Category Archives: tmlovelibraries

Thought Bombing

Good times in Edinburgh #tmlovelibraries Manglish session

Good times in Edinburgh #tmlovelibraries Manglish session

#tmlovelibraries, which took place in Edinburgh last weekend, gave my positivity stores a huge boost! Thank you to the brilliant @fkelly for organising such a great day, and for inviting me to be a part of it. Manglish was the topic of my workshop, an approach to cross curricular collaboration; Manglish about avoiding missed opportunities and empowering teachers of all disciplines to include purposeful reading, writing, Mathematics and communication in their lessons.

As I am still working on the book version of the workshop, I will avoid writing about the ins and outs of Manglish and instead share with you one simple idea for encouraging effective communication. This idea seemed to go down very well both in Edinburgh and at the recent #TMeng in Leeds so I thought it might be well worth sharing.

Thought Bombing

Below is a generic example of an exercise that you could base your own ideas for thought bombing on. This example could be translated into introducing characters from novels or poems (English); exploring the lives and decisions of historical figures (History); looking at cause and consequence (PHSE); Exploring bodily functions (Biology). The list goes on. The idea is that pupils are given a small amount of information to get them hooked and then the thought bombs are thrown in to blow their minds.

image for stim

This opening question must be thought provoking enough to get pupils talking, providing  just enough information to get them interested and to generate discussion but also holding back enough back to make the bombing worthwhile. If you were to give too much away at this stage, a decision could be made very quickly and no further discussion may be necessary. In the above exercise, pupils are asked to discuss each character and note down their reasons for or against saving or sentencing each one. They were asked to agree on a survivor; Marni is usually top of the list to begin with as she is young and has her whole life ahead of her… before the first thought bomb is thrown that is.

What is it?

The thought bomb is a plastic ball, the kind that you find in children’s ball pools. It has a small hole cut in the bottom, has been painted black and a little glitter has been sprinkled on just for added beauty. Inside the bomb, I roll up slips of paper with new knowledge about the given situation. For example, inside one thought bomb for the above idea, the paper reads: “Marni is a convicted killer.” And in another, we are told of Roberta’s charity work and of how she fosters children with disabilities. This new information makes the pupils go “Ooooooo” and changes the situation entirely, as now they have much more to take into account when making their decision. The thought bomb has exploded current understanding and forces pupils look at the situation from a different point of view.

Earlier example of thought bombing when teaching An Inspector Calls

Earlier example of thought bombing when teaching An Inspector Calls

Thought bombing is about gaining pupils’ interest and their own ideas, allowing them the freedom to explore. If you are introducing a topic such as the life of King Henry VIII, which requires pupils to know key facts, you are still introducing the key facts through the thought bombs but you are encouraging pupils to explore their own interpretation of events. How do they as individuals feel about the topic being discussed? How would they have solved problems differently to historical figures or characters? Thought bombing allows them to engage with the topic on a personal level but still allows you to introduce the key information required to cover your topic. Thought bombs are fun! Yes, they get thrown around the room (this is actively encouraged) but pupils are engaged in relevant discussions, thinking critically, communicating their own ideas and gaining valuable new knowledge in the process. 

Digital Leaders @ Uphall Primary School.

A couple of Saturdays ago now, I presented at the brilliant #tmlovelibraries at Edinburgh Central Library.

My presentation/discussion was about using Digital Leaders, from set up to the end of their 1st year at Uphall Primary School.

Digital leaders are an idea I picked up at NAACE hothouse last year in Crewe. The idea was shared there by @shellibb, @chrismayoh and @largerama.

The basic idea is that you have a group of children who have a keen interest in computing in any form and who are happy to develop their interest and taken on responsibilites around the school which had previously been done by adults (or adult!). They will also get to review new pieces of software, try out some new apps in school, act as experts in the classroom, run CPD for teachers and other pupils, represent the school at digital events and teachmeets.

