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Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Student Perspective - No Longer Living Next Door to Alice- Week Three

There are some days when teaching is merely a series of small battles. With management, with colleagues, with pupils, with parents even; with computers which get huffy at exactly the same time you want them to be your friend. I had some of those battles this week in preparing for Episode Three of Inanimate Alice.  It seems that every computer suite in the school was overbooked for weeks ahead and the fabulous notebooks we used last week were nowhere to be seen. For two days, all of my preparation had to stay on hold. But did I lose heart? Well, yes, I did a bit.
The first two weeks had gone so well that perhaps inevitably I was forgetting that, when teaching something so completely new and, to me , original, it can be a rocky road at times. I’ve never been through the process. Next time I’ll be more aware. I teach in a school of 1800 kids; the ICT provision is ‘unhelpful’ at times; and, yes, I did replace another word with ‘unhelpful’.  Trying something like ‘Inanimate Alice’ takes a lot of preparation; but it’s worth it.

My class and I had recently set up Individual Blogs on GLOW – Scotland’s National Intranet for Schools – and, as a temporary measure until I could gain access to notebooks , I asked the students to Blog their thoughts on Episodes One and Two. This week, I’ll let them tell you their story.

Harry’s Blog     

“When I first saw Inanimate Alice, I had walked into the middle of it because I was at a music lesson. After I came in, I quickly tuned into the story.  Once a few scenes had passed I noticed that it was the same story we read a few days ago. When I first saw it I read the words and then noticed the background images and film. I also heard strange music which made me uncomfortable.
The first time I saw “Inanimate Alice” I really loved the idea of it and watched it at my home, it is a very different experience to reading which I love. I also love film and music so it was a very enjoyable experience.”

Morgan’s Blog

“To read the online story you need to be aware of everything you are watching, hearing and reading. I tried to look at every part of the screen so I didn’t miss any picture or movement in the story. The sound is really helpful as it helps you imagine how Alice is feeling whereas with just the words it is not as obvious. The thing I really enjoyed was the interaction in the online stories because it is fun and it makes you feel part of the story.
 My favourite part of the story so far is when Alice falls out in the snow in the second one because the sounds are loud and fast and it makes you hold your breath!”

Scott's Blog

“The part of Inanimate Alice that worked for me was the puzzles because they made the story more fun. In Episode Two I was more used to the screen layout and I did not get distracted from reading the words. My reading skills changed after reading Episode Two because I became more able to read with things distracting me from reading. A tip I would share with other digital story readers is to try and not get distracted.”

Beth’s Blog

Inanimate Alice has been great!

"The music and the images just make the whole thing really exciting. Sometimes though, the music was quite uncomfortable. I’ve never seen anything like it and it was so good when we got to use the netbooks. We could go at our own pace and notice more because it was closer to us.

I’ve enjoyed everything from Inanimate Alice so far. The group work has been good because we all put our ideas together and came up with what we think the next episode will be like. We’ve noticed things that each other hasn’t, giving us more questions to think about!
Trying to make sense of the story is difficult though, I have so many questions like, Who is Brad, is he real or totally made up, and how can he speak?
I can’t wait till we can make our own Inanimate Alice episode. I have some pretty good ideas and even though it looks quite difficult it’ll be loads of fun!”

Ailsa’s Blog

“I really like ‘Inanimate Alice’. I like the way you were seeing everything through Alice’s eyes. It was cool the way it had the black background and the white text because usually it is a white background with black text. I like the way you need to play a game on the player to get to the next scene. My favourite game on the player is the bicycle game where you need to make the whole bicycle pink.”

Rebecca’s Blog

“When I was reading this I couldn’t get my eyes away from the screen. It literally brought you in and wouldn’t let go of you. When I was reading I scanned my eyes up and down and all around.
What really worked was it actually made you read between the lines and not just skim it quickly, you actually read it, looked around the screen then read it again to really take it in. My favourite part was when Brad speaks to her because I have so many questions that haven’t been answered about this part. How does he speak? Is he based on a real person? Is it her imagination?”

Lewis’s Blog   
“In my English class we used netbooks for the second episode of Inanimate Alice. I couldn’t take my eyes away from the screen, it was that good. The best bit I thought was in Episode Two and it was the part where Alice was going to go to ski school, but she fell in the snow. That got my heart thumping.
The most difficult part to read is when the writing is flashing to make the part look scary. The music worked very well with the story. By the time I read the second episode I knew what to expect. I would tell people who are reading their first digital story - ‘focus on everything you read, see and hear.’”

