Tag Archives: schools

For the Common Good – Responding to the global pandemic with OER⤴


This is a belated transcript of the talk I gave at the ALT Summer Summit 2020. Slides from this presentation are available here: For the Common Good – Responding to the global pandemic with OER.

At the height of the global COVID-19 pandemic, UNESCO estimated that 1.57 billion learners in 191 countries worldwide had had their education disrupted.  In response to this unprecedented crisis, the organisation issued a Call for Joint Action to support learning and knowledge sharing through Open Educational Resources (OER).  The call highlights the important role that OER can play in supporting the continuation of learning in both formal and informal settings, meeting the needs of individual learners, including people with disabilities and individuals from marginalized or disadvantaged groups, with a view to building more inclusive, sustainable and resilient Knowledge Societies.

This Call for Joint Action builds on UNESCO’s 2019 Recommendation on Open Educational Resources, which represents a formal commitment to actively support the global adoption of OER.   Central to the Recommendation, is the acknowledgement of the role that OER can play in achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 for Quality Education.

The Recommendation recognises that

“in building inclusive Knowledge Societies, Open Educational Resources (OER) can support quality education that is equitable, inclusive, open and participatory as well as enhancing academic freedom and professional autonomy of teachers by widening the scope of materials available for teaching and learning.”

 And it outlines five areas of action:

  • Building capacity of stakeholders to create, access, re-use, adapt and redistribute OER
  • Developing supportive policy
  • Encouraging effective, inclusive and equitable access to quality OER
  • Nurturing the creation of sustainability models for OER
  • Promoting and reinforcing international cooperation

OER at the University of Edinburgh

At the University of Edinburgh, we believe that supporting OER and open knowledge is strongly in keeping with our institutional vision and values; to discover knowledge and make the world a better place, and to ensure our teaching and research is accessible, inclusive, and relevant to society. In line with the UNESCO OER Recommendation, we also believe that OER and open knowledge can contribute to achieving the aims of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which the University is committed to through the SDG Accord.   

 This commitment to OER is reflected in the University’s OER Policy, approved by our Learning and Teaching Committee in 2015, which encourages staff and students to use and create OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience, expand provision of learning opportunities, and enrich our shared knowledge commons.

To support this policy we also have an OER Service that provides staff and students with advice and guidance on creating and using OER and engaging with open education. We run a wide range of digital skills workshops for staff and students focused on copyright literacy, open licencing, OER and playful engagement. The OER Service places openness at the heart of the university’s strategic initiatives by embedding digital skills training and support into institutional initiatives including lecture recording, academic blogging, VLE foundations, MOOCs and distance learning at scale, in order to build sustainability and minimise the risk of what my senior colleague Melissa Highton has referred to as copyright debt.

And we also maintain a one stop shop that provides access to open educational resources created by staff and students across the university. We don’t have a single centralized OER repository, instead we encourage colleagues to share resources where they can be easily found by those who may benefit from re-using them. To this end, we maintain Open.Ed accounts on a number of channels including Media Hopper Create, our media asset management platform, Flickr, Sketchfab, and TES Resources. And we aggregate a show case of resources on the Open.Ed website, which is built on the WordPress open source platform.

This strategic support for OER and open knowledge enabled the University to respond rapidly to the uniquely complex challenges presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic when the UK went into lockdown in March this year and what I want to do now is highlight some of those responses.

COVID-19 Critical Care: Understanding and Application

As soon as COVID-19 hit the UK, it became evident that frontline clinical staff could be required to work in critical care environments they weren’t familiar with or hadn’t been trained in for some time. The team behind the University’s online Masters in Critical Care realised that content from their course would be extremely valuable to these healthcare professionals and wasted no time planning what they could do to share this information with those that might need it.

Even before the UK lockdown was announced, the Masters in Critical Care team, led by Dr Graham Nimmo, contacted the University’s OER Service for advice and guidance on sharing their resources as widely as possible. While the Critical Care team identified which resources would be most useful, learning technologists explored which platform would be best suited to hosting the content. The initial plan was to share the learning resources as a public course on the University’s central VLE, however there was concern that demand could overwhelm a platform that was critical to ensuring teaching continuity at a time when courses were rapidly pivoting to online delivery.  Instead the University approached FutureLearn, one of the online course providers it already had a partnership with, and they agreed to host the resources at short notice.

Under normal circumstances creating a new MOOC would take around six to nine months and would undergo a thorough learning design process. However with the UK’s pandemic peak looming, the team decided it was vital to make these resources available as quickly as possible.  Over the course of a week from Saturday 28th March, members of the University’s Online Learning service, worked tirelessly with the Critical Care team and FutureLearn to migrate content from the MSc course onto the FutureLearn platform. Meanwhile specially recruited subject matter experts created additional resources to fill any gaps and complete the overall learning package.

