I got back to being a language teacher last night, doing a quick talk and then conversation with some of the teachers participating in our Malta Better Learning with Technologies group. Here is the video of the talk, where I was inspired by the instant nature of understanding we gain from the cartoons we've seen over the past week:
I'm currently attempting some "holiday" in France, but the downtime has had my brain whizzing with sights that are more or less unfamiliar, certainly not from the time when I lived here over a decade ago or from my wife's own upbringing.
One such thing is what you can observe in the photo I took in a book shop in a city centre mall. This was the third shop we'd been into where we observed the same pattern:
Children and teenagers, though never adults, would diligently and without having been told to, take their bags to the entrance and dump them in a pile before going about their shopping.
I remarked that in pretty much any other country, a) the bags would be stolen within minutes, or b) they'd be removed as a bomb threat, and almost certainly c) any young person asked on entering a store to leave their bag would cry foul, civil liberties and assumptions of innocent-until-caught-with-a-loot-of-school-supplies (this was a stationery and book shop; hardly the stuff of hardened crack heads or hungry desperadoes).
France is certainly struggling at the moment. Her economy is dying, her politicians panicking, her entrepreneurs leaving by their hundreds every week on the Eurostar.
But success might be more likely to appear some day soon if it can do one thing for the taxpayers, citizens and workers of tomorrow: trust them as equal citizens in a Republic built on liberté, égalité and fraternité.
When you see a list of endings from Hemingway stories, you can also see the even more intriguing beginnings of stories not yet written. Here are some from the 50 Hemingway endings over here, and don't forget to blog and link back to any stories you (or your students) come up with!
But they could not help his fear because he was up against an older magic now.
“We’ll have to go,” Nick said. “I can see we’ll have to go.”
Looking back from the mounting grade before the track curved into the hills he could see the firelight in the clearing.
Then he was dead.
When they fired the first volley he was sitting down in the water with his head on his knees.
A short time after he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park.
It was a good thing to have in reserve.
They all came just like that.
The little devil, he thought, I wonder if he lied to me.
The hold over himself relaxed, too, finally, and the next day it was very slack and he cried very easily at little things that were of no importance.
In the early morning on the lake sitting in the stern of the boat with his father rowing, he felt quite sure that he would never die.
I am not really a good bull fighter.
Now they would have the run home together.
He curled up under the blanket and went to sleep.
The priest skipped back onto the scaffolding just before the drop fell.
What happens next? The 50 Hemingway endings via my friend Matt, who runs a company that helps other companies build stories.
My good chums at Mint and Channel 4's Adam Gee have come up with a beauty of a service, finally providing a beautiful, slick home for the world's best quotations. It's a brilliant resource for any student of history, English language, Classics, science, or PowerPoint 101.
Never again will I have to suffer inaccurate citing in keynote presentations, or dinner parties where people quaff fine wine while stealing great one-liners with the catch-all "I don't know where this comes from, but...".
Says Mr Gee on his blog this morning:
Ever tried looking for a quotation online (of the literary as opposed to the insurance variety)? Wasn’t much fun was it? Not that easy to find what you want. And just how accurate was it? And why does it look like the site was made by a geek with no design skills in his stinky bedroom?
But you love great quotes don’t you? On your Facebook profile. In that presentation. You know, those ones you keep in that file – the one on your old computer. They’re everywhere – on the tube, in that advert, on that building, in that caff.
So why don’t we get the quotation sites we deserve and desire? Although there are several in the Alexa top 5000 most are labours of love, evolutions, accretions of amateur solutions stuck one on top of another like the proverbial sticking plaster.
It's even more close to my heart since this brazen little startup is based out of Glasgow and, I feel, it's providing an education service. Where can you see yourself using this? What do you want the team to do for you this coming year? What toys do you want them to offer you this Christmas? Don't spend too long answering here - jump over and have a play now. Or, as Spike Milligan would have said:
“Well we can’t stand around here doing nothing, people will think we’re workmen.”
