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Bexley Bashers!

| February 6, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

Another good trip back to Bexley today and a training day with Barrington Primary school, joined by colleagues from nearby Orchard school. I was impressed that so many governors also joined the day and contributed with perceptive enthusiasm.

We had a day of exploring and spent a while trying to work out what the little rabbit-like creature, which we encountered behind the “Tiffany granny flat”, was doing. All about interdependence and adaptation.

The composition challenge that ended the day was …um…loud! 🙂

I have never heard so much volume and oomph before.

Well done Claire for trying to organise, what turned out to be, a heavy metal band! Barrington Pheloung (look him up) we definitely were not. However, humour and full-on gusto were the mark of this composition. “Less is more” went out of the window… but we had a good laugh!

Atrus even popped in to complain about the noise!

Thank you to Jacqui and her colleagues for a fun day.A day that was only matched by… the next day.

I had a great second day with the children of Barrington school. They showed that they, too, have a great sense of humour and are “up for a challenge” I look forward to a return trip someday.

“Nigh Swan!”

Game On!

| February 2, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

Game On!

Games without frontiers.

Who needs front ears anyway?

Web2.0 (BTW: This is a “comment” rather than a criti-scism)

| February 1, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

I keep chunnering on about Samuel Pepys, but, when the old boy was writing his diaries, he did not suspect that ANYBODY else was going to read his lascivious ramblings. I admire the man for sitting quietly in his private chambers of an evening and recording his impressions of life as it was for him. Who would have thought that anyone would Pepy at THIS blog when it first started, but now it receives hundreds of (manual) searches a day and scores more via RSS feeds.

NOW… why are YOU reading this and haven’t thought about responding to this post, or others, with a comment?

That is something that people are bringing up with me a lot: Blogs are still mainly written and read by folk rather than actively contributed to. Still…

The web is moving from black and white to colour – from text alone, to video and rich images – now it is our chance to join in – and visibly.

I get many e-mails a day from all around the world. I actually think that is better than leaving a comment in MANY ways, (personal, thoughtful and quietly encouraging) but … go on don’t be shy… if you are here, (or any other of the many edu-blogs) jot your thoughts down in comments as well, hey?

To those of you you who send me such kind, encouraging e-mails… please don’t stop either…

Mr McIntosh always picks out a few gems and is worth a comment.

Hang on! Rylands, you hypocrite! How many times have you read Ewan‘s fine witterings and left without a murmer??!!

“You’re a fine one to comment!”

“It’s not rocket science!” No.36

| January 31, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

The first “not rocket science!” of 2007 but, if you missed the old ones:
Simply: I am often caught saying it…
All your “It’s not rocket science!” spottings always relished.

Thank you to Alex from Edinburgh for this one.

ICT Register: “Here Miss!”

| January 31, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

When I was at school, I used to have the day dream (I am sure everbody used to have it… didn’t they?!) that I was the Six Million Dollar Man. (Oh go on…be honest! Who hasn’t secretly done “in-head commentaries” as they puff their way breathlessly around a school playing field in an ill-fitting M&S tracksuit… or was that just me?!) Well, it was with flashbacks (and that’s not nylon against dralon sparks!) to those glorious pseudo-athletic days that I navigated my way around the impressive Loughborough University complex to find the venue for the ICT Register Showcase. (“Here comes the small but perfectly formed, neat yet not gaudy and only slightly balding athlete, Rylands, representing England at the Witter Olympics!) What a remarkable establishment.

I was also reminded of my trip to Cyan (the minds behind the Myst games) and their offices in Spokane, last August. There, the front entrance has been “ripped away” from the main building and placed the other side of a small bridge. At the venue yesterday, we entered via a long drawbridge across a lake. Very Myst-like.

I enjoyed meeting up with Sian Bloor, a student teacher who is investigating the power of computer games in the classroom. It always a pleasure to talk to people with a passion for their subject and Sian is one of those. A perceptive and enthusiastic soul, who will make a very valuable member of the teaching profession. I wish her luck in her studies.

picture-3.pngAnother great find was the folk on the Mathletics stand. Shane, Alice and the rest of the team showed me my first looks at, what seems to be an impressive, web-based environment for motivating children’s maths skills. I am keen to find out more.

