Wednesday, 28 November 2012

KS3 Assessment: what purpose does it serve?

A pdf archive of the chat  is available here

One suggestion to come out of tonight's chat was that we could have a virtual meeting some night to give coordinators a chance to share ideas. This could be via Twitter or maybe through a Google+ hangout. The aim would be to provide peer support for coordinators and exchange ideas.

It was also suggested that tasks could be exchanged between schools on a like-for-like basis - credit to @mapsman. More on this later.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

How can in-school CPD be improved?

A very interesting #NIedchat on how in-service can be used more effectively and what was striking was the number of people who believed that their in-school CPD was worthwhile.

A poll reveal that most participants in the chat believed that their in-school CPD was effective - I'm not sure how representative this is of the entire teaching profession but it was encouraging given the bad name that in-service training has in the main.

A collaborative document was also produced on ideas for CPD sessions in schools. You can view it here.

And finally, a link to the archive of the chat were you can catch up with all the great ideas that were shared.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Could you host #NIedchat?

If you are reading this then it's more than likely that you are a teacher who already values the opportunity to share ideas with other practitioners from near and far via social networks such as Twitter.

If  this sounds like you then you're just the person we are looking for!

At #Niedchat we are always on the look out for teachers like you to host our regular Wednesday night chat. No doubt you have seen #NIedchat in operation and maybe you've contributed to the discussion but now you have the chance to take the reins for a night and see where it takes you. As host you have the opportunity to provide the topics for discussion as well as prompt the discussion throughout the duration of the chat.


Contact us via our Twitter account or if you prefer you can contact one of the regular hosts.We are happy to talk you through the process (it's simple really) and there are always a few of the regular hosts on hand to help out if needs be. It's great fun and very rewarding.

Go on. You know you want to ;)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Daithi's amazing collaboration idea rocks #NIedchat!

What an amazing #NIedchat we had last Wednesday!

The collaborative writing exercise organised by @dmurray742 certainly caught the imagination of the #NIedchat community. Together we have produced an amazing document cram-packed with ideas to use in your classroom. A huge thanks goes out to Daithi for bringing this to fruition - it was the first time our community tried such a thing and it wasn't without it's risks but the gamble paid off.

Daithi has written an excellent article about the collaborative writing event on his blog.

You can access the collaborative document here.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Crowd Sourcing in Education

Wednesday 7 November 2012 @ 8.30


‘I not only use all the brains I have, but all the brains I can borrow.’
 (Woodrow Wilson)

This Wednesday’s #Niedchat is a little different to our previous chats.

I’m proposing that instead of discussing a topic of educational interest, we spend our sixty minutes crowd sourcing and creating a collaborative document that can be referred to and used in each of our classrooms.

The philosophy for this week’s #Niedchat is firmly based in the maxim ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ – and that when we harness the phenomenal experience, expertise and ideas that exist in the #Niedchat ‘community’, we have the potential to create something huge that will exist as a lasting document.

So… to specifics – over the sixty minutes of our weekly #Niedchat I’d like to run a collaborative Google Doc, along side the usual Twitter feed.

The document is accessible to anyone with the link, and I’m inviting everyone in the #Niedchat community to take the document, and add to it however they wish.  I've suggested some titles to start the ball rolling – but these titles are not exclusive, or are not in any order of importance.  This document belongs to us all, so if you feel there is something missing that would improve the document, feel free to add a heading and hopefully others will help populate it.

Hopefully the document will become populated with lots of great ideas, tips and links that can be shared and used by the #Niedchat community when we go back into our classrooms, and will remain as an archive for future reference when needed.


1.  You don’t need a Google Account to access the document – the link should allow anyone on the web to access it and to edit. 

2.  Please put your Twitter name in brackets after your contribution – this will allow you to take credit for the idea, and will help facilitate further sharing of good ideas through Twitter.

3.  Feel free to post as many ideas, links and resources as you like.  You can jump from topic to topic, or add new topics if you’d prefer.

4.  Please don’t remove any other contributor’s ideas.  Everyone’s contributions are valid and have a place in the document.

At the end of the sixty minutes, I’ll publish the document digitally and share the link with the #Niedchat community.  You can then bookmark this and use it whenever and wherever you see fit.

This is a very different #Niedchat from our usual Wednesday conversation.  We’re going to be creative and to share the millions of great ideas that exist in our own good practice with our colleagues.  I’m convinced that this model of collaborative crowd sourcing is an extremely effective way of facilitating professional development, and it leaves a lasting archive that can be referred to again and again.

