Tag: Futurelab (page 1 of 2)

5 free, web-based tools to help you be a kick-ass researcher.

UNIVAC

I do a lot of research. Not only is my day job Researcher/Analyst at JISC infoNet but when I go home I’m researching and writing as part of my doctoral thesis. Quantity and quality are different measures, but I’d hope that I’m at least half-decent at something I spend a fair amount of my life doing.

Being a researcher before the internet must have been a very difficult occupation. Much less access to information but, I suppose, on the other hand, it must have been a much more ’embodied’ existence than spending hours mediated by several different kinds of screens. Without a focus it’s very easy to become confused very quickly and be like a dog chasing after shiny cars.

My focus at the moment, as shown by dougbelshaw.com/research is upon:

  • Open Educational Resources
  • Mobile Learning
  • Digital Literacy

I use several tools to stay up-to-date in these areas and to discover new resources. Here’s five of the best:

Twitter + Storify

Storify

This goes without saying: Twitter is my social dashboard and an absolute treasure trove of useful information. The important thing is that it’s a network (of networks) of people who have expertise, influence and opinion.

Recently I’ve started using Storify to, for want of a better phrase, ‘curate tweets’ about stuff I’m researching. Here’s an example for iPad mindmapping apps. Asking a question, getting replies, curating them and re-sharing helps everybody.

LinkedIn Signal

LinkedIn Signal

This feels like, in a phrase Ewan McIntosh used five years ago, giving away some kryptonite asΒ LinkedIn Signal is truly amazing for researching specific terms. It’s based on your LinkedIn connections, which I’m careful to keep based on people I’ve met. It shows your relation to that person but also the most discussed links about that search term.

Try it. You’ll love it.

Amplify

Amplify

Amplify is for ‘clipping’ content from websites and adding your comments to it. You can find my most recent clippings in the sidebar of this blog. The power of Amplify, however, is twofold: (i) the people you follow who often post things you wouldn’t come across, and (ii) the search functionality.

Futurelab’s EducationEye

EducationEye

The ever-innovative Futurelab have recently announced EventEye, a paid-for version of EducationEye for (unsurprisingly!) events. EducationEye is a service that pulls in posts from blogs (including this one) and arranges them in a visually pleasing and useful way.

Again, there’s a search function available but it’s also handy for serendipitous dipping in and out of in order to keep up with the zeitgeist.

Quora

Quora

I use Quora about once per week. It’s a social question-and-answer site where people can vote answers up and down and summarise answers once there’s plenty of responses. It can work very well and there’s an extremely diverse mix of people on there. It’s certainly worth ‘tracking’ questions to see what kinds of responses they get and from whom.

Conclusion

So there we are! Five recommendations of tools that help me be a better researcher. What have I missed?

Image CC BY-NC-SA Stuck in Customs

Futurelab’s Digital Literacy: professional development resource

Futurelab have an enviable track record of running top-notch events and producing high-quality resources. Their recent Digital Literacy: professional development resource certainly continues that trend.

What’s so impressive about it? Not only does it seek to encourage groups to come up with their own (informed) definition of Digital Literacy, but it provides activities to make the abstract practical.

Education Eye: an RSS reader for those who don’t feed-read…

I’m a big fan of Futurelab‘s work. I’ve used their resources, been part of their Teachers as Innovators project, and even helped Dan Sutch (legend that he is) run a Futurelab seminar at BETT.

When they launched Education Eye I didn’t really get it. Now I do. RSS feeds pulled in from blogs and news outlets (including, yes, this one) and presented in a very visual fashion. I love the way that the dots are colour-coded according to ‘inspiration’, ‘Policy’, ‘Practice’ and so-on, with certain posts starred as Futurelab staff favourites. Awesome.

I mentioned on Twitter to Dan that this would make an amazing screensaver (like the Digg ones). Turns out they’re already working on it! And not only that, but they’re working on an Event Eye,Β ‘an indexed, searchable, content aggregator that pulls together the best content from the web about a particular conference or event.’ Double awesome.

Logging in gives you extra features. Check it out and share it with someone today! πŸ˜€

PS Dan had a bit of a disaster with his Twitter account! Help him rebuild his network by following him: @dansutch

Schools and the Procrustean Bed: are we really ‘personalising’ learning?

β€˜There is something about the Procrustean bed about schools; some children are left disabled by being hacked about to fit the curriculum; some are stretched to take up the available space, others less malleable are labeled as having special educational needs.’ (C. Bowring-Carr and J. Burnham West)

Procrustean BedI mentioned the above quotation in a blog post way back in 2006. I was concerned then about the various ‘agendas’ in education, and that’s even more the case today. The ‘personalising learning’ agenda is supposed to be about tailoring educational experiences to each and every child yet, in 2009, we still have classes of 30 or more children with one teacher standing in front of them. The focus seems to have moved onto technology as some type of ‘saviour’. In that respect, it’s sad to see Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), compulsory in English schools since the beginning of this academic year, being used simply as file repositories.

