Bring on 2019!!

New Year, New Possibilities!

I would never have thought this time, last year, that I would be where I am today.

In January, 2018, I was working away as an employee with Sumdog. We were working to extend the sales per district and I was designing the curricular documents to evidence the coverage we properly claimed we achieved.

Fast forward to May and I am met with company restructuring and family tragedy. Rather than wallowing in self-pity, I got back on the horse and started Fill the Gap Learning. I have had one heck of a ride working with a number of organisations and a number of stellar people!

First up was EdChange Global. This was my first mega-conference. It spanned 24 hours of expert educators sharing their learning journey and skills. It was like no PD experience I had ever known. I thought I might check out an hour, or maybe 2. I stayed for 15 sessions and hosted 1. This was a real turning point here because it was when I met Cassie Reeder and Vlatka Butkovic! These two forces of education invited me to the party, and I just haven’t left yet.

Through William Jenkins, I met Tim Macdonald and Andrea Tolley. It was at this point that things started to really heat up. Andrea and William were floating the idea of a virual / Skype EdCamp. For those of you who don’t know what an EdCamp is, I recommend you check it out.

Through no fault of their own, William and Andrea were not able to continue with the concept, despite months of planning, so Tim, Cassie, Vlatka and I ran with the idea.

It might not have been the initial vision of the virtual EdCamp, but we built a 8, 1- hour session that brought educators together from 6 continents. We titled it Connected Educator Appreciation Day, or #CEduAD for Twitter.

Team Connected are still together and going strong, and so am I! I have worked with 5 organisations, since leaving Sumdog, and have my sights on 3 others, for Fill the Gap Learning’s near future.

It is amazing what is possible once you take that first step. It is a scary first step, I know all too well, but the second step is much less so!

I wish you all the best in your 2019 adventures. The sky is the limit, as far as I am concerned.

Connected Educator Appreciation Day, all wrapped up.

Connections, they are probably one of the strongest forces for change in a community or career: knowing someone who does something differently and has had great success with it is a strong catalyst for you to try it. Word of mouth from a friend or colleague can resonate more strongly that research alone, when referring to new strategies, practices or resources.

I have had the great pleasure of being an organiser of the first annual connected educator appreciation day. The day has been a few years old as a concept and finally took form and gained momentum this past summer time with a team of 4 exceptional leaders of change:

  • Tim MacDonald, a community manager extraordinaire (hailing from the USA) @tamcdonald;
  • Cassie Reeder, former teacher turned education consultant and co-organiser of EdChange Global (also from the USA) @cassiereederedu;
  • Vlatka Butkovic, school director and web designer (from Croatia) @Butkovicedu;
  • and me, Michael Sinclair, also a former educator turned education consultant (from Scotland).

We are the team who took an idea of connecting educators, much like a community manager would, and sharing experiences and skill sets with anyone wanting to learn. The initial idea came from William Jenkins and Andrea Tolley, who sadly were not able to join us on the breakneck speed process of planning a global professional development event; one that was by, for and about educators.

The topics that were discussed were:

  • Encouraging Change in the Classroom: Planning and Practice
  • Using Technology to Connect Outside the Classroom
  • The Role of a Technology Ambassador
  • Gamification in the Classroom
  • Promoting your Skill Set
  • Using New Technology Effectively in the Classroom
  • STEAM for the Classroom
  • Training Teachers in Schools

Each session lasted about 55 minutes and had hosts, panellists and attendees engaged with a range of relevant questions for teachers, now, in the classroom. The educators who were present were a diverse group from locations around the world: India, United States, Argentina, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sweden, Croatia, Kuwait, Romania, United Kingdom, Australia, Poland, Yemen, Tunisia, Spain, Nigeria, Jordan, Germany, Colombia. I cannot truly express the wonder and excitement I felt when I could see and hear of the experiences and ideas that were expressed about the important of relationships for learners and educators; the importance of mutual trust when building the relationships and the importance of using technology as a tool to support learning not the focus of the learning.

We are slowly polishing the videos from the event and will release them weekly with the end goal of hosting shorter, hour, sessions once a month to maintain connections and build new ones. You can check them out on our YouTube Channel. If you were a participant or attendee, we would love you thoughts on our blog, if you aren’t a member of the site yet, sign up and we’ll give you access. Search for our tweets at #CEduAD on Twitter, or follow us at @ConEduAD. Additionally, you can like our Facebook page.

I hope you will join us again, or for the first time, for one of our future events.

Connections Galore

For the past few months, I have found myself part of an amazing team that has brought together educators from 6 of the 7 continents in the world, unfortunately everyone in Antarctica was busy.

Tomorrow the 20th of October, is when we, Tim McDonald, Vlatka Butkovic, Cassie Reeder and myself will see the fruits of our labour. Connected Educator Appreciation Day sees its first annual event launched tomorrow, starting at 10am EST (with a 30 minute warm-up at 9:30).

