If the clothes fit…⤴


This post is a slightly facetious response to Maha Bali’s post Fixing the shirt but spoiling the trousers #OER17 Open Call for Your Stories! and Sheila MacNeil’s Not so much the a case of the wrong trousers, more like a wardrobe malfunction my story for #oer17

Maha cited the rather fabulous Egyptian expression:

“when you tried to fix the shirt you spoiled the trousers”. It conjures up an image of comedy of errors or such, where trying to fix a problem creates new problems.

I think of “open” as having many such problems that arise out of its solutions, and I already have some examples in mind, but would love for the community to offer me more examples of this.

Sheila chimed in with

Over the past year I think my experience is more of having the right trousers but not the right top/jacket/shoes to go with them. What I mean is, that we have an OER policy in place in our institution which is great, but I’m not wearing “those trousers” as often as I’d like.

Sometimes feels like I have a wardrobe full for OER but nothing to wear

Yes, that is actually my wardrobe.

At the risk of stretching the metaphor until it gets threadbare, perhaps the problem is that the shirt and trousers don’t really fit?  You know you could get them altered so they fit better, but you never quite get round to doing it. Instead you just stick to wearing the clothes you’ve always worn, the ones you’re comfortable in.  So even if you have an OER repository, it’s a bit of a faff putting stuff in there, it’s easier just to shove your content into the VLE the way you’ve always done.

Or perhaps the shirt and trousers do fit, perhaps they’re beautifully tailored, perfectly fitting, outrageously expensive garments, but now you’ve spent all that money on them you can’t really afford to go out and wear them.  Maybe you’ve invested in an OER strategy or policy or repository, but have you allocated funding to provide the support services, guidance and advice that colleagues will need to actually get on board with OER?

Or maybe the problem is that you didn’t actually want to wear the shirt and trousers in the first place?  Maybe you only bought them because it’s what everyone else wears and you thought you should wear it too.  But really you’d rather wear jeans and a t-shirt, or that amazing vintage dress, or a sparkly frock, of whatever clothes express your individuality. In fact maybe what you want is a whole wardrobe full of clothes to choose from depending on what mood takes you or what job you need to do.  So rather than investing in a single central OER repository because you think that’s what you ought to have, or advocating a specific approach to openness, maybe look at a range of different solutions that will meet the needs of staff and students right across the institutions depending on their differing requirements.

After all, there’s more than one way to be open and wouldn’t it be boring if we all wore the same shirt and trousers? 😉

Scot Pot – School Meal Product Development Competition⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Test your creativity and innovation skills!

The competition is open to all primary 5,6, and 7 pupils from schools across Scotland. Individual prizes will be given to the best entries, but all the pupils in the winning class will win an all-expenses paid trip to the Royal Highland Show 22nd – 25th June 2017. The winning product will be showcased at the ASSIST FM National Conference on 24th & 25th August 2017 in Glasgow.

The winning product will feature in schools across Scotland during Scottish School Meals week, 31st October 2017.

We are asking pupils to conduct their own market research to develop a new Scots Origin One Pot Dish that could be sold as a stand-alone product or be part of school meal that can be used in schools across Scotland.

The challenge is based on a similar format to the television programme ‘Dragons Den’. We would like pupils to put their creative and entrepreneurial skills to the test and design an innovative new ‘one pot’ product that:

  • They would like to eat and that could form part or all of a school meal for example; meal soup, meal pot, layered dish or something creative and innovative.
  • Has to contain AT LEAST ONE Scottish ingredient.
  • Would encourage more pupils to take school meals if it was sold in the dining area.
  • Could be promoted with an innovative advertising campaign that would include a name and a catch phrase to promote the product and fit with the Scots Origin branding.
  • Can be sold as a stand alone product.
  • Meets the nutritional guidance for a theme day in school.

To enter, please complete the attached entry forms and send to schools@sfdf.og.uk by 5th May 2017

Scot Pot Entry Form 2017



Deputy First Minister sets out agenda for Scottish education⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

In a major speech setting out his agenda for Scottish education, the Deputy First Minister John Swinney highlighted its strengths – including the achievements of young people and teachers – and acknowledged the challenges being faced.

The DFM made clear that further change is needed to strengthen Scotland’s education system, and ensure public services focus on the needs of individual children and young people rather than their own organisational arrangements.

Watch the full speech.

There are also photographs available from the event – https://www.flickr.com/photos/scottishgovernment

A Universe in your pocket⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Mobiles and mobile apps are becoming more powerful every day. Back in August last year I downloaded and installed Universe. Clearly marked as a beta it allowed you to make verses, these were a grid of media that could be mixed: photos, video, text, maps and sounds. There was different types of interactivity and you could even put html and javascript in a verse.