Nine days later, and just three weeks into lockdown, the educational resources went live at midnight on Sunday 5 April.  FutureLearn have a quality assurance process that normally takes 30 days, but given the exceptional circumstances, they accelerated this process, with the team resolving 40 essential actions in 26 hours to enable the resources to launch.

Over 5,000 learners enrolled on the first day of the course and by the end of the first 6 week run, over 40,000 learners from 189 countries had accessed the learning materials.

The course itself teaches healthcare professionals how to care for critically ill patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, covering daily practice for frontline clinical staff supporting critical care patients with and without COVID-19, applying ventilation and organ support principles, PPE requirements and staff and patient safety. The course also helps to facilitate healthcare professionals’ emotional and physical self-care and well-being in this high-stress, high-risk environment, and helped them to develop the practices to emotionally support both themselves and their colleagues.

The FutureLearn Critical Care course has now run twice and open licensed videos from the Critical Care team are also available to access and reuse under open licence from the University’s media repository Media Hopper Create.

The University’s strategic support for OER and open knowledge, and FutureLearn’s willingness to bend their own rules, helped enable us to develop this resource at speed.  The team comprised staff from the University, FutureLearn, NHS Lothian, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and NHS Education Scotland, who came together to make something positive happen at what was a difficult and stressful time for many, however knowing how valuable this educational resource would be to staff on the frontline of critical care motivated the team to make the impossible happen.   And you can find out more about this amazing achievement in this news item by my colleague Lauren Johnston-Smith.

PPE Production

Elsewhere in the University colleagues were working tirelessly to address the lack of personal protective equipment faced by healthcare staff in the early stages of the pandemic.  Labs, workshops and maker spaces around the University began producing visors and face shields based on existing open licensed models.  Colleagues at uCreateStudio the University’s make space, developed a 3D printing model for stackable protective visors based on the open licensed 3D Verkstan model, and refined for single filament printing.   A different version of the same open licensed model was created by technicians at the School of Informatics who set up a face shield printing factory and worked 7 days a week to produce hundreds of face shields a day for NHS and care home staff.   Meanwhile technicians at the School of Engineering developed a process to laser cut full-face visors with adjustable headbands using automated laser-cutting machines. 

In addition to producing PPE to help protect healthcare workers, the models developed by uCreate Studio, Informatics, and the School of Engineering were released under Creative Commons licence and shared on the OER Service’s Sketchfab account where they can be downloaded and re-used by all.

Free Short Online Courses

Providing open access to high quality online learning opportunities and widening access to our scholarship has always been an important cornerstone of the University’s commitment to open knowledge exchange and community outreach.   We provide a wide range of online courses including masters degrees, MOOCs and MicroMasters programmes.

Ensuring continued access to course materials for our many online learners, has always been a priority, and now more so than ever. Whether these learners are among the 4,000 matriculated students enrolled on our online masters courses,  or the 2.7 million learners who have signed up for the many MOOCs that we offer. Continued access to MOOC content can be problematic as educational content often gets locked into commercial MOOC platforms, regardless of whether or not it is openly licensed, and some platforms also time limit access to resources. Clearly this is not helpful for learners, particularly at a time when they may find it challenging to meet fixed deadlines as a result of other personal commitments and stresses in their lives. In order to address this issue, the OER Service works closely with our Online Learning service and course production teams to ensure that the majority of online learning content can be released under open licence on our media asset management platform. 

As a result of our longstanding commitment to OER and open knowledge, we now have over 3000 Creative Commons licensed videos on Media Hopper Create, including 527 high quality audio and video resources created for our MOOCs which can be accessed and downloaded from our Open Media Bank channel. The Open Media Bank hosts legacy content covering a wide range of topics, including some that directly address the challenges of the pandemic, such as videos from our former MOOC Critical Thinking in Global Challenges  from the School of Biomedical Sciences.  These videos explore important global challenges to which we have no clear “correct” solutions: including the spread of serious infectious diseases in epidemics in modern societies, and the challenges of human health and wellbeing in the modern world. 

Free Teaching and Learning Resources for Home Schooling

Our commitment to knowledge exchange and community outreach also extends to the school sector.   Through TES Resources the OER Service shares a growing collection of interdisciplinary teaching and learning materials, aimed at primary and secondary school level, covering topics as diverse as climate change, environmental science, food production, sustainable fashion, biodiversity, LGBTQ+ issues, sustainability, and outdoor learning.    These fun and creative resources are free and open licensed and designed to be easily customisable for different learning scenarios.  All are accompanied by SCQF levels and Scottish Curriculum for Excellence learning objectives and outcomes.  

With schools closing as a result of lockdown and parents suddenly faced with the reality of homeschooling, the OER Service used its social media channels to disseminate this ready-made collection of free teaching resources to all who might need them.   And you can see here how downloads of these free resources peaked in the first three months of lockdown.

 One of the really nice things about this collection of open educational resources is that they have all been co-created by undergraduates and student interns in collaboration with colleagues from the School of GeoSciences,  supported by the OER Service. So this is a lovely example of the benefits of open education and co-creation in action.

