June 02, 2006

How to effect change in teaching and learning

Where many many institutions "wear garlic around their necks and lock the doors" when it comes to using social software what is the role of edubloggers?

Well, it is down to us to provide examples of where things work and why, and when they don't work and why. (We always hear success stories of social software in the classroom - what of all the times it doesn't work out?) We need to provide models and advice, as we are the ones doing it - not the institutions (yet).

This reminds me of a conversation I had at work, where I was told by a very senior manager that it was potentially dangerous to promote blogging when there is no advice. The implication was that we shouldn't recommend something until the Scottish Executive had provided guidance. And he also suggested that there was no place for a (mere) blogger like me to provide that guidance. Was he right or is it really the place of the community to lead this? I know what I believe.

On the other hand, a colleague in East Lothian provided this succinct view of internet filtering:

My school has an Internet use policy that says that pupils should never be given unsupervised access to the Internet. I expect all education authorities are the same. I agree with this wholeheartedly, but given this I see no need for filtering, or at the very least we should have a filtering system that can easily be switched off by a teacher for a particular IT suite at a particular time.

If our main priority is to cover our backsides against the risk of litigation, then massive, "if in doubt block it" style filtering is an excellent idea. But if our main priority is education, then we should always approach filtering from an "if in doubt, allow access" point of view, with appropriate safeguards in terms of teacher supervision.

Let's face it. No filtering system is 100% effective. The presence of web filtering simply leads teachers to believe that it is safe to let pupils roam the web unsupervised, which is clearly a recipe for disaster.

I think this debate is related to the current Amnesty International campaign: http://irrepressible.info/

Good learning blogging

  • Create a strong and flexibile fabric that can adapt to the group
  • Do not get seduced by the technology - provide the educational structures to make the tool resilient even when things don't work out the way they should.
  • Provide a mother blog, where the teacher can bring in suggested resources, including blogs from previous classes, and aggregate the best work produced by students. The teacher can help carry the experiences of one group to another. Get the students learning from each other. The transparency and connectiveness of a mother blog allows this to happen very easily, giving students the opportunity to make new connections.
  • The mother blog becomes a place of quality amid the drafts, trials and efforts of students. It becomes an aspirational place to be.
  • Individual blogs provide an opportunity to privately mess around in your own space, making your learning personally relevant finding links to our own previous work. We can learn from ourselves, as well as from others.
  • Teacher input: keep to a minimum to avoid the image of teacher as authority. As soon as a teacher gets in on commenting on blog posts the teacher becomes the only one they will listen to. The feedback comes in other ways: email, private conferences, in class.
  • Video and auditory sides of blogs are of equal importance to the written word. Podcasting makes an interesting tool for encouraging reflective practice, reading one's own work out.


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Hi Ewan,
I don't have time for more than a thank you for blogging this, some great points, the senior guy was wrong imo.
Good learning blogging tips are great, lots of meat to think about. I've just scratched the surface of this and it is nice to see the way ahead. Mothership blog, love it:-)
I know it is the teach not the tech, but I am struggling to give children time to blog, especially given the barrage of comments coming in now;-) We do need more blogging stations.

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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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