Tag Archive | learner voice

Negotiated Learning

Very recently, I stumbled upon a comment on twitter by Oliver Quinlan about Negotiated Learning.

I followed a link to his blog and read this :

“Mr Quinlan… can I show you something..?”

You don’t have to have been teaching long to have had one of those moments; when a pupil brings you something amazing they have done of their own accord. When left to their own devices children and young people can often come up with the most exciting examples of their learning

I decided to introduce the idea to my Primary 6 stage class last week – and they loved it. I wanted to stress that the idea wasn’t about regurgitating what they already knew, but that the point was to learn something new then share this new learning with their peers.

  I quickly made a makeshift ‘first ideas’ proposal sheet for them to complete.

They were allowed to work on the task on their on, in pairs, or in small groups.

There was a buzz of excitement in the class as they all made their choices about what they were going to learn. The excitement obviously spilled to areas outwith the class, because the HT mentioned how she’d overheard some Primary 6s discussing their ‘negotiated learning’. I hadn’t had the opportunity to share the concept with her … but I think she’s sold on the idea, too now 🙂

Here’s some of the new learning that took place last week:

Safe and Responsible Use of the Internet

Last week Primary 6V  hosted a ‘Safe and Responsible Use of the Internet’ information evening. I think the title is more meaningful than the usual ‘Internet Safety’ one. I chose it because (quite a while ago now) I read a post on Ollie Bray’s blog describing the subtle difference between the two phrases. I can’t find the link to Ollie’s original post, but we did use some of the free Internet Safety and Responsible Use Cartoon Illustrations  he blogged about more recently – the class loved them!

The aim of the evening was to enable the children to share:

  • how they have been using Glow blogs and wikis in school and at home to improve learning
  • what they have learned about the dangers of the internet
  • strategies they use to keep themselves safe online

I introduced the class to prezi and they all voted to use that instead of their powerpoint presentation. I’ve included a copy of it here.

It’s taken me longer than I’d intended to blog about this.

I’ll also try to blog about our attempts at ‘Negotiated Learning’ before the end of term. The children are loving it – thanks to Oliver Quinlan for the idea 🙂

Blogs, Wikis and Emergent Writers

 I mentioned in my previous post that I was surprised at the unexpected lengthy pieces of writing on the children’s Glow blogs and wikis. I’ve been using the same strategy that I adopted previously when I carried out a case study for my Chartered Teacher studies –  my dissertation  has the details, and I’ve had a closer look to see if I can come up with a formula (I’ve looked at some of the professional reading that helped to convey my thoughts at the time).  

Three ingredients jump out:

1. Content  – The freedom to choose

  • Lafferty (2004): “To develop an online community requires a more student-centred approach with the tutor transforming into a facilitator from ’sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side.” 
  •  Marsh (2007) proposed that by enabling children to create blogs based on their own interest, valuable learning opportunities might be developed
  • Buckingham (2008) argues that through using the new media, young people are learning primarily by means of discovery, experimentation, and play, rather than by following external instructions and directions
  • Stern (2007) also found that in the absence of audible or visual cues, young people often feel less inhibited, a sensation heightened by the experience of crafting messages in front of a computer screen, frequently in the privacy of their own room or other personal space. She claims that authors possess more control over the impressions they give than they do in offline spaces, since they make all the decisions about what to reveal, omit, embellish, or underplay. 
  • Wenger states that the school is not the privileged locus of learning. It is not a self-contained, closed world in which students acquire knowledge to be applied outside, but a part of a broader learning system. The class is not the primary learning event. It is life itself that is the main learning event. 

 2. Comments –  Creating a sense of audience

  • Stern (2007) argues that the main audience for their blogs was the authors themselves and that they were self reflecting as they tested out different versions of their current and possible identities. She also maintains, however, that they were continually testing out other audiences too, and that they were hungry for peer approval
  • Davis and merchant (2006) believe that the perception of an actual or imagined audience prompts us to think about what we wish to show ……… an audience to whom one is presenting a particular narrative of the self

3. Sharing – New posts shared offline (in class), tends to influence other – sometimes typically reluctant – writers to add posts to their own blogs .