The app in the video above shows how augmented reality can help give you the answers to a Soduko quiz in your local newspaper. You can also ask it just to give you a hint. Now, imagine that this device, primed for heating, were constrained to solely giving you the interesting question, the clue or hint. We begin to see how augmented reality contributes towards Dan's mantra of "be less helpful" to make learning better.
Can you imagine holding the app over a French language text or physics problem and getting that little contextual nudge that great teachers have always offered? What would that free the teacher up to do? How could it add to the learning experience in homes where parents take less of an interest in (the learning of) their children?
Tip of the hat to my favourite polymath, Noah Brier.
I'm selling a bunch of iPad ideas to my investment panel tomorrow on behalf of my client companies and looking forward to producing some fun, engaging and hopefully profitable little apps early on in the new marketplace, before it, too, gets over-over-overcrowded.
This example of how Alice in Wonderland will be iPadised has a budget well above our prototypes, but creates the kind of eye-popping engagement for reading that most of us learning and teaching reading in any language wouldn't want to miss.
The app helps students get started by modeling what it expected, with none other than an award-winning writer to get the creative wheels greased. In 2006, Naomi Alderman won the Orange Award for New Writers, and she now offers a growing selection of exclusive taptale stories, written just for the screen space and gestural potential of the iPhone. They're also available to read on the Taptale website.
“Readers have to work out what they have to do in the story to progress,” says Adrian Hon, who created the application and co-founded Six to Start with his brother Dan. “The story might say something like ‘the witch went up to the door and knocked three times’. The player would then have to tap on the phone three times in order to advance. Or they might read that the house fell to the right and they have to tilt the phone to the right to read about what happens next.”
The goal is to encourage young people to write their own stories and include their own “gestures”.
Once a tale has been created, users can upload them to the TapTale website, where other registered users can download and read them. Registered users can also provide feedback on any tale via the website, by slotting pre-written statements into a form.
Brian Clark, working with LTS on trialling the project, describes how it might be used in practice this term:
TapTale’s primary goal is to promote literacy through the reading and writing of tales using the tap, tilt, shake and swipe functions of Apples touch screen devices.
When creating a tale, pupils are asked to write chapters using the touchscreen keyboard on the device. In order to progress from chapter to chapter, the reader must use one of the tap, swipe, tilt or shake sequences. It is up to the author of the tale to decide what action must be taken for the reader to see the next chapter.
Once a tale has been created, users can upload them via the device to the taptale website. This allows other registered user to download and read their tales directly on the device. Registered users can provide feedback on any tale via the website using a ‘fridge magnet’ style form. Anyone can read the tales created directly from the site, but of course the tapping and tilting functions are not possible in this view.
My favourite part of this exercise may not even be the iPhone app itself. Rather, the online peer-assessment community we've developed is, I think, a first (though I'm happily corrected). I wanted to see a fridge-magnet approach to student feedback, something that would allow structured feedback to take place but not just in a "tick-box" fashion. I think I also wanted to hark back stylistically to the days of scholastic readers that I had when I was aged four in primary school, learning how to read for the first time. The result is quite a delightful way of helping students - and the general public who stop off by their writings - to learn new ways to provide "two stars and a wish" type feedback to each other anonymously, while maintaining the integrity and safety of a learning site used by young people.
The system prompts you to use one of the many critiques that Derek and I thrashed out over a boring train trip or two, to accept it, before pushing up the next set of options. Go and have a play on one of Naomi's stories and you'll see how challenging some of the vocabulary is yet how easy the interface is: struggleware if ever there was any.
Above all, though, it's about the written word, not the graphic, the design or the picture.
If anything, the lack of features is what makes this app special, what's going to make it work well. Children will, lo and behold, have to think about how to describe what's in their mind's eye, not just photograph it with the cellphone camera or Google it, right-click it, save it and insert it. Stripping all that away is, if anything, at least one educational advance we'll have made.
Pic from Anthony
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.
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.