Thursday, August 28, 2008

So what do you think?

I have been meaning to redesign the blog for well over a year now but I worried that I might break something. However, I finally decided just to go for it! I hope you agree that the blog now has a cleaner, less cluttered look. This my be a daft question (along the lines of, "Put your hand up if you can't hear me.") but have I broken anything? Specifically, is the subscription in your feed reader still working? (See, told you it was a daft question. If the feed is broken, how did you get here to read this?)

Original EdCompBlog

One effect of the change is that it makes it easier for me to add gadgets and widgets in the sidebar. I have taken advantage of this new found power to show some of my Flickr photostream and a snapshot of the music I've been listening to but the ability to add polls is potentially more educationally valuable. My first poll asks an not entirely unpredictable question - what you think of the new design so far? :-)

So what do you think?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I decided I'd been intimidated long enough by my newsreader package. :-)

Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
I am well behind with my blog reading and the number of unread messages reported by my aggregator was frighteningly high. I decided to take action and delete some subscriptions (which I think I'll probably not miss) and mark everything else as read so I can start afresh.

However, before updating, I sampled a few posts at random just to see what was there before I sent it to the electronic dustbin. One that caught my eye was a link to a page of quotes from Banksy. (Unfortunately, I can't remember where I saw it... but thank you, whoever you were!) We had spotted a couple of Banksy's while on holiday so I was interested anyway, but the quotes are fun and challenging. I suspect many would be useful discussion starters in school.

My favourite is the one that gives the title to this post:
A lot of people never use their initiative because nobody told them to.
What's your favourite Banksy quote?

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Virtual Book Club

I haven't fully thought this out but I think it is good enough to share for comment.

Five Shelves
Originally uploaded by splorp
Ewan McIntosh sent an email around a few people saying that he was thinking about "...a TeachMeet bookclub, just to share links about books as much as reading them." It is probably best to let Ewan say what he meant himself when he is ready, but he seems to be thinking of a shared reading list (like his book links). However, I thought, why not run it like a virtual book club. Someone posts a book they think we should read and then at an agreed date, once people have a chance to have read it, we all head to the original poster's blog (or wiki or whatever) and discuss the book. I've never been in a book club (virtual or otherwise) but it might be interesting.

I did some research at the BBCs Bookclub. It suggests we need about eight people and that we should allow about a month to let people read the book before meeting to discuss it. So my idea is that I choose a book, announce it here and people leave a comment agreeing to read it. In about a months time, I'll post a discussion starter here and we can ... er... discuss! Then, we choose someone else (by an as yet undecided method) and they will post the next book choice on their blog and we move the club to their blog. The only other suggestion is that the Edublogs Book Club should read suitably edublog-ish books. (I hope I haven't just stolen Ewan's idea.)

So what do you think? Anyone up for it?

As the first book to be read by the Edublogs Book Club, can I suggest Homo Zappiens: Growing Up in a Digital Age by Wim Veen and Ben Vrakking? I bought it just before the summer holidays but haven't got around to reading it yet. The blurb says, "Homo Zappiens examines how children growing up in a world of technology and change show more reluctance to fit within the education system than any generation before them. Furthermore, they frequently have a better grasp of technology than those who educate them..." I thought it sounded interesting.

So, anyone want to join me in the Edublogs Book Club?

**Update**: In a comment, Ewan has suggested that, since Charles Leadbeater is coming to the Scottish Learning Fesival this year, perhaps we should start with We Think: The Power of Mass Creativity. I don't have a problem with that. If the next person to joins agrees, or Jonsieboy gets back to say he's happy too, we could switch to Charles' book and discuss it just before SLF. Oh... and thank you to Chris and Ruby who responded too.

P.S. Whether or not you can take part, it would be great if you could spread the word about the idea through your own networks to see if we can attract in another couple of readers.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Teacher Magazine: Texas Government: I'm OK With Gun-Toting Teachers

Teacher Magazine: Texas Government: I'm OK With Gun-Toting Teachers

I saw this headline and thought it was new method of classroom management:
I know what you're thinking. "Is this my second detention or my third?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?
What it actually seems to be about is arming teachers so that they can "...deter and protect against school shootings." Either way, I'm glad I teach in Scotland.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Fun with GPS

I've talked about GPS in this blog before but usually in the context of geotagging pictures (e.g. Maps and mobiles). I am aware of its educational potential (see for example Ollie Bray and Noel Jenkins) but have never tried it with a class myself. I also know about leisure uses such as geocaching - mostly through my friend Gordon McKinlay and his Flickr account. I'd even heard of GPS Art projects. However I was unaware that GPS technology was beginning to find its way into games.

What prompted this post was an article I saw in a free paper (London Lite) about a game called Fruit Farmer from Locomatrix. Fruit Farmer is a bit like a cross between Pac-Man and orienteering! Essentially, your handheld device displays a virtual map with fruit to collect and "killer wasps" to avoid. You then run about in the "real world" using GPS to track your position. Get to the right place and collect a fruit. I suppose it is a logical extension to the Wii - using more than just your thumbs to control a game. You can play as an individual or with a group of people and can even design and upload your own levels. This has got to have potential uses in schools. The only problem might be the health and safety implications of running about outside while staring at a small screen. There are other games on the Locomatrix site and their tag line is:
Jumpers-for-goalposts for the Wii generation. Bringing gaming back outside.
Hopefully I'll have a go at their games soon. I'll let you know how I get on. :-)

Another GPS game site that looks interesting is Mscape. Their tagline is"
Get out and explore. Discover the unexpected – games, guides, stories triggered by your GPS location.
They have straightforward games such as Stamp the Mole, which are not tied to a particular location but there are "anchored" activities too (e.g. the London mscape challenge). According to the site, "Mediascapes are rich in interactivity — full of sound and music, images and text, videos and animation, narrative and dialog, all embedded in the space where you’re standing." As well as downloading the examples that are already there on the website, you can create your own mediascapes and upload them for others to use. Good fun and huge educational potential I think.

Finally, a few other games I came across while reading around this area (although I've spent even less time looking at these than I did with the two already mentioned).
What do you think? Interesting development or yet another nail in the coffin of "real" play? I'd be interested in hearing what Derek Robertson makes of these games and I'd be interested in hearing from anybody who has actually played one.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Assessment 2.0

Big plane
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
A comment from Joe on the previous post got me thinking about Assessment 2.0. I looked it up on Google, and the number one hit (at least on UK Google) is from the SQA! It was posted in March 2007 no less. So despite me saying they wouldn't go for Accreditation for Prior Learning they may be further along than I gave them credit for.

My only comment (so far) about the SQA page is that podcasing is conspicuous by its absence. I have spoken briefly about our SSciPod project before but in that post I concentrated on what our students did in school. What I haven't talked about yet is the second part of the project where we replaced an assessed presentation with a podcast from the students. I will write it up soon (maybe) but the edited highlight is that we found podcasts to be a very useful assessment tool.

More on SSciPod assessment soon I hope.

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