Tag Archive | Chartered Teacher

Chartered Teacher CPD

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote the first entry of a ‘two part’ post about a great weekend of CPD activities and I’ve finally managed to get around to writing part two (how time flies!).

The second CPD opportunity came about after I read that the Association of Chartered Teachers Scotland (ACTS) were having a buffet lunch in Aberdeen. I took advantage of some bargain rail fares and an even better accommodation bargain and set off early on the Friday afternoon (JV had left in the morning to do some sightseeing). Although I’m a member of ACTS, I’m not on the committee, but everyone who attended the lunch was invited to stay on for the open meeting. The committee members are to be commended for the hard work they do to help the association thrive. Dorothy and David – and a whole host of others regularly give up their free time to attend these meetings so that the ACTS vision can be realised.

I’ve copied the Vision and Aims statement from the ACTS blog:

To facilitate and encourage communication and collaboration within a community of Chartered Teachers

· To support the community of Chartered Teachers in all its forms
· to encourage communication and collaboration between Chartered Teachers
· to encourage the provision of appropriate level CPD opportunities for Chartered Teachers
· to develop awareness of the professional identity of Chartered Teachers
· to make representation on issues affecting those in the Association of Chartered Teachers.

I’m proud of my Chartered Teacher status, and I explained my reason for embarking on the C T journey in a previous post. But what can I do, as a fully qualified Chartered Teacher  to realise these aims? Well – a few of us CTs in Falkirk got together and we’ve come up with some ideas:

This CPD oppportunity is being organised/run by a few of us who have achieved the status.

We’re all going to tell of our experiences since gaining full Chartered Teacher status – and all have very different stories to tell! It won’t be a passive experience for those attending, though, and we’ve planned to make the event as collaborative as possible in the short time available.

This CPD opportunity is for those teachers who are contemplating the journey.

Again, all the presenters have very individual stories to tell. I think that’s the message we want to give – it’s a very personal journey and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ element – so lots of discussion during that event as well 🙂

Beginning on Monday 27th September, Falkirk is holding a week long ‘Learning to Achieve’ festival.

Various events will be held all over the Falkirk area to celebrate learning and Teaching, and on the Thursday of that week there will be a TeachMeet in Carronshore primary School from 4-6pm. The group of Chartered teachers who organised the above CPD activities thought it would be a great idea to hold a Chartered TeachMeet in the same venue between 6.30 and 8pm. I should add that the requests to hold both the TeachMeets came from Falkirk staff who have never actually attended one, but had heard of the concept through the grapevine and thought it sounded like a great idea.

David Noble has agreed to chair the event, and Dorothy Coe has already signed up to give a 7 minute presentation (I’ll add my name soon – and will try my best to persuade some others here to do the same!)

  • Finally…….

Writing this blog post has helped me realise that I’m going to be busy when I return to class teaching in August! 🙂

Two Days of Great CPD … Day One

int slide

I’m not sure how I managed it, but I inadvertently left out one of my ‘Alumni Presentation’ slides from my last post. It must have been fate, though, because since then I helped to organise a very successful Safe and Responsible Use of the Internet workshop for teachers here in Falkirk. I know it was a success because of the comments on the evaluation sheets at the end of the workshop.

For example:

  • “A very interesting and informative session. I now have lots of ideas to take forward and I’m looking forward to getting started with our cluster pilot”
  • “What a great, helpful – even if scary – day. It certainly has made me even more aware of internet issues”
  • “Very useful and a great opportunity to talk to other professionals. ALL presenters were very knowledgeable and inspirational”

The presenters mentioned in the last quote included Alan Hamilton and Ollie Bray. There was also input from Bill Sharp who voluntarily presents at Parent internet safety information evening here.

The day began with Ollie giving this great presentation:

View more presentations from Ollie Bray.
Some of the things from Ollie’s presentation that I’ll take back to class with me in August include:
  • The fact that I’ll be more aware that children are not the same as they used to be! Ollie reminded us that today’s children have access to unlimited knowledge via the internet. Adults are no longer the ‘gatekeepers of knowledge’ – and some children are just not emotionally ready for some of the experiences. For example, ‘real life tragedies’ can be viewed online via places like YouTube. It’s important to be aware that young people may not know who to talk to about something they’ve found very disturbing.
  •  Wikipedia contains a massive amount of up to date information on heaps of topics – but it can also be used to illustrate the fact that not everything on the internet is accurate or even true. Ollie showed us some examples of Wikipedia acknowledging that something written there might not be correct.

Phrases like:

  • ‘The factual accuracy is disputed’
  • ‘This article contradicts another article’
  • ‘This article contradicts itself’
  • ‘This article reads like an advertisement’
  • ‘This article needs additional citation for verification’

appear throughout the pages. I’ll be reading up on this post on Ollie’s blog to help me get some important messages across to students next session.

