Graham Family Wikispace Rescue

Welcome to the Graham Family Wikispace! And there’s some great stuff about the Vass family, too!!

Jack and me … still laughing (now and then!) after 30 something years.¬†laugh.gif

My name is Margaret Vass (nee Graham) and I have been married to Jack Vass for 30 yrs now (as of June, 2007). We have 3 boys – Neil (with Steph) in Manchester, Graeme (with Lyndsey) just ‘doon the road’, and Brian (still threatening to go and live in Canada for a year after graduating from Strathclyde Uni). My mum’s name was Janet Hislop, my dad’s name was Patrick Graham (big Pat). This is the story of our families – Jack’s lot were simpler to ‘track’, mine were a wee bit more challenging (maybe that’s a good thing?)

Jack is an ‘only child’ – (and loved it!)

I have 3 sisters and one brother

    • Pat ( wee Pat) is the oldest and lives in Glasgow in her lovely new house
    • Miriam (sadly now deceased) comes next. She was married to Joe (also now deceased). They lived in Tighnabruich, Argyll
    • Gerard (the only boy – now living in London). Has 2 children – Emma and Duncan
    • I’m next . I’ve been married to Jack for 30 years now!!! We have 3 boys – Neil (in Manchester with Steph), Graeme ( Just ‘doon the road’ with Lynz) and Brian (who’s threatening to leave home soon and go and live in Canada for a year!)
    • Finally there’s Rosemary (Rosie or Roma for short). She’s married to Gerry and they have 3 children – Julie, Laura and Richard.

I would like to use this space to show the Family history in pictures, videos and stories. Maybe there are some people out there who can add some missing info? Feel free to get in touch if you can.

There are pages which can be accessed on the right. The first ones are the ‘History’ pages. There are also individual pages where the present family can add any interesting things they get up to. These can then become the ‘History Pages’ for any future generations ūüôā

my blog

Negotiated Learning

June 12, 2011

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 :

‚ÄúMr Quinlan‚Ķ can I show you something..?‚ÄĚ

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 ‚Äď and they loved it. I wanted to stress that the idea wasn‚Äôt 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 ‚Äėfirst ideas‚Äô 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‚Äôd overheard some Primary 6s¬†discussing their ‚Äėnegotiated learning‚Äô. I hadn‚Äôt had the opportunity to share the concept with her ‚Ķ but I think she‚Äôs sold on the idea, too nowūüôā

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

last day of school

Today is the last day of school until the Easter holidays.
We did an egg competition and Frazer, Jamie and Scott won.
1. Frazer made a Dalek.
2. Jamie made an Alien.
3. Scott made a Parrot.
Comment down below if you have ever decorated an egg and what you decorated it as.


in art this week we were making silhouettes for our Victorian topic there was quite a lot of steps

you will need   scissors,a partner,a pencil,a pen,black paper,coloured paper and glue.

1. draw the side of your partners face

2.glue it to some black paper to it then cut it out

3.cut out an oval shape of paper

4.glue your silhouette to the oval fancy writing write who it is and who it’s by

6.go over it in pen

7. cut out another oval in black paper

8. glue the black oval to the other oval

9. enjoy your Victorian silhouette!!!!


Enough is Enough!

 This is one of our class blogs where ads have been appearing recently.

The class teacher contacted me for advice¬†and I suggested that¬†the school¬†could sign up to be an edublogs supporter and then there would be no more ads appearing on their site. I also pointed out that if any other teachers were keen to set up a class blog, then their blogs could be included in the school’s ‘ad free’ package.

The school is happy to do that and the problem will be resolved soon.

Sometimes these ads are harmeless enough, but when I clicked on their blog earlier this evening, this is what I saw (these children are 6 years old!).



I focussed on the add links on the left hand side menu. When I clicked on the last link, it took me to this page:




Hence the post title …. enough is enough. My instincts tell me that it just isn’t right and that this sort of thing shouldn’t be happening on an ‘edu’ blog.

I wonder what others think?

