Reading blog⤴

from @ EdCompBlog

We are in the process of setting up reading groups on the Goodreads website to use with pupils in our school. The idea is to set up reading groups, share reading lists and get children to write and publish reviews.

Sample Poster
Sample Poster
I thought it would be interesting to tie Goodreads into another school initiative - the "Currently reading" posters. All members of staff are encouraged to update a poster and display it on their door to show what they are currently reading. It's part of a campaign to create a culture of reading in the school.

I wanted to combine the posters with Goodreads. Rather than just show what I'm currently reading, I could link to Goodreads which tracks my progress, lets me publish a review when I am finished and records which books I've completed so far this year. Or at least, that was the plan...

The trick was to share links to specific sections of Goodreads. The best way I could find was to use the widgets provided by Goodreads to place the details in a blog and then share the blog posts.

The result: Mr Muir's Reading Blog. Only a few posts so far but a couple of key sections are:
Put some QR codes on the poster to link to the relevant sections and job done. At least, job done assuming anybody bothers to scan the QR codes and read the blog. 

What do you think? Daft idea? Vaguely interesting? Please leave a comment below if you have any thoughts or suggestions.

Changing Perspectives on OER⤴


In case you missed it, this blog post outlining my OER18 keynote appeared on the conference website last week.

Being invited to keynote is always a privilege, but I was particularly honoured to be asked to present at this year’s OER18 Conference in Bristol, not least because I’ll be following in the footsteps of the three inspirational women who presented last year’s keynotes; Diana ArceMaha Bali and Lucy Crompton-Reid. You see, OER is my conference, I’ve attended every single one since the conference launched at the University of Cambridge in 2010, and in 2016 I had the pleasure of chairing the conference at the University of Edinburgh with my inspiring colleague Melissa Highton.

To my mind, the success of the OER Conference has always been founded on its willingness to examine and renegotiate what “OER” means, and this is one of the themes I’ll be exploring in my keynote.  And by that, I don’t mean defining the specific attributes of what constitutes an Open Educational Resource, I mean critically reflecting on what openness means in relation to education at different points in time and from different perspectives, because as Catherine Cronin reminds us in Open Education, Open Questions, “openness is a constantly negotiated space”.   Open education looks very different to each and every one of us, and our perspective will depend entirely on where we are standing and the privilege of our vantage point.  And of course it is inevitable that our perspective will change as our roles and careers develop over time.

Gabi Whitthaus has already written a thoughtful personal reflection on her journey through the OER conferences and, like Gabi, the changing themes and fluctuating interpretations of “OER” have influenced and reflected my own development and perspective as an open education practitioner over the last decade.

In my current role I have the privilege to work with a great team of people at the OER Service at the University of Edinburgh, an institution with a strong commitment to openness and a vision for OER.  This commitment is squarely aligned to the University’s mission to provide the highest quality learning and teaching environment for the greater wellbeing of our students, and to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing. During my keynote I’ll be exploring some of the ways that the university encourages learners to engage with and co-create open education through a wide range of initiatives including internships, playful learning activities, Wikipedia in the classroom assignments, and outreach and engagement courses.

I strongly believe that engaging learners and equipping them with the digital skills necessary to participate in open education is key to ensuring that OER and open education is collaborative, diverse, accessible and participatory. Because ultimately that is what openness is about.  Openness is not just about attributes, definitions and licences, openness is also about creativity, access, equality, and inclusion and ultimately it’s about expanding access to education, supporting social inclusion and enabling learners to become fully engaged digital citizens.

When the conference first launched eight years ago, I approached open education and OER from a rather different perspective.  In 2010 the JISC / HEA UKOER Programme was well underway and the first OER keynote was presented by JISC’s Executive Secretary Malcolm Read.  At the time, I was working for the JISC Innovation Support Centre CETIS, where I led the team that provided strategic and technical support to the UKOER Programme.  My focus then was on how we could harness lightweight web technologies and new Web 2.0 platforms to create a sustainable OER infrastructure without relying too heavily on the monolithic systems and formal education technology standards mandated by previous programmes.

