124 posts categorized "eduBuzz"

September 03, 2006

K-12 Online 2006

I'm joining Anne Davis and Bud Hunt by kicking off one of the three areas of the first K-12 Online 2006 conference. It has the feel of HigherEdBlogCon but with the content much more aligned to what schools teachers want to discuss. I'll be keynoting the Personal Professional Development strand, and the organisers, Will, Darren and Sheryl, are looking for contributions.

Scottish teachers have been grabbing blogs to keep track of their growing knowledge of technology, teaching or learning, far more in the past four months than ever before. I hope that there will be plenty of contributions to the Professional Development strand to show how it's done ;-)

The email links to send your proposal (not the finished product) by the end of September are over on Darren's blog.

August 30, 2006

Kids as teachers as marketers

  Film At Work 
  Originally uploaded by timsamoff.

I have taken a real passion for marketing in recent years since working with some of France's top marketers in Paris, way back in 2000. Teaching the Directors of Bulgari, Take2Games, Setec (who built most of La Défense) and Clark (who make green forklift trucks) how to market their products in English got me an insight into an industry that for which I have now got the bug.

I'm really glad to have found at least eight youngsters from East Lothian who, apparently, might want to share this passion. Yesterday I finally met the S6 students from Musselburgh Grammar School and Knox Academy who are going to form the official film crew for SETT The Learning Festival 2006. Much respect to Learning and Teaching Scotland, who could quite easily just have paid for a professional firm to come in and do the job in a clean sweep. Instead of the easy option, LTS have opted to support eight new film-makers and marketers in their filming of one of Europe's biggest educational conferences.

We'll be learning about the different shots, building a story, doing a good recce, making a storyboard, making pre-planned workflows, working out what opportunities might come on the fly, editing... The BBC's film resources on my del.icio.us account have been priceless, and have helped unearth a lot of the things I have only observed or been in front of during my outings on the box. Above all, they will learn how to present something to the world, something they themselves don't understand yet but will have to help thousands of people 'get' between now and next year's event.

Student turned teacher turned marketer.

The big question...

The real ambition, of course, is that this extra-curricular activity becomes part of day-to-day teaching where it would help kids make more sense of the subject or the world around them. The process involved in explaining things through film is the equivalent of making the kids 'teach' their viewers. We all know what happens when we have to teach something - we become better at it ourselves.

What's stopping this? Well, I'd like to ask you.
Partners in Excellence and our own staff in East Lothian have, for years, done extra curricular film-making far more than curricular film-making. Why is that? What are the barriers that need moving in order to make this more realistic as part of the learning process?

Getting Dynamic

  Our Dynamic Earth 
  Originally uploaded by beck_cox.

The past two days have been really energising (read: busy) working on the beginnings of two very different and very large projects. One of them kicked off with a meeting at East Lothian HQ with Dr Krista McKinzey, who is coordinating a new Scottish Executive partnership between the outreach services of the superb Our Dynamic Earth (pictured) and the Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick. Also offering an interesting insight, and confirming that new technologies and marketing are insatiable bed-buddies, was Lynda Dalgleish from the Seabird Centre.

Both places have been school visit fodder for many years now, have pretty and well-visited (and one-way) websites. Their education services are second-to-none for those who choose to visit the centres. However, Krista and Lynda have both seen the power of new technologies from what is going on in East Lothian and want to make that educational opportunity spread beyond their doors and into classrooms wherever they are.

The best route I felt was to couple their existing web presences with something more sociable. If I want to know what the Seabird Centre is really like I don't want to speak to a tourist guide half as much as I want to speak to one of the wardens who looks after the birds on a daily basis. I want to see the photos from his mobile phone camera the minute a basking shark passes by. Better still, if I'm taking a group of kids there I want them to be able to contribute to a corpus of 'expert' work with their photos and audio recordings. It's Sonic Postcards, blogging and podcasting stirred and set to bake...

