Category Archives: Professional

Reflections on “Universities and post pandemic digital praxis: critically reframing education and the curriculum” webinar⤴

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NB This is a co-authored post by Keith Smyth, Bill Johnston and myself.

Last September, we contributed a blog post to the Special Collection organised by Post-Pandemic University to celebrate the centenary of Paulo Freire’s birth (Johnston, MacNeill and Smyth, 2021). Our post set out to contemplate how Freire’s ideas, including his critical perspectives on technology, marginalisation and empowerment, resonated with the state of education during the pandemic responses of 2020 and the on-going disturbances of 2021/22. 

Our post, and the ideas explored within it, were an extension of our ongoing research, scholarship, and reflexive dialogue concerning the purpose of higher education, and the place of critical digital education practice and praxis, as captured in our book ‘Conceptualising the Digital University’ (Johnston, MacNeill and Smyth, 2019). While our book was written prior to the pandemic, we were interested in using our post for the Post-Pandemic University collection to consider how a Frierian lens could be applied to reading the pandemic, and to consider the extent to which key aspects of our own thinking about ‘the digital university’ were applicable in the context of education within the pandemic.

We were encouraged that there was also a resonation with the thinking of others, when after the publication of our blog post we were invited to present at the Warwick International Higher Education Academy to lead an online seminar to share more of our thoughts on Freire, dimension of digitally enabled education, and universities within and beyond the pandemic. 

Our seminar was titled ‘Universities and post pandemic digital praxis: critically reframing education and the curriculum’, and we were pleased to be joined for it by educational practitioners and researchers from a range of roles and institutions across the sector. 

We framed our seminar, as we framed much of our own work, against Freire’s ideas as put forth in ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ (1970) and particularly ‘Education for Critical Consciousness’ (1974). Against this backdrop, and within the overall themes we set to explore in the seminar, the seminar provided us with an opportunity to revisit the models we had created for our book exploring the concept of the digital university. This included our ‘Conceptual Matrix’ for the digital university, and our model of the Digitally Distributed Curriculum’, both of which we developed as a response to critically reframing higher education and digital education praxis against neoliberalist practices and structures.

Given the rapid shift to fully online delivery of learning and teaching, and the challenges and inequities in the organisation of and access to education revealed through the pandemic, we sought to question whether our models remained relevant. We believe they do.

Conceptual Matrix for the Digital University (original form)

Of course the context has changed, but we think our original ‘Conceptual Matrix for the Digital University’ (developed in 2012) does still work in articulating the various dimensions of practice and permeations of space within which digital educational practice and digital spaces for engagement can be framed. Over the past 2 years, the ‘Digital Participation Quadrant’ of the original matrix has come sharply into focus. While we are still grappling with the question posed by Collini (2017) around what universities are for, in order for us all to work out what we actually need to do, our ‘Revised Conceptual Matrix for the Digital University’ (produced for our book) offers a further refinement of our thinking, and of where academic development and organisational development need to intersect.

Revised Conceptual Matrix for the Digital University (Johnston, MacNeill, Smyth, 2019)

During the seminar, after exploring the above, we undertook two activities to support participant dialogue around the changes to the delivery and support of learning and teaching they had undertaken and experienced in their own responses to the pandemic. The first activity was more of a reflection on what they had done (or had been done to them!), what worked, what didn’t and more importantly what they now want to develop moving forward.

Using a padlet wall we used five categories (‘the shredder’, ‘the shop window’, ‘the greenhouse’, ‘the pantry’, and ‘the museum’) to capture participants’ experiences. In summarising what was sharded back, there were some key themes that emerged. One was the recognition that in the beginning of the pandemic, there was a proliferation of responses and interventions that while well intended, perhaps resulted in “throwing everything at [our] students”, leading to confusion and cognitive overload for students around where, when and how to use different online spaces and tools. Variations on what are broadly being referred to as ‘hyflex’ approaches were also highlighted, with a preference from students for engaging in either one mode or the other. Conversely hyflex was also highlighted as an area that was “in the greenhouse” developing, but with related issues of staff workload, student expectations, cognitive overload all being highlighted as areas to explore.

