Friday 27 June 2008

Review of the Year 2007-08

Today is that last day of the school year. The video below is a montage of what the pupils have been doing.

They have been involved in a lot of amazing things.

I thought I should reflect on what has been a pretty amazing year all round.

Just over a year ago Islay High School hit a mile stone with the arrival of the first 100 Samsung Q1’s. life has been pretty hectic since then. Younger pupils had already been developing very good skills such as the one below and

Video: Islay House Square in Sketchup

senior pupils were taking off to have adventures in Malawi.

In school last June we were installing Panasonic wireless projectors with sound system and connection plates. Then the summer was spent doing loads of preparation.


We started to roll out the UMPC’s to the pupils. We had a few teething problems with some of the wireless coverage in some parts of the school but this was sorted. Though I know that we need to develop it further.

Also in September (Was it really that long ago) we had a camera team from the BBC come in at do a piece for the Politics Show Scotland.

I started the Scottish Qualification for Headship (SQH) with Strathclyde University. This year was perhaps not the best year to start this but I was assured that nobody got on the first time they applied so I thought I was safe. In the opening tutorial we were told that all our time would have to be dedicated to the SQH and it was extremely demanding………… Hmmm.

I attended the Scottish Learning Festival and attended Teachmeet. Both of these were good but Teachmeet works in so many ways as an opportunity to share and learn.


I was invited to speak at the HandHeld Learning conference.

I heard so many great and inspirational speakers that I felt quite over whelmed.


While this was all developing I was working with Keith Hamon and ‘Meach the Teach’ to develop a cross Atlantic class.

This is probably the thing which I feel I couldn’t develop as fully as I would have liked and I really regret this. The reasons are many fold but we got a couple of good sessions and I know that Mr Meacham has taken it on and developed great links with the American School in Valencia. I really do wish them good luck and maybe I can try and catch up with them, as they will be so far ahead of us, some time in the not too distant future.

In late November myself and Caroline, my wife, were invited to visit the International School of Monaco. How the invite came about was because one of the teachers at the school is from Islay. In fact the schools director is also from Islay. They had heard, through their on island contacts, about what were doing and were very interested. I think the links will continue to develop.


Islay high was selected to be part of the British Councils ‘Dreams + teams’ project to link young leaders and and sport. Islay was linked with the Islands of Palau in Micronesia. Added into this will a world Challenge adventure based on Borneo. The Pupils must plan and raise the money for this part of the trip. More info appeared in January too.


We started to experience our first digital distractions. I knew this was going to happen and we had the Assertive Discipline script in place and ready to go. This has reared its head several times throughout the year but not has much as I had predicted. Though I am certain that what we ‘catch’ is only a small part of what is doing on.

An Article appeared on the FutureLab site which gave a good write up of what had been happening so far.

Andy Wallis in the English subject area encourage some senior pupils to use a blog to put up some of the work they were working on. This was to encourage interaction from the big world about their writing.

I presented to the Scottish ICT Development Group (SICTDG- pronounced SICKDOG). They seemed to be blown away and I had lots of great feedback.


This month we are lucky enough to have a full week off. So how did myself and Andy spend it? We drove, at our own expense, to Perth to talk to other teachers about using technology in education. We attended Teachmeet North. I should point out that it was great fun and we got loads out of it.

It was also about this point that we started to experience some of our digital natives realising that school work is still school work no matter what the media used to deliver it. And they had to work for course work and exams.


As well being the ICT Coordinator I also have a classroom commitment and a dept to run. From Feb through march I was struggling to strike a balance. Add to this the failing of my first SQH assignment and the pressure was on. It really was a heads down time. I must confess when I look back now I am not sure how (if?) I survived. Some things did crash including the resubmission for the SQH.


With my head still spinning I reach the Easter Holidays.

We had a great time with a Consol Day. Had great fun and discovered that I am total crap at Guitar Hero.

At the end of the month I was invited, with one pupil, to a reception at the Scottish Parliament. It was a great experience and Aaron (the pupil) was an absolute star. He talk well and confidently to everyone he met.


I have been piloting and now running the SQA DIVA course ‘Fundamentals in Web Design’. This is a very popular and practical course. In Islay we count it as one of our Vocational Courses.

The course is design based with real world design issues. One pupil actually made it a very real design course by designing, creating and publishing a web site for the Islay Book Festival

I was also asked to speak at the prestigious Education 08 Conference in Westminster


2 thing both happened on the same day. Friday the 13th

We held an ICT Open Day to demonstrate what we have been developing over the last couple of years. I was so please that so many people traveled to Islay and they have written some wonderful things about the day. I was also disappointed that so few islanders came along. This is something I have to think about and see what I can do.

Maybe the second thing that happened that day will have an effect on turn out next time.

