Message from Stornoway: I Can and I Will

Last weekend I had the pleasure of chairing the first ever TeachMeet Hebrides in Stornoway on the beautiful Isle of Lewis. The sun shone as we gathered in the bright new foyer of Lews Castle College UHI to listen to a tremendously varied selection of short presentations. There was a live video link so that those who were unable to travel, but with us in spirit, were able to feel part of the event, and a Twitterfeed displayed on the wall gave instant feedback and reassurance to those for whom Teachmeet was their first opportunity to present themselves in front of their peers – a potentially daunting task in any profession. Sometimes the technology refused to co-operate, which only served as a reminder that Teachmeets are about people’s experiences, successes and challenges. If the technology works, it’s a bonus rather than a necessity.

You can catch up with the presentations, photographs and associated events from TeachMeet Hebrides here.

Since returning from Stornoway, my attention has been drawn to this short film, made by a group of youngsters from the town’s Nicolson Institute, with help from local director Roddy Maclean in association with screenHi and the BBC’s L.A.B. Scotland. In the film, three of the young people describe the challenges they face when it comes to reading, writing and talking and how this in turn affects their confidence and self-image. Yet in each case, what strikes you is how articulate they are and what skills they have. At a time in Scotland when many are fretting over how we make assessment ‘fit’ the new curriculum, or even more sadly how we make the curriculum fit the new assessments, perhaps we should remind ourselves that when a curriculum is described in terms of ‘I can…’ statements, an essential component of assessment is self-assessment, and that no-one quite knows a person’s strengths and weaknesses as well as themselves. It is also worth reflecting that an important role of the teacher is to help young people articulate their story as effectively as possible. It strikes me that what applies to young people applies equally well to adults; just ask those teachers at TeachMeet how they felt immediately after their presentations last week.

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On Board the Fiction Express

I don’t normally do commercial on the blog, or endorse products beyond the occasional book review. The whole point of the blogis that it represents my ‘life’s work’ to a great extent, and I’m happy to share it for free. The payback is that it sometimes leads to other projects and even paid contracts. However, I’m going to make an exception for something which came to my attention recently via Twitter (doesn’t everything?).

Fiction Express for Schools is an exciting new website that combines literacy and IT. A 21st century take on the ever-popular ‘Choose-your-own-adventure’ books, Fiction Express allows the readers to vote each week to decide where the plot goes next. Each e-book runs for 5 weeks and chapters are published every Friday. At the end of each cliffhanging chapter the readers are given options as to where the plot goes next. They vote online by 3 pm on Tuesday for the one they like best. The votes are counted and the option with the most votes is then conveyed to the author, who writes the next chapter in ‘real time’ for publication at the end of the week. There is also a blog on the website where students can interact with the authors and Fiction Express editors.
A subscription to Fiction Express for Schools normally costs £199+VAT for whole school use, but you can get 10% off this price with discount code BOYD10. So, for a cost of £180+VAT, you will receive 12 e-books (4 per term at different reading levels) throughout the year, which can be read by all of your pupils, both at home and in school. Fiction Express also provides comprehensive weekly teacher resources to accompany each chapter.
PS. There really is nothing in it for me!