Saturday, December 31, 2005

Seven Things...

Back at the start of December, Stephen tagged me with this... bah!
  1. Seven things to do before I die
  2. Seven things I cannot do
  3. Seven things that attract me to my spouse
  4. Seven things I say most often
  5. Seven books (or series) I love
  6. Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would watch over and over if I had the time)
  7. Seven people I want to join in, too
I decided to wait until the holidays before I had a go.

Seven things to do before I die:
  1. Visit New Zealand. (I would have said space... but I think New Zealand is more likely.)
  2. Do something on Blue Peter.
  3. See U2 in concert.
  4. Appear in a film.
  5. Learn to play a musical instrument. (Guitar, trumpet, drums or saxophone - whichever is easiest/cheapest!)
  6. Juggle with four objects.
  7. Go sky-diving.

Seven things I cannot do:
  1. Play football.
  2. Play golf. (In fact, pick a sport, any sport...)
  3. Keep a tidy desk.
  4. Get Things Done.
  5. Get organised.
  6. Finish things I start.

Seven things that attract me to my wife:
  1. I'm sorry, I just can't do this one.
  2. How am I supposed to do it in only seven points?
  3. Even if I tried and said something like, "Joni Mitchell", ...
  4. ... I'd have to spend half a page explaining what I meant.
  5. If I could describe what makes her attractive, I'd write a book and make a fortune.
  6. Suffice to say...
  7. She's gorgeous.

Seven things I say most often:
  1. Emm!
  2. The same thing three times.
  3. Scunner!
  4. The same thing three times.
  5. Blue, leave it!
  6. Yes dear.
  7. The same thing three times.

Seven books (or series) I love:
  1. The Chronicles of Narnia.
  2. Lord of the Rings.
  3. Pratchett's Discworld books (especially Thief of Time).
  4. What's So Amazing About Grace?
  5. Pride and Prejudice.
  6. Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events.
  7. Feersum Endjinn.

Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would if I had the time):
  1. Star Wars (the original trilogy).
  2. Lord of the Rings.
  3. Anything with Laurel and Hardy in it.
  4. A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races.
  5. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  6. Dark Star
  7. Rush in Rio (Sorry - I suspect that one is a bit of a cheat!)

Seven people I want to join in:
  1. Ewan
  2. John
  3. Lesley
  4. Chris
  5. Ollie
  6. Paul
  7. And I know I'm going to regret this... Colin

OK... let's see what you can do.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas
Happy Christmas,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
Happy Christmas and a good New Year to all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Son of EdCompCast

Yogi's Akaash Vani
Yogi's Akaash Vani,
originally uploaded by Shambly Hermit.
When I posted EdCompCast - Take 2 back at the end of November, I said I had more of the interview still to edit. So this is it - EdCompCast 3. As before, it is just me talking to Neil and Graham. What do you think they were most looking forward to as they prepared to go out on their first major placement? Take a guess, listen and then leave a comment here to say if you were right!

If you want to subscribe to these podcasts, there is a EdCompCast button further down this page. I hope to release a podcast roughly once a month, so let me know if there is anything you would like to hear in future EdCompCasts.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

You know you are a teacher when...

I saw a couple of these pictorial questionnaires recently and thought I'd have a go at one for teachers.

You know you are a teacher when...

You have an overwhelming sense of nostalgia when you see one of these:
work in sapporo originally posted by puss_in_boots

...but most days, you encounter one of these:
Interactive Whiteboard
chad originally posted by cathycracks

You don't automatically fear a group like this:
Teen Hangout originally posted by tomswift46

...but start to panic at the thought of completing yet another one of these:
Report Card
First grade report card originally posted by yksin

When you hear the word "dinner" you don't think of this:
Candlelit dinner
birthday dinner originally posted by chiboulette

The word "dinner" makes you think of this:
Turkey Twizzler
Twizzler originally posted by Rob Lyons

You think this man is a hero:
Jamie Oliver
Home page background image originally posted by Jamie Oliver

... but you struggle to recognise the person in charge of education in your authority/district/country:

Clowning around originally posted by Impactmedia

You forget to eat at the weekends because you don't hear one of these to tell you it is lunchtime:
School Bell
School Bell originally posted by Sisters of St. Francis

It's not this bit of exams that worries you any more:
Exam room
1138 originally posted by rosschapman

... but the marking bit scares you silly:
checking papers... originally posted by adlaw

Your automatic response is, "Oh, dear. Oops-a-daisy!" when you see someone slip and fall on this*:
Icy path
icy trail originally posted by Sr.Mike

*True story! Primary teacher friend of mine said this to a chap that fell over and landed, painfully, on his backside in front of her. She was bending over to help him up when she saw the look on his face and decided it would be safer to hurry on past!

I'm sure you can suggest other tests. Send me your ideas.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

I blog, therefore I think.

Sometimes things just seem to come together... Various posts and events recently started me thinking about why I blog and why I think it's a good idea for student teachers to blog. In particular, I have been thinking about what skills a blogger needs and how best these skills can be developed. One of the things that started me off on this was a post from Ewan...

originally uploaded by itspaulkelly.
Ewan's brain is positively fizzing with stuff at the moment (although what has he done to his blogs colour scheme?) and I had responded to his post Education Panel: Ewan's Notes. I read a few more blog entries elsewhere and decided that a full blown response here was in order. Firstly, some of the things that I read.

First was Blogging as Attempts at Understanding where I had a real, "Yes! That's it!" moment. Some quotes will give you a flavour, but read it yourself and follow the links for the full effect. Konrad says, "... classroom blogging is primarily about responding to texts and not producing them" and "... we learn best when we write and have to defend, reorganize, refine, and further develop our thoughts". Reading and responding. Writing to help us think!

I then came across Anne Davis' blog entry Guidelines for blogging. Again a couple of quotes will give you the flavour: students should be... "asking questions that will make a reader think and want to comment" and "practice writing their thoughts about what they are learning, what they understand and don't understand, why it is meaningful or not". Reflective learners.

I also enjoyed Will's Disclaimer. I especially liked the idea that the opinions he expresses in the blog are the ones he considers "good enough criticize".

I'm not sure if I've responded to Ewan's post or just gone off on a tangent of my own, so I think I'd better summarize a bit. Ewan asked, "Who teaches people how to read blogs? Is it required?". My response was that the button pushing skills of using the technology are the easy bit, but there is a need for pupils and and teachers to learn about communication - see for example David Warlick on Why do we have to "“learn how to blog"”? The blog entries above show some of the skills that are required. Supporting and nurturing reflective learners, who respond to what they read by writing stuff and allowing others to comment, refining their own thoughts accordingly, requires more than the teaching of technology skills!

