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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Either ill or busy...


When it goes this quiet, there has to be a reason, so my apologies to my regular readers for the lack of info. I have been very busy and then ill – hence the lack of posting.

These have all been posted at the same time, but I have split them up into their respective elements for those that like to be so ordered in life (and before anyone [Nicola] comments about OCD…)

Today was a couple of meetings in Stirling. I am on a CPD working group for the SSDN Mentor remit, but before this meeting began I had the opportunity to discuss the work Con Morris and the CPD team at LT Scotland have been doing, and are planning, or considering. I love meetings like this. It is great to hear peoples’ ideas, and it is always encouraging to hear people thinking holistically about the benefits technology can bring to our profession. Con did send me the concept maps he has been developing, and I’m still mulling them over. CPD is of huge interest to me, and it is definitely something I will be returning to discuss further.

Sony unveil UMPC


The day before the Samsung Q1 is released in the UK I find this - I know I get criticised for not being able to see past Sony, but in my opinion that's because they know how to design.

If this is their first serious attempt at the UMPC market, then I for one can't wait to see v2.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Masterclass


Today was our annual Masterclass conference in Argyll & Bute. This one was tinged with a bit of sadness for me, as it was our last Masterclass conference. We have decided that from next session we will only be supporting one ICT team, and that will be the SSDN Mentors.

John opened the day by recapping on the activities of Masterclass over the years. We then asked the Masterclass members in groups to think about the ‘good points’ and ‘bad points’ about Masterclass. In no particular order, here goes:

Good Points
  • Personal networking – making good personal links between primary & secondary staff in the Masterclass group
  • Exchanging ideas – great having like-minded people to share things with
  • New technology – a good opportunity to try new software and hardware
  • It has been a great impetus to learn new skills
  • Meeting others
  • Support from others
  • Attending SETT in Glasgow
  • Resources given to Masterclass members and gained through folio submissions
  • Tutoring ICT courses both locally and centrally
  • ‘Eolas’ forum (for readers outside A&B, Eolas is our public folder system where Masterclass have a private discussion area.)
  • Gained in confidence and given confidence to others
  • Created good links in places between primary/secondary
  • SETT in Argyll & Bute

Bad Points
  • Finding time to go on courses & take training etc
  • Trying to encourage colleagues in using ICT is often really difficult
  • Microsoft Academy – difficult to encourage folk especially sitting exams
  • Lack of understanding/info from SMT
  • Difference between remits in SMT – CPD coordinator is not often the ICT coordinator resulting in difficulties
  • Lack of SMT support/interest in some cases – can have a knock-on effect to other staff in the school
  • CPD has not been standard across the authority and between Masterclass members experiences – payment issue
  • Eolas is not great as it is at the moment
  • Lack of opportunity to go to national Masterclass events
  • Initiatives started but not continued – for example Macromedia Breeze
  • Time
  • Communication with Head Teachers – more push needed from above in the authority?
  • SSDN CPD on top of ‘normal’ ICT CPD? – this could be a lot to ask of Mentors
  • Central training & technical support – software not on machines
  • Masterclass online community – same people all the time contributing

One comment fitted in to both good and bad areas – Support – from Head Teacher level & centrally from ICT staff

It was a great opportunity to hear all of these comments. I’m a firm believer in trying to ensure that everyone is as informed as possible, so it is always good to be given feedback where we have done well, and also where we need to try harder – I think we have all learned today.

The rest of the morning was a presentation from Neil Stewart of RM. Neil is our Educationalist, and gave us all an update on progress on the SSDN. It is very easy to forget that the last time most Masterclass members saw anything SSDN was at SETT in September – so much has developed since then so thanks to Neil for this input today – I think the questions asked showed how enthusiastic about the SSDN we are and how keen we are to see it’s potential realised.

After lunch, the focus of the day was on what a SSDN Mentor will be. We had a look at the online Mentor pack (sorry everyone!), and then split into groups to examine four questions – the results are shown in mind maps – 1. What should the residential training consist of? 2. Which models of training do we find most effective? 3. How would we support colleagues? 4. How would we roll out training?

My thanks to everyone for their contribution today, and for all your hard work over the last 3-4 years. It’s been quite a journey.

It seems strange to think of moving on from Masterclass – I’d love to hear what people think?

100 and still counting...


To be honest, if you'd have asked me in October if I would have ever made it to 100 posts, I would probably have said "I doubt it".

But here I am today, typing number 100.

Thanks to all of you that read, and all of you that have commented. I really do appreciate it.

As a token of my appreciation, here is a wee surprise - http://ssdn.ea.argyll-bute.sch.uk

What good is a blog if you can't blow a launch early? This goes live next Monday.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Plea for help in Aberdeen

The following is an extract from Andy Watson's blog in Aberdeen. If you haven't read it already (and you really should have!) read on...


