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.

Comparing Transitions: the Professional Development of Teacher Educators (#ecer2009)

Live blog capture of a session by Vivienne Griffiths* (Canterbury Christ Church University, United Kingdom); Stavroula Kaldi (University of Thessaly, Greece); Simon Thompson* (University of Sussex, United Kingdom)

Comparing Transitions: the Professional Development of Teacher Educators in the UK and Greece

Most teacher educators in the UK move into universities have a dual transition: first the move from school to university teaching; second is the transition from school teacher to academic and researcher. Often there is a poor induction into academia and teacher educators often have a lower status in universities. This is not so common in other EU countries, for example, in Greece most teacher educators come from a research background.

Case study approach. Looked at the previous experience of UK teacher educators. Most had extensive school experience most were working on Masters level (or higher) qualifications which they started after arriving at university. Only one had managed to get promotion in university. (Contrast with coming from promoted positions in schools.)

In comparison, in Greece, only one teacher educator had come from school. There is an expectation that they have PhDs and school experience is seen as a requirement rather than compulsory. However, in Greece, tenure is very difficult to secure - some working for ten years or more on temporary contracts.

The issue of tenure is becoming more of an issue with UK teacher Educators with more being employed on temporary contracts. Greek educators were expected to be leading major research projects and their teaching was largely supervising research students. UK teacher educators were more typically involved in direct teaching and administration.

Skills and Strengths: Greek teacher educators valued theoretical knowledge and research skills whereas UK educators valued pedagogical experience and practitioner perspectives.

Challenges and Barriers: UK educators had low confidence in their research skills and felt the pedagogical skills they had were not valued by the university. Greek researchers found there was a lack of formal support both in terms of research mentors and administrative support (although there may be informal support.)

Buddying, structured induction, a balance of teaching and research and more funding. The study indicates the importance of: collaborative research; the need for better integration of research and teaching; mentors modelling research practice; strong institutional support for research as well as valuing teacher education; an active research culture.

Question Session
Do teacher educators have to leave their teacher identity behind, to become researchers, in order to progress in the university.

Podcasting and Reading on the Internet (#ecer2009)

Live blog captured during presentation by Carita Kiili*, Leena Laurinen and Miika Marttunen from University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Podcasting and Reading on the Internet

Discussed the need to develop web-literacy skills. The researchers wanted to support students internet reading skills: to help them search more effectively, to process the text they find appropriately and to collaborate on making sense of what they find.

Reported on the analysis of episodes, i.e. thematic entities that serve particular function. They analysed how students acted in the set tasks. For example how much time did they spend on gathering the information, considering concepts, proposing solutions, presenting and evaluating arguments, ... Some groups were very focused in their approach wheras others were more fragmented. Most of the students time was spent on gathering information and proposing or evaluating arguments.

They found evidence that students were co-constructing knowledge and that metacognative co-regulaton took place. They found that argumentative task instruction, especially when working in groups rather than researching on their own, seemed to support students' text processing ability.

Podcasting as a new educational means (#ecer2009)

Live blog captured during presentation by Raphael Struck, Heikki Kynäslahti*, Olli Vesterinen and Seppo Tella from University of Helsinki, Finland.

Podcasting as a new educational means — Students as content producers

Investigated mobile learning in the 1990s - using mobile devices to collect and transfer information. Also interested in student's pedagogical thinking (a new area of study) that becomes more important in Web 2.0 and user created content.

Comes from research on pedagogical thinking which considers that something has to sit between teaching and learning - studying. The student's pedagogical thinking supports their studying.

Worked with media education students who made podcasts in groups on a topic of their choice from the module they were studying. Research looked at what they learned while creating their podcast rather than what they learned from listening to others. They developed a number of skills: they developed pedagogical thinking, learned to express themselves in a concise manner and developed technical skills.

Mobility was not as great as expected - in general they created the podcast on a computer rather than a mobile device. However attitudes to mobile methods, especially listening, were positive.

The researcher considered where conflicts may arise. For example, if a student's pedagogical thinking considers the use of ICT to be important but teachers do not require it, there could be conflict.

The researchers think they could have explained why the podcasts were to be created and the students found it frustrating that nobody listend to their podcasts.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Blackboard to Monitor (#ecer2009)

Live blog captured during presentation by Roman Svaricek and Jiri Zounek from Masaryk University, Czech Republic.

