The Lessons of Louis Theroux…

The Lessons of Louis Theroux…

Transition year and Senior house Religion can be testing and may suffer from a repetitive modular-based structure. Often transition year groups are tireless and disengaged and senior house query the validity of Religion as a subject when they have exams to attend to.

So as my housemates and I sat looking through Netflix for something to watch we landed on the genius that is Louis Theroux. While watching the second of two episodes, I realised that a study of the documentaries of Louis Theroux would be an excellent and testing experience for senior house, and indeed and excellent module. In every episode morality, life, emotion and decisions are investigated with great simplicity, subtly and intrigue.

It would create great debate in classrooms and engage the students in issues associated with Religious Education, but not necessarily about religion. Issues such as Racism, addiction, faith, law & order and major life decisions would allow the teacher to play a part of the Devils advocate. Allow the students to find their consensus.

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The topics are also very topical, most recently ‘My Scientology Movie’ (2015). Also, through the use of Netflix would add to the atmosphere and enjoyment factor of the classroom. The learning outcome for the module would be to create more informed and inquisitive learners who are prepared to seek both sides of any story.

The episodes I watched earlier were, ‘The City Addicted to Myth’ and ‘Among the Sex Offenders’. To watch these episodes evolve in a series of conversations would be a match to any flame of interest or questioning the students may have.

Obviously, depending on the group and the school teachers may have to weary of content.

I feel a Louis Theroux module would be an excellent and honest lesson of life.

The great man’s Twitter  is linked here also.





ZooBurst is a super cool 3D storytelling technology. Students can easily create their own 3D pop-up books in which their stories can spring to life. ZooBurst books can be experienced on your desktop or laptop computer, or on your iPad via the ZooBurst app.blogging 81

Students can organize characters and props within a 3D world that can be customized using uploaded artwork from the pages database of over 10,000 free images and materials.

Readers who have a camera installed on their computer can also experience any ZooBurst book in Reality. Using nothing more than a webcam, visitors can hold up a special symbol (much like a barcode for an item in a shop) to the webcam to watch as a 3D pop-up book “jumps” out of the paper and into the room around them.

As an educational tool, ZooBurst provides students with new ways in which they can tell stories and deliver presentations.

ZooBurst contains a powerful “classroom management” feature for teachers that lets them easily set up safe spaces for their students. Teachers can assign usernames and passwords to their students


Plan Price Details
Basic Free 1 individual user/teacher, 10 books per account, 10 pages per story, ads, basic features.
Premium $9.99/month or $49.99/year per individual Unlimited books per account, 50 pages per story, no ads, sound effects, record own voice, shared library, previous versions, audio comments, classroom management tools.
School License $29.99/month per individual Minimum of 5 individual licenses, unlimited books per account, 50 pages per story, no ads, sound effects, record own voice, shared library, previous versions, audio comments, classroom management tools.

Sources: ZooBurst Quickstart and EdShelf

The Great Dictator Speech

The Great Dictator Speech

What is remarkable about the above is that Charlie Chaplin’s speech about fascism in The Great Dictator nearly 75 years ago is as relevant today, if not more relevant, as it was back then.

This is a great resource to tease out a discussion in the senior R.E. classroom. (transcript is here)

The Great Dictator, a movie written, produced, directed, and starring Charlie Chaplin, premiered on October 15, 1940, while the United States was promoting appeasement with Nazi Germany.

The plot circles around two characters, both played by Chaplin. One is a dictator and the other is an Jewish barber who is a doppelganger for the dictator.

Ultimately, the barber is mixed up with the dictator himself. The crux of the film is when the barber is given the opportunity to speak to the people of the two warring countries as the dictator.

The Great Dictator speech, laments the pessimism, violence and greed that had overtaken the “free and beautiful” way of life that is inherent in human nature.

Chaplin’s use of power and passion in delivery and reflection on the loss of a responsible can become a huge talking point.

There can also be a huge moral aspect and could be a soft lead up to the Just War theory and ethics. This can be seen in the section about soldiers.

Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes – men who despise you – enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think and what to feel! Who drill you – diet you – treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder.

There could also be a discussion as to what the students might say if they were given a similar opportunity. Would the speech be the same? what may change?