Islay became the LTS School of Ambition at the National Education Awards. This is a huge honour for everyone who has had anything to do with the changes that have been happening.

I haven’t done a great deal of reflection yet. I think I will take some time with that over the next few weeks.

What I do know is that we have done a lot this year and this is the start not the finish. We have the basis of something very good but now we need to embed it so that its the natural way of teaching and learning. We need to to think and reflect as a community about what works and even more importantly what doesn’t and needs changed. To quote Bill Gates on his last day “Success is a bad teacher”.

We need to remember one of our core values as a school is to have the confidence to fail. So long as we learn from that and move forward again.

Wednesday 25 June 2008

The Vital Link

Living on an Island has some wonderful advantages. Beautiful scenery, great community spirit, a lovely coastline in any direction but it has some serious issues too.

I filled put some fuel in my car this morning . At £1.42 per litre its amongst the most expensive in the UK. What's the reason for this? We have to bring it over from the mainland via the ferry.

This is a vital link for people, goods and businesses. This video report from the BBC takes a quick look at the some of the issues involved.

If you watch it you will see where I am building my house right at the end.

PS When is the BBC going to allow embedding?

Saturday 21 June 2008

Celtx Script Creator and Editor

nwinton recently passed this onto Andy Wallis of our English subject area.

I have spent way too much time getting familiar with it and think its a great open source based script editor I just wish I had looked at the Blip TV video before I did that and I would have saved so much time.

Now, is it too late to get this added to the new image for the UMPC update………….

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Sunday 15 June 2008

Islay Wins at the Scottish Education Awards

On Friday, as well as the ICT Open Day (more about that later), it was the awards ceremony for the Scottish Education Awards.

The Category we were nominated for was The LTS Ambition Award.

To quote the web site.

This award is about taking on new challenges and generating an ethos of ambition, a “can do” attitude and a buzz and excitement in the life of the school. It is about instilling self belief in young people, extending their opportunities and transforming their life chances.

If you can respond positively to one or more of the following questions, we would welcome your nomination:

  • Have young people in your school, or a school that you know, achieved a success against the odds?

  • Have you seen significant improvements in attainment, or any area of achievement, in your school or a school that you know, because young people have been motivated to achieve more than before?

  • Is there a “can do” attitude in your school, or a school that you know, that encourages young people to believe in themselves and their potential?

We were all delight that the hard work that everyone has out in over the last 5 years as been recognised.

Now we need to plan the celebration with every member of our community.

PS This is the second year in a row that an Islay school has won an award. Bowmore Primary School’s Pre 5 Unit won the ICT Award last year. This quite a record.

Sunday 8 June 2008

Does ‘Less Paper’ mean Paperless?

Islay High has been mentioned twice in this weeks Times Educational Supplement Scotland (TESS).

One was Vox Pop interview with a media studies teacher in the school, Gavin Ritchie. I suspect Gav will be getting teased mercilessly in the staff room tomorrow. Not because what he is reported saying but the image they used of him is awful!

One thing thing I will be asking him is whether he used the words ‘paperfree school’. We are most definitely not paperfree. Even the Guardian Education article was called “Is the paperfree school in sight?”

In the other article ‘Bin hard copies to save money’, Islay’s savings from being “paperless” was quoted.

While I appreciate the acknowledgment of the work that everyone is doing to make our ICT project sustainable, I think that the terms used do not help.

We are striving to use less paper but at no stage have I or any of the staff (At least not without sarcasm) used the these terms. Its is very clear that we are trying to shift from paper being used most of the time to using digitised material predominately. This is nothing like being “paperfree” or “paperless”.

These are distractions to what we are trying to do. Even the use of the technology is a distraction to the fundamental changes that the technology allows. They UMPC’s are conduits to the curriculum not a replacement to the curriculum.

During the approach to the exams a lot of pupils were asking for printed notes for revision. This I can understand. Nothing like spreading the paper out around you. The solution I recommended for English was that they make up their own study notes from the electronic notes. Use it as an exercise for study in itself. These were then printed out for the individuals involved but even then they still used the UMPC’s to search notes, watch scenes, listen to plays as well as have the study notes.

So, my question for you to answer is does the media fixation on the devices or idea of paperless help or hinder?

Thursday 5 June 2008

Using Gaming technology to show Data

Creating virtual databases

Imagine being able to ‘see’ data and see what has changed.

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Monday 2 June 2008


I have been hugely impressed by Sir Ken Robinson since wondering (Full of ignorance about who he was) into his Keynote at SETT 2005.

It was inspirational and transformational. Moving me down a path of Design based teaching and work with the Lighthouse, Centre for Design and Architecture in Glasgow

Lots of us have seen his talk at TED. Thanks to John Connell's link to

Jim Henderson I have found another talk by Ken Robinson.