Connecting With Parents Online

rubiks cube

Last night I delivered an online presentation to parents of Year 11 English/English Literature students.  50 parents were in the room as well as myself and a colleague from the English department.  We had numerous e-mails from parents who wanted to get in to the meeting but couldn’t due to the fact that we were over capacity.  While that is frustrating, it is also very exciting. The highest number of participants in previous online meetings had been a little under 40 – a new record for the school. We are going to look into the capacity issue so it can be resolved for future events as the Science and Maths departments are due to do similar meetings in the very near future!

Link to the Online Meeting. (Link removed at request of school SLT)

A little background on CCC and its use of online conferencing:

At my school we have been using Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro for some time; video conferencing having become “a part of what we do”.  Our most prolific use of Connect Pro can be found in our delivery of an “Online Games Design Course” that is attended by Creative Media Diploma students and any other students who have an interest in games design.  This is currently running on Thursday nights between 7:00 and 8:00.

The meetings are led by @rhadad who is a teacher/games designer from Chicago.  She beams in every Thursday at 7.00 along with a guest presenter (Moses Wolfenstien@camaxwell@gtrefry) to teach the students about  games design.

This was pioneered by @greghodgson and @hstower last year and is now set to become a yearly course.  I (@jamesmichie) have been supporting the delivery of the meetings this year along with @iusher who continues to be an invaluable resource to us, in all of our online endeavours – including the session with parents last night.

Right, back to last night’s meeting!

The parents were invited to attend the meeting in a multitude of ways: text message, e-mail, postcard – each one had a link to the meeting room and brief explanation of how it works – Connect Pro install a patch the first time you run it.  As far as I am aware the parents had no problems with this.  We also put a banner on the front of the school website as a reminder.

We received many e-mails in advance of the evening from parents who wanted to be there but had prior arrangements .  As I mentioned earlier, after the meeting we received numerous e-mails from parents who could not get in and many e-mails also from the parents that did get in for a copy of the PowerPoint presentation that I used to show useful ideas, web links, our VLE and an iPod touch app (Flashcard Touch).

The number of parents online (or who wanted to be online) is amazing.  It felt during the presentation and afterwards that there was a real buzz – which continued throughout today.  Most importantly the response demonstrate that parents want to be involved in their child’s education and they want to be informed. Below is the PowerPoint presentation I used in the meeting:

[Aside] I also learned that I need to find better lighting for future meetings – I look too much like some strange lurker in the dark!

In conclusion:

It was a great experience! The buzz throughout the day has been great.  Since I began writing this post I have had over 20 more requests for a link to either the presentation or for copies of the PowerPoint. The school switchboard has had a similar number.  Adding the total number of participants to the number of e-mails we received from people who could not get into the meeting, we could have had over 90 participants – which would have been a third of the year group!

As a colleague put it: “We do all this hard work throughout the year but it’s just 20 minutes on a Wednesday evening that could make the difference.”  Hopefully the “difference” will be seen in the students results this summer!

If you would like to know more about what we are doing with online conferencing you can e-mail me or tweet me @jamesmichie.

Image courtesy of Toni Blay on Flickr.

#edread – An Update! (1 Week & 3 Days Since The Discussion Began.)

cogsThis week I have learned that keeping a discussion going (even on Twitter) is not always easy, particularly when you are a busy teacher.  I must look into “automated reminders / retweeting” – I use “twitterfeed” to link my blog to Twitter.  There must be a service that could retweet an individual tweet each day to remind people in my PLN to contribute and to catch those people who perhaps missed the tweet the first time.  I tweet a lot so my tweets don’t hang around forever.  On the other hand I don’t want to send so many reminders that my entire PLN turn against me due to my incessant nagging!

I have also learned that there are not that many English teachers in my Twitter PLN.  This is perhaps because I spend a lot of time connecting with people whose primary interest is #edtech – which is my primary interest as well.  I used “wefollow” to find and add some more English teachers to my PLN.

After the great start made last week when I initially posted about the #edread project’s progress I have already shared some of the ideas and resources with my colleagues.  This week will be no different as several people have shared some interesting websites and resources since last Sunday.  Please read through the tweets below and click on the links.

