Author Archives: Derek Robertson

404 reasons not to burn digital content⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

I have just returned from listening to the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon give a talk about the plans her government has for raising attainment in Scottish schools. She talked passionately about her desire to address this attainment gap and the resultant poorer life prospects for so many of our children who grow up in areas of social deprivation and who fail to reach their full potential. A £100 million attainment fund has been proposed with the new position of Attainment Officers being identified as significant people to help drive this aim forward. All very promising indeed.

There were no finer accompanying details of these plans but the intention has my 100% support. We must address this attainment gap and ensure that the talents and abilities of all our children are nurtured and developed to their full potential.

As I listened to the talk it made me think back to one of my early projects using Nintendo DS and the game Dr Kawashima's Brain Training. At that time we were interested to see how a game such as this one (that had basic maths elements embedded in the game play) might impact on primary school children's mental maths abilities. However, we were even keener to see how this approach might impact on children in schools that were situated in Local Authority areas where their indicators of higher levels of social deprivation. Our subsequent research found that this indeed did have significant impact and as a result of this we found ourselves exploring game based learning and subsequently helping to change the discourse around the potential that commercial computer games might have on learning - and in doing so helping to create the conditions in which better outcomes for learners was happening.

We then found ourselves in Scotland at the head of a leading momentum in to the place, purpose and nature of games based learning. Much of the success of what we did and the unfortunate and disappointing demise of this Scottish success story was detailed here.

404notfound
Nintendogs case study = 404

However, a month or so ago I discovered that all trace of the body of work that we, along with our Local Authority colleagues and the children and the parents created over the years was no longer available to be viewed. Gone, deleted from the Education Scotland site...a big fat 404 when searched for - erased from trace. Is it Year Zero at Education Scotland? So if indeed I wished to share what this practice and how the underpinning methodology we used and how it may be relevant to Nicola Sturgeon or Angela Constance's thinking about their Attainment gap plans then I can't do it via this site anymore. As the Proclaimers might say, Mario Kart no more, Professor Layton no more, Guitar Hero no more...Nintendogs no more.

I still have digital copies of all this material however it would be ethically wrong of me to post these on a YouTube site for example because those videoed only agreed for it to be shared on  LTS/Education Scotland's digital channels.

So much of this work is significant in the role that it still plays in helping inform teachers about innovative uses of digital technology but more importantly it has a very valuable role to play in documenting the developing narrative of approaches to using digital tech in schools, in this case game based learning. Here for example is something from 1998 that is still online via NAACE's website. I still use this to help inform students about ideas and progress.

I inquired about the rationale that would explain this decision and was simply told that there had been a review of their online services and I was subsequently given a link to the Wayback Machine from 2007 to the very first page we published.

What are they thinking of at Education Scotland in doing this? They are the custodians of such material and they have a duty to understand, respect and value the role that they play in being part of the wider collegiate and connected digital world that helps continually inform our thinking and practice. What are they thinking of with such digital book burning?

No doubt Education Scotland will be central to taking forward this planned for Attainment Gap strategy. If they do then I suggest that a discussion about their long term thinking and appreciation of what they are involved in and the importance of their central role is fully recognised and established so that in the future they cannot simply decide to erase any future work from their digital estate as a result of an online review.

 

 

404 reasons not to burn digital content⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

I have just returned from listening to the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon give a talk about the plans her government has for raising attainment in Scottish schools. She talked passionately about her desire to address this attainment gap and the resultant poorer life prospects for so many of our children who grow up in areas of social deprivation and who fail to reach their full potential. A £100 million attainment fund has been proposed with the new position of Attainment Officers being identified as significant people to help drive this aim forward. All very promising indeed.

There were no finer accompanying details of these plans but the intention has my 100% support. We must address this attainment gap and ensure that the talents and abilities of all our children are nurtured and developed to their full potential.

