We Want Peace

I have just heard a wonderful song by Emmanuel Jal who I have been a supporter and fan of since I saw his wonderful TED Talk “The Music Of A War Child”.

The video is here:

The song was written as part of Jal’s campaign to stop the outbreak of another civil war in his native Sudan. To quote his website:

My country is on the brink of war. On January 9, Southern Sudan will vote for its independence to be free from a government who has slaughtered and displaced our people for 43 years. The country is currently led by a regime bent on controlling oil resources.  80% of Sudan’s oil fields are in the south, making it a prime battleground to displace our indigenous people.  Both north and south are preparing for war, leaving innocent people at grave risk of major human rights violations. The last civil war between North and South claimed over 2 million lives, including my own mother. I have firsthand experience as a war child, forced to fight in the conflict and torn from my family. The time to prevent another genocide is now. I have a written a new single called “We Want Peace”.  It is a call for peace, protection and justice for all in my land, and also for an end to conflicts affecting innocent people all around the world.  Thank you for joining me in my struggle.

I have written this blog post as my small contribution to supporting this campaign….. we cannot surely sit by and allow another major genocide to take part in Africa….. please pass on the message….. WE WANT PEACE.

My TED Talks TOP 20:

Observing a Stroke from Within

Image by jurvetson via Flickr

I have updated my personal all-time favourite list of TED Talks (which now  includes 3 TEDx Talks). This is a very personal list and no doubt your own list would be very different. These though are the talks that have moved me, educated me and generally widened my horizons or maybe made me see the world in a different way.

I have finally (Easter 2011) reached my Top 20…. will I stop here? I don’t think so…because the Talks go on and on and they are wonderful.. so here’s to my next ten talks!

1.  Hans Rosling:  Debunking Third World Myths http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/hans_rosling_at_state.html If you’ve not seen the Swedish doctor give a talk with his wonderful animated statistics then you’re in for a treat

2. Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html Sir ken talking in his own inimitable style about the key significance of creativity in education..a must see for teachers and educators who care about the way education must go.

3. Nicholas Negroponte: One Laptop Per Child  http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/nicholas_negroponte_on_one_laptop_per_child_two_years_on.html One of the great technological innovators on a project that deserves to be looked at.

4. William Kamkwamba: How I harnessed The Wind http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/william_kamkwamba_how_i_harnessed_the_wind.html The wonderful William talking about building his windmills in Malawi.. watch the video and then read his book.

5. Ben Dunlap: Ben Dunlap Talks About a Passionate Life http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ben_dunlap_talks_about_a_passionate_life.html A real tour-de-force by a brilliant speaker and storyteller…. probably my favourite ever TED Talk.

6. Chris Abani: Chris Abani On the Stories of Africa http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/chris_abani_on_the_stories_of_africa.html Moving and well delivered a powerful and brave talk.

7. Emmanuel Jal: The Music of a War Child http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/emmanuel_jal_the_music_of_a_war_child.html Another powerful talk from a wonderful young rap singer and political activist.. just watch his song “Emma” at the end of his talk… inspiring.

8. Doris Kearns Goodwin: on  learning From Past Presidents http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/doris_kearns_goodwin_on_learning_from_past_presidents.html Avery personal talk by a great writer and historian…. beautifully delivered… great to listen and learn from.

9. Pranav Mistry:The Thrilling Potential of Sixthsense Technology This is just awe inspiring stuff and definitely has the “wow” factor…. if you want to see the future then watch this Talk.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/pranav_mistry_the_thrilling_potential_of_sixthsense_technology.html

10. Jill Bolte Taylor: Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke of Insight http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html A great and moving talk that links science to real experience. Jill Bolte Taylor talks about what she learned about the brain from her own stroke…. absolutely riveting talk.

11. Temple Grandin: The World Needs All Kinds Of Minds http://www.ted.com/talks/temple_grandin_the_world_needs_all_kinds_of_minds.html

A brilliant talk by an animal expert who has autism herself and has achieved so much in her life.

12.

Aimee Mullins: The opportunity of adversity  http://www.ted.com/talks/aimee_mullins_the_opportunity_of_adversity.html A  wonderful talk by an inspiring individual about redefining disablement but most importantly….. human potential.

