As there are no doubts hundreds (maybe even thousands) of school children bent over laptops writing about what they did over half-term, I thought I might as well join them. I should love to be able to report that I accomplished what I’d set out to do, which was absolutely nothing. I reckoned that as most of the country’s teachers were (supposedly) having a break, I could do so too. Unfortunately, a malignant Fate, to use Dornford Yates’ wonderful phrase, decreed otherwise.
This is just a very quick update. Having sorted out my computer problems (fingers crossed and touch wood), reinstalled loads of software and (hopefully) not lost any data, I'm now almost ready to start writing again.
After I've done a mega backup, installed Tweetdeck and actually gone out to earn a crust, I will be back with some new articles.
In the meantime, take a look at this report by Patrick Hadfield on the 140 Meetup panel discussion I took part in last week. Some very interesting issues were raised, from a wide variety of people (mostly from outside the education profession).
This is just a quick post to keep my loyal readers (hi, mum and dad!) informed of what's going on. I don't have time to go into all the gory details right now, but suffice it to say that I am currently working on a borrowed computer having expended loads of time and energy dealing with my own one, have been descended upon by relatives virtually unannounced, and just to bring the number of things up to three (things always happen in threes, so they say), my exhaust dropped off a few days ago. Well, the exhaust from my car if you are going to be pedantic about it.
So the upshot is this:
- I have had to focus on my work in the reduced time and energy I've had available. I am sure you understand the need to put bread on the table. Not that we eat bread, but you know what I mean.
- I will be writing about a visit to the RM REAL Centre soon, my experiment with setting up a newswire in Publish2, which I have been a member of for a couple of years, and of course continuing with the 31 Days to Become a Better Ed Tech Leader series.
But right now I have to drive my car to the garage to have the exhause fixed. If you live in my neck of the woods and you hear what sounds like a tank going past, it's probably me. Don't forget to wave as I crawl past.
This news bulletin contains items about a new e-safety initiative, a new Guardian website, the RM Strategic Forum conferences, and the Amazing Web 2.0 Projects Book and other important stuff.
Childnet is running a film competition for young people in the UK. An educational charity founded in 1995, its work involves discussing, amongst other topics, cyberbullying, online grooming and scams. As Lindsay Bower, Childnet's Education Officer, says:
Sadly some children are exposed to risk online that offline they simply wouldn’t come in to contact with.
In "Film Challenge 2010", Childnet is inviting all schools in the UK to enter.
Two separate projects are in place for primary and secondary aged children.
They are asking secondary pupils to consider the direction that they would take the internet in, were they to have complete control -- what is their idea of an internet utopia? How can we all look to be good digital citizens and use our online presence to grow and shape the world in a safe, creative way? Primary pupils will be asked to create a film about why they love the internet and how they stay smart online. This could be done through drama, music, dance, rap, animation, puppetry or poetry for example. All films must be no longer than 60 seconds!
Sounds to me like a great project for the Creative and Media, Social Health an Development, and IT Diplomas!
All shortlisted finalists will be invited to a private screening of their film, in a London cinema, with the judging panel. Here is some more information about it, and don't forget to check Childnet's website for updates and other info. Closing date for entries is 28th May 2010.
New ICT in Education website to be launched
The Guardian will be launching a new ICT in education site at http://www.guardian.co.uk/classroom-innovation within the next couple of weeks. The idea is that whilst there are some useful websites in this area, there's nothing that brings them all together so to speak. So the idea of the new website, which is being sponsored by Asus for the first six months, is to collate the Twitter feeds of these websites, suitably filtered so that only items relating to educational technology are included. Sounds like a great idea, and I was delighted to be asked if I'd like this website to be included. So look out for that, bookmark it, blog about it and, erm, tweet about it too!
The RM Strategic Forum
In the early 80s I was in an amateur dramatics society, in which I trod the boards (as we say in show biz) a few times a year. In the late 80s I was in a band, in which I played blues harp (as we bluesmen call the harmonica) and sang.
