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Tuesday
Jan192010

Web 2.0 For Rookies: Creative Writing

One of the big issues of our time seems to concern writing. Or, to be more specific, NOT writing. And to whittle it away even further, boys' writing. Apparently, boys don't like writing. If that's the case, perhaps Web 2.0 can help?

I think the first thing I'd like to say is that if it happens to be true that boys don't like writing, perhaps that's because they're not being asked to write about anything they're interested in. I know that's either a really facile statement or a no-brainer, depending on where you stand on the issue, but it strikes me as pretty obvious that if you ask someone to write about something they have no interest in whatsoever, why would they?

You might say that the same argument applies to girls, and you'd be right. Except that in my experience girls tend to (a) be more compliant than boys and (b) like writing for its own sake anyway.

I recall that in one class I had I could not get one of the boys to settle down for more than ten minutes at a time. Then one day, he was really quiet and engaged for about 25 minutes before I could risk breaking the spell by talking to him.

"I don't understand this.", I said. "Normally you're a complete head-banger, and all of a sudden you're a model pupil. How come?"

He laughed and then gave the brutally honest response, "'Cos usually I don't find it interesting enough to bother."

So what was so interesting that captured his attention for the entire lesson? He was compiling a list of all the games his team had won in the last ten years, from a whole load of football programmes he'd brought in. For me, that would be the most boring thing on earth. For him it was captivating. As my American friends might say: "Who knew?"

But even if you regard this example as an aberration, is even the broad statement about boys and writing true?

I think not, because boys write all the time. Perhaps what is meant is discursive writing, but boys text each other, and send each other games cheats by instant messenger or Facebook, to take a couple of examples.

Well, that's a start for an article like this, because there are several ways in which teachers can take the enthusiasm of boys for writing, which I believe does exist, and the variety of Web 2.0 applications, and harness them together. Here are some suggestions.

  • Get the pupils to take it in turns to act as the class scribe. The scribe writes down the main points covered in the lesson, and writes it up in the class blog. Check out Sue Waters' Using Scribe Posts on Class Blogs for some tips and references about this.
  • Get the youngsters to write film and book reviews, either using a blog, or using something like Blippr. Blippr is a social network which specialises in reviews. It gives you 160 characters -- the same as you get for a text message - in which to have your say. It's possible, and it's fun -- but it's challenging (which is, more than likely, WHY it's fun). Have a look at mine for some examples.
  • If 160 characters strikes you as far too easy, how about 140? You can use Twitter for the same sort of thing, or for writing short (very short!) stories. See, for example, Twitterfiction.
  • If you like the idea of a book review in 160 characters, but not the idea of a social network, try Wallwisher. It's like having post-it notes, and you can type up to 160 characters on each one. You can also include pictures and, a big bonus, everyone can see each others' efforts. Maybe you could even get boys to work together on some writing.
  • Blogs are useful for writing book and film reviews too. There are one or two great examples of this in the forthcoming 'Amazing Web 2.0 Projects' book.
  • Also in the book are some creative uses of Twitter, including its use in getting a class of primary school children to understand what life on the run must have been like from the standpoint of one of the Gunpowder Plotters.

I could go on giving example after example, and don't forget there is also the writing involved in podcast and video scripting - not just the dialogue but 'stage directions' too.

I think that by using a variety of Web 2.0 applications it can't be that hard to get kids -- including boys -- writing.

Of course, finding a topic they're actually interested in -- or making a topic interesting to them -- no doubt helps!


Tuesday
Jan192010

BETT Highlights #3: When Advice Paid Off

#BETT2010 Oscar Wilde once said that good advice is something to be passed on to others, as it is never any good to oneself. Fortunately, the Australian chap I met at BETT recently didn't take Wilde's advice. Here's what happened.

At the end of my 'Amazing Web 2.0 Projects' seminar presentation, several people wanted to talk to me. One of them was an Australian man.

Australian man: Hi, Terry, I'm from Australia.

Me: Really? I'd never have guessed.

AM: I emailed you a couple of months ago.

Me: Oh, and I didn't reply?

AM: Yes, you did. I told you I'd won a bursary, and asked your advice for which international conference I should attend, paid for by that money.

Me: Oh yes, I remember now.

AM: And you advised me to come to BETT.

Me: Ah. And now you want me to give you your money back?

