Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fun On Tuesday

For my Fun On Friday Advent posts, I was looking for a decent Christmas themed game but didn't manage to find one... until today.

I wish I'd found the Noddy Holder's Snowball Challenge last week. Still, better late than never?

And as if one game wasn't enough, Planet Rock offer us a chance to throw snowballs at Rick Wakeman.

Typical... you wait all season for a game and then two come along at once!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Fun on Friday #53: NORAD Tracks Santa

For the last Friday in Advent, I refer you to the American military. In particular, The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) who are performing a public service by tracking Santa as he travels the world delivering toys.

As well as tracking Santa, they also give an insight into what's happening in Santa's village as Christmas approaches.

As an added bonus, (I've mentioned it already this year): have a go at my Christmas Calculations page.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fun on Friday #52: Practical Christmas task

Christmas is always a bit hectic. Concerts, performances, activities, shopping, eating, carol services, ... Too busy to find the time to try this craft, which is a pity because the end result looks stunning:

How to Make a 3D Paper Snowflake

If you have more time than me, I'd love to see what you produce.

Facebook Privacy Settings

Saw a great post today on the new Facebook Privacy settings policy: Facebook privacy settings: What you need to know. It makes interesting reading (and watching as there is an embedded video).

Te blog's author, Graham Cluley, gives excellent advice on the settings you should use on facebook. In fact, he gives good general advice, for example, he admits to lying about his date of birth on facebook. This is a tactic I've adopted for some time on a variety of sites that insist I give them my date of birth. Often I can see that they need to know I am over a certain age but I don't see why most of them need to know my date of birth. Surely a check box to assert that I am the appropriate age (is it fourteen for facebook?) is effectively fulfilling the same function?

I was pleased to see that I had already set my privacy settings to the levels he suggested. Also, just to reassure myself, I had a look to see what I had filled in on my profile and again was pleased to see I had omitted most of the more sensitive information anyway. Having said that, I am aware that I have been using the Internet a long time and I am sure there is information out there that I have revealed in the past that I probably wouldn't reveal now.

For a slightly different take on the same issue, can I recommend The Joy of Tech.

What do you think? Storm in a privacy teacup? Is it a case of, if you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to fear?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mobile phones and teenagers

I saw a link to an American study on teenagers' use of phones. The headline was Teens Use Phones to Cheat which is a shame since the study seems to say a lot more than this simplistic summary would suggest. It looks like the poll is based on the responses of American teenagers but I wonder if UK teens would be any different?

A longer report on the poll is given at the Common Sense Media site. On the cheating issue, it notes that 35% of students interviewed admitted to using mobile phones to cheat and over half cheat using the Internet. I must admit that I haven't read the more extended report which the site also provides but I wonder what the statistics were for cheating pre mobile phones? Students have always tried to beat the system but has mobile phone and Internet use led to an increase in cheating?

The other aspect of the report summary that struck me comes from the Benson Strategy Group site:
"The findings also reveal a split in perception between teens and parents: Only 23% of parents whose children have cellphones think they are using them at school; 65% of students say they do."
I suspect my parents don't know the half of what I got up to at school and I'm sure that I am equally in the dark about my own children's activities at school. New technology but an old problem?

I may come back to this once I've had a look at the full report but in the meantime, what do you think?

Monday, December 07, 2009

iPhone Apps

I wrote about the potential of of the iPhone in education in The iPhone and the Scientist but at the time, I didn't have an one myself. I now have an iPhone (I tried to type that without being smug... I failed) so I thought it was time I returned to the subject of iPhone apps.

FaceGoo Lite
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
I'm not promising that all the apps I mention here will be educational but I wanted to mention a few that I have downloaded and that have, so far, stuck on my iPhone. I've only paid for one app - so much is available for free, I've not felt the need to splash the cash!

When I first got my iPhone, I asked my Twitter network, what Twitter app I should get. Various apps were suggested and I tried a few of them but the one that stuck was TweetDeck. It's TweetDeck I use on my desktop, so it seemed to make sense to use it on my iPhone too. It syncs with the desktop version, its columns work like the desktop version and works well in the limited screen real estate provided by the iPhone.

Next I asked for advice on essential apps. Mr W was one of the quickest off the mark and recommended Ragdoll Blaster (a free, Lite, version is available), Spotify (a brilliant desktop application which works as expected on the iPhone), Civilization Revolution Lite (a game I've not played but I cannot get daughter number three to stop playing!) and Ukulele (which I can't find... I always meant to ask him what he meant).

Ian was next, and he recommended seven apps but I'm ashamed to say that the only one I have tried so far is AudioBoo - but it is excellent. I've used it to post to EduTalk already and hope to use it a lot more in the near future.

A few others that I use regularly are:
  • Evernote - This looks really promising as a way of collecting a range of stuff together, save, organise, share between different machines, ... brilliant.
  • Pic2shop - Point the camera at a barcode (of say a book or a CD) and this app will identify the product and find it on the web for you. Brilliant!
  • MetrO - This is amazing. A free app with a guide to the public transport systems in over 400 cities. I used a version of this on my previous phone and it guided us safely all round Paris.
There are a few more I wanted to mention but I've run out of time just now. I'll try to do a post on photography apps soon but before going, I must mention FaceGoo Lite which is responsible for the masterpiece above. Great fun.

Finally, a site that I've found to be a great source of apps to try is Free App Alert. It does what it says on the tin and gives a new list of free apps to try every day.

Do you have any apps you want to recommend?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Fun on Friday #51: It's time to put up the decorations

Time to decorate your desktop with some Christmas lights:
I'm sure I used to have a link to a completely free Windows lights application but can't find it this year... If you know where find one, let me know.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The BEds Get Animated

This is the last post, for now, on the work of the BEd Computers, Creativity and Education class. The final session was on stop-motion animation. (For the other posts, see The BEd Students Tell A Story and The BEds are back... and this time they're podcasting.)

As with many of the other sessions, we started with a brief presentation on the value of pupils creating animations and its potential educational value. There was then a quick demonstration of the animation software - we used the wonderfully simple, yet very powerful, I Can Animate. The students then formed into two groups and started work.

In the space of about 80 minutes, they had to film their animation and then import it into iMovie. In iMovie they added sound effects, music and titles. Given the time constraints they were working under, I think both groups produced fun animations that tell a story. Hopefully they will have seen that, although it is time consuming, the ICT skills required to create an animation are not hugely complex.

