Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Thought I'd sneak this in before my final eLive post...

A chap called David Gee (who claims to be a "Digital design/multimedia & elearning tutor at Manchetser New Technology Institute" on Technorati) has a blog, eLearningSource, full of good links - every time I go there I get sidetracked for ages following up loads of interesting stuff.

I liked one of his recent posts on eLearning. Yet more reading! However, it is worth visiting for the cartoon alone. Enjoy. :-)

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Monday, May 29, 2006

More Cool Stuff from eLive

I think two more posts should just about get eLive 2006 out of my system...

I've already blogged about the sessions I attended, but here are a few of the things that caught my eye elsewhere at eLive.

A rolling demo of some animated lego caught my attention at the Kudlian Soft stand. (Try saying the name out loud if you can't see straight away what a good name Kudlian Soft is!) The software used to produce it is called I Can Animate. (It is Mac only, so sorry to all you Windoze users. They have an animation package for PCs too although I don't know if it is as cool.) The chap at the stand showed me how easy it was to put things together. He took a picture of the Lego aeroplane against a green screen. This single picture was replicated over twenty-five frames. A picture file of a grassy hillside with sky at the top was then brought in to replace the green background. Then he zoomed in on the background picture and panned across on the first frame so that it looked like the plane was in the sky at the top left of the image. Flipping over to the last frame he panned the zoomed background picture and made it look like the plane had landed on the grass at the bottom right of the image. The package then filled in the bits in between and he had a sequence which showed the plane flying across the sky and landing on the grass - all from one image capture against a green background and moving another still image behind it. Brilliant and stunningly easy. Just a few nights previously I had been watching the extras on the Animatrix DVD {Sad geek credentials well and truly established I think!} where it was explained that sliding two still images past each other, or zoom and pan across a still image are standard tricks used in anime films. Professional animation techniques from a £30 piece of software! It had other tricks up its sleeve all of which made it easy to produce high quality stop motion animation in next to no time. I hope I can talk someone into getting this for me before I teach my next digital video class.

I also liked what I saw at the Promethean Interactive Whiteboard stand. (And that's not asentencee I thought I'd write!) I remain unconvinced by Interactive Whiteboards. One of the things that annoys me about them is that almost inevitably you stand in the way of the projector when you try to interact with them. The Promethean people however were using a pointer instead of a pen. It was a fairly short pointer (about 60cm long) but it was long enough for the user to get out of the way while pushing things about on the screen. Long enough for shorter pupils to reach the top of the board without having to stand on a box. I can't see it on their website, so maybe it is not on sale yet, but if you have a Promethean board, I'd say it was worth investigating further.

A couple of the best things though was stuff I saw pupils doing. On the first day I saw some pupils using Comic Life. I'd seen that already and was well impressed, but one boy was using something different. It looked like an animation package so I sat down and asked him what he was doing.
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
It turned out not to be an animation package, but a free programming environment called Squeak which is available for Windows, Macintosh, various flovours of Unix and even RiscOS! There are not many programming environments I'd recommend for primary schools. Up until now, my favourite has been Stagecast but Squeak has real potential to at least challenge Stagecast... and Squeak is free! The pupil drew a car on the screen with basic paint tools and clicked on it to bring up a range of options. He then dragged stuff over onto the car's area to start it moving up the screen. He then painted a steering wheel on the screen and, again just using drag and drop, connected it to the car's direction. This meant he could turn the steering wheel he'd just painted and it would change the direction of the car he'd just painted. Fantastic! And the package is free! See also Squeakland for all sorts of goodies to help you get the best out of Squeak (tutorials, background reading, community of users, etc.). And did I mention that the package is free?

I also liked some remote control Duplo I saw pupils playing with. It looked like great fun and the teacher said that while some pupils werecontrollingg the vehicles, others were buildingstufff to go on top of the motor and wheels for when it was their turn to get the radio controller. It looked great for early years classes.

Finally, did anyone else get asked by a couple of pupils what they would buy if they had all the money in the world. The two girls were asking everyone that passed and writing the answers on a whiteboard. By the time I got there, they had answers like a sweet shop, a pink Ferrari and a yacht (although I thought it said yoghurt!). I'm afraid that I failed to say, world peace and an end to hunger, but opted for the more predictable, "Lots of technology". What did you answer?

