MOOC week 2: Art in The Environment 

The second week of this MOOC was last week. So I’m starting to catch up. The next focus is art. 

More specifically Art in The Environment. Now this week I can find a real hook. Although the Andy Goldworthy concept of making art from found objects in nature wasn’t entirely appealing as it’s one I’ve seen before there were many other things. That got me thinking. 

My biggest challenge is to do something on our residential with year 4 this week. I’m going to focus on Me as the pencil. The limitations are that I want to do something with one iPad and 48 children. 

Here’s my plan.  I’ve got two ideas. 

Hitting the Dunes 

Our Dutch location is a challenge as it’s flat, flat, flat. However on our trip we are visiting a dune. So I think we can use a time lapse to create a artistic event. If we base the iPad at the top of the high dune we can be an image filmed from there. 

I had this in mind. 

Maybe it will work.  

I’d like to do this as a collaborative challenge thats on a large scale. It’s unusual to do something really large. I want the children to explore the process of working together.

To structure the activity we will discuss animals that work together. I’m a beekeeper so bees might be a good stimulus. We can start in smaller groups then come together into a bigger formation.

After we’ve captured the activity I’ll bring it back to school to see if we can create something in an urban context.  

Virtual Sculptures

My second idea would add to a project we are doing in a few weeks time. We’ve been designing a city with a tool called Kideville. The buildings in the city are being designed by Year 4. They’ll be 3D printed in a couple of weeks time. I’d like to explore using the green screen to place the mini models in a real setting. 

This way we can examine the suitability of the 3D designs in real settings in nature and the city. It should create an opportunity for reflection that’s more valid than ways we’ve tried before. 


DLab Erasmus MOOC 2017

I’ve recently joined a MOOC from DLab Erasmus. I signed up a few months ago and anticipated looking forward to the MOOC after really enjoying one last year. 

Time rolled on and the MOOC start date arrived two weeks ago. As is often the case a commitment made in January doesn’t always seem as appealing come May. Last year I participated in March -April and found it stimulating and thought provoking. This year it’s been a different story. 

Unfortunately it’s trips season which means I’m off site and off grid a lot this month. The mooc has a technology in the outdoors theme so I’d thought it would be ideal. It hasn’t been yet. But I’m working on it. 

It also means that I’m not in class as much as normal but I’m working on that too. Though I can’t put much into practice this half term I’m already inspired. 

Assignment: reflect and share 

So week 1 assignment involves the theme of   Creating Trails. We’ve had five sets of stimulus to develop ideas. What a great range. DLab Erasmus is a collaborative project involving schools and teachers in different countries. 

Mapping Nature

The school that explored bird migration caught my imagination. Norwegian children visiting Rune Aae to look at birds up close and personal. 

Immediately I was inspired. I’ve done citizen science myself but hasn’t thought of ways to do it with my teaching. I’d really like to do some data capture using this type of reality. In our location I could see us exploring a number of possibilities with frogs and frog spawn perhaps or with the local parakeet populations. 

Though we don’t have the expertise to trap the birds the prolific numbers could be an opportunity. I was inspired because of the value of the reality of this project. 

Hacking Nature

We do so much work with image now I’d like a way to give pupils a sense of power over reality. Hacking Nature has given me lots of ideas. What I think I’ll do is explore statues in nature. I’ve previously done a ‘make an advert’ with the app Spark Video in Year 2. We used lego figures as the stars. (I’ll find an example if I can) the interesting part was the ‘voiceover’ element. The children’s imaginations were explosive. I’d like to explore ways to add themselves to a scene or landscape in a literary way e.g as a book character. We can do that using green screen. ‘Bring your character to life’ style.


Newscast gave me a different angle on a familiar theme. Broadcasting to an audience in another school is often tricky but using etwinning could be the answer to my prayers. We often tried to do this before but failed when seeking an audience. I have a colleague doing an emailing experiment. Using a different medium to convey ideas shared in this way will be helpful.  
Outdoor Games

Now this topic could be an opportunity. This week on our trip I’m going to explore ways to illustrate a game in our play area on the trip. Or it could be a tool for spare time activities. I’ll see what’s feasible though it could be a small scale. 

Spare time activities

This idea was actually more familiar. We’ve been using a project in Year 6 for three or four years that we’ve called digital CV. The students create their own CV to present their whole range of skills and attributes beyond school. They have complete flexibility for the outcome. Some use iMovie as the basis, others use keynote. The Include writing and art, cooking, music, languages. For art, time lapse is a popular choice and the capture images as they draw for example. 

Although the DLab project has been a slow start I’ve got plenty of ideas. The next challenge is exploring them. We shall see. 

Blogging- why?

Blogging. It’s a strange thing. Not really something new but possibly something that you might have considered. 

77% of internet users apparently read blogs. 

What does that say to me?

It suggests that people visit the internet looking for people and their views and experiences. 

Trip Advisor serves a similar purpose. Straightforward advice about places and services for the traveler. Research via blogs serves a more in depth purpose. 

