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Using iMovie Trailers Across the Curriculum (#PedagooPerth Conversation)
Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 17.26.27

I first became aware of the idea of making book trailers about 3 years ago when the Scottish Book Trust launched a book trailer competition to coincide with the Scottish Book Trust Awards.  At that time I had a number of boys in P7 who were at that difficult stage of trying to find new books that were ‘cool’ enough to really get into.  The Scottish Book Trust Awards take place every year and are a great way of discovering new authors and due to the voting timescale it gives the pupils a clear deadline to work towards.  Essentially book trailers are exactly the same as film trailers but are created to encourage people to read books.  The group were enthralled with the book ‘Black Tide’ and were keen to encourage others to read it, after introducing the trailer concept to them they couldn’t wait to get started.  You can see the rather unnerving trailer here https://youtu.be/TSG0iLgZK6s

The key literacy skills involved link nicely with reciprocal reading strategies http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/Images/ReciprocalReadingGuide_tcm4-812956.pdf and also the skill of visualisation.  There is a really useful resource aimed at pupils aged 9+ I’ve included the link  below. http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/learning/learning-resources/resource/how-to-create-book-trailers-video-series Over the past couple of years I have adapted the activities to suit younger pupils too.

You can use any film making approach to creating your trailers however the simplest one I have found is the ‘trailer’ section of the free iMovie app on an iPad.  It handles all the formatting and sound and you just add your content, words, still pictures and short clips of video.  Deciding which theme to use is also a great way for the pupils to think about what genre the book is so they can use a relevant theme for their trailer.  Initially I had encouraged the groups to fill in blank story boards to plan out their trailers however the formatting for iMovie Trailers is quite specific so I was delighted to find that someone had already created a set of storyboards linked to the themes! http://learninginhand.com/blog/2014/8/6/plan-a-better-imovie-trailer-with-these-pdfs

We have included book trailers as part of our literacy programme each year using the shortlisted books for the Scottish Book Trust.  This year I have a much younger class, P1-6 with the majority being in P1-3, we went through the same process looking at examples of trailers, picking out the things we liked and things we would change.  P4/6 had the task of creating the storyboard, they then passed it on to P3 who had to interpret their storyboard and direct P1/2 in acting out the scenes.  You can view the result here https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/pk/GrandtullyPrimary/2015/11/27/book-week-scotland/

Trailers are clearly an excellent way of developing key skills in literacy and discussing the language of film, however I think there are many more uses across the curriculum and at all stages of learning.  Last year we created a trailer as part of our transition programme where pupils were encouraged to think about what learning & responsibilities  lay ahead for them.  We also filmed our new P1 pupils so they could see themselves as part of the school.  This was then shown at our celebration of success.  Similar to this we created a trailer to show parents what the planned topic was for the next term, this was also to get pupils thinking about what we needed to plan and what skills we might need to develop. https://youtu.be/J2QtXNe2DqY

During the sessionat #PedagooPerth there was great discussion about how the trailers could be used across a range of subjects and stages e.g. as a summary of learning in Modern Languages, to highlight skills taught in a project, transition work, to promote clubs, activities and experiences that some pupils can be unsure about and even to publicise the next Pedagoo event!

How could you use this in your setting?

If you would like any further information on how we’ve enjoyed creating trailers please get in touch.  CMGibson@pkc.gov.uk


‘An Education for Education’ in response to, ‘What is the purpose of education?’

In response to the UK Governments announced consultation regarding the purpose and quality of education in England inquiry I was asked to offer my thoughts on the purpose of education by the EducationPolicyNetwork (@edupolicynet).

‘Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.’ (Freire, 2000, p.34)

Learning is a lifelong process of both passive and active engagement with the empirical and ontological world. It is a transformative process leading to a permanent capacity change, a process which, if actively engaged with and directed towards premeditated goals throughout ones life, can be called Education (personal enlightenment). From the cradle to the grave we learn with, from and because of others and the more we come to take control of these interactions the more effectively we come to learn about ourselves, others and the world in all its forms and strata. An individuals capacity for a lifetime of learning (Education) is shaped by countless variables, encounters, mechanisms and structures, yet one system plays a significant role in liberating an individual from dependance to independence, an education. 

