Not Just a Teacher

binge thinking on technology and education

Not Just a Teacher

Adding to the Mission

November 23rd, 2014 · No Comments · General

As part of the #eNoob team, Urvi Shah


The Limited Visibility of Learning

November 11th, 2014 · No Comments · General

I have spent a lot of time during this year involved in sessions organised by Macmillan based on John Hattie’s research


The Role of Parents

July 27th, 2014 · No Comments · General

I want to ask every educator in primary and secondary sectors, the following questions:

What exactly is the expected role of parents in your school?

In your classroom, what specific part(s) of each child’s education


I’ve Read a School Report

July 8th, 2014 · No Comments · General

I have just received a school report for one of my children. This is a mid year report. It doesn’t show me any progress, only attainment. It provides me with an effort and an achievement grade in a variety of subjects. There are no teacher comments on my child apart from the overall ‘Teacher comment’ at the end which gives a summary. This follows attainment grading in terms of Respect; Independence; Responsibility; Caring; Honesty. How does that sound? Does that comply with Australian DECD expectations of a report in a primary school? Does it compare to something similar in your school? How does it compare internationally?

But let’s throw some curve balls into the mix albeit curve balls that are real. This child has been psychologically assessed and found to have a literacy ability


A New Dimension in Blogging

May 27th, 2014 · No Comments · General

small-logo3Yesterday was the launch of a new project for me, Learn E-nabling, a collaborative website I have set up with international, cross-sector representation from people in the e-learning coordinator type roles. My reasons for devoting my time to the project and I would hope a shared view of all those involved, are set out here. I really hope we can spark some real insight into many facets of education in today’s’ schools in different parts of the world and the complexities of pedagogical and technological changes, if they are indeed happening as some would have us believe.

For me though, there is another rather exciting side to this. The concept of an individual within a team; a collaborative blog, posting his/her viewpoints and then the rest of the team commenting on that. Then that post and the comments are publicised via online mediums (Twitter, etc).


The Parents Tech Issue and Chromebooks

May 5th, 2014 · 5 Comments · General

Admittedly, this has come a little earlier than expected but to have my daughter’s seventh birthday only a few days away and not being able to decide what technology to buy for her, raises issues I think it is important to share. The most important of these issues is the balance of cost/uses/limitations.

My daughter has no demands from her school to supply her with technology, unfortunately. To date, she has used the plethora of technology at home on a shared basis but there is clearly a demand for her to have her own device. I see a shelf-life of three years for this technology and I do not want to spend an exorbitant amount of money. My daughter wants to and likes to: play little browser games, write stories, develop picture books, draw and make presentations on her own. There are other digital things she does but she has access to an iPad in the house, a fairly high spec laptop and a Surface Pro.

So, I am thinking, why should I look any further than a Chromebook? Won’t this do most things for her? I know there isn’t a device out there that does everything all the time. But, it will surely be reasonably fast with 4Gb of RAM and not much to power really, she will largely use it the house with a decent wireless connection, it’s easy to manage and, to my mind, the exposure to a cloud based way of working can only benefit her. My wife brought up the issue with the occasions when she might want to take the device to places where she has to work offline. Research has shown me that the current generation of Chromebooks can be used offline easily. Is this a true picture? Does a Chromebook allow for saving locally? My wife also talked about the ability to be able to demonstrate her digital creations at school and the only options for this currently are printing and via a USB stick (quite shocking provision, I have to say). The Chromebook we are looking at has USB ports so this would not appear to be an issue but again, how well does the saving locally/downloading concept work on Chromebooks?

Any input and advice from anyone out there who has used or is using Chromebooks would be greatly appreciated. However, one thing sticks in my mind in all this…….if this causes me to ask such a plethora of questions, do we in education really appreciate the issues such decisions cause many parents?


Tales of Shared Research

April 27th, 2014 · 1 Comment · General

This post provides my views on how 2 teachers in different countries and time zones have teamed up to research and publish academic writing. It provides an insight into what has been done, how it was done and the benefits of working this way.

