Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fun On Friday #99: The View From Above

Contrary to popular belief, the Great Wall of China is not the only man made object visible from space. Various Internet sources claim that you can barely see the Great Wall of China from low orbit. Some objects, however, are clearly visible in the satellite images from Google Maps and thanks to Jesse Vig at the GeoGreeting site, you can use buildings, lakes and other features to send a message:

Even better, the site gives you a link that you can send to people so they see an animation of your message being formed along with details of what and where the letters are.

Literacy across learning? Geography, Art and Design with a bit of ICT thrown in for good measure ...or just good fun?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, January 24, 2011

ET Phone Home!

I was intrigued to hear a report on the radio on Monday that a British company is planing to launch a satellite they hope to control using a mobile phone (See this report on the BBC website for more information: Mobile phone to blast into orbit). They are not using the parts from a mobile, they are putting the actual phone into the satellite as is and using its built in features - for example they plan to use its camera to take pictures.

When we heard this, my wife wondered out loud if they were using an iPhone. I said, probably not and that it was more likely to be an Android phone because they would need something they could hack, which is indeed what they are doing.

It got me thinking again about a couple of the comments made by people at the Learning Without Frontiers conference. Specifically, Evan Roth (see Evan Roth, Graffiti Research Lab) who wants children to have computers they can hack and David Braben (see LWF11 - David Braben, Founder, Frontier Developme...) who remembered his own formative years when computer systems came with programming manuals. How can we give children a way in to programming with current systems?

On of my favourite quotes is from Arthur C. Clark:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
But I often say to my students, that one of the jobs of a computing teacher is to open the magic box and show them the smoke and mirrors inside. The problem is, current operating systems generally do too good a job at hiding what is going on but, as I've said elsewhere, while the computing industry is saying, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!", I want teachers to lift the curtain and show pupils what the levers do. All sorts of things conspire, however, to make this difficult, for example the managed systems that most schools use where you can't install any software and even tweaking a system setting is difficult/impossible.

I think David Braben's Raspberry Pi project could be extraordinarily useful in this respect but while we are waiting for it to arrive, how do we give children the opportunity to hack systems? How do we let them gain the experience of coding that came with early micros like the Spectrum and the BBC Micro? Or I suppose I should have started with the basic question - do you agree that children should be encouraged to re-configure or re-program their own devices and devices available in schools?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fun On Friday #98: Everyone's gone to the moon

It seemed obvious to me when I was younger that by the year 2000 there would be a well established moonbase (I was an avid watcher of Space 1999 after all) and that we'd be heading to Mars or beyond. I also assumed that people would be travelling to and from the moon on a regular basis... and by "people" I of course meant me.

Alas, I now have to accept that I will never make it to the moon. Today's Fun of Friday is about as close as I'll get because a photographer, Hans Nyberg, has created and published 360° QuickTime VR panoramas from NASA pictures. For example here's one from the Apollo 11 mission - pictures of the first men on the moon! Click on the thumbnail below to see the whole panorama unfold before you:

Screenshot from a panorama taken on the Apollo 11 mission used as
a link, as permitted on Hans Nyberg's Web page.

Stunning, isn't it? He provides six panoramas, from six different missions, and puts you right on the surface of the Moon with the astronauts. Not even close to as good as being there but stunning nonetheless.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Some brief thoughts on Learning Without Frontiers

I've been meaning to write a reflective piece on Learning Without Frontiers for some time now but have been running to stand still since I came back from London. This isn't the piece I wanted to write but is an attempt to capture some thoughts before it slips too far into the past.

Stephen Heppell
Originally uploaded by mrjorgen
The main thing I want to note is how good this conference was. It was outstandingly good! For example, the last two speakers were Lord Puttnam and Jimmy Wales (see LWF11 - Lord David Puttnam of Queensgate and LWF11 - Jimmy Wales, Founder, Wikipedia), and just a bit before that we heard from the magnificent Mr Heppell (see LWF11 - Stephen Heppell ). Almost without exception, over the course of the two days, each speaker said something that challenged, inspired or got me excited about learning and teaching. Some even got me annoyed - and that was a good thing too. I think my students must already be fed up with me because in every class I have taken since the conference I have found myself saying, often a number of times, " the conference I was at in London..."

As I look back at my posts, typed up live during the two days, I realise that's what they are: notes. Often I was struggling to keep up, or getting carried away by the ideas and the possibilities; too carried away to properly capture what they were saying. Twenty-five posts from a two day conferences gives an indication of how much good stuff was going on but it's clear that they are rough sketches of a few of the main points. What is lacking is reflection and evaluation. (And basic editing/proof-reading in some cases!)