In many cases formal education seeks to primarily induct an individual into the empirical and ontological reality of a given community and culture. Thus education systems provide a curriculum which imbues an individual with domain and non domain specific knowledge, embed that knowledge as understanding and foster the development of culturally prized skills. In the prevalent system this is important as mastering these grants access to later levels of education and is the currency of socio-economic mobility. Along the way a learner develops social skills, behaviours, attitudes, beliefs and in some cases attributes. But if we consider the work of Freire, Bernstein, Marx and to an extent Critical Realist philosophy, an education is more than a process of at best enculturation and at worst indoctrination. An education is an opportunity to liberate learners, furnishing them with the knowledge, understanding and skills, attributes and aptitudes to both master their learning lifelong and lifewide, enabling an individual to direct their personal Education.

Traditional transmission and ‘banking’ (Freire, 2000) approaches to education, and in turn teaching, which focus on the triumvirate of predefined knowledge, understanding and skills is no longer an appropriate preparation of todays adolescents for their place in our Brave New World (see for example Long, 1990; Field, 2000; Skidmore, 2003; Alheit, 2009). Top down and grass roots change have and will continue to undoubtedly occur within the how of learning, teaching and education. Yet the how without the why lacks true value. It is the question of why, and the purpose of an education, which still requires satisfactory address. An address not shaped by political and personal bias, but shaped by the hopes and ambitions we collectively have for humankind as it strides forward into an unknown future.

It is not for me to determine the why of education, but as someone actively involved in both my own Education and within the engineering and facilitating of the education of others I have come to recognise the following. My applied philosophy of Education is one which recognises that it is the duty of an education to enable learners to know enough about themselves, others and the world to find out more and to build a cognitive and social network of understanding. To enable learners to develop and practice a range of skills which they can hone, develop further and synthesise with others throughout their lives. To question, to be self motivated, self regulated and to be aware of how they, others and the world works. Education is about capacity building, facilitating an individuals ability to recognise, enable and enhance their own Agency. If an education is focused upon these goals then gender, race, background, socio-economic status should not hold an individual back. If an education provides the means to develop a lifelong-lifewide learning capacity through socialised-learning contexts where thought has been applied to how group interactions can be managed for the benefit of learners and learning then differences such as gender and race can became facilitators of learning rather than potential shackles on liberation.

To enable the above, systems of education, and associated pedagogies, must actively foster a learning orientation (Watkins et al., 2002), a willingness to learn (see Skidmore, 2003, p.15), and the attributes that could enable a capacity to engage with learning lifelong (Yaxlee, 1929) and lifewide (Ekholm and Hard, 2000, p.18; Alheit, 2009, p.117). Such an education would provide the route towards empowering all learners with the cognitive and social tools enabling them to positively interact with an undetermined future (see Costa, 1991; Broadfoot, 1996, p.23; Costa and Liebman, 1997; Skidmore, 2003, p.14; Watkins et al., 2007, p.18; Costa and Kallick, 2009). In addition to recognising the purpose of education expressed above, systems of education must also preach and practice the tenets of effective learning. Without experiencing a culture of effective learning how would an individual come to recognise and master their own effective lifelong-lifewide learning?

It is my fundamental belief that the most effective learning results from an active process of engagement with learning (Ireson, 2008, p.6) in order to achieve premeditated goals (Resnich, 1987). Illeris (2007) suggests that this active process is stimulated by the interactions between three dimensions of learning, content, incentive and environment, a theory supported by Claxton (1999), Watkins et al. (2002) and Ireson (2008). When such an interaction process is placed within a social context, such as the classroom or wider societal contexts, a further tri-directional relationship is activated between rules, tools and community, all of which shapes the activation, direction and nature of learning (Engestrom, 1987, 2009). At the heart of this active learning process is an acceptance of the enabling role of social factors, a central truth of constructivist, social-constructivist and particularly social-constructionist philosophies championed by Piaget (1923), Vygotsky (1978) and Burr (1999).

