Blog Technology

MC Yammer

(reposted from here:

Bearsden Primary School in East Dunbartonshire are experimenting using Yammer as a social media channel for learners and learning.

Yammer tile

Athole McLauchlan, Acting Principal Teacher at the school, has provided a detailed response to our questions about the use and experience of Glow generally and Yammer specifically .

What is it that you and your class are doing?

– We are currently experimenting with using Yammer as a social media channel for learners and learning. We are learning from each other and other learners and teachers as we go.


How you’re doing that?

– We are using articles from the UNCRC and also the 5 Rights Framework as our entry point. This has helped us to modify a Glow Charter from another school and to discuss and take ownership of how we envisage this new digital space to work. Everyone has signed up to the Glow Charter and we will constantly revisit it to keep the Rights based approach to learning firmly at the centre of all that we are doing.

BP Charter

Our Digital Leaders have joined the Digital Leaders group with Yammer and we have experimented with a #YamJam. A #YamJam is a live social media chat. We were joined by at least 2 other schools and lots of teachers. It was fantastic to see how the kids shared their experiences of being Digital Leaders with each other and chatted with adults too.


We started with one P6 class but are now beginning to introduce all 2nd Level classes to Yammer. We have a dedicated group  for primary pupils but they are also welcome to join other groups and even start their own.


We also have a dedicated Yammer group linked to our 0365 Video channel. This is a work in progress but we see this as being a space that works in a similar way to the comments thread in YouTube, and provides a direct way to feedback and reflect on learning.

Why you’re doing that?

– All the groups are ‘public’ within Yammer which means that anyone can see what write or share. This is really important in creating spaces for pupil involvement which are open to all learners but also for the pupils to reflect and consider carefully what they share before they press the send button.

We want the pupils to take ownership of the space and some pupils have really got involved with creating Yammer polls and contributing to other groups such as InstaYam – which is a Yammer version of Instagram.


What is the impact on learning and teaching?

– The challenge is to reflect and consider how we can use Yammer to compliment and enhance learning. In the short space of time we have been using it has been beneficial in two ways: 1) allowing pupils to interact with pupils from another school and area; and 2) allowing teachers to share and discuss teaching and learning with each other.

Yammer has the potential to be the ‘go to’ social media channel for both Scottish teachers and learners. We are looking to develop it further by creating a P7 transition group to bring together P7 pupils in the cluster and also build on the 0365 Video use by commenting on videos from other schools – and making links that way too.

We have even bought some real Yam Jam, which is a sweet purple spread made from the purple Yam. Unfortunately, in real life it is neither very purple not tasty!

Blog Technology

Digital Privacy

This tweet provoked a really interesting and helpful debate about digital privacy.

I have been acutely aware of the many school Twitter feeds publishing names and images of pupils together. And this left me uneasy. I have experience of using blogs and blogging with classes since 2007. My class even won a competition way back in 2010.

Currently at my school all classes are using ClassDojo and the Class Story very effectively. I pull a snapshot from each Class Story to share on Twitter @BearsdenPrimary and the school website , ensuring that this matches parental consent and that images and names never appear together. The digital leaders in my school are beginning to take more responsibility with the updating of the website and Twittter.

In summary, the discussion highlighted some really good examples of good practice and stimulated some deeper reflections of what we need to next in my school to include pupil voice in discussions around digital privacy.

  • @kirktonPS never include visuals of pupils and they always focus on the learning
  • other schools use image and no name, or name and no image
  • everyone agreed that too many schools included names and images together
  • the most important point raised was that about pupil voice. We ask parental consent but do we ask the pupils? (I’d say I honestly do this about 50% of the time, just now) Despite being evangelical about children’s rights and political literacy, I realised I had shamefully given this matter very little thought, in my eagerness to raise and boost the profile of the school, improve communication and share achievement and learning.
  • consider audience and purpose when and where posting (this is a strength for me)