AM: No, on the contrary. I've been walking around with my mouth open. This has been a fantastic experience, so I just wanted to thank you for your excellent advice.

I think that proves several things. Firstly, it shows that although some Brits might have become a bit jaded over the past 26 years of the BETT Show, it's probably a case of familiarity breeding contempt. It's still as vibrant and as important as it always has been, perhaps more so.

Secondly, it shows that when I give advice, I know what I'm talking about. There are are lots of conferences I could have recommended, but (a) I don't know what AM was really interested in and (b) none of the others are on anything like the same scale as the BETT Show. I felt he would be completely bowled over with excitement by it.

But lastly, it shows that I am a lousy businessman: I should have charged him!

Monday
Jan182010

BETT Highlights #2: Serendipity Rules OK

#BETT2010 One of the things I love about the BETT Show is meeting people by accident. On the second day (I think) I was standing in an aisle trying to (a) get my bearings and (b) identify which branch of Vedic Mathematics the organisers had used when planning the location of the stands, when I noticed another gentleman standing nearby.

"I recognise that glazed expression," I thought to myself. "You look as geographically-challenged as I am", I said.

Anyway, to cut a long story short (well, it's not that long, but this is meant to be a 'highlight' after all), he turned out to be Gerald Haigh.

Gerald is a journalist whose articles I used to read in the Times Education Supplement, and who still contributes to the website of Merlin John, erstwhile ICT editor of the TES.

BETT is great for meeting people you already know. It's good for making new contacts too. But nothing quite beats the frisson of finding yourself talking to someone you've read, known about and communicated with for a long time.

Monday
Jan182010

Educational Uses for Microsoft's Deep Zoom

I was impressed by Microsoft's Deep Zoom Composer tool, which I saw demonstrated at the Naace conference 2009. Deep Zoom Composer lets you explore hi-res photos in a very innovative way, letting you get in closer and closer, or back away further and further.

You can see what I mean by looking at the demonstration shown on a video created by Ollie Bray.

The question remains: is this a solution looking for a problem? Probably. But I can see how this might be used in an interesting, and perhaps unintended, way.

First, though, watch the video:

Pretty cool, right? Now, it seems to me that where the thrill factor comes in as that at each stage of the process you think you have the full picture, and then discover that you were only seeing a small part of a much bigger picture. In a sense, this is an alternative way of depicting what the TV advertisements for the Guardian newspaper in Britain showed a couple of years ago:

 

Getting back to Deep Zoom, you could use it as a metaphor in citizenship, media or politics courses. You could also use it in science, geography or history. Basically, you could use it in any situation where you wanted the students to understand that everything that happens, happens in a particular context, and that sometimes you have to go quite a distance away, or quite a few years back in time, to really get an idea of just what that context might be.

Wordle Summary:

Wordle: Deep Zoom Composer Article

Monday
Jan182010

After BETT, the Deluge

I am surprised. I am really surprised. Despite a gruelling 4 days at the BETT Show (doing 7 am to 1 am days), a terrible journey home, a looming chest infection and a blister, I am feeling incredibly creative. Perhaps it's true that writers give of their best when they are pain- and angst-ridden.

Or it could be that my fitness levels are up (I've been a good boy, working out in the gym; it's supposed to be boring, but I use the time to write articles in my head!), or staying over for the first time ever. I think I will add that to my list of pre-BETT tips. Not having a journey (door-to-door) of about 1.5 hours twice each day really helped. As my wife never seems to tire of pointing out: I'm not getting any younger. (My mum always used to say that too, about herself. It kind of implies that there some people who are getting younger....)

Or it could be that I came away from BETT feeling exhuberant. That happens to me sometimes, although I don't think it did last year. I came away buzzing. I'll be writing about why in the next issue of Computers in Classrooms, which I hope to bring out this week (I'm setting myself the deadline of Wednesday: I like a challenge.)

But for now, as someone in the twitterstream said, 'back to the day job', which for me is encapsulated in a list of 95 things which I must try to get done this week.

Why do I insist on writing these lists?

Monday
Jan182010

7 Things To Do After the BETT Show

There is always a danger that no matter how good an event is, it will turn out to have very little impact in the longer term, as you forget what you saw and more pressing concerns vie for your attention. Here are 7 suggestions for preventing that from happening.
 
