Monthly Archives: June 2016

Delivering excellence and equity – some commentary on Scotland’s national education plan⤴

from @ curriculum for equity

Mark Priestley

The post-election period in 2016 has heralded a flurry of activity from the re-elected SNP and the appointment of a new Cabinet Secretary for Education. The next year or two will see policy development that puts education at the forefront of the nation’s priorities, all underpinned by the stated goal of closing the ‘attainment gap’ between those who have traditionally achieved well in education, and those who have not. The publication of Delivering Excellence and Equity in Scottish Education: a Delivery Plan for Scotland, coming as it does on the heels of the OECD review of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), marks an important turning point in Scottish education policy. There is much to be welcomed in this plan, but in my view there are also tensions and ambiguities in the document that will need acknowledging and addressing as the plan is implemented.

The positives

It is clear that there…

View original post 1,328 more words


Modern Technology⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

CharlieChaplinEatingMachine

Yesterday I tweeted a link to a great post, the transcript of a talk about some social aspects of technology and how allowing technologist to lead our progress might have negative impacts on our privacy and lives, here is a quote.

Those who benefit from the death of privacy attempt to frame our subjugation in terms of freedom, just like early factory owners talked about the sanctity of contract law. They insisted that a worker should have the right to agree to anything, from sixteen-hour days to unsafe working conditions, as if factory owners and workers were on an equal footing.

Companies that perform surveillance are attempting the same mental trick. They assert that we freely share our data in return for valuable services. But opting out of surveillance capitalism is like opting out of electricity, or cooked foods—you are free to do it in theory. In practice, it will upend your life.

Remarks at the SASE Panel On The Moral Economy of Tech

This spoke very much to some thoughts I’ve been having about our relationship to technology companies. Some of these were sparked  by Dean Groom, Why not to buy Minecraft Education Edition.  Some more idaea were discussed at the Always on (them) event at the University of the West of Scotland and I am in the midst of exploring those in a few microcasts, tagged DigitalUWS & microcast (one down a few more to go).

I’ve not come to any great conclusions but I do think it is something we should be thinking a lot harder about.

More grist arrived today from Stephen Downes:

I can see how the presentation would engage school leaders looking for a way to address current trends in learning, but they need to look beyond the single-vendor approach proposed here, and they should be clear that technology companies are service providers who are held accountable for delivery, not partners taking a hand in pedagogical and educational decisions.

Looking back to move forward: A process for whole-school transformation ~ Stephen Downes

I know myself enough to recognise that I am somewhat enthralled by technology and software. I certainly need to think about my relationship, on so many levels, with the technology I use. Should we be addressing this in the classroom with our pupils?

featured image is probably walking a copyright tightrope, but seems appropriate

OER16 Reflections – The Last Post⤴

from

I had intended to write one last post to follow up the OER16: Open Culture Conference last month, but the moment passed, the weeks slipped by and I decided I’d left it too late. But then a couple of weeks ago Jim Groom posted a belated OER16 reflections post and I thought dammit, if Jim can do it, so can I!

When I was putting together my OER16 Overview  for the eLearning@Ed conference in May I emailed some of our keynotes and delegates to ask if they’d be willing to share some reflections on their experiences of the conference. I got some fabulous and very thoughtful responses that I really wanted to share, so here they are, after much delay and procrastination. Many thanks to everyone who responded.

It’s almost impossible to summarise so many diverse responses but if I can make an attempt…

Many OER16 participants commented on the strength of community that has grown up around open education. This is a mature and diverse community, which encompasses many different perspectives and interpretations of openness. For some open education is about resources, policy, technology, for others it’s about practice. Some are concerned with supporting and sustaining open education at scale across institutions, for others openness is more of a personal ethos. Some focus on the technologies we use to support open education, others are motivated by the potential of openness to address inequality and exclusion. None of these perspectives are mutually exclusive, none are above criticism, and indeed it appears that as a community we are moving towards a much more critical and nuanced analysis of what it means to be open.

As is so often the case Catherine Cronin put this into words much more eloquently than I can

“I feel a collective sense of “moving on” in the open education community, a willingness to tackle some of the more challenging questions about risk, power and inequality.”

Jo Spiller

Jo Spiller by Brian Mather

Jo Spiller by Brian Mather

Educational Design and Engagement, University of Edinburgh

My two highlights were Catherine Cronin’s keynote on participatory culture, the power of open to influence and celebrate change, especially with the focus on the Gay Marriage vote in Ireland. How it can be playful and moving and everyone can contribute to it.

