17 posts categorized "Social Networking"

June 19, 2012

#NeverSeconds: Students can change the world - when we get out of the way

When I was at school, I wrote an article in the student newspaper (the Pupils' View) about how fresh, healthy food was disproportionately overpriced compared to the "yellow food" on offer in the school canteen. The result was that the Catering Director for the Local Authority actually left her job. And I got into a fair bit of trouble.

This all happened in Dunoon Grammar School, part of the Local Authority Argyll and Bute who, with similar sense of grievance and bullying last week attempted to silence one nine-year-old Martha Payne with a brutal, long-winded press release and ban of Martha's online activities.

Martha First Meal
Since the end of the Easter holidays, Martha has been writing a daily food blog about her school lunches, with the support of her dad, as a self-initiated writing project. It also set out in the noble aim to fund the building of kitchens for less fortunate children in Malawi, through the Mary's Meals charity.

Her first posts revealed the tiny portions (hence the name of her blog: NeverSeconds) and, yes, the rather yellow fried nature of her food. But things improved within barely weeks, and most meals were absolutely fine (a summary average of the scores she gave to each meal results in something over 7.5 - not bad for mass-produced school meals, but with room for improvement, a point which was very much Martha's).

Where Martha forgot her camera, she took to drawing her meal. She scored not just out of ten, but also on a health rating, how many mouthfuls it took to get through and, disturbingly, how many pieces of hair were found in it (I've yet to spot the post where there is some hair; again, a good sign).

Within weeks, her notoriety was such that school kids from elsewhere around the world were sharing their meals for Martha to publish on her blog on their behalf. 

TV chefs Jamie Oliver and Nick Nairn championed her and invited Martha over to learn how to cook herself.

Nick Nairn

Vitally, her food portions became bigger, so that a "growing girl" like her had half a chance.

So far, so good, so much a passionate kid with a passion for food, and a good way with words. And a nine-year-old changing her school's approach to food. 

Until last week:

This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today. 

I only write my blog not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I’ll miss seeing the dinners you send me too. I don’t think I will be able to finish raising enough money for a kitchen for Mary’s Meals either. 

Argyll and Bute, the school district rather than the otherwise very supportive school itself, issued a damning edict, preventing Martha from taking any more photos, writing any more blog posts about her lunches. Dinner ladies were, said the illiterate press release (we serve "deserts" to our children, really?), "afraid for their jobs". It was, according to one legal journalist, "one of the most piss-poor justifications of a ban of anything from any public authority".

Martha Payne legal tweet

Celeb chef Jamie Oliver, known globally for his crusade against poor school food, waded in to get people to lend their support with a simple retweet of his "Stay strong, Martha".

Martha Payne Jamie Oliver Tweet

Mary's Meals, for whom Martha's blog had raised £2000 by Thursday night, the day of the ban, issued a statement outlining the consequences of the ban on her efforts to build kitchens in schools in Malawi, a country with whom Scotland has a long-standing official partnership.

Martha's "Goodbye" post earned over 2000 comments and Twitter's #neverseconds tag went into meltdown. #NeverSeconds, the girl Martha Payne and, excruciatingly, Argyll and Bute council all hit the top trending terms in the UK. Her blog, having reached 2m hits in just over a month already, now saw its blog counter unable to keep up as she broke through 3m in one day.

And I was livid for her. How dare councils, and this council in particular, once more attempt to bully those in its learning community. I sent a quick tweet to the Education Minister, who is also the member of the Scottish Parliament for the area, requesting he do something in what had already been established a ridiculous and illegal abuse of power. He tweet back that he agreed, having requested the Head of the Council to lift the ban immediately.

Martha Payne Mike Russell to EM

Within 20 minutes the Head of the Council was on the radio, announcing a change of tack.

Argyll and Bute finally managed a new statement, the politicians showing more sense than their feckless faceless bureaucrats and lifting the ban.

As a result of the debacle, Argyll and Bute has gained a global reputation for awful PR, a tortoise-like reaction time on Twitter and, potentially, an interesting place to go on holiday. Was it all a tourism ploy? Given the repeated mess they get themselves into, they're almost certainly not not that clever.

But, on a positive note, Martha's long-term goal of raising £7000 for a new kitchen in a Malawi school was rather superseded: she was at nearly £50,000 ($100,000) at the weekend just past, now at £100,000 ($200,000) with more rushing in every day

She has also created the beginnings of, hopefully, lasting change: she will head up a council summit on school meals and work with them longer term on improving the quality of food for every child in the district. Happily, she's back to blogging it all once more with the support of her school and, reluctantly or not, her Local Authority. She has now had her first kitchen in Malawi named in her honour.