I apologise for such a long post this week but I was delighted with the kids’ responses. We eventually got to see Episode Three late on Friday but had no real time to follow up. We’ll do that on Monday. However, what I’ve learned this week is that, even though I prepare my lessons thoroughly at all times, if you are considering Inanimate Alice for your class, make sure that every aspect is covered. With schools cutting back all over the place, don’t let a lack of hardware get in the way of the student experience.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Shhh...I'm Reading...

There is something which scares me more than a generation of illiterate kids sitting in my class; and that is the very real possibility of them being alliterate. A generation of kids who can read but choose not to do so. This is why I think it is absolutely vital that we spend more time focusing on encouraging a love of reading at the expense of almost everything else we do as teachers.

I wrote last week in my blog, ‘There’s More to Life Than Books You Know but Not Much More’, about how much the realisation that I became an English teacher because of books changed my way of thinking and my everyday practice. The positive responses I received have encouraged me to say more about what I do to encourage Personal Reading.

I see my classes for four periods a week, five in Fifth year.(16,17 years old)  I must ensure that I cover a load of stuff in our yearly planner, touching all the bases in Reading, Writing, Talking and Listening while ticking all of the Curriculum for Excellence boxes; so I know how much of a commitment I am making to Personal Reading. That is, free choice reading. But what do I expect back?

  • I expect every child to read and respect the reading space of others. I do this by creating a reading environment. For the first ten minutes of EVERY period, students enter the room quietly as they see me reading, usually leaning against my classroom door as they walk along the corridor. They quietly get out their books and start reading.
  • Every S1 and S2 child (11 to 13 years old) has a specially prepared bookmark. On this bookmark, they set their own targets each week. I ask them to think about how many pages they can read in ten minutes in class, multiply it by four, for each class, and then double that. This gives the poorer readers a realistic target; the better readers see this as a minimum and usually know how much they can read in a week. Targets must be met and bookmarks are signed weekly by a parent. Works perfectly after the first couple of weeks for 99% of my students.
  • Once a week we write in Reading Dialogue Journals. Much of my Sunday is taken up with responding to Journals; but if I want them to commit to reading they need to be aware that I am committed too. Every child starts with the same three questions.
1.    What is your book called and who wrote it?
2.    Why did you choose it?
3.    What has happened so far?
As the weeks pass, I respond individually to the direction each reader takes. That way I can participate in dialogue with every student, asking them to think about certain areas, clarify others. My responses usually take a three questioned format. I ask them something about Writer’s Craft; I ask them something about how the book relates to their own lives; finally, I ask them to summarise this week’s reading or make a prediction.
  • You should know that Book Reviews are a waste of time and serve no purpose; therefore responses to reading, if there really needs to be any, should be fun and creative. Think of your own reading; the first thing you do when you finish a great book is to go and write about the character, setting and what you’ve learned from it, isn’t it? What about Book Tweets. Great fun, a really difficult task for kids to spell and punctuate well at times, believe me. On the other hand, they make great Wall Displays.

One of my greatest pleasures in teaching is when students who are no longer taught by me come to me for book recommendations. It doesn’t happen too often but, when it does, it reminds me that what we do with reading does have a lasting effect on the pupils we teach. Think about it: if the only individual reading your students do is ‘Close Reading’ exercises – and hey, if they cannot do them well, then give them more – can we really complain when kids claim that they ‘hate’ reading. The next time one says that to you – and they will – ask them why; and without resorting to the ludicrous claim that it will benefit them in the future, what are you doing about it?

A great book you really must read on this subject  is by Kelly Gallagher, an American Educator, and it is called 'Readicide' for obvious reasons. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Taking a Step Back -No Longer Living Next Door to Alice- Week Two

I received some fantastically supportive comments on my last ‘Alice’ Blog post. Most astonishingly for me anyway, a direct response from Kate Pullinger, the original writer of ‘Inanimate Alice’. A convincing argument for a global classroom if ever there was one. Within minutes, yes minutes, of posting my Blog  on Twitter I was receiving messages from interested teachers from around the world. My work was posted on FACEBOOK – never been a fan, slightly changing my mind now – so I knew things were happening.
Some of my first thoughts and ideas on what to do with ‘Alice’ came from a Scottish educator, Dave Terron, someone I shamefully failed to mention in my first ‘Alice’ post, and someone who , if you’re an English teacher in Scotland – or anywhere for the matter - you should be listening to and reading. He was kind enough to send me some of the things he’d gathered together in order to complete some excellent work with one of his classes. Without his help, I never would have undertaken this project. So thanks, Dave.

