22 posts categorized "eTwinning"

July 01, 2009

If the Army sees the potential in Facebook, why not schools?


When social networks were still finding their feet among their key demographic a few years ago, I was a keen advocate of formal learning institutions and their staff keeping out of those spaces, certainly not using them as social learning environments. danah's research backed this up and the concept of teachers creating "creepy treehouses" was enough to knock that desire of some on the head.

Seeing how the US Army has harnessed Facebook for a mix of both informal communication and leadership is opening up the question again in my mind, as the demographic using Facebook rises well into the 30s and Twitter's growth started with an older demographic and is only now appearing to edge southwards to early 20 year olds and teens (thanks to my wholly unscientific research - danah, if you're not busy this summer...).

It's particularly pertinent as Local Authorities charged with improving the prospects of their learners and staff in an increasingly technological age do not cease to become ever more Machiavellian in their desire to clamp down on any communication about the realities of being a teacher or learner in their patches.

On the Facebook blog this morning says Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Arata (link to his FB page):

Allowing our audience — including our soldiers — to connect and communicate through social networking is still considered risky business by some, and we do face unique challenges. The risks to operations security felt by some, or the fears that our soldiers will post "unbecoming" information, are outweighed by increased communication and sharing.

From an institution that in 2000 wouldn't allow unfettered access to email (and before that whose "Full Metal Jacket" reputation preceded it), one of the most traditional public institutions with the most apparently valid potential for killing communication to those back home has come a long way. And it also shows how far schools and teen learners working within them have to go before their life cycles start matching the real world.

What is it that Facebook brings the military? It allows family to keep in touch with minimal effort through a great deal of the deep ambient intimacy of the status update:


Facebook is also giving a platform for sharing of skills and advice between recruits:

It also allows senior members of staff in the military to, quickly and easily, without disrupting the flow of their day, update via cellphone or laptop on what (non-secret) operations they are undertaking. What exactly does an army Colonel do? Well, now you can 'follow' them and find out. It will almost certainly make a few more people aspire to doing something different or improving their act not just in seeing what superiors and, above all, seeing what peers are up to.

While intranets and VLEs provide a structured learning environment for teacher-defined groups of learners, they do not provide very well (or at all) for friends-of-a-friend (FOAF) communication, happenstance connections and temporary windows in on what FOAFs are up to. They are designed for preset activity with preset groups, despite the admirable efforts of talented creative individuals to shoehorn them into other more enticing uses. It's hard to argue that, in terms of how kids connect within the school environment with school-like material and contacts, things have really moved on since the likes of my students blogging and podcasting from their French trip in 2003 (the 2004, 2005 and Auschwitz blog remain). The fun serendipitous connections are happening very much outside the school boundaries, and the school institution itself remains largely blind to this. The knock-on effect is that school and what it should stand for - learning - are also blind to learners outside the schooling complex.

Now, at Channel 4 the Education department has worked with great skill over the past two years to create learning opportunities in the social networks and spaces where young people hang out (think Battlefront, YearDot, Routes.... There has been little attempt to make these interactions fit into schooling per se. At 4iP, where many of our products and services involve learning of some description, we continue this 'non-school' of thought.

I wonder: is there mileage for schools in looking at what the Army is achieving here and for what purposes, and seeing if there are unmet needs in the schooling environment which could be supported by social networking services and platforms which are increasingly better embedded in society? Or is this something in which only others outside the formal schooling environment are prepared to invest?

Pic: Full Metal Jacket

August 30, 2007

Creative Collaboration

Andy_polaine We've moved from an era where the designer's exclusivity over design is being overtaken by the expression and worth of a designer's individuality being seen within a collaborative context, says Andy Polaine at the Urban Learning Space Seminars in Glasgow.

Andy Polaine's Omnium Research Group at the College of Fine Arts in New South Wales, Australia, is all about making more of this collaborative design happen in a better way, between professional designers and non-designers alike.