Don’t forget that there is a full archive of #edread tweets here.  And there is a dedicated page here.

I think that I should get students involved in this discussion.  I have used Twitter in the classroom and know that it works.  Should I give them the hash tag and ask them to tweet? What are the implications?  Or should I use a different methodology – in class survey, through our school VLE or Survey Monkey?  Any thoughts or ideas about this would be  welcomed.  I believe that they are the most important voice in this discussion so they should be included!

Tweets since my last update:

I hope that if you are reading this you are finding it useful?  If you have not contributed yet please join the discussion and share your ideas via Twitter using the hash tag #edread.

Image courtesy of Jim Sneddon on Flickr.


What I Did With My Year 8s Yesterday…

love to read

…below is an e-mail I sent to the rest of the English department yesterday.  Having started #edread a little over a week ago and being a little tired after BBC School Report the day before I arrived in school on Friday morning caught between wanting to engage with my Year 8 class (my only KS3 lesson of the week) but also uninspired by the thought of either a grammar lesson or making them sit at desks and read within the confines of my classroom.

Instead of allowing either of these scenarios to be the start to my Year 8s’ Friday or mine for that matter I took them to the Learning Resource Centre (LRC) for their lesson – this is the grand title that is given to our school library.  I wanted to go and make use of it, I wanted to free them of the classroom and I wanted to focus them on reading for pleasure rather than reading the book they had been assigned.

Several of my colleagues replied to the e-mail offering positive feedback and saying that they were going to do something similar.  On reading through those comments this morning as I caught up with e-mail it dawned on me that here-in lied a blog post.  So here is the e-mail that I sent yesterday:

What I did with my Year 8s today…

…being up to date with Grammar lessons and my students being well on track with their class readers I did something different today.  When I taught a lot of KS3 I would regularly take my students to the LRC. So, that is what I did.

I talked to them about the fact that I had concerns about the amount of words my top set knew and understood and that I felt it was because 1. Some of them don’t read and 2. Some of them read the same thing all of the time – level of ability or genre.

I challenged my Y8 class to go out into the LRC and find something to read that they would not normally pick up and gave them 20 minutes to read.  I let them sit wherever and however they wanted – leaning against the book case, on the floor, in a comfy chair or at the table as I explained that I don’t sit and read at a desk but sit on my couch or read when I go to bed.  They were wonderful – absolutely silent as they read.  I think Emma (a cover supervisor & ex-student) who was in covering for Andrea (our wonderful LRC Manager) was in shock when she saw how perfectly they read and behaved!

I then did a short activity with them to get them thinking about what they had read – I asked them to answer openly and honestly the following questions:

  1. What is the name of the book you read?
  2. What genre is it – if you can’t put one word on it just describe it.
  3. Why would you not have normally picked up that sort of book?
  4. Did you / Did you not enjoy it?  Why?
  5. Even if you didn’t enjoy who would you recommend this book to – is there anyone in the class who you think would enjoy it.

I finished the lesson discussing “what” and “how” they read with them and challenged them to read one new text a week – be it a paragraph or two from a newspaper; to watch a documentary instead of EastEnders; to download a book to their iPod touch or iPhone – whatever works for them but to think about reading and to do it to enjoy it.

Just thought I would pass this on.  The LRC is a wonderful resource and space and we should (I feel) make more use of it.

Any thoughts, comments or ideas please pass them on.



Image courtesy of Carlos Porto on Flickr.

Help Them Take The First Bite!

tree of knowledge


The apple cannot be stuck back on the Tree of Knowledge; once we begin to see, we are doomed and challenged to seek the strength to see more, not less.

~ Arthur Miller

Not only am I eager to help my students take the first bite of the apple, I’m literally clambering to help them rip the apple from the tree in the first place. Knowledge is power and attaining it is a challenge; even in the age of Google.

Teach your students to question, define, discuss, imagine, share, criticise, explore, speculate, evaluate and most importantly…to enjoy doing it. Teach them “to see more, not less”!

Image courtesy of j4mie on Flickr.

#edread – An Update!