Two years later in 2012 I sat in the audience with my colleague Joe Wilson, then Head of New Ventures at SQA, and listened to Sir John Daniel, talking about the UNESCO / COL initiative Fostering Governmental Support for OER Internationally, one of the outputs of which was the influential Paris OER Declaration. In a rather roundabout way, that keynote and the subsequent Declaration inspired us to launch the Open Scotland initiative and, together with colleagues from across the open education community, to draft the Scottish Open Education Declaration. And it was through this initiative that I started to re-frame my perspective on OER and open education in terms of personal ethics and the wider policy landscape.

2012 was also the year that the UKOER Programme came to an end and the education technology sector in the UK faced an unprecedented and prolonged period of change and restructuring. Many predicted the demise of the OER Conference at that time, particularly when open education discourse was increasingly becoming dominated by commercial MOOC providers and their promise to disrupt! education.  However, far from being swept side by the avalanche, the OER conference continued to thrive and to push the boundaries of open education to incorporate open pedagogy, policy, research and practice, and when ALT stepped up to support the event in 2015, its future was assured.

While it is crucial that we continue to critically negotiate and reassess openness, it is also important that we don’t lose sight of some of the fundamentals of open education.  And I would argue that one of those fundamentals is that publicly funded educational resources should be freely and openly available to the public.  As open education discourse shifts to focus on open policy, open practice, open textbooks, one might be forgiven for thinking that open educational resources are done and dusted, but that is very far from the case and this is another theme that I want to expand on in my keynote.

In addition to expanding its focus, the OER Conference has also made real and tangible efforts to expand its community, and to ensure that the event is diverse, inclusive, accessible and welcoming.  The conference has become increasingly international and has gone to significant lengths to ensure that it really is open and accessible to as diverse a community as possible.  ALT is to be applauded for its commitment to providing a wide range of channels and opportunities to enable colleagues to participate in the conference virtually and remotely, and the event has not shied away from asking difficult questions about who is included and excluded from open spaces and conceptualisations of openness.

One perspective that has sometimes been missing from open education discourse is the voice of the learner.  That is not to say that the OER Conference has not made an effort to ensure that the student voice is included and represented.  Two officers of the National Union of Students have presented keynotes; Toni Pearce at OER13 (standing in for Rachel Wenstone) and Wendy Carr at OER14.  However I’m particularly encouraged to see that this year’s conference is squarely addressing learner inclusion by focussing on how open education and open practice can support learners, foster learner diversity and inclusion, and help students develop important digital literacy skills.

At the University of Edinburgh, students have always played a key role in shaping the institution’s vision of openness.  Together with senior colleagues within Information Services, it was the Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) that provided the initial impetus for the development of an OER policy at the university, and in 2014 EUSA’s Vice President for Education, Dash Sekhar, attended the conference in Cardiff along with colleagues Melissa Highton and Stuart Nicol to talk about this student-led OER policy.  I’m delighted that EUSA’s current  Vice President for Education, Bobi Archer, will be attending the conference this year, and several of my Information Services colleagues will be coming along to present papers highlighting innovative and creative examples of student engagement across the university. Edinburgh’s vision of openness encourages both staff and students to engage with the use and creation of OER and open knowledge, to enhance the quality of the student experience while at the same time making a significant, contribution to the cultural and digital commons.

Over the years, my own journey as an open education practitioner has followed a similar trajectory to the OER Conferences; my focus has shifted from national technology strategy, to institutional policy and practice, and personal ethics and politics.  One thing that has not changed however is that I still believe passionately that open education and OER are necessary to provide diverse and inclusive education and to ensure that education really is Open to All.

CC BY City of Glasgow College

When a collaborative is not collaborating⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

In a recent paper, 'Seven reasons why Scottish education is under-performing', Walter Humes an honorary professor at Stirling University, identified key reasons why he thought the education system in Scotland was facing a period of uncertainty and challenge to its identity and effectiveness. The reasons he identified were quite damming and seemed to cause quite a bit of angst amongst many in the system, some of whom were quick to attack Humes' disparaging of the system, and the reasons he identified for this. The seven factors he thought were contributing to the struggles of the system were; Failure to learn from the past, Poor political leadership, A complacent and self-regarding policy community, Lack of up- to-date independent data, defensive and protectionist professional attitudes, Boastful and sentimental language, and A deep vein of anti-intellectualism.

