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‘My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece’ by Annabel Pitcher

This wonderful book has been published as one of the Oxford University Press ‘Rollercoaster’ series and was therefore loaned to me by our school OUP rep Adam Malpas: http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/

Compelling reading is my verdict on this text. I received the book on Monday and finished it within twenty four hours. The first persona narrative voice of ten year old Jamie has the unnerving ability to naively question and raise contentious issues in our society through the eyes of a child. The issues raised include terrorism, the race and religion of his best friend Sunya, death, alcoholism, bullying, divorce, grief and a range of other difficult topics. Somehow the young protagonist has an inner resilience that keeps him going through tough times and he is lucky to have the companionship of his loyal best friend Sunya and his beloved cat Roger. I am going  to pass the book around my department so that the other staff can have a read and decide which age we would recommend the book for. There are a variety of different book covers for this text but none of those below are on my OUP version:

When you search this text on google images a picture of David Tenant comes up – Why? You may ask? Apparently he has done a reading of the text….the next shot is a picture of the writer Annabel Pitcher and this picture is the nearest to the one on my cover:


Has anyone else been to an open air cinema like this?

Our trip to the local Odeon to see “The Hunger Games” tonight has highlighted the severe contrast between cinematic viewing experience in England and Egypt! Last Thursday we went to see “Man on a Ledge” and the Thursday before “The Descendants” at a FREE open air cinema in El Gouna in Egypt! See the pictures of the screen and the projectionist’s room.

The use of an amphitheatre setting from a disused night club combined with the warm climate and the fact that this was free of charge made it an amazing experience! Contrast that with tonight’s showing at the local Odeon and the honeymoon seems a million miles away!!!

I had an interesting conversation with my Year 8 class today linked to our moving image scheme of work. We were discussing the book reviews the girls are going to undertake over Whitsun break and hand in immediately after the vacation. Every book selected also had a film version  and the girls suggested that they would also do a film review alongside the compulsory book review this half term. Titles included:

  • The Lovely Bones
  • The Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • War Horse
  • The Woman in Black
  • Twilight
  • The Hunger Games
  • Harry Potter
  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Does anyone have any other suggestions suitable for Key Stage 3? I would love to hear from you……

to veil or not to veil….that is the question…..

Our new Headmaster began his tenure at school today with an address to all of the staff. He made clear his vision for  education at our school and I admire his clarity and explicit approach to this new role. The Head’s wife and two sons were present Imagefor the whole staff meeting. This made me reflect on the whole identity issue in blogging in cyberspace as opposed to physically present: the public and private divide I have been preoccupied with the last couple of days. In fact a quotation by Viviane Sefarty in the Rettberg book “Blogging” refers to “the veil of the screen” on Page 12. This is an interesting description that has resonated with me. Why have I chosen a wedding like veil image to depict my response to the issue of online identity today? Is it more appealing to readers than the new garden fence I depicted yesterday? The subjective meanings are hidden behind the veil: this image reminds me of my wedding three months ago which is nostalgic (even though I didn’t wear a veil!) In contrast the fence yesterday represents the practicalities and reality that we are having my crazy springer spaniel (“Jerry Springer!”) back this weekend. Which is more private? Which of these two images is more reflective of me? How is my online identity different from my real life identity?

The first chapter of Rettberg’s book discussed three different types of blogs: personal blogs like dooce.com, filter blogs like Kottke.org and Topic-driven Blogs like Dailykos.com. I have read about and looked at each distinct type of blog.

I am predominantly a personal blogger…I should set myself the challenge of trying the other two styles of blogging……

Rettberg further develops the idea of the blog as a means of self-exploration in Chapter 5 where she discusses Blogs as narratives:

“Viviane Serfaty characterizes weblogs as simultaneously mirrors and veil (Serfaty 2004). Just as we study ourselves in a mirror, shaping  our features so our reflections please us, so we creat a reflection of ourselves in a weblog. A the same time, we use our blogs to veil ourselves, not telling all but presenting only certain carefully selected aspects of ourselves to our readers.”

