124 posts categorized "eduBuzz"

June 27, 2006

Exc-el moving forward 3: Bringing 'em in - Audience

One of the main reasons for publishing your thoughts or student work on the web is that doing so takes these thoughts and efforts to a larger audience. Publiushing on a blog or wiki allows that audience to show their appreciation or points for further development.

If you’ve ever kept a blog, though, you know that raising audience doesn’t just happen. For an Authority-wide project to gain audience and, by proxy, gain critical mass in uptake requires a targeted approach. The ‘portal’ page needs to feature on every piece of school and Local Authority stationary, the ends of letters, on business cards, on posters for educational events. At the beginning of the school year a standardised letter from the Director of Education needs to outline the importance of publishing student work on the web and producing digital media. It can then ask for permission to use that child’s photograph or video footage on one of the Exc-el sites, while also publicising the initiative.

More importantly, is that on every blog or wiki site there is a list of fellow community members, a blogroll of related blogs, in order to decentralise the distribution of information. People shouldn’t have to go to the portal again once they have found a blog that they like. This blogroll should be updated with most recent, most read, most related reads, using RSS as its motor (see my previous Exc-el post for a definition)

Exc-el is a community site, not East Lothian site. Handing over ownership of the community is a tricky task, though, as the innovators and early adopters have tended to be senior stakeholders or ‘the usual suspects’, those who are IT literate in their schools. Boundaries have started to appear around the roles of those working on the project. Extended use of something like Feedburner's Buzzboost or introducing the blogroll is one way to decentralise the distribution of information further and make joining the community less daunting.

June 26, 2006

Exc-el moving forward 2: The Portal vs. Distributed responsibility

I have had a long-standing distaste for the word ‘Portal’. It was originally used to describe the MFLE and will probably be used to describe the SSDN. Portal implies a gateway to a wider array of information, hence implying that you have to go through the gateway to get information. Some dictionaries also use the word 'elaborate', something you don't want in a web service.

In 2006, though, we don’t need to go in search of information though gate after gate when RSS can bring only the information we want or need to us. I already have one portal, my aggregator, Bloglines, that brings photo updates from Flickr, new posts in people’s blogs, changes in the pages of the website I am helping to develop, search terms I want to monitor (I’ve got one feed in my watchlist at the moment which tells me whenever anything to do with the Uffizi is written somewhere on the planet so that I'm well equipped for my honeymoon), news, weather, Big Brother

You see, the trouble with any portal is that it has to have the ambition (and succeed in this ambition) to be the only gate that people will have to open to gain access to everything. Otherwise, opening lots of gates one after the other is a pain, and, when you can use the path round the side of the gates (i.e. Google), is pointless. My main gripe with portals other than the aggregator (whose content I only I have chosen) is that they are never personal enough for me. Not even my Google homepage is personalised enough despite them knowing everything about what I like, search for, buy, sell and, importantly, dislike.

So does Exc-el need a portal? It certainly needs a place where journalists and newcomers can go to sign up and get some fairly standard information. But what about when they’re part of Exc-el, writing, podcasting or contributing, and want to get a snapshot flavour of what’s happening and instant ideas on where to go within this wonderfully messy flow of information? I’ve got some ideas in the next post which might help work that one out, but what do you think?

Update: As any portal develops the ideas and design rules from David Pogue's superb TED Talk would be a great starting point. Check out the other talks there, too.

June 25, 2006

Exc-el moving forward 1: Elevator Message

Bronagh Bell, Head of LTS Marketing and Public Affairs Department, introduced me to this phrase. What is your elevator message when people ask what you do? For many of us we give a job title and assume people understand the same thing as we do. Everyone knows what a teacher does, right? But is a parent’s understanding the same as the teachers’, and is that the same as the kids’? What about Exc-el? How would you describe Exc-el between two floors? At the meeting we were keen to show that it is more than blogs, more than a website.

Apparently the ‘about’ page of the service is heavily clicked upon, but this is not necessarily a good thing. Where do people click afterwards? If it’s away from the browser then it means that they’ve not understood what the service is about. If they are having to click ‘About’ at all, is that a good thing in the first place? At the MFLE, for example, we got rid of the About page because no-one used it: the aim of the service was clear.

The aim of Exc-el was not clear even to those present at the meeting and so Don made a first effort at simplifying the aims. Is this simplified enough? Could it be made briefer and still retain its ambitious aims? Could it made into an Elevator Message? Is there still a need for the 'About' page or do we have too much information on the whys and hows of the service?

One thing that was clear, was that there was a need for people to see that power was being passed to the students, administrators and teachers of East Lothian. All these people can be just one click away from influencing the path East Lothian Council’s education service.

Exc-el - East Lothian's social learning platform

Img_1696 Last Tuesday I took up Don on his open invitation to attend the Exc-el strategy meeting. Exc-el is an ambitious on- and offline project to raise expectations, attainment in East Lothian schools, from nursery through to secondary level. A key to making this work is providing a way for people not only to reach success but to share those successes. Social software is a prime mechanism to do this and the Exc-el website currently acts as portal to a wide array of teacher and student-led blogs, wikis and podcasts.

I ended up taking notes which formed six points to consider over the next few months. Over this week I’ll publish each of them at 7am, along with my own thoughts. The first one is posted today; all will be available in the new 'Excel' category on my blog. The team welcome all feedback; a comment on this blog post is probably the easiest way to do this.

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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