Learning, facilitated as a social process within education contexts such as schools, is explored throughout the literature relating to effective learning (see Lave and Wenger, 1991; Watkins, 2005), cooperative learning (Johnson and Johnson, 1999) and collaborative group learning (Gratton, 2015). The literature, drawn from diverse academic fields, highlights the varying cognitive, social, psychological and societal benefits of socialised learning, in particular learning which is collaborative in nature. Ding and Flynn (2000) highlight the relationship between an individual’s engagement with collaborative learning processes and the development of some of their more general cognitive skills, in particular, ‘intersubjectivity, planning, communication and inhibition.’ (p.3). Panitz (2011) furthers this, citing 67 benefits of collaboration including, improved learning and achievement, improved skills, improved engagement and responsibility and improved relationships. Bruffee (1993) believes that collaborative learning processes encourage learner autonomy through a development of ‘the craft of interdependence.’ (p.1). The development of this attribute promotes a shift from cognitive self-interest to mutual interest, the development of positive learning and social relationships between students and an increased openness to being influenced by and influencing others (Johnson and Johnson, 2008, p.12). Evidence also suggests that due to the way in which collaboration requires the use of dialogue, in problem solving and social mediation (Vygotsky, 1978; Mercer, 2002), verbal task regulation is stimulated (Biemiller et al., 1998, p.204), effective learning encouraged (Alexander, 2006, p.9; Kutnick, 2010, p.192) and personal identities developed (Bakhtin, 1981; Renshaw, 2004, p.1), helping to form socially adept individuals. From this it could be concluded that a learner may become increasingly more able to control their Education due to an education structured to engineer and facilitate socialised-learning as described above.

Applying the discussion above to an education raises numerous implications for pedagogy, curriculum and assessment. These aspects are widely researched, discussed and at times vilified, collectively generating much white noise within the ether of educational debate. I have written about and will continue to reflect upon how these aspects of an education may be reorientated to enable learning for the purposes of a lifelong-lifewide Education but other than promoting here a Collaborative Group Learning Pedagogy, a Connected and Collaborative Curriculum and Authentic Assessment I will say no more on these areas.

It is commonly accepted that Europe has socio-economically and culturally shifted from being “workshop of the world” to predominantly a “knowledge economy and society”. The post modern knowledge society and rapidly changing world we find ourselves part of requires much more from todays learners, their teachers and existing systems of formal education. An education must recognise this change and orientate itself towards educating todays adolescents with a capacity to engage with our rapidly changing world, directing their own Education throughout their evolving lives. Ultimately education should seek to build an individuals capacity to both actively and positively engage with and shape the world around them, enabling them to create their own reality; the defining element of ones liberation as a human.

Rob Gratton works as an Assistant Principal in a North London Academy with responsibility for Research, Pedagogy and Curriculum Design and continues to teach within the Humanities. In addition he works for UCL Institute of Education as Subject Tutor on the Teach First programme and is course lead on the Assessment for Learning Masters module. This work is furthered through a number of design and teaching roles which presently include working for the States of Jersey and the Government of Macedonia in the development of their ITT programme for Secondary practitioners. Facilitating this work within education is Rob’s ongoing Doctoral studies in the fields of socialised and collaborative group learning. Rob’s work in education is accessible at www.collaborativegrouplearning.com and @CGL_edu.

Creativity in teaching: Creative Pedagogy

In a previous article (ICT enhanced teaching and learning or ‘digital pedagogy‘) I shared my current work, commissioned by UCL IOE on behalf of the Government of Macedonia, concerning ICT, pedagogy and more broadly creativity within education. This article outlines my thoughts relating to creativity in teaching and creative teaching or ‘creative pedagogy’.

Why do we need creativity in teaching and education? 

The post modern knowledge society we find ourselves part of requires much more from todays learners and their teachers. Traditional approaches to the teaching of the triumvirate of knowledge, understanding and skills is no longer an appropriate preparation of adolescent learners for their place in our Brave New World (see for example Long, 1990; Field, 2000; Skidmore, 2003; Alheit, 2009 for a discussion of how education systems need to respond to global economic and social change).

