5 words of inspiration = the role of the 21C teacher?

This morning I caught up on the thoughts and actions of my Twitter PLN. As always I email the best tweets to my own account to reflect on at a later time (although this has become a huge TO-DO folder of late). One tweet by Braden Kelley (@innovate) caught my eye:

Creative Thinking Exercises for Successful Groups – http://su.pr/1fv165 – Mike Brown – #innovation #groups #mgmt #creativity #success

It was an article by Mike Brown which focussed on five words of inspiration which he tied to a creative thinking project: enthusiasm, youth, brain, helping others and fear. It struck me that these words resonate with the work that teachers do on a daily basis (yes, even at the weekend).


I believe that if you teach without enthusiasm you disadvantage your pupils. Not only is your enthusiasm infectious, it’s inspiring.


Mike commented that he “encouraged the organization members to look to children in their programs as a source for ideas.” – teachers do this all the time (yes, even at the weekend).

I still use a video clip of my daughter – recorded when she was 4 years old – describing an idea she had for a computer game involving a butterfly and some flowers. (I’ll upload it and embed here later). The task was to watch the video and then try to explain exactly what Mia wanted them to create. It was a very challenging but entertaining task and I still laugh when I watch her go off on tangents. She is very much my daughter!

I also regularly take ideas for future lessons or directions from class pupils: my games-based learning project evolved last year to use Little Big Planet after a discussion with a senior pupil who played the game at home; my S2 class came up with over 50 ideas relating to an ICT powered P7 induction website, featuring games, teacher profiles, an interactive map of the school, audio files, amongst other things. What had intended to be a 10-minute intro to the lesson became the entire lesson and has guided my planning for them for the entire school session; my S3 classes are currently investigating ZX Spectrum games with the aim of recreating some of them in Scratch or Game Maker – this was inspired by the donation of 3 ZX Spectrums by a pupil just before Christmas.


This is basically reflection – something teachers are getting very good at and which sometimes gives them restless nights of worry!

Helping Others

Do I really have to explain? Well, apart from the obvious, getting one class to consider and become supporters of another is a central theme in Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence. But it has been going on for years without being highlighted just not consistently. Now the majority of my planning for practical tasks starts with the idea of developing something for the benefit of another.


Mike referred to this as an “inhibitor to progress”, but I’d like to also call it a target. If the teacher (and their pupils) are not at least a little nervous of what is to come then where is the challenge? How are all the people in that room developing and learning? Consolidating is one thing – coasting is another thing entirely. I had a discussion with my O/H about workload recently as I continuously reinvent and revise – she felt it isn’t necessary –  I do know that sometimes it won’t make any impact on 80% of my class but if simplifying a paragraph or inserting a more meaningful practical task or just rearranging the order of lessons to give more time to explore a concept in detail helps 2 pupils to succeed then I feel I am – in turn – succeeding as their teacher. My fear is that one day they won’t need me to do anything for them – but that’s not a bad fear to have.

Why current AI research meets a fail whale

Happy new year! I began teaching my seniors Artificial Intelligence theory today. this is my fifth year teaching it and each year I look forward to it more and more. I don’t claim to be anything resembling an expert but really enjoy the discussions and tangents that the topic generates.

today my lesson focussed on definitions of intelligence and how AI is defined. I’d argue that AI is never going to make progress so long as the research teams concentrate on the logical or constructivist areas – this to me seems a very male-oriented idea based on programming fundamentals – instead focussing on the emotional element and making this work should play a big part in driving AI research forward. It makes sense: we learn because we see something in it for ourselves, whether that is money, prospects, praise or enjoyment we are driven to learn by our feelings. In the past AI research has concentrated on mimicking conversation, vision, categorisation of objects or information but the machine has no ulterior motive to improve. Young babies recognise the faces of their parents or siblings because they have an emotional attachment – love is pivotal to their development. Toddlers learn to walk because standing tall increases the area they can explore and moving while standing is faster than shuffling while sitting – curiosity fires the learning. Surely if the researchers focus on getting emotional simulation right first the other areas would make leaps and bounds?

This is an open discussion that I share with my senior class – all comments are welcome especially disagreements!