Can you help?

Some primary 7 pupils in Aberdeen have been posting stories and poems on their blog. They would like to have more comments from other schools.

If you go to http://www.abernet.org.uk/wp/ you’ll see the Primary 7 blogs.

As you’ll see, some stories don’t have any comments at all so if your pupils can spare the time to add comments they’d be much appreciated.

If you would like our children to comment on your blogs, just ask.

Looking forward to reading your comments.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

118 - my 'stretch-goal'


Having now had a train journey to think about some of the things I have learned over the last three days, I have decided to create for myself a stretch-goal. This really comes out of my thoughts after leaving the Scotedublogs meet-up last night. It is quite a simple stretch-goal in concept, and I’m going to give it my best shot. It is also in a really small way inspired by the ‘one red paperclip’ idea we all heard about from Will yesterday.

There are 118 days from now until the next Scotedublogs meet-up at SETT '06. My stretch–goal is therefore to have encouraged 118 different people to start a blog before then. Bearing in mind there are weekends and holidays in there too, I may have my work cut out for me.

To track this stretch-goal in some way, I’ve created a '118' wiki.

Here goes.

SCHOLAR conference 06

This is conference season for this traveller form the west coast, so today I spent my third day in a row in the capital going to the SCHOLAR conference in Herriot Watt University.

When I got on the bus this morning, who walked on but Iain McLean, whose wedding Nicola and I are going to on Saturday – talk about a strange coincidence! It's a small world.

Other than that, today hasn’t really started out all that well. To my disgust, you have to pay for wifi at Herriot Watt University – compare this to the last two free, open access days in Murrayfield, and you wonder where progress is being made… obviously I won’t be blogging this live then.
Also, I was handed a 128MB flash disc upon registration – sitting here waiting for the conference to begin, I have put it in my computer to see what is on it – nothing. I don’t know about you, but if I was going to the expense of giving every delegate this type of device, then I would make sure there was some promotional material on it. How to inspire confidence, eh? (Note: After just having a wee chat with the folk at registration, it now turns out that it is possible to put all the material produced by SCHOLAR on a 128MB key – what a wasted opportunity!)

Welcome – Prof Cliff Beavers
(What happened to Prof John Simmons?)
6th annual conference – "a good example to true educational collaboration"
Emphasis on ‘e’ for excellence and ‘e’ for electronic. Yesterday Will Richardson remarked that there already is an ‘e’ in ‘learning’ – I can’t help but think about this.

Introduction – Prof Philip John
Importance of staff development - therefore feedback from all of us is vital.
Development of SCHOLAR costs £100K per annum
What do you get for your money? 24/7 delivery of content, e-assessment etc
This year the site gets 4 million hits – I wonder how many of them have been from Argyll & Bute? Are we getting value for money?
Delivers content to over 50% of the students nationally that are taking courses.
This year development is business management, skills of work courses and languages – Higher French, Higher/Advanced Higher Spanish, German, Gaelic
2006 – 7 Advanced Highers, 8 Highers, 2007 – 7Advanced Highers, 10 Highers, 2 Intermediate 2
Affecting performance – the information given for this was a bit sceptical – number of hits? What about quality of experience/length of visit – click throughs – what about plagiarism?

Recent Developments – Mr Gerry Toner
Biology, Chemistry, Computing, Information Systems, Mathematics, development of the Virtual Learning Environment – an e-portfolio, Assessment is for Learning, Personal Learning Planning, Management Issues

Workshop 1 – Jim McGill – Management issues in e-learning
The purpose of this session is to introduce the management pack - had I known this I would possibly have chosen a different session. After all, I could read the pack myself, and it was published in 2004.
There can be a 2-3 year lead in to change in pedagogy
Why am I sitting here troubled by the fact that they give out ppt files as exemplar lessons to teachers! AARRGGH!
Is it a real change moving from an OHP to a data projector? “Well, not really” – God help us – a data projector can change everything in the way we present information in the classroom!
“They know quite a lot, our pupils” - I would argue that some of our pupils know way more than that – and that’s not a bad thing. How often do we encourage them to share this in the classroom?
“There couldn’t be a better way to use ICT in the classroom in my opinion – it has formative assessment built in right from the beginning” – great that it has formative assessment, but there are plenty of better things out there…
Is this good value for money? Are pupils using this well?

