> Mrs. O'Neill's Blog: December 2006

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Five things you don't know about me

I prefer reading blogs that have a point to them, or a mutual interest. But from time to time I do wonder a bit about the person behind the blog. So, I've been rather intrigued to see people asking other bloggers to write down 'five things you don't know about me'. Tess Watson has asked me to take part. So here goes:

1. I was named after my grandmother Elizabeth Grant Neeson (nee Davidson) who was born on the same Highland Estate as the Elizabeth Grant who wrote ‘Memoirs of a Highland Lady’.

2. When I was 18 I saw the great Ginger Rogers, in a musical review called ‘Anything Goes’ in Detroit, Michigan.

3. I met my future husband when I was sixteen -at a prayer meeting. We disliked each other instantly. We met three years later, by which time he had improved enormously.

4. In 1998 we adopted our youngest son (Jerry) from the Philippines.

5. I persuaded my oldest son Sean David (known as Sid) to start his own blog recently.

I'm not sure if they have been tagged already but I'm going to tag:

David Gilmour
Mrs Blethers
Andrew Brown

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Trials of a NVT (Not Very Technical) Teacher

Oldest son is home from uni. He’s busy on his laptop writing an email whilst having conversations with several people via some form of instant messaging (the names change just as I get the hang of them. Meebo? Peepo? Don’t know).

Out of the corner of his eye he is watching me trying unsuccessfully to upload files to my new mp3 player. I can’t work out how to change the settings. He leans over in mid typing rattle, presses a button, and suddenly it’s working. I stare at him aghast.

‘What did you do there?’

He shakes his head.

‘You just try out things.’

He sees it as a game.

He doesn’t read manuals. He can only show me what he does by doing it. He approaches technology with a spirit of 'now-what-happens-if-you-click-that-and-then-that-mmm-interesting’.

Me? I approach it like a soufflé in the oven, which must not feel the slightest cool air current or it will be RUINED.

Why? I think it’s because that’s how I was taught. By uptight people to uptight people. You might BREAK something. You might make a MISTAKE. You might DELETE something. Younger people don’t have this technology anxiety.

On the other hand this might explain why my mp3 player ‘support’ website was totally useless to me. It was cluttered up with troubleshooting information. I haven’t learnt how to get into trouble yet. But I'm getting there...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Jings! Crivvens! Help ma blog!

Sorry about the title, but we're getting really excited about Christmas here in the O'Neill house, and reading our new 'The Broons' annual is a big part of that. If you are bewildered by this, you might want to click here

We're happy to report that here in Wigtownshire a lot of those words that your granny used are still alive and well. When we moved here we re-discovered some of them. Children are amazing copycats. Our son, aged seven at that point, had just perfected his London accent -we'd spent a couple of years down south. A week in a local primary school and he was coming 'hame' from school asking for 'twa' biscuits. We bought him 'The Broons' to improve his vocabulary.

Anyway it's great to hear these words and ponder on the versatility of language in our culture, which allows us to dip into both English and our shared Scots wordbank. It also gets me thinking about our presence online. Will we be able to sustain our identity in global conversations? Do we want to?

Does a Scots blog have a Scottish accent? I'm not talking about dropping in those 'wee' Scotticisms. I'm thinking more about viewpoint, philosophy, and yes, language.

What does it mean to be Scottish? The BBC reported last May on a survey carried out by the Scottish Centre for Social Research at Edinburgh University.

Read it here.

It does seem to suggest that language, and specifically accent, holds the key to identity in most people's eyes. It gives me one concern: what about those people who come to Scotland, enrich our lives, but don't pick up our accent? Will they never be part of us?

Maybe we should be handing out more copies of 'The Broons' and 'Oor Wullie'.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ideas to chew on

If you could make three changes in your (old) school, what would they be?

Here's three ideas I thought up this morning:

1. Begin the school day an hour earlier. Make the final hour voluntary classes that pupils have to sign up for giving a reason why they wanted to take part. These could be vocational or study based.

