Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Children's Fight Club - Panorama

Last evening's Panorama report on Children's Fight Club will have filled most people with horror and the gut reaction will be 'block, remove, stop, prosecute etc'. My view is that will be like Mickey in the Walt Disney version of the 'Sorcerer's Apprentice' chopping the broom in half. For each one blocked or stopped by 'authority' two more will spring up in its place.

I felt that part of the real answer came from the Rachel Whetstone of Google:
'it is up to the community who use the site to decide when something isinappropriate.'

This is realistic and about education ... but will it work ... it obviously didn't work in the cases the BBC chose to report. I can't help feeling that Panorama sometimes loses its perspective and chooses to make a stance rather than leaving us to make up our own minds about an issue. I haven't got over its presentation of WIFI yet with its accompanying throbbing red lights!


Saturday, 28 July 2007

Bill Gates gives his vision of the future

BBC's Click Online programme has as interview where Bill Gates gives his ideas of what schools of the future might be like and how ICT can support and enhance teaching and learning in a technological savy society.In the interview he mentions 'training the teachers' four times and obviously sees this as a real fundamental part of the advancement process.

Back in the NOF training days the then Government felt that they had made a start and so they had. The problem has arisen that technological progress world wide has continued but the levels of training have not. It was never intended to be a 'one trick pony'. The basic bits were only basic bits for the time and, rather like in University Challenge were simply starters to get people into the meat of things.

'Hands on Support' in some places has moved teachers forward incrementally but has been fighting a retrenchment battle, providing teachers with skills and concepts to get up to date but often, not to move ahead. Not the fault of the system nor the trainers, just a battle too hard with too few resources.

I read now of enlightened courses being run by students for their teachers (where students mentor teachers). These spontaneous sessions are designed to get the teachers on-board with the technology being used by their students so that advantage can be taken of this knowledge to support learning.

So what is it we need for teachers to support them, not just to keep up, but to be ahead?


Thursday, 26 July 2007

Institutionalisation ?

Back in the late 60's Local authorities began to experiment with 'play schemes' during the summer holidays to keep children 'out of trouble'. Short of money at the time, I ran one for two summers on a park in Derby where every afternoon upwards of 200 young people of various ages would turn up to be organised into games and activities. It actually worked quite well and there was a minimum of trouble ... those were the days! But even then I was sceptical about the continuous institutionalisation of childhood and worried that they were getting a diet of the sort of things that schools were offering during term time ( painting, sport, trips etc) The children seemed perfectly happy to be organised and that is what worried me. Since then things have extended and developed. It seems that unless children are 'entertained' they become bored. My thought is that a little constructive boredom might well lead to personal creativity. It doesn't always have to lead to vandalism.

And now today I read that Mr Balls has announced that there is to be a £billion so that:

'Every child will be able to access breakfast clubs, out-of-hours tuition and after-school clubs in sport, music and drama as Ed Balls today announced a massive investment of more than £1billion in the extended schools programme over the next three years.'

And I read that already 5000 schools are offering this 'extended service' ... and I am worried.

If we are redefining the role of schools in this way where is the rationale, where are the best practice models in other countries? Is it a political need or a social function? It certainly isn't an educational invective.

And what of the children who could spend the greatest part of their early childhood in the same building? Who will make the rules that cover its use? Just think of any 'open-plan' primary school you know. These children will be in the care of a transient population of carers with varying authorities and remits.

Or have I got this all wrong?


Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Second Life

I am alerted by my friend and colleague Dave to an article in Wired Magazine about Second Life.

I think that the article misses the point ... it tries to see it as a way for them to make money in a similar way to First Life ... they are trying to replicate what they know instead of innovate ... it is easily arguable that SL is, or could be, rather like the great Internet bubble that burst ... but the ones who were there first have already made their money and gone .... think My Space .V. Face book ... the 'players' such as the large commercials just don't get it .... it won't be about SL in the end it will be something else but SL will have spawned it .... so think 'Teflon and the space shuttle'.

The software for SL is changing almost daily ( probably bits are just falling off) that it is bound to evolve soon ... it is a developing experiment and there will be leaders and followers, winners and losers and who is to say that 'progress' always involves going forward.

The poet Ruth Padel says ' There is always a path not taken' ...... listen to the whispers

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Monday, 23 July 2007

Humility ?

I know this is late and I know you will know the outcome but I don't watch what most people would call 'normal television' and so I missed this until a friend pointed it out to me ... and now I can't stop watching it.

I am not sure what it says but every time I listen to Paul sing I hear his voice but I watch the reaction he generates.

We must be missing so much. I hope you enjoy this as much as I have.


