St Luke’s pupils have designs on successful careers⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Pupils at a Barrhead school have been getting results by ditching traditional maths-based learning in favour of more hands-on classroom work.

A pilot group of S2 pupils at St Luke’s High achieved impressive scores in a new Design, Engineer and Construct (DEC) course – the first ones to do so in East Renfrewshire. The DEC is a new qualification that offers teachers and learners the opportunity to develop a range of skills and knowledge fundamental to technical and professional aspects of the construction and built environment industry.

With support from local industry experts, each pupil had the responsibility of creating a proposal for a new eco-classroom to be situated on the grounds of St Luke’s High. Although it was all conceptual, pupils worked with various industry partners to create detailed proposals that would later be presented to the local community for consultation. Karen Hunter, depute headteacher at St Luke’s High, is full of praise for the young students, some of whom received a merit for their hard work.

“Approaching the curriculum creatively is a massive part of the St Luke’s culture,” she told the Barrhead News. “The group of pupils successfully passed the course, with a number of them receiving a merit for their hard work and dedication. “Well done from everyone at St Luke’s High.”

Kevin Ormond, principal teacher of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) at St Luke’s High, started the alternative curriculum two years ago in the hope of inspiring youngsters to pursue a career in the construction industry once they leave school. Among the companies to have supported the process as partners are BAM Construction, Gardiner & Theobald and Threesixty Architecture. St Luke’s High is the first school in East Renfrewshire to run the DEC qualification, which is comparable to that of a National 4 and National 6 certificate.
It is not a SQA-awarded national qualification but candidates are awarded credit points for potential credit transfer onto further study if required.

Marine Engineering Workshop⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

The Marine Engineering STEM Workshop was chosen to receive the Maritime UK STEM Award for 2019. The award recognizes the quality, hard work and dedication of the team in delivering workshops and promoting DYW and STEM as a route into engineering for pupils in schools throughout Scotland. Since starting the program 4 years ago, they have delivered the workshop to more than 26,000 pupils nationwide.

They have developed a new marine environmental engineering workshop that looks at our ocean plastics problem and how students and engineers can help to save our world’s marine wildlife. The workshop culminates in the students building a working submarine with the ability to retrieve materials from the ocean floor.

Their diary is now open for 2020/21/22 and they would like to give all Scottish schools the opportunity to book their free workshop.

MEP JP Buoyancy Workshop Flyer

Applying spacing and variation to the classroom⤴

from @ Memory & Education Blog - Jonathan Firth

Variation can be a desirable difficulty.  Image by Pixabay .

Variation can be a desirable difficulty. Image by Pixabay.

Recently I gave a lecture on desirable difficulties focusing especially on variation and spacing, linking to this article by Robert Bjork. I also covered the limited benefits of overlearning. In the follow-up tutorial, students (2nd year undergraduates) were asked to come up with questions. Here are some of their questions, together with my responses:

1) In what circumstances is variation most valuable?

Variation is valuable in circumstances when the eventual use of the knowledge or skill is unpredictable. If you know exactly when and how you are going to use what you have learned, then varying the practice becomes unnecessary. For example, if you drive a Mini and plan to do so for the rest of your life, then there is no need to practice with other types of car. If you are only every going to hit a golf ball in the driving range then you don’t need to practice hitting the ball off a slope, off sand, out of long grass etc. However if you would like a more flexible skill that would allow you to adapt to unexpected situations, then you should vary your practice.

2) It can be difficult to use variation all the time in the classroom, so how can you judge when it will be most valuable to use it? What about if you’re stuck in the classroom with limited resources?

Often, we teach learners in school with a view to preparing them for a future which is inherently unpredictable, and so varied practice is probably a good idea for all subjects and topics. But if you have to choose, then focus on the things that are hardest to transfer (perhaps because they are complex or conceptual) and the ones which are most useful. Mathematics is a good example – it is very useful and important to be able to transfer it to new situations, but also quite complex for learners. As to limited resources, variation doesn’t necessarily require changing all that much in terms of resources or materials. It could involve adding a real-world context to a maths or science problem, or moving location to practice (e.g. outdoor learning). In my teaching subject (psychology) it might involve giving learners a real-world scenario in which to apply their learning of a concept such as conformity or altruism, and that could be done verbally or using a whiteboard or slide. There are many ways of varying the learning – just try to avoid repetitions of exactly the same format of problem or task. This is too easy for learners, and doesn’t help them to later use their knowledge flexibly.