If you have any suggestions or examples on how animation can be used effectively, please leave a comment. I am sure the students would be glad to hear from you.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fun on Friday #51: It's Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas...

As I explained on my music blog, I realised that there are now only four Fridays to Christmas. By my reckoning, that makes this the first Fun on Friday in advent. :-)

I will do my best to post something Christmas related or the next four Fridays. However, it has got off to a bad start as the more astute among you will have realised that it is now Saturday!

To start us off, here is a perennial favourite that I've mentioned before: Elf Yourself is back... and back with new songs and backgrounds.
Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Does the re-appearance of Elf Yourself mark the start of the Christmas season? If you Elf Yourself, remember to share the results here.

I hope you enjoy the next few Fun on Fridays!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The BEds are back... and this time they're podcasting

One of the courses I really enjoy teaching is the Computers, Creativity and Education class. We look at a wide range of creative computer use, for example, the other day they aimed to tell a story in five frames and I posted a request for you to have a look at their pictures (The BEd Students Tell A Story).

Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
In yesterday's class, they had a go at podcasting. I wrote about the approach we took last year (Another podcast... and an explanation) and we followed pretty much the same pattern this time. The students formed themselves into three groups, planned a podcast on a topic studied during the module and then recorded it in Garageband. The three podcasts are available below:
It is worth pointing out that all three groups were working in the same room using the Macintosh's built in microphone so there is a lot of noise leakage. It is also clear that in a couple of the podcasts, the students were on the edge of dissolving into laughter. (There were probably more outakes, where one or all of the students burst out laughing, than there is material in the podcast itself!) In this case, however, the the process is the important part. We wanted them to see that, with the right software, it is not technically difficult to produce a podcast.

Do you have any advice you want to offer the students? Are there any school/education podcasts you think they ought to listen to?

Monday, November 23, 2009

The BEd Students Tell A Story

Last week the BEd students were telling stories in five frames. If you are signed up for Flickr and the appropriate Flickr group, you should be able to see there work here:
If you can't see the group, the photos are public so you can see them in the students' photostreams:
Please drop by and leave them a comment.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fun On Friday #50: New Moon Trailer... sort of!

If you have teenage daughters, you cannot have failed to notice that the second film in the Twilight series was released this week. New Moon will have girls squeaking with delight in cinemas up and down the country. It seemed appropriate therefore to post this trailer which also involves squeaking:

In my opinion (for what it's worth) this trailer beats the film hands down.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Torbay RTC: Personalised Pocket Learning

Live blog from #torbayrtc

Personalised Pocket Learning - making a distinction between handheld learning and netbook type devices. Studywiz uses a variety of interfaces to deliver their stuff. Can have Studywiz Mobile - browser based designed to work on mobile devices (e.g. iPhone) and also a portfolio iPhone App eLocker. Two way interactive products. eLocker and Mobile can be used as voting devices, camera, dictionaries, spirit levels... Teachers even saying they save on photocopying costs and can deliver content that might otherwise have gone on Interactive Whiteboards.

There is not a substantial body of research on mobile learning - partly because there is no stable mobile environment. Current mobile devices are convergent devices pulling in a range of functions and tools into one, pocket sized device.

Advantages include ubiquitous access - learning beyond the classroom. Includes home/school links and international links. See Travis Elis's (Ellen? - not sure of name) Travis Allen's YouTube video about the iSchool Initiative - he wants to see every school student with their own iTouch. {Update: Sorry about messing up Travis' name but I'm pleased he left me a comment that allowed me to fix it and add some other links. Clearly Louise's Australian accent threw me - "Allen" via Australian became "Ellen" :-) }

Children want to personalise their learning. Pupils want a space they can personalise and meet with other learners. Pocket Learning devices can increase motivation (speaker says the engagement lasts - not just novelty factor) and makes learning fun. Pupils are engaged but important to engage the wider community - parents and teachers need to know how the pupils will be using the devices educationally. It is not about goofing off in class to listen to music. Develop an Acceptable Use Policy and explain what you intend to do to pupils, parents, teachers, management...

Louise Duncan (the speaker) thinks that many paper handouts are lost or wasted but this doesn't happen to material delived to pocket devices.

Suggests that you implement in stages - don't try and do everything at once. Start small and build on successes. Asked how long it takes from discovering a piece of software to getting it installed and usable on school machines. It can take a long time! With pocket devices, such as iTouch, it is easy to get new apps onto all the devices - sync with teacher machine to share to all pupil devices. (As an aside, she said that searching YouTube with an application name often brings up video of applications in use - gives good idea of what they are like.)

Showed a slide with some iPhone/iTouch applications. Leaf trombone, classic books, story kit, Civilisation Revolution (history simulation), Wurdle, Geared (used in science classrooms). Strip Designer used to create activities based on screenshots and maps to create geography activities - three images side-by-side map/street view/pupil folder of same location. Google earth and virtual field trips, etc. Another simulation game for iPhone/iTouch is Virtual Villagers. Numeracy: iChoose random choice tool - great for probability. Timers, spreadsheets etc. Can also give gallery of images, e.g. coins, or images to represent fractions. Engaging students in science: TouchPhysics. Brushes: goes beyond the doodle - share and comment on other children's work. Also, can show animation with Brushes Viewer that plays back creation of picture. Literacy activities include podcasting, film as text, collaboration. Storynory allows ownload of audiobooks with online transcripts - words can be clicked on and defined. Etch-a-sketch lite.

Lyrics: tune wiki can bring up album art and lyrics as it is being played. Turn presentations to movies to the pupil's pocket devices. RSS feeds can pull relevant content directly n to pupil's devices. Can use flip style video recorders, bring into iMovie and then share out to pupil iPhones/iTouches. Sound recording directly onto device. Worth looking at iTunes U at least once a week {Must find chap from Cupertino who Tweets about good stuff happening on iTunes U - DDM}

The age we are does not determine how we use technology but it is our role as teachers to ensure relevant learning takes place and that pupils don't use devices simply to have fun. Worth integrating the devices with school admin system to deliver daily bulletins etc. Give teachers the devices six months before the pupils! Teachers at Louise's school found that pupils very quickly integrated into their lives and used much more effectively than textbooks/notebooks. Notebook and pocket devices have a three year lifespan so sustainability is an important consideration. Need configuration tools to make it easy to set up devices and add certificates to allow school internet access and filtering. More generally, a strategy to sync devices is important (e.g. ParaSync for iPods). Even basic issues like how will pupils charge their devices.

Louise has a blog that details loads of information and you can find her on Twitter at LouiseEDuncan.

