Category Archives: 1 Prof. Values & Personal Commitment

#TRICdigifest – Are you ready for this jelly?!

Raspberry! My favourite!

Thank you for coming along to my Makey Makey workshop at the Tayside Regional Collaborative’s #TRICDigifest conference. I hope that you have an enjoyable and informative time with me and that you will feel inspired and enabled to take your learning from the workshop into your own setting.


Some time ago I was lucky enough to attend the Mozilla Festival in London and at this I saw a young man called Eric Rosenbaum demoing his new invention the Makey Makey. I was in awe of this device, what it could do and the opportunities for learning that this brought to the table for me. I followed this up some time later when my initial interest and playing about with it was sent in to the stratosphere when I saw Le Frutophone on the Makey Makey gallery. This led me to find out a out a piece of software called Soundplant which then led to my Are you ready for this jelly workshop idea that I use.  I planned to use the Makey Makey as the context to explore Interdisciplinary Learning (IDL) in my Learning Beyond Subject Boundaries with a focus on Science (circuits, conductivity), the Design Process and Digital Learning.  For some reason I thought I could do a similar thing to Le Frutophone but by using samples from classic Destiny’s Child and Beyonce tracks. Connecting the Makey Makey to the jellies would then allow me to inhabit my DJ Jelly persona by DJing by touching the jellies to trigger/play the samples!

Use with students

I use this with my students and you can see this year’s student responses for some inspiration:

Our taster video to promote the Makey Makey makes from MA3:

Video examples 1 from MA3

Video examples 2 from MA3

Informed by

In terms of reading to support your thinking in this area I suggest these articles as sources for you to spend some time reading/engaging with:

  1. NESTA Digital Makers
  2. NESTA Young Digital Makers report (2015)
  3. Screen time? What about creativity time? Mitch Resnick
  4. The maker movement in education
  5. What do we mean by digital making? Oliver Quinlan

Today’s workshop

In our 50 minute workshop we will address a couple of relatively simple and accessible design challenges that will allow you to start to make sense of how the Makey Makey works which will then allow you to begin to think about how you can extend the complexity and challenge for yourself and your learners:

1. Game Controller: Use the materials provided to create a joypad that will allow you to control a computer game such as PacmanDance Dance Revolution or Space Invaders.

2. Scratch Piano: Use the materials (fruits) available to create a playable keyboard that will allow you to play a digital Scratch piano.

Please feel free to take photos/videos of today’s workshop and to tweet using the hashtags #makeymakey and #TRICdigifest

Further inspiration

  1. The Makey Makey gallery
  2. The Makey Makey Labz
  3. My Makey Makey beauties list on Twitter
  4. Makey Makey on Pinterest

Comment on the draft Technologies Es & Os (ICT)

Unfortunately, due to work commitments I can’t make it to any of the Technologies Es & Os days that our colleagues from Education Scotland are holding. In an attempt to contribute to this ongoing work I offer my observations/comments about the draft CfE Technologies Es & Os -with a focus on the ICT aspect of things.

Now, I fully appreciate and value the change in emphasis Nationally on embedding coding in the primary school experience however, I feel as though we have moved too far in terms of emphasis on this in the new Es & Os. There seems to be such an emphasis on this area now to the detriment in learning that other aspects of ICT can offer. Also, for an area that appears to be dependent on volunteers for Barefoot computing or volunteers to run Code Clubs I think this emphasis is somewhat not matched up with an expectation that this really is a responsibility of all and as we all know the concept of coding has been an explicitly stated Outcome in CfE at second level ever since they were published. Is this volunteering thing a part of a longer strategic plan to look to embed this in schools, TEIs etc?

One of the issues that I have when I read the coding Es & Os is that they come across to me as if they were written by a secondary computing teacher. I do not see the primary teacher voice in there. I remember working with colleagues who were secondary computing teachers in the past when I worked in this area but there was real ownership of the language and context in this by the primary teachers involved but this was informed and influence by expertise of the secondary teachers. Now , even as someone who has some experience/expertise in the use of coding in the primary context, I feel that the language used will a little threatening for many teachers new to this coding switch.

