Category: 1) Events and Training days

Spring Lane Primary, Northampton ~ Day 1

| March 14, 2016 | 4 Comments 

Spring Lane Primary

Spring Lane PrimaryThe first of our two days at Spring Lane Primary. A school situated in the centre of Northampton town, serving with respect a diverse and vibrant community. Thanks go to Headteacher Alex Owens for inviting us, her staff and her colleagues from neighbouring schools and the Collaborative Academies Trust: St Barnabas Church of England School, Lumbertubs Primary, Willowdown Primary Academy, Priorswood Primary, Wellesley Park Primary, Manor Court Primary, Willow Brook Primary and Woolavington Village Primary.

Thank you to Gary Avery, Assistant Headteacher, for coordinating our visit, and for his thoughts here:

We are looking for ways to inspire our children to go ‘beyond’ what they think they are capable of, to develop imagination and creativity. Our teachers do a fantastic job but we think something different, innovative and that taps directly into the things our children are interested in will provide the spark for rapid progress. We have complete confidence that our staff will be able to integrate the new ideas and then add to them so that we end up with something that is perfectly adapted for our children.

Griffeen Valley Educate Together National School, Dublin

| February 29, 2016 | 2 Comments 

Griffeen Valley Educate Together National School

A wonderful opportunity to spend a day with the pupils and staff at Griffeen Valley Educate Together National School.

A huge THANK YOU to Susan Nic Réamoinn, Junior Infant Teacher for coordinating today’s sessions and to Tomaś Ó Dúlaing, Priomhoide of Griffeen Valley Educate Together National School for accommodating us and making us so welcome.

The VillageA full morning with 50+ 10/11 years olds, with their teachers, exploring a ‘Village’ setting in Myst 4: Revelation. Talk. speculation, sharing, thinking and taking ownership of this place, brought it from the virtual, into reality. Similes, and silences, enabled their ideas to flourish and take shape, forming images in our imaginations – gorgeous! We met characters, children up for tackling new ideas and risk-taking, found themselves becoming confident in their roles, expanding on fictional happenings with great detail and flare.

PlantIn our afternoon, we adventured with with the 6/7 year olds and teachers, adventuring through their creations, notions and persuasions, as we wandered through caves, climbed trees and became intrepid explorers.

The children in this group wondered, and enthused, about strange objects as we investigated Edanna, the helix plants and the birds inhabiting this beautiful world, talking and writing with passion and interest – WELL DONE.

CESI Conference 2016

| February 27, 2016 | 0 Comments 

conference2016main-968x415

Great to be in CESI, Computers in Education Society of Ireland, voluntarily supporting ICT in Education in Ireland since 1973. It is for anyone with an interest in the potential of technology to enhance the teaching and learning experience for all involved in education.

The conference is the highlight of the activities of CESI each year. It provides a welcome opportunity for those who have been communicating on line to have face to face time. There is a mix between presentations and workshops where practitioners have the opportunity to share with one another in a practical way. You can view the details of many previous conferences in the conference section of this website. Live streaming of the keynote and capstone presentations has occurred more frequently as bandwidth has increased. You can view some of these presentations on the CESI YouTube channel and see pictures from previous conferences on the CESI Flickr page.

We have been blessed to do keynotes before at CESI.

A recurring theme of today was the balance that is needed between planning what you want to achieve in lessons, and flying with ideas. Children can lead in many of the game based sessions, but you do need to have a clear idea of objectives and intended outcomes. However, it is important to take the brakes off and fly a bit as well. It is really crucial to explore game environments in a structured, but not overly planned, way initially. e.g. to have an idea about what kind of things you can cover but not predetermine a route or how long you are going to spend in each location. It is important to become familiar with the games yourself at first. Then, when you begin explorations with a class, to be prepared to cover less physical ground than you might expect.

You may only “move” one “pace” but the children will be able to see how a new paragraph can begin with just a turn of the head, or reaching out to move a lever. Standing outside a door is a classic example of how tension and expectation can be built within a writer’s, and reader’s mind.

ShipWholly without warning, wild wet winds woke us wailing weirdly -waging war with wind-tossed waters. We witnessed a wreck within this watery wasteland, where withering westerly winds, and waves wrought swathes of wretchedness.

Yet not one withering wallflower awaited us!