Blackboard to Monitor, or Empirical Research of E-learning in University Level Teaching

{I think the title refers to the move from teaching using a physical blackboard to using virtual tools accessed through a monitor. - DM}

The researchers analysed 430 courses from the Faculty of Arts. They studied a variety of types of courses including distance, blended and face to face with electronic support.

They identified a number of advantages such as the mediation of materials, monitoring of student work and motivating students. It gives power to the teacher - for example "ICT is fun" and can be used as a reward {Not sure I have understood the point he was making here. - DM}

They also identified three types of teachers: Constructivists (consciously using constructivist methodology), Intuitivists (unaware of constructivist theory but using aspects in their teaching anyway) and Technologists (using the technology with no real understanding of the pedagogical issues).

They found that some people were beginners with eLearning systems but through themselves enthusiastically into using the system and spent many hours developing the system.

They see eLearing depending on the activities of an orchestra of people - tutors, students, IT support, ... eLearning systems should not just be about the delivery of stuff but be the medium that supports learning.

The Informal use of Social Networking Sites for Collaboration on Initial Teacher Training Programmes (#ecer 2009)

The Informal use of Social Networking Sites for Collaboration on Initial Teacher Training Programmes.

Coles, Anthony: Birmingham City University, United Kingdom

The researcher's university pushed staff to create Facebook presence since students were already there and using tools like Facebook for academic purposes. Not all staff were comfortable with this. The researcher gathered data from his students to see what their views were.

In the past, the course has had some issues with professionalism, i.e. inappropriate discussion on the universities Moodle discussion forum. However, in general, the feeling was that communication should be improved because there's time for thought, allows simultaneous contributions and it is inherently democratic (see Joiner 2004). But lack of social cues may lead to less socialisation, lack of pedagogic strategies and lack of elearning skills.

The majority use social networking sites (mostly Facebook) and most used it daily. There were distinct group: one group had 70% plus of their network friends coming from their course but a similar sized group had less that 10% of friends from the course.

What academic work did the students discuss online? Issues discussed? Number 1 was assignments in progress. Also discussed placement (both non-teaching and teaching issues), taught sessions, tutors (which is what concerns some academics), future career, other students...

Focus group said they used their social networks to organise meetings with other students. They said they saw the university VLE as a place to catch up on classes not a place to network. They found Facebook etc. was god for general support, e.g. simply by changing online status you can find out others are stressed by assignments too. They said that often part of meeting new students was to swap Facebook pages. They also liked that their own networks were controllable {I think this is in terms of skins etc. - DM} unlike the university's Moodle.

The researcher find that attempts to improve the social structures of the university have not been particularly successful. However, informal social networks do grow up around courses. The familiar nature of the tools (for the students) is one of the perceived advantages. It also allows them to draw their own boundaries and embody their own identity. However, it could lead to a blurring of professional/personal divide.

Point was made in the post presentation discussion that there are some students you would go for coffee with and others you wouldn't - same with online contact. :-) You don't have to respond positively to every friend request! It may be useful to know how students use these spaces to support their learning but it may not be necessary to participate in order to encourage educational benefits.

Do Doctoral Candidates Use and Benefit From Online Social Networks (#ecer09)

Do Doctoral Candidates Use and Benefit From Online Social Networks as an Aid Their Thesis and Dissertation Process?

James, E Alana: ReinventingLife org, Ireland (Republic of)

If they need it, they will learn to use it and they will come.

Personal Learning Environments - based on Sieman's Connectivist ideas. There are two ways to look at Personal Learning Networks (PLN) - ether something the student puts together him/herself; or can be more structured with tutor putting things together.

The researcher found that she started out with four distinct social groups but over the course of time, the four networks started to interact with each other.

She found it a win/win situation: it encouraged students to "think outside the box" and it made mentoring more fun - allowing her to deliver something once but share it with many students,

Cmaptools software in the Teaching of Chemistry to Teacher Training Students (#ecer2009)

Cmaptools software in the Teaching of Chemistry to Teacher Training Students

Aguirre-Pérez, Constancio: University of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain

There are a variety of kinds of map (e.g. hierarchical, flow chart, spider diagram...) and they can be used for a variety of purposes, for example: Selection, Range, Assembling, Arranging and Linking & Labelling.

The researchers uses Cmap - a free tool. This allows the creation and sharing of concept maps. Researcher found that the sharing and studying of concept maps helped encourage consensus. It helped improved understanding of the topic mapped. Helped with reasoning ad higher order skills - encouraged them to go beyond memorising.

