Archive for April, 2008

The Pied Piper of Weser School, Hameln, Germany

| April 30, 2008 | 0 Comments 

Mr Walker and I enjoyed a trip to Weser School, in Hameln.

I say Mr Walker and I because I thought it was appropriate that Mr Walker, my flute walking stick, should join me in my travels to Hameln, or Hamelin (in English) because it is so famous for the legend of the Pied Piper.

What is the truth behind the Pied Piper legend?

In reality, probably no one will ever actually really know.
The only thing that is really certain is that the loss of a number of children from the town on the 26th June 1284 is well documented.
From this the story quickly became known in the local area.  The legend gained popularity during the 15th and 16th centuries when hand bills were printed documenting the loss.
The legend was again popularised with the publishing of Robert Browning’s poem. But, even the poem is filled with inaccuracies ( Browning says July) and is made up of some of the different stories circulating at the time Some people have suggested have suggested that the children left after being temepted away to join a children’s crusade to the Holyland.
However, the date does not match any of the known dates of any crusade. The other question that has been raised is that of what is meant by “children”?
In the period concerned people did not recognise such a group as teenagers and it is well documented that people did travel around the area offering young people plots of land and a new start in life if they would move east; therefore this is a reasonable suggestion.
Also, groups of people with German ethnic origins are quite common throughout most east european countries and so the suggestion of a lost tribe in Rumania, as suggested in Browning’s poem, is not beyond belief.
So the truth is not known but the legend can be equated with the British legend of Robin Hood.
And, the local people are proud of their legend too. The Piper is one of the town’s emblems and bread “rats” are a common souvenir in the local bread shops, and if you visit the town you may be lucky enough to see one of the guides leading a tour dressed in the famous costume. One of the guides is a special friend of the school and regularly visits.
You may also be lucky and hear the play in English as the local British community take it in turn to stage the play. The Hochzeit’s House also contains a carousel which shows a re-enactment of the story.

The superb image above also features in the offical website of Hameln.

We got some superb and epic ideas out of today’s wanderings.

You might also like to have a look at the Pied Piper story…

Hear Eleanor Bron read verse 7 of Robert Browning’s ‘The Pied Piper Of Hamelin’ HERE

There are some good ideas for work linked with the poem HERE and, units linked to the story  HERE

A background to the story and other related tales can be found HERE

Some superb, additional background can be found HERE

What a day! The children certainly led me a merry dance, the rats! 🙂

In fact, this was one of the most enjoyable and legendary days so far! Well done to Tony Chester, head teacher Mr Allison, the staff and children of Weser school for some excellent writing and imagination.

Favourite quotes of the day…

| April 29, 2008 | 0 Comments 

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by”.

Douglas Adams (Esteemed English humorist & science fiction novelist)

“It is raining cats and dogs here, so much so that I just stepped in a cliché”.

Geoff Staines, (A steamed Cousin!)

Random over hearings and thoughts after a surreal afternoon:  Sign in baker’s window: cakes like your mother used to make £2. Cakes like your mother thought she used to make £5

Red meat is bad for you, but fuzzy green meat is worse.

If white wine goes with fish, do white grapes go with sushi?

If you ate pasta and then some antipasta would that mean you’d still be hungry?

“His cooking isn’t exactly Cordon Bleu. It is more Cordon Noir”

Sir John Mogg School, Detmold, Germany

| April 29, 2008 | 3 Comments 

A great day at Sir John Mogg School,  Detmold, one of the SCE schools in Germany.

Not all changes in technology are advances!

However, one of the best elements of today was the fact that the school hall had a back-lit projection screen. Not remarkable technology but a great use of an image.

In other words, the projector was behind the screen, which meant that the image was lovely and clear but there was no light to shine in the eyes of any child who came up to the front to hot-seat being one of the characters in the games.

Well done indeed to the two children who became remarkable “owners of the greenhouse”. I am often startled by how immersed these children become, but, today left me with a huge lump in my throat. They were so believable, mysterious and… convincing!

All I do, when we have identified someone who might be “up for the challenge” is to ask them to imagine they are wearing, perhaps, a cloak or some other costume. It works best when they walk around, as this gives them the chance to immerse themselves in the character they create.

