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Pedagoo Ayrshire September 2015
October 3, 2015
Image by Val AdamImage by Val Adam

The recent Pedagoo event in Ayrshire was the first of it’s kind that I’ve been to, first TeachMeet of any kind. I am currently studying on the PGDE (Primary) at Strathclyde and was directed towards Pedagoo by the lecturing staff, who seem keen to promote collaboration between teachers and the use of social media to share good practice. Here I have to admit a certain level of personal inexperience with using and sharing internet-based resources for teaching and with social media in general. It was during the same talk where Pedagoo was mentioned that I decided to venture into this new world and create a Twitter account. I’ve always been fairly averse to creating public profiles online, or even profiles that I know only people I know would see; I don’t have a Facebook and still enjoying keeping in touch with people by calling them up or actually meeting them. Twitter has seemed even more of an alien concept to me, but probably because I couldn’t imagine why I’d be interested in what celebrities are doing or saying at any given time and – even more unfathomable – why anyone would be interested in the mundane thoughts in my own head. Now I’m not saying these things to make a point about the unnaturalness of social media, and please know that I do see the positives, but rather I’m trying to illustrate my own ignorance and inexperience.

Very quickly after I created my Twitter account, I instructed it to follow Pedagoo and started receiving updates and posts from other users. I could immediately see how easily people were sharing examples of their own good practice, with an obvious passion for their work while trying to give ideas to their fellow professionals. It was here I heard about the Takeover event and decided to sign up for my local Pedagoo meeting. I was curious about what the event would look like and what kind of discussions would take place. Being from Ayrshire myself, it made sense to attend my local event being held at the University of the West of Scotland in Ayr. On top of my curiosity about Pedagoo and TeachMeets in general, I guess a felt that attending would be good for my studies and a change from the reading and writing of the PDGE course.

So I drove to Ayr on Saturday morning, something which I can imagine would feel like being above and beyond the call of duty for many teachers after having worked all week in class, not to mention any other extra-curricular commitments and professional development. It was the first time I’d been to the UWS campus and was definitely impressed, very modern facilities in pleasant surroundings. It’s very different to a city campus like Strathclyde, but that’s not to be critical of either. I parked my car and went into the building, following the clearly marked signs for the Pedagoo event. The campus was quiet and I walked in alone, despite having arrived around 5 minutes before the scheduled start time. When I got upstairs to the lecture room, I reached a sign-in desk with a Pedagoo poster and a few people hanging around, chatting and holding paper cups. I went inside and was pleased to find a refreshments table with hot coffee, tea and a plethora of chocolate biscuits. One of the organisers had even brought homemade brownies which I could see were a popular choice, so I made sure to get in early…

The first thing that struck me was that there were less people than I expected to find, probably around 20-30 people present, which I was pleased about. I’d been concerned that I’d just end up in a lecture theatre full of strangers, being talked at by presenters with a point to make about their own views on teaching. It was quickly apparent that this wasn’t going to be the case. People were talking and introducing themselves in a friendly manner before we were invited to sit down for a brief introduction. The format for the event was explained and we were asked to indicate our preferences for the conversations we would like to take part in. This language of “conversations” was comforting and set the tone for the relaxed discussions which we were to be taking part in. A timetable of four sessions was drawn up and we were given the choice to join in the conversations in three different rooms, each with a dedicated topic and hosted by a nominated attendee.

Over the course of the morning I took part in 4 conversations, each lasting between 30 and 40 minutes. I chose the conversations that dealt with Learning without Limits, Literacy, Inclusion and Online Learning Platforms. I enjoyed each one of these and feel I can take a lot away from what was said. It was clear that the leader of each discussion was passionate about the subject they had chosen, as were the people in the room. I was certainly the only student present but it seemed a mixed group, from different teaching backgrounds. This made for healthy debate of the issues at hand and I appreciated the fact that no-one was pushing an agenda and were weren’t striving for any particular conclusions; we just wanted to hear each other’s views and explore some ideas. Each of the discussions that I attended could have easily stretched on and time always ran out, more than once the phrase “We could talk about this all day…” was used. For me, it was just great to be around people who really care about the job they do and the teaching profession in general. I guess that’s the great thing about a voluntary event where people are giving up their own free time to come along. At the same time, I think it’s individually rewarding for teachers to sit together and talk through, outwit their workplace and with people other than their day-to-day colleagues. During our discussions we talked about the concept of emotional literacy and how this applies to teachers, and I can certainly see how a TeachMeet style event can have a therapeutic “get this off my chest” element.