I feel with this will grab the attention of the class and lead to a really fruitful debate.


Leadership assignment

Leadership assignment

During our MA we were set the task of creating a sample leadership theory. Obviously it would take many years and even more research to create an actual theory but this was my attempt at one.

My favourite poem is If by Rudyard Kipling and while researching I came across a TED talk by Simon Sinek (18 mins) and that led me to his book Start with Why. Here is my leadership theory based on a hybrid of the two.

Shorter Sinek clip here

Why? What if….Leadership Philosophy

The aim of the paper is to outline and clarify a leadership philosophy ‘Why? What if’. This philosophy draws its inspiration from the poem If by Rudyard Kipling, the work of Simon Sinek in his book Start with Why with an undertone of Robert K. Greenleaf’s The Power of Servant Leadership. This leadership philosophy is understandably short due to the demands of this paper. The theory will be outlined followed by explanatory notes. This philosophy of leadership is specifically for post primary schools.

                Theory Start with why: Sinek writes an anecdote in the introduction to his book about the Wright brother’s success in creating a flying machine. The pair succeeded because they began at why. Their belief in changing the face of the world with their creation led to its success, as teachers, leaders and mentors there must be the same seed of why. To educate is to inspire so a teacher in this theory must discover and show their why. Students and fellow staff will follow if they can experience what you believe in. For Kipling, his infamous poem speaks of a list of what may be necessary to be a man and make your life one that is fulfilled. The line which we will begin with is: “If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim…” For the purpose of this theory we will take this as his why. So as a teacher, what is your why? Why do you what you do? Why do you teach? Once a teacher discovers this one can move on to the How and What, what do you do to fulfil your why and how. This is a process of inspiration, passion and purpose. When you discover ‘your why’ you will influence others to discover their why and become leaders. They will be attracted to what you believe and follow you.

            In relation to Greenleaf this may equate to his idea of ‘vision’ although it may be more attainable. This form of leadership is a hybrid of Lewin’s democratic and Laissez faire leader. It is also a philosophy of balance. As a teacher there is always a question as to who looks after the teacher. Kipling’s poem comes into play here with lines such as:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.

In school, as in other professions, there are times of darkness but in these times one should look to their why in order to inspire and lead them to the light.

Characteristics: Passion: Every teacher needs to have the passion for their ‘why’. They need to have passion for what they do and how they do it. This passion is what makes you get out of bed in the morning. This will become infectious.

Organisation and team work: Sinet speaks of the Wright brothers and their faithful and loyal team, none of whom had college degrees but create an airplane, together. A school under this leadership needs to be organised and a team, each person in the institute has an important role. It is not an autocratic leadership but one of reliance and organisation. It moves from a democratic leadership towards a lasses faire with the growth of the leadership. This team work and organisation creates a positive atmosphere in which ones loyalty and honesty can prevail.

Conceptualization and foresight: linked closely to Greenleaf’s theory, in which Principals and management look to the future and development to maintain their ‘why’. There is a desire for perspective, understanding and intuition. This is a characteristic which will take hard work and time to acquire.

Balance: “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch” There must be an atmosphere of unity and balance in striving for fulfilment. All under this leadership should be treated as adults and equals. The principal must maintain balance between office and school duties, teachers must maintain balance between content and learning or behaviour and reward and the students must maintain balance between School and everyday life and well being. This balance will add to the positive atmosphere and aid activity and experiential learning.

Consistency: Leading consistently is a vital aspect in the everyday running of a school. Everyone under this leadership has the right to expect, and be expected to, uphold this consistency. It should be maintained and improved on regularly. Students also need consistency to understand the safety and value of school.

 Most theories are just opinions or ideas that on paper seem fruitful but often unattainable; this leads us to the balance aspect of the theory. In Sinek’s book he speaks of ‘why-types’ and ‘how-types’ using Walt and Roy Disney as an example. ‘Why-types’ are the visionaries, the ones with imagination. Often they are optimists who believe that all the things they imagine can be accomplished. ‘How-types’ live in the here and now. They are the realists and are practical. Roy was Walt’s older brother who ran the company, it was Roy who founded the Buena Vista Distribution Company and created the merchandising business that transformed Disney into a household name. This may be desirable trait for a principal, vice principal duo, a good cop bad cop combination. One to look forward and one to look at what is happening now.