But that's another thing that was so brilliant about the conference. Where I am lacking, there are a many others leaping in to fill the gap. For example Ewan McIntosh was blogging live but managed give insightful comments on the topics as he did so (see for example his post on Karen Cator). Other participants absorbed the ideas, considered them and wrote excellent reflections on the whole event (see for example Oliver Quinlan's Reflections on Learning Without Frontiers 2011). And then there is the Twitter activity that started before the conference, exploded during it and continues even now. I don't think I have ever been to an event where the hashtag has been so active such a long time after the event. Have a search for #lwf11 or take a look at the archive of messages (6122 and still growing) and get a glimpse of an active learning community learning together. The impact of the conference is reaching far beyond those of us who attended in person and reaching in time far longer than the official 48 hours (well, 72 if you count the pre-event on Sunday).

My intention when starting this post was to write a reflective piece, highlighting some of the key things I'd learned. It seems though that I've turned it into a glowing report instead... but I suppose that gives me the excuse to come back and try again next week once the videos start appearing and share my personal highlights then!

What events have you attended that got you excited about learning and teaching?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Fun On Friday #97: Retro Gaming

Clearly all my blog posts from the Learning Without Frontiers conference tired me out, so I am unbelievably late with my first Fun On Friday of 2011... but better late than never.

david braben Originally uploaded 
by nottinghamgamecity
This post is partly inspired by seeing and talking to David Braben at LWF11 (see LWF11 - David Braben, Founder, Frontier Developme...). David's presentation was excellent and his passion and desire to see children get the same opportunities to play with computers that he had was inspiring. An unfortunate side effect of his appearance at the conference was, it made me want to dust off the old BBC Master I have sitting in a cupboard at work and see if I can find my copy of Elite - the game that he co-wrote back in the 80s. (This is unfortunate because of the likely effect on my productivity if I give into temptation!)

The other main inspiration was this advert for an iCADE - iPad Arcade Cabinet which makes your iPad look like an old style arcade machine. Just looking at the picture reminded me of my days at university and the vast amounts of my grant that I must have pumped into machines like this.

I thought that some retro-style computer games would be appropriate and one of the most retro is Space Invaders. (Well Pong was arguably the one that paved the way for all subsequent video games but Space Invaders was the one that really took my money and my time!) I was pleased to find good online emulation of Space Invaders on the Classic Gaming site where you can also find emulations of Asteroids and Pacman (among others) as well as a section for classic PC games.

My only problem now is resisting the temptation to go and look for even more emulations of old video games. What is your favourite old-style game?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

LWF11 - Jimmy Wales, Founder, Wikipedia


We are seeing a world wide growth in the development of informal learning. Wikipedia's aim is to make all knowledge accessible to all {My paraphrase!}.

What is free access? Wikipedia is the largest encyclopaedia. It is free access - that is free as in free speech rather than free beer. When people contribute to Wikipedia, they are contributing an open source resource that is being re-mixed and reused.

What is "the sum" of all human knowledge? It is not YouTube - no funny cat videos. It is not a social network. So the scope of "the sum" is constrained by the type of project that it is.

They have about 50 employees and over 100,000 volunteers. This is a remarkable model that breaks many assumptions about how you can develop material and how much it costs to do it.

Global content comparisons. How does Wikipedia differ in different countries? Turns out the content of different versions are very similar but what people are interested in is very different. For example, in Japan, the biggest section is popular culture. The Germans are most interested in Geography. People are interested in local politics and local government which is an important ole for Wikipedia. At the time of the recent assassination attempt in the USA people have been reflecting on the violent nature of political debate there - Wikipedia strives to maintain a neutral position.

Who is writing Wikipedea? There are 408 million people a month writing entries. By the numbers (from a self-reported survey) 87% male ("Not really a good thing." -- Jimmy Wales) - part of the problem is that editing is still too difficult for non-geeks and geeks tend to be male. Average age is 26. Double the percentage of PhDs wite compared to general population.

The encyclopaedia was just the start. What is coming next? The library is much bigger than the encyclopaedia. Wikia aims to buid the library around the encyclopaedia. They are trying to be much more ambitious than Wikipedia by providing a bigger range of tools - to provide magazine type tools for example. At the moment, it is dominated by popular culture. He gave the example of Lost Wikia - a Wikia section all about Lost. It seems the writers of the show drew heavily on this and worked with the community to create the show. In a way, the show was a wiki - it was co-created.

Can we use this model in education - co-creating pupil learning?

LWF11 - Lord David Puttnam of Queensgate

Session started with the digital nativity:

He said that one of the things he thought, when he first started taking about this sort of thing, he hoped schools would produce this type of video. Went onto a quote from Bertram Russell which essentially said that states will never put the interests of the child above their own interests.

Education has the potential to drive growth - both internally and in terms of export. There is a concern, however, that the current climate is seeking to shut down the type of disruptive technology that could drive this growth. Also notes that there are now a generation of teachers who are gamers and technology users, like the children they are teaching. They too must be getting frustrated by the power down effect in schools.