Once the conversations were over, we had a brief roundup of the day and said goodbye. We were asked to give our views on what went well with the event and what could be improved. The chocolate brownies were finished by that point but I was given a thermal mug as a freebie to take home. Personally it had been really valuable in terms offering the views of teachers who are living and working in my local area, something which I probably don’t get from my course. It provided a good complement to what I’ve been learning about since the start of term, provided some food for thought about current issues in Scottish education and introduced me to some new people and teaching practices. So my experiment with social media has not only proven to be valuable in terms of what it can offer to me online, but also in how it can lead to enjoyable and useful “real life” experiences. Pedagoo Ayrshire was a success and I’m looking forward to the next one.

Pedagoo.org has moved!
October 2, 2015
Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 12.17.17

If you’re seeing this post then you are now looking at Pedagoo.org at its lovely new home. It takes a bit of time for the internet to catch up on the move, so you might on occasion be redirected to the old version of the site over the next day or so. This post is only on the new version of the site.

Everything seems to be in order with the site, but if you see any problems please let me know. I’ve turned back on people’s ability to add new posts, and you are now free to create an account if you’re wanting to.

Thanks for your patience!

Pedagoo.org is Moving!
September 28, 2015

Pedagoo.org is moving to a new host this week.

To avoid any content being lost in the move, I’ve turned off users’ ability to add new posts and I would recommend that you do not create a new account at this time.

If you would like to share a post, or create an account, on Pedagoo.org please email us at share@pedagoo.org and we’ll work something out.

As I’m sure you know, moving can be a stressful time for all involved. Please bear with us while we manage this move (it’s our first time!).

Dae something…….Dae something…..Dae something……
Image by Tracey AlvarezImage by Tracey Alvarez

Having had the privilege to have heard a number of superb educational speakers over the past 6 months, among them Iain White from Newlands Junior College, who quoted from the great Billy Connolly’s classic Crucifixion joke the need to ‘Dae something….’ in terms of leading with courage; this leads me into the new, unfamiliar (and a little scary) world of blogging. But having been supported by my authority, SCEL and dared by colleagues Jay and Lena, I feel that I owe it to myself and those amazing people I have heard to put some thoughts on paper and ‘out there’……..

I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky…….

Being of the same generation as Kylie, I am one of the lucky ones in education who has been nurtured, supported, encouraged and invested in during a career of over amazing 20 years. I have been incredibly fortunate to have been part of the SCEL Fellowship programme for its second cohort this year.

As part of my systems leadership enquiry for the Fellowship Programme with SCEL I have been planning a Network group of middle leaders across Argyll and Bute, based on a model I was part of in Cheshire, called the CHiLL Network. Ten middle leaders have the opportunity to read and discuss current educational theory around leadership and develop accurate school self evaluation through a focussed project on school self improvement that they are passionate about and supported by their Head Teacher. At the beginning of the month I had the great privilege to lead the first session and the talent, thoughts and reflections were of the highest quality. It was an uplifting and exciting experience for all concerned and I am looking forward to seeing how the leaders projects and thinking have progressed at our next meeting in November.

