Tag: pupils

A modest proposal for nudging young people into finding a direction in life

If you go to the Mozilla home page, right click, and ‘view source’, you see something like this:

Mozilla source code

Underneath the ASCII art of a dragon breathing fire (and the Mozilla logo), the page reads:

Hi there, nice to meet you!

Interested in having a direct impact on hundreds of millions of users? Join
Mozilla, and become part of a global community that’s helping to build a
brighter future for the Web.

Visit https://careers.mozilla.org to learn about our current job openings.
Visit https://www.mozilla.org/contribute for more ways to get involved and
help support Mozilla.

I don’t know if they’ve got any stats on how many people respond to this call to action, but when I was at Mozilla, there were lots of people who I wouldn’t consider your ‘usual’ tech contributors. I’m guessing things like this make a practical difference.

Last night I had a dream. No, stay with me. In it, I was advising someone who was having a real problem with kids trying to get around filters and firewalls he’d put in place in a school. It’s probably because tomorrow I’ll be at BETT in London where all kinds of technologies will be on offer trying to ever more lock down the internet to children.

Before I continue, I’m not advocating a free-for-all. Goodness knows I have to lock things down a bit for my 12 year-old son at home. However, I do think there’s an opportunity here, and it’s related to what Mozilla do with their home page.


For better or worse, most educational institutions now do some kind of forensic tracking and analysis of searches made and websites visited across their network. Given the duty of care they have and the times we live in, I’d expect nothing different. However, I’m pretty sure we could leverage that to help young people make some choices in life.

It doesn’t have to be ASCII art and volunteering for a tech company! How about the following?

  • Repeated searches for food leads to an email invitiation to cookery club
  • Visiting a bunch of beauty and fashion sites leads to a prompt to ask if they’ve considered doing a qualification in design
  • Violations of school security and privacy policies lead to recruitment to being an ‘ethical hacker’ for the organisation

Schools and other educational institutions have so much data on young people these days. I just wonder whether, with a few little tweaks and some lateral thinking, we could make that useful to students, too?

I’d love to know if anywhere is already doing this! Have you seen any examples?

Alternative ways of presenting content and information to pupils

alternative_presentation_large

Powerpoint and other slideshow-based forms of presentation can be useful. They certainly have a place in my teaching. But variation is the spice of life and certainly helps in terms of pupils being able to remember important information they may need for examinations, etc.

If you just want cool ways of jazzing up your exisiting Powerpoint, then you could try CoolIris or Rich Chart Live. If, however, you’d like a different way of presenting, keep reading!

In what follows I’d like to take you through three tools that should help liven up your presentations. They are:

  1. Glogster
  2. Prezi
  3. Animoto

Glogster


glogster
The best way to describe Glogster is that it’s like an online, multimedia poster. It’s very easy to use and, as it can be made to display full-screen, making it an ideal presentational tool. You can add (hyperlinked) text as well as embedding images, video and audio. The added bonus is that it’s already online for your pupils to see when they get home! 🙂

An example of a very basic ‘glog’ is this one I created to show my pupils how it was done. They did a much better job – for example this one by Merrick S.

Prezi


prezi
At the time of writing, Prezi is currently in ‘private beta mode’, meaning you have to request a login by signing up. In practice, it only takes a couple of days before you get your account.

Like Glogster, Prezi allows you to embed multimedia objects such as images and video (in the form of .flv files – try KissYouTube.com). Describing itself as ‘the zooming presentation editor’, Prezi is like a giant canvas upon which you focus in on various parts.

Prezi can be viewed, and collaborated upon, online – but each presentation can also be downloaded for use offline. Perfect if your network connection is less than 100% guaranteed! 🙂

Here’s a very straightforward Prezi I created on the League of Nations to show you the style.

Animoto

Animoto is an easy video creation tool. It ‘feels’ your music and presents the images you upload to it in time with the beat. Animoto has recently become a lot more powerful in that you can now add text. It is therefore now useful as a story-telling tool, and especially as a ‘hook’ for pupils at the start of a lesson!

I created the above video last month to entice Year 9 to choose the new Vocational GCSE in History!

Towards a forward-thinking Acceptable Use Policy for mobile devices

Enough is enough. I think it was Clay Burrell who (via Twitter) initially pointed me towards this quotation by Gandhi: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Unhappily, teachers in many UK schools (and further afield) are forced into a kind of cognitive dissonance as a result of official mobile phone bans being flouted by almost every student in the school. In fact, it’s more than that. Teachers are made to feel guilty when they encourage students to use the technology they have for learning.

