Education – ‘a messy business’

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Posted by upbeat | Posted in Learning & Teaching | Posted on October 12, 2014

Once upon a time,  at a teacher inset event (it seems a very long time ago) I remember Brian Boyd (Emeritus Professor at Strathclyde University) saying ‘Education is a messy business’. I’m not sure if he was quoting a favourite luminary or giving his own thoughts, but after more than 35 years in ‘education’, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve worked in a range of very diverse primary and secondary schools (from Possilpark in Glasgow to Mearns Castle in East Renfrewshire) and also ‘on the dark side’ in a couple of Local Education Authorities. I’ve been privileged to see at close hand schools in the USA, Australia, Germany, Portugal, Malaysia and most recently in England. They’re all so different and yet so similar. Governance, local politics, resources, parental expectations, pupil aspirations and the weather are a few of the many variables.

Schools where teachers talk with each other on learning & teaching issues (often referred to as professional dialogue) and occasionally observe each other seem to be far more likely to be successful than schools where teachers work in isolation behind closed doors. If schools adopted a consistent approach for teachers to plan their work in a collegial way and, for example, discuss and moderate each others marking, there would be an expectation of improved outcomes for kids. And in a time of fiscal challenge, surely the only practical, sustainable way forward with ‘professional development’, is, in the main but not exclusively, for staff in local schools/communities to support and develop each other. The widest variation in teaching quality is not to be found between schools, but within individual schools. In my experience, every school I’ve worked in has had many teachers with talents and capacity for sharing their teaching methods and classroom practice with their peers. I believe that being ‘a good teacher’ in the 21st century requires adopting an attitude of a willing learner. That, aligned with a real compassion and care for the social and educational needs of kids can lead to some truly great outcomes for young people.

The one thing I’ve noticed though, particularly through recent visits to schools in England is that it is so important for young people to have high aspirations. I was talking to some youngsters last week in schools about their hopes for the future. Even in certain schools with low socio-economic demographics, it was great to hear of students’ plans to become “an architect, a forensic scientist, an optometrist”, and yes, “a footballer!”

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Professor Stephen Heppell

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Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity, ICT, Leadership for Learning, Learning & Teaching | Posted on February 5, 2014

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Great to spend time with Stephen Heppell last week as he shared his ideas and stimulated thinking with us in Dumfries & Galloway for a couple of days regarding Dumfries Learning Town plans and the exciting new build school in Dalbeattie. Had a good chat with him as we drove (roofless, open top in January!) back up to Glasgow Airport. And just yesterday, Stephen was chairing the first meeting of an Educational Technology Action Group (Etag) as the UK Government in London (with Michael Gove) look to develop a strategy for ICT in learning for schools, Further Education and universities. No challenge too large!!

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Digital Commonwealth Launch @ Platform, Easterhouse, Glasgow

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Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity, Curriculum for Excellence, ICT, International Education, Learning & Teaching | Posted on October 27, 2013

On Friday I attended the very successful Digital Commonwealth Launch at Platform in Easterhouse, Glasgow.  The project is funded by the Big Lottery, the Media Trust and the University of the West of Scotland.

In the schools strand of the project, the aim is to involve young people in each of Scotland’s local authority areas in digital reporting of Commonwealth themes (place, people, culture, exchange) in leading up to the Queen’s Baton Relay in June 2014. Learners from 32 school clusters from targeted areas of the most socio-economic need will be offered an opportunity to participate.

IMG_0789The schools programme will promote digital literacy skills through a series of in-school training workshops, using readily available technology to help pupils tell their own stories through blogs, video, audio and social media. Participating schools will receive learning materials which can help support existing and/or new school projects.  These materials will support topics such as e-safety, copyright, active citizenship and media ethics to assist pupils in developing skills and knowledge to produce creative, appropriate and engaging content.

 

Digital Commonwealth launch

Reflections on the use of Video Conferencing and mini iPads

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Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity, Learning & Teaching, New Learning, Science, video conferencing | Posted on July 13, 2013

New Learning

Some reflections on video conferencing and the use of mobile devices (iPads) for learners. Below, Dr Heather Reid leading a training session for teachers in preparation for science lessons direct to primary schools via video conference from the Glasgow Science Centre.

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The Boy and the Bunnet – creative work with iPads in Brydekirk Primary School

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Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity, Learning & Teaching, New Learning | Posted on July 13, 2013

The Boy and the Bunnet

5 primary schools in Dumfries & Galloway have just received class sets of mini iPads. Within days of receiving the new kit, kids started to engage in the production of a range of creative work including this example based on ‘The Boy and the Bunnet’. In Brydekirk Primary, class teacher Mr Archibald had them working collaboratively in telling a story using Scots language, artwork and movie making. Other schools in D&G have also been producing excellent work with the newly acquired iPads.

Blended Learning – the new ”essential” element – some possible questions

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Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, ICT, Learning & Teaching | Posted on July 13, 2013

IMG_0731In a rural context, technology has given us an opportunity to think differently.  Agree / disagree?

You can do anything you like with technology. What would you like to do? What would learners like to do?

What were the things that we couldn’t do before, that we can do now?

Is there a ‘hearts and minds’ issue to be addressed?  How do we do that?  Does it matter?

Have values in learning changed?

Should we be risk takers, and very ambitious for learners?

Do we see technology as presenting challenges or opportunities (or both)?