The recruitment of Digital Leaders (DL) at Uphall was by an initial online application using google forms . Once this had been completed we interviewed all of the applicants, giving them the questions prior to interview.

We decided to offer all of our interviewees the chance to be a digital leader, which meant our first group was 14 children from P4 up to P7. Some schools use P6 and P7 and let P7 lead the way, having cut their teeth in P6. I guess it’s up to the feeling of the teachers involved. I liked having the full range, and there has certainly been no time when the P4 child has been out of his depth…far from it.

Once selected we began holding our DL meetings. (Thursday afterschool). Initially I led the way with our meetings sharing some desktop apps and web based programs with them – things like screenr to make screencasts, wordpress for blogging and moved into Scratch and the mozilla webmaker tools. The children began to bring in their own devices and share their blogs, apps, creations etc with each other. The DL Thursday evenings soon had a good buzz! I encouraged the children to share their work on our own DL blog and on the Digital Leader Network Blog. The DL’s were excited by this and enjoyed using Edmodo groups to share ideas too.

As the year progressed the DL’s began to find the things that really interested them. The initial interest in blogging waned and a love of making movies and minecraft took over. I was happy for them to use their tools in the direction they wanted to go and much video was created and many, many minecraft worlds!

In the last few weeks I have felt there has been a return to wanting me to provide some stimulus for them to use, so we have gone back to mozilla’s webmaker tools (which have developed since we first used them) and done some work with them. Our final few weeks have been taken up with developing ideas for next years DLers, creating the interview questions, creating logos and posters for the DL interview process and some badges for ICT skills across the school. I’ve also taken the opportunity to discuss where the DL-ers might want to go next year.

I feel the meetups for the DL have been successful, with a mix of teacher led and child led activities and opportunity for children to spend their time and develop ideas as they wished to some extent.

Support in school is a key area for DL work (and should be a time and hassle saver for teachers and schools). Our DL’s have supported staff in many ways. Creating powerpoints for assembly, teaching teachers how to use certain apps on their iPads, having a go at podcasting, creating video for transitions events in school, setting up, operating and putting away AV equipment for assemblies and the like.

The digital leaders came up with a series of ideas for next year. These include interacting more with other digital leaders (which is why I’m trying to create a digital leader network for Scotland), speaking at more events, running a junior digital leaders group in school (p2 and p3).

Personally I have made a commitment to developing the digital leader in school and beyond as part of my Leadership course application for West Lothian Council’s course. As such I’ll be blogging more about the digital leaders role over the year and how the network develops. I will share those posts (if there is an interest) on this site, as well as my own.

If you wish to start your own digitial leader group, wish to contribute to the Scottish digital leaders network, or just want to to ask any more questions, feel free to get in touch.

Easy Openbadging

Last weekend, I took part in the Pedagoo event #tmlovelibraries. It was a fantastic day, and I learned loads. At the pub session afterwards, there was a sort of TeachMeet Unplugged event, similar in feel to the TeachMeet 365 events or, as Fearghal testified, to the very early TeachMeets themselves. Fearghal had asked us all to come with something we were prepared to share; as I have been doing a bit of work with OpenBadges and have been very impressed with them, I decided that this was what I was going to talk about.

Then I hit the problem. 2 minutes is not a very long time, particularly to talk about something you have been working on for months and have found out so much about. So, to keep things short, I decided to create an OpenBadge for all the participants of tmlovelibraries and then give it to them as a present. By claiming it, they could find out a bit about Openbadges themselves.

This idea seemed to work well in the keeping things short arena, as well as the engaging the audience area – the word ‘gift’ seemed to be the important one in achieving this! As Fearghal commented on the night, my talk also had the effect of taking his carefully honed structure and blasting it into a million pieces as people went scurrying to the internet to find their badge. The badge is shown below, together with its claim code for anyone who was there. To claim it, navigate to the site and insert the claim code ‘kapyua’ into the “Claim award from code” box. This will prompt you to either sign in to your Mozilla Backpack if you already have one, or sign up with an email address to create one before awarding you the tmlovelibraries – Participant badge, which you can then display on your blog, Facebook profile or Twitter feed.