As a counterpoint to this, Sava Singh on the perils of open scholarship “Open wounds: The Myth of Open as Panacea” was really interesting – that open can also become excluding for different demographic groups and also has both great benefits but also great challenges for academics.

Sara Thomas

Wikimedian in Residence, Museums Galleries Scotland

As the Wikimedian in Residence for Museums Galleries Scotland, I usually work alone, or remotely.  The opportunity to connect to the wider open knowledge community was fantastic – energising, informative and so very valuable.  And we had 4 Residents in a room at once!  This, you have to realise, is a rare thing indeed in the world of Wiki.  I’ve worked primarily in open culture and heritage for the last 16 months, and one of the growth areas has been in the interface between education and culture…. So #OER16 seemed to me so prescient, so perfectly timed.

Martin Weller

The Open University

The sessions I attended at OER16 demonstrated how the field is maturing, and in many ways moving beyond a narrow definition of OER as content. The potential of OER in fields as diverse as Shakespeare and understanding modern slavery was demonstrated, but so too was the nature of open identity, the type of research we should be undertaking, and the need for open infrastructure. The UK OER conference is now much more of an international one and also much more critically reflective of the nature of openness.

Sheila MacNeill

Glasgow Caledonian University

Sheila MacNeil and Martin Weller by Josie Fraser

Sheila MacNeil and Martin Weller by Josie Fraser

One of the things I keep coming back to is Melissa’s description of technical and cultural debt – I am going to try and blog about this but need to think about it a bit more in terms of my political position! But I found her description of them both really useful and thought provoking.

The theme of #oer16 was Open Culture, and it was great to have input from third sector organisations around the potential of open-ness (content, data and practice) outwith the education sector.  Catherine Cronin’s opening keynote  addressed cultural issues around inequality, culture, participation and open-ness head on.   Changing societal, organisational and personal attitudes to open-ness is an ongoing debate in the open education world.

A Tale of Two Conferences: #oer16 and #LAK16

Catherine Cronin

National University of Ireland, Galway

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference – the sessions I attended as well as the many conversations over the course of the 2+ days. I feel a collective sense of “moving on” in the open education community, a willingness to tackle some of the more challenging questions about risk, power and inequality. Though there is much work to do, this move towards more critical analysis is heartening.

Rachel Hosker

Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh

It was great. Really refreshing and challenging in a positive way for collections. It was a fantastic opportunity to share ideas and meet people with different perspectives on sharing collections and how we can all do this.  I also found it useful as a platform for discussing some of the practical things in collections work that need to be done to make things open for use. As an archivist, working in collections I would encourage others in my sector and profession to go to OER and engage with making collections open.

Maha Bali

Center for Learning and Teaching, The American University in Cairo

As a virtual participant who was also doing OLC Innovate at the same time… I only got a glimpse of what was happening. But what I thought was particularly interesting about OER16 was the challenging of two things:

  1. Challenging OER as a key mode openness – Catherine Cronin’s keynote, my presentation with Suzan Koseoglu and one by Andrew Middleton and Katherine Jessen tried to move beyond OER as content as being the main form of openness…which was interesting given the title of the conference
  2. Challenging openness as necessarily a good thing. This again came from Catherine but also Jim and also my session with Suzan. I am sure if Frances Bell presented something it would also challenge that.

I don’t know if this is all normal for OER16… it resonates a little with how OpenEd last year was, but with OpenEd it felt like maybe a majority of attendees were less critical but there was a vocal minority that was critical…

Thank you for embodying true openness in your approach to my virtual participation and Virtually Connecting. We are continually mentioning ALT as one of the organizations that’s supporting us.

Frances Bell

francesbell.com

OER16 was a very friendly conference – with lots of smiling, networking and fun going on. The conference topic Open Culture, expressed through the themes, enabled participants to celebrate and critique openness in the overlapping contexts of cultural heritage and education. The keynote speakers really helped to frame that celebration and critique in conference sessions and informal discussions

by Catherine Cronin, CC BY SA

by Catherine Cronin, CC BY SA

Stuart Nicol

Educational Design and Engagement, University of Edinburgh

At a high level I felt a little that there was an underlying split between the very technical-orientated view of open and OER (I’m thinking Jim Groom’s keynote around infrastructure & indie-web) and then the very human side (several presentations talking about the self as OER). But thinking of this as less of a ‘schism’ and more of the strands that sit under the OER grouping. Strands that can sit comfortably but that maybe we haven’t quite got to a place where we realise they can sit comfortably together?

