Tag Archives: technology

Avoiding Ossificaton

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I learned how to use commas from my Geography teacher. His voice is still in my head: ‘Greatness Farm comma an arable farm comma lies on the fertile plain full stop’.
I attended a good grammar school in the 70s and wrote down the notes dictated to me from his old exercise book. I know he was still dictating those self same notes to first years when I left the school seven years later.

That teacher was caring, efficient and well-intentioned, but perhaps he had ossified; rather than having thirty years experience, he seemed to have had one, thirty times. I suppose that that is what I feared I might become.

@HuntingEnglish’s excellent piece on ‘Doing it all Again in September’ brought that home to me today. I remember the old teachers in the staff room in my first teaching post more than thirty years ago. They were good people, but there was an endemic cynicism to change. Simon Armitage’s line in November ‘We are almost those monsters’ flits distressingly thorough my mind as I catch myself saying ‘we’ve done this before, only we called it …’ Every so often I become a pioneer because I find an old skill back in fashion.

Teaching has become the political football kicked by the latest Minister keen to make a name before looking for promotion to a higher league. New ideas are introduced in the knowledge that they will be judged by action rather than the result in the rapidly changing world of British schooling. So as teachers, we sometime find ourselves writing material for a new course which we read in the newspapers is already scheduled to be replaced and the curriculum changed yet again.

There’s little danger of repeating the same experience many times, but there is a danger of becoming cynical to change and innovation and trying to do things better. But that cynicism can be resisted. Despite all that has happened, I think that these are exciting times to be in education. I have a growing sense of being in this with like-minded individuals who genuinely care about the students, about learning, about the future. Taking part in Edmodo 2012 last week – my first online conference – was a fantastic experience. It felt like taking a seat it largest classroom in the world, and it was a privilege to feel a part of a profession which spans the globe. It was the first time I have actually felt a part of the global community I hear so much about.

So in these last few years of teaching, I hope to be able to look again at what is important to my students and their learning. I think that technology can help achieve those goals. I don’t think it is everything, but I think it is a great tool that we must embrace. I want to be involved in that learning too. The last few months with my iPad and Twitter and Flipboard have had a huge impact on my thinking, and I want that journey to continue.

September is on its way. iPads are a possibility next year. I trailed Edmodo last term and liked the look of it and want to develop it with my English classes. I’m involved in an exciting course which combines three Humanities areas but keeps a focus on developing learning skills. Yes, I think I should be able to avoid ossification for another year at least.

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Life with an iPad – month 2

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The initial buzz of excitement has never quite left. I am aware of how my own routines are changing even though I am very much in the ‘see what it can do’ phase.

I’d imagined that I would be looking for apps to use that would teach something, but what I’m finding are apps which allow me to learn something.

The biggest game changer has been the accessibility the iPad brings. Having a device on me with continuous web access (save the drive to and from work) means that using it is part of everyday life and not an event. This is made possible by the battery life as I no longer have to ration myself or look for places where I can plug in. That seems a very small deal indeed, but the effects are marked.

I discovered Twitter and now the benefits of building a Personal Learning Network are apparent. Using Flipboard to view these is now what I do (with a cup of tea) when I get home instead of reading the newspaper. I’ve tried to build up a ‘follow’ list gradually rather than adding everyone I come across. The conventions of tweeting are still a bit of a mystery, although I found this guide by Brent Ozar something of a help. Most exciting was when I found that some people are kind enough to reply to questions or comments. The ‘small talk’ is a great reinforcer of the potential of collaboration. It still feels odd that there is no difference between someone being in Hull or New York or where-ever; the world really has become local. There is some exciting work going on with Flipping Classrooms, SOLO taxonomy and the whole business of how iPad might enhance learning.