The great feedback I’d received found me bounding into school on Monday morning. However, it was the eagerness of the students on Monday which convinced me ‘Alice’ was working. The main ideas they had gleaned from last week were the differences between the written and the visual. While they insisted on calling ’Inanimate Alice’ a ‘Media’ text – perhaps later we could discuss the difference between ‘Media’ and ‘Digital’ - on paper, they did think that, in some ways, they had to work harder to access the story. Black writing on a white background meant that they had to create the visuals themselves in their own imaginations; but they now had a better idea of what ‘baxi’ was, and were developing an awareness of how sound was being used to manipulate them as readers. The silence at times, contrasted with the fast-paced modern beat when excitement mounted. Words like ‘discomfort’ and ‘fear’ were mentioned during the ‘static electricity’ scenes.
The students just got it. On Friday, after a hard day’s bargaining to book a trolley full of netbooks, I took a step back – or was told to by them – as they got into Episode Two – Italy. It was amazing. I’d tried hard to learn how to use a digital projector the week before, but before I could get to grips with these new fangled netbooks, they practically pushed me aside to get on with it. We agreed that the only three headings they would have in their notebooks would be SOUNDS, WORDS, SIGHTS: and away they went. The added value of interactive games – even on this simple level – grabbed them and the lesson was amazing. There are times in every teacher’s year when you remember exactly why you got into this teaching game.  As I stood back and watched my class, all wearing headphones, glued to their screens and furiously scribbling at the same time, I thought just that. Full engagement; high challenge; relevant. It doesn’t get better than this.

So what did I learn this week? 
  • Well, I think it was good idea to challenge them to create their own episodes of ‘Alice’. Their complete bewilderment at my challenge during the first Episode is now beginning to grow into something very interesting indeed.
  •  I spent a lot of time preparing these lessons, way more than I normally would, but it is hugely important that, while they are perhaps more ‘techy’ than me, not all of them are. I must keep in mind that at I have to be able to step in at any time.
·         However, having said that, the beauty of ‘Inanimate Alice’ is the value the students themselves bring to the table. Even the quieter ones have great things to say and I need to remain flexible and allow the lessons to move in their own direction, to an extent. Isn’t it so dispiriting when teachers don’t see what they think they should be seeing and are, ultimately, disappointed? The creativity of my students is coming to the fore and I will let them amaze me – no matter how tempted I am to jump in and join in the fun.

Next week? The class will be blogging about their ‘Alice’ experience on GLOW. I may well share some of those thoughts with you.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

'There's More to Life than Books, you know, But Not Much More.'

The last ten years or so seems to have witnessed a renaissance in children’s literature. Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, Artemis Fowl, Twilight, Northern Lights, Jacqueline Wilson...need I go on? So it always comes a s a surprise to me when I’m told that kids don’t read any more. Take a walk into your local book shop, have a browse around the internet retailers. Kids books are everywhere, and good ones too.
I would confess that for the first four or so years of my teaching career, I failed and failed badly in my duty – and I do use that word deliberately – to encourage a love of reading in the students to whom I teach English. Caught up in a world of trying to impress superiors – desperate to be noticed, looking for a job – planning and meeting deadlines became the most important thing for me. Time for personal reading was rare – days I’d planned poorly; breathing space- and I rarely assessed whether they were getting anything from it, even pleasure. The something happened.
In a second hand bookshop I found a copy of Nancie Atwell’s  ‘In the Middle. Writing Reading and Learning with Adolescents’.  An American text which was a bit tatty but it changed my career, without a doubt. I read about a teacher who had, like me, skirted around literacy without really reaching her students but then decided if these same students were to engage with reading in their everyday lives, they must be allowed to read. Reading must become the centre of their day.  It reminded me of why I wanted to be an English Teacher in the first place.
Since then every class I have begins with ten minutes of reading – not a great deal but better than nothing – and from S1 to S3 (eleven to fourteen year olds) all have a Reading Journal in which they discuss their reading and converse with me in diary form. All of my students read every day; even though I see them for barely fifty minutes a day and have a million other things to fit in. I became  an English teacher because I loved the things that books did to me, the person they made me and I truly believe that can be the case for every child who walks into my classroom. If I’m being honest, I’ve not always been completely successful but Nancie Atwell’s book sent me in a direction which may allow me to be better.
So, what turns young kids off reading?
  • Lack of access to good books in the classroom. And when I say ‘good’ I mean good condition, high interest, varied.
  • No space to read just for fun -  ‘Why do we have to write a Review?’
  • No time given to read for enjoyment every day.
  • No place of their own just to read .
  • No experience of seeing adults read for enjoyment.
  • There may be others…