_60982494_lirangwepupils

Martha shows every facet of great learning: real world change, making the environment around her better, sharing her thinking with the world, having a conscious for the world beyond her immediate horizons, and robustness in the face of incredible media and social media pressure. She is another 'Caine', with a supportive parent and facilitating adults around her. She'll go far.

Donate to Martha's campaign through her blog: http://neverseconds.blogspot.co.uk/

January 05, 2012

Collaboration 7: Implementing the Wrong Solution

Wrong solution
One of seven posts about collaboration and why it nearly always fails to deliver results, inspired by Morten T Hansen's Collaboration.

The quality of the teacher is the number one factor in the improvement of an education system, collaboration is the key factor in improving the quality of that teacher.

Collaboration helps increase academic success, yet most collaboration doesn't work. Here is one of Morten T. Hansen's six key reasons for collaboration failures:
 

Implementing the Wrong Solution

Following on from misdiagnoses, is finding the wrong solution. Learning Management Systems, as described earlier, were the wrong solution to the wrong problem. IT managers were convinced that some IT, instead of some psychology, would help solve the problem of teachers not sharing their work and ideas.

The same's true of those trying to 'protect' young people by not allowing them or encouraging them to post to the open world wide web: the problem is not so much internet predators as the lack of media literacy skills to not put oneself at risk online. The right solution here is not internet filtering or setting school blog platform defaults to 'private', but to set school blog defaults to 'public' and initiate a superb media literacy programme for every student, parent and teacher.

Morten T Hansen's answer is that we need disciplined collaboration, where leaders i) evaluate what opportunities there are for collaboration (where an upside will be created), ii) spot the barriers to collaboration (not-invented-here, unwillingness to help and preference to hoard one's ideas, inability to seek out ideas, and an unwillingness to collaborate with people we don't know very well).

Picture from Noel C

January 04, 2012

Collaboration 3: Overcollaboration

Too many cooks
One of seven posts about collaboration and why it nearly always fails to deliver results, inspired by Morten T Hansen's Collaboration.

The quality of the teacher is the number one factor in the improvement of an education system, collaboration is the key factor in improving the quality of that teacher.

Collaboration helps increase academic success, yet most collaboration doesn't work. Here is one of Morten T. Hansen's six key reasons for collaboration failures:
 

Overcollaboration

BP fell into the trap of having the emergence of far more networks and subgroups than were strictly necessary to get a result. There was a period where there was “always a good reason for meeting”.

Through social media, particularly in education, it can feel that there are just too many places to go, too many hashtags to follow, too many LinkedIn Groups and Nings to join in order to get some strong, actionable learning out of them.

The result of this over-collaboration can often be disastrous for the student publishing their work or seeking someone to collaborate with - "it's just another student blog", "it's just another wiki of debatable quality" might be the thoughts running through the minds of teachers and students elsewhere when the initial callout for peer support and comments goes out.

Even if comments are made, are they genuinely helpful in the way that structured, framed formative assessment can be within the walls of a classroom, or are they perfunctory "well dones", a digital kiss on the cheek before moving onto the next request?

Photo from B Prosser

December 02, 2011

Initiativitis, 21st Centuryness and other ills of learning

It's an oldie that I've only just unearthed. Nearly two years ago I spoke to 500 'creative agents', people from the creative industries working in schools, at their national conference in Birmingham on how to manage creativity in education.

And I just discovered the video on Vimeo.

This talk was one of the first 'biggies' that I gave after "coming back" to education after my time at Channel 4. One of the reasons I quite like it is that it led to one of the projects of which I am most proud: TEDxKids @ Sunderland.

It covers a few things:

  • on feeling uncomfortable with innovation, and remembering you're not alone;
  • the importance of continuing professional development over annual reviews and five year forward planning;
  • the power of social media to overcome the shortcomings of the press and the telephone (even more relevant in these days of uncovering the poor quality of journalism in corners of this country), and the responsibility of schools and parents to relearn how to communicate.
  • communicating better with parents;
  • listening better to share better;
  • creative copying;
  • the Seven Spaces;
  • harnessing data;
  • gamifying learning and having permission to dream a little.

November 29, 2011

[#smartcityexpo] Carlo Ratti on the Living City: Harnessing Data To Reveal Stories

20 years ago if you wanted to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix race, you got yourself a good car and a good driver. Today, you need a team of scores of computer scientists, engineers and mathematicians, analysing your car's computer eveyr millisecond of every lap: without this data harvesting and analysis you will not win a race.

