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Cool Widget August 16, 2007

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

Helen has shown me on her blog a cool slideshow widget.  Now I know that you can have too much of a good thing, but if you really want to add some bling to your blog, then this is a fantastic tool.  Thanks Helen.

More Preaching to the Converted August 16, 2007

Posted by davidit in Education, Education 2.0, ICT Integration, Inquiry Model, learning continuum, student engagement, Web 2.0.
2 comments

I have been working on developing our inquiry model for most of the day.  I am completely over all the philosophy behind it now and just want to produce a practical model that I can take to the staff so that they can start to see what the model for our school might look like.  I have tentatively called it the “Umbrella Inquiry” model and is loosely based around Ian Jukes’ 5A’s model.  The model has five strands to it, with Literacy and Numeracy on a sliding scale of teacher intervention and two srands of thinking tools and what I call ‘thinking landscape’  These last two have a sliding scale for student expectations too with more expectations the older they get.  The fifth and final strand is the inquiry model itself.  I have to say that at this skeletal stage I am quite pleased with what I have done so far.  Even if the staff tear it to bits, it is at least something for them to bounce against, just so long as we get the ball rolling.

 Not sure if any of you noticed the Teacher Tube site was down this week?  Initially the site said that they were down for routine maintenance, but after 6 hours I had the feeling that something major was going on, coupled with the fact that when I could logon my videos had all disappeared!  They have all now come back, but the ‘viewed’ data is all wrong, shame really as one of mine was always on the most viewed list, it was getting lots of hits a day and still is.  So what is the point of all this?  Well I have to say that I panicked when the videos had all gone, it made me wonder what the implications might be for the future if we put all of our stuff online and one day it was all gone, a kind of Skynet (Terminator) and Die Hard 4.0 scenario, not good!

Well while I was on Teacher Tube today I stumbled upon the following video.  The video was made in 2005 and is interviewing University students in America.  I know that University education is not relevant to what we are doing on the Supertanker, or is it?  I found that what these students had to say had resonance with what our inquiry model is trying to address, but it also had some chilling throw away lines.  The students all complained that all that they were getting was regurgitated knowledge from one person, that the system was not flexible to their needs and learing styles.  One student noted that employers wanted flexible, creative thinkers, yet the university system was anything but that.  They all said that they were all visual learners and that they were wired for the web, but university was not.  One student said that what he was having to endure to get his degree was simply not relevant and made the point with fees being so high, why bother with a degree?  Perhaps most chilling of all was the throw away statement that you have to listen hard to hear, was when one of them complained that the careers that university is preparing them for have all been outsourced.

If these statements are not the basis for a manifesto bring about a root and branch change in the education system, I do not know what is.  When outsourcing means that 1.3 billion people can undercut your salary system and career structure. When access to a computer and Google gives everyone access to the same information, what is the point of difference?  An individual’s ability to think creatively, problem solve and create new learning from the common body of knowledge is the point of difference.   It is imperative to develop these skills within the students that we teach.  We need to change and change fast, but you already knew that!

 Currently I can not get into Teacher Tube to embed a link for you!  However if you search for ‘digital students @ analogue schools’ you will find the video.  When the site comes up again, I will put the link here.  You see, technology, you just can’t trust it.  Bring back the wax tablet I say!  Nope, I went to You Tube and found it.  Long live technology!

Frustrated Engineer and Architect August 11, 2007

Posted by davidit in Brunel.
7 comments

I have to share, this has nothing to do with the Supertanker, but as I was writing the previous post a mail came in from a friend of mine in Plymouth, Helen.  She has the pleasure of commuting by ferry from home to school and along the way she passes Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s last masterpiece.  The Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash.  Daniel Gooch, Brunel’s friend and director of the GWR took the dying Brunel over the bridge on one of his locomotives to see his completed work.

I am a Brunel nut.  Brunel and Brunel senior were innovators beyond their time.  My bookshelves at home are chock full of Brunel stuff, I have signed first editions of the biographies of Sir Marc Brunel, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Daniel Gooch. I have some of their original letters and loads of lithographs of their work.  As I said in my Meme post, Henry Maudslay who interpreted the designs of both Brunels is one of the unsung heroes of the Industrial Revolution and is desperately in need of a biography.  As I said it is one of those projects that I wish to undertake…

So thanks very much Helen for taking the time to take these photos, your timing was brilliant!  Not sure what the rest of you will think of them, but to a frustrated engineer and architect, who would have been one of those had I chosen a different path they are wonderful! A note to the un-initiated, the bridge that I am raving about is the arched truss railway bridge and not the suspension road bridge!  And boy did Brunel know something about levers (see previous post) to lift those bridge spans into position from their floating pontoons.