  • Godwin-Jones (2003) explains that blogs and wikis offer powerful opportunities for online collaboration for learners. He states that the encouragement of peer to peer networking and buddy learning is central to a constructivist learning approach,
  • Dissertation quote – Sharing the stories that the children wrote on their wikis provided ideal opportunities for formal learning to occur.  The stories were  written at home, usually in instalments. It is clear that the children often went home and improved parts of their stories after having heard them read aloud in class.  
  • Owen et al, 2006  believe that there is significant potential for the development of new approaches to education. There are changes in our understanding of practices of creativity and innovation – from the idea of the isolated individual ‘genius’ to the concept of ‘communities of practice’, where reflection and feedback are important collaborative processes.

But there’s a fourth ingredient that came in to play during  the case study period and that was the importance of ‘Role Models’. At the time I was interested in gender differences and I noted that my class were very aware that some of the  The AllStars girl bloggers seemed very skilled writers. This encouraged the girls in my own class to improve the quality and quantity of their posts. The boys, on the other hand, had no such role models. The AllStars teacher Kim P contacted me at the time because she was aware of the same gender differences:

  •  “Girls seem more word oriented evidenced by their blogging stories, commentaries etc; whereas boys tend to prefer visual (and less text oriented) ways of expressing themselves. Maybe boys prefer to talk and show how to use an application, rather than using application for personal reasons.”


 This time around the gender balance has changed, though. It’s the boys who tend to write more on their blogs and wikis – and the Role Models are in our own class 🙂

  • Andrew enjoys writing blog posts. His wiki story is looking fantastic, too.
  • Kian started this story as a blog post and it’s now 6000 words long. He’s been continuing it on a Word document and it’s being saved on a memory stick until it’s finished (we’ve had a lot of discussions about copyright and I suspect he’s protecting the idea until it’s published). 
  • Jack has been writing a hilarious story on his wiki. It shocked me at first, but I can’t wait to read more. What do you think? Jack’s Story

Now more reluctant writers are beginning to add lengthy posts. Four stand out for me:

  • Sean wrote a great account of his first experience at a  football match. I don’t think he’d have been this inspired in class. It’s here 
  • I’m impressed that Ryan was motivated to write this post in his own time.
  • Dylan’s post made me smile and I want to know more about his knowledge of Falkirk Bus Routes.
  • Lewis is very proud of his post about his holiday to Aviemore

 More to follow about the girls’ writing 🙂

Glow Blogs and ePortfolios?

 At the beginning of this school session, I set up Glow Blogs for my class and wondered if they could form part of an ePortfolio. Our Glow Blogs have been up and running for less than four weeks, so they’re a wee bit away from being ePortfolios yet 🙂

I talked a bit about them during  TeachMeet at this years Scottish Learning Festival last night, and today I’ve been pondering how the (9/10 year old) children have been ‘settling in’ and getting to know their new online spaces. Tonight I took a quick whirlwind tour of the blogs so that I could get some sort of overview of what’s happened so far.

 These are just some of the significant learning experiences to date:

Establishing the Purpose (a couple of first posts – setting the scene for their blogs?)

  • Hi people of earth. This is my first ever blog entry. I am going to use this blog to tell you all about what I do inside and out of school. Please comment!!!
  • Hello mighty world ( that’s full of random people watching me on my blog ). Watch and see what happen’s because im full of good ideas.

Learning about Copyright (a difficult concept, but lots of class discussion about it seems to have paid off)

  • I got all this information out my book Horrible Histories The Savage Stone Age but put it in my own words.
  • My friend Kian sits beside me at class.I am going to tell you some of his ideas.WARNING:The fowlowing section of writing is COPYRIGHT as it is Kians.
  • Earlier today Anna+Robyn used the DJ Earworm song Like OMG Baby. So i just went to DJ earworms site and lokked and looked and looked but nothing so i commented and asked if we could use it with all music credit going to him but he need’s to E-mail back so im waiting!!!

Becoming Familiar with Blog Layout (wondering what happened to the post he’d written just previously?)

  • My first AR reading book was by David Orme …. Look up to see the 2nd book I read.And by up I mean on the compuuter not the roof or sky!