Question asked was would different subject areas tend to favour different types of maps? Researcher admitted that most of the Chemistry maps were hierarchical but wasn't sure if different subjects would use different types of maps.

Perceptions about Computer Teachers and Their Teaching Profession (#ecer2009)

Computer Teachers, Other Subject Area Teachers and Administrators’ Perceptions about Computer Teachers and Their Teaching Profession

Yildirim, Zahide (Middle East Technical University, Turkey);
Yalcinalp, Serpil (Baskent University, Turkey);
Kilic, Eylem (Middle East Technical University, Turkey)

Looked at two approaches ICT as a separate subject and integrating ICT in all subjects. Younger EU countries tend still to teach ICT older EU countries have moved towards integration.

In Turkey, computer teachers were assigned to schools, now they tend to be technology leaders and/or IT coordinators. They tend to have a teaching load themselves but are also responsible for organising maintenance, IT training for other teachers, preparing materials and running training sessions.

The researchers looked at IT Teachers perceptions of themselves, how they perceive their administrators and their fellow teachers. Also looked at others perceptions of IT teachers. It is a descriptive study. Collected data from the three largest provinces in Turkey where there are 1086 teachers and 288 administrators. IT teachers number 255 - aprox. 50:50 split male and female and 90% graduated after 2002. Issued three questions consisting of musltiple choice and open ended questions.

IT Teachers questionnaires collected demographic data, as well as perceptions about their own department, physical conditions of school, perceptions of their fellow subject teachers and perceptions of other professionals.

Findings: About one third felt their departments were not meeting the needs of their pupils, that they did not have adequate teaching practice and that their was poor compatibility with programmes elsewhere in the school. IT teachers preferred computer application courses but over a quarter preferred programming and two-thirds had this as their first or second choice as an elective course. Not surprisingly 52% chose IT Teacher as their first choice for their role but interestingly 42.8% listed Multimedia Designer as their third choice.

In general, they think administrators are supportive of IT Teachers. The area where they get most requests of help from other teachers is for Personal Development. Technical support also featured strongly but requests for educational support was more limited.

here are a number of conclusions but one is that the definition of their role is still unclear.

Computer teachers’ attitude toward ethical use of computers (#ecer2009)

Computer teachers’ attitude toward ethical use of computers in elementary schools

Ozer, Niyazi; Beycioglu, Kadir; Ugurlu, Celal Teyyar
Affiliations: Inonu University, Turkey

The researchers looked at teachers attitudes to ethical uses of computers and tried to describe attitudes and understanding. (There are 60 female teachers and 81 male teachers in the study.) Looked at beliefs and behaviours.

Only 5 people had courses related ti cyber ethics in higher education and only 39 had had any cyber ethics training while in post. Most therefore used printed or visual material (e.g. internet) for information on cyber ethics.

Females showed a statistically significant more ethical beliefs about ethical computer use. Teachers who had pre-service course also showed more ethical beliefs {Should add to ITE courses? - DM}. Younger teachers also show more ethical attitudes to computer use - possibly to do with increased access to computers among young people and the development of cyber ethics courses in recent years.

Definitions of cyber ethics include things like copyright, respecting privacy, plagiarism, software theft, ...

Facilitation of community of inquiry (#ecer2009)

Facilitation of community of inquiry in an online teacher education course

Ivana Batarelo Kokic, University of Split, Croatia (Hrvatska);
Ida Malian, Arizona State University, USA;
Ann Nevin, Florida International University, USA.

Acton research based on a long running course. Main characteristic of this online course is that it had a cross-categorical structure (e.g. LD, ED, ...). It had eight sets of course activities which were delivered on Blackboard and made use of email, discussion boards and private subgroups. There was a mixture of individual and group coursework.

An example of a group assignment was to decide an instructional intervention for a child with disability. Another was a family based assignment considering how children with disabilities would be brought up. Both involved role play.

The research focused on cooperative learning activities. The students were asked to discuss issues and the researchers wanted to see if the online cooperative activities helped develop higher order thinking skills (based on Bloom's taxonomy). Also drew on work by Stahl. They have noticed over the ten years the course has been running, technical questions have reduced significantly.

Researcher showed a timeline which detailed student tasks and teacher inputs. There used to be a requirement that they all participated in a synchronous online chat in the first week but the students did not like this, so it is no longer a compulsory element. A wide variety of communications took place during the course including face to face but a report of face to face was supposed to be posted online. They did not analyse communication between tutor and student that took place on email (considered private and outwith scope of project). Also, did not analyse interactions on tchnical issues.

