I’ve interviewed more people for the JISC mobile and wireless technologies review I’m undertaking and had my first appraisal on Thursday. The latter was more of a chat – a positive one showing I’m valued. I’m now 25% through my 2-year contract at JISC infoNet in an uncertain economic climate.
What next? Who knows! I’m happy in my current role and not concerned in the slightest about my future prospects. I’ve long since stopped even pretending that I know where my career’s heading – apart from going with what interests me and keeping my family financially secure, of course.
Disillusioned with corporate e-learning
The Oxford E-Learning ‘Debate’ was largely a waste of time. I’ve explained why on my conference blog here.
Realising the importance of community
I voted Liberal in the General Election, mainly in protest against the quite frankly dangerous Michael Gove. That didn’t work. Still, at least the Conservatives’ Big Society gambit seems to offer more than just swingeing cuts. Community is important. That’s why Hannah’s volunteering at the local fair on tomorrow and I’m joining the PTA at my son’s school next week.
Frustrated with my MacBook Pro
The thing I’ve loved about using a Mac every day since 2006 is that it’s usually a frustration-free experience. No crashing. No viruses. No constant maintenance. For some reason, almost every application seems to now crash on my MacBook Pro and it looks like I’m going to have to do a Windows-like reinstall. Let’s just hope it’s not going to turn into a bi-monthly thing (as it was when I used PCs…)
I’ve already blogged about why I want to make myself redundant as Director of E-Learning after 3 years. At the end of this month – next week, in fact – I’m due to hand in my E-Learning strategy. I wanted my strategy overview to fit on one side of A4. Unfortunately, it’s run to two sides, but at least it’s still fairly short and to the point! 😀
It’s available ‘live’ (with any subsequent changes) here (via Google Docs), or below as a static PDF:
I’d very much welcome any comments or thoughts you may have on the above! 🙂
As regular readers are aware, I’ve ‘divested’ myself of some stuff recently, including a couple of domain names. The legendary Dave Stacey will be taking over elearnr.org, the space I used in my previous position as E-Learning Staff Tutor to provide ‘e-learning links, resources and guides’.
Whilst Dave has indicated a desire to keep the existing content, I didn’t want him to feel restricted. I’ve imported, therefore, all of the content that was at elearnr.org to this blog.
Started as Director of E-Learning yesterday. Not going to be teaching at all until September – even then probably only 8 periods per week ‘across Key Stages’. Mostly team-teaching and modelling good practice. My primary role is to support teaching and learning using educational technology.
I have a vision.
Lots of meetings. It would seem I need to become more of a political animal…
Further to my previous blog post setting out what I was going to do at interview, I’m delighted to report that I was successful! Many thanks to my Twitter network for their support. As of next academic year (September 2009) I shall be ‘Director of E-Learning’ at Northumberland Church of England Academy.
This is a significant promotion for me and, as the Academy comes into existence as I assume the role, means I’ve got (almost) a blank slate with which to work. Hence the need for me to have a clear and coherent plan as to the E-Learning ecosystem I want to create.
I’m embarking on a series of blog posts over the Easter holiday period which, provisionally, I’m going to title:
Attendance: what are the pros and cons of SIMS, Serco and Phoenix?
Behaviour: what are the e-options for real-time monitoring and tracking of student behaviour?
Communication: which tools are available to enable anyone within an organization be able to appropriately communicate and collaborate with anyone else?
Design: what are the standards upon which pedagogically-sound learning design can be constructed?
Engagement: which technologies lead to confident engagement in learning?
I have perhaps phrased some of the above clumsily so I’d welcome your feedback! 🙂
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’! 🙂
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.
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:
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.
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. 🙂
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:
Little 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.
Closely 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.
For 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.
All 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.
When 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.
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?
As the first term of the school year nears its end, the time has come to reflect on the blog that’s accompanied my new role. The start of this year saw me become E-Learning Staff Tutor at my school, a newly-created role for which the job description was only finalised two weeks ago!
It made sense to me to set up a blog to accompany this role, for a few reasons:
It’s a useful way to disseminate e-learning resources, links and guides to staff at my school.
It means my work can have an impact beyond my school via blog readers and RSS subscribers (up to 129 of the latter so far, according to Feedburner).
It’s a handy record to show the work I’ve been doing as Ofsted will be coming knocking sometime this year.
It serves as a point of contact above and beyond email and gives me a ‘home’ (as I’m without an office!)