There is no wonder hackles were raised following the publication and explanation of his list of failings. Some rushed to defend themselves, and others, whilst others did as Hume asked and began to think carefully about the reasons that might lie behind the apparent deterioration of the system's performance. Given that he published his article on the Sceptical Scot online platform, which seeks to stimulate debate about Scotland its culture and politics, you would expect getting people to think and debate what he was saying, was at least the basic aim of his paper. As he acknowledged in his introduction 'If we are to make real progress we need to be frank about these, however uncomfortable they may be.' I agree entirely with him in that respect. The first step to improvement and development is a recognition of what the issues are and where we might do better. Burying our heads in in the metaphorical sands of complacency and self-congratulatory mindsets, does ourselves and our learners little good. There is much that we do in Scotland that is excellent and we should never lose sight of that, but we also have to admit and recognise the areas where we can do better. My own stance has always been that we should start from, and build on, the things we do well to help us develop those areas we know we could do better. What works for schools, also works for systems.

Adding further explanation to his identification of their being 'a complacent and self-regarding policy community' he describes a 'cosy' culture that often exists, where 'outsiders' who dare to criticise or question policy can be quickly marginalised, or ignored. Such a culture promotes conformity with members on the inside reassuring themselves that they are doing a good job, whilst protecting their existing territories. Elsewhere, he notes that 'Too many ministers have mistaken spectacle for substance.' Ouch!

Move forward a few weeks and we find an article in the Times Educational Supplement Scotland (TESS) by Henry Hepburn that perhaps illustrates some of the problems identified by Humes. In 'Northern what? Alliance proves to be anonymous' Henry writes about the Northern Alliance, a collaboration of eight councils around education in the north of Scotland. He reports that the Education and Skills Committee had left Holyrood and had visited one of the council areas to look at some of what was being achieved by this much lauded amalgamation councils and their focus on education. John Swinney, the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Scottish Government, has used this Northern Alliance as an example of collaborative working that he wishes all local authorities to engage with, and it was the blueprint for new Regional Improvement Collaborative (RICs) he has rolled out across the country. Indeed, the former head of the Northern Alliance, Gayle Gorman, has recently been appointed the new CEO of Education Scotland, and Chief inspector of Schools, charged with delivering the government's vision.

However, what the Education and Skills committee members found was a picture that didn't exactly match a lot of the rhetoric that had come from the Minister and his representatives. In the area they visited, Aberdeenshire, they found teachers and other education staff who had not heard of the Northern Alliance, despite it being in existence since 2015. A focus group of headteachers stated they were 'unclear' as to the impact of the Alliance, and some suggested there was little 'buy in' to the work of the Alliance. The leader for education in the authority admitted that it was 'true' that teachers knew little of the work of the Alliance, and that school leaders still identified with their local authority rather than the Alliance, and this was what was to be expected. Others, also at Director level, rushed to defend the work of the Alliance, indicating that this was just a case of 'lack of awareness' on behalf of staff, but that they were sure it was having an impact in schools and for learners. It is presumed this is their own evaluation, rather than the result of any external validation.

I know there has been lots of work going on across the Northern Alliance, and I live in the very south of Scotland. I know this from Twitter feeds, Blogs and conversations with colleagues. But, the trouble is, so many teachers and school leaders still have no presence on social media platforms like this. Therefore, no matter what work the Alliance is engaged in, its impact will only be as wide as its ability to involve and communicate this with all its members, and this will be a major issue for all RICs. 'Cascade' models of sharing professional development insights have many limitations and are far from ideal. 

There is no doubt that this was just a snapshot of one council area, out of eight in the Alliance, and that the results might differ in other areas. They probably will now, as I am sure the word has gone out in the other areas to make sure everyone knows they are part of the Northern Alliance. I also suspect one of the first steps the other RICs will take is to make sure all teachers and eduation staff know which one they are now a part of. But, it does illustrate some of the points Walter Humes was trying to make in his article. We can be very quick to attribute success to political policy, on the flimsiest of evidence, and within very short time scales. Dissenting voices, or those who just want to question the 'evidence' can be quickly and too easily dismissed in the push for conformity and compliance. All of which leads to the perpetuation of poor decision making, lack of reliable data and more derision of any intellectual engagement or challenge from with the system. Such models can also perpetuate the 'handing down' of policy decisions from above with schools and teachers still viewed as the deliverers.

