7 posts categorized "Instant Messaging"

April 15, 2010

[ #bectax ]: It's less about our thoughts being listened to, more about making sure our actions are heard.

BectaX Speed networking
Over the past four years it has become de rigeur for any educational conference to wheel in unsuspecting students for a day out with the 'groan ups', have them present their highly-rehearsed and impressive version of what they've been "doing" in class (occasionally they can even tell us what they learnt), and then wheel them away again with a nice lunch in the their tummies.

At BectaX's (Becta Exchange) event at the end of March we didn't wheel any students in the room (apart from one very welcome one, on "holiday", with a working dad-cum-babysitter ;-). The main criticism of the event thus far has nearly solely been on a perceived lack of 'listening' to young people.

But I reckon we're listening to their voices more intently and memorably than any "learner voice" event I've ever attended. It's just that we - teachers and students together - have never really been very good at it, or doing anything much with what we find out from each other.

Having student's voices recorded, online and for some period of time, allows us to digest, reflect and follow up in a way that show and tells just do not afford. This is a task we're in the middle of doing in a quick and dirty way. Over the coming months we'll glean more detail, I hope, and hope that Becta might act on some of the gems hidden in there.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of having learners in situe at an event?

Having real live learners at an event allows a small number of the attendees present to communicate with them at breaks, intervals and question and answer sessions. Having them on Twitter allows the adults in the room to have a conversation at any time, on any subject, if the adults and the learners want to. We blow apart the constraints of the physical and open up the infinity of online conversation. Better still, we keep that conversation or that virtual talk and can come back to the bits we didn't see, hear or pay attention to the first time around.

There is one huge advantage of having students visible in the front row, and that is that anyone delivering a talk or talking on a panel is constantly reminded of the audience whom they are addressing - a few points along the way, myself included, we either forgot about this or found it too hard to take truly complex issues and "do a Newsround" on it, kiddifying the language so that it can be understood by all.

That said, BectaX was about the panel sessions and keynote speaker least of all - it was all about the attendees, virtual and physical, and their backchannel. That's why we invited the people we did; that's why there was such a huge online debate as well as the face-to-face debate. If some of the physical sessions were best received in the hall and not at all engaging down a video link, that's not too much of a loss, frankly, particularly when the backchannel itself was where the action took place.

Why did people feel they weren't hearing learner voice (or being heard)?

This is where, if you're in the same room as the people you're talking with, I'm sure one has the distinct impression that everyone is listening intently. You'd be right. Where you're virtually communicating, through Twitter, there's no guarantee, no intent gaze from the audience, no smiles or nods. It's much harder to see a room full of people listening to you without these cues.

Most people communicating on the backchannels at BectaX were not receiving overt cues that people were listening to them. They might see their thoughts retweeted or perhaps rephrased further down the line. It was relatively rare to see a back-and-forth conversation between anyone.

BectaX Twitterfall
Perhaps, then, when we're dealing with online "listening" skills with learners and with adults in an intense one-day conversation mode. Perhaps we need some kind of way of showing that "virtual hearing and listening", and thumbs up, thumbs down isn't going to cut it. We tried to show 'listening' in a kind of "thumbs up" way by prompting schools to retweet the comments of other schools; doing this made the original comment show on a large map in the main hall which itself made conference attendees take note, laugh, prompt change on the panel (above). But it was a first step, rather than the ideal final means through which we have our attention grabbed by what virtual attendees are saying.

Dave Stacey again has some useful ideas about we could 'listen' and engage more intently:

"...for us the biggest improvement for any future event based on this model (and I really hope there are) would be other ways of integrating the conference and the schools – perhaps by the kind of voting that we tried to throw together, or perhaps by developing some kind of Etherpad style page on particular issues that would allow the schools to pull together their viewpoint."

Doing his kind of live, online survey or voting and having an in situe "Twitter panel moderator" somehow summarise the results of online action is a must for future events, and something I've done in the past for Online Information Conference, for example. It needs one person in situe at the conference doing nothing but virtual moderation to get the mental bandwidth that can make sense of big issues and condense them down for conference attendees both there in person and online.

