Thursday, September 30, 2010

Scottish Learning Festival 2010

A week has gone by since the close of the Scottish Learning Festival, so I thought it was well past time time to jot down a few thoughts and impressions.

Meeting Moby
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
As always, one of the best things about the Festival is the number of people you meet. I found it difficult to get around the exhibition area because it seemed that every couple of stands, I'd bump into someone else I knew and would stand and chat with them instead of looking at the exhibitors. I met colleagues old and new; former students and current students; friends and acquaintances. I met some virtual friends (from Twitter among other places) in the "real" world for the first time. I even met a virtual person in the shape of BrainPop's Moby - officially now my favourite big orange robot.

Some people I didn't meet but meant to include Mark Pentleton (I saw him briefly at TeachMeet but wanted to go to his stand in the exhibition area) and Alan Yeoman from 2Simple (I've always liked the 2Simple stuff and I'm really impressed with the way they have put so much of it on the web and provided a pile of resources to boot on the Purple Mash site).

I was glad I met Jenny. Despite meeting her last year, I had almost walked past without recognising her; thankfully she said hello to me. Her round table session at TeachMeet was outstandingly good! (John Johnson was impressed too.)

I was also glad to chat to Jamie on the XMA stand. In particular I was really impressed with the new iPod Nano I saw there. I was surprised by how much I wanted one when I saw it as I hadn't been overly impressed with the Nano when just reading about it. It clips onto clothing/ties/lapels/whatever like the shuffle and while playing music it displays the album art. I heard someone say it was like people wearing badges to show what groups they like, except with the Nano, you have a badge that changes with every new track you are listening to.

Apart from the Nano, there wasn't much new that caught my eye in the exhibition. I was vaguely impressed by an LCD Interactive screen that was being touted as an alternative to Interactive Whiteboards. The brightness and colour were hugely impressive as was the viewing angle, but it was a bit too expensive and perhaps a bit too small. However, give it a couple of years...

I've already blogged about the sessions I attended but I want to highlight two in particular:
  1. Sugata Mitra's Keynote. I had heard about Sugata Mitra's Hole In The Wall project but this was the first time I'd heard anything on his ideas of self-organised learning. I tried to capture what he was saying live: The Hole In The Wall: Self Organising Systems in Education.

  2. Stephen Heppell. As always, hugely quotable. (My favourite this year was his complaint about "Dick Turpin Teaching" where teachers "Stand and deliver!"). See my attempt to keep up with him in Why our Young Embrace Technology to Engage in Learning. I love the way Stephen Heppell presents. He doesn't use a linear Powerpoint style but draws on a collection of icons on his desktop that he pulls up when necessary to illustrate what he is talking about. Brilliant.
So another year, another useful Learning festival... and I've still to do a reflective blog on TeachMeet. Hopefully next week.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fun on Friday #83: Dance off

A report, or rather a video, from the Scottish Learning Festival seems appropriate.

From left to right we have Ollie Bray, a small child, Moby from Brain Pop and Derek Robertson (who once again demonstrates how he has the best job in the world!).

I believe Ollie cam last and that the small child beat Moby. However, I suspect that Derek's competitive spirit means that he will have given no quarter to the child; who looks to be a tenth of his age and his height. Can anyone confirm that Derek was willing to destroy all who stood in his way regardless of their age?

Friday, September 24, 2010

TeachMeet@SLF2010: QR Codes in Education

Here is my Prezi from TeachMeet@SLF 2010 on QR Codes in Education:

Update: John Johnston has posted the audio of my presentation.

If you want to find out more, various people recommended QR Codes at Bath and related pages as a good source of ideas (I certainly found them useful) and I would add Mr Robbo's QR Code posts which have loads of practical ideas and examples.

If you want to find a QR Reader and have a go yourself, Mobile Barcodes lists some of the available applications. (I used i-nigma during the demo but I'm intrigued by Stickybits which @relativism introduced me to). Pick a reader and try it out. I used the Kaywa QR Code Generator to create the codes but there are many other free online tools and applications available.

If you want to contact me for more details, everything you need to know is in this QR Code :-)

QR Code with my contact details

Hope you find this useful.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Hole In The Wall: Self Organising Systems in Education

{Live capture of keynote from Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology, Newcastle University}

What do we have to do to fulfil the four capacities and how do we measure if we are successful?

A fairly small proportion of the world's children have access to "adequate resources" to support learning. In UK there are problems with aspiration. ("Why should I be a professor like you when I can earn as much driving a bus?") In some areas of the world there are problems with access.