And, what do we do about that?
  • We go into school tomorrow and look through our classroom libraries. If there is a book that you would not read because it looks tatty, has graffiti, or is just rubbish, then throw it in the bin. Would you want your own child to pick it up? No? Then dump it!
  • We make it a class law that our kids will stop writing book reviews from today. They serve no educational purpose whatsoever. They turn boys, especially, away from reading forever. They are a big, fat waste of time. If you do need to review, film them, use a FLIP camera and stick it on a website for them to see at home.
  • We start reading for fun.  Make ten minutes at least every day for that. You will fit in everything else which is important, I assure you; and what you see as being important will change over time, I promise.
  • We will read while they read. I have found nothing which is more of an incentive for kids to read than seeing me doing it. I shush them when they are interrupting my reading; I also invite other to shush me when I interrupt them. If we are to convince kids that reading is something that matters outside of the English classroom, then we must model good reading. They may not see any evidence of adults reading quietly at home. Model good reading by creating the atmosphere you yourself need for reading. It works. And, to be honest, it acts as a great ‘calmer’.
  • Get them into the library. On the floor, on beanbags, on cushions.  When you settle down to reading do you choose the most uncomfortable plastic chair you can find? Thought not.
I think I’m learning about reading all the time. Wee strategies I steal from others and pass on, improve. And if I have not convinced you then think about this. What made you an English Teacher in the first place?

Friday, 14 January 2011

No Longer Living Next Door to Alice

For about a year and a half now I’ve been peering enviously over the wall at those incredibly inventive teachers who been teaching and enjoying the amazing Inanimate Alice, the interactive digital narrative which has been lighting up classrooms for a few years now. The blog posts, the wikis, the web pages I visited all glowed with the originality and depth of this new, modern and ground-breaking narrative form.
A mixture of words, sounds and visuals, the intended ten episodes follow Alice as she grows up in an increasingly complex world. My envy has finally got the better of me. Following a New Year bout of soul-searching about the things I could teach easily and the things which would challenge both the students in my class and me as a teacher, I have taken the plunge. This week, Inanimate Alice has consumed my teaching life.
The key word in that last paragraph was ‘challenge’. After ten years in the classroom I think I could happily take any written text and teach it well but over the last couple of years it has increasingly felt like I’ve been ‘phoning it in’. The challenge was not always there. I could also say that, while my students enjoy the texts I teach, I was missing out on a bigger part of their ability to access information and different ways of interacting with stories and other texts. Inanimate Alice looked like it could be perfect.
So, for the purposes of my own reflection, as well as a record of the success and failures we experience as a group of learners,  I’m going to blog my thoughts and findings as I work my way through the series of lessons, perhaps noting my ‘Eureka’ moments along the way. Perhaps, if you’ve been tempted to enter Alice’s world, there may be some helpful advice here.
  1. I read everything I could find on Inanimate Alice on the web. I found Wikis, the ‘Alice’ website, Bill Boyd’s excellent blog post. Alice’s School report was particularly helpful for advice and tips. There are some great people out there who’ve been fighting Alice’s corner. Pull on their coat tails. Learn from them.
  2. I watched Episode One – China – over and over until I was happy with what I thought the students might get from it. I would normally read a text at least twice before teaching it so this was standard for me. I would recommend this as it focused my mind on the idea of reading a media narrative. What did I see and hear? What might my students think as they watched and listened and read?
  3. Before I began, on Monday of this week, I wanted to construct a list of questions which I wanted to answer as I progressed through the lessons. I was holding off on Learning Intentions as I wanted this to remain open to an extent. I’m hoping the students will adapt those LI s as we go.
·         How do you read a text?
·         What do we mean by ‘text’?
·         Are there different ways of reading texts?
·         And others along those lines...
  1. We discussed the title ‘Inanimate Alice’ as a class. What did ‘Inanimate’ mean? How could we break it down to work out the meaning? Are there many different meanings?
  2. We, as a class, read through a printed text of the story. I deliberately left the meaning open and asked the students, in groups, to ask as many questions as possible. The evidence is in the photos below. I think I made my first error here. They rushed into the task and came up with what were, at times, fairly bland, poorly thought out questions. ‘Why is she frightened?’ Why is it dark?’ With hindsight I would have taken more time to discuss the types of questions I was looking for. However, there were flashes of gold in there which we followed up in discussion in the next lesson.
  3. For homework I posed the question, ‘How do you read a text?’ They came back with excellent responses about how we construct meaning traditionally through words in a story and those words develop as we get more sophisticated in our reading and our experiences. I believed that these thoughts would act as an effective entry point to discussion of the digital narrative.
  4. Today, we watched the digital narrative and were blown away. Students couldn’t believe at first that they were reading the same story. We discussed the differences in reading both versions of the text and, on Monday, we’ll continue with that. What impressed them most was the ability to move on when they chose and look back and forward at bits they wanted to see again. Yes, like a traditional story but even then they were seeing the visuals in a different way.
So there you have it. My first week with Alice. It has been everything I’ve been waiting for. Dipping my toe into the future of Narrative text. What I’ve learned is that the ability to change our practice is within us all. Don’t stand on the sidelines wishing you could do that; you can. I have. I’ve seen the future and it is rooted in Inanimate Alice.
We are all looking forward to the coming weeks.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Waiting for Superman