Torbay RTC: RTC Project in Ukraine

Live blog from #torbayrtc

The presenter is describing how they introduced Apple into the Ukraine. Said that they were showing Mac OS to people who had never seen it before, "Imagine!", he said. :-)

Torbay RTC: Who wants to be Golden-nuggetaire

Live blog from #torbayrtc

The Bad Boys are up showing us a series of ideas for using technology using Who Wants to Be A Millionaire as an excuse.

First up was how to trace an image in Flash - brilliantly simple and produces really interesting images. Put a series of theses images in iPhoto and use the shatter transition in the slideshow - it looks brilliant.

Next up is Polyphontics to sample sounds for Garageband - create your own instruments.

Touch screen controller: Touch OSD + Osculator is an app for iPhone/iTouch

Karajan Ear Trainer - learn some music theory - learn about chords etc.

Screen capture software: ScreenFlow is a brilliant screencasting application and quality of video is excellent.

Quality QuickTime VR Panoramas: panoramas.dk Some great, free panoramas, e.g. moon landing.

Flash Games: Learning Arcade e.g. Attack of the Killer Bugs

Sharing something from a USB pen drive - just plug it into an airport and it appears on everyone's Finder.

Sound Flower: Routing audio from one app to another.

Print bits of a website: Print what you like. Easy and online.

Turn PDFs into Keynote presentations: PDF to Keynote (There is also a plug in version.) Take iPhone books and convert to Keynote.

Press Sleep and Home to take a screenshot of an iPhone

Add a logo to a movie - use cutaways. Can watermark your school logo onto a movie.

Free mouse highlighter app: Omnidazzle variety of highlighter tools - zoom, spotlight, ... brilliant.

Storyboard app for iPhone/iTouch: iStoryboards (Lite version is free) Drop photos, add dialog and action, set scene length and then can export.

Torbay RTC: Creative Song Writing

Live blog from #torbayrtc

Peter Baxter is showing us how to create songs with people who have no experience of creating music using Garageband and cheap chimes. He got eight people and asked them to choose a number between one and eight but not to tell anyone else. They counted out and the volunteers had to clap when they heard their number. Then given a chime and instead of clapping, they hit a chime. They then noted which chimes were played on which beat. Next they fired up Garageband and recorded a note played eight times. The recorded soundswere then moved to the position in the rhythm and notes from the chime. The notes are then quantised in case the recording wasn't on the beat.

Having created a random "tune" you can then change the instrument in Garageband. Loop it, add a drum track, share to iTunes and Flo's your auntie! Just because they could, they then sent it to someones phone as a ringtone.

Described it as foolproof and very simple!

Torbay RTC: Radio in Schools

Live blog from #torbayrtc

Radio in Schools is a commercial service that aggregates school podcasts and provides a range of tools and support to help schools create and distribute podcast. Links with Global Radio network and so schools can access their resources, it is linked to from their iTunes page and is listened to by Global DJs and staff. Includes online podcast creation tool. Also, loads of curricular material and information of how radio activities link to literacy curriculum.

Speaker has just shared that in commercial radio, news reports have to be delivered in three sentences. I can see that this allows pupils to develop useful summarising but I'm surprised at how brief it has to be in the real world. Three sentences to describe the war in Afghanistan!

Now talking about copyright issues. Global radio provided a lot of material for schools to use but they are working on a way to allow schools to share music etc. and assert the material can be shared. {Creative Commons would seem an obvious way to go but I wonder what their industry partners make of that? - DDM}

Staff, pupils and parents are all using the service.

Torbay RTC: New World Literacy

Live blog from #torbayrtc

Michael Munn is asking "Why are we here?" Can ICT make a difference? Michael believes that ICT can make a difference - can improve education for learners and teachers. Covering similar ground to Torbay RTC: iTunes U but emphasising the importance of content creation. If it is true that learners are moving from information consumers to information producers (on facebook, Blogger, YouTube, etc.) then content creation tools are important literacy tools.

Does adopting technology mean you have to drop something else? Or does using ICT tools enhance and develop rather than replace "traditional" elements (such as literacy and numeracy).

Talking again about iTunes U. Apparently the Open University has had over ten million downloads since they started putting stiff on iTunes. This is a sea change - universities (and others) are giving away their content instead of locking it away until someone signs up for a course. {Interesting - means that school pupils can access university level subject resources. I wonder how many do and what the implications are for school subject teaching? - DDM Also, during the presentation, somebody tweeted a link to The Argument for Free Classes via iTunes.}

Michael is arguing that there is a drive to producing interactive content. Apparently Arnold Schwarzenegger says he is not spending any more money on books for the State's schools. This implies the need for everyone to have a portable device - for example a mobile phone (see The iPhone and the Scientist and Mobile phones - A Weapon of Mass Instruction). Surveys suggest 95% of high school children have a mobile phone but most schools still ban them.

Now talking about learning communities: the ease and efficiency of creating and sharing digital content. "In times of change, learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists." Eric Hoffer.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Torbay RTC: Free Software for Macs

Live blog from #torbayrtc

Simon Elliot from West Cornwall RTC started by saying that Penzance is not in the middle of nowhere, it's at the end of nowhere! :-)

First bit of software displayed is iWeb. He thinks that this is a much neglected piece of software and is dismissed by some because it is "not a proper web design tool". (Twets during this presentation included "iWeb = iWin" and "iWeb is the unsung hero of the iLife suite".) However, it has many advantages - not least the very low technical knowledge required to use it. Also thinks MobileMe is a very cost effective way of storing and sharing content. Can be used for backup too. Could just about be used as a distributed VLE. Parts of the iWeb site can be locked down. Makes it easy to allow parents secure active to children's work. It has a drag and drop interface that makes it easy to put a site together.

Other useful free software
Simon wanted to help schools justify buying Macs and so decided to put together a web page with a list of free software so that schools could get off and running at no extra cost after buying a Mac. He said, "It got a bit out of hand!" - I for one am glad it did. The Freemac.com site is brilliant! Stunningly brilliant even.

Torbay RTC: Filemaker - A Whole School Approach

Live blog from #torbayrtc

We live in a data rich environment but this raises some challenges:
  • Management
  • Accessibility
  • Consistency
  • Connectivity
The word database has some negative connotations but many of the exciting things happening now are database driven. iTunes is a database. iPhoto is a database. The web is a database!

FileMaker is a content manager. It takes the ease of use idea and tries to make content manager flexible, versatile, and visual. Manage, teach and learn - Filemaker can help with all three.