  • Arrange a team meeting for as soon as possible after the show. Have each team member say what three things most excited them, and three new ideas they picked up, plus what needs to change in your current practice. OK, “three” is an arbitrary and artificial number, but you get the idea.
  • Draw up an action plan for following up. That may take the form of arranging visits to other schools, or demonstrations from suppliers, or introducing some new ideas into your lesson plans.
  • Arrange a meeting with the Headteacher or other senior manager as soon as possible after your team meeting. The aim is to discuss with them what you learnt at the show that may impact what you are doing, or the school’s plans. If you discover that you are ahead of the game and don’t need to change anything at all for the time being, that is in itself an outcome that needs to be conveyed to your boss.

Make sure that you are well-prepared for the meeting, especially if you will be suggesting changes in what the school does, or you wish to ask for extra funding.

Also take into consideration whether your boss is a shoot-the-messenger type, if you need to report back on a new – and unwelcome – Government direction.
 
  • Give feedback to the rest of the staff on any key messages you picked up from the show. This is as much for diplomatic reasons as anything else: for some reason, there are people who believe that spending 12 hours travelling and walking around all day along with thousands of other people is the equivalent of a day off.
  • Allow at least a week after the show to hear from any suppliers to whom you gave your business card.
  • Find out what others thought about products and events seen at the show. Use the tags  BETT2010 and #bett2010.
  • Check the ICT in Education website and the Computers in Classrooms newsletter for news and reviews about the show.
Sunday
Jan172010

What Is The Meaning Of 'Good'?

Transport for London clearly uses a very different sort of dictionary to the rest of us. Take, for example, its use of the word 'planned', as in 'Planned engineering works'. This is the term used to justify and explain the fact that public transport, by tube at least, becomes an endurance, intelligence and orienteering test worthy of the Duke of Edinburgh Award at the weekends.

A photo of a train in serviceTake this weekend, for example. What should have been a simple and straightforward journey home after the BETT Show turned out to be a task akin to one of Hercules' Labours. My plan was to get on the Circle Line at Gloucester Road, sit there and cogitate, meditate or sleep until I arrived at Liverpool Street, and then take the National Express train home.

Unfortunately, TfL had other ideas.

Because of so-called 'planned engineering works', the Circle Line was completely suspended, the District Line was also suspended, no Piccadilly Line trains were stopping at Kings Cross, and even if they had been it would have made no difference because the Hammersmith and City Line was partially suspended.

The result was that, after spending a bit of time deciding which of the possible routes home was the least arduous, I spent the next two hours on a long, circuitous journey, standing virtually all the way.

Before I get on to the bit that relates to the title of this article, let me just say something about this 'planning'. To use an Americanism (which I don't often do but in this case the expression fits), it sucks. Any 15 year old with a rudimentary knowledge of Excel could devise a better plan that this. How come other countries are able to upgrade their metro systems without all the disruption that we Londoners have to suffer, every single weekend?

But this time TfL surpassed itself.

This was the weekend in which the BETT Show finished.

The BETT Show is the biggest show of its kind in Britain.

The BETT Show is the biggest show of its kind in the world.

This year the BETT Show had 700 exhibitors and attracted 30,000 visitors.

Surely someone at TfL might have looked at a calendar of events and thought that perhaps Saturday 16th January 2010 was not a great time to suspend half of the tube?

When I was project managing a major school refurbishment, which at one stage involved closing one of the entrances,  I consulted with all the stakeholders I could think of -- even including local residents who would be affected by all the kids going past their houses because their usual route to school would no longer be any good.

As it happens, I upset the patrons of the local church, because nobody had thought to tell me that they used that school entrance every Sunday in order to park their cars in the playground. But that only goes to illustrate the importance of consulting with as many people as possible before taking major actions.

Anyway, here we have possibly 30,000 people rattling around trying to find their way home or to the airport or to their hotels, and someone announces that, apart from the fact that half the network doesn't work (making it a 'notwork'), there is a good service.

A good service!!

That's like a teacher saying to an inspector: 'Twenty percent of my class will fail the course; a further 30% will get a lower grade that they should. Apart from that, I'm providing a good service.'

If walking for miles from one line to another at one interchange, standing most of the way for two hours, being crowded along with all the people who would have taken other routes, at the end of a very long week is considered a 'good' service, all I can say is let's hope and pray we never have a bad one.

Sunday
Jan172010

What Was Your 'WOW' Moment

Dr John Cuthell of MIrandanet likes to ask people what was their 'wow' moment, that nanosecond in which they realised that technology had something truly transformative to offer.

