Some more #openbadges thoughts⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

The previous post was an attempt to get the advanced Kanban open badge. This one follows up with an answer to the question posed in the P2PU Badges Project to my application and as wee thought about badge systems.

The feedback was questioning why I decided not to use the ‘Work in Progress’ system to limit the number of tasks in the doing section. I’ve already described the board I set up was to be used for Radio Edutalk. I’d had changed to do,doing and done for possible guests,shows and broadcasts.

I didn’t want to limit the doing(shows) section as that number will reflect the shows that are ready to go. A long list there is not a sign of doing too much but one of being prepared well in advance.

The feedback section in p2p is not that great. There is nowhere to enter answers to the question there. Hence this post and some blue sky thought. I wonder if a badge could send a trackback or something like it to a blog post, with feedback and /or a badge?

Maybe something trackback like (at least to my eyes) such as a Webmention (more:Webmention – IndieWebCamp).

So ideally (or in my imagination), the badge page has a URL. I write blog post in response giving evidence as to why I should get the badge. The badge pages gets pinged, creates my ‘project’ lets an approver/expert know. This person reviews the work and adds feedback to the project page and/or awards the badge. This action pings my blog post, adding the feedback/badge as a comment. Responding to the comment could answer feedback etc.

I am typing this pretty much from ignorance of the current badge scene perhaps this is already on some cards somewhere or already been rejected as a daft idea?

Thanks to Doug Belshaw who provide the opportunity to play with badges again.

Cycling in the Western Isles⤴

from @

  British Summer

Summer seems to have missed Scotland this year!

But, last week we managed to avoid the showers (well most of them...) and get away on a short cycle expedition to the Western Isles. The weather was pretty kind to us and we had a favourable tail wind for most of the journey which helped us haul the panniers up some of the steep hills.

Kincraig Loop (via Barra, Uist, Haris & Lewis!) - Summer 2015

We cycled from Kingussie to Ballachulish and then from Ballachulish to Oban where we got the ferry to Barra. From Barra we caught another ferry to Eriskay before cycling up though South Uist, Benbecula and North Uist. Another Ferry took us to Harris where we tool the 'Golden Road' along the west coast to Tarbert and up into Lewis. Harris was my favourite part of the cycle trip as the road was challenging with stunning scenery. We ended up in Stornoway where we caught the ferry back to Ullapool and cycled home. The whole trip took us six days door-to-door.

Louise made a nice map of our route using Google MyMaps.

I was impressed with the Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) Hopscotch Ferry Deal which was only £37.60 for all the ferries in the island chain. Bike also go free and everyone that we met seemed to be very cycle friendly.

Island Hopper Map

I wonder if the trip might make a good DofE Gold route?

The book Cycling in the Hebrides: Island Touring and Day Rides (Cicerone Guides) is worth getting if your thinking of heading out that way.

Links for 2015-07-28 []⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

Links for 2015-07-28 []⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

Gravity! From the Big Bang to Black Holes⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

future learn




Gravity! From the Big Bang to Black Holes

Gravity runs the Universe. This free online course explains why, focussing on key concepts from the Big Bang to black holes.

About the course

What is gravity? This fundamental force is the common theme between concepts as intriguing as the Big Bang, black holes, dark energy, space-time, gravitational waves and the expansion of the Universe.

If these concepts pique your interest, this free online course is for you. It doesn’t require any background in physics or mathematics, just a simple curiosity about the Universe and our place in it.

Mark the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s theory of relativity

The theory of gravity, Einstein’s theory of relativity, was published exactly 100 years ago. This course presents in a simple manner the main ideas behind this theory, before explaining why “gravity is the engine of the Universe.”

The basic notions are then introduced to understand why the Universe is in expansion. We’ll find out:

• why the further you look, the more distant the past is;
• how we can tell what happened just after the Big Bang;
• what the dark components of the Universe are;
• why we’re so impatiently expecting the discovery of gravitational waves;
• and what happens when you cross the horizon of a black hole.

Learn with experts including a Nobel Prize-winning physicist

Over six weeks, you’ll learn with Pierre Binétruy, the Director of the Paris Centre for Cosmological Physics at Paris Diderot University, as well as the cosmologist, George Smoot, who will explain the discovery that earned him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2006.