Today's cities, says, Ratti are heading the same way, and many are getting there already. Having placed billions of data connections in our cities over the past few years, cities are beginning to talk back to us, as the artefacts in MoMa's Talk To Me Exhibition show. And it's important that we harness this. Cities currently take up:

  • 2% world surface
  • 50% world population
  • 75% of energy communication
  • 80% of CO2 emissions

Managing cities based on cell phone use

During the World Cup final Ratti's team at MIT's Senseable City Lab saw how cell phone use matched the to and fro of people around the match itself and in cafés and homes around a city. How could this data be used to provide better information to public transport, buses and taxis?

How could rainfall be better predicted, but data on that be provided to taxis on the ground to better ship people around the city - the very question solved by Ratti's team in Singapore:

Tracking Waste

We spend so much energy in our cities and corporations sourcing the goods that make our products, but we know very little about where the waste from our products ends up. Here, harnessing data from pervasive geo-location-aware tags on 3000 products, Ratti's team were able to see the extent to which our waste travels around the world and back. Using this data, could our city fathers and corporations design better waste solutions, not just better sourcing solutions?

 

Planning a great response to great (and pervasive) data

Analysing data reveals stories - in a telecoms example in the United Kingdom Ratti's team looked at the two connections made with every network communication. This helped redraw the map of Great Britain, with Scotland the first, most clearly marked out communicative community, but with countries like Wales split in two, north and south, and the epic-centre of the echo chamber that is London-London communication clearly marked out:

UK by Telecom Use

This analysis of data can therefore suggest to us several things, and reveal the communities around which we might want to build specific services, which often don't match the "official" boundaries marked out by politicians. Something for Scotland will, naturally, be very different for something based around the communication habits of someone in London or Wales. More on the analysis process can be seen in this video and the research paper:

 

The Copenhagen Wheel - helping individuals to help the community

And how can data be harnessed on a level much more "on the ground", by citizens? The Copenhagen Wheel was a creation from the MIT Senseable City Lab, which makes life easier for the cyclist but uses their efforts to provide information about the city that can be used to help everyone:

It transforms ordinary bicycles quickly into hybrid e-bikes that also function as mobile sensing units. The Copenhagen Wheel allows you to capture the energy dissipated while cycling and braking and save it for when you need a bit of a boost. It also maps pollution levels, traffic congestion, and road conditions in real-time.

 

Conclusions (and questions that remain!)

  • How can we make data more useful in other contexts than it currently is?
  • What is there we can do to make the collection of data from one person actually helpful to them, while beneficial to the wider community, not just the political or adminstrative élites?
  • What innovations in data collection for the common good are there to be found in education? But also in parenting, transport, food and drink, energy consumption and creation?

This talk was the opening keynote at Smart City Expo in Barcelona, Spain, where I'm giving a talk on how we can harness design thinking to better involve our communities, and our children, in building better cities.

June 19, 2011

"If you want it to stick, you need a pic"

Jeremy Clarkson in the Sunday Times (UK) a few weeks ago touched on the supremacy of shaky mobile phone footage in deciding the pecking order of what we, generally, consider important and what we care less about (below). In this tree-falls-down-nobody-sees-it philosophy, have we become dependent on the loudest, clearest, best presented stories to make our decisions, at the expense of more valuable but less tangible ones we need to chew over for longer?

For me, this move towards talking about what we hear about loudest and clearest, rather than talking about the hard stuff that does not come in this "chicken nugget" form of information bundle, is absolutely reflected in the world of education discourse, particularly around discussions on what learning is for.

The echo chambers of the blogosphere, the political classes, the civil servants, parents... they - we - are all as guilty as each other for paying too much attention to the loudest, not necessarily the most vital, discussions for our children's future.

It's too easy to believe that you are collaborating and gaining some kind of otherness just because you've ticked the "collaboration box" of using Skype, a wiki, a blog, whatever medium you wish. Gary Stager picks this up nicely in this Will Richardson post. Will despairs at a teacher's 'inability' to grasp the value of a change to his methods, particularly the perceived value of collaboration to achieve the same goals that the teacher was gaining within his four classroom walls. Rightly, Gary calls into question whether collaboration is really all that worthwhile, all of the time. The answer is: most times not. Small active mixed ability and mixed interest teams, coming up quickly with their own ideas, is often just as effective (if not more so) than a more drawn out collaborative process through technology with teams from around the world, but where those teams consist of people who share the same values, aptitudes and interests as the home crew.

