Update (same day!) – well that didn’t last long: I’ve stripped it back even more with the Minimalist theme. :-p
Earlier this year I changed the theme on this site. I was reasonably pleased with it. It was faster-loading than the previous iteration. However, as I kept adding stuff to it the site became slower to load. As @MoodleDan pointed out, I had lots of images being loaded from external sites.
So I’ve stripped it down to look a bit like the default theme on Posterous. It’s a WordPress theme called Minimous. I like it, although I’ve got a plan to strip it down even further…
Suffer the poor person new to the wonderful world many of us inhabit. I don’t think the phrase ‘Web 2.0’ quite covers it any more, to be honest. Some have clutched at different titles to set those who inhabit this ‘other’ space – some have talked of the ‘networked teacher’, the ‘connected educator’ and so on. I’m not sure sure we need a formal title, but I think most people will know what I mean when I say there’s a difference between being a teacher in a classroom with a textbook, and being a teacher connected to literally hundreds of others worldwide through various communications technologies and conventions. 🙂
The trouble is, how do you get into this cocktail party?
What happens if you don’tknow who to turn to?
What if you haven’t got a Twitter network to support you yet?
What if you’ve just found a tool and you’re wondering if it could be used with students?
What if you can envisage an end product but don’t know the technological means of getting there?
That’s where this idea of heuristical templates comes in.* If people committed to using a common format to review and discuss tools and applications relating to educational technology and e-learning, then this would have a number of advantages:
It would give the newbie a common structure that they could seek out.
If Creative Commons licensed, these could be syndicated in a central place.
It would lead to some cohesion in certain parts of the edublogosphere.
An example of someone who blogs extremely well about new tools and approaches is Tom Barrett. By the end of reading one of Tom’s posts you know what the tool can be used for, why you’d use is, any problems there may be, and other people who have used it before.
To that end, and inspired by Tom, I suggest the following structure taking Posterous as an example.
* Perhaps E-Learning Templates is better? Hmmm…
What is it?
Posterous is a blogging solution. A blog is a website that is easy to maintain and which has the most recent content at the top. Posterous sets itself apart from other blogging solutions as it is almost entirely updated by using email. Sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org serves not only to set up the blog but to update it. Posterous deals ‘intelligently’ with email attachments – for example turning MP3s into an embedded media player and Powerpoint presentations into slideshows.
How much does it cost?
Posterous is free for up to 1GB of space. The FAQ says that in future Premium (paid-for) features will be add-ons to the functionality available for free.
This evening I’ll be attending TeachMeet Midlands 2009 at the National College for School Leadership in Nottingham. If you’ve never heard of a TeachMeet before, they’re based around the idea of an unconference, ‘facilitated, participant-driven conference centered around a theme or purpose.’ (Wikipedia) I’ve been to a couple before – both of which were additions to the BETT Show – and they’re great events. There’s a fantastic buzz around the place, people passionate about what they do, and it’s a wonderful way to not only meet up with people you’ve only talked to online, but to come across new faces as well! 🙂
I’ve signed up on the TeachMeet wiki to do a 7-minute micropresentation. Initially, I was going to talk about my role this year as E-Learning Staff Tutor and a bit about my Ed.D. on digital literacy. However, TeachMeets should be a lot more focused on classroom practice, so I’ve decided to instead talk about what I’ve been doing with my Year 10 History class.
This year I saw my having a new, fairly able GCSE History class as a good opportunity to try out some new methods and approaches to the course. As students at my school now have four lessons of their option subject per week instead of three, I decided to have one of them timetabled in an ICT suite. The room I was allocated has tiered seating and laptops, which was even better! :-p
After looking at various options, I decided to use Posterous for their homework blogs. Reasons for this include:
Blog posts can be written by email.
It deals with media in an ‘intelligent’ way (e.g. using Scribd to embed documents, making slideshows out of images)
Avatars allow for personalization.
I set almost no homework apart from on their blogs. This means that on a Friday they start an activity using (usually) a Web 2.0 service and then add it to their blog via embedding or linking. The only problem with this has been Posterous not supporting iFrames, meaning that Google Docs, for example have to be exported to PDF and then uploaded. Students are used to this now and it doesn’t really affect their workflow.
I should, perhaps, have asked for parental permission to video students’ opinions about this approach. From what they tell me, they greatly enjoy working on their blogs. In fact, a Geography teacher at school has hijacked one of my students’ blogs so she does work for both History and Geography on it! I think they appreciate the following things:
Presentation (a lot easier, especially for boys, to produce good-looking work)
Multimedia (they’re not looking at paper-based stuff all the time)
Collaboration (they get to work with others whilst still having ‘ownership’ of the final product on their blogs)
It’s a system that I’d definitely recommend and I shall be using in future! 😀