  • ‘Digital Footprints’ were mentioned a lot in the presentation. This is something that I think might make young people think twice about the importance of having an appropriate online presence.
  • Educating  students about Targeted Advertising is something I’d never have thought of before now. I have seen it happening when I order goods from online stores such as Amazon, but Ollie made me aware of how easy it is to make young people aware that it’s happening on their social network sites as well.
  • Facebook privacy settings need to be taught and this is something I hope to do by requesting that the site be unblocked for staff and pupils – even for a very short time – to allow this to happen.

There were loads more ideas I noted down from Ollie’s presentation, but the short list above will certainly help me to spread the message in August – to staff as well as children?

After coffee,  Alan Hamilton  talked about the importance of sharing resources and why internet safety education is the responsibility of everyone. It’s not ok to keep on doing our own thing – we  need to share what we’re doing.  Sharing within local authorities is a start, but being able to share resources and ideas nationally is the ideal way forward (this is my interpretation of what he said, anyway!)

Just as an aside … I love the way Alan took the time to embed our Learning to Achieve logo into his powerpoint slides 🙂

He introduced us to the new Internet Safety and Responsible Use Glow group where we’ll be able to access ‘the latest resources, ideas and partner websites’

 Three steps are involved in the sharing mechanism:

  • Step One entails identifying good online resources, etc – then evaluating these by trialling them in class. Searching in Google tends to be unhelpful for teachers because of the overwhelming number of returns (I’ve been there!)

Step Two is to do with teachers then tagging the best resources.  They might be suited to a particular stage – and within that stage, might cover distinct topics such as digital footprints, digital literacy, emotional literacy, etc.

Step Three  means that teachers can easily find suitable resources that have been ‘tried, tested and appropriately tagged’ by classroom practitioners.


And that was only the morning session!

 The following day I travelled to Aberdeen and met Dorothy Coe  and David Noble and learned more about the great work they (and others) do for the Association of Chartered Teachers Scotland

‘Day Two’ post to follow soon … 

A Chartered Teacher Debate

Recently on twitter I noticed a comment by Fearghal Kelly . He wrote:

“As you can probably tell this has irked me. Ive been paying thousands for my MEd/CT I don’t want to be told what I can do with it”

I tried to trace the conversation that led up to him becoming so irritated and I discovered an exchange of views about the role of Chartered Teachers in Scottish education. it was apparent that there was a difference of opinion as to what this role should be. I’ve copied some of the comments from the twitter conversation here (I’ve left out the names of the contributors because some of them have chosen to protect their twitter updates).

  • Do we encourage our best teachers to become CTs, to do research to apply for promoted posts or do we not want to lose them?
  • is it not all about promoting cpd/learning however teachers want to do it? Then you end up with a great workforce.
  • Is it not recognition for the process & learning which you have undertaken – in the past. That doesn’t go away when you leave!!
  • So if they move into something else, what harm will that do? You now have a masters level educator out there you might not have
  • Why? If you’ve paid yourself through a Masters why on earth should that close doors? Couldn’t disagree more!
  • What are you going to do about CT’s who stay in the classroom but don’t do much to warrant the status/cash?
  • I think financial rewards via promotion are readily available. CT status, for me, is a recognition rather than a promotion!
  • Seems, again, just as with Senior Teacher, Chartered T is being used as a stepping stone away from the classroom.
  • I thought the entire point of CT was to reward those that stayed in the classroom, without forcing them into promoted posts?

But it was the following statement that caused much of the controversy:

  • I think any teacher leaving the classroom within 5 years of gaining CT status should have it rescinded!!!!

As a result of the ‘debate’,  Andrew Brown wrote this post.

I’ve copied just a small section of his post here:

” …….To me, the entire point of CT was to reward and recognise someone’s dedication to classroom teaching. I have no objection to people taking up secondments and spending some time out of the classroom – in fact, I think many educators would benefit from doing so. But if someone is out for more that 5 years, are they dedicated to classroom practice? Should they go back in at the same level? I think that rescind is too strong a word, but I would call into question someone’s commitment to classroom teaching if they haven’t been doing it for more than five years.”

 I’ve tried to view the debate objectively, but this has been difficult because every individual has their own personal reasons for deciding to embark on the Chartered Teacher journey – different incentives. The reason for this blog post is to help me clarify what motivated me to spend almost 6 years (and a lot of money!) to gain full Chartered Teacher status. So here’s my story ….

