Monthly Archives: September 2018

The Emotional Roots of Social Justice⤴

from @ curriculum for equity

The People's Republic Of Escotia

Gary and MSYPs Gary with members of the Scottish Youth Parliament

Image source:

I am a PhD Researcher based at the School of Education in University of Glasgow. My main interests relate to social justice, citizenship education and values. My background is in education, having worked in a variety of roles including teacher, trainer, youth development worker, project manager and researcher. I’ve worked in schools all across Scotland and the UK and more recently I have been working as a researcher for Education Scotland and the Scottish Government. I am equally interested in practical, political and theoretical perspectives, and I am especially interested in the tricky spaces between those perspectives. I recently co-authored a book exploring the role of values through a series of interviews – ‘Speaking of Values’ – and I have conducted a critical analysis of character education from a social justice perspective, which was informed by extensive…

View original post 2,404 more words

iOS 12 – an update for education!⤴

from @ The Digital Revolution

It’s rare that I actually get excited about an iOS update.  Sure, performance is introduced, and new features are added – but it’s rare that those new features excite me.  iOS12 is the exception to that rule.  As an educator, it is a gift.  Of course, there is still so much more that can come – there always will be, but my lord this is a step in the right direction.  And not just for educators; for parents who want a little more control of their children’s use of tech and want to be able to monitor it more effectively, iOS12 really goes a long way in a very positive direction.

This post is a little different; but as a teacher in Glasgow, where children are receiving iPads on a 1-1 basis as part of our digital transformation, it is something that I really want to look at.  For parents of children with iPads, I think aspects of this blog will also be really helpful.

Let’s look at some of the features that have been introduced and can have a really positive impact in the classroom:

Screen time

This is mostly beneficial for parents, but for schools would be a great thing to share with parents and implement, especially if we are encouraging children to use devices at home.

This is a huge move in the battle to cut down on ‘screen time’ for our younger users – but to fully appreciate this, we need to think about what ‘screen time’ actually is.  Screen time can be both a positive and negative experience.  Negative screen time, is time where children are not interacting or engaging with cognitive benefits – for example, playing games that have no depth of learning behind them.  There are many games that can be beneficial – ones that encourage problem solving and critical thinking for example, but in excess even these can be addictive.  For younger children especially, excessive individual screen time should be discouraged, but time with parents using a screen for play, learning or reading (in my opinion) can be just as positive an experience as reading a book or playing a board game as it is the collaborative aspect in these scenarios that is the beneficial experience.

The ‘screen time’ controls that come as part of the iOS update monitor usage in this way, and can even be programmed to limit it.  Let’s look more closely at them:


‘Screen time’ can be found in the settings menu on your iOS 12 enabled device.  Once activated, it automatically tracks usage and categorises it into ‘types’ of screen time – e.g. productivity, creativity, games, social media etc.  In the image below, I had only just enabled screen time for the purpose of this blog, so it is showing my screen time in seconds and uncategorised, but you will find many examples of more active screen time online.  Frankly, I have mine turned off as I know that I spend far too much time on Twitter and don’t want to see just how much!




Below the daily usage bar, there are four controls that can be activated.  In setting up screen time, you are asked if this is your device or your child’s.  If you select that it’s your child’s you will be automatically taken through each of these controls by default.

Downtime is just what you would imagine.  You get to choose times that the user is away from the screen.  The only things that the user will be able to use during this time are apps that you have set as being ‘always allowed’ e.g. the phone (in case of emergency for example) or the alarm/clock.  All other apps would be disabled during this time.

App limits even during enabled screen time, you can set a limit to apps.  If there’s a category of apps, for example games or social media, that you feel your child uses far to much, you can limit it to a set amount of time per day.  For example, I might feel that as I use twitter and facebook too much, I need to set a limit of one hour per day on social media.  If there are apps within the category that you don’t feel should be included in the limit, or you’d like to add other apps, simply click ‘edit apps’ after choosing and adding the category.  Here you can select and deselect the apps that you want/don’t want to include in the time limit.  This is such a powerful way of restricting access to apps that you want to limit.

Always allowed as noted previously, there are some apps that you may wish to always allow.  For example, you might always want to allow your child to make a phone call if they need to, or to access the camera or clock.  You can select/deselect these apps within this menu.