So, what do you think? Do we need to teach how to read blogs? What skills do learners need? How best can we develop these skills?

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P.S. Such is the state of my life at the moment that it has taken me a week to finish this entry. I hope it's still relevant.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Open the windows

A quote reported by Ewan really caught my attention:
"A house without doors and windows is safer than a house with doors and windows."
originally uploaded by work the angles.
This follows on the heels of moderate or not moderate posts from Ewan and John. It reminded me of the representative of an education authority who insisted at a recent meeting that it must be possible to pre-moderate all pupils' email. It reminded me of David Warlick's post on Our schools are leaking. In other words, it brought various bits of thinking together and has resulted in what I fear will be a a bit of a ramble with no clear point. You have been warned.

I was at a meeting of the Scottish Information and Communication Technology Development Group on Friday. (It's acronym is SICTDG and it's pronounced sickdog!) It was a really interesting meeting and I hope to blog a bit about it soon. Just a couple of things from it now though... One of the topics being discussed was the difficulty Education Authorities (EAs) had just keeping ICT provision at the level it is now, never mind improving or expanding this provision. I asked why Authorities made it so difficult for people to bring in their own technology and asked if this was not a bit silly? It's not just the pupils, but staff too that can run into problems. Our student teachers can take in their laptops to some schools, but are almost never allowed to plug into the school's network. It was admitted that that this might be a bit silly and that with more than thirty EAs in Scotland there were probably about sixty different flavours of silliness in operation. One EA representative acknowledgeded that they gave Probationary teachers a laptop and then gave them the choice - they can connect to the school network or their home network with the laptop, but not both! Clearly there are security and safety issues that EAs have to consider and I may say more about this later, but for now, suffice to say that there was a feeling EAs should move from a can't do mentality to can do.

I continued a conversation on this theme with an old friend at lunchtime. I mentioned Ewan's quote about safe houses and we talked about the wisdom of putting a window to the world in the classroom only to slam it shut in pupils' faces. I expressed my opinion that I would like to see more local control over things like blocked sites. For example, if a pupil tries to access a site which the EAs system blocks, I'd like teachers to have some sort of password that would allow them to override the block if they thought it was appropriate. My friend, who is clearly much wiser than I, said that while we might have the confidence to do this, many or even most teachers do not have the confidence to make that sort of decision on the spot and would be concerned about the consequences if they made the wrong judgmentnt call. Hmm! Am I expecting too much of teachers?

At first I thought he was just wrong, but then I thought of my own unwillingness to sign up for a First Aid course. Now I know this is stupid, but I'd rather not have a First Aid qualification that would give me the responsibility of helping if someone was in trouble. I know, I know. What I'm saying is that I would rather a bad situation gets worse because of my willful ignorance than have the skills that would at least allow me to try and help. It's silly, I know it is, but even while knowing it to be silly, I still resist going on the courses. So, yes, maybe there are many teachers out there who would rather live with the boarded up Internet windows than run the risk of opening them up see what is out there.

The university recently sold off some of the land round our campus so that someone could build houses on it. For a while we had to enter the campus through the building site. There were loads of signs up (e.g. "Hard hats must be worn" type signs) but one in particular read, "This is a risk-free zone". A retiring colleague remarked that he knew it was time to retire when he was greeted at the gates of an education faculty with the declaration that it should be a risk free zone! That's as close as I can get to a conclusion to this post just now. Giving pupils Internet access is risky but what it the alternative? That brings me back to David Warlick and a recent post where he asks What's the story? If you want a better conclusion, see how he says we should be preparing pupils for the future.

As for me, I think I'll continue to encourage teachers to push the windows open, and may even sign up for the next First Aid course that comes along.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

All new and improved...

Back in July I posted a guide to and it seemed to be fairly well received. Well, I've updated it a bit. It's not a major re-write, so I've called it Delicious 1_2.

The first change you might notice is the title page. I was never happy with the old name, so it is now called Simply Delicious. The cover page still looks a bit naff though... Maybe I'll fix that in the next version. I've also updated screen shots and tweaked the text to take account of the changes in (changes for the better I think). The biggest difference I've made, is to beef up the RSS/Bloglines section. It seemed to me that the real value of RSS only becomes obvious once you start subscribing to a number of feeds, so I encourage people to subscribe to a blog feed and a couple of news feeds as well as a feed.

As before, all suggestions will be gratefully received. Let me know what you think.

Update: Someone emailed to let me know that the pdf file was not readable on all platforms. I've re-saved it with a different pdf creator and re-posted. The link above is to the new version. Let me know if you still have any problems viewing it.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

One student at a time...

I asked for your help in a previous post to try and find ways to convince my students to take up blogging. Well, three students took up the challenge. Unfortunately, after a great first post, the first student has never sent another message. The second student to start made some really interesting posts and even attracted some good comments... but then decided to leave the course. However, the third student is still going strong and doing well.

At the moment she is most concerned about... guess what? I'll tell you in a minute, but I suspect you wont be surprised. I think she'd be really pleased to get some comments from someone other than me - especially if she could get some comments from real teachers!

So please visit the To Probation And Beyond blog and give her some advice/support/encouragement. However, I should warn you her blog is very pink. I mean very pink! You have been warned.

Did you guess what she was concerned about? Yes, it was classroom management. From my online chats and student's emails, she is not alone. I suspect that encouragement and suggestions on her blog would help not only her, but all the students that are reading her blog too. Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

EdCompCast - Take 2

Way back at the beginning of October I did my first podcast. I gave a link in that blog entry to one of the resources I used when learning how to create the podcast. I probably should have also mentioned the Making a Podcast with Blogger and FeedBurner page on Podcasting News.

My first recording was more of a proof of concept than a serious podcast, but it worked, and it was fun, and I said I'd do it again, and here it is - EdCompCast 2: ICT uses in the classroom.

Eric Postcard
Eric Postcard,
originally uploaded by Eric Rice.
We recorded loads of stuff and this is an edited version of the first bit of our chat. It is longer than my first Podcast (it's about seven and a half minutes) but I've compressed it this time, so it should be much smaller. As before, I used GarageBand to put it together and to create the wee musical interludes. I love GarageBand. It allows a musical numpty like me to create something that sounds at least half way tuneful. I was a bit more adventurous this time and split the recorded track up so that I could boost the volume of the students. (Either I was nearer the microphone or I talk too loud - take your pick.) I could have tidied it up a bit more, as you can still here the occasional mouse click and fluffed line, but I decided to put it out rather than continue to fiddle with it.