The initial inspiration for this leadership theory came from listening to If. It creates a shiver down ones spine when each word is listened to. With that came the question of leadership, what if leadership could have the same result? Furthermore, what if everyone under this leadership listened to each other as attentively and carefully as one who listened to this poem. Listening is a key aspect of any project but an extremely important aspect in a leadership theory.

Sinek states, “Charisma has nothing to do with energy; it comes from a clarity of ‘why’. It comes from absolute conviction in an ideal bigger than oneself. If those within this leadership can take this on understanding of what their why may be this leads to clarity and the creation of a charismatic person and community. Drawbacks are inevitable in any practical use of this theory, or any other theory. To get every staff member to understand their own individual why will be difficult but the results if this is accomplished are untold.

This theory would expect the school or institution to repair or recreate itself from the inside out. Beginning with what they believe in most and finishing with the product (education) they expect to communicate. They will be asked to inspire through their own beliefs by discovering their ‘why’ and imparting this passion, purpose and knowledge on to those whom they teach and interact with. This infectious nature will create leaders of those students who will inspire other with their ‘why’. If they can fill every unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, theirs is the Earth and everything that’s in it.

Sources: Start with Why Simon Sinek

Poetry foundation if Rudyard kipling 




“Oceans of adolescents come here to receive lessons but never learn to swim”

“Oceans of adolescents come here to receive lessons but never learn to swim”

TED Talk strikes once again…

Malcolm London and his poem “High School Training Ground” is a brilliant poem on school but is also an interesting view of life. (transcript here

It could be a really good resource for a senior RE or English group in a discussion.

Does the class think his poem is true?

Does it strike a chord with them?

How can it change their perspective of school? or how can it change schoolings perspective?

Is education done correctly? Is schooling merely ‘training’?

“I hear education systems are failing, but I believe they’re succeeding at what they’re built to do — to train you, to keep you on track, to track down an American dream that has failed so many of us all”. Discuss.

The goal would be to tease out some of the difficulties that students have with school life, labels and growing up.

As a longer term project, how can the class change this? could they create a programme to alleviate the stress of school?




Words, words, glorious words. Everyone uses them, but very few use them well. A small number of people are blessed with the true talent of the written or spoken word and of those a limited number are able to inspire others with their words. The rest of use merely try…

Last week I was watching Friends and came across a classic episode in which Monica and Chandler ask Joey to write a letter of recommendation to the adoption agency. In writing the letter, he uses the thesaurus on every word.


While watching the episode, I realised that many of us are in the same boat. So I thought, how could I bring this into teaching? I would love for my words to ooze class, sophistication and effortlessness, alas, they don’t.

I have recurring memories of English class when we were fed unnecessary words in a feeble attempt to make the class sound more intelligent. I don’t want to be that teacher so what can we do?

  1. Encourage everyone to read. Expose yourself to new words and new ways of writing. While teaching expose the class to different registers, writers and ways of writing.
  2. Become an advocate of the sensible use of a thesaurus. Let’s not turn into Joey. An online thesaurus can be found here 
  3. Whatever words or phrases the class encounter make sure they are repeated and gone over to be remembered. Also, be careful not to overload on new words.
  4. Use sites such as the following;


Visuwords is an online graphical dictionary and thesaurus to find the definition for a queried work and also display the associations with other related words and concepts in concept map format (very dynamic in style). The tool is powered by Princeton University’s WordNet, an opensource database built by University students and language researchers. Visuwords makes use of different colours and styles of lines (dotted, solid, arrows, etc.) to illustrate different types of word and association (for instance, purple = noun and green = verb). A nice, visual tool.

Lexipedia, Snappy Words, are also similar tools.

Source: Project 252


It is a simple word game in which against the clock to solve the word defined on screen. It is a simple but enjoyable game. According to the site, when you start a new game you’ll be given a definition, the first letter of the word it’s referring to, and 1 minute to solve the problem.

If you want to go old school invest in a scrabble board or two.

Vocab Ahead

This site has explanatory videos for new words which add an audio-visual aspect to learning new words, this will help memory as it appeals to more senses.