We witnessed wayfaring weather-beaten waifs, wearied & well-nigh weeping, worn-out from their wanderings. We worried for their well-being. This was wasted

Roller CoasterWaiting within wattled, withered & weighty wooden walls, these waterproofed weirdos, instead of wailing woefully, welcomed us warmly and wrapped us in wondrous words, wild with what wholly warranted ripples of applause.

Writing isn’t “working”. Word wizards waved their wooden wands – whittling, wringing worlds from words, sending them wistfully wriggling, wheeling, windmilling, & weaving in to the air!

We wished we could wend our way further, but with well-timed wisdom, we wound up our walks. Well done one and all. Wonderful!

On Saturday 27th February 2016 the Computers in Education Society of Ireland (CESI) held its annual conference. The venue for this year’s conference being Dublin City University (DCU). The conference was preceded by the now-traditional TeachMeet CESI event, which was heldat the Regency Hotel, Dublin.

Conference Theme

2015 saw the launch of Ireland’s Digital Strategy for Schools which aims to “greatly enhance the learning experience and lifelong learning skills of all our students”. The foreword to the strategy calls upon all teachers “to use ICT in the classroom to bring learning to life for students; to give learners the tools to collaborate and to examine engaging problems; to research and analyse information; and to use ICT resources to communicate their ideas and to share what they create with others beyond the walls of their classroom or school”

With this in mind, the theme for the 2016 CESI annual conference was “Our Digital Strategy – making IT matter”. Ireland’s Digital Strategy for Schools was put into practice by the participants of this conference in the years to come. This year’s event focused upon an understanding of the importance of information technology in education, the potentials and problems that lie ahead in implementing the Digital Strategy for Schools, and the ways in which it can make a meaningful and magical curriculum for the learners.

Bath Spa University, Bath

| February 19, 2016 | 9 Comments 

Bath Spa University

A return visit to trip to Bath Spa University to work with their Primary and Early Years PGCE trainees.

Thanks to Emma Asprey, Senior Lecturer, at the School of Education for inviting us to the university, to spend precious time with her students,

Thanks to Emma for her thoughts: We were very pleased to welcome Tim and Sarah back to Bath Spa University to mark the halfway point in the PGCE programme and provide some extra magic and inspiration to our trainees as they embark on their final placements. It was such a treat to be immersed in Tim’s playful and imaginative world of learning. Staff and trainees enjoyed learning together, having fun and exploring their own creativity in a unique blend of virtual and very real experiences. We’re thrilled that so many children will benefit from these ideas being brought into classrooms to enrich their learning.

Bath Spa AM Screenshot 16

Bath Spa AM Screenshot 14

Bath Spa AM Screenshot 11

Bath Spa AM Screenshot 12

Bath Spa AM Screenshot 18

Bath Spa AM Screenshot 15

Bath Spa AM Screenshot 19

Bath Spa AM Screenshot 20

Bath Spa AM Screenshot 13

Encouraging confidence, and creativity, in children of all ages and abilities, CAN help them achieve

Analog principles are vital to make digital tools effective Energy, in some ways, is even more valuable than the books, pencils, and technology in our rooms. It’s about ethos, character and atmosphere. This energy starts with one individual in every classroom: the teacher. It is always good to remember, though easily forgotten, to show our classes we are glad to see them, and also show them how happy we are to be there, excited by what is going to happen, or could happen, if they join us. How important it is to greet your pupils as they arrive. Meet them smiling. Smile as much as possible during the session too. Then, and this is essential: Say farewell to every one of them, as they leave, past you, at the door, perhaps with a handshake. At least, with a smile. This can build a real positive confidence in a child: “Whatever I didn’t get, didn’t understand – whatever I became frustrated with, whatever I lost my patience with – whatever mistakes I made, my teacher STILL THINKS I’M ALRIGHT and TOMORROW WILL BE O.K”.

Parklands Primary, Leeds ~ Day 2

| January 14, 2016 | 2 Comments 

Parklands Primary

A second day at Parklands Primary in Leeds joined by staff from Grimes Dyke Primary, Manston Primary and Manston St James Primary Academy.

Well done to all of the children and staff for taking off with words, in magical and mysterious ways. A wonderous morning with courageous 60+ Year 3 and Year 4 pupils, their teachers, teaching asistants, and visiting colleagues.