Creative Waves
This international student design project was run entirely online, using social media to create links and learning between 107 participants in 22 countries, including world famous designers imparting their knowledge and ideas online. One discussion thread with Stefan Sagmeister, whose presentation at TED made me laugh and gape in awe, ran to 30,000 words. One part of the project, for example, which helped create links between students was taking a photo at the same point in the day/night. Discussions then centered on what you can learn from these snapshots in time.

The 2007 Creative Waves project involves pharmacists - not the first choice, you'd think, for collaborating on design. The goal was to help pharmacists create visualisations of health and ethical issues and publish these on an online gallery, images that would help people with low literacy or low appreciation of health issues in Africa to get it. My favourites are are the quiz cards on malaria and sexual health and football tops (think "score a goal against AIDS", etc. etc.)

You can log in as a visitor to see the final outputs of the students, as well as the process behind them.

In the beginning the pharmacists' scientific data and research was beginning to stifle the creative, innovative, original ideas they could/should have been having. They had to be asked to ignore all the hard research they had done, leading to private then public, shared debate about whether it was ethical to leave out the research that had been done for the designers to go and do their thing:

This unique and innovative approach to collaborative education, research and ethical debate, also aims to promote increased social awareness and proactive involvement worldwide amongst students, pharmacists, health organisations, graphic designers, professional bodies and education institutions.


The importance of collaboration mentoring
Visualisation is one great way to engender the feel of community, the socialisation of the collaborative group. Using a Google Map participants had to put themselves on the map (link, Andy?). It's the kind of thing we are attempting to do with the Scottish new tech scene, to try to, literally, 'see' who is doing what.

But the teams involved, combining student designers and pharmacists, were mentored quite heavily, with mentors who would dip into all groups, have a big picture and help point out collaborative opportunities. Importantly, collaboration was not just expected to happen; it was actively and humanly pushed. When we create online communities, national intranets or even F2F events it's vital that we don't forget the skill of the human being in maneuvering communities into gear. Good online communities and collaborative projects need people to act as the "dinner party hosts", making sure everyone's glass is filled, belly is full and people are talking to each other.

Andy's blogged some further links about the presentation.

June 27, 2007

Modern Languages top links... coming soon

Again, not much time in between nattering to all these enthusiastic Welsh people, so the links from both sessions coming on Thursday.

June 17, 2007

Top animation tips in Oscar's new Scrapblog

I was talking to Scrapblog's Alex de Carvalho at the beginning of the month about how Scrapblog is really the perfect blogging tool for those who might be working with more 'visual' matter. I had early years kids in mind when I was saying this but it's the rather more mature [sorry! ;-] Oscar Stringer who's come up with the most impressive edu-use of Scrapblog I've seen so far.

Just finished off today, this animator extraordinaire shares some of his top animation tips and some video from recent work in the eTwinning programme in his Animation for Education Scrapblog. If you want a bullet point list of some of these you'll find them in some of the animation posts I've liveblogged here and here while at Oscar's sessions this year.

And if you really want to learn how to animate with your kids do try to get your school or Local Authority to get Oscar along for a day or two. He's worth every penny for getting your staff and students motivated and equipped for animation for years to come.

May 21, 2007

If you go down to the woods today...

I'm having as much fun as the kids at Ross High, Tranent, today as they learn how to animate with Oscar Stringer. Speaking with a couple of the art teachers here, and having just caught up with my Principal Teacher English pal Claire, I'm seeing loads of links between the two subjects which technology can help foster.

Creativity is at the root of the two subject areas, one visual in terms you can touch and feel, the other visual in terms you can imagine in your mind, both encroach on each other's take of visual, too. So I've brainstormed a few ideas that I think might work. If you have any you can add, please do so. This will all go into the pot of what English and Art (and any other subjects that come to mind) might be able to meld together for their own Excellent Curriculum:

Analysing computer game texts, such as the half-decent ones in Hotel Dusk; how could they be improved

Creating basic "flight of fantasty" games (using hyperlinked notes on Flickr like this or Scratch) - non-linear writing - Update: Primary schools are already getting down to this - great stuff!