Blogging Turmoil

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been thinking about the ‘ups and downs’ of blogging. I should probably have¬†put the Downs and Ups in the title section of this post, as the period in question¬†began with the Downs!


This was due to some frustrations with edublogs. Things were extremely slow for a while, and this was very frustrating when trying to post about Kim and Gail’s visit. I also worried about all the teachers I’ve been helping recently to set up class blogs. I imagined their frustration at not being able to access edublogs so soon after being ‘converted’!

To top it all, some teachers who had set up class blogs, have begun noticing adverts appearing on their posts. One Headteacher also telephoned to say that a parent had complained about an advert on the Primary 2 class blog that he thought was particularly inappropriate for young children.

The only way to stop the ads is to become an edublogs supporter. This costs around ¬£30 a year. This also allows you to disable ads on up to 30 other blogs (a class set?), although the extra blogs wouldn’t have any of the other supporter benefits – such as extra storage space or access to plugins.

Initially, this seemed like a good solution to the ads problem on pupils individual blogs. After some deliberation, however, I recalled the situation that arose last session when my class used learnerblogs, and the problems that arose then when ads began appearing on their posts.

 At the time, I wrote:

Last weekend, I made the decision to move the class individual blogs away from learnerblogs over to edublogs. Recently there was an announcement in the edublogs support blog to say there would no longer be an option to sign up for learnerblogs accounts, but that any existing ones would remain active.

It may have been a coincidence, but around about the same time, adverts began appearing all over the pupils’ learnerblogs and they started receiving some spam comments. Last Friday, however, a comment appeared on the main class blog from a pupil to say that a very inappropriate comment was awaiting moderation. Normally I would have moderated the comment first, but it must have appeared on her blog as she was logged in to update it.

The conversations on the main class blog as she tried to seek advice can be viewed here.

I made a decision to close down¬†the pupil‚Äôs blog (at least I¬†copied and pasted all her posts before taking the ‚Äėone way trip‚Äô!). I also erased another pupil‚Äôs blog where there had been a previous spam comment noticed. It was a rushed decision and the next morning I decided to create new edublogs for the pupils.

Last Monday, we spent our computer time exporting all information from the learnerblogs accounts and importing it into the new edublogs accounts. It was a simple process and the children managed to do this themselves. They left a short goodbye message on their old blogs and provided a link to their new blogs.

Our next job is to activate the ‚ÄėAkismet‚Äô spam key required to deal with spam comments. I‚Äôve had this installed in the class blog and have had over 1000 comments deleted as spam‚Ķ‚Ķ. and I still need to¬†replace links on the class blog.

I deliberately used bold for the last paragraph, because I believe now that the ‘Akismet’ spam key is necessary for pupil blogs so that there is a safeguard in place to help prevent the experience described here from re-occurring. Unfortunately, because the pupil blogs have no access to the Akismet spam plugin, that precautionary measure cannot be taken.

I’m now of the opinion that recommending edublogs for pupils is not feasible and I need to try to quickly find an alternative solution. Every day more and more teachers are asking for advice – and I’m suddenly confused about what that advice should be ūüôĀ



I came across this 5th graders blog recently (just surfing!) and on it I found this wonderful summary of what blogging meant to Eddie at the time.



 The image really cheered me up and I decided to keep on looking for safer ways for pupils to blog.

I was also delighted that Maryam ,who has now moved on to High School, is still reading the¬†Carronshore Blog and took the time to comment on Mrs P’s recent visit to Carronshore Primary School. (last years P7 can’t access their own blogs any more because of an issue with having to renew edublogs passwords a while ago …. but that’s another story!).

Maryam wrote:

Hello Primary 5!
It’s me Maryam! Sorry i haven’t wrote in ages, just been sooooo busy!
I have been looking at all the latest updates of your blog and i was really shocked at this video! When i was in primary 7 (last year) we talked to all stars and Mrs P and Mrs D from the AllStars! Lucky you guys for meeting them!
Anyway, I know it is a little bit late but..
HeHe, i would have said it earlier but i have been quite busy. School is really good! Except my English teacher has left with was really sad, but now we have 3 English teachers which is very confusing.. very.
I have been getting quite alot of tests at school on sciences and i am really enjoying all of them and i cannot wait till i go on holiday to Pakistan on the 4th of February, i haven’t seen my mum’s side of the family for 4 years! I can’t wait!
I will write back soon.