To go from sitting down, just the few metres “into” the environment, is a journey of many miles in imagination.

Quite a few times I have heard classmates say things like “How does she KNOW the answers?!” or “Does he REALLY live here?!”

Three great sessions today. the afternoone session, with A LOT of Year 1s and 2s was… surreal at times, but they really pulled together and, by the end of the session the year 2s were coming up with some excellent similes!

Games can work, as an article in the Guardian today, by John Kirriemuir, attests.

A big thumbs up to Mike Silvani, head Ann-Marie Mason, all the staff and children from Sir John Mogg School, today!

Sometimes it takes a little bit of time for the full extent of magic to make itself be known. My Y6 class were certainly enthused when we returned from our session with Tim. They described it as ‘the best literacy lesson ever!’ (I’d like to think that they have just forgotten some of the great lessons we have had!!) But the proof really has been in the steady trickle of stories that they have brought to me over the last couple of weeks. These stories have been written by the children in their own time and are a real testament to the depth that Tim’s teaching is able to reach. The stories are filled with superb description of setting and character, with brave vocabulary choices and a writer’s involvement that instantly engages the reader. How clever to use something that children instantly relate to, computer games, in such a creative and productive way.

Liz Miller


Spiralling at Lister School, Herford, Germany (SCE)

| April 28, 2008 | 2 Comments 

I am so looking forward to another week working for the Service Children’s Education team, this time in Germany.

Three days of “demo lessons” and then a training day with staff from the three schools: Lister school in Herford, Sir John Mogg School,  Detmold, and Weser School, in Hameln.

Today, at Lister school we started with a huge group of 60+ year 3 and 4 children in the hall. I really enjoy the challenge of a large group and seeing that they respond incredibly well to the idea of discussion and sharing ideas in such a huge setting.

Well done to J. who came up and delighted us with her answers as if she was the real owner of the location we visited.

One of my favourite locations to take children is still what I call the spiral escalator plant in Myst III:Exile. It looms, creaking, above us. I often ask the children what they think lurks at the top of this remarkable organic helter skelter. We spiralled (in control) with the Year 1 and 2 children today.


I LOVE spirals.

There is something magical and simple about what is actually a complex shape, either in the 2D or 3D form. What confuses me is why we call them “spiral staircases” when spiral staircases often rise, cork screw like, within a cylinder, whereas a 2D spiral gradually increases in size and spreads its footprint.

Should it really be called a helix staircase?

How about 3D spirals:

So many spirals in nature too… Try visiting Spiral Pictures for some amazing images. Or, the Spiral Galaxies site.

Thank you to head teacher Alex Thorp, Jon Gill, and their colleagues and pupils for a fun day!

I also thoroughly enjoyed meetings Jon’s son Alex, who is serving an apprenticeship with British Forces Radio, (BFBS) Good luck to him and all the best for his Friday evening slot broadcasting to a teenage audience. Visit Alex’s page HERE.



| April 27, 2008 | 0 Comments 

St Andrew’s School, Inverurie

| April 24, 2008 | 4 Comments 

My final day in beautiful Aberdeenshire, a gentle ‘Myst’ hanging in the air as I arrived at St Andrew’s School in Inverurie.

I had a marvellous, moving and magical experience working with groups of young people who I feel honoured to have met. Everyone was learning from each other as we travelled to the top of a ‘spiral escalator plant’, tried not to bounce on a ‘tortoise’, discovered ‘dragon rocks’ and dipped our toes and hands in the water and sand on ‘tusk island’.

Everyone at the course I’m sure will agree, that the staff at St Andrew’s school are incredible practitioners who are very caring and strive to offer their pupils the very best experience they possibly can.

Thank you to everyone at today’s course for inspiring ME.

Hill of Banchory School, Aberdeenshire

| April 23, 2008 | 16 Comments 

Another day in another new Aberdeenshire primary school at Hill of Banchory.

Blog Scribing by Alison Butcher today.

“I could do with some of Tim’s class to help make my writing more descriptive!