My presentation was slightly marred by the venue’s sound system being almost as mute as the swans on the lake outside. I would like to thank the audience for a warm and generous response. Thank you to all those at the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust and the ICT Register for inviting me to speak at a great event. It was a delight to meet up with them all beforehand too.

I have been fortunate enough to do some work with Scott Wilson, and the staff of the Bristol Sensory Support Service, on finding ways of using the visual literacy ideas, and the audio from the games etc, with the children they work alongside. It is something I am being asked to become involved in more often now as people are aware of the huge potential these simple ideas have for motivating all children.

Today’s link is to a really useful page on the RNID website, which is their Fingerspelling Tool. With it you can learn how to finger spell letters, words or indeed whole sentences that you type in to a text box.

To follow the link, just feel how warm my hands are after attempting to sign through this post!

There’s no business like snow business!

| January 27, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

Wednesday this week started out looking like it could have been a challenging day.
It turned out to be a real delight.

I arrived at Northend Primary, in Bexley, in the middle of a snowblast. I plugged my laptop in and …nothing but buzz. The first class I was due to teach came into the room understandably buzzing as well, because of the scenery outsidesnowflake-1.jpg and the snowballs they had evidently thrown at each other.

I breathed in and started the game. A soggy round of “We’ve been here” rang out. Anything else to go wrong I wondered.

That was it though. The rest of the day was, as I say, an absolutely cracking day. They were hooked. It is really energizing to find that children of all abilities respond magically to these simple ideas. The last class I visited had had maths, literacy, science and been swimming… and then a bald bloke with a walking stick arrives and starts playing computer games and getting them to write extended descriptive narrative! They were still up for it. Believe it or not they had a bucket of snow from the morning that had not melted.

Things like snow, water, heat… make a powerful sensory stimulus for children who find it difficult to express themselves when we are exploring the visually rich MrRylandsIslands as somebody, wonderfully, called it today. Paper towels were another sensory way of representing leaves in one of the locations we visited. I had a great day working with four classes and then had an after schooloct30a_a_sm.jpg session with the staff. I realise that it is these practical times with children (and staff observing the lessons) that I enjoy the most. Ideas just snowball!

I had a longer drive than I had anticipated to get a replacement laptop, but it was well worth it. Thanks to all those at Northend for a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Any of my minor technical problems were nothing compared to those of “Website Clive” in Normandy. He awoke to discover his whole hard drive had imploded. Thankfully, he has been a diligent chap with his back ups but the speed that he works on websites meant that, even then, he has lost a lot of data and hours of work. A salutary prompt to us all, me included. They too had a snowfall, so Clive appears to have worked off some of his frustration with a romp with Basil, the Les Rouges Terres snow-hound.


Today’s link is an appropriately snowy one: Make your own, virtual snowflake.

Let us snow how you get on!

Courage Award

| January 21, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 
A Winscombe man has been honoured in the People’s Courage Awards for 2006 for showing ‘outstanding bravery and strength of character’in throwing out a number of old computer cables, even though he could not remember where they came from and could not be certain that one of them might not come in handy again at some point in the future!


Power cables
Richard Cureton, 26, had apparently been complaining for some time that he was no longer able to close the bottom drawer of his home work-station as it was so jam-packed with old power leads, redundant chargers, USB links, iPod speakers, power cables, redundant modem cables and the printer wire from an Amstrad 8256.
‘We suggested stuffing the lot into a Tesco’s bag and chucking it on top of the wardrobe,’ said neighbour, Rita Hinton, 32. ‘Or storing them all in the loft with the vague intention of maybe trying to flog them as a job lot on eBay one day. But none of us could have guessed for a moment what Richard was actually going to do.’
‘We were stunned’ said Hinton. ‘There was a curly off-white cable with like, a round five pronged little plug on one end and a square blue plastic bit on the other. That must have been essential for something. And the redundant phone chargers might have worked as a back-up charger for another mobile phone that he might purchase in the future. It was madness.’
But when Cureton’s courage came to the notice of the organisers of the People’s Courage Awards, they knew there could only be one winner:
‘We are fed up of giving out these awards to blokes who have rescued people out of the sea, or kids that have kept smiling through terrible diseases,’ said a spokesman. ‘Chucking out mystery computer cables; that’s what I call courage.’ Cureton said he was going to spend the prize money on computer peripherals, specifically connecting his universal card reader to his lap-top, adding ‘I’m sure I used to have a cable for that somewhere.’
According to eye-witnesses, the normally cautious local computer programer simply took the packed wooden drawer out of the workstation, walked out of the front door and tipped the entire contents into a wheelie-bin.