If you want to subscribe to these podcasts, there is a EdCompcast button further down this page, but I will include it here too for your convenience: EdCompCast Chicklet

This podcast is closer to the kind of thing I think I'd like to do on a semi-regular basis. I have been pushing the idea of student blogs here at Jordanhill as a good way for students to reflect on their learning and teaching and I thought that this type of podcast would be a good way to do the same sort of thing. Therefore I grabbed a couple of students, Neil and Graham, and just talked to them about their school experience placement. I hope that by doing this, I not only help the two students involved in the podcast to reflect on their experiences, but I also have a record of what they said that may be of use to others. I am fairly sure that this was a good exercise to do and I hope that Neil and Graham at least will have learned something from the process. There's enough material recorded for at least one more podcast. Do you want to hear it too?

We started by chatting about a couple of the things they had been impressed with from their first school experience. The things we talked about on this part of the interview are Interactive Whiteboards, wireless mice and school networks.

I would have liked to listen to a couple of podcasts from other Teacher Education Institutions or teachers in training before creating this one, but I couldn't find any. I can't believe this is a world first, so I guess I was just looking in the wrong places.

Let me know what you think. Is the sound quality OK? Is it too long, too short or just right? Was this podcast helpful or interesting any way? Are the kind of things we are talking about the kind of things you want to hear? What other topics would you be interested in hearing the students talk about? And finally, do you know of any other Teacher Education related podcast?

Thanks for listening.

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P.S. Just to make it clear, the photo came from a Creative Commons search of Flickr. The chap in the picture seems to be called Eric Rice and doesn't look anything like me, Neil or Graham - I just liked the photo!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

What is blogging?

I've used the same title for this entry as John Johnson used in a recent entry of his. I was concerned because John seemed to be worrying that he wasn't doing this blogging thing properly. Stuff and nonsense says I! For what it's worth, I think the things that John is doing at Sandaig are brilliant. I started typing a comment to tell him this, but got a bit carried away and just kept typing. After a few minutes of ranting in the comment box, I decided to copy it here and make a post out of it, so here are some of the things I want to say to John...

John starts by quoting a bit from a blog by James Farmer where James says "group blogs suck in education". Now I must admit here, that I haven't read James' post yet, so I don't know exactly what James says, but taking the statement John quotes at face value, I can only conclude that James hasn't read the Sandaig blog! I would say that the Sandaig blog is so far away from sucking that it blows... but if I've understood the current vernacular, blowing is a bad thing too... so I'll just say the Sandaig blog is, in my opinion, a fantastic educational use of the technology. (And that's not even going on to consider the other blogs, podcasts and stuff at Sandaig which taken together make an even stronger case.)

In the same blog entry, John is worried because Ewan seems to say that if he is pre-moderating the pupils posts, he's not doing proper blogging. I'm not sure that's what Ewan is arguing, but I wanted to say that even if it was, John should ignore him and keep doing what he's doing. I think John needs to ask himself, "is it appropriate to do things this way within the context of Sandaig Primary school?" I think the results speak for themselves and the way John organises and moderates the Sandaig stuff clearly works. (That is not to say of course that he should not keep reviewing his current practice.)

I think the question John should be asking himself is, what is an appropriate use of blogs in this school with these pupils? Appropriateness is defined by a whole bundle of inter-related issues. One obvious "issue" is purpose. What is the purpose of the group blog? Is it always appropriate for children to work in groups? Of course not. Is it always appropriate to have children working as individuals? Again, of course not. Now, I'm typing here from a position of ignorance since I still haven't read James Farmer's blog entry, but from an educational viewpoint it seems daft to say that a group blog is not an appropriate use of blog technology just because it doesn't fit with a particular definition of what a blog is. I'll come at that another way. Is what John is doing with the Sandaig blogs educationally worthwhile? (I'd give a huge YES to that one!) If it is educationally valuable, then frankly I wouldn't care if someone told me I wasn't allowed to call it a blog. I'd do it anyway. Invent a new name. Call a group blog a grog and then tell James Farmer what he's missing by sticking to a one man band blog. "Blogs are so last year, everyone important in education is doing grogs now. :-)

As for Ewan's post, I think there is a sliding scale here. Do you "police" everything your children do in their jotters to the same level? Some work you will make them draft and re-draft - you will make them polish it until it shines. Other work, you will perhaps be more interested in capturing the raw, initial response. The purpose will help define the level and the timing of your intervention.

Is there also an age and stage thing? Ewan comes from a Secondary school background and my feeling is there are different issues at Primary level. (And different issues again at University level - we are still wondering how to respond to some of the things our students are saying and doing online here at Jordanhill.)

It looks to me like the Sandaig blogs are a different beast from the MSGOnline blogs. Does that mean you are doing it wrong because you are pre-moderating posts? I don't think so. I think it just means that the Sandaig blogs have a different purpose and so it is not surprising that the way you organise them is also different.

In conclusion then, I think we can get overly precious about what we call things. When is a blog not a blog? Most of the time, I don't think I care! It is more important to ask, is this educationally valuable? Sandaig provides loads of examples that show just how valuable this type of online, social activity can be... whatever you call it.

End of rant... Reading it over again, I wonder if I've gone off a bit too strongly. What do you think? Have I been unfair to either James or Ewan? (I'll really need to read James' blog!)

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A First Class day

Question: is FirstClass a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or is it simply a communications and collaboration platform?

I think the "simply" in that opening question is misleading as it hides the rich diversity of ways the FirstClass system can be used. A quote on their website (and I'm paraphrasing slightly) says that FirstClass is about supporting a "collaborative learning community". That's one of the main reasons I like FirstClass - it's about community. However, I find myself having to justify the use of FirstClass in the faculty here because the University provides and supports WebCT. I am asked why we are spending time, money and effort on FirstClass when the university is offering WebCT - a fully featured VLE?

Handy Device
Handy Device,
originally uploaded by Old Shoe Woman.
Perhaps the heart of the question I want to consider is what is a VLE? Last week I was through in Edinburgh for the launch of FirstClass ED. It looks great and seems to me to do everything that WebCT and Blackboard can do and more, but I have found FirstClass significantly easier to use. The FirstClass chap at the launch said we shouldn't compare FirstClass with WebCT and Blackboard because they are completely different beasts. I agree with him. There is no comparison - FirstClass is clearly the best!

