Tag: Twitter (page 8 of 11)

How E-Learning can contribute to raising achievement

Many, many thanks to in my Twitter network who replied to me during my presentation for the ‘Director of E-Learning’ position. I received over 100 replies in total and the panel seemed impressed at the ‘power of the network’! 🙂

ABCDE = Raising Achievement

The graphic that I’ll be referring to in the presentation.

The three arrows pointing towards the centre relate to the three strands that shall permeate the Academy’s curriculum.

Background

I’ve an interview today for a position entitled Director of E-Learning. It’s a position at the Academy that is to replace the schools that I attended growing up, so it’s especially important to me. I was asked to present on the impact E-Learning should make in the Academy in terms of raising achievement – and how I would go about achieving this. It’s a school that has a catchment including fairly high levels of deprivation and standards are improving, but academic results still low.

My 15-minute presentation

Mulling over in my mind the type of person they want for the role, I decided to make a bold statement and not to use technology to present to them. Hopefully this will have the effect of reinforcing my point that it’s all about the appropriate use of technology in education. I am, however, going to show them the power of my Twitter network. How? By a 3-step process:

  1. Explain how I’ve been using Twitter for the last two years to establish connections with learners worldwide. I’m going to use the map of my Twitter follwers at TwitterAnalyzer to illustrate this.
  2. I’m then going to show the type of people (currently numbering around 1,100) following my updates by creating a tag cloud of the words in their Twitter mini-biographies. I’ll be using TwitterSheep to do this. 🙂
  3. Finally, I’m going to direct my Twitter network towards this blog post and ask them to comment on it during my presentation/interview. Their responses will appear on the screen for the interview panel to see courtesy of Twitterfall.

Whilst that’s going on, I’ll be referring to the diagram at the top of this blog post. It’s something I put together to illustrate my (hopefully) clear and straightforward way in which results can improve. That graphic, with my name, a photo of me teaching, my online avatar, and links to where to find me online will be on a sheet of A4 paper in front of each member of the panel.

I’m going to take each of the points in turn – Attendance, Behaviour, Communication, Design, Engagement – and discuss the role E-Learning can play in it. Obviously, there’s some points (e.g. Communication and Engagement) that I’ll spend longer talking about than others (e.g. Attendance). I’ve got each word with a relevant image printed on a sheet of A4 paper. I’m going to stick these on the walls of the interview room at various places as I talk about them. 😀

Here’s an overview of what I’m going to be saying:

Attendance

Alarm clockLittle in the way of worthwhile learning is likely to place if learners are not ‘present’. But what does ‘present’ mean? You can be physically present whilst being emotionally and psychologically ‘somewhere else’. This feeds into issues surrounding engagement that I’ll discuss later.

In addition, learners can be somewhat self-directed by using a Managed Learning Environment (MLE) to access resources and materials to help develop their skills. This links in closely to the ‘Design’ element that I shall also be discussing later. This will feed into the concept of an ‘e-Extended School’ programme, where learning does not stop at the school bell, but continues either on the Academy sites or at home.

Do learners need to be present in a traditional classroom to learn if they are ‘in school’? Probably not. Whilst it shouldn’t be a free-for-all, leaners should be able to take control of their learning so they are more self-directed and can ‘attend’ in various ways.

Behaviour

BullyClosely related to the ‘Attendance’ element is the issue of learners’ behaviour. This has improved in the existing High school over recent years, but still has a way to go in order to bring about a happy, positive environment conducive to learning.

Behaviour management is a huge field for research, but the findings are clear: learners who are aware of what they need to do in order to improve and who have a meaningful towards which to aim, are much likely to be well-behaved. Technology has a role to play in improving behaviour in three main ways:

  • Enabling data to be shared and made accessible to Academy staff, parents and learners themselves on how their behaviour is affecting their own learning and that of others.
  • Providing a way in which learners can publish their work and results of their learning to a real-world audience.
  • Creating an exciting, immersive environment in which to learn.

Without appropriate attendance and behaviour, other efforts to raise achievement are less likely to be effective. Getting these right means greater likelihood of employability which is central to the ‘Investing in my Future’ strand.

Communication

Tin cansFor any organization to be successful it must have a steady flow of relevant and timely information between those who make up its members. At a basic level, communication about attendance, behaviour and attainment can be shared using a shared interface.