Used a revised taxonomy based on Anderson and Krathwohl (2001). {Changes are described in a wiki page on Blooms Taxonomy - see Terminology Changes about a third of the way down. - DM} They found that students were able to reach higher levels on Bloom's taxonomy. Quality of discussion was comparable to quality of final report. Groups formed communities of enquiry but problem still remains on how to encourage students to reach higher levels in Blooms taxonomy? {Nobody had an answer. :-) - DM}

More important to have a pedagogical framework than to have a delivery technology.

Online, Offline and Everything In-Between (#ecer2009)

Online, Offline and Everything In-Between: The Development of a Hybrid Course in Tertiary Education

Sela, Orly
Affiliations: Oranim Academic College of Education, Israe

It is important to model how we want novice teachers to work. They will be expected to use technology when they are teaching in school. Teacher education must therefore model this way of working. Speaker gave an example from her course where there is a mix of face to face classes supported by a wiki and asynchronous co-operative assignments.

Often the older students express anxiety and fear. Gave example where one woman stood up and said they should all protest and refuse to use the technology {the response was “this is not a democracy!”} but by the middle of the course, these anxieties have been allayed. {Interesting that she has found evidence (anecdotal?) supporting digital native - DM}

An example of an asynchronous task was to write a story, these were submitted and distributed to students for comment, the comments were fed back to the original authors and they had to incorporate these comments into a revised piece.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fun On Friday #42: Music to my ears

Re-mix music tracks, use music loops, record yourself... you're going to need a fairly serious package installed on your machine...

Or you could go to Aviary's Myna, an online audio editor... and use it for free. The site links you to this YouTube video that shows what Myna can do:


It has to be said, that to a non-lawyer, their Terms of Use are as clear as mud! I think, however, that as long as I create stuff with their loops and on their site, and then leave a copy there, I can more or less do what I want with it - use it on a web page, or a movie, or a podcast, or ...

Now if only I had some musical talent! :-)

Update: Sorry, should have said thank you to Joe Dale for brining this online application to my attention.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Just back from TeachEat...

Great TeachMeet. Tasty TeachEat. Great night. More to follow on both I hope.

Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
Interesting chat with Ollie. We both commented on the huge number of Tweets that were generated during the evening and Ollie wondered if there would be fewer blog posts as a result.

I'm not sure. I don't think more Tweets automatically leads to fewer blog posts. Perhaps blogging has always been a minority activity so increased numbers attending does not necessarily lead to a pro-rata increase in blogging.

Final observation for now is that despite concerns expressed before TeachMeet there were a lot of first time attenders there and a good number of non-techie topics presented. I'd say there was life in the old TeachMeet dog yet. :-)

Developing Growth Mindsets: How Praise Can Harm, and How To Use it Well

Keynote speaker: Professor Carol Dweck

We have developed a generation of children who it seems can't get through the day without getting an award.

Two mindsets: Fixed Mindsets and Growth Mindsets. Growth mindsets don't think anyone can be an Einstein but do realise that Einstein had to work hard and learn in order to get to where he did. Talent is a starting point, not a limit.

Mindsets can be changed. Even adults develop new neurons. Also, in given areas, people can have different mindsets.

How do mindsets work?

Fixed Mindset Rule #1: Look clever at all times
Growth Mindset Rule #1: Learn, learn, learn

Over the course of a year, students who started in the same place had jumped apart. Growth mindsets performed significantly better. Problem is that when fixed mindsets did poorly, they though, "I guess I'm not good at this..." whereas growth mindset students studied harder.

When they measured brain activity, they found fixed mindset people entered a high state of attention while waiting to see if they got the right answer but this dropped after they found out. Growth mindset students paid attention both to find out if they were right but also when they were told the correct answer.

Fixed Mindset Rule #2: It should come naturally
Growth Mindset Rule #2: Working hard is the key

Fixed mindset thinks if they have to study that means they are no good but there is a growing body of evidence that one thing that distinguishes a genius from others is the amount of work they do.

The problem is that when students coast along with low effort they are told how good they are but when they encounter difficulty they retire. They prefer to be considered smart but lazy rather than work to achieve better.

Fixed Mindset Rule #3: Hide mistakes
Growth Mindset Rule #3: Confront deficiencies

Fixed mindsets hide deficiencies because they believe it shows lack of ability. Growth mindsets work harder rather than drop out or cheat. Fixed mindset students would rather blame others and try to remain feeling superior.

