Monthly Archives: December 2016

Another Years Blogging⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

In 2015 my blogging was dominated by Glow Blogs and WordPress. This year the picture was a little different. Here is a Wordle of my 2016 titles.

Wordle 2016

WordPress stays near the top and Glow Blogs featured quite often but not in the titles of the post. 23 Things, Open (including OER16) and Edutalk stand out.

Most of my time in 2015 was taken up by Glow Blogs, 2016 brought big changes, before I’d got used to being back in my substantive post, supporting ICT in North Lanarkshire, I found myself being redeployed into a class teachers role. I’ve not blogged much about that, sticking to technology: some in the classroom, some more general.

The post Questioning Glow got most reaction.

A fair number of posts are under the 23 things banner and I’ve become even more interested in thinking about the the way that using software affects us. I think the questions I talked about at Always on (them): Digital and Social Media use in Education #DigitalUWS are important.

Apart from my Radio Edutalk contributions, which slacked a bit this year I made several microcasts here. There are just short, unedited podcasts, in my case posted from my phone. I doubt that many were listening but I enjoy the format.

My most popular post was An interesting mix: Chromebook and Raspberry pi. This was a passing interest as I no longer have access to a chromebook. I did blog a fair bit about my Pi(s) which continue to interest me.

As I prepare for think about my 13th year blogging, this blog continues to meander through topics that take my fancy, often it feels like me alone. I often read about how to make your blog more popular, and continue to break most of that advice.

Featured image: A quick gif made for #tdc1818 The End is Near! Make a GIF | The (new) Daily Create, I’ve not created as much as I would have liked for the daily create, but I still recommend it as a great exercise for playing with digital and your imagination.

    Final #Wellbeing Reflection⤴

    from

    A final wellbeing reflection.

    Back at the end of last year I came across the #teacher5aday wellbeing movement.
    Reading what had been happening over the previous 12 months amongst teachers with a commitment to wellbeing inspired me and I wrote a blog. The whole piece can be found here
At the end of it I made three vows. I have written reflections regularly since such as this one from October: https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/wellbeing-update-october-2016/
    At the end of the year, it is time for a final reflection.

    Vow 1. To myself. It is time I sorted this out once and for all. I love the Facebook ‘memories’ function where you can see where you were and what you were doing on this day in previous years. But I am concerned that I have been saying the same things about needing to slow down and look after better myself for 10 years. Now is the time. My family needs more of me and I need to accept that excuses won’t do any more. Only I can do this but but I am hoping for a bit of help from @Doctob’s book ‘Inner Story’ which fortuitously came into my possession recently.

    Update, a year on:
    Honestly? As I said in October, I still work hard and sometimes find it hard to switch off. I am still driven and infuriating to those who love me.
    I still hear my children say they don’t see enough of me.
    But I do manage it all better. I did a course in mindfulness back in October and I also read Emma Woolf’s fabulous book Positively Primal, both of which have been a huge help to me. The world is never going to stop being busy and hectic but our approach to it is key: focusing on the vision, prioritising the important and taking time to savour the individual moments.

    Vow 2: To education. I am doing the Scottish ‘Into Headship’ course this year and intend to learn all I can about how to be a Wellbeing-motivated educational leader.
    Update, a year on:
    I have finished all aspects of the course and await verification as to whether I have passed. The course was an amazing opportunity to learn about leadership and about the vision of leadership that Scotland aspires to for its future school leaders.
    Are Scottish schools ready for that type of leader? I’m not sure.
    I have been promoted to Acting Head of Teaching and Learning (Secondary) in my school recently and this has presented me with a amazing opportunity to take forward my ideas on developing ethos, promoting staff and pupil wellbeing and influencing the culture of our school.
    On a practical level, I have a school timetable to write in the new term which will be a huge challenge for me and possibly the end of a short-lived career!

    Vow 3: To Twitter. I will use this forum to engage in the debate about wellbeing and teacher ‘agency’ and to support and nurture like-minded souls. I will not beat myself up if I don’t manage to tweet or blog as often as other brilliant twitterati friends…..(as I have in the past) but I will use Twitter for all its potential….

    Update, a year on:
    I have come to both love and hate Twitter. I love it for its power to connect me to like-minded people and their ideas and writing. I hate it for drawing me in and making me spend more time on it than I should. I also wonder about the quality of interaction that can ever really be achieved on Twitter and the fact that what seem like genuine interest and compassion aren’t. If that sounds harsh, it is not meant to. It is just that when I went through a really hard time back in late October, Twitter barely noticed.
    And why would it have?