What would positive disruption look like. Example was given of the iPhone which revolutionised phones, computers and distribution. There are now a host of other devices that do the same. Mobile technology is close to reaching every human on earth. So where is the specific disruption that will change the way we learn.

Is education insulated or isolated from the disruption the technology is causing elsewhere. We need to discuss who we can embrace the technology that is already embedded in the lives of the pupils in our schools. We need to reboot education to make sure it meets their needs and the needs of the businesses they will work in when they leave school. If the state fails in this task, private companies may step in and do it instead.

Can technology enhance the productivity of schools? Will schools invest in the continuing professional development of its teachers?

Lord Puttnam talked about a film festival where he was a judge. A trend he noticed that the young do not trust the older generation. The see the older generation as having stolen ther pensions, their education and their climate. If we are to win back the trust of the young, we need to engage with them.

Conclusion - Crucial Lessons
  • Getting our education right is not just one of many priorities. It is the "Whole ball of wax!"
  • No education system can be better than its teachers.
  • Teacher education in the digital age has to be lifelong.
  • There has to be a national debate on the education of women.
The challenge is, we have to be more persuasive at getting our message across.

LWF11 - Genevieve Shore, Director of Digital Strategy, Pearson Plc

Started with a video where some explains how publishing is dead but the video then rewinds and you here the opposite message. Very smart.

Here are the speakers top six resolutions:
  1. Be Disruptive;
  2. Be Global;
  3. Get Personal;
  4. {Missed this one - be profitable maybe?}
  5. Be Trusted;
  6. Eat less cheese!
An interesting thing that has happened is the "perfect storm" of device, content and delivery mechanism that has come with the iPad and the iBooks app store. Games are a disruptive technology. Artificial Intelligence systems are becoming smarter. How will that disrupt education? For example, could it be used to mark essays and help students improve early drafts.

We can be very Euro-centric and even Imperialistic. Are we only interested in exporting our way of teaching? For example, the speaker talked about a phone based tutoring system in India.

We need to find ways to personalise learning. Personal mobile devices, such as the iPad, are one way of doing this. Talked about a project where every child has an iPad and they are used for everything - content delivered, notes taken and tests completed.

The publishing industry is finding that people are willing to pay for content if the conditions are right. For example, printed tourist guides are still top sellers and the Financial Times is making money.

If a company is no longer trusted, sometimes it is because they have forgotten why they exist.

The cheese comment was the related to the need for balance.

LWF11 - David McCandless, Author & Information Designer

Visualising Information

David (author of the Design Is Beautiful blog) says we are in a blizzard of information - we need to be able to design ways of visualising data in a way that can make them beautiful, that can make them tell a story, that can make them more understandable.

We can see connections when visualised properly. David showed some Billion Dollar O Grams which try to build a bridge to see the proportions and to help us make sense of it. Our minds find it difficult to make sense of huge numbers.

He showed a graph of world fear as reported in the media. It was fascinating to see patterns and cycles emerge. One interesting aspect was the way all the fears dipped at the start of the war in Afghanistan - a time when real fears pushed out the more manufactured ones.

Also talked about the need to contextualise data. For example, China has the largest army but when you compare it to the size of its population it drops way down the table.

"Let the data set change your mindset." -- Hans Rosling

Visualising lets you summarise and condense information. Also, by creating the visualistion, you can learn about yourself in the process.

LWF11 - Stephen Heppell

Stephen Heppell

Stephen Heppell talked about when he first started teaching. He told a class that he knew about economics but didn't know about teaching. He said that he'd get them through the exam but wanted them to tell him how to teach - to watch other teachers and tell him what they did. They said about one of the techers: "We don't know what she's got. It's like a force field. When you get near her you have to behave. We don't know what she's doing yet but we'll work it out!"

Planet Read - Subtitling Bollywood Movies in the language of the film and people learn to read. Superclasses - classes of 60 plus. It is counter intuitive but superclasses work. We need to try everything! Even the things that we don't think will work.

People plus technology breaks cartels - the music industry knows this, the film industry knows this... education cartels will be broken by technology. But people plus technology pushes the margins - and sometimes things break. We cannot prepare children for everything - we need to prepare them to be able to cope with surprises.

The world is broken but we can mend it with education.

LWF11 - Professor Blake

Professor Blake is the Managing Director of Microsoft Research Cambridge

The speaker talked about Natural User Interfaces. Talked about the development of interfaces:

Green screens and curdles
No touch!

No touch interaction is here now but mostly in the game world.

An Anybot - designed to take your place at meetings you can't physically attend. The Anybot mimics you actions as you communicate with the meeting.

