27 posts categorized "Web 1.0"

July 14, 2015

Celebrating 10 years of edu.blogs.com - could we have yesterday's time with today's thinking?

First edublogs post

It's ten years today since I wrote my first blog post for me, and I wish we could have today's thinking with the space and time of a decade ago.


I've blogged since around November 1999, one of the first users of a new, shaky service... Blogger. My first one was, as a student teacher, some kind of "making sense of Scottish education" affair. It was short-lived, audience-free, and felt presumptuous in the extreme. As a French and German teacher, I used the more stable Typepad service to run blogs with students on all sorts of field trips and school partnerships.

Early 2000s

There were various Paris-Normandy trips, the highlight of my teaching year, where we live-blogged from a Nokia 6230i with a 1.3megapixel inbuilt camera and extortionately expensive and unreliable 2G connection, while munching on smelly cheese and exploring the history of Omaha beach and surrounds. In the early years, mums and dads were sceptical of what it was for and why - most posts would garner barely 30 comments. Just one year on, though, the utility of the blog was clear to all: no more nervous phone calls to the school asking how we Johnny was doing, and literally hundreds of comments per blog. In fact, I've just spent the weekend at a wedding where I met many of the students from the 2005 blog for the first time since then.

Carol Fuller, a US teacher from South Cobb, near Atlanta, who I have never met, but to whom my primary school colleague John Johnston paid a visit over a decade ago, is still an online friend today. She got her students helping in a couple of projects where a US perspective on the world was essential to gain empathy beyond the pages of the textbook. The most popular post in one collaboration on politics was by far around banning guns. Plus ça change...

Her students took the often traumatic and insightful writing of our senior students' field trip blog to Auschwitz and wrote their own play on the back of it. It was pre-YouTube, so VHS cassettes flew across the Atlantic. Having the powerful writing of students still online, still being downloaded, feels important today as our world continues to struggle with terrible things happening in the world, viewed only through a screen. Laura Womersley's Confession is still one of the best pieces of writing I think I've ever read from a student, rendered more poignant than ever today knowing that just a few months later she died, suddenly, from an unexpected illness. Her words live on.

We used our blogs to publish the first high school podcast in Europe, maybe in the world. The wee lad who edited everything is now an accident and emergency doctor, and through micro-blogging - Twitter - is newly in touch with me this past year. He's no long a wee lad, either - six foot tall, and seeking his next challenges in life.

2005: the start of edu.blogs.com

It was only when I left my classroom to start a secondment with the Government, in the summer of 2005, that I knew I would miss sharing with other people. Until that point, it had always been through the conduit of my students' work. Now, I wanted to share whatever I might with a newly emergent group of educators, educators who wanted to share beyond their four walls. The first post was awkward (and indeed called "That awkward first post"). The early posts are bum-clenchingly naïve. But it was also the place that some small things were kicked off, and became big things. A few weeks after the first ScotEduBlogsMeetup, TeachMeet was born in a post in 2006.


Early on, Loïc Lemeur, the founder of the blog platform I had been using for so long, invited me to speak at his emergent Les Blogs conference in Paris (now Europe's must-go-to tech conference, LeWeb). It's his birthday today, the day that I started my own blog - serendipity perhaps?

What followed my intervention there was the first sign that people might actually be reading and listening to what I was saying. James Farmer got stuck in, annoyed, I think, that a young buck was on the stage talking about classroom blogging (and he wasn't ;-). He was actually complaining about what everyone else on the panel had said, not what I contributed, which were just stories (much the same I what I try to contribute today). We didn't speak much after that, in spite of promises of beer in Brissie. 

I was fed up at how few teachers were sharing long-form thoughts and reflections on teaching, through blogs, and how a self-nominated cabal hectored those of us joining the fray "for not doing it right". Today, I feel that about the self-nominated if-Hattie-didn't-say-it-it-didn't-happen brigade. Back then my chief supporter in the collision with James Farmer and, later, Stephen Downes, was one Peter Ford - still one of my best buddies today, and working partner of the last three years. Collisions, I learned early on, are how we challenge ourselves to learn better. Heck, even Stephen came around to like something I did once... one of the best presentations he's ever heard. The content of it, too, came from collisions on this here blog.

I also had collisions through the blog with people who did not blog, namely my employers at the Scottish Government. I spent a few blog posts correcting newspaper stories in which I was misquoted, and many more writing my own thoughts on why the creation of a national schools intranet, a social network no-one outside schools could see, was doomed to fail. It did. Two years after leaving the education department, I was invited back by a new Education Minister to his expert committee that has overhauled the whole, expensive, useless venture. 

So, collisions on the blog were vital to my job, when I had one, and for the creation of NoTosh, my company. For ten years of professional collisions, thank you. I really wish there were more of them in long form.