I think it maybe comes down to a tendancy to try to simplify; that OER is a policy and/or it’s a repository. But actually it’s a digital sensibility that underpins a very wide range of practices … the specific human and technical implementation of OER will be different in different practice contexts … and it’s likely to change over time.

John Johnson

Radio EduTalk

Viv Rolf, John Johnson, David Kernohan by Martin Hawksey

Viv Rolf, John Johnson, David Kernohan by Martin Hawksey

In higher education the idea of open education is now well enough established that the discussions have become quite nuanced. There are a wide range of definitions and directions on the open road. Some look at practical issues around, licensing and searching of resources, others social or technical ideas.

I’ve not seen much evidence that these ideas are penetrating primary or secondary education in Scotland. I do think that open ideas are equally valid here. A good place for school based colleagues to start might be the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

I’ve not got a wide ranging knowledge of the OER world, but it was pretty obvious there are different interpretations of open, many speakers alluded to that. There was a general feeling that the more open a resource the more sustainable it is.

It was delightful to spend time with people who are gathered, not because they want to sell something, but with a shared idea that is aimed at doing good in the world.

Joe Wilson

joewilsons.net

I am prejudiced but I do think some of our most creative educators are interested in open education. All of the sessions I attended inspired me and showed the way forward for all of us in rethinking what education could be. There was something for everyone from policy makers to practitioners.

All of the sessions from Wikimedia offered something for Colleges and adult learners – I can’t do them all justice in a post . But Colleges should be using Wikimedia tools not just as reference materials but as active learning tools.

#OER16 Quick Overview and Some important links for Scottish FE

Anne-Marie Scott

Digital Learning Applications and Media, University of Edinburgh

My major takeaway has been the value of openness. Making educational resources available for many purposes using Creative Commons licenses, building software and infrastructure using open source technologies and licenses, being open about the algorithms we use to evaluate our students’ online activities, being transparent about what data we collect and why, being open and inclusive about the development of standards that will allow us to work better together, all of this activity requires a commitment to being open. Open to scrutiny, open to challenge, open to collaboration, open to cooperation, and open to being part of a community.

The value of being open

And last but not least from twitter….

Stephen Thomas

Michigan State University

#oer16 #sustainability panel had a wide variety of perspectives. Great session!

by Stephen Thomas

Pat vs. Viv by Stephen Thomas

OER16 Reflections – The Last Post⤴

from @ Open World

I had intended to write one last post to follow up the OER16: Open Culture Conference last month, but the moment passed, the weeks slipped by and I decided I’d left it too late. But then a couple of weeks ago Jim Groom posted a belated OER16 reflections post and I thought dammit, if Jim can do it, so can I!

When I was putting together my OER16 Overview  for the eLearning@Ed conference in May I emailed some of our keynotes and delegates to ask if they’d be willing to share some reflections on their experiences of the conference. I got some fabulous and very thoughtful responses that I really wanted to share, so here they are, after much delay and procrastination. Many thanks to everyone who responded.

It’s almost impossible to summarise so many diverse responses but if I can make an attempt…

Many OER16 participants commented on the strength of community that has grown up around open education. This is a mature and diverse community, which encompasses many different perspectives and interpretations of openness. For some open education is about resources, policy, technology, for others it’s about practice. Some are concerned with supporting and sustaining open education at scale across institutions, for others openness is more of a personal ethos. Some focus on the technologies we use to support open education, others are motivated by the potential of openness to address inequality and exclusion. None of these perspectives are mutually exclusive, none are above criticism, and indeed it appears that as a community we are moving towards a much more critical and nuanced analysis of what it means to be open.

As is so often the case Catherine Cronin put this into words much more eloquently than I can

“I feel a collective sense of “moving on” in the open education community, a willingness to tackle some of the more challenging questions about risk, power and inequality.”

Jo Spiller

Educational Design and Engagement, University of Edinburgh

My two highlights were Catherine Cronin’s keynote on participatory culture, the power of open to influence and celebrate change, especially with the focus on the Gay Marriage vote in Ireland. How it can be playful and moving and everyone can contribute to it.

As a counterpoint to this, Sava Singh on the perils of open scholarship “Open wounds: The Myth of Open as Panacea” was really interesting – that open can also become excluding for different demographic groups and also has both great benefits but also great challenges for academics.

Sara Thomas

Wikimedian in Residence, Museums Galleries Scotland

As the Wikimedian in Residence for Museums Galleries Scotland, I usually work alone, or remotely.  The opportunity to connect to the wider open knowledge community was fantastic – energising, informative and so very valuable.  And we had 4 Residents in a room at once!  This, you have to realise, is a rare thing indeed in the world of Wiki.  I’ve worked primarily in open culture and heritage for the last 16 months, and one of the growth areas has been in the interface between education and culture…. So #OER16 seemed to me so prescient, so perfectly timed.