13. Benjamin Zander: Classical Music With Shining Eyes:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9LCwI5iErE A brilliant talk that is simply life enhancing.

14.

TEDxSaskatoon Dean_Shareski The Return of Barn raising and Pop Ins  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0E_VG7nvIy0 A great talk about the  return to community that the internet has given us… and the implications for education.

15. Denis Dutton A Darwinian Theory of Beauty http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PktUzdnBqWI A brilliant talk that poses questions about the universality of our experience of beauty from a wonderful academic and speaker who died yesterday (December 28th) from Cancer…. a worthy memorial to his work and ideas.

16. Wael Ghonim: Inside the Egyptian Revolution this is a talk about the recent amazing and powerful events in Egypt that saw the overthrow of President Mubarak by a revolution that was fueled and supported by new social media such as Facebook and the man who became the unofficial leader of that revolution Wael Ghonim. A powerful talk that explains much.

17. Sarah Kay If I Should Have a Daughter a wonderful talk by a great Spoken Word Poet from the TED 2011 Conference

18. Roger Ebert Remaking  My Voice a talk by a great film critic who has no voice after suffering cancer but who has rediscovered a voice and the ability to communicate using digital tgechnology.

19. John Hunter On The World Peace Game  A great teacher who uses a game to get his 4th grade children to try and “solve” the world’s problems! This is a great talk which shows so clearly the value of open-ended collaborative learning in the classroom.

20. Eve Ensler: Embrace Your Inner Girl A powerhouse of what it means to have emotion and how the “inner girl” inall of us is a strength that has allowed the huiman race to develop and may yet save us. Brilliant.

Dean Shareski’s powerful TedX Talk

I was really excited by this video. Dean Shareski, the speaker, is actually a “friend” on Facebook and I count him as a part of my Personal Learning Network (PLN).

This is an impressive talk and one worthy of the high level of content and delivery of the TED talks that I have uploaded and talked about in this blog.

In the talk Dean shows how we have travelled from a sense of community and a “pop-in” culture which involved trust and friendship, to a society that has become family or person-centred, that has gone far away from the extended family idea of the Victorian era and “bowls alone” to quote the reference that Dean uses from the article “Bowling Alone” by Robert D. Putnam.

He starts by talking about the communal way that everyone used to “muck in” (to quote a British phrase) for example in putting up a new barn. He then contrasts this to the horrors of the “garage house” as he calls it, where the new design of a house emphasises the garage space before the living space and is about personal private use and not an open-door for friends to “pop-in”.

Dean sees the internet as having re-connected us to a sense of community. He gives a very moving example of a man who, having lost his beloved mother, then used Reddit to see if anyone could change the last photograph he had of himself with his mother, because she was photographed with her breathing tube. There were literally hundreds of replies and the revised and airbrushed photograph is seen as well as the man’s comments that “Reddit is now my home”.

In a later development Dean shows how Eric Whitacre managed to produce a wonderful collaboration of hundreds of people from 16 different countries who became a “virtual choir“. The video of the collaboration is moving but the power of creating a choir from across the international community is as moving and very powerful.

The talk then discusses Dean’s work in schools and how pioneers such as Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis have managed to connect students in classes throughout the world in their wonderful “Flat Classroom Project”.

This is a very powerful talk that needs to be seen as widely as possible. I would recommend that the main TED site considers publishing it (as it does now more regularly with really good TEDx Talks). I have now added it as number 14 in my list of great TED  Talks and along with Aimee Mullins wonderful talk is my second TEDx Talk in the list.

The present of learning

It is that time of year again. The presents are given and the wrapping paper which takes you ages to do is undone in no time and the remains litter the floor.

For many years, as a Primary (elementary) teacher, I would start the New Year at school asking the children to “reflect” on their Christmas holiday. This would usually turn into a list of presents that they had received. It was the topic of conversation as they filed into the classroom and would continue into the playground at break.

As a child myself I can remember the presents that really made an impact were not the toy cars or the racing game that my uncle got me one snowy Christmas, but the large comic “Annuals” (I was a real fan of the Beano, Dandy, Beezer and Topper comics). my brothers each received an Annual and we would read each other’s in a frenzy of excitement that would take up a large part of Christmas morning.