None of this is healthy, and Walter is right to challenge what he sees happening, in the hope that we may all stop and think, instead of rushing headlong into more mistakes and busyness, which may have little positive impact for the system as a whole, or for individual learners. There is no doubt that focused collaboration is key to system development. For this to have impact takes time, so that all key stakeholders are part of the collaboration, and are not sitting oblivious to collaboration taking place. Such collaboration has to be focused on learning and teaching, as well as supporting teachers to enquire into their practice and their impact on learning, not the creation of more structures or policy. If teachers and education staff are not aware they are part of an educational collaborative, then it can hardly be described as collaborative. Of course, all those same colleagues will be collaborating meaningfully each day in their roles, it will be part of what they do. RICs are designed to provide a structure to ensure collaboration on a wider level, when really its a culture that is more important than any imposed structure. If we ignore culture, and working collectively at meaningful collaboration, that includes all stakeholders, the new collaboratives are doomed to failure. It is to be hoped that those who sit on these new bodies, understand this and are clear about how they can go about supporting school leaders, teachers and others to be the best they can be.

As a former school leader, I also recognise that many of the issues identified by Walter can equally apply to the leadership of schools. My last post on this Blog was about the 'bubbles' we can all exist comfortably in, and it is easy for schools and their leaders to convince themselves that every thing they do is wonderful in their establishments. We need to challenge that as well. The problems we can identify in any system can be micro as well as macro in nature. When we look at the issues around the Northern Alliance, how many of these might be mirrored in individual schools? I still hear anecdotally about schools where the staff and parents have had no involvement in the production of improvement plans, before they are presented to them by the headteacher or school leadership. Equally, the issues identified are not just confined to Scotland and the Scottish system, and I am sure colleagues in other countries and systems will find much that is similar to their own experiences.

First step to any improvement, at any level, is to identify the issues, then we can collaborate to identify solutions and share insights. 

Gaelic Medium Teachers Wanted⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

The Scottish Government has commissioned Gaelic Medium Education Scottish National Standardised Assessments (GME SNSA) as part of the National Improvement Framework. The GME SNSA will assess children and young people from Gaelic Medium Education in reading, writing and numeracy during P1, P4, P7 and S3.

Giglets Education is developing the GME SNSA for launch in schools in August 2018. We are now bringing together a team of educators with experience of CfE in Gaelic Medium Education to develop content for the GME National Standardised Assessments.

Please visit for details and to apply.

Training events: Respect for All and Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

A training event on the recently published guidance documents –

Respect for All: The National Approach to Anti-bullying for Scotland’s Children and Young People
Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2: A Positive Approach to Managing School Exclusions

Background: ‘Respect for All’
‘Respect for All: The National Approach to Anti Bullying for Scotland’s Children and Young People’ was launched by the Deputy First Minister on Wednesday 15 November 2017. The main purpose of the refreshed guidance is to support all adults working with children and young people to develop environments where bullying cannot thrive. The document aims to encourage a proactive and inclusive approach to the development of anti bullying policies and guidance. The focus of this guidance is prevention and early intervention.

Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2
Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2: A Positive Approach to Preventing and Managing School Exclusions is a refreshed version of the previous guidance on managing school exclusions, which was published in March 2011. This refreshed guidance gives a stronger focus on approaches that can be used to prevent the need for exclusion. This guidance also contains new sections on de-escalation and physical intervention and on managing incidents involving weapons.

Training events
The training events will be delivered in partnership with Education Scotland and respectme, Scotland’s national anti-bullying service for young people.

‘Respect for All’ sessions will take place in the morning from 9.30 – 12.30 and the ‘Included, Engaged and Involved’ sessions will take place in the afternoon from 1.30 – 4.30. Tea and coffee will be provided at both sessions.

