43 posts categorized "Tags"

April 01, 2007

Spending time and effort on folder hierarchy - why?

I saw this and wept. Bristol seem to have spent a lot of time getting folder hierarchy sorted out in the Authority, and have come up with beautifully simple structure as follows:

The standard drive letter allocation:
H:\ - the users home directory
P:\ - shared program files
T:\ - teacher's share
U:\ - folder for pupils to share work
W:\ - access for teachers to pupil's H:\ drives

For folder structures: the teachers share would normally start with:

A few words that would sort it out forever and make it far simpler for the folk on the frontline: publish your stuff online (in a private or public online space), use tags of your own choice, the LA will provide a tag cloud page which opens as default on every machine to bring your things together for others to share.

It is wholly unfair for me to pick on Bristol in particular because I think more Authorities than I could shake a stick at do the same kind of thing. I just think it's two steps back in an age where we should be sharing as much as we can publicly anyway and making systems which are sustainable, not in need of an annual cleanup just to keep operational. Almost all the elements given their folder above are of value outside Bristol, too, without a doubt.

Can we not share and let the teachers and learners create a sustainable system that belongs to them?

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?

March 18, 2007

Congres Frans: News ways to teach and to teach yourself

Img_5112 Another packed talk on new technologies, but yesterday morning's was more about specific tools and letting the participants use their imaginations as to how they might use them to either work with the kids or just to get more savvy themselves.

The notes are in French, but obviously the links are of use to anyone new to tracking the wealth of useful information out there for teachers of languages or any other subject for that matter. Excuses pour les fautes de français ;-) I'm glad to be home after yet more time away, but Sonja, who I met while doing the ECML Blogs project 18 months ago, was kind enough to take me to the beach at Noordwijk for some brisk breezes and spectacular moonscapes (left).

Avec tellement d'information sur le web ça devient de plus en plus important de savoir comment y naviguer. Tout ce que j'ai montré ce matin est gratuit et se prête parfaitement à l'apprentissage de langues et, bien sûr, sert à former le professeur.

Firefoxscreensnapz001 1. Del.icio.us - mon réseau de liens
Tu gardes tous tes liens sur le menu 'Favoris' de votre ordinateur, où personne peut les trouver et où ils deviennent désorganisé dès qu'on y rajoute? Pas moi. Je garde tous mes liens en ligne avec le service del.icio.us où j'ai ma propre page de liens.

Chaque lien est 'étiquetté' - ou 'tagged' - avec des mots que j'ai décidé étaient les meilleurs pour les retrouver plus tard. Certains liens ont deux mots clés, d'autres ont vignt. Ça dépend du lien et pour qui c'est utile.

Pour mes classes, je peux inventer des tags particuliers: francais2e (c'est pour la classe de français '2E'). Je peux aussi mélanger plusieurs liens: poésie, contemporaine, français2e, français6f (ce lien est utile pour tout étudiant ou prof qui s'occupe de la poésie, de la poésie contemporaine, de la classe 2E, de la class 6F ou tout combinaison de ceux-ci. Tout ce que j'ai à faire c'est rajouter des tags à celui que j'ai déjà choisi pour rafiner ma recherche.

Firefoxscreensnapz002 2. GoogleDocs
Collaboration à plusieurs auteurs? Utilisez GoogleDocs. Invitez ceux qui peuvent changer le fichier 'Word' ou le tableau 'Excel' (tout est en ligne donc il n'est pas nécessaire de disposer de ces logiciels, en effet, pour visualiser les fichiers). Vous pouvez être à un, à deux, à vingt... personnes à la fois en train de rédiger le document et voir ce que les autres écrivent en même temps, même si les autres se trouvent loin dans une école partenaire, par exemple.

Firefoxscreensnapz006 3. Wiki
Wikiwiki sont les bus rapides de Hawaii. Un wiki est un site web qui peut être changé par seulement une personne à la fois. Créer une page est simple comme une clique, donc parfait pour des élèves ou des profs qui veulent créer un simple site web de ressources ou de travail. Les pages peuvent être réglées pour que tout le monde ou seulement certaines personnes puissent les changer. PBWiki ou bien Wikispaces ne sont pas mal (et gratuits).