The reason that these Annuals played such an important part in my childhood Christmases was my joy in reading comics. I knew that I would enjoy the silliness of the Bash Street Kids and the naughtiness of Dennis The Menace (and his fearsome dog Gnasher!). I was involved with the subject matter. I had a desire to read and nothing in the world could deflect me from concentrating for a long period of time (for me) on these books.

Now, returning to the long lists that the children had. They varied from expensive bikes, to Play-Stations, Laptops even a new Puppy. What interested me was not to listen to the list of new acquisitions in our materialistic culture but to listen to the effect that the present had on the children.

Getting a new Bike is one thing, but having the chance to ride it on a regular basis, to explore different environments with it, to go out riding with your friends, is another. Is the bike a means to widen our experience or just the means of having a state of the art object that can be one better than the next person’s.

In the end it is not the present’s value that counts but how we use, explore or learn from what we receive. This year I have received a few presents but the one that has really motivated me and which has helped to change me as a person cost hardly anything… it was a “stocking filler” that came from a chance remark that I made to wife.

A few months ago I was on laptop journeying through the internet, as I often do in my “learning journey” and I came across a really interesting talk about a Civil Rights activist who I had never heard of. I found that the programme had been broadcast on a San Francisco radio station and that there was a link to the station. I clicked the link and found that (due to the 8 hour difference between where I live in Britain and the Western side of the U.S.) it was breakfast time in S.F. and there was a song playing by a group called “War” called “Gypsy Man”.

I loved the song but in particular loved the harmonica solo that was part of it. I then looked the song up on Youtube  and found a brilliant version (in 2 parts) from a live performance by the group in Halifax (here in the U.K.) in 1980.Here is the second part with the solo by a man who I now know is called Lee Oskar and is one of the greatest Harmonica players in the world and even produces his own brand of harmonica:

The harmonica playing got me really interested in learning this little instrument. I told my wife that I would really love to own a harmonica and then forgot all about it. Until a few days ago, when she said that she had got me a small little present that turned out to be a boxed set of a Harmonica (C Harp for all you aficionados out there), a DVD and a book. It was picked up by her friend at a “remaindered” sale and cost all of £5  ($7.72, 5.87 Euros at present rates)!

I have been practising my “Harp” every day and have made about three good sounds so far. I have also taken the advice that I picked up online and have listened/watched (on Youtube)  to the work of some great blues harmonica players like Little Walter, Big Walter Horton and a fascinating lady called Big Mama Thornton.

I was never really a blues fan until I got my Harmonica but getting it has motivated me to learn about the wonderful way that it is played by these little known geniuses who have influenced so many of the rock greats of modern times like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Mick Jagger.

I am having fun and frustration in the learning process of making sounds from this deceptive instrument. I will never be a Lee Oskar or a Little Walter but I have increased my knowledge about their skills and my appreciation of their music. All of this has happened because I have been motivated to learn from that most important word for all of us in education….. “INTEREST”.

This is why the expensive gift may sometimes not be the best one. The small gift that “ignites a light” (to quote a phrase from Katy Perry’s “Firework” song) can be the key to releasing the “element” for any person it is the present of learning which is the best thing that anyone can ever get.

Jimi Hendrix… last live performance

Jimi Hendrix.

Image via Wikipedia

I am a great fan of the Open Culture site. They keep coming out with little gems of discovery from Youtube and other sources. Well I think I may have found one of my own. Having said “of my own” it has been watched by 373,568 people (or a few people a lot of times!!) so maybe you might be one of them.

If you’re not then you’re in for a treat. Here is the great Jimi Hendrix performing with his friend  Eric Burdon and his backing group, War. The information provided on the Youtube page is as follows:

Place: Ronnie Scott’s Club, 47 Frith Street, London W1, England

Date: September 16, 1970

Jimi Hendrix’s last ever live performance.

Hendrix went to see his good friend Eric Burdon’s new band WAR one night and was invited on stage to play guest guitar, he was dead less than 72 hours later.