… followed by a lively, talented Year 1 class …

Thoughts from Tom Cunliffe, Year 4 Teacher:

The VillageThe children are flowing in with a hubbub of anticipation as they gaze upon the screen. Already you can see them looking deeper into the mountainous realm wondering where it is, asking questions to each other.

We’re welcoming Tim Rylands and Sarah back to day 2 at Parklands Primary School, Leeds. Whilst this will be a mesmerising session for the children, it is the teachers that are sat with notebooks and ‘writing sticks’, in eager anticipation of new teaching techniques and resources to inspire over the coming year.

Mr WalkerTim has just introduced ‘Mr Walker’, his back up walking stick (sadly number one has started a new journey with a thief). In the space of 3 minutes, Tim has got the children thinking about the holes in Mr Walker. Children are conferring; “Mr Walker has holes so he can breathe” one child says, “A fox with long, sharp teeth bit right through it” says another. Personification at its best.

By giving permission for children to ‘go for it’ and rewarding answers with ‘a ripple’, every child in the room now wants to give their answers and there is an ocean of hands up in the air – 80 different reasons why Mr Walker has holes in him. This is testament to the power of allowing ‘silly answers’ and welcoming them the same as any other. Children are engaged, encouraged and excited.

The children had almost forgotten about the mystical land dancing away on the screen behind. Often there is a fear in the teaching profession about technology distracting children – stopping them from thinking independently and discussing ideas. Yet that idea has been thrown out of the window here. What is clear, is that with the right guidance, it can only enhance the fantastic imagination that children already have. We sometimes forget that children WANT to speak and they WANT to be involved in the now. They are proud of their ideas. There is a child next to me, laughing because he can’t get his idea in for the amount of children sharing their ideas. He’s even standing now. Too late, but point proven.

WritingWithout ‘permission’, children are scribbling ideas into their books. This is exactly what we want children to be doing; Writing because they can, rather because they have to. And now…competition time – When we hear Tim say a ‘simile’ we have to go really high and screechy! Re-enforcing children’s understanding through games is a fantastic way of embedding knowledge. It’s now the children’s turn and in the space of 1 minute we have 80 similes soaring around the room like… (pop your similes in the ‘Add your Thoughts’ at the top of this blog!).

Writing time, and the scratching of ideas is magnificent. Children believe they are immersed in the setting – not because they can see it, but because they have talked about it and have shared ideas with explanation rather than just a ‘title of their idea’. Byron is going to share his description (with a name like that he best be good). ‘Smoke as hot as lava. I can hear a rattling of leaves and see a building, black as people’s hair. Nailed it. Well done Lord Byron.

We’ve talked about paragraphs, personification, similes, metaphors and now we’re using rhetorical questions, but the children don’t even know they are using them! Far too often we introduce a literary skill by introducing it by name, e.g. ‘This is a rhetorical question, does this sentence need an answer?’ rather than discovering it through talk. This way, children take ownership of it and are much more proud to use in their writing. One thing to stress is that these are not all new singing and dancing teaching techniques. Rather, Tim is reminding us of the importance of questioning and not stopping when we get to a ‘good’ answer.

PaperAs teachers, ideas are thrown at us from all directions and as we pick something up, inevitably other ideas will go from our minds. I remember my teacher training, leaving with so many fantastic ideas and enthused to use them in the classroom. Yet the reality of day to day teaching is that things are left on the side. Tim has reminded me of the wealth of resources, skills and ideas out there. His techniques are nothing new; they are solid and herald good practice. Yet the resources enhancing these techniques are constantly evolving. We must not rely on electronic resources alone, yet we must not dismiss them as ‘things for home time’. A whole world can be unlocked to journey through, and you’ll be amazed at where the children take you!

By Tom Cunliffe, Year 4 Teacher.

A massive THANK YOU to Tom for his reflections, and again to Head Teacher Chris Dyson for having the passion and vision to invite us to his school for these two days.

Parklands Primary, Leeds ~ Day 1

| January 13, 2016 | 2 Comments 

Parklands Primary

Fantastic indeed, to be at Parklands Primary in Leeds joined by staff from Grimes Dyke Primary and from Manston Primary, for a 2 day visit. Our first day spent with the Y5, Y6 and Y2 pupils and their teachers, followed by a twilight with all the staff and colleagues from the visiting school.