More importantly I am trying to see the progression in this area of the Computing Science section section


If an Early or First level learner is programming a programmable device or on-screen object will they and the teacher look to to fix (debug) the thing it it doesn’t work. It seems that the word building in 1st Level is replaced by design and create at 2nd Level. The mention of a coding language comes in at 2nd Level though. Maybe the benchmarks will help in making this area more understandable. I would argue that there needs to be a clearer pathway through the levels here. As they stand I don’t see a huge deal of difference between the ones in this example.

I was involved in a Twitter discussion the other day about the framing of ICT/digital skills being only used to consume materials and that computing science was the digital context where the creation of material would happen. The inference that I took was that creation is stronger than consumption? The creation and not just consumption mantra is one that I fully recognise and subscribe to as well however we must be careful that we do not lose sight of the rich learning opportunities in terms of creativity in the ICT/digital literacy domain. At present the Es & Os in the draft are pretty sparse in relation to this. For example, take the audio and video domains – there is no explicit mention of these in the draft. The exponential rise in use and popularity of YouTube and video as a learning tool/space is something that we maybe should be tapping in to more. We have our video channels now in Glow as well so why are we not making more of this area? Are we still going to ask children to write newspaper reports when more and more children haven’t seen a newspaper and when so many of them have capture cards and their own online video channels? Are we serious about this ‘jobs that don’t exist’ scenario or not (although I’d argue that has always been the case)? Where is our joined-up and forward thinking here? Again, I would argue that the draft Es & Os and the strategy that they reflect should be taking this in to consideration.

Lastly, the promotion of tools for collegiate/collaborative learning in Glow are promoted quite a deal by Education Scotland. We see so much about OneNote, Yammer, shared docs in O365 etc and yet there is nothing in the Es & Os about how learners can develop the skills necessary to help them become effective learners/contributors in the digital domain. It is not enough to be able to search the web, collect knowledge and be safe online – our children should be schooled in the art of writing and owning the web – it must be central to their thinking and behaviour. This can be done through purposeful contexts to explore coding as well as using the tools made available in Glow or Google for that matter. This is just not coming through in these Es & Os. I think the Mozilla’s Write, Read, Particiapte Web Literacy Framework and even the JISC Web Literacy framework should be points of reference for the further discussion around these draft Es & Os.

An opportunity was missed way back when with the first iteration of the CfE Es & Os were drafted. No account was really taken of the explosion of Web 2.0 at that time. We have to get these right this time.

Eportfolio: what happens when you change the platform and change the culture?

In late 2013 I returned to work at the University of Dundee as a lecturer on the MA (Hons) & PGDE(P) teacher education courses having spent seven years working at National level with Learning Teaching Scotland/Education Scotland. One of the first tasks that I was faced with on my return was to hold individual tutorial meetings with 10 students that I had in my Advisor of Studies group. In this tutorial we had to look at their ePortfolio (that sat in our VLE – BlackBoard) and in doing so discuss their progress with it and how it was helping them learn. With each student my opening question was, “Show me your best piece of reflective writing from your 1st year at University.” To a person they all looked at me slightly confused and asked me what I meant. It appeared that my students were seeing the ePortfolio as a place to keep stuff/evidence of having completed tasks as opposed to it being a space that was all about documenting their professional growth mapped against the GTCS’ Standards for Provisional Registration. Further discussions with my students (who were/are all excellent students may I say) revealed that:

  • they appeared to view the tasks associated with the ePortfolio as a have to, a required hoop to jump through, a task to tick off;
  • there was little sense of professional agency  in evidence in terms of their connection with the ePortfolio as a part of their development as a reflective practitioner;
  • there were issues with the design of the ePortfolio with a particular problem being the detachment  of any learner reflection from the important mapping to the GTCS Standard for Provisional Registration;
  • the ePortfolio seemed to be confusing with an over complicated design that made it difficult to make sense of. There were also issues around personalisation and choice of how their space might look and act;
  • the Portfolio offered no opportunity to support and develop any digital literacy skills as it was mainly a series of linked Word documents sitting in a section of the VLE;
  • when the students completed their 4 years with us at Dundee University then the ePortfolio stayed here (unless they were a whizz at putting all the exported pages from BlackBoard together in a new website)
  • most of all, the professional reflection that it was meant to facilitate was not really happening in the ePortfolio.