The final ‘UP‘ happened last night on twitter¬†when Andrew and Sinclair offered some great advice …. and I’ll be taking up the offer of further help from both Sinclair and David who say they’re willing to answer more questions I have about finding solutions to our Blogging problems. I’m very grateful that they’re willing to share their experise …. I need all the help¬†I can get ūüôā

Kim and Gail’s Visit to Falkirk

Kim and Gail captivated the children in Easter Carmuirs and Carronshore on Friday. They were bombarded with questions about life in Australia …. and what impressions they had about life in Scotland!

In the morning, they visited Carronshore and were treated to some Fischy Music

Back in class, the children interviewed Kim and Gail. I learned loads by listening to the responses to their great questions!

Before they left, Kim presented the class with two new pets! The platypus and koala bear will be well looked after, I’m sure!¬†



After lunch, we headed off to Easter Carmuirs so that Kim and Gail could meet Mr O and some of the children they’ve met ‘virtually’ over the past 2 years. Again, the Primary 7 pupils had some great questions for them. Two guides then showed us round the school. We returned to the class and chatted with the children while they used technology during their Friday afternoon Golden Time slot. Kim and Richard also had a further¬†opportunity to chat about possible future virtual ventures together.

Kim and Gail both commented on how impressed they were with these Primary 7 pupils.



Part 2 – Visiting E. Lothian



Yesterday Kim, Gail and I drove out to East Lothian to visit Musselburgh Grammar School and Wallyford Primary School. The day was organised by Ollie Bray, a Depute Head at MGS.

Our first port of call was Wallyford. We visited a primary 7 class where the children were engrossed in their Nintendo DS as they worked to improve their brain age! I was really impressed by how absorbed the children were in the activity. There was a great question and answer session afterwards. I learned that:

  • the children love it, but half an hour of such intense concentration is enough for them
  • they sometimes forget that they are even in class because it’s the type of activity they would normally take part in outside of school (the atmosphere was very informal – some children sat in small groups on large cushions on the floor)
  • they often used this as a ‘settling down’ activity right after lunch
  • the¬†20 to 30 minute activity was counted as part of their mental maths for that day
  • some found it frustrating that the voice recognition didn’t recognise their accent (the Australian visitors agreed – the word ‘yellow’ caused them the most problems!)
  • Some of them liked the fact they could compete against their classmates – others preferred to work hard to improve their own scores
  • age 20 is the optimal brain age (I tried it later and scored 80 …. I’m blaming the voice recognition tool!!)




The children packed up the equipment and we were escorted downstairs to the primary 3 class. These children played the ‘Drawn to Life’ game. The purpose is to create and customise heroes, weapons, vehicles, animals and more. The children then play with their creations and watch them come to life. Once again, these children were totally absorbed in the activity. Ms Betteridge had made worksheets to go along with the game and the children then used the experience to help with imaginative writing. The primary 3 pupils confidently used expressions such as :

  • settings
  • characters
  • plot
  • props to help solve problems

I¬†overheard two pupils discussing the coins they had accumulated. They accurately read big numbers such as 7765, 9981, and even 7001. They were also able to easily put these in order of smallest to biggest – very impressive ūüôā


Back at MGS we had the pleasure of talking to Jamie and Andrew, to 1st year pupils. They talked to us about The Guitar Hero project that they were involved in to¬†aid the transition from Primary to Secondary school. I’ve read about it before on Ollie’s blog, but it was great to meet two of the children who took part and hear things from their perspective. I scribbled down some notes as we questioned them … again, I’ll use bullet points to give snippets of what they said (so, it’s not a chronological order of events!)