  • I’ve now been teaching for 15 years – and I distinctly remember graduating as a mature student swearing that I was finished with studying and writing essays/assignments. I’d spent 4 years at Moray House and had sacrificed a lot of time and effort getting that honours degree whilst bringing up three young children (thanks to JV’s contribution!)
  • 7 or 8 years on, I was aware that the initial ‘buzz’ I’d felt at the start of my career had begun to dwindle.  Things were beginning to feel a little repetitive. Around that time, the Chartered Teacher initiative was launched and (after a LOT of soul searching) I was ready to ‘go for it’
  • I learned loads during the first 8 modules (2 a year for 4 years) but it was a great deal of hard work …. Christmas and Easter holidays were always spent writing up essays explaining what I’d learned from the various action research projects I’d been involved in.
  • I decided to combine the last 4 modules (2 years worth) into one large dissertation. It took me a while to collect the evidence (and a lot of blood, sweat and tears) so that I could write up the case study, but I’m enormously proud of it 🙂
  • After graduating as a Chartered Teacher, I applied for a secondment post as an ICT Curriculum Support Officer. It’s a two year secondment, and I’ve spent my time sharing all the great things I learned from my C.T.  journey about how the use of free online tools can improve learning and teaching.

The twitter debate has led me to ask  questions about my right to retain C.T. status if I was  given the opportunity to continue to share what I’ve learned after my two year secondment was completed. I suppose the two questions in my mind are:

  • Would my time be better spent back in the classroom using what I’ve learned to improve (hopefully) the education of my own primary school class? 
  •  Would my time be better spent trying to spread what I’ve learned to colleagues who can then use this, in turn,  to (hopefully) improve the education of their pupils?

No matter what the answer is – I believe that I’ve earned the title of ‘Chartered Teacher’ and, as long as I’m continuing to try to make a difference to learning and teaching, why should it be rescinded?  Or maybe it’s the financial aspect that’s upsetting people???

Anyway, I’ve copied a bit from a post I wrote a while ago on here after attending the launch of The Association of Chartered Teachers in the Scottish Parliament building:



“…….I felt very proud to be part of the Association. The speeches were uplifting (as was the music!) and I’ll ‘bullet point’ just a few of the messages I heard on the day:

  • It has to be a group decision as to what our role now is – it’s important not to sit passively and be told the way forward
  • We are now in a unique position to take things forward…….”

Constantly Reflecting …..

Module 1 of my Charter teacher course (way back 5 yrs ago!!) with UOP stated that we should:

Through reflection, analyse and evaluate professional values, personal commitment and personal development”.


Pollard (2003) suggests that critical reflection and systematic investigation of our own practice should become an integral part of our daily classroom lives and reminds us that this was also the central idea of the educationalist, Lawrence Stenhouse (1975)

Jean McNiff  states that Action Research involves teachers thinking about and reflecting on their work and can also be called a form of self-reflective practice.

She also states that the idea of self-reflection is central and that it is an enquiry conducted by the self into the self, and discusses how to modify practice in the light of the evaluation of a piece of research……..

Perhaps in addressing one issue, you have unearthed other issues that you had not expected. There is no end, and that is the nature of developmental practices, and part of the joy of doing action research.’

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/KmEbjzqiBB0" width="340" height="280" wmode="transparent" /]

This statement describes exactly the cycle that I feel I have now been drawn into as a direct result of taking part in the Chartered Program.

During this ‘Dissertation’ section of the Chartered Teacher journey, reviewing the literature has allowed me to access relevant materials. Because of the ‘new’ nature of the topic under review, I am aware that there are going to be brand new useful references becoming available throughout the course of this study.

One of the recent Economist.com Debates is a prime example of this. The third debate in the series started on January 15th 2008:

“Social Networking: does it bring positive change to education?”

The results are now ‘live’ (27/01/2008), and have already stirred up a new wave of debates.

Ewan McIntosh from Learning and Teaching Scotland was the speaker for the motion, and Michael Bugeja, Director of Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University, spoke against.

During the time of the debate, Ewan McIntosh posted on his Blog  that:

“………Another of the main points of argument has been in the very definition of what social networking is, with three of those who I respect for their expertise in this domain being largely contradicted by what the vast majority of teacher professionals believe. Far from being the simplistic friends list social networks of Facebook that spring to mind, these educators see their own blog, Twitter accounts or even Flickr pages as the basis of their social networking. Furthermore, I’m not convinced we can simply write this off as the dumbness of crowds, given that nearly all those doing the contradicting are professionals who work with this stuff day in day out, many with their own students.”

He also wrote that social networks will change educational methods for the better.

The Future of ICT and Learning in the Knowledge Society http://ftp.jrc.es/eur22218en.pdf states that:

…….These fundamental issues are related to the possible political, emancipatory and empowerment objectives of ICT-enabled learning, and also to the risk that innovative learning via ICT will only be beneficial for the already privileged. This report, however, has also pointed to the inclusive potential of ICT-enabled learning to provide learning opportunities to more people, especially disadvantaged people, families and groups. As repeatedly argued, this will not happen automatically. People will only be motivated to return to learning if it is relevant to their daily lives, their social context and social networks.

