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Absolute Beginner

February 19, 2012

There is something liberating about starting over. I have been very quiet online for a considerable time as I have been very busy dealing with so many other things it’s not even funny any more. (It doesn’t help that I don’t have Internet access at home at the moment! Come on Scottish Hydro… who takes 4 weeks to connect to the Internet nowadays!)

Over the past year or so, I have found myself drifting further and further away from the things that matter most to me: my family, and the joy of being a classroom teacher. Both of these have been seriously affecting my health – though I hope to keep the two and a half stone I lost between August and December off! To cut a long story short, I have elected to step down from being a Principal Teacher so that I can concentrate on being the best teacher I can be… and this is where it gets interesting.

One thing that has struck me is that it’s almost impossible to find any good peer-reviewed research into the impact of ICT on Literacy. This bothers me immensely, because, while I am convinced that effective use of ICT in English (and other subjects) does have an impact, I can’t prove it… and I really wish I could.

To this end, I am in preliminary discussions with a number of Universities about undertaking some research into the possible impact (good or bad) of ICT on Literacy. I want to use the freedom of being a classroom teacher again to allow me to get back to developing and learning in a way that I have found almost impossible for the past 2 or 3 years.

In the first instance, I am looking for any references and studies that you may know about and that I should read. The Stanford Study of Writing is an interesting and ongoing study of Writing/Literacy in University students, and here in Scotland, there is the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy which I am going to take as a starting point. Similarly, the OECD study is a document I need to look at closely.

I have the shadow of Joe Nutt looking over my shoulder for, though I find him to be incredibly sceptical of anything “new”, I keep finding myself in agreement with his dismissal of the (as I see it) ’touchy-feely’ arguments. I think there are results to be found, and they need to be measurable and replicable if they are to have any value.

This is the start of a new chapter in my life. I am as passionate about education now as I have ever been, and I hope to contribute something meaningful to the conversation. If nothing else, I am more happy in my professional life than I have been for a few years. If I am fortunate, the rest will follow.

Comments and suggestions welcome.


11 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2012 6:54 pm

    Best of luck, a difficult choice to make but one I can completely understand, albeit from a slightly different set of circumstances. Looking forward, with interest, to see where your ICT in English research takes you and to more posts.

    • Mr W permalink
      February 19, 2012 7:17 pm

      Thanks for your kind comment. In a sense, my health made the decision for me, but I have no regrets.

      I’m actually keen to see what the future holds. Most of my really influential thoughts came before I was a PT, I hope to be shaking up Scottish Education for a good while yet! 😉

  2. February 19, 2012 6:56 pm

    Wow, Neil – incredibly honest and very moving post. Have had similar thoughts myself – the English PT burden is immense and leaves little time for creativity, innovation, or even just honest to goodness teaching and learning, and enjoyment of what we came into teaching for. Very thought provoking post.

    All best – Liz

    • Mr W permalink
      February 19, 2012 7:18 pm

      Thanks Liz. You know as well as anyone how tough it is to be a PT nowadays. My health wasn’t going to take much more of it.

      I have no idea what the future holds, but I am already much happier — as indeed, my classes and colleagues have noted!

  3. February 19, 2012 8:52 pm

    Go buddy go 😉

    Wondered what you were up to.

    Best of luck with new direction. You are an important and influential voice Neil and would be great if you helped more teachers find their confidence and voice – keep on shaking

    All the very best


    • February 19, 2012 9:33 pm

      Thanks Joe.
      It does mean I’m available for more weddings, barmitzvahs and funerals.

      Keep your eyes peeled as I’ll be posting in the next day or so about a forthcoming speaking/discussion gig at Dundee University. I’ll be addressing the question of whether there is a pedagogy of elearning… The burning question – as ever – is whether it is a hard or soft ‘g’. 😉

  4. John permalink
    February 19, 2012 10:53 pm

    Hi Neil,
    Just got here from your next post. Glad to read you. Although your stepping away from the PT post it sounds like you will be busy, novel, uni stuff being a teacher. Best wishes of course, looking forward to reading your research and hope to see you soon.

  5. February 20, 2012 12:49 am

    Sounds like a good decision. Best of luck – will be interested to see what the next chapter brings!

  6. February 20, 2012 8:22 pm

    Hi Neil,
    Just catching up with your news. Most of the time we are so wrapped up in our own trials and tribulations it seems we have little time for others. Sorry to hear about the health issues but the fact that you have taken things into your own hands rather than let things continue to happen to you shows great spirit. We spend a great deal of our lives agonising about our next promotion or job title only to realise (eventually) that it doesn’t matter a damn. It’s being the teacher which matters, and doing it to the best of our ability. All the best with all the new beginnings!


  7. February 24, 2012 1:00 pm

    Thank goodness. Just catching up – but I sensed from Twitter that there had been a change for the better. Think you’ve made a great move – tho’ bear in mind that I was a perpetual spear-bearer! 🙂

  8. March 22, 2012 8:14 pm

    Hi Neil, I am miles behind. Similarly for myself life took over and i’m not online nearly as much as i used to be so missed your news. All the best with it, and i’m looking forward to hearing how you get on.

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