What this comes down to, though, is how individuals, not some kind of amorphous abstract 'conference' or 'event', use the tools at our disposal to engage with learners. Whose job was it to 'listen' to learners during that one day conference and the subsequent weeks and months ahead? The conference organisers? Becta? Teachers? Learners themselves? It's certainly all of us, but there's a lot to be said for teachers and learners working out how to listen to each other in the longer term - I'm firmly from the school of thought that it is at least equally the responsibility of teachers, learners and parents to push things the way they want to see them going, as it is for policy units and politicians.

During the day we made a significant effort to keep the content, activity and long line of conversation that we had hoped to set out on at the beginning of the day while also changing, adding to proceedings to highlight more of the learner voice, especially for those not engaging both in person and with a laptop or blackberry backchannel. I think these suggestions are totally right on many levels, and that's why we made the changes we did.

BectaX Kids
What are the advantages of keeping the students in their own place of learning?

I also think that, in the age of "wheel in the students to share their story" we increasingly see at education conferences, we're overlooking the power and potential of not 'hearing' students literally, but rather hearing them digitally and delayed, leaving them thinking time on their own patch and then hearing back a self-curated, and slightly delayed version.

Why do students need this time to reflect? Because most people, kids or adults, need that time.

Many people at the BectaX event were kind enough to thank me for my live curation of tweets coming in at 275-per-hour, the live conversation of digital media industry leaders and educators, the questions from the audience in-house and online, and the messages coming live from 14 schools around the country at about 10 per minute.

It's a head-spinning job, and one I love to do. But it's not for everyone, and is something you learn from doing it very often, day-to-day. And, as I experienced for five minutes or so at the end of the day, you feel very much "out there", "in the nude" almost when you lose track of the multiple conversations going on.

Most of us, especially some of the younger kids with whom we were engaging, find it tricky to manage these multiple conversations, particularly when the subject matter is so dense and complex. It's one thing to be on MSN chatting about the telly while doing one's homework and playing a game, but it's quite another with the more complex mix of issues, people known and unknown to us, people of different ages and industries and biases as us, who we were attempting to bind at BectaX. We all need time to think and reflect - to suggest otherwise is disingenuous.

A national conference having an effect in a school's own environment

At BectaX there were discussions we were not hearing in the auditorium or online, discussions taking place in classrooms across the country before digital scribes communicated their thoughts to the world. Dave Stacey points to the fact the conversations in his classroom quickly turned to what the implications of the panel discussions at the London conference might be for their own practice in school:

"One of the real successes for us was some of the school specific conversations that spun out from the event. In particular we got some great ideas from the students about how we should be teaching e-safety (it should be much more embedded in our PSE programme) and some interesting feedback on some ideas for future developments. So much so, we’re planning on keeping this group of students together as an advisory board to the ICT strategy group. It was also great to see so many members of the school management team pop in throughout the day. It showed off our students in the very best light, and showed how important to the school the whole issues of technology in schools is."

There was, in effect, real learning going on, not just learners who had learnt-by-rote their heart-warming spiel and were now presenting their pre-crafted view of the past learning to a group of admiring educators and teary-eyed romantics from the media industry. We were hearing stuff that was rough around the edges, genuinely revealing some truths around what students think of their learning and technology's role in it.

So, while we only managed to overcome technical, time and scope-based challenges of literally seeing and hearing from the schools with Cramlington Learning Village at the end of the day, and I would love to have seen more of that, this event needed the headspace and mental bandwidth that having kids in a different room afforded.

Virtual means we have a fairer spread of geography

Having this virtual arrangement also allowed more schools from more geographical locations to take part than we would have managed otherwise - when you wheel in students for London-based conferences, then all too often they're from the South East of England or London itself. It's hardly representative of the range of issues seen in rural, suburban, Welsh, Scottish or island schooling. That said, I'm not sure we used that geography as much to our advantage as we could have done - another one for the little black book of improvements. Indeed, we could have saved time, money and energy of even more active educator and media participants in the same way.

