5 things it’s currently fashionable to say (without much evidence)

1. iPhones

The thing about the iPhone is that it’s not a very good phone.

Really? In what sense?

2. Self-organised Learning

Teachers just need to get out of kids’ way – they know how to organise their learning.

I’m not sure they do, actually. I agree education needs to change, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater…

3. eBooks

By 2015 eBooks will have replaced paper books as the primary means of reading.

No they won’t. They’ll grow in popularity, no doubt, but paper books will continue to be printed – just like people still ride horses even though there are cars, and people continue to watch TV despite the internet.

4. Teaching

She’s a born teacher.

Really? So if she’d been brought up with wolves in the middle of the jungle she’d be as good at teaching?

Everything takes practice; you have to learn how to do things. This takes time. To say otherwise is to abdicate responsibility in developing yourself and others.

5. Social networks & productivity

If you want to be more productive, limit the time you spend on Twitter and other social networks.

It depends what type of productivity, what you’re producing and whether you’re looking for quality or quantity. I literally couldn’t do my job to the same standard without the connections I’ve got on Twitter.

 

Go to conferences? Use Lanyrd.

Introduction

Lanyrd: the social conference directoryBefore entering the realm with JISC infoNet, I really didn’t understand why there were so many conferences in Further and Higher Education . Now I understand:

  • The whole academic system is predicated upon papers, which need to be presented somewhere.
  • Lots of (usually JISC-funded) projects have to disseminate their outputs.
  • Some subject disciplines/specialisms can be narrow. People need to meet to discuss things.

Hence, conferences.

The Problem

There’s many conferences that may be useful to your research interests and specialism(s) but you may not hear about them until it’s too late. That’s particularly true if, like me, you’re given a brief in a topic to which you’re fairly new.

Up to now, I’ve been following influential people on Twitter, reading blogs and generally scouting around for a place I can find information about relevant conferences.

It’s far from ideal.

The Solution

I was delighted, therefore, when James Clay alerted me to a website that is focused on solving exactly the above problem. Lanyrd describes itself as ‘the social conference directory’ and works very well.

The idea is simple:

  1. You sign in using Twitter’s OAuth mechanism (so you can revoke access at any time)
  2. It finds out which conferences your friends are attending (you can indicate that other people are attending or speaking, you see…)
  3. You add yourself to conferences you’re attending or speaking at. There’s also the option to ‘track’ a conference.
  4. The (conference) world becomes a better place.

The thing about it is that, like Academia.edu, it’s a great idea that needs to gain traction through use. So please do have a look at it!

Feel free to check out my profile and follow me:

 

Why I’m not the Wizard of Oz

I’ve learned many important things in my life, but 2 broad truisms in particular are pertinent to this post:

  1. The more confident and able a person is in a given area, the more they’re willing to share.
  2. People learn at least as much from the process as they do from the end result.

So what’s the Wizard of Oz got to do with this?

  • The Wizard tried to look more scary and powerful than he actually was.
  • Behind the scenes tends to be fairly straightforward, given some pointers.
  • Working in isolation on something (or to maintain something) big is often unsustainable.

This is why I like to share both my outputs and the thinking behind them – as well as the half-finished, sometimes muddled, resources created along the way!

To that end I’m delighted to introduce http://onthehorizon.pbworks.com, a space I’m trialling on behalf of JISC Advance. You can find some of stuff I’m able to share as part of the mobile and wireless review I’m doing for JISC. đŸ™‚

 

One week until #GTAUK

This time next week the first-ever Google Teacher Academy in the UK (#GTAUK) will be drawing to a close. I’m honoured to be one of the UK-based Lead Learners (along with Tom Barrett and Zoe Ross).

I’ll be running the session on Google Earth, one of my favourite tools for learning and teaching. I’ve set up a wiki in an attempt to not only provide resources for delegates, but for the wider community. You can access and contribute to it at:

http://sites.google.com/site/gtaukge

(short URL: http://bit.ly/gtaukge)

 

Is it time to get rid of secondary schools?

