Monday, 28 February 2011


I wanted to recommend a tool which offers a great way to share online documents. Youblisher is allows you to upload your pdf document which it then turns it into something like an 'online book'. You can turn the pages and zoom in and out. You can embed the book into a website or blog too.

The site says that "Your website visitors will love it! Make your pdf documents flippable and quickly loading. It is like touching a real document." They're not far wrong!

The first document I have added is a book of myths that the children in my English class wrote over a couple of days before half-term. You can read it here.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

What's important to me

I recently wrote about my learning from Doug Belshaw's book #uppingyourgame: A Practical Guide to Personal Productivity. In the book he encourages you to write a list of the things that are important to you, both at work and at home. These are the things a productive system needs to maximise time for.

Here's my list:

What's important to me at home:

  • My family - my wife and little girl (soon to be with us!) and also my parents, brothers and niece and nephew.
  • My god children - I want to be a positive influence.
  • My friends
  • Music - I couldn't live without music.
  • My house
  • Managing finances
  • Watching good TV and films - I'm very particular about what I watch, and most of it is on Sky+ or on DVD - I watch very little live TV any more.

What's important to me at school:

  • Being a good teacher - I want to help my class meet their potential and enjoy learning and I want to do this to the best of my ability
  • Being a good listener and a positive influence on colleagues and pupils
  • Promoting the use of technology and innovation as much as I can through my work as ICT Co-ordinator
  • Showing support to people and ideas I believe in
  • Listening to (and acting on) the student voice
  • Leading my team to effectively work within the head's vision and school improvement plan
  • CPD - I want to acquire new skills and knowledge to improve the way I work and the effect my work has on others
  • Being involved in whole school initiatives

I guess this must be my 'current' list as I'm sure if I'd done this a few years ago it would be very different, and I expect it to be different in a few years time. But for the time being, these are the things I need to focus my time upon.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Writing ideas for Ancient Egypt

During the half-term I had a bit of 'teacher's block' - trying to plan a unit of work but your brain just grinds to a halt. In the old days this would mean a few hours staring at a screen trying to come up with something that might just spark some inspiration. These days colleagues on Twitter kindly offer some inspiration and the process is much quicker!

Whilst trying to find some ideas for planning a unit of work for writing based on Ancient Egypt I asked if anyone had any ideas. 

Here is what people said:
@NickiA10: Used to do a Howard Carter [newspaper] report on artefacts and a fantasy type story based on the pyramids.
@NickiA10: Yes it was children interviewed each other and did lots of role play & hot seating in diff characters, i.e. gods points of view.
@theotheralig: Instructions, Narrative based on Israelites flight , tie in with Passover.
@NickiA10: Boys loved the adventure/mystery story. Based it on a story start on teachers tv going through a portal.
@NickiA10: Instructions on making canopic jars. Also did writing on journey of the dead.
@NickiA10: Got some of best writing from them. Was lucky as had a big classroom so set up a role play area as a museum with artefacts in.
@NickiA10: Created a pyramid style using a white sheet with stone painted on it. Was fab. And don't have a pic of it. Grrr...
@theotheralig: Terry Deary has also written some Egyptian stories for starters - he always hits the spot with language and accurate detail
@mooshtangA local school made this animation through creative partnerships. Might be able to use it in some way?
@NickiA10: Think it was Julia Jarman, Time Travelling Cat but not sure. Also did lots of artwork with it too.
@theotheralig: I also encased pennies in sawdust/clay mix for excavating in archeological manner after Carter - and had deep sand for digging
@KonfluxTheatresee our 'Cleo's Egypt' play in a day for a lovely intro or way to round off the topic -
@Cloudlillyor instructions for mummification! Gross but great fun!
@NickiA10: Also forgot we got someone in 2 take chn through mummification process & covered older child in modroc!

Fabulous - I feel that I can now plan English for the rest of the term on the basis of half-an-hour's chat on Twitter!

Teaching with a family

I'm about the begin the most exciting adventure I could ever imagine. Very soon I will become a dad for the first time. It is the most wonderful thing and I simply cannot wait to be a father and meet all of the wonderful challenges this will bring my wife and I.

I can't deny that I am very nervous about this life change. For almost ten years my work has been a massive priority in my life. My work-life balance has been poor. But all of this needs to change - my family is the most important thing in my life and I want to improve my family time.

I have read a few books which give real practice ideas for how to be more productive (meaning having a better quality of life) but I need to work really hard to apply these to my own lifestyle.

Does anyone have any advice?

More on motivation

Back in October I had the pleasure of hearing John Bell speak at a conference. He was inspiring! I have just found my notes and thought I'd share them.

He explains that motivating yourself and others is all about getting into the HABIT:

How can we do this better? If something isn't going well, ask how it can be done better.
Admit your weaknesses.
Behaviour breeds behaviour - it's not the words you use, it's the way you use them. To be enthusiastic you must act enthusiastically.
Imagination - use your subconscious. It does as it is told, it cannot rationalise, but it can be programmed. How do you affect subconscious?

