out about how education policy is managed at my local authority level; and

making arrangements to attend my local council’s education committee meetings. I’m picking away at Peter John’s Analyzing Public Policy.

buying the new Scottish daily newspaper, The National. I do still like to read the Education section in The Guardian on a Tuesday, but there’s rarely anything about Scottish education in it. It’s simply that its focus is on the English education system, and at times The Guardian reads like it’s come from a strange place that’s going slightly mad.

Filed under: Weeknote

The Creative Profession⤴

from @ Fearghal Kelly

I love this video from The RSA. The idea that teaching is a creative profession dawned on me a few years ago, and this idea I think has influenced many of the decisions I’ve made since. In actual fact, I think it has come to dominate what my job now looks like…and I hope that it can inform the direction my career will take in the future.

The ironic thing is that I left school ‘knowing’ that I was not creative. Creativity to me then was interwound with ‘the arts’. My art lessons had taught me I was rubbish at art. My music lessons had taught me I was rubbish at music. My english lessons had taught me that I was rubbish at creative writing. This is despite me leaving primary school thinking I was good at all these things and, crucially, enjoying them.

Becoming, and more importably being, a teacher has gradually convinced me that I am indeed creative – as everyone is! If creativity is

the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness,

then we do this every time we sit down to plan a lesson, or write a course, surely? And yet, if we were asked to describe a creative profession, I wonder how long it would take us to include ourselves in this list? I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone this, but this is actually the reason why I’ve stopped wearing a tie to work. If you ever visit a ‘creative’ workplace, no one wears a tie. Wearing a tie makes me feel distinctly uncreative, and so one day I decided not to wear one anymore. I know this is only a tiny thing, but it helps me.

Creativity underscores more aspects of my professional life than just what I wear however. In fact, I would argue that the things I’m most passionate about as an educator all relate to creativity…

  • I believe that my passion for developing approaches to involving learners in the learning process is a truly creative pedagogy. Not only in the sense that it changes the way I approach introducing a topic with a class, but it then changes the entire dynamic of the topic which follows. The learning becomes much more of a collaborative enterprise with the students become co-creators of the topic.
  • In my opinion, professional enquiry is a powerfully creative process. This is an actual mechanism by with teachers can work together to achieve what is envisioned in the second half of the video above. Enquiry, when done well, is a process which supports teachers to create and evaluate their own pedagogies…that’s why I love it so much.
  • I also think that the real power of technology lies in creating new ways of working, and new ways of learning. There is a tendency to introduce technologies in the classroom in such a way as to replicate what currently happens – but just move these practices online. There can be some, mainly financial, benefits to such an approach – but for me it fails to fully realise the real potential of technology to change the way we learn and teach.
  • Technology of course also has the potential to revolutionise the way we learn from each other as a profession. The creation of Pedagoo in all its various forms is obviously also a highly creative event which continues to this day.

Thinking of myself as a creative professional has therefore really revolutionised my career thus far…that’s why I’m beginning to wonder if I could somehow find a way of using my passion and experience to the benefit of others, and also somehow make this sharing with others a bigger part of my working week? It’s very early days, but I’ve mocked up a little webpage to try to see what this might look like:

So, what’s stopping me (as mentioned in a previous post!)…what I’m wondering is, would others value my experience enough to actually pay for my time to allow me to work with them and share it with them? My fear is that there wouldn’t be enough of a demand, however watching the video above makes me think that my experience as a creative professional could be highly valuable to others…?

I’m not really expecting anyone to answer this question here…it’s not really possible for any one person to anyway…but I would welcome your thoughts if you happen have any.

A Common Cause; the buzz that is cooperative learning⤴

from @ Not Just Any Brick In The Wall

The buzz right now is “Cooperative Learning”; staff are on courses for it so students can do it! Our own school’s whole school staff CPD has encouraged us [teachers] to be collaborative and cooperative learners. Recently I was interviewed by a student teacher for her dissertation – Cooperative Learning in the Workshop. And it got me thinking!

Reflecting on this I concluded: We throw the phrase about, but what does it actually entail? What should it actually be and look like?

Here’s my take, my wee bit of CPD reading and research.

Some definitions:


Let’s start with: What is Cooperative Learning?

Well, it’s more than having students working in groups, more than working together in the workshop or on a class project. The teacher is required to structure interdependence and independent learning among students within a cooperative structure. The teacher’s role changes from that of giving information to facilitating learning; the rationale being that everyone succeeds when the group succeeds. Interestingly, the SQA support this hypothesis:

SQA quote1

Ross and Smyth (1995) describe successful cooperative learning tasks as intellectually demanding, creative, open-ended, and involve higher order thinking tasks. I find that Anderson and Krathwohl (2001) minor but significant modifications to Bloom’s (original) taxonomy a useful rubric to inform my lesson structure in this regard.