Bento is meant to be Filemaker for home use. Can be used by very young children and has a very cheap site licence. The presenter described Bento as: "Filemaker with no learning curve".

Bento lets you take different types of content and bring them together into the one place. Can be used to link content from iPhoto, iCal, iMovie…

Where does Filemaker sit in schools? Pupil use, such as a castles database and staff use such as showing database of photographs of children's work through the year. It makes it easy to collect and share information.

Presenter shared a tip on how to see what's important on a screen - squint at it. The important information should be the bit that still stands out.

Filemaker syncs with the iPhone and there are Bento and Filemaker apps for the iPhone.

Torbay RTC: How we use Macs at Isca College

Live blog from #torbayrtc

One of the interesting things they did was hire a cherry picker to film children from above (Talk, Talk style video).

[Sorry missed most of this because Internet came back!]

Torbay RTC: iTunes U

Live blog from #torbayrtc

John Hickey talked about iTunes U and how it came from Dukes University who provided their students with iPods but wanted to give them a way to use them educationally. Originally started just by recording their classes but this meant students had to keep going back to the site many times a week - so much information that it becomes too hard to deal with.
  • Basic Literacy
  • Information Literacy (How do people cope with the sheer amount of information?)
  • Media Literacy (From consumer to participant)
New students expect learning environments that support and accommodate the way they interact online outside of school.

Duke University came to Apple and talked them into making minor adaptations to iTunes that ultimately allowed the creation of iTunes U. This is not something Apple planned but they believe that iTunes U is now the largest repository of online educational content. Not Apple content - comes from and is controlled by the institutions themselves. Cambridge University, Teachers TV, LTScotland, Open University, and many others are on iTunes U. It has over 5,000 public courses from (currently) 77 countries.

For use in schools, it s possible to turn off the commercial side of iTunes and just leave iTunes U.

What are the tools for 21st Century learners?

Torbay RTC: Introduction to Theatre Control Software

Live blog from #torbayrtc

Introduction to Theatre Control Software from Mark Hartley - JAM Theatre Company. They are a professional theatre company who aim to bring people into the theatre. Their workshops look at theatre, music, animation, … creative arts generally.

They showed some video clips to demonstrate the range of techniques and skills, including stop motion animation, musicals, pop videos, … The iLife software meant tey didn't ha to worry about the technology.

Looking at Arkaos (not supported any more?), Catalyst (a bit too high end?), Keynote (great way of doing live animation and text effects during a production), BoinxTV (looks amazing but add supported). For sound, they are investigating QLab - a free sound control program. Design the sound effects, timings, order, fade cues, etc. and then trigger through the software. The software allows you to control what speaker sound comes out of. The latest version of the software allows the triggering of video cues as well as switch between live camera feed and other outputs.

DMX is the new way of controlling lighting and fairly cheap USB to DMX devices will allow you to control lighting from Macintosh. See for example miniStage Console (another free package).

Using Macintosh technology to control live performance not just for recording events! See their website http://www.abiteoftheapple.co.uk/

Torbay RTC: Tackling Literacy with iLife

Live blog from #torbayrtc

Key goals:
  • Get visitors to learn something (teachers and pupils)
  • Make visitors want to learn
  • Give as many different learning styles a chance to learn as possible
  • create exciting learning environment
  • Develop partnerships
  • Sustainability
Describing a project involving 30 "excitable" Year 5 pupils and their teacher. Project wrote a rap about literacy. The original idea was to get the pupils into a studio and record the rap. Extended by getting students to create a backing track in Garageband. The class produced fifteen backing tracks and had an X Factor vote to choose the best. The next step was to storyboard and produce videos. The project took place over five weeks. The students edited the video:

The Rose Report says that their should be more emphasis on performing and visual arts. The presenter said, "They are speaking our language".

Torbay RTC: Cambridgeshire RTC

Live blog from #torbayrtc

David Fuller and Paul [Didn't Catch it] are talking about what they are doing formally and informally in their school - Thomas Deacon Academy.

For example, they run an animation club (informal) where the pupils created "stages" using cardboard boxes for stop motion animation. Also run Digital Cre8tor and showed great photo slideshow with You Got A Friend In Me as the background music.

Also showed some Illustrator work that used live trace to produce impressive results. Also, used Illustrator in Literacy Day activities to illustrate a poem. Young children (year 9?) also producing Julian Opie style portraits (see this photoshop How To...) which they said was a great way to introduce layers.

They have a fantastic looking school newsletter (although "newsletter" does not do it justice) which is pupils produced and a radio station which the children not only host but also do the technical stuff.

Clearly a school that is using technology in very creative ways.

Torbay RTC: e-Learning Foundation

Live blog from #torbayrtc.

Kevin Pay is talking about overcoming the digital divide. The e-Learning Foundation aims:
"...to reduce the effect of this “Digital Divide” by working with schools, parents and other stakeholders to ensure that all children have access to the learning resources that technology can make available, when and where they need them, both at home and at school."
They have three core principles:
  1. Equity of access
  2. Sustainability
  3. Home use
The third is seen as important - it is not a way for schools to get extra kit! Becta are distributing the funds and it is going directly to families. The Home Access fund is means tested (based on eligibility for free school meals. Home access but the child will bring to school so has educational benefits too.

E Learning - Computer from School Website on Vimeo.

There is also a School Affiliation aspect to their work to help schools provide personal ICT access for their pupils.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fun On Friday #49: Bobby McFerrin

I think pretty much anything with Bobby McFerrin in it would qualify for a Fun On Friday (for example, this Ave Maria is stunning) however, today's Fun on Friday combines McFerrin, Music and the Mind:

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

How cool is that? ...And I love the "scientific" question asked at the end of the video. :-)

If this whets your appetite, you can check out the videos of the whole session on the World Science Festival site.

Appology: Many of my favourite links recently have come from Twitter contacts. I note the site but usually forget to note who posted it. So, thank you to whoever directed me to this video. Please claim credit in the comments so I can thank you properly.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

21st Century Assessment

I read an article on Internet use in exams on the BBC news site with interest. It begins:
"In Denmark, the government has taken the bold step of allowing pupils full access to the internet during their final school year exams."
Now that's eAssessment! For some time pupils in Denmark have been able to choose whether to handwrite answers or type them on a computer. I suppose it could be argued that this is just a logical extension. The article says that on the morning of the exam, the students are helped to set up "their laptops". It is not clear whether they are the student's own laptops or if it just means the laptops they will use. The opportunity to use your own machine, with the software etc. set up just the way you like it would be an interesting.