Digital Skills for Remote and Hybrid Teaching

And of course we’ve also been supporting our own colleagues at the University as they adapted first to the rapid online pivot at the start of lockdown and now as they prepare to move to a model of hybrid teaching at the start of semester one.

The OER Service was already running a digital skills programme, which focuses on copyright literacy, open licensing and OER.  This helps to equip staff with the knowledge and confidence they need to successfully move their teaching materials online, while minimising the risk to the University of breaching copyright.  In response to increased demand and to meet the unique needs of moving to our new hybrid model of teaching and learning, the OER Service moved its entire digital skills programme online and rolled out a number of new courses including Copyright, Licensing and Open Materials for Hybrid Teaching, Building Blocks of UK Copyright and Exceptions, and Creative Commons Quickstart – A short introduction to using CC licences in our core tool set.   Although our digital skills sessions are only open to staff and postgraduate students at the University, all our workshop materials, including slide decks and videos are freely available under open licence, including videos of our popular digital skills workshop Will it bite me? Media, Licensing, and online teaching environments.

Caring for Mental Health and Wellbeing

Caring for mental health at a time of unprecedented stress and uncertainty is a priority for us all, and over the last six months the OER Service has shared a wealth of resources to support mental health and wellbeing created by colleagues around the University.  These include  Mental Health: A Global Priority podcasts and videos,  a mental health and wellbeing booklet for children aged 12+,  the lovely we have great stuff colouring-book, which my colleague Stewart Cromar shared at last year’s ALT Conference in Edinburgh,  and treasures from the University’s collections  which we’ve shared through our social media channels.

These are just some of the ways that the University of Edinburgh’s strategic commitment to OER and open knowledge has enabled us to respond to the many and varied challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and contribute to the common good.

And I want to end now by returning to the UNESCO  Call for Joint Action to support learning and knowledge sharing through OER, and this quote from Moez Chakchouk, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information and  Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education.

“Today we are at a pivotal moment in history. The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in a paradigm shift on how learners of all ages, worldwide, can access learning. It is therefore more than ever essential that the global community comes together now to foster universal access to information and knowledge through OER.”

7 Myths About Education Recovery⤴

from @ Graeme’s Blog

Some schools in England re-opened this week, shining a spotlight on the questions and anxieties that surround the mammoth task of recovering education. In Scotland, the national Education Recovery Group was established very early so all relevant voices, including those of teachers, employers and parents, could be heard. This has meant that planning has progressed quickly and with less confusion and fewer problems than has been the case south of the border. I’ve still read and heard some strange things though, and am trying to process some of them here.

1. Schools are dangerous.
Guidance was issued last week detailing the understanding amongst the Chief Medical Officer’s Advisory Group on the risks of returning to school and, commendably, where these were majority or minority views . Whilst this doesn’t cover every scenario, at least schools have something to work with. We can continuing planning for a phased return to school, knowing what to do to minimise the risk. Teachers won’t need to wear hazmat suits but careful thought will be needed around the surfaces and furnishings in classrooms and on the groupings coming into school and how to minimise interactions. Everyone will need to stay 2 metres apart. All local authorities have logistics gurus (shadowy figures, rarely seen during daylight) who are working hard on plans for additional hand-washing facilities, safe school transport and other nightmarishly complex tasks . This can only happen because of the sensible decision to work collaboratively towards an August return at the earliest. Any earlier would have been unfeasible for the significant changes that need to be made to make things safe. Parents and pupils should be reassured that a lot of thought is going into this and that schools will be as safe as possible.

2. Schools are safe.
Ok, they are; I’ve just written that above. The point I’m making is that schools are not naturally environments that are “Covid-19 secure”: it is only by making massive changes in how we access, use and run schools that we can make them safe. Every teacher, pupil and parent needs to understand that, if schools are to re-open, they must be vastly different from before. We can have far fewer pupils in at any one time and time will be needed in between different groups to clean surfaces properly. Classrooms, groupings and timetables will be very different. Serving school lunches, in any averagely-sized secondary school, is likely to be impossible. To stagger lunch service for even a few hundred pupils would take so long, and be so disruptive to the school day and teaching capacity, it is genuinely not worth bothering about. There is a big question here for schools to consider bravely: far better a highly productive morning than a full day with lunch staggered disruptively over a three hour window.

Some subjects will need a complete re-think. Take PE for example. In most school changing rooms physical distancing will be impractical and contact sports or even passing the ball will be off-limits. At the same time, we know that getting meaningful physical education is hugely important for our young people’s physical and mental wellbeing. PE teachers will rise to the challenge of transforming what they do (and most all PE teachers could beat me up if I suggested otherwise).

