from @ Pedagoo.org

What is #cashforgrades? Idea 23, Dangerous Taxation from the 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Outstanding Lessons by Ross Morrison McGill (AKA: @TeacherToolkit). It’s a fake cash reward system to encourage engagement, provide friendly competition, reward the things you appreciate and have a bit of fun. How did it work? The system is quite simple, when […]

Sharing Our Reading Lives⤴

from @ Just Trying To Be Better Than Yesterday


“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”

Gloria Steinem

Undoubtedly, we waste  lot of our time and money in Education paying for and implementing strategies and beliefs that we think should work. When those are questioned, it doesn’t sit well with us. We are, after all, intelligent and rational people, are we not? In his cracking wee book, ‘The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction’, Alan Jacobs suggests that ‘the idea that…one of the purposes of education is to teach students to love reading – or at least to appreciate and enjoy whole books – is largely alien to the history of education’. (P.113) And, yes, part of that didn’t sit well with me.

Promoting a love of reading is, unashamedly, one of the key aims of my English classes. That doesn’t mean I exclude other forms of teaching reading; my classes are well-versed in interpretation skills, skimming and scanning etc.  But I’ve blogged many times before about the dangers of failing to promote reading as a lifetime pursuit. ‘Alliteracy’ – I can read and write but I choose not to – is a scarier prospect to me.   I often ask  my pupils if they see themselves as readers and whether that is really important to them. What does that actually mean? They stare back at me in confused silence.

These are bookskids who read every day in my class. Many churn through books; some struggle but read more with me than they’ve ever done. However, unless I share my reading life with them, I don’t think many of them have any concept of what it means to be ‘a reader’ and what that might mean to them in the future. Rather than creating lists of ‘books I’ve read’, how can we share our experiences of being ‘readers’? Telling them about the great books I’ve read isn’t enough.

Despite the number of  books I’ve read over my lifetime, if I was being honest, I would admit that, for most of them,  six months later I could barely remember more than I would have read on the back cover. What could I could tell you though was that I read ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ travelling through Greece on a slow train to Olympia; ploughed through several Gore Vidal novels during one snow hit Aberdeen winter; finished ‘Wuthering Heights’ in a town square of a little Romanian village. And there, you begin to hear my story. It’s not about the books but about the reader.

Jacobs convincingly argues the case for reading in the modern age but then I was convinced before I started reading it. ‘What reading teaches, first and foremost, is how to sit still for long periods and confront time head on.’  (p.89) We’re forever being told that the internet has ruined reading for kids – although perhaps their skimming and scanning skill are better than ever? Schools are still spending buckets of cash buying in programmes and systems to promote reading. But perhaps the greatest strategy of all is to share our own reading lives with them: to talk  more about the reader rather than the book.I really believe that it works.



SNP Presumes Too Much – Scottish Independence⤴

from @ Questions and Reflections

In November 2013 I wrote that the SNP were somehow assuming that they had the right to decide the future of Scotland after a Yes vote (http://robthill.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/post-independence/). This is still the case, remember the white paper. Frankly I am not against much of what they propose. However, I think the idea of sticking with sterling and the EU is an attempt to mollify waverers. Personally if we are to be independent I would prefer our own currency outside the EU on the Norwegian model.

More to the point by talking about their vision of an independent Scotland, the SNP may be putting off a number of potential Yes voters who do not like that party or its leaders. A better message would be that after a Yes vote there will be new elections to Holyrood and an all party constitutional convention to explore the way ahead. Of course the SNP blueprint will play an important part.

The SNP should remember they are a national government in name only, in reality at present a devolved administration.

Filed under: Democracy, Independence, Politics, Scottish, Scottish Independence, Social and Politics

Microsoft Word – Automatically renumbering a list⤴

from @ ICT & Education

I have a list of over 100 questions which are numbered and I need to re-order them. Here’s a basic example.

Question 1
What is your name

Question 2
Where do you live

Question 3
What’s your favourite colour

If I want to change the order of these questions (by cutting and pasting), I’m also going to have to re-type all the numbers. Not fun. 

However, I can replace the numbers with an ‘insert number’ code so that when I re-arrange the questions, the numbers will automatically correct themselves into the correct order.

To do this, go to advanced find and replace.

Find: Question [0-9]{1,3}

Replace: Question ^c (This needs to be copy/pasted from text you’ve already created using ‘insert field’)

Find any digit from 0 to 9

Look for any number containing 1 to 3 digits

Grouping Pupils⤴

from @ Pedagoo.org

Seating Plans are something that can take seemingly endless amounts of time and effort, particularly if you are going to include data for observers. I have often found that I have over-thought seating plans and they haven’t really worked, so I decided to take the thought out of it and develop a seating plan generator. […]

No Vote Means Change – Scottish Independence⤴

from @ Questions and Reflections

This article has a ring of truth about it for me

A NO VOTE IS NOT A VOTE FOR NO CHANGE By Peter Arnott, published in Bella Caledonia

The full text is here … https://bellacaledonia.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/a-no-vote-is-not-a-vote-for-no-change.pdf

Somehow the fine words of the three main Westminster parties do not ring true for me. The idea of any of them especially the Conservatives being magnanimous and welcoming of Scotland back into the fold is not a characteristic I can link with them.