Can you see my problem? I cannot look at this dispassionately. I find it impossible to be neutral, but I have to try and give a more balanced report on whether we should stick with FirstClass (in which case I'd have to justify the extra expense to the Faculty) or whether we can/should move to WebCT. However I've only dabbled with WebCT. I'm much more familiar with FirstClass. Therefore I'm appealing for your help again:
  • Does anyone reading this blog have experience with WebCT?
  • Even better, does anyone have experience with both WebCT and FirstClass?
  • What are the unique selling points of each system?
  • Is it possible to come up with a sensible recommendation when I am comparing apples to pears?

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Thank you

Just wanted to make a quick post to say thank you to everyone who replied to my request for ways to convince students into taking up blogging. This post has generated more comments than any other and I am stunned by the helpfulness of all the replies. Thank you again.

I'm pointing my students to your replies... time, and the number of student blogs created, will tell how successful it has been.

Monday, October 31, 2005

I wont do it and you can't make me!

I was too busy last week and failed to make some of the posts I had planned... maybe this week... One of the things I did do was to keep plugging away at the PGDE(S) students to try to get them to start blogs. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that blogs are a brilliant way for student teachers to reflect on their learning and their practice. However, so far I have mostly been met with polite indifference - you know, the kind of "That's nice dear", response you get from your auntie when she clearly doesn't understand what you are talking about.

originally uploaded by angelocesare.
One Geography student shared a bit of her paper based learning log with me, it was brilliant and I think it wouldbe great if she shared some of her reflection in a blog since this would open up the possibility of starting conversations with fellow students on the things she is currently recording in private. I'm still working on trying to convince her, but at the moment, she's not keen to make the jump from paper to blog.

Our students are about to go out on their first major teaching placement, so how do I move this forward without resorting to the big stick of making it assessable? ("Is this in the exam sir?") I'm assuming that some of you reading this are better at talking people into blogging than me. For example Ollie Bray got his student, Richard Ledingham, blogging about his experiences in school. (Are you reading this Ollie?) So my question is, how do I convince some students to start blogging?

How do I respond to these common reasons for not starting a blog?
  1. It's all about ego and self-publicity.
  2. I don't want to share personal stuff about myself online.
  3. It would take too much time.
Finally, once again, the question I asked already - what do I say to convince students to start blogging?

Over to you. What do I say to my students?

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

SETT: Who wants to be a millionaireinteractive teacher?

As SETT gets further and further away, I wonder about the value of my postings from the conference. However, since I'm still thinking through some of the things I saw and heard, I think it is still worth while writing some of my thoughts down in blog posts like this. This is a report on the third and final session I attended, but I may do one more post about SETT which will include things I saw at the exhibition.

The Do Interactive Voting Systems Enhance the Learning Process? session was presented by Rebecca Anderson from Davidson's Mains Primary School and Ollie Bray who was at Knox Academy but is now PT Geography at Dunbar Grammar School (I think). Ollie mentioned, almost in the passing, that he had a blog thereby bringing a new set of Scottish educational bloggers to my attention. I have been following his blog at Exc-el since and have especially enjoyed some of his postings on the LTScotland ICT weblog - particularly the ones on Interactive Whiteboards, for example the Map Symbols posting.

There are a number of interactive voting systems being pitched at education at the moment. If you have not seen them, they are a bit like the system used on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? for the "ask the audience" section. Pupils are asked questions and they make a response with the handset. Software captures pupils' responses and can display results in a variety of ways to the teacher and/or to the class.

Here is a brief summary of some of the things Rebecca and Ollie talked about. There is a podcast of their session available, but as before I'm typing this up from my notes to reflect the things that struck me at the time.

Interactive Voting Systems

Rebecca and Ollie described their action research project which looked at uses of the Quizdom system in their schools. Their main finding was that it made a huge difference to motivation. Children were attentive and excited - "It was seen as a game". {This chimes with something that Guy Claxton said at his keynote. He described an experiment where two classes were set the same task. One group was told it was work, the other group that they were going to play. Guess which group did the most "work"!}

Rebecca and Ollie saw interactive voting systems as being a good tool for formative assessment. Pupils saw the Qwizdom system as fun and enjoyed the instant feedback and the display of results so that they could learn from mistakes. And every child was involved in answering, not just those picked by the teacher.

They did acknowledge that it took time to build up the questions, but time can be saved due to a reduction in marking.

Ollie in particular pointed out that it does not have to be all or nothing. A mix of high tech and traditional methods is probably best. He referred to the Learning Disabilities Pride website where there is an online learning styles and multiple intelligences test which gives instant feedback on learning styles. Classes are made up of different pupils, with different learning styles and different strengths, so classes should benefit from a variety of approaches using a variety of learning and teaching styles.

Pupils can be asked set questions in class, but also it is easy to ask voting style questions. Also every class {or all of Ollie's classes?} were asked evaluation questions about the content and the presentation of the class at the end of the lesson. {Instant feedback on the teachers performance! I wonder ho long it will be before the HMI start doing this! :-)} Quizzes can also be based on numbers or on maps.

The results were that, in general, classes using the voting system did better than similar classes not using the system. Pupil response was, "I knew I could be tested at any time, so I worked harder." Some of the improvement could be down to the novelty value of the voting systems, however, a key aspect seemed to be that interactive voting systems encouraged dialogue.

Problems include the cost and current scarcity of such systems. Local youth units may have a interactive quiz system that can be borrowed - try accessing them through Young Scot. Some local authorities may also have the equipment. Ollie also had problems with the system sometimes being too slow to register all the votes. {We have a similar infra-red system here at Jordanhill from PRS. I found that if everyone tried to vote at the same time, the system seemed to jam up, but by setting the software to show only a few of the handset numbers at a time, everyone was able to cast their vote more effectively.}

The bottom line seemed to be that these systems have a very positive impact on learning and teaching in the classroom, but concern remains about the costs. Ollie and Rebecca were not sure that the benefits justified the high costs involved. However wireless technology is being built into more and more devices, so would it be possible to gain the benefits of an interactive voting system using mobile phones with Bluetooth or by using wirelessly networked laptops or tablets?

{I almost didn't go to this session as although I use our voting system occasionally I am not totally convinced it is always worth the effort. However, it is only fair to say that I have been pleasantly surprised at how enthusiastically our students reacted to the handsets and I am definitely less "lecturey" when I use them in a session. I very much enjoyed Rebecca and Ollie's session. I had some of my own feelings confirmed and learned some new stuff. What more could you want from a session?}

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Feed me SeymourFeedburner

I haven't published anything here for a while, but I've been tinkering with things behind the scenes: playing with Feedburner and tweaking my template (if you'll pardon the expression). I've made a number of changes, including stuff that most users wont even notice. One change in particular gives me a stupid amount of pleasure every time I see it, but I suspect most of you haven't even noticed! A Mars Bar is on offer as a prize to the first person to guess what change I'm talking about.