Future research could contribute by investigating how such initiatives could be undertaken. Understanding the potential of ICTs for learning requires that we also understand better how to merge pedagogy and technology. This could be done, for instance, by looking at how the younger generation makes use of ICTs. This is the generation that already behaves and thinks digital. Learning from the digital generation should enable us to understand better what lifelong learning (which also involves older people) in the future knowledge-based society will mean. This report has just provided a first glimpse. There is still a lot to learn………..

[slideshare id=248696&doc=research-1201807856814071-4&w=425]

Literature Review No.3 …….

In my last post, I quoted George Siemens as saying:

     “The starting point of connectivism is the individual.”


This paper – developed by the LTS Future Learning and Teaching (FLaT) Reference Group  discusses how Personalisation has emerged as a way of making the curriculum more personal-centred and humane but adds that this entails responsibilities as well as rights. The individual learner has a claim on the time and the assistance of both teacher and peers but has an obligation to make a positive contribution in return. Personalised learning is, therefore, part of the process of establishing the school as a mutually-supportive community of learners. 

The authors remind us that learning is an intrinsically social process and that for most people, most of the time, developing understanding requires interaction with others.

This report states that we we are increasingly witnessing a change in the view
of what education is for, with a growing emphasis on the need to support young people not only to acquire knowledge and information, but to develop the resources and skills necessary to engage with social and technical change, and to continue learning throughout the rest of their lives. The authors go on to say that t
here are also 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.

They wanted to find out if it’s possible to draw on the activities emerging through social software to create learning communities which offer young people personalised, collaborative learning experiences such as those that are already emerging in the world outside the school gates. They state that children and young people are increasingly becoming authors of blogs, and that research is only now beginning to catch up with these activities. The authors state that there are growing concerns about the safety and privacy of young people. Adults worry that by displaying personal information, young people are putting themselves at risk from predators who may take advantage of the anonymity and unbounded nature of the internet to make contact with young people.

The authors go on to say that, while there may be some basis for these concerns, a rapid survey of blogs on Live Journal or MySpace suggest that most of the communication between bloggers appears to be between people who already know each other in the offline world.

Two researchers from Demos are of the opinion that young people are spending their time in a space which adults find difficult to supervise or understand and that there are some powerful myths that inform the way people think about youth culture. Their report sets out to challenge some of those myths in order to explore the real value behind the digital interactions that are part of everyday life. Over a six months period they undertook interviews, group discussions and informal conversations with children and young people around the UK. They asked interviewees to fill in diaries tracking their media consumption – what they used, what they used it for and how often they used it. These diaries were a starting point for a series of focus groups. 

They spent time in primary and secondary schools and youth groups with over 60 children and young people aged between seven and 18, speaking to them about how new technologies fitted into their lives. They also polled 600 parents of children aged four to 16 across England to find out their views on learning and the role of digital technologies in their children’s lives.

The finding from their research was that the use of digital technology has been completely normalised by this generation, and it is now fully integrated into the daily lives of young people. The majority of them simply use new media as tools to make their lives easier, strengthening their existing friendship networks rather than widening them. Almost all are now also involved in creative production, from uploading and editing photos to building and maintaining websites.

In their Executive summary, the authors state that the current generation of decision-makers – from politicians to teachers – see the world from a very different perspective to the generation of young people who do not remember life without the instant answers of the internet or the immediate communication of mobile phones.

The researchers found that most schools block MySpace, YouTube and that Bebo. Mobiles, iPods and other pieces of equipment are similarly unwelcome in the classroom. They also found that teachers often do not feel confident using hardware or software – many know less than their students.    

 Their research suggests that the blanket approach of banning and filtering may not be the most effective safeguard. Not only was it vulnerable to advances in technology and digitally savvy children, but the children they interviewed were on the whole aware of potential dangers and adept at self-regulating. 

 The authors go on to say that, the more children are encouraged to expand their digital repertoire, the more adept they will become at using different tools for different purposes in their everyday lives.  This type of learning – anything which is loosely organised and happens outside the confines of the school gates – is usually defined as informal learning, and that it is this type of learning which often provides children with the confidence to succeed in formal contexts.  

The report goes on to say that it’s not about trying to formalise the informal; rather it is about using this newly emerging third space in ways that stimulate students and enable them to transfer their skills. 

4th (and final ……………… maybe?) literature review post coming soon 🙂

Draft Literature Review ……. 2

 Here’s a summary of my proposed first wee bit of my literacy review ……….. it didn’t help stumbling across the recent new debates taking place online this weekend. It’s too late to change track or make any changes now – but this is only a first draft so I’ll keep an eye on what’s happening 🙂


Can Weblogs and Wikis and other associated emerging social software tools be used to create an effective on-line learning community?