BectaX Workshopping
Does all this listening lead to action?

I'm a bigger fan of action than talking, and the lasting thought I tried to leave attendees at the event with was that Becta, tied by its election bolt down on any action being taken, needed the people in the room to take forward the principles and actions that they thought needed tried out and built up. The workshop sessions set the tone for this action, and already

  • Kristian has pulled the stops out in terms of engaging with the industry on making one of those workshopped ideas come to fruition.
  • David Muir has started soliciting ideas for what Initial Teacher Education needs to start doing to prepare its students better, with a view to changing practice and policy perhaps in his own institution.
  • Bev Humphrey sees herself as a small tug boat pulling that tanker down the river with her small actions as a librarian.
  • Doug hopes, but doesn't say how, that he'll be able to contribute something to changing policy in his own way (you have the force, Doug, just tell us what you're going to do with it ;-).
  • Dave Stacey and his students have shown what one spread of young people expect out of their school networks and policies: valuable inspiration for a larger national survey, perhaps, to see if the same is true nationally, and how it differs across age groups.
  • Clumie thinks that academia will have to start fundamentally changing its theoretical understanding of how we learn (and teach) when we take on board the opportunities new media affords us.
  • Dai says what the first panel easily concluded: there is a desire amongst many educators for a national steer on filtering that re-professionalises the teacher as someone who can be informed and trusted in terms of accessing the net. There is an equal desire amongst head teachers and others for more training on the balance of this freedom of use, consequences of error and how to handle media literacy.
  • Nicola McNee, superb librarian and inspiration on the day, agrees and wants to see filtering more nuanced, more intelligent and more malleable by educators, not IT technicians and non-educators - she wants a form of risk assessment framework to be provided to act as a basis of the discussions required to lead to that. Chris Harte, whose Cramlington students took part all day in the discussions, shares similar visions.
  • Tom Barrett outlines some practical suggestions anyone can take forward in their own school in order to "whisper change".
  • Mr Stucke sees some success in helping the media industry understand a little better why their products may well be blocked and filtered - for no apparent reason.

I think that next time, if there is a next time for this event, we need both physical, video/audio and entirely virtual, asynchronous communication, not one or t'other. But what I wouldn't want to see is a discontinuation of having students listen in on a discussion, talk about it in their own groups around the country and join in the discussion on an equal footing with the adults in the room. Likewise, though, in the ongoing BectaX conversation I think we need more than just Twitter. We need spaces like our blogs where we can let out more complex, messy, unfinished ideas and work with others to see them through. As Dean said this morning, sometimes 140 characters just doesn't cut it.

I'm left with the conclusion that no matter how hard politicians, policy units, schools and other institutions want to try to "listen" to constituents, citizens, workers and learners, the ball is really quite firmly in the court of the constituents, citizens, workers and learners to take action into their own hands. I want to see how this wordmap on Wordle changes over the next three, six, nine, twelve months.

It's not about your thoughts being listened to so much as making sure your actions are heard.

May 17, 2008

Steven Spielberg hits Seesmic nearly now video conf.

Seesmic_spielberg Who says social media doesn't bring people closer, and even allow to you to connect with seriously famous and cool people those non-digiratis could only dream of?

Jemima was amongst many posing questions directly to Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford on Seesmic, the video discussion site from long-time ScotEduBlogger friend Loic Lemeur, ahead of the launch of the new Indiana Jones film. You can see some of the Q&A on the Guardian's PDA blog.

Nearly now video conferencing is something that I'll be experimenting with inside Glow, the national schools intranet here in Scotland, with some exciting names already booked up for live debates and nearly live explorations around the world. Hopefully you'll be up for experimenting, too, whether you're 'in' Glow or sitting outside it.

Whether LTS get Spielberg, though, is another matter. We've ended up having a different force with us.