Illustrating story or poetry through photography, artwork - publishing online.

Visual dictionary work using Flickr searches for adjectives, adverbs...

Individual learning (b)logs to improve student writing (look at PinkyParky) - writing little but often, two stars and a wish commenting from peers, parents, teachers.

Journalism - create a real newspaper with real news online - use a blog, take real pics of the action

Create quick online plans on a wiki such as PBWiki ; allow simple sharing of good plans

eTwinning - collaborative projects

Flickr camera clubs & competitions

Quicktime vids / virtual tours (video) of artwork

Film festivals to celebrate outcomes (link with potential Enterprise event)

April 20, 2007

A couple of podcasts from this afternoon's sessions

Just some of the podcasts from today's eTwinners. You have been warned! Normally you should only put one audio file per post on the blog so that iTunes can pick up all the audio files. Also, make sure you export to MP3. Today we only had Ogg Vorbis but the geeks will know how to sort outr any troubles listening to them.

Download etwinning_mix.ogg

Download ewans_podcast.ogg

Download blogueursfous.ogg

Download etwin.ogg

Download Experience1.ogg

Just met Making a Mummy!

One of the people in the course this weekend helped to make this super movie.

An example of Bubbleshare and eTwinning

Some of the guys are borrowing my blog to publish their cool photostory made in Bubbleshare.

This album is powered by BubbleShare - Add to my blog

Tomorrow's teaching is today

I was presenting a keynote this morning in a Slovenian school to about 100 eTwinning teachers, ambassadors and European Commission-y people, a Slovenian school where Skype is on and available, where the connection speed is rapid and the welcome one of the warmest you can hope to get. The audio from my talk to Primary Leaders of the Future, given on Thursday, provides most of my main points (minus the visuals, of course):

Download ewan-mcintosh-dlft-keynote.mp3

The talk was based on the one I delivered to Modern Languages teachers in Oxford a few weeks ago and the notes over there are perfect for those wanting to get stuck into some new technologies for language teaching and collaboration. The notes from Congres Frans should be fairly comprehensive for those wishing to read more about les nouvelles technologies pour l'apprentissage des langues instead of the English version. The MFLE ICT links should help a lot, too.

I'll be doing three workshops next taking what I did en francais about tools back in Holland and turning it into a workshop in the fullest sense of the word. Instead of presenting more stuff and potentially blanking them I want them to discover something new and think about how they could apply it in a collaborative project - and maybe even start a new international project there and then.

The bouquet of technologies and pedagogical starting points will probably include:

  • Collaborating for planning:
    • GoogleDocs: Sign up for a free account here (or use your existing GoogleMail login) and several people can edit a document 'live', in real time. Great for planning timelines (using the Spreadsheet) or sketching out ideas (using the Word-like docs). All participants need to have been invited by the person who set up the original document so it's very safe and secure.
    • PBWiki: For longer term more public working, or for creating a very simple website quickly, use a wiki such as PBWiki or Wikispaces. My preference is PBWiki because it looks nicer ;-) and does not carry any advertising if you're a teacher. The education region East Lothian Council uses a wiki for both designing safety policy with all the teachers and students affected as well as for providing a support community - everyone with some expertise can share what they know. Your ideas are invited here if you have time. There are some videos showing how others have used it: Link to http://educators.pbwiki.com/PBwiki-educator-videos
  • Digital Storytelling:
  • Keeping safe and sensible:
    • East Lothian's documents and, coming soon on this blog, how we go about bringing students, teachers and parents on board. I'll be doing it later on so that we can compare with some of the issues already raised in more 'restrictive' European states.

More to come very soon with those interesting comparisons hopefully and some solutions for teachers in these different and sometimes difficult situations.