This shows you what I’ve been blogging about, mostly (courtesy of Wordle):
…and this is a complete overview of posts reflecting the sessions I’ve run this term (in reverse order):
I’m looking forward to the new academic year. Having said that, I’m not hugely excited about the Web 2.0 tools I’ll be using next year – and I believe that’s a good thing. It shows that such tools have become part of my teaching ecosystem. As I read recently, “The music is not in the piano.” (i.e. it is but a tool, just like technology)
The only reason my teaching ecosystem isn’t 100% digital is because of outside influences: documents from colleagues and marking student books. It’s part of my aim for my E-Learning Staff Tutor position to put more digital tools in the hands of colleagues. I’ll be using the new elearnr site to help with that. 🙂
This week I came across Top 100 Tools for Learning 2008. It’s made up of a large number of educators’ top 10 lists of elearning tools. I haven’t tried to stick to 10 in what follows – it’s just a list of what I’m going to be using (in order of what I’ll be using most!) 😀
1. Google Calendar
I’ve been using Google Calendar for a couple of years now for my day-to-day planning (see here and here). Although it takes around half an hour to enter your timetable initially, you can then set this to repeat until a certain date (i.e. the end of the academic year).
I use a ‘double-star system’ (see screenshot below). Before a lesson has been planned it has two asterisk after it. Removing one star means that I’ve entered the title and lesson objective (and homework, if applicable). Removing the second star means that the lesson is fully planned.
After the lesson, if there’s anything I need to remember for the next lesson with the class, I just add it to the comments section.
Obviously things like meetings, parents evenings can be entered ad-hoc. As you can access Google Calendar via mobile phone as well, it means I’ve got my day-to-day planning everywhere. 🙂
2. Attendance/Homework checkers
I run a two-laptop classroom. I’ve got my school-provided laptop at the front of my classroom running the interactive whiteboard (a SMARTboard) and my netbook (an MSI Wind-like Advent 4211 now running Mac OSX) is for everything else.
Whilst I could use Google Spreadsheets for my attendance registers, there’s two reasons I don’t. First of all it just doesn’t update very quickly, being web-based. Second, I’ve got to have a register – even if Internet access goes down at school. So I use Microsoft Excel with some conditional formatting goodness that I blogged about ages ago.
3. Google Docs
I’d be the first to hold my hand up and say that I’m a last-minute planner. What I do in the next lesson with a class depends very much upon what happened in the previous. Students have different questions and things can go off at a tangent. That’s not to say I don’t medium-term plan, however!
For my medium-term planning I use Google Docs. Nothing fancy, just a table with columns for lesson title, objective and possible content. The great thing about this is that I don’t have to remember to back it up and I can drop in links to any online resources quickly and easily. I do about a half-term at a time, having worked out before how much I need to cover to get everything done within the year. :-p
You’re not going to believe this but my school still doesn’t use email as the primary method of contact between members of staff. Hard to believe, I know! Consequently, I’m overwhelmed by a deluge of paper. To counteract this, I started taking a photograph of the documents using the camera in my Nokia N95. The trouble was that organizing these images was difficult and time-consuming. In the end, I just gave up.
Then I was invited to take part in the private beta for Evernote. This program is available cross-platform and is now out of beta, so it’s available to everyone. It takes the image you’ve taken and transferred to your laptop (e.g. via Bluetooth) and recognises the words – even when they’re hand-written! You can add tags to the photos and they’re automatically (securely) synced with your account on their server. That means they’re available wherever you’ve got an Internet connection.
Evernote’s a great system no matter what phone/digital camera/laptop combo you’ve got, but if you’ve got an iPhone, you really do need to download it from the App Store!
5. Google Presentations
Sometimes I feel a bit guilty for still using Powerpoint. After all, I’m training colleagues to use software such as SMART Notebook when I rarely use it myself. The truth is, Powerpoint is compatible, flexible, and has great clipart.
The problem comes when you want to get a Powerpoint online. Say that you’ve drawn on top of a diagram and want to make it accessible for students outside the classroom. In the past I’ve had to use OpenOffice to convert it into Flash, upload it to my website, and then create an HTML page in which to embed it.
Not any more. Now I just upload it to Google Docs and it’s transformed into a Google Presentation. This can then be easily embedded into a blog, wiki or website. Marvellous! 🙂
6. Google Sites
I used a self-hosted installation of WordPress for a couple of years successfully at learning.mrbelshaw.co.uk. That’s the place I direct students to in order to access homework activities and resources to aid their learning. At the end of last academic year, however, I switched over to Google Sites. My version actually comes as part of Google Apps Education Edition, but there’s no advantage in this other than the ability to customise the domain name.