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

eLive 2006 RSS The Killer Application

eLive 2006 – RSS The Killer App
Will Richardson

More information on this, handouts etc. can be found on his wiki.

We are in a changed world and in a period of disruption at the moment. Every day new tools are coming out. Not only do we have access to a lot of information, but access to a lot of teachers and a lot of ideas. So how do we manage all these connections? RSS.

RSS = Real Simple Syndication. It is the syndication bit that is key. It is about the connections.It brings the content to you – pulling the information we want.

01 Will Draws,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
Two parts to it: Feed = new content; Aggregator = pulling it together to display. {Will did a cool instant drawing to demo this. He used the stylus on his tablet style laptop (the kind with the type screen that spins round and folds flat over the keyboard). He talked about the different types of information sources available - magazines, newspapers, blogs, etc. - and how allof these flow into an aggregator. As he talked, he sketched. It was very cool!}

The point is that it is under your control. So many blogs – it RSS that makes it possible to keep track of all this stuff. …And it is essentially spam free because you subscribe to it – it’s not what someone wants to send to you. It’s about the conversations – distributed conversations which are almost impossible to track by other means.

How do you spot feeds? Look for buttons with RSS or XML – often orange. Or even go to Google and search for your favourite information source and RSS, for example “New York Times” RSS. Once you find the feed, copy the link location and use your aggregator.

Bloglines is the aggregator that Will uses. Bloglines lists the feeds you have subscribed to and gives all sorts of information about the feeds, for example how many are unread, how many you have saved, and when you click on a link – it tells you who else has referenced that post. You can also chunk the feeds into related categories – for example Will has classroom stuff in one category and people he learns from in another. Here is Will’s public feeds from Bloglines which {I think} shows his teachers – the people he learns stuff from.

RSS as Research round the clock. You can also track what people are saying about you or your site with RSS because you can create search feeds. In Google you can search for a specific area of interest and then subscribe to just the results of that search. For example Global Warming from the BBC. If you look on the results page , there is a link to an RSS feed.

You can do the same thing in Technorati to search blogs. For example teen obesity in blogs. When displaying the results, Technorati, it tells you information about how many links and from how many sites go to that blog to give an indication of its value. Make the search results a watchlist in Technorati and then subscribe to the RSS feed. Search feeds means RSS is therefore around the clock research.

RSS as Read What I Read – e.g. RSS feed of del.icio.us or Furl. Not just reading what other write in their blogs etc. but also read what they read! For example, here is my del.icio.us links about Flickr and here is its RSS feed. This means the people you subscribe to are feeding you interesting stuff – doing research stuff for you. Furl is similar, but it also saves a picture of the page – so even if the page changes or disappears, you can access the Furl saved version. Even better, Furl will export the bookmark in APA bibliographic reference format. {Cool!}

RSS as Read What Others See – RSS feeds of Flikr photos. For example, search for eLive2006 on Flickr or Somalia and subscribe the search feed.

RSS as Web Pages – You can also take an RSS feed and fold it into a web page or a blog page. Pull stuff in and highlight it without having to re-write the page – an automatically updating web page. {See for example, John Johnston's RSS experiment. - DM}

RSS for Podcasts – It is the RSS feed that does the cast bit of Podcasts. So you can subscribe to the podcast – do it once and whenever something new comes you will be told.

SO there is RSS for weather, ebay, package tracking, flight information, …

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eLive 2006 - Mobile Learning

eLive 2006 – Mobile learning
Dewi Lloyd and Aidan Prior (I think!)

Dewi said he was going to explain how he got here and then why he is angry! :-)

originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
He talked about how he went from product design to ICT advisor and then into being a mobile learning consultant – Steljes. He found being an advisor frustrating because of the concentration on office/ICT skills at the expense of ICT across the curriculum. More successful in primary.

Teachers have always taken content and adapted it to their own needs – the web is making that even easier.

Mobile Learning: The educational philosophy is finding the balance between the “Ooo” factor and the “Ow much!”. The qualities we’d like to be developed are in the “Ooo” side – motivated learners, self-directed learners, … but the “Ow much” holds everything back.