Yet despite such displays of derring-do, when David and Carrie Grant announced that we would all be singing, I experienced a range of emotions, starting and ending with "OMG!". I had awful visions of being one of a hapless few selected to sing solo, and all the negative, stiff upper lip, we-didn't-do-this-in-my-day, what's-this-got-to-do-with-ICT-strategic-planning-anyway type of thoughts came flooding in.
Well needless to say, it was a great way of starting a day that was intended to be one in which we opened our minds to other possibilities and started to think differently. There were lessons to be learnt:
- In the hands of a good teacher, you can achieve great things very quickly. David and Carrie were excellent.
- Furthermore, a great teacher will make you believe yourself that you can achieve great things very quickly.
Great things? Well, I think a crowd of a couple of hundred people singing in four-part harmony within half an hour or so has to count as a 'great thing'.
- Finally, it was a salutary reminder of the hell we put some children through every lesson of every day. I remember myself spending every lesson in some subjects being terrified that the teacher was going to pick on me to answer a question. We can do things differently now.
The activity was also a great way of loosening up and generating some energy.
With input from assorted luminaries, including Richard Gerver, Sir Ken Robinson, Ollie Bray, John Davitt and Sir Tim Brighouse, the talks and panel discussion were very good, and in some parts quite moving.
In the panel discussion David Grant did an excellent job of coming back at the panelists and saying "Yes, but what can we actually do right now or tomorrow?". Left to themselves, a lot of visionaries tend to lapse into a default position of, er, having visions . It's good to have someone nagging them to say something of practical value too! (And yes, I know I'm being slightly unfair, but you get the point I'm making, yes?)
It was slightly annoying that a couple of the panelists had somehow gained access to my brain and filched some of my ideas about what makes an expert teacher. I've been writing an article about that, in my head. For example, an expert teacher is not just someone who knows their stuff, but can get the students engaged. Although even there I have to say — but I'm getting ahead of myself: you'll have to wait for the article to make its way from my head to these pages.
The small group discussion was OK, and well-facilitated, but the acoustics were such that it was difficult to hear everyone. The walk around the learning spaces set up, which included lots of examples of some great technology, and in some cases some real live students using it, was excellent. I was impressed by how knowledgeable the staff were. Also, as happens every time I see anything like this, I wished I'd had this kind of kit when I was teaching.
One thing that RM has done is to address head-on the problem always faced in new builds, which is that the architects wade in and the educational technology is incorporated into discussions as an after-thought — by which time it is too late. RM has teamed up with firms of architects so that their contribution is part of an overall educational approach.
Receiving an iPod Touch was great, but having it ready-loaded with useful files, and having to use it in the first session with the Grants, was a very well-thought out move.
If you have a chance to go to one of these events I would say do so: it's time and money well-spent. And no, I'm not being paid by RM to say this, in case you're wondering why I'm enthusing so much about this conference.
The Amazing Web 2.0 Projects Book
This fantastically useful and free book has now been downloaded 12,461 times, and that only tells part of the story. Others have made it available on their own websites, and I obviously cannot know how many downloads they've enjoyed. Also, some people have passed it on to many others.
Going by the poll I set up, the 35 people who have responded so far sent it out to an average of 81 people each, which if true of everyone would mean that over a million people have seen it so far. It's rather too small a sample to draw such conclusions though, and that mean figure hides a wide range. UNESCO, for example, has sent information about to to 5,000 people as well as placing a note about it on their website.
If you have downloaded and looked through the book, please complete the survey, which comprises three questions and involves hardly any typing!
If you like, you can access the contents of the book in two other ways, and even embed it on your own website. Firstly, there is a SlideShare option. The links are live, ie you can click on them and they work. Also, the subject-project list near the beginning of the book now contains hyperlinks to the projects cited. You’ll see the embed code near the top right-hand side of the screen.