As I listened to the talk it made me think back to one of my early projects using Nintendo DS and the game Dr Kawashima's Brain Training. At that time we were interested to see how a game such as this one (that had basic maths elements embedded in the game play) might impact on primary school children's mental maths abilities. However, we were even keener to see how this approach might impact on children in schools that were situated in Local Authority areas where their indicators of higher levels of social deprivation. Our subsequent research found that this indeed did have significant impact and as a result of this we found ourselves exploring game based learning and subsequently helping to change the discourse around the potential that commercial computer games might have on learning - and in doing so helping to create the conditions in which better outcomes for learners was happening.

We then found ourselves in Scotland at the head of a leading momentum in to the place, purpose and nature of games based learning. Much of the success of what we did and the unfortunate and disappointing demise of this Scottish success story was detailed here.

404notfound
Nintendogs case study = 404

However, a month or so ago I discovered that all trace of the body of work that we, along with our Local Authority colleagues and the children and the parents created over the years was no longer available to be viewed. Gone, deleted from the Education Scotland site...a big fat 404 when searched for - erased from trace. Is it Year Zero at Education Scotland? So if indeed I wished to share what this practice and how the underpinning methodology we used and how it may be relevant to Nicola Sturgeon or Angela Constance's thinking about their Attainment gap plans then I can't do it via this site anymore. As the Proclaimers might say, Mario Kart no more, Professor Layton no more, Guitar Hero no more...Nintendogs no more.

I still have digital copies of all this material however it would be ethically wrong of me to post these on a YouTube site for example because those videoed only agreed for it to be shared on  LTS/Education Scotland's digital channels.

So much of this work is significant in the role that it still plays in helping inform teachers about innovative uses of digital technology but more importantly it has a very valuable role to play in documenting the developing narrative of approaches to using digital tech in schools, in this case game based learning. Here for example is something from 1998 that is still online via NAACE's website. I still use this to help inform students about ideas and progress.

I inquired about the rationale that would explain this decision and was simply told that there had been a review of their online services and I was subsequently given a link to the Wayback Machine from 2007 to the very first page we published.

What are they thinking of at Education Scotland in doing this? They are the custodians of such material and they have a duty to understand, respect and value the role that they play in being part of the wider collegiate and connected digital world that helps continually inform our thinking and practice. What are they thinking of with such digital book burning?

No doubt Education Scotland will be central to taking forward this planned for Attainment Gap strategy. If they do then I suggest that a discussion about their long term thinking and appreciation of what they are involved in and the importance of their central role is fully recognised and established so that in the future they cannot simply decide to erase any future work from their digital estate as a result of an online review.

 

 

404 reasons not to burn digital content⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

I have just returned from listening to the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon give a talk about the plans her government has for raising attainment in Scottish schools. She talked passionately about her desire to address this attainment gap and the resultant poorer life prospects for so many of our children who grow up in areas of social deprivation and who fail to reach their full potential. A £100 million attainment fund has been proposed with the new position of Attainment Officers being identified as significant people to help drive this aim forward.

There was no accompanying details of these plans but the intention has my 100% support. We must address this attainment gap and ensure that the talents and abilities of all our children are nurtured and developed to their full potential.

As I listened to the talk it made me think back to one of my early projects using Nintendo DS and the game Dr Kawashima's Brain Training. At that time we were interested to see how a game such as this one (that had basic maths elements embedded in the game play) might impact on primary school children's mental maths abilities. However, we were even keener to see how this approach might impact on children in schools that were situated in Local Authority areas where their indicators of high level of social deprivation. Our subsequent research found that this indeed did have significant impact and as a result of this we found ourselves exploring and helping to change the discourse around the potential that commercial computer games might have on learning -and helping create the conditions in which better outcomes for learners was happening.

We then found ourselves in Scotland at the head of a leading momentum in to the place, purpose and nature of games based learning. Much of the success and the demise of what we did was detailed here.

404notfound
Nintendogs case study = 404

However, a month or so ago I discovered that all trace of the body of work that we, along with our Local Authority colleagues and the children and the parents created over the years of this work was no longer available to be viewed. Gone, deleted from the Education Scotland site...404 - erased from trace. Year zero at Education Scotland. So if indeed I wished to share what this practice and how the underpinning methodology we used and how it may be relevant to Nicola Sturgeon or Angela Constance's thinking about their Attainment gap plans then I can't do it via this site anymore. As the Proclaimers might say, Mario Kart no more, Professor Layton no more, Guitar Hero no more...Nintendogs no more.

