Page 133 of 192

Learning objectives: the basics

Bullseye

A combination of my ongoing mentoring of an M.Ed. student, a request by a commenter (Ian Guest) and some broken links on the newly-restored teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk has spurred me to write this post.

As a teacher, I’ve never really known a world before learning objectives. It was certainly something that was expected of me during my PGCE at Durham University and from then on in my teaching career. And, to be fair, it’s fairly obvious why. If a learner knows what’s expected of them, and then can ascertain whether they’ve achieved a learning goal, then they’ve been successful.

However, I’ve seen learning objectives used really badly. I’ve seen a ‘learning objective’ that ran something like:

To know who the Romans were.

How would a learner or teacher know whether any type of meaningful learning has taken place with this as a learning objective?! A far better one would be:

To list 3 ways the Romans have influenced life in the 21st century.

This is SMART – i.e.

  • Specific – ‘list 3 ways’ tells students exactly what to expect.
  • Measurable – both students and the teacher can tell whether the learning objective has been attained.
  • Achievable – the learning objective is open-ended enough to allow for effective differentiation.
  • Realistic – this particular learning objective doesn’t really require any prior learning.
  • Time-related – students need to have achieved this learning objective by the end of the lesson.

Even better practice would be to use ALL, MOST and SOME with learning objectives. This allows for even more differentiation and sets and explicit baseline for all learners.

To use the above example again:

ALL students should: list 3 ways the Romans have influenced life in the 21st century.

MOST students should: decide which Roman innovation has been most profound.

SOME students should: explain how Roman innovations have changed/evolved over the last 2,000 years.

It’s only after the learning objectives have been formulated that lesson activities and resources should be prepared. After all, if the activities and resources aren’t focused on learning, what are they focused upon?

Do you have a view or some advice on learning objectives? Share it in the comments below! 🙂

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

It’s energy that matters, not the hours you put in.

Zen Water

Image CC BY darkpatator @ Flickr

I was delighted to welcome my mother home from her three-and-a-half week visit to the UAE at the weekend. We got talking about what she’d been up to and she mentioned that she’d spent a lot of time reading books. In fact, she said, it was refreshing not to be constantly bombarded with information from the UK media. What followed was an interesting conversation between us in which I advocated carefully selecting a range of (conflicting) media perspectives from which to draw information and form opinions. The answer is not necessarily to cull the number of news sources but to make sure they’re not all telling you the same thing… 😉

To that end I was looking for more places from which to get my information instead of the same-old, same-old, when I came across The Twitter Times. This takes not only stories linked to by those you follow on Twitter, but those of ‘friends of friends’. You may argue that everyone in my Twitter network is likely to be related to education in some way. That’s correct, but some are tangentially connected to that topic and have networks that span many other disciplines and interests. You can see my Twitter Times and judge for yourself here.

Cover of "Ideas: A History of Thought and...

Cover via Amazon

One blog post that was linked to many times earlier this week was What problems does Google Wave solve? I noticed that it was originally written in Portuguese; ever since I started reading Ideas: a History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud I’ve realised that my monolinguism affects my conception of the world (and self). I investigated further.

The Google Wave post is a reasonable one but I found another post by the author (Daniel Tenner) more interesting. Entitled Counting hours doesn’t make sense it included this gem:

When we measure results instead of hours, something interesting happens: the distinction between work and not-work blurs away and vanishes, for two reasons. First, clever ideas can make a huge difference to results, and ideas occur anywhere, at any time. In fact, they’re least likely to occur while sitting at a desk working. Secondly, it soon becomes obvious that our actual output of things done is correlated far more to how we feel on the day than to how many hours we spend “working”. The real measure of work is not hours – it’s energy.

We all have a certain amount of energy each day, that can fluctuate depending the day, on our general level of fitness, nutrition, health, state of mind, etc. Some activities (such as going to the gym) increase our daily pool of energy. Others (such as staying up all night or getting drunk every evening) decrease our daily pool of energy.

‘Productivity’ by the hours one works is implicit in our culture. It’s the reason that, despite increased efficiencies and an ever-increasing population, we work longer hours now than ever before.

My wife thinks that I work all of the time. And she’s right, I do. But then it depends what you mean by ‘work’. I’m just as I’m likely to think of something related to elearning in the shower at home as I am about football when I’m in the office. It would make as much sense to say that there’s a synergy between my work and my leisure interests. Consequently, it makes no sense to demarcate and delineate ideas and energy to physical spaces, especially when we live in such a connected world.