Note making has been the next big area for me. It came as a surprise that there is something beyond the basic wordprocessor. ‘Pages’ looks fine and I’m sure this will replace Word for me, but this is just substitution. What I’ve found far more interesting is the use of Evernote and, more recently, Notability. Their ease of use, ability to organise notes and then their additional functionality with photograph, web clips is just fantastic. I found myself making quick notes on group presentations in class by adding and labelling photographs, writing comments and then emailing them to where I keep information. They are a useful record, and the students could make great use of the app in recording, reviewing and collating their notes. Is this the end of the exercise book? The search facility in Evernote is stunning – particularly when I found that I could photograph hand written notes and search even those.

Do we need to recommend one particular note-maker as a school, a department, a teacher … Or do we simply let students find what works for them? I’m increasingly drawn to the latter.

And finally, for this note at least, the apps for thinking and demonstrating learning: ‘Show Me’, ‘Eduacreations’ and ‘Explain Everything’. These could be so important both for instruction and for demonstration by both students and teachers. Educreations is simple to use and is great for ‘in the moment’, but Explain Everything has more versatility and offers several options for saving and distributing products. These are making me think much more about how we might create resources to help students and personalise their learning. If we are to consider the idea of Flipping – or even just simply putting support material into their hands, then the look like being cornerstones. Mind you, since seeing some of the resources on Cherwell’s YouTube channel I quite fancy going I to full scale tv production!

The most significant feature of the last month though his been how the technology has taken the back seat and learning is driving things along. These are exciting times in education, despite all that is coming from Gove, Ofsted and others (that’s a little reference to education in England, by the way – if you’re reading from elsewhere I’m sure it will be easy enough to insert your own!). I’m really glad to be around to take part in it.

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Using Posterous for a multi-contributor class blog

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Image Some rights reserved Building 1000 families on flickr

 

Posterous offers the opportunity for class blogging free from some of the limitations of a standard school VLE. It allowed my students to use a versatile and flexible platform which would enable multi-posting and the potential to open up to wider audiences.

The Year 8 class (students aged between 12-13), were scheduled to work on a group Media project. After discussion, they decided to create a site in which they tried to offer help and advice to their parent in understanding how they use technology.

Initial ideas for features included: a guide to the mysteries of facebook and chatrooms;  advice on which phone is best for a child; and advice on how long their children should be allowed to spend on the net.

We wanted to go beyond the class magazines/newspaper approach and so, together, created the following brief using in terms of a TAPs analysis:

  • Type: multi-media blog;
  • Audience: parents;
  • Purpose: writing to argue, persuade or advise.

Although the easiest arrangement would have been to create a new site ‘off’ s3atlarge, it seemed better that a school’s site should not ‘point’ to an independent site.

One of the joys of Posterous is that it automates so many things. However, I couldn’t find a way of removing links back to my personal site. It took a little while to work out that one way was  to severe the link to my primary email address by creating a new dedicated email account.

The ‘How to Do It’ bit:

Create an email account simply for the project. I used gmail. This meant that the site would link directly to this account and that all notifications coming from successful points could gather in one place.

Using this new email account, create a new Posterous account. URLs do tend to be rather long, so I used a shortened form for the primary site with a longer name appearing on pages.

Having logged in to Posterous, use the Manage section to add the emails of students as Contributors who wish to post directly to the site. Students can also create dedicated email accounts for this to give greater personal security. (Our school network seemed happy with gmail accounts but we seemed to meet some restrictions on hotmail equivalents.)

During the writing process (and practice phase) I ‘locked down’ the system with a password so that only my class could read the posts. This gave us some time to practice posting, enabled some peer proof-reading, encouraged students to compare the ‘look’ of different kinds of posts, and let me keep an eye on the content and any personal security issues e.g  We discovered that forwarded emails gave full details of email addresses and so these were edited out.

The password can then be either given out to the intended audience (in this case – their parents) to allow reading and comment posting, or removed entirely to let the site ‘go live’.

What’s next?

That’s where we are up to at the moment. Once parents have had a look and everyone is happy, I’ll remove the password and post a link here. Here’s the link!

 

 

The students were genuinely excited at the idea of writing for a real audience, and it would be great if they could see their work being read beyond their local community. Perhaps we can track this using Google analytics in due course.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

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