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Friday, April 28, 2006

Sitting Exams

Forgive me if it seems to have gone a bit quiet. I have two big pieces of work underway at the moment - revamping my own site and completing the SSDN Mentor pack online movie. I need to have both finished within the next fortnight, and I have quite a few school visits to cram in there as well.

I usually give each day or event it's own post, but I'll have to put all these in the same post at the moment.

On Wednesday of this week I was teaching P6&7 in Innellan primary school all about making databases. It was great being back in a classroom again - you miss the buzz of being directly involved in kids learning when you aren't doing it on a daily basis.

Thursday was a meeting in Oban with the Steering Group to work on the script for the online mentor pack - my thanks to all at the meeting for their thoughts, insights and corrections! I think (after spending a bit of time on it today) that we are ready to run with it now - so all I need as an afternoon with a microphone to record it and then bury my head in Flash for a week! Once it's done I'll put the link here for folk to see. Thanks to those of you who commented so far - I was really looking for criticism though? The colour of the dotted lines needed to be stronger.

Big news this week is a wonderful success story. Graham Davidson from Tobermory High School has become the first 'Microsoft Office Specialist Master Instructor' in Argyll & Bute. There are very few in the UK, so this is quite an accolade - well done Graham! And who says it's only pupils that sit exams?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Quotes of Note

I read quite a lot of blogs, but every so often one makes you really stop and think about the sharing of knowledge. I love Presentation Zen for his insight into how we go about the art of presenting information to others, but today his blog is full of quotes - I love number 9!

Which then got me thinking... which quotes do we have that inspire us to be better at what we do? I'll give two examples to start things off - nice and simple -

"You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself" - Galileo.
"Know Thyself" - Thales.

Anyone else?

Friday, April 21, 2006

A peek into the future...

I spent most of today creating an intro movie for the site we want to use to publicise the SSDN Mentors in Argyll & Bute. It's only the intro, so the buttons don't connect to anything at the moment, but any intial thoughts or comments are most welcome.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


This is just a quick blog - SMART Board software v9.5 is now finally available for Apple Mac and MS Windows. I haven't tried it on my Mac yet, but great to finally get my hands on it.

Check out the downloads page at http://www.smarttech.com

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Isn't this a lovely font?

Today was quite a tough day. I went into a school for some feedback on my failure to secure an interview for a promoted post (or should that read their failure to interview me?)

I always struggle with the whole 'experience' / 'ability' issue. Given the chance, I would far rather have someone that has great ability than long experience, but I can understand why people rate experience so highly. It's not that I don't have experience though - it's just different experience.

Maybe it's now that I'm out of school and getting nowhere trying to get back into school that I need to reappraise my role in education. I'd always regarded taking up my present post as a great move, as it has given me a far broader insight into education that staying in school and going for the comparable role of PT could ever have given me. What it would have given me would have been incredibly valued experience of running a department, managing the departmental budget and submission of SQA data. How you get that experience without being a PT I will never know.

What made today a tough day is being told that your thoughts, experience and ideas are years ahead of where a school is now, and that my inexperience is too big a risk for a school to take on, even though I may have the ability.

I then had a discussion with my line manager about the prospects of staying in education, but out of school. For many people pursuing the role of Quality Improvement Officer, the experience of leading a school, or being in the senior management team is largely a desirable or essential characteristic, so this pathway will probably be closed to me too.

As ever, the most wonderful girl in the world saved the day, as Nicola took me out for dinner to cheer me up. (There - who says you never get a mention?)

The title for today is quite possibly the most irrelevant question I have ever been asked in education - when I was asked it today, I couldn't even answer, as I had in my mind the mental image of shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic - so I'll answer it now - I couldn't care less what the font looks like - what's important is what does it say?!!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Comment bon est votre fran├žais?

Mine isn't very good, I'm afraid! I think I am living proof that boys should go to school later than girls, as they are not ready for the education they receive.

I would have loved the opportunity to practice the language away from the potentially embarrassing moments of getting something wrong in a classroom, and it would have been great to be able to listen to what I was trying to learn at a time of my choosing... if only I was learning the language now!

Lynne Horn of Tobermory High has set up a French blog for her pupils - one of the brilliant things about this blog is the podcast - click here to check it out.

To think that I heard of a Head Teacher recently that considered blogging, podcasting and wikis as 'internet rubbish'- isn't it time we started to educate the educators? This is a brilliant use of technology - Go Lynne!

Monday, April 17, 2006

A 3 degree rise

Last week the governments chief scientific adviser publically announced concern about a potential 3 degree rise in the world's temperature.

I cannot get that out of my head.

I remember watching 'The Day After Tomorrow' at some point in the past, and being significantly concerned (in a 'Hollywood' way) about the ramifications of climate change.