Why is he angry? Focus on office skills. Inappropriate hardware – designed for individuals to use rather than groups to share. The price of the product dictates the quality of what is available. {Excellent! Too much make do and mend! – DM}

The digital toolkit of stuff available is not new, but using it can cause problems – e.g previous person using it didn’t re-charge batteries, or has lost a cable, or…

Dewi got involved in the Learning2Go project. One of the interesting things about this project is that the pupils own the device themselves. It is not the school’s or the authority’s. It’s theirs – and that makes a huge difference to the way they use and interact with the technology.

The project has led to a huge increase in performance (grades). Not clear if this improvement will be sustainable, but the project is about more. What difference does it make to how pupils learn when they can browse and publish from their own device that they can hold in their hand. Anytime, anyplace, anywhere... He showed a video of a girl who produced an animation on pollination on her mobile device. She worked on this for over a week when and where she wanted.

He talked about the effect of the children having the PDAs, for example boys having to dragged off reading and writing their own e-books. Also PDAs as voting clickers sending free text entries to whole class instead of just multi guess answers. {Software called VPAD? - DM} Also Eduinnova {Spelling? -DM}– teachers create questions and the computer then puts pupils into groups and then they have to collaborate to decide the answers. {Why can’t the pupils make up the questions – that would be cool. – DM – Update: I asked the question at the end and they are doing this next week. :-)} Video showed pupils working with the PDAs and textbooks and the teacher controlling and looking at pupils collaborative work as they were doing the discussion.

GPS devices and map software to show where they are on PDA as the go around taking video and photographs. Camera, video, microphone {and GPS? - Update: Asked at the end and GPS is an add-on, it is not built in like the camera - DM} built into the one, handheld device. Pupils can record their own voices, peers, parents…

Parents realised that they can look at their children’s PDA and see in the one place evidence of all the educational experiences they have been having on a day today basis.

The system is wireless and some of the schools in the project have hundreds of wireless devices in use by pupils. Wolverhampton may be going wireless city wide – every home wireless. Think what difference that would make to the way these devices are used. I think he said every home currently has a device {Surely not? Maybe every home with a school aged pupils? – DM Update: Again I checked at the end. In their project schools (currently 16 out of 60ish in the city I think) every child in primary 4 and 5 has a PDA. Rolling out to more schools this year and again will start with P4 - DM} and the ambition is to add every home with wireless access. Every child has a device, exactly the same device, so the teacher doesn’t have to worry about digital divide issues etc.

Some parental contribution to the cost. {A pound a week? – DM} The contribution is optional{?}, but so far evry paernt has contributed.

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eLive 2006 Keynote 2 - Will Richardson

eLive 2006 – Keynote 2
Will Richardson

The most powerful learning experience in Will’s life has come from his blogging activities. Learned about people, technology (yes), about education, ….

originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
Will pointed out that typing Will into Google makes him come up fourth! Beats Alan November :-)

It’s not about the technology! Take for example, One Red Paper Clip – a chap trying to trade his way from one red paper clip for a house! At the moment he has gone from a paper clip to a night with Alice Cooper! Imagination!

Imagination. See also anime mash-ups {Didn’t get the site… hopefully I’ll get it from watching the video later. - or from Ewan who was better at paying attention :-) Will talked about the Anime Music Video site.} More and more now, the Internet allows us to use our imaginations to explore.

One trillion links on the web… and it is in these links that you see the power. And that’s the “old” web. What about the read/write web? Not just about consuming the information, but about creating and sharing. Web 2.0 is a turning point (see quote from Tim O’Reilly). Remember, it is about the links. The blogsphere {hate that term! - DM} is experiencing huge growth. According to Technorati they are creating billions of links. Not just linking pages, but linking ideas.

The web is about conversations now. As an example, Will talks about how much he has learned from Ewan despite only meeting him face to face yesterday. The knowledge is in the network and the skill is finding the information in the network. {He demonstrated the network with a cool graphic from Touchgraph… will need to explore this further later! - DM} Also used GlobalVoices as a good example. People talking about themselves. Everybody has their own printing press – brilliant! We don’t yet understand how significant this will be.

Imagination: Hear Matthew Bischoff’s podcast and listen to the excitement. See also Tess Richardson’s Weather Recipe book on Flickr. It started as an exercise for grandparents but more than 800 people have looked at it. Aslo talked about Sandaig Otters and the excitement that a worldwide audience generates for the pupils. Children can teach… children can learn with this technology.

Drew on ACfE to show how this sort of technology fits with ACfE.
“Please stop thinking of your schools as four walls. Thinking and linking is what it is about.”