TLDR has become the norm as educational discourse takes place in machine gun ratatats-à-Twitter. Where once we had comment feeds, dripping ideas, thoughts and disagreement with our ideas each day, we now have a tsunami of detritus in which we must seek out the comments of yore, never connected directly to the original thought that sparked them. Ten years ago, the half-life of an idea, of a discourse, could be as long as a month. Today, one is lucky if a thought lasts twenty seconds before it falls off the fold of the electronic page.

In the past decade, though, something better has come along, I think. More educators are writing books than ever before. More than most genres, there are plenty destined to become pulp, but there are so many more than a decade ago that offer genuine insight, great ideas, years of learning to the reader for no more than thirty bucks. They even come to your screen in a flash, if you want them to. I wonder, sometimes, if teachers writing books is not the long-form blog post in a different guise.

To that end, I've wondered about going back over ten years of blog posts, ignoring the truly embarrassing ones and unpicking the contentious ones with a more mature head on my shoulders. I'd love to write a book that takes ideas that mattered 10 years ago to me, and see whether they might matter more to people today. I have no idea whether this would work, whether it would even be of interest to people - the same questions I asked in my parents' dining room as I set about kicking off this electronic version of the book draft.

Thanks to those of you who have read my stuff, especially the longest posts like this one. Thanks, too, to those with whom I have collided over the last ten years. And to those who don't read my blog any more, who have unsubscribed because you feel it is "no longer relevant" (that's the most common reason for an unsubscribe), peace be with you. You have no idea of the fun you've missed out on ;-)

September 05, 2012

Computer 'web' to change billions of lives (yeah, right)


Through a mutual friend of a friend of a friend on Facebook, in a very interconnected example of how the 'computer "web"' really has changed at least four lives, came this reportage in Rupert Murdoch's British tabloid, The Sun, in the 1990s. But all is not what it seems. It is, in fact, created by The Sun themselves as part of their, wait for it, education site.

May 23, 2007

David Whyley: Holding our hands

  David Whyley from Learning2Go 
  Originally uploaded by Edublogger.

Half of written communication is by email, 29% by text and just 13% by pen and paper. Think about it. How much pen and paper use is in schools? Probably the majority.

And what Dave Whyley from the Wolverhampton PDA project is going to have to do, perhaps, is help guide us along the line of spending enough time developing the pen and paper skills which are perhaps expected, while not neglecting the digital writing skills students require in the world of work. The same, of course, is true vice versa. It's a heck of a tightrope.

Authorship and sharing is all
Kids says this, and you can read an entire Demos report if you don't believe me. Most of our establishments stop the latter by forcing sharing through the conduit of a teacher. The former is all about kids wanting to create, not be fed information through, say, a Virtual Learning Environment. Businesses want creative people who can collaborate, share and create, but the laggards in our education systems want to look back, create 'new' systems based on the foundations of the old.

Is handheld technology the classroom of the future?
The classroom of the future might not actually be in a school. In fact, I'm almost sure it's not. Reading news reports and summaries of the project you would be quick to see that home use, the motivation to learn beyond the 4pm bell. It's not just gaining some of the 200 minutes per night that kids spend online for school work. It's about creating new relationships between parents and children, where parents are taking part in a 'joint hobby', learning with their child.

How is it funded?
There is a joint parent-school contribution of £1.50-£2.50 each per week, equivalent, as Dave recites, to dad missing out "one pint per week".

Why handhelds and not laptops?
They wanted something that would be cool, give the learner something cool, something that can be carried around (and not a three pound laptop which the kids can't/don't want to carry around). The kids are safe carrying things around which, to the outside viewer, well, can't be seen. Laptops entice the inevitable.
Handhelds are also great as computer devices because teachers can't see the keyboard on the first day: so kids don't end up 'typing up' handwritten reports. Above all, they don't take three minutes to boot up because they're always on. You want to video the science experiment now, not in three minutes when the experiment is over.

What can kids do with them?

  • EBooks
    - in many languages and for free on the web
  • Simulation games
  • MP3 music file playing and recording (podcasting possibilities)
  • Full PowerPoint
  • Word and Excel
  • Drawing
  • Animation
  • Gaming
  • Mind mapping
  • Picture editing
  • Music making
  • Problem solving
  • Web access
  • Video content
  • Data logging plugin
  • Running other full versions of programmes such as http://www.immersiveeducation.com/kar2ouche/Kar2ouche.
  • Digital video/stills camera

Dave has been getting the kids to publish and share their work on the web, too, so that they have feedback and views from the outside world - this is something I didn't pick up on the first time I heard him last year in London, but is exactly the kind of reflex learners and teachers should have when they have achieved something, a product, from their learning.

In the classroom
Using Synchroneyes with a Smartboard, which allows the teacher to view the screens of all handhelds or computers, we can connect to a projector and refresh the screen every few seconds so that all the kids can see all the screens of all their friends as they work. Collaborative visual learning. Great for maths puzzles or foreign language work. Using the interactivity of the board kids can then explain their work while also keeping that version on their handheld, and also sending it to their friends.