One change I made was to restore the Feedburner feed I broke when I tweaked it to encapsulate the podcast. (See If it wasn't broke, why did I fix it.) That means that if anybody has already subscribed to my podcast in iTunes (or whatever), they will need to unsubscribe and then subscribe to the new feed I created just for podcasts instead:

Subscribe to my podcast feed with this button

Since I'm still finding my way with this stuff, I'd be grateful if anyone could confirm that I've done it right and that both the old and the new feeds are still working. Calling the new feed EdCompCast seemed like a good idea at the time - I hope it is not too confusing. (See Ewan on confusing jargon!) At the moment, I have only produced the one, proof of concept, podcast (My first podcast) but I am meeting some students after the October "Study Week" and hope to produce a podcast on their experiences on the Induction Block placement within the next few weeks.

While I'm on the subject of podcasts, I noticed that the ubiquitous Mr McIntosh's school, Musselburgh Grammar, gets a mention in the podcast entry in the Wikipedia. It says (or at least on the 19 October 2005, it says):
Education. Musselburgh Grammar School, Scotland began podcasting foreign language audio revision and homework, possibly becoming the first school in Europe to launch a regular podcast.
Good stuff. Well done MGS Online.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Where in the world is Ollie Bray?

I went to Ollie Bray's session at SETT (which I hope to report on soon) and he mentioned he had a blog. So, since then, I have been following Ollie's blog - both his own and the posts he is making on the Learning Teaching Scotland blog.

I'm especially enjoying his recent posts on LTScotland about some of the things he is doing with ICT in his geography classes. He describes some fairly straightforward ways you can use the annotation feature of Interactive Whiteboards. A simple idea that is easily grasped, but an idea that lifts the whiteboard from being a display surface to being an interactive learning resource. I also liked Monday's post on sources of current, multimedia resources for use in school.

Not only is he a more prolific producer of blog entries than Ewan (and that's saying something!) but he has talked his student into starting a blog while on teaching practice. Richard Ledingham, a student from Edinburgh University, has gone a bit quiet since finishing his observation week, but I suspect Ollie will get him up and running again when he goes back for his main school placement.
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If it wasn't broke, why did I fix it?

I'm still mulling over my first podcast and wondering if I got it right. I learned a number of things. First of all, I learned that Garage Band is brilliant and that creating a sound file with it is un morceau de gateau as Ewan might say. :-) The creation of the sound file was easy.

Secondly, I learned that the next time I do this, I need to compress the sound file created a bit more so that it doesn't end up so huge!

originally uploaded by _kir.
Thirdly I learned a bit more about RSS - in particular how to get Blogger to talk to Feedburner to create a feed with audio enclosures. I had a bit of a problem at first, but discovered (after a lot of digging about in help files) that I had to set Blogger to feed the Full content of my posts rather than just the Short version.

OK, that's what I learned. There are, however, some other things that I think I now understand but may still have wrong. I'm hoping therefore that some of you podcasting techie-types reading this will be able to tell me if I'm talking rubbish.

When I set up my blog, I also set up a Feedburner feed because this was supposed to give greater flexibility in that its SmartFeed option can create "on the fly" ether an RSS feed or an Atom feed, whereas Blogger only provides Atom. I think I'm happy with that. Two different standards, the market hasn't decided yet which is the Betamax version, so Feedburner allows you to hedge your bets (not that I'm a gambling man you understand). However, enclosures only work with RSS (I think), so to get the podcast feed working (Feedburner calls the feed option SmartCast) I had to turn off SmartFeed which turns off my Feedburner Atom feed. Again, I think I'm OK with that, but here's what I'm still confused about: does that mean that some people who may have been subscribed to my Feedburner Atom feed will no longer be getting updates from my blog? If so, will they get some sort of error message or will it just look to them like I've stopped posting to my blog?

Further confusion is caused since I did not do what Feedburner told me to and did not edit my Blogger template to modify the auto discovery tags. As a result there are about a dozen people in Bloglines who subscribe to the Blogger Atom feed rather then to Feedburner's feed (and possibly more who use other aggregators). I'm guessing the Blogger feed people will be able to continue reading my blog as normal, but that they wont be able to take advantage of the enclosure feature and will have to click on the podcast link themselves. (No great disaster I suppose.)

However, as I thought about it, I wondered if I should have left the existing SmartFeed untouched. I suspect that what I should have done was burn a separate Podcast feed and allowed people the option of sticking with the old non-enclosured feed or switching to the new all sing, all dancing podcast feed?

So what do you think? Should I burn a new feed and restore the old one, or do I just allow the SmartFeed version of Feedburner to disappear?

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

My first Podcast

I've been wanting to try podcasting for some time, so here is my first ever podcast. Trust me, it's not worth listening to, but I wanted to see if I could get enclosures etc. to work. In this four minute podcast I talk about National Poetry day and read some poems.

I was inspired to have a go by the Guide to Podcasting published on the Digital Video in Education site. It's a good, fairly straightforward guide, but the proof of the pudding will be if this posting works. :-)

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

SETT: Can you speak Learnish?

Educating Powerful Learners - Guy Claxton - Keynote address

Another SETT report, and again I decided to do this from my memory and my notes rather than watching the video of Guy again first. (Since it is a keynote, this one is video streamed.)

The main message that I took from Guy's keynote can be summarised as: change a little, learn a lot. What he described were a number of simple, easy to implement ideas that he said could make a big difference to learning and teaching. He did however apologize for the low-tech nature of the ideas he was explaining - but it was good stuff so I don't see why he should apologize for talking about how to improve learning at the "Scottish Learning Festival".

Before I get into the report proper, I was queuing up to get into the Clyde Auditorium and found myself standing beside a chap I knew from the church I went to when we lived in Partick (about twenty years ago). He led the "Boys' Club" at the church and I was one of the other leaders. It was called the "Boys' Club", but one of the "boys" was two years older than me and one of the others was already married and divorced and used to offer me child-rearing advice. :-) So there I was, standing beside this chap who now works at the school where my brother-in-law is the head-teacher. Clearly the world of Scottish Education is a small world!