Creative pedagogies which actively foster a learning orientation (Watkins et al., 2002), a willingness to learn (see Skidmore, 2003, p.15), and the attributes that could enable a capacity to engage with learning lifelong (Yaxlee, 1929) and lifewide (Ekholm and Hard, 2000, p.18; Alheit, 2009, p.117), offer a route to empowering students with the cognitive and social tools that would enable them to positively interact with an unknown future (see Costa, 1991; Broadfoot, 1996, p.23; Costa and Liebman, 1997; Skidmore, 2003, p.14; Watkins et al., 2007, p.18; Costa and Kallick, 2009).

What is the relationship between creative pedagogy and effective learning?

If the most effective learning results from an active process of engagement with learning (Ireson, 2008, p.6) in order to achieve premeditated goals (Resnich, 1987) then what can activate this process? Illeris (2007) suggests that this active process is stimulated by the interactions between three dimensions of learning, content, incentive and environment, a theory supported by Claxton (1999), Watkins et al. (2002) and Ireson (2008). When such an interaction process is placed within a social context, such as the classroom, a further tri-directional relationship is activated between rules, tools and community, all of which shapes the activation, direction and nature of learning (Engestrom, 1987, 2009).

At the heart of this paradigm is an acceptance of the enabling role of social factors, a central tenet of constructivist, social- constructivist and particularly social-constructionist philosophies championed by Piaget (1923), Vygotsky (1978) and Burr (1999). Learning as a social process is explored throughout the literature relating to effective learning (see Lave and Wenger, 1991; Watkins, 2005), cooperative learning (Johnson and Johnson, 1999) and collaborative learning (Gratton, 2015). A valid interpretation therefore is that if we are to engineer effective learning processes and opportunities we must consider and exploit the social nature of learning and to do so requires creativity.

What is creativity and creative teaching?

Of the various creative attempts by teachers to socialise classroom learning and to facilitate effective learning, such as Dialogic Teaching and Learning (Lefstein, 2010), Think>Pair>Share (Lyman, 1981), AfL (see Black et al., 2004) and Collaborative Group Learning (Gratton2015), the most beneficial methodologies seem to be those seeking to engineer and facilitate cooperation-collaboration between learners. Whatever the methodology one thing unifies them all, creative teachers and creative teaching practices.

The most effective methodologies are created and delivered by the most creative of teachers working in creative educational environments. A creative pedagogy is recognised within a teachers ability to develop something novel and adapt to new situations in order to enable effective learning. Unusual solutions alongside originality are visible parts of creativity (Hackbert, 2010; Lemons, 2005). Lin (2011) describes creative teaching from three different perspectives: creative teaching, teaching for creativity and creative learning; referring to them as creative pedagogy. We are particularly interested in Lin’s (2011) conception of creative teaching in particular. Creative teaching, focuses on teaching and teacher’s actions (Lin, 2011, see also Sawyer, 2004, 2006). Lin (2011) draws on Craft (2005) referring to creative teaching as a creative, innovative and imaginative approach to teaching. These ideas are extended by Sawyer (2004, 2006) who emphasises a creative teacher’s ability to use improvisational elements within their lessons. The creative teacher lives in the moment, acting spontaneously, courageously and confidently taking the ideas that have arisen from the student learners and change the lesson to finish it in another and arguable better way (Sawyer, 2004, 2006). This definition of creative pedagogy reflects both a creative teaching practice and the widely  recognised tenets of effective learning facilitation. It also highlights a crucial aspect of creative teaching, the capacity to be creative within ones teaching.

Creativity is a multi-dimensional and complex phenomenon (Toivanen et al., 2013). Conceptions of creativity sit within four dimensions: the creative person, product, process or environment (Lemons, 2005; McCammon et al., 2010). We are interested in the creative person, specifically a teaching professional, their creative product in the form of creative teaching methodology (Aleinikov, 1989) and the environment which enables creativity to occur (Lemons, 2005). Creativity is described, within the research literature, as a process and an inseparable part of its surrounding culture (Toivanen et al., 2013).

