Glow, gaming and holidays.

9 04 2009

I had a good few mentor visits to schools during the last couple of weeks of term.  They were mostly positive with some great work going on, particularly in one school.  This is not to say there are not schools where is limited activity but there are usually reasons for that.  One school for example is having problems with seemis codes etc and this is hampering progress a bit for various reasons which are not the fault of the glow mentor.

Time is really the problem for everyone as mentors are often not getting time out to develop things with budgets the way they are.  Plus if I visit other members of staff they are using their CCC time or I am meeting them after school which eats into their preparation and marking time.  This is just the way things are and we have to work round it unfortuntately.

One school I love going to is going to is doing fabulous things and the glow mentor said she felt it was embedded throughout the school.  Factors for this would be the enthusiasm and dedication of the glow mentor, the interest of the staff and the huge backing given to it by the head teacher.  This is a school incidentally where the mentor gets an afternoon out a week to work on glow, and other ICT things as well I think!  When I did an inservice training session there the HT was the last one still working on her glow group and was highly enthusiastic.  She takes a level E reading group and has a glow group set up for them so that if she is not able to take them, which must happen quite often, she can leave work for them on glow and they can post work etc to her.   This is just one example of the great things they are doing.

I also had another visit to one of the smaller schools I go to, which has 2 classes and a joint headship with another school of similar size.  The mentor there only started doing it this year and only works part time.  They only have 2 computers that are fully functioning, and one very old, very slow on the internet laptop and although the  mentor had set up a group to work on with the class on a current topic she found it hard to get anything sustainable going on with such a small number of computers.

I came up with the idea, partly after having been at the previous school I mentioned, to have a language glow group that they could have work on for their different reading groups and then it would be in more manageable numbers.  We set up one page with the Learnnewsdesk webpart and a discussion web part so that a task a week could be to write in their own words about a piece of news.We then set up a writing page with just a documents store and a discussion page so that sometimes pieces of writing could be uploaded and pupils could do two stars and a wish for each other.  This would maybe work best with story starters, or just character description etc.  These two ideas came from Lesley and Karen-Ann’s great 10 steps glow group.  We then set up a page for each reading group and just put discussions, documents, web links and picture library into it so that with the novels each group are doing next term they can have their space for work etc.  One task for each group per week could be to go in and complete a task set by the teacher.  I am looking forward to seeing how this works and am going back to help with the teacher and the pupils a little while after the holidays.

SLC are investing in some gaming materials just now and have already done some workshops for head teachers etc.  After the summer we will have various consoles etc to loan out to schools to use with the curriculum in some way.  I now presently have at home a Nintendo DS with brain training and Professor Layton, a wii with the sports and the guitar hero rock band package.  At some point we should also be getting Endless Ocean and another one that I cannot pronounce never mind spell!  We are having a try with them just now to see how we could help schools to think about how we would use them in the curriculum.

I have never been into gaming really and so felt a lot better when I read in the article in the Scotsman on Ollie Bray  that he had never been into it either until a couple of years ago!   I am really enjoying the DS brain training and have played a bit of the wii, although what I really want is the wii fit which I have tried before and think is great.  I certainly can’t get one until after Kiliminjaro though!  I have had a go on guitar hero before but I was so, so rubbish!  I am having a couple of 13 year old friends to stay next week so we will get that out then and I will try again.  One plays guitar and one plays drums so it’s perfect for them!  They already have the guitar hero so I am looking forward to seeing what they think of the rest of the package and getting some ideas from them about how to use it in school!  That’s inbetween climbing Ben Lomond, going on a 15 mile cycle, taking them to my running club for a track session and possibly doing some indoor climbing!  They are pretty active and will beat me at everything hands down!



21 03 2009

I was running the blogging part of my blogging and wiki course again this week, twice, and was ashamed that I had not posted in so long as the attendees were using my blogroll to get to others.  I resolved to post that night (Monday) and yet here I am on Sat morning just getting round to it, although about two hours later than planned after catching up on loads of other peoples blogs and finding some great new ideas, especially new wikis that I can show at the wiki part of the course next week.

I have just felt too busy to blog even though I have had loads I could have written about this term.  I have been keeping my running one up to date as it is my training diary as well as a blog and so it has taken priority.

Work has been super busy, but brilliant, I have been trying to train for these crazy running races I am doing (which are getting frighteningly closer) and I this last couple of weeks I have travelling around the country a bit and organising my summer!