Handheld learning as presented by Dave makes a compelling case. I also like the way he's introduced more than just a PDA to us, to show that handheld learning can take place with many devices, but this point could have been drawn out a little bit more... Gaming devices, bog standard mobile phones (time to bite the bullet on this challenge?), iPods. That given, he's shown how the handheld with a feedreader installed can be used to turn the handheld into an integrated "online iPod".

I'm not convinced by Dave's extolling of the virtues of podcasting through handheld technology, since the creativity element here takes place on a desktop, a Mac at that - handheld technology is just too weak to support sufficiently complex audio or video creation, this complexity being the very thing that makes the kids tick.

February 04, 2007

Why is Web 2.0 different from what we've had up until now?

Thanks Mike!

January 25, 2007

Hugh's Stormhoeking in Edinburgh and Inverness!

  TeachMeet06 & Stormhoek 
  Originally uploaded by Edublogger.

I don't quite know how he's going to manage it but I have every faith that Scottish edubloggers will come out in force on February 2nd (provided it's after school) to meet Hugh Macleod as he signs new lithographs and helps sell tonnes of finest quality South African Stormhoek wine. He's going to be at Tesco stores in Inverness and Corstorphine, Edinburgh (the big one next to PCWorld).

Stormhoek were kind enough to sponsor TeachMeet06 last September, which led to a further burgeoning of the community and a nice warm feeling for those of us already playing the game.

Since then I've actually had trouble finding the wine so I look forward to having a sampler sip and buying a bottle or two on February 2nd. He's also going to be elsewhere in the UK in the runup to Valentine's Day. He might even be looking for a date judging be the cartoon on the post.

January 23, 2007

P-Mail: Like email, but slower

Pmail Instructions for use of paper mail (via BoingBoing)

January 20, 2007

Electricity via wifi? It is possible

Powersheet Well, almost.

It's so frustrating to see classrooms that boast of wireless internet but then have whole spaghetti soups of wiring between the perimeter walls and the machines.

Tech Digest fed me what I have been looking for: the mat which provides electrical power to your laptop, saving the need to have wires trailing all over the place. I'd love it in the office, too, to save me having to shuffle under the table down on my knees every time I need to charge up.

January 18, 2007

What are the best science and biology blogs and sites?

  C64 retro cassette player 
  Originally uploaded by Edublogger.

I had a great time playing on an antique Commodore 64 at Tess's house last night. She's one of our star bloggers in East Lothian, giving some of the most revealing insights to the national intranet, Glow, from her experiences in the pilot.

She's currently looking to find the best science websites and blogs out there (particularly in the field of biology).

I guess she wants these to help with kids' revision in the forthcoming exams but she probably wants to expand her personal learning network, too. If you can help her out, or know someone who can, then all you have to do is... leave a comment on her blog.

East Lothian (secretly) forms large basis of Becta report

Impact_ict_schools The latest Becta report, The impact of ICT in schools - a landscape review features some of the sterling work we were doing in East Lothian in the field of social media as long as three years ago and has good words to say on the Modern Foreign Languages Environment (MFLE).

While no schools or Local Authorities are named in particular this major review was carried out by researchers at the Quality in Education Centre, University of Strathclyde, including Dr Rae Condie from Strathclyde University who observed some of my French and German classes getting stuck into blogging and podcasting (back when the average age of my 'colleagues' was 13 ;-)

The report is in PDF but there's mention of some of the MFL antics (pp.33;39) and live moblogged school trips (p.50) we have run at the Grammar since 2002. The podcasting East Lothian was amongst the first to do in Europe also flavours the report, with citations from Steve O'Hear's Guardian story on Musselburgh Grammar's podcasting of 2005 (p.89).

The MFLE, the online service I manage with LTS's Annelie Carmichael and Robert McKinstry at Scottish CILT, has since gained a significant mention in the research, too (pp.34).

There are some interesting points for future development in Scotland. A need for systematic development of information literacy is highlighted, which is something the new Learning and Teaching Scotland Info Lit resource will go some way to starting off (esp. once we get the blogging content a little more in line with current thought) (p.13).

The MFLE, it rightly suggests, is due some independent research to guage its impact on MFL teaching and learning in Scotland. Judging by the MFL-heavy uptake of social media and exemplary teaching which is in line with A Curriculum for Excellence, coupled with great conferences like Communicate.06 (.07 on the way) and some impressive usage stats that land us as one of the top performing LTS online services, I think the impact is there to be discovered.

Finally, the report notes that there are considerable difference in the approaches to using hardware in schools North and South of the Border (p.16). In Scotland there are considerably fewer labs for whole-school use, with more individual classroom computers. Is this a shortfall in space and equipment or is the report's inference correct, when it states that in Scotland we are learning through ICT instead of learning about ICT?

January 11, 2007

Microsoft selling Vista on a Mac

The eagle-eyed Steve Beard captures Microsoft's airbrushed Macs on the Microsoft stand at the British Education Technology show (BETT) in London this week. [Link]


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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