The Koulumestari School – Mrs S and Mrs S

Finland 054This morning we visited The Koulumestari School in Helsinki.  Like Stirling High this is a new build and has only been open for 2 years. 

Interesting observations: 

  • Pupils don’t wear shoes inside the building, just socks.
  • They are piloting the use of mobile phones to enhance learning with one class, primary 4/5. School bought the phones.
  • Fantastic technical facilities and also a music studio.
  • Emphasis on active learning and all pupils learning together despite some having significant additional support needs.
  • They hold regular Masters Events where children show off their talents.
  • Big overlap with CfE – inter disciplinary learning and development of confidence and responsibility.
  • Use electronic document readers in the classroom.
  • Wireless technology was not inlcuded in new build however they have now added it – use laptops located throughout the school.In the afternoon visited Microsoft Offices and spent time with our Partners in Learning.  Interesting research done on Internet Safety involving both pupils and parents – fascinating results.

Going across to an island for eats tonight – no reindeer but lots of fish!!!

Some pictures from this mornings visit:

Fantastic Technical facilities in a Primary

Fantastic Technical facilities in a Primary

Corporate Culture at Microsoft

Corporate Culture at Microsoft

Wireless network in a classroom

Wireless network in a classroom

Made it through the dust cloud!

Flight was delayed due to the dust cloud. Reached our destination in the early hours of Monday morning. Four hours sleep and up for breakfast.
Visited the ICT Media Centre am.  Schools can book time and get help to produce videos, do sound engineering etc etc. In the afternoon visited  Education headquarters.  They do not have equivalent of HMIe.  Haven’t had for at least 20 years.  No school uniforms , pupils wearing hoodies and jeans mainly.  Genuine emphasis on teaching and learning.  Will see this in practice tomorrow.
It is freezing here, not nearly as warm as Brazil!  Send some virtual skarves, gloves, hot chocolate.  Off to try out the grilled fillet of reindeer , elk rillette and Lappish game selection.  Wish us luck!

Mrs S and Mrs S

Workshop 1 and a few other notes

On Friday afternoon,  the Board of Studies, started on the workshop 1 materials provided by Kati.  It was great to take time out of what has been a really busy week to talk about innovation in learning and teaching.  The materials were really helpful in focussing the discussion.  It’s only a start but a very promising one.

While Mr Hamilton was at the Stock Market Challenge on Thursday, Mr Mullin, Mr Rushton and I took part in Lianne’s virtual university on the Partners in Learning online community.  I had my Travel and Tourism class at the time and they enjoyed the technology and also the 1-1 chats we were having with Carla in Berlin.

We are also famous.  Our picture is in the Stirling Observer.  I really thought we had made it when a lady from Clyde Radio was trying to get in touch.  We talked eventually but it was about tickets for an event in the Albert Halls on Wednesday.  Mo mention of Brasil.

Stock Market Challenge

I accompanied 5 S3 pupils to Edinburgh today to take part in the Stock Market Challenge, sponsored by Standard Life.  IMG_0455We need more events like this in school.  I was given access to an online stock market resource a few months ago and encouraged to use it with my pupils to choose the 5 pupils who would get to go to Edinburgh to compete against 24 other schools.

The resource itself simulates one week on the stock market where pupils are given a nominal amount of money and the opportunity to invest in 10 fictional companies.  They have to work together as a team to decide when and what to buy and sell.  They receive daily newspaper reports, television and radio news bulletins and work within their teams to maximise their profit.

The team who made the most profit in class got to go to Edinburgh to compete.  They gave up many lunchtimes to come to my room to practice, sometimes deciding to work on their own game to practice their skills, other times choosing to practice their skills as a team.  They assumed the roles of buyer, seller, financial advisor, investment analyst and media analyst.

I believe we need to do more activities like this in schools.  Whilst learning about the stock market is important, giving pupils an insight into banking, insurance, investment management and operations, the true value of activities like this is the strengthening of team work and the fact that pupils have to work together to succeed.  It encourages them to think, to take responsibility for their decisions, to justify their actions to their team mates and to compete.  Competition is good, failure is good;  it allows us to appreciate success and to aim higher.

My team started with £13400 worth of stock and ended the week with a portfolio value of £40300.  That put them 15th out of the 25 schools involved.  They were annoyed at themselves for not coming higher.  They want to try again to achieve more.  They showed passion for success and for that reason I am really proud of them.  They worked well together and will go far.

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Curriculum for Excellence is about promoting many of these skills.  Teach the skills and the content will come was a key message that I took from my experience in Brazil.  For me, this is the way forward.