In the last two weeks I have been in Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow at a series of networking events for International Education masterclassers and others like global teachers and link schools.  I was there with the charity LINK that I went to Malawi with to highlight the glow group I am working on with them which will be primarily for global teachers and link schools but obviously for anyone else who wants to join as well.  It will sit within national international education glow group and one of the things I was doing was gathering resources from people to share within the group.

Glow was one of the things brought up quite often, especially when in the afternoons the groups split into their local authority groupings with some QIO’s present by this point.  It was fascinating to hear what different councils thought of Glow, obviously based on the experiences that they had to date and what stage their council were at in rolling it out.  It made me realise just how far SLC and other early adopters like Dundee had come when I when I came into contact with authorities who were at the very beginning stages.  I did feel bad talking about sharing resources and ideas etc on Glow when some teachers still seem very far away from getting a glow account.

There seem to be many different ways of rolling it out within authorities and I am not even going to pretend to begin to understand the work needed in setting up the infrastructure for local authorities when they sign up. However with the amount of content now on the national site both in terms of resources and in glow groups  it seems unfair for teachers not to at least get their username and password so that they can access the national site, even if nothing else is available for them at a school or local authority level.  I  did hear of this happening a bit in one council but I am sure there are very good reasons for it not happening too!

I had three brilliant days of co-operative learning training recently and have since been anxious to try it out with a class, particularly since I am now expected to deliver training on it.  So I asked at Castlefield and will be trying it out with a class who are particularly in need of some social skills!  I was amazed at the training at the things I thought I had been doing well in group work that were really just scratching surface and I now feel really enthused to try out things ‘properly’ like think, pair, share and peer teaching as just two examples.  I would previously have said I was doing these things, but now have an entirely new take on them!

I am going to tie in this work with Malawi.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  My school has recently become an official link school with the school I was in in Malawi (Gwengwe Primary) but I was was not feeling terribly enthused as I was unsure of how to take it forward when I was not actually there.  Going into the school this week to talk to the SMT about it and getting their support has helped, as did going to all of the networking events and getting ideas and the fact that just this week, after huge amounts of time on the phone, I have booked flights and trips for the summer.

I am going to Malawi for 2 weeks with one of the other teachers from the programme last year.  We are doing this independently although since we are both link schools the folk from LINK out there will give us a hand getting to our schools, either themselves or by arranging transport for us.  I am then leaving and going back to Nairobi to then travel to Tanzania and climing Mount Kiliminjaro.  I was talking about this last year so I had the idea before I knew about the celebs doing it!  I paid attention to what they did to prepare though and have watched the programme twice now so it was actually useful that they did it first!  In fact it persuaded me into spending yet more money to do a longer trek and not just doing the quickie, cheaper one to the top which you have less chance of getting to the top with anyway!  Not that I was trying to cut corners but with a brand new kitchen and huge total costs for this trip in total I was a bit worried!  When I saw how slowly Fearne Cotton was wallking and how much of a struggle it was for her I thought I would pay atttention!

Travelling back to Nairobi after that and going onto the Masai Mara for a three day camping safari and finishing with a couple of days in Nairobi.

The Kiliminjaro trek is partly to help raise funds for the teachers house I am raising money for in my village.  I am looking forward to going out and telling them that I am doing this for them and hopefully I will be past halfway by that point with a further very generous sum to come from someone if I make it to to the top of Kili.

I had sent letters asking about coming to stay again which unfortunately never arrived and so I had to text and ask but I got lovely texts back from my head teacher saying they would love to have me back:

“Caroline, your message has answered the dreams of a lot of people here.  They were asking me to call you and have a visit at Gwengwe school,  but I had nowhere to start.  Come and visit us.  You are most welcome.  The village headsmen, the family and all the teachers want to see you again.  The DEM and PEA say you are most welcome.  I am Jimu”

I since then asked them what they wanted to work on while I was there and they said english grammar, alphabetical order, global map, phonics and other things for maths.  Now despite my A at English higher I would not say my english grammar was the best and neither would my dad whenever he proof reads my assignments.  I am also not convinved that should really be a priority but I am going to keep thinking of it in terms of infants and maybe things like sentences and simple ideas of verbs, adjectives etc.  I would like to do more this year where I worked in english but the teachers helped the pupils to do it in Chichewa so they have a better understanding.

I would like to take out really simple jolly phonics books as well as teachers guides and other picture books and loads of other resources.  I will have to buy gradually over the next few months since I am already spending so much on the trip as a whole.  As part of the co-operative learning teaching I will try to enthuse the class I am working with at Castlefield to do things/make things/write to Malawi and work with the rest of the school to raise awareness and get behind the link and my visit.