There are professional motion capture systems used in industries like Movies and Medicine. High end and expensive. New, cheaper way to capture motion was needed for consumer/game systems. The Kinect uses a 3D camera to separate out the person being captured from the noise in the background. Also need object recognition system to distinguish between the different body parts. (Similar to system in digital cameras that recognize and group faces when focusing. Final component is a synthetic training technology to allow the system to recognize the full range of human forms.

You can also train systems to recognize facial expressions to detect emotion - a surprise spin off from Autism research.

Computing Science is not ICT
Computing Science = intellectual challenge
The UK Needs Computing Sientists - we need Computing in schools.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

LWF11 - Kareem Ettouney

Kareem Ettouney

Talking about Little Big Planet. Games a fun. Tools tend not to be. One of the key design decisions for Little Big Planet was to make the design tool part of the game.

The speaker talked about how when he first started learning the guitar, his teacher started with the end point: "If you learn the guitar, you can join our band." He thinks seeing the end point, seeing the goal, at the start was important.

Playstation, Wii etc. Are very powerful machines but educative can to bend them to make them work. They can be creative.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

LWF11 - David Braben, Founder, Frontier Developments

Games and Learning

{The speaker developed Elite! I loved Elite! I spent hours playing Elite. - Sorry, completely distracted by a trip down memotry lane. - DM}

What motivates children? Does X-Factor/Lottery age foster a desire for instant reward? Do they shun things (such as learning) that require effort and hard work?

Games motivate children. They give a feeling of progress, they don't criticise failure but reward success and have small, easy steps. Children are willing to put in hours of "slog" to suceed in games. Gave example of a very successful game - Roller Coaster Tycoon - a very creative game where the only real reward is the opportunity to share their creations online. Even criticised games such as Halo show evidence of self-directed learning.

It is possible to program games and various tools exist but there is a learning gap that needs a teacher to help children bridge the gap. It does take a fair degree of effort to move from game playing to game development. Savid talked about his early experiences on home micros as a teenager - the computer came with a programming manual and programming them was (relatively) easy. How do we help the current generation of gamers get into programming?

Daviod has come up with a small, cheap machine, the Raspberry Pi, to provide an open source way in for pupils to get into programming. Because it is cheap and robust, it is easy to give one to every pupil. The speaker says every child he talks to says the ICT curriculum is dull. Graph from CHPC Response to Digital Britain shows that the number of ICT Professionals have continued to rise but the number applying for Computing at university has fallen. We need to find innovative way to engage children with Computing.The speaker does not want ICT to be a core subject but wants Computing to be in schools as an alternative.

LWF11 - Dawn Hallybone, Senior Teacher, Oakdale Primary School

Games Based Learning

Dawn asked put your hand up if you are a gamer - just about the whole assembly (at least the pupils) put there hands up. Why do the pupils play games it is challenging, exciting, fun... They talk to each other, the collaborate and learn more. Can we get pupils to see the curriculum like that?

Flips Books great way to encourage boys in particular to read. It is also immersive - they went on an virtual safari and when they were attacked by virtual emus - they screamed and backed away from the whiteboard - that's how immersed they were in the activity.

Two great tools for sharing what schools and pupils are doing: Twitter and TeachMeet. Research is important. Some small scale carried out in Dawn's authority. Case studies of what schools did were created and have now been swapped between schools to see if the ideas can translate into different environments. Also gave example of a project involving two pupils with poor attendance and late coming issues - during the project, they never missed a day and were never late.

LWF11 - David Samuelson, EVP, Director of Games & Augmented Reality

Learning Games

About a third of the company's revenue now comes from electronic/online sources. Talked about the company's history in ePublishing and stressed that the were trying to much more than create pdf versions of print books.

There was a brief mention of Flow - the focus and single-minded dedication often seen in gaming.

Poptropica - a virtual world where 320 million avatars created since its launch. Some of the islands are more overtly educational than others. Children also make movies of what they do- they are keen to show what they know and share what they know.

The generation that grew up with video games in the 80s and 90s are the ones that are now "in charge". "If children can't learn the way we teach, perhaps we should teach the way they learn." - Ignacio Estrada. Link with statistic from the Nintendo presentation because not only are females are in the majority as gamers but often they are the primary educator in the home too.

It's about mashups. Can great games be mashed up with great education. Mashups can be messy but important to experiment. A good example is Quest To Learn.

Ladybird ebook app. Story telling is an important part of learning.

LWF11 - Ray Maguire, MD, Sony Computer Entertainment UK

Games Industry

Emphasised that the games industry are in the business of entertainment. But teachers can take the products of the entertainment industry and use them to support effective learning.

Teenagers use technology to organise their social world - facebook to plan, text to arrange, YouTube to record, and ... Yet almost without exception, they are prevented from using any of this technology in schools.

