Reflections on #29daysofwriting


29 posts in 29 days!!    Much to my surprise I have actually managed to complete the challenge of a posting per day throughout February.   At the end of 2015 I set out my intention to write at least 2 posts per month or 24 posts in total across the year, however as a result of #29daysofwriting, I have managed 29 posts in February alone.

What went well…..

Throughout the month there were various points at which I struggled, in particular in identifying what to actually write about.   Every time this has happened I have been met with suggestions and ideas from colleagues from across the educational social media sphere.   Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions!

The whole process of sitting down to write each night has forced me to make some time available to do the writing.   It has also forced me to reflect on my practice, on my ideas and also on the ideas and postings of others.

In writing every day I also made time to read other peoples contributions each day and where possible to comment.    This helped in providing me with new ideas and providing access to new perspectives.

Even Better If…

I think in hindsight it would have been beneficial if I had done some planning at the beginning of the month, outlining some of the topics I intended to write on.    Having not done this planning I found myself struggling for ideas.   I feel it is often the case that when you try to force ideas, you don’t find any, however when you are more relaxed that ideas come more freely.   A little bit of planning would have allowed me to feel a little less pressured and hopefully therefore have realized more ideas.   That said, colleagues quickly filled the voids with ideas where they occurred.

Going forward

It has been an excellent process for me in terms of the writing and thinking I have done over the last month.   In addition the sharing and discussion involved have further added to the experience.    As we move into March I need to continuing posting, albeit at a lesser frequency.    My original new years resolutions included to post twice per month however having posted ever day I think I may look to increase this and go for posting once per week from now on.   Hopefully this is something I can sustain.

I also want to make more time to comment on others postings in particular those postings on StaffRm, which I have found to be a brilliant place to share and collaborate.

And most important…….A new #29daysofwriting mug for drinking my coffee (or in my case Irn-Bru!  Excuse the stereotype!!!!)


Motivation and CPD

Have been thinking lately about how I have been able to be successful in some of my resolutions and not so successful in other.

I have almost successfully managed to complete the full #29daysofwriting despite repeatedly finding it difficult to find a topic to write about each day.    Somehow I have managed to overcome the difficulties and progress onwards.

I managed to complete #teacher5adaysketch while also working on #29daysofwriting.   Somehow I managed to find the time and motivation.

In the above cases it wasn’t my ability that was trying to stop me or hinder my progress however I must admit I am neither an author or an artist.   In both cases it was motivation and the difficulty level of the task in hand that were the hindering factors.

Overcoming these involved my own intrinsic motivation, my “want” to complete the tasks in hand.   I felt it was important that I completed the tasks and I saw the purpose and reason behind the tasks in hand.   I also could see the benefits of completing the tasks.   This meant that when faced with difficulties I still retained the motivation to move forwards.

I also had extrinsic support in the form of comments and suggestions from people with the educational social media sphere.   They helped keep my motivation up and helped make sure that I had ideas for moving forward.    There was also the social aspect of discussion and also some joking which further made the tasks in hand more pleasant to undertake and more engaging.


The experience of #29daysofwriting has been very positive although I will write more on that tomorrow as my last posting.    The key thing I see is how can we make more our in-house CPD in this format.    If we could then I suspect such CPD would be significantly more effective and successful.   TeachMeets are one way however they are limited in that they take place after school including on weekends and therefore are unlikely to engage the majority of staff.      We need to achieve professional learning with all staff across all CPD events.


Being the geek!

I have always considered myself to be a little bit of a geek, and I mean that in a positive way.   When I was younger I enjoyed building electronics kits, a little bit of computer programming and wargaming.  Does it get any geekier?


I am still a bit of a geek.   Recent examples include purchasing a new fan and fitting it to my NAS drive despite the fact the unit apparently had “no user serviceable parts” according to the manufacturer.    That’s what they think!   I have also recently been making use of my sons Raspberry Pi to transfer files between hard drives and NAS drives at home, using RDP to remotely access the Pi from my laptop or tablet.    I am also looking at using the Pi as a Media server connected to one of our household TVs.