 The Futurelab website report on Social Software states that the term social software came into use in 2002 and is generally attributed to Clay Shirky. Shirky, a writer and teacher on the social implications of internet technology, defines social software simply as “software that supports group interaction” (Shirky 2003). The report describes Weblogs as easily updatable personal websites, often used as personal journals. The social aspect of weblogs, it says, can be seen in the ability for readers to comment on postings, to post links to other blogs and, through using pingback or trackback functions, to keep track of other blogs referencing their posts. This enables bloggers to know who is referring to and building on what they say in their blogs.

 This research looked at specific issues surrounding the development of online identities

‘. …. the perception of an actual or imagined audience prompts us to think about what we wish to show’

‘. ………writing online provides us with the opportunity to “author the self ” (Holland et al. 1998), to sustain a narrative of identity (Giddens 1991), and even to explore a number of different stories of the self, but these identities always are forged through our connection with others.’

 They explored the concepts of “affinity spaces” (Gee 2004) and “communities of practice” (Lave and Wenger 1991) in order to try to describe their relationship with others who blog and who seem to operate within a similar “constellation of sites.”

Wenger explains that new technologies such as the Internet have extended the reach of our interactions beyond the geographical limitations of traditional communities, but the increase in flow of information does not obviate the need for community. In fact, it expands the possibilities for community and calls for new kinds of communities based on shared practice.

 …………. the concept of community of practice is influencing theory and practice in many domains and that, from humble beginnings in apprenticeship studies, the concept was grabbed by businesses interested in knowledge management and has progressively found its way into other sectors. It has now become the foundation of a perspective on knowing and learning that informs efforts to create learning systems in various sectors and at various levels of scale, from local communities, to single organizations, partnerships, cities, regions, and the entire world.

In this article Dr Gilly Salmon writes that working online is really a new environment for learning, not just a tool and explains that Professor Susan Greenfield, in her recent book Tomorrow’s People, shows us that the accessible and interactive dialogue younger people take for granted has great potential for learning and development, if we can tap into it. The availability of digital resources and the internet as a mediator invites all those seeking learning or understanding to work together in new ways. Online networking is equally as important where there is little consensus about key concepts or rapidly developing knowledge and practice – something that applies to so many professional fields in our time.

 ………… The online environment provides a medium for communication and also shapes it. Participants do not need permission to contribute and individuals can receive attention from those willing and able to offer it. Face-to-face identities become less important and the usual discriminators such as race, age and gender are less apparent.

Back to Futurelab

…….Communities of practice are groups of people who have specific reasons to have an affinity. It can be an informal network or forum where tips are exchanged and ideas generated (Stewart 1996). It can be a group of professionals, informally bound to one another through exposure to a common class of problems, common pursuit of solutions, and in doing that they become a source of a body of knowledge. Etienne Wenger (Wenger 2000) expands on learning as an inherently social activity. He notes that acquiring knowledge involves an interplay between socially defined knowledge and personal experience which is mediated by membership of a group. Any learning situation has to negotiate both an individual’s experience, and the knowledge that the individual either brings to, or takes from, the group. Hence there is a logical reason to engage in social software. A potential important factor in the use of social software for online communities of practice is the ability to cross boundaries. Learners might be able to join groups in which age, pre-existing knowledge, gender or location are no longer an apparent barrier. There is also no barrier to young learners establishing their own communities and networks.

 In The Paper, ‘A Digitally Driven Curriculum’ by Buckingham and McFarlane (2001) remind us that many of today’s children are in fact establishing their own communities and networks using sites such as ‘My Space’, ‘Beebo’, and MSN. He thinks that educators should monopolise on the online communication skills already being developed in the pupils’ lives outside of school. 

An article in the Guardian newspaper by Steve O’Hear (20/6/06),  explains that the “new” web is already having an impact in class, as teachers start exploring the potential of blogs, media-sharing services, and other social software, which, although not designed specifically for e-learning, can be used to empower students and create exciting new learning opportunities. These same tools allow teachers to share and discuss innovations more easily and, in turn, spread good practice.

A recent HMI Report on Improving Scottish Education includes a section on ‘ICT in Learning and Teaching’ (2007). In the introduction to that report, Graham Donaldson (HM Senior Chief Inspector of Education) states that :

Information and communications technology (ICT) has transformed the means by which we inform ourselves, remain up to date with world event and areas of personal interest, and further our learning. For many, books and journals are no longer the first or primary source of information or learning. We now regularly rely on images, video, animations and sound to acquire information and to learn. Increased and improved access to the internet has accelerated this phenomenon. We now acquire and access information in ways fundamentally different from the pre-ICT era. The findings outlined in this report confirm that Scotland is well placed to build on current strengths in order to realise the full potential of ICT to improve learning and achievement. The challenge is to make that happen. 