Don’t worry folks I won’t add yet another symbol of a mirror….(I think I have done the symbols enough!) However, I will try to add a link to Sylvia Plath’s poem “Mirror”:


I think that is a link to a youtube reading of the poem – it used to be on the Edexcel GCSE specification for Literature and the girls used to love it! Guess what? The section of the poetry anthology was called: IDENTITY!!!! Thank goodness it wasn’t subdivided into frontstage or backstage – Giddens mentions the mirror as a self-reflexive project….I reflect that I need bed! My reflection in the mirror concurs….night all!

Blurring the Boundaries


The picture is of our new fence in the garden! The father in law has done this for us whilst we were on our honeymoon! Lucky us!
Looking at the permanent boundary made me reflect on some of the reading I have done about managing the public and private boundary in our blogs! I find that I am beginning to relate my reading to all things today! I started to spout off about anchored and transient identities in online self presentation at Sunday dinner with family and friends this evening…..my thoughts on the blogging phenomenon were met with strange looks and silence…..
Has anyone else experienced this type of reaction?

Buckingham taught in Brewood!!!

On Sunday morning I read Chapter 6 from Buckingham’s book “Beyond Technology”. This chapter is entitled “Playing to learn? Rethinking the educational potential of Computer Games”. The content referred to media writers on the use of games such as Marc Prensky and James Paul Gee. I found this interesting and useful despite not being overly familiar with games personally.

On Monday morning, a girl in my Year 12 media class did a presentation on creative audiences using games as a medium. Imagine the surprise of her and my group when I recounted some of the things I had learned the previous day! There they were thinking that I was a novice and not familiar with this area…suddenly I began discussing Prensky and Gee with the group. The presenters face paled and she asked me if she had been remiss in not mentioning Prensky and Gee. I reassured her that she had done an excellent job and that it was only my reading for this  module that had enabled me to encounter these writers!!!

I am trying to get onto Chapter 7 “That’s Edutainment” but by the time all of my school work is done and I finally get to read it my eyes seem to fail me….no reflection on Buckingham – more a reflection on how much Easter is needed in this teaching whirlwind!

We have sixth form parents evening this Thursday night which is obviously busy for me in my new role. I am taking three girls to see an MD of a company tomorrow who previously did a presentation for us in school. Hopefully one of them may secure paid work experience during the summer….

I attended a fantastic event last Thursday night with three key representatives from “Tempo” in Ironbridge. It was through a business contact from “Start up Shropshire” called Fay Easton. She led the informative and engaging session which the girls were privileged to attend. The feedback and advice the girls received was invaluable! They are now moving towards their company presentation evening. They submitted seven signed copies of their company report ahead of the deadline last Friday and were therefore very pleased with themselves. Now they are onto the last leg of the competition which is the presentation night. The trade fayre event was marked out of 100 as is the company report. The final 100 marks are available next Wednesday night and they need to make sure their content and delivery is as dynamic as possible. The girls already know that they have some stiff competition from the Trade Fayre so are eagerly preparing their speech. I will keep you posted of their progress as we move towards the big event!!!!


Friday was a hectic day at school! The girls are building up towards the big trade fayre next Saturday 3rd March. To this end, they filmed another video with Steve Cranston from @lilac media. The first film was an advert which aimed to show the watches in different contexts with different users. In contrast, this second advert is setting a challenge to the audience to(hopefully)  make them respond and interact. Overall the girls are doing really well and need to make every second count this week as they make their final preparations for the big event!

Similarly, I have been making good use of my time this weekend (tempo time!) I have finished reading “Media Convergence” which I really got into and found sections that really resonated with me. The discussion of “Julie and Julia” On P.95 was interesting as I had mentioned that in a previous blog…..(I’ve still yet to see “Contagion” though) In particular, the best two chapters for me to use in my classroom teaching were: Chapters 2 and 5.

Chapter 2 “Convergent Media Industries” will be so useful when I move onto teaching Institutions in two weeks time to my AS Media group. I thought the case studies on News Corporation, Google and the BBC were really illuminating and can see myself using this material with them in class. Similarly Chapter 5 “Creative Audiences” is great for bringing our study of audience right up to date. We have obviously looked at the history of audience theory from the early days of the “uses and gratifications” models right up to the present day “produsers”. I feel this Chapter is an excellent overview of many of the ideas and discussions involved in my module on film theory last year: I have been reflecting on how much of the knowledge gained from that unit has filtered through into my teaching this term….