Whilst some schools may talk about ‘appropriate’ or ‘accelerated’ entry, it’s difficult to see how this is in the best interests of students. In most cases it’s a strategy for schools to squeeze as many exam passes from their students as possible: whilst those studying the highest level of exams have extra lessons in those subjects, those at the other end of the spectrum are re-taking basic examinations until they pass them. It’s hard to see how this completely examination-focused approach is ‘personalisation’ in any important, meaningful sense.

What is needed is a complete rethink – of the curriculum (based on competencies?), of learning spaces (like any of these Futurelab suggestions?), of the structure of the school day, of staff/students ratios and relationships, of the nature of ‘schooling’ and education in the 21st century.

What do YOU think? Is ‘personalisation’ working in YOUR school?

(image taken from this university course page – assumed fair use)

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Looking to the future of education: learning spaces and mobile devices

Tomorrow, I’m off to a school – the one I attended as a teenager – that will form part of Northumberland Church of England Academy. I’m going there as Director of E-Learning after my successful Twitter-powered interview. I start officially in September! It’s the first of a series of meetings looking at the ICT/E-Learning systems for the Academy and we’ll be looking at ‘Devices and Learning Spaces’. This post, therefore, is a result of my reading around this subject and interaction with colleagues on Twitter. πŸ˜€

'Mobile Application Prototypes that Relate to Location - Sheridan Interactive Multimedia One Year Post Grad College in Oakville' by Dan Zen @ Flickr

Futurelab

Any time I want to get up-to-speed quickly with an area of educational technology or the future of schools, I head straight for Futurelab. I’ve worked with them many times as part of their Teachers as Innovators programme, was interviewed for their website, and have presented with them at the BETT Show. Futurelab’s Publications, reports & articles section has freely-available PDFs and, if you’re in the UK, you can request hard copies to be delivered for no charge!

In terms of learning spaces and mobile devices, I believe the following Futurelab reports to be most useful:

Futurelab have also been responsible for some great projects that use mobile technologies – read about them in the project reports section. They’ve also got a project called Beyond Current Horizons that looks into the future of education in 2025 and beyond. Interesting stuff!

Suggestions from my Twitter network

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the people that form my network on Twitter were most helpful when it came to mobile devices: most of them are educators rather than school designers (with the exception of Christian Long who is – or has been – both!)

Here’s what they recommended:

Mobile Devices

Learning Spaces

Finally, there’s Becta’s Next Generation Learning site. There are, no doubt, many resources and sites that should be added here. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments section and I’ll add it! πŸ™‚

(Image by Dan Zen @ Flickr)

I’m 28, I’m not *old*…

Woe is me. It’s my 28th birthday today and, for the third year running I’m ill. Last year I still went out for a meal, could taste nothing, and had a thoroughly miserable time. This year I’m staying in bed. πŸ™

To add to my woes, I’ve been re-reading what certain characters from history managed to achieve in their 28th year of existence. Here’s a flavour:

What have I done? Nothing quite so illustrious:

Not quite in the same league! I am, however, considering writing a book. It won’t be ‘available in all good bookshops’. In fact, it won’t be available in bad ones either! Like Doug Johnson and others have done, I’m considering using Lulu.com to make my proposed book freely downloadable and available to purchase in paper format for a reasonable fee.

Technology wise, I upgraded in the last few weeks from a Macbook to a Macbook Pro, went through several netbooks (Asus Eee 701 -> modded OSX-powered Advent 4211 -> Asus Eee 1000), bought an iPhone, returned it, and then finally changed my Nokia N95 for an iPhone 3G 16GB, and bought a wonderful digital SLR camera in the shape of the Canon EOS 1000D.

What are my plans for my 29th year on earth? Hmmm… I’ll limit myself to three:

  1. Apply for and obtain a job that means my wife, Hannah, doesn’t have to work.
  2. Write half my Ed.D. thesis around the concept of digital literacies.
  3. Start a new project – either through Folens or independently that brings together some of the ideas Nick Dennis and I have been discussing. πŸ™‚

What are YOUR plans for 2009?

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Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour.

I usually dislike it when people blog about conferences and meetings they’ve been to. I mean, as if I care if you sat around a table with some suits and drank coffee at ridiculously short intervals! I feel I need to preface the following, therefore, by saying that there’s some great links I’d like to share.