That 'wow' moment!For me, that moment came in 1976. Interestingly, I had already been using technology, but at one remove. I was teaching Economics at the time, and in order to familiarise my students with the vagaries of the stock market, I enrolled them in a game called Stockpiler. The idea was that you were 'given' a certain amount of money, and the students' job was to use that to maximise their profit through the buying and selling of shares.

Each week they would pore over the share prices and, having spent their 'spare' time (I didn't believe in such concepts) in the previous week reading periodicals like The Economist and the newspapers (I'd made sure these were amply available) and then make their decisions.

I would then collect in the forms on which they'd detailed their instructions, and send it off to some central processing place. Around a week later we'd find out how we did.

That was interesting, but it's hard to become excited by the technology when the time between input and output is so high.

About a year after I'd joined the school, a student brought in his computer. He had taught himself to program it, so I asked him to knock up a quick program to emulate a concept called 'the multiplier'. He did so, and the rest of us crowded around the screen. When we saw the numbers responding instantly to the suggestions we threw at him ('Make the interest rate 12%'; 'Lower income tax to zero'), I knew things could never be the same. With this technology it would be possible to model the behaviour of systems and show instantly the effect of changes in inputs on the outcomes.

That was my 'wow' moment. What was yours?

Sunday
Jan172010

The Myth of the Digital Native

Angela McFarlane gave a talk at the Naace 2009 Conference which was quite interesting. The full title of her talk was:

"5 year olds never could program the video -- challenging the myth of the digital native".

That's a pretty good title for an opening keynote. Too many people, including teachers, relegate responsibility for learning how to do interesting or exciting stuff because they limit what they ask the kids to do on the basis of what they themselves can do -- a point which was brought out in a recent inspection report into ICT in English schools.

She made some good points, although I'm not completely convinced that she was correct in all she said. In particular, her assertion (or conclusion) that a third of children are not engaged with technology at all seems to me rather suspect.

The key points of her talk, for me, were as follows:

The "techno-romantics" bandy the expression "digital natives" around, but it can actually act as a barrier to learning and can disadvantage a particular section of young people.

Love that description, "techno-romantics"! I think this is largely true, or potentially so. I cannot tell you the number of times I've had this sort of conversation:

Teacher: "The kids know so much more than I do about this technology."

Me: "Well, even if that's true, surely you know more about teaching and learning, and have more common sense and general knowledge, than they do?"

Why are new technologies not always adopted in schools?

They must have the potential for the following:

  • interaction between people and other people, and between people and the technology;

  • it must support the production of something, ie not be merely passive;

  • must facilitate feedback, with gradated content, and play;

  • Personalisation: being able to personalise the technology, and being able to be connected, are key for getting young people to adopt the technology and become proficient in its use.

One interesting thing that McFarlane said was that devices needed to have a battery that would remain charged up for the length of a school day. Pretty obvious, that, once someone has said it!

She went on to say that a third of the kids in the study she undertook are really engaging with the technology, but that a significant proportion are not engaging with it at all. The "low users" don't know how to use the technology, even if they look like they do.

This sparked off quite a discussion with one of my colleagues. As she said, perhaps the reason that the kids were not engaged is that they weren't interested in what they had been asked to do.

Of course, it could be true.  Steve Woolgar, in Virtual Society?: Technology, Cyberbole, Reality , draws attention to the fact that there are sections of society which do not have the slightest inclination to engage with technology in terms of getting online.

Other pressures

Schools are unable to devote enough time, in extended projects, to enable the process of iteration -- production of content, followed by feedback, followed by amendments to the content -- to be exploited to the full. Teachers are under too much pressure to move on to the next item on the curriculum.

I think this is both true and not true. If a project is rich enough, and the teacher creative enough (and the management supportive enough), you can teach quite a lot of a syllabus from a relatively small range of topics.

The importance of the teacher

McFarlane stated that her research indicates a very strong correlation between the teacher's use of the technology in lessons, and the kids' use of technology outside of school. It is essential for the teacher to model not only how to use the technology, but how to learn effectively.

I thought that was quite an interesting observation. It suggests that, as I think she herself went on to say, that whilst running classes for parents in how to use the technology their kids are using is a good thing to do, it is not enough. Parents should also be taught how to help their kids learn from using the technology. An interesting idea.