But technology can do much more than that. In an Academy that is currently spread over 10 sites and is to end up as 5 sites, it can enable cohesion and informed decisions to be made. Communication using technology doesn’t have to be real-time: it can be asynchronous or a blend of synchronous and asynchronous. Updates and messages in a Web 2.0 world can be as real-time as you want them to be. This enables busy teachers and administrators to be flexible in their working whilst being responsive.

There is also no need for either learners, educators or administrators to be tied to a single physical space. With mobile technologies, e-portfolios and Internet access should be available anywhere. Year 9 learners at the current High school have individual netbooks and 3G broadband dongles. These, and their successors, if available for all learners should enable ‘anywhere, anytime’ learning – either individually or collaboratively. Both educators and learners should feel ‘digitally connected’.

It’s also important to have a dialogue with the local community, including churches and businesses. To truly promote the ‘Investing in my Community’ strand, the school must be confident enough in its internal communications to be able to face outwardly to the community and world-at-large. A large part of this is equipping learners with the literacy and oracy skills to articulate their view of the world and how they want the future to be.

Design

Lego bricksAll staff at the current High school are expected to use the current Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for their planning and interactions with learners. This is a good start, but does not guarantee that the VLE is suitable for pedagogically-sound learning design. We need to move from a one-size-fits-all approach to a much more personalized one. Staff will need training on how to use the introduced MLE as a base to bring in relevant and targetted resources to use with learners.

In my role as E-Learning Staff Tutor I have experience of persuading staff to voluntarily give up their time to embark upon Continuous Professional Development (CPD) relating to E-Learning. I would build upon this experience at the Academy, seeking to not only accreditize their professional development, but contexualize it and build a constituency of those willing and eager to try new and innovative E-Learning strategies.

It is vitally important to have a whole-Academy overview and plan for this. As Director of E-Learning, therefore, I would aim, after making sure data management and communication issues had been ironed out, to head a group of educators and learners focusing on using E-Learning to raise achievement. This would be on a voluntary basis, but attendees would have specific time set aside for related development work.

Using a metaphor of the National Grid, the school should build up enough innovation to sustain itself, but then feedback into the national picture, much as the most sustainable and efficient buildings sell electricity back to the National Grid.

As the Academy’s specialism is in ‘Design and the Built Environment’, modelling best practice in all elements of design is essential. Learners need to have examples of well thought-out methods of presenting information and expressing ideas on which to draw. A properly-managed and crafted blended learning environment can go a long way to help make this happen.

Engagement

EngagementWhen ICT or E-Learning is mentioned in terms of impact on achievement and attainment, ‘Engagment’ is usually the first thing that people think of. Yet, it’s something I’m addressing last in my presentation. Why?

Whilst I’ve nothing against the ‘wow’ factor – it’s important to have those moments in learning – only aiming for these when using E-Learning strategies and resources is not a recipe for success. After all, to do so would be to pit Academy-centred learning experiences against entertainment experiences on games consoles. If learners get bored playing the same game that has an initial ‘wow’ factor – despite its richly-immersive environment and compelling storyline, how much more quickly will that happen with E-Learning?

Instead, we should be using innovative technologies to provide a sense of achievement. The confidence that comes from many small successes and the positive feedback is what gets game-players going back for more, long after the ‘wow’ factor wears off. Engagement should come with well-designed and professionally-produced resources and activities that are provided for learners. They should be available ‘anywhere’ and ‘anytime’ and be immersive enough for a learner to ‘lose’ themself in them for a period of time.

Conclusion

I’ll be wrapping up my presentation by referring back to the Twitter replies to this blog post that (hopefully!) appear on the screen. I’ll talk about my connections to educators worldwide, about my ability to tap into this and other networks (EdTechRoundup, Becta, Mirandanet, etc.), about my Ed.D. on the concept of ‘digital literacy’, about events I have and shall speak at, and my CV in general.

After that, all I’ve got then are the interview questions… 😉

What do you think? Anything controversial in there? What would YOU change?

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Ways to find great resources and ideas for lessons

 

lesson_resources_large1

Where do you get your lesson ideas from? Do you just follow the scheme of work? When you innovate what is the spark for your inspiration?

Do you sometimes struggle to find time to discover resources and wish there was somewhere you could go to prevent you from doing the lesson planning equivalent of rediscovering the wheel?

Where can I go other than search on Google?

Teachers in the UK are probably aware of the TESconnect Resource Hub. If you’re not, that’s a great place to start! Before the TES launched this, one of the main UK-based repositories for lesson plans and ideas was the Teacher Resource Exchange, run by the National Grid for Learning (NGfL).

