Thursday, August 23, 2007

Digital World

originally uploaded by Swansea Photographer
We had a follow up meeting today for the Schools Computing Workshop we held at Jordanhill in May 2007. Not surprisingly, we turned once again to teasing out the difference between ICT and Computing. We have a concern that although Computing is mentioned in A Curriculum for Excellence, it is placed in the Technologies curriculum area and seems to be subsumed in "information technologies". (Note: IT not ICT!) A distinction between ICT and Computing clearly wasn't on the minds of the people drawing up the Curriculum for Excellence documents. At the Computing Workshop we felt that Computing should feature in the Science curricular area.

The Science area currently groups outcomes under three headings:
  • Our living world: including
    • the diversity of living things, the uniqueness of being human and the importance of cells
  • Our material world: including
    • uses and properties of materials, sustainability, the chemistry of life processes and the applications of chemistry in society
  • Our physical world: including
    • harnessing and using energy sources, motion and travel on land, sea, air and space
    • the development of communication systems.

Following the May meeting, we put forward a suggestion that there should be a fourth heading - Our digital world. I think this is a great idea and we are continuing to develop what we mean by this and to offer justifications for its inclusion. Although, I fear that the Curriculum for Excellence train has left the station and that it may already be too late to make changes like this, I think the discussion and debate about the addition of a fourth heading is still worthwhile.

One of the other aspects we discussed at this follow up meeting reflected Chris Stephenson's comment that Computing teachers were not just shooting themselves in the foot, but in the head. Somehow we seem to have taken a subject that should be fascinating, challenging and exciting and turned it into something that bores teenagers. Unbelievable! However, one of the people attending the meeting said that part of the problem was that most of the things that would fascinate and engage are banned in schools: mobile phones - banned; digital cameras and photo sharing websites - banned; instant messaging - banned; wikis and podcasts and blogs (oh my!) - banned; social websites (bebo, myspace, facebook etc.) - banned. The list goes on. He remarked:
Digital World? - It's more like Forbidden Planet!
Brilliant! As far as I'm concerned that was the quote of the day. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Email beats telephone

I heard on the radio tonight that email has taken over from the telephone as the main form of business communication in the UK. Interesting? I think so and wanted to hear more but I can't find out any more information. Does anyone know the source of a report that can confirm this?

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Heppell the Hero

Many hands make light work
Many hands make light work,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
In my post Heppell talks to a Sick Dog I mentioned how much I look forward to listening to Stephen Heppell. I believe the phrase "hero worship" was used. I tell people as often as I get an excuse that I have a t-shirt with Stephen Heppell's face on it. While this statement is true, it is slightly disingenuous. The t-shirt in question has a number of small, icon sized, faces on it including one of me and one of Stephen. I am wearing the t-shirt in the picture that accompanies this post. If you follow the link and look at a larger version, you might just be able to identify us. :-)

However, this post isn't simply to show off my sartorial elegance. It is also to pick up on a comment from the Heppell talks to a Sick Dog post. It is always good to get comments on a post (as re-assurance that someone else is reading it apart from anything else). However, it is especially good when someone you are writing about takes the time to reply, as happened in this case where Stephen left a comment. (And I'm ashamed that it has taken this long for me to make my response to his comments.) His observations on schools in the USA are interesting - especially in the light of the Schools Computing Workshop we held at Jordanhill in May 2007. (We are currently putting the finishing touches to the written report of that meeting so I hope to blog about this workshop again fairly soon.) Perhaps we Scots are, at times, unreasonably proud of our Education System so it is good to have people outwith Scotland agree that we have at least got some things right and that Scottish educators are "very well placed to make a significant contribution" to "radical schools and approaches". Stephen promises to say more about this at SETT (aka the Scottish Learning Festival). I am looking forward to hearing more! I wonder if Stephen would be interested in coming along to the TeachMeet? If he wants to meet and learn with a group of forward looking and innovative teachers, TeachMeet is the place to be!

Finally, a bit more on the t-shirt. Stephen concludes his comment with a reference to the t-shirt which he describes as "VERY collectable". Since this is still one of my favourite t-shirts, I fear mine is approaching the end of its useful life. It is already a bit faded and there is a small hole in the armpit. If I want to save it from being turned into dusters, I guess I should stop wearing it now and get it framed instead. "VERY collectable"? Hmm! I wonder how much I'd get for it on eBay? Any offers? :-)

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

YouTube (Again) and Facebook

At the entrance
At the entrance,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
Now, I may be doing YouTube a disservice, it is possible that they have improved since I last wrote about their failure to respond to teachers who brought evidence of bullying videos to their attention. However I read with interest the fuss about advertisers withdrawing their support from Facebook over some of the content on that service. This BBC report also says something about advertisers and YouTube. I wonder if YouTube responds more quickly to advertisers than to teachers?

To end on a more positive note, I think it is interesting that the Scottish Learning Festival is on Facebook. (I still like SETT better than SLF - at least you can pronounce SETT... and the web address still ends in sett!) The SLF Facebook venture seems to be just one of the social networking tools they will be using to support and promote the event. It should be interesting.

I've already signed up to Facebook and told it I'm attending. It is already fascinating (for my standard geek definition of fascinating) to see who else is coming (I recognise a lot of Scots Edubloggers in there), to see the international interest it is already generating and to see the network of "friends" grow as more people come on board.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Editing Wikipedia

I've been neglecting my blog and decided it was time to get back in the saddle. The reasons or the neglect are a combination of being in holiday mode (see the pictures for more details - these are my favourites: Norton St Philip, The Circus and Jumping @ Laycock) and a DIY project that's taking longer than expected (see yet more pictures).

Ewan Blogging
Ewan Blogging,
originally uploaded by Andreas Johannsen.
I've started thinking about work, ploughing through emails and trying to catch up on the blogs I read. However, I'm still not fully up to speed, which is why I can't remember where I read about a report on low participation on social networking sites. Apparently, there are loads of visits to read/write web sites but, by comparison, very few contributions or edits. If I remember correctly, Wikipedia came out with one of the best participation rates but only about 5% of the visits were to add or edit information. (Can anyone help me out and tell me where I read this?)

I realised that although I have created and used wikis, and I have visited Wikipedia on many occasions, I had never edited a Wikipedia entry. About the same time, I discovered that a second cousin of mine, has an entry on Wikipedia. (He is an actor with the dubious distinction of appearing in Footballers Wives: Extra Time - which is why he appears in the Wikipedia.) While I was pleased to see a close(ish) relative on Wikipedea, I was disappointed to see his page was set for deletion because it lacked any corroborating external links.

So, I signed up, spent some time trying to understand the style conventions and then updated his page. I'm quite pleased with myself. You can see the old version of the page as I first found it and my updated version too. Hopefully that will be enough to save his page. :-)

Last year, I tried to get my students to contribute to a class wiki but this year, I think I'll try to get them editing Wikipedia as well. What do you think? Is this a good idea? What articles should I get them to look at with a view to improving them?

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