I’m now losing the will to live, as he is talking through a pdf document on screen to us – he did say some other things after this, but this involved talking through a ppt. Cutting edge, eh?
(I've now read through this prior to posting, and although I could tone this down, and make it more flattering or pleasing, I have left it as I wrote it - this costs 32 local authorities a lot of money - personally, I expect value)


Workshop 2 – Brian Dickson – e-portfolio – in development
Simplified e-portfolio – they wanted one to be as simple as possible. This is a work in progress, so in no way complete yet.
Access is through a pupil interface or a teacher interface.
Each kid has what's called 'My Own Space' – files, folders – whatever they want. Further to this, they have a 'Subject' area – this contains any assigned homework, 'revision' notes/tools that they have found and effectively bookmarked and their 'workspace' – where the teacher can assign work to the kids
This is all powered by product called ‘openkast’
Good integration with the revision planner, discussion board and the results database already present in SCHOLAR.
My thoughts? The first gentleman who asked a question summed it up in my mind - his question was "Why? SSDN is going to provide much of this functionality"
I asked whether a teacher could see what they kids have bookmarked as useful resources to help them study - the answer was no. I also asked whether the kids could give out their e-portfolio url to people to go and look at - the answer was no - it exists beyond the password protected login.
What a colossal waste of time and money – SSDN will be giving many of these facilities, and what is the point of a portfolio if you can't show it to anyone?
(is my cynicism growing throughout the day???)

Workshop 3 – Visions of the future – Mark Pendleton
(Mark, one of your own quotes sums up your presentation - Et la lumière fut – and then there was light - well done!)
Mark started out by saying to us all "Make sure your mobile phone is switched on!"

And now for a quick Japanese lesson -
Hajimemashite – nice to meet you
watashi wa Andrew des – my name is Andrew
yoroshiku onegaishimasu – please be nice to me from now on
douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu – please, please be nice to be from now on

Look how much technology has changed
Mark spoke about the divide between adults and kids – digital natives/immigrants
One question – what are the students like that we were taught to teach?
Language zone – password protected safe environment
Mark is learning how to speak Mandarin by only using online materials - he is keeping a blog of this here.
Also, as a breath of fresh air, Mark had brought a pupil with him today to give us her opinion on all of this. Despite being doubtful at first, “I think that anything’s possible using technology” – Lesley, Kilmarnock Academy.
Mark finsihed with a wonderful quote: “We have to engage the learner, value their tools and be open to their world”
A brief discussion was then had about making use of mobile phones to send txt messages to pupils.
textanywhere.net’ – facility to send group texts.
(That was a fabulous session - go Mark! - great also to put a face to a name)


So my thoughts - SCHOLAR is stuck in the past. The best thing about the day was something that didn't actually refer to SCHOLAR at all - it was the work being done by the PiE project.

I don't think it holds water as an argument to be happy that people are using pre-prepared PowerPoint presentations, before they begin to try other technologies. If we followed that one through, then we would all still be learning 'BBC Basic' before we move on to other things. The most important thing here is how engaging are we making our subject? In the secondary context, we all have degrees in our specific subject area - what is it about our subject that ignites our intellectual passion? If we can't convey this, then please don't look to SCHOLAR for inspiration - try the blogosphere and see what people are saying about your subject.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Good people, good food.

Tonight we had the 'Scotedublogs Meet-up' after eLive '06 had finished. It was a brilliant experience putting faces and personalities to names, so thanks everyone for a great evening. Here's looking forward to the next one (which, I believe is to be at SETT)

Blog on!

Will Richardson - RSS - the killer app for teachers

The read only web is 12 years old – read/write is 3 years old
www.technorati.com – the place to search what’s on blogs

The web is all about connections – rss – real simple syndication
This technology makes information much more accessible. Instead of you having to go and find the information, it brings the content to you

Feeds and aggregators
Feeds only bring you new content – the aggregator collects the feeds
Rss gives us more content and more control – will this take over email? Possibly – there is no spam with rss – you only subscribe to what you want to read, watch or hear.
Look for the xml button or type in a search engine ‘website + rss’
This will take you to an xml page, and then copy the link location. This means you have found the feed from the site.

With the feed found, you then need an aggregator – www.bloglines.com
Click the ‘sign up now its free’ button in the middle of the screen.
Limit the number of things you subscribe to! You can get overwhelmed – initially, it is a good idea to not go above subscribing to 25 feeds.
One thing you notice with this new technology is that conversations become very disparate – not the linear method of conversation that we have been used to. For example, the blog author can make a post. Someone may post a comment on that blog, and a conversation begins. Someone else may however ‘quote’ the blog in their own blog, and a second conversation thread emerges. Without an aggregator, it would be impossible to track these conversations, let alone follow them.
You can also create a search feed! For example, go to a news search engine – search for what you want – click the rss and you are subscribing to only what people are writing about – even if they haven’t written it already (wow! Think about it…)
In technorati, you can subscribe to what people have had to say – add to watchlist – at the bottom then click the rss feed link. By doing this, you can follow what other people are saying about you and your posts!