Also, much of this work is significant in the role that it still plays in helping inform teachers about innovative uses of digital technology but more importantly it has a very valuable role to play in documenting the developing narrative of approaches to digital tech, in this case game based learning. Here for example is something from 1998 that is still online via NAACE's website. I still use this to help inform students about ideas and progress.

I inquired about the rationale that would explain this decision and was simply told that there had been a review of their online services and I was subsequently given a link to the Wayback Machine from 2007 to the very first page we published.

What are they thinking of at Education Scotland in doing this? They are the custodians of such material and they have a duty to understand, respect and value the role that they play in being part of the wider collegiate and connected digital world that helps continually inform our thinking and practice. What are they thinking of with such digital book burning?

No doubt Education Scotland will be central to taking forward this planned for Attainment Gap strategy. If they do then I suggest that a discussion about their long term thinking and appreciation of what they are involved in and the importance of their central role is fully recognised and established so that in the future they cannot simply decide to erase any future work from their digital estate as a result of an online review.

 

 

Minecraft: On the Waterfront⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

I have recently commenced a research project that aims to explore how the game Minecraft can be used to enhance and enrich learning in the primary school. I was inspired by a post by Dean Groom that talked about using consoles to access the game in classrooms and to mitigate against local authority firewalls. Having had a long history of doing this very thing in educational settings I thought that it was time to explore the use of Minecraft, via Xbox and PS3, in the primary school setting. I am working with 25 P.6/7 classes in 18 schools in Dundee. There was an amazing response from the schools in Dundee when the call for participation went out and I am only sorry that I didn't have enough consoles to go around every school that wanted to join the project. The games consoles came via the old Consolarium cupboard that sits with Education Scotland (thank you to them for agreeing to loan me the resources) as well as from an incubator research fund that I received from CECHR at the University of Dundee. An introductory evening for teachers was held in September where I explained the rationale behind the project and where my daughter acted as my Minecraft expert to demo how you played the game. She even had the pleasure of teaching her own teacher (who was there on the night) how to use the game and to help him and the other teachers begin to understand just why Minecraft could be a very valuable educational resource. Anyway, here is a blogpost, aimed at the learners, from my Glow account that gives more detail about the project:

Dundee City Council has partnered with the School of Education, Social Work and Community Education and the Department of Town Planning at the University of Dundee to explore and research the potential that the game Minecraft might bring to the life of learning in our P6/P7 classrooms. We have a number of Xboxes and PS3s with Minecraft installed and we will be asking participating schools - including yours - to let their pupils use these to reimagine, design and build in Minecraft just what they think Dundee waterfront might look like. (with the city texture pack as an extra to help you build your vision.) The people from 4J Studios in Dundee (where Minecraft for Xbox and Playstation is made) have already built it based on the exisiting plans. Have a look:​​

 

 

What we want you to do in your classes and groups in your schools is to ha​ve a real think about what you think the new Waterfront in Dundee should look like. We don't want you to copy the exisiting design - we want your take on what they should be building down there at the front of the city. In doing so we want you to consider a number of factors including:

  • the aesthetic (how it looks) of your design
  • how will the design make it an enjoyable city space to be in?
  • how can tourism can be attracted and supported?
  • what about local amenity enhancement for people frm Dundee and the surrounding area?
  • how might the new development may offer new employment opportunities?
We want you to use your brilliant imaginations and your skills in Minecraft to show us what you can do in the game in terms of your building skills but also in terms of the design of how you think your city should look.
 
You can use the Minecraft: On The Waterfront Glow group to share your ideas, your progress and your hints and tips with pupils from across the city. Mr Robertson will show you how it works. There's lots we can do with Glow and we will be using this hashtag #minecraftotw to pull in resources to the group. Please do give consideration to what is said to you about appropriate behaviour in this Glow group.

Over the course of the project people from the University of Dundee will visit the participating schools in order to get a picture of what is happening as you reimagine, design and build your vision of the waterfront.