I have always enjoyed the odd little techie project.    The issue is that I generally don’t find the time to engage in these types of activities to the extent I would like.

I look at the Pi and the massive number of projects I could undertake using it however in order to do so I need to find some time and get started.

I think the issue is that I am looking for a particular project which will really engages my interests and until I find such a project it is all too easy for me to put my geeky tendencies to the side in favor of tasks and activities of a “higher priority”.

I do however dabble with programming whenever I get a chance and have only this morning created a little routine to provide some quick analysis of our school registration data to help out those in the office who are required to follow absences up.    This kind of geeky behavior is more common for me as it is work related and has a clear purpose and benefit.

My son who is 10 years old got a video capture card for Christmas to allow him to record his Xbox gaming for sharing with fellow gamers.     This is something that I think I need to engage with my son on.   He has also previously expressed an interest in green screening so this may be another area where I can express my inner geekiness but with a specific purpose and benefit, that of spending more time with my son in joint activities.

Thinking about it, I can see how my geekiness might align with my urge to hack the classroom.   Both involve some creativity, experimentation, repeated fails and hopefully eventual success.

Long live the geek!!






Hacking the classroom

Today over lunch I discussed hacking the classroom with a number of colleagues following on from the recent Microsoft #hacktheclassroom event.


It was very enjoyable to be able to bat around varied ideas and thoughts in a safe environment where the others involved were open and non-judgmental.   I had a good debate with one colleague in particular when I fielded the prompt question:

“Do we really need big display screens in class if every student has a tablet device on which they can view the same content”

My prompt question came from my own questioning of the need for a centralized classroom screen, and the resulting focus and perceived “front” to the classroom.   My colleagues perception was that the screen was an important focal point at times plus that it overcame the issue of where students turn up without devices.   We openly bounced arguments and counter-arguments back and forth, but in an open way in search of a new solution or eureka moment.

To me this was a very positive experience with colleagues all searching potential changes which could bring about improvement.   No ideas were excluded or considered too silly.   No contribution was disregarded or belittled.    The prospect of change was embraced as a potential for improvement.   The fear of something new or the love for “the way we do things around here” was pushed to the side.    It was all about creativity and sharing in the hope of finding something better.   Ideas were limited to just improving current practices, instead totally new practices unlike anything current done were considered.

We need to have more events like this!


New Years Resolutions – 2 months on.


The end of the 2nd month of 2016 is fast approaching (plus I was struggling to think of something to write ) so I thought it was a good opportunity to once again touch base with progress towards meeting my new years resolutions.

1) To blog at least twice per month

I am doing very well with this one.   Twice per month equates to 24 posts across the whole year however as part of #29daysofwriting, this represents my 25th post in Feb alone, thereby achieving my target after only 2 months.   I will however continue to try and achieve a minimum of 2 posts per month.

2) 1.9 tweets per day over the year

Point 5, and buffer in particular is helping here.   At this point I have tweeted 427 times in 2016 so far.   This equates to nearer to 7.6 tweets per day, or enough tweets for over 200 days, however after only 56 days.  Again, like point 1, I need keep up the momentum.

3) To achieve Google certified educator level 2 status

Haven’t done anything on this target lately mainly due to focusing on #29daysofwriting and #teacher5adaysketch.  I would like to think I will address this is March or April rather than leaving it too late in the year.

4) Read at least 1 book per month

Again, like point 3, have put this on hold in Feb.   Will start reading once more as soon as March begins.

5) To use tools like evernote and buffer to work smarter

Buffer has been key lately in maintaining a twitter presence while blogging, sketching and working.    Have sort of let Evernote use slip a little so need to get back into the habit of using it to keep my notes.

6) To get involved in twitter chats

Have been active in #sltchat and #mltchat is particular.   I do need to try and build on this.

7) To get involved in events and conferences

Attended BETT however can see plenty of chances in March for attending different events.

8) To experiment with video and youtube

Again, a point I haven’t progressed this month.

I also added a new target at the end of January:

9) To get fitter by increasing levels of exercise

Jan saw me managing 33 mins of exercise (and I only meaning wlaking) per day but sadly Feb has seen this drop to 30min.    I suppose I still have a few days to push this up a little if I try!