I live right next to the river Clyde. The view from my window is spectacular - I posted a picture of it in 'Finally... 71'. A 3 degree rise in temperature in the world will undoubtedly affect the height of the water level outside my front garden. Which then got me thinking - just how much of Argyll is less than 7 metres above sea level? Also, this is only thinking about the rise in water level - the economic/social effect of this would clearly be devastating! The picture for today shows what could happen to Helensburgh with a 7 metre rise in sea level - for those of you that are following the NPDO project, take a moment to think about the location of the new Hermitage Academy! If you want to try this for your own location, click here.

It certainly puts things into perspective - how green are we as a council? How green are our schools, pupils and future citizens?

I've spent a lot of time over the last fortnight deepening my knowledge of Flash - we deal with trivial issues, whilst the world in general is largely being ignored.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Things are not as they seem...

Ok, if you have been following the countdown on my site, you will have notice that it jumped - I've now run into server problems getting the dynamic content to work for the new site, so I've had to extend the timescale for the change - it's now going to happen on May 4th (otherwise known as Star Wars day?)

Sorry! But it is worth the wait (honest!)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Bridging the gap between 1.0 and 2.0

Today we had a meeting in Oban to look at our policy, protocol and training for schools to create websites.

We have run two entirely different courses for web creation over the past three years. Before I arrived in post, we ran a course showing people how to make simple websites using Textease Studio Plus. Although Textease is really designed for other things, as a by product you could save your files as html, thus creating simple sites that required a very low skill set to create - which I am always happy to see.

The problem with this method was that it had no functionality beyond simple hyperlinks. To move from this to create something more demanding required re-training in another application.

We decided to move to an application that would allow for this increased functionality, so we decided (after much discussion) to move to Dreamweaver. Why? It worked on both Apple Mac and MS Windows, and had the capacity to grow as people's needs developed.

The only problem is that Dreamweaver is a very difficult interface to get used to.

We have had very little success getting our schools online with either Textease or Dreamweaver, so we had a meeting to look at how we could resolve this situation.

People will need to realise that it is time consuming to maintain a website. Also, schools need to get into the way of thinking that everything created in the classroom is potential web content.

Our solution is going to be threefold:

1. Run courses next session on blogging, podcasting and social bookmarking, instead of website creation. - this will give people the ability to get online, get an audience and begin significant communication.
2. The following session, run an initial course on 'Planning a Website' - bitter experience has shown us that people don't know how to do this, so they need to examine it way before sitting down infront of a web editor. Schools need to know how to draw the structure of a website, collate electronic information, and optimise images
3. The offer a simple choice - A) Template: create a simple site using a provided template - this get the 'uninterested' or those that cannot devote the time/personnel online. B) Custom: create a site that is fully customisable in Dreamweaver. For those that want to put their own stamp on a website, or to create something that is different from the template, then they can go down this route.

I am still convinced that we need to teach kids how to create websites and not just to rely on the templates of web2.0 - without some skills, you don't know how to alter or sort things? Also, in education we need to equip our students with the skills they need for the future - undoubtedly, many of our kids will go into the world of IT, and will need creation/management skills.

Is this progress? I hope so. I am much more interested and inspired by the technologies of web2.0 than web1.0 but still realise the importance of a site for schools - links from a school site to various blogs that are curricular projects seems like a great idea to me, and there is no doubt in my mind that the communication tools of web2.0 are far more valuable than a static html site. That said, a static html site allows the creator the ability to express themselves in a far greater way than any template driven blog can. To change the template, you need some programming skills.

What does anyone think?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Finally, 71...

It's all gone quiet.

That's because I have been really busy. When it comes time for the school holidays, I always breath a bit of a sigh of relief, as I know I will get some uninterrupted time to work on paperwork and development that has otherwise slipped.

I have been working on three things:

1. The writing up of the Port Ellen Tablet Project. Nearly complete from my perspective, but I will need to run it past the Head Teacher Violet Cusworth to check from her perspective. I can't wait to hear what people make of it.

2. Writing up of the specification for SSDN Mentor in Argyll & Bute. I know a lot of people are eagerly awaiting this, but you'll have to hold your breath a bit longer! I am being allowed to turn our initial paper document into an animated flash interaction, which I am so chuffed about - after all, the SSDN is meant to be about the future! If I am also allowed, I may post a link to it from here as a work in progress as I'd love to hear what people have to say. Watch this space?

3. Developing the new look website. For those of you that just read this as a subscription, then my website www.whereisab.co.uk is going to have a facelift in 10 days. I say 'facelift', but let's be honest - it's open heart surgery. It had to change sooner or later. I mean, just how long can you have buttons that say 'coming soon'? To say that I have learnt a few things over the past week is a gross understatement. Incidentally, if anyone reading this is an absolute wizard with Flash and XML feeds, can they get in touch with me?

More news on Monday as we have a meeting in Oban about creating school websites.