Martin Weller

The Open University

The sessions I attended at OER16 demonstrated how the field is maturing, and in many ways moving beyond a narrow definition of OER as content. The potential of OER in fields as diverse as Shakespeare and understanding modern slavery was demonstrated, but so too was the nature of open identity, the type of research we should be undertaking, and the need for open infrastructure. The UK OER conference is now much more of an international one and also much more critically reflective of the nature of openness.

Sheila MacNeill

Glasgow Caledonian University

One of the things I keep coming back to is Melissa’s description of technical and cultural debt – I am going to try and blog about this but need to think about it a bit more in terms of my political position! But I found her description of them both really useful and thought provoking.

The theme of #oer16 was Open Culture, and it was great to have input from third sector organisations around the potential of open-ness (content, data and practice) outwith the education sector.  Catherine Cronin’s opening keynote  addressed cultural issues around inequality, culture, participation and open-ness head on.   Changing societal, organisational and personal attitudes to open-ness is an ongoing debate in the open education world.

A Tale of Two Conferences: #oer16 and #LAK16

Catherine Cronin

National University of Ireland, Galway

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference – the sessions I attended as well as the many conversations over the course of the 2+ days. I feel a collective sense of “moving on” in the open education community, a willingness to tackle some of the more challenging questions about risk, power and inequality. Though there is much work to do, this move towards more critical analysis is heartening.

Rachel Hosker

Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh

It was great. Really refreshing and challenging in a positive way for collections. It was a fantastic opportunity to share ideas and meet people with different perspectives on sharing collections and how we can all do this.  I also found it useful as a platform for discussing some of the practical things in collections work that need to be done to make things open for use. As an archivist, working in collections I would encourage others in my sector and profession to go to OER and engage with making collections open.

Maha Bali

Center for Learning and Teaching, The American University in Cairo

As a virtual participant who was also doing OLC Innovate at the same time… I only got a glimpse of what was happening. But what I thought was particularly interesting about OER16 was the challenging of two things:

  1. Challenging OER as a key mode openness – Catherine Cronin’s keynote, my presentation with Suzan Koseoglu and one by Andrew Middleton and Katherine Jessen tried to move beyond OER as content as being the main form of openness…which was interesting given the title of the conference
  2. Challenging openness as necessarily a good thing. This again came from Catherine but also Jim and also my session with Suzan. I am sure if Frances Bell presented something it would also challenge that.

I don’t know if this is all normal for OER16… it resonates a little with how OpenEd last year was, but with OpenEd it felt like maybe a majority of attendees were less critical but there was a vocal minority that was critical…

Thank you for embodying true openness in your approach to my virtual participation and Virtually Connecting. We are continually mentioning ALT as one of the organizations that’s supporting us.

Frances Bell

francesbell.com

OER16 was a very friendly conference – with lots of smiling, networking and fun going on. The conference topic Open Culture, expressed through the themes, enabled participants to celebrate and critique openness in the overlapping contexts of cultural heritage and education. The keynote speakers really helped to frame that celebration and critique in conference sessions and informal discussions.

Stuart Nicol

Educational Design and Engagement, University of Edinburgh

At a high level I felt a little that there was an underlying split between the very technical-orientated view of open and OER (I’m thinking Jim Groom’s keynote around infrastructure & indie-web) and then the very human side (several presentations talking about the self as OER). But thinking of this as less of a ‘schism’ and more of the strands that sit under the OER grouping. Strands that can sit comfortably but that maybe we haven’t quite got to a place where we realise they can sit comfortably together?

I think it maybe comes down to a tendancy to try to simplify; that OER is a policy and/or it’s a repository. But actually it’s a digital sensibility that underpins a very wide range of practices … the specific human and technical implementation of OER will be different in different practice contexts … and it’s likely to change over time.

John Johnson

Radio EduTalk

In higher education the idea of open education is now well enough established that the discussions have become quite nuanced. There are a wide range of definitions and directions on the open road. Some look at practical issues around, licensing and searching of resources, others social or technical ideas.

I’ve not seen much evidence that these ideas are penetrating primary or secondary education in Scotland. I do think that open ideas are equally valid here. A good place for school based colleagues to start might be the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

I’ve not got a wide ranging knowledge of the OER world, but it was pretty obvious there are different interpretations of open, many speakers alluded to that. There was a general feeling that the more open a resource the more sustainable it is.

