Sending outIssue #199 of Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel, my weekly newsletter loosely focused on education, technology, and productivity. This time around, it included links about participatory methodologies, iOS in education, and pull-to-refresh.
Recording and releasing Episode 35 (‘Participatory BETT’) of the Today In Digital Education podcast, my weekly podcast with co-host Dai Barnes. In this week’s episode we discussed the 4 C’s of learning, Open Badges, participatory methodologies, gamified learning, removing certain apps from your smartphone, and more!
I’ve spoken at BETT in many guises. I started off as a teacher, then I went as a school senior leader, then went there during my time with Jisc, then Mozilla… This time around, BETT 2016 will be my first as a consultant. On the first day I’m there I’ll have my City & Guilds hat on as they’re one of my main clients. On the second, I’m representing myself (i.e. Dynamic Skillset).
I love to hate BETT. While I dislike the amount of snake oil I see there, it’s worth attending because of the people. While I’m there I try to bring a dose of healthy edtech skepticism. I also try and show people alternatives to to their current reality.
This year, you can catch me at BETT at the following times:
The first session I’m involved with on Wednesday is a presentation with Bryan Mathers. We’ll be talking about educational credentials such as Open Badges, and how City & Guilds can help with this. We’ll be going both wide and deep.
The Digital Skills Sandwich: credentialing 21st literacies in a fast-paced environment (1:45pm to 2:15pm) Learn Live Further Education and Skills theatre
The second session is one I’m chairing. I’m looking forward to asking probing questions of the panellists and getting input from the audience!
Connecting With Young People: Using Social Media and Digital Marketing to Enhance Student Recruitment (4:45pm to 5:30pm) Learn Live Further Education and Skills theatre
If you’re attending BETT and want to catch up, lunch, a coffee after my presentation, or dinner are your best options.
I’m only doing one short presentation on Thursday, and spending the rest of my time wandering around. I’ll be presenting on the Exa Networks stand (full programme), after being asked nicely by Alan O’Donohoe. Space is limited and there’ll be 10 minutes for questions afterwards.
How to be an (open) badger (12:00-12:20) Stand B160 – Exa Education
I’m hoping to bump into a few people on Thursday before heading home late afternoon. I’ll be pretty flexible, so if you want to say hello, do tweet me (@dajbelshaw) or email me beforehand to arrange a time (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you’re interested in where I’ll be over the coming year, then you might want to check out my Lanyrd profile. I still need to update it with some stuff from last year, but event-wise it’s a decent overview of my past/future movements!
Participating in the first #TeachTheWeb community call.
Feeling a bit run down and unproductive. Part of that’s probably to do with the uncertainty surrounding when we’re going to move. It’s out of our hands – which is one of the problems when there’s a chain involved!
Next week I’ll be at a Webmaker workweek in Toronto. I’m looking forward to it, but the weather (-12°C!) doesn’t sound much fun.
After a few years of absence, I’ll be at BETT again this year. I’m arriving at lunchtime on Thursday and speaking three times on Friday. However, given my busy schedule over the coming weeks, I can’t stay for the (usually excellent) TeachMeet on the Friday evening.
Where I’ll be and when on Friday (24th January 2014):
Sorting out my travel/accommodation for BETT (I’m speaking three times there next Friday!)
Hosting the Web Literacy community call. You can listen to the recording here.
Proposing and writing about merging the Mozilla Web Literacy call with the Webmaker Mentor call.
Sorting out my expenses from the recent CE21 meeting in Orlando. It was a surprisingly involved process.
Talking to various people about Mozilla process-related stuff.
Meeting with Laura Hilliger to discuss Mozilla’s presence at the Oppi Festival in Helsinki (11th/12th April – I’m not going)
Planning out my slides for my BETT presentations.
Meeting with colleagues to discuss a refocus of an upcoming Webmaker whitepaper.
Taking PTO (i.e. a day off) on Friday as I had too much non-Mozilla stuff to do! I took my (nearly) seven year-old son to Kielder Observatory for part of his birthday present.
Next week I’ll be with my wife in Gozo on Monday and Tuesday trying to find somewhere for us to move to for six months. I’ll also be celebrating my son’s birthday and then travelling down for BETT on Thursday and Friday.
Returning to work after the Christmas break. I took an extra couple of days off so I didn’t have to return last Thursday.