Awareness of Audience (asking for comments – or just ‘talking’ to a perceived audience)

  • So far I have had LOADS of comments on my blog! I would like to thank all the people who left comments. If you see a post and you think of something that describes it or something to improve it don’t hesitate to comment
  • I dont have alot of comments so plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz leave comments
  • Okay we did max in the middle today but i cant tell you about it because it’s Alisdairs turn on the computer so ill update you laterz!!! BTW Alisdair is my little brother

Blog as Vehicle for Communicating  Difficult Thoughts (Lewis doesn’t usually share information in class and mentioned quietly that he wanted this post to be shared with his peers)

  • I have a gran called Ann and she was in strathcarron hospice with cancer and she had alot of medicine. She was in strathcarron hospice for four weeks but at the weekend she died on saturday night. Her funeral is on thursday and I was sad when she died and I am going to miss her very much.

I’ve included my Prezi presentation from last night here …. thanks to Fearghal for his help with the setting up (I nearly mucked up!). Thanks, too, to all the other ‘behind the scenes’ people who made it …. despite my stressful state …the best TeachMeet experience for me so far. I came away with loads of ideas to investigate further.


Glow Blogs Update .. Take 2

It’s  been couple of weeks since I issued the class with their Glow Blog  usenames and passwords (actually it was a phased programme, so some have only had theirs for a week). In that short space of time there has been a lot of activity. I’ve  been surprised by the way some of the boys have taken to their blogs. Andrew and Kian have written some great posts – and Jack’s ‘Hello Mighty World’ post really made me smile 🙂

The reason that I’m surprised at the way that the boys in the class have taken to the blogs, is because my research from a couple of years ago pointed to the fact that the girls were much more reflective and the boys preferred to upload pics, etc. This is not the case with this particular class. The girls are the ones who are keen to express themselves via slideshows, etc. The dissertation was a Case Study, though, and only looked at my (then) P7 class. Although at the time, KimP  commented that she had found a similar trend with her own class

“…….The Vokis and Animotos are visual – like the prevalence of pictures on the boys blogs. I’ve noticed that the boys in my class also are really good at making topic related vokis and animotos.
In my experience, girls use these applications in a different way – more about how they see themselves, or want to see themselves; as opposed to the boys filling these applications with topic specific pictures and content.

…..PS Girls seem more word oriented evidenced by their blogging stories, commentaries etc; whereas boys tend to prefer visual (and less text oriented) ways of expressing themselves. Maybe boys prefer to talk and show how to use an application, rather than using application for personal reasons. Don’t know? Not sure”

Including slideshows in their Glow blog posts is proving a bit of a challenge as only certain sites can be embedded in to Glow Blogs. I had originally hoped to get round this by using Photostory3 (now available on all our school computers) and uploading these to Vimeo, but, although I can access Vimeo in school, I can’t log in to upload anything (and the children can’t access it at all when logged in to the computers). After a LOT of experimenting, however, I’ve managed to find some sites that do work and I’ll show these to the class tomorrow via a trial blog I set up. I’ve also just noticed that some of the girls have already found a way to include slideshows – but I suspect that they’ll soon use up the 100mb storage limit if they continue to do this (I’ll also need to disappoint them by pointing out that they can’t use pop music on their slideshows unles they’re sure the have permisson – I have explained about images, but didn’t think we were ready for the music just yet!)

What hasn’t changed, though, is the delight when comments are received. ‘Audience’ is clearly a very important part of their blogging. We’ve had to be careful to log out before leaving comments on posts, however, because surnames automatically appear (I could solve this by changing each of their Glow profile pages, but I just don’t have the time!)

Keeping track of the blogs is relatively easy as I use Google Reader, but I’ve noticed that if you visit the Local Authority Glow blog, then the most recently active blogs move to the top of the list.