If the NO vote prevails on 18th September then I think we will not see Devo Max but Devo Min, no NHS, no Barnett formula, more and deeper cuts to public services and an emasculated Scottish Parliament. Most public services such as water and all the various aspects of social welfare will be privatised, rich pickings for the neo- cons. This will of course be under the mantle of improved efficiency and all the usual weasel words. It will not happen overnight but will arrive via the back door in exactly the same way as the NHS privatisation in England and Wales has avoided the scrutiny of most of the voting public.

Filed under: Democracy, Independence, Politics, Scottish, Scottish Independence, Social and Politics

Technology for Learning? Focus on Learning and Teaching⤴

from @ Charlie Love.org | Charlie Love.org

Where exactly should we be going with online learning, safe environments and collaborative spaces for teachers and learners?  What is the future of the tools, platforms and services that are available to our schools. I’ve spent a significant about of time working through why technology has failed to meet the …

Foreign Countries – rUK and Scotland⤴

from @ Questions and Reflections

One of the fears being put about regarding Scottish Independence is that the rest of the UK will become a foreign country like alien, unwelcoming, to be avoided.

There is no need for that attitude. The mature Commonwealth countries like Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada and South Africa regard themselves as part of the British family of nations and many other countries value their membership of the British Commonwealth. In fact countries actually ask to join so there must be some benefits.

There is absolutely no reason why Scotland should not be in exactly the same position vis-a-vis the remaining parts of the UK. I will not think of going abroad if I go on a day trip to Newcastle and I trust that English, Welsh and Irish visitors to Edinburgh or Glasgow will feel equally at home.

In many areas of international relations I am sure Scotland and rUk will have identical goals and aspirations and I am equally sure both countries will support each other in many different ways, big and small.

In fact I would be very surprised if relations between Holyrood and Westminster will not be better in future.

Filed under: Food for Thought, Independence, International relations, Politics, Scottish, Scottish Independence, Social and Politics

Developing the analogy #CfE2.0⤴

from @ Fearghal Kelly

In my last post, I suggested that the future of CfE lay in the profession taking hold of it and leading the direction of travel. I titled the post CfE2.0 but never really explained why I did so. I think in my geekiness I had assumed everyone would get the analogy, but apparently that’s not the case…thanks @aileendunbar!


I’ve tried to make this clearer with the image above. The analogy I’m using here is the web. In it’s early days, a very small number of people contributed to the web and most people were consumers of this content. We might’ve read the BBC website but most of us would never have actually put anything onto the internet ourselves. Many folks now refer to this as Web 1.0 to distinguish it from our current use of the web. In Web 2.0 most users are producers as well as consumers. Through blogs, twitter, facebook, youtube, flickr and many many other such tools, most people who are online are contributing content to the web as well as reading and watching other people’s content. Web 1.0 is sometimes referred to as the “read” web, whereas web 2.0 is the “read/write” web.

So, what has all this got to do with Curriculum for Excellence? Well we could liken CfE, and all previous curricula, up to now to the early iteration of the internet. A small number of people produce it for a large number of people to “consume” – i.e. deliver to their classes. So, I’m suggesting that the future of CfE lies in becoming a read/write curriculum, or CfE2.0. We should be aiming for teachers, and students, to become collaborators in the development of the curriculum.

But, what would be our tools to achieve this? What would be the equivalent of our twitter? There may be a number of answers to this, but practitioner enquiry seems to be a key one to me. If teachers across the country were engaging in an enquiry approach to developing the curriculum with their classes, based on literature and feeding out into the system, we could begin to make this shift. But what about consistency I hear you ask? Obviously there needs to be some level of consistency and we’ll need to decide where to draw this line. There is a delicate balance to be struck between having a consistent curriculum and one which overly restricts teachers and learners, thus stifling creativity and personalisation. I personally think we possibly need to trim back the experiences and outcomes to allow more freedom…but not bin them altogether. Imagine rather than continuing to moan about this, I was encouraged to research into this with my classes in collaboration with teachers in other schools?

In order for this to happen, there needs to be a few changes in mindset across the system:

  • Considered and thoughtful variation and risk-taking needs to be encouraged in schools.
  • Teachers need to be supported to become enquiring, critical and research-informed professionals through high quality, challenging and masters-level learning opportinities.
  • Teachers need access to academic literature.
  • Processes need to but into place to facilitate the sharing of school-based research with support from academia.
  • Policy-makers need to actively encourage and engage with all of the above with open ears and minds.

I’m aware that in these posts I’m perhaps sounding a little bit idealistic and not plugged into reality…perhaps I am. But I would suggest that many of the above are actually happening already through the implementation of the Donaldson report, the new standards and professional update. All that’s really missing I think is the explicit linking of these professional learning initiatives to a vision for how the curriculum will be developed in the future – however, the principles of the CLTA forums overlap with this view somewhat.

So, in actual fact we could be closer than we might think to this vision of a read/write curriculum…or CfE2.0.