A massive THANK YOU to Head Teacher Chris Dyson:

Chris DysonParklands Primary School (Seacroft Leeds) were all set to ‘Boldly’ go on a writing adventure to inspire the love of writing. The scene was set; a cold, grey winters morning at Parklands Primary School, Leeds. …. the lights were dimmed at 915 am as 64 excited, nervous, apprehensive Y5 Y6 pupils, their teachers and teaching assistants walked into the magical, mystery world that was known as Tomanha. The eerie music made the hairs on the children’s necks stand to attention like needles on a cactus plant. Something strange was to occur, something mystical, something suspicious perhaps…..

The children sat in awe and wonder as a strange image rose from the front of the stage and greeted the pupils. The image shuffled to the front of the stage, his hairless head reflected the light from a strange light source as his face, his eyes and his smile told of a hidden secret that he seemed desperate to share with the children. If anyone could put this man’s pain to ease, it was the children of Parklands Primary School. The strange man was desperate to share what he had seen, what he had experienced and what he had found out from his old friend Atrus. He needed someone he could trust, he needed someone who would not let him down, he needed some razor sharp writers who would help him with his quest and to be entrusted with his prized and sacred journal……… After his travels around the world, to places such as Hong Kong; Vietnam; Arizona; Sweden; Dubai and Ireland, the man known simply as Tim Rylands had arrived at Parklands Primary School, hoping and pleading that these children would have the answers to the questions that he had been seeking for so long all over the world!

Parklands Primary School is proud to welcome the one, the only, the King of Inspirational Writing – Tim Rylands. For every Lone Ranger, there is a Tonto. For every Ant, there is a Dec. For every Dean, there is a Torville….. For Tim, he has the brilliant Sarah….

Parklands Primary school is a larger than average, 1.5 form-entry maintained school, located in Seacroft, an urban area in the east of Leeds. Our brilliant, beautiful children need opportunities to shine. They need experiences to inspire and challenge……. They need Tim Rylands……

Let us baldly go into a world full of suspense and intrigue …….. Let the writing begin!

Thoughts from James Haddock – Year 5 Teacher – Parklands Primary School, ably assisted (and worth a mention in despatches) by my three Lieutenants: Riley, Reece & Lauwureance; by Charli from down the way and Olivia the Sylph of synonyms.

SurvivedStanding here, the four walls of the classroom were closing in on us. Claustrophobia took a tight grip on our hearts; ignoring this the roll call was taken and relief flooded through us as we saw how many of us had survived the night. Some of us stole furtive glances up into the void of the ceiling, ears straining to hear the tip tap of footfalls as the mysterious animals crept and frolicked within our space. Fear was replaced by a sense of anticipation that spread like spring blossoms through our serried ranks. We were to meet someone…someone that could finally give us the key we needed to unlock our hidden talents. Help us to escape to the meaninglessness of life without simile, metaphor and the solid foundation of a well-constructed sentence.

PrisonWe departed our prison, moving like panthers down the straight, partially lit corridor. None of us knew what to expect. Eyes bright with anticipation the young ones looked towards their leader. Their looks implored him to tell them more, but his shrug, nonchalant yet stern like a modern day Chevalier quietened their questioning looks. A raised eye brow and the crease of a smile, playing like fairy dust, around his visage showed admittance that he knew as much as them. What was to await them? Would they receive the answers that had eluded them for so long? For the time being, as they dispersed throughout the cavernous room, that was to be home for the next two hours, these questions would remain unanswered, skulking like Victorian urchins in the shadowy corners of the room.
CharactersThe man positioned himself at the head of one of the provided tables. He was surrounded by three of his most treasured Lieutenants. He felt confidence flow through him, these fine boys would not let him down, come Hell or High Water. A girl joined them, from one of their neighbouring clans admittedly, but a doughty literary warrior nonetheless. She was welcomed amongst them. But what was this? A pale figure strode towards the table. Confident. Pride in her abilities showed through her every facet. A conjuror of words, a sylph of synonyms; the high priestess of homophones. She had selected our table. We were honoured indeed. Nervous glances were exchanged.

The VillageWe looked into the distance surveying the vista that stretched towards the towering volcano that glowered like an angry giant on the horizon. A hush descended like dusk in winter, covering the room with a blanket of silence. The object of our morning come into view, his voice soft and lilting as he recommended us to listen to the wind (was it wind?) smell the smoke (was it smoke?) that snaked lazily up from a distant chimney and look downwards towards a glistening and glimmering pool of water (was it water?) that moved like silk beneath our feet.