Firefoxscreensnapz003 4. Blogs
Le centre du réseau personnel pour beaucoup de professeurs partout dans le monde. J'ai montré plein de profs anglophones avec leurs 'learning blogs' (journaux d'apprentissage) mais il en existe aussi en français - plus de liens à venir la-dessus.

Regardez les Blogroll des blogs pour trouver encore de pensées, des idées et des ressources de profs qui partagent les mêmes passions. Pour savoir créer votre propre blog allez sur le MFLE.

Firefoxscreensnapz004 5. Pageflakes pour tout tenir ensemble
On peut copier les liens trouver dans les petits boutons oranges (comme celui sur mon blog, en haut à droite) dans le 'Add Feed' de PageFlakes.com. Vous finirez avec une page qui n'arrête pas de changer. Regardez la page de East Lothian Council. Devenir membre de ce site et vous pouvez partager gratuitement vos pages avec tout le monde comme nous avons fait ici.

6. Podcaster
Faire un podcast c'est facile avec Garageband sur tous les Macintosh. Si vous voulez un logiciel qui le ressemble sur votre PC téléchargez et Audacity et LAME MP3 encoder (liens et instructions ici). La première fois que vous créez un fichier et que vous voulez le convertir en MP3 vous allez devoir montrer à Audacity où vous avez suavegardé LAME, mais c'est la seule partie difficile de ce logiciel.

Pour une bonne introduction au podcasting (en anglais) allez sur le site de ma région, Podcasting 1. Il y a aussi des idées pour faire encore mieux dans vos podcasts et des idées de structure et de pédagogie dans la partie 'Podcasting 3'.

Pour voir ce que d'autres profs de langues ont fait allez sur le MFLE.

Firefoxscreensnapz005 J'avais utilisez Google Earth pour montrer ou les professeurs écrivains se trouvaient un peut partout dans le monde. J'avais aussi 'volé' d'une photo dans Flickr à un endroit sur Google Earth en utilisant le logiciel FlickrFly. Ce dernier n'est pas le plus facile à capter la première fois qu'on utilise, mais ça vaut une petite demi-heure pour l'apprendre.

Bon courage avec vos nouvelles technologies et n'hésitez pas à me contacter avec, bien sûr, mon blog!

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 ;-).

February 08, 2007

What's blocked in Scottish schools and elsewhere? Help build a national picture

A while ago I helped out Gill from the BBC in setting up a blog project for the Symphony Orchestra. Today she was in touch today wondering if there was any centrally grouped information on what Local Authorities block. I'm not aware of one (though stand corrected if there is).

So, in the name of science (or a kack-handed attempt at it) I'd love to try and survey which of the following things you are or are not able to do. They are all do-able in East Lothian Council, so it's not an unreasonable expectation that you can do everything on the list.

You can answer the survey by leaving your Local Authority, the number of the tool below and a 'y' or 'n'. Feel free in this post to leave anonymous comments, or ones with a pseudonym.

  1. Reading and leaving a comment on a blog on edublogs.org (try this one for consistency)
  2. Reading and leaving a comment on a Blogger blog (try this one for consistency)
  3. Viewing and editing a wiki (try this one for consistency)
  4. Watching a video on GoogleVideo.
  5. Accessing the following Flickr pic and leaving a note or comment.
  6. Manipulating Jacko's face in this Flash page.
  7. Use the podcast directory in iTunes (this assumes that, as a minimum, you have iTunes installed)
  8. Create and/or use Google Docs and Google Groups / forums. (added later)

Spread the word amongst colleagues in other Local Authorities - I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what we get! If you're not in Scotland do let us know, too, what things are like in your area. Just don't forget to tell us where you are!

January 14, 2007

Wherefor the wiki in ScotEduBlogs?

The ScotEduBlogs wiki was set up just over a year ago to allow anyone to add their blog to a relevant Local Authority page, browse other blogs in their area and, using the front page, send messages on gatherings to the larger community.