Developing communities of practice, the use of collaborative tools such as padlet, and more purposeful approaches to technology were also highlighted as now being core elements of practice. So too was the continued development of online staff development opportunities. It was felt vital that our institutions and the wider sector develop ways for staff to appreciate the online experience from a student/participant perspective. And, if hyflex approaches are going to be developed, that meaningful opportunities are given to staff to allow them to experience a hyflex approach to then develop their approaches to it within their own disciplinary context, and so that there is an experiential evidence base to how staff are engaging and supporting their own students..

The other model we developed in our book which we explored in the seminar is that of the Digitally Distributed Curriculum. We conceived this model as a way to reconceptualise the purpose, activities and location of the curriculum in the context of higher education as a public good, and of extending engagement in how the curriculum is enacted through digitally-enabled and open practices. The model us focused around the values of praxis, public pedagogy and participation, linked to ‘enabling dimensions’ and then the pedagogic approaches, interventions and actions that enact the digitally distributed curriculum.

Digitally Distributed Curriculum (Johnston, MacNeill, Smyth, 2019)

In our piece for the Post-Pandemic University, and through our activities in the seminar, we feel that our take on the Digitally Distributed Curriculum does still have relevance, perhaps increasingly so post-pandemic. Within the seminar, we undertook an activity to explore an instantiation of the model using three of the aforementioned ‘enabling dimensions’ of the model, namely coolocation (which we reframed as ‘co/dis-location’ in recognition of the dislocation caused during lockdown), co-production, and porosity.

In terms of co-location, our discussions in the seminar concerned how everyone was dislocated from the physical campus and experienced the challenges of working and studying from home. These were particularly acute in the first lockdown, when it created pressures on space as well as access to technology and digital connectivity. On the other hand, this forced dislocation also brought about an enrichment of the digital landscape (for those who could access it). Suddenly systems that were not much used before had to be used by everyone. Other systems (hello Zoom) also came to the fore.

There was a consensus that there was a huge level of activity focused around the co-production of resources, for and with students as well as for staff development. There was a renewed and extended focus on accessibility and flexibility. Pedagogical approaches had to be adapted and people had to try, adapt, and further refine new approaches. The internal narratives around learning and teaching were also felt to have changed, and are changing still as we seek to learn from the challenges of the pandemic while retaining and building upon the increased opportunity to engage, and to engage flexibly and more fluidly, in learning and teaching that were created in the response to the pandemic.. However, as we pointed out, the dominant political narrative around “proper university learning” does still seem to be firmly entrenched in the ‘on-campus’, in the lecture theatre, on the importance of the lecture and what we might recognise as traditional ‘one-to-many’ teaching. Or what Paulo Freire himself described and would recognise as ‘the banking’ delivery method.

In terms of porosity, our explorations in the seminar led us to that there was an increased awareness and use of more open or ‘openly’ approaches. Many individuals, institutions and organisations mobilised to share guidance, examples and educational resources that would support the collective response to the pandemic (for example ALT, and OneHE). Publishers even opened up resources. But, in true beware of Greeks bearing gifts fashion, some publishers of academic material and educational development resources only allowed materials to be openly available for a relatively short period of time. How to sustain and pay for access to resources, tools and technologies that were made openly available, or that budget was found to allow greater access to, is a question that many universities are still grappling with. More positively, developing a richer range of digitally-enabled assessment was felt to have allowed more ‘open approaches’ to assessment that afforded students the opportunity to create, share and keep some of their work in digital formats, and had enabled us to move further towards aspects of the Digitally Distributed Curriculum model that relate to the curriculum supported the development of digital artefacts that can openly share knowledge of value beyond the university, and to students as digital scholars.

Moving forward, what does this all mean? How can we develop approaches to learning and teaching post-pandemic that, as one colleague asked, are “adequate for out time”? How can we create meaningful space and time for staff and students to reflect, convalesce and grow? Learning to live with Covid, and of the ongoing challenges of the pandemic is, as we are all experiencing right now, complex and challenging. Fluctuation infection rates necessitate the continued need for flexibility of access to and within education, and for continued structures of care across society for those at high risk. There is no ‘normal’ to go back to, but there may be a new way to reconfigure education post-pandemic. We feel there is, and our seminar concluded with optimism that this may just be possible.