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Sleepwalking into the Blogmire August 11, 2007

Posted by davidit in class blog, Education, Education 2.0, ICT Integration, Inquiry Model, thinking skills, Web 2.0.
6 comments

I have been vexed of late, something has been chewing away at me and I have been like a bear with a sore head around those that love me. I must be insufferable when I am like this.  At 04:00  today I had an Eureka! moment and have found the cause of my pain.  To quote the Joker in Batman “I have given a name to my pain…blogging.”  So here I am at my computer, the house is in darkness, with  pages of scribbled notes in front of me trying to get the stream of thoughts into some sort of  coherent logic. The sun has yet to rise, so here we go, appologies this could be a long post…

I recently commented that on the Supertanker we were experiencing something of an explosion in blogs.  Blogs are popping up all over the place and some are being used for entirely the wrong purpose where a wiki would be more appropriate, but such is the Missionary zeal for this new tool, I have been reluctant to dampen spirits.  For the record, I believe that blogs are a fantastic tool for classrooms, teachers and students, but of late I have become increasingly apprehensive about their use on the Supertanker.

With all of my work to do with preparing the ICT PD cluster proposal I have been diverted from researching blogs and wikis for information, but this week has seen some kind of return to normality and I have been researching again.  Two sites have come to mind that have helped me to crystalise my unease.  The first of these sites is that of Ian Jukes, he has some interesting things to say and in particular this pdf caught my eye, an extract from that pdf is below.  In addition what Lynne Crowe has to say on one of her recent posts ties in with my unease.

Ian in his pdf is discussing the quality of skills needed to use any tool and the resultant quality of the outcome.  It is a classic case of the bad workman blames his tools…

The desire to be more than we already are has always been with us. In the old

days, levers were used to lift something that couldn’t be lifted by human effort

alone. Now most levers plug into walls, use motors, or require batteries. Consider,

for example, a guitar amplifier. An amplifier is merely an updated version of lever,

designed to take advantage of modern power sources. What happens when you give


a bigger amplifier to a good guitar player? It’s magical because the amplifier

magnifies the skills of the player.

Conversely, what happens when you give a bigger amplifier to a bad guitar player?

Not pretty is it. The amplifier simply magnifies the skills, for better or worse.

 

In recent weeks we have had a wave of crewmembers on the Supertanker abandon ship into a sea heaving with blogs.  As a result there has been an increase in stress and much confusion. On the Supertanker we have our own Fender amplifier, running with all the dials turned up to 10,  indiscriminately amplifying the good the bad and the ugly.  Unfortunately the result has been anything but magical.  I have long held the view that teachers, with their heavy workloads and snowed under with the paperwork of accountablility have reached a state I call ‘initiative fatigue.’  By this I mean that many teachers now sail under a flag of convenience called tokenism, especially when it comes to new initiatives.   Teachers want to provide a quality learning environment for their students, but really do not have the time to sit down and truly contemplate what that might mean or how it might work in their class.  In order to save time and provide that quality learning environment, all that they seek is a photocopiable resource that can be presented in class and ticked off a list that says initiative met or implemented.  Blogging on the Supertanker has become just that.  In essence blogging has been grabbed at by several teachers who want a quick fix solution to mask a bigger problem and therein lies the problem.

As you know we have spent 2007 developing an inquiry model of learning for our students.  We have decided to take this step in the light of the new curriculum document and in order that we can better prepare our students for the rigours of the information economy and the workplace of the C21.  Fundamental to this model is the requirement for teachers to undergo a pedagogical shift in their teaching style from teacher to facilitator.  We are in the midst of a fallout from the paradigm shift as argued by Mark Treadwell.  When a tool is used with a low level of skill then the outcome according to Ian Jukes’ analogy is not a good one and conversly when done with consumate skill the outcome is sublime.  The trouble comes when tools, such as blogging, are grabbed at indescriminately.  A tyre lever won’t fix a flat battery, in other words an incorrectly selected tool used for the wrong job will make a mess of the whole.