Talking of the NGfL, they have regional hubs which can be found quickly by typing (for example) NGfL resources into your favourite search engine. 🙂

Learning from colleagues in other schools

Most school subjects have spawned forums on the Internet where teachers of those subjects can discuss ideas, resources and issues. I know of the ones for subjects I currently teach (or have in the past) For example, History teachers have the History Teachers’ Discussion Forum and historyshareforum.com, Geography teachers have Staffordshire Learning Net, and teachers of ICT have the EffectiveICT.co.uk Forum.*

Searching for the name of your subject plus the word ‘forum’ in a search engine should bring up some promising links. Alternatively, try the excellent Shambles.net. Links galore! 🙂

Digging deeper

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AaSnY4XjMg]
What about if you want do something original or obscure, though? That’s when finding websites that previous visitors have marked as especially useful would help you on your quest. Enter social bookmarking services. There are many of these, but the two main ones are Delicious and Diigo. The former has been discussed on elearnr before, but in a slightly different context.

The idea behind social bookmarking sites is that instead of saving your ‘favourites’ or ‘bookmarks’ in the web browser of one computer, you store them in an account online. You can then ‘tag’ these with keywords and make them visible for others to see. These sites then, as you can imagine, become very useful as hotbeds of links to fantastically useful websites.

Have a go right now. Head over to Delicious and Diigo and type in the name of your subject followed by resources. Click to enlarge the images below which show the results I obtained when entering history resources!

Delicious search results - 'History resources' Diigo search results - 'History resources'

The ultimate targeted resource and lesson idea finder

All of the above are great ways of using the power of communities to help you find something, but what about if you need something very, very specific – and fast? Enter Twitter.

Twitter is a micro-blogging social network. It’s like text messaging meets Facebook in that you have 140-characters to send a message. Educators worldwide use it en masse to share good practice, ask questions and find fast answers. A future E-Learning Staff Session and elearnr blog post will tell you all you need to get you signed up and interacting. 🙂

What? You can’t wait? Head over to Twitter For Teachers to find out more!

___________

* My Twitter network directed me towards these additional forums:

** Thanks @mtechman for reminder of this excellent resource!

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Digital things upon which I *do* and *would* spend real cash.

moneyI’m not a huge fan of spending money on software and digital services. There’s a couple of reasons for this. The first is that I’m an advocate of Open Source Software (see Open Source Schools, of which I’m part). As such, I believe that making software available free of charge – with the source code inspectable – makes for better software and communities built around the functionality the software provides. The second reason is that I tend to like to have something tangible as a result of any financial outlay.

All this is by way of explanation as to why the following are services that persuade me to part with some of my hard-earned money. I follow that with those I use for free but would happily pay for! 😉

Things upon which I *do* spend real cash

Bluehost

I have a number of websites and blogs, all of which need a home on the Internet. I’ve found Bluehost to be reliable and very reasonably priced. They’ve got CPanel installed in the admin interface, which makes installing web applications such as WordPress and forums a breeze!

Flickr ($25 = c.£17)

Photographs are incredibly important things. They are a snapshot of a time that can never be recaptured, and evoke powerful memories. Despite backing up regularly via my Apple Time Capsule, it’s important that I never lose the most important of my photographs – especially those of my son. That’s why I upload all the ones I consider important to Flickr.

Purchasing a yearly Flickr Pro license means that more than just the last 200 of my photographs can be seen and that I can create an unlimited number of ‘sets’ in which to place them. 😀

Remember The Milk ($25 = c.£17)

You may wonder why I’d spend good money on what is, essentially, a glorified to-do list. It’s because Remember The Milk (RTM) is so easy-to-use and fits in with my way of working. The free account is fine if you just want to organise yourself via the web-based interface, but the real power comes if you’ve got an iPhone. The app for the iPhone is only available to those who have a Pro subscription. It’s a work of art in terms of simplicity and adding to your productivity. Great stuff. 😀

Things upon which I *would* spend real cash

Gmail & Google Docs

Gmail features c.7GB of storage With Google Docs providing an online, collaborative suite of office applications that are just a joy to use. Every time I reflect on the fact that I can use this for free, I count myself fortunate. Marvellous!

Super-quick synchronous Internet connection

We currently get broadband free from Orange as a benefit from my wife’s mobile phone contract. We pay an additional £5 per month to upgrade the speed from 2MB/s to 8MB/s. But that’s only the (theoretical) download speed. We get about 6MB/s download and 512KB/s upload.

