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The Problem with Promotion

***Update: For those who don’t know, I successfully applied to become Director of E-Learning at Northumberland Church of England Academy. Thanks for everyone’s advice and guidance!***

Decisions, decisions...

I’m loving my role as E-Learning Staff Tutor at my current school. I get to teach 16 out of 30 lessons per week whilst having time to spend with staff developing their use of educational technology.

But there’s a problem. ๐Ÿ™

I don’t earn enough. Now before you castigate me as some type of money-grabbing not-in-it-for-the-kids type of person, let me (rather paradoxically) state that I’d quite happily teach for free. If I had a roof over my head and food on the table, as a single man I would give up my time to educate children. I love it.

There’s the rub, though. I’m not a single man. I’m happily married with a two-year-old son and a wife who wants to spend time at home with him. That’s where I want her to be too. Hence the need for me to earn more to keep my family happy.

So what do I do?

As a teacher in England, there’s two paths traditionally open to teachers seeking promotion:

  1. Become Head of Department in your chosen subject. This then can lead onto an Assistant Headship, Deputy Headship, and ultimately a Headship.
  2. Become Head of Year or seek out some other pastoral role. This too can lead to an Assistant Head position, Deputy Head and then Head.

I don’t want either. Heads of Department have to deal with a lot of admin and jump through a lot of hoops that would infuriate me and lead to me not enjoying my job. And on the other hand, I have never had an interest in the pastoral side of education (over and above my role as a form teacher, which I deem important).

There needs to be some type of New Labour-ish ‘Third Way’ for teachers. I can see what the suggestion is going to be already: become an AST! (Advanced Skills Teacher). Erm, no thanks. We have had a few of those visit my school. Not the type of thing I want to do at all.

So I’m left with some other options. As far as I can see, I’m left with options that take me out of the classroom:

  • Lecturer/researcher at a university (once I’ve finished my Ed.D.)
  • Freelance advisor/researcher/consultant
  • Consultant for an organization (e.g. a Local Authority)

Any ideas? ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

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Dilbert on ‘learner voice’

For those not within the education system in the UK, allow me to explain. There’s been an emphasis over the last year or so to give the opinions of students in schools more status. In some cases this has worked very well and added to the life of the school. In others, it’s been just another box to tick. I imagine that in the latter type of school, the Dilbert cartoon below would resonate with teachers:

Dilbert on learner voice?

What are your thoughts on ‘learner/students/pupil voice’?

Podcasting: Step 3 – Converting and uploading your podcast ready for the masses!

podcasting3_small

Before reading this, you should have gone through the steps indicated in these two posts:

In this last part of the Podcasting guide, we’re going to convert our audio masterpiece to a format suitable for mobile audio players and the Internet, and make it available as a podcast! This will involve 3 steps:

1. Converting your audio to MP3

2. Sending your MP3 file to your blog

3. Getting your students/colleagues to subscribe to your podcast

To get started, follow the guide below! ๐Ÿ™‚

Interesting ways to use Twitter in the classroom

After a suggestion received, quite fittingly, from another Twitter user, Tom Barrett is weaving his magic again. This time, after getting educators to collaborate on ways in which Interactive Whiteboards, Google Earth, Google Docs, and Pocket Video Cameras can be used in education he’s turned his (and his network’s) sights on Twitter:

I got involved straight away – in fact mine’s the first tip on there! Get involved by contacting Tom (@tombarrett) ๐Ÿ™‚

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My Ed.D. thesis concept map on ‘Digital Literacy’

This concept map took me ages. So long, in fact that I’ve no big long words or energy left to pad out this blog post longer than it needs to. Suffice it to say that the references on it can be found on my wiki. ๐Ÿ™‚

I created the concept map using XMind, which is Open Source, cross-platform software that allows you to upload and collaborate. I found it very easy to use and would recommend it as a perfect blend of online and offline functionality! ๐Ÿ˜€

I’ve been asked under what license I’m releasing this mindmap. Here’s my answer:
Creative Commons License
Digital Literacy Ed.D. thesis concept map by Doug Belshaw is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at share.xmind.net.

New music section at dougbelshaw.com

opentapeI’ve decided to add a music section to dougbelshaw.com. If you head over to /music then you’ll find an installation of Opentape, some Open Source software that is very similar that used to power version 1 of Muxtape. I’ve added a link to the navigation menu at the top of this blog.

Every Sunday I plan to upload a new playlist of music I’ve been listening to during the week. This first playlist represents the amount of time I spend listening to ‘mashups’!

‘Following’ me on Twitter? These people are!

I’m @dajbelshaw on Twitter. If you’re not following me then you’re missing out on links and conversation. Here’s my followers (so far!):

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HOWTO: Add an RSS feed to Google Sites

Google Sites is wonderful. Not only can anyone and everyone sign up to make a wikified website, but it’s really easy to use and very configurable. BUT it’s got one very, very major drawback. No RSS feeds! This post shows you how you can generate an RSS feed from either an ‘announcements’ or ‘recent changes’ page quickly and easily. ๐Ÿ˜€

If you’re an educator, you might want to try Google Sites as part of Google Apps Education Edition. It’s free. I’ve configured it on my mrbelshaw.co.uk domain and it makes life very easy. Throughout the following I’m going to be using my Google Sites-powered learning.mrbelshaw.co.uk as an example.

RSS feed for ‘announcements’ page

If want to create an RSS feed for a blog-like announcements page, you’re looking for a page similar to the one below. You are given an option to create this kind of page when you click ‘Create New Page’.