We have designed 8 sessions, each with 2 hosts, all around the theme of connected educators and learning. The goal of this 8 hour event is to learn and share:

  • what have we done to connect that has been successful, what did we do to nurture and grow that success, how we encouraged others to experience their own success or share in ours;
  • what challenges have we faced, if we overcame them and how, if we didn’t, what steps did we take;
  • who have we met, what impact they had, what they shared, how they shared it – to encourage us to experience something similar to them;
  • what’s next?

There are no salespeople talking, though we might share what we have used and there are no experts professing to have all the answers despite a few people having a wealth of success and experience. We are all learners and we, the connected ones, have no desire to stop learning.

Come join us at Connected Educator Awareness Day, you just might have the experience or knowledge to share, which someone else is looking for to take the next step on their learning journey. Come listen, because someone else might have exactly what you need. Come experience, to help the learners under your care engage in the 21st century learning they need for our current fast paced, high tech world.

When the practice is done

Have a look at this image. 

It’s a pretty standard worksheet, no bells or whistles, just practice of arithmetic*. What I would like you to think about is what you do with it. Of course, you mark it as it has been marked, or something similar, and probably record the results. Maybe you don’t mark them wrong the same way, make your ticks are different. The question is, then what? Does it go back to the learner to correct? Does it get filed into a binder or glued into a notebook? Do you take a digital image of it and store it on the cloud? Do you file it away in a folder for reports or consultation evenings / afternoons? Maybe you think this is a starting point and they will get better with more exposure to teaching or practice in your class.

But maybe, you could use it to inform the learner’s next steps and yours!

Come again? You may say, this is one sheet in a two week plan that I have. This is only one of many pieces of practice that I have planned for addition within 20. How on earth do you expect me to change my plan now? I have deadlines, and targets, and 29 other learners in the class.

Let’s look at the page again, with some annotations this time. 

The annotations, when brought together, might inform you of the following:

  • Addition up to 10 seems OK.
  • Doubles seem to be known but perhaps not understood.
  • ’10’ does not seem to be counted for sums more than 10.
  • I need to talk with the learner about 10 and beyond

Would this be cause to begin your plan again? Well, no, but I hope it would encourage you to look at your next steps to see how you can incorporate a way of showcasing misconceptions like the ones on the worksheet in future lessons. You might miss your deadline, you might, but think about the positive benefits for the learners in your care; think about the positive benefits for you, when you go on to explore subtraction, or other ideas, and you needn’t worry (as much) about similar misconceptions occurring again? Is that worth an extra day or two? I hope so. And, who knows, you might even be able to incorporate exploring the misconceptions within your initial plan without missing a beat.

By approaching practice as more than an exercise in displaying understanding but also a way to gather information for future learning, you can improve both your experience in the classroom, as a guide, and that of the learners with whom you work.

A wise lecturer in math once asked my first year class a great question: what is mathematics? After a number of attempts, the response that came closest, in her mind, was, the study of patterns. As an educator, I feel it is my job to find patterns in learning, which often come from patterns in mistakes. As an educator in math, I feel it is one of my main goals to encourage an awareness of patterns in a) the larger world and b) in the abstract world of forms and figures.

Take the time to do more than mark correct or incorrect! Look for the patterns! Be a mathematician!

*The worksheet was made and shared on OneNote so as to not waste paper and allow me to keep all learner efforts organised and shareable with the home. All feedback here is available to learners and their families wherever they have an internet connection.

EdCamps – What’s that about?

So, after attending the EdChange Global event, I reflected on one of the sessions, and quite a bit at that. It was titled, “So, you want to run and EdCamp” (the video will be shared soon). The idea that came to me upon first heading EdCamp was summer camp, where teachers came to support learners in a range of areas that children wanted to learn about.

I missed the mark a little but, but the truth might seem a little crazier: Edcamps are where educators go, in their free time, voluntarily and attend sessions without prior knowledge of what the session is going to be. Kind of like a blind date for professional development. Well, blind dates let you see the person as you walk across the restaurant to meet them, which is about all the warning you get at an EdCamp. Sound crazy?!? Well, yeah, it is. Until you attend. Then it seems like what every PD session should be.

Imagine it’s the beginning of the school year and you have your priorities. So, you pull out the master book with all the PD opportunities and leaf through until you find one that you want. Great, your happy, box is ticked. In two months, you’ll spend an hour or so, after school, with 30 other like minded educators discussing the topic you selected, listening to an expert sharing their successes, maybe resources, maybe strategies, and maybe other things. Box ticked, back to work and you have a lot that you can apply to your teaching.

Now, an EdCamp. You have a date and a venue. It could be a school, an office, another building, or it could be online. You don’t have a box to tick to choose your session. You know where /when and maybe who if there are others going with you or a known educator is advertising it. You don’t know what. Yes, that’s right, you’re going to a PD session without knowing what the session topic is going to be.

But, when you get there, you see a board, or a series of tables, or some other system of recording ideas: you get to suggest the session topics there and then. In fact, if you suggest it, you might have a hand in encouraging participation.

Example: I like being connected with other educators. I have a professional learning network (PLN), which is fairly diverse, but I am always looking for it to grow. Why not suggest that for a session.