Clearly, allowing Internet access changes the nature of what you assess. For example, the article notes, "The teachers also think the nature of the questions make it harder to cheat in exams. Students are no longer required to regurgitate facts and figures. Instead the emphasis is on their ability to sift through and analyse information ."

There is a Have Your Say page linked to this article and the responses are fairly polarised. I find the number of people posting comments such as, "An even better way to ensure success would be to give them the examination answers already, that way nobody has to fail and feel upset." slightly depressing. Is that really what people think is happening or is it trolls at work? In the response page there is a clear school of thought that believes memorising and recalling facts is the only thing that assessment can do and that any deviation from that undermines and devalues examinations. And why is there an assumption that changing what is assessed and how it is assessed is about dumbing down? Analysis and synthesis are much higher order skills than factual recall.

What are your thoughts? Good thing? Bad thing? What kind of change would that bring to the kinds of exams we set and the way we teach if a system like that was introduced here?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Twitter let me down… sort of.

…Or Facebook comes to the rescue. While trying to put together a presentation, I was looking for a link to a site I half remembered. Since I needed an instant answer, Twitter seemed to be the obvious place to go.

Here's the message I posted on Twitter:
I think I've seen a photo project with people holding hand written notices in front of their faces. Anyone know what I'm talking about?
It didn't exactly draw a flurry of responses, so I reposted a short time later. One response came from gbrown057 who suggested the Bob Dylan sequence from Don't Look Back. This was good, but not what I was looking for. I in turn referred him to the Dylan message generator where you can add your own messages to Bob's boards. Both digitalmaverick and pkkelly half remembered something too but essentially, I drew a blank with Twitter on Friday night.

I decided to have another go on Saturday morning.The Saturday morning set of Twitter contacts might help where Friday night's lot failed but once again, despite repeating the message a couple of times, no answer was forthcoming.

Then on Sunday, Daughter Number 2 asked if the video she sent me was what I was looking for. This caused me a bit of confusion until she said Facebook. I was asking on Twitter but I'd forgotten that my Twitter messages automagically update my Facebook status. And four people had responded there: my sister, my daughter, a friend from university and a chap I've never met but made contact with through Flickr and a shared love of the music of Rush. They were all making suggestions and getting miffed that I wasn't responding.

Silly me. I had my answer… I was just looking in the wrong place. The suggested answers were:
  • Daughter Number 1: All American Rejects: Dirty Little Secret. Interesting and is connected to the PostSecret site. Not what I wanted but an interesting project that I had forgotten about.
  • University friend: Suggested A Vision Of Students Today. Again, it was good, but not quite right. (To coin a catchphrase.)
  • My sister: Sent a link to a song of palindromes called Bob by Weird Al Yankovic Which was interesting since it's a parody of the Bob Dylan song that Gordon had suggested on Twitter.
However, the link that if it's not the one I was thinking of is at least as close as I'm going to get was sent by my fellow Flickr using Rush fan who suggested the Someone Once Told Me group on Flickr.

Lessons learned: two social media tools are better than one and sometimes you find the answer in unexpected places.

Any other lessons I should have learned? (Or any other suggestions?)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Grumpy Old Man

Grumpy old man rant coming up rather than something educational… How can it cost less to buy Gillette three blade disposable razors than it does to buy Gillette three blade replacement blades?

After looking around for longer than is sensible trying to get less expensive replacement blades, I finally decided to buy a whole new razor. This worked out to be even cheaper than buying the disposable razors (and even came with three extra blades in the pack). Throw away culture or what?

In case anyone cares, I bought an Azor from King of Shaves which was on special offer. Quite apart from saving me money compared to buying new blades, it is a fantastic razor. It does a great job and is both comfortable and easy to use.

Honest, I'm not on commission from them, but if you find your replacement blades cost more than a new razor, I can highly recommend the Azor. If that's not enough, when you look at it from behind, it looks like it's smiling at you.

Normal EdCompBlog service will be resumed shortly. :-)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Fun On Friday #48: Too Big For My Boots?

John and David have done a smashing job with EDUtalk and I honestly just posted an audio file because I thought it was a good idea. However, apparently, I won the competition. :-)

I am well pleased but, as the saying goes, pride comes before a fall. Today's Fun On Friday site is therefore perfect. It will cut me down to size and stop my head becoming too inflated: Despair Inc.'s Demotivators. Just what I need.

I think the Winners poster is the most appropriate. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

An EdCompCast for EduTalk

I happened to notice a Twitter message on Monday announcing the arrival of EDUtalk. After the success of SLFtalk, John Johnston and David Noble decided to set up a more general site to provide a location for educators to post audio material to the web. They were aware that not everyone has the skills or the time to create a regular podcast, so they aimed to make it as easy as possible to get audio material on the web.

The Googly eyePod
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
EDUtalk is simply a website which gives as many ways as is sensibly possible to post audio. You can email directly to the site with an audio file as an attachment, or you can use one of a number of existing phone/audio blogging tools and EDUtalk will pick up your post and, after a moderation stage, post it on EDUtalk too.

As stated above, if you can create an mp3 on your computer, you will be able to email it to EDUtalk. Other ways to post to EDUtalk currently supported are:
During the launch FlashMeeting, David and John were asked why would someone, who could already post audio material on their own site, want to post to EDUtalk? Two possible reasons were given. The first reason was that it would increase the audience for the audio, which is probably true. However, I found the second reason more compelling: it gives a location where audio related to an event can be aggregated. Certainly, one of the reasons SLFtalk was such a success was that you could go to one location and access audio material from a range of contributors - much easier than chasing round umpteen blogs.

In theory, I have been meaning to produce more EdCompCasts for a while now but it's been about a year since I published the last one. I have material recorded that I meant to turn into a podcast but never got around to it. The launch of EDUtalk seemed like a good excuse to give it another go and, in the spirit of EDUtalk mobile audio blogging, do something quick and simple.

As it happened, I was going to talk to some Computing Science students at Glasgow University the day after EDUtalk's launch, so I decided to record some of their questions. Today I did a minimal edit, put a top and tail on it and saved it as an mp3 file. Here it is here as an EdCompCast:

EdCompCast09Eps01 - Questions from Computing Students

In a few moments I'll email it to EDUtalk and I'll update this post as soon as I see it's been moderated.