Google Sites - Announcements page

You need to highlight and copy the URL of your announcements page:

Google Sites - copy announcements page URL

…and then head over to this Yahoo! Pipe and paste the URL you just copied from your announcements page into the box:

Yahoo! Pipes - paste Google Sites 'announcements' page URL

Once you’ve done this click the ‘Run Pipe’ button andย  you should see something like the screenshot below (although obviously yours will reflect the contents of your ‘announcements’ page!):

Google Sites 'announcements' page in Yahoo! Pipes

Now all that’s left to do is to discover what your RSS feed URL is by clicking on the orange RSS icon:

RSS icon in Yahoo! Pipes

You should see something like the screenshot below, although it may look slightly different if you use a web browser other than Firefox – and will, of course, depend on your websites’ content:

RSS feed created from Google Sites announcement page using Yahoo! Pipes

You can now take the URL of the RSS feed that’s just been created:

Copy URL of RSS feed from Google Sites 'announcements' page generated by Yahoo! Pipes

…and add it to your Google Sites-powered website, along with the web-standard RSS feed icon!

RSS feed on Google Sites page

RSS feed for ‘Recent site activity’

If, however, you want to create an RSS feed from updates made to the site as a whole, you need first of all to locate the ‘Recent site activity’ link at the bottom of your website:

Google Sites - Recent Site Activity

Once you’ve located that page, simply go through the same steps as above, but use this Yahoo! Pipe instead. ๐Ÿ˜€

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‘Flow’ and the waste of free time

flow_bookHaving twice got the classic work Flow: the psychology of optimal experience out of Durham University Library and having it twice recalled before I got a chance to read it, I decided to just go ahead and buy the book. It’s a very famous work, cited in almost everything I read – despite the fact that the author, Mikhail Csikszentmihalyi, has an almost-unpronounceable surname…

Upon its arrival from Amazon, I eagerly opened and flicked through Flow. Just as sometimes you’re sitting in an audience and you feel that the speaker is talking directly to you, so it was with the section ‘The Waste of Free Time’ (p.162-3). Here’s my abridgement of that short section. Do you recognise yourself in it? I do!

Ironically, jobs are actually easier to enjoy than free time, because like flow activities they have built-in goals, feedback, rules, and challenges, all of which encourage one to become involved in one’s work, to concentrate, and lose oneself in it. Free time, on the other hand, is unstructured, and requires much greater effort to be shaped into something that can be enjoyed.

The tremendous leisure industry that has arisen in the last few generations has been designed to help fill our free time with enjoyable experiences. Nevertheless, instead of using our physical and mental resources to experience flow, most of us spend many hours each week watching celebrated athletes playing in enormous stadiums. Instead of making music, we listen to platinum records cut by millionaire musicians. Instead of making art, we got to admire paintings that brought in the highest bids at the latest auction. We do not run risks acting on our beliefs, but occupy hours each day watching actors who pretend to have adventures, engaged in mock-meaningful action.

The flow experience that results from the use of skills leads to growth; passive entertainment leads nowhere. Collectively we are wasting each year the equivalent of millions of years of human consciousness. The energy that could be used to focus on complex goals, to provide for enjoyable growth, is squandered on patterns of stimulation that only mimic reality. Mass leisure, mass culture, and even high culture when only attended to passively and for extrinsic reasons – such as the wish to flaunt one’s status – are parasites of the mind. They absorb psychic energy without providing substantive strength in return. They leave us more exhausted, more disheartened than we were before.

Most jobs and many leisure activities – especially those involving the passive consumption of mass media – are not designed to make us happy and strong. Their purpose is to make money for someone else. If we allow them to, they can suck out the marrow of our lives, leaving us only feeble husks.

Eloquently put, I’m sure you’ll agree! It reminded me somewhat of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four in terms of the vision it conjures of a mass ‘citizenry’ obediently doing what the guiding voice behind the media they consume tell them to do.

It’s a wake-up call for me. Instead of spending money on gadgetry that allow me to consume mass media at an ever-increasing rate, I’m going to focus on creativity and meaning-making. For me, that will mostly be in a written format because of my interests and talents. But, you never know, it may stray into areas musical as well… ๐Ÿ˜€

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Podcasting: Step 2 – Recording and editing your podcast

rss_headphones
Read/act on this first:
Podcasting: Step 1 – RSS and setting up a teacher blog

In the last session we set up a blog and learned what RSS was. Let’s just remind ourselves of what podcasting is, shall we?

So podcasting is when you deliver audio files to ‘subscribers’ automatically using an RSS feed. This RSS feed is generated automatically by the Posterous-powered blog you set up in Step 1. ๐Ÿ™‚

In this session we’re going to be using a program called Audacity. This is available for all platforms – Windows, Mac and Linux. It is free and Open Source software. Audacity is already installed on the computers we shall be using at school, but if you need to download it at home, you can find it here: http://audacity.sourceforge.net

Note: we will need a ‘plugin’ for Audacity to be able to export to MP3 format, but we’ll leave that for next session!

Instead of re-inventing the wheel, we’ll be making use of the excellent video guides to using Audacity that can be found here: http://www.how-to-podcast-tutorial.com/17-audacity-tutorial.htm

These are the ones you should focus on today:

  1. The editing tools
  2. Basic editing and trimming your audio
  3. Importing audio and adding music to your podcast

When you save your audio, just save it as a WAV file. We’ll work on exporting to MP3 next time. If you’re looking for music that you can legally and safely use in your podcasts, check out the links at the bottom of the Wikipedia page for ‘Podsafe’.

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