64 posts categorized "Wiki"

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 26, 2007

Get Connected - Scottish education's ezine

Connected17cover_tcm4407187The latest Connected Magazine, from Scotland's national education agency Learning and Teaching Scotland, is being sent out to schools and is online this week and once more covers a wide array of Web 2.0 technology making a difference in Scottish schools.

There is a great interview with Learning Festival keynoter Stephen Heppell on where he sees innovation in Scottish education and the impact it could have on the rest of the world:

Every cupboard in every classroom has someone in it doing something cool with ICT – some of the best software development in the world is going on there.

Stephen will be spending a few days with East Lothian teachers this June, taking a look at what innovative practice and use of technology has gone on here in the past wee while. It's quite fitting really that one of our own staff is also giving the inside track on how Glow might help enhance her classroom. Tessa Watson is a star Glow blogger, revealing what she sees every day as she plays with the nascent Glow portal in her blog (be prepared for random posts on the beauty of the VW Beetle).

I've also got a bit of new tech reportage on how wikis could be useful for organising learning and learning itself, with ample mention of the self-evolving eduBuzz Training and Support wiki, and a longer opinion piece, Too Cool For School, on what local authorities might be able to do to make life easier for teachers and learners wanting to learn in a 21st Century way.

You can get your download of Connected here or view some of the articles online.

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 12, 2007

ScotEdupedia on The Podcast Network

  Ewan Spence 
  Originally uploaded by Edublogger.

Ewan Spence, reporting for The Podcast Network, asks some questions about ScotEdupedia, Learning and Teaching Scotland's fledgling wiki project to capture the nation's ideas, knowledge and history of education, and the first time a public service organisation is launching a website as a completely blank canvas.

Listening again, I say "there won't be vandalism" before quickly correcting myself ;-) I think we are going to start looking for a volunteer Open Board for the wiki, people who know how to use MediaWiki (or can learn) and who 'get' the wiki ethic, who can shape the content and feel, watch out for trolls and help make the project as successful as possible.

Ewan also grabbed me to talk about the success of our first BarCampScotland, and for those who missed out on the 'Listen Again', I've uploaded the audio from his interview with me on BBC Radio 5 Live's Pods and Blogs show.

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 20, 2007

The importance of creating a network

 From individual professionals to cohesive pressure groups, from advisory bodies to national project boards: creating and knowing how to harness your network can prove the difference between toddling along and excelling in whatever you are setting out to achieve.

On Wednesday I was invited to give a small presentation to Scotland's Maths Advisory Group, a representative committee of around 20 Advisors and Principal Teachers who meet every so often to:

  • coordinate their efforts on changes in teaching and learning;
  • find out more about national projects;
  • and, hopefully, exert their influence upon them to some degree.

All professional bodies like this exist for these same reasons. Glow, Scotland's national intranet, will offer collaborative tools that sell the idea of networking being a natural thing to do. However, Glow's networking will, to some extent, stop in Scotland, and many of the proposed collaborative tools have been around for several years yet still have relatively low use in education.

I wanted to show them the principles behind good networking and how the humble wiki, the blog and the Technorati watchlist could help them achieve their three aims better than ever before, and leave more time to talk about teaching and learning.

Understanding different types of network: The London Underground
In the end, knowing your network and harnessing it can mean the difference between getting what you want, getting it effectively and efficiently and, well, not. But knowing this network isn't as easy as it sounds. Take these very different images of the same thing: The London Underground.

The original map of the London Underground is barely recognisable by today's version. You could still use it and probably find your way to your destination, but you take longer, some stations will have changed name and, of course, many modern lines taking you to new exciting places can't be seen on this old, browning map. But, of course, many professionals today tend to use outdated maps in the form of the computer they use, the internet tools they know about and their means of gathering information.