3. Remote learning is bad.
Teaching is highly interactive and intuitive. It relies on a series of millions of rich interactions in the context of a safe classroom environment and trusting relationships. This can never be replicated online. But just because traditional teaching cannot take place doesn’t mean that learning isn’t happening. Across the world teachers have worked incredibly hard to learn a whole new range of skills and not just about digital platforms. Teachers are thinking deeply about the pedagogy they need to set up learning and to make it accessible and engaging for pupils. I found Cassie Buchanan’s webinar really helpful in informing my thinking about how we could keep a sense of flow in learning from week to week. Our school adopted a weekly Content > Task > Hand-in > Follow up model to structure our asynchronous approach. We quickly agreed we all needed to use the same platform and the same weekly structure to make it as easy as possible for pupils to ‘get to’ and access the learning. Our teachers spent the recent in-service days sharing their experiences, both in terms of digital tips, but also the strategies they had begun to use to build and maintain pupil engagement. We used the EFF videos on self-regulated learning to stimulate discussion and ask ourselves deep questions about how we can cultivate these dispositions in our learners both now (entirely remotely) and next term when we will have a blend of in-school and remote learning.

Is it perfect? No. Is every teacher a digital guru? No. Is every pupil 100% engaged? No. (Spoiler alert: they weren’t always 100% engaged before either!) However, amazingly, we have achieved a transformation in a whole school approach to learning in a matter of weeks. There has been a complete shift from, in the frantic few days before schools closed, hastily curating resources on a myriad of platforms “just in case we shut”, to a coherent and consistent online learning approach that the Open University would be proud of. It has been the school improvement equivalent of implementing 3 years’ worth of change in 3 months.

It was refreshing to read Neil Oliver’s piece celebrating the impact of hard-working teachers across the country and to see the early shoots of Scottish pupils developing the skills they will need to thrive in the future world of working remotely and independently. Our own workforce is now actively preparing to enhance our strong remote offer by blending it with some face-to-face teaching next term. Teachers across Scotland, and the world, should be incredibly proud of what has been achieved in such a short space of time and without access to buildings.

4. Pupils will just jump straight back in.
Of course, many pupils (and adults) are struggling without the structures of the school day, the support of teachers and the social development and wellbeing that come from being part of a school community. They are desperate to get back and we are desperate to bring them back, safely. But I suspect most parents and pupils – and many staff, myself included – have not yet got our heads around how different things will be and how the ‘normal’ that we crave to get back simply won’t exist for a while. Schools will be almost unrecognisable.

Last week we removed all of the furniture from a classroom and set it up as a Covid safe learning space: minimising surfaces and furnishings, spreading out the desks and ensuring that all humans would be positioned 2 metres apart. It is grim. I remember as a primary pupil going to visit (with a frequency I now consider inexplicable) the mock Victorian Classroom that was set up in the old Ancrum Road Primary School in Dundee: our experiment immediately reminded me of that room. School is going to look and feel vastly different but – parents and pupils – don’t worry. Teachers across Scotland are already thinking of how we can prepare and support you with this. In actual fact, the phased return that will be necessary as part of the staggered approach to education recovery will be helpful for many young people.

5. More pupils in school means better learning.
Wrong. The Scottish Government has asked schools to ensure that as many pupils as can safely return come back to school at any one time. We need to approach this ambitiously, but with a focus on learning, not numbers. One approach could be to divide every possible space into 2 metre chunks and add up the number, giving the optimum number of pupils who can attend on any given day. This would do our pupils a great disservice and lead to real inequity across the country. Different year groups need different things and all schools will still have staff (and pupils) in the shielding category who will not be available. In a secondary, the most sensible way to run S1 and S2 is to offer a Japanese style ‘home room’ set up where a small group of pupils stay in the same room and teachers move to them (but not as often as they would normally change over). Older pupils have chosen different combinations of subjects, including those delivered by colleges and other partners, so need a very different set up. In both cases, with only one or two year groups in school, crafty timetabling can ensure that pupils still access a broad curriculum. However, if Scotland starts a space race to jam the highest possible % of pupils into a building, then we swap craftiness for cack-handedness and will have to reduce the range of subjects for everyone. What’s best for pupils? Fewer days in school accessing a broad curriculum, or more time in school following a narrower set of subjects?

Importantly, keeping a smaller number of students in schools will still allow them to access – at staggered times, and in Covid safe ways we will help them to learn – the social spaces in schools. Pasi Sahlberg and others have already made the case for the importance of having self-directed social times when we return to school and this will be crucial to achieve the positive impact on students’ wellbeing that we are all so desperate to see. If we pack the school with as many pupils as possible then break times will need to be in the same classrooms pupils are working in and we will lose an opportunity for the social and unsupervised interaction that our young people have been denied during lockdown.

6. Children have fallen behind. They should just repeat last year.
Behind who? Every school in the world has been closed. Of course, pupils will have forgotten things and got out of habits; some will have regressed significantly in some areas and others will have switched off from learning completely. We know some groups of learners will have been disadvantaged by lockdown more than others and that the attainment gap will have widened. But they are returning to buildings full of professionals who will support them. This is actually the real, meaty part of education ‘recovery’ that we are going to wrestle with over the next few years. It will require the utmost creativity and resilience. But nobody needs to repeat a year; all schools are moving forwards.