I played around with this occasionally, mashing up the contents of my camera roll. The app crashed occasionally and the creations were only really visible inside the app. Still it was fun, and interesting to see what others made with it.

Yesterday I got a email, the betas was over and new version was out and it had changed tack. Universe was now a tool to build websites. I downloaded it and made a page within about 3 minutes: ‎john.onuniverse.com.

Hosting on an onuniverse.com subdomain is free, but you can pay for a domain.

When I tried the original betas version it felt as if the lack of publishing to the web was the main problem. This is now fixed. The new version lacks many of the interactive features of the beta, but it share the same easy to use interface. On creating or editing a page you have a 3 by 5 grid. Clicking on a square on the grid or dragging over several (so you can have a larger block) allows you to edit that square. You choose the type of content and then edit. Once you are finished a click or two and the site is published.

Publishing to the web from your phone is nothing new, I blogs from my iPhone, have edited sites with text editors and there are lots of ways to publish. Universe stands out as one of the easiest ways to put up a neat page quickly while on the go.

Adding further pages to your site is at the moment not as elegant as it could be, they don’t share the same sub-domain. There is no support for animated gifs (converted to jpgs), videos can only be 3 seconds long and loop in a gif like manner. I’d love to see support from some of the ways that the ‘old’ universe animated sections of the grid and sound could be played. I guess that might come. But overall this is a really nice way to make a website very quickly. If you want a quick individual about me page for an event or to knock up a page for your days photos on the bus home, this is the app for you. I wonder too if it could be used in education. From a data protection pov I am not sure where it would stand, but it could be fun for pupils to build wee sites.

Featured image: combine screenshots of the app.

Some links:

Learning for Support and Support for Learning⤴

from @ The Pedagogy Princess

I want to learn about schools from all aspects from the kitchen to the classroom If you are keeping up to date with my blog and reading it daily, you will be familiar with my third goal for this placement quoted above. Today’s main learning focus for myself was Learning Support in my fantastic placement […]

Shared WordPress archive for different post types⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

In a WordPress plugin I have custom post types for different types of publication: books, chapters, papers, presentations, reports. I want one single archive of all of these publications.

I know that the theme template hierarchy allows templates with the pattern archive-$posttype.php, so  I tried setting the slug for all the custom post types to ‘presentations’. WordPress doesn’t like that.  So what I did was set the slug for one of the publication custom post types to ‘presentations’, that gives me a /presentations/ archive for that custom post type(1). I then edited the archive.php file to use a different  template parts for custom post types(2):

<?php $cpargs = array('_builtin' => False,
				  'exclude_from_search' => False);
	$custom_post_types = get_post_types( $cpargs, 'names', 'and' );
	if ( is_post_type_archive( $custom_post_types ) ) {
		get_template_part( 'archive-publication' );
	} else {
		get_template_part( 'archive-default' );

See anything wrong with this approach? Any comments on how better to do this would be welcome.

  1. 1 could edit the .htaccess file to redirect the /books/, /chapters/ …etc archives to /publications/, which would be neater in some ways but would make setting up the theme a bit of a faff.
  2. Yes, the code gives all the custom post types with an archive the same archive. That’s fixable if you make the array of post types for which you want a shared archive manually.

The post Shared WordPress archive for different post types appeared first on Sharing and learning.

All that glitters is not gold⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

As an educator, my aim is to help all the learners in the schools I lead to discover their talents and achieve their potential. I recognise them all as individuals and aim for them to retain their individuality as they grow and develop. One of my schools has 'Go For Gold!' as a school motto, put in place by a previous headteacher and pupils. I have never used this too much, as I have always had concerns about some of the messages it sends out. But this year, we took this as the theme for all our assemblies, and have shaped these around the qualities and dispositions we all need to be the very best we can be. So we have talked about collaboration, perseverance, persistence, resilience, and pupils have shared successes and achievements they have had both in school and outside. Some of these have involved pupils in winning medals and trophies, but many more have been about personal achievements that are more intrinsically valued than extrinsically recognised.