Travelling to and from Orlando, FL for an NSF CE21 meeting on Computer Science. Mozilla is partnering with Drexel University on a grant around scaffolding computational literacy through tools like openHTML and Thimble.
The ICT Consultant for the Academy arranged for me to visit RM’s REAL Centre today. I didn’t know much about it beforehand, but when I mentioned it to others some were excited on my behalf whereas others mentioned that it ‘didn’t live up to the hype’. Given that I wasn’t aware of the hype (it was at BETT 2009) I went in fairly unbiased! 🙂
As you can see from the pictures above, the spaces were set out differently from standard classrooms. All together, it worked well and whilst walking around I was impressed. On reflection, however, given that no school’s likely to have all that’s in there, I started thinking about specifics. Here’s my takeaways:
21st century interactive whiteboard
Current interactive whiteboards tie teachers to the front of the classroom and perpetuate at 20th (19th?)-century model of teaching. That’s why I really liked the ‘horizontal [and vertical!] interactive and collaborative surface’ that was on display. It was a combination of three things, really:
A rotatable (fairly standard) adjustable project table
An ultra-short throw projector
A clip-on sensor to the table (surface) for the ‘interactive’ element
The great thing was that not only was the table rotatable and height-adjustable, but had wheels and a single plug so could be easily be moved around learning spaces. 😀
Although I’ve read about them before and seen videos, it was great to try out an eye-tracking device for myself. It took less than a minute to calibrate and get myself up-to-speed on what to do, and after that I was able to write sentences and get the computer to speak them back to me! The only downside was that, being a contact lens-wearer, my eyes felt a little dry afterward. Felt fairly futuristic, though, and potentially life-changing for some of the profoundly disabled students we’ll have at the Academy.
Inexpensive USB microscopes
I’m sure these have probably been around for ages, but it was my first experience with a USB microscope that was both robust and inexpensive (around £30). It fed real-time images to an Asus Eee PC via a USB connection, which could save them for future reference. With the netbook and small microscope, students are able to go outside and investigate things, come back and show what they’ve found. Loved it. :-p
I didn’t get a chance to check out how much these cost, but I think they’re a great idea. The photo above explains what I’m talking about: soundproof, circular ‘pods’ that allow for meetings, speaking and listening exercises, or some quiet study to take place.
I can see these being used in break-out spaces, in reception areas for meetings with parents – for a whole host of things, in fact. The great things was that, whilst they’re soundproof, they’re comfortable and have clear windows so teachers can see what is going on. A great idea.
Again, variations of the seating that was on display at the REAL Centre have been seen before, but it was good to see thought going into ergonomics. The seats, along with the tables, on offer could be stacked into a very small space to allow for drama-based activities. It was almost impossible to lean backwards on them such that the front legs came off the floor. You could, however, rock forwards slightly which was pleasing.
Some other seating featured an attached circular table. These moved together on wheels until sat on, whereupon they would lock in place. The swivel chair made for multiple configurations of separate work areas when students are working at computers. Well thought-out. 🙂
Apparently these have been around for ages and, indeed, I seem to remember the Politics department at the University of Sheffield using something similar when I took some modules there in my first year (1999!) However, when paired with a projector you begin to wonder whether an interactive whiteboard isn’t just an expensive luxury that perpetuates an outdated system. Having a visualizer makes examining sources, ‘real-life’ stuff and students’ work much easier and much more likely to happen.
Obviously there was more than just the above at the REAL Centre, but nothing I hadn’t really seen before. There was Lego Mindstorms stuff, a ‘teacher wall’ to provide space and cupboards around interactive whiteboards, flexible tiered seating areas, chroma key hardware, sensory equipment and a stop-motion animation studio, amongst other things. I’m a big fan of the touchscreen Asus Eee Tops that were on display there but, again, I’ve seen them before.
All in all, a worthwhile and enjoyable day. RM have asked for feedback for which I’m pointing them towards this blog post. I’d advise them either to put price tags on everything or give brochures with clear prices immediately after the tour. It became a bit annoying for me, and embarrassing for them, having to ask how much everything costs at every turn!
You could read about everything that’s in the RM REAL Centre online. You may even have come across half of it in the flesh, so to speak. But having time to be shown it all in one place and think about how it could transform teaching and learning is a powerful thing. I’d recommend that if you can, you go and have a look. 😀
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:
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.
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! 😀