Action points for the new term…

  1. raise the issue with the pupil voice groups and also with teachers to make them aware of pupil consent
  2. create a digital charter. We have begun to use the Yammer social network in Scotland through our Glow intranet (Microsoft 365). I have just been made an admin. Along with other teachers I have had some really interesting chats about how to frame this learning environment for pupils. including, learning contracts linked to appropriate use and behaviour, a digital charter linked to UNCRC and focused on what children expect from digital rights, and a third model based on the 5 iRights which are distilled amd adapted from the original UNCRC.
  3. increase scope for our digital leaders to shape the discussion about the use of these tools and how their iRights are articulated.
  4. Lastly, I realised I gave rights little consideration photographing and publishing pictures/videos of my own children (age 3&6). I share it with them and mostly we enjoy making it together, but do they really understand who the audience or what Facebook is?

The photo credit, btw, is from 2008. A school who went too far in protecting, or rather masking, identities!

I would love to know what you think about this and what you do in your school.


Blog Outdoor Learning

I saw the wild geese flee

This post started life as part of my own reflections of how better to tell stories and ‘capture’ and ‘record’ the spontaneity of outdoor learning.

On Easter weekend the family was up north staying with my folks in the wee Angus village of Edzell. On the Monday we visited St Cyrus beach and nature reserve, a serene stretch of white sands home to Peregrine Falcons and one of my favourite places in the universe. The North Esk river completes its journey and spills out into the North Sea at an estuary further along the coastline. The heavy winter rain and storms had washed a considerable amount of wood and debris down the course of the river. All along the beach was strewn an incredible array of driftwood, including railway sleepers and one fully intact round hay bale. It was a den builder’s paradise.

Within seconds I watched my two children burst open with spontaneous creativity as they soared over the sands. In less than an hour they hand etched sand art; walked log tightropes; constructed stick canons; drawn train tracks; built dens; chased the silver tide; ran with the white horses; sculpted sand angels and told tall tales of magical stones and a new sea creature called a starfish spider. Armed with my iPhone, I ran around collecting snapshots of photos, sound and video. Their combined creativity was unrelenting and their joy extraordinarily simple. So too was their readiness to strip off, put on their dookers (swimming costumes) and run in to the freezing North Sea waves!

In the RSPB centre at the beach, someone had left a wonderful photo book which was full of similar adventures and creations made on the beach.

Later, as I sat down with the different bits of media, I reflected on how motivational, flexible and diverse that environment (context for learning) was and how deeply it had stimulated their imagination and ingenuity. There was no effort needed to enthuse them and no learning intention to guide them. In less than an hour they had covered a multitude of curriculum areas, unhinged from any sense of accountability or fear of failure. Both my kids were completely lost in the world(s) they had created. How often does that happen in the classroom? Or even in their house?! And I emphasise the word ‘created’ as in creativity. OK, you may not think it can be systematically taught or assessed but it definitely needs space to breathe.

As I started editing the footage it began to feel more like a poem, a visual collage of thoughts, sand and wind. I edited it on iMovie but none of the free music really fitted. It just didn’t feel right. Three days later it was still unfinished. Then I found myself humming a favourite folk song of mine – The Norlan Wind by the Angus folk singer Jim Reid – an adaptation of a poem, The Wild Geese, by Violet Jacob. The poem is a wistful conversation between the poet (self exiled from home) and the North Wind, carrying tales and descriptions of the northern lands that the poet is dearly missing. And the melody is beautiful melancholy. I ending up using a version which is a collaboration between the Scottish bands Frightened Rabbit and Lau. It fitted perfectly. For my narrative, anyway. I think if my kids had chosen then they would have probably opted for the Scooby Doo or Spiderman theme tunes!


What started out as a rough sketch experiment of how to capture and evidence learning using my own kids as guinea pigs, ended up as a very personal visual poem. Just like the adventure on the sands, the most exciting learning is found in the spaces in-between what you think might (or should) happen and on the border crossing between control and spontaneity. If you dare to look and dream, that is.


Blog Professional Learning

A Whole Lotta Roses

On Saturday I awoke with the birds at 4.30 to catch the 5.40 Manchester train to attend Primary Rocks LIVE. A teaching conference. In Manchester. On your day off. Are you mental? Maybe a little bit. But it was worth it. There was free ice-cream and everything.

