124 posts categorized "eduBuzz"

November 01, 2006

Why teacher blogging is important

David Gilmour will be popping around in a couple of hours to have a five or six hour sesh thrashing out the new online service we have been designing bit-by-bit over the past few months. You might have noticed subtle changes in the appearance and functions of some people's blogs in the region, but this is just scratching the surface. Today, we work out a way to bring it all together and help people connect (believe me, it's not just today. This has been circulating in our minds and on many a paper sketch for months ;-)

But why?

Well, this quote from an East Lothian blog I only discovered today sums it up:

I can truly say that I had not used the internet for meaningful learning until I started blogging. I have learned in a superficial way by gaining new facts and such like, but not in a reflective, deep sense.

Et voilà!

October 29, 2006

Moblogging from MDA Smartphone



This T Mobile MDA Smartphone is the bees' knees for blogging along with the typepad app I was able to grab. It does make me less stressed about not having connectivity wheb I'm out and about presenting or conf blogging.

But this is also the very kind of tool I hope to see in East Lothian over the next two years with our involvement and consulting on the Learning Hubs 1-2-1 project. It's even got a wee keyboard which allows me to type at about 30 words a minute. Not bad at all and improving with practice.

I doubt I can share the cost publicly but 2GB internet and free calls is less than a tenner a month. Digital divide? It could be getting narrow.

October 04, 2006

East Lothian Glow Mentors

Elglow eastlothianGlow is the new weblog from the Exc-el crowd to provide some focus for the development of Scotland's national intranet. As you might know, a large part of my job is helping to set things up in East Lothian as a model other Local Authorities can peak at, but we are far from being the first to set up a blog for mentors. Andy Watson in Aberdeen has had his Glowers introduce themselves. GlowOrkney have a nicely branded blog for their developments, although I can't answer some of their questions and respond to criticism in comments because I need to be a member of their community. The ClacksBlogs have a growing number of individual mentors' blogs. Argyll and Bute have just gone blog crazy, but some of them still need fleshing out a bit.

What's nice about the eastlothianGlow - and what is completely replicable - is the importance being placed on community and using more than text to give a sense of belonging to its readers and users - wherever they come from.

There are Flickr photo pages to let us learn about bit more about our Glow Mentors, especially those with no blog (yet). The photo descriptions provide hyperlinks to show us who's friends already with whom and who's in the same school. Sweet.

There's also going to be an emphasis on video/vodcasting. I think the video of the Head of Education outlining his vision is far more powerful than a podcast or blog could ever be. For some reason people have trouble taking his strong messages seriously until they see him in person being so passionate about these visions, so hopefully a little googlejuice will make that better. I've also managed to make a veotag of the video, which might help those with short attention spans jump to the bit that interests them.

Best of all, we have a live feed from five of our Glow mentor blogs at any one time, as well as future features on what they have written on their own space. This, for me, is vital for some teachers - they need their own space. For those who won't be blogging so regularly they will have authorship on the main area to let us know what part they are playing in the development of collaborative teaching and learning. So, just like the kids, the need for audience will hopefully be satisfied and we get teachers using an aggregator without even realising it. In time, as more mentor blogs come together, we'll use a Suprglu feed to hold it all together.

My biggest concern with any social networking tool being used in an 'official' capacity is that users don't feel they can write what they need to - despite the vlogged statements on 'reversing the hierarchy' of our Head of Education (coming out soon...). So in East Lothian, on the social networking front at least, I am quite happy not to be the first or the biggest rightaway. I am keen on getting a sense of community, of enjoyment and of belonging through this technology and, just like in the F2F world, that will take some time to develop.

September 30, 2006

TeachMeet Roadshow

Teachmeetroadshow TeachMeet06 was great fun and highly useful for the 60 or so people who made it. It was also pretty advanced thinking for some of us. Since East Lothian is always up for sharing what it does with others - warts an' all - I hope that the TeachMeet community likes the idea we've had to use its branding to reach out to a larger public more often (when did it become a brand, I don't know?)

Karen has already outlined the concept in brief, and you can download the Word minutes.doc from last Thursday's meeting for more detail. The TeachMeet Roadshow is a concept which, in theory, anyone can take, adapt and use in their own local authority, using where possible examples and case studies from the 'home patch'.

The roadshow aims to show what technologies are available for learning, to show how teachers might think through their curriculum and to start teachers on the planning processes involved. At the end of the roadshow sessions teachers will have identified where their training needs lie and training opportunities will be lined up around interest, geographical or stage groups.

The hope is that we will have more teachers thinking about their needs before embarking on the latest 'fad', only to give it up a week or two later because it wasn't for them. We also hope to have a highly skilled set of staff who share their knowledge and let the roadshow run further and deeper into the Authority, without central IT services having to dispense the same stuff all the time.

Will it work? Is it different from anything that goes on already in local authorities? To the former, I don't know. To the latter, almost certainly. I can't wait to see how it pans out in reality.

As always, feedback, ideas and comment welcome at the foot of this post! (btw: the logo's just temporary ;-)

Bottom-up training the way to go?