Social Bookmarking
(I'm afraid I've just left this as notes - sorry! I will come back to social bookmarking soon though, honest!)
Highlighting the information on the blog before clicking the delicious tag will use the highlighted text as the ‘notes’
Furl.net saves a picture of the page as well as the text
Students can subscribe to a folder that you categorise – then they automatically get told in their aggregator about things that you find specifically for them!
Usng Flickr.com I can subscribe to someone’s photos – and start a discussion with them if I want? I can subscribe to keywords as well.
‘Netvibes’ and ‘pageflakes’ are aggregators that create a homepage just out of rss feeds

John Johnston – Children as creators of content using ICT tools

John talked us through what he has been doing with blogs & technology.

Great to hear that sometimes they sit around a whiteboard and blog their functional writing. Brilliant also to hear that he only has 2 computers in his classroom connected to the internet – he doesn’t have every kid sitting in front of a machine!

Reinforcement of learning. A sense of audience – it’s not just writing for their teacher.
When looking at their blog, you could see the pupils that had a comment ‘visibly growing’ – lovely image – doesn’t it just make you feel proud to be involved in education?

You don’t always need to have up-to-date technology – the Netherlands blog was written up on the bus by hand by the kids on paper and then typed up later on in the evening and posted – it doesn’t take long!

Twin Castles post – seeing the discussion that comments create.

Scobies – amazing to see that if you spell this incorrectly (as the kids did in this case), it comes 3rd in Google – the discussion this generated was incredible because of this.

A wee mention of the Travelling Teddies blog in Argyll & Bute! If you haven’t seen this, then check out what Morag MacDonald, Marlyn Moffat and the children of Castlehill and Tighnabruaich primaries have been doing.

The pupils are aware of the responsibility of blogging. They know not to write in txt language.

Just a wee plug - click the ‘record an audio comment button’ on the Radio Sandaig website – after listening to the podcast, you can leave a message for the pupils at Sandaig – no-one has yet – you could be the first!

John described this as ‘Stealth education’ – they don’t realise they are learning, as it is so much fun.

‘Word of the month’ – what a brilliant idea for a website – also, great to see the difference in Kimberley’s voice over the year – so much more confident and able.

A school in South Carolina writing a play based on the poems that the pupils in Sandaig wrote. They then made puppets and sent them in a big box to Sandaig. The kids in Sandaig now want to perform the play. How amazing is that!

Will Richardson - New Internet Literacies for Teachers

I’m going to try and blog this live as I did with yesterday’s keynote. I’ll try and make today a bit more coherent!

“The most powerful learning experience in my life has been as a blogger”

Type the word ‘Will’ in Google, and you get will’s site – think about it! – how easy is it to find what Will has to say!

This is not a conversation about technology – rather it is a conversation about what can we do – it is about imagination. The software has become easier and easier to use.

Have you heard of ‘One red paperclip’. In a year he would trade a paperclip all the way until he got a house - staring with a paperclip on the 12th July 2005 he would trade this for anything – here is his trade list – trade to a fish-pin, then doorknob, coleman stove, generator, party tent, snow mobile, a week in Yahk Canada, cube truck, professional recording contract, one year in my house rent free in Phoenix Arizona, an afternoon with Alice Cooper – what will his next trade be?

Anime music videos – mash-ups of anime and music – how can we be creative?

There are now 1 billion people on the net – 10 billion pages. 1 trillion links – this is the most powerful bit. This is the old web…

…the new web is the read/write web. Web 2.0. Tim Berners-Lee when creating the web wanted it to be not just about reading, but about writing as well.

70,000 new blogs each day. 1.2 million new posts of content each day. 7 million new pages each day.

This is global, not just North America – check out www.globalvoices.com .

Not just linking pages, but linking ideas, conversations, and people

www.touchgraph.com visual reference of how your site links to others

‘Learning is in the network’ – Freeman (I hope I got that right – can someone tell me?)

We now have an active, participatory web.

Lawrence Lessig in his book ‘Free Culture’ talks about copyright law – why can’t authors assign their own copyright

Matthew Bischoff podcast clip – his sense of audience is great – he is not podcasting for mum and dad – listen to how animated he is – he is 13.

Tess – Will’s daughter now want to write more books – she wants to because she knows people are reading it.

It is highly motivating for the pupils when they get comments from others.

We need to be open to learning from our students – there is nothing wrong with that.

Will spoke about ‘A Curriculum for Excellence’ – he liked the word ‘link’ in successful learners. If we take away nothing from this talk today, then take away this – our classroom is not bound by 4 walls – we can make connections all over the world.