Secondly, I have created a Myebook version. To obtain the embed code, you will need to open the book and then click on the Info tab. The advantage of this over the SlideShare version is that it looks and sounds like a real book, and you can zoom in to read it more clearly. Also, you can grab parts of the screen and email it to a friend. Unfortunately, though, the links don’t work, simply because I don’t have time to create them all manually - I’m waiting for a forthcoming automated version of the book builder to do that for me!
You can download it from the Free Stuff page on the ICT in Education website, where you will also be able to read a sample of the nice things people have been saying about it.
Take part in a cool experiment
I’d like to try an experiment on my website, for which I need your help. I don’t want to go into detail now, so I’m asking you to trust me. What I need is a short article, on any aspect of educational ICT. When I say ‘short’, I mean maybe 500 words or so - in other words, just two or three paragraphs.
Have a look at the guidelines and terms and conditions, because if you were to send me an article I’ll assume you agree to them. The bottom line is that you keep the copyright in your article, and agree not to write anything that could land both of us in court!
If you’d like to take part in this experiment, and promote your own blog/website into the bargain, please send me an email suggesting a topic you’d like to write about and a sample of your writing or link to your blog. I’d need to receive the article by 3rd May so please get in touch as soon as possible.
I’ve started a group in Flickr. Called the ICT in Education group, the idea of it is to have a place where we can find photos depicting, er, ICT in education. There are other, similar, groups on Flickr, and I am not trying to outdo them in any way. I just wanted to try out the Group creation feature.
Flickr groups are quite useful, because as well as making it easy to find photos on a particular theme, you can also interact with those people who have similar photographic interests to yourself.
Setting the group up was very easy, and you are presented with several options in terms of how easily people can access it. I opted to make it open to all, subject to approval. So basically you have to apply for membership. The reason I have done this is that I get fed up with having to deal with spam and spammers all the time. I mentioned some time ago that I’d suspended the Ning communities I’d set up for that reason, and every day I have to delete spam comments from my blog (they never appear because all comments have to be approved). I didn’t want to give spammers yet one more opportunity to waste my time and that of other people.
The purpose of the group is to make it easy for people to find photos relating to educational technology that they can use to illustrate their blog posts. So I’m hoping that people will enter into the spirit of things and assign a Creative Commons licence to their pics that allows everyone to use them in that way.
If you’d like to join the group, so you can post photos there as well as your own Flickr area, go here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/1292018@N24/. There are only a few members so far, because I haven’t publicised it.
E-book section now updated
I've updated the e-book section of the ICT in Education website. It now includes the best-selling "Go on, bore e'm: how to make your ICT lessons excruciatingly dull", for the ridiculously low price of £1.99. It's available on Lulu too, where you can also buy a printed version for just £4.99.
Computers in Classrooms
Just in case you missed the most recent, incredibly stupendous, issue of this FREE resource (US President Richard Nixon was quoted as saying "A giant step for mankind", although he may have been referring to something else), here is what it contained:
News, views and prize draws
Information about the Amazing Web 2.0 Projects Book, two prize draws, a forthcoming e-book application for schools, free web resources and more.
Word Cloud Shoot-out
Believe it or not, Wordle isn't the only word cloud generator. Here we take an in-depth look at four such applications.
ICT- A Whole New World
Maddi is a 15 year old girl from Australia who loves ICT. Find out why.
The Importance of Mobile Phones in Education
Ethan, a 17 year-old student from England, admits that phones can be used for no good in the classroom; but the opposite is also true, as he explains.
Harnessed by Technology?
Peter Robinson strikes a slightly cynical -- but very well-informed -- tone about people's belief in the power of technology to transform.
Becta’s Leading Leaders Network: A Personal Journey
Headteacher Jeff Smith discusses his love of technology, leadership in an age of change, using technology well and wisely in school, how the Self-Review Framework helped his school transform itself in its use of ICT, and the value of the Leading Learners Network.