Since it's been a while since the last EdCompCast, I thought I'd remind you how to subscribe to the podcast. I've added a button to the sidebar (second from the bottom, below the Subscribe To section which is intended for the text posts on this blog). You should see a link to iTunes that will add EdCompCast as a subscription for you.

Remember to answer the students' questions as well as letting me know what you think of EDUtalk.

Update: The audio from this post is now live on EDUtalk.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fun On Friday #47: But Is It Art?

Daughter Number 2 brought this one to my attention: We Feel Fine. The site's tagline is: "An exploration of human emotion, in six movements" - which is at least intriguing if not downright interesting.

I'll quote a fairly large chunk from the site's Mission statement, however, you really have to see it, and play with it, yourself to get an idea of what it is all about:

Since August 2005, We Feel Fine has been harvesting human feelings from a large number of weblogs. Every few minutes, the system searches the world's newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" and "I am feeling". When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the "feeling" expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.)...

The result is a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 - 20,000 new feelings per day. Using a series of playful interfaces, the feelings can be searched and sorted across a number of demographic slices, offering responses to specific questions...

If you haven't done so already, go to the We Feel Fine site, open it, and explore!

Fascinating and mesmerising... but is it art? I think probably yes. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

BEd, Handheld Learning and Frozen Laptops

Today I intended to talk to the BEd 4 group about handheld learning. I was talking mostly about mobile phones but touched on Nintendo DS, iPhones and a few other bits and pieces as well. Unfortunately, the session started badly and went downhill from there! The ultimate fail happened when my laptop froze completely because the hard disc was full.

I said I'd try to note down a few of the things I talked about (or meant to talk about) and pass them on.

For information about Nintendo DS and handheld gaming, I of course referred them to Derek Robertson, the Consolarium as well as his Brain Training research and Nintendogs activities. I also talked about a couple of mobile phone based games that I like: Myst and Guitar Hero. For more information on Myst in education, have a look at the stuff Tim Rylands did and for the Guitar Hero, see the Guitar Hero @ MSG page.

I also talked about mobile blogging - or moblogging. I referred to some commercial tools but tried to emphasise how much could be done free (or next to no cost) with a moblog - see for example the PGDE(P) moblog as well as do it yourself solutions with Twitter and TwitPic.

I also spent a bit of time talking about how mobiles could be used as Interactive Voting Systems and demonstrated Poll Everywhere (with the students voting via Twitter) but should also have mentioned SMSPoll, Powerpoint Twitter Tools and TwEVS.


I also did a quick demonstration of QR Codes and described how you could use a QR Code generator to make codes for classroom posters, homework sheets and letters to parents. With the right software on your phone (I use i-nigma) you can use its camera to take a picture of the code to connect to an associated website. For example, the above code will take you to my Delicious page.

Towards the end of the session, I sent the students out on a "field trip". They were to find a janitor and send his or her name back by texting a message to Twitter from their mobile phones. I didn't spend long enough explaining the exercise so it didn't quite go to plan but we got a few messages before the end of the class.

Finally, some reading. For more details on mobile gaming, see TeachMeet08@SLF: Mobile Games and for advice on how to build a good personal learning network on Twitter, see Nine great reasons why teachers should use Twitter and Seven Ways to Find Teachers on Twitter.

So have I missed anything? What do you think the key aspects of handheld learning are?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fun On Friday #46: Tessellation - Creativity and Mathematics

Tessellation with squares - easy. Tessellating triangles - a doodle. Tessellating hexagons - even bees can do that. But tessellating rhinoceroses - now that's tricky!

Escher Symmetry
Originally uploaded by Pieter
However, if you head over to the Tessellation website, you will find instructions on how to create tricky tessellations. The sample image they use is... a rhinoceros. Brilliant.

So, if you've ever wanted to produce something approaching Escher like complexity, grab some tracing paper and get busy.

I'm looking forward to seeing what you produce.

Guitars and Online Learning

The last time I said something about trying to learn the guitar I cross posted the same message here and on my Music blog. It seemed appropriate since it was about learning and about music. I've just posted a progress report but rather than just duplicate the post, I thought I'd discuss some of the education issues it raises here instead.

I've been using GarageBand to learn guitar and there are many things about it that I really like but I'll start with a couple of frustrations. First, the lack of feedback that you would get from a "real" tutor is a problem. I'm sure a real tutor would have picked up and dealt with many of the bad habits I have developed, and that I am now trying to unlearn. For example, some chords I manage to form by putting all my fingers in the right place more or less at the same time, but others (e.g. the G chord) I seem to form by putting one finger on at a time. Clearly for smooth transitions, it would be better to develop the muscle memory and form the chord in one smooth movement but unlearning the bad habit I've already developed is extremely difficult. I suspect a tutor would have spotted and nipped that particular problem in the bud.

Similarly, the gap in my strumming pattern would have been picked up by another pair of ears listening to my efforts. I wonder if there's a GarageBand forum/Ning/whatever somewhere where learners could post video/audio and ask for feedback from the community of learners. {Thinks: must have a look around and see what I can find.}

My only other real frustration with GarageBand, is that I'd like a few more backing tracks/tunes so that I can consolidate what I've learned. I learn a few chords, practise some strumming patterns, get fairly good at playing along to the backing track... and then it's onto the next lesson. It would be good if you were given the choice of a few tunes that used the same chords but perhaps different styles of strumming so that you can consolidate what you've done.

The Good
Other than these reservations, I am very impressed with GarageBand's lessons. The directions are clear, the videos helpful, the tutor easy to follow and tools like the tuner and the playback speed adjuster are fantastic. I especially like the idea of learning to play tunes by getting lessons from the artists who wrote and performed them. For example Sting will teach me to play Roxanne (which is listed as "Easy", so I may try this soon) and Alex Lifeson will teach me to play Tom Sayer (listed as "Medium" and if I ever get that far, I will be well chuffed).

...And finally
To summarise, learning the guitar using only online/computer based resources is not without its problems but I'm enjoying trying.

And, once again, I have to put in a plug for the guitar I'm playing in the videos. It's the one Daughter Number 2 built at Bailey Guitars - the one I won from Rock Radio. It is gorgeous to look at, it sounds great (when played by someone that knows what they are doing) and it is easy to play - much easier to play that the Squire Stratocaster that I generally practise on. I cannot recommend Bailey Guitars highly enough.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Personal Learning Network

From my earlier scepticism about Twitter, I find I am now pushing Twitter as a useful tool for teachers. How did that happen?