How can the ICT curriculum support the creative industry and break away from office/applications focus. {A button pushing curriculum. - DM} This sounds depressing but it depends who is looking at the problem and what is being done about it. The speaker thinks that there is a move from "Should we?" to "How do we?" but thinks that evolution is more likely than revolution.

Equipment etc. is costly and in the current economic climate this seems unlikely but why not use the equipment that is already out there?

A National Digital Curriculum - is this an aspiration or are the components already there?

LWF11 - David Yarnton, General Manager, Nintendo UK

Why shouldn't learning be fun?

Speaker talked about how he was a athletics coach - specifically throwing activities such as javelin, shot put etc. Sometimes he would get children to throw wet sponges and have water fights to practice their throwing skills.

Long history of computer games - first patent filed in 1940's based on radar displays. Speaker suggested that the iPhone was originally conceived as a games machine. Went on to talk about using different machines for different purposes - no one machine can do everything.

Games are good for us: socially, culturally and economically. Image of gamer as socially isolated, spotty-faced, teenage boys is outdated (if it ever had any truth). Statistic - 60% of Wii users are female. Target audience for Wii was aged 6-60 but know there are people much older and younger using games machines.

Fun centres in children's hospitals with video games. They found that children talked to each other more because of the games area and that they recovered faster. Similarly, they found hospitals for service personnel - service people completing on Wii Fit recovered faster than others using state of the art fitness equipment.

Games are a great way to develop pupils because they don't realise they are learning. One pupils said, "The learning is in my hands."

Games in learning are often complimentary rather than a replacement for other activities.

Good cartoon to finish with that took six panels to describe an accident caused while a child's grandfather was playing computer game that resulted in the house being burnt down. Great detail was given of sequence of events that led to the disaster. Punchline in final frame was comment from the child who had been listening: "Amazing! Someone over sixty playing a video game? Alert the media!" ... Well it amused me!

LWF11 - Derek Robertson

Games Based Learning

What can we learn from games? Games profiles - assessment for learning in action!

Do we always have to intervene? Can we leave children to get on with it? Is peer assessment a more natural way to go with games based learning?

Promoting learner engagement:
  • Involvement in reflection, setting goals;
  • personal learning planning;
  • ongoing active engagement;
  • assessment is embedded in the game;
  • nurtures confidence;
  • encourages mastery learning;
  • automatic and dynamic profiling;
  • celebrating success
Games celebrate achievement - give awards and unlock new levels. How could this type of feedback be built into education.

LWF11 - Ed Vaizey MP

The creative and digital economy

A disruptive thinker is someone who recognises change and embraces change. Learners are embracing permanent Internet, tablet computers, ... new and exciting technology is disruptive and we should recognise and embrace this disruptive technology too.

How did people in current gaming industry get into games development? Many in the UK developed an interest because they were exposed to BBC Micro, Spectrum etc. They could hack about on these machines and this encouraged and inspired them to get into the industry. {How are children hacking the new technology available to them?}

How do we get children engaged with industry? Is one way to develop Freelance Apprenticeships? Or Golden Handcuffs - people get taken on and trained by a company and in return agrees to stay with that company for a set time. There is a need too for education to look at the courses that they teach.

Games are not the "root of all evil" but can make a huge contribution to learning across a range of disciplines. Digital inclusion and eAccessibility are important too.

Question Time

Q: Why is there no one from Department of Education here?

Probably "Cock up rather than conspiracy".

Q: Is exam system holding back innovation? How do we transform the assessment system?

Exam system can be more agile thanks to technology.

Q: Why was technology/computing not mentioned by Gove?

Ed said he would speak with him. :-)

Monday, January 10, 2011

LWF11 - Tim Rylands

Tim Rylands talking about telling stories: talking, writing and asking questions. Games like Myst and Epic Citadel create a great context for developing creativity. Variety of ways of showing this creativity - saying what they see, creating videos, using Zoo Burst to create a 3D pop-up book, Comic Life, 2Create...

Creating and generating - what apps exist to allow children to create. Demonstrated Brushes to show how pictures can be used as a basis for children's own work (and produce time lapse of the creation process). Colour Splash - isolate one aspect of a picture to highlight. Phyzios Sculptor - make boxes and models. Let's Create Pottery - virtual potters wheel. Voxel - A 3D Sculpting app. Geared - combining and creating.

Dropbox makes it easy to share items. Bump - fun way to share info.

Puppet Pals - stick puppets without the sticks. Granimator. iDough - make 3D virtual clay models. Greenscreen in iMovie. Voicethread - children record their stories inspired by the picture.

Sometimes it is worth pretending to pupils that we don't know how to do something so that the pupils will teach us - some great learning can take place in those situations.