March 12, 2007

Multitasking not good for learning in that way, but maybe teaching something more worthwhile

Donald Clark carries a summary of some interesting research into multitasking teens as they instant message. It compliments nicely what I was saying about kids' 200 minutes of evening online time last Thursday at the RSA.

While multitasking appears to affect learning in the way we are used to expecting it (concentrate on one thing at a time, achieve it first then move on to the next thing) there is perhaps a more useful skill of being able to cope with different types of communication, address and medium:

So don't imagine that all of this social networking is helping people learn in the way we think they should be learning. On the other hand they may be learning skills that are far more useful - handling information, communication and people skills.

Other stats are impressive including the fact that multitasking can add seven hours of activity to your day. So is 75% of 200 minutes spent doing homework actually 75% of 380 minutes?

March 09, 2007

Computing Studies and Social Media: finding new ground

I've just ended the week in the most comforting way I know (other than with a fine Bordeaux) - in the company of teachers passionate about teaching, technology and finding untapped potential in the two. Mark Tennant helped group a good number of Computing Studies teachers from across East Lothian at its farthest Eastern point, Dunbar.

This post summarises some of the tools we looked at in this 'splurge' session. In May we have two more sessions together to look at how the Computing Studies curriculum and/or pedagogy might be adapted to take advantage of the exciting tools, the web as a platform for learning and the opportunity to teach children digital literacy skills. After meeting this group I am convinced that they are best placed to help both teachers and students understand the issues at stake, and not run away scared.

Taking digital images as a self-publishing starting point
It's the easiest thing to visualise and examine some of the new web's principles by using image sharing and online manipulation.

Podcasting for audio learning logs
Kids generally hate talking about themselves and what they do in front of others. Recording it to microphone is less daunting, more anonymous, and helps get over the nerves to talk about learning. If the kids doesn't feel they've done their best, they can delete and edit, representing themselves and their work in the best possible light.

  • Allows continuous, purposeful creation of multimedia products. Podcasts might just be done for the heck of it, or to sum up a period of learning, like they do in Sandaig.
  • Possible to do at home or in school using free audio creation apps (Audacity and the LAME Mp3 encoder) or online video editing apps (like Jumpcut)
  • Encourages Assessment for Learning principles (peer assessment, two stars and a wish, self-assessment, confirmation of learning and next steps) and Curriculum for Excellence aims (publishing their discoveries makes them effective contributors, shows their success at learning and helps them realise their role in helping others)
  • East Lothian teachers and students can publish audio or video for free as a podcast on eduBuzz.

Collaborating on the exciting - and the mundane
Everyone in Computing Studies has to learn how to use a spreadsheet and a word processing document. In the last month I've used Google Docs more for writing documents than Microsoft Word. It's easy to collaborate, is exportable, allows chat to take place while collaborating... It's free and it works.

Both the Word Processing and Spreadsheet functions can be used in their own right to learn about the apps, but also provide a superb collaboration planning tool for when students come around to planning multimedia projects and presentations. There's never enough time in class to do this properly and Google Docs allow us to do this from day-to-day in the classroom without losing information on Sick Boy's server space.

There's also Open Source desktop publishing with Scribus, for Mac and Windows.

Blogs to hold it all together
Teachers and students stand to gain if they can harness the positive force behind being Googleable and having a site that is useful or interesting for others. Pupils running their own blogs might be rewarded each term for having the most unique users, the most comments, the most read post, the best blogroll of useful study links...

Teachers benefit from having their own blog when they are able to provide useful insights to their subject that perhaps don't 'fit' into the curriculum, where they can provide good study links and provide a model of being a learner themselves, even if that just means posting links to videos that really make you think. Teachers also stand to benefit for future employment if we can find them easily and then see from their blog that they are not egotists ;-), that they regularly and publicly reflect on their practice and on how to do better at their jobs - and encourage others, including pupils, to help them do better.

A blog, being a website that is so easily and quickly updated, so easily categorisable, can help order the chaotic thoughts and experiences we all have while learning. It can become the revision guide and, best of all, it's the kids who will have written it.