 I spoke to Mary Devine, our Curriculum Development Manager. I wanted to find out my own Authority’s view of using web 2 tools with pupils. Mary left me in no doubt that this is seen as the way forward to develop all sorts of areas of learning. At the moment there is no specific policy in place about the use of these new online tools. The main priority is to find ways of helping teachers to feel comfortable with the new technologies.

 I contacted Malcolm Wilson from our I.C.T. support team. The team are happy for teachers to set up class blogs as long as all safety rules are in place. The main recommendation, however, is to ‘go down the road’ of Think.com.  Think.com has been in place in the Authoity schools for 5 years.


This view is of the opinion that Educators are typically not neutral about blogging. There are fierce defenders and fierce critics. Each has an important voice. Will Richardson points out, “One of the reasons we fear these technologies is because we as teachers don’t yet understand them or use them. But the reality is that our students already do. It’s imperative that we be able to teach our kids how to use the tools effectively and appropriately because right now they have no models to follow.”

The Paper entitled ‘Emerging Technologies’ by Bob 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, and goes on to say that there has been an increasing interest in using blogs in education.

Steve Lee & Miles Berry think that many students find that their learning is most effective when they actively construct knowledge during group social interaction and collaboration. Characteristics of such approaches also include: an awareness of multiple
perspectives, provision of realistic contexts, a sense of ownership and voice,
learning as a social experience, an acknowledgement of multiple modes of
representation and a sense of self-awareness (metacognition, or learning about
learning). These approaches are variously called social constructivism, social
learning, collaborative learning or aggregated learning. The theories of social
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_constructivism) epistemology and Vygotsky’s ‘zone of proximal development’
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lev_Vygotsky) provide a rigorous underpinning for
such pedagogies. 

The Concept Classroom Website provides a series of online professional development workshops. In the Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning workshop, it describes that the Constructivist theory states that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. A Constructivist teacher encourages pupils to constantly assess how an activity is helping them gain understanding. They become “expert learners” and LEARN HOW TO LEARN. The constructivist classroom, it states, also relies heavily on collaboration.

The Constructivist approaches to learning have led to the development of the Cognitive Apprenticeship theory. Cognitive Apprentices allow the master (teacher) to model behaviours and then imitates them with the master coaching. (Wikipedia).

George Siemens writes that behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism are the three broad learning theories most often utilized in the creation of instructional environments. These theories, however, were developed in a time when learning was not impacted through technology.

The starting point of connectivism is the individual. Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to individual. This cycle of knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain current in their field through the connections they have formed.

Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. How people work and function is altered when new tools are utilized. The field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.

Post 3 coming up soon 🙂

Literature Review No.1 …….


My ‘Review of the Literature’ bit of the Dissertation is due scarily soon! I’ve been saving links to my delicious account, and I’ve ‘copied and pasted’ relevant bits and pieces from various ones onto a wikispace ……… and from there on to a Word document where each ‘link’ has its own page (well, at least I’m familiar with the content now)! It’s surely just a simple matter of making a plan and placing each page into the correct section??

………….. The trouble is that I keep getting more and more ‘leads’ to new research and new articles. For example, when I first contacted Jackie Marsh, she very kindly sent me a copy of one of her publications. The quote below from her article has helped to allay any fears that I should be more prescriptive about the use of blogging with my own class. She wrote:

“More frequent opportunities for more open-ended explorations would be a useful addition to current pedagogical practices. Enabling children to create blogs based on their own interests and experiences, rather than linked to a classroom-based topic, might offer opportunities for children to create networks of peers interested in similar topics, thus offering valuable learning opportunities with regard to social networking software”

This idea was echoed in her email to me when she wrote:

“I like the way you are letting the children drive the use of the blogs, that is so important if they are going to be successful. An interesting area to explore would be gendered representations of identity, it strikes me just from the pictures the children
have used!”

There’s always the temptation to be seen to ‘lead’ the learning … but I’m glad now that I’ve resisted 🙂

As I read through Jackie’s paper, I noted that she’d worked with Victoria Carrington. I ‘googled’ Victoria and decided to send her an email. She’s kindly allowed me to share her advice here. She wrote:

“I read your entry about the kids in your class and their preference for bebo. This corresponds with feedback from slightly older kids in the UK and here in Australia (13 and 14 year olds). they say they use bebo because it does more interesting things than myspace, but also because they have more personal control. they’re very wary of handing over any control. the other thing that is striking is that most of the kids i’ve come across (i have a small set of early adolescents i watch here in australia and one of my doctoral students is watching another group in the UK) is that the bebo accounts are pretty much an extension and intensification of social contacts they have offline. the online-offline movement seems very fluid.

Most of my own stuff in this area has been about out-of-school learning and use of text/literacy. i will be interested to hear how these things are translating into classroom practice – whether the use of co-existing online communities enhances and/or changes the offline context of your classroom; whether it shifts the ways in which you and your students conceptualize and operationalize curriculum; whether you find yourself changing the ways in which you teach and deliver curriculum; whether a school-sourced online community will have the same features and adoption as one created by the kids outside school. will be really interesting.”