LWF11 - Professor Rose Luckin

Redesigning learning contexts with the iPad

Microworlds. Learning is made up of billions of interactions that we are having and have had over time. Learners build connections through their interactions. The history of these interactions include topics of interest, people that help us learn, technology/resources that support and the environment where the learning takes place. It is a complex web of interactions.

How do we simplify this web of Knowledge & Skills, Tools & People, and the Environment? What stands in the way of learning? What filters sit between us and the learning interactions? The filters can be negative or positive. It can be helpful to have someone identify the most useful out of the vast range of possible.

The speaker gave a practical example of herself as a learner. She asked us to help her learn about time management using an online questionnaire and shared the results in summary, in a table and as a cloud. She then talked about how she will use these interactions to develop her own understanding of Time Management.

LWF11 - Professor Diana Laurillard

Adaptive learning games for handhelds

There are a number of persistent problems in education despite investment and a great deal of effort. For example there are ongoing problems with numeracy. This is important because historical evidence suggests that a very small increase in a population's numeracy rates can lead to a significant increase in a country's GDP.

An experiment in Italy showed that chicks have a concept of number and are able to choose to join the larger group of chicks. The presenter showed a Chicks Test they developed to look at children who had difficulty in processing numbers. They looked at brain activity in children doing this test to see what was happening. Children with numeracy problems need microworlds that allow them to get the practice they need to develop the skills, for example a Number Bonds game (Tetris like) that adapts to pupil input to help develop their understanding of number.

Also showed a What's the time? example. The learner is given support in the form of constructive help rather than just a reward for getting it right. Also, the program adapts the timing to support pupils who are struggling.

LWF11 - Professor Richard Noss

Changing what we can know

As technology is built into the infrastructure, there are two things we have to consider: the technology is shaped by the cultural niche in which it is placed but it also shapes the niche. That's why the iPad is interesting. It fits with what people are doing with technology - browsing pictures, watching films, surfing the Internet...

Educational resonance. What people learn in schools needs to be as powerful and engaging as what they learn at home. Needs to be meaningful. (As an aside, the speaker noted that a huge amount of data on how Boris Bikes are used is available online and is begging to be used by learners.

How do we teach algebra? Pencil and paper may not be the best way. How do we give tools that help children learn algebraic concepts. Speaker showed a function machine type application that allows children to play with numbers.

Handheld Learning Research strand

{Unfortunately, the seminar got off to a difficult start because two of the speakers pulled out at very short notice.}

Nick Hughes (Nightingale Primary School) - Redbridge Games Network

Games: "Probably the most powerful learning tool ever invented" - Lord Putnam

Games are a contextual hub for learning - it can be no different from using a book as the context for learning. A range of learning activities developed using the game (or the book) as a base to work from. Games are something the pupils used to and can be exciting and immersive.

The network formed around people who were interested in using games in this way. It was partly funded by the council but they also charged people to join and the funds were used to buy equipment that is loaned out to the members.

One of the first things they did was have a Wii development day where they played games, collected their ideas and then took them back to school. Some of the activities generated from this day were tried out in the class. In general, the game playing does not take up a significant portion of the day - perhaps five or ten minutes to set the context and generate interest. The focus is on literacy, numeracy, etc. rather than the game per se.

Pupils described what they liked about using games and why they liked it. One child said he liked it "...because you can do stuff - not just watch". They liked that it was interactive.

One of the things the network is looking at is: do games keep you active? They are looking at the Wii and Kinect, with games such as "Just Dance". They do find it an effective way to get children physically active.

Another area they are investigating is how children can become games creators using 2Do It Yourself, Scratch and Kodu. They found it empowered the learners. Year four children wanted to learn how to use action script in 2DIY (previously introduced to year 6 classes as it was considered advanced work), a child used Scratch at home and came back to teach the teacher how to do scrolling background games.

Just starting to experiment with Flips Books on the DS. {Derek Robertson is doing stuff in Scotland with Flips Books too. - DM} There are top books in this series, for example Artemis Fowl, and they are currently only £4.99 in Toys R Us!

Quotes from children: "It's not about the game." and "It's secret learning." The games help develop learners who are excited, interested and engaged. Ofsted have recognised the value of games, so schools need not be frightened about using them in class.

{Note to self: Two or three times, Nick used Wordle clouds to summarise data collected from free response questions. Worked well - visual impact plus key issues/words clearly indicated.}

Some of the discussion was how you use immersive games where you need more than ten minutes to get into them. It was acknowledged it can be difficult but perhaps it could be set up and running in the background when pupils come in from break.

Also asked why the research community has not fully engaged (with a few exceptions) games based learning. Is it still seen as fun and therefore not appropriate for education or for academic study? Lots of questions to be investigated, for example, can we show that games are at least as good or more effective than "traditional" tools.

