foolfillment: the blog


8:12 pm on the 4th of February, 2010

In the second post where I look at my teaching here I’ll outline a problem I’ve been thinking about. When introducing a new topic in Graphics I’ll often break it down into very small steps to get across how to work through that sort of problem. What this means is that I’ll go through a single drawing very slowly and using lots of open questions and time for thinking we’ll eventually get to the complete, correct solution. The idea being that we cover all the important points that might come up in any other drawing.

Then when we move on to other examples the pupils are well prepared and cope very well with similar examples, but, present them with something slightly different or even much easier they are looking for exactly the tasks we worked through as a class. Too often they look at the drawing, but don’t read the question and waste time doing extra work that is asked for.
In graphics drawing speed is so important, so doing work you don’t need to is a killer in terms of the exam. Maybe I need to leave them too their own devices sometimes, make them rely on the question paper and let them make more mistakes – that of course leads to the problem of enforcing bad habits.

A quandary that I’m certain comes up in all subjects taught.

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Why teach? No two days are the same.

7:40 pm on the 2nd of February, 2010

I’ve been conscious that I haven’t been writing much here for a while. Something I haven’t done here for a very long time is to write reflectively about my practice. There are a number of reasons for this, first I suppose is the difficulty on writing about a situation without giving any identifying information for classes/pupils; and second is that there really just isn’t the time, when you get everything else done for school and have some down-time planned in. I remember being so enthusiastic about this reflective blogging malarkey a few years ago. I hope to be able to return to it in some capacity over the next wee while.

The way I teach and deliver lessons has changed so much since I first started out as a probationer. There are certain things I have taught countless times since then – for instance cutting a through housing. I started out really relaxed about how I explained the process – once safety was covered – and relied mainly pupils watching the demo, but now I talk loads about the process but often don’t actually complete cutting the joint. And what difference? Always hard to compare different classes and schools, but there is definitely an improvement in the quality produced. Is it down to the demonstration being of only the key points, is it down to me talking through key points, is it my greater experience now, or is it my eye for spotting people doing things that aren’t quite right?

The great thing about teaching is that each year, each day, each period is different, and how you react to the pupils is different as is how they react to you. Instead of a mechanical process that grinds through each step without adjustment for the people involved, each lesson evolves dynamically. So, some times I might just slip back to teaching like I did years ago, and of course I fully expect that in a few years time I’ll be able to look back and spot more changes that have taken place.

All good fun.

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SnowDay Flashmeeting

3:55 pm on the 7th of January, 2010

Following on from yesterday’s post, there was a short flashmeeting last night where we discussed ideas and possible solutions for what might be done on snow days.

A big thank you to everyone who took part: Julie, Ian, Joe, Sinclair, Alan, and Alan, and particularly to John who joined us from Dubai. Also thanks to Theo who joined in right at the end, sorry you missed it all Theo.

As was pretty much guaranteed to happen, we arrived at no conclusions, but there were a few important points.

The main difficulty I saw was that snow days come unannounced usually, so getting word to pupils would be difficult. It was discussed that it would be great if a class were so used to using online materials at home that they would perhaps know to go to a certain website for ideas for work tasks or messages from their teacher. Julie has found that the wiki she is using with her classes had been visited by pupils while the school has been closed – in fact it was a class that she expected not to have looked who seemed to have made most use of it!

Other than having a well trained class it might prove difficult to spread word around, though often on snow days pupils and parents are desperate for information on whether the school will be open or not, and so check school websites and local radio pretty often – these could easily be used to notify people. It seems that some schools in Aberdeenshire are already doing this and are directing pupils to Glow to access things to do.

Ian suggested a few tools such as wikis and wall wisher that could be used as a way of operating a session, and that it might be good to focus on one particular topic, or exam question. It followed that the sort of thing that might be delivered in a ‘live’ session is possibly quite likely to be similar to what might be done in a revision session, whether online or in person, near to exam time.

There were I’m sure a great many other points discussed, but unfortunately the meeting wasn’t recorded, and I didn’t make as good a set of notes as I might have done, perhaps those who took part could add to this in the comments?

Once again, thanks to those who took part.