7. Next year’s exams should go ahead as normal.
Bonkers! Despite all my positive arguments about remote learning, Senior Phase pupils are following courses that were designed to have far more contact time with teachers than they are ever going to experience. Pupils, parents and teachers need a clear message reassuring them that the pressure to get through the same amount of content is off and that a blended approach (to use an ‘on trend’ expression) of coursework, teacher judgement and perhaps some form of shortened exam will be applied for certification next year. I happen to think the SQA have responded reasonably well to the situation they were placed in (albeit we will find out in August what “data validation” really means) but the Scottish education community must use the exit from this crisis as an opportunity to consider whether we want the Senior Phase to continue being, for many learners, three years of high stakes all-or-nothing tests.

Now, more than ever, is the time for teachers to take the lead and ensure that decisions about education recovery are taken on exactly that basis: what will maximise learning?


  1. I do hope Daisy Christodoulou doesn’t come after me for plagiarising her title. It just seemed like a good idea and I’m sure she doesn’t have copyright on the word ‘myth’.
  2. Who am I kidding? As if Daisy Christodoulou would ever read my blog. She doesn’t even know who I am.

Speeding Up Mobile Glow Blogging⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Here are some tips for speeding up the process of making simple posts to a Glow Blog

Preparation 1. The Post Editor

One of the nice things about the WordPress Post Editor is you can customise the elements that you see on the screen.

Blogs Post Screen Options

To make my posting simpler in mobile I’ve removed some elements and dragged the Featured Image section to the top of the right hand column. This makes it appear right under the post content in the mobile view.
Blogs Post Featured
You can also collapse section of the editor you don’t need all the time, I’ve notice my pupils do this when using their e-Portfolios.

Preparation 2. Bookmark New Post

On my phone I’ve bookmarked the New Post Page on blogs I want to post to.

New Post Add To Homescreen

Im my case I’ve saved it to my home screen so I don’t even need to open my browser and go through my bookmarks.

This means that I can go straight to the new post page. If I am not logged onto Glow I am taken through the RM Unify password screen first. I use the save password facility on my phone to speed this up.

Featured Images

Editing a post with images and text can get a little messy, and therefore slow, on mobile. If I want to make a quick post, I don’t put the images in the editor, but use the featured image feature. This adds an image, typically, to the top of your post, and keeps it clear of the text.

Putting it All Together

Using my home screen icon, saved password, simplified new post page and a featured image means I can post a twitter sized post and picture in around 90 seconds.

Twitter too

In case you are missing the interaction and publicity of twitter you can of course auto post your blog to twitter using several free services, dlvr.it, IFTTT and Microsoft Flow (using your glow account.)

What we (Scottish Schools) Tweet With⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

A follow up to yesterday’s post, where I figured out how to extract the source from a list of tweets.

I asked a few folk on twitter if they had lists of schools twitter accounts by LA in twitter list. Andrew Bailey gave me an Angus one and Malcolm Wilson pointed me to William Jenkins who has a pile of lists. I quickly grabbed 18 LAs alone with Andrews to make 20 to run through my script.

The results are above.

I am interest in the result only tangentially. Partially is my idea of fun to figure out how to write the script. Mainly  I am interested in thinking about encouraging folk to use Glow Blogs as a primary place they post school and class news as opposed to twitter. I’ve been told a few times that teachers use twitter because it is easier. I want to explain how blogging can be a lot easier. This indicates that mobile devices are the way to go.

Motivation 3.0 in our schools⤴

from @ Becoming Educated

I asked recently why staff at our school love teaching. I got back some amazing responses as to their why of being a teacher. It is important, I feel, to ask this of staff from time to time. We should also ask them to tell their story of why they became a teacher. Many can share this with the same enthusiasm as they do when you ask them how they met their current partner. It is rehearsed as it was lived by them and can evoke great memories and feelings.

There are times, however, when we as teachers can forget why we do what we do. Think of those dark nights in December when we’ve been working non stop for a while and lesson after lesson brings with it new challenges, the marking pile gets ever bigger and more work is asked of you by your leaders. It is at those times we need to remind ourselves of our why!

What has interested me of late is the tremendous motivation that teachers have for the young people in our care. We will do anything to help, encourage and support them in their times of need. However, do we support teachers well enough in their time of need. Some teachers are often so overworked they suffer from burnout but this should never be the case. We must question why we do things? why must always ask.. does this add value to the learning and experiences of the young people.