Johnson et al. (2006) assert the structure for cooperative learning involves five key components which can be employed in a variety of ways and is more than simply putting students into groups to learn. There are also different types of cooperative groups appropriate for different situations.

Five Key Elements (Johnson et al., 2006).

Positive Interdependence: This can be achieved by way of mutual goals, division of labor, materials, roles, or by making part of each student’s grade dependent on the performance of the group. You’ll know when you’ve succeeded in structuring positive interdependence when students perceive that they “sink or swim together.” Group members must believe that each person’s efforts benefit not only them, but all group members.

Individual Accountability: The essence of individual accountability in cooperative learning is that of “students learn together, but perform alone.” This ensures that no one can “hitch-hike” on the work of others. A lesson’s goals must be clear enough that students are able to measure whether (a) the group is successful in achieving them, and (b) individual members are successful in achieving them as well.

Face-to-Face (Promotive) Interaction: Important cognitive activities and interpersonal dynamics only occur when students promote each other’s learning. This includes oral explanations of how to solve problems, discussing the nature of the concepts being learned, and connecting present learning with past knowledge. It is through face-to-face, promotive interaction that members become personally committed to each other as well as to their mutual goals.

Interpersonal and Small Group Social Skills: In cooperative learning groups, students learn academic subject matter (taskwork) and also interpersonal and small group skills (teamwork). Thus, a group must know how to provide effective leadership, decision-making, trust-building, communication, and conflict management. Given the complexity of these skills, teachers can encourage much higher performance by teaching cooperative skill components within cooperative lessons. As students develop these skills, later group projects will probably run more smoothly and efficiently than early ones.

Group Processing: After completing their task, students must be given time and procedures for analyzing how well their learning groups are functioning and how well social skills are being employed. Group processing involves both taskwork and teamwork, with an eye to improving it on the next project.


Brown & Ciuffetelli Parker (2009) and Siltala (2010) discuss the 5 basic and essential elements to cooperative learning:

  1. Positive interdependence
  • Students must fully participate and put forth effort within their group
  • Each group member has a task/role/responsibility therefore must believe that they are responsible for their learning and that of their group
  1. Face-to-Face Promotive Interaction
  • Members promote each other’s success
  • Students explain to one another what they have or are learning and assist one another with understanding and completion of assignments
  1. Individual and Group Accountability
  • Each student must demonstrate master of the content being studied
  • Each student is accountable for their learning and work, therefore eliminating “social loafing”
  1. Social Skills
  • Social skills that must be taught in order for successful cooperative learning to occur
  • Skills include effective communication, interpersonal and group skills





Conflict-management skills

  1. Group Processing
  • Every so often groups must assess their effectiveness and decide how it can be improved


What becomes apparent as I read through these ‘essential elements’ to cooperative learning is that the phase ‘Life Skills’ comes to mind time and again. As an ex-engineer I’m more than aware that teamwork is essential in modern workplaces. Most projects need different kinds of experts, or at least a division of labour. All jobs require the ability to communicate, cooperate, assess, and delegate. Even outside of work, it is generally necessary to get along with and communicate with other people.

Johnson et al., 1998 stress that the most successful individuals in business, research, and school are the least competitive.

These ‘essential elements’ to cooperative learning remind me of something I once saw/read:


In discussing my take on cooperative learning with the student teacher I realised how much my teaching has changed and just how much cooperative learning happens in my classrooms, whether intentionally or by natural evolution.

Cooperative learning is no panacea, it is one of many approaches that needs to be embraced by teachers in the 21st century. It’s also fraught with challenges; not least of which is the spector of failure. That said if you, like me, have a supportive culture (particularly from senior management) in your school, then “To Dare is to Do”!

Having explored what cooperative learning is my next assignment is to look at the benefits and then how my teaching has changed and in this context what happens in my classroom … Watch this blog!

The Earth is Flat and Kissing Makes You Pregnant⤴

from @

When Hamlet says that “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” he isn’t too wide of the mark. We can think ourselves into all sorts of nonsense if we work hard enough. There are still Flat Earthers, people who think global warming is a myth, and that JFK was killed by the CIA (well, actually […]

Compiling OpenCV on Raspberry Pi⤴

from @ Sharing and learning


To get the latest version of OpenCV on my Raspi, I follow the Installing OpenCV on a Raspberry Pi guide by Robert Castle.

Installing the dependencies is fine, and I use

git clone

to get the latest version (2.4.9).

I know from previous experience that memory is a problem, make stalls at

[ 37%] Building CXX object modules/core/CMakeFiles/opencv_perf_ core.dir/perf/opencl/perf_arithm.cpp.o

To help get around this I enable a fairly large swap, 2GB, compare with RasPi’s 512kB of physical memory.  Running top during the make, I saw at times when there was as much  swapped memory as physical memory in use.

Even with this, the build stalled. What got it working was accessing the Pi via ssh, rather than running LXDE via TightVNC,  and making sure no desktop was running (I have it start by default) with

sudo /etc/init.d/lightdm stop

I also killed tightvnc, Xorg and other X or desktop manager related processes.