Where do mindsets come from?

Communicated to our students all day in the language we use. The self-esteem gurus thought that praising children as much as possible would make them confident individuals. However, it is the vulnerable children who are focused on getting praise are the fixed mindset (i.e. poor performers).

Experiment where students were given one of two types of praise. Either praising their intelligence or praising for process (e.g. effort). Very quickly, those praised for effort were overwhelmingly learners. Those praised for intelligence lost their confidence when confronted with difficult tasks - hey assumed they must not be intelligent after all. Those praised for process knew that the tasks were more difficult but remained confident because they thought they would be able to work harder to improve. Those praised for intelligence performed much more poorly in a second test - they got worse!

What to praise?

Praise effort, struggle and persistence despite setbacks. Praise strategies and choices. Praise for choosing difficult tasks. And praise for learning and improving.

If a child performs something apparently without effort, rather than saying, "You must be smart" we should say, "I'm sorry that was too easy for you. Let's find something more challenging that you can have fun with." However, it is very hard to give up praising intelligence.

How do you teach a growth mindset?

Students were taught that the brain could be stretched and developed. Students were galvanised to discover that the growth of their minds was in their own hands. The researchers have developed a computer learning package called Brainology where they are taught how the brain can be developed.

A growth mindset allows learners to embrace challenge. Teachers too need to learn a growth mindst - to learn and to grow. We must be given permission to make mistakes and to learn.


Sharon Toner
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
Just arrived at the Scottish Learning Festival and one of the first people I met was Sharon from Dundee University. She's doing interesting research stuff with iPhones (not that I'm jealous you understand).

She challenged me to Tap Tap Revenge, a Guitar Hero style game where two players compete on the same iPhone - simultaneously tapping at opposite sides of the screen. I'm competitive enough to have taken a picture to prove I won. :-)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The iPhone and the Scientist

I was talking to a colleague who noted that the iPhone has an incredible amount of tech stuffed into a small space. In particular, there are umpteen sensors - motion sensors, magnetic sensors, GPS, light sensors, sound sensors, tilt sensors, accelerometers, ... He wondered how much of the kit in a science classroom could be replaced by an iPhone (or in some cases an iTouch) with the right Apps.

Possible uses

Originally uploaded by William Hook
Off the top of our heads we came up with a few possibilities. Simple tools such as using the iPhone as a stopwatch or using the iPhone's GPS to collect data for time/speed/distance investigations.

When you look at the available Apps, even more possibilities present themselves. For example iCarpenter provides a range of tools for exploring angles and the iProtractor tool allows you to measure angles on images stored on your device. (The iProtractor creator has also produced a Units Convertor which is designed for scientists and engineers which he says does, "does high-powered dimensional analysis".)

Other Apps to measure and/or record include SoundLevelPro (one of umpteen decibel sound level meters), TiltMeter Pro (which can log data from an inclinometer), iSiesmograph (which hopefully does what the name suggests... but the web page describing it is in German!), the Magnetic Flux and Metal Detector (which does what it says on the tin), iSteps (one of many pedometer/calorie counters that could be used as part of a healthy eating/Biology topic) and Sun Clock (which displays the time, information on sunrise and sunset as well as details on the phase of the moon).

The Nike/iPod link up suggests that interfacing other sensors and using the iPhone/iTouch as a data logging device should also be possible. Perhaps I was looking in the wrong place but the best example of this I could find is the iNXT Remote App that connects with Lego NXT robotic systems.

Finally, the Creative Applications site gives Ten Creative Ways to Use the Accelerometer some of which would be useful in the Science classroom.

Ideas from Twitter

Having exhausted my own ideas, I turned to my Personal Learning Network and asked on Twitter if anyone had good ideas for how this technology could be used in the Science classroom. A wide range of suggestions were made.

First of the mark was Theo with news of a microscope App. I don't know if this is what he meant, but the only thing I could find was an announcement about a virtual microscope for pathologists. Next up was John with Crayon Physics Deluxe for the iPhone (or iPhysics perhaps?). Stuart suggested some games that have a science element, namely: Sheep Launcher (free version available), Geared Lite, Ragdoll Blaster Lite and Biker Blast-off.

Also through Twitter came a message from Leon saying that he was working with a class of children who were using the iTouch. He has now posted a video of what the children are doing and it looks brilliant.