For those who are interested, I saw this workshop demonstrated at the BLC conference in Boston this summer.  The amazing Tom Barrett led the workshop in a room with fifty educators all collaborating on a Google Doc.  It struck me that this model could work just as effectively via Twitter and #Niedchat, and I’m very grateful to Damien who has given me the time to try out this idea.  I really hope it works.

Thanks for sharing and enjoy the wonderful document we’re going to create this Wednesday night.

- Dáithí Murray

PS – While most of the creative work will be taking place on the collaborative Google Doc, please feel free to continue ‘chatting’ on Twitter using our usual hashtag #Niedchat.  This might be a good place to catch your breath from all the collaborating and bounce ideas off other members of the community. PPS – Link to the Google Doc is:  (The document is now open.  If you’re unable to make Wednesday night’s #Niedchat – feel free to ‘drop in now’ and leave your idea!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

NI Education System - Blue Sky thinking

The topic for our chat on Wednesday 10th October 2012:

'If you could redesign the NI education system which bits would you keep, what would go and what bits would you borrow from other education systems?'

This topic was inspired by a tweet from @tgeducation:

How Finland Survived the Financial Crisis and Built a World Class Public Education System – by Pasi Sahlberg

...and that prompted this reply from @AnGaeilgeoir1

@tgeducation What are the top 10 things that you would like to see implemented here? That would surely promote a debate on it

So, what would you like to see in a revamped NI education system?

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Poll for Wednesday 26th September

This poll closes at 8.30 on Tuesday 25th September.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

What do you want to talk about?

We were delighted to see so many teachers taking part in our first #niedchat of 2012-13 last Wednesday night. If you were one of them we hope you found the discussion interesting, engaging and maybe even inspiring!

I order for the weekly chat to remain relevant and useful to teachers we are always looking for topic suggestions. You can make a suggestion via the link below.

Friday, 24 August 2012

NIedchat is back...and we want you to join us!

Niedchat is back on Wednesday 5th September and we want you to join the growing community of teachers who are sharing good practice on Twitter.

What is #NIedchat

#NIedchat is a weekly chat for teachers in Northern Ireland which takes place at 8.30 each Wednesday evening on Twitter.

What do we talk about?

Participants in #NIedchat choose the topic for discussion each week. You can see an archive of all our previous chat topics by visiting our wiki.

Who runs #Niedchat?

#NIedchat is run by the teachers who take part in the discussions. We are not linked to any education bodies - it is truly for teachers, by teachers.

Why are we doing this?

We are doing this because we've found that Twitter is possibly the most effective tool for sharing ideas and learning from other teachers. Think of it like a staffroom chat only you are talking to teachers from across Northern Ireland and further afield. We have successfully developed a supportive community of innovative teachers who are keen to learn from each other and become the best teachers that they possibly can be.

Who can take part?

The chat is for teachers in Northern Ireland but we have attracted interest from teachers throughout Ireland, the UK and even from across the Atlantic. If you have an interest in the topic we are discussing then you are welcome to take part.

How to take part.

Simply search '#Niedchat' in Twitter and you can follow the stream of Tweets from our community of teachers. At the beginning of each weekly chat the host will ask chat participants to introduce themselves. We would encourage you to take the plunge and dive straight in although we know that a lot of people new to Twitter prefer to watch at first. If you prefer just to watch the chat without contributing your own thoughts (what the Twitter community calls 'lurking' - not a nice word I know!) you can let us know you are there by retweeting tweets that you find interesting or helpful.

Never taken part in a Twitter chat before? Here's how:

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

What is a 'beermeet'?

Friday 24th August @7.30
The John Hewitt Bar, Belfast.

Beermeets are an opportunity for teachers to meet socially for a chat. There is no agenda, no running order, no minutes and no apologies.

The first beermeet organised by the #niedchat community is happening on Friday 24th August @ 7.30 in the John Hewitt Bar, Belfast.

All are welcome :)

Monday, 11 June 2012

End of Term Review

In order for #Niedchat to improve we would welcome some feedback .

If you have taken part in or followed our discussions this year please take 5 minutes to complete this survey.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Facebook and Twitter in the Classroom

It was fitting that in the week of Twitter’s 5th Birthday the NIedchat community were asking whether or not schools could ignore Social Networking sites for much longer.

It was plainly evident that the vast majority of the teachers who took part in the discussion felt that schools should be trying to utilise the huge potential of social media – probably not surprising since the participants are all avid users of social media – however here was a belief that social networking sites have become uch an integral part of the world we live in now that it does not make sense to exclude them form the classroom.