Creating an ever-changing school or class webpage
Wikis on Wikispaces or PBWiki are good for creating quick and easy websites in a click, but they're not exciting unless they change a lot - and that means someone has to change it. Using an Ajax-based RSS aggregator such as Netvibes or PageFlakes (the latter works best in East Lothian and is what we use on the eduBuzz Explore page) provides an ever-changing, minimum effort, quite easy on the eye homepage for students. For younger kids and probably teens, too, YourMinis is prettier to look at.

Guidelines and letters for parents
East Lothian is one of the first Local Authorities in the country to have a policy on social media use both for teachers and for learners, together with letters of permission for Under-16s and for Over-16s. All schools in the Authority will use these as standard from the beginning of the school year, with non-returns or negative responses logged on the pupil monitoring system, Phoenix. In the meantime, feel free to use these for ad hoc projects. They are, of course, Creative Commons, so other Local Authorities and teachers may use and adapt these (at their own risk ;-).

October 31, 2006

Introduction to new technologies for student teachers

Screenshot The video/audio of the lecture David and I delivered at Jordanhill, the Education Faculty at the Uni of Strathclyde, is up and his post reveals how we managed the feedback of students. It was nice to meet some of the students afterwards and see how different technologies got different people so excited. I can't wait to see what happens with this group as they head into the world of the classroom.

David's got some of the things we used on a special del.icio.us page that the students (and you) can use to see what we were talking about for yourself. I'm going to forward more of the ones we mentioned there over the next few days to populate it a bit better.

January 08, 2006

Socialising, Identity 2.0 and education

After some weeks (months?) I have now found the time on a TGV (Train Grande Vitesse) to Brittany, France to put some thoughts together on a few ideas that might be linkable, or might not be linkable. While this train is hurtling along at 380km per hour, my previously fizzing thought train on this one, in typical British fashion, has now lost momentum in the crumbling infrastructure that is my post-Christmas head. I am only really taking some more time to reflect.


Why are social technologies such a Big Deal?

I challenge anyone to reckon that they’re not and it’s only those who don’t know (and who, with some ignorant pride, refuse to ever learn) that would even bother with that argument. It’s not that I, along with many of the readers of this blog, have some kind of cause to fight, a cause from which we stand to gain.

It's just that these social technologies work for something.

And lots of people are using them.

Yes, there are only 23.6 million public blogs, the same again in private ones and a tiny proportion of internet users have a Flickr account. But many more are reading them and looking at the pictures. These are the early days at the beginning of the renaissance. In fifty years I hope that our kids wonder what all the fuss was about – these tools will be just another part of the daily toolkit, and might even be obsolete.

Suw Charman started off the Socialising in the year 2055 panel (not Social Work panel) of Les Blogs 2.0 with what appears a simple statement: the reason these social technologies work is because they are social. But they are also changing the way that we socialise.


A changing-changed social world

So not only do these technologies cater for a need until now unfulfilled by the on-off yes-no I-O binary of technology. They are also allowing us to socialise in a different way. Where technology has thus far helped us in a changing world, social software tools are being proactive in helping us work, rest and play the way we want to and not, for the first time, the way that the rest of society wants/expects us to behave. Suw reveals some truisms: people have less time to socialise than before; taking breaks is frowned upon; where are we getting our social input? Her answer: we’re getting our social input on short text messaging, MSN chat, on multiplayer games (World of Warcraft), on blogs (and on leaving comments on Flickr: I’ve added this last bit since discovering the friends you can make through a mutual passion for taking pics of Paris).


Independent Digital Lifestyles

This digital lifestyle is just what I am living this year as a home and mobile worker. I use MSN (virtual) to ‘chat’ with colleagues over a coffee (not virtual), Skype to phone for free to friends and colleagues around the world I wouldn’t have made / wouldn’t have kept in touch with / wouldn’t have known about, blogs to expand my thinking on hi-tech stuff and not-so-hi-tech stuff, to keep informed of my mother’s life and to keep her informed of mine (there’s nothing worse than having not phoned your mother in a month; blogging removes some of the shame). I use Flickr to store and share my photos with families and friends, as well as to search for like-minded souls who might be of professional benefit for me and my projects, and who I might be able to help out. Flickr and LinkedIn have together helped me branch out my professional reach in no time at all. I even started an ICT Policy Strategy wiki in a totally spontaneous and natural way. This slightly awkward glove actually fits!