I started following @primaryrocks1 on Twitter about a year a go. The weekly Monday night chat became an essential lurker and then participatory event. Enthusiastic, knowledgable, engaged primary teachers all sharing practice and being funny with it too. I’ve picked up loads of tips, links and new interesting people to follow along the way. So,when Primary Rocks Live was announced, I jumped at the chance.

Social media suits the introvert. I’m not great at meeting new people or even saying hello. And true to the words of the song, you’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties.

Some people who know me will be a bit perplexed by that, but I cover it up well. So, half way down on the train, I too was considering my actions a bit mental. Then I made a list of reasons to be cheerful. 1 2 3.

 Reason 1: I think Scottish Education needs more primary focused face to face events. And we need to be more political. We have two primary Facebook groups with over 10000 teachers in each, some enthusiastic Twitter chats and bloggers but nothing that actually brings us altogether in the one room saying look at us, we are teachers, we are bloody good and proud of what we do, and we are a force to be reckoned with. Scottish secondary teachers have lots of subject specific associations for History, Maths, Geography, Technologies and the like. Most of us are in the EIS union, which serves its own purpose, but is politically lacklustre (not in terms of activism but in effecting the conditions for change). For me pedagogy and praxis are one in the same. Other than Facebook, Scottish primary teachers have no real unifying body or event. I’m not talking about better leadership, rather shared leadership amassing a positive collective voice. A way to be heard over the caterwaul din of systematic professional negativity, yet spiking poorly conceived national or local policy with authentic feedback from those at the grassroots of the profession.

Reason 2: CPD / CLPL, however you tag it, has died a death. There is no class cover, let alone a variety of courses to wet the appetite. The Scottish Learning Festival used to be amazing. Honestly. Room 13 and Creativity, Derek Robertson and Games Based Learning and Stephen Heppell were just 3 life changing experiences I took away from previous festivals. When, importantly, they were led by teachers and pupils. I was involved professionally as part of my secondment with Education Scotland and they were fairly bland corporate affairs. Hardly any teachers were there, either. It was during the week and there is simply no capacity in the system for cover.

Reason 3: There is no substitute for face to face professional development. I had researched loads about Genius Hour but it was only after spending half an hour with the brilliant @grahamandre I really understood it and could see how to take it forward. The same too went for the sessions by  @watsed, @ataleunfolds and @misssmerril. Each passionately sharing how they gently persuaded parents into reading through outdoor learning, challenged teachers to make pupils producers not just passive consumers of media, and  instilled the skills and craft of lifelong creativity though the making of magical sketchbooks in art. Hearing about all these things face to face lifts them off the the Twitter feed and the URL link into something truly transformational. Keynote speakers @mrlockyer, @HYWEL_ROBERTS and @redgierob all shared common grounds of a learning environment and attainment characterised by warmth and relationships and not tests and damaging accountability measures.

There were countless other presentations I missed that I would have love to have heard. Everyone gave up their time for free. Because they wanted to. Because they care. Because they are teachers. Strength in numbers. A growing movement, a gang. Politically aware too. The Labour shadow education Lucy Powell attended. She was rubbish and noncommittal but at least she turned up. There was also some dude on the panel discussion making nonsensical arguments about the ineffectiveness  of creativity in education and how we should test more not less. Which is fine. We don’t all have to agree but we desperately need the chance for extended dialogue.

@mrlockyer ended the day by deftly questioning the cold setting on laminators and pointing out that we are a caring profession and should cherish moments like this that remind us of why we reach out to children in the first place.

Make learning beautiful he said.

And @redgierob closed with a clip from the wonderful film, Pride.

Yes, the pupils must have bread, but we must give them roses too. A whole lotta roses. And if you disagree then you are in the wrong profession,quite frankly.

Did I mention the bit about the free ice-cream?