A number of teachers shared how they were using Twitter.

This idea came from Trevor Connolly. He is using Twitter as part of a literacy initiative. His students are sharing articles they are reading using the hashtag #read1thing (

Trevor has share the instruction document below.

The poll this week threw up some interesting results. Of the participants who responded most stared that their schools do not use Social Networking sites in an official capacity. Also, the poll suggests that teachers would like to use Twitter in the classroom but are less sure about using facebook. You can view the poll results by clicking on the link below.

Selected Tweets

If we're not meeting our students at least halfway in the world they live in, the world they communicate in -then we
may give up. @dmurray742


Schools should have an official FB & TW account because if they don't, students might do it themselves @johnmayo

Other Links

Using Facebook in Education - via @dmchugh675

An alternative to Twitter suggest by @AnGaeilgeoir1 via @mapsman

Teaching with Twitter - via @catherinecronin

Interesting ways to use Twitter in the Classroom

Tweet of the Week

To ignore Twitter & Facebook gives students the impression that what happens in schools does not happen in real life.


Thursday, 8 March 2012

"We are the people we've been waiting for"

There was a celebratory mood in the camp last Wednesday night as we basked in the enduring glow of what was an amazing event - TMBelfast2012. It was obvious from the big turnout in the chat that the TeachMeet the previous Friday had certainly served one of it's purposes, namely to "get the word out there" that we exist!

It's pretty hard to write a blog post about the discussion, I thought it would be better to let a number of the "#niedchatterers" speak for themselves.

On the buzz:

"We are the people we have been waiting for!" @he4therw4t5on

"...because of Twitter it felt like we were in a room with friends despite many of us meeting for the first time" @dmurray742 

On the learning

"I loved meeting others with similar ideas - great shared enthusiasm." @hezmar

"Presenters made it look easy, good ambiance, no competitiveness - really good!" @medv2

"Great to see what's being done elsewhere and get new ideas" @s1taylor1

 "Though the session was fantastic. The enthusiasm you guys have for teaching is inspiring." @jonnyholmes86

The way forward

"We need a poster like "Your Country Needs You!" - get those great teachers out there to come and share the wealth." dwatson802

What was plain to see in the discussion is that TMBelfast has created a real buzz and it is now imperative that the momentum is not wasted Plans are afoot for TMBelfast2 and there were murmurings of TMNorthWest too... more on that at a later date I'm sure. 

A big congrats then to the organizers of TMBelfast - Barry, Amanda, Daithi, Corrine and Heather. Great work guys and judging by the tweets this week it is already having an impact in the classroom.

You can watch all the presentations from TMBelfast here

Tweet of the week

Seriously...could you look past @johnmayo 's comment about the format of TMBelfast? 

The question was asked by @dmurray742 
"What did you think about the 2 and 7 minute presentation slots?"

John's answer:
"The format was like a hockey skirt - long enough to cover everything, short enough to keep interest!" 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Session 9 - 8th February 2012

Dealing with Teacher Workload

It was obvious from the conversation that many teachers feel overwhelmed in their jobs. Many work late into the evenings and report 50 hour + weeks. The causes of this are many. Among those cited were

  • Pressures from the inspectorate to show evidence of Self Evaluation and the need to leave a paper trail for every decision.

  • Many teachers and schools still lack sharing culture although many of the participants reported that they were seeing more sharing taking place.
  • Many teachers are incredibly conscientious and often adapt and re-adapt resources to suit different learners. It was stated that it would be easier to teach out of a textbook but that this would be short-changing the learners.
  • Teaching is a never ending job; finish one task and there are countless others that can be done.
  • More experience usually means more responsibilities but same amount of time. This is a struggle for teachers who have reached a certain level of seniority in their schools but who still retain a large amount of teaching.
  • NQT’s find it a struggle to adapt to the pressures of teaching.