Hugh McLeod shares my views on the lone-ranger front. He runs a small tailoring business in the middle of Yorkshire, England, a.k.a. end of the valley. For him, blogging has meant that people don’t need to live in cities to make a living. They don’t need to please people they’re not interested in, either, because they can reduce their costs and do more of what they want to do. If he wants to tell someone to f*&@ off, he can. His overheads are so low/non-existent that he is able to pursue what he feels is important. Marc Canter also agrees with this sentiment: we can ignore things we find boring without losing face. Try ignoring someone in meatspace: not easy, unless you’re Hugh, of course ;-) But in a virtual world we can choose to ignore people, not give them our attention. Our attention is worth something. And so is our inattention.

Another thing that blogging has allowed individuals to do is become self-employed to a large extent. Anina, a model who blogs: “Your people speak to my people” is not required any more. Things can be done for free, where agents would normally not allow that (they want the commission). You can solicit people for a job by leaving a comment on their blog – subversing the middleman via interconnectivity. Hierarchy is subversed. The mobile phone takes it a stage further, making the digital subversion quicker, a quick response unit of the blogging world, if you will.

Often, in this deluge of information, the Non-Believer (not that blogging is ever some kind of personality cult) will proclaim: “I want to filter information”. In a beautifully simple exemplification Anina points out that information filtering is not useful in fashion. There’s a need to see things that take you out of your comfort zone, teach you something new or point out something that needs resolved. Like white socks and sandals, man.


Why give learners a social life?

What’s wrong with classrooms, text books and paper-driven homework diaries and learning logs? Nothing much. But our kids think differently to the way that most of our (aging) teaching population think. And if I, a teacher aged 27 who has had a computer since the age of six, has blogged since 2001 and has won two national awards for the connections my websites have made for kids is already using these tools to socialise, goodness knows what our children are going to be doing in 27 years' time. There are some reassuring words from a research report mentioned in Anne Davis’ Edublog Insights:

Brown (1997) suggests that for effective instruction of people who think differently than we do we must be able to step outside of our personal experiences and into the world of the learner. We must be able to engage the learner to make a commitment to learn. To do this with digital minds we do not necessarily have to involve devices (though it helps). What we do have to do is to accept some of their life experiences. [Edublogger comment: this is the social element] The following list draws on ideas from Brown (1997) and Driscoll (2002) as we offer the following suggestions:

1 Focus on Outcomes Rather Than Techniques

Provide students with opportunities to put information to work. Allow them to do something and not just to know something. Reality based learning, learning in context, situated cognition, and problem√based learning are strategies that should resonate with digital minds. [Edublogger: this is the kind of thing that got my colleagues and me very excited on our study trip to the schools of New Brunswick, Canada. Learning for purpose, in context, problem-based with kids actually doing tasks to achieve the production of a final product. Revolutionary stuff is what it felt like at the time, but this is just good teaching in the 3rd Millennium]


2 Provide Options for Learning

Universal Designs for Learning (O'Neill, 2001) suggests that students will excel with options in learning. Multiple options to express learning, multiple representations of content, and multiple ways to engage learners will help digital minds in the classroom. [Edublogger: multiple ways to engage learners and let them represent their learning might happen all at once (Flickr photos embedded in the audio from a poem) or might be used in turn (blogging a thought, following up with a separate blog post via a Flickred photo)]