Sometimes, of course, one believes one is not only using the best tool for the job until, on closer inspection, you don't recognise any of the stations any more. This map of the London Underground looks familiar but then you realise the stations are written in a tongue you don't understand. This is how people feel as they discover the internet whose coloured lines of Google (the red Central line), Microsoft (the blue of Piccadilly), MSN (the black Northern line) and Amazon (Hammersmith and City) they can recognise but the stations of blogging (the popular Kensal Rise), Technorati (the Marble Arch through which we can see the world move by each second), wikis (the ever-changing Canary Wharf) and podcasting (White City, of course) are only things they know exist, somewhere, but not sure exactly where, on the map.

Letting them know that the map is no longer about how many metres apart the stations are (or how popular a page is on Google) but how long the stations are going to take to get to (like the 'most recent content on the web' from Technorati) can confuse the matter once more.

Make that map global, and it's easy to see how creating and understanding an ever-changing, global and four-dimensional network might just be a huge turn-off.

Local Networks
Probably the easiest networks to understand are the Local Networks we have within our school (maths) department. This is somewhat a lone island, autonomous but without large impact, simply getting the proverbial food on the table. Even then, communication can be difficult to manage and, when the inhabitants of this network do meet, it's to discuss how many sheep have been eaten that week instead of how best we can multiply the flock (i.e. we talk admin instead of how we can improve the teaching and learning in our classrooms). Here, the simple use of a web page anyone in the department can change to coordinate the humdrum during the school term and keep everyone informed of changes would free up face-to-face time to talk about what really matters: teaching and learning.

One step further, by showing people how they can automatically be informed of changes to that wiki by subscribing to the page's orange RSS button, you can spread out 30 mins of weekly admin over a few seconds here, a few seconds there, as and when the need arises.

Regional Networks
The image says it all for me: Regional Networks in Local Authorities are often small fortresses, looking after their own affairs first, coordinating with other fortresses later. Of course, once a fortress has set its path it's difficult for it to change tack when other fortresses have decided on other approaches. This is somewhat a necessity, of course, since Local issues often need sorted out first but, again, if Local Authorities use a wiki to not only coordinate but simultaneously report back out to everyone else what is going on then small, subtle changes can be made as the fortress is being built. When a national group such as the Maths Advisory Group do meet up face-to-face they have so much more in common and can concentrate on their homogeneous efforts to effect change for the good of mathematics, rather than each other's differences.

East Lothian has used wikis for a couple of years now, with more effort being made to concentrate the efforts of all those in the Local Authority in one place. The eduBuzz Training and Support wiki is a nice though young example of a regional network coming together to take care of details so that face-to-face meetings or courses can be used to further "chalkface" teaching and learning issues.

National Networks
For groups like the Maths Advisory Group this might seem like the most important group to take care of, although I hope that the importance of local and regional networks in a national network's success is clear now. The image of Jodhpur viewed from its fortress (Scotland viewed from within a Local Authority) reflects the complexity of the national network along with its attachment to the Regional Network (the fortress). Most people in Local Authorities leave foraging through that national network to the advisor or managers in the Authority HQ. But can you imagine one or two people sustaining life in the maze of Jodhpur? The city would fail, become a dangerous and daunting place. It's important that we all take part in the national network.

How can we keep that together? Well, this is where personalities, leaders of some description have to show the way. They might be bloggers in the internet. Bloggers tend to fall into one or two of three (Malcolm Gladwell) types: the mavens, the connectors or the salesman.

Every Local and Regional network has its mavens, people who have the experience to know all the right people, all the best resources and all the best ways to procure the best equipment. They should be blogging these ideas publicly for the local community all the time, simultaneously leading others in the National Network, even if they don't know they are leading them.

Every Local and Regional network also has its connectors, the people who themselves may not be in a position of traditional power or decision-making but who represent enough of the teaching population's great ideas to bring that collective force together. They should definitely be blogging, too, giving a public representation of the views which might otherwise be missed by those in HQ who don't have the time or opportunity to listen. By blogging, you make them listen.

Sales people
The salesman or saleswoman may, in fact, be the regional representative at the Advisory Group or the Local Network's Head Teacher on the teaching and learning group of the Regional Network. They might not blog, they might not edit the wikis themselves but they are constantly reading, constantly picking out the most important details and bringing those to tables who would otherwise not listen. They sell it. They garner influence.