Went to see the movie ‘Waiting for Superman’  today and left the cinema angry, moved and determined. The film’s quiet hero, Geoffrey Canada, says in the first minute of the film that, ‘I cried the day my mom told me that Superman doesn’t exist.’ Point being that no-one else is going to come along and fix the problem of state schooling in America. We have to do it ourselves.
This is an infuriating movie filled with heart-breaking stories of failures and defects in the American system. Teachers, and in particular Teachers’ unions, are undoubtedly the villains of the piece as we follow the fortunes of five young kids hoping for a better future. What is clear is that the American public school system is a disaster. Teachers with ‘tenure’ – a job for life after two years of teaching regardless of competence it would seem – are seen reading newspapers in the classroom while kids do as they like; Unions blocking change in any form.
While the director sensitively deals with the five kids and their families, it seems that none of those involved in the system seemed to want to talk about the future of the kids. Red tape, endless admin, in-fighting and politics seems to ensure that more than half of all students in America are almost guaranteed to fail at school. A frightening thought.
However, it was the contrasts and comparisons with our own Scottish education system which were going through my mind as I watched. Have I seen the level of incompetence the American system puts up with? Never. We are all aware of the cynics and the tired and resentful but I am unaware of anyone who refuses to teach. I am wholly convinced that, in my school, there are hard-working teachers who care about what they do, as there undoubtedly are in America, something the film conspicuously failed to deal with beyond the KIPP schools.
Even so, the frustrations felt during the implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence as management attempt to take control of a teaching profession they do not really trust will mean that it is bound to, if not fail, then fail to be what it could be. Too many managers are terrified of allowing Teachers to construct their own curriculum, a curriculum which could really change the lives of the kids we teach. And it is that vision of endless form filling and tut-tutting in an office somewhere which tells me that my vision of the future may not be the same as my managers.
It took an outsider, Michelle Rhee, to come into Washington DC and make some changes from the outside, someone who had no background in education but could see clearly what the problems were. She was met with almost complete public opposition. This, for me, highlighted the difficulty in dealing with education as a political football. The system is so deep rooted that it takes huge strides and huge decisions for anything to change. To do so seems to be an admission of past failures.
I’m writing this only a couple of hours since leaving the Cinema and perhaps tomorrow, after sleeping on it, I may change my thoughts. Blogging is, after all, instantaneous, I think, and should reflect feelings as much as well-thought out ideas. But I will return to school tomorrow more determined to stop “waiting for superman.’’ If I am unhappy with anything in school then I vow to do something about it myself instead of moaning from the sidelines. ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ as Ghandi said. And I finish with a quote which has been floating about the Blogosphere since the turn of the year, although I first came across it in Ewan McIntosh’s excellent Blog.

I will act now. I will act now. I will act now. Henceforth, I will repeat these words each hour, each day, everyday, until the words become as much a habit as my breathing, and the action which follows becomes as instinctive as the blinking of my eyelids. With these words I can condition my mind to perform every action necessary for my success. I will act now. I will repeat these words again and again and again. I will walk where failures fear to walk. I will work when failures seek rest. I will act now for now is all I have. Tomorrow is the day reserved for the labor of the lazy. I am not lazy. Tomorrow is the day when the failure will succeed. I am not a failure. I will act now. Success will not wait. If I delay, success will become wed to another and lost to me forever. This is the time. This is the place. I am the person. Og Mandino

Watch the trailer here:

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Of course, in our day, everybody read books...