It’s always struck me as strange that despite what we know about physiological and psychological ebbs and flows in human beings we remain tied to straightjacketed corporate routines. And none more so than in education. Take, for example, the (current) Autumn term. Each half-term is usually around 7 weeks long – just at the time when the nights are closing in and energy is likely to be lowest. Which is the shortest term? Spring! We start off the year at an naturally energy-sapping time. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

What’s important in any organization is that the core purpose of that organization is delivered upon. In education that’s the education of young people so they can operate effectively in the adult world. Their minds should have been opened in the process, their horizons raised, and their imaginations fired. That’s unlikely to occur when the adults who surround them are tired and clock-watching.

So when you’re feeling ‘unproductive’ just remember that you’re being human. It’s not about the hours you put in but about the energy you devote and the results you achieve.

Get the energy right and the results – whatever you or your organization decide they should be – will follow. 🙂

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

How to restore a very large MySQL file without errors.

File this one under ‘geeky’ and ‘stuff that took me a while to find out so I’m sharing it with others’.

I *Heart* MySQL

Image CC BY-SA Kevin Severud @ Flickr

During the couple of days I’ve been off work ill this week I’ve transferred teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk from a UK-based webhost to Bluehost (which hosts this, among other sites). It was about time my former blog (active 2005-2007) had some TLC as it was becoming progressively broken.

I had a 42MB MySQL database backup – the file that contains all of the blog’s important information (post and comment text, etc.) – but every time I tried to import this into a new database at Bluehost I kept getting timeout errors. It was then that I remembered I’d had this problem before and I’d managed to solve it with some sort of script that breaks the file up into smaller chunks to feed to the database incrementally.

After a while searching, I came across it again. It’s called BigDump and the process, if you’re familiar with installing WordPress manually, is fairly straightforward:

  1. Go into phpMyAdmin and execute DROP_TABLES on your target database.
  2. Download bigdump.zip from http://www.ozerov.de/bigdump.php and extract the zip file.
  3. Open bigdump.php using Notepad, TextEdit, or similar. Edit the relevant lines to point towards your database, username and password.
  4. Create a folder called dump on your web server and upload both bigdump.php and your MySQL database into that folder.
  5. CHMOD the folder recursively to 777 (i.e. give read/write permissions when accessed via the web)
  6. Access the script via (e.g.) http://yourdomain.com/dump/bigdump.php
  7. Follow the instructions!

This should lead to your database backup being successfully inserted into your new database. You can then use the data in whatever web app (i.e. WordPress) that you want! 🙂

What to do when your ‘get up and go’ has got up and left.

You cannot plough a field...

During the academic year 2008/9 we lived on a farm. It was great! Ben, my son, loved to see the tractors on the fields surrounding us.

I can remember one day as I trundled off to work how wonderful it would be to spend the whole day in a tractor, ploughing the field. Then I remembered that, for the farmer, the field is the equivalent of the five classes I had to teach that day. In fact, for the farmer,  it was worse. Not only was the task he had to perform time-consuming, it was monotonous yet important for his future income.

We all face times when we’ve got seemingly insurmountable and monumental problems and tasks to complete. But, as with Zeno’s paradoxes of motion, unless we actually make the first step the task will seem impossible. My Ed.D. thesis, for example, felt of this magnitude before I started spending an hour before school some mornings working on it.

So approach big tasks as if you were eating an elephant. Go for one bite at a time. Turning over the problem in your mind makes it bigger and bigger. Starting on the road towards its completion – even in a small way – leaves you satisfied and removes some of the fear surrounding it. 🙂

On the importance of ‘real-world learning’

Hot air balloon above clouds

Image BY-NC ms4jah @ Flickr

As with many things I write about on this blog, three things have come together recently to make me think about an issue in more detail. Briefly, these are:

  1. Discovering Courtenay Bird’s blog (via @Stammy) where she posts links to interesting and useful infographics.
  2. Reading @mortenoddvik‘s blog mortempo – and in particular his post Didactical Project: Cultural or Intercultural Competence?
  3. Revisiting Dan Meyer’s excellent work at dy/dan – especially posts like Graphing Stories (from a couple of years ago)

I don’t know when or how it happened (I suspect high-stakes testing had something to do with it) but we’ve managed to completely disconnect teaching and learning from real-world experience. There’s a few pockets of good practice and glimmers of light, obviously, but behind a lot of what happens in classrooms is “you’re doing this because it’s on the test.”