Sir Andrew Cubie, who amongst many posts and roles throughout a distinguished career, chairs the Scottish Credit and Qualifications framework and Leadership Foundation for Higher Education; presented to the SCEL participants at our inaugural event and talked about SCEL fellowship as being a fantastic opportunity to make a difference and had the potential to enhance the esteem of the teaching profession. He recognised that Head Teachers and leaders can be in a lonely and isolated position and it was important for us to feel that ‘we could do it’ and to have ‘leadership beyond authority’. By this Sir Andrew said that we needed to empower others to do something ourselves together rather than waiting for others ‘in authority’ to be able to move on. Sir Andrew also emphasised that it is often the process of change rather than the outcome that is important. He questioned why some colleagues may hold back from taking the lead and that we should have a vision where mediocre is not accepted. Finally, Sir Andrew challenged us to think about how our vision, values and aims are felt physically when we walk into our schools?

We were fortunate in Argyll and Bute recently to have Sir Andrew speak for us and facilitate conversations between Head Teachers. Professor Clive Dimmock, representing the Robert Owen Centre for Education, also gave a considerable contribution focussing on the personal qualities (personality traits, dispositions and attributes) associated highly successful leaders and asking the question from research are leaders born or made?

All the speakers had very particular styles and affect on their audience, one senior manager reflected on how Professor Dimmock had a gentle prodding way of encouraging colleagues to think about where they were in terms of being a high performing leader when conveying his research and thoughts but his crescendo of educational passion warms your enthusiasm and she found ‘that he was walking with me in terms of my own development and it has stayed with me in terms of thinking about how to move forward’. Powerful stuff.

However, as mentioned previously; the inspirational, witty and straight talking style of Iain White engaged many of my HT colleagues at the same event; many recognising a great deal of the challenges Iain spoke of in leadership and agreed with his view that at the end of the day we need to focus on what is right for our children and not lose sight of our core values.

Little wonder that feedback we have received about such quality of input from Head Teachers present has been that the session was incredibly valuable and one that should be built upon in the future here in Argyll and Bute.

We need to provide staff with quality time with quality input from thoughtful speakers to develop their practice of critical thinking of their own role in the classroom and in leadership terms.

My Mum always said it’s important to keep an eye on the company you keep…..

It has not only been the amazing opportunity to hear top quality speakers during the last 6 months that has moved my educational world but also the opportunity to work with my fellow participants. Louise, Sheila, Andy, Jim, John and George are all more experienced than myself and have such differing situations but I cannot spend 15 minutes in their company without learning something and my thinking being challenged. Hence the need to listen, discuss with colleagues thoughts and ideas and apply your thinking to your practice in a conscious way. Indeed, my fellowship colleague Andy Travis in his captivating presentation at SLF this week described the experience of SCEL’s Fellowship programme as giving ‘Head space for Head Teachers.’

While there is exciting practice in our authority, the importance for us to get out of the glen and see what is happening elsewhere is vital to move our thinking on and I am incredibly excited at being able to work with George Cooper from Bearsden Academy in late November when both of our middle leadership groups will be working together.

Tom Bennett at the recent ResearchED conference in Glasgow said that the nature of CPD is changing; the positive energy around the event was palpable as it was about practitioners attending an event at a weekend with quality speakers and the need for them to be up to date with current research so that their work can be evidence based and they can ask ‘Why?’ with confidence (and all for £30!). Teachers need a choice in their development and how they need to be supported. Giving staff opportunities to hear quality speakers talking about what they are passionate about is motivating in itself and reflection important but it is what you do with it that counts. Where and when does it roll out into your practice? Where is the impact on our children?

As I said previously – Kylie and I have been lucky, but what of the next generation of teachers and leaders? The leadership habits I formed as a middle leader in a successful network have stayed with me into my Headship and it has been interesting that the focus of more than half of the SCEL fellowship participants this year is on capacity building and supporting leaders of the future, here’s hoping the impact is tangible and sustainable.

Personally, given that I have only outlined a fraction of what I have experienced as part of the SCEL experience, I have a feeling that my learning still needs time and space to breathe and it will be over the following year in which things become embedded and some of my leadership habits will to continue to evolve, as well as developing my systems leadership skills.

So, when Iain White says to us to ‘Dae something….’ we need to follow his advice – these are challenging times and our children deserve the best possible experiences possible. Our biggest asset is our staff, we need to listen, value, support and develop the talent that is out there so ‘Dae something….’

