Teachers Sharing their Ideas and Practices are the Most Important Things

I met Ollie Bray at the Partners in Learning Worldwide Education Forum in November 2011, where he was participating as a judge. Last week I bumped into him at the Education Scotland offices during my trip to Glasgow. Bray was recently named one of the UKs most influential educators, likely due to his passion for working with young people combined with his unique knowledge and skill-set of technology and the outdoors. Based in Scotland where he is vice-principal of a large comprehensive high school, he is also currently seconded to Scotland’s National Education Agency as their advisor for Emerging Technologies in Learning.

In recent years, Bray has worked extensively on computer games and “gamification” of learning. As a result of his work, technologies such as Xbox and Kinect are now common in many of Scotland’s classrooms. His work in this area was also rewarded with Microsoft Worldwide and European Innovative Teaching Award in 2009 for his project ‘Thinking out of Xbox’ which used commercially available off-the-shelf video games as contextual hubs for learning. He has gone on to develop resources for teachers on using games like Kinect Adventures in Education and Kinect Sports in Education.

Bray’s enthusiasm for learning has been described as “infectious.” I personally was struck by his gift for thinking about things differently and breaking down complicated ideas into accessible, bite-sized chunks. He shares his thoughts on Playful Learning: computer games in the classroom in this UK Partners in Learning video that was filmed at the Sunday Times Festival of Education.

As a geography teacher, he started blogging in 2004 when he decided to capitalize on the learning potential of a mountaineering trip to Denali, Alaska. “It was a simple idea, really,” says Bray, “in the days before smart phones we just sent SMS messages back to the UK and our home contact updated our expedition blog so that the kids could follow our progress and reflections as we fought our way up the highest mountain in North America. Schools from all over the UK subscribed to our updates and because they appeared in almost real time, the project was really authentic and therefore more motivating for learners.” Thus, Bray’s passion for web publishing began. He has been hooked on blogging ever since and regularly reflects and shares resources on www.olliebray.com.

Bray believes that teachers sharing their ideas and practices are the most important things to help raise education standards globally. His number-one piece of advice to new teachers? “Join an online personal learning network and start sharing what you are doing. The most essential requirement for any innovator is a support network. It is also impossible to innovate alone.” Bray is one of the longest active members within the Partners in Learning Network having joined in December 2005 – he has even written a blog post on this recently.

When I asked him to reflect on innovation in education his advice was simple, “It’s already happening and we don’t have a shortage of innovative thinking in Scottish schools,” says Bray. “What we have is a problem with permission. School leaders not only need to encourage innovation, but they need to support others in order to turn these creative ideas into practice and real (rather than one-off) outcomes for learners.”

What other life passions can translate into classroom lessons?

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About Ollie Bray

Ollie Bray is currently Scotland’s National Advisor for Emerging Technologies in Learning. Based in Edinburgh he works internationally with teachers, schools and governments to improve education outcomes for learners through the appropriate use of technology and the outdoors. He has been a senior policy adviser, school leader, head of department and is an award-winning teacher. His current interests include social media in schools, computer games in education, mobile technologies, school design, outdoor learning and 3rd millennium school leadership. 

He blogs at: www.olliebray.com and tweets at: www.twitter.com/olliebray

Current residence: Edinburgh, Scotland
Education: Plymouth, England and Edinburgh, Scotland
Website I check every day: BBC Technology News, Guardian on-line, Boing Boing
Person who inspires me most: Professionally, Professor Stephen Heppell. Personally, John Wraight (Grandfather)
Favorite childhood memory: Learning to kayak in Portland Harbor (venue for the 2012 Olympic Sailing)
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Iceland (work) and Canada (pleasure)
Favorite book: Shadows on the Koyukuk by Sidney Huntington and Jim Rearden

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6 Responses to Teachers Sharing their Ideas and Practices are the Most Important Things

  1. Ollie Bray is one of my personal heroes and favorite people I have the pleasure of working with as part of the PiL Team. Not only is he a “kick-in-the-pants” to be around, he’s been able to capture the magic of “tricking” students into having fun WHILE they’re learning. He’s one of the pioneers around incorporating game-based learning scenarios into teaching and learning practices and has always been more than generous about sharing his resources and insight. The task of raising global education standards doesn’t seem so daunting because Ollie is one of the people leading the charge.

  2. OllieBray says:

    Thanks for the mention on your Daily Edventures site Anthony I was great to see you again in Scotland last week. Hopefully are paths will cross again in the future.

    Also thanks for your comment Scott! It was great to see you briefly at BETT in January.

    Best wishes to you both. Ollie

  3. Mike Tidd says:

    Ollie is an infectious, enthusiastic and all round brilliant educator. I have had the pleasure to have been Ollie’s friend since our student days at Plymouth University and was a big influence in me becoming a teacher.

    He has a very good way of making education and learning enjoyable. This is not an easy thing to do and is something I have always strive tried to do.

    Well done Ollie – keep pushing for innovation in education!

  4. OllieBray says:

    For more information on Playful Learning / Games Based learning in Education check out this eBook that I wrote for Microsoft UK – http://www.slideshare.net/Microsofteduk/playful-learning-computer-games-in-education

  5. Thank you really a lot when deciding to take your personal energy for you personally to contribute to folks

  6. Wonderful…carry on the goodwork!

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