Skype Captain & the World of TomorrowSkype Captain and the World of Tomorrow: using new technologies to promote collaboration beyond the classroom

Nick Dennis’ site can be found here

Short video explanations of some of the collaborative tools we mentioned in our workshops are gathered on this page.

  1. VLEs
  2. Twitter
  3. Blogs
  4. Google Docs
  5. Bluecasting
  6. Animoto

1. VLEs

Becta’s has laid out the ‘functional specifications’ for a VLE here. Doug’s blogged about VLEs before and the EdTechRoundup group to which both Nick and Doug belong, have recorded a recent podcast on the topic. TeachersTV have some useful video-based content such as a resource review for VLEs, and a look at VLEs in action. The EffectiveICT.co.uk forum is a useful place for discussing the (effective!) use of VLEs.

2. Twitter

Twitter is, in essence, a micro-blogging service. It can be used effectively within education as both a PLN (Personal Learning Network) for teachers and a method of interacting with students via mobile phone. Doug’s blogged about the latter in his post 3 scenarios for using Twitter with your students. The former is covered well in Tom Barrett’s lengthy and thoughtful blog post Twitter – A Teaching and Learning Tool.

Still don’t know what Twitter’s all about? Check out this short Common Craft video:

3. Blogs

There are many blogging platforms and services, but for most educators and their students, Edublogs.org should be your first port of call. Not only is the service free, but has other more advanced features and themes already integrated for your use. For those interested, it’s based on WordPress MU (multi-user) which you can freely install yourself on your own server.

Blogs are useful for conveying information to students, but also for allowing students to complete homework in a multimedia environment. Boys in particular seem to write lengthier responses and in a more structured way when composing via blog rather than book. 😀

4. Google Docs

The collaborative opportunities offered by Google Docs are amazing. Students can start working together on a presentation or essay in class and then go away and complete it (separately) at home. Not only that, but presentations are embeddable on blogs, wikis and websites very easily.

The power of Google Docs is demonstrated by this short Common Craft video:

Google Apps Education Edition (which includes Google Docs) can be ‘installed’ on your own server through some jiggery-pokery, and you can even bring Google Apps into your school ‘under the radar’ through Google Apps Team Edition.

5. Bluecasting

‘Bluecasting’ is a term used to describe the sending of a file via Bluetooth to one or more devices. This has real potential in the classroom for the sharing of resources and information. Unfortunately, Doug and Nick are yet to come across a completely free software program that allows you to automatically send files to multiple devices sequentially*, so here is the recommended process:

  • Convert Powerpoint file into a series of images by going to ‘Save As’ and choosing ‘images’ from the drop-down menu.
  • If you haven’t got Bluetooth on your school laptop, then you will need to transfer the series of images to your mobile phone.
  • Ask pupils to switch on their Bluetooth-equipped mobile devices.
  • Send the series of images via Bluetooth to 3 students.
  • Those 3 students then send the series of images to 3 other students, and so on until all students in the class have them.

This ‘series of images’ could be important key dates to the course or exam hints and tips. It might be a good idea to have a system for who sends files to whom to avoid confusion!

* If money’s no object, try BlueSender :p

6. Animoto

Not so much a collaborative technology, but a great one nonetheless. Animoto shows a series of images with various whizzy effects in time to music of your choice. What’s even better is that it’s recently become free for educators! Here’s a short video Doug put together to try and entice more Year 9’s to take GCSE History:

Great for assemblies, introducing topics, or recapping an active learning session! 😀