To what extent does the read/write web change everything about our practice as educators?

- change of focus from ‘closed’ to ‘open’.
o MIT opencourseware – you can take a course at MIT for free – all the resources are there.
o The entire South African curriculum is being built on a wiki
- Rip, mix and learn society
o Teacher as a DJ – as teacher you can choose what your kids need at any given moment
o 43 things – on this site you put up a list and you are making immediate connections with other people
- From some time to any time learning
o ‘Pull’ vs ‘push’ – we can now gather knowledge from anywhere, instead of push information at our students
- ‘Working alone’ to ‘working together’
o We live in a collaborative world – the best example is wikipedia – think about what is happening here – we need to teach our kids how to collaborate
o I will collaborate with my peers around the world, while you collaborate with your peers in the classroom
- ‘Hand it in’ vs ‘publish it’ – think about the change this would make. We could move away from the ‘what did I get’ mentality.
- Students can teach
- From experts
o Read what others write - bloglines
o Read what others read – ‘furl’ or ‘del.icio.us’
- From ‘know what’ to ‘know where’
- How many of us did not do well in science, because we couldn’t remember formulas? It wasn’t because we couldn’t use the formula!
- From ‘information literacy’ to ‘network literacy’ – we need to know how to become self motivated, life long learners.

Big questions –
1. What do we have to adjust to this change in technology?
2. How does our role as teacher change when we bring primary soruces into the classroom?
3. How do we define literacy when kids not just read, but create?

We have to provide good models of use, be creators, be collaborators, and mentor critical thinking – we need to be change agents.

This is all about imagination.

What are you willing to trade from your old classroom, so that your students are 21st century thinkers/citizens?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

When you desperately need a match, but all you’ve got is a pencil


For some unknown reason, I was mysteriously booked into two seminars that were on at the same time. As I couldn’t remember who was taking what, I plumped for ‘Leadership – managing the change in transition’ which was being taken by Alan November. Nothing against Alan, but as he led the only other session I managed to attend today, I had hoped to be hearing another voice.

Alan, as ever, always has words of wisdom.

Here are a select few from the session:

We haven’t taught students the syntax of the web – this equates to saying ‘Go and play this game’ without explaining the rules.

Do we know about ‘www.turnitin.com’? This web tool will scan a pupils’ response to an assignment and identify which websites they have plagiarised from – don’t use this tool to catch out though, use it as a teaching moment. How about asking students to do this prior to submitting their assignment?

Use ‘www.ask.com’ or ‘www.answers.com’ as the search engine.
For young kids ‘www.vivisimo.com’ or ‘www.tekmom.com

Explain about filtering – they need to know that filtering has been set in school, but is different when they are at home – ie Google used in school with the highest level of filtering is ‘safe’, but they may not have any filtering set at home – kids think that the search engine is ‘safe’ to use always.

Do we know about www.archive.org? This site has a ‘wayback’ machine – helps you chart how websites have changed!

We need to give focused assignments - ask students to examine how a website is different over time – ie what has changed in its presentation between its inception in 1999 and how it looks/information it presents now in 2006

Typing the word ‘link:’ in a search engine will find all the sites that link to the website

Narrow down your results by adding ‘host:ac.uk’ and it will only give you what academic organisations in the UK say about the site

2 things for leaders -

1. Design more rigorous, demanding, focused assignments.
2. Build community – give our kids a global voice.

Every teacher should have a ‘www.bloglines.com’ account, and a ‘del.icio.us’ account.

Have a look at ‘www.visitmyclass.com’ – this is a great example of how students continue to review their work even after the class has finished.

We need to study what our kids are doing on ‘myspace.com’ – if we can tap into that creative energy and building of community in education, then we really will have managed something.

I still have one burning question though – how do we tackle the issue of staff that are fearful about facing change? How do we make them realise that technology can change they way they teach for the better?

How do I speak to all the teachers that I need to hear this, when I know those very same individuals don’t go near websites, let alone blogs?