How do we enable creative pedagogy? 

Case studies such as High Tech High (San Diego), UCL Academy (London) and Ørestad Gymnasium (Copenhagen) reflect the existence of the four dimensions of creativity outlined above, in particular the creative environment or context. It has been recognised (Kim, 2010, 2011) that to enable creativity within teachers, education systems need to empower all to develop characteristics and attributes associated with creative practice; self-motivation, confidence, curiosity and flexibility. Flexibility within teachers and within school systems is the most important of these enabling states. Without flexibility, trust and the promotion of teacher agency, measured risks can’t be taken; with risk central to creativity (Cleeland, 2012). We can expect a certain degree of creativity from our teachers but to enable teachers to be highly creative in their approaches to enacting effective learning then the capacity to do so needs to be nurtured and supported.  Enabling teaching professionals, through training and support, to have a growth mindset (Dweck, 2012), to develop their own agency for enhanced professional practices (Priestly et al., 2012) and empowering them to form and use collaborative networks in order to enable a sustained application of a creative pedagogy are vital.

The type of society dictates the type of pedagogy. Our society requires a creativity, creative people and a creative pedagogy. As such it is up to those that shape education, in all its facets, to enable a creative pedagogy to be realised.

Presently I am undertaking some design and teaching work for UCL IOE on behalf of the Government of Macedonia. I am fortunate to be part of a small team developing a training program for the Macedonian Secondary Teachers ITT course and as part of this group I am leading on ICT enhanced teaching and learning and Creative teaching.

Developing the Young Workforce – Career Management Skills: One Primary School’s Approach

The labour market is constantly changing. Many of the children in our classrooms will move into jobs that do not yet exist. A 21st Century Teacher’s job cannot only consist of turning on the tap of knowledge in the hope that our learners will be equipped for the future.

In 2014 the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce was published. Later that year the Scottish Government outlined the Developing the Young Workforce Strategy, an agenda focused on increasing youth employment. Between May and September 2015 we have seen the 3-18 Career Education materials published on the Education Scotland website.

It’s great to see the power of work going on in the Secondary sector; however, the grass roots of the Early Years and Primary are crucial if we aim to develop the skills for work of our workforce of the future.

Earlier in 2015 Lochardil Primary School, Inverness, developed a Career Management Education programme for P6 and P7 pupils. The multi-agency project which was led by Highland Council’s then Literacy and Assessment Development Officer, the P6 and P7 teachers in the school, the Employer Liaison Manager at Barnardo’s Works and Skills Development Scotland. The project aimed to:

  • increase pupil, parent and staff awareness of the world of work
  • develop an understanding of skill development within the world of work
  • allow learners to reflect on their own horizons
  • make connections between education and the world of work.

CME2The Primary 6 and 7 pupils developed their research skills through using Skills Developmental Scotland’s My World of Work tool, identifying core skills which are fundamental across different industries. They learned how to create surveys to find information which was pertinent to the project, enhancing their skills in data literacy. They developed their communication skills through writing to businesses and presenting to businesses and their families about their learning in career education. They learned from local businesses within the hospitality, finance, construction and consumer market industries.

The project enabled the learners to make connections between the skills developed in school and the skills which are crucial to the world of work. They learned, from Skills Development Scotland, about the tools which they can use to make informed choices. Families learned from Skills Development Scotland and from the children through informative and interactive presentations.

The project engaged P6 and P7 pupils in the world of work, highlighting the importance of Skills for learning, life and work. To find out more about the project, including learning resources to help you develop Career Education with your children, check out the links below:

Developing the Young Workforce – Lochardil Primary School
Developing the Young Workforce – Lochardil Primary School (includes appendices)

Q&A with twice edtech co-founder Emma McCrea
December 16, 2015

1. What edtech projects have you been involved in?

My first foray into the world of edtech was with Numeracy Ready, a learning environment to help trainee teachers with Numeracy Skills Test revision. We started to build it when I was heavily pregnant with our second child. I remember recording screencasts before and after he was born!

