October 04, 2005

A www in the www

PhotoI read an interesting post on David Warlick's 2 Cents Worth where he suggests that far from being dead, the textbook could be entering a new era where pupils might make up their own textbooks using wikipedia:

"I think it’s a great idea, asking people to contribute their knowledge for student learning, but the textbook may be an outdated model. Perhaps, create a different angle for WikiPedia, and ask people to contribute to that, and then ask students to use that content to create their own textbooks (or what ever you might call them — notebooks) with which they learn what ever the outcomes of the course might be.

"How about creating a world wide web, within the world wide web that is explicitly designed to provide content (open source) for learners, and build it in a way that students can remix the content into their personal textbooks/learning networks/notebooks/whatever."

I had one of those "look twice" moments because the Scottish Schools Digital Network, or SSDN is hopefully going to come up with those very goods. Our 800,000 teachers and pupils will be able to use content put into this Scottish national intranet, pulling it into their own areas, using VOiP and messaging to contact other pupils and teachers in the country working on just the same topic.

It's a long way off. I'm currently helping prepare the first content for teachers, the Modern Foreign Languages Environment or MFLE, and we're working mostly with Web 1.0 technologies (as compared to Web 2.0) and one-way interfaces. The discussion board could end up being a bit of a clique if we're not careful and the teaching community is just getting to grips with the concept of reading a blog or listening to a podcast (I don't think the names of these technologies help propagate their use in a profession that is continually changing and often fatigued by change).

And in the classroom...
But re-reading the post and my comment today I made a follow-up comment that I want to put forward here. It's really about how national projects can make the picture too de-personalised. Until recently local school websites and individual teacher websites were beautifully local but good ideas got lost in the sea of small websites out there. Is the answer a large national intranet with national websites? I'm hinting that there is maybe an additional means of creating this community:

"While it is great to have these kind of national projects there is always a danger of making things too distant from the local, which brings me back to the point I make in the second podcast: every child and teacher could have their own blog (and podcast if they wanted to express themselves orally), connected by school-related tags and a blogroll. Over time other tags would be added to reflect interest groups (Highland schools, schools with lots of SmartBoards, schools with none but campaigning to get them….)

"By localising the intranet (and internet) further we have risked, in the past, of losing sight of the big picture. But with RSS, blog searches and links to our friends we can keep this big picture at the top while localising the content.

"Does that make sense??"

Well, does it? More in tomorrow's podcast.

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It makes sense to me Ewan. I am concerned that SSDN will concentrate on content at the expence of community. There is a real danger that it will be another NGfL - some good stuff but hardly anyone using it - over-hyped and underused.

Perhaps part of the way to avoid this is to concentrate on the community. I like what David Warlick is doing. He is providing content, but more importantly (I think) he is providing tools. For example he argues that Information Literacy is important. One approach could be to provide high quality multimedia material, perhaps including video streamed lectures from David, to train pupils and teachers how to do Information Literacy properly. Or you can do what David does and provide Information Literacy tools like Citation Machine and BlogMeister.

Hmm... I think there's a blog entry in there somewhere... now if only I can find 2 minutes to start work on it. :-)

Hi David,

If you take a look at the MFLE you'll see that the 'Resources' section is a bit weak at the moment. There are actually hundreds of resources which have to be gone through and tweaked for presentation online. The problem I have had is making a choice on how to spend my first 6 weeks on the project. I concentrated on the kind of thing that you're talking about: community, creativity, teaching ideas & concepts. I've had some flack for it but more often than not it's been the most popular section of the site.

People obviously do want to learn new ways of doing things - the stats show it - but there are still loads of people want content/resources. I'm happy to provide that - it takes a lot of time, though. It's also difficult to convince them that what they can make themselves is probably better than what a central website can provide if they use the principles David, yourself and I talk about on our blogs.

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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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