When discussing burnout, stress and other factors that cause teachers to stay up late at night and miss days at work I came to the conclusion that maybe we don’t have, what Daniel Pink describes in his book “Drive” (2009) enough Type I teachers. In his book, released in 2009, he sets out a new vision for workplace motivation that he calls “Motivation 3.0”. He does so because he explains that we have moved on from “Motivation 1.0” (think our primitive responses for survival and “Motivation 2.0” (think of a culture of reward and punishment). Does judging teachers simply by their exam results from 30 pupils after 12 months of hard work with 300 pupils seem like a fair way to reward or punish them? Does this motivate staff to work even harder next year? Daniel Pink would argue that it doesn’t.

“Motivation 3.0” is described as intrinsic. motivation (or Type I). This is manifested when people are self-motivated and they are given the freedom to do the work they enjoy. In an environment which support this innovation and creativity are key and people are allowed to thrive by doing the work they love. Which brings me back to why you got into teaching in the first place? This should be the energy and driver to you being self motivated. Another reason why it is important to remind staff about this at regular intervals as I mentioned earlier.

Pink (2009) outlines the three key components of eliciting intrinsic motivation in your staff: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.


This is defined as the need to direct your own life or work. To be fully motivated you need to be able to control what you do, when you do it and who you do it with. It is difficult to offer all of this to teaching staff the children are timetable to you. Given this how many of you feel that you have the autonomy to do what you want and are given the space to think creatively with your classes. Yes, we have a curriculum to enact b ut teacher are the ‘curriculum makers’ who bring it to life. Through our Curriculum for Excellence Scottish Teachers have this opportunity and autonomy to deliver the Benchmarks in any way they like. I remember attending an event which empowered me to assess children using any of four criteria can they say it, make it, write it or do it.

Contrary to this are you forced to deliver lessons plans for you, do you have a rigid lesson structure you must follow or do you feel that you have no autonomy at all? The beauty of schools is that we come across a wide variety of ideas, styles and creativity. This should be harnesses and heralded for the great opportunity it is. If you are a school leader I want you to consider if your staff have the autonomy to teach how they want? of course, they have to report, monitor and track under, perhaps, a rigid system but how they get their should always be up to them and how they see the curriculum being enacted.

Now I’m not saying we can go all footloose on curriculum as children must learn to read, write, run, jump, throw, create, explain etc. But to be truly motivated as a teacher or in any line of work you must have some autonomy.


Mastery is defined simply as the desire to improve. If you are motivated by mastery, you’ll believe that your potential is unlimited and you’ll seek constant improvement. In schools e have a tremendous missed opportunity for improvement. Each other. How often do we feel isolated, like an island all on its own when teaching our classes. With the staffroom becoming slowly a thing of the past it is now even more important that we get out and watch others teach. We ask them why they chose that approach, why they moved that child there and why they used the language and tone they did with 2D. In any school there are 1000s of years of experience and we are very poor at sharing that experience and quick to judge others, even if we haven’t been in their rooms for more than 10 minutes. EduTwitter is a great place to share ideas but this community must be built in our schools as what we learn there directly impacts on our young people.


People may become demotivated and become disengaged if they understand or invest in the “bigger picture”.

Regardless of whether your school leadership, faculty head or mentor is good, bad or ineffective we should never stray from the big picture in education – the young people. It must always be for them and only them.

As I mentioned earlier always think back to why you became a teacher. It will serve you well, even in the worst of moments in your career.

With this knowledge in mind, how do we create teachers and schools that are full of intrinsically motivated staff. Try out the following ideas and let me know if they work in your context (note: they are all ideas from Daniel Pink’s book, it is worth a few hours of your time)

  1. Take steps to give up control – involve people in setting their own goals, reduce controlling language like “you must” or “you should” use terms like “consider doing” or “have a think about doing” and have open door hours when people CAN come and speak to you on matters arising.
  2. Give staff “Goldilocks Tasks” – these are tasks that are neither to hard or too easy but encourage focus and flow and encourage them to develop mastery.
  3. Always promote collaboration – make your school a place with a learning culture, think ‘when you open your doors and let others in, magic can happen’

What motivates others is a real interest of mine and of many teacher. The ideals discussed here can also be applied to the young people learning in your classrooms. Think about the past week and consider how much autonomy and purpose you gave the children. Where any of them in a state of flow? where they developing mastery skills? or were some of your tasks far too easy which results in boredom and challenging behaviour?

For me, I can think of at least 3 classes I had where the tasks I set were simply too easy. This happens for everyone but that is why I want to continually learn and develop mastery in my teaching craft.

Response to International Council of Education Advisers recommendations⤴

from @ Engage for Education

The Scottish Government has accepted a list of far ranging recommendations from the International Council of Education Advisers (ICEA) to help empower and strengthen the Scottish education system and ultimately improve attainment.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “We are fortunate to have the advice and guidance of the International Council of Education Advisers. They are helping support our ambition to deliver excellence and equity for all of our young people and ensure Scotland is a world leader in education. I thank them for their valuable time and insight.

“The ICEA made 19 far ranging recommendations to help empower and strengthen our education system and ultimately improve attainment, and these have all been accepted.