What to do on snow days…

5:12 pm on the 6th of January, 2010

With the weather having been dreadful recently the schools in the Scottish Borders have been closed all yesterday and today, and are due to stay closed until at least Monday. What that has meant is staff working from home. Finding things to usefully do can be pretty difficult when resources are all in the closed school building. However I kept myself occupied today keeping in touch with my wonderful PLN on twitter, and listening to the tremendously local Radio Borders.

Two things that have kept creeping up on twitter is the mention of teachers delivering ‘lessons’ online, and the use of glow. So I’ve been wondering how I could try and do something useful for pupils – and let’s be honest they must be fed up of this snow, it’s not as though there’s anything fun you can do in it, is there?

Can I make a request – would it be possible to have some sort of online meet tonight to discuss how we can use ICT to keep education going when schools are closed. I’m thinking Glowmeet if most people have logins, or perhaps we can set up a flashmeeting?

Why tonight? Well, it needn’t be, but I’d like to attempt something tomorrow, while schools are still closed.

So, if you are interested in taking part or helping, can you either leave a comment here, or sent me a tweet to @stuartmeldrum – I’d really appreciate it.

Two examples of such snow lessons are @PrimaryPete_ ‘s (post about lesson here) and the Year 6 online lesson at Heathfield by @deputymitchell.

Flashmeeting booked for tonight at 7.30. Feel free to join in. Join it here.


first steps in Glow

9:27 pm on the 15th of December, 2009

As I wrote yesterday, I had a class using glow today for the first time in the school. Really we just had a shot at logging in, played with the themes and a few other bits and pieces.

The first thing that struck us was the problems with logging in. The infamous space in the password threw a few people, but really most people got it and managed to get their new password set up okay. There were still about half a dozen pupils who saw a host of errors, one main one being unable to access the site – not sure if this was a glow problem or a problem with our network.

Once people got in there was no stopping them in exploring. People very quickly found the link at the top to add contacts, unfortunately pupils don’t seem to have access to the messenger – I need to find out if it’s there somewhere else, if it can be switched on, or if I have to have chats through glow meet.

We explored the glow groups for a little and everyone seemed able to get into the one I had created for the department, unfortunately I couldn’t find what permissions to grant them to be able to take part in a discussion, so more exploring needing to be done there.

Most people also managed to upload a picture and add a few links to their ‘My Glow’ area which pleased them, kids love a bit of personalisation.

All told the period went reasonably well, but from now on I don’t know what I will use it for. I set a bit of homework for the class – to log in at home and have a bit more of an explore, most of them seemed keen to spend a bit of time doing so, so I’d like to know how many of them actually do it.

Where to from here? Not sure, as I say, but think it will be a few documents and weblinks as resources. I’m also hoping to get my S4 class up and running with accounts in preparation for their exams. Setting homework through it will be difficult, but hopefully the discussion pages will be of use to them.

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Glow at Hawick High School

7:59 pm on the 14th of December, 2009

Tomorrow I’m going to try out taking a class into Glow. There are plenty of places where you can go to find out more about what Glow is, or what it can do so I won’t try to explain here, however for what it is worth I will try to keep a wee log of what we do tomorrow.

I have no firm plans of what we’ll do, other than I have about 50 minutes to play with it. I aim to take the class to the computer suite, show them how to get to the log in screen, and then hand out their logins. This is where I expect the first few things to go wrong. Getting them all signed in and password changed may prove problematic but we’ll see. After that I hope to show them a few things to explore, how to change the themes, show them a discussion page in the group I have set up for them.

I really don’t have any idea yet how we can use glow in our S1 course, other than a launching pad to some websites for our forthcoming research project. I quite like the idea of some sort of glowmeet with another class but have now idea how to go about it. I shall persevere though, and as I say I hope to post tomorrow about how we get on.

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Making a Cheap Visualiser – take 2

7:17 pm on the 30th of September, 2009

Last week I presented at the Scottish Learning Festival 2009 TeachMeet. I blogged about it the next day and have now got my presentation recorded and uploaded to blip, embedded here for those who want to know more.

PS. I’m a bit choked with the cold at the moment, hence the rather croaky voice!

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Building a visualiser for less than £50

7:47 pm on the 24th of September, 2009

Last night I gave a short presentation at TeachMeet SLF 09 on the visualiser I use in my classroom, I was delighted that it was received so well, lots of very kind comments and great conversations came after it.