iCan’t iWait!!

| January 20, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 


I am not normally a technobloke but the announcement of the new iPhone has really caught a lot of people’s attention… mine included!

Whether or not it stands a chance of becoming cheap enough to be used as a teaching tool is another matter, but it has got me thinking already!

Now THAT was fun!

| January 18, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

I always enjoy days where I get invited to a school to do a series of demo lessons with colleagues observing. It is an enjoyable challenge to detect the needs of a group of children and stretch their expectations of themselves. Today, at Longleaze school in Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, that challenge was made even more fun by a delightful set of children and an equally delightful set of teachers. It has been my pleasure to travel around this country and meet a huge range of people. I am constantly surprised by the humour and imagination of children and the creativity and dedication of colleagues in all areas. Today, again, I saw nothing but SMILES! Thank-you.

I even picked up a new word thanks to “R” in one of the classes. I am going to nick it as a piece of “creative plagiarism” if that’s O.K. with you “R”

When we were discussing descriptive phrases, I asked what it was called when you compare one thing to another e.g. “the gravel path is like an apple crumble” A forest of hands went up and the word “Simile” was confidently offered. “O.K. What about when you say that the gravel path IS an apple crumble? In other words that it IS rather than is like. (if anybody emails to correct my description of these two devices, please remember it has been a long week. 🙂 ) “R” put his hand up, enthusiastically, and said “I don’t know the word, but how about a SAME-ely?!” Delicious, and something I will quote for years to come I am sure.

The afternoon session, with two classes of year five and six, wasn’t even thrown by the school’s projector going blank half way through. “In my writing I’m going to “close my eyes” for a moment because the scenery is “all too much” Mr Rylands.

Thank you to Rachel, for organising a tremendous day, and to all those that kept me supplied with toast throughout the day! The expression that I picked up from the team in Huntingdon applied today too. “No wangy toast here!”

Over the bridge, again.

| January 17, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

I had a thoroughly enjoyable day over the bridge in Newport today. My Welsh connections continue to grow. Monmouthshire, Newport and others, invited me for a day of exploring visual literacy ideas, mainly focused on the use of games. EVERYBODY was up for a challenge and it was great to spend the day with so many smiling faces. Thanks to all those who sent thoughtful, encouraging (and very …prompt!) emails. I look forward to a return visit to Monmouthshire already booked for later in the year.

Congratulations must go, at least, to Frances, for conducting a mini masterpiece to go with another roller-coaster ride. I was impressed by some truly inventive ways to play standard percussion instruments too. A gloriously controlled cacophony. I will post pictures when I get them. Thank you to Karen, Frank, Penny and all those involved in the organisation of a fun day.

BETT Blitz 3

| January 16, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

I admit that it is now Tuesday, the week after BETT finished, …and so am I ! !
BETT is an enervating experience but so energising at the same time.

Saturday’s presentation went very well indeed. It was fully booked, with people standing all around the room so, apologies to those of you who didn’t manage to get a seat! It was really encouraging to get so much feedback after the event and to see the website “hits” go through the roof.

There is a definite positive feel about technology in education at the moment. That move from black and white to colour that we talked of, continues apace.

I experimented with a Gyro Mouse, very kindly sourced by Marc Keable, of Classroom ICT. A Giro Mouse enables you to navigate through a presentation or website and move the mouse pointer without having to place your hand on a surface. Takes a bit of getting used to I have to say, but I think there is a vast amount of opportunity to use one creatively with children. For example, in a virtual landscape experience, a giro mouse would enable you to navigate and “walk” whilst standing in front of the screen. I look forward to trying new ideas soon.