However, I still feel the messages we are trying to give are often deflected by those of the culture and society in which our learners exist. It still seems to me that our politicians, media, sports organisations, culture and many parents, are still obsessed by winners, at the expense of everyone trying to achieve their own personal best. Don't get me wrong, I am not anti sport, or excellence in sport (or anywhere else for that matter). I have been involved in sport all my life, both as a competitor and as a coach, and I really appreciate and understand the talent, dedication and sheer hard work it takes to get to the top of any sport or activity. But, for me, sport and achievement have always been about more than just the headline grabbing elite performers. It has to be about the grassroots, the millions of participants who take part because of their love of the activity, and the coaches and others who help them have those opportunities, and help to develop their understanding of how they can support their own wellbeing throughout life.

To many governments sport, and the winning of gold medals, is about national pride and prestige. We can trace this back in the modern era to Germany in the 1930s, then Russia, China, East Germany, and all the western governments that thought the same but were perhaps not so explicit in the strategies they employed. This led to State-sponsored doping programmes and ruthless approaches to the treatment and abuse of athletes and coaches, many of which we are still seeing across many sports today. The 'win at all costs' mentality which has embroiled athletes, coaches and sports and has led to one scandal after another. Amongst all this the Olympic Games has become a bloated and tainted version of what it once was, riven by by drugs, cash and political egos. And yet we still talk about 'legacy', especially when countries seek to justify the vast amounts needed to host them. But, what is the 'legacy'? It is supposed to be a sporting infra-structure and culture that remains and is detectable years after the event in the country and society that sacrificed so much, and paid so much, to be the host. We only need to look at what has happened in Rio, and in London and the UK, following their Games, to see what happens to these dreams of 'legacy'.

However, there is a subliminal 'legacy' to events like this, and it is; that if you don't have a medal, preferably gold, you have failed. That's the harsh message we are giving to young people and to the sports they love being part of, not to mention those who have worked so hard to get to such events.

Sport is awash with money from the lottery and elsewhere, but after each major games there is a reappraisal of funding distribution. If you have not made your target, as an individual or a sport, you will face having your funding cut or removed altogether. The message is, 'we are only interested in winners'. The fact that a sport like badminton, for instance, is one of the most popular participatory sports in the UK, counts for nothing, and funding is gone. The ruthless way that some sports governing bodies treat their athletes sends out very similar messages. Cycling, swimming, athletics and others have been embroiled in accusations of bullying and treating their athletes in very harsh ways, as they have come under more and more pressure to deliver results i.e medals. The same sports have also been caught up in doping controversies and, to me, it seems this is a direct result of the pressure for ever improving results to maintain funding, and the amounts of money that are available at the top end of so many sports.

All of this re-enforces the message that young people get that winning is the 'be all' of sports participation. You might want to be the best you can, but if you are not at the top and capable of winning medals, we certainly don't value your efforts the same. Is this culture much different to the ills of the German, Soviet and East German systems of the past? In terms of the messages being sent out, implicitly and explicitly, I don't think there is a lot of difference. We still get politicians and media basking in the light of Olympic and World Championship successes achieved by other, but which they see themselves as having facilitated. What about the rest, the majority?

Should I be saying to our learners, 'we are only interested if you are the best'? Of course not, but isn't that what society, culture, media, advertisements, are saying to them all the time. In the light of this bombardment messages about winning, and being the best, it is amazing that so many young people still want to be active participants in sport, though it might go some way to explain the huge drop-off experienced by many as they enter their teenage years. Look at the messages given from programmes like 'X Factor', 'The Voice', 'Britain's Got Talent' and so on, some of which ridicule and humiliate entrants before the one 'winner' is identified and the producers move on.

My further worry is that we are in danger of importing the same culture into education, with the same disastrous results. So we have inspections where 'Good' or 'Very Good' are not enough. Now we have to be 'Excellent' or 'Outstanding'. We have more and more standardised testing so we can rank pupils and put them in percentiles. We have league tables, where everyone wants to be at the top, even though we know this is impossible. We have politicians telling us, parents and children, we want you all to be better than average, and if you are not it is the school's fault. Even though this is another statistical impossibility. Not content with national league tables, we now have international ones, and every politician wants their system to be at the top. The media is full of how schools, and systems, are 'failing' because they are falling down the tables, or are not at the top, whilst being full of praise for questionable systems that sit at the top of them. And all the while the message we are sending to learners is that if you are not the best, we are not interested, or you're failing. How long before more schools, for some are already there, start ranking pupils and putting these on display, so everyone can see the 'stars' and 'the rest'?

Such a culture is not going to inspire learners to be persistent, to persevere, to collaborate, to be resilient and to keep striving to be the best they possibly can. Such a culture is unlikely to promote growth mindsets in learners and their teachers. Such a culture will encourage cheating and gaming of the system, because the stakes for those involved have become so so high. Such a culture will be telling learners 'you are not just good enough' or that they are 'failing'. Such a culture will promote the power of the individual at the expense of others, 'dog eat dog'., with parents fighting to make sure their child or children has as much advantage over other as possible.