3) Is variation more effective for learning knowledge or skills?

In both cases, it makes learning easier to transfer to novel situations. Many (perhaps all) tasks require both knowledge and skill; reading, for example, draws on your knowledge of what you are reading about, as well as skills such as decoding. It’s difficult to separate or compare these, but it should be helpful for both.

4) How do you best take advantage of the spacing effect in the classroom? 

Perhaps the best ways are the simplest. One of the nice things about the spacing effect is that you don’t need to change very much – you can just modify the timing of a task. So the practice that you have already planned and resourced can be scheduled for a week later. Spacing homework is worth considering because a delay will lead to more effective consolidation, but bear in mind that not every pupil completes their homework, and some may find it too difficult after a delay. A very simple way to implement spacing is to have a brief test or quiz at the start of a lesson, drawing on material from a few weeks earlier. Another option is to set broad project-style tasks that require knowledge of older material, not just the most recently-studied topic.

5) What about individual learner needs – i.e. when it becomes overlearning for some children, but some still need more time to master a skill. Are there any ideas of how this can be managed in the classroom?

Yes, it is quite individual. Overlearning means practicing beyond the point of mastery, and different learners master a task at different rates. So there will come a point that some students would be best to stop/switch and others should keep going. This is much the same as managing any differentiation in the classroom. Some learners may benefit more from an extension task, perhaps one that brings in older knowledge or changes the context, while others need more time to master the basics. One thing to bear in mind, though, is that learners don’t always have a clear insight into whether they have mastered something, so don’t always rely on their making this choice themselves.

6) How do you know if something is a desirable difficulty?

A good question, and we should remember that not all difficulties are desirable! Let’s consider two phases – a training phase when we first learn something, and a using phase where we apply the knowledge or skills in our real lives. One key idea from the literature (e.g. the work of Bjork, 2018; McDaniel & Einstein, 2005) is that a difficulty is desirable if the processing that it prompts during the training phase is similar to something that a person will need to do in the using phase. So for example, spacing is helpful because in real life we often need to recall things after a delay. Variation is helpful because in real life the places and situations where we need to apply our learning are varied. A difficulty such as standing on your head to study would not be helpful unless that is something that you often do in your everyday life when applying your knowledge.  

7) What is the role of professional judgment?

I think a key point about applying research to practice in general is that it doesn’t take away or undermine the importance of judgement. The professional educator is still in the best position to judge what is needed – but that judgement should be based on facts, not on myths and misconceptions. The case of the spacing effect is a good example. Teachers often misjudge this, mistakenly thinking that massing would be a superior strategy. But even after engaging with the literature and learning that it will be a good idea to delay practice, how long should it be delayed? The answer to that question will depend on both the learners and the material. You as a professional will need to make a judgement of how rapidly the learners are likely to forget, and aim to schedule practice when they are on the point of forgetting but haven’t entirely forgotten – so that retrieving and practicing the material is effortful but possible.

8) What about the interplay between desirable difficulties and learner confidence?

Linking to the question above, this is again a key area where professional judgement can play a role. When I first started applying spacing and interleaving in the classroom, I found that I had some Higher pupils who were doing well but who weren’t enjoying the experience very much (perhaps because they had spent 12 years of schooling doing practice that was very easy for them). There are various ways to manage this. Ideally you can persuade a class that difficult practice is worthwhile and fun, and that practice that is too easy is boring. Some pupils may feel anxious if they are getting answers wrong, and it will be important to emphasise that this is all right, and doesn’t mean that they are failing. Hopefully, if well managed, desirable difficulties will reduce anxiety over time, and boost confidence because learners realise that they are improving and developing sound knowledge (Agarwal et al, 2014, found evidence that application of desirable difficulties such as retrieval practice reduces anxiety in school pupils, for example).

9) Does it become an undesirable difficulty if a learner’s confidence drops too low for them to be motivated to keep going with the learning?

Yes, it would. There has to be a trade-off between doing something that is effective and any emotional impact that it has. I think this is very true of study/revision skills. We can make some generalisations about what is more effective and what is less effective when revising, but if the learner hates doing the better strategy then it might put them off studying altogether. That wouldn’t be helpful, and in some cases it might be better for them to just study the way they enjoy. For that reason, when it comes to changing learners’ study habits, I think that there has to be some ownership on the part the learner – they need to understand and want it – and it is often best to make changes one step at a time.