After that, we started working on Staffrm. This was a very different edtech project, which aimed to improve student outcomes by enabling teachers to more easily connect and share practice. We’re currently using Numeracy Ready to support this social venture!

2. Which aspects have been most rewarding?

It’s always rewarding to receive positive feedback from users. People who sign up for Numeracy Ready are often very nervous about the test. Many of them are so pleased to have passed, they send us a lovely message. Equally, hearing that a story on Staffrm that has clearly had a positive impact on classroom practice is incredibly rewarding.

3. Which bits have been most difficult?

The most difficult part is staying motivated. When we built Numeracy Ready I recorded over 50 screencasts, many of them needing several takes. It’s sometimes hard to stay focussed on the end point when there’s so much to be done to get there. Especially when you’re 8 months pregnant and would rather be snoozing on the sofa!

4. What advice would you give to someone interested in starting up their own edtech organisation?

Go for it. What do you have to lose? I’ve learned so much along the way and get to be a company director (who’d have thought)!

As well as being an edtech co-founder, Emma is also a part-time Lecturer in Teacher Education, and mum of two. Follow her on Twitter, or read her Stories on Staffrm.com/@emmamccrea

Join Me
December 15, 2015

As mentioned in my previous post, I am one of our school’s digital leaders and super excited about all things technological, especially if they enhance the learning. Sadly, I have seen ICT being used one too many times in a way that seems like a ‘bolt on’ to the lesson, simply because it’s there or because it seems super modern and seems to add the WOW factor. But unfortunately, in my experience, when used in this way it is pointless and detracts from, or slows down the learning process. I’m a wholehearted believer that ICT should be engaged with and used, but only when it’s integrated into the learning and the opportunity calls for it.

The past few years, I have needed to use ICT increasingly during my time in my current school to support children who have visual impairment. ICT is the key for them to access their learning. Fonts can be increased to a suitable size at the flip of a button, spacing altered, background colour….the list goes on. I have had children who can take a snap shot of something on the board, using their ipad, and zoom in and out as they need to. I could provide them with endless ‘altered’ work – in fact, as a team we were – but the ICT has given them power to access learning for themselves. We of course, still adapt where needed.

One of the tools we have been looking into more is Apple TV, in order to connect what is happening on the board with the ipads. This is taking some time, with a variant of IT difficulties. In the meantime, we have found an amazing resource called Join Me.

Join Me is an online meeting space. It is free. It allows me, with a click of a button, to enable anybody to see what is on my board, via their smart device, laptop or computer. This has proved particularly useful for my children with additional needs! But it has supported the learning immensely in the classroom, by just making what is on the board more accessible for all children. It has allowed me to organise groups and the space better, so that when groups are off working, they still have all they need right in front of them.

Signing up, allows an icon to appear on your desktop. Double click on it and you will see this.


I have selected my ‘handle’ above (which is what the children type into the address bar) and click play.

Then you will see this presentation page:


The first button, allows you to instantly share what is on your screen. The second allows you see participants. The fourth button, allows you to record, annotate and erase what you can see on the screen before you, allowing your participants to ‘participate’!

It is brilliant – do check it out. This is a new resource for me and whilst it has been enormously supportive of learning so far, I know I have probably just scrapped the barrel.


The ‘Ta Da’ in Learning
December 12, 2015
ta da

I have a motto when I’m teaching music “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough”. It’s a bit flippant really; obviously nobody aims to make mistakes, after all, if we’re going to learn something we should be aiming for excellence.

The problem…….   is ……………… when ………………..we …….are ………..so ……………………fearful ………… of ….mistakes……………..we …………..take ……. every ……. little step……. so ….slowly ……. and ……………..carefully……………… we ……………end ……………….up …………….taking…………………………ten                 times                           longer                     to                                 learn                           it. You see I believe we learn best and most efficiently when we allow ourselves to make mistakes.