It’s a way of finding perspectives that may be similar or different to our own. One popular field that gives a good example is of course food. Finding the careful recipe of a dedicated cook can enable you to tailor a meal to a special diet or to find something simpler/more reliable/faster or just newer than something you’ve tried before. 

So you can get an idea from lots of different internet sources?

What makes a blog different?

To me it’s the human element if a blogger you follow shares their experience they share their perspective, their wisdom, their humanity, if you like. 

Take another example. A skill you’ve never tried. I recently wanted to mend a broken pot. I came across the Japanese art of Kinsugi where gold leaf is used combined with glue to restore ceramics by making the cracks and flaws a beautiful feature. 

I liked it. 

I found resources that told me how to do it but it didn’t give me much confidence until I came across a blog post. 

It gave me a greater insight into the pitfalls of this apparent simple technique. 

I then started looking for a more feasible strategy and technique. It made a difference, saved me time and helped me. Now I could’ve asked friends but this specialist approach might well not have been familiar. By checking a few blog posts I got a different level of information. 

I’ve done this a lot now. When I wanted to dye a coat I asked a blogger who had more experience with dye. She gave me some tips and encouragement. 

What have you got to loose?

I guess the two themes come together. The broken Pottery is something made more beautiful from having been broken so the experience gives it more depth. 

Then the advice I received about dying my coat : if you want to try. Blogging what have you got to loose? 

  • Start as a reader and see what you find.
  • Then share your experience. 

Reflection and content

It’s like a New Year’s resolution when you decide to commit to a blog. Bright and keen setting out with the first post may be easy, fueled by the initial commitment, but blogging regularly may be the goal and it becomes an uphill struggle very fast. 

Seeing blogging as a reflection rather than a writing process is one way of finding content. 

I have two blogs. One is environmental Green Lizard Blog started about four years ago with two tentative posts. Then there was a lull where I wrote little. After about a year I found momentum and commitment. I was able to reflect on specific things which helped the posts roll. 

Identifying topics for this blog has been harder. I’m well aware that there are many Edtech bloggers who are covering the strongest topics. So I’m going to need to start again with a Content focus. Making a list will help.

What can I write about? 

  1. Tools I’ve used. Given the massive possibilities with apps and tools that are available now it’s useful to reflect on things I’ve found useful. 
  2. Events. If something happens it’s beneficial to reflect on it. It might be a learning breakthrough, an organizational decision a teaching technique. 
  3. Reading. Sunmerising interesting articles and documents can help to galvanize their impact or just relate an annotation for later use. 
  4. Colleague wisdom. When we are surrounded by people exploring the same journey we often exchange and discuss. It may be useful to record and contemplate those interactions as beneficial insights.
  5. Lists. This is a standard blogging tool. So what kind of list can an educator share? Weirdly I think educators use lists all the time. Yet do we see that they could be beneficial to others or to keep. That start of year list, the list of strategies for a specific maths topic or learner struggle. A list that helps us prioritise or keep focus. 

So five elements is likely enough. It’s half term. 

Or maybe blogging about how to unwind and get perspective is a good idea after all it’s something teachers find very hard to do. 

What’s your key to finding inspiration? 

Top Tip

This week some of my learners reflected on each other’s work. They focused on positives and shared to a big screen. It was great for them to celebrate each other’s work. 

Enjoy the break! 

Trainspotting 2 and Web2.0: lessons from Spud about blogging

Trainspotting 2 hit the screens in a special Double Feature marathon last weekend in Den Haag. 

The erstwhile anti heroes of 1996 have struggled through two decades and survived. Just. 

Fast forward 20 years

Their earlier selves have timewarped into the present day, to some extent still in their past for the viewer and the character. As an audience we picture them there, back in a simpler world. One has been in prison which metaphorically fits their absence from public consciousness in the gap since then. 

Today their world is confusing. Their characters have feet in the past. One scene of remeniscence over football, features a quote that they ‘live in the past’. The girl who states this says that in her country the past is gone. 

How does this link to blogging? I hear you ask

I remember sitting in a meeting in a slightly unfocused way in around 2007 when a colleague voiced concern about the potential of Web 2.0

At that time I wasn’t clear, initially,  what she was meant and listened to the doom and danger she was concerned by. 

 A Web 2.0 website may allow users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to the first generation of Web 1.0-era websites where people were limited to the passive viewing of content. 


Fast forward ten years

Living in the past is a straightforward fall back procedure. It’s a place that seems familiar and comfortable. 

When Trainspotting came out in 1996 I was living in west London. 

It was the year before I moved to The Netherlands. 

I’d been teaching five years and I was 27 years old. It was the year I became a vegetarian. 

In 1996 In the UK Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales get divorced and Mad Cow Disease hits Britain (BSE) causing the mass slaughter of Herds of Cows and new laws to stop beef being sold on the bone. A severe Meningitas Epidemic occurs in West Africa. In technology DVD’s are Launched in Japan and the number of users on the Internet exceed 10 million. This is also the year Ebay and Ask Jeeves is started and the first ever cloning of a mammal Dolly the sheep. Fifteen children were killed in a Dunblane primary school. John Major was prime minister. (

In the 20 years in between many things have happened. In 1996 I would have hardly been able to imagine publishing my thoughts in a public space. Yet today I am doing exactly that from the comfort of the couch. 