House Sparrow
Originally uploaded by Gordon McKinlay
It is experiences like Vote with Twitter that have convinced me... and the response I got today when demonstrating Twitter to some BEd students helped confirm it for me. Today I posted the following comment:
Say hello to a group of BEd student teachers and tell them an interesting educational website. #BEd4
The first response came in a minute after I posted this message with @katiebarrowman recommending Glow. In the space of half an hour, we got twenty responses. While these responses were coming in, I got the students to sign up for Delicious. By the time they were set up with Delicious, they had a whole pile of recommendations from Twitter to save to Delicious. Brilliant!

Thank you to all the people who responded on Twitter.

Have you got any success stories to share about how Twitter was useful in learning and teaching?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fun On Friday #45: My life as a Lego man

I have a feeling that I've done this before... It's déjà vu all over again. If you can find where I've talked about it - can you show me where? :-)

This week - it's the Mini-Mizer. Create a character in Lego form. Here's my techno-geek teacher man:

If you have a go, share your creations in the comment section.

Computing: The Science of the Digital World

What is Computing? What is at the heart of the subject? What distinguishes Computing from ICT and what is the place of Computing in the Curriculum for Excellence developments?

break SPACE
Originally uploaded by diebmx
I have referred to these issues before (for example Computing Science and Games Programming and Computing is... again!) but, although I haven't blogged about them in a while, they have continued to niggle away at me. Discussion about a subject's place in the inter-disciplinary world of Curriculum for Excellence is of course not unique to Computing (see for example Curriculum for Excellence: the end of Integrated Science? and something from Fergal Kelly I think but I can't find just now! Curriculum for Excellence: the end of Separate Sciences? Thanks Mr Hood for this link and for correcting my spelling of Fearghal!) but I think it is worse in Computing because people do not have a clear view of what our subject is about.

I was talking to a chap today, who has been out of the classroom studying and is going back to teach Computing next week after a year's absence. I stated again that I like the definition proposed after the Schools Computing Workshop (which took place over two years ago!):

Computing: The Science of Our Digital World

This seems to me a good balance between being simple enough to be grasped quickly while still leaving enough room to be expanded in complex ways. The chap I was speaking to seemed to think this was a useful focus for our subject, however, he asked how we expand this definition to define the core of the subject in a bit more detail. For example, in CfE speak, Chemistry was defined as: Our Material World including uses and properties of materials, sustainability, the chemistry of life processes and the applications of chemistry in society.

Of the top of my head I suggested:
Our Digital World including programming as an exploration of formal defined languages, digital communications, computer systems and hardware, and the implications of Computing and ICT in society.
Programming is about problem solving and the control of computers using a formally defined language. I would therefore take a very broad definition of programming which would allow the study of application software to take place under this umbrella. By including applications in the programming topic we would hopefully avoid the danger of merely learning button pushing skills and be able to focus instead on computer applications as powerful problem solving tools.

Digital communications would allow the study of networks and communications - including the the mechanics of data transmission as well as the practical application in aspects such as Web 2.0 technologies.

Systems and hardware would include the physics and electronics side of things for example in the consideration of microchips and binary as well as peripheral devices, interfacing and operating systems.

My final social implications section was questioned and it was suggested that this aspect might be subsumed in the other three areas.

So that's my definition of Computing. What do other Computing specialists think? Perhaps more importantly, what do non-computing specialist think? Does this sound like a reasonable starting point or does it sound like someone trying to justify their existence?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's all about control...

Who controls the learning environment?

Einstein's blackboard
Originally uploaded by Garrettc
I came across two posts today that seem connected. The first was from an ex-colleague - Now learners control their VLE/LMS. In this post, Naill argues that:
"Much of the criticism levelled at virtual learning environments / learning management systems relates to the control of the environment by the institution rather than the learner. The individual student has minimal ability to upload their own content or to set up collaborative tools unless this has been pre-ordained by the institution..."
I immediately thought of Strathclyde's VLE (currently Blackboard/WebCT) and of Glow.

It has always seemed to me that Blackboard/WebCT is very much about content delivery. I am the one with the knowledge. I'll post it on Blackboard/WebCT. You can access it and benefit from my wisdom. Perhaps a slightly unfair characterisation of our VLE but not entirely without foundation. Although we are currently using Blackboard/WebCT we are about to move to Moodle. Hopefully, when we move, we'll install the Shared Activities module that Naill describes.

Then there's Glow. It has the potential to be about more than a information delivery... but the limited customisation features available are frustrating. Also, it not clear yet how much of the Glow content will be pupil generated... And that brings me to the second post that caught my eye - Growing and Glowing:
"Glow will soon support user blogs and wikis, allowing pupils and classes to create web pages and online diaries to showcase their work to other schools across Scotland. Promoting individualised learning and collaboration, this will be the first time Scotland has had access to a national education blog and wiki service."
I'm not sure about the last bit of that quote but making it easier to get pupil generated content on Glow sounds promising. Of course, Local Authorities can opt out of bits of Glow, so it will be interesting to see how many adopt these new tools and what encouragement or obstacles will help or hinder pupil use.

What do you think? Who is in contol of the content on the VLE that you use?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Fun On Friday #44: Make your own font

This is brilliant. Go to fontcapture, print out a font template, write in the boxes, scan, upload and Flo's your aunty. :-)

Here, revealed for the first time, is DavidFont - which I am ridiculously pleased with:

It then occurred to me that you didn't need to draw letter shapes. So here is MuirDoodle - half drawn by me and half by Daughter Number 3:

As you can see, we made some of them a bit too big and they got decapitated. but it was good fun coming up with doodles and I think we'll have another go tomorrow.

What fonts can you come up with? What about a music font or a hand drawn maths font, or map symbols or... Let me see what you come up with.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Questions from the back-channel

I recently gave a lecture where I had a back channel for students to make comments and ask questions. I was arguing that schools should be more open to using technology like pupils' mobile phones to support learning and teaching.

Noo Possession
Originally uploaded by Saad.Akhtar
However, in the back channel there were a number of comments/questions expressing concern about the potential disruption this could bring. Some of the messages are copied below.
  • do you not think mobie phones used in the class distract pupils from learning ?

  • phones maybe a useful piece of kit but as proven wit happy slappin it is a dangerous piece of kit

  • is this not open to abuse such as 'sir your a pure knob'?

  • the porn comment is why we switch off phones
    {Note: Concerns about accessing pornography were raised verbally as well as in at least one other message. Given the recent court case, should we add taking inappropriate pictures to this comment? - DM}

  • What about child protection stuff? Are pupils and parents happy for photos and videos to be taken on phones in class and posted online?
I've already responded to all the comments but how would you answer these concerns?