Half way through the focus switched to strategies to take some of the burden off of teachers.
  • @hezmar spoke of her schools Digital Leaders programme were the children take responsibility for coordinating ICT activities in the school including the delivery of a club to their peers. A great idea!
  • C3B4Me was seen as a good way to take some of the pressure of the teacher to do menial tasks during lessons by fostering a culture of independent learning.
  • Peer Assessment was having mixed success with teachers being reluctant to trust the judgments arrived at by students however many teachers reported that they do now try to make the marking of work an integral part of the learning experience.
  • Students creating resources such as worksheets and information booklets/wikis can be rewarding in terms of learning and provide a resource for the teacher.
  • Resources Sharing was a popular idea amongst the mfl teachers present and Dropbox was considered to be an excellent way for teachers across the world to share resources. For more follow #mfltwitterati
  • Wikis were also mentioned as a good way for a learning areas within a school to collaborate on resources. A good example here from Grosvenor .
  • Giving students in each class responsibility for checking attendance sheets or distributing resources.
  • Using self marking assignments such as those on Yacapaca

General Advice
  • Learning to say no was seen as important (if difficult)
  • Prioritising – being able to differentiate between the desirable and the necessary
  • Keeping your focus on Teaching and Learning and being prepared to speak out when administrative tasks are impinging on this.
  • Think about how much control you have in the classroom. Is it really necessary for you to always control everything that is done and said.
  • Get children actively involved in teaching and learning. Try to limited teacher talk as far as possible (100 words challenge!)

As if to reinforce the importance of tonight’s topic two teachers reported that after the was finished that they were returning to marking books and preparing lessons. The time was 9.30pm…a full 13 hours after the beginning of the school day!

Tweet of the Week

“Key is to not do it all yourself, I’m realising, and realising that makes me better leader - not worse,”

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Session 8 1st February 2012

 Tonight’s NIedchat was a topical one with the announcement by Apple the previous week  that they were ‘giving away’ the authoring software ‘iBook Author’ which enables Mac users to create interactive textbooks and make them available for students with iPads to download via iTunes.

The interactive textbooks allow students give students the ability to create notes on pages, highlight text, watch embedded video and manipulate 3D images and they can also keep a track of their progress via in-build tests.

You can see a demo of the interactive textbook by visiting the link below (via @dmurray742)

I terms of the possibilities I was generally thought that the development was to be welcomed. @dmurray742 described Apple’s announcement as
 “the most disruptive thing in education in the last 400 years” 
the adjective ‘disruptive’ being used in it’s most positive interpretation.

A number of the participants were concerned about how ready teachers were to embrace this change and the question was asked about how would teacher’s find the time to create interactive textbooks. A number of the languages teachers who took part remarked that as they produce most of their resources already then this would not be a problem. What also emerged was that interactive textbooks can be updated and that these updates will sync with the student’s iPad meaning that the books could be written during the duration of the course; the modern equivalent of being one page ahead of them!

The next issue was cost. This is possibly not the domain of teacher’s however some were worried that access to this technology would be costly and that in may cases this cost could not be met by parents. 

A general discussion then ensued on the use of other devices in the classroom including mobile phones. The new IT contract ENNI came in for some praise as it intends to open up access to student owned devices and this was largely welcomed with the usual worries around responsible use. A topic for another day maybe.

A very productive meeting and it was clear that those present welcomed the possibilities that new technologies offer to education and that they would like to see some investment into this area in their own schools and in the eduction sector in general. 

Tweet of the Week goes to @AnGaeilgeoir1 who reminds us that technology is only a tool which requires a skilled user if it's to be effective:

"iPads and iTextbooks aren't the answer on its own. Knowing when and how to use them is more important."

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Session 7 25th January 2012

"How can ICT be used effectively in the classroom?"

A very wide ranging discussion was had this week. Many of the teachers who participated were actively involved in embedding ICT tools into their everyday teaching whether it be the use ion Nintendo DS for numeracy to the use of class blogs to highlight achievement and to record learning.

It was generally agreed that using ICT in lessons helps to engage and enthuse students and creates a link with their ‘outside of school’ lives. It was also suggested that the uptake of new technologies is very depended on the teacher although it was suggested that CCEA’s ICT Accreditation scheme was helping to broaden the reach of ICT.  

Teacher’s were very willing to share links to their own work and to web tools which are having an impact in their classrooms. I have tried to consolidate all the links below but if there are any omissions please add them in the comments section at the bottom of this article.




Scratch Tutorials

Web2 Links

Online Learning/Networking

Interesting Ways to use ICT in the classroom

Word Clouds


Friday, 20 January 2012

Session 6 18th Jan 2012

"What are you hopes for the future of ICT in NI schools?"

A very popular topic this week which arose out of this announcement made at BETT last week.

Key messages from the discussion

The contract awarded to Northgate to deliver ENNI (education Network Northern Ireland) will see a shift in emphasis from hardware to cloud services.

The proposed service will involve My School portal which will require a single login to access a range of services including such things as school folders and a VLE . As this is cloud based it can be accessed from anywhere.