I would also now in Feb like to add a new item:

10) To sketch at least twice per month.

As part of #teacher5aday sketch I did 5 drawings in Feb.   I want to ensure that I continue doing the odd sketch.    Hopefully I can maintain the effort in March.

I would say Feb has seen some massive effort in some areas at the expense of others.  So March needs to see me even this out.

Favourite Books (Part 2)


I previously posted on my 5 favourite books (you can read this here) however someone pointed out the inclusion of a Goleman book in the photo of my bookcase and the fact that I hadn’t listed it as one of my top 5.    As such I realized that top 5 was too limiting and hence this pointing is my next 5 books, building my top 10.    Also being honest, the is an easy post to fill my current writers block for #29daysofwriting

Before I go any further just a recap of my top 5:

  • The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Ken Blanchard
  • The Silo Effect by Gillian Tett
  • Lateral Thinking by De Bono
  • The Shallows by Nicholas Carr
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

So for my 6th book I would suggest a recent read in Resillience by Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy.   The books centres on resilience and how we can develop it in an ever changing world.   I particularly enjoying the opening phrase “robust but fragile” as used in the book which seems to align with the similary contradictory terms such as “tough but tender” as used in a college I worked in.

Another recent read is Thinking Fast and Slow from Daniel Kahneman.   I originally heard this as an audio book listening to it while travelling between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.   I enjoyed it that much I went out and purchased it.    The books use of Agent 1 and Agent 2 as the two ways that we think, fast and slow, is very useful in explaining how we can reach effective decisions quickly however the existence of weaknesses in this approach in certain situations.

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman is an excellent book focusing on the interpersonal aspect of all we do.    Whether we are building cars, teaching, a manager, or a million other job roles, we will almost always need to work with others.   As such Emotional Intelligence is critically important.   I suspect this is a book I will be re-reading shortly.

Edward De Bono’s, I am right, you are wrong is a brilliant book discussing De Bonos perception with regards how the mind works.    The books includes some excellent examples of how order of new ideas impacts learning plus some good discussion on “learning backwards”.

My final book for inclusion is Ken Robinsons, The Element.    Robinson draws on many examples of successful people who evidence where personal areas of strength meet their passions.  A particular favourite point is his suggestion that we ask “How are you intelligent” rather than the usual “How intelligent are you?”.  A subtle but critical difference.

Am looking forward to returning to more reading once I get to the conclusion of #29daysofwriting.



Memories of the Middle East


Six months ago the above was view able from the back of my house, or more accurately, villa.   Six months ago I left the Middle East after working there for seven years, returning back to the UK for new challenges and opportunities.

I look back and realize that I miss a number of things including the views and the heat.   I miss my 4.6 litre mustang and the low cost of fuel and cigarettes.    I miss ending the day by the pool or spending the weekend sat with fellow ex-pats in the heat solving the worlds problems over a pint.

I also realize that I am glad to see the back of some things, such as the heat, particularly during the summer months when it becomes very difficult especially where, as I was doing at the time, you had to do a fair amount of driving.   I am glad to no longer have to go through complex Visa processes every couple of years.

My new location may now have the same view as the Middle East however the views around Somerset are equally breathtaking, although this is currently limited by the temperature.   The last thing I want to do is stand around and admire the scenery when temperate is only 1 or 2 degrees.   Clearly I am still acclimatizing.   My new role provides me with new challenges which are keeping me engaged and excited.    I am now closer to my family and that of my wifes such that we can regularly see them on a much more frequent basis than when we were in the Middle East.

I reflect on my time in the Middle East and after 7 years there, there are many things I now miss.    There are also many things which I am glad to be away from.

I reflect on my experiences and am glad that I took the opportunity and went to the Middle East.   I would recommend it to anyone considering it although I will admit it isn’t for everyone.  That said, if you don’t try it, how will you ever know.    If you do try it then maybe like me you will come away with a long list of pleasant memories and experiences, plus with a broader view of the world.

So its back to reminiscing on my memories of the Middle East, and hoping the thoughts will be enough to keep me warm in these winter evenings!