The UoD Edushare site

Before I go any further I wish to state that any issues that I felt was seeing was in no way a comment on the standard or commitment to learning on the part of my students, or the rest of that cohort who have expressed similar sentiments, but more an observation of how a University such as ours continually evaluates its own practice/s so that we can ensure that the aspirations for our students are being addressed through the processes that we employ. Where we see the need to make changes we look carefully at the issue at hand and then make informed decisions about to move forward.

As a result of these exchanges with my students  I began to reflect on how improvements could be made to the purpose and experience of the ePortfolio and having just worked at National Level for many years my immediate thoughts went to the digital resources that were available in our much loved (and much maligned in many people’s eyes) national intranet Glow .

Having been one of the members of the team back in 2010/11 who championed the idea of learners’ profiles at the end of P7 and S3 being documented on and shared via WordPress in Glow (before Alex Duff took on and made a good job of the job) the thought of using Categories and Tags to help develop learner agency in documenting their own learning as well as the technical skills to develop and manage their own site greatly appealed to me. This coupled with the arrival of OneDrive and the promise of access to a range of online collaborative tools made me think that there was real merit in exploring the transference of the student ePortfolio at Dundee University from Blackboard into Glow. Discussions with the SMT of the MA (Hons) programme about this proposal went really well and it was agreed that we did have to make a change and that what was being suggested could really help us embed the process of professional reflection in our students  as well as developing their digital competence and confidence.

The planning process went ahead and after being inspired by the syndicated nature of DS106 I came to the idea that our students should have their own WordPress eportfolio based on a template that we designed and that this ePortfolio should then be syndicated to a central site that would pull in students’ reflective posts. This site we called UoD Edushare. Also inspired by David Mitchell’s Quadblogging idea we planned to ensure that our students were divided into peer learning sets with an expectation that they would at least read and comment on the posts of a small peer learning set that they were part of. There was a real attempt here to focus on changing the culture, behaviours and attitudes of professional reflection with the promise of time in the core course programme to water and nurture the seed of this approach.

I approached John Johnston (who was leading on Glowblogs at the time at Education Scotland) to discuss the developing idea. I also spoke with John about what we were doing during a Radio Edutalk interview back in December 2015. John proved to be a huge help with this and in particular with setting up the Sites workflow process on UoDEdushare to help pull in any posts that the students choose to share to the aggregated site. Huge thanks to him.

In late August 2015 our plans went in to action and so with a YouTube playlist – How to UoD EPortfolio – as well as a detailed workflow to set up the ePortfolio, off we ventured in the digital blogosphere. Clearly this wasn’t just about the technical side of things though so quite a bit of time was given in lectures and IT workshops to discuss:

  • the aspirational vision of the digitally collegiate and collaborative profession in Teaching Scotland’s Future;
  • the importance of professional reflection in general;
  • issues around assumptions being made about people wanting to or being confident enough to share their writing with a global audience;
  • appropriate ways to give and respond to formative comment;
  • how to map their experiences and thinking to the Standard for Provisional Registration;
  • how to manage and maintain and personalise their WordPress ePortfolio.