Thank you once again to Warwick International Higher Education Academy for the invitation to offer our seminar, and to all those who took time out to participate. WIHEA have made our slides and a recording of the seminar available online.  

References

Collini, S. (2017). Speaking of Universities. London: Verso.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Freire, P. (1974). Education for Critical Consciousness. London: Continuum.

Johnston, B. MacNeill, S. and Smyth, K. (2019). Conceptualising the Digital University: intersecting policy, pedagogy and practice.  Palgrave.

Johnston, B., MacNeill, S. and Smyth, K. (2021). Paulo Freire, University Education and Post Pandemic Digital Praxis: https://postpandemicuniversity.net/2021/11/09/paulo-freire-university-education-and-post-pandemic-digital-praxis/

Spring at last⤴

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Spring Blossom
Apple blossom

Two photos, taken a week apart, both of the same branch. Last week it was cold in the garden – bright, but not warm enough to sit and enjoy it. Today was a beautiful day – warm enough to sit out with a cuppa and read while the cats basked on the paving slabs. I think that spring is finally here.

Facebook reminded me that it’s been just over a year since I submitted my PhD thesis for examination. As I mentioned elsewhere, that feels like a thousand years ago and just the other day.

Open Education and OER in the Curriculum⤴

from

Principles of Open Education and OER 

This blog post was originally posted on the University of Edinburgh’s Curriculum Transformation Hub.

The principles of open education were initially outlined in the 2008 Cape Town Declaration [1], which advocates that everyone should have the freedom to use, customize, and redistribute educational resources without constraint, to nourish the kind of participatory culture of learning, sharing and cooperation that rapidly changing knowledge societies need. 

Broadly speaking, open education encompasses teaching techniques and academic practices that draw on open technologies, pedagogical approaches and open educational resources (OER) to facilitate collaborative and flexible learning. This may involve both teachers and learners engaging in the co-creation of learning experiences, participating in online peer communities, using, creating and sharing open educational resources (OER) and open knowledge, sharing experiences and professional practice, and engaging with interdisciplinarity and open scholarship. 

Although open education can encompass many different approaches, open educational resources, or OER, are central to this domain. The UNESCO Recommendation on OER [2] defines open educational resources as 

 “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.” 

Open Education and OER at the University of Edinburgh 

At the University of Edinburgh, we believe that open education and OER, are fully in keeping with our institutional vision, purpose and values, to discover knowledge and make the world a better place, while ensuring that our teaching and research is diverse, inclusive, accessible to all and relevant to society.   In line with the UNESCO Recommendation on OER, we also believe that OER and open knowledge are critical to achieving the aims of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals [3].   

To support open education and the creation and use of OER, the University has an Open Educational Resources Policy [4], approved by our Learning and Teaching Committee, which encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience, expand provision of learning opportunities, and enrich our shared knowledge commons.  We also have a central OER Service [5], based in Information Services Group, that provides staff and students with advice and guidance on creating and using OER, engaging with open education and developing digital and copyright literacy skills.  Understanding authorship, copyright, and licensing is increasingly important at a time when both staff and students are actively engaged in co-creating digital resources and open knowledge.    

Benefits and Risks of Openness  

Open education approaches, such as collaborative flexible learning and co-creation of learning experiences, can be beneficial in many different contexts, but they are particularly well suited to hybrid teaching and learning, where no separation is made between digital and on campus student cohorts, and students are brought together by the way teaching is designed, enabling them to move between digital and classroom-based learning activities. 

Engaging with open education, OER and open knowledge through curriculum assignments can help to develop a wide range of core disciplinary competencies and transferable attributes including: 

  • Digital, data and copyright literacy skills, 
  • Understanding how knowledge and information is created shared and contested online, 
  • Collaborative working and collective knowledge creation, 
  • Information synthesis, 
  • Critical thinking and source evaluation, 
  • Writing as public outreach.  

However, it’s also important to consider the risks of openness, as any understanding of openness is highly personal, contextualised and continually negotiated. We all experience openness from different perspectives, depending on different intersecting factors of power, privilege, inclusion and exclusion.  