During the week in Brazil we were presented with the launch of the Partners in Learning Network.  I was previously a member of the Innovative Teachers Network, although a fairly inactive one I have to admit.

The Partners in Learning Network will be a place for SHS staff to collaborate with our group schools this coming year.  It is also a place for teachers to get some cool free Microsoft products.  The first thing I downloaded was Autocollage, an advanced computer vision and image processing program which automatically creates collages of your pictures. Researchers from all disciplines and the Cambridge Innovation Development team worked together, building Digital Tapestry and AutoCollage research into a new product. Face detection, saliency filters, and other Microsoft research identifies interesting parts of pictures. Advanced object selection and blending technologies seamlessly combine these pieces into a beautiful new AutoCollage. The animation below shows how a collage is made up of many images which are blended together.

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I quickly put some of our Brazil pictures into the program and got the above result.  It took about 2 mins and no effort.  I can see it being used across the school to promote achievement or as a different way of setting learning intentions.  The program was really easy to use.  I will experiment more and report back with ideas of how I use it with my classes.

PS – UK teachers should click the link Partners in Learning Network, select Current Country: United Kingdom (top left of the screen) and sign in with a windows live/hotmail email address.

Final thoughts on Brazil

It’s difficult to describe the last night in Brazil.  The gala dinner with everyone wearing white.  The massive tent which had been erected in the car park outside the Museum of Modern Art.  A tent huge enough to accommodate five hundred people, an orchestra, stage lighting and cinema screens.

Hundreds of bats flew overhead between the leaves of fig trees as the guests arrived welcomed by the Brazilian musicians inspired by the teachings of Ghandi.

Mr Hamilton, Mr Rushton and Mr Mullin were the centre of attention, dressed in their kilts.  They revelled in every photo call with people from all around the world (most of them beautiful women I have got to add).

Inside the tent the tables were adorned by stunning floral displays, the atmosphere was euphoric and the music from the young orchestra inspiring.  After the presentations the party escalated to a wonderful community of good spirit and happiness.  All around people were hugging, dancing and living the moment.

I am delighted to be home in Scotland.  It is true, I believe, that travel is an education, but home is home and minus three degrees on a Sunday evening in Alloa walking the dog well wrapped up is a joy in itself.  There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.

I have learnt so much.  I have laughed and cried.  I have been inspired.

My heartfelt thanks go to my travelling companions for their excellent good humour and support.

This is not the last post.  The adventure goes on for the next year and possibly beyond.  The challenge now is to share and include all members of our community in this global experience.

Loads of Photos – Mr Rushton

Great journey home.  I sat beside Mr Mullin and some interesting people on the other side.  A poet who spoke 5 languages and was horrified by my lack of Portuguese after a wek in Brazil and a man from Inverness who told me why he was an atheist.  Apart from thhose chats I slept loads – sleeping through loads of great films and only staying awake for a very cheesey chick flick about Ghosts of Past Girlfriends. 

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It was brilliant to get home – shorts felt a little out of place in the freezing cold of Edinburgh Airport but our heart were warmed (vomit time) with big reunions with our families.  Great to be back where I belong. 

As well as gving my children their Brazilian instruments (Rosie loved the whistle) I spent some time ot night uploading some photos ot this blog and to a Flickr account which you can hopefully find by following this link.


We are sitting in Sao Paulo airport reflecting on what we have learned and what we want to say at the staff meeting. It’s hard because we learned so much. Some things excited us, other things we saw moved us. We have been on a long journey and want to make sure we can get our enthusiasm across in the best way.

Perhaps we wont start by mentioning the fabulously fantastic Gala dinner last night. The event was hosted in a marquee that was a car park 3 days earlier. You will see how stunning it was when Mr Rushton uploads the pictures. We heard a fabulous orchestra who had only been together for 2 years.

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Team UK (as we became known) shared in the emotion of Ollie Bray (Depute Head Teacher from Scotland) coming second in the category for use of ICT in the community and Mandeep Atwel (teacher from England) came first. You can read more here.

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There were 5 of us in kilts from Scotland and we were not shy of attention. I have not smiled so much for photos since my wedding day!  We certainly made an impression on everyone.  I even started a conga at the end!

Blogging off now, battery about to die.  Miss Allen and I are going to beat Mr Rushton and Mr Mullin at a last few hand of bridge before we head for flight number 2 – the 12 hour one to Amsterdam.  I will hopefully sleep as we are flying through the night.