    On the other hand, I have found huge support and what has felt like more genuine connection through platforms like @staffrm and WomenEd and Pedagoo.

    This will be my last #teacher5aday #wellbeing update. I will continue to #connect, #notice, #exercise, #learn and #volunteer, blog, reflect and be well. I will continue to encourage others to do so to. And I will revert to a paper sketchbook/journal as my tool of reflection, as suggested here: https://martynreah.wordpress.com/

    Thanks so much again to
    Martyn Reah and the tribe for getting me hooked.

    Bye for now.


    How do you nudge teachers into online coaching? 2016 in Travel⤴

    from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

    Gcmap2016

    Once again, I've analysed my year of travel to see if I'm any closer to reducing it year on year. It's an annual habit, and if often kicks off new ideas that might affect my team's next year of work. The good answer is: yes, there is less travel! And not just that, but having reduced the schlepping I do, I've been able to hire more amazing people to lead on our work, and celebrate one of NoTosh's best years ever in terms of the quality, quantity and breadth of work we're doing. 

    Key to traveling less has been a marked increase in the number of folk who see and are now reaping the value of working with us online. I've avoided as many as 20,000 miles of travel thanks to greener clients, who are also many dollars better off having not paid for the airmiles that are wrapped up in our regular fee structure. 

    The quality of our work is better, too, thanks to this. We are doing fewer of those day-long workshops with teachers or leaders, when an hour or even thirty minutes before the day gets started is more worthwhile. We're seeing more school leaders take this up, although it's harder to get teachers into the habit of taking 30 minutes 'me time' to jump into a coaching session on the day or week ahead. But it's starting, and the value to us all is huge. Coaching is very different to 'consulting a Personal Learning Network' on Twitter. It's intense, targeted, focussed and involves a one-on-one discussion that arrives quickly at resolutions to current day challenges that will have a long-term impact. And we come back to measure whether that impact actually happened. I don't think it's a way of working that many are used to in Education, although many corporate clients have had some rare experience with it. Encouraging both groups to take more regular time out for coaching, little and often, is a real challenge, but we're beginning to see some huge impact from relatively little input (and relatively few dollars!). 

    In 2017, my whole team plans to make more varied use of online coaching, in an effort to wean more clients into this way of working. The face-to-face stuff that really needs travel will still happen, and we'll enjoy it even more, I'm sure. 

    2007: 51,281 miles

    2008: 81,887 miles

    2009: 41,902 miles

    2010: 106,372 miles

    2011: 128,555 miles

    2012: 242,266 miles

    2013: 207,837 miles

    2014: 237,195 miles

    2015: 163,581 miles

    2016: 116,863 miles

    How do you nudge teachers into online coaching? 2016 in Travel⤴

    from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

    Gcmap2016

    Once again, I've analysed my year of travel to see if I'm any closer to reducing it year on year. It's an annual habit, and if often kicks off new ideas that might affect my team's next year of work. The good answer is: yes, there is less travel! And not just that, but having reduced the schlepping I do, I've been able to hire more amazing people to lead on our work, and celebrate one of NoTosh's best years ever in terms of the quality, quantity and breadth of work we're doing. 

    Key to traveling less has been a marked increase in the number of folk who see and are now reaping the value of working with us online. I've avoided as many as 20,000 miles of travel thanks to greener clients, who are also many dollars better off having not paid for the airmiles that are wrapped up in our regular fee structure. 

    The quality of our work is better, too, thanks to this. We are doing fewer of those day-long workshops with teachers or leaders, when an hour or even thirty minutes before the day gets started is more worthwhile. We're seeing more school leaders take this up, although it's harder to get teachers into the habit of taking 30 minutes 'me time' to jump into a coaching session on the day or week ahead. But it's starting, and the value to us all is huge. Coaching is very different to 'consulting a Personal Learning Network' on Twitter. It's intense, targeted, focussed and involves a one-on-one discussion that arrives quickly at resolutions to current day challenges that will have a long-term impact. And we come back to measure whether that impact actually happened. I don't think it's a way of working that many are used to in Education, although many corporate clients have had some rare experience with it. Encouraging both groups to take more regular time out for coaching, little and often, is a real challenge, but we're beginning to see some huge impact from relatively little input (and relatively few dollars!). 