I’d pay about £25/month for 20MB/s synchronous DSL and would even consider £50/month for 50MB/s. That really would mean ‘cloud computing’! 😉

Twitter

Twitter is a micro social networking/blogging service with a 140-character limit. I’ve connected to even more people than I had done previously via blogs in the Edublogosphere. It’s real-time and very, very powerful. Some people call it their ‘PLN’ (Personal Learning Network). I’m not one of them. I just think it’s great. 😉

If, for example, Twitter charged the same amount for a year’s service as Flickr does (i.e. $25) I think it would be hugely profitable very quickly.

WordPress

WordPress is the software that power this and, to be honest, most blogs on the Internet. It’s developed rapidly – mainly because it’s Open Source – and very flexible and powerful. If you don’t as yet have your own blog, I’d encourage you to sign up with Bluehost and install WordPress on your own domain via CPanel. You can, of course, just use WordPress.com

Which software and digital services do YOU pay for? Why?

(image by Joshua Davis @ Flickr)

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) 🙂

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‘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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BETT 2009, TeachMeet & and iPhone misfortunes

(photos from the TeachMeet BETT 2009 Flickr pool)

I’m on the train back from BETT 2009. I did my 5-minute slot on using Linux-powered netbooks as part of an Open Source Schools presentation this morning, the reason for my visit. In total, I only managed about 30 minutes ‘on the floor’ visiting stands. That suited me fine! 😉

The rest of the time I spent meeting people I only knew online through Twitter, etc., new folk and those I know both online and offline. I only just got to London Olympia in time for TeachMeet due to a combination of the Piccadilly Line being useless and my losing iPhone at the BETT registration desk. Fortunately, it was handed in to the conference organizers in perfect condition! As soon as I entered the room I recognised lots of edtech people – José Picardo, Lisa Stevens, Tom Barrett, Joe Rowing, Dai Barnes, Josie Fraser, Ollie Bray, the list went on and on…

What really pleased me more than people just coming up and introducing themselves as being the real-world version of what I only knew as online avatars, but those who came to thank me. One, Chris from gr8ict.com thanked me for a guide to ripping DVDs I produced during my teacher training in 2004/5! It’s always nice to find out that what you’ve  done has been worthwhile and made a difference. 🙂

TeachMeet was even bigger and better than that at BETT last year. Hats off to the organizers (including Ian Usher and Drew Buddie) for that! There was a screen dedicated to online activity (tweets, blog posts, etc.) that contained hashtags (such as #tmbett09) relating to the TeachMeet, tracked using Monitter. Ian Usher announced at one point during proceedings that it was the fourth most popular hashtag on the whole of Twitter at that point! 😀

I’m not going to go into detail about who presented on what at the TeachMeet. Suffice to say that I got a chance to plug EdTechRoundup‘s weekly FlashMeetings, Ian Stuart presented virtually from Islay on Education2020, and I discovered the following websites and resources:

  • MirandaNet’s Braided Learning E-Journal – looks like a handy professional development resource.
  • Mathtrain – an Maths website using screencasts produced using TechSmith‘s excellent Jing application.
  • NATE: making hard topics easier to teach with ICT – The National Association for the Teaching of English’s excellent microsite with great examples of using ICT to enhance learning.
  • TeachingMusic.org.uk – This is a website to connect music teachers and encourage them to use Web 2.0 applications. David Ashworth made me laugh by asking the audience to raise their hand if they were a music teacher. No-one did. He then produced the quote of BETT 2009: “See! That goes to show what I’m dealing with here. We’re not talking Lego here, we’re talking Duplo.” Classic!
  • Learning Event Generator – this is a great idea from the new tools website – gives something to do and then a way to do it (randomly). Good for ‘outside the box’ ideas!
  • Comicbrush – Ollie Bray showed the ways he’s been using this application to create cartoon-like images, somewhat similar to Comic Life for the Mac. The 3 witches scene from Macbeth in Manga and text speak? Quality!

The TeachMeet09 BETT wiki has links provided by both those who did and did not get a chance to present. The above links are only my highlights. :-p

After TeachMeet there was TeachEat at Pizza Express, where I sat, I’m a little ashamed to say, with those I already knew rather than making new acquaintances. Must. Do. Better. Still, it was a good laugh and, sitting with the Open Source Schools co-presenters allowed us to talk for the first time face-to-face what we had only discussed online up to that point.