On Thursday I began a ‘crowdsourced’ discussion about getting kids to read, titled #edread.

The purpose of this post is to:

  • Add clarification to the purpose of #edread
  • Clarify how you can get involved in the discussion
  • To show how many great ideas and resources have been shared already.

(Perhaps I should do a weekly update? – I will give this some thought!)

1. What is the purpose?
I have started the discussion to develop a fuller understanding of how to engage students in reading and to also collate a bank of resources that can be used for this purpose.  While starting the discussion it became clear that there were three different types of student who I wish to focus on:

  • The student who does not read at all and does not see any value in it.
  • The student who wants to read but is afraid as they feel that they simply “can’t read”.
  • The student who knows they can read but is happy to coast along reading the same (level) book rather than challenging themselves with higher (level) material.

2. How do you get involved?
Simply share any ideas, thoughts, links or resources on Twitter using the #edread hash tag.

I have set up an archive of #edread tweets here.  And there is a dedicated page to #edread here on my blog.

3. Ideas and resources shared on Twitter so far:
Thank you to everyone who has gotten involved already. Here is what has been shared so far. (I have removed the #edread hash tag and also done some cleaning up – replaced abbreviations with full words, changed grammar etc.)

  • kvnmcl Make time to read to the class every day – whether it be from a book, comic, newspaper, child’s story – read to them and read well.
  • joysimpson “Book displays deeply affect the mindset of those who see them” – Aiden Chambers. Book corners/displays in classrooms matter.
  • joysimpson Lists available such as – if you like..(Tracy Beaker.).then you might like these… Librarians to help and use of Google docs to create.
  • missbrownsword children are never too old to be read to, brings books to life for them.
  • missbrownsword get authors into school.
  • daveterron When having silent reading, read a book as well. Set an example and they’ll follow. (Sound advice, I have done this since I trained to teach.)
  • missbrownsword use reading journals to encourage kids to engage with what they’re reading.
  • Joga5 In Primary have storytelling at break and lunchtimes – could be MDSAs, staff, volunteers (1 school I know has crowdsource events!)
  • DKMead @missbrownsword have you seen It has a great structure for reading logs encouraging thoughtful interaction with texts.
  • Joga5 Remember that reading has to be uncomfortable and challenging at times (challenge, subject matter, genre etc).
  • Joga5 (Primary) Swap teachers around to read to classes on regular occasions.
  • Joga5 Kids aren’t stupid. Don’t restrict an emphasis on reading to World Book Day & Book Week – be consistent with fun splurges of events.
  • missbrownsword when I was a bookseller I often went into schools to do reading workshops, teachers – make friends with booksellers!
  • missbrownsword RT @MichaelRosenYes My 20 point ‘how to make a book-loving school’ at
  • damoward RT @jamesmichie: use a wide variety of texts in lessons 2 let them experience different types of writing & language.
  • jamesmichie use wallwisher as a book review page to encourage reading – get students to write a short summary, opinion and include a picture of the book.
  • jamesmichietake your new Year 7s to the library often, teach them how to select a book to read – encourage them to explore.
    • BiancaH80@jamesmichie That’s a great idea. Sounds so simple but it’s so important. I haven’t taken mine once. I will next week.
      • jamesmichie @BiancaH80 thanks, when I had a Year 7 class I took them at least once per half term – I sat with them & discussed their choices.
  • jamesmichie when studying a class novel get students to buy/download it – ownership of the text helps them to value it.
  • BiancaH80 We do literature circles at our school – started last year. I’d like to do it once a term. Mini-bookclubs.
  • BiancaH80 These bookmarks are great: Get them to write you a letter about their book.
  • IDrumly Make a museum of artifacts as you read. Encourage food, clothes, diary. Design FaceBook pages for characters. Choose actors for a new movie adaptation.
  • jamesmichie great presentation about reading strategies by Bill Boyd: and lots more great material on his blog:
  • AntHeald My school is using AR – Definitely working for some.
I hope that if you are reading this you are finding it useful?  If you have not contributed yet please join the discussion and share your ideas via Twitter using the hash tag #edread.Image courtesy of Hannes Treichl on Flickr.