Andrew Field and I had a brief Twitter conversation about this situation recently. As a result, Andrew started a thread on the EffectiveICT.co.uk Forum to discuss the issue. I’d like to bring more people (i.e. YOU) into the discussion, especially if you’ve got any links to good and forward-thinking Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs)! 😀

A brief search for AUPs relating to mobile devices brings up the following problematical example:

Mobile phones must not be used during the college day, including break and lunchtimes. Phones must be switched off during the day. If any student is found using a mobile phone at any time during the college day it will be confiscated until the end of the day

Of course, one can see why this particular college, like many educational institutions, has gone down this road. They’re protecting their own back; it’s the reason why networks often blacklist sites that teachers want to use for perfectly sound pedagogical reasons.

But then, there’s the rub. As Andrew Field pointed out, if the Internet connection’s already filtered, why lock pupils out of wireless networks and the like when they’re using their own devices? He cites using an iPod touch for accessing online content through the wi-fi connection in his department. There’s no reason why I couldn’t do the same – give out the password to students.

A big stumbling block is insurance, I suppose. But then, I’m only supposing. What exactly is the legal situation? Surely if a student damages their mobile phone/MP3 player in school it’s covered by their parents’ home insurance in the same way it would be on their way to and from school? Andrew quotes the following from Halifax insurance:

Personal Belongings
For those items that are normally worn or carried in everyday day life Halifax Home Insurance offer Personal Belongings cover away from the home both in the UK and abroad. This cover complements their unlimited sum insured contents insurance* and provides cover for items such as jewellery, money, credit cards and mobile phones.**

* Inner limits apply to certain areas of contents cover, including; money restrictions, single article & high risk item limits and contents left in the open. High risk items are subject to a £2000 limit per item. Details are available within the policy and schedule.
** Aggregate limits of between £2,500 and £10,000 apply. Individual limits apply to mobile phones, money, credit cards and pedal cycles.

I wonder if there’s anyone reading this who has links with those in the industry who could give a definitive answer?

Becta provide some reasonably helpful (general) advice on the subject, stating that an AUP should not stand alone, but instead be part of a ‘safe ICT learning environment’, including:

  • an infrastructure of whole-school awareness, designated responsibilities, policies and procedures
  • an effective range of technological tools
  • a comprehensive internet safety education programme for the whole school community.

I agree. Unhelpfully, they state that there “are many sample acceptable use policies available, both online and via local authorities, which schools can use as a basis for their own policies” – but then fail to link to any. 🙁

To their credit, however, they have a PDF document from 2006 on E-safety which could provide an excellent platform to spark a discussion within your school. It covers everything from the potential dangers of online access, to the responsibilities for those with various (already extant) roles within the organization. It’s focus, nevertheless, is on prevention of abuse rather than enabling and opening-up as much as possible!

Diagrams are powerful tools when trying to effect change. This one, from the PDF mentioned above, demonstrates a sound (if slightly conservative) process. As technologies change, so must AUPs and, most importantly, the whole organization’s response. ICT lessons, as many teachers of the subject have realised, cannot simply be focused on learning how to use Microsoft Office and the like. They need to prepare students for the 21st century online world.

We need to create responsible users of the Internet and mobile devices. Yes, there are risks. Yes, there might be financial and other costs to the school. But isn’t it worth it in the long run? 🙂

Update:

Liz Kolb replied to this post via Twitter providing a handy link to some AUPs:

Is handwriting dead?

Flickr - handwritingEven as a teacher, I don’t have to write much in an average day. In fact, the most handwriting I ever do at a time is in my diary. That’s probably why, whilst it’s not GP-level indecipherable, it’s certainly not ‘neat’.

But then, on the other hand, last time I checked I could type around 80 words per minute on a keyboard. This is due to me having used a program called Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing when I was about 12 (it came free on the front of a computer magazine). Its games-based approach made learning to touch-type fun. It didn’t take many hours of practice for me to become fairly quick.

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Ken Robinson on creativity v2

As Dave Stacey has already said, I think by now every educator worth his or her salt has seen the excellent TED Talks video where Sir Ken Robinson talks about creativity. If not, click here post haste and watch it!

Sir Ken recently agreed to be interviewed by the pupil-powered Radiowaves about creativity in education. It’s certainly worth watching/listening to:

Why ‘high culture’ for pupils is highly wrong-headed

BalletBBC News reports that the Children’s Secretary Ed Balls and Culture Secretary Andy Burnham will today launch an initiative that promises access to ‘high-quality cultural activities’. It proposes visits to theatre shows, museums and galleries and the opportunity to learn how to act and play musical instruments. “Great!!” one would think. I disagree.

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