I first heard Tim speak at SETT in Glasgow in 2005 and had never been so inspired at a seminar.  I tried Myst with my class soon after.  In my class there were some boys who were very reluctant writers.  One had severe attention deficit disorder and another had Aspergers and seldom wrote anything.  From the moment they walked into the class with the opening scene on the interactive whiteboard they were all hooked!  I introduced them to word thieves at the same time and soon they were all writing madly, pinching each other’s words.  The classroom assistant who was in the class with me at the time couldn’t believe how the children were responding compared to how writing lessons normally went.  The writing was amazing but what struck me most was how the children were immersed in the task and how well they collaborated and shared ideas.  I’ve been a great fan of Tim’s ever since and have used many other ideas nicked from him.  First term with a new class the children’s homework was to produce a short film using the Digital Blue Movie Creator cameras about their ‘Magnificient Obsession’.  This was great to give me some insight into the children’s interests and we had a very enjoyable cinema session one afternoon when we watched each other’s films.

Primary teachers attended today’s session from all over Aberdeenshire – Braemar, Rhynie, Gartly, Inverurie, Aboyne, Stonehaven, Ardallie, Oyne, Tullynessle, Dunecht, Towie, Laurencekirk, Lumsden and Banchory.

The Meat Loaf pie chart got a laugh – so Tim had to repeat it!  He enjoyed it as much as we did.  He made up a new phrase – hang a long.  Tim also suggested we show children how to analyse visual images, using pictures by Norman Rockwell.

Dorothy was the lucky person chosen to participate in the ‘Doors of Doom Challenge’ an example of how PowerPoint can be used to produce branching stories/quizzes.

‘LO and behold’ card on desk so that children try to work out learning objectives seems a better idea than sharing learning objectives at start of lesson. It also makes children think more about what they are learning rather than just being told what they are learning.

As soon as the teachers were allowed to explore the game they were instantly hooked – just like the children!  I bet they’ll be spending time exploring the games at home.  Hope their HTs accept ‘playing computer games’ as a CPD activity!

The afternoon session was a lesson with Mr Calder’s P5/6 class.  The children were brilliant and even taught Tim some new words – ‘exellcant’ and ‘slippering’.  Their writing was very descriptive and they were rightly very proud of it.  They came up with some ‘exellcant’ similes and metaphors.  Robbie did a brilliant commentary and Katie played the part of Alesha with great confidence.

Teachers’ comments included:

‘I know what my sons see in computer games now!’

‘Thoroughly enjoyable day!  Really has inspired me to look, not only at Myst, but to find more ways to motivate my children with their learning.’

‘Every teacher should get a workshop with him!’

‘The most exciting and dynamic course I’ve been on in a long time.  Great to see Tim in the class too.’

‘Away home to order a copy of Myst now.’

‘Today’s course has been a joy.  Tim is an excellent speaker who stimulates and enthuses everyone.’

‘What a fantastic day!  I feel so lucky to have had this experience!’

I’ve had a great day too.  Thanks Tim for another very inspirational day – the fourth so far!!


Rothienorman School, Aberdeenshire

| April 22, 2008 | 11 Comments 

A second superb day in an Aberdeenshire primary school. This time, at Rothienorman school.

Caroline Denning, ICT Project Officer is going to tell you all about our day.

“What a fantastic day! All of the delegates at our session were totally inspired and motivated by Tim in the first session of the day.  He showed us some of the superb pieces of writing some of his children had produced.

How many of us remembered his daughter’s name?  Not one and I’m sure some doubted that the children would but Tim assured us that, yes, they would.

He only mentioned her name once, in passing, but indeed! …all the children did remember Ellie’s name.  Children do have well developed observation skills!

In the second session of the day we all went to work with some children in Noreen Hall’s class P4/5 and some P5’s from Mrs Dorsett’s class.  What an enthusiastic bunch.  Tim had them imagining he was going to shoot all the teachers with darts from his ‘Mr Walker’ walking stick.  Then they all saw colours being blown from the holes in the stick – I think, if we’re honest, we all saw the colours.