I think the pertinent phrase is the last one…. he was dead less than 72 hours after this. In this recording therefore we are hearing the amazing guitar work of a troubled genius amongst friends in his adopted home city of London within hours of his death (the exact circumstances of which are somewhat hazy and still disputed).

It was fascinating to hear and hopefully one or two of my readers will find it an interesting “discovery”.

Have a great Christmas.

We think and Us Now: the realities of a web transformed world

Logo of Us Now documentary film

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I watched two videos about the realities of living in a world that has been transformed by the web. The first was a brilliant documentary made a couple of years ago called  “Us Now”.

This documentary challenged the way that we live, the way we interact with each other, the way our businesses are organised and most particularly the way that the internet has enabled us to really collaborate and make decisions together which challenges the present political system that we call “Democracy” but which is in reality just us having our say on events once in maybe four years and then delegating people to make decisions on our behalf.

There is an excellent section in the film which looks at a football (soccer) club called Ebbsfleet United which is not only owned by its fans but also effectively run by them in that they have gone down the road of having the fans pick the team for the coach and even decide on substitutes as the game goes on. Not only were the team successful when they shot the film but actually managed to reach the F.A. Trophy Final at Wembley and won it! To see about this amazing experiment in democratic ownership and decision making in a sports club see: http://www.myfootballclub.co.uk/

There was also a spotlight on Zopa which is effectively an internet collectively owned bank. They lend money to people based on contributions, some of them very small like £10, from individuals. They are not a mega-business yet but may well become a challenge to the established banks.

Overall it is a powerful and challenging film that shows how nearly every aspect of our lives has been transformed by the web revolution and like all good documentaries it asks questions about the future and in particular whether our political leaders have the courage to “let go” and allow a form of democracy always aspired to but never really reached, to take place.

The film does not shirk from the questions of security and relevance in an age where everything is potentially open and everyone can feel under a spotlight all the time. It deserves to be looked at though and in many ways I found it much more convincing and relevant than the B.B.C. series “The Virtual Revolution” .

The Charles Leadbetter video, “We Think” runs along similar lines to the “Us Now” video. It is animated and short but makes some important points. If you are a teacher and wanting to discuss the web revolution in your class then this may be the video to use…. it makes the important points about how our world has ben transformed by the web and how we cannot go back to the 19th century factory/mass production consumer led society that many of us still think we live in.

Both videos will challenge students to think and reflect… hopefully it will get them to decide their views on the world they have effectively grown up in and what direction they want to take our world when they have the chance to lead or collaborate in shaping its future.

 

My top 10 posts, articles and sites of 2010

 

Because of the wonders of the Diigo bookmarking site I am able to save articles and posts that I read online as I go along. This year has been a really good one for learning. I have made 283 bookmarks which lie in my Diigo Library. As we are nearing the end of 2010 I decided I would search through my Library and find the 10 posts and articles that have moved, educated or interested me the most.

It was not an easy choice as there were many excellent articles and posts that I have had to exclude. In the end I have chosen the ones that had the most powerful impact on me personally. The top three are all blog posts that could truly be called exceptional.

1.       http://www.sarahedson.com/2010/09/i-need-you.html A simply wonderful piece of writing about education and life.

 
2.  http://teachpaperless.blogspot.com/2010/09/sending-snail-mail-from-paperless.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+teachpaperless+%28TeachPaperless%29 A wonderful post about using old technology to fight for a cause and learn about democracy in a paperless classroom

 
3.   http://markandrews.edublogs.org/2010/12/17/baby-youre-a-firework/ Brilliantly researched piece on the song “Baby you’re a Firework” by Katie Perry… one of the posts of the year by a long way

 
4.  http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.02/brain.html Great article on the revenge of the right brain… instructive and adds to the current debate on where education is going

 

5. http://www.edutopia.org/blog/ted-learning-tool-students-heather-wolpert-gawron?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=post&utm_content=blog&utm_campaign=tedloveaffair A really good post from the great education site Edutopia about using TED Talks in the classroom

 

6. http://www.fastcodesign.com/1662358/the-end-of-education-is-the-dawn-of-learning An excellent interview by the brilliant Educational Architect Trung Le with one of the foremost thinkers on 21st Century education, Professor Stephen Heppell