In the impromptu break that followed my talk, I was talking to a few different people, and realised that there was a real appetite for finding out more about using OpenBadges. Quite a few people had looked at the concept themselves, before deciding that the project was too technical for them to use effectively. This, of course, is exactly the same decision I came to myself when I first started looking into digital badges. I had been impressed with the ease of creating badges for recognising various achievements on Edmodo, but had hoped for some way to display them in fronter, our school’s virtual learning environment. When I had approached the extremely helpful people at Edmodo asking if this was possible, they said that whilst they were happy for the badges to be displayed elsewhere, but it would need to be purely a case of copying them as an image and uploading them elsewhere.

I felt sure that there had to be a more efficient way of doing this, and went off doing a bit of digital badge research. It soon became clear that OpenBadges were exactly what I was looking for, but despite the fact that there were plentiful resources available for those with an ability to code, there was nothing I could find that was very user-friendly for a class teacher.

Until I chanced across the ForAllBadges site that is. Straight from the off, ForAllBadges allowed me to create an OpenBadge simply by uploading an image to the site and filling in the information fields to attach to it. Perfect for what I wanted. But ForAllBadges had far more to offer than I had been looking for. It gave me a whole badge-management system, allowing me to upload classes and add staff, create and issue badges and – most crucially given the age of my pupils – a way to display the badges earned without needing a Mozilla Backpack (currently, a Mozilla Backpack is only available to learners over the age of 13).

I soon had a pilot badge system up and running and a fronter page created with links to the pupil’s individual Trophy Rooms; here their badges could be seen through viewing their ForAllBadges badge journal. After an email exchange with the amazing people at ForAllBadges, the ability for the student to add a reflective comment to their badge journal was quickly added. This setup now allowed for a badge to be created, issued, displayed and reflected upon as well as having the advantage of being part of the OpenBadge system allowing a great degree of portability for the badges once the pupil reaches the age of 13 (or Mozilla update their terms & conditions to allow under 13s to have a Backpack with permission from their parent/carer – a change that is on the cards very soon I believe).

This was perfect for what I was looking to use it for in school, but perhaps a bit too complicated to use in ‘open play’. I had been thinking that OpenBadges could be a great way to document CPD activities such as TeachMeets or MOOCs for example, but how could an event organiser award a badge to someone whose details they didn’t know? Would they have to do all the data-inputting themselves? This sounded like a prohibitive amount of work.

Fortunately, a site that David Muir had pointed me towards had the answer. allows a user to create badges very simply, and in much the same way as ForAllBadges. However, the site interfaces drectly with the Mozilla Backpack and Persona sign-in service, making it a far more user-friendly solution when you will be issuing badges to people from outwith your organisation or whose details you are unaware of in advance. It also lightens the administrative burden of issuing badges, as the onus is on the claimant to provide their details. The site allows you to set up reusable codes (like the one above) for large-scale issuing, or one-use codes when you are looking to target your badge claimants more precisely (I used this to create “Presenter” and “Organiser” badges for tmlovelibraries, printed up claim codes for these and gave them to Fearghal to distribute).

In my opinion, these tools make the whole process of creating and awarding badges far more accessible to the typical classroom practitioner; teachers who, much like myself and Fearghal, would previously have found the process too technical can use these services to gain the benefits of OpenBadges without having to become coding wizards. Other tools have been developed that can do a similar job – for instance, WPBadger and WPBadgeDisplay allow you to utilise WordPress blogs to issue and display badges whilst provides a very useful badge designer for either online use or as a WordPress plugin . Recently, the ForAllBadges site has joined together with its sister site ForAllRubrics, and you can set things up so that once a rubric has been com pleted, an OpenBadge can be awarded automatically. After some late-night Twitter conversations between myself and the founder of ForAllSystems, ForAllRubrics also has built-in links to the CfE Experiences & Outcomes. A very handy teacher toolkit!