It was delightful to spend time with people who are gathered, not because they want to sell something, but with a shared idea that is aimed at doing good in the world.

Joe Wilson

joewilsons.net

I am prejudiced but I do think some of our most creative educators are interested in open education. All of the sessions I attended inspired me and showed the way forward for all of us in rethinking what education could be. There was something for everyone from policy makers to practitioners.

All of the sessions from Wikimedia offered something for Colleges and adult learners – I can’t do them all justice in a post . But Colleges should be using Wikimedia tools not just as reference materials but as active learning tools.

#OER16 Quick Overview and Some important links for Scottish FE

Anne-Marie Scott

Digital Learning Applications and Media, University of Edinburgh

My major takeaway has been the value of openness. Making educational resources available for many purposes using Creative Commons licenses, building software and infrastructure using open source technologies and licenses, being open about the algorithms we use to evaluate our students’ online activities, being transparent about what data we collect and why, being open and inclusive about the development of standards that will allow us to work better together, all of this activity requires a commitment to being open. Open to scrutiny, open to challenge, open to collaboration, open to cooperation, and open to being part of a community.

The value of being open

And last but not least from twitter….

Stephen Thomas

Michigan State University

#oer16 #sustainability panel had a wide variety of perspectives. Great session!

by Stephen Thomas

Pat vs. Viv by Stephen Thomas


Young People’s Social and Political Participation Across the EU⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

 LSE pilot study ends 3rd July
CATCH-EyoU (Constructing Active Citizenship with European Youth: Policies, Practices, Challenges and Solutions) is a research and innovation action funded by the European Commission
CATCH-EyoU is trying to find out about young people’s social and political participation across the EU and want to understand why and how some young people decide to participate (or to not participate) in their communities, in politics, and in social life. They are especially interested in European active citizenship and what this might mean to young people.
The project is currently carrying out a survey which seeks the views of young people, in two separate age groups: between 16-18, and between 19–25 on their experiences and perspectives as young European citizens. The pilot survey will be open until 3 July.
For young people between the ages of 16-18 the link to the survey is here.
For young people between the ages of 19-25 the link to the survey is here.
Any young person completing the whole survey will be eligible to win one of ten £20 Amazon voucher prizes. These will be randomly allocated at the beginning of July, and will be sent via email to the winning participant.
Find out more here.
Contact: Dr Sam Mejias at London School of Economic and Political Science, s.mejias@lse.ac.uk

… and we’re done⤴

from @ Stuart Allan

And so, with a few mouse-clicks on a quiet Monday evening, I’d submitted my dissertation.

Studying for an MSc in digital education alongside work and family commitments has been a challenge, and part of me felt like Jesse driving away in the finale to Breaking Bad as I clicked ‘Submit’, I shut down my computer and my wife handed me a gin and tonic.

But it’s also been such an enjoyable and fascinating two-and-a-half years that I almost don’t want it to end.

There are many people I want to say thank you to, including (in no particular order) Emer, Jen Ross, Rory Ewins, Gill Ferrell, Alick Kitchin, Dave Kelly and everyone who gave up their time to participate in my research.

I have a few more things to finish off over the next week or so, then we’re off to France for a much-needed family holiday. And after that, I’ll start thinking about what to do next.


Bursting the Facebook bubble⤴

from @ Stuart Allan

soap-bubble-439103_1920
Source: http://www.pixabay.com

Like many others I experienced the events of Friday 24 June 2016 as something of a watershed. Not only because the UK electorate decided to leave one of the most successful organisations for peace and prosperity in the history of humanity, but because it did so in a climate of apparently wilful misinformation.

On a personal level, I’ve felt uneasy about Facebook for a while. Like everyone I’ve had the feeling that others are having more fun than me, and have been guilty at times of paying more attention to Facebook than to the real people right in front of me. I’ve also noticed lately that Facebook encourages me to skim across the surface of a large number of friendships without really investing enough time in the people who matter to me most. But in terms of the exchanging of ideas and access to information, until recently I bought into the idea that Facebook circumvented many of the limitations, privileges and political slants of newspapers and TV, for example.*

Nevertheless, it appears that we live in a political era that is ‘post-factual’. Some figures (e.g. Donald Trump, Nigel Farage; David Cameron during Scotland’s indyref) now seem to be unburdened of their responsibility to tell the truth and are apparently free to make unfounded promises and threats with very limited consequences. How can we be living in a post-factual world when social media has made information more accessible than it’s ever been?