The end result may well be perfect one day, we should always aim as high as we can, but the learning can never be perfect. And by that I mean mistakes will happen. In fact its imperative that mistakes do happen.

No parent sits their toddler down in front of a manual to teach them how to walk. Toddlers teach themselves through a repetitive process of try – fall over – try again. Each time they fall, they learn a little bit more and get that little bit stronger. The learning is intrinsic and it happens due essentially to mistakes (or falls and stumbles in this case). I remember clearly our three boys learning to walk and without doubt the one who took to it earliest was the least careful and fell over the most!

Don’t you just wish you could approach each new task or learning in life like a toddler. No fear of failure, no embarrassment of falling and no feelings of being judged. This can be critical with performance related learning like an instrument, acting or singing etc. Because you see even during the learning process, during lessons for example, there is usually an element of performance. With this performance comes exposure followed swiftly with a host of fears of judgment and comparison etc.

And so the last thing we want to do is make mistakes…

Which leads us to perform within ourselves…

The very thing that the piece demands of us – to express ourselves at our most authentic – becomes lost on us…

We play it safe, learn slow, settle for less.


So can we just press a switch, turn off the fear and start embracing failure?

Well I would argue it’s a mindset thing, and the thing about mindsets is they are simply based on a belief, and the thing about beliefs is we get to choose what we believe.

So what’s our mindset when it comes to mistakes?

What do we believe about our mistakes? Do they define us or shape us? Are they failure or opportunity?

Well, how does a carefree learner, like a toddler, view mistakes?

I love the ‘Ta Da’ Calvin and Hobbs cartoon strip. Isn’t it so true? Toddlers don’t just not care about the falls and the bumps and the mishaps, they celebrate them. They clap their own misfortune, laugh at the mess they’ve just made and are far more likely to show off their latest graze than their latest development in walking.

So if mistakes are necessary in learning we need to embrace the process, learn to find the fun in it, enjoy it. The best learners find it easier to live in the moment, with less pressure on the outcome. They not only allow mistakes, they embrace them, and they see them as part of the beauty of the journey. They celebrate them for what they are, a necessary part of their journey. This whole mindset frees them up to use the mistakes as tools to learn even more and above all they enjoy the Work In Progress.

And do you know what. Being open to mistakes, embracing them and celebrating them is about far more than just us personally. When we are vulnerable and allow others to see the mistakes, the fails and the falls, we give them a glimpse of our own Work In Progress allowing our lives to be living testimonies. We learn from others and others learn from us. We give and are given that little bit more license to get it wrong.


As one of our digital leaders at school, responsible for raising our digital prowess and use of technology to enhance learning (rather than just a bolt on), I am often asked what are my most recommended apps/tools to use in the classroom. I am by no means an expert – in fact, quite late to the technological game when it comes to it being integrated into the classroom. I have learnt a great deal from experts in the field, such as Mr P ICT and Rob Smith (founder of Literacy Shed). As an avid fan of all things technological, I spend my CPD time learning from them and gleaning whatever I can from the trail they, and others, have carved out. So, with all that in mind, I apologise now if anything I share might be ‘old news’ for you.

My favourite at the moment is ‘Blendspace’, which does exactly as it says on the tin – blend the ‘digital’ space with that of your classroom. I have found this tool invaluable with any children I teach (KS1 – KS2). It allows me to create a digital pinboard, for the children to access online content that I have chosen and selected beforehand. I have used QR codes for a while (another post to come) to allow children to quickly access a website, without having to enter in the inordinately long address. When I have needed them to access multiple websites, I have given them multiple QR codes, which in its essence, is fine. Except there is something better. Blendspace.

You can access this website (soon to be an app also, I hear) through your TES account. If you don’t have one of those….you’d be the first teacher I’ve met who doesn’t. Go get one! It’s free and is a whole remarkable resource all of its own. I don’t have time to unpack the genius of this place here and now. Alternatively, you can just sign up for Blendspace.

Blendspace allows me to compile any digital content that I want in one central place for the children to access. I can upload directly from TES, Google, Youtube, images….etc.