 

7.  http://www.newsweek.com/2010/07/10/the-creativity-crisis.html Fascinating article that really opens up the debate about the importance of creativity to educational development in the 21st century

 
8. http://www.smithclass.org/proj/Monsters/index.htm Love this site and the idea about global collaboration in the design of monsters

 

9.  http://cybraryman.com/index.html The wonderful Cybraryman Educational Web-Sites online library. It keeps on growing and is literally a mine of information… well done Jerry Blumengarten for a great resource for teachers and educators everywhere

 
10. http://www.openculture.com/2010/01/yellow_sticky_notes.html A wonderful short animated film from the great Open Culture site… if you haven’t seen this site yet it is well worth a visit.

How Kara helped me understand Dyslexia

Kara Tointon

Image via Wikipedia

I watched a television programme on BBC iPlayer yesterday. It was about the actress Kara Tointon who has recently won the (in Britain) famous dancing competition “Strictly Come Dancing“.

Now I have some connection with this young lady in that (I am told) she went to a school as a child that I taught in. The problem is that in our 500+ children school I could not remember her. Firstly, I did not teach her and secondly, she did not really make waves at school. She was not one of the super-naughty ones that you remember forever because they still make you squirm to think of the many brilliant ways they could misbehave and generally try and make your life a misery. She was also not one of the high fliers whose work is always impressive, who corrects you in class, who you know will go on to great things.

She was well behaved and fitted in but throughout her school career she had a big problem…. she could not read and write properly. It was not until she was about eleven that she had Dyslexia confirmed as her problem.

The programme looked at her life which is not just about reading difficulties but also organisational difficulties. She lived in constant fear of losing things like her mobile phone which she would put down and then find it very difficult to find again. As an actress she could not read her lines very well and would spend a very long time laboriously writing down her lines and then trying to commit them to her long-term memory.

In the programme she had a brain scan to try and find out exactly where her problems lay. The best definition that they could give her afterwards was that she read English in the way that someone might who is not native to the language, i.e. she took the letter patterns and then put them together into sounds and then had to search through her memory banks for the word… it was a tortuous process to watch. She also visited an optometrist who investigated her vision and found that she had problems in reading text on a white background… but could focus when she had a green lens to look through.

In the programme Kara visited a special school (private) for Dyslexic children. She saw how these children were trying to overcome their difficulties by being taught in a multi-sensory way that included making the letters of a word by pouring a can of water onto the ground. They played with the letters, they literally lived the language rather than just relying on their memories to recall and then being expected to read.

In this school there was a sixteen year old boy who spoke about the difficulties he had at school. He had always been unable to keep up in class. He had got into trouble throughout his school career. He had faced bullying from his peers and at the age of seven (yes seven!) he had tried to commit suicide. He spoke movingly about the way that the private school had changed his outlook on life. He now realised that he was not stupid and that he could succeed at his exams and become what he wanted to be in life. Kara asked him what he wanted to be and he said… a teacher…. because he wanted to make sure that children like him were given the right conditions to learn and not go through the things that he had had to go through in his school career.

Later on in the programme she met a young man who had great problems with learning. He still could not read and write properly but he went practically every day that he could, with his girlfriend, to the local library in Nottingham where he lives, to try and use computer technology to help him to read. He told her how he had been excluded from school and had later become a thief because most jobs were closed to him due to his inability to read and write. He had been in prison but was now determined to change his life and to try and break through the barriers that his Dyslexia had given him throughout his life so far.

In Kara, the young sixteen year old student and this young man from Nottingham I saw people who had been seen as slow or even stupid at school, who had gone through countless difficulties when going through our conventional school system that does not understand and in many cases still does not even recognise that Dyslexia exists. Yet these three people were determined to try and read. They still had the motivation to want to learn and they had each found some peace in knowing that they were not inherently backward but had a brain that worked differently to most other people. They had the courage to try again and they had found people and organisations that understood that they needed to be treated in a different way.

I am passionately against streaming of any kind in schools. I have spent many hours arguing with fellow teachers and consultants about this and it is examples such as the three people mentioned above that makes me see the iniquities of streaming. We define by putting on a label. A child cannot read… it is their fault, not ours, they can’t listen properly, they are lazy..if they tried harder they would succeed.They are troublemakers.. they should be excluded.

