Scattered and Superficial Thinker

A few days ago I finally turned to some academic work that I had been putting off for a while. I turned off all my distractions – Tweetdeck, Googlemail, my phone, the tv. Then I sat in a quiet room and did the work using only a PDF of the arthcle I was studying and notepad on my laptop.


I had spent the week leading up to that being in charge of childcare, but nevertheless had grabbed a few minutes here and there to get some work done – planning, preparation, admin and the like. I had also held some really interesting conversations on Twitter, read some interesting blogs and responded to the odd e-mail. You may be wondering exactly how I care for my children, but it’s amazing what you can fo with CBeebies on in the room…


Somehow I’d never felt able to focus on the academic stuff with the kids about, and when I came to the study itself, I had also felt the necessity of turning off the online distractions.


I hadn’t thought conciously about that decision until today when I read a really good article in the Telegraph called ‘How the Internet is making us stupid’ by Nicholas Carr.


He has pulled together various bits of research that show how all the distractions we engage reduce the depth at which we think. We are becoming shallow thinkers.


He writes things like: ‘people who juggle many tasks are often less creative and less productive than those who do one thing at a time.’


And: ‘People who read text studded with links, the studies show, comprehend less than those who read words printed on pages.’


He also quotes developmental psychologist, Patricia Greenfeld who says that while ‘every medium develops some cognitive skills at the expense of others’ there are ‘new weaknesses in higher-order cognitive processes.’


And Roman philosopher Seneca who said: ‘To be everywhere is to be nowhere.’


He goes on to quote neuroscientist Michael Merzenich who said that as our brains adapt to this shallow way of thinking, ‘the long term effect on the quality of our intellectual lives could be deadly.’


Now I’m not to sure about that. I think we need to be able adapt to different ways of thinking for different purposes, which is what I found the other evening when I successfully engaged in some study. But I do agree with him when he says that ‘skimming is becoming our dominant mode of thought’. I’ve been guilty of spending too long in skimming mode recently and that whole way of thinking has stopped me from even being ready to attempt any academic study.


My conclusion


I must be determined not to let ‘skimming’ be my default mode and schedule myself time to engage in different types of thinking.


Do you agree with Carr’s article? Have you read any research that indicates the positive impacts on thinking of using social media?

Bloomfield’s Theorisers

Pavlov began it, thinking he could explain it with dogs.

Thorndike and Skinner experimented further, but it was lost in the Law of Effect and thousands perished in drill and practice.

Then Dewey found it and held it for the desires and motivations of all, while the Gestalt, on the edge of things, encouraged insight and a view of the whole.

Piaget discovered how it worked, but separated it from its core and it was almost lost again.

But then Bruner rescued it and described how it could work, whilst Wood built a tower for it. Then Vygotsky, King of the Tower, opened up the tower for the people to talk and communicate and interact with it. Yet this, his greatest feat, was overlooked by another, the Zone of Proximal Development, which whilst instilled with truth was a distraction from the biggest triumph. And men came and made the most of this distraction, like Von Glasserfeld with his love of the subjective and the internal.

And some, yea, even Bloomfield, were overcome with this distraction and did comment slightly sceptically on the power of social interaction, with words like 'construed' and 'apparent'.

But then Cobb came forward, and Ernest, adding social knowledge to his three worlds, and finally Jaworski with his understanding of story and negotiation

And thus it was that Bloomfield laid aside his slight scepticism and came to declare that knowledge is socially constructed between groups who share meanings.

And so it was that one day all people would understand that knowledge exists neither externally to the individual nor internally; but on the tender wisps of the webs that lie between individuals; on the cusp between the external and the internal; on the expectations and obligations that turn individuals into people.

Divergent decisions


Sometimes the ideal way forward isn’t the most time appropriate.


I realised this morning that the best way of enabling my staff to collaborate on Google Calenders to set up the school rotas for the year would be to set up a Google Apps for Education account and do it within there. Then I could have each individual user logging into the school calendars and updating them together in the same session. The steps that led to that realisation included setting up the current school calendars to be shared with the e-mail accounts of each of the staff members (that’s the screenshot above). But unfortunately that would include setting up each of those e-mail accounts with an iGoogle account, which is time-consuming and pointless because most staff wouldn’t log on to iGoogle if they’re not already in the habit of using it. Hence I needed a Google Apps for Education account to tie it altogether. And of course that takes a few weeks to set up, because Google have to check that you’re actually an education establishment and not a company looking for a free-ride.


A few week that I didn’t have.


And three hours that I’d spent effectively wasting my time.


Each decision I’d made had led to at least two problems needing to be answered. Two more decision to be made. It was a network of ever-increasing complexity that, if I’d have the time, might have worked well, but the thing is that this particular opportunity will have lots its effectiveness if I don’t have it ready by Wednesday 1st September. I needed to get something sorted.


