December 28, 2007

1/5 - Hit or miss? Spotting innovation that's worth spotting

This is part one of five parts in a personal learning log review of 2007. It might be of  help to you, might not be. Bear with me, and normal service will be resumed...

Falkirk_wheel A large part of my work over the past year has just involved getting to know innovative people producing innovative ideas, and helping them to nuance their products or bring them to educators' attention. The year's not been too bad in that respect, with my nose getting keener on innovation than a hog seeking truffles.

Jan 1st: The first of the year's developments in Sharepoint, the technology which underpins our national intranet Glow, whereby users can take a wiki offline to work on it where connectivity is lost.

Quintura Jan 5th: I was still helping East Lothian identify worthwhile web technologies to get their teeth into. Bubbleshare was a great sustainable find, and the others I bet on throughout 2006 (Pageflakes, Netvibes, Quintura) flourished in 2007. Quintura was named the best alternative to Google on December 11th.

January 17th: I stuck my neck out about Internet Protocol TV becoming big, but not before web-based telly had made its mark. In the end, this year saw the launch of Channel 4's 4OD and the BBC's iPlayer was just relaunched in December.

On my birthday, I contributed my educational input into how we could use this relatively new tool called Twitter. I also learned how to get really animated with Oscar Stringer, and discovered Flashmeeting, my favourite free web-based video conferencing and desktop sharing app from the Open University.

At the beginning of March I thought Shotcodes would take over the mobile world. I was wrong. But there's still time.

May 18th was a ground-breaker, getting to experience Scratch for the first time. The potential remains untapped, unfortunately, in most schools, although on May 21st I was able to help convince East Lothian computing studies teachers to create a nascent Scratch curriculum. Meanwhile, in a visit to MIT in Boston on July 17th and from Mitch Resnick's keynote on July 18th I was able to see that the innovation on their part continues in the form of the ScratchBoard.

May 22nd was a great day, meeting Tim Rylands for the first time, and discovering the potential for some 'old tech': Myst. Exploring this game helped me see the potential in others, such as Samorost, for creative imaginative writing. Matching it with some of the work being done by LTS on graphic novels and game-making opened horizons further. After some further thoughts the blog posts finally spawned action across the UK, Australia and New Zealand. It's still not the kind of thing entering most classrooms, which makes me hark back to the main points to come out of that Building Learning Communities conference in Boston in July: it's not creativity that's important, it's ingenuity with the tools at hand.

On July 12th I was the first to break Skitch onto the market, with huge take-up resulting in two more releases of my free invites - everyone catered for now?

Animoto August 17th: this blog was (one of) the first to bring you Animoto after their exclusive tip-off to me earlier that month. Since then, this great tool has provided a free or cheap way for students and educators to produce visual rundowns of their activity when time's been tight (which, in your average classroom, is fairly often).

While, at the beginning of the year, everyone was screaming our for a One Laptop Per Child Laptop, we were getting enthusiastic on November 19th about the incredibly low-cost open-sourced Asus EeePC, when we got to play with one and make our (almost) exclusive inside look video. Watch out in 2008 for some pretty extensive trialling...

It's been a highly innovative year across the technology world, and the public sector has been quick to take advantage of it (with a push and a nudge from our new tech team, it has to be said). Coming up, take a look at how the public service in Scottish education has evolved this past year.

Related posts: 
2/5: The changing ways of the public sector
3/5: eduBuzz: East Lothian online publishing increases 5000%
4/5: Building a business
5/5: Having a bash - social media gets social

Pic: Falkirk Wheel

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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