After that OpenCV compiled in (but it took a day), and it works. That is to say that the python demo works samples/python2 directory displays a video that up dates about 1 frame per second. Testing it more thoroughly in python and getting it working with the picam is next.




Initial thoughts on EPUB-WEB (Portable Documents for the Open Web Platform)⤴

from @ Sharing and learning


In a W3C Unofficial Draft White Paper “Advancing Portable Documents for the Open Web Platform: EPUB-WEB” published 21 Nov 2014, Markus Gulling of IPDF (curators of the EPUB standards) and Ivan Herman of W3C (curators of web standards) have highlighted the potential of a specification that brings EPUB on to the Web. Informally known as EPUB-WEB, the vision is that this specification would make “EPUB a first-class citizen of the Open Web Platform and as a result significantly reduce the complexity of deploying EPUB content into browsers, for online as well as offline consumption”

EPUB3 is based mostly on web standards, i.e. a collection of HTML5 files with associated bells and whistles (embedded video, audio, SVG, JavaScript, CSS) held in a zip archive with an XML manifest  to tell an application what is there and what order to display it in. So at first EPUB-WEB seems straightforward: get rid of the zip archive, use the manifest to point to files anywhere on the web (IMS Content Packaging has allowed a similar route with “logical packages” which allow for both local and remote components). But the draft white papers raises some interesting points

Firstly, on that manifest, in section 3.1 the authors note that while the zip file + XML manifest is a common pattern:

“W3C’s Web Application Working Group has, in its new charter, the task of defining a general packaging format for the Web to encompass the needs of various applications (like installing Web Applications or downloading data for local processing). It is probably advantageous for EPUB-WEB to adopt this format, thereby being compatible with what Web Browsers would implement anyway. While this general packaging format could hypothetically be compatible with the ZIP+XML manifest format used by EPUB (and also by the Open Document Format [ODF]) the broader requirements of installable applications and other types of content, and efficient incremental transmission over networks, may well imply a different and incompatible packaging format.”

Secondly, there’s a question about how you identify documents (and fragments within documents) reliably when they may be either online or off-line depending on whether the user has decided to “archive” them (and I think archive here includes download onto an ebook reader to take on holiday). “What is the URI of the offline version of the document”. Interestingly there is a link drawn with the W3C Annotation Working Group:

The recently formed W3C Annotation Working Group has a joint deliverable with the W3C Web Application Working Group called “Robust Anchoring”. This deliverable will provide a general framework for anchoring; and, although defined within the framework of annotations, the specification can also be used for other fragment identification use cases. Similarly, the W3C Media Fragments specification [media-frags] may prove useful to address some of the use cases.

And thirdly there is (of course) Metadata. EPUB 3 has plenty of places to put your Metadata. Most conventional publishing needs for metadata inside the EPUB file are covered with the range of metadata allowed in the manifest. However, there is additional potential for in-line metadata that is “agnostic to online and offline modes” that will “seamlessly support  discovery and harvesting by both generic Web search engines, as well as dedicated bibliographic/archival/retailer systems” The note points to in all but name:

The adoption of HTML as the vehicle for expressing publication-level metadata (i.e., using RDFa and/or Microdata  for metadata like authors or title) would have the added benefits of better I18N support than XML or JSON formats.

And what about application to learning? Taken in conjunction with the Annotation work starting at W3C, the scope for eTextBooks online (or whatever you want to call educational use of EPUBWeb for education) seems clear. One area that seems important for education use that seems inadequately addressed in the draft white paper is alternative presentations that would make the material remixable and adaptable to meet individual learner needs. There a little in draft about presentation control and personalization, but it rather limited: changing the font size or page layout rather than changing the learning pathway.


EDF Torness recruitment⤴


More information here

Engineering Maintenance Apprenticeship

EDF Energy is a core part of the EDF Group and is one of the largest energy companies in Europe with key business operations in France, the UK, Germany and Italy. In the UK we have approximately 15,000 employees. We are the UK’s leading generator and supplier of low carbon energy. We produce about one-fifth of the nation’s electricity from our nuclear, coal and gas power stations, wind farms, and combined heat and power plants. We have a focus on safe, dependable energy generation and an ethos of service excellence. We intend to play a leading role in new nuclear build in the UK and secure a ‘bright’ future for the combined business and its employees.

Lead Person Network⤴

from @ SQA Computing blog

I've mentioned previously that we had almost established the lead person network (LPN) for colleges, well I'm pleased to say that the network is now complete. We now have a Computing contact person for each college.

The SQA Computing team has been using online mailing lists and online groups for a long time, but the recent re-organisation of colleges in Scotland meant that these groups were out of date, so we have been working on getting a lead person for each of the new regional colleges. That task is now complete.

Here is a FAQ about the lead person network.

Please contact Liz if you want more information or find out who the lead person is for your college.