Simile“Those leaves look like they’re struggling to break free from those trees.” he whispered towards us, his voice undulating and flowing like oil into our ears. “Are they…are they really struggling to break free?” The gathered troop looked at each, all unsure, what did he want us to say? We shook our heads nervously and looked around for guidance. There was none. His eyebrows raised, almost concurring, at our shaking heads and a grin almost cracked his face in two. “But it doesn’t stop us from saying does it!?” No we thought, it doesn’t. The spell was cast the blanket was lifted and the room erupted into life. We magiced similes and metaphors out of thin air and sent them spiralling giddily around the room. We listened and responded with shouts of “Aaar….Simile Timbers!” and “Rark….Metaphor” while contorting our faces into almost Woosteresque naivety. The talk…the words flowed like fine wine. All of us to a man (or woman) contributed and not one of us felt the fear. The fear of talk, the shadow that had haunted us for so long. Our guest from down the corridor raised her voice, silence…the floor was hers She delivered her lines like a Shakespearean. Loud and confident. A smile on her face as she realised she’d done it. The man, at the head of the table, could not have been prouder.
WritingWe talked longer and longer delving around the Kingdom that we found ourselves in. Casting thoughts and feelings about with reckless entusiasm we relished in the sounds of our own voices, not wanting to let go. But stop it did. The time for talk was over. It was truly time for those individuals to prove their mettle. They all reached out and grasped their pens and pencils, feverishly ripping open their books (some of them did not even write a date or learning objective!!) and they started. To. Write. All of them. Grownups. Young ones and all those in-between and above. The quiet fell like the frontage of a house onto Buster Keaton.

There was no sound, but if you listened carefully a scratching faint at first, but raising…the sound of pen connecting with paper…There were no complaints – no one exclaimed they couldn’t do it, no one asked for help, they just wrote. When it was time to hear these musings, what things they had written. Carefully crafted similes mixed with the sights and sounds (and smells) of this unfamiliar land we had entered. Nuggets of the finest descriptomite dripped from every page, oozed from every line, exuded from every pen-tip. However, what hung onto every mouth were not similes, but smiles! Smiles as broad as they were long and long as they were broad. Smiles that lit up the room, showing off not only the whites of teeth but the joy of just writing.
CelebratingSo it had ended, the troop had returned to their natural environment. Prowling back up the corridor confidently, like Lions, voices soaring like swallows they swarmed home. The trick, the man thought to himself, is to keep this going…
…and that I think is the point. To keep it going. To allow children to be excited about writing and the process of writing. To talk about what they will write and give them purpose and reason in their creations. To allow their characters to come to life and for them to give birth to settings that are as real and as integral to their stories as possible.

To slow them down and describe every fairies wing beat and pixies breath, every detectives’ decision and every villains motive, every pirates promise and every cabin boys heroics…to allow them to forget (for that writing moment) what a fronted adverbial is, but to use them with wild abandon in their writing. Writing is a beautiful art, one that if we are taught well stays with us for a lifetime. It can sometimes be forgotten, but thank you Tim and Sarah for allowing me to remember…

A massive THANK YOU to James and his team for these reflections.


Wallingford Partnership of Schools, Oxfordshire ~ Day 2

| January 5, 2016 | 0 Comments 

Wallingford Partnership Day 2

Superb to be back at It is great at Fir Tree Junior School, with The Wallingford Partnership spending time with the teachers from the partnership and the children from Fir Tree Junior School and St Nicholas’ CE Infant School.

Sat in amoungst

WritingThey have placed the emphasis of our visit on the teaching, and learning, experiences that can happen when using games as a stimulus. So, it was a joy to spend a second day, working alongside the children of the school, with the “big people” dotted in amongst them, joining in, mucking in, modelling, scribing, and taking part in all of the experiences.

Today, we went all analog. After a full on day, yesterday, introducing ourselves to a vast plethora of digital delights, we reverted back to our “scribbly stick”, put pen to paper, and concentrated on the art of bending, blending, extending and attending to the magical power of words.

Sat in amongst Y2Teachers, and learning assistants, writing alongside children means that those children get to see that writing isn’t something we inflict upon them, and then go off and do something “far more interesting”. Some of our children have never seen what “enjoying writing” looks like. To sit together, share the struggle, and the delight in successes, is a simple, but potentially powerful, experience.