In its current guise on the Supertanker blogging is bound to fail.  The failure will  cause huge amounts of stress and generally create a negative impression of the ablility of ICTs to reduce workload and improve student outcomes when used by these teachers.  Many of the self same teachers who have heard the amplified clarion call from the Fender amp to use blogs in their classroom are the self same teachers who have yet to regularly contribute to our staff blogs.  They will not contribute to these staff blogs, because they:

  • Can’t remember their usernames and passwords

  • Can’t see the benefit of blogging

  • Don’t know how to use a blog

  • Think that paper is a better way to record and share progress

These are genuine statements (objections) made by staff members who are now happily adopting the blog as a tool for their classrooms!  That they can not see the irony in this beggars belief.

So what is the problem?  The problem is the lack of planning, of contemplation, of reasoned consideration.  Not one single teacher of this new crop of bloggers that I have spoken to has a firm grasp of why, how  or for what purpose they will use a blog in their class.  It is as if the bus is leaving and they are scrambling to get on, without knowing the destination. Just being on board is enough for them.  Even though as Director of IT at school I am glad to see this sudden interest in the use of an ICT tool, I can also see that failure and disappointment is on the horizon.

In all reality how can a teacher, who has not got a system in place to rotate students, on a daily basis, through the limited number of computers in their class, irrespective of what else is going on in the class, expect blogging to work?  More to the point if there is no genuine and compelling reason to use a blog, why use it?  Before a teacher can implement a new strategy into their class, they need to know how to use it. It was my belief in the power of blogs in the classroom that was the reason that I set up our staff PLC blogs at the start of the year.  The intention was that in a safe and non threatening environment, through familiarity of use, teachers would see the benefits of and learn how to use a blog.  These self same skills would then be transferable to their classes.  For a sublime output teachers need to know how to skilfully use the tool.  For blogging to work teachers will need to have addressed the following classroom issues:

  • What purpose they are using the blog for?

  • How are they going to manage access to the blog in class time?

  • Why are they using a blog?

  • What benefits are there for them and their students to use a blog in their class?

Finally and perhaps most crucially we come to the point of Lynne’s post, sustainability.  Students can smell tokenism from a mile off.  If they have no stake in what they are doing, they quickly get bored of the initiative.  Lynne was discussing how to sustain student interest in a blog.  For me this comes down to the centre of the whole purpose of the inquiry model.  Students need to have ownership of their learning.  Once they do, then motivation is inherent, the purpose defined and sustainability almost guaranteed.

It is not the tools that are at fault, it is the level of skill and understanding of their use that needs to be improved.  Teachers on the Supertanker must invest time in contemplating how they are to manage the tools in their class, how their pedagogy has to adapt in addtion to learning to use the tools appropriately.  Teacher pedagogy and  ICT skills need to develop in tandem.  Pedagogy can evolve and develop without an increase in ICT skills.  The successful use of ICTs within a class however drives change and for success to happen, teachers have to want to change their classroom pedagogy and management.  Until they recognise that fact, they will continue to be stressed about ICTs in their class and continue to experience failure.

The sun is well up, I have a new plan.  Thanks for reading!

Meme: 8 Random Facts – virtual tag August 10, 2007

Posted by davidit in collaborative.
2 comments

I too have now been tagged by Fiona and in true pyramid selling I have to now pass the tag on to 8 others.  Should be fun, and as it is a kind of viral advertising the Supertanker and its course change will become known to a wider audience.  So here are the rules:

  1. Post the rules prior to listing your own 8 random facts
  2. List 8 random facts about yourself
  3. List the 8 tagged indivuals at the bottom of the post
  4. Leave a comment on each of their blogs letting them know that they have been tagged

OK so here are my 8 random facts:

  1. I have emigrated to New Zealand 3 times
  2. I used to be an advertising photographer in London
  3. I have yet to complete my Masters in Modern European history
  4. I have subscribed to National Geographic for over 20 years
  5. Brakspear’s Brewery at Henley-on-Thames brews the best ale on the planet
  6. I have travelled a lot, but not enough
  7. Henry Maudslay is the unsung hero of the Industrial Revolution and deserves a biography, another one of my projects
  8. I am currently reading the biographies of London and Alan Turing

And the winners are:

Well actually all the people who I wanted to tag have already been tagged and so in an effort not to annoy them I have whittled my list down to just one.  This person is a good friend of mine and travelled around the globe with me in 2004-2005, our exploits may well be posted to this site one day.  He is on his travels again and in the company of someone far more pleasing on the eye than me, so enjoy being tagged Johnny!  And enjoy your trip!