This morning, Miles Berry, Michelle Walters, José Picardo and I presented on the Becta-funded Open Source Schools project. As soon as the presentation – too large to upload via on-train wi-fi – is uploaded, it will appear embedded below…

I think it went well. People certainly seemed very interested and plenty came to ask lots of questions afterwards. I then stayed on for Terry Freedman and Miles Berry‘s presentation What are your students learning when you’re not looking? Miles’ literature review was excellent, and will definitely help inform my Ed.D. studies. Their presentation, they assured the audience, will appear on their respective blogs. 😀

A cursory glance around the area nearby the Club Room in which we’d been presenting with Richard Woofenden, fellow History teacher, was followed with a meeting with a couple of representatives from the BBC. They’d recorded our Open Source Schools presentation and want to work with us in developing an exciting new section of the BBC website about Open Source Schools. More details to follow in subsequent blog posts!

Straight after that I met the inimitable Drew Buddie and was shocked to see his the cracked screen on his iPhone. Somebody had accidentally stood on it when it was in his coat pocket when it was on the floor during TeachMeet. 🙁

Finally, I remembered that my Head had asked if I could look at any new technologies that would make registration at our (proposed) new VI Form easier. I managed to (just) have time to visit Aurora, providers of a biometric facial recognition system. Although it may seem somewhat paradoxical given the amount of my life I share online, I’m very much pro-privacy, so I’m still in two minds as to whether to pass details on to my Head. We’ll see…

Overall, my experience of London was much more positive than usual – probably because I spent most of my time conversing, thinking, and linking! 😀

The problem(s) of 21st century literacy/ies

I’d really appreciate it if you tagged anything related to this post or topic literacyconversation.  It will help me (and others) collate ideas and conversations. Thanks! 🙂

As most people reading this will already know, I’m studying towards an Ed.D. at the moment. My (tentative) thesis title is What does it mean to be ‘educated’ and ‘digitally literate’? The impact of ICT and the knowledge society upon education in the 21st century.. You can find my thesis proposal here and bookmarks related to my studies here. My current thinking is that I’m just going to focus on the concept of what ‘literacy’ means in the 21st century as it’s a huge and confused (confusing?) field.

Because of my studies and deep interest in this field, I was delighted to come across Ben Grey’s blog post entitled 21st Century Confusion, which he followed up with 21st Century Clarification. Ben’s an eloquent and nuanced writer, so I suggest you go and read what he has to say before continuing with this blog post. 😀

The above blog posts sparked a great conversation on Twitter, of which I was part. The hugely influential Will Richardson suggested, as we were getting a little frustrated with being limited to 140 characters, that we have a live session via Elluminate the following day. You can find a link to the archived session here.

My own thoughts about that skillset/mindset/ability range we’re trying to quantify and describe by using terms such as ‘digital’ or ’21st century’ literacy are still a little jumbled. I’ve read, and am continuing to read a lot on the subject (and related areas), notes on which you can find on my wiki.

For now, though, here’s some highlights:

1. Literacies as ‘umbrella terms’

Many of the literacies or ‘competencies’ that are being put forward are described in ways that suggest they incorporate other literacies. Take for instance, this definition of ‘information competence’ (Work Group…, 1995):

Information competence is the fusing or the integration of library literacy, computer literacy, media literacy, technological literacy, ethics, critical thinking, and communication skills.

And again (Doyle, 1994)

In the last decade a variety of “literacies” have been proposed, including cultural, computer, scientific, technical, global and mathematical. All of these literacies focus on a compartmentalized aspect of literacy. Information literacy, on the other hand, is an inclusive term. Through information literacy, the other literacies can be achieved (Breivik, 1991). In attaining information literacy, students gain proficiency in inquiry as they learn to interpret and use information (Kuhlthau, 1987).

Ryan Bretag’s post, The Great Literacy Debate, introduced me to a word to describe this that I hadn’t come across before – deictic. This means that ‘literacy’ tends to be used in a way heavily dependent upon context. I couldn’t agree more!

2. Literacies defined too broadly or narrowly

As referenced above, if a type of literacy being put forward by an individual is defined too broadly, it becomes an umbrella term and of little practical use. Initially, I liked Judi Epcke’s comment that she’d heard Jason Ohler define literacy as “consuming and producing the media forms of the day”. But this began to trouble me. Aren’t consuming and producing different skills? And if they’re skills, is ‘literacy’ involved?