A Book that Changed my Teacher Journey #FabEduBooks

My favourite book that has ‘disrupted my thinking’ and changed the direction of travel as a teacher is ‘Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher’, Brookfield, (1995).You know when a book arrives through the post and you unpack it and flick through it; well, I had read the first two chapters before I knew it and was excitedly telling my daughter all about it while she rolled her eyes!

For me, Brookfield gave me ‘permission to question’. Chapter 2 “Becoming Critically Reflective: A Process of Learning and Change” discusses how we need to;

“find lenses that reflect back to us stark and differently highlighted picture of who we are and what we do” (p28)

This stopped me in my tracks and took a little bit of thinking, not so much in the validity of the statement but how can I do this? What other lenses are available? Do I create my own? Do I borrow? What other perspectives are valid? Which aren’t as valid but are worthy? What am I missing? Brookfield goes on to discuss four lenses which are autobiographical, students, colleagues and theoretical literature. These lenses helped me to ‘challenge my assumptions’ and to support me as a reflective practitioner, to stop and analyse situations from multiple views before making big or small decisions. Please don’t think that I am so tied up in viewing through multiple lenses that I become incapable of acting but it becomes a’ habit of mind’ to take a wider perspective and very quickly make an informed decision that takes into consideration than more than one point of reference.

In chapter 9 ‘Storming the Citadel – Reading Theory Critically’ Brookfield discusses how you can use educational literature to;

“investigate the hunches, instincts, and tactic knowledge that shape our practice” as this leads to a “understand better what we already do and think” (p185)

This was my validation and permission to pursue what I ‘thought’ was right but had not had the confidence to put out there. There are so many endorsements within this chapter which supported my dispositions in teaching and leading such as (p186)

Theory lets us ‘name ‘our practice

Works wonders for our morale and self confidence

Theory breaks the circle of familiarity

I felt Brookfield was speaking directly to me and supporting me to discuss education from a theoretical point, affirming my instincts as a teacher and leader, to use research to provoke and challenge current practice, both my own and practices within my learning community.

In this chapter Brookfield goes on to discuss how literature can be engaged with, to develop a criticality of mind so that when I read an article I engage by questioning and do not accept the ‘facts’ without interrogation of the purpose, the voice being heard, the validity of the methodology, ethical and moral issues, the bias.

“To be critically reflective teacher means that we regard both our personal and collective experiences and our reading of formal theory, research or philosophy an important elements in our critical journey” (p194)

If you are starting on the journey of engaging with educational literature, I would recommend this book as a great starting point.

#FabEduBooks is supported by Crown House Publishing

Everyone who shares a post on their favourite edubook this September on Pedagoo.org will be entered into a draw at the start of October. The lucky winner will receive a Big Bag of Books from Crown House Publishing.

To find out how to submit your post, click on the following link: Pedagoo.org/newpost


Raising the profile of digital citizenship
September 5, 2015
Year 13 students working onlineYear 13 students working online

We recently held our first Digital Citizenship Week at my school. Some colleagues and myself felt this was necessary given the amount of time our students now spend online. Ideally, of course, digital citizenship would be a routine part of all classes where technology is prevalent or widely used, and many teachers do incorporate it where possible. However, we thought that it was important to raise the profile of this topic, and so Digital Citizenship Week was born. The timing was ideal, since we had just produced an acceptable use policy for technology, which was distributed at a Parents’ Day shortly before digital citizenship week. This set out clearly what was expected of our students as they go about their daily use of technology in their learning. There were also digital citizenship posters prominently displayed in each classroom.

Throughout the week, a number of teachers volunteered to forego their usual subject classes in order to teach lessons around digital citizenship. In this way, each grade level received a lesson about a particular aspect of digital citizenship. For example, I delivered a lesson around over-sharing online, based in part on materials from a very helpful organisation, Common Sense Media. Other teachers discussed issues around ensuring good digital footprints, and the responsible use of social media. One colleague had the misfortune to have a great lesson planned, only to open the website he planned to use during the class and find that it was down for routine maintenance. The patience and good-humour required when these things happen is an often overlooked aspect of digital citizenship!