All too often, though, the accents of those with whom we are collaborating, in the broadest sense of the word 'accent', are merely reflections of the views with which we are most comfortable. In this way, we fall for the trap Jeremy Clarkson outlines in his column: "It used to be said if it bleeds, it leads. Now, though, if you want it to stick, you need a pic."

Jeremy Clarkson on camera phones

April 30, 2011

New South Wales, Australia, opens Facebook to teachers

Sydney Opera House

And Twitter. And Flickr...

I'm often asked how one goes about changing culture to the point where draconian rules on filtering social networking sites might be lifted for use in the classroom or even in the office space. The ever-innovative New South Wales have just legislated to allow teachers to access social networking sites, through a mix of consultation and bottom-up involvement, and top-down legislation to make those discussions effective.

Involving community and professional groups as well as experts in learning and technology is a vital part of making guidelines that stand the test of time. This is the same approach we adopted with vigour six years ago in East Lothian when we kicked off the wiki-based consultation on our own social media guidelines.

The benefits are clear:

"A Department of Education spokeswoman said the change would help improve communication between schools and their communities.

"It would also give staff a ''greater understanding of technology being used by students''.

"A spokesman for the Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, said the change would also help teachers combat cyber bullying.
...

"With careful use, social media should be embraced as ''part of the 21st century and something students and teachers need to be aware of'''.

"The immediate past president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council, Jim McAlpine, who was involved in discussions with government about the digital education revolution and social networking, welcomed the development.

''I am strongly supportive of teachers having access to social networking so they can use worthwhile educational sites such as Facebook and particularly YouTube,'' he said. ''Teachers will be able to teach their students about digital citizenship so that students will be responsible users themselves of social networking sites at home.''

Read more. Pic from David Lea

March 04, 2011

Juliette Heppell: Technology's last stand in learning: cell phones, consoles & Facebook

In a four-part video series for GETideas I travelled the world in 24 hours and asked four educators I admire what their "two stars and a wish" for learning would be for 2011. I'll blog the films here over the next week.

Juliette Heppell, a high school teacher from the West End of London, UK, is seeing so much that is right with learning and technology, but the last crucial step is taking technology to where our students already hang out - to cell phones and social networks:

"Social networking in our school has been vital in engaging students in seeing the connection between learning in school and learning at home.

"Persuading teachers to use Skype in the classroom has resulted in some interesting projects, although the first stage involved teaching them how to use it at home as a form of professional development.

"We need to use what the students have already much more: it might be skills, or it might be equipment that they can bring into the classroom. Handhelds, consoles, mobile phones, research skills, enquiry skills… We're getting there, but we're not quite there yet."

Juliette's site features in this popular post from last month: "Please, Miss, Can I Friend You On Facebook?".

February 15, 2011

Teachers and Facebook: Please, Miss, Can I Friend You On Facebook?

Good use of social networking and other social media in schools doesn't change that much with the changes in tools and platforms, but it's still useful to have a reminder of what works, and what doesn't.

Scotland's Bryan Kerr asks a great question tonight about whether a teacher should friend a student on Facebook, especially when his school district has banned teachers from being on Facebook:

Facebook when you're a teacher

First things first: should teaching staff be on Facebook in the first place?

Answer: Yes.

No employer has the right to tell a member of staff that they cannot interact on social networks or publish their work and thoughts freely on the web - this is the right to express oneself, a fundamental if ever there was one. For any school district to claim that a member of staff is bringing their employer into disrepute simply by sharing online through a particular platform, Facebook or otherwise, would result in the kind of court case that wouldn't make it past the corporate lawyer's intray.

Should a teacher take care about what they publish on their social network, or other sharing space on the web?

Answer: Yes.

Teachers, priests and doctors, for example, are the kinds of groups we trust to vouch for one's identity on a passport application. They are thought of differently than any other profession, and rightly so. They deal in the highly personal, and therefore the room for indiscretion offline or online for a teacher is much more constrained than those working in other professions. If a teacher was ever in any doubt as to what is accpetable, simply read the existing guidance in your jurisdiction for the acceptable attitudes and practices for educators in general, and make sure you keep to that code online, regardless of whether you're sharing and 'socialising' on school time or not.

Should a teacher accept a friend request from a current student on their personal profile?

Answer: No.