I was invited by Dan Sutch to another Futurelab-hosted event, this time on behalf of Channel 4 (a UK independent broadcasting company) to, of all places, Bristol Zoo! The quotation that comprises the title of this post came during the course of the day from a fellow teacher attending the event by the name of Alice Bigge. A quick Google search would seem to indicate it originated with Truman Capote. It’s a great one that, no doubt, will make its way onto my classroom wall. It kind of sums up my pragmatic educational philosophy. :-p

The purpose of the day was to review from a formal learning perspective some informal learning resources produced by Channel 4. I’ll summarise each briefly and what I thought of them…

The Insiders

I thought The Insiders was a great idea. As careers advice given by schools has recently been slated by Ofsted, something like this website is just what’s needed. At present, there’s six occupations that have been dramatised and put online via videos and blogs on MySpace. These were taken and adapted (with permission) from people’s real blogs. A story about each character unfolds and the ups and downs of that career/job are highlighted in an engaging way. The six that were chosen – actress, doctor, fashion assistant, musician, policeman, teacher – are those that came top in a recent survey of UK teens as to what they want to do when they leave full-time education. I was surprised to see teacher in there!

I’ll definitely be recommending this to the Citizenship/PSHE co-ordinator at our school. In fact, I may even follow one or more of the stories with my Year 9 form group. πŸ˜€

Slabovia.tv

I have to say that I was less impressed with Slabovia.tv. This was the one that our group had to explain to the other groups, and we did so (at my suggestion) via a glog:

Whilst it deals with more than sex education, I do feel that the conceit created to deliver the message wasn’t the right path to go down. As other teachers noted, there may be issues relating to eastern european migrants in UK schools. Additionally, it’s probably got a limited audience to which it would appeal – the type of audience that wouldn’t want to be seen on anything a teacher pointed out in a lesson. I think this one is best kept in the ‘informal learning’ space.

Year Dot

From the information I received about Year Dot:

Year Dot follows a fly-on-the-wall documentary format that cuts across both linear television and online. 15-20 teenagers over the course of a year will try to gather support from around the internet, through social networking and video-sharing services, to reach a personal goal. The story of each teenager will be told as part of two series to be aired on Channel 4 in the autumn.

There’s a diverse range of goals that these teenagers want to achieve. One of the most moving was the teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome who, after receiving lots and lots of support from his school and local community, was purposely moving far away from home to go to university. His emotional journey, heightened by his condition, would really hit home with students with whom you shared his video journey.

The goal he had set himself was to come off Prozac and to manage to live independently. Other teenagers are trying to set up a dance company, get selected for Arsenal Ladies‘ First Team, or become one of England’s youngest ever Members of Parliament. Year Dot is another resource I’ll be recommending to the Citizenship/PSHE co-ordinator at my school. πŸ™‚

Battlefront

Finally, Battlefront was the one about which I really couldn’t make up my mind. It has the potential to be revolutionary, but I’m afraid it might have life-changing experiences for the 19 currently involved and few others. The idea is that 19 – eventually 20 – young campaigners around England try to get out there and do something to make things better. For example, there’s a girl battling against the ‘Size Zero’ culture, someone campaigning against free newspapers ‘costing the earth’, and one trying to bring back free university education for all.

As I say, it’s got high-minded ambitions, but I’m not sure. Apparently, you can get in touch with Channel 4 to get any of the Battlefront campaigners to come into your school to talk to your students. If I can be of any help pointing people in the right direction for this, just ask!

I found it at once heartening and extremely disappointing to hear that all the other teachers in the room had major issues to do with Internet filtering. The content that Channel 4 has spent money on – most of which is excellent – resides in places that teenagers already visit: MySpace, YouTube, etc.  In other words, all the places blocked by school filtering systems. πŸ™

There’s got to be a debate, and soon, about filtering in schools. It’s my belief that it’s holding back innovation and good practice in education. The sooner that something is done about it, the better.

I love going to Futurelab events as they are always very positive experiences. I was able to show fellow teachers about various things that they were having problems with, such as downloading YouTube videos. All in all, I found the day to be a very worthwhile use of my time, that I added to a debate, and that I met like-minded people with a real enthusiasm to move things forward. I might add that, as with many Futurelab events, the day’s ideas were represented pictorially by Dave Clark, who kindly let me use the image of the Slabovian general our group commissioned him to draw at the top of this blog post. πŸ˜€

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Emotional truancy

Emotional Literacy

Lisa Stevens, who I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time during TeachMeet08 at BETT, has blogged about ’emotional truancy’ recently. It’s an interesting subject…

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Reflections on BETT 2008

Further to my previous posts this week, I’ve been at BETT 2008 this week. I don’t like it on other edublogs when people endlessly bang on about conferences/events I haven’t been able to attend, so this will be my last post on it – I promise! πŸ™‚

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My Seminar at BETT

BETT

I’m looking forward to attending BETT (British Educational Technology and Training) Show tomorrow as a visitor, and as a speaker with Futurelab on Saturday. I’m part of their Teachers as Innovators programme – you can read the interview I did last year here.

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