The project will begin in October 2014 and will finish late March 2015. Your school will be invited to a showcase event at the University of Dundee at the end of the project to share your designs and to talk about the experience of participating in this initiative.  

Show us what you can do...

I aim to share some perspectives and experiences as the project gathers momentum and as we begin to explore how teachers manage a resource such as this (with HDMI or not) in the class setting, how the children respond to the task, how they work together when building, if a purposeful context encourages intrinsic motivation to particpate in collaborative learning in Glow and what their attitude to learning within this culturally relevant context may be (not an exhaustive list!) 

Minecraft: On the Waterfront⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

I have recently commenced a research project that aims to explore how the game Minecraft can be used to enhance and enrich learning in the primary school. I was inspired by a post by Dean Groom that talked about using consoles to access the game in classrooms and to mitigate against local authority firewalls. Having had a long history of doing this very thing in educational settings I thought that it was time to explore the use of Minecraft, via Xbox and PS3, in the primary school setting. I am working with 25 P.6/7 classes in 18 schools in Dundee. There was an amazing response from the schools in Dundee when the call for participation went out and I am only sorry that I didn't have enough consoles to go around every school that wanted to join the project. The games consoles came via the old Consolarium cupboard that sits with Education Scotland (thank you to them for agreeing to loan me the resources) as well as from an incubator research fund that I received from CECHR at the University of Dundee. An introductory evening for teachers was held in September where I explained the rationale behind the project and where my daughter acted as my Minecraft expert to demo how you played the game. She even had the pleasure of teaching her own teacher (who was there on the night) how to use the game and to help him and the other teachers begin to understand just why Minecraft could be a very valuable educational resource. Anyway, here is a blogpost, aimed at the learners, from my Glow account that gives more detail about the project:

Dundee City Council has partnered with the School of Education, Social Work and Community Education and the Department of Town Planning at the University of Dundee to explore and research the potential that the game Minecraft might bring to the life of learning in our P6/P7 classrooms. We have a number of Xboxes and PS3s with Minecraft installed and we will be asking participating schools - including yours - to let their pupils use these to reimagine, design and build in Minecraft just what they think Dundee waterfront might look like. (with the city texture pack as an extra to help you build your vision.) The people from 4J Studios in Dundee (where Minecraft for Xbox and Playstation is made) have already built it based on the exisiting plans. Have a look:​​

 

 

What we want you to do in your classes and groups in your schools is to ha​ve a real think about what you think the new Waterfront in Dundee should look like. We don't want you to copy the exisiting design - we want your take on what they should be building down there at the front of the city. In doing so we want you to consider a number of factors including:

  • the aesthetic (how it looks) of your design
  • how will the design make it an enjoyable city space to be in?
  • how can tourism can be attracted and supported?
  • what about local amenity enhancement for people frm Dundee and the surrounding area?
  • how might the new development may offer new employment opportunities?
We want you to use your brilliant imaginations and your skills in Minecraft to show us what you can do in the game in terms of your building skills but also in terms of the design of how you think your city should look.
 
You can use the Minecraft: On The Waterfront Glow group to share your ideas, your progress and your hints and tips with pupils from across the city. Mr Robertson will show you how it works. There's lots we can do with Glow and we will be using this hashtag #minecraftotw to pull in resources to the group. Please do give consideration to what is said to you about appropriate behaviour in this Glow group.

Over the course of the project people from the University of Dundee will visit the participating schools in order to get a picture of what is happening as you reimagine, design and build your vision of the waterfront.

The project will begin in October 2014 and will finish late March 2015. Your school will be invited to a showcase event at the University of Dundee at the end of the project to share your designs and to talk about the experience of participating in this initiative.  

Show us what you can do...

I aim to share some perspectives and experiences as the project gathers momentum and as we begin to explore how teachers manage a resource such as this (with HDMI or not) in the class setting, how the children respond to the task, how they work together when building, if a purposeful context encourages intrinsic motivation to particpate in collaborative learning in Glow and what their attitude to learning within this culturally relevant context may be (not an exhaustive list!) 

The monster that Hallowe’en has become.⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

Suddenly it’s Christmas right after Halloween forget about Thanksgiving it’s just a buffet inbetween!”