Facebook is primarily a space where we find personal profiles. No matter what your personal rules are for engaging people as 'friends' on Facebook (mine involves in depth work or conversation offline, and invariably a pint) you cannot guarantee that your students' habits are as thought-through. Private, personal, almost public and public are four different gradients of privacy that are hard enough for adults to comprehend, let alone a teen acting, probably, on impulse as (s)he befriends you.

Facebook and other communities have provided ample opportunity to create a more public space where the people you invite on board might not be classified as 'friends' in the more traditional sense of the word. Facebook Pages are a great way to create a purely professional profile, whereby you can invite and approve selected or self-selected members to join your Facebook 'community' on that page, without becoming personal friends and seeing what you get up to on a Friday night - or vice versa.

This way, when students want to talk about 'work'-related issues, or learning, they can do so through that page, knowing that everyone there will get the messages appearing on their wall, but their personal messages will not appear on the group wall.

Can we not just say that Facebook is personal, and not a place where learning should be discussed? Full Stop?

Answer: Are you serious?

It's not just today's young people that are hanging out on Facebook for 200+ minutes a day. The largest group on Facebook is over-35s, and in Britain the fastest growing group is the over 75s. If you want to remind students about great resources to help them with their homework, when they've fallen off-task or are seeking help, then Facebook is the only window that you know will always be open on their browser. Likewise, if you want parents to have a wider appreciation of what learning is actually going on, they're on Facebook downstairs in the living room at the same time your students are online upstairs.

This sounds like extra work - working in the evening when I should be marking/preparing/having a life.

Answer: It's a bit extra. But it's worth it.

Train hard, fight easy. That's what the SAS say. In teaching it might be "get to help your students when they really need it, in the place where they need it, and in-class is going to be easier, more effective and more personable."

Where do we go to dive into detail?

Juliette Heppell as a page of great advice on the dos and don'ts of using Facebook for learning. It's worth updating that, since the beginning of this week, you needn't worry about creating a second 'you' for working with students. Instead, new Facebook pages allow you to allocate 'friend requests' to a particular page or list, thus rendering your Friday night shenanigans invisible to Johnny, Jamie, Kelly-anne and Kaylee.

If you've followed the development of education blogging platform eduBuzz, you'll know I'm passionate about social media's promise for connecting learning and parents. Facebook is great for that, too, so consider setting up class pages which parents join. See how one school has done it for its six-year-old First Graders.

For a host of other resources on Facebook, in general, follow up on my library of Facebook links.

January 10, 2011

Stop sorting children by their date of manufacture

Abdul Chochan
Six years ago we got a hard time for getting our students to create little snippets of audio for each other and the wider world - using iPods for learning was seen as expensive and gimmicky. "Who has those devices? We couldn't possibly purchase devices for children. They're far too expensive for them to own them any time soon."

Six years on Abdul Chohan was getting the same feedback at his school, the Essa Academy. At the Learning Without Frontiers conference he recounts how he had seen iPod Touches, the next generation of device from our low-fi iPods of 2004, as the key to untapping new learning landscapes for his learners.

With a seamless wifi setup in the school students never lost touch with the web through their mobile devices. Polish students, recently arrived at the school, were able to decipher English-language physics lessons by backing up their learning with the Polish language version of the theme's wikipedia entry.

Above all, teachers could stop judging what students should or could be doing based "on their date of manufacture" (or, as some might add, on their sell-by date). Youngsters were able to extend or support their own learning as they saw fit, when they saw fit.

Students overnight had knowledge at their fingertips (and in their pockets) in text, on the web and in podcasts (boys in particular were amongst those downloading 900 or so GCSE Pods to revise for the examinations).

Edmodo provided a learning social network through which teachers and learners could send messages, manage their learning, set tasks, ask for help.

This film about the Essa Academy iPod Touch project from Newsround sums up more of the impact on the school:

 

The £40,000 ($80,000) leasing bill for printers will, as a result, be greatly reduced as the amount of paper being used is reduced significantly.

The cost of the devices themselves, even with a refresh rate of 18p/35c per day included, is therefore relatively affordable.

The results? Where, a year or two before, the school had been set for closure by the Government watchdog for having a pass rate never above 30%, examinations results coming in after this mobile investment, at Grades A*-C, were running at 99%.

When we believe that youngsters are capable of anything and, vitally, provide the human and virtual help and support to make that potential a possible, there's nothing that can hold them back.

About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

Ewan’s education keynotes & MasterClasses

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In a keynote or masterclass we can give them concrete ideas based on experience, enthusiasm fired by a vision of what can be, and backup before and after to make it happen for them.

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