To confirm your place, please click on the link below at the venue you would like to attend. Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come first served basis on the following dates and locations.

If you wish to attend both training events on each date, please book onto both using the following links:

Respect for All Event
Edinburgh 23 February – Victoria Quay
Perth 8 March – Perth Concert Hall
Glasgow 12 March – ITE Building
Kilmarnock 14 March – The Park Hotel Kilmarnock
Stirling 16 March – Stirling Court Hotel
Aberdeen 20 March – Pittodrie Stadium

Included, Engaged and Involved Event
Edinburgh 23 February – Victoria Quay
Perth 8 March – Perth Concert Hall
Glasgow 12 March – ITE Building
Kilmarnock 14 March – The Park Hotel Kilmarnock
Stirling 16 March – Stirling Court Hotel
Aberdeen 20 March – Pittodrie Stadium

If you have any questions in the meantime please contact Carolyn Wales on 0131 244 4482 or email or Iain Mitchell on 0131 244 1505 or

The 1+2 Leadership Programme⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

2 – 5 July 2018, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

This national leadership programme is now open for registration.  It is hosted by SCILT and Education Scotland. The programme is aimed at those who have, or aspire to have, a responsibility for leading languages and developing colleagues’ capacity to deliver the 1+2 approach to languages in their context.  The programme is free of charge for educators in the public sector and begins with a summer school.

The programme themes include:

  • 1+2 languages: the national picture and the position of languages within the National Improvement Framework and the Scottish Attainment Challenge
  • Strategic leadership in languages: planning and evaluation
  • Progression in language learning
  • Parental and wider engagement in language learning
  • Raising attainment: practical ways to develop literacy skills across languages
  • L3 – existing models, diversity of languages
  • Inclusive practice in languages

More information

Listening to Aaron’s microcast⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Read Write Microcast #008 – Limits of Automation by Aaron DavisAaron Davis from
Confident – the connecting of the dots and capitalising on different possibilities. Essential Elements of Digital Literacies In this microcast, I reflect on automating technology and wonder if there is a limit to how far we should go. Further reading: When Automation Goes Awry https://col...

The dilemma in supporting schools in using technology: Give out fish or teach to fish. Before I came back to school I was faced with this problem more than once.

What I would say now, in hindsight, is that if you make the solution yourself it adds risk. I thoroughly enjoy making simple scripts and workflows, but these are generally fragile. You might end up with more long term support than you thought, or worse raising and dashing expectations.

In my part-time life I am still supporting Glow Blogs. Quite often it would be easier to fix something in response to a request for help. More often now I try to write instructions instead. I can add these to the help and point the next problem a those.

I need to get back to microcasting. I enjoyed listen to this on my commute. The focus on one subject in the short form podcast is valuable.

One year on – what’s happened since the first annual Cabinet meeting with children & young people?⤴

from @ Engage for Education

I am delighted to publish our progress report on the actions agreed at our first annual Cabinet meeting with children and young people, which took place on 28 February 2017 at Bute House.

Representatives from the Children’s Parliament and Scottish Youth Parliament attended this meeting and raised issues that were important to them.

A short film, co-produced by the children, highlighted school and teachers, feeling safe in the community, bullying, and what children need as areas to be discussed.

On the young people’s agenda were “Lead the Way” (Scottish Youth Parliament  manifesto), children and young people’s rights, “Speak Your Mind” campaign (on mental health), and the future of Scotland’s relationship with Europe.

At the end of the meeting, Cabinet members and children and young people collectively agreed actions for the year ahead. These actions have been taken forward by relevant Scottish Government policy teams over the past year. The report sets out our progress on these actions. We have also developed a children and young people’s summary.

The purpose of the annual meeting of Cabinet members and children and young people is to support the development of a more coordinated, systematic and sustainable approach to engaging with children and young people, enabling them to lead discussions by raising issues that matter to them and to inform the government’s agenda over the coming year.

Agreed actions from the previous event will be reviewed at the meeting of Cabinet Ministers with children and young people the following year.  This demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that children and young people are at the heart of decisions that affect them,  as set out in Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

We are committed to meaningfully and credibly engaging with children and young people at a national level and ensuring they are at the heart of decisions which affect them, with the aim of improving policy development and implementation.