This line comes from a song by the brilliant and always entertaining Loudon Wainwright III and its sentiment of irritation towards the commercial creep that now owns all our yearly festivals is one that I am feeling more and more as I get older. But for me the commercial creep is made worse by the fact that there is also a silent form of cultural imperialism happening which is denaturing what was, as I recall, the truly Scottish festival of Hallowe’en and its associated traditions.

But now we have the pumpkin. We have Trick or Treat. We have families buying costumes for their kids. We have lost what Hallowe’en was to us as Scots and in that process we have swallowed the American Disneyfied commercially driven festival and allowed it to replace something that was ours.

I’ve noticed this year on year and have muttered my concerns to myself  but last night what I saw in my local supermarket drove me to write a blogpost about this state of affairs!!! There it was – a Trick or Treat fest with a full aisle of Hallowe’en costumes and props, based on the horror movie genre, to purchase. Another spendathon. Not only that but food and drinks are all being labeled with Hallowe’en style packaging.  Chi-ching, chi-ching, chi-ching! Have a look!

This may seem a trivial thing to have a rant about but I do feel that we have lost something here and I wonder what it says about us a people when we can so easily allow our own traditions to be denatured in this way. Imagine what we in Scotland would say if we were given the chance to run our own affairs!

When I was a boy Halloween meant two things: guising and a neep lantern. When Hallowe’en came around my friends and I would dress up in our dads’ old clothes and wear things like our grandads’ soft hats to ‘disguise’ ourselves. We would then go knocking on doors and ask, “Any Guisers” as our neighbours’ doors were opened. Generally this motley crew of kids dressed in oversized clothes would be shown in to the living rooms where we would then duly perform a song, recite a poem, do a magic trick or tell a few jokes. This was the deal – you had to do this and in return you were given money. It was all linked to the age-old idea that mischief was afoot and us youngsters were the harmless mischief-makers bringing a bit of mirth and levity to homes just as the dark nights began to roll in.  We also carried our neep lanters (neep is the Scottish word for turnip). We would have spent ages carving out the inside of the solid neep before etching out a scary face that would be illuminated by candles. String would be tied to them and they would accompany the guisers as they marched around the neighbourhood. Even that stalwart of Scottish identity oor Wullie would proudly show off his neep lantern!

 

Wulliehalloween
Oor Wullie and his neep lanterm

 

Now when Hallowe’en comes around we get loads of kids in their Karloff and Lugosi outfits knocking on the door screaming ‘Trick or Treat”. I hide my Victor Meldrewesque gripe as they come in and tell their joke and hand out their plastic Hallowe’en buckets to be filled with Treats! Bah, humbug! (oops, wrong sesaon)

Although I will be faced with vampires, zombies, werewolves, creepers and the occasional Frankenstein's monster on the 31st October I fear that I will still be most unsettled by the monster that Hallowe'en has become.

 

 

 

 

The monster that Hallowe’en has become.⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

Suddenly it’s Christmas right after Halloween forget about Thanksgiving it’s just a buffet inbetween!”

This line comes from a song by the brilliant and always entertaining Loudon Wainwright III and its sentiment of irritation towards the commercial creep that now owns all our yearly festivals is one that I am feeling more and more as I get older. But for me the commercial creep is made worse by the fact that there is also a silent form of cultural imperialism happening which is denaturing what was, as I recall, the truly Scottish festival of Hallowe’en and its associated traditions.

But now we have the pumpkin. We have Trick or Treat. We have families buying costumes for their kids. We have lost what Hallowe’en was to us as Scots and in that process we have swallowed the American Disneyfied commercially driven festival and allowed it to replace something that was ours.

I’ve noticed this year on year and have muttered my concerns to myself  but last night what I saw in my local supermarket drove me to write a blogpost about this state of affairs!!! There it was – a Trick or Treat fest with a full aisle of Hallowe’en costumes and props, based on the horror movie genre, to purchase. Another spendathon. Not only that but food and drinks are all being labeled with Hallowe’en style packaging.  Chi-ching, chi-ching, chi-ching! Have a look!