More information here


This course doesn’t require any background in physics or mathematics, just a simple curiosity about the Universe.

Review of The Caveman Rules of Survival⤴

from @ Questions and Reflections

The Caveman Rules of Survival by Dawn C Walton discusses the role that our subconscious plays in ordering and governing our lives.

Dawn herself is a business woman turned practising Cognitive Hypnotherapist so much of the book is based on her own experience of counselling. It is remarkably jargon free, giving straightforward simple explanations for what are complex psychological situations. She postulates the theory of three Caveman instincts which govern much of our non-conscious lives, the fight, flight or freeze condition, the need for parental love and the necessity to be part of a group. Childhood incidents add what she calls rules to each of these categories. The rules then keep the person safe by avoiding similar situations. For instance an embarrassing confrontation may lead to a person being a loner, not wanting to get into a similar situation which will cause embarrassment again.

This picture of our inner selves does set a scene which is readily understandable. The many examples in the book can no doubt be identified by many readers and the explanation is satisfyingly straight forward. Dawn then explains that by using hypnotherapy she can find the hidden childhood event and by suggesting a different interpretation of the scenario can rewrite the rule and thereby release her client from domination of the rule in adult life.

All this certainly hangs together and thus makes the book very readable and one that might help some people cope with some of the phobias and hang-ups which spoil their lives. Furthermore the book has received a commendation from Professor Trevor Harley, Chair of Cognitive Psychology at Dundee University. This adds a certain credibility to the book.

Filed under: Education

#Blimage – Seating⤴


Photo - Steve Wheeler.

Photo – Steve Wheeler.


When I first saw this particular #blimage it struck a chord with me immediately. Seating arrangements! One of the things in teaching I’ve read up about and tried out lots of to get the best learning out of my class (and in my early years tried to improve behaviour with too).


What can seating look like in primary schools?


Well those desks suggest the old style of rows to me. The type of thing that was actually being phased out when I went through primary schools in the 1980s. I’m not sure of the benefit of rows. If you were partnered (as our desks were double desks) with the ‘wrong person’ it made school life miserable. (My step-daughter who is a hard-working girl who isn’t easily distracted and tries her best ‘won’ the seat next to the class ‘naughty’ boy who was very talkative. She was sat there for a couple of terms…say it quickly it doesn’t sound a lot does it. Two block of 8 weeks maybe. 80 days then. 6 hours a day. 560 hours of school. With no planned benefits to her, only unhappiness because she’s not sat with the rest of her group). So maybe that seating wasn’t of the 70s and 80s? I’ve seen it used in classes in schools I’ve taught in. I assume (though never asked) to stop off task interactions.


A more traditional seating arrangement in primary school is the ‘table’ of around 6 children. Why do we do this? To create group interactions? Because it what primary classrooms look like – (thanks to SMT who’ve shared that gem in the past)? So that we can engineer groupings to ‘settle’ the behaviours of some children? In the early stage of my teaching life I used table groups and changed them regularly, twice a year (or moved ‘individuals’ around as a behaviour measure). I dread to think.


In latter years (after working with Shirley Clarke in Gateshead) I used tables of 6 children and changed them every Monday using lollipop sticks. The purpose behind this being to get the children interacting with as many different children in the class as possible. Finding out the skills and positive features that people they had never worked with had, as well as developing their own skills, through sharing their ideas and supporting each other in group work. It worked really well, and some of the feedback from the children about things they found out about each other was amazing. Of course if this happens you can’t have table points, table captains, table winners or table losers, you will need children to be self-motivated and working hard for themselves and not for external reward.


For the best part of a year I put all my tables together to form one large table in the classroom and mixed up the children weekly again using lollipop sticks. I did this after reading a book about how Apple and Google create spaces for ‘chance’ interactions. The class enjoyed working in this way and again reported that working with different people made for exciting learning time and exciting school time. (Behaviour, to my observation, was no worse using a ‘random’ approach to tables and seating than having ‘planned’ seating).


This coming year I am going for a horseshoe in my classroom with seating positions again changed weekly by random means. As well as the horseshoe, I have a table of 4 in the middle and a table for 8 for group teaching purposes. I will encourage the children to move furniture around for different tasks as they feel it suits their learning.