More blogs I’ve read recently covering similar themes of how to rejuvenate informal professional development and voice for the Scottish teaching profession:

A time to be brave

TeachMeet Scot

Finding your voice
Voices in my head

Blog Reading

To Kill A Mockingbird

Reading To Kill A Mockingbird as a teenager was a seminal moment and awakening for me as a young man. It was the book that helped bridge the gap between teen and adult fiction. I was still pulp reading the likes of James Herbert and Stephen King but discovering Harper Lee led me to discover new authors like John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, James Joyce and Alisdair Gray.

The tension and segregation of the American south depicted in To Kill A Mockingbird was completely alien to me, partly because I grew up in a predominately white corner of rural Scotland. But I recognised the central characters of Jem, Scout, Atticus and Boo Radley straight away. The emotions of Jem and Scout were part me and part those of my friends. Bright, adventurous and easily misled. I could see Atticus in my own dad. Kind, fair, respected by his community and someone who also had a hidden talent for sharp shooting from his army days.

Boo Radley lived on my street too. There were about 3 or 4 neighbours who had older children who had either never left home or had returned home as uni dropouts or with mental health issues. They always seemed to remain mysteriously hidden and I would only see them during personal missions like Scout Bob-A-Job weeks or hear secondhand about their tales from my folks. My favourite being the story of the minister’s son (from the ubiquitous spooky Manse next door) forming a relationship with the reclusive/dropout daughter of the house across the road. They were both in their twenties and one day decided to build a raft and adventure down the local river. The story goes that they were nearly drowned and then banned from any further contact with each other.

By the time I began my 5th year, and was studying for my Highers, I must have read To Kill A Mockingbird 3 or 4 times. I had watched the classic Gregory Peck movie and seen the play adaption in Aberdeen. English and History were my favourite subjects. I was lucky to have had the same teacher for the first 4 years of secondary school, the inspirational Mrs S. But in my 5th year I suddenly had a new teacher, and we were at loggerheads with each other from day one.

Ma C was unashamedly Conservative. She enjoyed fox hunting, sent her children to a private school and claimed there was no word in the English language she did not know (she was right too, I don’t remember ever catching her out). And she seemed to hate me. After years of consistent As and A+s I was suddenly getting constant Cs for everything.  I also used to love writing short stories but suddenly they were deemed to be universally pish. She even ‘gifted’ me a Mills and Boon book in front of the class as feedback to a story I had crafted about teenage misery and unrequited love. I read the story recently. It’s admittedly dire and bloated with verbosity and purple prose. But it’s also a cry for help. At the time I was blighted by chronic acne and suffered from intensely low self esteem. She just made it worse. I hated English, I could no longer ‘do it’ and I hated her.

But when Ma C announced that the next class text was going to be To Kill A Mockingbird and that, despite teaching it for many years, it remained her favourite book – I felt a surge of optimism. At last we had something in common. And, for a while, everything changed. I was different to her and she was different to me. I knew the novel inside out and she could tell. But I was always careful not to show off or steal her thunder (as was her teaching style).


One Monday she came into class brandishing a copy of a Sunday supplement. It was a piece about the reclusive Harper Lee in which it revealed that the author was gay. Ma C announced to the class that because of this she would find it difficult, nay impossible, to continue teaching us the book. I honestly don’t remember how exactly I reacted in that moment but I stoked residual anger and hatred towards her for many years after.

In the exam prelim I was awarded straight Cs apart from the A for my essay on To Kill A Mockingbird. It was marked by a different teacher. And in the final exam I was awarded an A. I know my adult self can calmly reason how grades are not ‘all that’ but THAT one REALLY mattered.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

To be honest, my teenage self was equally capable of being cocky and arrogant but I am no longer angry with Ma C. I pity her if anything. I realise now that she was afraid, just like the poor white folks who were afraid of Tom Robinson. She was afraid of the unknown. I think as a society and as a profession we’ve come a long way since then. I hope I’m not wrong.

The influence of Harper Lee has accompanied me throughout my life. At university my history degree focused on modern history, slavery and colonialism. My dissertation was on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. As a teacher I have always been passionate about pupil participation, social justice, citizenship education, critical thinking and questioning. And celebrating diversity.