Schools will have flexibility in terms of devices. Students will be able to connect to the network via any browser therefore smartphones, laptops, tablet PCs, ipads etc will all be able to access the managed service. This was warmly welcomed although there was some discussion around equality of access and what provision if any would be made for schools in areas of high deprivation.

The issue of teacher training was also addressed. There was some agreement that the cascade training model was probably not very effective. ICT specialist and enthusiasts were sent on training courses but met resistance when they returned to school. Other approaches were mention and the example of online training shown by #edtechcc was given as a possible example of how things could be done. 

Some concerns were raised over how schools in areas of disadvantage would compete with schools where all children could bring a mobile device to school.

On the whole this was a very positive night on #NIedchat and there was a definite vibe that we could be on the cusp of something really big.

Selected Tweets

I'm excited to hear/read ENNI's vision for ICT in NI Schools in the next few years. @dmurray742

Well it's nice to hear that the use of smart phones will be allowed in a protected environment! @stiofanoc

Are there equality issues re access? Not all kids have smart phones. @dmchugh675

How ready are teachers to embrace change in their ICT? what would make the transition easier? @not_out_97

I think many teachrs feel o'whelmed by tech & think they need 2 B doing everything, I sugg starting small & evaluate benefit 2 T&L @medv2

Can I move conversation back to mobile devices? Why r we focusing on kit in classrooms when kids have powerful tech in pockets? @dmurray742

Schls will access a range of apps and educational resources through N'gates My-School learning portal." Anyone experienced this? @dmchugh675

Portal will be personalised "way in" to pretty much everything - from MIS
to Apps; datastore to VLE  @not_out_97

That's were we need to be investing money! Better wifi - more bandwith. Let the kids bring the tech to the room. @dmurray742

Much has been learned from the past & much of past 10yrs was necessary to get everyone up to a level... @not_out_97

New service will be browser agnostic @not_out_97

Tweet of the Week

Daithi Murray wins TOTW for this contribution but to be honest he could have won it for any one of ten posts in the chat.

The man’s a machine!

Why are we focusing on kit in classrooms when kids have powerful tech in their pockets?”

Jargon of the Week

"Browser Agnostic" via  @not_out_97 


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Session 5 11th January 2012

#Niedchat on Wednesday 11th Jan 2012

“Should teachers have a dress code?”

Opening Shots

I think that professional formality that suit/tie/dress code imposes builds barriers between pupils/teachers/parents (@dmurray742)

I feel more professional, especially with exam classes when I am smarter. (@MsRGraham)

I think a good dress code creates a collaborative learning atmosphere between pupils and teachers (@MrMalcontent)

I think 'well dressed' is the key, a scruffy suit can be just as bad if not worse than Tidy t-shirt and jeans (@Medv2)


I also like a relaxed day - we all do, but I think there is something about the professionalism of dealing with pupils and parents. Would you want to meet your barrister in court in jeans, et al? (@MrMalcontent)

To which @dmurray742 replied

As long as he did his job properly, he can dress in a tiara and high heels. (@dmurray742)

Is a dress code fair?

Our school introduced a staff dress code in an effort to deal with a few members that wore flip-flops and combats in summer time.

Unfortunately with some people it's about control. (@AnGaeilgeoir1)

Just another way of turning my job into an office job..(@Conmeist)

I always loved my English teachers, who tended to wear slightly more flamboyant/dramatic stuff. (@senseilp)

I recently had a friend told by a VP to fix tie & do up his top button! (@cillian_walsh)

Alternative to an imposed Dress Code

I think that it helps build a collective approach (@MrMalcontent)

If no dress code, employers/heads need to be willing to approach individuals who're wearing v inappropriate stuff. (@senseilp)

If you were Head would you impose a dress code?

I wish I'd could be brave enough to say 'to hell with the whole lot of it, for students and staff', but I don't think it wld work. (@MrMalcontent)

My staff would be so happy & proud of their school that there would be no need for a  code. (@Medv2)


I remember my old English teacher S___ H________ (Genius) who fought intro of ties for male teachers by wearing Dickie bows! (@MrMalcontent)

Surely someone has done a thesis on correlation between exam results and school dress codes for teachers??? (@dmurray742)

Perhaps a nightclub door policy approach would be good – smart casual. (@cillian_walsh)

Tweet of the Week

I'd go for a code, "smart" clothes all round and only the art teacher is allowed to look cool! (@not_out_97)