It’s hard, when all you’ve got is a pencil, but you desperately need a match.

eLive - keynote 1 - Alan November

I’m going to try and blog this live, so my apologies in advance if this doesn’t make much sense – please ask questions if you want more detail
(Incidentally – I’m sitting next to David Muir, Educational Blogger who I just met this morning – he is also blogging this – check out his take on the message from Alan here)
“The past is over” – G. W. Bush!
Start asking students – “What do they know?” Shift of control – the learner comes up with their problems to solve.
Ask kids what they do with computers – compare school with home – at home they are doing IM, collaborative Photoshop – why do we not let our kids (and staff) use IM in school? FEAR – we are comfortable with what we know. We use a computer as a pencil – we don’t use technology in activities that we don’t already do in other ways already
Ask students - What’s on your website – They answer - music, pictures, making connections with other people!
We ‘use’ the internet – kids ‘do’ the internet
We need to talk to our students and ask them what they do – why are we blocking it?
We need to use IM creatively.
Give role models of appropriate use
Schools in some way have become the learning police – we block, but they use it at home.
IBM as a company generate 10 million IMs a day – communication is the number 1 application that we block!
Dan November (Alan’s son) organising his class by IM – some kids doing maths, some doing English some chemistry – collectively they are managing the homework of the entire class without the teachers knowledge. Enterprising? What did the school do? Discipline the kid. We are teaching communication out of our students.
The problem is not technology – it is how we use this technology
Who owns the learning happening in your school?
The Victorian model the teacher owns it – now we have tools that kids can learn faster than adults – therefore we need to rethink our model.
We need to rewrite the job description of a teacher:
Diagnostic skills – how does this child learn?
1. Kids are social
2. Kids are territorial
We need spaces for kids to call their own, and space for kids and staff to collaborate
Kids need to own the learning – being self directive, motivated. You need to have the life skill of being self dependent – the Victorian model is where the kids are dependent on the teacher.
How long does it take to remove the dependency? It takes months
Time, space and how people relate to each other – we need to change these 3 things – without doing this, the all the technology in the world will make no difference
Using software today, a test can be created in real time as the pupil is sitting the test
Are we willing to free up the control so that they can learn at their own rate? This is a big shift from what we do at the moment.
Where kids feel so empowered that they don’t want you to interrupt them!
How do we remove the fear? How do we change the culture?
Create videos and podcasts to teach parents about what their kids are learning – the changes we are talking about will take 10-20 years to implement fully.
Type in ‘miserable failure’ in Google – you get the White House. How does this work? Do our kids know how this works?
Type in ‘Octopus’ – there is a tree octopus!? Kids of course believe this – why? They read it on the internet
Kids need to learn the literacy of information
Real staff development is not teaching staff how to use technology, but how to design meaningful assignments – never say ‘Go on the internet’!
We still teach as if print is the dominant source of information – when you ask kids where they find info, it’s the net
Switch from ‘google.com’ to ‘ask.com’ or ‘answers.com’ – they work in completely different ways.
Step 1 - Grammar of the net
Step 2 – Teach kids how to connect to the world
Step 3 – Change expectations as a teacher
Do you know that Toyota’s stock value is 12 times the size of General Motors?
The role of a teacher is the network – build relationships around the world.
Kids would rather present to the world, than to one person in a classroom
www.fanfiction.net stories written by people in the style of authors.
Why do kids have avatars and pseudonyms? When you are not using your real name, you are more willing to accept the criticism – in school it is harder as it is your real name – anonymity really helps

We need to expand the boundaries of our learning – the classroom walls don’t matter anymore.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Auld Reekie


Tomorrow I venture east for two days of eLive and then one day of Scholar. Hopefully if the wifi is good I'll blog my thoughts on Edinburgh's great event - the line up looks good - tomorrow morning's keynote is Alan November and then Will Richardson speaking on the Wednesday.

In think I've also finally finished the SSDN stuff (phew!) - all I need now is servers to figure out a DNS glitch. We are hoping for the site to go live on the 1st June, but what good's a blog if you can't blow a launch early?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Is it me? Is it the system?


This one has been inspired by a recent discussion with Alastair Turnbull – keep the faith!

At the age of 17 I had no interest whatsoever in learning how to drive a car. Why should I learn? I can get about fine at the moment, and if I want a lift I can ask someone! So while my classmates were learning how to drive, and saving up to buy old bangers (or being bought spanking new convertibles by ‘mother and father’ – I went to a posh school!), I was leading my life oblivious to the benefits of having this particular skill. One day, a friend asked me to come and visit them. They lived in a remote place, and suddenly the reality of not being able to drive hit me hard. I then started to think about how driving could make my life better – no more waiting around at train stations, no more complicated planning to get to ‘difficult’ places, and no more having to rely on friends or relatives to give me a lift.

The similarities to the teaching environment are obvious. There are many teachers out there who have no interest whatsoever in learning how to make use of ICT. Why learn? In their opinion, they are teaching fine at the moment! Sure, they may have noticed that members of their class are a little bit disinterested, but tightening up their classroom management will solve this. They are still achieving the same results, and the correct percentage of their class are still achieving the ‘right’ grade, so why change?