Another aspect I have been reflecting on with that particular AS group is my intended use of blogging next year with the practical production element of their course. This is worth 50% and we constantly emphasise to the girls the importance of logging the process down in the exercise books provided for this task. The idea is that they will have plenty of research material and also a log of their processes to refer to. This is vital for the reflection stage of the evaluation. After reading the Bragg article, this is an obvious area we could use blogging in next year. I liked the five part sequence that Bragg used as did Fish in her blog (Thanks Fish for alerting me to what I had missed on moodle! Much appreciated!)

Another area in sixth form we are trying to incorporate blogging into is the reflection of sixth form life. I will be talking to the Head Girl and the recently returned work experience girls to see how we could make this work…..

I embarked on Buckingham again (after that previous disastrous attempt in Asda) and to my relief found it very readable and informative. I am currently half way through at P.93 focusing on “The Digital Divide” and finding this text really useful. The first Chapter on BETT was interesting as this is something that John mentioned to us in London on our first meeting back in January….I have tweeted a colleague from my Breakfast Meeting about this and am sure we will further discuss this when I see him at the Breakfast meeting on Tuesday. In fact, much of the text resonated with me after a talk that this contact Phil Oakley @OutserveWeb did to my girls for enrichment earlier in the school year. He encouraged the girls not to be anxious about the use of social media and instead to focus on using this participatory media to represent themselves in a positive way.

The Buckingham article from the MacArthur series relates to many of the ideas in the book and I found this useful to try to embed some of these new ideas in my thoughts. I especially liked the five approaches to thinking about identity. I know need to decide whether I am Goffman or Giddens or A. N. Other……

Personal Reflections…

I have managed to read two of the four books I bought from amazon for this module over the half term holiday.  Firstly the style of “Work’s Intimacy” and “Blogging” made these texts really accessible and readable for me.  In contrast I have read the introductions of both “Media Convergence” and “Beyond Technology” and found the material to be dense and hard to digest.  This is something I need to tackle as these texts are obviously more theoretic and academic than the two I have hungrily devoured!!  I did try to get into “Beyond Technology” whilst waiting in a noisy cafe in Asda for some photographs to be developed upstairs… Perhaps I need to think about my conditions of reception!!  I will persevere this week. 

However a quick reflection on “Works Intimacy” is needed as I have recommended this text to a couple of my colleagues from my fortnightly business breakfast meetings.  I had a conversation with the web designer one as soon as I started reading the text about Email etiquette and how quickly you should respond to a received mail.  I have reflected considerably on my working practices with regard to email usage and am in fact considering suggesting that at school we have an official policy on email usage.  There is a reference to an email policy being on a toilet door in a Melbourne office on page 79 – I’m not going to advocate this but I feel some reflections and guidelines on email courtesy in my school institution would be helpful.

Now on to personal reflections, reading chapter 8 entitled “Long Hours, High Bandwidth: Negotiating Domesticity and Distance.”  For starters my husband will tell you that I have never managed to negotiate domesticity before and seem to have an aversion to household chores.  Therefore he was hopeful that this chapter may help me to overcome my difficulties in this area.  He was disappointed to find that the interviewed person known as Jenny is actually me!!  He could also see some similarities and Jenny’s partner named Mike.  To summarise pages 142-145 Jenny wants to constantly stay on top of things at work and this leads to her spending a great deal of time on this whereas his career does not allow him to bring work home.  It talks about this issue being “the notable fissure in this couples relationship”.  On that note I better sign off and find my husband aka Mike!  Night night from Me aka Jenny!!

“Lord of the Flies” reflections…..

Preparations for teaching my scheme of work on “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding led me to some serious reflections on parallel situations in contemporary life at sixth form in my school…….

Imagine if the setting of the island without any adults was actually our sixth form building: would the washing up get done?

Imagine if the contest for leadership between Ralph and Jack in the novel was actually the current contest for leadership of the Young Enterprise team: who would win? The reliable chief character? Or the brave hunter type? These questions about personality and the dynamics of leadership within a group of young people are universal and pertinent irrespective of gender and time.

It is interesting to watch our girls as they undertake the January examinations: some girls rise to the challenge effectively and without nerves, others find the examinations daunting and need a great deal of support and encouragement.

Anyway enough musings from me – time to pass the symbol of the conch on and look at what others have had to say in their blogs…..

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