All of this is going to be so helpful for my dissertation ‘write-up’. It’s great to get personal feedback. When I contacted Jackie and Victoria, I had no idea that they both had Blogs ….. and unfortunately, instead of getting on with my Literature Review write up, I’ve been reading them!

………… However, I did find a great link today on one of Jackie’s posts and I’ll definately be quoting from this research.

Ok ….. I’m off now to reduce my 17,874 word count to the 8000 limit for this section of the dissertation. I need that plan (and I need it quickly!)

Methodology Questions …. Even More Thoughts?


  Elements of a Case Study:
•Rich, vivid and holistic description (‘thick description’) and portrayal of events, contexts and situations through the eyes of participants (including the researcher) …. all involved: me,  pupils (both in my own school and other schools e.g. Australian ‘AllStars’),  parents and other adults who comment
•Contexts are temporal, physical, organizational, institutional, interpersonal … describes the blogs well?
•Chronological narrative –  definately ‘fits’ well
•tell the story – also fits well with what I want to do 

The Course Textbook, however, reminds us that there are also Problems with Case Studies (my thoughts on how to overcome these problems are in ‘blue’) 

  • Organisation difficulties (hopefully this won’t be too much of a problem because of RSS feeds to enable tracking posts)
  • Limited generalisability (because of the nature of the study, I hope to identify general trends e.g. gender issues if applicable … but only within this particular group of pupils. No claim will be made that the same effect would happen with a different set of pupils in another class situation)
  • Problems of cross-checking (using a variety of data gathering techniques should address the ‘cross-checking’ issue)
  • Risk of bias, selectivity and subjectivity (I have asked the depute head in school to meet regularly to discuss the research. She is very skeptical about the use of blogging and admits that she sees no difference between what I’m doing and allowing the pupils to freely use other social networks such as ‘My Space’ or ‘Bebo’. We have a good working relationship generally, so it won’t be perceived as a ‘threatening situation’ J. Kim P, a teacher from Sidney, whose pupils also blog, has agreed to be my ‘critical friend’ during the research period. Some of our pupils communicate with each other regularly through their blogs)

 Data Gathering Techniques used in Case Studies:

  • Observations (structured to unstructured) (regular RSS feed checks in order to observe who is posting, commenting)
  • Field notes (what is being said? Are the comments building on what’s been posted, or are they written in ‘isolation’ – e.g. Hi, how are you doing? Type of comment)
  • Interviews (structured to unstructured) (necessary, in order to establish that my view of what I’m reading is correct. Informal interviews can be held in class, formal interviews will ensure anonymity if required and will be useful for gathering data from pupils in Australia via teacher e-mail)
  • Documents (?….)
  • Numbers (although mainly a ‘qualitative’ study, some numbers will be included ….  explanation to follow!)


This will be used to ensure that I don’t ‘just see what I’m looking for’. Discussing my perception of events with my ‘skeptical colleague’ (depute head) and my ‘critical friend’ (Kim P from Australia ) will be one way of ‘keeping my feet on the ground’.  There will also be data collected from a variety of sourcesand in a number of ways over time in order that information gathered can be compared and contrasted. This should ensure enough information can be made available in order to answer the research question.

Stages in a Case Study:

  • Start with a wide field of focus ( I will look closely at the ‘big picture’. Who is posting and commenting? Who are receiving comments and from whom? What is being said in posts and comments?)

·        Progressive focusing (a closer look at comments in order to establish any formal / informal learning taking place. Distribution of questionnaires. Holding of formal and informal interviews in order to verify my interpretation of events)

  • Draft interpretation/report (avoid generalizing too early). (on-going discussions with skeptical friend / critical friend)

Research Methodologies ….. It’s Beginning to Dawn?

What’s the main methodology of the research?

I’ve been reading about the different methodologies, and here’s where I’m at so far.

These ‘Blue Sky’ font thoughts are mine …… all other ideas are taken  from the main course textbook or the companion website

Will it be ….