    In 2017, my whole team plans to make more varied use of online coaching, in an effort to wean more clients into this way of working. The face-to-face stuff that really needs travel will still happen, and we'll enjoy it even more, I'm sure. 

    2007: 51,281 miles

    2008: 81,887 miles

    2009: 41,902 miles

    2010: 106,372 miles

    2011: 128,555 miles

    2012: 242,266 miles

    2013: 207,837 miles

    2014: 237,195 miles

    2015: 163,581 miles

    2016: 116,863 miles

    Some musings on inspections⤴

    from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

    Perhaps its the Christmas idleness kicking in, but I have been thinking over the last day or two about school inspections. This is probably because of tweets I have read over that time, but it is also undoubtedly linked to the fact that I am aware of at least two schools, pretty near to me, who are being inspected as soon as they return from the Christmas and New Year break. Why would anyone think that is an appropriate thing to do? One school will have inspectors arriving on the first day back and the other the following week. I am sure we can all imagine how these impending visits have impacted on school leaders and staff in the already hectic run-up to the Christmas holidays, and how they may also be feeling during those holidays. It feels to me that schools being inspected in this period, so soon after the break, are very much just seen as fodder for an organisational process that takes no notice of the impact on people of that process. 'We have a number of inspections to carry out, so lets get straight back on it after the holidays', would seem to be the mindset. 'Then we can tick that box, move on to the next, and meet our targets, before we get too busy with more curricular and structural reform.' Of course, this could also be used as another reason why we should have 'no notice' inspections, to stop staff and school leaders getting stressed about an impending event, and to get a truer picture of what the school is really like. But, timing would still be important for everyone, especially as our own inspection regime in Scotland is now heavily weighted in terms of conversations with the learners. In any Primary school I have worked in, it has always taken a few days at least for learners to get their 'learning heads' back on and for their 'holiday heads' to begin to disappear. For those from more chaotic home backgrounds, this takes even longer. Having questions about your learning fired at you from a stranger in the first few days back, may not only be stressful, but also the answers you give may not be a true reflection of where you are in your learning.


    To my musings. I should say at the outset that I don't believe in school inspection as a process. To me, it is another example of the system creating an illusion that it is in charge and is taking robust steps to ensure everyone is doing what they should. It is designed to reassure parents, the public and politicians that schools, their leaders and teachers are delivering what they should be. The organisations charged with carrying out inspections will have 'data' that they can share with parents, the local authority and the school about how it is doing. When they accumulate that 'data' they can present a regional and national picture, or so they think. The question is, 'how accurate is the picture they present of individual schools, and the system as a whole?' I am afraid the answer to this is 'not very.'

    I often hear it said 'you can tell what a school is like five minutes in through the front door' and there is some truth in this. I too feel that you can get a 'feel' for a school, its culture and ethos very quickly. But that is completely different to 'knowing' that school really well and the quality of its work in all areas. To achieve that takes expertise and, more importantly, time. For me, a few days of observing lessons and talking to all members of a school community, doesn't cut it either. What inspectors see is very much a snapshot and will still not be an accurate picture of what that school is really like. In my mind, to achieve some form of accuracy would require an inspector to be embedded within a school for at least a month and possibly longer. Only then would they begin to see all facets of how the school works, and the complexity of the interactions that leaders try to support and deal with, to ensure it is producing the best outcomes it can for all learners. If an inspector was in a school and spent the time shadowing the school leadership, the teachers, support staff, pupils, parents, other agencies in everything they do to make the organisation function and be effective, then the picture they would form may have some validity. They would need to see everything including classrooms, the variety of meetings, professional development, collaborative planning and working, break times, lunches, community contacts, Parent Councils, assemblies and so on. Only then, could they describe the school with any sort of confidence, and which would have some validity for the various audiences they would report to.

    Is this likely to happen? Probably not. I can see costs, workload, staffing and training amongst the issues that would be cited for why it couldn't happen. Another thought I had was that it should be practicing school leaders and teachers who would be trained for such a role, and this should not be devolved to a separate body or organisation. We are still 'inspected' by far too many people who have no direct experience of the curriculum as it now is, or of actually implementing the research we now have access to in a classroom, on a daily basis. This gives them not only a very low credibility rating with schools and teachers, it also limits their understandings of the new demands expected and placed on teachers and schools. Perhaps, all our current inspectors should be expected to go back into a school for a couple of years, every five years, so they don't become too divorced from the realities of the classroom. Might help the staffing shortages as well.