So I took a step back and looked at the best way to make my choices converge to a solution that would work. The ideal solution would have had staff working collaboratively to create the rotas in a way that will be continued throughout the year. The time appropriate solution is to cut-out the ideal methods of collaboration and just get the rotas done.


So I now have two gmail accounts – one called and the other The first holds the calendars, the second is what all the teachers will log on with to adjust the calenders. It’s not ideal because I’d prefer each teacher to log on with their own account – but as I’ve explained that isn’t possible yet. Maybe later on the year, I’ll be able to tie these things together with a Google Apps for Education solution and get closer to my ideal solution.


Next I will post the video I made to explain to the teachers how to add things to Google Calendar.

Doing the Right Things Right

There is a saying about leadership:


Administration is ‘Doing Things’
Management is ‘Doing Things Right’
Leadership is ‘Doing the Right Things’

I learnt it on a leadership course called ‘Leadership Pathways’ course a couple of years ago. The saying is meant to indicate how without good leadership, management and administration is pointless, because you can earnestly be doing things and even doing things right, but they may be the wrong things. So therefore we need good leaders who can do the right things.


However there is a hidden emotional agenda that new leaders can take away from the saying. It’s that somehow leaders are at the top of the pile – everything will fall into place with good leaders. I blogged about that in my recent post: the lie of the leadership pyramid. There is a possibility that leaders can devalue their managers and their administrators because they have been convinced that their role as leader is exponentially more important than the role of anyone else.


The fact is that some leaders can choose the right things, but do them wrong. And worse, some leaders can talk about the right things but not actually do them.


I want to work in a school where the administrators, managers and leaders are all valued and empowered to carry out their equally valuable roles. Where we have people who get things done, where there are others who can help and guide those people-who-are-‘doing’ to do things right and where through good leadership everyone is engaged in doing the right things.


I want to work in a school where we do the right things right.

Creating Rotas Collaboratively

I’ve been experimenting with Google Calendar to make our systems more efficient. This term I’m turning to the school rotas.

Why Rotas?

It sounds a boring task, and it is, but getting the rotas right at the start of the year is essential to having an efficient year. It saves all those pointless conversations where people have to negotiate room usage and avoids all those embarrassing situations where two people, each with a class of 30 children, turn up at the Hall only to have their expectations and lesson plan dashed. Getting rotas right means the administrators in the office, who bear much of the difficult conversations in school can work confidently within the frameworks given to them. As these people often have the dual role of also being first contact for visitors it helps them stay positive and happy. The visitors also pick up on this mood and the school’s reputation improves.


Everything gets better with good rotas.


I love Google Calendar. I love the way it syncs so well with my phone and with so much other stuff. I also love the way you can collaborate with Google Spreadsheets – 50 people + on the new version it’s pretty impressive. So my initial idea was to generate the rotas by sitting together with the staff and a room full of laptops, type into events into a Google spreadsheet, and then import the data via a .csv file into Calendar. After some initial research and some sterling advice from fellow GCTs Danny Silva and Nic Finelli I soon dismissed this idea. I realised that getting the staff to accurately put their activities into a precise format onto Google Spreadsheets when some off them have had no prior experience of any kind of spreadsheet might be asking too much. It may be a challenge for the future. If you’re interested, the Google help page with the right format for importing into calendar is here.


So instead I’ve set up several calendars that describe everything we do in school. I’m intending to open up the calendars to the staff so they can edit them during the first week, set up the rotas, then I’ll take away their access rights so they can only see the calendars and they’ll be set. I’ll then transfer over the admin rights to the actual staff, so if any changes need to be made in the future they can be made through the staff in the admin office.

The rotas I need doing are:

  • Hall Timetable (mainly for PE)
  • Small hall Timetable (mainly for eating, but some PE)
  • ICT Table (for using our ICT suite)
  • Laptop timetable (for accessing our bank of 16 laptops)
  • Playground Timetable (for agreeing who’s going to be out on the playground over the course of the week)

In addition I created 3 separate calendars.

  1. KS1 Timetable
  2. KS2 Timetable
  3. Assemblies

I still need a 4th Calendar to finish the jigsaw – the Foundation Stage Calendar – but I’m not sure what their calendar looks like and won’t get the details until next Tuesday. I need to have got the bulk of this sorted by then.


The Calendar Menu looks like this – several calendars that I can turn off and on and make available to different people.

The KS1 Calendar looks like this:


And with the KS2 Calendar and Assembly calender looks like this:


What next?

I need to plan how I’m going to explain to the staff how to put their events up. Each member of staff will have a certain number of events to fill in for each timetable, for example 2 for the Hall Timetable, 2 or 3 for the ICT suite. I’ll probably use a video to record that – I quite like Smart boards screen capture video software – it’s simple but effective. I’ll need to remember to invite each staff member to fill in the appropriate calendars too.

Over the next few days I’ll post my explanation video and after the training has been given, show some of the results of what happened.


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