“It’s not about the technology, it’s about imagination.”
The read/write web might change the world. How might it change education? Firstly, moving from a closed content model to an open content model. Everything is not in the text book any more. The content is not only created, but it is being given away for free, See for example Coming of Age, or MIT Open Courseware. Now it is Rip, Mix and Learn. See for example Will’s H2O site on Martin Luther King. The teacher as DJ! For example Will’s class blog where he hooked his pupils up to authors of the books they were studying.

From some time learning to anytime learning. It is move from a push model to a pull model. Anything, Anywhere, Anytime. {Goodies or The Goodies :-)}

From working alone to working together. The idea that children shouldn’t work together is daft. We live in a collaborative world. Wikipedia is a great example of this. Is this a model for how our pupils create knowledge? Whatever we think about Wikipedia, we can’t ignore it – our pupils are using it. Collaborate with peers around the world or collaborate with peers in the classroom!

From audience of one to audience of many. From “hand in homework” to “publish homework”. Think about the shift this means! Move away from grades! Think about Fanfiction site that Alan talked about yesterday – children don’t use their names so that their work is criticised, not them. Would we accept anonymous homework?

From experts to networks. E.g. RSS. We can track the research that others are doing without having to go and look for it. RSS collects it into the one place.

From know what learning to know where. The key thing is not learning the formulas, but learning where to find it – know how to use it. Our pupils need to know how to use their mobile phones to find information.

From information literacy to network literacy. How do you navigate the network, How do we work in a distributed collaborative network?
  • What needs to change when our children can publish to a world wide audience?
  • How does a teacher’s role change when we can connect our students to Pulitzer Prize winning journalists?
  • How do we define literacy when we need to be able to read, create and publish content?
{Feel free to answer these questions. - DM}

Teachers must become content creators. Make us aware of the issues and model good practice. For example, children forget their Myspace stuff is out there – college entrance people and future employers look at them! Must be collaborators. Must be the change agents – at times this will mean being subversive. Model ethical uses.

The tools are not difficult to master, but we need to be imaginative. What are we willing to trade from our old classrooms?

In response to question on how to change Will suggested starting small. Introduce simple ideas to pupils and let it grow. We also need to start conversations about what these tools can do.

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Will Richardson at eLive

originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
A very blurry picture of Will just before he started talking at eLive.

A blog post on what he says will follow... battery allowing. :-)

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

eLive 2006 ACfE meets SSDN

eLive 2006 A Curriculum for Excellence Meets SSDN
Stuart Robertson

{It seemed to work the last time… so here’s a session I attended. My comments – as opposed to what Stuart was trying say – are in curly brackets. :-)}

Seven design principles for ACfE – the first is interesting: Challenge and enjoyment. Putting fun into the curriculum.

NGfL back in 1998 tried to do some of the things that we are still trying to do with SSDN, but perhaps trying to be smarter now. Three parts to what we are trying to do:
  1. Interconnect
  2. Content delivery
  3. Intranet
1. Interconnect
Using SuperJANET to get good, reliable broadband connections throughout Scotland. All 32 authorities, HMI, SQA and BBC (plus others?) are now all connected. This is the Content delivery structure – essentially this is there.

3. Intranet
RM got the contract to develop this. This includes an authentication system/user directory, a virtual learning/teaching environment and a collaborative area. Stuart thinks that this will drive the development/delivery of ACfE.

The Authentication system will eventually deal with millions of people (pupils, teachers, parents…). Will allow controlled access to local resources as well as central resources. This will include access from home… or anywhere with an Internet connection. It will allow collaboration between individuals and groups on the system. Will provide video/audio conferencing, newsgroups/discussion groups, chat rooms {Although by default this will be turned off! Hmm! DM}, web authoring, voice over IP, virtual whiteboards… all sorts of stuff.

2. Content Delivery
VLE – with assessment tools {Nationally produced multi-guess? Hmm! DM}, pupil tracking, personal space for pupils {Will pupils use a limited systems with no chat etc. when they already use MySpace/MSN Chat/…? Hmm! DM} and publishing/presentation tools.

ACfE and SSDN – making the links. Look at the ACfE website and check out the literature review written by Donald Christie and Brian Boyd. More about how we teach rather than what we teach.