March 31, 2007

So motivating you can't stop them learning

397831786_cd1b38b937 A few days down south in Shropshire and Oxford have rounded off two months of pretty much non-stop conferences and workshops. I've worked with around 1500 teachers over that time and, considering each one might have an average 80 students a week (between primary and secondary), that's potentially 120,000 kids that might see a classroom near them change, even just a bit. Add to that around 24,000 uniques to the blog, and 1700 subscribers, the slightly surreal fatigue I'm experiencing this weekend is, I hope, worth it. It's not quite over yet - April's got its fair share of kms - but I thought I would leave some notes of what I've learned through doing this over the winter of 2007.

The changes I have been proposing are small steps. We need to pick one or two pet projects and really make a difference through them and then, just as we get comfortable, it's a good idea to share that with colleagues and move on to the next thing ourselves. That's because most of these teachers are the potential innovators - they chose to come along to conferences on new technology. You/They are the ones that'll make a difference.

Four things that hold us back from innovating, or that make us get innovation a bit wrong:

  1. "Thin-slicing"
    Malcolm Gladwell's Blink gave me plenty of parallels in education to think about. Thin slicing is the Pepsi Challenge effect, where we see a guy at a conference talking about something new for a couple of minutes. We then make up our minds: "I love it, I'll just jump into it" or "I'm too old for that/the boss will never go for it". Taking a thin slice of a more complex process makes us less likely to succeed in both these scenarios. Most of the things I've been proposing this last wee while are simple initially, but require more complex thinking about the role of the teacher.
  2. Fear = loathing?
    When we fear things we decide not to take the jump. But if we can decide that failure might actually be a good thing then we can start to play a lot better. Making purposeful play something that both learner and teacher do will help make that learning so much more effective.
  3. Over planning
    I'm not saying that we should stop planning our lessons, but rather that we need to leave room for happy accidents to happen, for those tangents to be developed. This might mean throwing out the annual planner for a week, just to go off on a tangent that might lead to something more interesting or relevant to the kids' own experiences. It might be a false lead, it might be the lead that makes that period of learning 100 times more worthwhile.

    With ICT we tend to overplan our lessons. This might be a starting point, if we can start to see technology as opening tangents ("how could we do something other than PowerPoint to make the task more demanding cognitively and less demanding technically?") rather than closing them off ("we don't have all the equipment we need to do that").
  4. "Why bother?"
    Kids are changing. The 16 year old in 2007 is entering the employment market with only internet-age experiences on which to rely (the internet came into being in 1991). The six year old entering elementary school expects the web to allow them to publish and share their views with the world.

Five elements that have changed outside school and which need to change inside school

  1. Audience
  2. Creativity Unleashed!
    • Student creations can be conceived and published in the same place, whether that's in photographic, video or audio forms . Find out how to do all this. Channel the creative energy and ideas of your students - teacher as guide, not fount of knowledge - and you can turn those silly YouTube aspirations into something much more powerful.
  3. Differentiate... by raising the bar
  4. Authentic goals (for students, not teachers)
    • Create real audio guides for the city in AudioSnacks.
    • Keep a learning log of what is going on in class or on a school trip .
  5. 438003004_5cf11894c9_o It's not about the teach, it's about the tech
    • Use the technology that is in your students' bags and pockets - mobile phone ideas; iPod  use (listen to education material on iTunes Podcast Directory; xBoxes let you speak with fellow players around the world; the games played by kids on their Nintendo DS or Wii (I'm playing one at Steve's here) can often be put into multilingual modes - never has brain training been so draining.

The tools we use should not get in the way of the far bigger question - what is your role in your classroom now and will new technologies integrate with it? The chances are they won't, unless you integrate (i.e. change) with them. The main release these tools will offer the teacher is the extension of the classroom beyond the 'nine-to-four': collaborative tools like these offer free and flexible ways to claim back some of the 200 minutes spent online by our kids each night.

And why this urgency to adopt new and changing technology? Because new technology tends to push us into new practices. Take a look at the Scottish Inspectorate's report or the Becta New Tech report to see what I mean. Some ideas will work, some will not. Do you have the desire to try and maybe make some mistakes? Will you blog about it so that others needn't make the same mistakes?

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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