Digital Commonwealth Launch @ Platform, Easterhouse, Glasgow


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

Electronic Drumkit Lessons via Video Conference


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity, Curriculum for Excellence, Health & Well Being, ICT, International Education, Learning & Teaching, New Learning, video conferencing | Posted on June 27, 2011

Richard James delivering a lesson on electronic drumkit to a student in St Columba's Primary School, Annan, Dumfries & Galloway

Instrumental Music Lessons in Dumfries & Galloway, south-west Scotland have in part been delivered for the past 6 years by tutors over the distance learning medium of video conferencing. Brass, woodwind, guitar and cello lessons have all been delivered from Lochside Education Centre in Dumfries to pupils in 16 primary schools and many secondary schools, spanning a distance across the Dumfries & Galloway region of over 100 miles. Recently in May 2011, Richard James (Senior Tutor, Percussion) started to teach young people in Dumfries & Galloway schools on electronic drumkit. Dumfries & Galloway is Scotland’s third largest geographic council with many small, rural schools. High quality Polycom video conferencing systems over broadband are tools we use to great effect in addressing equal opportunity issues in education for pupils in a sustainable way. Savings in travel time and costs for tutors can be achieved alongside the additional benefits of reducing the council’s collective carbon footprint. An independent evaluation on the teaching programme over video-link was conducted by Warwick University. They found our work in this area to be ground-breaking and ‘inspirational’.

Seminar panel via video link with Ottawa University


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Curriculum for Excellence, Featured, International Education, Learning & Teaching, video conferencing | Posted on May 25, 2010

I’m looking forward to taking part on Friday 28th May as a seminar panel member over video-link at the 2010 International Conference on Multidisciplinary Research in Music Pedagogy at Ottawa University. I’ll be participating in the symposium entitledTechnology: Electronic Technology and its Transformative Role in Music Teaching and Learning’.

The attached you tube link features a chat I had with Stephen Heppell following a lesson we observed with young people receiving instrumental brass lessons via video link.


The links below may be of interest to delegates at the Ottawa Conference. The first link below provides an executive summary of Warwick University’s evaluation of our video teaching programme.   (page 12)

Curriculum for Excellence 10 Point Plan


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Curriculum for Excellence, Featured, Learning & Teaching | Posted on April 6, 2010

Scottish teachers (those currently in Tenerife and Majorca) may have noticed on Spanish TV today the British PM’s visit to the Palace requesting the dissolution of Parliament. Scottish Education Secretary Michael Russell will be hoping all in Scottish Education (currently at home or abroad) take note of his recently unveiled ten point plan to drive forward the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence.  Mr Russell confirmed that the Scottish Government will put a package of support in place – including an additional £3 million – to help make sure every school is ready to implement the new curriculum in the autumn term.  The package will put in place:

  • Tailored support for any secondary school which needs additional help to be ready for the autumn term. Heads have been invited to tell local authorities and the Scottish Government what help they need. This could include help with CPD, additional materials, expert advice or drawing on the experience of teachers from neighbouring schools who have already fully prepared for the new curriculum
  • Additional practical materials for teachers to support implementation and ensure clarity on what is expected
  • £3 million funding for councils to help support quality assurance and moderation of assessment. This will see a system of checks to ensure that the assessment of pupils is being applied consistently and in line with national standards
  • A proposal for literacy and numeracy units to be built into English and maths qualifications to simplify the system for formally recognising these skills which will be developed across the curriculum
  • ‘Excellence Groups’ bringing subject teachers and experts in individual fields – such as the sciences – together to support excellence in education in their subject area and across the curriculum
  • HMIE work with education authorities and schools to support their implementation of Curriculum for Excellence with effective innovation promoted through inspections
  • A series of events to allow headteachers to share experience and best practice
  • A greater role for parents in managing the new curriculum with the National Parent Forum Scotland invited to nominate a member to sit on the management board
  • Additional materials for pupils and parents explaining the new curriculum. Mr Russell will also invite the National Parent Forum Scotland and pupil councils to play a leading role in improving communication
  • A group, convened by Mr Russell, made up of stakeholders and those with an interest in education to advise on future development of Curriculum for Excellence

Keir Bloomer – Leading Learning Masterclass


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Curriculum for Excellence, Featured | Posted on November 20, 2008

Newington Primary School, Annan, Wednesday 19 November, 4.00pm

Arrived hotfoot from HMIE ‘new’ inspection procedures training in Castle Douglas, some 30 miles east of where I was an hour ago, on a now darkening November evening. Brain cells quickly revitalised at the prospect of Keir’s input to the group of around 20 teachers. Annan Athletic jokes, (what’s so funny?) and the dimming(?) of the lights for Keir’s presentation (leaving him and everyone else in total darkness!) set the scene for a twilight session that all those gathered were really looking forward to.

Keir’s presentation was entitled ‘Developing a Curriculum for Excellence  –  Managing Change in the Short and Long Term’.  He proposed that ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ is Scotland’s educational response to global change and increased understanding of the learning process and that ‘Building the Curriculum 3’ (BC3) is a first attempt to realise its vision. However, he contended that the diagram on page 13 of BC3 doesn’t convey any sense of structure.