The internet reached a million users in 1996. But that internet was flatter and content based. It was a library of information not one of authorship. 

Ten years later the concept of Web 2.0, which had been coined in 2004 presented a very different story. 

To become a web author is straightforward. Tweeting, facebooking, blogging, vlogging and instagramming are all familiar concepts. They don’t frustrate the spell check. They are common terms just like ‘Google it.’

Modern day T2 character, Spud, has found a new addiction #spoileralert -he’s a writer. 

This made me contemplate the modernization process. Although T2 is based loosely in a book set ten years after the original story and then brought to 20 years, it seems the screen play of Irvine Welsh’s book has missed a trick. It seems to me Spud should’ve become a blogger. 

“Why would I blog?” 

This very common question is answered by this example. Spud needs a voice. In fact he has a voice. Yet his thoughts, ideas and concepts are stifled by circumstance. He needs to organise them and write them down. His medium is note paper and complex notes. 

 In the book version, when he has written his ideas he approaches publishers. They dismiss him.  
Being able to write changes Spuds life and his outlook. He gains a great deal. Self respect, clarity, purpose and hope. 

Yet his ideas go unread. He is still isolated and alone. When he finally finds a reader he is liberated. 

If the context of 2017 were available to this man of 1997 I believe he would have blogged. He would’ve gained a following. He could’ve become an internet sensation. 

It’s interesting that for some Web 2.0 created anxiety and a worry yet it has provided a creative channel that holds anything but anxiety. 

These are aspirations for a potential blogger today. 

If you need a voice or might find one

If you want clarity or purpose

If you need feedback 

If your thoughts could be shared

…… then blogging may provide. 

What is a hashtag?

Social media has lots of jargon and three letter abbreviations. It’s a new language and of course that’s off putting. Those who understand it tend to throw the vocabulary around and that alienates those who are new to the scene. 

A number of my colleagues ask me what hashtags are so I wanted to explain and think it through. 

Hashtag has become a word that can enter conversation. 

“I’m so busy: Hashtag  stressed”

It’s as if we need a physical gesture like the inverted commas that used to be used to justify quotation style speech. 

But what is a hashtag?

I’ve found that this wee punctuation indicator is a number of things. 

  • It’s a filter. Or a Flag!

If you want to find something specific it can be used to track down a topic or conversation. ‘How is that different from just typing a search word?’ I hear you cry. 

Well the thing is, other people who are blogging or micro blogging (on Twitter for example) have decided that the word you are looking for is a focus for them too. 

So if the social place where you are searching is like a party, the hashtag is a shout out for people who also want to talk about your topic. I was at a party recently where I ended up talking about kayaking. 

It took a few moments to get there. With a hashtag I could have found people with a kayak conversation more directly. It’s like a flag. Imagine eavesdropping ‘Oh you’re talking about kayaking too!’

  • It’s an archiving device

So archive sounds like a dull word as does cataloging but we use archiving a lot. Or would like to. 

If I’m in my house on an average day I often wonder where stuff is. I need to find a set of correspondence for example. I can look in a variety of spots to find it. 

If I had a hashtag I could pull together a set of related stuff very easily. 

All my #eggs in one basket. 

  • It’s an address

If you want to draw attention to something you are posting then use a hashtag to specify people or topics where you want it to go. That’s also possible with an @ but with a hashtag you can ‘address’ a community or group of people. 

#NT2tEU is a useful tag. It links to teachers who are new to Twitter. 

  • It’s an appointment 

Hashtags are being used to draw people together. If a community wants to have a discussion they set up an appointment time with a hashtag. For example on Tuesday at 20.00GMT (don’t forget the time zone as we are international you know.) The community will be on line to share ideas or feedback. So the hashtag helps to locate the party or discussion. 

  • It indicates trends

Systems are in place to track hashtags to see what everyone is talking about. If a hashtag keeps cropping up then the topic has become significant. If you want to participate in something then you can look for a topical hashtag or find out about a news item. #Princegonetoosoon has been trending this week. In this example the hashtag became a way of expressing opinion too. 

  • So it’s a way of expressing opinion or viewpoint

In the Prince example, you can see that people start a hashtag that is a group of words suggesting their point of view. Sometimes these hashtags take off, sometimes they don’t. #havingabadday

So when should I use one?

If you post and want people to see what you’ve written it’s essential. The Internet is a huge place. Without the use of labeling mechanisms like hashtags, your comment or post disappears into the stratosphere like a puff of smoke. Depending on why you are posting that might be okay but if you want your voice to be heard then a hashtag is one way to make that happen. 

Also it can help you trace your post. So it’s a filing system. If you’ve been exploring a topic and finding on line resources, then posting the links to your feed will be more structured by use of hashtags with them. 

To group your post with the contributions of others, a hashtag makes the link or connection. It’s a way of participating. 

What’s your favourite hashtag?

How do you use them? 

Have you ever though of a great hashtag?