"When I need to know something, I can find out in 5 minutes" - Young child in the UK.

"We can't use the Internet because the school didn't pay for it." - Young child in India.

Professor Mitra found that performance in schools dropped off as the schools got further away from Delhi. Part of the problem was that teachers further from Dehli wanted to move and good teachers were able to move to "better areas". He found similar problems in UK - not geographically remote but high council house areas performed more poorly than schools in areas with higher proportion of private housing.

Showed videos of children exploring, browsing and using software on computers placed in remote areas. Software was in English and children had no prior experience of computers and yet they learned and reached a very high level of competence within a few months.

Arthur C Clark - "Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer should be!" "If children are interested, they will learn."

Another experiment was to put speech to text software in a school for poor children. The software could not understand their English, so they were told they had to learn how to make the software work. They invented their own pedagogy - they downloaded the Oxford speaking dictionary and taught themselves by copying its accent.

"If there is stuff on Google, why do we need to stuff it into our heads?"

Designed an experiment to see if children can teach themselves anything (Kalkuppam Experiment - BJET). A poor, Tamil speaking, tsunami hit village school were given material on DNA replication (in English) and left them to explore and discover what they could. They thought they had not understood anything but had actually discovered an incredible amount - the bar we set as teachers are often much lower than the bar they set themselves. With the help of a friendly mediator using the "Granny Technique" who stood behind them and admired what they were doing! They got their test scores up to the same level as children in better equipped schools with biology teachers.

Self-organised learning environments. Children can go very far but a friendly mediator ("the granny cloud") can help. Children not only learn, but retain and improve on scores because they have worked out how to do it themselves.

How far can we go? "The ten year old doesn't stop; we stop them!" Do age and stage impositions limit children?

Two skills at the heart of this:
  1. Information search and analysis
  2. Reading comprehension
Theses are the most essential skills for primary education today.

What is happening? It is a self-organising system - the system structure appears without external input. Self organising systems are emergent phenomenon - they surprise us.

Speculation: Education is a self organising system, where learning is an emergent phenomenon.

See his wikispace for more information.

SLF: Games - Creation Not Consumption

{Captured live...}

Charlie says, "On your next CPD day - play games!"

Games Design Initiative. Not just for Computing Departments - it is truly inter-disciplinary. Games design is clearly in the Technologies outcomes but there are outcomes throughout the outcomes across learning. Apart from these obvious links, the game context can be linked to many different curricular areas.

Literacy and Game Design

Story telling has structures that can be linked to game design, for example key narrative points. Also, most games come with additional material give the back story for the characters and to set the scene.

Development Environments

2DIY from 2Simple is a great environment for supporting creativity. A simple drag and drop sorting exercise game created with 2DIY was demonstrated. A tool that makes it easy for even very young children to create games. (Various examples are shared on Glow.)

Scratch: Probably the most popular development environment in use in schools. Example was shown of a game where the sprites were created in plasticine and brought in via a photograph. A robot was a cardboard model that was also photographed and brought in. Other ways the learning was extended was the backstory and narrative in the game, the music, the background images... Real inter-disciplinary work for teams of children to collaborate on and draw on different skills.

Kodu: Free PC Software that works with an XBox controller to create XBox games. Charlie did a live demo and created a game world in the environment to show how easy it is to use. Good that the environment can be used in a straightforward manner to create simple games but can be extended to use complex and sophisticated programming projects. Can get started with some pre-written examples but very soon children begin to explore and discover what can be done. Example from Girvan Primary school of Primary 7 children acting as mentors and training up Primary 4 children. The Primary 4 game creation grew out of literacy (story telling ) work.


Games Design Competition

The finalists from this year's competition were shown. Great Scratch game from P5 was shown - developers enjoyed so much they kept working through the summer. Immersive 3D, first person game produced by a 15 year old. Secondary winner came from a large team of pupils who all developed different aspects. The game development was not led by a computing teacher but an English teacher who was interested in the literacy skills.

3D Environment tools

Unreal engine made use of Google SketchUp created 3D models. (Both free tools.)

Glow resources

Loads of good resources in the Consolarium Glow group. Games design is one of the few genuinely inter-disciplinary activities available to schools and one that motivates and interest most children.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

TeachMeet@SLF 2010

TeachMeet@SLF 2010 is about to begin. I'll try to capture it live but I'm not promising...