    It is well documented that there is no inspection regime in Finland, and yet they seem to do quite well in many eyes. What they do have is very well educated and trained staff, within a profession that is highly respected and trusted by all. I don't believe it is beyond the bounds of possibility that we could aim  for the same in Scotland, and elsewhere. This would mean we would have to ensure our Initial Teacher Education programmes were fit for purpose, and equipped young teachers with skills and qualities that allowed them to become career-long enquiring professionals. They would need deep understandings of learning, and the diagnosis and fixing of learning difficulties, and should be critical users of research throughout their careers. They should be self-regulating, develop agency and adaptive expertise, and understand the power of collaboration to solve and overcome complexity. All this would require close links and working between schools and ITE providers, and perhaps a new sharing of responsibilities in new collaborative models, there are lots of examples of this happening already. It would also require our political leaders to understand and embrace such a model. The sooner they recognise that true, deep and meaningful system change and growth cannot be mandated and micromanaged through prevailing hierarchies the better for all, and the more likely we can achieve our collective aims.

    This is something I intend to keep working for in 2017. 


    Merry Xmas and happy New Year to you all. :0)


    Some musings on inspections⤴

    from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

    Perhaps its the Christmas idleness kicking in, but I have been thinking over the last day or two about school inspections. This is probably because of tweets I have read over that time, but it is also undoubtedly linked to the fact that I am aware of at least two schools, pretty near to me, who are being inspected as soon as they return from the Christmas and New Year break. Why would anyone think that is an appropriate thing to do? One school will have inspectors arriving on the first day back and the other the following week. I am sure we can all imagine how these impending visits have impacted on school leaders and staff in the already hectic run-up to the Christmas holidays, and how they may also be feeling during those holidays. It feels to me that schools being inspected in this period, so soon after the break, are very much just seen as fodder for an organisational process that takes no notice of the impact on people of that process. 'We have a number of inspections to carry out, so lets get straight back on it after the holidays', would seem to be the mindset. 'Then we can tick that box, move on to the next, and meet our targets, before we get too busy with more curricular and structural reform.' Of course, this could also be used as another reason why we should have 'no notice' inspections, to stop staff and school leaders getting stressed about an impending event, and to get a truer picture of what the school is really like. But, timing would still be important for everyone, especially as our own inspection regime in Scotland is now heavily weighted in terms of conversations with the learners. In any Primary school I have worked in, it has always taken a few days at least for learners to get their 'learning heads' back on and for their 'holiday heads' to begin to disappear. For those from more chaotic home backgrounds, this takes even longer. Having questions about your learning fired at you from a stranger in the first few days back, may not only be stressful, but also the answers you give may not be a true reflection of where you are in your learning.


    To my musings. I should say at the outset that I don't believe in school inspection as a process. To me, it is another example of the system creating an illusion that it is in charge and is taking robust steps to ensure everyone is doing what they should. It is designed to reassure parents, the public and politicians that schools, their leaders and teachers are delivering what they should be. The organisations charged with carrying out inspections will have 'data' that they can share with parents, the local authority and the school about how it is doing. When they accumulate that 'data' they can present a regional and national picture, or so they think. The question is, 'how accurate is the picture they present of individual schools, and the system as a whole?' I am afraid the answer to this is 'not very.'

    I often hear it said 'you can tell what a school is like five minutes in through the front door' and there is some truth in this. I too feel that you can get a 'feel' for a school, its culture and ethos very quickly. But that is completely different to 'knowing' that school really well and the quality of its work in all areas. To achieve that takes expertise and, more importantly, time. For me, a few days of observing lessons and talking to all members of a school community, doesn't cut it either. What inspectors see is very much a snapshot and will still not be an accurate picture of what that school is really like. In my mind, to achieve some form of accuracy would require an inspector to be embedded within a school for at least a month and possibly longer. Only then would they begin to see all facets of how the school works, and the complexity of the interactions that leaders try to support and deal with, to ensure it is producing the best outcomes it can for all learners. If an inspector was in a school and spent the time shadowing the school leadership, the teachers, support staff, pupils, parents, other agencies in everything they do to make the organisation function and be effective, then the picture they would form may have some validity. They would need to see everything including classrooms, the variety of meetings, professional development, collaborative planning and working, break times, lunches, community contacts, Parent Councils, assemblies and so on. Only then, could they describe the school with any sort of confidence, and which would have some validity for the various audiences they would report to.