So, my first EdCamp (which will also have video available soon), I did just that. I had no plan, no outline, no script and I did not have all the answers but I did have questions. The thing is, the other participants were in the same boat – they had questions, answers and were willing to share. What a lovely, organic experience. It didn’t matter how ‘off-topic’ the conversation got, that was the point! The point was that there be conversation, sharing, connections! A shout out to Sarah Thomas (@sarahdateechur) the founder of #Edumatch for being part of the organising (organizing) team, thank you for this opportunity.

My first EdCamp and I am itching for more. Maybe a physical one in the UK could be coming soon. I know there are connected educators on my side of the pond, maybe they just haven’t been exposed to this free system! Here’s another participant’s take on the EdCamp.

Let’s get connected! #CEduAD

A New Journey

Taking a step away from safety and security can be a very daunting prospect. The number of start-ups that managed only the first step is a testament to this.

Being a leader without any followers is an equally daunting prospect. The number of people looking at you as though you have lost your mind are going to far outweigh those that choose to follow, well, at the start anyway. Once you get that first follower though, and maybe a second, there are not quite so many incredulous looks. Your followers might even lead their own tribe too.

I am at the start of my journey and aim to go the distance. I know what I have left and I am glad that I have. I know what I want and feel I know the best direction in which to travel.

This road isn’t straight or smooth. There are no short cuts and the rest stops are few. But I have had successes already and when success is achieved it only encourages you to greater heights.

Where I was was safe and secure, but I had my place and was fixed there. I am looking ahead to greater freedom for myself, my family and others around me.

Who else wants to join me?

EdChange Global 18 has been wound up

EdChange GlobalWow, wow and wow!

What an amazing event built and run by an amazing group of individuals. I have never before felt so buoyed by others to stay and learn at the next event, and then the next one too.

When I first heard of EdChange Global, I thought it would be an ideal place to do some networking, build my PLN and maybe present something. I designed a presentation and clicked on 2 sessions that looked interesting. Then, the introductory session happened…

The energy was palpable, the enthusiasm infectious and, as the intro finished about 7pm BST, I thought I might attend a couple more. That was Friday evening. I went to bed at 12am. I got up just before 8am. 8am! On a Saturday! Yeah, I know!

I am so happy that I did!

I had initially clicked on two events before the session started, I attended 15 at the end of the 24 hours. 15 PD sessions in one day. I didn’t even know that was possible. And sure, people were seeing my name and face and hearing my words, but that isn’t why I stayed. I stayed because I was learning. I stayed because the people were so happy to be there. This is at 2am CST, happy, to be there!

No where else and at no other time have I ever experienced anything like this. I need to be part of this again, and I am dying to be a part of something like this in the UK.

Anyone else interested?

Below I am adding in some movers and shakers you should check out if you happened to stumble across this blog post (and below that are the sponsors from the event, you guys rock):

 @ @   @educatoralex @LanguageToolbox @ireneamelia1 


Sorry for anyone I missed. Looking forward to the next one.

Edchange Global

Join me at for a celebration of Global Change in Education.

Choose from a vast array of presentations – including mine, which discusses the need for building relationships before reporting on learning progress.

The link to my presentation is and you can access resources to it in the previous blog post.

I hope to see you there.

Developing community before writing reports

How often have you made it through the year to the parent-teacher-learner conference and are meeting a parent for the first time? I am guilty of this in the past, but think the approach in the video below has supported change in this area.

I have a video as a walk through and the initial presentation I used to present to two years of newly qualified teachers. If you would like to contribute to the presentation, please either add your email in the comments below or email me directly at

The Prezi presentation can be found here.

Learner Expectations

I have been reading about Pisa recently, and some of the findings of the most recent maths assessment. Of note, is the difference between how some countries manage learners who are behind their peers.

The most successful countries seem to follow one basic mantra:

Expect no less of learners who are facing challenges to their learning.

But how, you might ask? By beginning this from the beginning, is the answer: learners who are identified as have support needs are supported to achieve; they are not given diminished expectations, they are given support to achieve, and progress, with their peers.

How uplifting for teachers and learners to have ‘whole class learning’ all year round! How uplifting for all learners to experience progression over the course of a year! How uplifting for all learners to have a voice in the classroom at all times for all things, rather than some learners being taken out for support on their ‘alternate plan’! How uplifting for shared success for learners in a classroom, rather than the ‘best’ or ‘most confident’ receiving the majority of accolades!

For countries faring worse on the Pisa test, learners with difficulties had support plans, expectations were lowered and involvement with the life of the classroom was decreased. As you can imagine, if a learner, who has had a lower expectation of learning, takes the same assessment as a peer, who has had a higher expectation of learning, the results will not and cannot be the same!

This problem is easy to describe but difficult to solve, unless a forward thinking individual, with enough authority, encourages a shift in how educators approach expectations for all learners. If schools start supporting learners from the start, while maintaining high expectations for everyone, who’s to say what might happen?