Content and Privacy Restrictions previously called ‘restrictions’ this section allows you to determine which apps and settings the user can change and edit.  Maybe you don’t want them having the ability to purchase apps – you can block that on here.  You can add content restrictions, e.g. no films aged 15 or 18, no explicit books.  As with all web filters, it is not perfect and there may be occasions where your child will come across inappropriate material.  This will always be the case so we do need to teach children to be good digital citizens, and how to deal with that if it does occur (by reporting it).  Again though, this full tool is a very powerful way to restrict and monitor screen time, and make the iPad a versatile tool for learning and entertainment, but not one that ‘takes over’ a child’s life.

Additional features you do also have the option to add a screen time passcode to secure all of these settings so that your child can’t change them.  The passcode can also be used to extend time if, say, for a reward one day you want to allow your child an extra 15 minutes on their games.  You can also share all of these features across all devices (associated with the apple ID) to save having to input the same data on each of your child(ren)’s devices.  You can also set it up for your family if your children have different apple IDs.

All in all, this change is very powerful and truly excellent.  I think it will help a lot of families control the ‘addiction’ that some people report their children as having.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality has been with us for some time now, and can be experienced well through a whole host of applications such as Goggle Expeditions and Quiver.  I was actually using AR with P4 this week to let them look at aspects of Ancient Rome in more detail:

AR is continually getting better and better.  iOS 12 promises to integrate AR into many new apps and really build its profile.  It truly can be used well in education too.  Twinkl have recently released a free coding app for teaching basic coding skills.  The app is different to the many others as it uses AR for the game place – the game comes to life in front of you!  I have only just started using it and look forward to trying it out with the Tech Team to see what they think of it.

See my short clip about it in my tweet below:


AR ‘Measure’ app

I think that this application excited me more than any other part of the iOS12 update when I first saw it.  I had seen adverts for AR measuring apps on TV but hadn’t got round to purchasing one – fortunately, I now no longer need to as we have an AR measure app built in to our iOS12 devices!

Here’s a very quick clip of how it works:

In an educational context, measure is often something that can be tricky to teach, but this app can be very useful.  I would encourage a diversity of tools for teaching measure though and am not suggesting to ditch traditional measuring tools, such as rulers, as using and reading these is a skill.  The way I would see this tool being used would be for comparisons and gathering data quickly.  I also think it would be great to ‘test how good the app is’ by asking children to use the app to measure a surface, and then using a ruler to measure it and compare the results.


Voice memos

Voice memos have been around for a long time on iPhones, but until this update were clunky and you couldn’t really do anything with them.  That has all changed now.  Firstly, voice memos are no longer restricted to iPhones – you can access and create them on iPads and macs.  Secondly, it is so much easier to use and share your memos – even directly into apps such as notes.  Here’s a quick demonstration:

Whilst I used the app ‘notes’ in this tutorial, it works with loads of apps, including book creator!  Simply share your audio to book creator instead of notes, then, in book creator click on the + symbol within the book that you want to add the media, and select ‘shared’.  Choose the audio file that you want and then select whether you want it to appear as a button (clickable) or soundtrack (plays in the background).

I hope that this has been helpful and has given you an insight into some of the features within iOS12.  Please do also share with parents as I think it is vital that we equip parents with the tools to better protect their children online and monitor/limit non-beneficial screen time.

Have a great week!



Digital Offer – Gaelic (Learners)⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Press Release from SCILT 19 September 2018

Twenty representatives from seven local authorities across Scotland attended a conference on digital learning in Gaelic Learner Education at the University of Strathclyde on 14 September 2018. The forum discussed provision for Gaelic language learners online, with the aim of improving the digital offer and increasing the number of Gaelic learners in Scottish secondary schools.

Phyllis Green, who attended the conference on behalf of West Lothian Council, said: “The conference helped raise awareness of how we could support Gaelic learning within our authority. Following on from this event, we plan to make links with e-Sgoil, and with other local authorities, to look at how digital can be exploited to support learning within West Lothian Council.”

Jo Ellson, representing Aberdeenshire Council, commented: “It was particularly valuable to discover what is available in a wider context to support learners digitally, and to see the will of all those attending to take Gaelic learning forward.”

The event was facilitated by SCILT, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages. Delegates included representatives from Further and Higher Education as well as national education organisations, SQA and Scottish Government.