The person introducing the session told us that this keynote was the best attended so far. Certainly the auditorium seemed to be packed out.

originally uploaded by callumalden.
He started by talking about a plumbing problem he had. He worked away at it with a plunger - but the problem was at the drain outside, not at the sink inside. He was trying to fix the wrong end. This, he said, is what has happened in education - we've worked on the teaching end, but the problem is at the learning end. He went on to describe how discipline is a major concern and that it is the small, low level disruption that is the most wearing. One of the causes of this low-level off topic behaviour may be that the pupils don't know what to do and don't know what to do about it. He said that pupils would like to be challenged by interesting tasks.

One solution he suggested was that children should be learning to learn. He went on to describe an evolution in our understanding of learning to learn:
  1. tools and techniques;
  2. styles and conditions;
  3. teaching thinking;
  4. cultivating transferable learning dispositions.
Example of tools and techniques: mind maps. Children might be able to produce a mind map, but do they have a sense of how it can help them learn? Another example he gave was learning styles. These are often used to divide children as if a particular learning style wa, "bred in the bone". Instead of seeing them as a way of developing learners capacity, we have found another way of stuffing learners in a labeled box. Learning styles are best used to promote discussion and reflection in learners.

Research, he said, has shown that learning about learning has more impact than study skills. He also suggested that if teachers have a more elaborate understanding of learning, they will be better teachers.

A complaint that is often leveled is that learning to learn is just another thing that teachers have to do when they have so much to do already. He put up a cartoon of a teacher carrying a large number of drinks (that were labeled with various educational initiatives). The barmaid offers him a tray, but he rejects it saying, "Don't you think I have enough to carry?" The question he asked was, is learning to learn another thing to carry, or is it a tray? {I have used similar arguments in the past to say that ICT is not another thing to teach, but something that helps you deliver learning more effectively. The problem is that a tray doesn't take any time to master and it's usefulness is almost immediately obvious. The same cannot be said for ICT!}

The next thing he went on to talk about was building learning power. In this scheme, learning and the language of learning becomes highly prominent in the minds of teachers and pupils. Differences can be made with small low-risk changes in habits of language and behaviour. The point of studying is to flex pupils' learning muscles as much as it is to learn stuff. One example is "Nail point" which tries to break the habit of pupils calling out. "Miss, I've finished", where pupils see the point of the exercise was to finish it. With nail point, once finished, pupils work with each other to find a way to hammer the nail point home - "Hammer Time". Pupils not only devised effective extension material, but talked about learning. Performance improved!

He then gave the most interesting definition of intelligence I have ever heard. Piaget defined intelligence as:
Knowing what to do when you don't know what to do
Pupils have to learn about the "four Rs"!
  • Resilience-> Perseverance
  • Resourcefulness-> pupils asking questions
  • Reflective->meta language
  • Relationship->Collaboration
Teachers could create, "What can we do if we are stuck" posters - students generate ideas and continue to add to them through the year. Pupils have to learn to talk learnish! Do we talk learnish to the pupils? An example he gave was how we can help pupils learn to build up their ability to resist distraction? They can draw a line and use it as a self distraction indicator! Every few minutes they note where they are on this distraction index.
We need to be comfortable with uncertainty. Show our own learning - as a work in progress. {This is a technique I strongly recommend to student teachers of Computing - especially when teaching programming. The temptation is just to fix pupils' programs, but we need to learn to verbalise our thought processes when we debug programs to provide a model for our pupils.} We don't know what learners need to know, so we have to make them good finder-outers! ;-)

They don't need to know how to function in a life of tests they need to know how to function in the tests of life.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Research Blog: Bibliographies-R-Us

If you are doing any academic writing at all, you need to acquire and use bibliographic software. Trust me on this!

I enjoy doing the reading in preparation for academic writing. I enjoy gathering data and trying to make sense of it. And when I eventually get down to it, I even enjoy wrestling with the words to describe what I've done/found out/whatever! What drives me nutty, is creating and maintaining the bibliography. Have I included everything in my reference list that I've referenced in the body of the essay? Have I left in any references that I've deleted from the essay? Have I got the online journal reference format exactly right and how do I change it from APA style to MLA when somebody asks for a change? It's purely mechanical, but so boring and time consuming. It drives me to distraction... at least it did until I discovered Specsavers... er, until I discovered bibliographic referencing software.

Darcy Proposes
Darcy Proposes,
originally uploaded by Dizzy Girl.
I first came across a HyperCard stack that was really just a database for references about ten years ago, but it didn't help much with the layout and formatting of references. It gave me a flavour though of how software could help so that when I came across Endnote many years later, I knew it was just what I had been looking for. There are other similar programs, e.g. Ref Manager, and I tried a few of them but for me, Endnote did everything I wanted and more. It just suited the way I wanted to work. David Warlick's Citation Machine works well for individual references, but Endnote adds the ability to store a whole bunch of references in a single database, to change the reference format easily, a seamless integration with Word, a "cite while you write" feature, the ability to search online library catalogues and import the data directly into Endnote, and... oh read the website yourself and download the 30 day free trial. You wont regret it! (And no, I'm not on commission from Endnote!)

Ewan is currently posting chapters from his own research on his blog and seems to say that he is keeping his references in a Word document. It is not absolutely straightforward to move from Word into Endnote, but even at this late stage I would still say it was worth it.

The only thing that was a problem for me was that Endnote was only installed on my office machine, so if I was working in the library, or away from my usual machine, I had to carefully record all the reference details manually and then transfer them into Endnote later. At least, that's what I had to do before I discovered CiteULike! A wee while ago Ewan pointed me towards H2O and I thought it sounded promising, but I was a bit frustrated because it didn't store the information I needed in a format that made it easy to transfer to a formal bibliography. CiteULike however not only stores everything I need, but can pull it in automatically from most of the online journal services that I use (including Ingenta Connect whish is probably the one I use most often), I can tag stuff, I can see who else has stored a particular source and can subscribe to an RSS feed of their reference list and... It's like for academic papers! I've kept the best for last though. I can export my CiteULike references straight into Endnote. I only wish I'd discovered it sooner - 1200ish people had already bookmarked it in before me and some had found it as far back as November of 2004!

Still, better late than never. :-)

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Saturday, October 01, 2005

SETT: Ewan McIntosh - Young, gifted and blogged

There are loads of things I've been meaning to do a blog entry on but the promised reports from SETT have been hanging over me all week. I've decided to do turn about; starting with the first report from SETT.

