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?
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.
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