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I’m at the annual Schools History Project Conference for the fifth time this weekend and am presenting for the third time. This is the first time that I’ll be presenting without my partner in crime, Nick Dennis, as he’s unable to make the conference. It’s a shame, but it means I can focus entirely on what I did with my Year 10 History class this academic year at my previous school.
I’ve used the Cooliris presentation method, pioneered by Alan Levine, and which I piloted in my Open Source School presentation earlier this month. I’m not so sure he uses a Nintendo Wiimote (along with Darwiin Remote) with Cooliris, though. It’s an excellent presentation method – and free if you create your slides in OpenOffice.org (as I do!) 😀
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Links (in order mentioned) to the websites mentioned in the presentation can be found below:
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.
Examples of student work
Links to all blogs can be found at http://mrbelshaw.posterous.com
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! 😀
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I’m not a huge fan of spending money on software and digital services. There’s a couple of reasons for this. The first is that I’m an advocate of Open Source Software (see Open Source Schools, of which I’m part). As such, I believe that making software available free of charge – with the source code inspectable – makes for better software and communities built around the functionality the software provides. The second reason is that I tend to like to have something tangible as a result of any financial outlay.
All this is by way of explanation as to why the following are services that persuade me to part with some of my hard-earned money. I follow that with those I use for free but would happily pay for! 😉
Things upon which I *do* spend real cash
I have a number of websites and blogs, all of which need a home on the Internet. I’ve found Bluehost to be reliable and very reasonably priced. They’ve got CPanel installed in the admin interface, which makes installing web applications such as WordPress and forums a breeze!
Flickr ($25 = c.£17)
Photographs are incredibly important things. They are a snapshot of a time that can never be recaptured, and evoke powerful memories. Despite backing up regularly via my Apple Time Capsule, it’s important that I never lose the most important of my photographs – especially those of my son. That’s why I upload all the ones I consider important to Flickr.
Purchasing a yearly Flickr Pro license means that more than just the last 200 of my photographs can be seen and that I can create an unlimited number of ‘sets’ in which to place them. 😀
Remember The Milk ($25 = c.£17)
You may wonder why I’d spend good money on what is, essentially, a glorified to-do list. It’s because Remember The Milk (RTM) is so easy-to-use and fits in with my way of working. The free account is fine if you just want to organise yourself via the web-based interface, but the real power comes if you’ve got an iPhone. The app for the iPhone is only available to those who have a Pro subscription. It’s a work of art in terms of simplicity and adding to your productivity. Great stuff. 😀
Things upon which I *would* spend real cash
Gmail & Google Docs
Gmail features c.7GB of storage With Google Docs providing an online, collaborative suite of office applications that are just a joy to use. Every time I reflect on the fact that I can use this for free, I count myself fortunate. Marvellous!
Super-quick synchronous Internet connection
We currently get broadband free from Orange as a benefit from my wife’s mobile phone contract. We pay an additional £5 per month to upgrade the speed from 2MB/s to 8MB/s. But that’s only the (theoretical) download speed. We get about 6MB/s download and 512KB/s upload.
I’d pay about £25/month for 20MB/s synchronous DSL and would even consider £50/month for 50MB/s. That really would mean ‘cloud computing’! 😉
Twitter is a micro social networking/blogging service with a 140-character limit. I’ve connected to even more people than I had done previously via blogs in the Edublogosphere. It’s real-time and very, very powerful. Some people call it their ‘PLN’ (Personal Learning Network). I’m not one of them. I just think it’s great. 😉
If, for example, Twitter charged the same amount for a year’s service as Flickr does (i.e. $25) I think it would be hugely profitable very quickly.
WordPress is the software that power this and, to be honest, most blogs on the Internet. It’s developed rapidly – mainly because it’s Open Source – and very flexible and powerful. If you don’t as yet have your own blog, I’d encourage you to sign up with Bluehost and install WordPress on your own domain via CPanel. You can, of course, just use WordPress.com…
Which software and digital services do YOU pay for? Why?
(image by Joshua Davis @ Flickr)