I am a firm believer that show a teacher any teaching aid or method that improves the quality of education in their classroom, and they will judge it on its own merit. If you are not sure about this, then think about when videos arrived in schools. Many staff didn’t see the point in using this new technology, and were convinced that their textbook explanation of things was more than adequate – if some pupils didn’t understand the concept being taught, then they (the pupil!) would just have to try harder. Now, we have learned so much about how people think, that we need to move away from this model, no matter how comfortable it may be for us.

When I was in Boston in 2004, I had a few ‘what if we slice the bread before we sell it’ moments. The one that shook me to the core was when Bob Tinker in his keynote presentation demonstrated an interactive program that quite frankly made science come to life in a way that I wish my science teachers could have been able to achieve! I think everyone left the session re-evaluating their own concept of teaching science.

Whenever you show someone how particles and atoms behave, all you can show them is a model - effectively a video of what happens. What some of Bob Tinker’s colleagues have created is an interactive program that allows you to vary the properties of elements etc. You could never witness this with a microscope, or convey to a pupil what was happening effectively prior to this. A pupil would either ‘get’ the concept, or they wouldn’t. This program changes everything. Best of all, it’s free! Check out - http://molit.concord.org/software/ (free science software) - molecular workbench

I’ll give you another example – I couldn’t imagine starting a lesson in RE about where a world religion originated without using ‘Google Earth’ or ‘NASA World Wind’ – if you are not sure, then think about how you would do this with a textbook – the RE textbook will probably have the world’s most uninspiring ‘pale blue line drawing’ of some area of the world, completely out of context. Not many of your pupils will be able to put this in context by themselves, and many will switch off for this reason – or better still, they will use the obligatory pen they have in their hand to draw on your textbook – why? – because they are uninvolved. You might have a big world map on the wall that you try and point at, but this doesn’t compare to the 3D modelling and photography of Google Earth or NASA World Wind. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get in touch with someone who lives there, and they could tell us what it is like? You can – check out ePals.com or globalvoices.org (note - having just checked ePals - it's blocked in Argyll & Bute - communication is obviously a dangerous thing! - although curously MySpace isn't - go figure...)

Sure, the technology may not work, and you may have to revert to plan ‘B’. Then again – it might work, and your lesson is much ‘better’ at engaging and explaining. What if the technology doesn’t work? Then you have ‘wasted’ 5 minutes of your lesson, before moving on to plan ‘B’ – in the meantime that quiet, disinterested pupil that you usually struggle to get involved in your lessons may pipe up with the solution to the technical problem you are facing. All of a sudden that pupil is involved in what you are doing, and they will feel brilliant at being able to ‘help’ the teacher. If it doesn’t work and no-one can find the answer – move on – don’t spend longer than 5 minutes in class trying to solve something. We all have to change tact sometimes in a lesson – it’s called being adaptable. Most importantly though – tell someone what happened. It only takes a minute to pick up the phone, or send an email. You might not get the answer there and then, but if you’ve told someone ‘techy’ then they won’t rest until they have figured it out for you (we are sad individuals like that ;-) ).

Darren Kuropatwa in refute of Thomas Freidman’s theory – ‘The World is Flat’ describes the digital divide as being two enormous plateaux – separated by a huge cliff. Our job as ICT empowered teachers is to help those on the lower plateaux find the staircase up to the other plateaux. Will it be scary? It might. But don’t worry. We’ll go up one step at a time – and I’ll hold your hand on the way up.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Just like waiting for a bus...

You stand around waiting, and then all of a sudden, two come along!

That's the intro and all five sections now online. Two dodgey bits of audio to replace, a couple of timeline inconsistencies to sort out and then post the relevant documents so that the buttons actually link to something. So, I'm nearly there!

Still at my own temporary address (use the skip button!), but hopefully at the official address by the end of the week.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Section 3

You can exhale now...!

Section 3 is a big file, so if you have less than 2MB, then go and make a cup of tea.

Do the times in brackets help?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Section 2

And now, yet again, for the next thrilling instalment...

Section 2 is now up and running.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Section 1

The next thrilling instalment.

If you've already seen the intro, click the 'skip' button.

Thoughts? Criticisms? Observations? (Iknow the buttons don't work...)

Monday, May 08, 2006

For those going to eLive...


If you are going to eLive, and don't know about this already, then click here.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Redundant Time


I had a meeting this morning in Edinburgh with Mark Adams of Microsoft, Malcolm Knox of Prodigy and Ian Stuart of Islay High School. Ian is presenting with Mark at a conference in the Lighthouse on designing schools for the future (sorry if that’s not quite right Ian!) on the 25th May. I joined them as it was an opportunity to be shown the new ‘Benchmark’ tool by Malcolm from Prodigy.

I have to say that I am impressed.