I recently worked in Higher Education. In that time, I worked for and with academics. I began to understand the world of academic research, of publishing papers and journals, of collaborating in this process. I became involved in researching and writing papers, co-authoring 2 and being the lead author on 1 publication. In this process of research I felt I learned so much not only about research methods but about writing. I was challenged in many ways and I knew I benefited immensely from the experience. Hence, I wanted to bring something similar with me into the Secondary sector.

My memory is not brilliant so I can’t recall how it first came about but I think I asked @ianinsheffield if he would like to be a co-author on a paper for NAACE Advancing Education Journal


Education & the Celebrity Keynotes

February 7th, 2014 · 1 Comment · General

For a long time now, I have questioned the worth of a celebrity keynote. I have been to education conferences in many places intended for audiences from different sectors, groups, etc and have begun to think about the value of a well-known, respected voice in a particular field or fields of education is to the experience of the attendees. In more crude terms, I am asking the question:

Has this person been booked to speak at this event because without their name on the bill people would not come (big name demand) or is their attendance a vital component of the experience, something that without them being there, the conference would be worse, not as informative, educational or focused?

In a recent post on the importance of the


A Week Disconnected

January 25th, 2014 · No Comments · General

by mcfcrandall (Flickr)

by mcfcrandall

As is an annual ritual for me, I recently disconnected. I have done this for up to 6 weeks in the past and usually when going on holiday somewhere that I want to totally switch off my brain, my fingers and my devices from communicating and information. However, this time I only had a week.

What do I mean by disconnect?

To me, this is simply a matter of turning off all devices and not using any means to connect with anyone electronically. In other words, not only do I not answer any tweets, emails, posts, etc but I dont even turn on any of the hardware of software that these run on to see if there are any. I go to this extreme because I know how long I can spend just reading, accessing juicy bits of commentary or looking closely at something that someone has pointed me at.

Why do I disconnect?

Firstly, I feel that this allows me to re-assess habits I may have got into, directions and paths I may be following and overall, how I am functioning digitally. Yet, at the same time, it also allows me the chance to focus more on the aspects of life that at times using technology can get in the way of (this can be anything from watching the sunset instead of photographing it and sharing it on social media, to read a biography on Johnny Cash I was bought for Xmas).

This year’s surprise

Unfortunately, this year I felt that I suffered in some respects because of my approach to disconnecting. I was able to achieve the things I talked about above including breaking out of some habits I really didn’t need and reading the lyrics to Fulsom Prison Blues that mostly come from Crescent City Blues written much earlier. I digitally refreshed myself in many, much needed ways yet the surprise came in the way I felt I suffered due to lack of mobile access. Not having a phone in my pocket meant I was not able to connect to information that I needed or be contactable when required at certain times. I realised how much my life has moved on to rely on technology to find out simple bits of information (the weather, what’s on at the cinema, the tides to go snorkelling, indeed the time of that day’s sunset). And the expectancies from those around you that you can be contacted (even if only to find out where you are and if you have both of the children with you when in a shopping centre). These may seem like trivial things and, in a way, I don’t disagree but that in itself was something of a surprise.

In my mind, disconnecting equals simplification in so many ways, but I found that removing myself from mobile communication and not being able access to basic information hindered my enjoyment of the week. There are of course, other ways to get the information I needed such as buying a newspaper but I didn’t really plan to start new habits temporarily. Likewise, I and everybody else were able to function before the existence of mobile phones but we have changed in so many ways that the alternatives, the ease of which we can communicate and channels to find out everyday information have lessened to the degree where we have to make a genuine effort to change the way we live to be happy fully disconnected.


If anything, this has shown me two things: Number one is that I am even more determined to drive education to integrate technology, promote education practices where there is an understanding of how connected most of the students are that we teach and that they have a reliance on technology for both information and communication. Number two is that from now on I will not fully disconnect. I will have basic communication and information channels open and discipline myself to use them without venturing into the fully connected world I live in.