We need the research to show to parents, directors of education and the press (and...) that games in schools are not a waste of time and money. In some ways, edutainment is seen as more acceptable but possibly {probably? - DM} less useful. Worth noting as well that games (not computer games) have been used in schools for ages.

Do games need to be tweaked to make them more "educational"? The Network was very clear that they did not want this. They see the teacher as being key - the teacher chooses the commercial off the shelf game and chooses how to use it to promote learning. They do not rely on the game creator to do the teaching.

Is there a "grammar of gaming" that can be adopted to help learning? {Does that extend to the language of games, e.g. cheat sheets instead of revision sheets? - DM}

Chocolate broccoli! Can you make a game that is entertaining and is good for you? Should you try? Extrinsic motivation has diminishing returns - do we really want to adopt game systems to reward children for brushing their teeth longer?

Evan Roth, Graffiti Research Lab

Evan is interested in the art that connects with popular culture and free culture.

"Lazy like a fox" - Eric Raymond. Maximum impact for minimum effort. In particular, he became interested in hacker culture and how it could be applied in art. First example was adding a small, submersive, message to official US Mail postcards and placing them back into the post office. Another example was using tin foil (I think) letters to write messages on things inside backpacks that would show up on security x-ray machines, e.g. "Mind Your Own Buisness"

{Sorry missing capturing this because he is too interesting!}

He teaches a class where you grade depends on how many hits/likes etc. you get on your online art stuff. Brilliant! Even looks to open source model of distribution - release early and often. Art is research - it is not something you polish and complete in a room before showing in a gallery.

Another example was a video he did with typographic illustrations for Jay-Z.

Now talking about the Graffiti Research Lab and how it fits with open source ideas and how it has morphed into F.A.T. He talked about the "Tootsie Pop" style of his work. There may be a serious message at the heart but it is wrapped up in fun.

He has created a graffiti markup language to capture (and project) graffiti - for archiving and for creating. It is open source and has been adopted and used by others.

{This post completely fails to capture how good this chap was. I hope it has been videoed.}

He wants children to get computers they can hack!

LWF11 - David Bott, Director of Innovation Programmes, Technology Strategy Board

Title: Learning from Disruption

What does it mean to learn from disruption? Disruption is about discontinuity, it causes disorder and it is painful. Do we really want to do that? David Bott started by talking about glass drinking containers - why glass? It keeps it's shape, it doesn't melt in high temperatures and you can see through it. There are problems though - one of them is the number of people injured by smashed drinking glasses every Saturday night. It was the Romans who chose glass and it shows how difficult it is to disrupt long established patterns that we still use it today despite the disadvantages.

Next example is the development of the internal combustion engine - at least in part, it developed and has continued to develop in tandem with the the oil industry. Even major problems (e.g. global warming) and concerted effort from governments have made minimal impact on practice. The market evolves relatively slowly. What is it we really want from cars - what do we use a car for? Cars have not really been disruptive technology - they have evolved.

The Internet and digital technology has changed rapidly. For example, in retail, look at the growth of Amazon. In a very short space of time, it has gone from being a novelty for buying books to something that delivers all sorts of stuff to us on a regular basis. Online retailers collect all sorts of information about our buying habits. Is this disruptive? David says no. Tescos knowing what we buy is not significantly different from the man in the corner shop knowing I like Hobnobs.

Disruptive learning. Is learning about content or about process? Learning in schools and universities is still largely about books. Yet now, when people want to know stuff know, they don't concentrate on stuffing things into their heads, they look to access it online. Question is therefore, why do we have education? Why did it develop the way it did? There is always a drive for standardisation - look for images of classrooms from round the world (and through history) they look remarkably similar. How do we disrupt education?

Learning without Frontiers - Saul Nassé, Controller, BBC Learning

Live(ish) capture of Saul Nassé - Inspiring Lives Full of Learning

Talking about the power of media to inspire and shape peoples' learning. For example there was a video of Nick Park saying how he was inspired by seeing Morph on Take Hart and how at the time he didn't see this as learning - he was being entertained but he realises now what an impact it had.

The power of the moving image to ignite sparks of learning is immense. There is a false dichotomy between formal and informal learning. The BBC for example are formally linking the PSHE curriculum to Eastenders - specifically thought the E20 website. Extracting real learning from the combination of media and the online social community.

Also talked about the Doomsday project from the 1980s and how they will, later this year (March?), and place the Doomsday disk resources online. Also, they will enlist the public in helping them to update and develop the material. {Excellent - it seems the technology has caught up with the ambition of the original intent of the project.}

He said with young audiences, the BBC will struggle to keep up with what they are already doing.

Learning without Frontiers - Theodore Gray, Co-founder, Wolfram Research

Is the world ready for real electronic books?