In his 5Rs for Open Pedagogy [6] Rajiv Jhangiani identifies Risk as being one of his values for Open Pedagogy. 

“Open pedagogy involves vulnerabilities and risks that are not distributed evenly and that should not be ignored or glossed over. These risks are substantially higher for women, students and scholars of colour, precarious faculty, and many other groups and voices that are marginalized by the academy.” 

Many systemic barriers and structural inequalities exist in open spaces and communities; open does not necessarily mean accessible to all.  When engaging with open education, we need to be aware of our own privilege and be sensitive to those who may experience openness differently, and we need to address the systemic barriers and structural inequalities that may prevent others from engaging with open education and to enable everyone to participate equitably, and on their own terms. 

The University has an invaluable Digital Safety and Citizenship Web Hub [7], that offers comprehensive information and resources on a range of digital safety and citizenship-related issues, including training and events, and advice on being an informed digital citizen.   

If we’re sensitive to these risks and inequities and work to mitigate them, integrating open education and OER into the curriculum can bring significant benefits, including building networks, relationships and communities, fostering agency and empowerment, developing strong societal values and an appreciation of equity, intersectionality and social justice. 

Open Education in the Curriculum 

Wikimedia in the Curriculum 

One way to engage with open education and the creation of open knowledge is by contributing to Wikipedia, the world’s biggest open educational resource and the gateway through which millions of people seek access to knowledge.  Working together with the University’s Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, colleagues from a number of schools and colleges have integrated Wikipedia and Wikidata editing assignments into their courses.  Editing Wikipedia provides valuable opportunities for students to develop their digital research and communication skills, and enables them to contribute to the creation and dissemination of open knowledge. Writing articles that will be publicly accessible and live on after the end of their assignment has proved to be highly motivating for students, and provides an incentive for them to think more deeply about their research. It encourages them to ensure they are synthesising all the reliable information available, and to think about how they can communicate their scholarship to a general audience. Students can see that their contribution will benefit the huge audience that consults Wikipedia, plugging gaps in coverage, and bringing to light hidden histories, significant figures, and important concepts and ideas. This makes for a valuable and inspiring teaching and learning experience, that enhances the digital literacy, research and communication skills of both staff and students. 

Talking about a Wikipedia assignment that focused on improving articles on Islamic art, science and the occult, Dr Glaire Andersen, from Edinburgh College of Art commented 

“In a year that brought pervasive systemic injustices into stark relief, our experiment in applying our knowledge outside the classroom gave us a sense that we were creating something positive, something that mattered. As one student commented, “Really love the Wikipedia project. It feels like my knowledge is actually making a difference in the wider world, if in a small way.”   

Other examples include Global Health Challenges postgraduates collaborating to improve Wikipedia articles on natural or manmade disasters. History students re-examining the legacy of Scotland’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade and presenting a more positive view of black British history. Digital Education Masters students collaborating to publish a new entry on Information Literacies. And Reproductive Biology Honours students work in groups to publish new articles on reproductive biomedical terms. 

Wikimedia in the Classroom assignment, Aine Kavanagh, Reproductive Biology, by Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence, University of Edinburgh, CC BY SA.

Our Wikimedian in Residence provides a free central service to all staff and students across the University, further information including testimonies from staff and students who have taken part in Wikimedia in the Curriculum assignments is available here: Wikimedian in Residence. 

Open Education and Co-creation – GeoScience Outreach 

Another important benefit of open education is that it helps to facilitate the co-creation of knowledge and understanding.  Co-creation can be described as student led collaborative initiatives, often developed in partnership with teachers or other bodies outwith the institution, that lead to the development of shared outputs.  A key feature of co-creation is that is must be based on equal partnerships between teachers and students and “relationships that foster respect, reciprocity, and shared responsibility”[8]. 

One successful example of open education and co-creation in the curriculum is the Geosciences Outreach Course, which provides students with an opportunity to work with a wide range of clients including schools, museums, outdoor centres, and community groups, to design and deliver resources for STEM engagement. Students may work on project ideas suggested by the client, but they are also encouraged to develop their own ideas.  This provides students with the opportunity to work in new and challenging environments, acquiring a range of transferable skills that enhance their employability. They gain experience of science outreach, public engagement, teaching and learning, and knowledge transfer while at the same time developing communication, project and time management skills.  