The residential training for Glow, organised by LTS, sounds like a huge task to organise (for over 600 mentors), and also seems very top-down. Wouldn’t it be great to have people use an online spreadsheet to choose the date that suits them best, and let the bottom-up approach lead the training in the same way it should lead the adoption of Glow as a whole? I was really impressed by the online spreadsheet menu David set up for our Goat dinner.

At least this way responsibility for class cover and the choosing of dates which least affect learners (I’d want to be at school for last minute exam nerves of my students, not at a residential training course) would be with the teaching professional. Would it make the management of training easier in general if Continuing Professional Development (CPD) was chosen this way all year round? The professional (i.e. the teacher) makes a decision that this is something that will make their teaching better, (s)he makes the moves to get funding from the school and chooses the dates of training from an online spreadsheet or database.

Any other member of staff can see who’s doing what and share expertise – or a car to get there. Importantly, any member of staff can see what skills are already in the school – and which are not – and justify their CPD choice to management. They might also abandon their CPD realising that the skills are already there in the school and available for tapping into. The senior management, importantly, no longer have a training cartel: every teaching professional can make an informed decision and bid for support, based upon the school’s development profile.

Is this pie in the sky or a viable way of sharing expertise, avoiding duplication and avoiding disappointment? Makes me think back to “small change” instead of “large change”. Well, in East Lothian we are going to have just this thing - an online database where you can view skills and submit requests for your desired training. You can also pop along to "small change" type professional development workshops being held by colleagues during lunch hours or after school. I can't wait for Karen to let us know when this Learning Management System (LMS) is up and running. As far as I know, it's just round the corner.

Small innovation vs Large innovation, or how schools might think about R&D

Name Development has a superb summary of how even the smallest companies in the liquid products business have quickly seized upon the airline restrictions on carrying such products. It got me thinking about how change is often weighed up in education before being accepted: is this just a fad? is this something that is worth investing time (and money) in working on?

My attitude has always been that if it improves learning, no matter how short or long term the process of implementation may be, then we should do it. Blogging, podcasting, the use of wikis: all of these have often been perceived in schools as short-term, flash-in-the-pan ventures. In my own experience I've always been supported with a nod from management, but no time or school resource has been given for their development; this all came from awards or grants from Learning and Teaching Scotland.

What I call “large innovation”, such as the deployment of interactive whiteboards in large numbers of classrooms, have generally encouraged slow change and low innovation, with practitioners first of all reinforcing ‘old teaching’ before discovering new, more collaborative ways of working. “Large innovation” has also encouraged school management teams to spend money on a large scale, especially on hardware and to a lesser extent on training. Does the phrase “throwing money into a solution” ring any bells?

At the time I accepted this, since innovating on a small scale with relatively unaccepted tools seemed like an extra to the ‘day job’ of teaching the kids (read: killing them slowly with textbooks). I’m sure others feel that way today as they innovate in their schools. But in retrospect, and seeing how businesses such as these liquid companies cope with small, innovative change, I wonder if I would accept the “do it in your own time” quite as easily as I did back then. Small, innovative change has helped many of us improve the learner experience by leaps and bounds while large change has done so to a much lesser extent.

Am I being unfair on school management? How much does your school actually spend on its R&D? Are huge efforts made to get teachers away to major innovation conferences, such as SETT? If a teacher comes to you wanting to develop a passion how do you support him or her? Do you support them at all?

September 17, 2006

More on extreme learning from down under

Jedd had seen our discussions on Extreme Learning and suggested we take a look at a similar project which has been taking place in New Zealand. It's reassuring to see this kind of thing does/can work and I love the enterprise element they have added. Here is something which seems to resemble very closely what we are envisaging so we might be able to get some first hand help in making our flavour of extreme learning a success.

September 14, 2006

Blogging maths and how it might help make things better still

Having met with Robert yesterday I was more reassured today that East Lothian maths teachers might consider keeping a blog of their own or getting their students to keep a Scribe Post (I'm indebted to Darren for suggesting this idea to me). With a revamped online community in East Lothian on the near horizon it's becoming more of a possibility for teachers to get into.

If teachers were to be keeping their own blog I think it would work best with one blog shared between the colleagues of a cluster (and being able to read the others' ideas off the sidebar). This would mean that each teacher might only spend five minutes a month writing up their cool use for the board, something that worked well, and might be able to spend another 10 or 20 minutes a month reading what their colleagues have been up to.

I was very aware of how little time all the maths PTs have to get together and chat about maths in their meetings - and of the apparent lack of time full stop that maths teachers across the authority must have to talk to each other at all. Killing some of the routine grumbles of teaching and learning by airing them or sorting them out on a blog first might be a way to make those face-to-face encounters more about next steps. It's even more exciting a venture considering the enthusiasm the maths teachers have had for their new interactive whiteboards. It seems a shame not to share their passion and make some connections with others feeling the same thing. There might even be some extra, free resources in it ;-)

The Principal Teachers of maths did smile when they saw the exemplars of learning blogs, or scribe posts, from Darren's Hall of Fame. I hope they take a peek at what those students have done. There might be a variant that would work in their situation in East Lothian.