What also comes out of this is that the kids who are not enamoured of technology will not be persuaded to change their minds only by having a computer at home through the Home Access programme.

Monitoring young people's use of technology outside school

Schools should do so, says McFarlane, in order to identify those who don't make too much use of technology. I'm not I agree with that. By all means seek to find out what your kids are doing and can do with technology, in order to inform your teaching, as Miles Berry and I have encouraged (see this article for relevant links), but why focus especially on those who don't make much use of it? There is an underlying implicit assumption that there is something amiss, something that needs correcting in these cases (her expression in relation to the Home Access programme, according to my notes, was that kids will not be helped by the Home Access programme alone. Why should the concept of "help" come into this at all?)

In any case, I do wonder how many you'd really find who come into that category.

Working together is not the same as collaboration

McFarlane stated that a lot of so-called collaborative learning is not collaborative at all because kids are not taught how to learn together. That's probably true, but whether they are taught it or not they can still do it: they help each other informally quite extensively from what I've read and found out through surveys.

Conclusion

All in all a stimulating talk, though not one I'd agree with wholeheartedly. The video of the first part of the lecture is below.

 

 

Wordle summary:

Wordle: The myth of the digital native

 

 

 

Wednesday
Jan132010

BETT Highlights #1: Technology and Reading

I thought I'd reflect on what, for me, were the highlights of the BETT show this year. By 'highlights', I mean things which I found inspiring or interesting. My first highlight concerns digital reading.

Sally McKeown, in her talk called Reading for Pleasure: The Technology and the Future of Literacy, mentioned the appalling statistics (from 2005) that 25% of the adult population in Britain reads litle or nothing. Of course, I don't know what they counted as 'reading': people seem to be reading text all the time, and presumably they read the TV pages to see what's on. Perhaps they also have subtitles on while they're watching TV. I know that's not exactly high literature, but we do need to define what we mean by 'reading' when having such discussions I think.

Indeed, Sally identified 5 different sorts of reading experiences being enjoyed by (young) people these days, these being

  • Distributed narrative, such as by email (which reminds me: I keep meaning to have a proper look at Daily Lit, which allows you to read a book in email messages or by RSS feed).
  • Wikis (eg Wikibooks)
  • Twitter fiction
  • Publishers' Microsites, and
  • Digital fiction

A forthcoming issue of Computers in Classrooms will focus on digital reading, so I hope to explore these topics further then. If you have any views or experience of these or any other aspects of digital reading issues, or ebook readers, please consider contributing to the newsletter.

Wednesday
Jan132010

All set for BETT

BETT looks to be a biggie this, its 26th, year.

Recommendations include:

  • Check out the Future Learning Spaces
  • Newcomers like Google
  • Product launches from the likes of Dell and Toshiba

The government has spent (I think) £5b since 1997 on educational ICT, and BETT is the largest educational technology event in the world, apparently. Last year 25% of visitors were from overseas.

Apparently the Home Access programme is going to be widened, so listen out for that.

Stephen Heppell: we're in the post-appropriation phase. But we can't appropriate any more: we can't reel in what the kids are doing, we have to go where they are!

Also, what kids' play is these days is engaging and seductive: using GPS for example,, so it should be worth checking out Prof Heppell's Google-sponsored Playful Learning.

Some welcome news: according to Ray Barker of BESA, Ministers from around the world are now recognising what we old hands have always known: it's not the technology, but the people, that makes the difference!

Great quotable statement from Heppell: we've been very lucky: we've been able to do 19th century teaching with a bit of 21st century gloss!

Content-driven sessions like the 3-night Teachmeet is the future of BETT, according to Richard Joslin of EMAP: it's almost like Web 2.0 in an offline format.

Tuesday
Jan122010

Web 2.0 For Rookies and Other Matters

I've had to put the 'Rookies' series on hold for a bit -- not because I've run out of things to write about, but because I've run out of time!

I've been working on my two presentations at BETT, and trying to earn a crust too!

For Web 2.0 enthusiasts, the second edition of the Web 2.0 Projects Book is now in its first proof-reading stage. Around 90 projects and resources, 40 applications, over 90 contributors and loads of URLs to explore. Attendees at my presentation on Saturday will be given a URL to download a preview edition which they can start to enjoy and use right away. You can find out more about this new free ebook  in the next issue of Computers in Classrooms -- which, as luck would have it, will be sent out to subscribers at 11:30 this morning, UK time. For more details about this free e-newsletter, look at the newsletter page on this website.