  • In primary 7 they formed small groups. The groups were chosen by the teacher because the pupils found it difficult to choose from a large friendship group
  • the rock bands planned a ‘Round the World Tour’
  • Activities spilled into various curricular areas. For example – In music, they practised ‘beats’. In English, they kept a ‘Rock Diary’. In Art they designed their own instruments and drew rock stars
  • Each of the feeder primary schools had one guitar and the groups took turn about to practise.
  • There were competitions at the weekly Golden Time slots (even the teachers joined in!)
  • Once in High School, everyone had a common issue that they could discuss with children they didn’t know
  • They were grouped again in High School with new people – again chosen by the teachers. Both boys thought that the project meant that people were less likely to be shy
  • New friendships struck up really easily because they all had a shared experince to discuss
  • In Craft Design and Technology class, the new groups designed postcards using graphics in Photoshop. These were then sent back to their P7 teachers (they couldn’t remember receiving a reply back?)
  • Although they felt very at ease socially with their new clasmates, the boys still felt a bit intimidated by the size of the new school

¬†I thoroughly enjoyed the day and need to say a big thank you to Ollie (I hope he doesn’t mind that I pinched the pics from his blog – trust me to forget the camera!).

Thanks also to the staff and pupils who made us all so welcome …. and lunch was great, too ūüôā

A Two Part Post

Recently¬†I blogged about my initial meeting with Kim and Gail (check out the responses from Cassie regarding their proposed visit to Carronshore! ) … and the comment response from John Connell was completely unexpected!¬†

I’m sure that the children from Easter Carmuirs are also looking forward to meeting the ‘virtual people’ face to face ūüėČ

I’ve now joined Kim and Gail on 2 of their Scotland visits – and my head is still swimming! I’ll need to create¬†a couple of¬†posts to cover all we experienced.

This is post number 1.

Last night I returned from Edinburgh after meeting with Kim and Gail. They were meeting with Judy, Tessa, Keiron and Cathrin from Edinburgh who worked on a recent research study into how game making might improve literacy. 

On the train back home, I reflected on what I had learned from the experience. Thinking about it passed the time on the train (delayed lots because of something happening on the line )

Here’s what I believe are just some of the things I got out of the short meeting:

  • When I met with the others in Edinburgh this afternoon, it made me acutely aware of how small the world is! When they heard I was from Falkirk, Cathrin immediately responded that she works with Marilyn¬†M and others from Falkirk on improving literacy (Bairns into Books) …. and Tessa¬†and I¬†were amazed to discover that our classes were blogging friends!¬†
  • We discussed loads of educational matters, too, and everyone had so much to contribute.¬†Games based learning was discussed in detail, and Kim and Gail talked about their introduction to the potentials of using Moshi Monsters with classes.
  • ¬†Maybe the main thing from¬†last night’s meeting¬†is that it was¬†a ‘sharing of ideas’ experience. We all gained from each other, and can now pass the information on in our own areas to improve the learning experiences of¬†the children in our care.¬†

I’m¬†glad I¬†had the opportunity to attend¬†yesterday’s meeting.

Post Number 2

Today’s visit to Musselburgh Grammar School¬†and Wallyford Primary was superb and there was so much to take in …..¬†I’m glad I took notes:-)

¬†Post 2 will follow very soon … but¬†I’m not sure what else¬†I can add to¬†Ollie’s great description of the day ūüôā










Children’s Online Spaces

At a social event just before the end of term, I was approached by a young probationary teacher (I’ll call her Ann). She asked for some advice regarding using online spaces with her primary 6 class of pupils. She shares the class with an experienced teacher who had set up a class blog and wiki space. Each of the children has their own page in the wiki.

Ann is finding it difficult to understand the point in the children having such an online space. At various times throughout the week, the children are expected to add to their space during their timetabled visits to the computer suite. She is aware that some children are beginning to resent this (they seem to be mainly reiterating what they’ve learned in class) and she asked if it would be possible for us to meet up soon after the holiday season to discuss these issues.