Thankfully, the three examples above point to something different. Here’s how:

1. Infographics

I came across Courtenay Bird’s blog just before I intended to head off to bed one evening this week. Courtenay’s interests lie in sales, marketing, project management and technology. Hence her interest in infographics. Here’s an example:

No more fish in the sea.

It got me thinking about project-based learning and how fantastic creating an infographic would be as a learning experience for students. By their very nature infographics demand a level of expertise by the person who creates them. Look at the research David McCandless at Information is Beautiful carries out before producing one of his masterpieces!

Infographics have to reflect real-world issues and do things with data that interests people. They have to be relevant and meaningful. That’s why I think they’re great for what I would called ‘real-world learning’.

There’s more wonderful infographics below:

2. Cultural references

I’ve only just come across Morten Oddvik’s work. Morten is an innovative Norwegian educator who focuses on learning outcomes rather than activities. A recent blog post of his – Didactical Project: Cultural or Intercultural Competence? – caught my eye because he’s doing something very difficult: using media-focused cultural references to enhance students’ learning about important (and quite high-level) concepts.

Take a look at this:

[googleapps domain=”docs” dir=”present/embed” query=”id=dd6hg9pn_328cswgwrhn&size=s” width=”410″ height=”342″ /]

As you can see, Morten hasn’t simply taken the rap-music-is-a-form-of-poetry route. Instead he’s done something infinitely more valuable; he’s using something students are already interested in to help them learn about a range of concepts. This is another example of project-based learning. Morten’s focused on learning outcomes and using the content as a scaffold towards that. Great stuff! 😀

3. Real-world problem solving

Finally, I’ve revisited the work of Dan Meyer recently. Dan blogs at dy/dan and is well known within the edublogosphere for his high work rate and high-quality resources. As my Dad’s recently gone to the UAE as a consultant Maths teacher, I’ve been showing him some of the stuff Dan’s been up to.

I think one of my favourite posts by Dan is one from 2007 entitled Graphing Stories. In it, Dan chronicles not only a formidable amount of work on his part as if it were nothing, but how his high-quality resources and use of human interest led to huge learning gains by his students:

Elevation v. Time

I’ve seen some really bad, disconnected-from-reality lessons during my teaching career thus far. And it has to be said the worst one I ever saw was a Maths lesson. Dan shows on his blog how even the most abstract of concepts can be taught visually, kinaesthetically, and engagingly. That, to me, is what it’s all about!

You should definitely check out his series What Can I Do With This? where Dan takes images and uses them to teach mathematical concepts. Inspiring! :-p

Conclusion

The above shows that if educators focus on learning outcomes rather than activities to take up lesson time (and the high-stakes examinations at the end of a course) then real progress can be made by students. As a subject specialist it paints me to say it, but I think it’s time to move to a project-based curriculum where skills and competencies are focused on rather than simply ‘knowledge’.

Tracey Rosen has a new blog called Teaching is a Verb which focuses on collective action to improve teaching and learning. I’ll leave you with a post she shares in a post entitled Teaching 101:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea. (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Where we’re headed with the Academy’s E-Learning ecosystem.

I have to keep telling myself that we’re only five weeks in to a brand new, 10-site all-age Academy. There’s so much I want to do this academic year in my first year as Director of E-Learning that it’s frustrating when it’s not all up-and-running straight away! However, that’s because of a number of factors largely beyond my control. Things will settle down! :-p

The above diagram is a very simplistic representation of how I want the E-Learning ‘ecosystem’ to function by summer 2010. It’s a 4-stage process:

1. Roll out Google Apps to staff

This has already been done. We were going to use just instance of Google Apps at ncea.org.uk but decided against it. Why? Because we want to turn on as much functionality as possible for staff (e.g. Google Chat, Google Sites) whilst having the option of turning of these for students.

Rolling out Google Apps to staff first enables them to play around with it and get used to a slightly different way of working before they start interacting with students through it.

2. Get forensic filtering & monitoring software up-and-running

Whilst we’ll have some filtering provided through the Postini services that can be turned on for free with Google Apps Education edition, I (and Northumberland County Council) want more than this. We’re going to be going with an offering by the name of Policy Central. This allows us, amongst other things, to do the following:

  • Automatically take screenshots based on keywords typed into any application.
  • Block websites locally.
  • Whitelist persistent offenders.

We need to have this in place before rolling out anything to students from an e-safety point of view.

