POS Tagging of the BAS Booklet

POSWThanks to the web, I managed to cobble together R code which identified and sent to a text file the Parts of Speech used in the school’s, ‘Becoming a Scientist’ booklet.

As you can see (for the first 20 words of 1522):


I’m interested in correlations between the science content and verb/personal pronoun gravity. For example, the choice of verbs, ‘you’, ‘I’ and ‘we’ – does this affect retention/recall? And what about during after gameplay?

This code will also benefit deep analysis of pupils’ texts produced: pronoun/verb dispersion; lexical sophistication relating to game narrative recall.

And much more.


From Corpus to Classroom


Exploring the links between corpus linguistics and language teaching

Small, specialised corpora associate with MCC game use and Science E&Os

Chapter 8 –  Relational Language
– hedging: pedagogical re analysing pupil articulation during recall / knowledge construction

Chapter 7 – Listenership and response
– engagement tokens

Chapter 5 – Grammar and Lexis and Patterns

Chapter 9 – Language and Creativity
Quantative and qualitative methods required

A Visitation

The clock has started…

I received a visit from my MSc Supervisor last Tuesday, and he had kindly come from Edinburgh to speak about Literary, Science and games-based learning.

A delightful buffet, ice-breaker conversation that included two distinguished colleagues and them we were underway.

Data. Limits.  What exactly am I looking to analyse?

Well I’ve recently become less fearful in modifying my original Research Question, including the key points it hoped to explore: this is key because one of the suggestions was scope, the corollary being the volume and management of the generated data.

Gantt Charts are useful (but sometimes they are all consuming) and I have two, a ‘micro’ and a ‘macro’.  The meta level planning – academic reading, literature review, questionnaires, observations, data collation,  analysis, write up and submission …

The micro identifies the daily (and lesson plan) ‘action research’ activities across the 5 weeks between 6th January and the first week of February.  The first two weeks are aimed at providing pupils with the backstory to their imagined Mars landing, as well as allowing them time to acclimatise to the GUI, their team (of 4).

Being the kernel to the focus if analytical lens of Activity Theory (CHAT) , we then have three weeks of learning where pupils adopt the tool of Mars Colony Challenger and I observe m activities that I hope are transformative in knitting together ‘seeded’ Science curricular knowledge, in-game immersion and literacies.  (Amazon provided two cheap but capable tripods for the department Flip cameras to deliver this rich qualitative data set.)

Pupil journals, observations of group discussion, records of reading occurrences of multiple media forms (even F1 Help provides a ‘text’) and weekly triangulation with my ‘Science Guy’ to assess the progress of pupils’ competence against a set of ‘SCN-‘ Es & Os.

An ‘exit questionnaire’ or report task will provide us with a testing instrument against which will be applied pre-questionnaire knowledge.

A number of ‘ENG-‘ outcomes have been defined,  but the majority are Literacy focused and cover Reading, Writing, Listening(Watching) and Talking.  In conjunction with activity system diagrams, activity narratives and the application of the aforementioned Es & Os I will look at additional ‘codes’ that present themselves through MCC use and ‘curious play’.

Common ground? Literacy.  And how will the addition of a multi-user simulation software application immerse and engage pupils in applying their learning within a collaborative virtual environment? 


Masters Proposal – First Draft


It has been a long time since I have posted; I aim to address this by using this space to explore my thoughts, concerns, fears, anxieties – every facet concerning the MSc. in Digital Education, which will be undertaken (part-time) at the University of Edinburgh.

Many thanks to The Scottish Government for facilitating the completion of this Masters-level study. (And special “thanks” to those wonderful people at Edinburgh!)

What began as an MEd. proposal through the University of West of Scotland and The Chartered Teacher Pathway Programme, has now been augmented with elements of the ‘digital games-based learning’ module that featured as part of the  ‘E-learning’ Postgraduate Programme I was undertaking in parallel at University of Edinburgh.

mmorning1The main context of the research is the evaluation of the introduction of a multi-user software simulation – Mars Colony Challenger – to a number of English and Science lessons, placing users as part of an expedition team tasked with the formation of a colony on Mars, in order that reflective practice, analysis, and evaluation – all essential high-level skills in the 21st Century – can be developed through increasing motivation and engagement with learning that is personally relevant.

Providing pupils with the necessary back-story, supporting materials and ‘communities of practice’, they will have the opportunity to engage in real-life science and logic problems that will allow them to adopt the virtual personas of scientists and engineers and therefore transform and synthesise these experiences into narratives an other artefacts that evince a similar (or deeper) understanding of a scientific topic previously delivered through the passive delivery of science content, aided by the increased use of literacy skills.


Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) will be used as the theoretical lens to analyse and facilitate collaborative efforts, focusing on the tensions between: learning a scientific topic and increasing the use of literacy; and the reduction of teacher-led instruction, with an increased focus on the activities of communities in supporting the learning. 16_copy

This research activity aims to increase the opportunities for both the effective use and assessment of literacy, and possibilities for the spread and coordination of lessons beyond normal classroom timeframes and boundaries; the possibility that science content be distributed electronically and across the competencies of the learners themselves; for pupils to “act as a community of scientists…and use the languages and practices of scientists” (Royle, 2008) through a simulated mission to Mars, and carrying out a variety of tasks, demonstrate the key principles of a Science through discussion and imaginative and other genres of writing.

Currently, students are evaluating the software application and providing feedback, which I then use in discussions with the US-based developer. Skype is the obvious choice.

So, Summer 2013 looks to be one of much academic reading and preparation.

Mars, LAC and LCoP – Term 1 Reflection

A time for reflection…

The Research

The Secondary Schools’ Literacy Initiative (SSLI) http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rlae20/21/5

The Visit

So, we had our visit from Dr Noeline Wright.  Memorable andunforgettable that Dr Wright visited us and augmented our understanding of the SSLI research. We have video and audio of our discussion.

The S1 Mars Report

And we had at House Time (we have adopted a ‘vertical house system’ for our tutor forms S1 – S6) activity which ran for a fortnight, although was originally scheduled to be formally enacted for one week and then undertaken by pupils in the second week.  We hopsted that with four subject teachers could present Mars from their particular subject’s perspective: RME, the morals and ethics of spending trillions on space research; History, The Space Race and its legacy; English, film and textual imaginings around Mars and the solar system; Science, the facts and figures associated with previous and the current Mars Curiosity Rover.

We did attempt to introduce De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.

The LCoP

Some of the members have been at the school for a considerable time – many of whom were there at just those right times when, as a student teacher and probationer, I needed some vital advice, feedback on that dilemma – and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t awed in some way.

Much positive and negative feedback was provided as ‘minutes’ of each LCoP meeting.  In summary:


  • It was a chance for practitioners of different disciplines to meet up and discuss pedagogical issues.
  • The Mars Curiosity Rover proved to be a relevant and current scientific event under investigation by our pupils and the media – perhaps for longer than expected.
  • S1 pupils were excited about the project.
  • Artistic, technical and literacy was being showcased – as was the ability to meet a deadline.
  • Pupils were already aware of the importance of Literacy – this re-iterated the fact, delivering a whole-school exercise.
  • This was the first time that Literacy – as ‘a responsibility of all’ – was given the high priority it requires, and primarily of its inextricable link with successful learning.


  • Too little time in which to undertake all activities during 20-minute House Time.
  • Too much information.
  • Many pupils ‘cut and paste’ (something I think that we are increasingly more aware of in light of the ubiquity of digital information).
  • Concern was raised about how often staff are supposed to assess literacy in a subject – there is little time to mark for content let alone literacy.
  • Cognizance should be taken for the participation from other year groups (although I personally had S2 and S4 pupils providing peer-support, for which they gained a ‘House Merit’).


The Way Ahead

A whole-school Correction Code which will be laminated and on display in every classroom in the school

Collegiate Peer-Assessment Activity planned for November 19th (the next collegiate meeting) and will allow non-English subject teachers to be  part of a supportive LCoP and led by a Key Person (KP) drawn from Modern languages or the English Department.  Small, supportive and interdisciplinary with a focus on a subset of the Writing Es and Os of under ‘Literacy’.

The LCoPs are to foster and nurture interdisciplinary tasks that can be constructed and ‘sand-boxed’  during House Time; allowing smaller-scale projects that minimise negative impact on both teacher’s confidence and curriculum progress.

4 Collegiate Meetings have been afforded and ring-fenced by senior management – a commitment to LAC has to be demonstrated by SMT, and the SSLI research asserts the dependency on successful LAC progress as being linked with CPD.

Strategy for greater links with associated primary schools already underway, with peer-reading to be constructed, and Big Writing to continue beyond Primary and into S1.  VCOP, Correction Code and Literacy  Es and Os should be the focus.

Sharing of House Time Mars Activity with associated Secondary English Departments.  Positives and negatives that have been identified will not only help our future adoption of similar whole-school House Time tasks, but also the dissemination of this interdisciplinary task fosters closer relations with associated authority schools, and should assist in resource creation and moderation.


LAC Information Sheet

LCOPs-Version 3-Anon

LAC Marking-3

correction code POSTER

Mars Glow Blog