The possiblities then became apparent as I Flickrd the simple basking shark example live onto the web for Krista and Lynda: they have existing partnerships with nature reserves and science museums all over the world. This would not only provide a means of sharing information but would allow them to become the brokers in inter-school linkups on themes.

"Wouldn't it be great to chart basking sharks as they move from the north of Scotland down to the warmer waters?" Well, with a Technorati watchlist that's exactly what we did, from Shetland to Cornwall via the Isle of Skye, over a period of a couple of months of blog posts (just flick back three or four pages). For the Seabird Centre, which links up with other organisations to track nature and environmental issues, this is a simple way of tracking information as it, quite literally, moves around the planet.

We're going to help Our Dynamic Earth and the Seabird Centre to try these things out with real live kids before coming to a conclusion on just how much more beneficial this is, but I, for one, am really looking forward to learning lots myself.

Update 1: Wes reports on a nature deficit disorder mentioned in Edutopia - are nature and technology imcompatible?

Update 2: TES article on a great use of mobile phones in an art gallery setting.

August 27, 2006

Making Musselburgh Mobile

  My new classroom! 
  Originally uploaded by OllieBray.

Tomorrow I'll be heading over to see Ollie at Musselburgh Grammar to talk over a plan to get the school using the power of the 1400 mobile phones brought in every day. I'm very much a novice of the mobile in the classroom and have put together some my basic thoughts on the MFLE for languages teachers as well as my slightly more futurologue ideas on QR codes (coming soon enough, though!). Come October I hope to add to my knowledge - and what we're able to do in Musselburgh - after attending the Handheld Learning conference. Ollie himself has made use of the GPRS connection on a triband phone when he went Absent With Leave a ouple of years back to Alaska, feeding back meteorological news to his classes as he climbed the peak (the picture is from quieter times this summer). Musselburgh will present other, perhaps just as adventurous challenges!

In the meantime, what uses of mobiles have worked for you in the classroom? What things have not worked, too - any pitfalls we should look out for? Even if you've not done something in your classroom I'd love to hear your words of warning or encouragement. In return, Ollie and I will let you know how we get on.

Update 1: More moblogging goodness this time from David's lecture hall.

Update 2: Pre-meeting notes on possible ways of trialling mobile phone use in Musselburgh; just click the link below

Continue reading "Making Musselburgh Mobile" »

August 22, 2006

Getting Things Done Mark II - What's Ewan doing for the next year or two?

I don't think that you're meant to do Getting Things Done twice. Indeed, the idea that in one grand session you clear your space and clear your mind was what attracted me to GTD last October as the MFLE started to grow exponentially (read, faster than my mind could cope with). For around 10 months working in this way has kept my email inbox to nil and the workflow has meant that accepting new ideas as they have appeared has been a sinch.

Now I see that all Head Teachers in my 'home' Authority, East Lothian, are going to attempt the same process and I'm glad that they are. It really does free up time to speak to their friendly New Technologies Research Practitioner about the projects he has lined up. However, the latter also needs to do it - again.

As part of clearing the decks here are the first indications of the curricular projects I will be developing almost straightaway. Just click the link to read more. Policy and guidance projects will beare in a future post.

Continue reading "Getting Things Done Mark II - What's Ewan doing for the next year or two?" »

August 14, 2006

edublogs.org coming with more features soon

James gives us some update on the edublogs.org service one year on, including news of forthcoming Flickr and YouTube integration, as well as other widget goodness. He also points out that he's bought a new more reliable server to cope with the increasing demand.

This makes things even more tantalising for a Local Authority such as East Lothian - all the goodness without the hassle of hosting it ourselves. However, there might still be some arguments for self-hosting a WPMU service in the Authority, namely we can include pre-built-in blogrolls, RSS feeds of interest and use to our students and teachers, intra-community links. Flickr integration is also handy because currently inserting Javascript into Wordpress templates is a nightmare; can we replicate this in East Lothian?