3. Roll out Google Apps to students

I’m planning to roll out Google Apps to students (nceastudents.org.uk) strategically. I’m going to start with the Sixth Form (ages 16-18) as they’re likely to be the most responsible and give the best feedback. Once I’ve collated, reflected, and acted upon this I shall then roll it out to Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14). Key Stage 4 may or may not get Google Apps depending on conversations I have with various people.

Finally, Key Stage 2 students will get access to Google Apps on the Primary sites. This will start with Year 6 (10-11 years old) and work downwards. This should allow me to go into assemblies and iron out any problems as they happen. I had hoped that this would be completed by Christmas but because of various events that have taken place it may take a while longer.

4. Open up the Learning Platform to staff and students.

We’re going with Frog for our Learning Platform. They are not only the market leaders in the UK, but have a track record of producing easy-to-use software which can incorporate and work with that from other providers. We’ll be looking – as other institutions are – to integrate Google Apps and Frog via a Single Sign-On procedure. That is to say, signing into Frog will automatically sign you into Google Apps.

Once this is in place, I think teaching and learning interactions should begin to be transformed. I’m not going to dictate workflows, but I can imagine something like this happening:

  1. Student collaborates with another student via Google Docs.
  2. Students complete document, export as Word document or PDF and send to teacher through Learning Platform.
  3. Teacher takes submitted work and opens in their Google Docs area.
  4. Teacher stores students’ work in a relevant folder within Google Docs.

You may wonder why I’m allowing only student-student collaboration and teacher-teacher collaboration. This is because I want the Learning Platform for the official submission of work and Google Docs for drafting, collaboration, and more informal interactions. At least in the first instance.

Other than that, I’m happy for things to grow organically. I’ve already seen some teachers begin to experiment with Google Sites, despite my only mentioning it in passing. Encouraging! 😀

What are your thoughts on the above?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Leadership by smiling.

Smiling

Image BY-NC-SA .margotta. @ Flickr

It’s obvious, clichéd, and can be annoying, but as the saying goes ‘smile and the world smiles with you.’ It’s especially important for leaders to be upbeat and positive as they set the tone for the rest of their organization. Like it or not, you get a lot of your cues from your line manager. If they’re apprehensive about the organization’s future, this will transfer itself to you. Likewise, you should think carefully about the body language and words that you use with those whom you lead. 😀

Smiling is powerful. It disarms situations and produces an almost primal reaction in other people. In other words, smiling is infectious. Thos visiting your organization notice this and it makes them happy. They then think good things about your organization and talk in such terms to others. This leads to your organization having a good reputation.

The other powerful thing about smiling a lot is the power that not smiling then gives. The simple act of stopping smiling, even for a minute or two, lends gravitas and import to a situation. This works as well in the classroom as it does in the boardroom.

Finally, others are drawn to those who smile, making it easier to (as Seth Godin would put it) form your ‘tribe’. It’s easier to influence people – rather than instruct people – when they feel positive around you.

So smile! Be known and come across as a happy, (somewhat) carefree person who can be serious when it matters. Much better that than be known as a miserable workaholic whom it’s best to avoid… 🙂

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

3 ways Google Wave could be used in the classroom.

Google Wave logo

So you’re an educator who’s managed to score an invitation to Google Wave. You’ve had a play and it’s all very nice, but how could it be used in education?

Before I go any further, read these:

Google Wave conversation

Here are 3 ways I think Google Wave could be used by students for actual learning rather than just playing with something because it’s cool.

1. Empowering learners

There was a great presentation at the TeachMeet that accompanied the Scottish Learning Festival this year. Fearghal Kelly talked about his experiments with giving one of his classes more ownership over their learning. He ran them through the learning objectives and the content they would need to cover and then the student co-created and collaborated on planning what exactly they wanted to do.

Google Wave would be great for this as it allows wiki-like editing but is more threaded and conversation-like. The whole wave can also be ‘replayed’ to see how the thinking of the group evolved over time. It’s something I’d definitely be trying if I had a GCSE or AS/A2-level class… :-p

2. Student feedback

The most powerful learning experiences are those where students have ownership of their learning. That’s been dealt with above. But that’s of no use if students don’t know how to get better in a particular subject or discipline!

That’s why I think Google Wave could be used as an Assessment for Learning tool. Learning as a conversation could be shown in practice through having an individual wave for each student/teacher relationship. Alternatively, these could be small group and ability based to enable peer learning.