The environment for learning is the key thing. For instance “giving pupils their voice”. How do we do this while still achieving a balance between what pupils want to learn and the curriculum government would like to deliver. SSDN will give loads of tools to allow pupils to find their voice with a national (international?) audience.

The choice of learning approaches problem solving, collaborative learning. Relevance: can pupils relate learning to their own needs. Is there a balance to be struck though between allowing pupils to follow their own interests and curriculum authorities giving direction. Motivation is key. Marc Prensky quotes a student who said, “every time I go to school I have to power down”. Can ICT tools enhance and transform learning? {One example given was of Interactive Whiteboards. Is this an example of bolting new stuff onto the old way of doing things that Alan was talking about? DM}

Co-operative and collaborative learning. Will SSDN and the culture of sharing it supports help this? Perhaps encourage peer learning among teachers as well as among pupils.

Problem based learning: real challenges, real problems – solved as individuals or collaboratively. Will SSDN help foster the motivation needed? Genuine “need to know stuff”.
In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.Eric Hoffer

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eLive 2006 - Alan November Keynote

eLive 2006
Alan November – Keynote 1

{I’ve never tried this before, but I typed this up as Alan spoke and I sent it straight to Blogger from Word using the Blogger plug-in. This is the first time I’ve tried this directly from Word, so I hope what you see is roughly similar to wat I typed… or indeed that it can be seen at all!}

originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
Overheard Alan November talking to Stuart Robertson before the session started – he described disenchanted pupils complaining about having to read Macbeth. They were amazed to discover that you could download Macbeth and listen to it as a podcast – Shakespeare never meant it to be read in the first place! Alan suggested to the pupils that they could download it and mash it up with interviews with pupils, teachers, parents, whoever to create their own podcast on themes in Macbeth or whatever… Brilliant! And the session hadn’t even started. :-)
“The past is over”
- George Bush.
Instead of telling children what we know - start asking students what they know.

There is a huge gap between what children do with technology at home compared to what they do in school. Very hard to find a school where they are being more creative with ICT than children are being at home. Number one application was MSN – what do schools do? They ban it. Why? Alan thinks it is fear.

We are trying to bolt technology onto what we do already, so we can use the computer as a £1000 pencil, but doing stuff we don’t do – like talking to others, we don’t do that.

Many children have their own sites. In schools we use the Internet. Children do the Internet – they want their lives there! We should ask them what they do with the Internet at home and ask ourselves why we block it. We should use things like MSN creatively and give them a role model of good use. When the school blocked blogging – two girls Alan asked went straight home and created their own. Give role model of appropriate use. Have schools become the learning police? We say we are doing it to protect children, but they are using it at home! Alan doesn’t understand this.

IBM in a day generates 10 million instant messages – communication is the number one application of computers outside education – yet we block it in schools. Alan’s son got on MSN and organised his school friends to do each others homework – Alan’s son did Spanish, someone else did Maths, someone did English… Collaboration is a very important skill to learn, but we don’t do it in schools.

If you are desperate for knowledge – you will learn.

What is the problem? It is not technology. There is more access to technology now than ever – at home and at school. Problem? Rise of India as global economic power – in part due to their online education programme? What skills do people need when the economic power is shifting? No need to travel to plant to be chemical engineer – can do it by communication technology. Also See Wikipedia on Thomas FriedmanThe World is Flat.

Who owns the learning? Victorian model – the teachers own the learning. Alan showed a picture of a school where every pupil has their own office/cubical. The pupils were there an hour before school started. Children are usually in bed an hour before school because the teachers aren’t there. If they own the learning, it’s a different ball game.

We need a new job description of teacher. We need people who can work with children – and {...missed this next bit, but according to Will it included: "...diagnostic skills, teachers who can understand data about how children learn across a wide variety of subjects, and how to personalize instruction".}

Children are social and children are territorial. They like to be with and interact with other children. If they have their own space (like a primary pupil’s desk) they personalise it, they make it theirs. In the school he described (in San Diego) pupils own the learning. Big emphasis on collaborative learning and self-directed. Removed dependency culture. Highest test scores in the state! Takes time though.

Have to change time, space and how people relate. In the San Diego school – they get the one teacher for four years. This changes the relationship. The teacher is responsible for getting students to the end point, not just the end of the year. Students take the test when they are ready, they don’t have to wait for the class to be ready. We can move away from the model where children are all on the same page at the same time.