Why our Young Embrace Technology to Engage in Learning

{Blogged live... Quotes may in fact be paraphrased!}

Stephen Heppell: Just bought an new boat. It is 100 years old. "Technology that takes 100 years to refine is pretty good!"

Focusing on the younger generation today. Children are starting to use their own kit in school as schools realise "A turned off device is a turned off child." We are galloping along and educational structures are struggling to keep up. "We need to stop talking about preparing for 21st Century education - we're a tenth of the way through it!"

Talking about very large classes. It works but only if teachers act as a team. One teacher leads, one manages differentiation and one intervenes for "repair" work. Children are self managing and self and peer learning.

"Dick Turpin teaching: Stand and deliver." - This is bad! Rule of three:
  1. Never more than three walls
  2. Never fewer than three points of focus
  3. Space for at least three teachers and three classes.
Post-Google generation - email is what your dad does. When you give children space, trust, technology,... they always astonish you. YouTube is their principle search engine. "Technology will infest them. Like head-lice; but smarter." In times gone past, educators have tried to appropriate the technology - standardise and control. Technology in school will be personal and rightly so - the learners will bring the technology and schools will just have some "spare plimsoles" in the cupboard for the ones that have forgotten their kit.

There is a mismatch between educational outcomes (success in external exams) and what society and business want and need.

Twentieth century delivery - scarcity (lawyers). Millennium - Scale and domination (geeks). Membership and trust (learning professionals).

John Holt (1968) The Underachieving School.

Education used to de-populate rural areas but technology means that work can be done online and could therefore help re-generate rural areas. The high streets in towns/cities are collapsing. Do we just let the cities die? In Alaska, they have re-purposed shopping malls into schools elementary to post compulsory in the one space... and a food hall on the top level too!

Stage not age. What are the sensible upper and lower limits? When should children do workplaced learning? When should they learn about parenting? Give children the right tools and opportunities and they can surprise. Examples given were of very young babies swimming or balance bikes that allow two year olds to learn to ride a bike very easily. How will people play with data? See Mapumental for one example. Chat area in facebook already does real time translation. Translation tools allow easy translation of websites.

Facebook in school leave your teacher's common sense turned on. Common sense must be turned on at all times. E.g. Green schools were built with things like small windows and low ceilings but this sort of thing creates poor learning environments. Problem is "We have a meter that says we are wasting energy but there isn't a meter that says we are wasting learning."

"The world is a broken place; but we can mend it with learning." Good learning doesn't have to be expensive. We have to believe that learning can empower people.

SLF 2010: Computer Games

{Live blog...}

Why games development in schools?

First, games a everywhere: desktop, mobile, consoles. Also, in the current economic downturn, the gaming industry is one if the few areas of growth, e.g. out grossing film. Games are clearly embedded in Curriculum for Excellence but there was a gap after S2, with no obvious games qualification available.

So, Computer Games Design awards were developed. Each level has the same three module areas.

Design: Gaming technologies - looking at hardware, control devices and storage etc. Also running through is a study of the gaming industry.
Design: Design Elements - including iciness, graphics, narrative etc.
Design: Plan and build a game.

Media Assets: Assets in existing games - Identifying and analysing.
Media Assets: Plan media assets - Capture, select and produce assists.
Media Assets: Produce media assets - can produce themselves or as part of a team, commission someone else to produce them.

Development: Create a working game: Programming couldn't be the core of all the units. Also, wanted the modules to be flexible enough to allow a variety of development tools to be used. For example Planet Kodu on the XBox or Little Big Planet (?) on the playstation. Also, complexity of games developed will be influenced by tools available and the descriptors a broad enough to allow for this.
Development: Evaluate a computer game.
Development: Promote a game. Packaging and promotion. Again, this can be completed in groups, multiple-level groups possibly.

Development Environments

  • Unreal Development Kit - freely available professional development environment.
  • Quake 3 Development environment.
  • Planet Kodu
  • Scratch - Well suited to creating games.
  • Gamemaker
  • Microsoft XNA


Ongoing portfolio of work created, paper or electronic, which must be maintained and developed over the period of each unit.

Students can progress to the NC in Digital Media Computing or NC in Digital Games Development.

Questions (From audience)

Is it expensive? Development environments and software a free. To play the games, they can be played on PC or Mac. Also, experience of developers is that children bringing their own game consoles!

How do parents view it? Generally very positive because their children are very positive. Also, it is made clear that it is not about playing games all day.