When we got into the writing session the children created some brilliant pieces of descriptive writing.  All of the children were desperate to share their work.  We had some pieces read out and the ‘thumbs up’ was given by the rest of the class.  We had the wind chimes described as a ‘fairy battle’ going on round the ‘crispy crumbling rocks’.

The children all actively shared their thoughts and got really excited when they had to choose their most favourite word and ‘dotty sparkled it’.  After a countdown they all shouted out their own choice – they ‘splatted’ Tim with words!

Lastly, with the pupils, Tim chose a boy to take on the persona of the writer in Myst.  He came down to the front and told the class a little about himself.  They began to ask him questions and he very quickly fell into character, down to the rubbing of his chin as though he had a short beard.  He even developed an accent and fell into the role as if he did that every day.

At lunch time we all had the opportunity to share experiences.  Maren from Monymusk school discussed with us how she had been using Myst in her class.  She said her children loved the game and contributed lots to the writing in the class.  She said it was nothing to do with her – it was the children!   Tim wants to ‘bottle’ her. 🙂

In the afternoon we all had a wee shot at working through Myst.  We didn’t quite want to stop and the time has flown by – and there’s MORE!”


I thoroughly enjoyed today too. A lot of creativity and laughter. Thank you to all of the staff and children today. I can see more Myst Magic happening very soon.


Meldrum Academy, Aberdeenshire

| April 21, 2008 | 1 Comment 

Back to Meldrum Academy again today, this time to work with staff from local secondary schools and some S2 pupils. Great fun!

I was asked for suggestions of other games that might act as a stimulus in different contexts. Here are some comments from “Stal_king Ven_us” on Ikariam. I agree whole heartedly. But my communities are a bit “wobbly” so far!


“This is currently my favourite work diversion. It’s a free web based game that allows you to start and expand a civilization. The cool thing about it is that you can login, set something in motion (e.g. upgrade the town hall) and then log off again.

The game keeps going while you’re away, so that you can leave it for a few hours, days or even weeks, and when you log back in again, your town hall is built, your citizens are happily collecting wood, making wine from the grapes they’ve collected and having a drink in the tavern when they finish work.

ResearchOne of the most important things to do in the game is to establish a research centre, where your citizens can find out about the many different skills, trades and abilities that are available in the game.

Research can follow a number of different paths. You can choose to focus on your military, which will enable you to protect yourself from would-be attackers; or maybe you want to focus your attention on the sciences, allowing you access to new items such as paper and ink, which will allow you to form better trade agreements, and so on.

What makes this game so enticing, is that while there is a huge amount you can do with it (some features taking over a year to establish), it’s actually very simple to play. Most of it’s pretty intuitive. If there’s something you aren’t too sure of, there’s also extensive help documentation.

Views There are three main views to the Ikariam world. These allow you to switch your console display so you can work with different items:

  • Town view – This allows you to work with your buildings, citizens, research, troops and so on. You’ll spend most of your time in the town view at first.
  • Island view – This allows you to see the other people on your island. You can make trade agreements with them, attack and loot their towns, send spies out to see what they are doing and more.
  • World view – The Ikariam world is comprised of many islands, and each island has several towns that are run by people all over the ‘real’ world. Each island has a primary resource, such as crystal, sulphur, marble and so on. These resources are limited, so you have to build your town up to a point where you can trade with other islands for the resources you are short of.


You also have access to various advisers, who will let you know how you are doing in a particular area. The towns adviser lets you know what is happening with your town, such as what buildings have recently been built, research completed, etc.

  • The Military adviser will tell of your battles, showing their outcome, strength of enemy and resources looted. You can also jump from here to examine your troops or hire more soldiers from the barracks (if you’ve built it).
  • The Research adviser tells you what you’re currently building in your research centre, as well as the dates and times of all previously researched subjects.
  • The Diplomacy advisor lets you communicate with other players and their islands, as well as establish trade agreements and alliances.

All in all, it’s pretty high retun for very little time and effort… And it’s free! Go play!”

Aberdeenshire ICT Conference

| April 19, 2008 | 7 Comments 

I was honoured to be asked to give a keynote presentation at the Aberdeenshire ICT Conference today. I have enjoyed working with the Aberdeenshire team before.