2. Develop links with other schools that pay more than lip service to the idea. Each school should have a genuine exchange programme that would allow pupils and staff to spend time in the other school.

3. Have schools nominate a key 'value' or virtue or strength, which they will focus on. Put it on their blazers ( or sweatshirts...) Reward schools that do this with imagination and commitment.

What do you think of these ideas? Got any of your own?

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Secret Knowledge

I have to post this because it's coming up again and again, especially when talking to other people about the Internet. A long time ago when I first discovered email (1995 -yes, child there were computers in those days) I also discovered 'the secret'. What is the secret? Well, it goes like this:

I am an IT person. I get it. You don't.

I am not especially good at IT. In fact, to be honest, the odd way that you have to write in code (HTML) in order to, say, put a link on your web page fills me with horror. I look forward to saying in the future: 'Yes, in those days, you won't believe it, but we had to write a special instruction around the words we wanted to link with!'

In the future we will simply speak aloud to our computers when we are dictating our blog. 'Italic...cease italic' or 'Put in the link' and 'Choose image, something with clouds and a little flower, pink, no purple.'

In the meantime, why don't computer literate people stop showing off and start talking plain English? I think that's one of the reasons a lot of teachers are put off blogging. They sense that it involves secrets that they will not find easily accessible. And to be honest, they get enough 'trying to guess the right answer' at school.

Do you feel kept out of the secret knowledge? Let's talk about it!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

What's next?

The Seattle Times reported last month on a grant given to the Bellevue School district (Washington) to allow them to put their entire curriculum online.Read the article

According to the Times , 'The grant ... will develop the district Web site to help teachers build and share lesson plans and ideas and help parents stay on top of what their children are being taught'.
The current Bellevue School District Curriculum Web already gives detailed information about what is being taught at each level. But the long term plan, according to the executive director of the school district, is to have everything a child is doing at school available to parents. This would mean for example, 'a parent who has a child who comes home baffled about a lesson plan can log on to the site and look to see what the student was supposed to learn that day.' There would even be 'the possibility for the child to watch the lesson again'.

Teachers from other districts (countries?) would also be invited to the 'wikipedia' like site, to log on and offer their insights and practice.

Do you like the sound of this level of openness?
Please comment.

Can you contact the school please?

A few years ago a request to contact the school meant either your child was sick or an INCIDENT had occurred which the school could not keep to themselves.

Either way it was bad news.

This week I was accused, as a teacher, of not wanting to return the phone calls of a parent. The reality was that I thought I was having a dialogue with the parent via the pupil. The pupil was passing on a message from her mother 'that she wasn't available this week.'

I should have seen that one coming, but had a daft idea that this pupil would respond better if involved in the process.

One of things which I have re-learnt from this, is that the conduit we use for communication, normally the pupils, isn't always the right one.

Scenes of child at kitchen table with strong light being shone in his face.

‘But who exactly said that?'
‘I don’t know –maybe it was George.’
‘MISTER George the headteacher? Or George your wee pal?’
‘I can’t remember, but we have to have it in for tomorrow.’

Well, I am exaggerating. Schools send home letters. Good parents remember to dismantle the school bag each evening in search of them. Don’t throw anything away, that scrunched up paper inside a banana skin might just be the news that Friday’s fun day has been cancelled, and your child should not now arrive dressed as a character from a book. (I speak from bitter experience.)

Maybe it’s just my children. Girls apparently are much better at relating news.

I’m interested in things that help communication. What works? Some schools have websites. Would it be a good idea if parents could email teachers?

What about Glow –this is the new intranet which is being piloted by teachers like Tess Watson. To quote the website ‘Glow is the new name for the Scottish Schools Digital Network, the national intranet which will link Scottish education safely and securely’. On the GLOW site there is a scenario of how it might be used by parents. Check it out if you are interested.

In the meantime, aforementioned parent and I did meet up and had a good talk about our mutual interest -doing our best for this child.