 

This may seem a trivial thing to have a rant about but I do feel that we have lost something here and I wonder what it says about us a people when we can so easily allow our own traditions to be denatured in this way. Imagine what we in Scotland would say if we were given the chance to run our own affairs!

When I was a boy Halloween meant two things: guising and a neep lantern. When Hallowe’en came around my friends and I would dress up in our dads’ old clothes and wear things like our grandads’ soft hats to ‘disguise’ ourselves. We would then go knocking on doors and ask, “Any Guisers” as our neighbours’ doors were opened. Generally this motley crew of kids dressed in oversized clothes would be shown in to the living rooms where we would then duly perform a song, recite a poem, do a magic trick or tell a few jokes. This was the deal – you had to do this and in return you were given money. It was all linked to the age-old idea that mischief was afoot and us youngsters were the harmless mischief-makers bringing a bit of mirth and levity to homes just as the dark nights began to roll in.  We also carried our neep lanters (neep is the Scottish word for turnip). We would have spent ages carving out the inside of the solid neep before etching out a scary face that would be illuminated by candles. String would be tied to them and they would accompany the guisers as they marched around the neighbourhood. Even that stalwart of Scottish identity oor Wullie would proudly show off his neep lantern!

 

Wulliehalloween
Oor Wullie and his neep lanterm

 

Now when Hallowe’en comes around we get loads of kids in their Karloff and Lugosi outfits knocking on the door screaming ‘Trick or Treat”. I hide my Victor Meldrewesque gripe as they come in and tell their joke and hand out their plastic Hallowe’en buckets to be filled with Treats! Bah, humbug! (oops, wrong sesaon)

Although I will be faced with vampires, zombies, werewolves, creepers and the occasional Frankenstein's monster on the 3oth October I fear that I will still be most unsettled by the monster that Hallowe'en has become.

 

 

 

 

If Vygotsky played Minecraft…⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

Last week my daughters were playing with their friends. As a group they were all working together to make a movie and their efforts were industrious, noisy and committed. I listened in on their chitter-chatter and I could hear them make the story up as they went along and as the story unfolded, and as great ideas sprung to mind, they shared and accommodated them and collectively created their masterpiece! At one point there was a disagreement and so I, being the skilled adult who knows better, intervened and suggested that they storyboard their movie and plan it in advance. I mean, that’s how we make movies isn’t it, that is the received/perceived wisdom from the educated educator who thinks they are skilled in such matters? The reaction from them was thought provoking. They told me, “No thanks, this is much better and loads more fun than all that planning stuff!” (at least that was the gist of their response!) Remember the context for all of this: school holidays, children out playing, freedom to act as children – they weren’t in school…

A few months back I was dragged to the cinema by my youngest daughter to see The Lego Movie. Now, this was something I wasn’t too pleased about however within ten minutes I was captivated by the absolute aesthetic beauty of the thing, it’s charisma and charm and its developing plot-line that had me totally  hooked. The plotline saw the main character Emmet become 'the special' who was doing his utmost, and who seemed destined to, defeat the evil power of President Business whose dark intention was to gets his destructive Lego paws on the super weapon called the Kragle. In doing so President Business would rule the Lego world forever and ever! As the film roller-coasted to its climax it cut away from the animation to a real life scene - *Film spoiler alert* - that showed a young boy in the basement of his house playing with all the Lego characters and pieces that were featured in the movie…the plot line was all from the boys creative imagination as he played with the Lego figures. He had mashed up all the different Lego kits, ignoring the plans and instructions that came with them, and created his own wonderful creative story that just flowed and flowed from him. However, the Lego basement was the domain of his father and he had deemed the basement and the Lego to be out of bounds for his son! It was his Lego, it had been built, it wasn’t to be touched, the plans and the instructions had been followed – the pieces glued down… Keep out all ye who dare not follow the plan!!!

But, the boy is discovered in the basement by his dad!  Here is their conversation:

I gave a gasp of joy and delight when I realised that the Kragle was the lid of the glue, the lid that would stop the plans and instructions from always setting the agenda, that would allow the conditions for wonderful stories and ideas to flourish and that would end the culture of things being glued down, plans and instructions being adhered to. “Put the lid on the glue President Business!” I exclaimed along with my daughter!