A key element of the course is to develop resources with a legacy that can be reused by other communities and organisations. Open Content Curation student Interns employed by the University’s OER Service repurpose these materials to create open educational resources aligned to the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence, which are shared online through Open.Ed and TES Resources [9] where they can be found and reused by school teachers and learners.  These OERs, co-created by our students, have been downloaded over 58,000 times and the collection was recently awarded Open Education Global’s Open Curation Award [10].  

Open Education Awards for Excellence: Open Curation / Repository – University of Edinburgh by Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, CC BY SA. 

OER Assignments – Digital Futures for Learning 

OER creation assignments are also incorporated into the Digital Futures for Learning module, part of the MSc in Digital Education, where students create open resource that critically evaluate the implications of educational trends, such as the future of writing, complexity in education, and radical digital literacy.  Creating genuinely open resources that are usable and reusable requires careful attention to issues such as accessibility, structure, audience, and licensing. The students need to critically consider and apply their learning, and in doing so are able to create practical re-usable resources, while demonstrating a range of transferable skills and competencies.  

Commenting on this OER creation assignment, course leader Dr Jen Ross said 

“Experiencing first-hand what it means to engage in open educational practice gives student an appetite to learn and think more.  The creation of OERs provides a platform for students to share their learning. In this way, these assignments can have ongoing, tangible value for students and for the people who encounter their work.” [11] 

Reusing and Repurposing OER 

Reusing and customising existing open educational resources can help to diversify and expand the pool of teaching and learning resources available to staff and students. 

LGBT+ Resources for Medical Education 

In 2016 undergraduate medical students developed a suite of resources covering lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual health. Although knowledge of LGBT+ health and of the sensitivities needed to treat LGBT patients are valuable skills for qualifying doctors, these issues are not well-covered in the medical curricula. This project remixed and repurposed resources originally created by Case Western Reserve University, and then contributed them back to the commons as OER. New open resources including digital stories recorded from patient interviews and resources for Secondary School children, were also created and released as OER. In a recent blog post on Teaching Matters [12], Dr. Jeni Harden, Senior Lecturer in Social Science and Health, reflected on how these resources have contributed to the medicine curriculum over the past five years. 

Fundamentals of Music Theory 

Fundamentals of Music Theory [13] is an open textbook co-created by staff and students from the Reid School of Music with support from the University’s OER Service.  This Student Experience Grant funded collaborative project [14] repurposed existing open licensed MOOC content and blended-learning course materials to co-create a proof-of-concept open textbook. The project enabled our student partners to develop digital and copyright literacy skills, an understanding of OER and open textbooks, familiarity with ebook applications, and experience of working with educational media and content. Their input enhanced the original teaching materials and brought about further teaching and learning enhancement. Open textbooks have the potential to benefit universities in the post-pandemic world by reducing textbook costs, benefit staff by providing access to easily customisable open textbooks, and benefit students by providing free, high quality digital learning materials. Furthermore, open textbooks and OER have the potential to facilitate the democratic reshaping of teaching materials through student engagement and co-creation. 

Further Information  

These are just some examples of ways that open education and OER have already been integrated into the curriculum here at the University of Edinburgh.  They demonstrate how valuable co-creating open knowledge and open educational resources through curriculum assignments can be to help students develop essential digital skills, core competencies and transferable attributes, and enable our learners to become fully engaged digital citizens. 

For further information about open education and OER please visit the University’s OER Service at Open.Ed or e-mail us at open.ed@ed.ac.uk.  