The two things that loads of people asked were what does it look like and how can I build my own? I’ve been given a lot of food for thought over the latter question, but here’s a photo of the rig itself. There are a few other photos in this photoset.


It is just a cheap second hand digital camcorder bought on ebay for about £22, you can usually find one that has no real problems – maybe just a few scratches – and pick them up very cheaply. The camcorder is mounted onto what is essentially a set of football goalposts made out of a few lengths of MDF we had in the store at school. The camcorder is simply held on with a bit of a tripod I cannibalised sitting into a slot I cut into the MDF.

The camcorder needs to have a AV output so you can plug it into your projector. This is just a jack plug socket on the camcorder like a headphone socket. The other end of the cable is three connectors like these, the one that carries th video is the yellow one, the others are for left and right speakers which you don’t need to use, but can if you like.

The video I used in the presentation is embedded below, and I’ll try to re-record it with some audio over the top in the next week or so.

If you’ve got any questions then please feel free to comment and I’ll get back to you. Lots of people said they’d like to have something similar and I’ll have a think about how I might be able to help you out with that – a new blog post on that topic may appear so keep your eyes peeled!


The Cool Wall in my classroom

9:42 pm on the 26th of August, 2009

Yesterday I started a new wall display in my classroom – an idea I have blatantly stolen from Andy McSwann. Back in December last year he blogged about the Cool Wall in his room, a wall where pupils can suggest gadgets to be displayed. They get put into categories like on the Top Gear cool wall.

The Cool Wall

Only a couple of suggestions from pupils so far, but I’m trying to get them to find products and examples of architecture that show really good design.

Cool Wall Rules
[Obviously there are some rules so that we aren't over run with Charles Rennie MacKintosh imitations ;-)]


**Updated** How to download your FREE student copy of Autodesk Inventor

10:26 pm on the 7th of August, 2009

Last year I wrote a post describing how to get your hands on the free student copy of Autodesk software that you are entitled to for being in full time education. A few things have changed so I thought I’d up date it:

The nice folks at software company Autodesk have kindly set up a great area on their website where people involved in education can download their software for no charge. We use both Inventor and AutoCad in school but you may also like to try the other software available – I’d love to hear how you get on, in particular with SketchBook. To get your free software all you need is:

* A pc or laptop Click here for system requirements
* A broadband connection
* A School e-mail address (either a pupil or teacher e-mail address will do)

First go to the registration page for Autodesk’s Student community. When the page opens you will need to complete all of the required fields.

Important: At this stage you will need to enter your school e-mail address and also create a username and password. You should also enter an e-mail address in the ‘preferred e-mail’ field that you can access from home. All future correspondence will be forwarded to both addresses, using both means you can download the software at home.

Autodesk will now send you a verification e-mail. All you need to do is open the e-mail and click on the link to verify your account.

Now go to the Autodesk Student Community homepage and use your new login details to access the student community.

Once you have successfully logged in go to the software downloads tab and choose Autodesk Inventor Professional. You can select the correct version for your system from the drop down menu, then hit the download button. Just to help you pick which version: We have 2008 installed at school (no longer available for download), but I have used both 2009 and 2010 successfully.

There are a few download options but I would strongly recommend that you choose to DOWNLOAD USING THE AUTODESK STUDENT COMMUNITY DOWNLOADER. You will now be faced with a dialog box, select ‘save file’ make sure you save it to a location on your PC where you can easily find it.

Once the download tool has been saved on your PC you are now ready to install it. It should only take a few minutes to install, once installed open it up and log in.
Finally, reselect the program you want to download and the download will begin. The download tool will also display your serial number at this stage. Make sure you record it so that you can insert it at the required stage of installation.

The files to download are quite large but it will happily run if you leave it overnight – just remember to make sure your PC won’t go into hibernation.

Once it has downloaded simply follow the on screen installation instructions, there are a few important things to note though:

During the configuration stage of installation make sure you change the units from inches to mm and choose ISO for the default setup.

If you are having any problems with this process then please feel free to leave a comment, or drop me an email.

I have to give credit to Robert Clements for this post, he wrote it originally in 2008, but I’ve made a few changes and posted it here because it’s pretty useful.