But then, defined narrowly, it’s easy to come up with counter-examples. For instance, if we define 21st Century Literacy in relation to technology, it begs the question ‘does literacy in the 21st century relate to printed matter at all‘. The answer, of course, would have to be yes, it does.

3. Do we need new definitions?

I share the despair of Gunther Kress (2003, quoted in Eyman) when he sees new forms of ‘literacy’ popping up all over the place:

…literacy is the term to use when we make messages using letters as the means of recording that message….my approach leaves us with the problem of finding new terms for the uses of the different resources: not therefore “visual literacy” for the use of image; not “gestural literacy” for the use of gesture; and also not musical “literacy” or “soundtrack literacy” for the use of sound other than speech; and so on.

Semantics are important. Whilst we can’t keep using outdated words that link to conceptual anachronism (e.g. ‘horseless carriage’) we must be on our guard against supposed ‘literacies’ becoming more metaphorical than descriptive.

Concluding thoughts

One educator left the Elluminate discussion on 21st Century Literacies before had really got going. He mentioned that he was in favour of deeds rather than words. I can see what he means, although as I have already stated, semantics are important.

But there comes a point where one has to draw a line. In my thesis, I’m using a modified version of the Pragmatic method, as spelled out by William James (1995:82)thus,

To ‘agree‘ in the widest sense with a reality, can only mean to be guided either straight up to it or into its surroundings, or to be put into such working touch with it as to handle either it or something connected with it better than if we disagreed… Any idea that helps us to deal, whether practically or intellectually, with either the reality or its belongings, that doesn’t entangle our progress in frustrations, that fits, in fact, and adapts our life to the reality’s whole setting, will agree sufficiently to meet the requirement/ It will hold true of that reality.

Thus names are just as ‘true’ or ‘false’ as definite mental pictures are. They set up similar verification-processes, and lead to fully equivalent practical results.

I’m looking for a definition that doesn’t ‘entangle my progress in frustration’. I’m yet to find it, but I’ll keep on looking! :-p

References:

  • Doyle, C.S. (1994) Information literacy in an information society: A Concept for the Information Age, DIANE Publishing
  • Eyman, D., Digital Literac(ies), Digital Discourses, and Communities of Practice: Literacy Practices in Virtual Environments (Cultural Practices of Literacy Study, Working Paper #12, no date)
  • James, W. Pragmatism (Dover Thrift Editions, 1995)
  • Work Group on Information Competence, Commission on Learning Resources and Instructional Technology (1995), quoted by Spitzer, K.L., et al. Information Literacy: essential skills for the information age, 1998, p.25


Top 25: The Best of Belshaw 2008

Best of BelshawVersion 2.0 of this blog (dougbelshaw.com) is now pretty much exactly a year old. It was a year ago that I decided to retire teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk and concentrate my energies here. During that time I’ve written some blog posts that have hit home with some people and some that haven’t. Here, in ranked order according to AideRSS, are the ones with the highest ‘PostRank’ – a ranking system that takes into account inbound links, tweets, delicious links, comments, etc. 🙂

  1. My Ed.D. thesis proposal: What does it mean to be ‘digitally literate’? (17 May 2008)
  2. The Map Is Not The Territory: the changing face of the edublogosphere (28 March 2008)
  3. Animoto rocks! Here’s proof… (5 February 2008)
  4. 5 productivity tips/hacks I’ve come across recently. (14 July 2008)
  5. 3 reasons the majority of students are NOT ‘digitally literate’ (2 February 2008)
  6. 3 reasons I’m against the Edublog Awards (3 December 2008)
  7. Why ‘high culture’ for pupils is highly wrong-headed (13 February 2008)
  8. Recommend me 3 (20 March 2008)
  9. 90% digital, or 12 ways my teaching ecosystem is evolving. (21 August 2008)
  10. Censorship and the Personal/Professional divide (17 June 2008)
  11. Is Twitter bad for you? (29 March 2008)
  12. AUP 2.0 (3 June 2008)
  13. Are you an ‘Edupunk’? I’m not. (31 May 2008)
  14. Help me write my job spec. for next year! (3 June 2008)
  15. 5 things School of Rock can teach us about real education (27 January 2008)
  16. Creating an Interactive Whiteboard using a Nintendo WiiMote (14 May 2008)
  17. Things I’ve been reading online recently (12 April 2008)
  18. THIS is how technology can enhance learning (22 February 2008)
  19. Hi, my name’s Doug Belshaw… (9 January 2008)
  20. Interesting Ways to use Netbooks in the Classroom (29 November 2008)
  21. Reflections on BETT 2008 (13 January 2008)
  22. My response to the GTC’s proposed ‘code of conduct’ for teachers in England. (21 December 2008)
  23. Ken Robinson on creativity v2 (17 February 2008)
  24. Page Peel Script (26 January 2008)
  25. Politics: the biggest problem in education (1 October 2008)