CharacterMarvelous magic took place again in these sessions. Picking up words, ideas, and thoughts, and then juggling with them, …takes courage. A huge well done to all of the folk here today, whatever size, whatever age, whatever ability, for exploring the terrain of text in inventive ways.

Yesterday we had a chance to explore a swathe of digital delights. Games are but one method of enhancing the imaginative spirit of our children. When paired with some of the other potential that the wonders of web2.0 offer, magic can ensue. There have been some superb magicians over these two days!

A special thank you to headteacher, Nilofer Khan for her smiles, observations and enthusiam over the two days working with her children and colleagues.

Wallingford Partnership of Schools, Oxfordshire ~ Day 1

| January 4, 2016 | 6 Comments 

Wallingford Partnership of Schools

A big THANK YOU to Nilofer Khan Headteacher, Fir Tree Junior School, Wallingford, the Wallingford Partnership of Schools, and those who joined us today, to start off 2016 in style!

Benson C of E Primary, Crowmarsh Gifford CE Primary, St Nicholas’ Infants, St John’s Primary, Cholsey Primary, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell Primary, Whitchurch Primary and The Manor

Folk round here are doing some REMARKABLE things in the face of challenging times, and misconceptions. We are honoured to know such inventive, inspiring educators.

It just goes to show that with the right stimulus and input, many of the children will write not just because their teacher wants them to, not even because it’s about a computer game, but because they have been challenged and inspired and want to write for themselves.

School and home life is not, and shouldn’t be, all about technology. However, if we, as educators, do not keep up with some of the skills, interests, passions, and playful times of our pupils (those who are lucky enough, it has to be said, to have access to these technologies) then our classrooms will appear stagnant environments, in comparison to their homes.

There was certainly a shared desire to tackle the challenge of pupil engagement today. Well done all.

We worked with Nilofer way back in 2007 and 2008! so it was good to be back with her for these two days:

“The Wallingford Partnership of Schools is getting ready to welcome Tim Rylands. As a partnership we pride ourselves in the professional development we offer our teachers and when we saw Tim at our Oxfordshire Head’s conference in Stratford last year, we grabbed the opportunity to book him for a two day inset for our partnership and opened it up for other schools to join us. We strongly believe in giving our staff professional development that can ignite and nurture their creativity. Tim’s ICT to Inspire is just what we were looking for. On the second day Tim will be teaching a year 2 and a year 6 class, giving the teachers an opportunity to see him in action at what he does best-teach! We have been looking forward to the 4th and 5th of January-a good start to the new term and to 2016”

Phoenix Integrated Primary, Cookstown, Northern Ireland

| November 20, 2015 | 6 Comments 

Phoenix IPS

A massive THANK YOU to Heather Watson, Principal of Phoenix Integrated Primary, for being up for organising a training day, with colleagues from around the area.

Heather WatsonPhoenix Integrated Primary School is situated in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland. A young, growing school with 215 pupils focused on providing high quality learning experiences for every child. Passionate about CPD for all staff, we seized the opportunity to work with Tim and Sarah welcomed 50 teachers from 30 schools to join us for a day of inspiration.

What an awesome day! Fast paced but fun, Tim and Sarah engaged the audience from the moment they started. Everyone was enthralled and inspired as they guided us through an exciting journey of how technology can open up a whole new dimension of learning for children. Every teacher needs a day like today; time out to reflect and recharge their creative energy. In the words of Tim Brighouse, ‘teaching can sometimes be an incredibly lonely job. It can stifle creativity’. At Phoenix we have a reputation of inviting teachers from other schools to learn together. By opening doors and creating meaningful opportunities to connect with each other we hope to reignite that spark of creativity, creating a supportive professional community. Looking forward to the next step – what to do with all the wonderful ideas? We can’t wait to see them come alive in our classrooms and hope Tim and Sarah will come back to visit us again soon (…and come to Donegal with us for a ‘wee’ road trip!)

Folk round here are doing some REMARKABLE things in the face of challenging times. We are honoured to know such inventive, inspiring educators.

It just goes to show that with the right stimulus and input, many of the children will write not just because their teacher wants them to, not even because it’s about a computer game, but because they have been challenged and inspired and want to write for themselves.