August 13, 2006

Finally getting around to Flock

It's true. Flock is the best browser I have ever used - for the moment - and has given me some ideas. Chris Messina had shown me a rather unpromising holding page way back in December at Les Blogs, but the way he and Tara had gone on (and on... ;-) about it I knew it would be worth a shot.

There are two things that have made me take a look now, though.

a) I have some time as Mrs Edublogger gets all domesticated and bakes cakes (yes, it's true)

b) I am struggling to get my head around how we are going to let East Lothian teachers do their job and cope with creating and consuming larger amounts of information over the next few years. I've been convinced for a while that central portals are not the way to go, and the current research seems to back this up. But how do you tailor-make a delivery service when the users don't know what a delivery service (RSS) is?

If only we could get everyone on Flock this year then the sting would be taken out the problem. Why?

  • RSS: It's a doddle to add pre-defined RSS feeds to your online reader - drag and drop
  • Image-sharing: It's a doddle blah, blah, blah - drag and drop
  • Blogging: you get the idea - drag, drop and everything from the same page or menu, without every having to go to a blogging application (people always get confused between the front end of a blog (edu.blogs.com, for example) and the backend where all the work goes in. Here, it appears only as if you have a front end - confusion over.
  • Bookmark sharing: bookmarks are off and online, a concept that most people can get their heads around. It's amazing how many folk this past year have not liked the idea of having all their bookmarks online, in a place they can't see and feel. Flock gives a compromise.
  • Adding other elements (files, pics, audio...) to blog posts or someone else's web pages: drag and drop. I've yet to try this out to see and believe it, but I like the idea that they are listening to what people have to say.

I know that some edubloggers have raved about Flock and already gone back to Firefox. Old habits etc, etc. But I'm going to give a prolonged shot at using this bit of kit to see if it makes my life easier. And gives me more time to cook...

Update: Flock also have the best customer service I've seen from a browser.

Blogged with Flock

August 11, 2006

Elgg - another possibility

One of the biggest problems faced by Karen, David and me as we take another look at Exc-el is what platforms to employ for the complex array of services we wish to offer: student/teacher blogging, corporate one-click publishing, podcasting, showcasing, mutliple themed RSS feeds to pick up and add to one's own feed reader, then even which feed reader to use in the first place.

I've spent the last few days looking at RSS front pages from the likes of Newsgator - their PrivateLabel solution looks interesting in that we can brand and push content we want to, while offering individualised homepages with local, Authority and national feeds. It's a lot more sophisticated than Bloglines, but it's costly.

I've also been looking at using Ruby to bring in Bloglines-created OPMLs and Technorati / Google-news watchlists to provide themed information for students or teachers of subjects x, y and z.

212401118_9ab48f72d9_m Today, Steve O'Hear has published part 2 of an article on Web 2.0 solutions, particularly closing in on Elgg, an open-source solution which has taken on great impetus in the past 12 months. I am ashamedly ignorant of what this could offer East Lothian and hope that between David and me we can get some ideas. Above all, if you're an Elgg-er maybe we could offer some of our stuff in return for your expertise.

One thing I am sure about is that teachers and students in East Lothian are a varied bunch and require a varied set of 'homepages'. Using RSS to provide truly unique and user-created mixes of information looks, to me, a better solution to the old model of corporate homepages. There will always be a place for one page aggregating information, but this must work alongside individual choices, should indeed the individuals choose.

July 31, 2006

Design is essential to the use of social software

Marc Canter has been doing his homework on Hitwise and spotted that the 9th most popular search term is "MySpace layouts", as young social networkers look to personalise their online spaces. This is indicative not only of the growth in this area in line with the growth of MySpace itself, but also of the fact that online spaces rely on the ability for the individual to personalise to their heart's content. If we can't personalise our spaces, we won't use them in the longer term.