Up until now, the class have been ‘getting to know’ their online spaces and just learning about how they work. Last week, I introduced them to linking to each others’ blogs or to any online webpage, and next I plan to explain the benefit of tagging their posts. I plan to let them grow organically as, if they’re going to withstand the test of time (and to eventually become part of an ePortfolio), the children need to feel ownership of the spaces. I was surprised, therefore, when they came up with the suggestion of using them as a learning log for their class project. Andrew blogged about this – and has already had feedback from his new PLN 🙂

“Hi again! Today at school Mrs V gave us all a Learning Log. A learning log is when you get given something to find out about. It can be anything from finding out about food to finding out about magnetism. Most of the time you get a week to do it. We were lucky though because you normally have  to do it in a big jotter but we got to do ours on our blogs! Since our topic is on Australia my learning log is about Sydney! If any of the AllStars check out my blog could you please leave comments telling me a bit about Sydney! So heres my learning log…”

But I think that the biggest advantage of having given the children their own blogs, is the difference it has already made to the classroom climate … and the insight I’ve had to the children’s interests and personalities after having only been with them for such a short time. More on this to follow ….

Glow Blog Update

A handful of children now have their Glow Blog username and password. These were sent home along with a covering letter explaining what Glow is and the potenial benefits of Glow blogs. Before issuing the passwords etc., the blogs were customised for safe use (well, as safe as possible without compromising on the gains).

The changes included:

  • Ensuring that all the blog URLs began with cps (Carronshore Primary School) followed by the child’s first name and second initial of their surname – https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/fa/cpsalysonm/ This gives a ‘uniform’ appearance to the blogs and associates them with an educational establishment (not just another social networking site that some children might be already using)


  • The Headers were modified so that the school identity was prominent. I made these by uploading pictures made in weeworld (it’s for 13+ age group, but the children were not using the actual site – they logged on via a school account made by me and simply saved their avatars). I then uploaded them to Microsoft Publisher and saved the file as a jpeg. This was then uploaded to Microsoft Picture Manager and cropped and resized to the right specifications.


  •  In the Settings menu on the dashboard, the ‘discussion’ options were set so that all comments would require moderation before appearing ‘live’ on the blogs. It’s imortant to change the default ones to those shown here because in wordpress they’re set to “Comment author must have a previously approved comment” – a bit like a ‘catch 22’ scenario 🙂


  • The blog Widgets were added in this order:

1. ‘Text’ widget so that the children could add something about themselves that would stay visible on their blog even after the introductory post had been archived https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/fa/cpsandrewf/

2. ‘Text’ widget – to link the blogs to http://www.scotedublogs.org.uk/ . Glow Blogs aren’t able to link to this site at the moment, but it’s being worked on and the issue will be sorted soon – fingers crossed 🙂

3. ‘Pages’ widget I felt it was important to share our class Blogging Rules on their individual blogs.

4. ‘Archives’ widget – I learned from previous experiences of providing children with their own online spaces that it can be difficult for them to understand what has happened to posts they’ve been proud of – and suddenly they seem to disappear because they get archived.

5. ‘Tag Cloud’ widget – Although I’ve activated this widget, I haven’t discussed its use yet with the class. I’m very guilty of not using it in my own blog – but have recently been converted to appreciating the value of tagging posts.

6. ‘Meta’ widget – I learned very early on that if you don’t activate this widget after changing Themes, logging in to your blog can be challenging 🙂

  • I’ve already shared the class flickr account with the children. This was set up a few years ago (for a previous class) but will allow the children to access photos from home. The weemee characters are saved on our ‘class share’ area, but this can onlybe accessed at school.


  • Google Reader helps me to keep track on what children are posting on their blogs. Subscribing to this means that I don’t need to check each individual blog to look for new posts.

Although there have only been a few class Glow Blog account logins assigned, I’m heartened by the results so far  – especially from the boys. I’ll maybe need to re-think some of my original research 🙂

More thoughts  to come …..

A Brief Look at Building the Curriculum 5


The learning and Teaching website’s section on Building the Curriculum 5 : A Framework for Assessment states that:

“Building the Curriculum 5 – A Framework for Assessment is the next step in providing support for staff as they implement Curriculum for Excellence. It provides an outline of the approaches to assessment to support the purposes of learning 3 to 18.”

Last week, we worked in groups to try to familiarise ourselves with the document. Each group member looked at a different section and tried to summarise the main points. I looked at the section on How We Assess and I’m going to publish my summary here. Others  might condense the chapter differently, but I’m putting it on here in the hope that it will be more accessible in the future should I ever wish to revisit my own first thoughts about the  document.