The notion of having a tool that assesses in an informal way what a student knows, and then automatically creates a personal learning plan for their development is great. It also addresses the problem that we face at the moment with such a disparate spread of knowledge, levels and ability in pupils ICT when they make the transition from primary to secondary. When you realise that this would work out to be around £8-10 per pupil (including the materials!), then this sounds a great deal to me. This is a great example of how ICT can be used effectively – it’s a shame the subject matter is ICT though! What we need now is people creating similar things (with similar functionality for all other curricular areas)
Thanks for taking the time to show us, Malcolm.

The title for today comes from the discussion that we had about many things in education. Mark pointed out that if you watch kids they don’t have ‘redundant time’ – if they aren’t doing something, they quickly pull out the mobile phone and send someone a text, or listen to something on their MP3 player. It is curious how we have to manage them in schools in timetables though – which creates for us ‘redundant time’. How often as a teacher do you discount the first few minutes of a lesson and the last few because of ‘travel time’ (in the secondary school?) How often do you encourage learning to go on after the period bell has sounded (aside from the classical notion of ‘homework’)? Using technology, time doesn’t have to be redundant – have questions/activities up on your screen as your pupils are entering/leaving the room. What about a presentation full of quotes as pupils arrive/leave to make them think? What about a blog or a wiki for the ideas you and your pupils have had during the lesson? Instead of making notes of the pupils comments on a chalkboard or whiteboard, why not type them straight into a blog or wiki? What’s the worst thing that could happen – your pupils never look at it again? What’s the best thing that could happen – they do, and continue discussion after your allotted ‘period’ is over?

I thought about Mark’s comment on the way home on the train – redundant time – I’m not sure if pupils have a notion of redundancy – is this just an adult concept?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

When work gets in the way of work


By now we should all be looking at the new-look site with seamlessly integrated flash/xml/css/asp.

But we're not.

It's a shame that 'work' actually does get in the way sometimes, and I'm afraid (or glad?) that I'm not going to spend every waking minute of my own 'free-time' getting a site to work that actually only exists for my work anyway. Hopefully I'll have time in late June/early July to get it finished and uploaded in a format that I'm happy with, so for now I'm afraid the old site stays (except for this lovely little picture of things to come!)

All of this does make me ask many questions though.

I often wonder how remarkable it is that few of us as teachers ask the question uttered by so many of our pupils - "How do you know that?" In trying to get the new site to function the way I would like, I have spent a lot of time researching. I love how my thought process has changed as a learner. Early on in my learning development, if I didn't know something, I would wait until someone explained it to me. If this didn't happen, I might then actively seek instruction, or try and locate a book full of instruction in a library. Now I don't seem content to wait even for this - I just go and 'have a look' and see what I can find in the readily available source of knowledge - the internet.

The problem however with so much access to information is working your way through it all – sifting out the poor (or inaccurate) instruction, and searching for the wise teacher.

I’m also very aware that there are numerous great teachers out there, who have a true gift for explaining the complex in simple terms but have no idea how to create for the web. Also, how important having the skills to validate what I find on the web now are – with web 2.0 anyone can publish, therefore there is even more chance of finding wildly inaccurate information.

Anyway, this was meant to be an apology for the fact that the countdown to the new site went nowhere at the moment for those that were following it. As usual though, I managed to ramble my way through that!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Gross National Happiness (GNH)


I watched a programme tonight on BBC 2 called ‘The Happiness Formula’. It was fascinating to hear that the nation of Bhutan rate their prospective policies against how ‘happy’ it will make them as a nation, before how ‘rich’.

Which got me thinking… ought we to be assessing education policies along the same lines?

Having read through ‘A Curriculum for Excellence – progress and proposals’ I wonder if it leans more towards creating happy citizens than to growing future business workers? It is encouraging to see that in defining curricular areas ‘health and wellbeing’ comes first in the list – even before ‘language’ and ‘mathematics’, but unless we can free up our curriculum and those that manage it in schools, then we will not move far from the ‘modes’ that we presently languish in.

I think I worry that we have swallowed the notion that we are trying to create ‘productive members of society’ before ‘members of society’. A small distinction, but society needs its members to understand a sense of belonging just as much (if not more) than them being productive.

From a schools perspective, ‘belonging’ requires ‘wanting to be there’ – wanting to be there requires that it is ‘interesting’ and ‘relevant’. Relevance begins by drawing parallels with what our pupils are interested in.

Perhaps the ‘confident individuals’ that need to be addressed first are the local authority officers and senior managers in school. We need to be sending out the message that it’s ok that the pinnacle of learning is not in certification, but in social development.

When I hear of 'A Curriculum for Excellence', I also can't help but think about Bill & Ted - "Be excellent to each other". It doesn't help in the digesting of an education policy, does it?