Using technology, what approaches can we develop to improve the provision of high quality learning in our schools?

Are we able to learn from any local (or other) examples of good practice?

What are the barriers to learning through technology? Can we overcome them? Do we want to?

 

Heading for Australia

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Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity, ICT, International Education, Learning & Teaching | Posted on July 13, 2013

sydney-opera-house-482x298All seems a bit unreal, but my case is nearly packed and I think I’ve got all the paperwork I need (train/plane tickets, accommodation arrangements) to get me to Sydney and Melbourne this coming week. I’m heading for the Rural Education Conference at Moonee Valley Racecourse in Melbourne 18/19 July and really looking forward to taking part and meeting teachers from across Victoria. Hopefully I’ll be posting some interesting blog reports (if I have time!) over the next 3 weeks.

Castlemilk Kids – writing, performing, recording their own song ”It’s Up to You”

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Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity, Health & Well Being, Learning & Teaching, New Music | Posted on June 2, 2013

book-40As a music teacher in Castlemilk High School, Glasgow in 1998, I received a video that was sent to all schools in the UK. It was a short video of no more than 10 minutes, perhaps less, featuring legendary Beatles’ Producer (the fifth Beatle) Sir George Martin exhorting schools up and down the land to get involved in composing new songs. These songs were to reflect young songwriters dreams and aspirations, engaging them in collective creative experiences working together in composing new songs with powerful  messages. It’s a long story to share exactly how we went about this, but for now I just want to share that out of thousands of schools involved in this venture, the kids from Castlemilk High ended up featuring on the CD (100,000) sold in Marks & Spencers shops in the UK. We were invited to open and perform at new M&S stores. We recorded in Sir George Martin’s Air Studios in London, met the great man himself (our Executive Producer!) and admired his Rolls Royce parked outside. We performed in front of 3000 (opening the concert with the first song!) in London at the Skyscape Auditorium adjacent to the Millenium Dome in February 2000. It was an adventure I’ll never forget, and hopefully the whole process from start to finish is one that will remain with those kids for the rest of their lives.

 

‘It’s Up to You’  Track 20/22 track CD (Children’s Promise Charity no. 1073761)   20 It’s Up To You

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, EVERYONE ME AND YOU, WE’VE GOT TO SEE THIS WHOLE THING THROUGH, THERE’S WORK TO DO

CHORUS: OUR HANDS WILL BUILD A FUTURE, OUR VOICES WILL BE HEARD, AND IT’S UP TO YOU

CHILDREN OF OUR WORLD TODAY, THEY’VE HAD IT TOUGH, WE CAN CHANGE THEIR DESTINY, IF WE WORK HARD ENOUGH

CHORUS: OUR HANDS WILL BUILD A FUTURE, OUR VOICES WILL BE HEARD, AND IT’S UP TO YOU

MAKE THE FUTURE A BRIGHTER PLACE, FOR EVERYONE, FOR EVERYONE’S THE SAME AS US, LET’S SHARE OUR LOVE

CHORUS: OUR HANDS WILL BUILD A FUTURE, OUR VOICES WILL BE HEARD, AND IT’S UP TO YOU

THIS SONG HAS BROUGHT A MESSAGE, A MESSAGE SUNG FOR YOU, ALL OF US NEED FAITH AND HOPE, TO SEE US THROUGH

IT’S UP TO YOU (MAKE THE FUTURE A BRIGHTER PLACE, FOR EVERYONE)

Visit from New Jersey, USA to Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland

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Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity, International Education, Learning & Teaching | Posted on April 12, 2013

We’ve had the most fantastic time this past week with young people and staff from New Jersey, USA on an exchange visit with students from Dalbeattie and Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway. The weather all week has been great, allowing us to enjoy visits to Hadrian’s Wall, Edinburgh, Glasgow and today at Ellisland Farm (where Robert Burns famously wrote Auld Lang Syne and Tam O’Shanter). This afternoon we enjoyed fun (and ice-cream!) at Cream O’ Galloway, near Gatehouse. Chaperones of the group also visited Drumlanrig Castle on Tuesday when the students were kayaking at Loch Ken. Tonight the farewell meal and disco takes place at the Douglas Arms Hotel, Castle Douglas with everyone this evening already anticipating and looking forward to the reciprocal visit to Northern Valley, New Jersey in April 2014. The young people of Demarest, Old Tappan, Castle Douglas and Dalbeattie have been a credit to their families and schools. For many, this week will have seen the start of lifelong friendships.

Music Education Expo, Barbican Centre, London

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Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity, Curriculum for Excellence, International Education, Leadership for Learning, Learning & Teaching, New Learning, video conferencing | Posted on April 4, 2013



Over 3000 delegates signed up for the UK’s largest ever music education conference. Sponsored by Rhinegold publishing, and with the endorsement of Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) the event took place in the Barbican Centre, London on Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st March. I was pleased to be invited by the editor of Music Teacher magazine, Chris Walters to present at the Music Technology session on our video conference teaching programmes. Polycom UK gave great support to my presentation, enabling me with ease to have a live link with John Wallace (Principal at the Royal Scottish Conservatoire) in Glasgow; with Grant Golding (brass tutor) demonstrating a live lesson to a pupil in a Dumfries & Galloway school; and with Christianne Orto (Dean of Distance Learning) in the Manhattan School of Music, New York. Many thanks to all participants who assisted in demonstrating the amazing potential of video conferencing for learning and teaching.

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