How We Assess

  • A variety of approaches and range of evidence should be employed. These should dependent on the activity, but also on the learners’ preferences. Learners should be able to show their thinking and provide evidence
  • Assessment should be fit for purpose. it should be valid, reliable and proportionate … and it shouldn’t be so much of a burden that it takes away from the learning and teaching time
  • Assessment should: demonstrate learners’ understanding; confirm progress within school; provide information for other partners; supply information for use beyond school (exams. etc.?)
  • When designing discussions, tasks, activities, etc., it is important to obtain evidence from inside and outside school. Sources may be: observations; records (e.g. oral); information (e.g. dialogue and questioning; writte; product; accounts by others (peers, parents, staff, etc.)
  • Assessment needs to be carefully planned for interdisciplinary learning and records must be kept but it must be manageable and practicable within day to day teaching
  • A section on the SQA describes how National 4 and National 5 will replace Standard grade exams. Access, Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications will be revised. New Literacy and numeracy qualifications are being developed from S3 onwards – these will be awarded on the basis of a portfolio and will initially involve input from the SQA who will award grades.

When the group got together to share our respective summaries, one thing that stood out was the repetitive messages included in the document. There were 5 members in the group, and on quite a number of occassions voices could be heard saying, “Yes, that’s much the same messages I got from reading my section.” Despite the repetitiveness, I agreed with the sentiments.

We then looked at how we might put this in to practice and were given a scenario so that we could assess an aspect of  Literacy.  After some discussion we looked at emerging approaches to assessment . These come with a ‘warning’ message: 

“However, in their day-to-day practice, practitioners would not be expected to document the assessment process for all learners in this kind of detail. It will be up to local authorities and establishments to decide how evidence of learning is to be captured, evaluated and used to inform next steps in learning and teaching.”

 We also looked at specific examples.  

I began to wonder that, as it’s just not possible to provide that much detail about each student’s learning without compromising learning and teaching time, might we end up going back to paying lip-service to assessment (PLP’s, Self-assessment, Peer-assessment, etc.)?

What if they were allowed (encouraged/trusted/guided?) to assess their own learning via  ePortfolios?

Too many questions …. and I’ve gone off on one of those ‘blue sky thinking’ tangents again – time to publish 🙂

What a Difference a Day Makes!

Ever since Jaye Richards  introduced me to the idea of ePortfolios on twitter , I’ve been contemplating how this might be the way forward for a whole variety of  things (peer assessment, self assesment, personal learning plans, motivated learners, CV’s … the list seems endless to me). 

The first blog post I wrote about the subject has been followed up by a whole host of others – but yesterday I thought to myself that I’d laboured the point for long enough and it was now to focus my (blog) thoughts on other issues. ……… So why is this blog post going to focus on ePortfolios??

Two events happened today to convince me that the subject was worth revisiting yet again.

  • The first one was a visit to Larbert High School where I stepped in to the shoes of a High School English teacher. I’m trained in Primary, so it was a bit daunting as I waited for the first class to arrive. I wondered if it might resemble a scene from To Sir With Love  – it was actually quite the opposite 🙂  The class were there for two periods and the time was used to revise for the fast approaching Higher exam. After the first hour, I thought they might appreciate a short break and I offered to show them a snapshot of the ePortfolio ideas I’ve been experimenting with. Just on a whim, I asked if any of them would be willing to record their thoughts about the suggestion of students at their level having an ePortfolio. I was delighted when four of them told me that they’d spend 5 minutes of their break recording their thoughts on a little mp3 player with a built in microphone (I happened to have a few of them in my bag from a CPD session I’d delivered the previous evening). I was delighted when they knocked on the staffroom door during the break to say that they’d done just that! They gave me their permission to put it on here (I got the impression that all four had spoken, but I could only find the extract below – hopefully i’ll see the class again tomorrow and clarify this) 



A Class Blog Journey Continues

nethermains1Three primary 6 stage children from Nethermains visited Carronshore just before the Easter break. They wanted to know how to add a  Voki and Photopeach slideshow to their new eportfolios. The picture here shows them concentrating as their ‘peer mentors’ demonstrated how to use the websites and then embed the completed efforts into their eportfolio. The class teacher had brought them along to see this for themselves. I’d already visited their school with a small group of Carronshore children to introduce them to the concept of eportfolios.