School and home life is not, and shouldn’t be, all about technology. However, if we, as educators, do not keep up with some of the skills, interests, passions, and playful times of our pupils (those who are lucky enough, it has to be said, to have access to these technologies) then our classrooms will appear stagnant environments, in comparison to their homes.

There was certainly a shared desire to tackle the challenge of pupil engagement today. Well done all.

Thank you to folk from St. Colum’s Primary School, Termoncanice Primary School, St Patrick’s Primary School, Donaghmore, Mount St. Michael’s Primary School, St Mary’s Primary School, Maghera, Spires Integrated Primary School, Enniskillen Integrated Primary School, Windsor Hill Primary School, Roe Valley Integrated Primary School, Ballysally Primary School, Killowen Primary School, St Colmcille’s Primary School, Claudy, Kilmoyle Primary School, Holy Trinity Primary School, Christ the Redeemer Primary School, St. Columba’s Primary School, Kilrea, Cairnshill Primary School, Portadown Integrated Primary School, Millburn Primary School, St Dympna’s Primary School, Dromore, Carryduff Primary School, Castledawson Primary School, Lough View Integrated Primary School, Oakwood Integrated Primary School, Drumlins Integrated Primary School, St Colmcilles Primary School, Omagh, Harmony Hill Primary School, Millennium Integrated Primary School, Hazelwood Integrated Primary School, Cookstown Primary School and Drumlish Primary School.

Capita and C2k Inspire Conference, Titanic Centre, Belfast

| November 17, 2015 | 11 Comments 

Inspire 2015

TitanicSuperb to be doing a keynote, on Inspiring Collaboration, Creativity and Innovation in the Classroom ~ the inventive, essential sides of using technology with our students…

…for the first annual Capita and C2k Inspire Conference for School Leaders, held in the Titanic Centre, Belfast.

InspireLogo3Steve MossThe Inspire Conference brings together leaders in education who work with governments and schools around the world. Guest speakers shared their views on leadership proprieties and the world of opportunities in employment locally and beyond. Sarah and I are delighted to attend as keynote speakers alongside John O’Dowd MLA, the Northern Irish Minister for Education, and Professor Stephen Heppell the renowned new media and educational technology expert, and chaired brilliantly by Steve Moss, Chair, ENni Innovation Forum, NI.

Stephen Heppell

Animal magic“We are delighted to join Capita and C2k at the Inspire event and look forward to delivering our session on ‘inspiring collaboration, creativity and innovation in the classroom’. The conference will also give us an insight into how schools in Northern Ireland are engaging with ICT and provide us with an opportunity to network directly with the school leaders.”

Throughout the day local schools showcased how they are using ICT to create an innovative, engaging and interactive learning environment, collaborating within and across schools.

capita-logoAs part of the conference Capita and C2k will be revealing the finalists of the EN(ni) ICT Excellence Competition and announcing the winners. Videos from the finalist schools were shared through the morning and the winners will be announced at the close of the morning sessions.

ZookazamInspire is supported by Google for Education and HP and key technology suppliers who form part of each NI school ICT service. A full agenda is accessible via the Inspire website. Follow the @Capita_MITS and @C2k_info twitter pages and hashtag #Inspire2015NI for further information and updates on the Inspire conference.

A huge thank you to again to Lynsey Parkes, Senior Marketing Executive at Capita Managed IT Solutions for all the pre-organising of us before the event and for during today alongside her colleague Susan O’Neill and their team.

Tim Rylands

Schools in Northern Ireland ~ Belfast

| November 16, 2015 | 0 Comments 

Ashfield Girls Secondary School Belfast

We were honoured today to be invited to visit schools in Belfast, to see what they are up to with their use of technology to enhance lessons.

We started at  Ashfield Girls Secondary School, Belfast.

Ashfield Girls Principal is Mrs Alison Mungavin. The school is an all-Girls Secondary school.

Technology in Ashfield Girls’ provides opportunities for pupils to expand their knowledge beyond the boundaries of a classroom; allows flexibility and freedom to teachers who can adapt the pace and challenge of a lesson to suit the individual pupils; creates an excitement and purpose for learning and most importantly prepares pupils for the inevitable technological infused lifestyle of the 21st Century.