Although it seems self-evident that we should be educating our students in issues around digital citizenship, there are a few other aspects to consider. Digital citizenship means different things to different people. One definition, from Teachthought.com, is ‘the self-monitored habits that sustain and improve the digital communities you enjoy or depend on’. Others have suggested that when we talk about digital citizenship, in the main we are referring to digital responsibility, a slightly different set of competencies, and when speaking of digital citizenship we should be encouraging learners to champion debate, justice, and equality via their online interactions. There are also, however, some valid arguments made that digital citizenship is so fundamentally important that we should drop the ‘digital’ part entirely, and simply include it as part and parcel of citizenship education. How many of our learners don’t go online at least once a day? How many of them use social media regularly, or download music, or play online games? Do they even make a distinction between the ‘real world’ and the online world?

However we choose to term it, we have a responsibility to our learners to guide them and help them to negotiate cyberspace safely and responsibly. Although some people may refer to millennials as ‘digital natives’, can we really assume that they are instinctively digitally literate, equipped to deal with everything the connected world may throw at them? I’m not convinced that we can, and so for now at least I think that we need to continue raising the profile of digital citizenship until it does become part of the everyday classroom conversation. I would welcome others’ views or thoughts about Digital Citizenship Week!

The Book Whisperer – Scream it from the Rooftops #FabEduBooks
September 1, 2015

Being an English teacher, I still look and cringe at my first, probably, five years of teaching. Everything that had got me to where I was, everything which I had experienced up until that point and had supported me through the years of working in terrible jobs – the wilderness years, as I like to call them – had books to thank; books and my ability to read them and stick with them. What shames me is that by the end of my fifth year I had just about thrown in the towel when it came to encouraging Reading for Pleasure in my class.

At around about that point, I stumbled upon ‘The Book Whisperer’. Slightly cynical at first, the title sounded cheesy and cringeworthy, I’ll have to be honest. It, without a shadow of a doubt, changed me as a teacher. I read through this book with increasing ardour, angry at myself for forgetting why reading for pleasure is so important. Donalyn Miller, a teacher from Texas, had written a book which rekindled my belief in reading and one which is never very far from my desk whenever I contemplate reading for pleasure in the classroom. I return to it again and again.

What struck me was not merely the simple message that if we are to create and develop children who will go on to be life long readers – and who would argue with that? – then  we have to live that philosophy every day in class, not merely when it suits us. I had become the teacher who drops reading when things get busy, assuming it to be a luxury a packed curriculum could not afford, but the passion and love for her students which oozes throughout the ’The Book Whisperer’ convinced me that there is another way: Time, Choice, and Love have become the backbone of my practice in developing readers.

Creating the conditions for our students to see reading for pleasure as a valued and valuable skill takes a lot of time and commitment but if we, especially as English Teachers, don’t do it, then who will? I’ve persisted with many of the strategist I found in this book – time to read every day, free choice, consistent support and discussion – even when it would have been easier not to. I’ve sacrificed other things in order to keep reading as a mainstay of every lesson. And, do you know what? My students make progress in all areas as well as leaving me having begun that process of becoming a reader.

If you’ve ever heard me rattle on at Teachmeets or Pedagoo sessions then you’re more than likely to have heard me mention ‘The Book Whisperer’. And, while I read some incredibly good Educational books on all sorts of subjects, this one is my favourite. Donalyn Miller has followed this up with more of the same in ‘Reading in the Wild’ but her first book is essential for those of you who are responsible for Literacy and promoting reading for pleasure. Indeed the message screaming from each page might be, “There’s more to life than oaks you know, but not much more.’ Read it soon.

#FabEduBooks is supported by Crown House Publishing

Everyone who shares a post on their favourite edubook this September on Pedagoo.org will be entered into a draw at the start of October. The lucky winner will receive a Big Bag of Books from Crown House Publishing.

