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Thursday, May 25, 2006

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.


Anonymous Lynne said...

Andrew pupils in Argyll schools do use Scholar especially in the Sciences and AH languages. I'm glad you enjoyed Mark's presentation - I am one of the administrators for Languagezone and Argyll pupils certainly use that, but I think PiE has been kind of ignored in the ICT context in Argyll and Bute (I'm willing to be proved wrong) - Depute was telling me he mentioned PiE at the ICT coordinator's meeting yesterday and one of them said "What's PiE?" I rest my case...

Comic Life, Digital Video, iStopMotion - all things that Argyll pupils have learned to use through PiE, not to mention the amount of technology in some language departments in Argyll - lots of it from PiE.

OK, I'll get off the soapbox now

5:35 pm  
Blogger ab said...

Stay on the soapbox, Lynne! We need to shout about good things as loudly as we can!

I have no doubt that kids use SCHOLAR - my question is whether it is good or not. I'm aware that there are so many of our students that are put off education because it is not interesting - I for one couldn't be bothered at school because I wasn't remotely interested in what my teachers had to say - I then went on to spend 8 years in further education. What about our kids that don't get the grades because they were disengaged? Our subjects are facinating - we always need to remember that above all else - I loved my subject so much I was desperate to teach it. We need to harness that enthusiasm.

Regarding PiE - I'll apologise on the authorities part - to my knowledge it wasn't remotely intentional. From now on you have a convert (and once I've got a bee in my bonnet, there's no stopping me...!)

6:02 pm  
Blogger Mark said...

Andrew - thanks for the kind words - I'm glad you enjoyed our input today in Edinburgh. I've now posted the link to the presentation over on the PiE blog.

I wonder if you'd be interested in coming along to our Film Festival next Friday (2nd June) - it's in Kilmarnock and it's a celebration of the film-making work of the students involved in PiE, a tiny example of which you saw (but didn't hear!) today. You'd be most welcome. Give me a ring about it.

8:46 pm  
Blogger David said...

Don't sit on the fence Andrew... tell us what you really think! :-)

9:49 pm  
Anonymous Ian said...

Pie was mentioned at the ICT meeting but it was in the same breath as a dozen other letters. Partners in Excellence was recognised straight away and appreciated for the great work it is capable of doing.

8:35 pm  

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