Theodore published his first book in print and electronic form - but the world wasn't ready. People did not want to read books on a big, clunky PC. Distribution was also tricky. So, he moved into application development. He also developed a web page to support teaching of Calculus, Calculus and Mathematica, but found it had minimal impact on classroom teaching.

Described how he was sidetracked by reading a book by Oliver Sachs where he talked about a periodic table and Theodore thought he meant an actual table... so he built one! He migrated the physical table to the web but realised that websites don't make money so he developed the site into a print book.

Then came the iPad... They developed the iPad version of the book and realised that here was a platform that was ideal for electronic books and a market that would allow authors/publishers to make a living from it. Wants to see eBooks that are more than pdf versions of print books. Theodore thinks you need three sets of people to create effective eBooks:
  1. Authors
  2. Software developers
  3. Media (TV/film) producers
Traditional publishers may understand the value of authors but see software as something you buy for a one off cost. Media people may not understand the need for authors and software developers need to talk to media people. A successful ePublishing company will need to bring the three people together. A successful eBook should allow you to "curl up with it" like a paper book, be imersed in it like TV or film and allow interaction like a game/program.

"In the very near future, no one will pay for textbooks". Textbooks have priced themselves out of the market - "it is cheaper to buy an iPad than a semester's worth of textbooks. In general professors would be happy to provide learning material for free but don't know how to get them printed - so publishers step into the middle of the process and hike the cost. Theodore thinks therefore that people will not pay for textbooks but will pay for enrichment material.

Presentation finished with a Japanese version of Tom Lehrer's Elements Song. Brilliant!

Q: How do you lend people an electronic book?

The days of textbooks are numbered but not print books in general. You can't gift wrap a gift code! But the model works for ephemeral things: "If you don't have a parrot, there is no point in subscribing to a print newspaper."

Learning without Frontiers - Iris Lapinski - Apps for Good

Iris Lapinski - Apps for Good

Why is it that 70% of countries fail to improve their education systems?

Is it because in the real world, problems are complex and context specific? School systems, however, teach children how to recognise standard problems and we provide them with a "Swiss Army knife" set of tools to solve the standard problems. This is important and useful, but does it meet "real world" demands? To prepare children we could teach them to define the problem, research the issue, {missed number three - DM}, design solutions, then build and test.

Examples of the Apps for Good approach were then presented by the students who developed the apps. One was OysterCheck. Next (presented by a fantastically enthusiastic 13 year old) presented BuzzerBuddies which reminds you why you want to wake up when an alarm is set but it also sends a push notice to a friend to tell them you have hit the snooze button so they know you will be late and they can nark you as well as the alarm!

The Apps For Good people are connected to an expert community who help evaluate and develop students apps.

They are using previous students from the course as tutors on subsequent courses. Iris was asked how young she thought this approach can go and answered, "I don't know." but is keen to try younger than 13.

Learning without Frontiers - Welcome - Day 1

{Live(ish) blog from Learning Without Frontiers Conference.}

The lights dim and Madonna music kicks in. Hmm!

Welcome to the Learning without Frontiers conference: "This is a lean forward event!" Many years of technology in learning but the claim from Graham Brown-Martin is that it has led to very little in the way of genuine disruption. How will the technology do more than support old teaching methods?

Graham talking about his daughter, "handheld learning girl" and how she is learning with technology - pre-literate and self taught. Brilliant.

First Speaker: Karen Cator

Karen Cator - supporting learning. Transforming education, education powered by technology. A number of drivers are helping change:
  • Tablet computers will help drive the transition from print-based education to digital education.
  • Broadband: ubiquitous and easy access to Internet
  • Apps: A new way of distributing and using computer programs.
  • Social Interaction: Couch surfing - interacting to find places to stay when visiting.
  • Data: The proliferation of data is astounding. Games online for example have loads of data about what brings people to games. How can we use this type of data to leverage more effective learning?
  • Economics: How do we get out of economic downturn? Education is key. As a nation, we cannot fail to educate our population.
Example: A school in New York City called School Of One. Everyday the children are given assignments based on their performance in tests the previous day. The activities can be collaborative or individual experience. How do we effectively personalise learning. For this to work, you need effective activities, better assessment tools and connected professional educators. This has implications including: giving children 24/7 access to the technology to allow them to learn any time and any place. Move from the idea of "seat time", i.e. time based courses where the curriculum is fitted into a fixed time regardless of the pupil's ability/understanding to a competences based model.

Question Time

Q: Is there a problem of tension between business/economic side of government wanting growth and development and education side of government looking for a back to basics approach?

Agreed that there needs to be a re-boot and a bi-partisan approach. Important to foster innovation and growth in both education and the economy.

Q: Debate is focused on learner - is the teacher forgotten? What is being done for teacher development and CPD?

Important to build a culture where the teacher is learner. Persistent digital profile to record and reward development.