It also contains information about the Safer Internet Day as well as the full article about the BETT show: how to prepare for it, how to get the most out of it, how to follow up afterwards and other useful information. A lot of this will be useful for people going to any conference.

Monday
Jan112010

The Children, Schools and Families Bill

The Children, Schools and Families Bill was presented to Parliament on 19 November 2009, and made the headlines as a series of guarantees for pupils and parents.

On the face of it, that's not a bad thing, although it did receive some flack in the press for not promising anything new.

For leaders of ICT in schools there is, as far as I can see, one positive aspect of the Bill and one rather worrying one.

The positive one is that the Bill places Personal, Social and Health Education (PHSE) on a statutory footing and ensures that all young people receive at least one year of sex and relationship education.

"What's that got to do with me?", you may ask. Well, there is scope for encouraging your PHSE and Citizenship colleagues to explore the internet for resources and exciting activities. Indeed, in this newsletter there are two reviews, one primary and one secondary, of a recently-launched website called Your Justice, Your World.

As for the sex and relationships aspect, well I don't think we want to get involved in the sex part, but I think ICT leaders have much to offer the 'relationships' bit.

Firstly, discussion of issues such as cyberbullying and online etiquette is never wasted.

Secondly, acknowledging that most of us learn by doing, why not set up or join a Facebook-like community using the free facilities at http://ning.com? Students and teachers can contribute to forum discussions, upload videos and photos, and write blogs. It's definitely worth looking into, as some of the contributors to the forthcoming Web 2.0 Projects book will testify.

I started such a community a while ago: http://ictineducation.ning.com. However, I have to warn you that I haven't had the time to administer and nurture it, with the result that spammers keep getting in, and so I have closed it down for now. For this reason I suggest that if you do start your own, set it up such that applications for membership have to be approved, or make it by invitation only (which would make sense in a school setting).

If you would like to see a particularly vibrant community, involving students as well, head on over to Digiteens. Established by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis, the Digiteen project and Ning was created as part of their collection of flat classroom projects. The community is open to teachers but not students, unless they have taken part in a Flat Classrooms project. There's a forum for teachers only at http://flatclassrooms.ning.com/.

Back to the CSF Bill, and the worrying part for me is the fact that it creates new powers for local authorities and the Secretary of State to intervene to raise standards in schools, especially the latter part of that. I've heard Ed Balls, the Education Secretary, speak, and he seems genuinely passionate about education. But is it healthy for him to intervene in order to raise standards? How would 'standards' be judged? Would an experimental project involving, say, blogging, be deemed to be not raising standards fast enough, and so be knocked on the head? How far would issues like that depend on the political persuasion of the incumbent of the post?

There may not be much we can do about it on a macro level, but I think this is another reason that anyone engaging in a Web 2.0-type project with their students needs to ensure that they can demonstrate that they are achieving good outcomes according to traditional measures. You can read more about this in a series on the ICT in Education website about projects, including 15 Ways to Make An Educational Technology Project Successful. You can also listen to me talking about it on Classroom 2.0 Live.

This article was first published in Computers in Classrooms, the free e-newsletter. For details of how to subscribe and to look at past issues, please go to the newsletter page.



Friday
Jan082010

16 Tips For Getting The Best Out Of BETT

Here are 16 suggestions for getting the most out of the experience.

Wear shoes with cushioned soles: the floor is concrete and therefore very tiring to walk on for a whole day.

Put your phone on vibrate if you can: in my experience, you can't hear your phone ringing above the noise.

As soon as you have passed through the entrance, find somewhere to sit, and look through the bag you will have been given. Get rid of any unwanted paper, and then look to see if there are any last-minute exhibitor entries, in case there are one or two that you ought to visit. Then get your bearings.

Aim to visit the most important exhibitors on your list first, in case you get waylaid or get too tired to continue.

If you attend BETT on the Wednesday, ie on the first day of the show, it may be worth finding the Department for Children, Schools and Families ( DCSF) stand soon after the opening of the show. As a rule, the show is officially opened by a Government minister, who may announce new funding or a new development.The DCSF stand may have an area where you can listen to the announcement live (the hall in which the announcement is made is usually difficult to get into without an official invitation).