Interview with Melendy Lovett
I recently interviewed Melendy Lovett, President of Texas Instruments’ worldwide education technology business, about the state of STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education.
Let Them Ask
Doug Woods considers how technology might be used to help youngsters ask questions.
31 Days to Become a Better Ed Tech Leader
The first two instalments of this series before it had been published! You can read the articles published so far in the series here.
If all that sounds good, join thousands of others by signing up now!
Walk past any building site, and what will you see? More than likely, people lolling around drinking tea. Yet as you walk by every day you notice something strange: slowly, inexorably, the building is taking shape. Here is some scaffolding where only yesterday was an empty space; there a wall, where only yesterday there was scaffolding.
Thus it is with this website. From your point of view, no doubt, I am lolling around drinking tea. Yet look more closely, and you will notice changes here and there. Small, incremental changes, but not insignificant ones I hope.
Last week I listened to the reminder from Doug Woods that blue/yellow was almost as bad a colour combination as red/green. So out went the yellow background and most of the blue text, apart from the hyperlinks.
As another aspect of making the site accessible to all, I've been experimenting with Talkr, which converts text to speech automatically. Unfortunately, it would seem that if you have article summaries, Talkr converts the summary and not the main article. So, out went the summaries despite the fact that I quite liked the idea of presenting several headlines and abstracts on the front page of the website: what a glorious choice the visitor had!
Sadly, ditching the summaries had the unintended consequence of making the early (summarised) articles unamenable to conversion to speech. I hope you will agree that this is a small sacrifice for the greater, and longer term, good.
Of course, this now meant that having five articles per page required, in Ray Tolley's words, "having to endlessly scroll further down the page in case there is a different topic further down." Therefore I took a leaf out of his book and reduced the number of articles to just one per page -- but still with the last six headlines just over to the left of the main area.
Like any consultant, part of the purpose of my website is to make it easy for people to find out what I do and why I'm qualified to do it, in the hope that they will offer me some gainful employment. So up went the CV (resumé) in a web-friendly form, on the page titled Assignments Undertaken.
Lastly, I added a section called 'Social Profile' which gives my addresses on Twitter, Linked-In, and elsewhere. Rather cleverly, Squarespace allowed me to make that visible only on the 'Contact Us' page. (If you're impressed enough to want to create your own Squarespace website, you might consider clicking on the 'Powered by Squarespace' icon on the right-hand side of this page. That links to an affiliate scheme which will place untold riches into my coffers. Well, a couple of quid I think, but every little helps, to coin a phrase!)
Back to the website, and I must thank everyone who has been kind enough to provide feedback on the new site. I've done so in private emails, but I think a public acknowledgement of people's kindness would not go amiss. If you have any feedback, you can get in touch with me in all sorts of ways, as shown on the Contact Us page.
Do keep visiting! It took five years to build up the wealth of content on the original website, so please be patient! I'm doing a fair amount of posting at the moment, but you know what they say: Rome wasn't built in a day. And you can always help by suggesting an article that you would like to write.
If you like the site, please do tell others about it, comment on the articles and write about them. Visitor stats are looking pretty good at the moment, but I'm a Type A person and I need results yesterday!
But for now, I think it's time I had another cup of tea....
I'm not putting too much content here just yet because I'm still having some issues with DNS matters, which hopefully will be resolved today. However, I've made a couple of changes which should make finding stuff even easier:
1. I've added an Article Index page to the top of the screen. This lists all the articles in reverse chronological order.
2. I've added a page in the right-hand menu called 'Find articles by tags'.
3. The list of articles on the left-hand side of the page has been reduced to 6, and the list of tags has been removed, making the monthly archive visible on most screens.
We've made some further refinements since penning the above. The Article Index page now contains a guide to all the ways in which you may find articles on the site.
The 'Find articles by tag' facility has been incorporated into a new section, on the left-hand side of the site, called 'Article Finder'. This also includes several other methods of finding the article you want.
We hope you find these features of the site useful.