Img_2154 There's nothing new in this for those of us who have had our own blogs for a while, and it's not a new concept: returning to Florence as an adult underlined the importance of design and art complimenting each other all the time. The artists who created the statues would often be the architects who created the buildings.

The importance of design, though, is underestimated in many educational projects to do with social software and personal learning spaces. Most school blogs are uniform, use predefined templates, reflect the school colours, and have obviously not been made up by kids themselves (without heavy teacher supervision). Take a look at SSDN, the national schools network offering online services to every student and teacher in Scotland. In SSDN, which endeavours to give every school (and every student?) a personal space, I am not sure there is enough personalisation on offer. And by personalisation I mean 'silly' personalisation. If I want my page to be a lurid pink then I expect to be able to do that in a click. If I want it to be moody black, ditto. Will there be room for a design supermarket where I can not only pick up what designs I want but also submit my own designs for others to 'buy' from me? (What a way to introduce enterprise education to the masses ;-) Will I be able to add my own Flash objects (music, videos, animations) à la MySpace and Bebo?

The one thing I have picked up from the European Centre for Modern Languages' Blogs project is that youngsters love to spend time making their page their own. Take a quick flick through all the different nationalities and you will see that whether you are in Poland or Potsdam, design is vital to the success of a page (take a look at the huge number of posts on any of the Czech students' pages - all their designs are different). Then take a look at the UK pages (here, here and here), where the teachers had less time to spend with kids looking at the design and personalisation - and the kids have not taken the project on as theirs at all. A link?

If SSDN hasn't thought about this so far then maybe this is something we could consider offering in Exc-el's framework. Yes, complex and maybe not linked to serious learning outcomes straightaway. But if we want kids to take their online learning spaces seriously over time, we need to offer the ability to play about with each personal space - very unseriously - from the start.

Marc has given a roundup of the main MySpace layout engines.

June 28, 2006

Exc-el moving forward 4: Why would I write a blog?

Most folk tend to start off by explaining: “Who would ever want to read what I do in my job?” That’s a fair point. My tuppence worth into the debate is that blogging is not for everyone anyway. Not everyone can write or find their voice in the written word. Not everyone finds wreiting their thoughts down helps them to develop professionally or personally, although this is something I could now not go without doing.

There is some excellent advice on how to write well on the 'live web' in this list apart.

There is also some good advice from a business background that might help a Local Authority work out how to use blogging for a 'corporate' gain – and that would include bringing their employees together.

Exc-el is currently dominated by “diary blogs”, where teachers or managers explain what they do each day. I don’t know how helpful this is but, in the short term, it probably helps explain their job better. Don’s blog has recently moved more into thinking about why or how we do things, making some challenging reading for his staff. Alan Coady (pictured on left) runs a particularly fascinating blog, giving an insight to the world of the itinerant instrumental instructor, a lifestyle most teachers and students know little about.

Img_1694 Other blog types which are underexploited at the moment might be:

  • My new experiences
    Someone undertaking a new project or dimension in their job can write down the trials and tribulations, asking for advice and sharing discoveries. This is a bit of a learning blog as students or staff work out something new.
  • Info blogs
    Does what it says on the tin: it provides fairly dry info in brief form on what is going on in a particular school or cluster.
  • Best work blogs
    Students’ best work from one class, one year group or one school. This is probably the most accessible type of blog and, with a digital camera or phonecam in hand, any type of work can be recorded and displayed by the students themselves, with no need for teacher intervention.
  • Travel blogs
    Keep people in touch with field trips, like they do at MGS.
  • Creative writing blogs
    Building writing in small sections until you have a refined version, à la Progress Report.
  • Resources blog
    A department can categorise and upload their own resources or links for learning. No need for a webmaster or school website which doesn’t change. Files can be as large as required (Alan suggested podcasting would be a great medium for showing off musical concepts).

What other successful formats are there for blog writing?

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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