Their expertise and variety of perspectives have helped to drive real improvement within our education system, and it is clear from our response to their recommendations that progress has already been made. By challenging and scrutinising our plans each step of the way they have helped to ensure we are making the right decisions to improve outcomes for all of our young people.”

Dr Allison Skerrett, speaking on behalf of the International Council of Education Advisers, said: “The International Council of Education Advisors (ICEA) were pleased to attend the Scottish Learning Festival to present and discuss our June 2018 report with educators from across Scotland and beyond. We also valued the opportunity to reflect on our recommendations with the Scottish Education Council and the Deputy First Minister at Broughton High School.

“Over the two days of meetings, our discussions with the Deputy First Minister, Scottish Government and Education Scotland focused on how Scotland can enhance a collaborative culture across the system to support all young people to achieve their full potential.

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s response to our report and look forward to our continuing role to provide advice for policies and practices to improve the Scottish education system.”

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Guest blog from Maths Olympiad Agnijo Banerjee⤴

from @ Engage for Education

As Maths Week 2018 draws to a close, we welcome a guest blog from Maths Olympiad Agnijo Banerjee.

Agnijo won gold at this year’s International Mathematical Olympiad in Romania receiving a perfect score of 42 out of 42 in the 2-day/nine hour-long competition, he was one of only two out of 594 contestants to achieve a perfect score. This was the UK’s first perfect score in 24 years. A truly remarkable achievement.

Last week Agnijo met the Deputy First Minister for lunch at Holyrood, after which he reflected on his achievement at the Olympiad and his hopes for the future.

I knew I had a passion for mathematics from a very early age. In primary school, I was always moved up several years until eventually they contacted Grove Academy and I ended up going there for maths. I was taught one-to-one by one of the maths teachers from Grove Academy and I did my Standard Grade in Primary 7.

Grove Academy has been extremely supportive of me throughout, and has always ensured that I am adequately challenged. In the last two years of school, I went to Dundee University to try some of their modules (third year in S5, fifth year in S6).

Grove Academy has also encouraged me to take part in a number of mathematics competitions and I have been doing the British Mathematical Olympiad ever since S2. The British Mathematical Olympiad is part of the long selection process that ultimately leads to the International Mathematical Olympiad, which I did this year .

It was a wonderful experience to go to the International Mathematical Olympiad. The actual competition was over two days. On each day there were 3 questions to solve in 4 1/2 hours, with the first question on each day being “easy” (they are all extremely difficult, but these were easy relative to the others), the second being “medium”, and the third being “hard”. The two hard questions were extremely difficult but I managed to solve both of them. It was amazing to be the first UK contestant in 24 years to achieve a perfect score. ie 100%.

It was a great honour to meet the Scotland’s Education Minister Mr. John Swinney . I was invited to Holyrood to meet him during the Scottish Maths Week. I was very pleasantly surprised when he took a keen interest and asked me questions about the IMO and my other academic achievements. I felt greatly motivated by being recognised by the minister. I presented him a copy of my book Weird Maths , which hopefully he will enjoy reading.

In the future I want to reach the top of my chosen field- Mathematics and hope to able to make Scotland proud.

Reflecting on his meeting with Agnijo, Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, said:

“It was a pleasure to meet Agnijo and his father today and Maths Week Scotland 2018 is the perfect opportunity to celebrate his astonishing achievements in the Maths Olympiad.

“Agnijo is a credit to Grove Academy and a shining example of how Scotland’s state school education can nurture ability and help talent flourish.

“We need to make sure that as a country we have all of the skills that we require for the future and in schools we need to ensure that young people are equipped with the skills that will serve them well for life.”

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DFM joins Pitlochry pupils for magical maths show⤴

from @ Engage for Education

Deputy First Minister John Swinney visited Pitlochry High School today for a special Maths Week Scotland performance by ‘International Mathemagian’ Andrew Jeffrey.

A professional magic show with a twist, the show was entirely based around mathematics and learning with tricks using numbers, shapes, money, mind-reading and illusions.

Speaking after the show, Mr Swinney said:

“Andrew’s entertaining performance completely embodied the spirit of Maths Week Scotland and our ambition to show people the beauty, accessibility and possibilities of maths. His interactive style, mixed with humour and intrigue, combined to create the perfect formula for engaging both those who love maths as well as pupils who sometimes lack confidence to engage in the classroom.

” It was fantastic to see the young people in the audience completely captivated by Andrew’s tricks and illusions. After the show I met with some of the pupils and I was interested to hear their individual experiences of maths and how events like this can help to bring the subject to life.”

Mathemagian Andrew Jeffrey said:

“I get a sense that there’s a real buzz about Maths Week Scotland which is brilliant to see. Events like this show us that we can start to enjoy and have fun with maths and we all know that we work harder at things we enjoy.”