More to follow on all of this after the holidays and a couple of questions to finish this one.

I signed up to twitter but have not really got into posting although I do log in and see what other people are saying.  It is blocked at work and I do not have present have internet access on my phone, although not sure if I can change this.  Can I send ordinary texts to twitter that would go on the web – that would be useful, and I hope interesting, when I was in Malawi again.  It was hard enough getting phone reception though never mind internet access so I doubt I would be able to do it through the internet even if I had it on my phone. 

Also I have been trying for a while to put powerpoints on slideshare, to then put on glow – it looks so nice!  These are all to do with Malawi and are reasonably big with lots of photos.  I am having terrible trouble getting them onto slideshare and just wanted to check if this was down to the photos and size of them – if it is I will just have to split them into smaller sections.

New Year – New Challenges for Justgiving

31 12 2008

Tomorrow (New Years Day) I will be completing (hopefully!) my first challenge of the year to raise money for the school I worked in in Malawi.

I wish to raise money to build a teacher’s house in the village so that there can be another qualified teacher employed in the school.  At the moment there are 7 classes, with only three qualified teachers and 3 volunteer teachers.  These qualified teachers include the head teacher and the deputy head teacher.  The PEA (Education advisor for the area) would also like Gwengwe Primary and one or two others in the area to be extended to have the full 8 stage classes they should have so this is another reason for needing another qualified teacher.  With these schools going up to St8 this would also mean the possibility of a secondary school being built in the area which would be of benefit to many.  I believe then that the building of a teacher’s house would be a sustainable thing to do for the village and surrounding area.  Teachers do not generally like to work in rural areas and female teachers are often tied to what/where their husbands are working but a teacher’s house being available does help to encourage them to rural areas.

Castlefield Primary have just established a link through the organisation Link Community Development that I was in Malawi with and they will be helping with some fundraising but it is a relatively small school and I would neither want, nor expect, that they would make any more than a contribution. 

I am going to try out a couple of new challenges this year to help raise money, and one or two that I have done before!


1st Jan – Edinburgh Triathlon

25th April – Highland Fling (53 mile ultra marathon from Milngavie to Tyndrum on the West Highland Way)

31st May – Edinburgh Marathon

12th August – Devil of the Highlands (42 mile ultramarathon from Tyndrum to Fort William on the WHW)

There will also be an autumn marathon (not decided which one yet), possibly another triathlon and whatever else I can think up.  Ideas welcome – but please not anything that involves heights!  I have never done a triathlon or ultra marathon before so these are brand new things for me – and a bit scary!

I am going back to Malawi to my school and village this summer and would love to go to Tanzania and climb Mount Kiliminjaro afterwards as one of my challenges but I do not know if I will have enough cash to go (a new kitchen in January is going to eat into my travel savings!)

20 miles on the WHW, training for the Fling

20 miles on the WHW, training for the Fling

My training for the triathlon has been patchy to say the least, some would say non-existent but I am still determined to do it as it is the first thing I am doing to raise money.  I have got into a bit of a habit of swimming first thing in the morning but have had no practice in a 50 metre pool.  Cycling training in winter has been really hard, as I am never home in daylight so it is only really weekends that I would have had the chance to practice and I was not very good at getting time for that.  The last few times I have tried to go out my chain has burst and got stuck  halfway out each tme so that involved some walking with the bike, phonecalls and some help on xmas eve  from a nice man on his bike stopping to help me.  And then the bit that should have been easiest could turn into a nightmare!  I have not run in 3 1/2 weeks as I had been having pain behind my right knee and have been to the sports pyhsio at Hampden who said it was a weakness in my right glute and hamstring, gave me exercises to build up the muscle and told me not to run!  I kept quiet about the triathlon.  So hopefully the pain will be gone when I run tomorrow!  I won’t even go into the traumas of what to wear at various points!  Not the best preparation all in all but hopefully it will be a laugh – and not too cold in Edinburgh!

I have set up a justgiving site, follow the links/RSS feed on the right hand side, and I would really appreciate any donations through the year, as I attempt to reach a total of £2000.  I have never tried to raise so much before, although I know there are many people who reguarly raise much more than that.  I am not very good at asking though!