Here is a screen grab of a lesson I delivered a few weeks back to Year 6 on Charles Darwin. I wanted them to research, using the questions they had generated. By ‘googling’ Charles Darwin, they would have spent too much time sifting through to find relevant KS2 appropriate information. Here, I provided it for them.


Here you can see that I found a PDF, links to websites and a video, through the search function on the right. I then just clicked and dragged into the available boxes on the left. Here, all the research resources they need are in one location. Now, for them to access this ‘digital lesson’ I have done one of two things. Either:

1 – Used the link above as a hyperlink on our class blog. I tend to do this if I want them to access this outside of school.

2 – Clicked on the green ‘share’ button at the top and then copied and pasted the QR code onto a document. I usually display this on the board, or print off for tables. All our children have access to ipads and so can scan the QR code, which will take them to what you can see above.

Saying that – it isn’t the longer address and they could type it into the address bar. Not my first choice, but not a problem either.

Once created, I named my lesson and it became forever in my library of lessons. Others can access it too, if they search for ‘Charles Darwin’. On that note, if you click on ‘blendspace’ at the top, it will take you back to your dashboard – your homepage, if you will. From here, you can search for lessons that already exist, that others have made. Super useful.

You could differentiate the ‘lesson’ by creating a different pinboard for each group. I have also used it in a carousel activity, when I needed multiple stations, each with different research. My students have also used this to create ‘lessons’ on a topic they researched for Home Learning, to make the websites/resources they used available to all. After we have finished, the QR codes are added to the display board, for anyone to continue to research in their own time. A number do.

I was using this before we purchased iPads. Whilst I believe they do make it smoother, they are not essential to using this excellent tool.

I used this weekly in some capacity or another, in a range of lessons throughout the curriculum. Sometimes, it has just been set up as a station for those who are ready for challenge/early morning work, with websites to SPAG revision, phonics games etc. We have even used it to upload the children’s actual work, be it writing, calculations or art work, so that it can be seen by others (parents, children, teacher) all in one place – a gallery of learning.

If you are already using it, I would love to hear about other ways you have used it, whatever your setting. If you haven’t, please let me know if you started using it and what you thought of it. My staff were really excited to discover this and have found it invaluable already. I hope it is for you too.  Happy blending!

Wordscapes for assessment
December 4, 2015

I use these wordscape designs to assess understanding of key words. The children record their key words and phrases inside the template (that can be linked to the specific theme). They are then able to discuss and build upon prior knowledge to develop their understanding and make links to other learning whilst completing their wordscapes. I normally ask the children to complete these over one session to show what they can recap quickly and efficiently.

These wordscapes are also great for a bright, decorative and informative piece of learning for theme books or working walls.

This concept can be used in Maths too, as the children could record calculations to show their understanding of number bonds to 1000, for example.

The vocabulary slips that are used are designed by @pw2tweets and these are a fast and efficient for children to record key words at the start of the session, before they begin their wordscapes.

A touch of Scrabble – A brilliant plenary!
December 1, 2015

I first used this Scrabble based plenary a couple of years ago when I saw it on Amjad Ali’s – @ASTSupportAAli – wonderful toolkit – – http://cheneyagilitytoolkit.blogspot.co.uk/ – which is full of great ideas and really worth a visit. Take this link to what inspired the activity – http://cheneyagilitytoolkit.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/scrabble-tiles.html  …  One of these ideas is using the principles of Scrabble to promote and compare key words that help summarise students’ learning.

This activity asks students to come up with key words from the lesson and then use the letter points system in Scrabble to work out how much each word is worth promoting discussion and comparison with an edge of competition included if you can see who has got the word with the highest points score. Such was the popularity of this activity with my classes, I used it in an interview lesson and got a round of applause from the students who had never seen it before! More recently, I have seen this idea floating around Twitter a lot and it certainly deserves a place in the Pedagoo toolkit with Amjad Ali deserving credit for first sharing this idea nearly two years ago.

The link below will take you to a PowerPoint slide which contains the Scrabble activity and can be slotted into any presentation where needed.

Plenary – a touch of Scrabble


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