Does it take pupils away from Higher? Does not seem to as it is a different market. Attracts children who would otherwise have been lost to Computing departments.

Will slides be made available? Will probably put on Slideshare and will post via SQA blog.

Katie will be talking in discussion area about Digital Media Computing tomorrow.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fun on Friday #82: Time for a commercial break

I usually try to avoid advertising on this blog... but these amused me and I couldn't resist sharing.

First up an old one that my daughters couldn't believe I'd only just discovered the Old Spice advert:

Then this advert from a well known fizzy drinks company:

Which adverts amuse you?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What did they need to know?

I asked for some help about what to include in an hours introduction to ICT for student teachers and got loads of good suggestions (see ICT: Tell me everything I need to know!).

Originally uploaded by Swansea Photographer
I tried to squeeze too much in and perhaps didn't structure it as well as I might have as a result I didn't have time to cover a couple of areas I wanted to talk about. It was videoed but I'm not sure if it is viewable off campus without logging in. Let me know if you can see it: PGDE2010/11 Intro Lecture.

I started by talking about the Standards For Initial Teacher Education and highlighting the references to ICT in that document. Learning about ICT and discovering how to use ICT effectively in learning and teaching is something that every teacher is expected to do - regardless of stage or subject. I went on at some length about this, in retrospect, probably too long. (It was a bit abstract and would probably have come out more effectively as I demonstrated some specific uses later on.) The key message I hoped to communicate was that they might be confident about their personal ICT skills but that they need to start thinking about their teaching skills. Can they use ICT effectively to support learning and teaching? To that end I quoted one of the people that had responded to my earlier post:
"The most important thing that could have been said to me at the beginning of my teacher training is that ICT is far more than you realise. You may think that you are confident in the field or you may believe that you are a complete novice, either way you have a lot to learn. " - @relativism
To emphasise this, since almost all of them said they had a facebook account, I referred them to the GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct, specifically the bit that says:
"As a teacher you must... avoid circumstances which are, or could be, perceived to be of an inappropriate nature. This is also the case in connection with social networking websites, outwith the school/college setting..."
However, I did point out the the GTCS were not suggesting they didn't use social networks at all but rather that they had to start thinking and behaving like teachers. In fact I pointed out that the GTCS make good use of social networking tools and gave the specific example of GTC hosted probationer blogs such as They Don't Use Chalk Any More.

That was a significant chunk time... and I hadn't really started picking up what people had suggested I should have been telling the students about!

However, before I got onto my Personal Learning Network's suggestions, I wanted to say a bit about Glow, so I explained how they would get access and did a quick demo, highlighting in particular GlowMeet (and surprise, surprise, I showed them the Doctor Who Meet page) and the external resources that can be accessed through Glow (specifically the 2Simple stuff).

Finally, I got onto some of the things I wanted to talk about based on the suggestions of others. In particular, a couple of people had suggested I should use examples where ICT allowed things to happen that would be difficult or impossible without ICT. I intended to come back to this in a number of different ways but started by offering a feedback channel for the students by putting a phone number on the screen and inviting the students to send a text. Any text they sent would be automatically displayed on a blog where I will respond to the comments and encourage the students to continue their interactions. I also gave an email address and encouraged students to send a photo to a Posterous blog.

Next up was Twitter. I encouraged them to sign up for Twitter and promised I'd give them more information later about how to get the most out of Twitter. I did make the point of showing them some of the Tweets that had come in from educators while I had been talking to them as a practical demonstration of how Twitter can be used to gather real time information and advice from a Personal Learning Network. (I archived the responses with TwapperKeeper.)

I was rapidly running out of time and I tried to squeeze in some of the suggestions from others but there was loads I missed out. Since this is already a reasonably long post, I think I'll stop here and pick up on what I did (and didn't) do next in a future post.

Let me know what you think of what I've described so far. Is there anything you'd like to add, disagree with or expand upon that will help the students?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fun on Friday #81: What time is it?

Depending on your age, in response to the question in the title, you may have answered either "Hammer Time!" or "Chico Time!" but if you want a more sensible answer, the place to go is HELVETICTOC.
Surprisingly simple and ridiculously amusing!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Fun on Friday #80: The Confuzzle

By turning a shape through 180°, it gets bigger. Impossible I hear you say. The camera never lies. Not impossible, just confuzzling.

If you want, to try it for yourself, there's a set of instructions on how to make your own confuzzle on the Instructables site.