TeachMeet hits the Borders

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to attend my 3rd TeachMeet. This particular TeachMeet was different from my first two – both of which had been at the Scottish Learning Festival – in that it was a smaller event and was held in Galashiels. Organised by Stuart Meldrum (primarily in response to a dare from Ewan McIntosh at TeachMeet@SLF08) it proved to be no less engaging and exciting than its two bigger brothers.

Having cadged a lift down from David Muir (along with Andrew Brown of Glow fame and a rather large bag of beers), we fought our way through misguided directions, traffic, RTAs and grumpy SatNav personas towards Galashiels following the build up to, and latterly the beginning of, TeachMeetBorders on intermittent mobile coverage.

As predicted in the car 3 miles outside Gala, one of us HAD to be drawn out of the hat first and after being covered for, poor David was selected again as soon as he walked in the door. Ian King took over for him so he could grab a sandwich and told us all about Scratch, a useful free tool that I already have a ton of ideas about using. David Noble (of Hillside School and The Access Network) then gave us a Pecha-Kucha style run through the possibilities he sees for his class having their own iPhone, which seemed to hit a chord with many of the audience. Next, Jim Black ran us all through some open-source software he uses with the pupils and gave us some food for thought about how these pupils are likely to be engaging with software in the future – is it likely to be in their chosen field of employment where industry-standard software is important? For many, perhaps not.

Pretty sure there was a break for food/drink/general chat then. I got yarning to a few folk, including Stuart Meldrum and Liz Marroni who has to get a special mention for securing the venue, helping with arrangements & hosting and also for managing to de-secure the wifi access for the night.

After the break we were treated to Doug Hawkshaw telling us about how he was using Wikis to work with children of a range of abilities, giving him the ability to use the same materials with everyone whilst stretching the more able children and supporting those who needed it whilst still allowing them to access the same materials. Stuart Meldrum told us about using Comic Life and Animoto in Craft & Design with a pupil who had injured both his arms, Andy McSwan told us how he has hijacked the Top Gear cool wall with his ICT pupils (and of course, where else would an R2 D2 projector system end up but in the DB-9 fridge…?). Lorna Fraser and Nikki MacArthur from the Borders claimed to have been had been ‘bullied’ into presenting, but their talk on the Girls of Ambition/Students of Ambition programmes were excellent and showed just how well a properly planned and implemented intervention can work for the benefit of pupils.

As the evening began to wind down, David Muir spoke about iRiddles, a great idea which a lot of people liked the sound of, but it all came crashing down around him as he tried to construct one on the spot in 1m 40s! After that, Theo Kuechel gave us some insights into the benefits being gained and some great uses for images from Flickr Commons, and brought us up to date with the developments in countries uploading image archives folowing the lead of the US. David Gilmour brought the Meet part of the evening to a close sharing some thoughts on the East Lothian “One Netbook for Every Child” initiative. Fascinating stuff. After a quick clean up, it was off to TeachEat, where I had the pleasure to meet face to face some of the individuals I had previously only encountered electronically.

The long drive back to Glasgow was enlivened by a DJ duel in the car as Andrew and I waged musical war using David “The Stig” Muir’s iPod as our weapon of choice.

A most enjoyable end to a great evening. TeachMeet, it would appear, still belongs in the DB-9 fridge of CPD.

The Impact of Academia

So, as of Monday this week, I have completed 2 out of 4 – that’s exactly 50% folks – of the assignments for the PGCE I am sitting this year as part of my CPD. Although it has been hard graft – studying at the same time as working as a teacher is waaaaaaay different from studying at the same time as working in a shop or behind a bar! – I think on the whole it has been a worthwhile and beneficial experience. It has allowed me to take a bit of a step back from the coalface to analyze and reflect on what I am doing, which has turned out to be a pretty satisfying experience.

Another experience, which turned out to be equally enlightening, was when I took part in a final year student’s research project. Whilst it was interesting on many levels to be a participant in someone else’s research, the real surprise came at the end of it all, when I was lucky enough to read the final draft of the dissertation (which was, I must say, remarkably good!). I was interviewed as part of the project, as were a number of my colleagues, and I was surprised to read a fair amount of what I had said in the dissertation. I was even more pleasantly surprised by how open, honest and positive what I had to say was. Sometimes in the midst of the daily maelstrom that is education we forget exactly why we do what we do. It’s nice to be reminded from time to time. J.X. – thank you!

New Year’s Resolution

Having been shamed by the amount of blogging being done by colleagues, friends and former pupils, I have resolved to make a real effort to blog more often this year. In fairness, last year’s blogging was undone by a double whammy of regular edublog-outs and my discovery of Twitter but hopefully this year will be an improvement.

Have been reading and hearing a fair amount of negative stuff about ACfE recently, and am becoming increasingly worried that like some highly-powered, finely tuned, precision-engineered Formula 1 flying machine with a clodhopper at the controls it is going to be left stalled on the grid. The saddest thing about that possibility is just how many people working in education will be secretly (and not-so-secretly) delighted if it does. There are so many people I meet who never mind not having the inclination to make ACfE happen, they actually have an inclination to make it NOT happen. As a reasonable newcomer to the profession, this is my first real insight into such professional inertia and, well, conservatism. Has been a bit of an eye-opener, actually.

The one-eyed man……..

Hard to believe that this time last year I was a Primary teacher dropped head first into the mire of SQA Access modules without the lifejacket of 5-14. With a lot of assistance from colleagues, the SMT and my support staff I got not only myself through the year, but the students through their SQAs – and we even managed to enjoy ourselves in the process!!!!!

In addition to the support from my school, through total chance (and fine programming on Teachmeet’s behalf) I happened to see David Noble talking about someting called “The Access Network” and attended a number of their video-conferences. This gave me some great ideas, but perhaps most importantly let me feel that I wasn’t alone. I can highly recommend dropping by the site and attending one of the video-conferences if you are working with Access 1 or 2 (if you ask nicely, David might even be able to help you out with a webcam or headset). The site is here

But what has this to do with one-eyed men I hear you ask? Well, it’s now a new school year, and as we are all buffeted by forward planning and the rest of the paperwork mountain I have found myself being approached for SQA type advice by other members of staff. Even more amazingly, when I answer I actually seem to know what I’m talking about. It’s nice to feel like I am able to give something back after all the support I got last year – any of you who were there and are reading this: Thank you so much.