Alan described asking a child working on the computer what she was doing. The pupil politely told him, “Can’t you see we are working here?” – They owned the learning, they were working collaboratively and were not afraid to rebuff unwanted interruptions.

These changes will take a long time (Alan recons two decades). Now though, we should be making videos to send home to explain to parents what we are doing and why. Ask them if they really want their children to stay with them all their life!

Step 1: Teach Critical thinking and the grammar of the Internet:
Enter “miserable failure” in Google! Good demonstration of Google’s algorithm. This is a Google bomb! Remember the research shows that people only look at the top ten hits. Or try Octopus and look at the number 1 hit in Google for the endagered tree octopus! How many 12 year olds will believe this? Teach children to decode the Internet. The real revolution is Information and Communication – drop the T for technology. Teach teachers to design new assignments not to use the technology. Don’t say to students “Go on the internet.” If they go – they will be manipulated by people who know how the Internet works. Switch to Ask.com and Answers.com – so much better than Google for schoolwork. {He may explain later why! - He didn't :-( }

Google doesn’t decide things – it’s a cupboard, computers and algorithms. We need to teach children to be critical thinkers. Easywhois.com is one way to find out who own sites.

We still teach as if print was the main information source. Number one source of information for pupils is not library or books or handouts – but the Internet.

Step 2: Teaching children to connect to the world.
For example
This limits search to academic sources in Japan. Important to see other versions of history. Toyota is bigger than General Motors! GM was the biggest company on the planet when Japan was in ruins. The assignment then becomes why is the viewpoint in Japan different. Then you get Skype or MSN and connect to a Japanese school. Teach children to communicate. Their powerpoint is then presented to the world – not just their classroom.

Children want to communicate with the world. See Fanfiction site (or MySpaces, or Bebo, or…) Why do children use pseudonyms on Fanfiction? The children’s work is reviewed by peers. By not using their own names, when they get bad reviews, they can see it as their work being criticised – not them. Compare that with schools! Pupils choose their own names. Anonymity can be bad, but can be used creatively. On Fanfiction – look at the first published and updated dates. Teenagers are revising and reworking their stories all the time.

Step 3: Our expectations are too low!
Time and boundaries are not important now. Told story of English teacher who doubted that the pupil could have written the stuff on the Fanfiction website because she never handed in her homework. The pupil said she had to make a decision – publish for the world, or publish for her teacher. For her, she wanted the world!

Skype: globalearner
November Learning has more of this stuff.

The session was videoed and hopefully a link will be provided soon. {No sign yet. :-( - DM}

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Who was that masked blogger?

Red Maschera
Red Maschera,
originally uploaded by Bobble.
The anonymous commenter on my More classroom blogs post has outed herself as the writer of the You think you know, but you have no idea... blog. I am ashamed to say that I missed the fact that she'd started up blogging again because she has some really great things to say. I can't resist quoting from her recent What have you done today to make you feel proud? post and adding a couple of comments of my own.
"My last post was on a somewhat negative theme, but after a good old cry on Tuesday night (and of course writing my blog), I picked myself up again and made the most of the rest of the week. I cannot describe how much better I felt after writing down all my thoughts last Tuesday, and although there hasnt been too many comments floating about, it is so nice to be able to read other student teachers blogs and realise how tough a time we're all having sometimes and remind me I'm not on my own."
I was going to add a comment to this quote, but I think it speaks for itself.
"The department im in is open plan, and at one point, the teacher on the other side of the partition came running through to see what the kids were describing because she thought it sounded so interesting!!"
Brilliant! How encouraging is that for a student teacher? I think that as teachers we do not sit in on other teachers lessons enough. I suspect that both observer and observed would benefit from informal observation of each others lessons. An interesting idea would be to watch teachers of other subjects... sorry that's probably a step to far! Silly me. :-)

Go and read her blog yourself and leave her some comments. There's good stuff in there.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Pupil Blogs/Student Blogs

A quick follow up to the A numpty's guide to classroom blogging post and then some student blogs...

originally uploaded by chomp.
Firstly, I came across a good summary of blogging classroom practice. I though might be of interest to any students still thinking of setting up a classroom blog. Excellent Classroom practices from Mr. Fisher from Vicki Davis pulls together posts from a number of places that explore some of the hows and whys of classroom blogging.

