Friday, June 26, 2009

Fun on Friday #36: Build a better mousetrap...

I'm not sure everyone would count this as fun but I thought this was such a brilliant idea I laughed out loud when I saw it working. A folding plug. Not obvious what this means... but them you watch the video...

I hope they get something like it into production.

Now that the school holidays are upon us, this is likely to be the last Fun on Friday for a while... unless I come across something especially fun!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

CPD, Staffrooms and Twitter

A search of my posts on Twitter reveal part of my journey from ambivalence to acceptance. I am at the stage where I don't worry about it and just use Twitter as and when I think it might be useful. Sometimes it is useful, sometimes it isn't but the overhead of sending a tweet is so low that even if it doesn't work they way I'd hoped, I've lost very little by trying.

Staffroom Sink
Originally uploaded by Blue Square Thing
CPD in the Staffroom

At a Glow meeting earlier this week we were talking about Continuing Professional Development - specifically Online CPD with Con Morris. He has posted links and his Prezi online if you want to see what he was talking about but his observations and comments as he presented are what I want to talk about here. For example, he noted that some of the best CPD he ever had took place in the staffroom. There were always the staffroom cynics, and a huge range of non-education related topics were discussed (football, golf, the weather...) but the third year class that was driving you up the wall would also feature and suggestions, strategies and practical advice on what to do about it would follow. He quoted Roland Barth:
...the most powerful form of learning, the most sophisticated form of staff development, comes not from listening to the good works of others but from sharing what we know with others… By reflecting on what we do, by giving it coherence, and by sharing and articulating our craft knowledge, we make meaning, we learn.
[Can't find the original source but it is also quoted on the Escondido Union School District site]
Later, while talking about face to face CPD sessions he quoted "Lord if I die, let it be in a CPD session where the difference between life and death is imperceptible". I don't know who first said this but it contains a truth that will be recognised by anyone who has ever had to sit through a twilight hours development session. This was all part of a discussion about alternatives to face to face CPD.

Twitter as CPD

One of the alternatives suggested was Twitter. However, this lead to some sharp disagreement. One view was expressed that you had to ruthlessly weed out all the people who tell you they had kippers for breakfast and build a small, trusted list of people who tweet about education. However, another school of thought said it was like a staffroom: sometimes you talk about kippers and sometimes you talk about curriculum. If you exclude someone for talking about one you can miss good stuff about the other. At one point Con said something like (and I paraphrase here): "Don't go to Twitter with an agenda. I didn't go to the staffroom with an agenda and my experience was richer because of that."

What do you do?

Where do you lie in the Twitter as CPD discussion? Do you tend to follow most of the people that follow you or do you ruthlessly prune your follow list? If you prune, how do you decide who to keep and do you use tools such as Who The Tweet? to help?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Twitterfall: Now even more useful

The recent Apple RTC meeting was probably the most Twittered event I've ever been to. Search for #applertc and you will find hundreds of messages that were generated during the one and a half day event.

We tried a few tools to display the Tweets in a back channel. First up was Visible Tweets which looks fantastic and was big enough to be seen from the back of the room. However, the problem was it was just too random! Ideally for a back channel, you want the Tweets to appear in chronological order.

Next we tried Monitter and TwitterCamp. I think, of the two, TwitterCamp looks prettier but the Tweets were just far to small to be read properly from the back of the room.

I sent out a Tweet for suggestions as to what we could use instead and within minutes, a number of people suggested trying Twitterfall. I tried it, I liked it and that's what we went with for the rest of the conference. Twitterfall is easily customisable and there are loads of things you can tweak. However, the tools to customise are both a blessing and a curse. Very flexible but therefore slightly confusing, intimidating even. It took quite a bit of fiddling to get a good combination of size and colours.

I was pleased therefore to see today in the Twitterfall blog that they have added a Presentation setting. Excellent! A useful tool has instantly become even better. I feel very guilty therefore to have left a comment on the blog asking for more!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fun on Friday #34: Tag Galaxy

I have a feeling that Tag Galaxy is fun rather than functional but what ever else it is, it is beautiful!

Essentially it is a graphical interface that lets you search for Flickr photographs. Enter a tag, search for it and after a pause a sun is displayed with some planets orbiting it. Each planet is labelled with a tag related to the one you searched for.

For example, this animated solar system is what was produced when I searched for Glasgow. Once you have set of planets, clicking a planet will add that tag to your search and the combined tags will merge to form a new sun with a new set of related tags. When you are happy that you have narrowed down your search sufficiently, clicking on the sun will fetch the related photos and form them into a globe that can be spun to browse the pictures. Clicking on a photo will pop up a larger version of the relevant picture and an option to go to the relevant Flickr page.