SCILT Professional Development Officer, Eòghan Stewart, said: “The conference allowed us to bring colleagues from Comhairle nan Eilean’s e-Sgoil to meet with representatives from other local authorities in order to build links with one another and with Further and Higher Education institutions. There is an appetite to learn Gaelic amongst young people but it can be unclear how to go about doing this if there is no teacher in the school. With a good digital learning strategy nationally, we hope to increase the numbers learning and, eventually, speaking the language, in line with the aims of the Scottish Government Gaelic Language Plan.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s e-Sgoil was established in August 2016. Through a network of staff who deliver online learning, e-Sgoil aims to support the expansion of Gaelic Medium Education locally and nationally. e-Sgoil recently launched an on-line class for National 5 and Higher Gaelic (Learners). This has attracted 12 candidates for the 2018-19 session.

More information is available here:


National Model of Professional Learning⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

To support and strengthen professional learning, Education Scotland has published a new national model of professional learning which replaces previous guidance.

The model of professional learning identifies the key principles and features of effective learning that will build capacity and promote collaborative practices. The new model provides a shared language and aspiration, informing the provision, structure and nature of learning. It also outlines the kinds of learning that will empower and enable you to best meet the needs of learners.,5W0AQ,5GL2BW,N18SO,1




More warnings for Scottish education⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

The last seven days or so have again demonstrated some of the major challenges that lie ahead for Scottish education. These challenges are both long-term and short-term, and how we deal with them will shape the future direction of travel. The prognosis with regard to the possible outcomes is at best looking precarious for the system, teachers and learners.

First we had the motion and debate in the Scottish parliament around the introduction of standardised testing in Primary 1 classes. This whole debate, even before it was aired in parliament, had become very politicised, commonly being presented as an anti-SNP one, rather than about education and how we best support our very youngest learners. Many individuals and organisations tried to point to research and evidence showing why the use of such standardised testing not only did not measure what it was being purported to measure, but that it could potentially skew learning and practices in schools, to the detriment of young learners. Upstart, James McEnaney, the EIS, Connect (a parent organisation) and others, all made well reasoned and evidenced arguments as to the inappropriateness of  such testing in P1, and indeed at the other age groups being targeted by the Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs). Pretty soon this was being dismissed as 'ill informed' by John Swinney or more anti-SNP rhetoric by the government's supporters, ignoring that many critics are in fact supporters of the SNP government.

Before the debate had reached the chamber of parliament, Mr Swinney and his civil servants had attempted to deflect concerns about how these assessments were being delivered and experienced in schools, with minor adjustments being made to questions and advice given to schools on their administration. However this did include the conflicting advice given to Directors of Education around whether the assessments, or 'tests', as the government consistently struggled to remember its own agreed nomenclature, were mandatory and if parents could in fact withdraw their children. This not only served to embarrass Mr Swinney's department but also muddied the waters even further for parents and politicians alike. The final advice given being that whilst there is no 'legal right' for parents to withdraw children from the tests, they could still do so 'in consultation' with their child's school. This was to be described as a 'riddle, rather than advice' by one MSP.

When the issues was debated in parliament Mr Swinney was swift to dismiss the whole debate as 'political opportunism of the worst order' as all opposition parties spoke to the motion raised by Liz Smith of the Scottish Conservatives. In parliament Mr Swinney and his party refused to budge or soften their stance. One of his MSP colleagues, and former leader of the parliamentary education committee, James Dornan, dismissed stories of children being brought to tears by their experiences with his hardly helpful comment, 'weans have always cried in school' However, there were some well reasoned and argued points articulated by others, and questions raised, all of which Mr Swinney ignored or dismissed out of hand. Ross Greer the Scottish Greens' education spokesman, in particular, laid out a calm well-reasoned argument for why the tests, particularly in P1, should be dropped. Mr Swinney was asked for the evidence to support the introduction of the assessments and continually referred to the OECD report published in 2015 on Scottish education. In doing so he completely failed to recognise the difference between 'evidence' and 'advice'. Nor did anyone challenge the fact that this 'report' had been commissioned by the Scottish government to support the contents of the NIF (National Improvement Framework).