Secondly, some PGDE(S) student blogs. We had a wee flurry of blogs set up in various bursts of enthusiasm. Only a select few are still blogging, but I thought I'd post them all here even if there hasn't been anything posted in a while. If you think any look interesting, send the student a comment and see if you can inspire them into posting some more. Here they are in no particular order...
Have I missed anyone?

Some of them looked very promising but most have tailed off - being a student teacher gets a bit exhausting at times! I hope a reasonable number keep them going through probation and beyond (to borrow a phrase).

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lithuania calling!

Visitors Map
Visitors Map,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
I recently discovered that a blog in Lithuania has a post which links to my Guide to del.icio.us. I hope he is saying nice things about it, but the Babel Fish Translator doesn't seem to have many Eastern European languages yet, so I can't be sure!

To be honest, before finding Gytis' post, I would have been hard pressed to point to Lithuania on a map. Ah, the wonders of modern technology.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A numpty's guide to classroom blogging

An anonymous student left a comment on my More classroom blogs post asking how to set up classroom blogs. I decided that this was too big a topic to deal with in a reply. Sorry to Anonymous for taking so long to respond.

The comment was:
I am really interested in using a blog to help pupils benefit from peer assessment for critical written work in art during my next placement. Can you tell me what site would be the best to set up a blog with? and also im worried about any problems that might arise of asking pupils to go onto the internet at home as homework etc - how do i pitch it to the school and teachers? thanks.
My new I'm blogging this T-shirt
My new I'm blogging this T-shirt,
originally uploaded by inf.
Firstly then, "Can you tell me what site would be the best to set up a blog with?" Hmm! How long's a bit of string? (Twice the distance from the middle to one end as any fool know... but that's a different story.) In part the answer will depend on what you want to do with the blog. Are you writing the blog and inviting pupils to make comments? Do you want the pupils to set up their own individual blogs? Do you want a classroom blog with multiple pupil authors? Different blogging tools have different strengths and the use you envisage will help determine the choice. Also, you say it is for art classes, so do you want to be able to show images in the blog? Some tools make it easier than others to include images.

I use Blogger. This may not be the best choice for schools (see the MFLE's advice on Creating a weblog) but many schools make effective and appropriate use of it. I have found Blogger easy to use with a range of helpful features.

A brief summary of some blogging tools can be found at LTScotland's ICT in Education - Blogging pages, however, I would add Class Blogmeister, Elgg and Learnerblogs to their list of free blogging tools. These three tools are interesting since, unlike Blogger, they are intended for use in an education environment (although Elgg isn't specifically aimed at schools). My advice would be to create an account and then make a couple of posts in each to try them out. You should then get a feel for which will work best for the way you want to use it. For example, are the image sharing features of Elgg useful in an Art blog?

Secondly you ask, "im worried about any problems that might arise of asking pupils to go onto the internet at home as homework etc - how do i pitch it to the school and teachers?". Schools and Authorities are concerned about Internet safety, and rightly so. You should therefore take time to consider these issues so that you can help reassure the school that appropriate steps can be taken to minimise risks. As a first step, you should try to find the school's policy on Internet use. If you can show that what you are doing is covered by existing policy, it should be easier to get approval. Also, read the advice on the MFLE's Responsibility in blogging pages. You should also read Mike Hetherington's excellent advice on How to set up a student centred classroom blog. His guide covers Learnerblogs but also deals with some general issues such as the pre-moderation of pupil comments.

Finally, I suspect the thing that worries schools the most about blogs is comments. In my opinion, the possibility of getting comments from anyone and everyone is one of the things that makes blogs such a powerful educational tool. I would therefore fight tooth and nail to make sure that comments are allowed on any blog you create. I have no strong feelings about moderated verses unmoderated comments, but I suspect that, if a school is nervous, pre-moderated posts and comments will be an easier "pitch"!

That's my tuppence worth. I admit to having limited experience of any blogging tool other than Blogger, so it's over to the readers of this blog - all comments and suggestions for Anonymous will be gratefully received. Share your experience of other tools here. Also, a good way to convince schools of the value of blogging is to show them good examples of classroom blogs, so any comments pointing us to good school Art blogs would be very much appreciated.

And a reply from Anonymous revealing his or her secret identity would be good too!

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