He presented his own overview for curriculum planning, where schools can use the experiences/outcomes to apply (1) the 7 curriculum principles, (2) effective learning and teaching, (3) provision of personal support for pupils and (4) clearly model and demonstrate values. This then leads to development of the 4 curriculum contexts of curricular areas, life and ethos of the school, interdisciplinary studies and personal achievement. The development of a coherent curriculum which promotes the 4 capacities can follow if this approach is adopted by schools. Keir stated that most of ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ is about ‘Successful Learners’.

How do we take things forward in the next 2/3 years? Where are the priorities? Keir presented several priorities but proposed that key priorities may lie in the following areas:

  • Redesigning the S1-3 curriculum
  • Improving primary/secondary transition

Keir contended that development priorities may include:

  • Continuity 3-18 including transitions
  • Rebuilding the curriculum P5-S3
  • Pedagogy including active learning
  • Opportunities for personal achievement

Currently, the Scottish Government’s timetable has moved back a year, and the first new set of examinations will take place in 2013/14. However, it seems possible that this timetable may move yet again.

If the timetable is to be maintained, it will be important now to determine priorities and start making preparations this session. In 2009/11 it will be important to address priorities with particular reference to P5-S3. In 2011/12 preparation for the new exams begin. In 2012/13 examination courses will be prepared in detail.

In the future, schools will become brokers of learning by providing gateways for young people through partnership working with a range of providers. Schools will need to work closely with colleges, businesses and the wider community. Keir is of the clear opinion that the task of realising a young person’s full potential in the 4 capacities (Successful Learners, Confident Individuals, Effective Contributors and Responsible Citizens) is too big a task just for schools. A collaborative approach will be necessary working in partnership with a range of stakeholders. A variety of forms of delivery may develop through GLOW, video conferencing and self-study programmes. Increased opportunities for promoting personal achievement will be available to young people from a wide range of sources. Involvement in activities at residential outdoor centres and running a mini-enterprise are examples of possible entitlements pupils could access, which in turn can raise self esteem, enhance social skills and promote a shared sense of achievement.

Guidance in BC3 on interdisciplinary learning encourages a flexible approach in planning learning. However, planning should be around clear purposes ensuring progression in skills, knowledge and understanding. Studies can be across disciplines and could also include opportunities for interest-based mixed-stage learning. Keir acknowledged that secondary schools may find interdisciplinary learning very challenging to deliver, but made it clear that they must try. A mix of continuous and short courses in S1-3 through a flexible timetabling approach with teams of staff could help to avoid curriculum fragmentation. S4-6 could be treated as either separate year groups or as a single cohort.

Keir shared ideas for a P5-S3 planning template insisting that coherence in learning across the primary/secondary transition must be given high priority. There must be curricular continuity and coherence in a young person’s experience. It seems ridiculous that young people in P7 have a range of responsibilities in primary school that are all taken from them when they arrive in S1 at secondary. Also, primary pupils’ experience of being taught by a very small number of teachers in the primary school is suddenly altered as they meet many staff for lessons at secondary. Aspects of continuity in bureaucracy (transfer of information), curriculum, specialisation of knowledge, ownership of learning, pastoral, social, relationships (learner/teacher) and pupil responsibility could and should be looked at much more closely in improving coherence in learning experiences across the primary/secondary transition stages. Keir then challenged teachers to discuss in cross-sectoral groups how to ensure continuity in all key aspects across the full P5-S3 period.

He highlighted the importance of emotional security for young people in schools and offered a quote from the Advisory Council on Education in Scotland, 1947. “Education thus presents itself as at once preparation for life and an irreplaceable part of life itself: hence the good school is to be assessed not by any tale of examination successes, however impressive, but by the extent to which it has filled the years of youth with security, graciousness and ordered freedom, and has thus been a seed-bed for the flowering in due season of all that is of good report.”  Although this report was written over 60 years ago, Keir feels that this encapsulates better than any subsequent national education rationale what the educational experience should ideally be for young people.

Keir referred to one of the 4 capacities ‘Responsible Citizens’ as having been somewhat politicised and perhaps not fully promoting the notion of caring for others in the community. ‘Responsible Citizens’ in some ways mirrors one of the types of learning outlined by UNESCO. The term “learning to live together”, central to UNESCO’s mission, is adopted from the Report of the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century, known as the Delors Report. Like ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ this report identifies four fundamental types of learning essential to full personal and social development in the 21st century. The other 3 are: learning to know (Successful Learners), learning to do (Effective Contributors) and learning to be (Confident Individuals). Each dimension of learning is closely interconnected with the others, ideally coming together to form a whole lifelong experience. However, as far as Keir is concerned, most of ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ is about ‘Successful Learners’.

In concluding today’s seminar, Keir outlined how BC3 requires us to develop our thinking on personalised learning. Personalisation is not the same as choice. First steps may include mentoring, emphasis on personal achievement and developing alternative methods of delivery. Personalised education is not fundamentally about subject choice and not the same as individualised learning. It is learner centred and encompasses variety in content, pedagogy and pace. Personalised education emphasises the social dimension of learning and sees real learning as co-produced. Keir stated that learning is mostly a social activity. Obstacles to personalisation include the class as the unit of organisation, rigidity regarding age/stage and educational establishments’ limited fixed opening times. We are still showing our mid-Victorian origins of the school institution. Today’s session concluded with group discussion on how we might make practical progress over the next 5 years beyond the initial ideas on personalisation in ‘Building the Curriculum 3’.

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