The upshot of this whole debate was that the motion was passed, with the majority of MSPs telling the government and Mr Swinney to stop the use of these assessments in P1. However, it would seem that the government and Mr Swinney intend to ignore the vote and plough on with their chosen course. Not surprising given that the First Minister declared on a school visit ahead of the debate and vote that,  'standardised assessments will close the attainment gap'. She has yet to show us how that will be brought about exactly!

On Thursday of last week I attended the annual Scottish Council of Deans of Education conference at Stirling University. The keynote speaker in the morning was professor Bob Lingard of Queensland University. Professor Lingard has worked in education systems around the world, including Scotland, and is currently looking at aspects of the English system. Both in his presentation, and in conversation later, he was quite pessimistic about the direction of travel being taken by Scottish education. He was seeing many similarities to approaches adopted in the USA, England and Australia which are not working. All of these are high on accountability and performativity for teachers and schools, at the expense of teacher professional judgement, expertise and agency, including the use of blanket standardised testing. Ultimately, he noted, such agendas have led to detrimental effects for children, both in terms of their learning as well as their wellbeing.

Bob is piloting a project in Queensland that proposes a re-thinking of accountability, involving the whole community, and which supports schools to 'give an account, rather than just being held to account' about aspects of their practice and what they do to make them special or unique. He calls this  'rich accountability' his project being called PETRA (Pursuing Equity Through Rich Accountability). The project came out of work with school principals in Queensland frustrated by the narrowness of NAPLAN and the inadequacies of the 'MySchool' website and how these are used. One principal expressed this as 'How do we measure the stuff that can't be measured?' This spoke to the frustration of school leaders about value only being given to things that can be quantified and measured, rather than the things that make each school unique, and which really matter. Australia has gone down the road of high-stakes accountability and top-down direction, all driven by a desire to improve their PISA ranking. Bob noted that everywhere that OECD had gone in to work with governments and systems, their followed an increase in accountability and standardised assessments. Not surprising, given they store they put in their own assessments and metrics.

The result has been a skewing of the curriculum in Australia, the focus on improving assessment data, more and more top down direction, leading to lower attainment and widening gaps in performance, especially for the most disadvantaged. The opposite of what the politicians said they wanted to achieve. Perhaps worst of all, to them, their PISA ranking continues to slip. Exactly the same picture is to be found in the USA and elsewhere, where such approaches have held sway. The key strategy Bob and his colleagues in Queensland have taken is to engage with the whole school community, in order to capture how everyone feels about their local schools, to identify what they see as important, then explore how the schools can engage with them to reflect and support this. He talks of a 'dialogic democracy' where no voice is privileged more than any other, and all are seen as important and listened to. When this is combined with other data, is when they are able to get a fuller, holistic picture of a school and its community. Accountability needs to become multilateral, a mixture of bottom up and top down, and of vertical and horizontal approaches from all levels in the system. This is in opposition to the current neoliberal mode of accountability exhibited in the Anglo/American model, that Scotland seems hell bent on adopting.

Cut to Saturday and the Researched Scotland event held in Dollar Academy. It was great to see 200 or so educators attend this event and for the Scottish voice to be so strong across various presentations and workshops. My particular highlight was provided by Walter Humes co-editor of the annual 'Scottish Education', which examines the current state of the system and recent developments. His workshop was entitled 'What counts as evidence?' and followed on from his reflections on responses to an article he wrote for the 'Sceptical Scot' website in January of this year. He argued that whilst evidence is important its relationship both to professional practice and to public policy is complex. Fundamental beliefs about human nature and human society are always involved in decisions about the form and content of education. It was his belief that 'opinion' pieces, like his January one, backed by research and involving personal judgement should continue to have a place in the debate. A point I am in full agreement with, and one which I think more educators in Scotland and elsewhere needs to recognise and embrace going forward.

In his January article Humes had given some warnings to Scottish education and suggested seven ways in which the system might be underperforming. These were: a failure to learn from the past, poor political leadership, a complacent and self-regarding policy community, lack of up to date independent data, defensive and protectionist professional attitudes, the use of boastful and sentimental language and finally, a deep vein of anti-intellectualism. Given that he was directing criticism at all sections of the education system in Scotland, it is little surprise that hackles rose and he was not everyone's' favourite commentator. I suspect that was the response he expected from some, but in others perhaps he hoped to cause them to stop, think and consider their behaviours or attitudes and how these might be supporting, or otherwise, the system as a whole.