Sunday, 22 July 2007


There has been a lengthy and very interesting debate on creativity going on very recently that was begun by Geoff Dellow, a 'Flash' exponent and guru. Only yesterday in reply to a post eminating from BLC in Boston following up the excellent presentation by Mitch Resnick Stephen Heppell commented 'I'm not sure that creativity IS big business - although the Creative Industries ARE huge here, but I'm sure as heck that INGENUITY is the value part! There is something about being ingenious that embraces purpose too.' .

So 'ingenuity' might lead creativity ... discuss !

And it is thanks to Geoff that I can leave you for a while with this ... its this sort of thing we need ... is this ingenuity or creativity; both or just clever fun.


Saturday, 21 July 2007

ictopus - primary resources

New online service to support primary educators

Subscribers to the Becta ICT Advice Direct2U service were informed this week of a new scheme to provide primary teachers with up-to-the minute ICT information.

Ictopus (ICT online primary user support) is a support service for primary education. Anyone can sign up for the service (free of charge) to receive a weekly six page printable magazine and a set of activity suggestions. There will also be a regular newsletter or e-bulletin. These resources (and more) will be archived on the ictopus website where there will also be access to classroom activities, software and a variety of other resources and projects. Ictopus builds on the Becta Direct2U service and also, for those of you who may remember it, the legacy of MAPE (Micros and Primary Education).

Each edition of the weekly magazine, ‘Sharing Good Practice’, will have 6 pages and will comprise case-study articles, top tips for using ICT effectively in primary education, website recommendations and a variety of teaching plans and other resources. It will be available as a download in a printable format that could be displayed on a staff notice board or coffee table, slotted into individual staff pigeonholes and stored in a ring binder for future reference. It is proposed to have a coherent theme for each edition and the overall focus is to be on disseminating good practice.

The weekly activity ideas, ‘Lessons2go’, are a development of the Direct2U activities. These lessons aim to provide ideas for the use of ICT across the primary key stages and curriculum. The pick of the original lessons will be updated, including the checking of web links and inclusion of any new developments. A regularly updated index will be available so that lessons can be found for different key stages, subjects or year groups. This should assist key stage coordinators, ICT coordinators and class teachers. Although aimed primarily at the school user it is hoped that the resources will also benefit advisers, teacher training tutors/mentors and parents.

In addition there will be an e-bulletin which will keep colleagues up-to-date with all things ICT on a very regular basis, including links to a ‘website of the moment’ as new and exciting things come to light.

Users will be able to sign up for each service individually. Resources will be despatched to you as they are issued and will also be archived on the website.

Ictopus is run by a group of primary teachers, university lecturers and consultants who wish to support colleagues working in the field of primary education. It aims to be flexible and adaptive to your needs and to provide a forum for dissemination of the excellent practice currently found in many schools.

The service launches in September 2007 but you can sign up for it right now by visiting the website www.ictopus.org.uk.

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Friday, 20 July 2007

We Feel Fine Part 2

I failed. Obviously the way I put the information into my blog didn't allow the database to find my 'feelings'.

In the manner of Scottish spiders ... I will try again.

In Loughborough it is raining and today I am feeling jaded and wondering if I should have gone to the sun.

Interesting that yesterday Ewan, in Boston, picked up on the site and emphasised its power to extend the vocabulary of emotions ( at the bottom of the post about Angela's session)


Wednesday, 18 July 2007

We Feel Fine

Just testing out this web site 'We feel Fine' ...It looks for the word 'fine' on blogs around the world then uses an interesting algorithm to generate the messages ... it must be possible therefore to do this for any word as a creative way of searching for information. Try it.

So that it finds me I go for : At the moment the sun is shining in Loughborough and I feel as if many of the things that I thought were permanent were actually temporary, time for a rethink.

You should be able to search for this and find me !!

Avatars, alias and being what or who you aren't

I have been considering for some time now the long term implications behind the idea that we explain to children that they should not, online, in any way reveal who they are or where they are from. It occurs to me that this is an extension of role play into a real/virtual world situation. As I think of it, the idea seems okay for early years explorations but I am getting increasingly insecure about it as children get older. Should we be encouraging them to pretend to be someone they are not and not accept (by default) the implications of their real and virtual actions? It is a good argument to say that they are modeling in a true sense in situations that they can manipulate to see outcomes and can, for the most part, retract and come out unscathed. But is it socially viable, in the long term, as the blend between the physical world and the virtual one becomes blurred? ( Have you visited Second Life recently?)It seems to me that as we build the various levels of sub-worlds which people (children) inhabit then we are in danger of them becoming more of a reality than reality. Although I am not a 'film' person, can't sit long enough to get the whole thing, the film 'Matrix' had a profound effect on me when I first saw it. And the concept of 'worlds within worlds' has always fascinated. 'But doesn't everyone do this?' I hear you all shout ... so why am I bothered?


Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Sometimes something comes along ...

Will Richardson has been blogging since July 2002 ... five years ago ... he saw the potential, saw the power and has kept on using it to motivate, inform and excite.

Currently he is at Alan November's summer extravaganza in Boston where, I feel sure, he will inspire another audience.

Read here and contribute.

... and then watch 'change the world with these technologies' and be prepared to be overwhelmed.

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Women in Art

My friend Linda has alerted me to this video that is one of those things that you watch and then want to save for the future ... in case you need it ... it is the sort of thing that creative ideas come from ...

Try focusing on the eyes ...


Monday, 16 July 2007

Programme of Study for KS3 ICT

The new programme of study for ICT at KS3 and KS4 was released on 12 July. Teachers working with year 6 children should find it useful in their attempt to avoid the 'glass ceiling' nature of the KS2/KS3 interchange.


Friday, 13 July 2007

Me and my friend ...

Thanks Pete !!

Not for the first time ...

Again , and not for the first time, I am indebted to my friend Ewan for posting a truly inspirational link on his blog ... this time to Kathy Sierra's post on Death by risk aversion.

For me the whole post emphasises in my mind what is wrong with the way we are going about the process of compulsory education. It is all a leveling process ... take the tops of the mountains and fill up the valleys so that we have a nice plateau !!

Have a read about the Roomba process then hold the light sabre in your hand close your eyes and the force will be with you ... and you will feel in control and be happier. All teachers should know about this and take onboard the ideas!

Innovation needs risk ... no risk no gain. There has never been anything truly great founded by being in the middle ... look at the fringes, listen to the whispers, read this blog !!


New Secondary Curriculum

12/07/07 So the secondary curriculum is going to be freed up to create time to focus on basics ... have we worked out what they might be in a preparation for 21st Century living yet? It looks as if QCA have cracked this one:

Children, Schools and Families Secretary Ed Balls announced that the new curriculum will cut clutter and reduce duplication and enable schools to do much more with the traditional school day to prepare pupils for the demands of today’s world. As well as an even sharper focus on literacy and numeracy and retaining established subject knowledge, the new curriculum places greater emphasis on equipping young people with the personal, learning and thinking skills they need to succeed in employment and adult life.

And I read today that primary children are going to have at least 5 hours/week of physical activity.


Thursday, 12 July 2007

Firefox 3

A really interesting development in the Firefox range suggests that a collaboration between Mozilla and Google could make web applications work offline in the new Firefox 3 browser.

Google are already there with Google Gears, currently in Beta.

Eyes down for this way forward !


Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Primary Resources (websites need not apply)

My attention is drawn to an award winning letter in 'Primary Teacher' about primary resources and the ubiquitousness ( is that a word?) of ICT and web sites as being the be-all-and-end-all of educational resource provision.

A lovely note of reality to be found in the May edition and something for us all to bear in mind as we move towards our status as digital natives.


Wi-Fi ... no official worries

Following up on the Panorama programme about Wi-Fi and radiation worries I note that tucked away on page 7 of the 'Primary Teachers' magazine (that well known organ of the Dfcsf)there is a quote Wi-Fi: "No known risk"

You might like to read what the Health Protection Agency says about it ... just for the record.

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Monday, 9 July 2007

Jason Dilling talks podcasting

If you were not at the Kent ICT Conference then you missed Jason doing his thing about podcasting … here are some useful snippets from his blog.

This session is reviewed on Joe Dale’s MFL blog.

Also, while you are at it, check out more excellent podcasting work by Steph Hopkins

To block or not to block that is the ...

My wife was planning a lesson for her Y3/4 class on plane shapes and as an interesting sideline she found a video on YouTube that was about origami (!) ... so she set off to school the next day, wound up her whiteboard, went to Youtube and ... nothing ... her kind service provider had blocked it ... lesson over !

So, asking around my friends I (we) came up with this solution ...

Firstly use Firefox as your browser
Search for 'Unplug' and download it
It will install a neat little button on your Firefox toolbar that when you go to YouTube and find a video you want, clicking on this button will allow you to 'unplug' it from YouTube so that it can be played on its own ... well not quite because it comes in a format that needs a player ... it is in 'flv' format.
So next you search for an 'flv' format player and there are numerous of these (I do not say sanction the one linked it was just the first one I came across and it worked for me)
This installed and the file downloaded into Firefox ( when I had associated it in the 'open with' thingy) ran like a dream.