  • Build rapport - give treats, use humour, share personal news
  • Confidence
  • Repetition - Keep saying that you can do it
  • Be happy - have a laugh.
Take action - Decide exactly what you want to achieve. Then break it down into achievable steps

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

#uppingyourgame: A Practical Guide to Personal Productivity

This is a blog post I've been planning for a while but it got lost in the system. It's particularly ironic because it's about Doug Belshaw's excellent book, '#uppingyourgame: A Practical Guide to Personal Productivity'. 

I've read a few books on productivity before, but I've never read a book which gives such honest, practical and realistic advice for how to be productive. I just wanted to reflect on my main learning from the books.

I loved the way he tried to formulate a definition of what productivity means to him:
"Productivity is as much about being creative and enjoying what you do as it is about churning through laborious tasks... Productivity is the development of a personal system that: empowers you to make decisions; enables to enjoy life; encourages you to get stuff done."
The way that he explains that productivity is a personal system spoke to me immediately. The books I have read were fine, but this book, more than any other, makes it very clear that you need to find what works for you.

Through his book Doug encouraged me to consider the things that my productive system needs to maximise time for. I will be adding these to a blog post later. He writes about different types of motivation (intrinsic and extrinsic), a concept which hadn't occurred to me before. It makes me wonder what I do because I love or do because I have to.

He writes about three things that will motivate:

  • Controlling your time
Well this is something that will be crucial for me to do over the next few years after our baby is born. Since reading the book I have redesigned my office and classroom to make me try to work more efficiently. I am beginning to value me time more highly, considering what is manageable.
  • Choose something to get better at
I have a board in my office which is devoted to targets and time scales. This has made me more focused. I guess working in a school means that what I planned to do in my non-contact time isn't always achieved, I believe I have a clearer idea about the things I need to achieve.
  • Write your obituary
As mentioned earlier, my life really is 'evolving' at the moment and I have to adjust to the responsibilities and opportunities that becoming a dad involves, and so writing an obituary about the things I believe in and the things I stand for is something that will change.

Motivation and exercise
Well, I've never had anyone explain why exercising makes you more motivated. I always thought those people out jogging whilst I am driving to work were just crackers. But Doug explains how exercise makes you more motivated. But this is one area of the book that I must really work on, and quickly. I love the quote he gives from Plato:
"In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but the two together, With these two means, man can attain perfection."

Productivity killers:
  • Unhealthy food
  • Lack of exercise
  • Too much alcohol
  • Tinkering (perfectionism)
  • Lack of discipline
Oh dear, I'm guilty of partaking in all of these activities! One of my new year's resolutions was to introduce more discipline into my life and I have and it is working. He also suggests that creating routines helps to increase productivity, and this is something I have tried to do this year.

Doug offers advice for helping to remain disciplined, many of which I am trying to do now:

  • Exercise at the right time - I am playing football more regularly now, and trying to do a little more walking.
  • Set aside time to read - over the last three months I've read more than I have in the last three years!
  • Under-promise and over-deliver
  • Write lists - I seem to have tonnes of lists at the moment!
  • Don't multitask
His list of ideas for practical ideas for increasing productivity will also help to make people happier. I won't publish his list here though - read the book!

#uppingyourgame: A Practical Guide to Personal Productivity is well worth a read, and I would highly recommend it. You can purchase the book here, and it is available in a variety of formats.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Lunch and Learn

Inspired by Bianca Hewes and Tekkie Brekkie I have organised four Lunch and Learns in school.

The idea behind Lunch and Learn is that I wanted to offer training, ideas, advice and an opportunity to try in an informal situation to the staff in school. I didn't want people to feel pressured to attend, but at the same time I wanted to be able to say that I at least tried to introduce technology and ideas into lessons.

Its success has been limited to only a small number of colleagues so far but I've been really pleased with the effect it's had on them.

I began Lunch and Learn before Christmas and there have been four so far, with many ideas for more.

The four workshops have been:

  1. An introduction to Dropbox.
  2. Adding pictures to the school website.
  3. Using a data logger.
  4. Using a flip camera.
Despite a small attendance I've thoroughly enjoyed delivering the 'training'.

My ideas for further Lunch and Learns are:
·         Bee-Bots
·         Computerised-microscope
·         Adding information to your year group page
·         Using Word/Publisher/PowerPoint
·         Adding blogs to your website
·         Setting up an online quiz
·         Using Robolab to control robots
·         Programming with Logo
·         What are computer simulations? How can they be used in the classroom?
·         Text messaging
·         New websites that we have found

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Instruction manual

A powerful quote from this fantastic book which is very relevant to the way I am feeling about becoming a dad:
"The toaster comes with health warnings and instructions in twelve languages when actually it's dead simple. Yet the most complex piece of kit on earth, a human life, comes with no instruction booklet. We literally make it up as we go along."
I just hope I learn what to do very quickly!