However, before all of this happens I will spend time in the first couple of weeks setting up the reasons behind our seating arrangements and setting up ground rules as well as discussing growth mindsets and key aspect of formative assessment. You can find loads of reading and resources about developing a growth mindset in the classroom all over the internet, and I have collected a few of the articles I have found useful here.


I’d be delighted to hear any of your ideas, arrangements etc in the comments.




The weakness of the network to nurture curiosity⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education


While search technology made the process of seeking the answers to our questions easier and quicker, social technology and our networks have had a paradoxical effort. Has the ease of 'asking' numbed our curiosity to investigate unknown knowns for ourselves?

There’s a strange paradox at work here. We live in an era where information is more freely available and easily accessible than ever before. Learning has, broadly speaking, evolved in three stages. First, knowledge resided in books or was held by experts. Students had to “knock” – to go looking – to find the answers. Then came Google, and with it students learned to “seek” because it was right there at their fingertips.

With the advent of Facebook and other social networks, we’ve entered the era of “ask”. Knowledge resides in the minds of the network, so students can just throw out a question on their Facebook page: “Hey guys, how would you answer this question that our professor set?”...

Students don’t read lengthy documents – like academic papers – any longer. They don’t go hunting for answers. They just put a question out to their network, sit back and wait for the answers to come their way.

Craig Blewitt. Thanks to Matt Esterman for the initial hat-tip to this.

It's not just our students who have become this Generation Ask - their teachers, in droves, sit on Twitter asking questions to the network, whose answers are waiting there to be found. The technology of our networks risks turning us into lazy researchers, for one.

But more worryingly, not doing our own homework, our own research, and relying instead on what others perceive to be 'right', means that we don't accidentally rub up against the interesting tangents that always come with one's own, personal, more time-consuming research.

The unknown unknowns remain untouched in this age of the network, and each individual's 'filter bubble' merely narrows down those chances further. The more our networks act as a magnifying glass on the loudest voices, the less likely we are to see the bigger picture, the whole context, and gain the depth of understanding we would ideally seek.

Pic by Kate Ter Haar

Online polling with university students⤴

from @ ICT & Education

My aim this past year was to introduce online polling as a way to increase student engagement and motivation in their learning. I wanted to go beyond merely creating multiple choice questions but to really—really—think about how to embed an online voting system into my lectures and tutorials. I didn’t want my use of online polling to be merely a ‘bolt-on’ to assess their learning but to use it as a means to improve their contributions in class and to engage them in their learning.

These are a number of main points I’ll discuss:

  • Software/hardware used and limitations;
  • Changes made to teaching methodology;
  • Review and reflection on changes;
  • Next steps

Software/hardware used and limitations

The first challenge was deciding which hardware to use. There were ‘clickers’ available, TV-remote-type devices which needed to be charged as well as synced to the computer and matched to software. It also meant distributing them at the beginning of each class and collecting them at the end. It seemed laborious, time-consuming and a little old-fashioned.

I turned to online polling software as students would be able to use their own devices—smartphones, tablets and laptops which would connect via WiFi. I also needed to find low-cost solutions (for reasons which any educator will whole-heartedly understand).

The three polling programmes which I decided to use were PollEverywhere, Socrative and TopHat. I introduced them simultaneously to gauge what would work and what wouldn’t. The justification for running all three at once stems from what I call The DS9 Introduction Principle. The writers of DS9 (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to give it its full title) wanted to introduce some new adversaries and had three species lined up (the Jem’hadar, the Vorta and the Founders, if you are interested). It was decided to introduce all three at once on the assumption that at least one of the species would ‘click’ with the viewers ( In a similar fashion, I decided to introduce the three voting systems at the same time. By the end of the 6th week, one programme had been favoured over the others. On a side note, it may be of interest to know that all 3 species introduced in DS9 were accepted and embraced by the fans.