I even found a utility to convert the 'flv' to 'avi' etc ... but that is another techy story and I am not one for reading those.

So to complete this ramble my wife went off to school with a USB stick on which was the exe file of the 'flv' player and a number of downloaded 'flv' files she had extracted from YouTube ... Result ! Teaching can now resume.


REAL world technology

What a weekend of sport it was. The British Grand Prix, Wimbledon, The Tour ... and for those of an orienteering persuasion - the Saunders ( more of this later).

And what price the technology?

First, The Grand Prix - the whole thing controlled from the pits by a sophisticated set of interrelated computer technologies from the heart rate of the drivers to the pressure in the tyres ... and to the television viewer ... real-time data.

Then Wimbledon, apart from the usual information sources, for the first time a real-time look at disputed line calls through 'hawk-eye'

Then Le Tour ... again real-time results, endless TV coverage from every angle

Lastly, the Saunders Two Day Mountain Marathon in the Lake District ... specially prepared 1:40,000 Map printed on waterproof paper, entries, start times, start and finish all done on the Internet. Electronic checking at the controls and rules that say 'The use of GPS or any Satellite Navigation devices are not permitted. Altimeters are allowed.' Results and splits available on the web site before the competitors have arrived home ... and that for an amateur event in a remote location.

It all may be 'small beer' to some but these are some of the things that make our leisure pleasurable and just could be one of the many reasons to involve all of our young people in the creative use of technology wherever they are and whatever they are doing.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Narrative - Comic strip

Always on the look out for ways of getting children to extend their writing, on my trawl today I came across this 'comic strip maker' on the Kent Ngfl web site ( always a good source of information and ideas).

So I started to look for others and found some:

Witty comic
Dr Who

I can't vouch for having used any of these in a classroom setting but feel sure that they could merit some investigation as stimulation for writing. As some of them ask for names etc the usual safety rules should be stressed before they are used.

My quick search of the New Framework for Literacy and Mathematics showed 131 references to 'comic strips' ... and 500 references to 'story board'. These little applications could get some children going and would allow those who have the technology to continue at home.

Got to be worth a try.


It is time ....

... for a technological revolution in education! And so say all of us.

New from Becta today:

Technology can bring about the same rapid improvements in education as it has done in industry, according to Becta chairman, Andrew Pinder, CBE.
Speaking at the launch of Becta's 2007 annual review he said: "Throughout history technology has been the catalyst for change in industry. If it can do that for industry, why can't it do the same for education? The answer is, of course, that it can. It just takes the same leadership, drive and enthusiasm for change, and the will to harness the opportunities that technology presents.”

You can read the full report here.

Isn't this what we have been doing or trying to do for the last decade?


Second Life

I had a very salutary experience last evening working with a group of people in 'Second Life'. The majority of the people there had experience of the way it all works and I thought that I had grasped some of the fundamentals but there came a point when I could not get a very simple idea. The chat moved on and the answers to my questions were coming up about three or four layers late and I got very frustrated.

I now know, from first hand, again, what it feels like to be in a mixed ability setting and be the one who can't. The frustration was enormous.

The very great thing about the session was that the supportiveness of the group saved the evening for me .... everyone helped out and there were wild (virtual) cheers when I at last got this very simple idea. I can only thank the group for their politeness and their patience in waiting for me to catch up.

But certainly food for thought in terms of preferred learning styles!

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Tuesday, 3 July 2007


The New Framework for Literacy and Mathematics has an activity for Y5 children which involves writing a narrative from a film stimulus.

Year 5 Narrative - Unit 5 - Film narrative(3 weeks)
This is a narrative unit of work based on film which can be taught at any appropriate point during the year. The unit has three phases with oral and written outcomes and assessment opportunities for teachers and children at intervals throughout each phase.

It uses a video 'The Piano' as its exemplar but other videos that contain perceptions would be equally useful here. Try 'Kiwi'.

As an extension of such activities it would be interesting to follow up with a purely visual context

The activity here is to tell a story in 5 frames :

'Tell a Story in 5 Frames has two important parts. The first part is creating and telling a story through visual means with only a title to help guide the interpretation. The second part is the response of the group to the visual story. The group response can take many forms such as, a poetic or prose rendering of the visualization, a critique on the structure of the story, comments on the photograph, or other constructive forms of response. Telling and enjoying stories should create entertainment for the group as well as offer insight into the universal elements that help create a story for an international audience. The more people who respond , as either story tellers or respondents, the greater the reward for all.'

The aim here is twofold as you can see. For me the power is in the responses to the stories and the genre that they support.