The International Network
If a country is to succeed in the International Network, having its finger on the pulse, contributing to debate, having influence and raising its profile globally, it needs all the networks and types of contributor within it. If there is just one missing or all-too-quiet link then it's difficult to use the international network as it is so large and so fast-moving. Tools like Technorati help us pick up on the noise from the international network but only if the Connectors and Mavens know how to listen to the right voices will we be able to gain from others' experiences around the world, picking it out from amongst the noise. It is, perhaps ironically, the job of those locally based Connectors and Mavens, not the those trying to coordinate things nationally, to pick out those experiences.

National organisations such as the Scottish Executive and Learning and Teaching Scotland are often the first to send officials to international conferences, for example, but may, in fact, be the worst placed to have maximum impact unless those representatives are also highly plugged in to Local, Regional and National networks.

In Learning and Teaching Scotland we are working hard to make sure that our learning organisation is among the most plugged-in in the world. The Maths Advisory Group also appear to be taking the notion of networking seriously, not just for the cynical raising of profile or increasing influence, but for the more effective working of their group.

What about you? Where do you fit in the networks? What type of contributor are you?

Tools worth using:
Wikis: PBWiki or Wikispaces
Blogs: edublogs.org or, if you're in East Lothian, eduBuzz
Technorati: allows you to create watchlists on topical issues, keeps your finger on the pulse
Finding Scottish blogs: ScotEduBlogs (the wiki or nascent dynamic listings service)

January 18, 2007

Edublogger? Want to get your story in Shel's book?

Shel Israel's looking for anecdotes from around the world for his forthcoming book, Global Neighbourhoods. After seeing what we're up to in Scotland to bring social media to the classroom and to the education establishment, he's looking for your stories from around the planet.

At the moment the comments to his post are nearly all from or about Higher Ed types, so please do let him know of your projects or good stories you know of edublogging making a difference. It might be how it's helped you professionally or it might be how its use in an educational context has had an impact on learning.

Shel's was taken aback by the power education and social media can have combined and is dedicating a whole chapter of the book to education and social media.

You might also be interested in leaving your thoughts on SecondLife as en educational tool, leading off from the experiences of SotEduBloggers Sean and Katie Farrell: Part One and Part Two.

This is a great chance to raise the profile of this high impact pedagogy in the mainstream of business, marketing, government and politics. Let's not let is slip through the net!

January 05, 2007

Collective dumbness vs Individual intelligence

Kathy's at it again with a brill post: brilliantly written and brilliantly timed. As Will laments the same old discussions taking place in the echo chamber Andy and others feel we all inhabit, it's Kathy who sums up some of what I feel: as the web and the groups within it grow never has it been more important to keep your individuality and continue exploring what you feel is right.

2006 was characterised in the edublogging world by online gatherings of people trying to create the definitive internet safety qualification, the definitive blogging guide, the definitive definition of edublogging, even. Yet all of this seems horribly inadequate. As my mum's not been slow to point out off the blogging record, "people seem to talk a lot about the same thing".

Does this mean that classrooms all over the world resemble each other? If my travels around Web 2.0-ed classrooms are anything to go by almost certainly not. However, when people have tried to gather intelligence of an online educational community what we end up with is what Kathy would categorise "the dumbness of crowds". It's not that the ideas are particularly poor but they aren't sticky, persuasive and certainly have less effect than if they were daring, risky and set an agenda that would be different - truly different - from what we are dissatisfied with in our current systems.

So how do we harness the "wisdom of crowds", collective intelligence instead of encouraging more collective dumbing down?

Edublogging can't always be new ideas - and rarely is
In East Lothian, my current point of reference for how things can be organised, I have been at pains to try and avoid anything uniform. We haven't even got a badge for the project's many blogs (should we ever get one?) and the homepage of the project will not boast about "how great this project is" or showcase any one set of bloggers (and RSS-fed rivers of blog posts from around the Authority tend to favour those who post often, missing out those who post less but are just as interesting). The homepage will, instead, comprise of two buttons. Nothing more.