As you can see, it would appear that if one’s aim was to write posts to get the widest audience and largest amount of influence, one should:

  • Write ‘list’ posts – e.g. ‘3 ways to…’ or ‘5 things that…’
  • Be ‘anti-‘ something
  • Provide something unique (e.g. Page Peel Script, Wiimote Whiteboard guide)
  • Ask for collaboration/help

But that’s not my aim. I write about the things that interest or concern me, and that shall continue in 2009. I’m thinking of changing the layout of dougbelshaw.com a bit for the sake of my ‘online presence’, but I’ll still be blogging about the same things and ‘keeping it real’… :-p


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5 interesting web applications to mess around with when you’re bored over Christmas!

Since the beginning of this term I’ve run one session per week in my role as E-Learning Staff Tutor. The most common question after ‘How come you get so many free periods?’ is Where do you get all your e-learning ideas from?

I can finally reveal the answer. I get most of them from… Twitter!

It’s probably best to show Twitter in action rather than just try to explain it. It’s a bit like a hybrid of the best bits of Facebook and Here’s the message I sent to my Twitter network on Tuesday evening as I was leaving school at around 4pm:

And here’s the response I got by the time I’d got home and had a cup of coffee!

…and then later, when educators in other places around the world weren’t asleep:

Depending on the time of day and who’s in your Twitter network depends on where in the world you get your responses from. It’s like ‘microblogging’, crossed with text messaging (you’ve only got 140 characters) and a social network all rolled into one. You can share links, ideas and resources really quickly and easily. 🙂

Here’s links, in alphabetical order, to the sites mentioned above. My top 5 are in bold, whilst those in red are those currently blocked by our school network. If you’re reading this and from somewhere else in the world, your mileage may vary… :-p

  • Animoto – an easy way to create high-quality and engaging videos using images and text
  • Backpack– an organizer (calendar, group discussion tools, etc.)for small businesses and organizations
  • blip.tv – a video sharing service designed for creators of user-generated content
  • Bloglines – an RSS feed reading application
  • Blogger/Blogspot – a blogging platform by Google
  • Delicious – online ‘social’ bookmarking
  • Diigo – online ‘social’ bookmarking with advanced features and groups
  • Dropbox – store, sync and share files online
  • Drop.io – privately share files up to 100MB online
  • Edublogs.org – a blogging platform dedicated to educational blogging
  • Edublogs.tv – online video sharing and embedding tool
  • Eduspaces – a social network and blogging platform for education
  • Elluminate – ‘elearning and collaboration solution’ (not free)
  • Evernote – ‘allows you to capture information (text, photos, etc.) and make it accessible from anywhere
  • Flickr – a photo-sharing website with Creative Commons-licensed content
  • GMail – an online email application from Google that provides lots of free storage
  • Google Calendar – a web-based calendar application that has RSS feeds and a reminder service
  • Google Docs – stores documents online and allows collaboration with others
  • Google Earth – a more powerul and 3D version of Google Maps (requires installation)
  • Google Maps – online mapping with advanced features
  • Google Reader – an RSS feed reading application
  • Google Scholar – search academic journals and articles
  • iGoogle – customizable home page (.com blocked at our school, .co.uk not!)
  • Kizoom – web-based ‘intelligent’ public transport alerter and organizer
  • Last.fm – a social network built around music that also recommends music based on your listening habits
  • MobileMe – online synchronization service for Apple users (not free)
  • Moodle – an Open-Source content management system based on constructivist principles (requires installation on a web server)
  • Ning – allows you to create your own social network very easily
  • Posterous – very simple and easy-to-use blogging platform
  • PBwiki – an easy-to-use wiki creation tool
  • Picnik – powerful online image-editing application
  • PingMe – a social and mobile interactive reminder service for getting things done
  • Remember The Milk – an online to-do list with advanced features
  • Second Life – a 3D ‘virtual world’ (requires software download)
  • SlideShare – upload and share presentations
  • Syncplicity – sync, store and share files online
  • TeacherTube – YouTube for educational videos
  • Toodledo – an online to-do list
  • Twitter – a micro social-networking tool
  • UStream – live video streaming and chat rooms
  • VoiceThread – allows comments around content such as videos, pictures and Powerpoints
  • Voki – make your own speaking avatar to embed in your blog, wiki or website
  • Wetpaint – a good-looking wiki creation tool
  • Wikispaces – a wiki creation tool
  • WordPress – a highly-configurable Open-Source blogging platform (requires installation on a web server)
  • Zoho Show – create collaborative, online Powerpoint-like presentations

Remember, with collaborative applications you have to give a little to get a little for it to be really useful. Try out Twitter over the holiday period. Merry Christmas!