References 

  1. Capetown Open Education Declaration https://www.capetowndeclaration.org/read/
  2. UNESCO, (2019), Recommendation on Open Educational Resources, http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=49556&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html
  3. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals https://sdgs.un.org/goals
  4. University of Edinburgh Open Educational Resources Policy, https://www.ed.ac.uk/files/atoms/files/openeducationalresourcespolicy.pdf
  5. OER Service, https://open.ed.ac.uk/
  6. Jhangiani, R, (2019), 5Rs for Open Pedagogy, Rajiv Jhangiani, Ph.D. Blog, https://thatpsychprof.com/5rs-for-open-pedagogy/
  7. Digital Safety and Citizenship Web Hub, https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/help-consultancy/is-skills/digital-safety-and-citizenship
  8. Lubicz-Nawrocka, T., (2019), An introduction to student and staff co-creation of the curriculum, Teaching Matters Blog, https://www.teaching-matters-blog.ed.ac.uk/an-introduction-to-student-and-staff-co-creation-of-the-curriculum/
  9. University of Edinburgh Open.Ed Hub, TES Resources, https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/shop/OpenEd
  10. OE Awards for Excellence https://awards.oeglobal.org/awards/2021/open-curation/open-ed-collection-of-geoscience-outreach-oers-and-more-on-tes/
  11. Ross, J., (2019), Digital Futures for Learning: An OER assignment, Open.Ed Blog, https://open.ed.ac.uk/digital-futures-for-learning-an-oer-assignment/
  12. Farley, S. and Harden, J., (2021), Five years on: The LGBT+ Healthcare 101 OER, Teaching Matters Blog, https://www.teaching-matters-blog.ed.ac.uk/five-years-on-the-lgbt-healthcare-101-oer/
  13. Edwards, M., Kitchen, J., Moran, N., Moir, Z., and Worth, R., (2021), Fundamentals of Music Theory, Edinburgh Diamond, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2218/ED.9781912669226
  14. Open eTextbooks for Access to Music Education Project, https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/opentextbooks/

H5P interactive content in Glow Blogs⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Well I am quite excited. There is a new plugin in Glow Blogs, H5P. This is quite different from anything else in blogs.

H5P is a system for creating interactive HTML5 content. It can work inside several types of publishing platforms including WordPress.

The range of content types that you can create with H5P is pretty wide. Some are ways of presenting material, accordions, image galleries. Others are learning activities, quizzes, multi-choice questions, word searches and crosswords. More sophisticated types include interactive video. Videos can be paused by viewers to respond to questions and quizzes and 360 tours. Responses to quizzes, cloze procedures etc are gathered from logged on users.

You can combine these content types , or display them on a blog in different ways.

I’ve spent a bit of time making some simple examples for Glow Blogs which has allowed me to start to think about how best to use these.

I’ve also started to build up a small bank of resources for spelling for my class: igh example. So far I am only scratching the surface.

I’ve always enjoyed making online resources for my classes to use. but these can take a lot of time and can be difficult to make presentable or present. The H5P plug-in solves many of these problems and are made “inside” the blog.
Having them on a blog allows resources to be quite easily organised. The Display Posts plug-in or using the make theme helps. Post listing in Gutenberg will be useful too.

Here are a couple of examples embedded from Glow Blogs.

A 360 tour:

and a fill in the missing words exercise.

H5P interactive content in Glow Blogs⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Well I am quite excited. There is a new plugin in Glow Blogs, H5P. This is quite different from anything else in blogs.

H5P is a system for creating interactive HTML5 content. It can work inside several types of publishing platforms including WordPress.

The range of content types that you can create with H5P is pretty wide. Some are ways of presenting material, accordions, image galleries. Others are learning activities, quizzes, multi-choice questions, word searches and crosswords. More sophisticated types include interactive video. Videos can be paused by viewers to respond to questions and quizzes and 360 tours. Responses to quizzes, cloze procedures etc are gathered from logged on users.

You can combine these content types , or display them on a blog in different ways.

I’ve spent a bit of time making some simple examples for Glow Blogs which has allowed me to start to think about how best to use these.

I’ve also started to build up a small bank of resources for spelling for my class: igh example. So far I am only scratching the surface.

I’ve always enjoyed making online resources for my classes to use. but these can take a lot of time and can be difficult to make presentable or present. The H5P plug-in solves many of these problems and are made “inside” the blog.
Having them on a blog allows resources to be quite easily organised. The Display Posts plug-in or using the make theme helps. Post listing in Gutenberg will be useful too.

Here are a couple of examples embedded from Glow Blogs.

A 360 tour:

and a fill in the missing words exercise.