I made the mistake on the Thursday morning of going into Jordanhill first. This meant that I arrived at SETT just in time to be five minutes late for Ewan's session on Using ICT as a means of supporting the gifted in language. (Sorry Ewan.) If you want to see how I got on with my new Palm keyboard, I have posted the unedited text file. Sections in curly brackets, {}, are my comments and thoughts triggered by what Ewan said. Most of the mistakes are down to my own poor typing rather than problems with the keyboard. The only problem coming from the keyboard is that only one key at a time can be pressed. To get capitals, you have to tap shift and then the letter you want capitalised. I kept forgetting and pressed the two at once - so often the first letter in a sentence is omitted!

I said in a previous post how scunnered I was to have missed the first day of SETT, but Lesley Duff replied to say that a podcast for most of the sessions would be released over the next few weeks, so you will be able to compare the notes I made at the time to what Ewan actually said! I chose however to type this up from my notes without listening again. Let me know if you think I've missed something or misinterpreted him in some way.

The recurring theme of Ewan's talk was "Raising the bar".

Firstly, Ewan described the aims of his action research as:
  • Increased motivation
  • Increased language acquisition and Information Literacy
  • Increased language retention
The first two (at least) are often claimed for the use of ICT generally. It was interesting to hear Ewan's thoughts on how this worked out in the teaching of Modern Languages in particular.

He claimed that already many (most?) children already have their own web pages. They are already communicating through the web. Certainly a report I saw from the London School of Economics suggests that 75% of 9-19 year olds have accessed the Internet from home and 84% are daily or weekly users. Ewan said that, "We are guided by interactions and experiences," so the question is how do schools build on the former experience of these digital natives?

Ewan then went on to ask how we define gifted? He said that it can't be determined by summative tests of knowledge; these, he suggested, merely set a bar, a limit on how high we expect the children to reach.

He went on to talk about an approach that was new to me - Freeman's Sports Approach: Children opt in to extra more demanding work. There is no entrance test. No summative entry test. No limit on the standard they can reach. I especially liked the "opting for more demanding work" bit! In an effort to make learning accessible to all, I think that sometimes we remove the challenge and therefore often remove the fun! Death by a thousand worksheets - and all the worksheets teach is how to follow instructions.

Motivation and learning. Ewan continued by talking about how tests may prove competence but can be very demoralising. Self and peer assessment however he says is empowering. Ewan uses a hundred point scale in his class - lose a point for every letter wrong - pupils mark each others work. He said that this allows pupils to think like an examiner - I liked that. A summative test limits what will be learned - back to his bar again!

Learning logs - pupils reflecting on what they have learned how to do. It also allows them to set own aims. Can be very vague, but information literacy means justifying your statements. Ewan gave a good example which I didn't write down about how a vague and woolly statement from a pupil actually shows some insight into the learning process - I'll need to listen to the podcast to hear again what he said. The learning logs idea was then linked to the next session of his talk: Social Technology. He described how this
  • shows intelligence linked to knowledge and manners
  • encourages conversation to construct knowledge
He described how in a blog, if you state a fact and give your interpretation, others can challenge and help you construct your knowledge because you need to justify and expand. Collaborative learning. Do weblog links to Freeman's Sports Approach? The web generally is passive - one way. It sets a limit on the bar. However weblogs create a social group. It creates and supports conversations. He said, "It's not about the cliques: it's about the comments". Who you are is less important than what you say. I've read Ewan saying things like this before on his blog (I think) but it was good to hear him explain and show us what he meant.

He closed his session with that last refuge of the scoundrel - statistics! {NB This section updated thanks to information direct from the horses mouth in a comment on this post from Ewan.} I may have mis-heard or mis-recorded some of these, but it was a powerful illustration of the audience that his pupils at Musselburgh Grammar have built up in a very short time. Musselburgh Grammar School Online had 160,000 page views in a school year (eight months), 8000 people subscribed to the podcasts and 400 comments were left (including comments from the head teacher) in the space of a seven day school trip abroad. Also, a five week project generated 380 posts from one of his classes. {I wonder how much writing a similar project would have produced, or how many people would have been involved in a school trip if blogging technology ad not been used?}

He closed by pointing out that the technology that allows this to happen is cheap even free in some cases. In using it, children learn the importance of behaving with responsibility. You can't just use others work. You have to back it up.

My closing thoughts: The technology is out there. As Ewan pointed out, MSN Spaces, largely populated by teenagers, experienced a 957%(?) growth in a year. Our children are already using it, even as we try to stop them doing so in our schools! (See for example one of my recent posts commenting on something David Warlick said.) Rather than trying to limit technology use, let's work to promote it and help children to use it responsibly.

Raise the bar? Or get rid of the bar altogether?

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Monday, September 26, 2005

SETTing Sons

Still working up to giving my thoughts and reflections on the SETT conference, but first I wanted to get some general comments out of the way. I'll start with some of the things I'm scunnered about.

Firstly I'm scunnered that I had to miss the whole of the first day because of teaching commitments. In particular I am scunnered that I missed Andy Carvin's session (although Andy has helpfully posted the presentation he used and a podcast of what he said). I'm scunnered I missed Alan November's video conference (I saw him at SETT a few years ago and thought he was extraordinarily inspirational). But the thing I am most scunnered about is that I missed the Masterclass dinner! (It was my own stupid fault, I had the dates wrong and thought I was going to the dinner on Thursday night. In a bizarre way, it was a double disappointment. I was annoyed I missed the dinner on Wednesday and I was annoyed that I wasn't going to get a dinner on Thursday! Does that make sense?)SETT Logo

So, what were the bits I enjoyed most? Some of the good points will undoubtedly come out in future posts, but here are some of my general impressions. I always think one of the best things about SETT is the free pens... No, sorry, I mean meeting people. :-)

Ewan McIntoshI particularly enjoyed meeting Ewan McIntosh this year. I even had time to have a coffee with him. I think I taught him when he was at Jordanhill but it is because of his blog (where helpfully posts this picture) that I really got to know him - and I do feel I know him. It's one of the things that I think is interesting about this blogging thing - it's about conversation, it's about social interaction - it's about people. It was especially fun to discover that his mum reads my blog - hello Mrs McIntosh. :-)

John JohnstonSpeaking of people, I saw John Johnston in the passing but didn't have a chance for a chat. He and Ewan did however get to meet and recognised each other from the pictures on their blogs. :-) John has already started posting his thoughts on SETT, including one on a round table discussion on podcasting with Ewan and Andy Carvin. Interestingly, he has had a couple of comments on this already. One from David Warlick who says how much he enjoyed SETT last year and that he's sorry he wasn't able to come this time. I really enjoyed David's session last year and he is partly responsible for getting me into blogging. I went to look for his website after his session, and found his blog, and found out about RSS, and found some other blogs by people I know, and... Anyway, as I said above, it's about community. David was at SETT last year and has obviously kept reading some Scottish blogs. Brilliant! It's a conversation. Another comment is from Andy himself. John makes a post about a session and one of the people involved in the session joins in the conversation. I'll say it again... Brilliant!