11 Questions

January 22nd, 2014 · No Comments · General

Having seen a few versions of the 11 questions idea floating about, I have had the pleasure of a brief insight into people beyond their tweets and their bio, so when Mr Woodman (, put me on the spot I thought why not. Here are the questions he set me and my attempt at honest answers. I hope you find them as interesting a read as I have with others:

11 Answers to 11 Questions

1. What moment in your life has shaped you as an educator more than any other?

This is a tough question, arguably the toughest I could be asked as there have been many defining moments in my development as an educator thus far and to pick one seems at the expense of so many more. Yet, in true desert island disc style, I will make a choice:

Standing at the side of the stage in a London hotel where later in the day we were to be live in front of royalty, politicians and educational leaders reflecting on the work we had done, I saw the beauty and power of what Digital Leaders can produce. I was there with young people who felt empowered, passionate, responsible, young people who showed maturity beyond their years, who stepped up to the plate, who showed the true essence of what authentic education experiences can bring to young peoples’ lives. And I was able to briefly step back, admire what I was seeing and how far we had come as a group of Digital Leaders. This was such a special moment because I realised a burning passion I have had since I was a youth worker, to empower young people. This was a way to realise that passion as a teacher.

2. What are you most looking forward to in 2014 and why?

As I start a new position back in secondary school, I am really looking forward to making an impact in my new school to affect pedagogy and tech integration to improve the education of students in the school. On a wider level, I am really looking forward to connecting, being involved with and promoting the high quality work going on with some real high quality educators I know in SA and in the rest of Australia. I want Digital Leaders to come out into the open in Australia and tell everyone what they have been doing, connect and share through I am hoping to see an extensive, thriving Digital Leaders community show itself in 2014. Lastly, I am looking forward to making a larger dent in the PhD I started.

3. Is the idea of a four day working week for all educators and students a pipe-dream or a real possibility? Why?

It is not a pipe dream but we have consider some fundamental issues around the working day for both teachers and students. We have to look at such areas as the idea of what ‘lessons’ or ‘learning sessions’, should they be uniform in length?Are they in effect a way to divide up learning efficiently or indeed are they the best way to efficiently use time in schools? We also to have consider what we are offering in terms of education. Is sitting in largely separate and specialist, independent ‘subject’ disciplines a good way for effective teaching and learning to happen. Only if we first address these fundamentals principles can we consider a system which will ultimately mean more cramming of teaching and learning into a shorter or more condensed block of time which, in turn, puts pressure on concentration, focus, etc.

4. What are some of your favourite pastimes?

I like to think that I have a quite diverse range of pastimes and have always been aware of a tendency to addictive behaviours which I see as being stuck in a rut.

To me, watching TV night after night is the epitome of this and while I enjoy the odd night or two of vegging out this way, I try to avoid doing it too much. So, what do I do instead? I range from playing games (phone games such as Words to Fifa footy on a console), to reading (all sorts of fiction, biographies), to catching up with social media connections, reading blog posts and commentary on educational developments.

On the weekend and days off, I like to spend time on the beach, walking with my bare feet in the sea, swimming in the sea, eating and a wee drop of good plonk but I will regularly take the family on adventures, to different places such as a national park. I love to surprise people close to me and I crave adventure.

What have I missed off?…I love to listen to music (anything from 90’s indie bands to Johnny Cash to old skool hip-hop to early 90’s house music); I like eating (Or should I say I really like eating 🙂 ); I have always been into sport, like to play squash and football badly and will always love Leeds Utd even if most of the time, that hurts.

5. What are two things on your bucket list?

Two things…….!!…. for an adventurer, there are two thousand!!

Take my kids travelling round India when they are old enough and drive around in a classic VW Beetle everyday.

6. What is your favourite film and why?

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (original). Gene Wilder is epic as Willy Wonka and I would say it is one of the only times that a film and book stand side-by-side as brilliant pieces of work. Oh and it features lots of chocolate. That’s got to be good hasn’t it?

7. Favourite place and why?

That’s impossible to answer. It’s about time and place, purpose and company, never about just place.

Amazing places to me have been a quiet spot in Angkor Wat sat on the temple stones watching sunset or sunrise with my wife, stood on the balcony of my house watching the sunset over the sea or the fork lightning crashing around, sat around anywhere but with friends and loved ones just chewing the fat and laughing til the wee hours.

However, there is one place that always has a massive place in my heart (apart from Elland Road), stood on top of Cow and Calf just outside Ilkley when the cold wind is blowing.

8. Do you view Australia as the best country in the world? Why or why not?

I have traveled to many countries and have been asked which is my favourite many times. I refuse to commit to that. Again, its about time and place, purpose and company.