Final Thoughts

I'm convinced that the iPhone/iTouch has potential in the Science classroom and in education more generally. It is expensive to get an iPhone but many of the potential uses work just as well on the much cheaper iTouch. Also, Science equipment is expensive, so if one device with the addition of cheap Apps can perform a variety of tasks, it may even work out to be quite cost effective.

Finally, be aware that many of these suggestions are a stab in the dark as I do not (yet!) own an iPhone/iTouch. I hope that some of you reading this, with direct experience, will be able to make better suggestions - perhaps especially where I have selected one representative App out of a range of possiblities.


So tell me - are you convinced? Is there a place for the iPhone/iTouch in classrooms? Also, what Apps would you recommend and why?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fun On Friday #41: Hit that keyboard!

Apparently, keyboards take the brunt of users irritation with Information and Communication Technology equipment. When a program crashes, or a Google search fails to deliver, it is the keyboard that is most likely to be thumped in frustration!

I am pleased therefore to offer a (vaguely) legitimate excuse for hitting the keyboard. Thanks to the Gadget Show, I was directed to the Press The Spacebar 2000 game. It is a simple, but surprisingly addictive, game. The basic aim is to hit the spacebar as many times as possible in a given time limit.

My personal best is 41 times in 5 seconds.

Not brilliant but not bad. It reminds me a bit of the old Daley Thompson game on the ZX Spectrum where you had to batter away at a couple of keys to make Daley run...I wasn’t very good at that game either. :-)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On a classroom wall...

Just the other day, I visited a school to see a student - my first student visit this session. A couple of things on the wall caught my attention.

The first was an A4 sized poster that said:
RAM disk is not an installation procedure.
This amused me! ...Especially since we were looking at Literacy Across Learning today where we were discussing the need to explain what we meant to pupils when using specialist vocabulary in our subjects.

The second was a cool wall, like Andy McSwan's. What I liked about it was that as the class arrived and got themselves organised, I heard two of the girls chatting about it. They were expressing surprise that Bebo was so low as they thought it should be higher. They were clearly engaged with and responding to the cool wall.

I'm guessing it wasn't their class that created the wall but they were happily discussing technology and voicing opinions that they backed up with evidence. Well, not exactly hard evidence but one said that all the Bebo pages she visited were very cool. Initially, the other agreed but then added, "Except my aunt's page. It's rubbish!"

A wall display that gets pupils animated and discussing your subject - what more could you ask for?

{I'm working on a post about iPhone apps but it's taking longer to come together than expected. This was upposed to be a quick, stop-gap post... but it got a bit bigger than I intended!}

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fun On Friday #40: URL Shorteners

A short post this week as befits the topic...

Twitter, with its 140 character limit on message length, has fueled the development of URL shorteners. Here's an article that describes 5 Very Weird URL Shorteners.

Which one is your favourite?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Presidential address

Sometimes I am puzzled by the reactions of Americans. For example, the recent fuss around our NHS was strange - beyond belief at times. In the interests of balance though, I should say that the reaction of people in the UK can be just as puzzling to me.

However, as I read Will's blog on The Obama Speech my immediate and continuing reaction was... "Eh!?" I admit that this particular controversy had passed me by, so I went to look for a news report to give me some background.

I found this from Times Online: Parents demand to vet Barack Obama school speech over ‘indoctrination’ fury. The report is interesting but the comments are incredible.

I wonder what would happen if Gordon Brown announced he was going to address the nation's school children and released lesson plans to help teachers? Any thoughts? Would it create the same sort of reaction here?

Friday, September 04, 2009

Fun on Friday #39: Contraptions

For today's fun on Friday - you can play a game but pretend you are learning about physics.

Try Fantastic Contraptions.

Originally uploaded by paulmorriss

My school physics text book was called Physics Is Fun, but I never believed it. Any other physics related games out there?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Scottish Learning Festival and TeachMeetSLF09

Over the last couple of days I have become aware of a flurry of online activity associated with the Scottish Learning Festival and TeachMeetSLF09.

The crowds gather
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
I was aware of the rapid approach of SLF but since my own talk is nowhere near ready, I've been feeling a bit concerned.

However, seeing some of the things taking shape has fired me up with a bit more enthusiasm. For example I love, SLFtalk, an audio blogging tool that John Johnson and David Noble have put together. (See John's post on SLFtalk.) Loads of good stuff happening, great people to meet and, of course, TeachEat.

Now, if only I can get my session together, I could really look forward to it.