Put the lid on the glue. What a metaphor I thought for my experience and my ongoing reflective thinking as a teacher and educator. For years I have been influenced by my observations of children as they played computer games and as I did so I would always be impressed with how they displayed a natural ability to learn on their own and with others. These observations allowed me to lead a significant effort to promote the use of such child-centered contexts in formal educational settings however the lid of the glue, so to speak, was kept in the cupboard marked plans and instructions by some our very own President Business’ in Scotland with their mobilisation of bias agenda! Anyway, enough moaning about that and on to more important matters…

Such experiences where children show their innate ability to think and to learn without the qualified adult supervision that dominates our thinking about children and learning is continuing to make me rethink the role of a teacher and in particular our reliance on and almost uncritical adherence to a specific aspect of learning theory that is used to justify the teacher/ learner dynamic.

The teacher learner dynamic is one that appears to be heavily predicated on the social constructivist theory of Lev Vygotsky and in particular what he calls the Zone of Proximal development. In teacher education this is used to frame a theoretical underpinning that almost justifies the instruction dynamic to some extent. It argues that the ZPD is

the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers.

Now, in some cases I see this. The apprenticeship model is one that I fully appreciate and is one that would I feel allow itself to be informed by this particular theory by Vygotsky however I am ill at ease at using this to help inform and articulate my own thinking about children and learning particularly in view of how I have seen young children master the complex world of Nintendogs at age 5 or by what I see when I observe children learning together as they play Minecraft or even when they are making a movie in the summer holidays. It is generally the case that there isn’t someone who is the more skilled or experienced participant/leader. Yes there will always be a group dynamic but as far as I can see the children do tend to self-organise quite effectively without the intervention of a teacher who, for example, places them in roles in their ‘co-operative learning groups’. Hands up who wants to be time-keeper?! Yeah, me neither.

If Vygotsky were to play Minecraft for the first time what would he do? If he were to sit down with his own children for the first time and where neither of them were the more skilled or experienced how would they learn together, make progress and then reach the heady heights of a glass and gold palace with flushing toilets in every room with a creeper trap at the front door and a redstone circuited rollercoaster to take you up to your pad in the mountains!? How is it that children, very young children in so many cases make such progress and make sense of the complex environments in the world of games and in learning in various other contexts/domains without the adult intervention that we have somehow taken to be the common sense agreed norm? I am seriously beginning to question the way in which we refer to ZPD in teacher education and how we need to recognise, value and celebrate the children as learner a little more than we presently do.

In following and pinning our professional colours to the ZPD mast have we as educators lost sight of the child as a learner? Have we become too directive, managerial and controlling? Are we in real danger of being driven by timetables, uncritical acceptance of theoretical perspectives and the gluing down of learning opportunities to the detriment of the creative nature of the child?

The Lego Movie's theme song states that everything is awesome. I think our children are. Let's get that lid on the glue and enable the conditions is school to let them demonstrate just how awesome they really are.

If Vygotsky played Minecraft…⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

Last week my daughters were playing with their friends. As a group they were all working together to make a movie and their efforts were industrious, noisy and committed. As I listened I could hear them make the story up as they went along and as the story unfolded, and as great ideas sprung to mind, they shared and accommodated them and collectively created their masterpiece! At one point there was a disagreement and so I, being the skilled adult who knows better, intervened and suggested that they storyboard their movie and plan it in advance. I mean, that’s how we make movies isn’t it, that is the received/perceived wisdom from the educated educator who thinks they are skilled in such matters? The reaction from them was thought provoking. They told me, “No thanks, this is much better and loads more fun than all that planning stuff!” Remember the context, school holidays, children out playing, freedom to act as children – they weren’t in school…