Overspending for shoeboxes

12 11 2008

Last Thursday I did my biggest training input so far on Glow.  This was to all the team leaders within support services for two clusters within East Kilbride.  I felt they were all really positive and quite happy to take forward the work on passwords, being able to see how it carried on from their work on Seemis.  They were also asked to see how it would be used with the children so I took them through a couple of glow groups.  This then led to them asking if they could have a glow group and I was later (once I found out) able to tell them that one was in the process of being built for support services.

I spent my Saturday morning at a ‘speed net’ event at Holyrood Secondary for the Scotland-Malawi partnership.  It was basically like speed dating, and talking about Malawi in that way was hard enough, I would never be able to speed dating!!!  It could have been really useful but unfortunately there were an awful lot of us there who wanted to find out more and not enough people who had done a lot to be able to tell us, still I might have made another couple of useful contacts!  I was invited to visit the school by the depute head and I think that would be really interesting.  Holyrood and their associated primaries and nurseries raised £75,000 in one year and were able to send some teachers and pupils over to Malawi to help build and/or repair school buildings in three schools.  3 of the pupils involved spoke to us and it sounds like an amazing experience for them.  I then heard from my dad that they also spoke to the Council Management Team involving the Chief Executive and the Heads of Service for Glasgow City Council this week – what skills they will be gaining from this whole experience!

I have been in schools a lot the last week and working with children often too on Glow and that is great.  I am really seeing the enthusiasm grow in the schools I am in and am lucky enough to be working with some excited and willing glow mentors.

It is not only within South Lanarkshire that my face is known for Glow – I turned up at the running club tonight to have one of the guys, who works at a school in Renfrewshire, come over and tell me that ‘I was glowing tonight’!  He had been waiting for a couple of weeks to ge that pun in I think, having seen me on the LTS website.  I was certainly glowing by the end of the session, just getting myself back into it after a bit of a break after the Chicago marathon, meant I hauled myself round the route in what I felt was a very slow pace!  And only for the kids shoebox appeal would I then go to Asda still in my running leggings to spend about 5 times more than I intended to on buying enough goodies to fill 8 shoeboxes.  I actually had a couple of people ask me if I buying stuff for shoeboxes as it was that obvious!  I love doing the shoeboxes or backpacks as it is so nice to imagine them getting them but I always get totally carried away!  It also always totally sickens me though that the world is such an unfair place that we have to be doing this and people are not able to live in the same way we are.  I always make sure I get hats and gloves etc as I can’t bear to think of children being cold.

And lastly I had a lovely pile of thank you nletters arrive from a primary school I did a Malawi presentation on a few weeks ago.  They included things like I was inspirational, very informative, I spoke very clearly (always good to know!) extremely interesting, someone was going to give their sweetie money away and lots more similar things.  One of my favourites (along with the inspirational one) was one that typed and was obviously supposed to say ‘I really appreciated it’ but came out ‘I really parachuted it’!

Reunion weekend

2 11 2008

I have been in 12 different schools during the last 2 weeks, for Malawi talks, rich task discussions and work on Glow.  It has been really interesting going into the different schools, especially the rural ones around Strathaven and seeing how they work in different ways.

The Glow Mentors in each school have been really interested in how they can start to use Glow for learning and teaching and I have been really encouraged by this and am keen to get in and work with the teachers in the classroom.  I now have some times set up in a couple of schools to do this.  I am drinking far too much tea and coffee though from being offered it everywhere I go!

I also did my first CAT night in another school by myself – luckily I was too busy in other schools to worry about it too much before it started.  I was doing the e-beam and easiteach and went through the programmes first and then was lucky enough to have some time left over for them to practice using it.  This was what made the difference I think as they were apprehensive while I was showing a lot of the different things that could be done but giving them the chance to try them out right away would help them to remember it.  I got really positive feedback from it.

Glasgow Airport 27th June

Glasgow Airport 27th June

Friday and Saturday this week I was at the Stirling Managment Centre for our Global Teachers post-placement training weekend.  This was done in a different way to previous years.  LTS have now partnered up with LINK Scotland to do the Global Teachers Programme and so Friday was a nationwide conference for all present and previous Global Teachers, LINK schools co-ordinators and this years participants to Uguanda with SCIPD in partnership between LTS and LINK, as I suppose a kind of launch of this and to allow all of us to begin to network with each other.

Kaye Livingstone and Nick Morgan from LTS spoke to us and then a couple of global teachers.  It was a really positive day I thought as hopefully from this people should be able to swap ideas and help each other.  One of the things we were discussing was Glow.  Nick and I have been working on a few ideas for the national site and I mocked up a Global Teachers group, although in reality I think this would change to include link schools too, so that people could see how they could share ideas and resources that way.  There was a really positive reaction to this, I thought, even though the vast majority of the people there were not even on Glow yet.  I am going to do this, and my children’s Malawi glow group, as my follow up work for Glow and will be able to work with the Link staff on this which will be good as they are really enthusiastic about it too.