Hundreds of events, activities and lectures are taking place across the country this week as part of Maths Week Scotland 2018. Join the conversation on Twitter with #MathsWeekScot

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Enigma legacy lives on in codebreaking challenges⤴

from @ Engage for Education

More than 70 years after Alan Turing and his colleagues cracked the Enigma code, helping to save many millions of lives during World War II, their story remains an inspiration to budding mathematicians around the world.

Throughout Maths Week Scotland students in Angus will be given the chance to step into Turing’s famous shoes and learn more about his team’s vital work.

Practical workshops run by the education team from Bletchley Park will test their problem solving skills and show them the fundamentals of codebreaking. Students will also have the rare opportunity to see a real, working Enigma machine.

Speaking after meeting students involved in one of the workshops at Monifieth High School, Science Minister Richard Lochhead said:

“From cyber security to artificial intelligence, maths provides the essential framework for the life-changing advances that are re-shaping our world.

 “Technology has clearly developed considerably since the 1940s but today’s event was a reminder that the logical and computational thinking processes used by the original Bletchley Park codebreakers are now more relevant than ever.

“It was fantastic to have the opportunity so see an original Enigma machine in action and hear how maths provided the vital framework for cracking the code while providing a fun and interesting way to learn maths. 

“As we face the digital challenges of the 21st century there are countless opportunities for young people with maths skills. I hope Maths Week Scotland will help to spread that message and encourage more people to think positively about maths.”

Hundreds of events, activities and lectures are taking place across the country this week as part of Maths Week Scotland 2018. Join the conversation on Twitter with #MathsWeekScot

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Numbers add up as Maths Week kicks off with hundreds of events⤴

from @ Engage for Education

A maths magician, a guitar physicist and a codebreaking team from Bletchley Park are among the highlights of Maths Week Scotland, which starts across the country today.

There are hundreds of events, activities and lectures lined up with the aim of bringing numeracy to life and showing the fun side of maths.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney will share a new maths challenge on Twitter every day, created for him by the Scottish Mathematical Council, and BBC Learning have teamed up with Scottish Teacher of the Year Chris Smith to create videos demonstrating how to solve the puzzles.

Mr Swinney said:

“Maths is an essential life skill for everyone to use, enjoy and to be successful – it underpins all aspects of life. Raising awareness about the importance and relevance of maths is vital – particularly as our society is becoming increasingly underpinned by data analysis, science and technology.

“Undoubtedly maths provides the framework for life-changing advances in all of these fields and celebrations like Maths Week Scotland challenge misconceptions and negative attitudes that discourage learners by demonstrating the accessibility, relevance and beauty of maths.

“Maths Week is at the heart of our drive to make Scotland more positive in its attitude towards numeracy and maths. Whether you’re a maths whizz, or haven’t thought about it since your last lesson at school, there is something for everyone, with hundreds of events covering all parts of Scotland, all ages and all sectors of society. I’m looking forward to visiting schools taking part this week and getting involved in the celebrations.”

Excellence and equity in maths and numeracy attainment is central to the Scottish Government’s ambition for continuous improvement in education and to close the poverty-related attainment gap. 

Programme highlights:

 ·         The Bletchley Park Education team visiting all secondary schools in Angus to explore maths and code breaking during the Week.

·         Maths ‘magician’ Kjartan Poskitt performing in primary schools in Wick, Thurso, Shetland and Orkney (as well as Orkney Library and Orkney Science Festival).

·         Maths performer Andrew Jeffrey performing in secondary schools in Perth, Pitlochry, Kingussie and Inverness.

·         An event for S5 girls in Edinburgh on the importance of maths from Heriot Watt and Edinburgh Universities and the International Centre for Mathematical Studies.

·         A Maths Circle for children, families and young people at Edinburgh University on Saturday 15 September.

·         The UK Mathematical Trust 2-day maths event for secondary pupils in partnership with Strathclyde University.

·         The Strathclyde Science Scouts will be visiting schools during the week for maths games and adventures.

·         The University of Glasgow have created a day of maths activities and talks activities for s3-6 pupils to attend.

·         Learning Links and Heather Reid will present to adult education practitioners at Glasgow Science Centre on exploring climate change using numbers and maths.

·         Heriot Watt University are holding a session on the Maths of Social Media for higher and advanced higher pupils.

·         The West Partnership are holding a numeracy and maths all-day staff conference to launch Maths Week on Saturday 8 September.  It’s fully booked.

·         University of Edinburgh are hosting an evening event for maths teachers with a range of speakers including Scottish Teacher of the Year 2018 Chris Smith and the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney MSP.

·         St Andrews University are giving lectures in 3 local schools and will also be hosting a viewing of their special collection of ancient mathematical texts and pairing this with a lecture. 

·         Dr Emily Grossman, an expert in molecular biology and genetics, will visit Grange Academy in Kilmarnock to inspire a group of S3 students about the exciting opportunities for young people (and especially girls) following careers in Maths and Science.

·         The National Museum have built maths into their solar and wind power workshop for p5-7 pupils and created an associated maths resource for teachers.

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