Johnny

Prove it! August 7, 2007

Posted by davidit in Education, Education 2.0, ICT Integration, Inquiry Model, Web 2.0.
4 comments

I was reading the latest and I have to say rather melancholy post from the Artichoke site today, what stired me was this quote:

What is it like to attend school for year after year after year without leaving “an impression  along the verge”?
What is it like to be anonymous to the institution, the department, the teachers, and to the other kids?
What is it like to be the kid that your secondary school subject teacher cannot identify without reference to the mark book even with the enrolment photograph for reference?
What is it like to be the kid who transferred after the first week but still receives glowing comments about how they were progressing in physical education in the term 1 report?
What is it like to be marginalised and ignored by the institution?

It was a sad indicment of life for students in many schools.  I can recognise those kinds of wallpaper children in primary schools, the lack of personal impact upon an institution is not the sole preserve of secondary schools, although it is easier to not be noticed at a secondary school.  Really what struck me where the school leaver statistics further further on in the post.  These statistics indicate the level of  irrelevance that many of our students see in the institution that they are forced to spend 40 weeks a year in.  I suspect that this sentiment is  not the sole preserve of  New Zealand students either.

Pam suggested that a possible solution was for students to have a total number of years education credit, so that those students that opt out early can come back into the system, at a later point and not be financially penalised because they voted with their feet.  A good plan.  At the heart of those statistics is the lack of relevance, sustained interest and inclusion that those early leavers evidently feel.  It is very rare that when you go to the cinema, another very passive one way interaction, that you see anyone leave before the end of the show.  I know that it is a trite comparison, but it has a kind of relevance.  The audience does not leave because they are to some degree engaged and their interest is being sustained, kind of!  Clearly schools do not perform as well as a B movie in this respect!  Most of us have sat through a compellingly awful movie, that on reflection was simply dire but despite this, still felt compelled to stay to the end, just to see what happened!  How many invisible students can say that of their schooling?

To get back to schooling it would seem to me that students are voting with their feet.  The school system is not meeting their needs, it is not engaging them and often seems remote and irrelevant to them, so they leave.  So what does this have to do with the Supertanker?  Well we are just a term into our project of  ICT enriched classrooms (we are struggling to find a phrase that best describes them!  C21classrooms is my preference, but currently I have no takers!) already we are having to find proofs that the investment is proving to be worth it, that the numeracy and literacy standards are not dropping for the students lucky enough to be in one of these ICT enriched rooms!  Rather alarmingly we also have to demonstrate how significantly better this investment in equipment is proving to be for student attainment.  One of the teachers in the project has taken the bull by the horns and has started to develop comparative excercises called paper and digis to see just what the positive impact might be.  You can see her results so far here.

What alarms me is having to justify with graphs and charts the finacial spend for improved student attainment.  I understand that we have to do this to get more money to invest in more classes with more equipment. The trouble with all of this is that you only have to go into these classrooms to witness the joy and energy on the children’s faces, the way that they are going about their work, the energy and enthusiasm they are universally displaying towards their work is obvious.  It is almost as if they are saying, ‘finally someone gets it, school work is no longer boring, school work is fun and I now have a stake in what I learn. Thanks guys!’   You can’t quantify this kind of anecdotal evidence in a report the the Board or to auditors, but the evidence is obvious, the students are engaged, motivated are willingly working at home to get more work done.  In short they are loving working in this kind environment, it is their world, their expectation, their technology.  I believe that it is their motivation that is the point that we should building from to then assess their attainment and not the other way round.

The student reaction is in part due to the inquiry model that we are developing, it is true that if you follow an interest then you will be motivated to work.  Inquiry models of differing flavours have been around for educational eons, but it is the ICTs that are making the difference. Ownership is the morticed deadlock and access to quality ICT resources, at the point of learning, is the key to unlock student motivation.   Students with their blogs, wikis, flickr accounts, bubbleshare sliders, youtube videos, skrbl pads etc now have a myriad of ways to access information and present their learning.  They can bring what they do for fun at home into school. Pretty soon they will no longer have to don the conformist, institutionalised practices of school at the school gate and discard them again at 3:00.  Students who have ownership of their learning will soon not only be making an impression on the margins, they will move from the margins and into the text!

ToonDoo II August 3, 2007

Posted by davidit in Education, Education 2.0, ICT Integration, Toon Do, ToonDo, ToonDoo, Web 2.0.
2 comments

***UPDATE***

I have been searching the ToonDoo site and the school that I have been making links with in the UK have already used ToonDoo to profile their work, not bad considering that they are on summer vacation at the moment, well done Helen!  I have have also been looking at the ToonDoo blog, here you can find some excellent tutorials on how to use the tool and see what its potential really is.  Spread the word everyone, this is a really cool tool and another band width killer!