PS Twitter’s best used with a dedicated program rather than the web interface. I recommend the wonderful TweetDeck, available for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux. 🙂

Productivity, Organization & #tweetmeet

I’ve spent this afternoon and early evening at a ‘tweetmeet’. These are also known as ‘tweetups’ and are when people who have previously only met, or usually communicate, through the microblogging service Twitter meet up face-to-face. I’d actually met all of the people from the small tweetmeet we had today in Nottingham.* :-p

Such ‘unorganized’ meetings of people – TeachMeet is a similar, slightly more structured example – are the subject of this blog post. What prompted my thinking about organization was part of the discussion we had, foolowed up by listening to a Radio 4 podcast on the way home called Thinking Allowed. I suggest that you listen to it right now!

The whole point of organizations is to achieve something. These may be set in stone and known by all participants in the organizations, or there may be many (and possibly conflicting) objectives framed by participants. All organizations, therefore, have different degrees of productivity, both globally (as an organization) and, depending on their size, on a more micro-scale.

I say this because we discussed at the tweetmeet – which was itself a kind of exemplar – the concept of an ‘unconference’. This is defined by Wikipedia (as I write, anyway…) as ‘a facilitated, participant-driven conference centered around a theme or purpose.’ Our purpose, I suppose, was to discuss things face-to-face that we’d previously discussed online, and to get to know each other a little better. Then, on the way home, listening the Thinking Allowed podcast (above) it got me thinking more generally about organizational structures.

Michael Thompson, author of Organising and Disorganising, talked about going on a expedition to climb the South face of Mount Everest. He explained how there were two separate groups – ‘Team A’ and ‘Team B’ – with the leader and middle managers (as it were) in the former group and the rest in the latter. He explained how this rigid hierarchical structure led to those in Team B, despite being experienced and highly-motivated mountaineers, adopting a chaotic, somewhat anti-organizational structure.

The important thing, however, was that order in fact came out of this structure; order that depended on those involved. This is the thing that is missing in organizational planning these days: the role of individuality. Because, actually, someone who fulfils a role in an organization cannot simply be swapped-out for another person. The whole organizational structure depends on the talents, personality and individual attributes of that person. Change one part of the organization and the whole thing shifts. It may be a small amount in some cases – imperceptible to some – but a rearrangement and alteration does take place.

This helps to explain why organizations seemingly consisting of brilliant minds that should be amazingly productive and innovative fail to be so. An effective organizational structure is one that removes barriers and enables individuals within an organization to reach his or her potential. This, of course, cannot be at the expense of another, otherwise it is a futile exercise. One such way of going about organization, therefore, is to unorganize things, to mix things up a little.

So I’d encourage you, as Tom did me today, to once you’ve attended an unconference, to think about organizing (or un-organizing…) one of your own. You can’t really state in advance the specific things you’re likely to learn, but that’s part of the fun! I’ll leave you with a couple of things. The first is a Twitter message from @hrheingold which sums up in a far more eloquent way than I could ever manage the benefits of letting a little (controlled) chaos into organization:

The second is a link I came across, shared by Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher), whilst writing this post. It’s called 8 Tips on How to Run Your Own UnConference. I hope that and this post change your thinking a bit and encourage you to think a little differently about organization, or the lack of it, and how it could impact the productivity of any organization of which you are part! 😀

* I knew Lisa Stevens originally from last year’s TeachMeet at BETT, Jose Picardo from an Open Source Schools event, and Tom Barrett from some work we did for a Becta-funded project into Web 2.0 in the classroom at Nottingham University a few months back. The reason it says #tweetmeet in the title is because on Twitter you can add tags by prefacing words with hash symbols. These then can be tracked by websites such as Twemes.com. You can see this in action on the front page of the tweetmeet.eu website!

Image credits: iPhone Matrix App -MoPhaic & Podcamp West, both from Flickr

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