I don't want people to feel that they are writing along with colleagues on similar issues with fairly parallel views. I want them to feel a little edgy, that they are contributing something that has not yet been said. To do this, of course, you need to know what's already passed under the bridge - not easy/impossible if you're new to reading blogs. This is all part of the learning curve that people like Will have gone through. It's important that we give space to those who haven't been there yet and don't belittle their public self-discovery by saying that things are not moving forward fast enough.

It's not the blogging that matters - it's the desire to question
But the desire to add something new each time and really build on others' work - not just regurgitate it - is where social media can maybe make a change in traditional education management. This is where it's worth asking those who've been there a wee while longer for advice, ideas and pointers. Picture the scene:

You're at a curricular meeting involving employees from across the Local Authority and even some students. Really democratic, looking to get to the bottom of the issues closest to each group.
Now, imagine your thoughts as you sit in that meeting room, with around 20 people, most of whom you respect to some degree for their expertise, knowledge or just because of their level in the hierarchy.
When everyone is saying how A, B and C are the best approaches to the next stage in the project you are about to say:

"Well, actually, X, Y and Z would be better. I don't know why yet, but I have a gut feeling I would like to explore. It's been in several of the 450 blog feeds I read each day but I didn't think it would be so relevant until I heard today what it was you guys were actually wanting. I just need to root it out. Let's break for a few days, we can all have a think and come back Friday. By then I'll know why X, Y and Z are better"

Do you say it?

The chances are that most people would not go against the flow everyone else seems to be expressing, and certainly wouldn't ask everyone to leave the room (for a few days even) to give you time to put your case together. In education we still see most people deferring to their largely valued top down hierarchy more than we value seeing through creative solutions beyond their foetal stages.

In the edublogging world, though, we have this time to put together some great cases, to think through what we believe and test it out in theory. We can also see other people's learning prototypes and work out if the idea has a chance of success or is likely to fail before we do it with 30 kids - or mention it in a school/Local Authority management meeting.

Have your role in Scottish change

And we see my organisation, Learning and Teaching Scotland, along with the Scottish Executive giving the opportunity to teachers to put their kernels forward to the Minister of Education in an online forum (he starts answering on January 12). How many of the kernels actually get a response is another question but I'd love to see the edublogosphere make a considerable contribution to the future curriculum debate direct to the politicians who will decide on it in the end. Even if you can't get your registration approved (I think it's for Scottish teachers only) still make an attempt to register to show the worldwide interest in curricular change.

Write entries in the forum, link back to previous debates on blogs you've been reading or writing, show that the debate has been rumbling for a long time already and that we are impatient to move beyond our kernels and see some full-change (while not throwing babies out with bathwater etc etc etc ;-))

If educational managers choose to disregard this way of deeper longer-term way of thinking then we can expect to see a lot more collective dumbness. If, however, they choose to play a longer game and pick up on those kernels of dissent we have a chance to really create a Curriculum for Excellence, to create a truly collectively intelligent, not collectively dumb, way forward in our Scottish education system.

Pics: Solidaires; Speak up

January 01, 2007

Socialtext Unplugged - the wiki you can use offline

  Ross Mayfield, Socialtext 
  Originally uploaded by Edublogger.

Ross Mayfield used LeWeb3 to launch the coolest idea, just as I was wondering why anyone would want to pay Socialtext to run their wikis for them (only 2000 clients do) when so many free hosts of wikis - webpages anyone can change - are out there. Wikispaces, for example, was my instant choice for for being free and ad-free.
The reason people pay Ross, though, is access to innovation. The latest innovation from Ross and his team is Socialtext Unplugged, a wiki which you can edit online, of course, with all the wonderful structures and support that Socialtext can offer, but you can also edit it offline, too.

This is such a great advantage for those of us who travel a lot or have such dodgy internet connections in school that using a wiki is really not a viable option.

Add on top of that the fact that Socialtext wikis are being integrated with Microsoft Sharepoint (under the Socialpoint banner) and we've got a great online/offline element to add to Glow.

Nice one, Ross!

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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