Firstly, I suspect that information overload is exactly the problem, and that for some people the only political messages that cut through the noise are those that resonate with them on an emotive or even visceral level. (The proliferation of conflicting reports from ‘experts’ ultimately cancels itself out, leaving only soundbites.) Secondly, I think Facebook encourages the creation of ‘filter bubbles’: micro-communities of like-minded people, who are rarely exposed to points of view that challenge their own. On Facebook I was interacting with people who already had a similar outlook on life to me – which is fine for sharing photos and funny stories, but not conducive to any kind of debate. Meanwhile, those who inhabited other social media bubbles were proposing (again, relatively unchallenged) their own extreme arguments about, for example, the perceived threat of immigration in the UK and elsewhere.

And this is where I think it gets dangerous. Whereas in the past, such people might have proposed extreme views in the company of a small number of friends, they now have access to very large communities of apparently like-minded people. This, I’d argue, normalises extreme viewpoints and leads to the perception that everyone would share your view of the world if only they had the courage to express it.

I’m not saying people shouldn’t be allowed to do this, and I’m not suggesting that Facebook is responsible for Brexit in any way. But I am saying that it’s not something I want to be a part of any more, and that the energy I’ve put into Facebook has been wasted on both personal and political levels. So on Friday I deleted my account.

I’m still on Twitter – I’ve tweeted a link to this post – and I can see that this might contradict some of the sentiments I’ve expressed above. In my defence I’d say that I need to maintain a presence on Twitter for work and study purposes, I use it selectively, and I don’t share anything about politics or my family there.

I’m not under the illusion that quitting Facebook will bring about any seismic change to my life. But I could use the time I previously spent scanning my news feed to call or text a friend and ask how they’re doing, or arrange to meet up face to face. If I wanted to be politically active, then I could do so in the old-fashioned way (by handing out leaflets, talking to people or driving them to the polling station). Maybe I won’t do any of these things. Maybe in a few months I’ll succumb to curiosity and go back. But at the moment, I don’t miss Facebook at all.

 

*See Gillespie (2010) for a withering analysis of how tech firms hide their corporate motivations behind the language of democracy: Gillespie T. (2010) ‘The politics of “platforms”’, New Media and Society, 12 (3), pp. 347–364.


Microcast 3: Whose blog is it anyway?⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

IMG_0080.jpeg

Last week I attended the morning of the Always on (them) event at the University of the West of Scotland. This was organised by Professor David McGillivary. It looked at Digital and Social Media use in Education.

Last week I posted a brief summary of my talk and links to the audio I recorded for EDUtalk.

I ended my talk with a few questions that I though were worth thinking about. This is the first of a few microcasts doing just that.

Here a three questions I think go together:

  • Are we getting the best out of Social Media?
  • Should pupils be more involved in posting?
  • Do we read others productions or are we using SM mainly as a broadcast?

These are the easiest questions to start with. They come from the recent rapid expansion in the number of schools blogging and using Twitter across Scotland. I am comparing it to how I though blogging was going to go when I was actively involved in classroom blogging with pupils from 2004 till 2008.

At that time I primarily though about blogging as an activity for pupils. I also tried to get my pupils reading some other pupil blogs, doing a wee bit of commenting, occasionally blogging in reaction and the like. This was quite time consuming. It did lead to some interesting experiences.

We did not perceive much of an impact on our local community or even parents. Only getting engagement online for parents when we went away for week long school trips.

Reading class and school blogs more recently I get the impression that they are more targeted at local community and parents and are largely authored by staff.

A couple of days before the event I tried to see if I could gets some numbers to back up this impression.

Glow blogs consists of 33 instance of WordPress one for each Local Authority and one central. Each has a home page listing up to 40 of the most recently updated public blogs.

I did a bit of scripting to:

  • Scrape a list of urls from each LA page (1212 blogs)
  • Download the RSS feed latest posts from each of these blogs (9002 posts)
  • get the authors for all of these posts.

From that I could guess that users that were Mr, Ms, Mrs, Miss, Dr and the like were adults, there are a few who use their glow usernames which I discarded and some who have initial second name who I presume are adults. Finally I removed a few familiar faces who I know are not pupils.
This left me with 15% of posts that could have been posted by pupils. I suspect it is even lower as some teachers use their full name as their display name on Glow Blogs.

This is quite different that the figure I would have guessed 10 years ago. At that point I though blogging would have become a place for pupils to share their learning and gain audience and for teachers to post for professional development. It looks like we are using blogs more to broadcast to parents and community.