In the evening and on Saturday it was just our group who were there, to reflect on the experience and start thinking about our follow-up work.  It was great to all meet up again and share what we had been up to – and we finished at 2:00pm on the Saturday so still had some of our weekend left!  It was somewhat nicer than being at the youth hostel in Edinburgh for our training although we were only at the management centre because it was LTS who organised and funded the conference.

I feel quite strongly from discussions at the weekend that I want to do something a bit more sustainable with pupils in South Lanarkshire, not just going in to do assemblies and then leaving again. I have not quite worked out what yet though!

Off to run and shop in the Windy City

9 10 2008

Perfect holiday starting tomorrow – a world marathon major to run combined with a week of shopping with a lot of dollars to spend (I might manage a little sight seeing too)!

Been really busy at work, that nice steady to the session has certainly gone but I am loving it!  Been involved in some web design with front page and uploading that to Glow, helping with catch up glow training training giving training on the ASM role to support services staff and that’s just some Glow work within the last 8 days. 

I have also given some presentations to AIFL named teachers on rich tasks and how to use them as an assessment tool, continued with my management and leadership certificate, presented on Malawi at a CPD twilight and went to my school’s parents evening and afternoon to talk about and show photos from Malawi.  I am keen to keep my school involved especially as we are linking schools and keeping the parents informed is an important part of that.  Also hoping they will help me with fundraising for the teacher’s house I want to get built in my village.  The PTA are great and being supportive with this.

I have done 3 school visits to help with getting passwords etc up and running.  As a council we decided to ask schools what support they wanted in terms of passwords and then learning and teaching so that we are only now going to go out to schools who want the support and want to move on with Glow.  Doing all of the ASM jobs is not exactly my favourite part but I am getting more confident the more I do it.  I can’t wait to get on and help with learning and teaching in schools though. 

I am offering membership to my Malawi glow group out to quite a few of my schools, certainly for the glow mentor and an older class in the school so that the group continues to get used even though I am not in class.  I am updating as I go along.  I am particularly pleased with my gallery page where I have got 4 folders of photos like food, school, family life, village life and then I have a discussion web part below with questions set on what they can learn from the photos – one set of questions for each of the folders of photos.  Now I just need to have a class actually do it!

The children’s passwords etc have been straightforward but I am discovering a few anomolies with probationers, area and cluster cover and my own situation being on secondment!  There is one school in particular that I think I am really going to like working with.  I did a talk there last week (using GLow to show my pictures) on Malawi with p.6 and they were so well behaved but even more importantly asked such brilliant questions the whole way through that I just had a brilliant time.  Things like how I felt about going, when I was there and how I felt leaving, what the kids thought of me being there, language barrier, what they were learning, and much more.  Then today I went again to work with the glow mentor, whom I had met briefly a couple of times and even though she was at very early stages and did not know how to do very much she was so excited about it and could really see it’s potential.  She was desperate to use it to help a child who is off on long term sick and to have a glow group for collaboration between her class and a p.7 class in another school as they already email each other.  So I was able to help her set up those things and I am going in to support her in class after the holidays.

Bonus of my leadership course being cancelled tonight – nice to finish early before a holiday and gave me time to do this.  I will post up my self-reflection and action plan from the first module if I pass them; I posted them today.

New Job

22 09 2008

Now I can finally write about my new job!  I am on secondment with South Lanarkshire Council as a Development Officer.  I am working on Glow and more specifically we hope to focus on how to help teachers to use Glow to support learning and teaching.  Other parts of my remit include the Curriculum for Excellence area of literacy and I am doing a lot of International Development as well, plus looking at gender.  So quite a few things on my remit! 

I am really enjoying it so far and am getting the chance to do a lot of different things.  One new challenge for me will be working with secondary schools on International Development as I have set up talks/questions and answer sessions/workshop afternoons with several schools, working with first to fifth year.  I can’t believe I was worried about going on secondment in terms of not being able to do my follow up work for LINK as this has actually led me, even in this short time, to have far more opportunity to disseminate information to pupils across the council than I would have had if I was in class.

I have only ever looked after kids, worked in pubs or restaurants or taught so it is a novel experience for me to be working in an office.  It’s great to have a change!