Friday, October 02, 2009

Fun On Friday #43: The plot thickens

Apparently everyone thinks they have a novel in them, however, perhaps some need more help than others. If you are struggling to come up with a plot, let Slate come to your rescue with the Interactive Dan Brown Plot Generator.

The plot I chose is:
An ancient puzzle at the heart of Paris.
A ruthless cult determined to protect it.
A white-knuckled race to uncover the Boy Scouts of America's darkest secret.

The Hidden Cipher

When renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to the Eiffel Tower to analyze a mysterious ancient script—drawn on a calling card next to the mangled body of the head docent—he discovers evidence of the unthinkable: the resurgence of the ancient cult of the Baalifori, a secret branch of the Boy Scouts of America that has surfaced from the shadows to carry out its legendary vendetta against its mortal enemy, the Vatican.

Langdon's worst fears are confirmed when a messenger from the Baalifori appears at the Arch of Triumph to deliver a deadly ultimatum: Deposit $1 billion in the Boy Scouts of America's off-shore bank accounts or the exclusive clothier of the Swiss Guards will be bankrupted. With the deadline fast approaching, Langdon joins forces with the lithe and enigmatic daughter of the murdered docent in a desperate bid to crack the code that will reveal the cult's secret plan.

Embarking on a frantic hunt, Langdon and his companion follow a 500-year-old trail through Paris's most venerable statues and exalted churches, pursued by a Romanian assassin the cult has sent to thwart them. What they discover threatens to expose a conspiracy that goes all the way back to Davy Crockett and the very founding of the Boy Scouts of America.
You read it here first so no stealing my idea. Go and generate your own!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

ECER 2009: Some thoughts (#ecer2009)

It's the final day of ECER 2009 and I fully intended to go to an 8:30 session. I distinctly remember hearing the alarm. I remember switching it off... and then an hour later, I woke up again. Oops!

ECER 2009: Main Building
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
I went in to the University of Vienna anyway thinking I'd join the session after the first paper but when I got there, I had a closer look at the programme and realised the paper I was most interested in was the first one. Decided to write up some of my thoughts on the conference instead while it was still fresh in my mind.

Electronic presence
First, I'd like to echo what Graham Attwell said in his blog post. ECER is a major education conference with over 2000 people attending and thousands of presentations. Many sessions are delivered in parallel and in the case of ECER 2009 they took place in three, different buildings. The buildings were relatively close to each other but it would still take about five minutes to walk between the two furthest flung buildings. Add to that the sheer size of the programme, and almost inevitably you will miss things that would be good to hear. Some you will miss because you are choosing between two sessions that are happening simultaneously. But some you will miss because you just don't know they are on. The papers are organised under one of 27 networks. I mostly attended presentations in Network 16: ICT in Education and Training but tried to keep an eye on Network 10: Teacher Education Research too. I probably should have had a closer look at Network 27: Didactics - Learning and Teaching, and Network 6: Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures, and … But there are only so many hours in the day and in general I decided it was best to pick one Network and mostly stick to it.

However, this meant I missed a session on Digital Identity that sounded really interesting. I missed it because it was in Network 2: Vocational Education and Training (VETNET) - a network that I didn't consider looking at and, although I am interested in ideas of digital identity, it was not a search term I thought of using when searching the online programme.

How do I know it was on then? Because I saw Graham Attwell's Tweet about it and subsequently was directed to an online copy of the presentation by a Tweet from maresta. It would have been good to see more of this type of online activity but as Graham said in his excellent blog post, there were very few people Twittering from the event and, so far I have only found four of the presentations online: Grahams', Alana James', Norm Friesen's and mine. In contrast, there is the Scottish Learning Festival, an event mainly for teachers rather than educational researchers, where there was a small but active community posting material online (see for example SLF Live!). The organisers of the conference recorded some of the sessions - webcasting some of them live - and set up a Flickr pool for people to share their photos of the event. Even the TeachMeet fringe event at the Scottish Learning Festival generated more online content than the whole of the ECER conference!

Why was the use of social networking tools at ECER so low? Graham speculates: "I suspect that the culture (or community) of educational research has not yet embraced these technologies." I wasn't convinced by this and offer CAL '09 as a counter example. There was a reasonably active Twitter presence at CAL, a Cloudworks page was set up during the conference, the organisers had set up a graffiti wall where messages could be posted electronically to be viewed in the poster presentation area and you could email photos to share with others. Perhaps Andy's comment is closer to the mark. It may be that social networking tools are yet to have a big impact elsewhere in Europe. It will be interesting to see if next year's ECER is better represented on Twitter and elsewhere.

I didn't mean this to be so grumpy and I originally intended to talk about some of the sessions I attended. It was a good conference. The facilities were good and the free wi-fi coverage excellent. I have plenty to think about, research to chase up and (hopefully) some contacts to pursue. So, I'd like to conclude by thanking the organisers and presenters. However, since it is unlikely that I will be able to attend ECER 2010, I hope the electronic coverage will be more impressive next year.

P.S. I finished this post at Vienna airport where there is good, free, wi-fi access to the internet and the hotel where I stayed also had free wi-fi. I have yet to find a UK airport offering free internet access and most of the UK hotels I have stayed at seem to charge too. I hope that as uptake of social networking spreads from the UK to mainland Europe, mainland Europe's enlightened attitude to wi-fi spreads to the UK. :-)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Playing the game of panoptic performativity? (#ecer2009)

Live blog live blog capture of a session by Matt O’Leary, from the University of Wolverhampton, United Kingdom

Playing the game of panoptic performativity? Perspectives on the grading of observations of teaching and learning...

The focus of this session is the graded observation of teaching and learning in Further Education and its impact on the professional lives of those working in the sector. Graded observations are a very contentious area in FE. The overwhelm use of lesson observation in FE colleges is for internal quality review and is often sold to staff as a way of driving improvement.

The grading of observation is felt to be divisive - particularly when the grades are mde public - it can lead to labelling. People with grade 1s are then asked to allow people to observe them teach and to run staff development etc. It can be seen as a poisoned chalice.

Concerns were expressed about inconsistency and reliability of grading and feedback. Also, there was evidence of people playing the game and ticking boxes. There is also concern about who owns the data, who was involved in the process and the time and resources allocated.

Colleges are using the OFSTED criteria but they are quite vague. In general, no attempt to triangulate with students views as this was seen to be too threatening.