On both occasions I was struck by the genuine feeling of willingness to share and to listen (I think this picture and the ones below illustrate this?)

 Here’s a picture taken when the Primary 6s from Carronshore explained the process involved when adding a voki to an eportfolios home page.  I can’t remember which one was was displayed on the screen, but I think it was Jaimey’s .


The Nethermains group only had an hour with us, so it was a bit of a rush to help them to create their voki character and upload a personalised message to the site before embedding it into their new eportfolio.


These eportfolios are very much a ‘work in progress’ and won’t come to much without a lot of input from all involved. I know that when I return to class in August, the school management team will give me the freedom to set up an eportfolio experiment with my own class …. and this secondment has given me the opportunity to play around with the potential of reaching out to others in the authority.

On reflection, setting up these eportfolios is the result of a journey that started with a class blog – which then led to me giving children in my class their own online spaces (and voices) .  

I hope I’ll be adding some more to ‘The Story of the Carronshore Blog’  soon …..

Alison Peacock

A year ago I attended the Participation and Learning Seminar in Edinburgh.

participation_and_learning_blogThe seminar was planned as part of the work of the Participation and Learning Network being facilitated by Learning and Teaching Scotland.

I enjoyed the day, and was really inspired by Alison Peacock, Headteacher of the Wroxham School, Hertfordshire. At the time, I jotted down some notes as Alison talked about practical ideas she’d tried out in her own school by creating an atmosphere of inclusion and trust. I shared some of her ideas in a blog post at the time.

 When I heard that Alison was one of the speakers at the ‘Accountability, Assessment and Education for Citizenship’ HMIeseminar on the 12th of March, I was eager to go along and hear what other ideas she was willing to share. She talked about accountability. This time, though, I didn’t take notes. This was probably because those who attended the seminar were given her latest paper to read beforehand and most of what she said was illustrating the points she’d written about.

Once again, I was captivated by what she had to say and mentioned this on twitter. One of my followers asked me for more information and I offered to email Alison’s latest paper so that he could have a look. Niggling in the back of my mind, however, was the memory of the ‘chair person’ saying that the paper was still in draft form and not yet officially published. I’m not knowledgeable enough about the protocol of sharing such things, so I contacted Alison directly … and I now have her permission to share her paper on this blog – an honour, indeed 🙂

When I first read the paper, however, one small section jumped out at me – I’ve copied and pasted it here: 

“……..Almost on a daily basis, we are reminded of the need to prove our worth and to enact models of leadership that hold others to account.  Depressingly, this ‘top down’ model leads many teachers to pressurise their class of children in the name of ‘standards’.  Parents and carers seek additional tuition outside school; all around us is the worry of test performance and ranking.  Even when we self evaluate school performance, too often the measures that we use are dominated by pupil performance within the core curriculum areas of maths and English. This has led to a culture of fear in many schools where measurable outcomes, in terms of test results, dominate the primary curriculum. School league tables, safeguarding regulations and the constant prospect of a phone call from Ofsted, are enough to send a shiver down the spine of the bravest school leader.”

HMIe visits have been the topic of some of my fellow ‘twitterers’ lately. Neil Winton’s school was recently inspected and he wrote this blog post before the inspection where he briefly describes distant memories of a previous visit that did not go well for him personally. This was  followed up with  another post that was much more optimistic about the pending inspection, but I’m afraid I still hold the ‘shiver down the spine’ viewpoint. This may be because the primary school that I’m seconded from is about to be inspected. I tend to be made less than welcome there at the moment – they’re finding it hard to forgive me for managing to escape the pre-inspection panic 🙂

I wonder what difference it would make if the word ‘inspector’ was replaced by the word ‘mentor’ … or anything else less intimidating!

Anyway – I seem to have gone off on a tangent (yet again) when writing this blog post. Here’s Alison Peacock’s paper. It is really very readable. Listening to her talking is also very much recommended, too 🙂


Alison Peacock