I’m hoping that, by ‚Äėthinking out loud’ via this blog post, I’ll be in a better position to offer advice. ….. Once again I’ve reflected on my CT Case Study. The bullet points below have been¬†extracted from the dissertation in order to help me articulate what I learned from my own experience of using online spaces with children.


  • Prior to the commencement of the research period for¬†the dissertation, the children my Primary 7 class were encouraged to use the tools in class time, especially during our timetabled visits to the school computer suite. Occasionally the children were asked to incorporate a homework tasks into their blog or wiki. For example, each child had a recordable mp3 player and when studying World War 2, they were asked to interview an older member of their family (e.g. gran or grandad) in order to find out about life in the past so as to give them a sense of history. These were then shared with all the class members via the interactive whiteboard. Once the study began, however, I refrained from these practices so that the children might establish ownership of the tools. They were encouraged to use them when and how they wanted to.

  • ¬†Each pupil personalised their blogs by choosing their own individual look and theme. All of them successfully created avatars and, in the case of the boys especially, the inclusion of pictures and videos in posts was very apparent. The children quickly established the different uses for the blogs and wikis. The blogs being used for reflections, thoughts, short pieces of writings and uploading pictures, and the wikis for more extended pieces of writing, such as imaginative stories – usually updated over an extended period of time.


  • 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.


  • It was decided to adopt such an approach during the research stage and pupils were left free to choose the content of their blog posts and wiki writing. Guidance was provided through creating a sense of online audience by submitting comments on the children’s posts regularly. Offline, new interesting posts were shared with the children. The findings show that this had the effect of influencing others to add new blog posts on their own blogs – often on the same subject. The findings in this study show that by laying the foundations, then allowing the children the freedom to write as individuals, led to blog posts such as Maryam’s


  • Giving the children the freedom to use their online spaces as they wished allowed a deeper insight to their persona. An online community did develop, but that was on the periphery. The sharing of thoughts, opinions, ideas and personal likes and dislikes began as online blog posts. These were then developed in the offline classroom setting, giving rise to opportunities to increase motivation by modifying the programme of study to one that was more ‚Äėchild led’.¬† Early on in the study, doubts began to creep in about whether or not leaving the children ‚Äėto their own devices’ might result in blog and wiki entries fizzling out. I felt despondent at the lack of written posts by the boys in particular. An entry in my online journal, however, describes the level of enthusiasm they displayed when demonstrating to adults how we use the new media.


  • The findings show that the boys in the class were more interested in uploading pictures and videos than in writing blog posts.


  • In her investigation of young people’s use of social media, Stern (2007) uncovered an explanation for the motives for including artwork and images in their blog pages. In the literature review, she was noted as arguing 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.


  • Typical examples of the children’s responses to being allowed to use their spaces this way are cited here:¬†
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėYes, because in our own blogs we’re allowed to write about what we want to write, so we’ve got to know each other better.’

    ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėSome people in class don’t talk to me very much, but I can read their blog and find out more about them’

    ¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėI feel that I know my close friends even more now because of what they write on their blog’¬†

  • Other ways in which the blogs and wikis directly influenced teaching and learning came about after the sharing of blog posts in class. For example:
  • ¬†¬†¬† ¬†As the pupils began adding more posts about what jobs they would like to choose, we began to¬† seek out people from the ‚ÄėWorld of Work’ to come in to class and tell us about their job. We interviewed them and posted the videos on the class blog

    ¬†¬†¬†¬† Some of the children shared their love of reading in their blog posts. As a direct result of those posts, a book club was formed. The club was run by the pupils themselves and they shared their favourite books on ‚Äėlibrary loan’ basis and discussed their favourites

         During her placement, Miss L agreed to set up an art club. This arose because a number of the children had written blog posts about their love of drawing


¬†Writing this post has definately helped me focus on what I’d like to say to ‘Ann’ during our meeting …… and I’m also delighted that my months of hard work collecting information for my research hasn’t resulted in my dissertation lying somewhere collecting dust ūüôā