3 Respect Parallel Thinking and Multitasking

People who grew up with the WWW, mobile phones, MTV and video games are used to dealing with many streams of information coming in at one time. And while we, as teachers and digital immigrants, may see it as disruptive, they really can do more than one thing at a time in class. [Edublogger: need I say more than the word ‘Backchannel’. Hugely disruptive for some, highly engaging for me, leading to productive thought after the main conference panel event (read ‘classroom lesson’)]


4 Highlight Key Points

New learners are surfers and scanners. While we had limited sources for writing papers they essentially have every library in the world available to them. They make decisions quickly based on side heads and highlighting. We must provide them with cues they recognize and help them to slow down and process when needed. [Edublogger's note: Great last point that I am going to keep for the next time someone criticizes blogging, internet reading or has a bash at technology for the apparent lack of reading in their students. I’ve never read as much since I blogged (nor written as much) and I’ve learned to spot the signs of a piece that I wish to ignore or go into in great depth – like this one]


5 Involve Learners in Setting Learning Goals

Provide them a role in establishing learning goals, building the learning community, setting up the rules for the class and in writing the rubrics that will be used to judge their performance. [Edublogger: In Assessment is for Learning Scottish teachers have managed to get most of this. What’s missing is the most important ingredient: building the learning community. Social software helps build this community. Paper, pens and the rushed atmosphere in the 40 minute lesson just don’t cut it.]

6 Provide Active Learning Environments

Allow learners to use what ever tools they may need in an assignment. Allow them to play to their strengths, be it media production or artistic expression in assignments and activities in appropriate ways.[Edublogger: this is where the devices come in. It’s not bad, though, to have got to number 6 without having to talk about tools and devices]


7 Allow Learning to be Social

We have long recognized the importance of working in groups. It builds social skills and provides students with the ability to work in the type of environment they will be working in as adults. Working in groups means that people will need to talk, discuss and interact, activities that are typically discouraged in most classrooms.


8 Provide Opportunities for Reflection

Lest we think we must only allow people to do things that are fast moving and lack depth of processing, we must provide digital minds not only with the time to reflect, but the requirement to reflect. A digital mind does not mean a better mind necessarily. We should provide opportunities for both experiential and reflective cognition.

In my next post I will take a look at Point 8: Time. Is there a case for the luddites who complain that all blogging and podcasting do is contribute to a flux of irrelevant information, best left ignored than skimmed? Or is there some kind of socialising that can take place to make better sense of this information and lead to a more connected, social world than the one we live in now?


August 01, 2005

Get around those firewalls with MSN Web Messenger


Graham at work has just tipped me off about MSN Web Messenger, a great tool for internet chat in schools where firewalls have prevented the download of the MSN programme.

"What!" I hear you cry. "A great tool for internet chat?? But therein lies Evil!!"

Well, no. MSN Messenger is one of the best research tools I own. I can chat to my research buddies in New Brunswick, Canada, for free, I can see them through my webcam and show off my tan from summer holidays and, with NetMeeting, I can share my own computer desktop with them.

And in the classroom...
Internet chat has clear disadvantages for the classroom: it's not very safe if your students get propositioned by a stranger and they can easily fall off task if their pals start to ping them. However, it does have obvious uses in the Modern Languages class.

Video conferencing is expensive and horrifically difficult to organise with a partner school who (a) don't have broadband, (b) have worse technical support than you do (yes, it is possible) and (c) having spent three weeks experimenting to make sure it works with the class, the system then breaks down during the very lesson that you had planned it in. Doh!

With MSN, ad hoc meetings with foreign classmates can be organised at the drop of a hat. Log in while other work is being done and if MSN pings, go and answer it.

Live internet chat is also good for pushing those language skills to the limit. Try typing fast, and thinking of how to say what you want to say. It's really tricky. This is conceivably a shortfall but, after saving the discussion to disk, the teacher can then take the whole class through it to learn from any mistakes either correspondent has made (often the ones made by the French/German/Spanish/Italian student on the other end are very reassuring for learners: "they get it wrong, too".

Having said all that, while download of the MSN programme is almost certainly banned, don't forget to see if the website has been firewalled, too. Those pesky Local Authorities - when will they learn?

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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