10) What is the most effective way to use desirable difficulties, and the best time to introduce them?

As they are superior to the alternatives (spacing is more effective than massing, etc), ideally it would be best to start using them straight away, and in all aspects of teaching and learning! Most of the changes involve pretty minimal effort on the part of the teacher/instructor. Having said that, any change can take planning and focus, and it may be valuable to go through a process of application followed by professional reflection, developing one topic or area of the curriculum at a time. You could also try to gather some data as you go along, perhaps as part of a practitioner enquiry research project.

Many thanks to our Strathclyde 2nd year classes for their fab questions!

* * *

Related postSpacing and interleaving in the STEM classroom

Further reading – You can read more about overlearning in this short article. You can also explore many of the ways that spacing can be applied to teaching and learning via my co-authored book, Psychology in the Classroom


Agarwal, P. K., D’Antonio, L., Roediger III, H. L., McDermott, K. B., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Classroom-based programs of retrieval practice reduce middle school and high school students’ test anxiety. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 3(3), 131-139.

Bjork, R. A. (2018). Being suspicious of the sense of ease and undeterred by the sense of difficulty: Looking back at Schmidt and Bjork (1992). Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(2), 146-148.

McDaniel, M. A., & Einstein, G. O. (2005). Material appropriate difficulty: A framework for determining when difficulty is desirable for improving learning. In A. F. Healy (Ed.), Decade of behavior. Experimental cognitive psychology and its applications (pp. 73-85). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Speeding Up Mobile Glow Blogging⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Here are some tips for speeding up the process of making simple posts to a Glow Blog

Preparation 1. The Post Editor

One of the nice things about the WordPress Post Editor is you can customise the elements that you see on the screen.

Blogs Post Screen Options

To make my posting simpler in mobile I’ve removed some elements and dragged the Featured Image section to the top of the right hand column. This makes it appear right under the post content in the mobile view.
Blogs Post Featured
You can also collapse section of the editor you don’t need all the time, I’ve notice my pupils do this when using their e-Portfolios.

Preparation 2. Bookmark New Post

On my phone I’ve bookmarked the New Post Page on blogs I want to post to.

New Post Add To Homescreen

Im my case I’ve saved it to my home screen so I don’t even need to open my browser and go through my bookmarks.

This means that I can go straight to the new post page. If I am not logged onto Glow I am taken through the RM Unify password screen first. I use the save password facility on my phone to speed this up.

Featured Images

Editing a post with images and text can get a little messy, and therefore slow, on mobile. If I want to make a quick post, I don’t put the images in the editor, but use the featured image feature. This adds an image, typically, to the top of your post, and keeps it clear of the text.

Putting it All Together

Using my home screen icon, saved password, simplified new post page and a featured image means I can post a twitter sized post and picture in around 90 seconds.

Twitter too

In case you are missing the interaction and publicity of twitter you can of course auto post your blog to twitter using several free services,, IFTTT and Microsoft Flow (using your glow account.)

re: In my experience It’s a challenge moving edu folks to other platforms.⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Replied to William Jenkins on Twitter (Twitter)
“ Tried to get educators to adopt @Declara in 2015/16 and @Giveandtakeinc since last Christmas. ...In my experience It's a challenge moving edu folks to other platforms.”

I don’t want to move educators. I’d like to spread the understanding that platforms that you pay for with your attention, and then that attention is manipulated, may not be the best place to direct our pupils data and attention.

A start along that path might be to think of a blog that you either own and control or is owned by a benevolent entity (Scot Gov in this case) is the best place to store your data, memories etc. From there, they can be sent out to social networks.

Ideally, IMO, there would be a benevolent network or system that would eventually work well enough to replace commercial but free, services.

What we (Scottish Schools) Tweet With⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

A follow up to yesterday’s post, where I figured out how to extract the source from a list of tweets.

I asked a few folk on twitter if they had lists of schools twitter accounts by LA in twitter list. Andrew Bailey gave me an Angus one and Malcolm Wilson pointed me to William Jenkins who has a pile of lists. I quickly grabbed 18 LAs alone with Andrews to make 20 to run through my script.