Finally for this post. I came across a few more Scottish educational blogs. Firstly, searching for Scottish Learning Festival on Technorati turned up an SQA blog! It looks more like a newsletter than a blog, but I'll stick with it a bit longer to see how it goes. For instance, I have already discovered the SQA are working with somebody at the University of Strathclyde about an e-mentoring qualification. I worked on a full Diploma course in this sort of area a few years ago, but it sort of fizzled out and the other people involved moved on to other things. I'll need to try and track this University person down and see if it is too late to get involved. The other blogs I discovered through Ollie Bray. I went to a session he co-presented and he mentioned he had a blog. There are in fact a few at the Exc-el site (an East Lothian site?). Unfortunately (unless I'm missing something obvious) there is no way to leave comments. Is it still a blog if you can't leave comments?

Finally a special prize is available to the first person to explain the origin of title of this post. :-)

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It's official: I hate blogger. :-)

I have just spent much longer than I should have putting to gether a blog entry on this holiday Monday. Three times now as I have hit the Save as Draft button, Blogger has chosen to ask me to log in (again) and lost everything I had just typed instead of doing what it says on the tin! I am not pleased and their technichal help people are about to get an email from an upset user.

If I eventually calm down enough, I'll have another go. :-(

Saturday, September 24, 2005

From keynote to e-note

I took this picture at SETT while waiting for a keynote address to begin.

This was going to be one of a number of postings from SETT via my mobile, but the best laid plans of mice and mobloggers...

I had three main problems.

Firstly I forgot to check the battery of my phone. All I managed was the photo you see above, the start of a text message to go with it... and then the battery died. So no other photos from SETT from me. :-(

Secondly, I thought I knew how to send to Blogger, but I had only ever sent to Flickr before (see what I sent - minus text). I thought I could send an MMS to Blogger, but it just got lost in the ether. On reading the help pages, it seems that Blogger only takes MMS from certain phone networks and mine isn't one of them. Scunner! However, I managed to send it from my phone as an email, but couldn't face re-entering the text (see problem three below). The other problem was that to get this entry displayed I had to access an email reply from Blogger. I forgot that I had linked my phone email to my home email account and ended up waiting ages while 27 messages were downloaded to my phone!

Thirdly, I boasted in a previous posting that I wasn't a digital native, but that I had dual citizenship. However, when it comes to SMS, I am a very slow one thumbed texter! Entering anything longer than a line is painful. I initially persevered, but when the MMS version failed to work, I could only face entering the one sentence version you see at the top of this post.

So, I reproduce below the line, the full message I originally entered.

I took this picture while waiting for a keynote address at SETT to begin. Guy Claxton was about to speak on Educating Powerful Learners. We were in the Clyde Auditorium and the last time I was there was to see B B King. The hall was just as full then, but this time I had a better seat! :-) Looking around I was surprised to discover a distinct lack of technology in the audience - everyone I could see was note taking with paper and pen. I decided therefore to take a picture of my old Palm and its new flexible keyboard. I like my Palm and the graffiti handwriting system works well, but it's hard to use for extended note taking. My accuracy definitely drops off after a few a few minutes writing. This conference is my first real test of the keyboard. If it goes well you'll see some Palm produced notes appearing in my blog over the next few days.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

Wha's like us?

I know I said I was going to post something on SETT next, but I couldn't resist adding this comment on the BBC news story I mentioned in my last post. The story was about exam boards in England, but it included a quote from a spokesman for the Scottish Qualification Authority:
A spokesman for the Scottish Qualifications Authority said it had no figures because it did not have a problem with cheating.

Candidates were given very specific instructions about what was not acceptable.

"That's something we nipped in the bud a long time ago," he said.
Well that's all right then. Proof, as if further proof was necessary, of the superiority of the Scottish education system.
Smiley face
As we also say in Scotland (proving that a double positive can be negative)...

Aye. Right!

Smiley face

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

I'm only happy when it rains

I've been meaning to post something on David Warlick's post Our Schools are Leaking for ages, but I was surprised to discover he made the post almost a month ago! He talks about how children don't even think about using technology. They don't even necessarily think about it as anything special - it's just there. It has always been there. It's there, you use it, it's just there!

I don't think I'm a digital native, but I like to think I have dual citizenship. Recently I discovered how little I think about the technology I carry when I flew from Glasgow to Stornoway. When I went through the metal detector, it beeped. Oops - I had forgotten about my mobile phone. It went on the X-Ray machine, but still I beeped. Oh - my Palm PDA. The security people obviously thought I was at it, so I was taken aside and frisked. It seemed that every time they touched a pocket, I pulled out another bit of electronic gubbins. A USB memory stick, a battery for my digital camera, an mp3 player, ... I have never been so thoroughly frisked in my life! (Look up Stornoway on Google Map if you have to - it's not exactly an obvious terrorist target!) I don't fly very often and I just hadn't thought about all the stuff I had in my pockets... it's just there, I use it!

I read with interest therefore a BBC report Exams ban for mobile phone users. The report says almost 300 students were "... disqualified from exams in England last summer for malpractice involving mobile phones." The report clearly suggests that all these mobile users were up to no good and seems to only grudgingly admit that they may have "inadvertently taken handsets into the exam hall." Of course some would have been trying to cheat - students have always tried that - but I suspect there were many who just took their phones in without thinking. It is always in their pocket or bag, why should this day be any different?

As David says:
Through their mobile phones, wireless handhelds, mobile game systems, their laptops, and a simple, yet pervasive sense of a broader world that ignores time and distance, our children's attention is leaking out of our classrooms, our textbooks, and our state and national standards.

The question that looms overhead is...

Do we continue to container our children, amputating their intellectual appendages during "learning" time?


Do we try to integrate learning into the flow of their attentions, taking advantage of the new porous nature their lives, using their appendages to connect children to the world that we are teaching them about?

The title of the post comes from a song by Garbage. If our schools are leaking, should we ban the technology that causes the leaks or should our attitude more like the lyrics in the song?
I'm only happy when it rains
I'’m only happy when it'’s complicated
And though I know you can'’t appreciate it
I'm only happy when it rains

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P.S. I wanted to get this out the way before turning to posts based on stuff I heard/saw at SETT. More later... probably.