Do you remember the days when all of your friends would gather at school and discuss the progress you’d all made with that difficult Dickens novel you’d agreed to read by the end of the month. The fall outs and arguments over whether Jane Eyre was a victim or a heroine? Whether Thomas Hardy could ever stand up to Jane Austen. No? Me neither. The problem we English teachers have is that we forget that developing a love of reading is a process not a switch.
So how did I become a reader then? Certainly not from some half –baked reading scheme at secondary school. My earliest memories seem to be of me and my best pal visiting the library and staring in awe at the covers of the ‘Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators’ series, debating the merits of the Famous Five over the Secret Seven and, well, just being in the library. I even recall, from early on in secondary school, skipping school dinners to sit in the library flicking through the Guinness Book of World Records. Pub Quiz colleagues would thank me years later.
I just liked being around books. Still do. My wife doesn’t have to look too far if we lose each other in a busy town centre. The bookshop. The first thing I look for when I’m invited to the homes of others is a bookcase. That’s the true way to judge a person’s character. Check out what they read.
I come to this topic with a slight feeling of hypocrisy, however. I am a recent convert to the Kindle. There. I said it. I feel better. So if I was eleven again and could only access books through a device -  I-phone, I-pad, Kindle, whatever – would I be the reader I am today? Who knows? This vision of future reading seems to forget that, just maybe, the books themselves are more than capable of drawing us in even before we get to the words. Sometimes, I think, you can judge a book by its cover.
As English teachers we face great challenges if we are to encourage our pupils to read for pleasure and value that reading for the rest of their lives. It is too easy to say that other things have taken the place of books. We are faced with ever more changes with the Curriculum for Excellence, changes which demand that our classrooms are vibrant, active, challenging places for our students to learn; which of course they should be. In his excellent book ‘Readicide’ Kelly Gallagher rightly says that ‘sitting quietly reading is the only way anyone ever grew up to become a reader’. Unfortunately, a classroom of kids sitting in silence is not 'sexy’ teaching; it doesn’t look good when the head teacher peers through that little glass window in your door.
So we abandon it for group tasks. And in doing so we lose the opportunity to allow our students to find themselves in reading. I see my S1 class of eleven and twelve year olds for four periods of fifty minutes. Factoring in arrivals and departures, I may be teaching them for 160-170 minutes. With all the other things to do, how can I ensure they get valuable, worthwhile reading time? I prioritise.
I think I may come back to this topic. My Blog is beginning to find its feet.

Monday, 3 January 2011

My New Year's Resolution.

There was a time when I was a  bit like this:

However, from now on I'm going to be like this... (you may want to forward to about the two minute mark in if you're in a hurry...)

Have a happy and productive year everyone. Enjoy yourselves...

Saturday, 1 January 2011


My first ever Blog post. It is a terrifying prospect, proposing to reflect my thoughts, feelings ideas, moans and groans about Learning on a Blog but I’ve been putting it off for ages now. Always an admirer of others who Blog freely and effectively, I’ve never found the courage to do so myself. Until now.
The choice of Learning as opposed to Education is a deliberate distinction made. Over the last year or three I’ve begun to sway away from the traditional classroom ideas I’d grown used to and begun to read more on this new fangled thing they call the web. The Worlds I’ve entered have been extraordinary.
I discovered the Professional Development capabilities of Twitter in the summer and have not looked back. To say that Twitter has transformed my approach to my own teaching would be understating the fact. Some of the people I’ve ‘met’, shared ideas with, received advice from and been entertained by have changed my life.
Reading Blogs from, I think, like-minded educators from around the world is not only refreshing and inspiring, but has also shown me that another way is possible. Not any more mere hopes and dreams of transforming my teaching. Others were already doing things I’d only wished for. Now it is my turn.
I intend to use this Blog not only to reflect on my classroom practice as Scottish education changes in light of the Curriculum for Excellence, but also to share my thoughts on professional reading that I’ve done and how that affects my teaching. I’m an English teacher. I read. So forgive me if I mention other books which touch me along the way.
So, it is the first day of a New Year. A line I read in John Williams book, ‘Screw Work, Let’s Play’, I think accredited to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, was, ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ For today and perhaps today only, my answer is, ‘Yes I would.’
Deep breath. Eyes closed. Jump....