The latest developments from three of that community - Robert, John and Peter - are interesting in the form of ScotEduBlogs.org.uk. The main improvements are:

  • tagged blogs - people can find your blog quickly by the interests you describe your blog as covering (I like the drilling down through multiple tags)
  • a simple blog submission form - it's difficult to leave out useful information by accident when you've got a form to fill in, but it's difficult to offer additional information which might be of interest.

It's a work in development showing some great promise but there are a few things that the wiki provided, and which have been hugely useful tools, but which appear to be missing form this one.

1. Editable pages and Scots'EduBlogs

The fact that every page in the ScotEduBlogs wiki is editable means that the front page could be used to highlight the ScotEduBlogs meetup and TeachMeet events. It was also easy for any member to create a new page to cover these events and organise them.

Without an integrated ScotEduBlogs wiki - or even one active link back to the original - we lose one of the most important factors there has been in creating the burgeoning group of connectors and persuaders in Scotland's social media world: face-to-face meetups which are organically organised by everyone who attends. I hope that the guys don't forget to build this in.

2. Content control - who's 'in charge'?

I can't add this element myself since I don't have access to the URL or the site - on the wiki everyone does - and I don't have the not insignificant expertise to code the site's content. This is the second payoff with the site. There might be something slightly prettier to look at but the downside is that, currently, the average ScotEduBlogger has no control over what appears on the pages or what appears from their blog content. With the wiki, we are all fond of saying, you can change what you want: "If you know how to use Word, you can change the page". With ScotEduBlogs.org.uk it's Open Source, provided you've got the computer science to understand what on earth the coding all means ;-)

Moreover, some blogs are having their content replicated entirely on the news page of the site. This is potentially quite destructive, effectively removing the notion of conversation since the comments button, the comments themselves and the connected posts within that blog are not presented through the news portal. It also takes 9 out of 10 of the audience away from those blogs which, in turn, might reduce the desire of some edublogging teachers and students to continue their work. If someone's going to partially quote my blog, fine, but in blogging they join the conversation, they add to my thoughts with their own. If they're going to rip off my entire post and not add anything, expect an email ;-)

3. Aggregation vs Editorial

I am aware that most people don't use a feed reader and so the news page of the ScotEduBlogs.org.uk site is a welcome addition to our world. However, the way an aggregation site becomes the feed or homepage of choice for people is because of what it adds to the blogs those punters will start subscribing to or visiting directly once they're hooked. I want some framing, some analysis, some back story, some connections to be made for me if I'm just jumping into the conversation now.

This is something which requires more than coding - it needs good editorial. It's a tall order for any project, but easiest probably for an open project. It would also be a real improvement on the wiki and perhaps start to appeal to those who don't understand where some of the blog conversations come from until they are given the full story. The site would also have the ownership transferred from the owner of the .org.uk domain name to those writing the news on the site.

These are just a few of my tuppences for the guys to consider, but I wonder if there are other things a community site should be doing or if there are other ways a community site can have larger appeal. Any ideas?

January 09, 2007

BETT Blogging - what tag are you using?

This year I was in two minds as to whether to go to BETT, the largest educational conference in the UK. In the end I hope the UK's burgeoning blogging community will help keep me, and those who can't/don't go around the country, informed of the latest gizmos and great talks and allow me to catch up on some new although prety urgent projects.

What I was wondering is what tag people are using. Might I suggest that, if minds haven't been made up, people use BETT07? Typing 'BETT' into Technorati simply returns loads of German bloggers (nothing against German bloggers, just that they're not discussing a tech show) and anything else seems a bit long.

December 19, 2006

Quintura for kids - a search engine for our youngest surfers

Quintura_1 Yakov, CEO of the Quintura search we are using as part of East Lothian's relaunched community from January 2007, has just got in touch to announce the launch of KidsQuintura. What I clumsily but, I hope, descriptively coined as visual connected searching has wowed most people we've shown so far for its intelligence at working out what it is you really want to know about.

Quintura for Kids is a step into the elementary/primary sphere, with a cutesy search panel, changing with the seasons, providing some graphical 'I'm feeling lucky' buttons to keep the youngest searchers happy and some limited searches to keep those aged 5-8 or so a little more focussed. Just clicking on the donkey gave me some animal results that would help any Extreme Learning project like this one.