From my point of view, I liked TopHat’s potential. However, it did far more than I needed it to and I didn’t find it particularly user friendly. Creating questions on TopHat, particularly for those created on-the-fly, wasn’t particularly quick or easy. For those who wish to use it to take attendance, grade students or to tap the summative potential of online polling, it’s an excellent programme. For me, however, it was as if I was competing in the Tour de France having just had the training wheels taken off my bicycle. The other issue with TopHat is that students are required to sign in with an identifying email and username before using it. While polls could then be made anonymous, some students were not comfortable with this.

Socrative’s Space Race is a good idea and the students enjoyed it; I can see much use could be made of it. However, PollEverywhere’s easier organisation and the ability to respond via Twitter and texts made it the main programme for the rest of the academic year.

As the focus shifted to PollEverywhere, the students were able to concentrate on learning via the polling software rather than learning about the polling software.

I made arrangements to have some of the University’s laptops available for students who did not have their own devices. However, by the end of week two (once connectivity issues had been sorted out) it became clear that the students were happy to bring in their devices and that the laptops were unnecessary.

PollEverywhere’s 40-student limit was an issue; this was overcome by changing my teaching methodology.

Changes made to teaching methodology

PollEverywhere’s 40-response limit meant I needed to provide my 50+ students with opportunities to work with a partner. I created polling tasks which would encourage collaboration before voting. As the year progressed, multiple-choice questions to be answered by individuals were replaced by more collaborative tasks.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I didn’t want to use polling as a ‘bolt-on’. In other words, I didn’t want to conclude with a 5-minute plenary where I would say, “Right, folks. Let’s do a poll about …”. This, to me, wasn’t going to engage students for more than 5 minutes. What I wanted was for the polling to become more integral to the students’ learning, taking place throughout the lecture/tutorial—not just at the end.

Usually in a lecture I would have various places in which students would be expected to review what had just been learned or to discuss a particular point of view/issue. There was no easy way for me to gauge their understanding (or their engagement). Using the polling software, the students’ responses provided me with a way to gauge the understanding of the whole class. Moreover, students enjoyed seeing their responses presented to the whole class (particularly as they were anonymised). In this way, even incorrect responses became a teaching tool and there were fewer inhibitions about ‘getting it wrong’.

As well as lectures, the tutorials also benefitted from online polling. Previously, students would discuss their personal research with other three students in their groups of four. I realised that while the students were explaining their personal research to the others, the other three students were not particularly engaged. There were few (if any) challenging questions being asked of the researcher—”What year was your paper written?” and “Did you find it easy to read? are not, in my mind, probing questions—and I wanted my students to improve their ability to provide effective feedback.

PollEverywhere allows a Q&A/Brainstorm in which students can type long phrases and sentences. The three listeners in the groups were instructed to work as a team to write a feedback response to the presenter via Q&A/Brainstorm. These responses (one from each group) were visible for all other students to read. Each student was then asked to vote for the best-written feedback. I then discussed the top two or three responses with the class in order to help students develop effective feedback writing skills. This activity was repeated four times within each group and it was striking how the students’ feedback improved even in the one tutorial session!

Feedback was not only being used to improve the students’ learning but to help me improve my teaching. For some lectures which I knew could be challenging, I created a poll to allow the students to vote when they wanted clarification. (At one point in a lecture, the bar graph for “I’m confused” shot up in a matter of seconds and it was clear I needed to explain that particular point in a different way). The instant feedback was helpful not only for my teaching but also gave students the power to be more actively involved in the lecture, using polling to effectively speed up or slow down the lecture. (No, there wasn’t a mute button despite requests!)

Review and reflection on changes

On reflection, online polling helped students to:

  • participate more confidently in discussions;
  • consolidate and reflect on learning;
  • provide effective feedback to others.

It was clear, almost from the first week, students were more engaged, both in lectures and in tutorials. To begin with, I was concerned this may have been due to the novelty factor. However, this higher engagement was noticeable throughout the academic year. To be fair, there was a ‘lull’ in the middle of the second semester but this was not due to polling but due to the structure of the weekly tutorials which had become repetitive. The integration of polling into my lectures and tutorials was, overall, resoundingly successful and satisfactory for both me as the teacher and for the students.

Next Steps

There is, of course, still room for improvement. My goals for the upcoming academic year are to integrate PollEverywhere’s Keynote and Powerpoint plug-in into lectures, create polls to allow students to review their learning in their own time and to write shorter blog entries.