Have fun and let me know what you think of it.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fun On Friday #33: Word Mosaic

A simple but effective site. Choose a shape, type some text, choose a colour and produce concrete poetry with Word Mosaic. Leave a comment or a link to let me know if you use it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

TeachMeet Student Edition: Initial thoughts

It seems that the first ever TeachMeet Student Edition went well. There's been some good comments on Twitter and the students that have spoken to me all said they were looking forward to next year's - so I guess that we're committed now. :-)

A couple of folk have said they liked the relaxed atmosphere but I must admit it was all a bit of a blur to me. I thought I'd be able to type up my blog as people spoke but quite apart from the problem of my computer going on go slow, I couldn't really concentrate properly. Thankfully, it was recorded in the Flashmeeting, so hopefully I'll get the chance to listen to it soon.

People have started to post links to the stuff they were talking about. So far I have noticed a post from Stuart about his guide to the probationary year (and another about the collaborative effort involved in contacting Local Authorities). Neil has posted links to the seven resource he tried to cover in seven minutes (he managed six). David has posted a set of links and the students from Glasgow have published a link to their presentation. Have I missed any?

I hope to write a proper reflection on the evening later but for now, I'll close with a link to the lyrics of Four Capacities - The Musical and a video of the closing chorus. Enjoy. :-)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

TeachMeet Student Edition: Part 3

Gave up with laptop. Restarted and it seems to be working a bit better now.

However, by the time I got it working again, I missed recording all the good stuff. :-( I'll try and record my feelings tomorrow and hopefully other people have been paying attention and have blogged/Twittered about what happened.

Will finish in a few moments with Four Capacities: The musical. 

TeachMeet Student Edition: Part 2

Back after a short break and Cassie Law was up next talking about class wikis and blogs. Importance of having a safe, moderated environment. Giving pupils their own blog space has been a good way for the teacher to learn about what interests the pupils.

Missed all of David Noble's bit because my laptop went on go slow. :-( One bit I did catch was that the people in charge of probationers in his authority thought that a TeachMeet was an unprofessional way to do teacher development. :-)

Next up was Gordon Brown who was also struggling against a slow machine while trying to show some SQA websites. Games based learning, online training and e-portfolio.

The final seven minute presentation in this section was from Iain Hallahan who started by sharing some of his mistakes but also some of the opportunities that he grabbed.

Before a short break, John Daly showed off some fantastic contraptions.

TeachMeet Student Edition... And We're Off

Only a little late. we start. Iain's not here and nobody else seems to know how to start a Flashmeeting so at the moment, nobody can see us remotely.

Jaye Richards was up first and gave a quick romp through some of the tools she uses to develop a network of professionals who help her be a better teacher.

Next up was Katie Barrowman who gave a brief demo of Glow. Good to see real uses by real teachers. {During Katie's bit, David Noble arrived and set up Flashmeeting. Huzzah!}

Then Stuart Meldrum described his experience of his probationary year. He used Prezzie to show what his year was like. WHat helped him get through the year. Coffee! Or more importantly, other teachers - people to talk to. Find something to take your mind off teachers. Observe other teachers.

Finally, in the first section of the evening, we had a two minute presentation from Francis Dickson who talked about RoboSapien. Can be acquired very cheaply on eBay. Francis got one for £11 including postage!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Fun on Friday #32: Map the Internet

Brilliantly simple idea. Draw a map of the Internet, and mark your home on the map, with the Internet Mapping Project.

That's it.


See the results at the Internet Mapping Project site and on a mapping Flickr set.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Old and grumpy - but cynical?

That I am old is an increasingly undeniable fact (although old is a relative term...) and that I'm grumpy can be confirmed by my children. But cynical? I would have hoped not. However, a refreshing dose of excitement and optimism from a former student earlier in the week has led to me re-think that one.

Cheer Up Mr Goblin
Originally uploaded by left-hand
I was put to shame as I heard this chap (who is two years older than me) describing his probationary year experiences, speaking enthusiastically about Curriculum for Excellence developments and saying how he is looking forward with optimism to a year (or more) of supply work because there are currently no jobs advertised. Faced with his excitement, I chastised myself for turning into an old cynic and yet, even as I typed the previous sentence in this paragraph, I had to resist my inner cynic who wanted to add the word "apparently".

What is it that drives us to cynicism? And perhaps more to the point, how do you avoid it?