Walter took us through his arguments, refreshing them with the latest examples and anecdotes from the news to illustrate why he believed his view was still based on the actions and statements found in different levels of the system. Given behaviours exhibited by politicians, media, academics and educators recently, it was difficult to refute much of what he shared.

By considering what Humes had observed, and what Bob Lingard fears is happening, combined with what we have seen played out in the media, government and parliament recently, I believe we have grounds for grave concern around where Scottish education might be heading. It would seem to be that we have a minister and government determined to press ahead with a flawed agenda, and who will not listen to anyone who might reason or caution against aspects of this. There are politicians on all sides who have their own agendas, and we have a profession who feel they are unable to speak up, because of the cultures and hierarchies that prevail, or when they do speak up no-one listens. We have vested interest groups that have fixed and narrow focuses and we have a media that keep pouring oil on the latest flame that appears. Some of the comment pieces I have read recently have been so ill-informed they lack all credibility. However, people read them and are influenced by their spurious claims and lack of knowledge displayed. In all of this, it is easy to lose sight of the young learners and people we claim to be working for.

Seeing the 'ACE Aware Scotland' currently taking place in Scotland, with Dr Nadine Burke Harris and driven by Suzanne Zeedyk and her team, should give us all hope, and remind everyone about what is truly important, children and young people. The decisions we take as a government, politician, organisation, teacher, school leader or parent, have implications, for good or bad, for our young people and the rest of their lives. In which case, shouldn't we all be striving to make those decisions for the correct reasons, informed by evidence and professional experience and expertise, whenever we can? Dogma and rhetoric should have no place in education, only a determination to listen, consider and to truly act in the best interests of all children and  learners. Too often egos and other agendas get in the way of what we know to be right. On her first day here Dr Burke Harris said, ' Stress is toxic. Our kids are not....Once you know this information, you can't unknow it. I think it is unethical not to act on it.' Says it all really.

World University Rankings 2019⤴

from @ Engage for Education

Responding to today’s Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019, Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said:

“We extend our congratulations to the University of Edinburgh on again being the highest placed Scottish university, and to Glasgow, Aberdeen and St Andrews Universities on staying in the Top 200 world university rankings.”

“By head of population, Scotland has more universities in the top 200 than any other country except Switzerland. This underlines, once again, the strength and breadth of our higher education institutions.

“It is however worrying that Times Higher Education highlights that, in the face of growing global competition, Brexit poses a risk to the performance of our universities and suggests the UK will struggle to attract the best international talent and build productive research partnerships due to the isolation that Brexit is in danger of producing.

“The Scottish Government has invested over £1 billion each year since 2012/13 in our higher education institutions and we will support Scotland’s universities to remain attractive, competitive, collaborative and diverse despite the UK Government’s damaging Brexit plans.”

Read more about this story.

The post World University Rankings 2019 appeared first on Engage for Education.

Explorathon is coming!⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Explorathon is a set of interactive ‘Meet the Researcher’ events happening all over Scotland on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th September. It’s part of a Europe-wide programme called European Researchers’ Night, there’s a particular emphasis on European funded research but any researchers can take part.
Check out the link below to see what is happening near you!

Academic Blogging; or what we did this summer…⤴

from @ education We're a week out from launching a new blogging service - a project that has had a number of false starts and delays along the way - and I am so impressed with the work the team have done to get this there. There's … Continue reading Academic Blogging; or what we did this summer…



Close up, blurry image of a pink flower

Random moments of misconnection:

George, a Chinese UG, tells me how hard it is to study independently when there is so much he does not understand in lectures. He struggles to understand aurally and finds it hard to use lecture notes to find out what he missed because he … does not know what he missed. We talk about strategies, I suggest some support networks. I tell him not to struggle alone.

Later that day some of us struggle in an LTHEChat as the terminology used by the question setter is obscure. I laugh with my network. It does not matter to me that I am not understanding as nothing hangs on it. Still, I feel frustrated that an opportunity for a conversation was lost.

Unboundeq runs scavenger hunts. These are FUN! We share blurry, close up pics of everyday objects with each other and try to guess what they are. It’s hard. I realise how difficult it is to anticipate what others will and will not find obvious.

We also talk about ALT-text, and realise how hard it is to add this in a way that makes visual activities inclusive. I don’t feel I have an answer to that.

There’s a lot to process here.