In the programme Kara expressed her desire to read through a Harry Potter book. Her specially made glasses with the green lenses arrived and she started to read and found that she could read with a greater fluency than she had ever felt possible. She went to individual classes for Dyslexic adults and has been taught about a multi-sensory approach to remember things using coloured sticky notes… it has helped her to be better organised in her life and to become much more efficient in learning her lines.

As I said, I never taught her but wonder if I would have helped her if I did. I think that this programme has helped me to see that we cannot just talk about personalised learning…we need to put it into practice in schools….. there are too many people like Kara who have miserable school lives because we refuse to accept that they have specific learning needs and we do not cater for them. In the end we all benefit from these children achieving their potential.

The programme can be seen for the next few days on BBC iPlayer

Playing with words

As with reading I don’t know the point at which I learnt that I could write. By writing I do not mean writing my name or the words c-a-t as cat. I mean that I made a remarkable discovery. I could put my pen or pencil to paper and with the letters I formed (most times quite badly) I could actually make meaning that someone else could understand.

I have spoken in earlier posts about the fact that I went through a number of years of my youth and even early adulthood with the wish, the intention, the dream of becoming a writer. I wrote a number of what I now know were somewhat immature and undeveloped pieces. I sent some away and got some quite good responses from people.The highlight of my writing “career” was when I was called to the Royal Court Theatre in London to discuss a play I had written about the General Strike of 1926.

But the real world of making a living, of seeing the impossibility of ever breaking through in a very tough and competitive environment meant that I eventually stopped writing for any sort of audience and eventually stopped writing for myself. Like so many would-be writers, artists, musicians, I made my way, eventually into teaching and the rest, as they say, is history.

As a teacher I “taught” children literacy, as we came to call it. The Government in their wisdom, decided that the best way to “teach” children to write was to bombard them with different genres of writing and let them play with these styles. I taught children to be persuasive,to use certain adjectives that would influence others. I taught them to construct a story with an introduction, a development and a conclusion. I told them they must use certain words and not repeat the same term all the time.

What I forgot,as I “taught” these ideas to the formula that the Government had laid down for me,was that my own personal road to writing came from being able to “play with words”. I went to school in an age that preceded the “formula” approach. I was never given any real guidelines or templates, I was allowed to write as and when I got the opportunity.

I remember that, when I was about thirteen I produced a piece of writing for our school magazine that was called “A Passage From India” it drew heavily on the ideas of E.M. Forster whose “Passage To India” I had read and admired. It took the characters of that story and set them back down in their native country, foreigners in their own land. I examined the thoughts of arriving at Paddington Station in the 1950′s in a London that had itself become transformed by war. I particularly focussed on the character of the young girl who had come home to marry and reproduce in this strange place where her experiences from birth had been of Indian culture and that savage, idealistic colonialism that had brought the British to India in the first place.

My English teacher, Mr Kennett, absolutely loved it. He thought it showed imagination and was impressed by the use of language to express deep feelings. I remember being delighted when it was printed in the magazine… it was to be one of the only times that I was able to see my words in print. The origins of the piece are a bit of a mystery to me to this day, excepting to say that an image of a family arriving at Victoria Station in the early 1960′s, seen from a distance as I accompanied my father (a shipping and forwarding agent) whilst he handled baggage arriving at the station, was the impetus.

The rest, was playing with words… letting the words express the story that I wanted to write. I did not have a straitjacket of starting with some snappy “setting the scene”, developing the story and then having a neat end. I knew that I wanted to express a clash of cultures and the confusion in a young girl’s brain as she waits at the roadside of a large station in a great and bustling city feeling lost and petrified about what the future holds in store for her.

This post has been an opportunity for me to play with words again. This time I am not writing a story but writing about writing and what it meant to me personally. I can only say that we need to allow children the ability to play with words and ideas for themselves and to develop their writing  without making the whole process a mechanical learning of rules. Let them develop the pictures in their minds (as I developed that one snapshot in mine) and then let them express what they want to say in the way that they want to say it. Better still, give them the opportunity to have a blog (as I have with this) and let them write because they want to and not because you tell them to.