I can imagine waves being used for ongoing learning conversations once Google Wave becomes a feature of Google Apps for Education. I’ll certainly be experimenting with it for that purpose! 😀

3. Flattening the walls of the classroom

One of the really exciting things about Google Wave is the ‘bots’ you can add to automate processes. One of these bots allows for the automatic translation of text entered in one language into that of the recipient.

Whilst language teachers may be up in arms about the idea of ‘not needing’ to learn another’s language, I think it could be fantastic for removing barriers for worldwide collaboration. Imagine the power of students having the digital and wave-equivalent of ‘penpals’ in various classrooms around the world.

Now that really would ‘flatten the walls‘ of the classroom. 🙂

What excites YOU about Google Wave’s potential for education?

Related articles by Zemanta

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

A proposal to get more high-quality explanatory videos to learners.

Storyboarding

Image BY-NC-SA Kaeru @ Flickr

I’ve got an idea. Educators need high-quality videos explaining key concepts and processes. There are some great providers of these out there (notably BrainPOP) but these cost $$$. On the flip side, there’s graphic artists, illustrators and animators who are starting out and need examples to add to their portfolio.

The quality of visuals in a video makes a great deal of difference to its overall impact. An example of this is the Shift Happens video, originally created by Karl Fisch. You can view the changes and improvements it has been through on this wiki. Whilst v1.0 was powerful, you’d have to agree that v4.0 has a lot more impact! 🙂

My idea, then, is this:

  1. Educator comes up with idea for short explanatory video (e.g. how Google and other search engines work)
  2. Educator (with help of their Twitter/Facebook/whatever network) comes up with storyboard for idea including a script.*
  3. Storyboard and script are put in a central repository under a Creative Commons BY-SA license.
  4. Graphic designer comes along and chooses one they believe they can produce to a high quality and cost-effectively.
  5. Graphic designer produces video and shares on video-sharing site (e.g. YouTube). They are free to monetize this through Google Adsense and the like.
  6. Repository updated showing video has been created.

The great thing about this model is that everyone would win.

So… is this a good idea?

I’m up for creating the repository (with help from others) if enough people think it’s a goer. 😀

* Details of graphics required for this wouldn’t be as important as the script itself.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Embracing the future: why I’ve ditched MP3s and signed up to Spotify Premium

Spotify logo

Image BY-NC Rsms @ Flickr

I like music. A lot. I listen to as much as I can as I believe it makes me more productive.* As a student I worked in HMV at Meadowhall in Sheffield and bought a prodigious amount of CDs. When I did my MA in Modern History I sold many of them to fund my living expenses, but still many remained. I hadn’t ripped them all to MP3 but still had around 100GB of my 250GB taken up with MP3s. I deleted all of that today, leaving only my downloaded podcasts:

iTunes data

After my week of divesting the only CDs that aren’t in boxes ready to be sent off to Music Magpie or Amazon customers are those (nine) that I’ve decided to keep as artwork.** I signed up for a Spotify Premium account the day after their iPhone app became available. It costs £9.99 per month to upgrade from the Free account. For that you get, amongst other things, the usage of their iPhone app (which doesn’t work with a Free account), a higher streaming bitrate and no advertisements.

That’s not to say that Spotify features every album and every piece of music that I’ve ever listened to. But I reckon that they’ve got about 90% of the stuff I search for. That’s good enough for me, especially given my eclectic, ever-changing taste in music and the fact they add thousands more track to their library every week – check out their blog!

The streaming model makes sense. Now that a decently-fast internet connection is available to me pretty much everywhere I go, there’s no need for me to manually sync and carry around with me a partial collection of music I like. Much better to have access to a much bigger collection everywhere I am. 🙂

Of course, there are times when your internet connection isn’t so good (or even non-existent). It’s for these times that Spotify has made playlists that you create available offline. Up to 3,333 tracks can be cached for offline play at any one time. That’s certainly enough for me!

Finally, then, there’s the problem of making Spotify’s vast library user-friendly. A start has been made via SpotifiTunes (see my library here) which takes your iTunes XML file and creates a list of Spotify links. Wanting an up-to-date version of this, I’ve created a workspace on my wiki dedicated to this. To access this, click on the ‘Music’ link at the top of this blog or click here!

What do YOU think about Spotify and the like? Will you be signing up any time soon? 😀

* I recommend you read Lifehacker’s The Best Sounds for Getting Work Done

** See CD wall tiles @ IWOOT)

css.php