There is no doubt we should all be committed to improving what we do. The motivation for this should be intrinsic and a disposition in everything we do. When we have our focus on gradings, league tables, funding, kudos and reputation, we lose sight of the individuals we are supposed to be supporting and helping to grow. We have the wrong 'drivers' for change and to therefore assess success. Good luck and well done to anyone who sits at the top of any performance list, but lets not lose sight of the millions that will sit below that pinnacle. As any sportsperson will tell you luck and opportunity play a great part in any success, and perhaps we should strive to reduce the impact of these in our schools and education systems, in order to give everyone the chance to thrive, rather than just the few.

Becoming semi-detached⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

Since I made the decision to retire from my Headteacher role before Christmas, I have found myself in a really strange position, both professionally and personally. I have become semi-detached from both my professional persona, and my personal one.

Since my imminent departure  became common knowledge, and I began to get my head round this change, I have found myself in a number of  almost surreal situations, where I am still thinking and acting as a headteacher, but at the same time I have been thinking of my future, as well as the next incumbent in my role. Sometimes this has made decision making easier, and sometimes decisions have become more difficult to make.

Decisions about future activities, that are to happen after the Easter break, have been a little easier. Some I have been able to ignore, delay or leave to the next person in post to consider. Trying to second guess what any new school leader may want to do, is difficult, and probably  undesirable. I still have to lead the two schools, but I also need to leave enough 'space' for the new headteacher to put their own mark on the role. The first part of that is quite easy, because I have still had to deal with all the daily issues that occur, and which I have dealt with throughout my career as a school leader. Such issues are a constant, as are the expectations of staff, parents and pupils. Even with these though, a bit of my mind  has also been distracted by the unfolding change ahead. There have been lots of times when I have been thinking 'well that's the last one of those, ever!' There have also been lots of times when staff, parents and even pupils have pointed out to me much the same. 'Well that's your last coffee-morning, parents evening, set of reports, headteacher meeting,' and so on. Such comments have been producing very mixed emotions, as I know I am going to miss many such activities in the future.

Of course, there is much I am not going to miss about being a headteacher. Mainly, these are to do with bureaucracy, accountability, having to prove everything you do, micromanagement, lack of trust, being a political football, and so on. The things I will miss are the people, the colleagues, the pupils, the parents, the communities and others who have bought into the vision of what we were about and supported me in delivering this. I will miss the events that happen on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis, that bring the schools together and remind us of why we do what we do.

It is the people and the relationships that I will miss the most. Undoubtedly, some of these relationships are strong enough to endure. Certainly ones with staff and colleagues will continue, though may become a little more distant in nature, and less frequent. I am sure some of the relationships with pupils will last too, as I still meet former pupils who want to talk about times at school, having me as a teacher, different incidents and events. Indeed, one of the things I have noticed about contacts with former pupils, its the ones who caused you the most headaches and issues that are the ones who always want to speak to you and spend time reminiscing. Funny that.

However, it is my current mindset and situation that is the subject of this post. As I said at the start, I am really starting to feel detached, both in my mind and in my role. This is a strange place to be for  a headteacher still in post. I think it is probably a common experience for people in any job or career, once they have identified a leaving date. There is no doubt there is much I am looking forward to about retirement, and letting go of all the 'stuff' you are carrying in your head about your work will definitely be a highlight. I am also looking forward to the different opportunities presented by my new 'freedom' for action and thought. Just think, having your day totally shaped by yourself and the actions and thinking you wish, and not having them shaped by your role and demands and expectations of an employer? I am trying not to gloat, too much, and I am sure there will be challenges presented by retirement and the reshaping of my working and leisure patterns. I am hoping to be doing a lot more writing, I do have a book to finish, and to still be engaging with educators and leaders through conferences, the work of SCEL and other opportunities as they present themselves.

My aim at the moment is to complete my final two weeks, hopefully leaving enough in place to support whoever follows me. I am leaving whilst I still love my job, so I want it to end well next week. There are one or two events organised, including a night out with current and former staff and colleagues, which I have been promised is going to be 'a riot'. Not literally I hope! I am sure it will be fun and emotional, just like a lot of my career. The plan is to head for some sunshine for a short while, then return to really get stuck into that book. By then, I will be fully detached, physically, but I have a feeling I will still only be semi-detached emotionally.