A simple word of the day site for you to expand the vocabulary list.





Voki is a creative educational tool within which you create a speaking avatar. There is also a newer version called voki classroom where the teacher can easily control class contribution in the classroom page.

My attempt at a talking bear can be seen here

It allows teachers and students to express themselves on the web in their own voice, using a talking character. A voki can speak using your own voice, an uploaded file or by typing in a message. The vokis you create can be posted on your class blog, website or anywhere onlineblogging 79

The basic package is free, but Voki Classroom and Presenter cost extra.The free version of Voki only allows for a sixty-second recording, which can be inhibiting for student presentations

Pix n’ Mix of resources

Pix n’ Mix of resources

Yet another short post, this time I thought I’d stick up all the places where I would come across resources for class.

Often I would pick a few different resources, slideshows power points etc. and add them together to make something I feel is up to scratch.

Also, not every teacher is going to create a brand spanking new lesson every day of the week so these are helpful shortcuts.

Visual/Slideshow hubs

Prezi This is a more energetic version of a PowerPoint in which the usual boring slides can move in a bright and colourful theme. It is relatively easy to use and great for those who like to be a little creative. You can link videos, add picture and music. It is a novel but cool way of presenting.

Aside from that you can choose from thousands of ready made Prezis. You can then save them onto your own personal account which is free, all you need is an email. Another benefit is that you don’t need to download or save presentations onto a memory card, just log in to the website and all you work is there.


I like to use this to gather information. This is more in line with the normal powerpoint but it is a hub of ready made information and slides.

The reason I use this to gather information is due to a price sometimes being on the slideshow.blogging 74

Notes etc.

As an English teacher some of the sites I would dip into most often (and definitely when I was in college) were;

Sparknotes it has concise notes on an abundance of books. It has videos and links to original pieces where they go their information from. It really was a lifesaver in college!

Here is a short Hamlet video from the site.

Scoilnet possibly the most popular Irish study notes and resource website. Scoilnet has really improved over the years. It is easy to use and made for the Irish Leaving and Junior cert. Some of the others are from varied countries and curriculums.

On the Shakespeare front, Folger Shakespear Library is another solid resourceblogging 75

Tes is a great resource website. It has great lessons and resources to accompany the lessons. It may take a little while to sift through all the information, but some of the resources are really excellent.blogging 77.jpg


Other notes hub include CliffNotes and Shmoop


Probably a very obvious one but still has to be mentioned. You can get videos of anything on this site but I like to use it most for poetry so the students can hear the poem and seen images associated.

From there on out it’s the books, your own self made notes and prayers !

At some stage almost every teacher tells their students to write, draw or scribble a mind map. They are a great way to give concise information or to cut down the topic. is an online mind map which brings the every increasing web 2.0 aspect into the classroom. It also allows students to save, share or print their mind maps. It is an easy to use platform which may help those students who struggle to be neat or organised.

Mind maps can be used for any subject so it is really a valuble resource. It can be used as a collaborative or individual learning tool. It can also help creativity and critical/editing skills and works best for visual and kinesthetic learners. Visual learners benefit from linking ideas and concepts with images. Kinesthetic learners learn well by physically creating their ideas. Reviews from teachers are all very positive.

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There are four different option accounts;


  • Up to 3 mind maps
  • Save to image or HTML
  • Share mind maps
  • Email support

Monthly: 6 dollars

  • Unlimited mind maps
  • Attach images and files
  • No branding
  • Create backups
  • Priority support
  • 30 day free trial

Annual: 59 dollars

  • Unlimited mind maps
  • Attach images and files
  • No branding
  • Create backups
  • Priority support
  • 30 day free trial

Team: over 50 users 2 dollar a month, under 50 users 3 dollars

  • Multiple licenses
  • Manage user accounts
  • No branding
  • Custom branding
  • Priority support
  • 30 day free trial
Build Your Wild Self

Build Your Wild Self

Another novel way to get into creative writing, Build Your Self is a simple, and easy to use, web platform in which students can create their own character with both human and animalistic visual traits.

It is definitely a platform that could be used to form a character and from there a story.

It is free and all you need is the internet to create your wild self. Here is a short clip to show how easy it is.

Here is an example.blogging 69.png