The results are above.

I am interest in the result only tangentially. Partially is my idea of fun to figure out how to write the script. Mainly  I am interested in thinking about encouraging folk to use Glow Blogs as a primary place they post school and class news as opposed to twitter. I’ve been told a few times that teachers use twitter because it is easier. I want to explain how blogging can be a lot easier. This indicates that mobile devices are the way to go.

A bit of twitter research⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

graph of number twitter clients used by schools

I’ve talked to a fair number of teachers who find it easier to use twitter than to blog to share their classroom learning. I’ve been thinking a little of how to make that easier but got side tracked wondering how schools, teachers and classes use twitter.

If you use twitter on the web it tells you the application used to post the tweet. At the bottom of a tweet there is the date and the app that posted the tweet.

I’ve got a list that is made up of North Lanarkshire schools I started when I was supporting ICT in the authority.

I could go down the list and count the methods but I though there might be a better way. I recalled having a played with the twitter api a wee bit so searched for and found: GET lists/statuses — Twitter Developers. I was hoping ther was some sort of console to use, but could not find one, a wee bit more searching found how to authenticate to the api using a token and how to generate that token. Using bearer tokens

It then didn’t take too long to work out how to pull in a pile of status updates from the list using the terminal:

curl --location --request GET '' --header 'Authorization: Bearer BearerTokenGoesHere'

This gave me a pile of tweets in json format. I had a vague recollection that google sheets could parse json so gave that a go. I had to upload the json somewhere I could import it into a sheet. This felt somewhat clunky. I did see some indications that I could use a script to grab the json in sheets, but though it might be simpler to do it all on my mac. More searching, but I fairly quickly came up with this:

curl --location --request GET '' --header 'Authorization: Bearer BearerTokenGoesHere' | jq '.[].source' | sed -e 's/<[^>]*>//g' | sort -bnr | uniq -c | sort -bnr

This does the following:

  1. download the status in json format
  2. passes it to the jq application (which I had installed in the past) which pulls out a list of the sources.
  3. It is then passed to sed which strips the html tags leaving the text. (I just search for this, I have no idea how works)
  4. next the list is sorted
  5. then uniq pulls out the uniq entries and counts then
  6. Finally sorts the counts and gave:
119 "Twitter for iPhone"
  28 "Twitter for Android"
  22 "Twitter Web App"
   8 "Twitter for iPad"
   1 "Twitter Web Client"

This surprised me. I use my school iPad to post to twitter and sort of expected iPads to be highest or at least higher.

It maybe that the results are skewed by the Monday, Tuesday holiday and 2 inservice days, so I’ll run this a few times next week and see. You can also use a max_id parameter so I could gather more than 200 (less retweeted content) tweets.

This does give me the idea that it might be worth explaining how to make posting to Glow Blogs simpler using a phone.

DYW Annual Reports⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Scottish Governments’ Programme Board for DYW publishes DYW reports to highlight the progress made across the  5 Change Themes.  The following reports have been published so far:

  1. Annual Report 2014-15
  2. Annual Report 2015-16
  3. Annual Report 2016-17
  4. Annual Report 2017-18
  5. Annual Report 2018-19

Regional CLD Engagement Events⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

We’re working with the Scottish Government, local CLD partners and CLD Standards Council to host 10 Regional Engagement Events on Adult Learning and CLD policy. The morning sessions will focus on consultation on the development of the new Adult Learning Strategy and the afternoon will allow an opportunity for partners to explore the local and national context for CLD. See sign up details for each region below:

Forth Valley and West Lothian (Livingston 5th March)

Northern Alliance (Elgin 24th February)

Northern Alliance (Aberdeen 16th March)

South East (Edinburgh 27th February)

South East (Galashiels 24th March)

South West (Dumfries 17th March)

South West (Ayr 27th March)

Tayside (Dundee 11th March)

West (Glasgow 25th February)

West (Coatbridge 18th March)

An Intro To Glow Blogs⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

I gave presentation/workshop to a few groups at the UWS this morning about Glow Blogs. Rather than use a presentation I made a blog: Glow Blogs – An Introduction This goes over some of the basics about Blogging and a few tips. Far too much to cover in an hour.

It may be useful to you if you are learning or explaining about Glow Blogs.

Some of the pages are pretty sketchy, but it was made to be expanded on in person.