I’d be really interested in finding out about school use of Twitter in a similar fashion. It appears to me that most of the tweets are coming from teachers. I wonder if there is discussion of what is tweeted with pupils, if classes look at other schools tweets. How much engagement between classes and learners is going on? Is Twitter part of learning or is it mostly used by schools to showcase that learning?

In both blogging and tweeting is the idea of more pupil voice a good one? Is it too complex to manage? Is there anything to be gained by engaging with other classes and groups of learners?

I have always presumed that these were good ideas. They don’t seem to have gained the popularity I expected.

I seem to have ended up with even more questions than I started with. Given it looks like I’ll be teaching in school next session I am looking forward to testing some of these things out in reality.

featured image: Portable shortwave transmitter | Flickr – Photo Sharing! used under a Creative Commons — Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic — CC BY-NC 2.0 licenses.

Mistakes….⤴

from

I am feeling paralysed. Too many upsetting, infuriating things have happened this week. Some at work. Some in the world. Some just in my head.

Too much to think about. To much to say. Too much to do. Overwhelming.

But on my angry, tear-fuelled cycle ride just now, I have realised. They are connected.

So…..

Miss Bell is a newly qualified teacher on a temporary contract teaching German in a secondary school. She is trained
to teach French but did German as a second subject in her degree and hopes that this job may lead to a permanent post in the new academic year. Today is the last time this term she will teach her Year 8 class. She has not had an easy ride with them; at first she found the class a challenge but she worked hard to get to know them and to understand their needs and recently she has grown to love teaching them.
Today she has planned a special treat. The lesson started as normal: structure, learning intentions, success criteria and a task whereby they presented a short speech, prepared for homework and based on the learning of the term. And they have aced it; every single pupil has presented to the best of his/ her ability and there has been collective and well deserved praise and pride. One pupil in particular has earned Miss Bell’s admiration and respect; Molly has out-performed all her peers even though she has ADHD and sits at the bottom in assessments in all of her other classes.
Miss Bell of course doesn’t make a huge fuss about this in front of the class because Molly would loathe that. But they have shared a secret smile and understanding.

And now the treat time has come. Miss Bell has long talked about a song which only very special classes get to hear when they have worked really hard. She has has said that it is her ‘German Winner’s Anthem’. And today the time has come for this class to hear it: Culcha Candela’s ‘Von Allein.’ It is a catchy hip-hop, rappy celebratory song and the video is a cool celebration of European culture and passion.

She has bought Gummi-Bärchen. (Not chocolate, as Jake is allergic and she does not want to draw attention to that.) She lets the class sit round the smart board and watches as they get to hear the song. She smiles as they spontaneously start to dance along and she encourages them to wave their arms along to ‘Deine Fahne in die Luft’. (Your flags in the air).
She smiles at their exuberance and wonder. She feigns refusal when they ask for a second playing but gladly gives in. She wonders what anyone passing might think at seeing pupils dancing and waving but then decides that seeing happy engaged pupils is entirely ok.
And then she steps back and feels overwhelmingly sad. Sad that she may not get to continue teaching this class. And sad that the multi-cultural diversity that is celebrated in the song playing and in her teaching of foreign languages is now threatened by the referendum results announced overnight.

Mrs Carter is exhausted. She has been up for all but three hours watching the referendum play out. She is shocked, depressed, angry. She also has too much to before the end of term. Staffing is a nightmare. Two English teacher posts still need to be filled after re-advertisement and the German situation rumbles on with Mrs Veidt sending in sick notes but never actually admitting that she needs to retire. There is a girl in doing a good job on supply but she will probably get snapped up by another school….
And then there is Molly’s mother’s complaint to deal with. ‘Why aren’t teachers enabling my daughter to succeed? Do they even know she has ADHD?’. Well, Mrs Molly, maybe if you imposed some boundaries at home, Molly’s so-called ADHD would disappear and she would stop disrupting the learning of all the other children I the class…
Why did being a head teacher ever seem appealing?

She walks down the corridor, head pounding and hears the noise from the class. Music blaring. What the f***?
She looks through the glass in the door of the class. Kids out of their seats, jumping, waving their arms. Molly pirouetting madly.
Is the teacher even there?

She storms in. ‘What is going on? She shouts. ‘Molly, what on EARTH are you doing?
She spots Miss Bell at the back, looking somewhat upset and surprised.
‘Molly, are you chewing? Spit it out NOW!…..Don’t you DARE answer me back! You know that we have a zero tolerance rule on chewing…. What? … My office. NOW!’

She turns to Miss Bell. ‘Sorry about that but Molly needs to learn some boundaries. Once again she has shown a complete lack of respect for my authority. I’ll take it from here’.