Postscript:

I have no copy of my original story about the “Passage From India” so I decided that I would try and re-write it as a 2010 version. It conveys many of the emotions and ideas that I put into the original but has obviously been affected by my lifetime’s experiences since I was 13 (44 years ago!).  Please see http://www.scribd.com/doc/45689499/A-Passage-From-India if interested… I would welcome your comments.

My first year as a blogger

My very first blog post “Hello World” was published exactly one year ago today. Since that very hesitant beginning I have done 215 Posts (this will be the 216th) on 3 Pages with 11 Categories.

I can still remember the very first time that I set out on what I have called “my learning journey”. I had no idea about what a blog post should look like, I didn’t reference anything, I just put in a few hyperlinks because I learnt very quickly how to use the link icon in the set of tools very kindly supplied by WordPress.

I have to say at this point that the fortune of having started a WordPress blog was to prove very useful to me as I made my first stuttering steps along the road to full blogger status. These days the actual technical skills of spellchecking, positioning of text, importing videos, pictures or music is very easy and is literally just a click of an icon. This allows you to concentrate on the actual content of your post.

I have probably used too many videos in my posts but this is because I have found that I can do this. It means that I can share the excitement I feel in watching a video with anyone who might happen to wander along to my blog. I have to say that I have become a great fan of the sometimes maligned “Youtube” over this last year. I have found real gems tucked away inside of this enormous digital video library.

About half way through my first blogging year I discovered Zemanta. This is an excellent program that sits looking over my shoulder (metaphorically speaking) as I write. It suggests links to articles (many of them by fellow bloggers) and gives me a range of photographs to insert into my post. It really changed the appearance and depth of many of my posts.

But Zemanta and WordPress or Youtube do not write these posts… I do. This has been the greatest joy and pain of blogging. I know that I can insert pretty pictures, or use a video that sings and dances and looks wonderful, but at the end of the day I know that it is about the words… and most particularly it is about my voice as represented in the words that you, dear reader, read.

In this blog I have found my voice. I have found the means to express my feelings, mostly about education and the potential of technology to change the way we learn and the way that we get our children to learn. I have tried to champion people such as Sir Ken Robinson whose ideas about the need to change our education system and support creativity in the curriculum I passionately believe in. I have also promoted, although it doesn’t really need my help, the wonderful TED Talks. These talks have changed my outlook on life and just when I think I have seen the best of them I come across another one that I feel I need to bring to people’s attention. I have also had the chance to write a few entries on my personal all-time hero Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr.

It has been an absolute joy as well as a chore to do the 216 posts in this blog. I have been delighted when I have had comments back about what I write. I have been delighted when I have read Tweets saying that I have produced a “great post” or on one very special occasion a “terrific post”. It is moments like that that make you realise that there is an audience out there and that they are reading and being influenced in some small way by what I write.

In the end though I write because it allows me to do what I have wanted to do for so so long… which is to write. I thoroughly enjoy the process of creating something from the proverbial “blank piece of paper”. I know that every now and again I will produce something that I will later think “that’s not really all that good” but then again there are a number of posts that I am really really proud of. I stand back, looking at these occasional gems and think, I did that. I used my skills in being a wordsmith to produce something that has a shape, good content and expresses what I wanted to express. It may be read by one person or it may be read by dozens but in the end I get a real kick from the creation of this “product”.

If you are reading this and wondering whether to start your own blog all I can say is that it is really worth it. You will have the blank sheet that fights you and refuses to accept your words in any real order of meaning and you may feel like tearing what little hair you have left out of its insecure mooring on your scalp, but there will be moments when you will look and feel so proud that it has come out the way you wanted it to… or even better that it has surpassed any of your own expectations.

This is why I always say that blogging is the best way that I know to get children to really write. It allows them to find their own voice and to express what they want to say… it is real writing and not made up for some exercise dictated by a test. This blog has helped me to develop as a writer in the last twelve months… I look forward to the good posts and hope to minimise the bad ones…as I continue my blogging/writing journey into the next twelve months.

Thank you for being my audience and taking the time to read this very personal post.

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