Why ’good behaviour’ can lead to inequity⤴

from @ EduBlether

The debate around behaviour in schools is perennial, and just as we said in the podcast episode on behaviour, we will not have time to fully discuss all of the various elements of the debate in this post. What I have to say about behaviour in schools could make up a whole book on its on, so I will continue to post on the subject in the coming weeks. I feel that returning to the discussion to revise and review viewpoints will be worthwhile. My views on this change regularly depending on my experiences in school and the new challenges I am faced with in my leadership role in a school.

For the purpose of clarity, I want to say up front that I am an advocate of restorative practice and a collection of approaches towards ‘behaviour’ that allow children’s dignity to remain intact and that has relationships front and centre. I openly criticise overly punitive, zero-tolerance measures to ‘manage’ behaviour that prioritise an inflexible tariff of consequences. This is down to what I see as the purpose of education (which I recently wrote about here). I believe that Education is a democratising and liberating force that can help children to change themselves and the world rather than conform and reproduce status quo. This is important in this discussion and I urge you to reflect on your answer to the purpose question as it will impact on your views on behaviour.

From my experience, discussion with colleagues, reading current literature and analysis of policy, I would say that in Scotland there is a tangible shift towards nurturing, child-centred, rights-respecting approaches towards behaviour that align closely with my own view. Inclusive policies give me license to pursue the restorative approach I discuss above. The work of popular edu-authors and speakers like Paul Dix (When the adults change everything changes) and the awareness of trauma informed practice and adverse childhood experiences in Scotland has changed the narrative. Most schools no longer remove golden time from children or place their name on the grey cloud to ridicule and embarrass them into behaving better. Behaviourist approaches now seem like out-dated practice that is almost universally lambasted, certainly it is in my immediate professional circles.

The principles of nurture are also well understood in schools across Scotland, the main principle brought into this discussion is often “all behaviour is communication”. Educators seek to understand rather than be understood when it comes to behaviour (or at least there is an awareness of the importance of this). I have first-hand experience of some exceptional practice in this area. Robust packages of support, and huge levels of effort, determination and collaboration have gone into changing the lives of children who would, in a more traditional approach to behaviour, have been excluded and/or done serious harm to themselves and others. With an approach centred on forgiveness, understanding and an educative approach to behaviour – I know that a long term impact can be made. I have seen this work, and the implications are literally life changing.

The ‘problem’ with this approach is that it is hard. VERY hard. It takes a large degree of understanding and professionalism. This is not an approach that is ‘efficient’. There is no linear route to more regulated, consistently calm behaviour. It is a mix of complex, nuanced and fluid approaches that change daily and vary in terms of success. There will be a lot that does not work and certainty of any kind (in terms of children’s behaviour) is almost non-existent. This is not a post of my top 10 approaches to managing behaviour or the silver bullet that will cure all behaviour issues. From my experience there is no list or single strategy that works. This uncertainty and unpredictability inevitably has an impact on other school priorities. It is therefore paramount to view this as values-led practice, as mentioned when questioning your purpose. It is necessary, when approaching behaviour this way, to interrogate what your values are as a school. What do you value above all else? Do you value things like; acceptance, forgiveness, understanding of differences and inclusion? If so then it is important to be upfront and explicit about this. Celebrate your intent. Shout it from the rooftops. I find having a clear rationale for why you are adopting a certain approach, makes it easier when times get tough. Use it as a mantra to repeat to yourself when you find yourself wanting to resort to the path of least resistance. Shouting at a child, or forcing them to apologise may make you feel better in the moment, it may even feel like the ‘right’ thing to do, but does it really meet the longer-term values that you hold dear? Values are what keep me motivated, and keep me coming back every day to continue to try to make a difference. I believe that schools should be judged by how they treat the most vulnerable learners in the community. How those who are facing adversity, in any shape or form, are supported to overcome this. Universal and unquestioned compliance and conformity is not something I aim for in education. These statements express my values to a degree and are hugely significant when interrogating my approach towards behaviour.