She leaves the class with Molly.

The atmosphere is flat and even the beat of the song still playing can’t get things back to where they were.

Miss Bell apologises to the rest of the class and tells them how much she has enjoyed teaching them and how much she has learnt from them.
Ending A
After the pupils have left, Miss Bell sits at her computer and emails Mrs Carter to thank her for giving her such a great learning experience in the school but stating that she will not be back next term.

Ending B
Mrs Carter leaves the class with Molly and realises at once that she has made a huge misjudgement. She knows from the expression on Miss Bell’s face and the empty Gummi-Bärchen packets on the desks. She walks with Molly to her office where she sits Molly down. ‘I owe you a huge apology’. She says. ‘I am tired and grumpy and I took that out on you by shouting. I made a judgement based on the fact that in the past you have been cheeky to me but I did not give you a chance to explain today. I am very sorry. I will not shout at you again.’

When the bell rings, she goes back to see Miss Bell. She explains that she has apologised to Molly and goes on to apologise to Miss Bell.
The two women have a mutual moment of weeping over the referendum result.
Mrs Carter then asks Miss Bell if she’d like to stay next term.
If they can’t change the world, maybe they can try to change things for the pupils in their school together…..

Miss Bell goes home overjoyed.

School is both a preparation for life and life itself. The relationships between staff and pupils, staff and staff and pupils and pupils are real and human.

We can use them as learning opportunities only if we admit to getting things wrong sometime and asking forgiveness.
Those in power need to be humble and see the truth of situations before making decisions that can have immeasurable consequences.

In a room somewhere, important men and women could now get together and apologise and learn from a huge error of judgment. There could be an ending B in the European story too.

Those in power need to be humble and see the truth of situations before making decisions that can have immeasurable consequences.

If ever I run a school or the world, these will be my non-negotiables:

Everyone must be willing to self-reflect and learn.

We all get things wrong and need to be able to apologise when we do.

We are all human and being in a position of authority does not mean you are better than anyone else.

Everyone needs to take time to see the reality of a situation and not fall into making judgements based on half-truths, prejudice or stereotypes.

Everyone is worthy of love.


Why Do We Need Half of our Holidays at the Same Time?⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday

So this morning I woke up to a new future. No, not the UK’s departure from Europe. This is all about me. I’m on holidays for six and a half weeks and I deserve it. Non-teachers bristle; their eyes roll. Fair enough. I’m going to be on a sun lounger in about forty eight hours so bristle away.

Secretly, though, I’m coming round to the fact that the summer holidays are unnecessarily long and if we are to tackle the serious problems with poverty we are all aware of, we need to do something more than just wring our hands and shake our heads.

childThis week I’ve had numerous conversations with students about their holidays: some heading off to Florida, to Europe, to London; some heading to caravans around Scotland; some going nowhere, playing X-box. The disparity is obvious. Some grabbing books from school and class libraries; some vowing to never read a page until they return in August. Poverty is not something that can be solved in schools alone; it is a societal problem in a society that, thus far, has been bereft of any workable ideas as to how to ‘narrow the gap’. Throwing money at it has never worked. So we need to be brave and bold.

Our more well-off students will continue their educations over the summer. They can afford to travel, to visit, to learn. Our economically-deprived students can’t do that. They often have to take even more time off during term-time because holidays are cheaper. Our rigid approach to school breaks means the holiday companies can, quite openly, often double the price of that fortnight in Greece. With twelve weeks holiday a year there is no reason we can’t shorten our summer holidays to make that window smaller.

A four week summer holidays is still vastly longer than most people get. The final two weeks of term could be given over to activities/ trips and those who wanted to use that for a family holiday could do so. We, in effect, shorten the time our most vulnerable children are out of school at any one time, with added fortnights thorough the year. Still twelve weeks; just  utilised in a more valuable way.

Oh, I know you’ll shudder at that thought after such a hard year. But think about it. More breaks throughout the year might mean we are less stressed at specific times. We can plan for proper breaks and, dare I say it, time to step away. It’s a bold and not original suggestion but if we’re serious about doing our bit to tackle poverty then we need to be radical in our thinking. The accepted structures of our society embed that poverty. So we must change for them not for us. We must do something.

I’m already feeling the benefits of my summer holidays. I’m packing. But this way isn’t working so let’s be brave and less self-serving. Poverty isn’t a school problem but it is something we can help change. Perhaps the way we live and work needs to be transformed if we are serious about the lives of all of our young people. Perhaps it’s time for that.