So, now it begins to get exciting. The badges are no longer a concept. Now that a teacher – or a student? –  can create and award these badges, what might they do with them? I have a number of ideas that I’ll be trying in my school, and I know Fearghal had an inclination to use them as part of a programme he delivers at his school (this provoked a very interesting side discussion with David Gilmour about extrinsic/intrinsic motivation). I know that other organisations (including the Scout Association and – believe it or not – the SQA) have been looking at introducing them too.

What would you do with OpenBadges?

(this post can also be found on Iain’s blog (The H-Blog) at

#TMLoveLibraries – if Carlsberg ran CPD…

This weekend I attended my first ever TeachMeet, #TMLoveLibraries which was held in the Edinburgh Central Library. The format to this TeachMeet was different from the traditional approach in that rather than a collection of serial presentations, there were a number of smaller group workshops running in parallel dotted all around the venue. For me, this approach gave a much better opportunity for dialogue and discussion.


My afternoon began by leading a couple of  40 minute discussion sessions after which I was able to attend two further sessions. Into the evening we changed venue to The Canon’s Gait pub where we were each given a 2 minute slot to share an aspect of good practice (much easier after a few beers, although probably much less coherent!).


I’ve documented much of our 1:1 tablet pilot on my blog and elsewhere, so I won’t repeat it all here, but I felt it was worth sharing the ways in which learning has changed at my school as this formed the main focus of our group discussions:

  • Learners have opportunities to become much more engaged with their learning. Interactive tools / apps, camera, web, simple apps like Skitch as a show me board, Minecraft used to build real world models etc
  • Workflow improvement with tools like Edmodo and Wikispaces. Teachers and learners are much better connected, learners can ask for help with homework outside normal timetabled hours. No paper homework planners
  • Opportunities for learners to be more reflective through blogging (aided by camera for capturing work)
  • Greater independent learning and research skills by having connectivity to web (although perhaps not as much in S1 as it would be the case in older year groups)
  • Greater responsibility
  • Not a replacement for pencil and jotters. Instead it is a tool which supports learning. The key is to find ways in which the technology can enhance learning. Although digitising existing content should be a short term aim, it’s not the long term solution (see SAMR).

In addition, it’s probably worth sharing what we have learned from the project so far:

  • The vast majority of staff say the 1:1 program has had a positive impact on learning
  • Toshiba do not make good quality tablets or provide suitable support
  • Sharing of good practice is key to the success of the project. We have set up a digital champions group to come together and discuss. We have a blog where staff can share good practice. We held a whole staff speed dating exercise where everyone had to contribute one aspect of good practice. We have an #FHS1to1 Twitter hashtag which is contributed to by staff every Friday
  • S1 is not the best cohort to launch a 1:1 project due to single period contact time in so many subjects. Better to find a year group where students have greater subject contact time.
  • If parents don’t have to make a financial contribution to the project, they may be less concerned when damage occurs
  • We are only 10 months into our 1:1 project. We have made some great progress, but there is still a long way to go. From next session we will be rolling out iPad Minis to an additional year group.

I was also fortunate enough to attend two further sessions in the afternoon. Sarah Vaughan described the work that Preston Lodge have been doing linked to Carol Dweck’s fixed and growth mindset theory. It is an area I was hoping to look at next session and it was clear from the work that Sarah and her colleagues have done so far that building a growth mindset philosophy can have a significant positive impact on learners.
The second session which I attended was on Digital Leaders and was led by Robert Drummond. This is another area that I would like to develop in my school, and it was great to hear the way in which Robert has been able to build a group of digital leaders who can support the school in so many ways (eg staff CPD, KidsMeet, technical support for each classroom, ICT clubs and so on). Plenty of excellent ideas for me to take away and consider.