    Is this likely to happen? Probably not. I can see costs, workload, staffing and training amongst the issues that would be cited for why it couldn't happen. Another thought I had was that it should be practicing school leaders and teachers who would be trained for such a role, and this should not be devolved to a separate body or organisation. We are still 'inspected' by far too many people who have no direct experience of the curriculum as it now is, or of actually implementing the research we now have access to in a classroom, on a daily basis. This gives them not only a very low credibility rating with schools and teachers, it also limits their understandings of the new demands expected and placed on teachers and schools. Perhaps, all our current inspectors should be expected to go back into a school for a couple of years, every five years, so they don't become too divorced from the realities of the classroom. Might help the staffing shortages as well.

    It is well documented that there is no inspection regime in Finland, and yet they seem to do quite well in many eyes. What they do have is very well educated and trained staff, within a profession that is highly respected and trusted by all. I don't believe it is beyond the bounds of possibility that we could aim  for the same in Scotland, and elsewhere. This would mean we would have to ensure our Initial Teacher Education programmes were fit for purpose, and equipped young teachers with skills and qualities that allowed them to become career-long enquiring professionals. They would need deep understandings of learning, and the diagnosis and fixing of learning difficulties, and should be critical users of research throughout their careers. They should be self-regulating, develop agency and adaptive expertise, and understand the power of collaboration to solve and overcome complexity. All this would require close links and working between schools and ITE providers, and perhaps a new sharing of responsibilities in new collaborative models, there are lots of examples of this happening already. It would also require our political leaders to understand and embrace such a model. The sooner they recognise that true, deep and meaningful system change and growth cannot be mandated and micromanaged through prevailing hierarchies the better for all, and the more likely we can achieve our collective aims.

    This is something I intend to keep working for in 2017. 


    Merry Xmas and happy New Year to you all. :0)


    New childcare pilots announced⤴

    from @ Engage for Education

    Yesterday, I was fortunate to visit Larkhall Children’s Centre, meet the children, staff and parents and see for myself how the nursery there is helping deliver the Scottish Government’s aims to expand free early learning and childcare.

    The children were fantastic and it was clear that they are benefitting from an extremely high quality of teaching and care.

    That is important, because we know that access to universally available, affordable, high quality early learning and childcare brings significant benefits for both children and families.

    It gives our young people the skills and confidence to build on throughout school and is a cornerstone for closing attainment and inequality gaps. For parents, flexible, affordable ELC helps them access other family services and get into education, training or employment.

    That is why one of the Scottish Government’s key priorities is to deliver our pledge to double the number of funded hours of childcare for all 3 and 4 year olds and those 2 year olds who need it most. By the end of this parliament, we will have increased free provision from 600 hours a year to 1140 hours a year.

    Good progress has been made, but we know that one of the key challenges we need to address is how we can make this service flexible and fit better into the lives of working families.

    In the new year, three pilot projects – in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and the Borders – will begin to help us identify how this flexible early learning and childcare can be best structured.

    Yesterday, I was delighted to announce the locations for the next pilot projects. One of those will be in Larkhall Children’s Centre, and will see the local authority use childminders to support the needs of parents in the outlying communities of Stonehouse, Dalserf and Netherburn.

    Although based in these communities, the childminders, will form an extended part of the nursery team and benefit from support as well as being able to access nursery and council resources.  It’s a really imaginative way of delivering the service we want to provide in our communities.

    The Larkhall project is just one of 11 new pilot programmes we confirmed. As well as using childminding services, these projects will test new approaches such as linking ELC to local employability services to help parents access employment, training or education and co-locating ELC and out of school care services.

    The trials will take place in Argyll and Bute, Dundee, Glasgow, Western Isles, Shetland Isles, North Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway, East Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Midlothian and Angus.

    They will commence by Summer 2017 and will be supported by more than £827,000 in Scottish Government funding, bringing our total funding commitment for this work to more than £950,000.

    You can read more about individual trials here: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/Young-People/early-years/ELCTrials/ELCTrials