Similarly, a few months back I was dragged to the cinema by my youngest daughter to see The Lego Movie. Now, this was something I wasn’t too pleased about however within ten minutes I was captivated by the absolute aesthetic beauty of the thing, it’s charisma and charm and its developing plot-line that had me hooked. The plotline saw the character Emmet become the special who was doing his utmost to defeat the evil power of President Business whose dark intention was to gets his destructive Lego paws on the super weapon called the Kragle and in doing so rule the Lego world forever and ever. As the film roller-coasted to its climax it cut away from the animation to a real life scene - *Film spoiler alert* - that showed a small boy in the basement of his house playing with all the Lego characters and pieces in the movie…the plot line was all from the boys creative imagination as he played with the Lego figures. He had mashed up all the different Lego kits, ignoring the plans and instructions that came with them, and created his own wonderful creative story that just flowed and flowed from him. However, the Lego basement was the domain of his father and he had deemed the basement and the Lego to be out of bounds for his son! It was his Lego, it had been built, it wasn’t to be touched, the plans and the instructions had been followed – the pieces glued down… Keep out all ye who dare not follow the plan!!!

Look at the exchange that then happened:

 I gave a gasp of joy and delight when I realised that the Kragle was the lid of the glue, the lid that would stop the plans and instructions from always setting the agenda, that would allow the conditions for wonderful stories and ideas to flourish and that would end the culture of things being glued down, plans and instructions being adhered to. “Put the lid on the glue President Business!” I exclaimed along with my daughter!

Put the lid on the glue. What a metaphor I thought for my experience and my ongoing reflective thinking as a teacher and educator. For years I have been influenced by my observations of children as they played computer games and as I did so I would always be impressed with how they displayed a natural ability to learn on their own and with others. These observations allowed me to lead a significant effort to promote the use of such child-centered contexts in formal educational settings however the lid of the glue, so to speak, was firmly placed on that by some our very own President Business’ in Scotland with their mobilisation of bias agenda! Anyway, enough moaning about that and on to more important matters…

Such experiences where children show their innate ability to think and to learn without the qualified adult supervision that dominates our thinking about children and learning is continuing to make me rethink the role of a teacher and in particular our reliance on and almost uncritical adherence to a specific aspect of learning theory that is used to justify the teacher/ learner dynamic.

The teacher learner dynamic is one that appears to be heavily predicated on the social constructivist theory of Lev Vygotsky and in particular what he calls the Zone of Proximal development. In teacher education this is used to frame a theoretical underpinning that almost justifies the instruction dynamic to some extent. It argues that the ZPD is

the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers.

Now, in some cases I see this. The apprenticeship model is one that I fully appreciate and is one that would I feel allow itself to be informed by this particular theory by Vygotsky however I am ill at ease at using this to help inform and articulate my own thinking about children and learning particularly in view of how I have seen young children master the complex world of Nintendogs at age 5 or by what I see when I observe children learning together as they play Minecraft or even when they are making a movie in the summer holidays. It is generally the case that there isn’t someone who is the more skilled or experienced participant/leader. Yes there will be a group dynamic but the children do tend to self-organise quite effectively without the intervention of a teacher who places them in roles in their ‘co-operative learning groups’. Hands up who wants to be time-keeper?! Yeah, me neither.

If Vygotsky were to play Minecraft for the first time what would he do? If he were to sit down with his own children for the first time and where neither of them were the more skilled or experienced how would they learn together, make progress and then reach the heady heights of a glass and gold palace with flushing toilets in every room with a creeper trap at the front door and a redstone circuited rollercoaster to take you up to your pad in the mountains!? How is it that children, very young children in so many cases make such progress and make sense of the complex environments in the world of games and in learning in various other contexts/domains without the adult intervention that we have somehow taken to be the common sense agreed norm? I am seriously beginning to question the way in which we refer to ZPD in teacher education and how we need to recognise, value and celebrate the children as learner a little more than we presently do.

In following and pinning our professional colours to the ZPD mast have we as educators lost sight of the child as a learner? Have we become too directive, managerial and controlling? Are we in real danger of being driven by timetables, uncritical acceptance of theoretical perspectives and the gluing down of learning opportunities to the detriment of the creative nature of the child?

The Lego Movie's theme song states that everything is awesome. I think our children are. Let's get that lid on the glue and enable the conditions is school to let them demonstrate just how awesome they are.