Update: On another note, a great initiation to the live web by Matthew Reames, a great guy and maths teacher from dan saff who I met at an eTwinning event (the photos are here). He has set up his first wiki (webpages anyone, including his students, can change) to assign some numbers work in sequencing. I know he was pretty nervous about doing this and letting 'em loose on a wiki but I think it's a great, realistic example of what can be achieved in our first steps of using new tech in the classroom.

With his interest in eTwinning I wonder whether any European maths collaborations could now be played out between his 'code breakers' and some of their Europol partners ;-)

Some big (and not so big) questions about Extreme Learning

In last night's post on Extreme Learning, which John thinks could be a ground-breaking way of modelling the Curriculum for Excellence, I gave Don's outline for what might take place. A participant from outside the authority, Neil, has also given his understanding of the vision. In fairness that's just half the story. He then did a good job in putting forward some of the questions we are all likely to ask about how this can actually be taken forward. Soon, Don will set up a wiki on which we can collaborate to flesh out some answers to these questions before then assigning tasks and timelines, but I thought I would pre-empt some of them here with my comments in italics:

•    How much teacher support is necessary?
•    Do youngsters need additional ICT skills?
•    What about security and safety?
•    Protocols: what is our guidance on web access?
•    Do we enable comments?
All these issues are being worked out at the moment by the ICT Curriculum Team, both in terms of providing tools which require little learning curve and also by providing a road show of training opportunities for those who need some more help.

•    What do participants need to know?
•    How do we invite participants? Open or by invitation?
•    What time commitment is going to be required? Homework is a burden; could be a good trade between no homework in return for a project led piece of work.

•    Do kids need internet access at home? If they do but don’t have it what contributions could librarians and the community make?
•    How do we manage parental concerns? Will they trust ‘extreme learning’?
•    How can parents participate?
•    Is it something which certain sectors (primary or special needs) could run with immediately?
•    What about excluded students?
Might our plans to have a SecondLife virtual school help excluded students feel part of the community and contribute constructively?

•    How do we differentiate between curricular and extra-curricular?
•    What exemplars can we provide? Do we have to provide exemplars since no-one else is restructuring their curriculum in this way?
Again, this is something the revamped online community for East Lothian will go some way to achieving.

•    How do we use data that  can be gleaned?
•    Should layout of projects be structured uniformly? How do we make best use of blogs, podcasts, video…

•    How do we assess? It must be formative.
•    Self-assessment? Parental assessment of kids by involving them in the criteria?
•    Assessment in relation to the four capacities?
•    Assessment using comments in blogs?
•    How do we evaluate the project?
•    What is our baseline data?
•    What information must we collect as we go?

•    Can kids take part in creating and managing this?
•    What would happen when kids get to secondary school?
•    How many projects would children do in their time?
•    Could Teacher Education Institutions get involved?

September 13, 2006

Extreme learning in East Lothian - a possibility? Part 1/2

At the moment many students in our schools are not engaged beyond the end of the school day (some of them barely during the school day) and so in East Lothian today around 35 teachers and librarians from the authority and beyond met to see how extreme learning and integrated project work could help turn education inside out. How can their personal passions as a human being be more than something they do outside school, and become something which permeates their whole learning life, no matter when or where they are learning?

What follows is a mashup of Don Ledingham's intro, my thoughts and the following discussions. It's quite suiting really, considering that the whole movement will be co-owned on a wiki in the coming weeks.

Schools are not preparing their youngster for life beyond school. The relevance of school is becoming further from the reality of youngsters’ lives. The way they interact with technology and life is very different from the way they interact with technology and passions outside school (Now I’m going to do Maths, now I’m going to French…) This latter point is  true in students who reach Advanced Higher level and suddenly have to ‘think’, instead of regurgitate learned facts.

Project work is collaborative, it involves parents (how do we explore the partnership between parent and child without saying “his dad dunnit”?). Maybe the issue is more how we define success. Is success a ‘A’? Or is success something deeper than that?

Most of all: kids like project work. Don tells a story of when he was Head at Dunbar Grammar. When he encouraged kids to do a project over the summer holidays, promising he would leave a comment on it in the new term, he expected three or four projects in return. Fifty. Fifty projects got turned in on all sorts of personal passions, including the novels of Sharpe and the architecture of Orkney. Students had decided timescales, focus, length, media… All they needed was the chance and encouragement to do it.

Some project ideas and the curricular areas students might choose to follow:
•    Wallace and Grommit – how do they do it?
IT, animation, storyline, art, modelling.
•    Heather the Weather
Physics, Geo, Media, Maths
•    Why is my gran’s hospital food so bad?
•    Disaffected learners in East Lothian are currently designing skateboard park design – I wonder if they might consider using Google Sketchup or SecondLife to achieve this.

But are these areas too narrowing and will they lead to kids shoehorning subjects in?
How can kids work collaboratively and keep their individuality?

Thankfully Don sees the importance of personalisation in students’ own webspace,  whether that be a blog or something else. He also sees other issues - more on these big questions to follow tomorrow. I'll also be adding more links to make sense of this for non-Scots readers. But time for dinner out with Mrs Edublogger.

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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