Resting up after what was a fantastic couple of days at the Orkney Learning Festival in Kirkwall Grammar School, despite the horizontal rain! This was my first visit to Orkney and all the stories about the hospitality of the Orcadians had clearly been understated. There was a real buzz about the festival and I am very grateful to folk like Emma Taylor who, in her seminar on blogging and Rafi.ki made me aware of bunnyhero labs, where I adopted mickey the monkey as soon as I was able to have him downloaded – what a great way for kids of all ages to enliven their webspace! (check out Mickey in his new home on the other side of the page). Thanks also to Tim Geddes (Broadcasting on the Internet), Russell Mason (Web 2.0) and Andrew James (Scran) whose excellent seminars I was able to take in while I was there. There were other benefits to the visit too in the amazing seafood at the Ayre Hotel and the best Indian food I have ever experienced in the Dil Se restaurant, which has an unfortunate claim to fame as the scene of one of the most famous murders in recent Scottish history, when on the 2 June 1994 a masked gunman walked in to the restaurant and shot the manager at point blank range. It took until just over a week ago to secure a conviction for the murder, which was racially motivated. The trip was eventful to the end as we took off into headwinds of over one hundred miles an hour and swayed and bumped into Glasgow airport just over one and a half hours later. By this time I was feeling a bit green but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
It was a pleasure to be back in South Ayrshire yesterday, delivering an in-service workshop on Curriculum for Excellence and the new Literacy and English Framework to secondary English teachers. Having taught English for over thirty years, thirteen of them as a principal teacher, it was good meet up with some colleagues I hadn’t seen for a long time, and to see the enthusiasm for learning and teaching despite the challenges of the job. I may be completely misjudging the situation but I would say they are tired of a system which is obsessed with exam results and are ready for change. As the Cabinet Secretary has said on numerous occasions, the quality of our teachers is a strength of the Scottish system. We need to capitalise on that by providing strong leadership and creating the conditions in which they can flourish.
Just back from a few days in Bergamo (see photo above for idyllic north Italian landscape!) where the weather was glorious and I was caught out by one or two hungry mosquitos making the best of the late summer and some unsuspecting pale-skinned visitors. Had a lazy time generally but managed to finish “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell, not surprisingly an international best-seller since it came out in 2000, in which he looks at the subtleties of human communication and the ways in which small changes in thinking can cause social epidemics or effect major cultural shifts. It’s a book I had been meaning to read for some time since listening to Gladwell’s inspirational talk, “What we can learn from spaghetti sauce”, which can be seen and heard on the excellent TED website.