I’ve found it really useful and reliable. Because it’s hosted by Google, I’ve never experienced any downtime and, of course, it’s not blocked by the school network’s proxy. You can edit things in a straightforward, easy-to-use manner. The built-in navigation features make it simple for students to navigate. Embedding objects is easy – I could ask for any more! 😀
I’m disappointed that Twitter, the micro social-networking service, has made the decision to stop the ability to receive SMS updates when you receive direct messages or replies. It means that I’m unlikely to use it with my GCSE students this time around.
To neglect to add it to my list, however, would be misleading. I’ll still be using it both in and out of school in a professional development capacity. I can’t imagine being connected only via blogs now (as in the early days of the edublogosphere). Twitter and other real-time tools make professional development fun!
With my last cohort of GCSE History students I installed WordPress Multi-User (WPMU) edition at mrbelshaw.co.uk. Whilst it worked fine and the students took to it well, the system took some configuring and was a bit of a nightmare when I transferred web hosting companies.
This year, I’m going to be using Edublogs. It, after all, is a giant installation of WPMU, but they host it for you, make hundreds of themes available and there’s added values with wiki and forum integration (to name but two). It should cut down on hassle. I track what students are up to via the RSS feed for the blog entries and comments. 🙂
9. Google Earth
It’s fair to say that I use Google Earth a lot. In fact, when I had to teach Geography to a Year 8 Set 4 class last academic year, I think I used it every lesson! It’s also of great use in history as it’s so much more than a mapping application; the ‘layers’ and ability to create tours add huge amounts of value.
I’ll be using it next academic year, as I have in previous years, to plot the route of Hannibal’s march with elephants on Rome, doing a flyover tour of Engladn in 1066, building up the tension of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and a lot more. I’ve shared some of the resources I’ve created for Google Earth over at the historyshareforum.
10. Simple English Wikipedia
Although I’ve threatened to do it a couple of times before, this academic year is going to be the time when I carry through my plan. I want students to be creators and contribute to the Internet. In Years 10 and 11 whilst they’re doing their GCSEs, I get them to blog. But what about in Key Stage 3?
I’m going to get them to add to the Simple English Wikipedia. This lesser-known sibling of Wikipedia is for children and foreign language students. Every page on the main Wikipedia site (potentially) has a similar page on the Simple version. The trouble is that the Simple version doesn’t have as much content – I want to rectify that by getting my students to edit that.
The main problem with this is that they can’t do it at school. I’m sure it the same with most educational institutions: our IP address is banned from editing do to ‘vandalism’ of Wikipedia by a minority of immature students. So, I’ll get them to do it at home and look at the revision history of the page for proof! I’ll let you know how it goes… :-p
I’m a big fan of mindmaps. Although I’m not convinced that bubbl.us creates mindmaps in the true sense of the term they are, at least, very useful brainstorms. If you haven’t given online, collaborative mindmapping/brainstorming a try with your students, I’d suggest you try.
Due to a re-organization of the core subjects at our school, students only get to choose two options for GCSE. This has the knock-on effect of meaning they have 4 lessons to cover content that previously was covered easily in 3. I’m going to spend that fourth lesson with them in the library or an ICT suite blogging, brainstorming/mindmapping, and more…
I came across Posterous during the summer holiday (see this post). You couldn’t really ask for a blogging service to be made much simpler. All you do is email firstname.lastname@example.org and it intelligently sorts out what you’ve sent (including attachments) and displays them appropriately. At last I can say to staff that if they know how to email they can set up their own class blog!
If you read my previous post on Posterous, you’ll see that I feel the killer feature will be themes. They’re adding features all the time, it being a new service, and if they add this ability before the start of the academic year (1st September for me) then I’ll seriously consider using them with students too. It might seem shallow, but I’ve found that teenagers like to create an identity online, and the ability to make their site different from their friend’s is important to them.
Finally, I’ll be charting my progress and adding resources to help colleagues as part of my E-Learning Staff Tutor role over at elearnr. Do visit there often and/or subscribe to the RSS feed. 😀
I’ve got new plans for edte.ch – linked, as you can imagine, to my position as E-Learning Staff Tutor next academic year (2008/9). I’ll unveil it when it’s ready, but for now I’ve blown up the existing site (see screenshot) and imported the posts to this blog (dougbelshaw.com)