Access the reports here:

The post One year on – what’s happened since the first annual Cabinet meeting with children & young people? appeared first on Engage for Education.

Using wikidata for linked data WordPress indexes⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

A while back I wrote about getting data from wikidata into a WordPress custom taxonomy. Shortly thereafter Alex Stinson said some nice things about it:

and as a result that post got a little attention.

Well, I have now a working prototype plugin which is somewhat more general purpose than my first attempt.

1.Custom Taxonomy Term Metadata from Wikidata

Here’s a video showing how you can create a custom taxonomy term with just a name and the wikidata Q identifier, and the plugin will pull down relevant wikidata for that type of entity:

[similar video on YouTube]

2. Linked data index of posts

Once this taxonomy term is used to tag a post, you can view the term’s archive page, and if you have a linked data sniffer, you will see that the metadata from WikiData is embedded in machine readable form using Here’s a screenshot of what the OpenLink structured data sniffer sees:

Or you can view the Google structured data testing tool output for that page.


  • You can create terms for custom taxonomies with just a term name (which is used as the slug for the term) and the Wikidata Q number identifier. The relevant name, description and metadata is pulled down from Wikidata.
  • Alternatively you can create a new term when you tag a post and later edit the term to add the wikidata Q number and hence the metadata.
  • The metadata retrieved from Wikidata varies to be suitable for the class of item represented by the term, e.g. birth and death details for people, date and location for events.
  • Term archive pages include the metadata from wikidata as machine readable structured data using This includes links back to the wikidata record and other authority files (e.g. ISNI and VIAF). A system harvesting the archive page for linked data could use these to find more metadata. (These onward links put the linked in linked data and the web in semantic web.)
  • The type of relationship between the term and posts tagged with it is recorded in the structure data on the term archive page. Each custom taxonomy is for a specific type of relationship (currently about and mentions, but it would be simple to add others).
  • Short codes allow each post to list the entries from a custom taxonomy that are relevant for it using a simple text widget.
  • This is a self-contained plugin. The plugin includes default term archive page templates without the need for a custom theme. The archive page is pretty basic (based on twentysixteen theme) so you would get better results if you did use it as the basis for an addition to a custom theme.

How’s it work / where is it

It’s on github. Do not use it on a production WordPress site. It’s definitely pre-alpha, and undocumented, and I make no claims for the code to be adequate or safe. It currently lacks error trapping / exception handling, and more seriously it doesn’t sanitize some things that should be sanitized. That said, if you fancy giving it a try do let me know what doesn’t work.

It’s based around two classes: one which sets up a custom taxonomy and provides some methods for outputting terms and term metadata in HTML with suitable RDFa markup; the other handles getting the wikidata via SPARQL queries and storing this data as term metadata. Getting the wikidata via SPARQL is much improved on the way it was done in the original post I mentioned above. Other files create taxonomy instances, provide some shortcode functions for displaying taxonomy terms and provide default term archive templates.

Where’s it going

It’s not finished. I’ll see to some of the deficiencies in the coding, but also I want to get some more elegant output, e.g. single indexes / archives of terms from all taxonomies, no matter what the relationship between the post and the item that the term relates to.

There’s no reason why the source of the metadata need be Wikidata. The same approach could be with any source of metadata, or by creating the term metadata in WordPress. As such this is part of my exploration of WordPress as a semantic platform. Using taxonomies related to educational properties would be useful for any instance of WordPress being used as a repository of open educational resources, or to disseminate information about courses, or to provide metadata for PressBooks being used for open textbooks.

I also want to use it to index PressBooks such as my copy of Omniana. I think the graphs generated may be interesting ways of visualizing and processing the contents of a book for researchers.

Licenses: Wikidata is CC:0, the wikidata logo used in the featured image for this post is sourced from wikimedia and is also CC:0 but is a registered trademark of the wikimedia foundation used with permission. The plugin, as a derivative of WordPress, will be licensed as GPLv2 (the bit about NO WARRANTY is especially relevant).

The post Using wikidata for linked data WordPress indexes appeared first on Sharing and learning.