Do not collect loads of information: it weighs a ton after a while. That’s where your business cards come in: give them to exhibitors you are interested in, and ask them to send you stuff after the show.

Don’t collect loads of information on behalf of other teachers. I did that for years and as far as I know not one person did anything different as a result. In fact, it was probably counter-productive because it conveys the impression that you are just a glorified mailman.

If you get thirsty, look out for free water which may be provided by some stands.

When you strike up a conversation with someone, or meet up with colleagues, always ask: what have you see today that has excited you? And then follow up on their suggestions.

At some point in the day, forget your careful planning and wander around. You will be surprised at what you come across that hasn’t been listed in any brochure. For example, good prices on some items, new publications, and companies you have never heard of.

Head on over to the Times Education Supplement stand, to pick up a free copy of the periodical.

Pick up free copies of other educational technology magazines – but bear in mind that some are little more than collections of advertisements.

As well as the usual sorts of freebies like mugs and sets of pens, mouse mats and notepads, there are often more useful ones. For example, one year the QDCA was giving away miniature versions of the ICT Programme of Study, which you could keep on you for quick reference. Some stands may have useful documentation on data sticks.

If you are staying to the bitter end, and you have deposited a coat in the cloakroom, collect it about an hour before the end of the show, to avoid a long wait. That means around 5pm Wednesday to Friday, and 3pm on the Saturday.

The next two points are  especially relevant if you are attending for more than one day, or have team members attending on different days to yourself.

Find out what others thought about products and events seen at the show. Use the tag #BETT2010 in Twitter and  BETT2010 in Technorati and elsewhere. (Not sure what a tag is? See this article.)

Check the ICT in Education website for news and reviews about the show.

Friday
Jan082010

Driving Your ICT Vision: The Seminar

Believe it or not, there are a lot of parallels between ICT planning and driving. The journey can be long, so planning is necessary, but hazards seem to keep appearing that can really throw you off course. But notice that I didn’t use the phrase ‘unexpected hazards’. You don’t have to be a Nostradamus to make educated guesses about possible future scenarios, if you’re managing to keep yourself informed in the right kind of way.

Similarly, a key aspect of advanced driving is to anticipate hazards based on the information to hand, and avoid any trouble before it arises. Interestingly, the most commonly-used expression when a car accident occurs is ‘suddenly’:

I was driving along and all of a sudden this child ran in front of me out of nowhere.

As a matter of fact, things like this tend to happen less suddenly than you might think.

So, with this kind of thing in mind I successfully proposed a seminar at BETT called ‘Driving your ICT vision: what can advanced motoring techniques teach us about achieving our goals?’, which I (partially) described as follows:

The ideas covered include:

  • The limitations of target-based strategic planning.
  • What is the advanced motoring system?
  • Being prepared: how to spot hazards.
  • The system in more detail, with practical examples: using the principles of the System to address short, intermediate, and long-term goals.
  • Using the system flexibly.
  • The value of commentary.

 

Looking at that, you might wonder if it’s going to be some theoretical, but impractical, exposition of a pet theory. Not so. My intention is to absolutely whizz through the bit about SMART targets, spend slightly more time on describing what the advanced driving system is, but spend the greatest proportion of the time going through the phases of the ‘system’ and identifying some applications that could be used during each one.

I can see clearly now...I’ve identified 90 tools, organisations, and information sources, many of which are free, which I think will be of interest to the ICT leader. Actually, I’ve looked at and tried out several more, but these are the ones which I think are worth exploring. And within that lot, I’ll be pointing out the two or three in each section which I think are the best. I hope it will be especially useful to recently-appointed ICT leaders: you know, the ones who are starting to wonder what possessed them to ever take such a job in the first place!

I’m a bit nervous about doing the presentation, just in case someone complains that they didn’t learn enough about driving! Also, let’s be honest: any analogy can only be taken so far, and this is no exception. I don’t want to stretch it beyond credibility. Nevertheless, the motoring angle does give us some nice conceptual hooks on which to hang the various tools I’ll be recommending. I didn’t want to just come up with a ‘Top 50’ (or whatever) set of tools without providing a context for each. I think that Top 50 lists are fine, by the way; it’s just that I didn’t want to  create one.

As I doubt that I’ll be able to cover all of the tools in detail, or possibly even at all, I will be providing attendees with a URL from which they can download the entire list.

If this sounds interesting to you, you can book for the seminar on the BETT website. Perhaps I will see you there.