However, it’s not simply within the classroom environment in Ashfield Girls’ – it permeates and infuses every aspect of school life. Relationships with parents and involvement from parents in the life of the school in enhanced by software we have invested in, such as teachers2parents text service and Show My Homework.

The leadership team has a clear vision for the way in which technology can enhance teaching and learning and this is understood and shared by the staff and students. The strategies adopted are fully consistent with the vision and are being effectively implemented. There is a particular focus on applications of technology that reduce the administrative burden on teachers and frees them to focus on effective teaching. Particularly effective use is made of the Fronter VLE to allow staff within departments to share resources. The school also makes very effective use of technology to extend the learning window and ensure that parents are well-informed about expectations with regard to homework. Students really value the fact that they are able to catch up online if they have missed a lesson and feel that the use of technology in many subjects increases their motivation and engagement as well as enabling them to demonstrate their achievement in a variety of ways.

The school has made particularly effective use of Accelerated Reader to improve reading in KS3. By linking this use closely to special needs support and carefully targeting the pupils who can benefit most, the school has achieved significant gains. The strategy of ensuring that staff are well trained in the use of mobile technologies before rolling these out across the school has meant that the class sets of iPads that have now been purchased are being used very effectively in many subjects. The school has taken a mature approach to the use of mobile phones in school and students are allowed to use their phone cameras with teacher permission to record work – for example in science practical activities. In addition to the widespread use of Fronter, 6th form science students are linked to the Blackboard VLE at the University of Ulster so that they can benefit from the materials it contains.

We then headed on to Harberton Special School, Belfast

Their Principal is Mr M McGlade. This school is a truly special school.

In Harberton Special School and Outreach Services the use of technology to transform and enhance teaching and learning is a major part of the school ethos. It is a high preference on the school strategic plan and the school development plan. Both these long term and medium term plans inform the yearly action plan for the school(see attachment – ICT section of the schools yearly action plan). These plans ensure that the use of technologies and ICT are embedded across the curriculum in all curriculum areas. This emphasis of the use of technology is encouraged from all aspect of the school’s management structure. These plans are shared with all stakeholders involved in the school. They are ratified by the board of governors, published on the school website, shared with parents as part of a yearly report, displayed on the school notice board and submitted to the Education Authority. An ICT handbook is provided to all members of staff which clearly states the schools high expectations on the effective and innovative use of technologies across the curriculum and in all departments. The school has made substantial investments in new innovative technologies.

The creative use of technology is transforming the life chances of pupils in this Special school. It is a key component of providing access to learning for many children with complex needs and the school has utilised an array of both simple and sophisticated technologies to improve their young peoples’ engagement, motivation, behaviour and attainment. It was also clear technology played a key role in tracking pupils’ progress – of particular importance in a context where learning gains can be of massive significance even when they are relatively small, incrementally. The use of Green Screen technology to immerse children in situations that would otherwise be precluded and the use of QR codes to make a discovery journey around a shared outdoor learning area an interactive rather than passive experience were just two examples of the very many ways the embedding of technology was helping Harberton’s youngsters, and its staff, to make learning and teaching an exciting and rewarding experience. The school has managed to prioritise impact by the judicious use of targeted investment and evaluated how effective it is – ensuring technology is delivering improved outcomes.

There were many things that impressed about Harberton – not least a quite superb, dedicated, hard-working group of staff who gave tirelessly of themselves to help their children; but, in terms of technology focus, most impressive amongst these were (i) the use of robots to engage learners with communication challenges and (ii) how technology used as part of a rewards strategy was helping to improve the achievement of Autistic youngsters with challenging behaviour. The latter was presented to us by one student on behalf of another who was ill on the day of our visit – and his efforts to explain what he saw as how his friend’s experience of school had been transformed was both humbling and inspirational.

In the afternoon, we had a meeting with C2k elearning team.

The C2K project and Capita provide the infrastructure and services to support the enhanced use of ICT in schools in Northern Ireland.

It was also good to visit The Titanic Centre for a seminar run through for tomorrow, especially as our presentation will be seen by so many schools across Northern Ireland.

A big thank you to Lynsey Parkes, Senior Marketing Executive at Capita Managed IT Solutions for organising our day and to Glenn Parkinson who was responsible for hosting the day, and did so in style.

Thanks too to: Steve Moss, Steve Smith, Glenn Parkinson, Averil Morrow, and a few others for “time out’ later.