In summary, a great day, two great venues, and special thanks must go to the @pedagoo team for organisng James Connolly marching band for providing such a rousing audio backdrop to my sessions.

Photo: David Gilmour vai Flickr, licenced under Creative Commons

Foldable Fun… Pedagoo Sunshine… TMlovelibraries

Ok – this post has been a long time in coming, but since Pedagoo Sunshine more and more have been asking about foldables…

I came across them via @KDWScience at the ASE Conference. I wasn’t fortunate to attend the workshop but Karen’s successful trials with this in her classroom sent me off on another hunt and I managed to get hold of a foldable manual freely available on the internet. Go to my blog post here to download it.

From this I have then applied it to my subject – science. The initial reaction from the pupils was enthusiasm as this was something different and in fact they were somewhat amused that a ‘science teacher’ could do ‘art’.

foldable 1

I had already made examples for the pupils and used these to show them the variety of foldables that they could complete.

The first step is to actually demonstrate how to make each type of foldable. That way they can actually see the process; then let them loose! So as a teacher – master it first… then model… then let them go! I gave them possible topics they could use for example, 4 factors affecting the rate of reaction.

The idea is that they put something on the front for example, a question, a title and underneath the flaps they write summaries, key ideas etc that they need to know. The ones here show rates of reaction factors for year 11 and covalent and ionic bonding. Any topic that can be divided into sections can be used. Two flaps – cause and effects, 10 flaps – 10 key terms on the top, with definitions underneath. The list is endless….

Pupils relished an alternative method of creating revision material and I was told by another member of staff that they were using the same methods in a different class so foldables clearly made an impression on them.

My favourite foldable was designed for pupils to use to revise the formulae they needed for their exams. Having made this one many told me that they were using it to test themselves!

Of course, you then get the customisation level as seen here where one year 11 proudly announced he had added handles to his ‘doors’.

photo 2However, I’m not the only one on the foldable fun…

Below is the ‘accordion foldable’ created by @JOHNSAYERS and he needs to blog post on this – when it pulled it out of his pocket at Pedagoo Sunshine there was an audible gasp… and he spent the day turning down valuable offers for it… I however worked out how to create one and then showed it to my year 10 – one pupil’s response

‘Miss, Will you run an arts and craft session at lunch so we can make these’ – this was a year 10 boy would was desperate for me to give him my model – but we resolved it by teaching him how to make his own… if it motivates my year 10 boys – it must be good!


My parting advice… try it for yourself… even if you only master 2 or 3 – then see what they do with them. And if I’m doing a teach meet, pedagoo etc near you – come along and ask me how to make them :o)


photo 5


TeachMeet Pedagoo❤Libraries #tmlovelibraries

The Pedagoo approach to TeachMeets is coming to Edinburgh!

So, you might by now have heard of our events such as tmSLFringe in Glasgow, PedagooXmasParty in Newcastle and PedagooLondon in, er, London – obviously. If you have, you might well be wondering why Pedagoo hasn’t yet run one of these TeachMeets in the spiritual home of both TeachMeet & Pedagoo – Auld Reekie. Well, it’s happening this June.

On the afternoon of Saturday 1st June we’ll gather in the Central Library on George IV Bridge to share ideas and learn from each other in a workshop format. Right now we’re looking for practicing teachers like you to sign up to lead one of these workshops. Please don’t be shy. If you’ve tried something out in your classroom that you and your students enjoyed and thought worked well…share it! People who lead a workshop unanimously agree that it is an enjoyable and worthwhile experience.

Once all the workshops are sorted, we’ll open the event to general registration. You can sign up to be notified of when this happens on the wiki too.

In the evening of 1st June we’ll also be having a follow up event in a local pub where everyone will have a chance to share in a very relaxed environment. More details of this to follow…but make sure it’s in your diary!

Edinburgh Central Library are fantastic partners for this event and you should totally check out their resources for learners if you haven’t already:

So, what are you waiting for? Sign up now!
TeachMeet Pedagoo❤Libraries