It has some drawbacks because of the limited search results but would prove more useful than Google, say, as an initial search for kids embarking on new projects. As we near completion of Mark 1 of our general East Lothian sharing and exploring portal, due in January, we are already looking at how we can differentiate and offer younger learners something more suited to their tastes. This looks like a first positive step in that direction. Thanks, guys!

I'd be keen to hear from Yakov and the team on how they will expand the educational content included in the results. Can we have all the content from Scottish kids' blogs included in the searches, for example? I'd also love to hear what some of the Primary teachers and parents think of it and what tweaks might be made.

December 04, 2006

Quintura - visual tag cloud connective search

Yakov Sadchikov wanted to catch up with me at MediaTech2.006 (edublogscom reportage here) and, having seen his product, it was mutual! Quintura allows you to browse related topics to the topic you are searching for - great when you're not too sure what you want to get into. I did a quick search for some East Lothian-related issues and got a great overview of the projects, bloggers, Flickr-ers, courses and websites we run. I tried an ego search and David Warlick came up - what does that say?

The powerful thing? You can save the search cloud you have sought and then refined. This means that we could probably will set up a really powerful cluster-based model of search within the new East Lothian social media portal and let individuals drill down further from there.

I'm sure there are uses for it coming into your heads, too. Take a peek at Quintura or look at the East Lothian/Exc-el results and let Yakov and I know what you think.

December 03, 2006

LTS at the heart of social media?

LTS, through people like myself working Futures, is absolutely committed to providing social tools within Glow, the national intranet. This large wiki project is one step in that direction but not everything we do is centralised in the same way as the edutopia proposal is.

Robert's words of wisdom, encouraging LTS to take more of a role nurturing social media and paying more attention to what's going on in East Lothian, seem to forget, though, that a significant part of current social media growth in East Lothian is down to work and advice that LTS is giving East Lothian. A few examples that Robert cites are elements, in fact, which LTS has helped nurture:

  • advising the use of open source blogging software in the form of WPMU;
  • encouraging more diversity in designs and templates, particularly for students (remember those ezPublish pages? We now have fuschia! ;-));
  • making sure you can create things in one click without asking someone to set things up for you;
  • devising training programmes and sifting through tools that support staff throughout the year;
  • making sure that multiple forms of expression - not just textual blogs - are pushed through to potential users;
  • still on the cards: getting the albeit-behind-schedule RSS-fuelled portal open by January; and
  • the rebranded service (you'll be able to find it in Google - yay!)

LTS want to see what has impact on kids' education or workers' efficacy and then push to get the tools built for future Glows. Should I be heart-achingly reassured when, as LTS's social media conscience, our work with East Lothian is so seamless that no-one notices it ;-)

Using LTS to further fuel social media
One more example: LTS are proposing a Virtual Advisory Service, where teachers with questions on any curricular area, covering pedagogy, curriculum, technology... anything, really. The advice will come from designated "experts".

There has been some criticism about it already as it reinforces the impression that those in the classroom are not experts. I think that is partly misplaced and looking at it from the wrong angle. This represents a huge opportunity, in fact, for those who are part of self-propelling educational communities, using blogs, photo-sharing sites or wikis.

I was talking through some opportunities with Don Ledingham, Director of Education of East Lothian, just a couple of weeks ago. He also likes the idea of communities of practice addressing the occasional need of teachers for a helping hand. Since I started working with East Lothian we have managed to increase uptake in social software tools, not just in blogging, from around 20 keen individuals to around one third of our teaching staff around 300. This gives us a really strong community with which to work, and a community which is going to be relatively easy to leverage, as far as I can see.

But here's my point: while individual "experts" from the Virtual Advisory Service will be paid individually is there anything to stop communities of experts who are already sharing their knowledge for free on the blogosphere from contributing to this service and commanding a share of that cash investment as one group? The money could be used for the greater good of the community, to fund action research, time, or independent servers through which to run 'safer' blogging communities, for example.

In East Lothian I believe this could happen, giving yet another opportunity for that community to share its knowledge and further the impact of existing tools on the education of our kids. Could other Local Authorities in Scotland find the same sense of community to make money and expertise work harder and smarter?

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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