In the short period since we introduced the new ePortfolio format to the MA1 & MA2 cohorts there has been a healthy response from our students to the idea of blogging their professional reflections. It is fair to say that there has been a marked difference in the way that the ePortfolio is now viewed and engaged with by our students. Some early evidence of this includes:

  • since September 2015 we have had 775 posts shared to UoDEdushare;
  • we arec seeing a developing culture of collegiate commenting on peers’ blogs;
  • we are seeing some tutors commenting on blogs;
  • comments on blogs are coming in from other Teacher Ed students as well as a whole of host of other people interested in education;
  • student/learners are taking ownership of promoting their voice by publishing links to their posts on social media with appropriate hashtags to help target their posts (ours is #uodedu);
  • writing in an articulate manner on their site about evidencing how they are attaining the GTCS Professional Standards;
  • questioning why you would want to be part of a closed educational community as opposed to a global one;

I know it is still very early days for the work that we are doing with the new ePortfolio however I do think that what is in evidence here is the need for those concerned with effective transformational change in the digital learning space to really think about the learning culture that they want to engender and in doing so also think about the ways in which the technology they plan to use can make that happen in an accessible, sustainable and culturally appealing way. The platform does matter as we have clearly found from this experience but so does a focus on a change of practice that can effect a change in the learning culture.

Please jump off from UoDEdushare to a one of almost 800 posts by our Teacher Education students to get a flavour of what is happening as a result of the changes that we have made.

PS: When our students graduate and head off in to their first years of teaching then their ePortfolio goes with them in Glow and if they leave Scotland (hopefully not :)) then they simply export their ePortfolio and import to WordPress outside of Glow. (In education in Scotland? Give Glow another look.)

Working with Minecraft

Some years ago I became aware of a new game that was virally spreading via the digital jungle drums of our young people – that game was called Minecraft. I had noted that it was creeping through on my Twitter feed quite a lot and when I chatted with my friends’ 12 yr old son about it and what he was doing (he was managing servers and modding the game) I knew that I just had to find out more. When I first saw it I was a little bemused by its ‘blocky’ nature and I wondered why it was that young people who were so used to the most incredible life-like graphics in their modern console games would be interested in a space that looked like the video from Dire Straits – Money for Nothing video from 1986!

After an initial toe-dip into the world I became aware of the Massively Minecraft work done in Australia by Jokay, Dean Groom & Bron Stuckey. This work was incredible and I was lucky enough to host a visit from Dean when he came to the UK on vacation and was even luckier to be able to organise a Minecraft Teachmeet event at which Dean shared the amazing worlds that he and his colleagues were hosting and enabling children to learn in. It was quite simply breathtaking – one project saw learners work together to build the Districts from the Hunger Games books, the worlds were huge, complex and stunningly crafted.

Attempts to initiate a Minecraft project (via Glow Login) when in my last post at Education Scotland fell flat however I always harboured a desire to explore the potential impact on learning and teaching and so I accompanied my daughters on a Minecraft on XBox360 foray and together we learned how to mine, craft, create and survive in this deceptively complex world and as I did so I continued to think

Not long after returning to the University of Dundee I met up with Deepak Gopinath and together we managed to have a bid for some funding accepted from CECHR to help us establish a small scale research project. Although we had two projects the main one that I looked after was called the Minecraft on the Waterfront project. You can read a bit about this via that last link but in essence we were challenging children from Dundee primary schools to reimagine, rebuild and resdesign in Minecrfat how thery think the new waterfront of their city should look like. The current (and agreed design was already built by 4J Studios. This video so inspired the children:

I am currently wrestling with and transcribing the data for this research and will return to this particular topic in the future however this post is about the reach, for now, of the project.

Reach & Impact

The Minecraft on the Waterfront project was reported via my #minecraftOTW hashtag on Twitter and as a result of this I ended up:

I continue to work with my data to help find out a bit more about how games such as Minecraft are framed by both learners and teachers within formal educational settings. More to tell on that later. As for playing Minecraft, well I have decided to move away from the safe world of Creative and Peaceful to testing myself in Survival mode. If I do survive their will be more to share…

Image available at accessed 07/07/15


Developing my digital making skills

Playing about with the Makey Makey. Aiming to embed this in my 3rd year module…