One of the really interesting things that’s coming out of research I’m doing at the moment is just how increasingly irrelevant secondary schools really to the lives of young people. There’s loads of great stuff going on in Primary schools. Really innovative, pedagogically-sound stuff. There’s also awesome things happening in Further and Higher Education.

I don’t see it in Secondary schools. Pockets here and there perhaps, but not to the same extent. And, more to the point, nor do the researchers and innovators to whom I’ve been speaking.

So what’s the problem? What’s holding back innovation in secondary schools? Well…

  • Teachers blame senior leaders
  • Senior leaders blame the curriculum
  • The curriculum was, up until recently, the responsibility of the QCDA
  • The QCDA blames the examination boards
  • The examination boards blame the government
  • The government blames lack of innovation in schools.

Now that the QCDA has been given its notice, this is a massive opportunity for secondary schools. People talk about the ‘crisis in higher education’. That’s just a funding crisis. The real crisis is 11-16 year olds voting with their feet.

What can we do about it? Take a stand, for a start.

So I’m not really proposing that we just let anyone over the age of 11 wander the streets. Of course not. But I do think that the organizations that form the secondary ecosystem have a whole lot of work to do to win hearts and minds.

 

Flying without wings

We’ve got some house martins underneath our eves. It’s that time of the year when eggs that have become chicks get that one chance to learn to fly.

My son, Ben, visited his school this week. He starts nursery there in September. He’s full of enthusiasm and could have started at Easter but we didn’t think he was ready.

I’ve scraped up five house martin chicks in two days. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

It’s easy to see when something physically dies. It’s less easy to see confidence shattered, an internal fire put out, inquisitiveness squashed.

It’s not easy being a parent or a teacher. Remember Icarus? It works both ways.

 

Things I Learned This Week – #25

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

This week I learned to make my freakin’ mind up and stick to it, that there’s a lot to be said for not putting yourself in positions you know are going to be frustrating, and that you’re onto a losing battle when you try to reason with a 3-year old. :-p

http://delicious.com/dajbelshaw/TILTW25

Tech.

  • Apple’s newly-revamped MobileMe looks good. If I had an iPhone anymore. And didn’t have GMail. For free.
  • Americans, eh? Got to love them. Why should the US President have an internet kill switch?
  • Clay Shirky’s got a new book out about technology and society. Guess what? It’s awesome (apparently).
  • Google, apparently, classify mobile users as ‘repetitive now’, ‘bored now’ or ‘urgent now’. Which is probably a good way to think about it, actually.
  • Not sure whether to buy a new gadget? This flow chart should sort you out.

Productivity & Inspiration

Education & Academic

  • Michael Gove, the prophet of doom UK Education Secretary, has outlined how the setting up of Free Schools is going to work. If, as he reckons, it leads to parents and teachers setting up schools in the most disadvantaged areas, I’ll eat my metaphorical hat.
  • YouTube launched an online video editor this week. Hopefully, this will mean the demise of the awful, crash-prone, but seemingly-loved-by-teachers Windows Movie Maker:

  • The Angry Technician reminded me this week why, in many ways, I don’t miss being the resident techie in a school.
  • The Google Scholar team now have their own blog.
  • AQA, an exam board in the UK, is developing separate exams for boys and girls.

Data, Design & Infographics

  • There’s not a lot of point in information for it’s own sake. Which is why I liked this trailer for a forthcoming activism video, in itself a great example of a well-designed product!

  • Who’s the best footballer in the world. Messi? Ronaldo? Nope, it’s either Sergio Ramos or Xavi Hernandez. I’ve got proof!

Misc.

Quotations

If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves. (Thomas Edison)

Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out. (Titus Livius)

As a general rule the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information. (Benjamin Disraeli)

Do or do not, there is no try. (Yoda)

You don’t have to get it right; you have to get it going! (Mike Litman)

 
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