Today was the start of a week back up in the county working with a variety of schools, from primary and secondary through to a special school context.

Aberdeenshire carried out a large study into the use of gaming and Myst in the curriculum.

Aberdeenshire Council was very keen to take forward the idea of games-based learning and so in conjunction with the Consolarium it identified a number of projects that it wished to undertake. One of these involved using the Myst III Exile in order to focus on motivating children to write.Following a technology CPD event held in March 2007, a number of teachers volunteered to be part of the project. As the game is not expensive, almost 20 schools were given the game and were brought into the project.

In order to take this forward, a further event was organised where I attended to demonstrate how he would teach with the game and to work with teachers to understand how the game worked and how they could begin to integrate it into their practice.

At the time Aberdeenshire was part of the Glow pilot and so a Glow group was created to help teachers communicate and share ideas and resources. Have a look at the some of the video feedback from teachers and pupils HERE.

The response to the project has been amazing, with a lot of comments about the impact that it has had on attainment in writing. I am looking forward to extending this during the coming week.

It was great to catch up with Anne Curtis and Vicki Cable, from Shoofly, last night at Thainstone House. They are exhibiting some of their imaginative and enchanting and challenging software at the conference.

One of the highlights of today’s event, for me, was meeting three delightful children from Elrick school, who presented some of their remarkable work stemming from their Myst wanderings alongside their gorgeous teacher, Aloyise Mulligan, who was one of the original Myst Project group and has really run with the ideas.

Visit their site HERE and see some of their brilliant results using Crazy Talk too.

I really enjoyed Derek Robertson’s presentation in the afternoon, titled Games in the classroom: do you still need convincing? I was convinced! Derek’s blog is always worth reading, as is his work with the Consolarium.

Derek is a Guitar Hero champion. Today, we turned him into Piano Hero when he joined me in some blues busking as folk filled in their evaluation forms. (Hopefuly it won’t nudge our ratings down TOO much!!)

Thank you to the remarkably energetic and irrepressible Anna Rossvoll, Brian Conn and their colleagues, for a superb event. One of the most enjoyable, warm, friendly, efficient and welcoming events I have had the pleasure to attend.

Thank you, and well done, to all those folk from Ellon Academy, Insch School,  Alford Academy, Portlethen Community Learning Centre, Banchory Primary School, Balmedie School, Monymusk School, Port Elphinstone School, Meiklemill School, Markethill School, Crombie School, Ardallie School, Burnhaven School, Logie Durno School, Echt School, Stonehaven Community Centre, Auchterellon School, Maud School, Drumoak School, Mearns Academy, Easterfield School, Adult Literacties, Rayne North School, Torphins Primary School, Tough School, Fraserburgh Community Centre, Elrick School, Mintlaw Academy, Kinellar School, Auchterless School, Methlick School, Fraserburgh South Park School, Banchory Academy, Keig School, Meldrum Academy, Portlethen Academy, Mackie Academy, Aboyne Academy, Kemnay Academy, Wyness Hall, Westhill Primary School, Macduff School, Slains School, Scottish Youth Parliament, St Leonard’s, St Fergus School, Turriff Academy, Dover Lodge, ALIS, Woodhill House, Ellon Primary School, Auchnagatt School, Westhill Academy, Inverurie Market Place, Carronhill School, Luthermuir School, Newmachar School, Gordon House, Cultercullen School, Gartly School, Hatton (Cruden) School, Peterhead Academy, Inverurie Academy, Old Rayne School, Ballater School, Kintore School, EAL Service, Hill of Banchory, Banff Primary School, Newburgh Mathers School, Lumsden School, Fraserburgh Academy, Logie Coldstone School, Aberdeenshire Heritage, Crimond School, Barthol Chapel , Kellands School, Strichen School, St Andrews School Parent Council, Longside School, Alford Primary School, Cluny School, Rosehearty School, Buchanhaven School, Westhill Community Centre, Fishermoss School, Portsoy School, Midmar School and  The Gordon Schools.

Eco ego

| April 16, 2008 | 1 Comment