Another reason this approach is hard though is because it appears to favour or prioritise the children who are facing barriers at the expense of those who are not. There are children who ‘behave’ as expected every day, without prompt or correction. “It’s not fair on everyone else” is a completely natural reaction, and one that I have wrestled with myself. To a certain extent I agree. Children who are disrupting the learning of many through their behaviour are illustrating a situation that is unfair. But, when I reflect on this, my sense of injustice comes from the inequality inherent in the system, not from the behaviour of individual children. I find it helpful to adopt a social model of analysis here rather than a medical model. The social model focuses on the environment and all contributing factors to a child’s behaviour, looking for alternative approaches that involve many variable factors. The medical model looks to problematise the individual, isolating the concerns to the child – removing them from external influences. For me nothing in education exists in isolation.

If we accept a system that is engineered towards comparing children, heavily focussed on qualification and progress in learning, where efficiency is valued highly while at the same time focussing on the actions of individuals, then disruptions to this will be seen as unfair. But how ‘fair’ is the system to begin with? Quite often, what we value as ‘good behaviour’ are the behaviours of well-off, middle-class, neurotypical children who have not experienced trauma or adversity. By this I mean, sitting quietly, listening, taking turns, resolving conflict with words, being polite etc. In this sense, schools operate to reinforce these societal norms as preferred behaviours. But whose cultural norms are they? Who sets the tone for these being ‘good behaviours’? In our current school system, If you behave this way, you will succeed at school, if not then you are in need of correction, and statistically are more likely to fail – by almost every proxy of success in our current system. These behaviours are preferable because they are beneficial for a very particular type of education. What happens when the environment and expected behaviours change? For example, how many people have witnessed a child’s behaviour completely change (in a positive way) when on a residential experience for example?

My issue here is that our education system as a whole perpetuates a system of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. If tolerance, acceptance and flexibility are not built into the system, and we have a narrow view of what ‘good behaviour’ looks like, then there are always going to be children who fail. My point in this post is that instead of trying to achieve conformity through force, which we know is simply out of reach for some children, that we should try to redesign the system to better suit the needs of those children finding it hard. Ian Gilbert, in the fantastic book ‘Working Class’, reflects on Paulo Freire’s work, in a way that is quite significant in this discussion.

“Your time is better spent not fighting me to change me but fighting to change the conditions in which a ‘you’ and a ‘me’ arose and which continue to perpetuate such a division”.

This is why I am proud of the work I have been a part of in my career which prioritises system change within a school in favour of children who can’t, for various reasons, succeed in the more traditional approach towards behaviour. By changing a system to be more inclusive and which respects every child’s rights and access to education I feel that we are challenging the inequality we see throughout society, and that we are contributing to a more socially just culture and community.

If all behaviour is communication, then that applies to the adults in the system too. What are you communicating through your behaviour as an adult when you are helping children learn how to behave? What are you communicating about your values and your approach to tackling inequality? What do your actions communicate about your beliefs and what you hold dear?

This debate is highly contentious and emotional. Your personal beliefs around this will be impacted on by so many elements of your life (your politics, your own experiences, your beliefs on the purpose of education and many more) meaning that there is going to be disagreement with what I have discussed here. I encourage this. I hope that this provokes discussion and debate. Ultimately though, I believe that as an education system we need to openly discuss this from a values based perspective because it has a profound impact on the lives of the children and young people we serve.

Perfect imperfect day⤴

from @ lenabellina

Today I felt like myself.

In the song “Perfect Day”, Lou Reed sings:

“Just a perfect day
You made me forget myself
I thought I was someone else
Someone good”

But my issue, for many a month now, is that I haven’t been able to remember what being me is like. I haven’t wanted to forget myself but I haven’t been able to find the essence of me.

I’m still not sure what that’s been about. Why I have had a sense of being under the weather, out of sorts, exhausted, not me.

Maybe it’s been long covid. Maybe my ADHD. Maybe hormones. Maybe too much change at work. Maybe anxiety brought on by the state of the world. Maybe something else. Maybe all of it.

But for some reason, today, I felt like me, for the first time in a long time. I was able to watch and enjoy a film. I finished a novel. I felt able to sit and concentrate. And I felt an overwhelming sense of love and gratitude for the people in my life.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring. But whatever it brings, I am determined to face it as me. As someone good. Not as someone perfect because in seeking perfection we are destined to fail. But as someone who knows that I’m still in the game.