A continuation could easily be the 'Six word story'

'Ernest Hemingway was once prodded to compose a complete story in six words. His answer, personally felt to be his best prose ever, was "For sale: baby shoes, never used." Some people say it was to settle a bar bet. Others say it was a personal challenge directed at other famous authors.'

Have a look at what people have written and then ...adopt, adapt and innovate ... they are only ideas ( prompted by a conversation with Ewan McIntosh)!

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Monday, 2 July 2007

It makes your heart sing...

From a dedicated teacher colleague...with many thanks ...

I have a pupil in my class who is selective mute. We’ve been doing voice recordings/podcasting since November, and so far she’s never taken part. We did a podcast for the Head to take to a conference .The children recorded a section at a time on audacity and then we converted to an MP3 then imported into Podium. *’s group asked if I would leave the room as she wanted to record her voice. * has been selective mute all 7 years in school with adults although she will talk to other children. She spoke clearly, and in one take. Further to this, last week she has since recorded her voice with me in the room!

We have been trialling a VLE for 12 months and * has been prolific in her postings. I have given her her own ‘space’ that only she and I can see and I’ve had loads of messages from her. She attended a residential and we used it to allay her fears and start a dialogue. It has been absolutely inspirational to read funny, thoughtful, sensitive and intelligent conversations with her, and I actually feel I know *. I have learnt what a fantastic sense of humour she has. This makes her disability even more remarkable that she can maintain this silence when she obviously has so much going on. This technology has definitely changed *’s school life and my relationship with her. I can ask her a question and she’ll reply on the VLE and vice versa. She has many other special needs. The VLE in itself was revolutionary but the added part of her wanting to take part in podcasting has really moved me and made me realise how powerful these web 2.0 technologies can be. We’ve also set up a log in for * on the VLE at the Secondary School she going to move to in September.

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Ewan McIntosh visits Ashbourne

A brilliant morning with Ewan talking about the world and everything ... new insights and new ideas as well as confirmation of views about access to real tools and creativity leading the way. Inspiring it was ... some of the ideas here:

How long until the skill set of users matches the power of the tools?
Listen to the whispers ... they are important!
Are you allowed to fail?
What would a podcast catcher look like?

... and then some links ...

Partners in Excellence

Check out Emily Fox ... and ... if you don't know why this is so superb think of the amount of time, energy, patience, dedication etc that goes into these activities and then wonder if we could harness just a bit of it !!

... and a whole lot more ...

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Derby City Podcasting Project

I met with a number of leading teachers tonight in Derby to discuss the setting up of a podcasting project in the new academic year that would have scope and range and would essentially feed on the idea of serialisation.

I demonstrated the Podium software and explained the simplicity of it so that attendees could appreciate the 'getting going' level was quick, simple and straight forward and could be managed in a class space.

I talked about the fact that Softease would host the podcasts so that this 'techy' bit did not need to be a concern.

The group went away with 30 day versions of the software and an invitation to attend a meeting in September if they wanted to get started on podcasting with their children.

Watch this space for details of the group's project in the Autumn term.


Sunday, 1 July 2007

Kent 4.0

Well !! What a fantastic four weeks in Kent working in 20 schools across the county on a vast variety of Textease curriculum contexts.

Firstly some thanks .... to Mandy Barrow for keeping me in line and coordinating the whole thing with James Watson of Softease; secondly to all of the schools who hosted events during the four weeks and who were so attentive and considerate to my needs; thirdly to the ranks of the Kent Advisory service who came along and supported the sessions and helped out with ideas and contexts; and lastly to the teachers for their enthusiasm and good nature as well as their over-riding professionalism which came through to me time and time again.

The sessions were meant to be fast-paced and exciting ( I do hope that they were) and to provide insights that 'got people going' and wanting for more. Now it is up to the excellent Kent 'Hands-On Support' team to help and nurture atendees over the next months.

The idea was that schools attending could opt to receive a full version of the Textease Studio CT free for the next six months so that, within each school context, teachers would be able to explore it within their own environment. Altogether I count that about sixty schools have taken up this offer and should soon receive the full software ( if they haven't already). If by some chance you were missed or you attended a session and would like to take part in this offer, please let me know.

Don't forget the vast amount of resources support you on the Kent Ngfl web site and those also available on the Softease site.

Finally, and again, my thanks to everyone who made my trips down into Kent so interesting and enjoyable ...

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A rose by any other name ....

As the DfES was disbanded on Thursday 28th June at 2.00pm, 3 new departments were announced:

DCSF - Dept for Children, Schools and Families

DIUS - Dept for Innovation, Universities and Skills

DBERR - Dept for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

'New hats for old .... new hats for old!'