To find out how to submit your post, click on the following link: Pedagoo.org/newpost


Thank you Paul!
August 31, 2015

It’s now over four years since we first launched Pedagoo.org!

Before we were Pedagoo, we were Education Futures: Scotland on a free WordPress site with a few keen founding members.

When we came up with the Pedagoo name we decided to go for a properly hosted site, but how would we host it with no money? Kirsty’s boyfriend Paul kindly offered to help out, and so Pedagoo.org was launched.

Four years later and Kirsty & Paul are now married with a young family, and all this time Paul has been hosting Pedagoo.org for us. So anyone who has ever posted on Pedagoo.org, or enjoyed reading a post on Pedagoo.org, or taken part in #PedagooFriday, or attended one of our events, owes Paul a thank you for making it possible way back in the beginning and keeping us going all this time.

Paul’s career has since moved on from hosting websites for folk and so it will soon be time for us to part company and find alternative arrangements…in the meantime however I really wanted to extend this thank you, especially as I’ve never managed to buy him that pint I promised him 4 years ago!


We’ve tried flipping lessons and we thought it didn’t work. There’s a bunch of research in favour of the idea, but also lots against it.

Essentially, as I understand it, a ‘flipped lesson’ is one where the students do the preparation by learning low order concepts (like basic knowledge) at home and come to the class ready and raring to discuss the higher order concepts (explaining, linking, ranking, coming to conclusions etc). Research suggests that students should do the difficult learning in school and the simple stuff can be done at home- in other words flipped from the traditional approach where a teacher might lecture in class and then set an essay to be done for homework.

The problem is that there is also plenty of research that in school settings rather than in universities ‘flipped learning’ may not work so well. In my school asking students to do regular homework is a challenge, and it doesn’t take many students who’ve not done their preparation to make the subsequent class go less well. Another problem is that for many students the ‘low order’ concepts are not really distinguishable from the higher order ones- lots of the knowledge for example requires explanation and support to understand.

However we have been trialling over the years in social subjects a variation on the ‘flipped lesson’ which we think  might have made a really significant difference to our exam results. Students were given lectures and knowledge questions in class, but what they did at home was the revision exercise- in this case planning for an essay. We then did the weekly essay homework in class. The students were allowed to use their revision plan sheet when they wrote their essay, but nothing else. This gave them a significant incentive to do their homework. This flipped approach to homework was done in one topic in both History and Geography Higher classes here- and the results in those papers were significantly higher than in the other papers where we didn’t do this.

Might this mean that flipping can work after all? Or is it more the sheer regularity of practice? What do people think?

Re-framing challenging behaviour
Teaching the unteachables

In ten years of teaching I can specifically recall on one hand the names of pupils who had me down and out on the classroom ring floor in terms of their excessive challenging behaviour. Each teaching moment with these pupils created a daunting sensation in the pit of my stomach and overwhelming emotions of incompetency, where I believed myself to be ill equipped to manage their behaviour.

Those un-teachable moments can shatter your confidence and make you question your ability to teach effectively. Experience has taught me that the repertoire of behaviour strategies is often not creative enough to tackle and address the challenging behaviour of some pupils. Sometimes a re-thinking of the problem is what is required and often it can be as simple as meeting the child where they are, on a cultural, social, morale and peer hierarchical level.

How can we help teenagers and young adults to overcome self-defeating beliefs and habits from holding them back?

On episode 27 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show, Steve Beckles-Ebusua, a Change and Life Skills Expert, and I discuss simple teaching techniques that can help radically transform a pupil’s behaviour and their ability to re-frame their thought-process.

What behaviour strategies have worked for you in the past?  What would be your ideal solution to address challenging behaviour (regardless of boundaries and resource restrictions)?

Episode take-aways:

  • Overcoming pupils’ self-defeating beliefs
  • How to adapt your teaching to address challenging behaviour
  • Allowing pupils to physically experience the learning

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