A survey?
An experiment?
An in-depth ethnography??
Action research?
Case study research?
Testing and assessment?
………. or what?  🙂

I’ve chosen a  ‘case study’ …  because it’s:

•a unique instance designed to illustrate a more general principle …. an (on-line) learning community (community of practice??). There’s plenty of  info. out there about this ‘general principle’
•the study of an instance in action  – pupils have ‘ownership’ and how they use that ‘ownership’ can be studied
•the study of an evolving situation – bloggs are ‘going somewhere’ … diaries/learning logs?
•the portrayal of  ‘what it’s like’ to be in a particular situation – ‘real’ accounts of ‘real’  pupils’ thoughts

 Elements of a Case Study:
•Rich, vivid and holistic description (‘thick description’) and portrayal of events, contexts and situations through the eyes of participants (including the researcher) …. all involved: me,  pupils (both in my own school and other schools e.g. Australian ‘AllStars’),  parents and other adults who comment
•Contexts are temporal, physical, organizational, institutional, interpersonal … describes the blogs well?
•Chronological narrative –  definately ‘fits’ well
•tell the story – also fits well with what I want to do

Strengths Of Case Studies
Can establish cause and effect;
Rooted in real contexts;
Regard context as determinant of behaviour;
The whole is more than the sum of the parts (holism);
Strong on reality;
Recognize and accept complexity,uniqueness and unpredictability;
Lead to action (link to action research);
Can focus on critical incidents;
Written in accessible style and are immediately intelligible;
Practicable (can be done by a single researcher);
Can permit generalizations and application to similar situations;


Problems With Case Studies
Difficult to organize;
Problems of cross-checking;
Risk of bias, selectivity and subjectivity; 

Points to note from elsewhere on the website ….. just to keep me on my toes 🙂

Validity in qualitative research often concerns: honesty, richness, authenticity, depth, scope, subjectivity, strength of feeling, catching uniqueness, idiographic statements.   

Reliability in qualitative research often concerns: accuracy, fairness, dependability, comprehensiveness, respondent validation, ‘checkability’, empathy, uniqueness, explanatory and descriptive potential, confirmability.

Next post concerns: 

Data In Case Studies:
Observations (structured to unstructured);
Field notes;
Interviews (structured to unstructured);

Theory (interpretive paradigms/lenses).  

Stages In Case Studies:
Start with a wide field of focus;
Progressive focusing;
Draft interpretation/report (avoid generalizing too early).        

Lots more thinking to do before before that sun rises 🙂


Research Justification

I’ve been re-visiting an essay written for a recent charter teacher ‘E-Learning’ module (ouch .. it hurt bringing back the horrible memories of actually puting it all together!). Thinking from that module led me to want to research the area further, so I’ve picked out just a few of the points made during the essay:

  • A recent HMI Report on Improving Scottish Education includes a section on ‘ICT in Learning and Teaching’ (2007). In the introduction to that report, Graham Donaldson (HM Senior Chief Inspector of Education) states that :

Information and communications technology (ICT) has transformed the means by which we inform ourselves, remain up to date with world event and areas of personal interest, and further our learning. For many, books and journals are no longer the first or primary source of information or learning. We now regularly rely on images, video, animations and sound to acquire information and to learn. Increased and improved access to the internet has accelerated this phenomenon. We now acquire and access information in ways fundamentally different from the pre-ICT era. The findings outlined in this report confirm that Scotland is well placed to build on current strengths in order to realise the full potential of ICT to improve learning and achievement. The challenge is to make that happen.

Feedback from teachers shows that pupils are generally more eager to take part as they use ICT equipment to engage with learning.

  • In The Paper, ‘A Digitally Driven Curriculum’ by Buckingham and McFarlane (2001-sorry I can’t find a direct link to this!) remind that today’s children know much more than the majority of adults and that schools need to engage with, and build upon the new kinds of informal learning that are developing around these media.
  • Many pupils are using sites such as ‘My Space’, ‘Beebo’, and MSN. Maybe we need to monopolise on the online communication skills already being developed in the pupils’ lives outside of school.
  • Blogs and wikis are not unlike the social network tools already being used …. can they be adapted to incorporate e-learning to occur successfully? A community of learners?
  • Etienne Wenger who, along with Jean Lave, coined the term ‘Community of Practice’ . He believes 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.

  • Bob Godwin-Jones of Virginia Commonwealth University writes in ‘Emerging Technologies that blogs and wikis offer powerful opportunities for online collaboration for learners
  • Steve O’Hear wrote in The Guardian that:‘The web’s shift from a tool of reference to one of collaboration presents teachers with some rich opportunities for e-learning’

    He also writes that many believe that the web has entered a second phase where new services and software – collectively known as web 2.0 – are transforming the web from a predominantly “read only” medium to one where anyone can publish and share content and easily collaborate with others. He also explains that the “new” web is already having an impact in class, as teachers start exploring the potential of blogs, media-sharing services, and other social software, which, although not designed specifically for e-learning, can be used to empower students and create exciting new learning opportunities.

  • The next point is to do with motivation. The report by the Scottish Parliament Education Committee emphasises the need to introduce pupil centred learning and to cater for multiple learning styles. The new web 2 tools certainly cater for a variety of learning styles.

OK! I think it was worth the pain! Is that what I want to look at here … the ‘motivation’ factor? Maybe that’s the crucial thing – I need to try to make sure that they don’t lose interest because they see the use of blogs as less motivating than their own social on-line experiences.