Tag: wiki (page 2 of 2)

Open Educational Resources infoKit

As this post goes live I’m at the Higher Education Academy Conference 2010. Last night I helped launch the OER infoKit on behalf of JISC infoNet which is something I’ve been working on ever since I started my new role at the beginning of April this year. ๐Ÿ™‚

The above video is simply a rolling demo (no sound), but I’d encourage you to visit the OER infoKit itself. If you’re involved in education, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something worthwhile in it! ๐Ÿ˜€

Short URL: http://bit.ly/oerinfokit

How I organize my Ed.D. thesis

Sticky notes

Introduction

I’ve been studying towards my Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) qualification for almost 6 years now. My PGCE (teacher training qualification) at Durham University was the equivalent of the first year of an MA in Education. I thought it a waste not to continue with that on a part-time basis whilst I was teaching.

When it came to write the dissertation for my MA it wasn’t the greatest period in my life. I was told by my MA supervisor that I had the grades required to transfer to the Ed.D. if I wanted. At first I couldn’t see her logic; if I wasn’t in a position to complete my MA how would I be in a position to move up to a doctorate?ย But then she explained. If I transferred, I’d be able to take higher-level modules the next academic year rather than having to churn out a dissertation that academic year. I’d always had at the back of my mind that I’d like to do a PhD and so this made sense!

Tool choice: wiki

All of a sudden, then, I was a doctoral student. I didn’t quite fall into it, but even so it was going to take a step-change in attitude and organization. Going to get my Durham University student card replaced I laughed at it’s new expiration date: July 2012. That seemed a very long way off!

Up until starting my Ed.D. I’d had a fairly ad-hoc way of organizing my academic work. After all, although I’d written 20,000 words for my MA in Modern History in 2003, I’d organized my notes chiefly on paper – using my chunky (although at the time, stylish) laptop merely to write. I could see that this approach was going to change. Thankfully, when in 2006 I wanted to change programme, blogs, wikis and podcasts had just become all the rage.

I’ve used a wiki and a blog with my Ed.D. from the start. After toying with various wikis courtesy of the comparison at wikimatrix.org I decided it was important that I owned my own data. In effect, I sacrificed a little bit of ease-of-use and prettiness for speed, functionality and full control of my data. Whilst services such as Wikispaces, PBwiki and Wetpaint would have done the job admirably, they didn’t quite fit the bill.

I came across TiddlyWiki via Lifehacker. It’s an extremely lightweight wiki designed primarily for personal use. There’s a learning curve in terms of the syntax used to create, for example, things in bold and italics but once you’ve got used to this it’s second-nature. The standard version of Tiddlywiki is merely an HTML file. The massive advantage of this is that you can put it anywhere and it ‘just works’. Put it on a USB flash drive and you can work on it from any machine; put it on your website and you can read it from anywhere.

Although you could download the HTML file, work on it, and then re-upload it, I found this a little clunky in practice. After all, I wasn’t always in a position to fire up an FTP client to do so. On top of that, sometimes I would forget and/or have multiple versions of my wiki. Looking around, I came across ccTiddly, a server-side implementation of TiddlyWiki. In layman’s terms this meant that, upon installing it on my webhost’s server, I could not only access it from anywhere, but edit it from anywhere. In addition, clicking on a link means I can take it all offline quickly-and-easily when I want to. ๐Ÿ™‚

Tool choice: blog

It’s amazing how quickly things change. At one time, the obvious choice for anyone creating an education-focused blog was Eduspaces. This aimed – and succeeded, to a degree – in creating a ‘community’ feel to blogs surrounding educational practice and research. You can still see the original blog I created there at eduspaces.net/dougbelshaw/weblog although when the owners announced it was shutting down, I transferred the posts first to teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk and ultimately to here, dougbelshaw.com/blog.

I enjoy the amount of control that WordPress, my blogging software of choice, gives me over what I do with my thesis. More recently, I decided that having a separate category for my thesis-related posts here wasn’t enough; I went ahead and created another blog at dougbelshaw.com/thesis. WordPress is easy to extend and customise through the use of themes and plugins. One extremely useful plugin is digress.it (formerly CommentPress) which allows commenters to easily comment on particular paragraphs in addition to the whole post. ๐Ÿ˜€

Tool choice: mindmap

After doing a great deal of reading on the ‘literacy’ aspect of digital literacy (the construct which I’m analysing in my thesis) I realised that I had no real idea how to start to put it all together. I needed a visual way to represent what I’d learned and to plan out what I was going to say. I looked at various options for mindmaps but found the online ones (such as Bubbl.us) a little clunky and the offline ones inflexible.

I was delighted, therefore, when I came across XMind. The beauty of XMind is that not only is it free and Open Source, but the offline program allows you to put your mindmap online in an embeddable, zoomable way. Perfect! You can view the mindmap I created for that digital literacy overview here.

Workflow

My studying, then, tends to go something like this:

  1. Skim-read article or chapter in book. Attempt to the main arguments to myself.
  2. Go back through article or chapter with sticky notes, adding them at quotable/important parts.
  3. Add relevant sections (highlighted with sticky notes) to my Ed.D. wiki, commenting on them as I go.
  4. Come up with idea for synthesis/analysis of what I’ve been studying.
  5. Create mindmap.
  6. Write section/blog post.

It seems to work fairly well for me, but I’m always looking to improve! Recently, I’ve stuck a pinboard to the wall next to my desk. It allows me to keep those important, but sometimes fleeting, ideas buzzing around.

How do you organise YOUR studies? :-p

(Image CC BY Tom Coates)

#eduhivefive (a suggestion).

This follows on a previous post r.e. the problem with (non-OSS) free stuff.

Image: ‘Bees

I’ll keep this short.

Lifehacker has a great regular thing calledย Hive Five for software/productivity recommendations. It goes like this:

  1. Question asked: ‘What’s the best x for y?’
  2. People respond.
  3. Five most mentioned in a positive way become ‘recommended’.

We shouldย totally do this for education. I’ve created a wiki atย http://eduhivefive.wikispaces.com in anticipation. :-p

Perhaps, given the demise of Etherpad, we could kick off with: “What’sย the best online tool for collaborative writing?” and useย #eduhivefive and #writing as hashtags?

Design the (e-)book cover for #movemeon!

I’m very pleased to see that other educators have run with the #movemeon idea I floated. There are now literally hundreds of tweets that have been tagged – you can view them in real-time here, or an archive here.

My favourite way of viewing them, is via visibletweets.com using the ‘rotation’ animation:

#movemeon viewed with visibletweets.com

Once we reach a significant number of tweets – I suggested 1,000 – then I’m going to collate them. Using the self-publishing serviceย Lulu.com there will be a freely-downloadable e-book along with a book purchasable at cost price. ๐Ÿ˜€

I’ve put together a wiki at http://movemeon.wikispaces.com to depersonalise things – it’s about the ideas and the collaboration, not me, after all! You’ll find the same links as I’ve given above over there.

We do, of course, need a cover for the book and so it’s time to crowdsource that. On the wiki is a page with a template to provide your contribution. You know you can do better than my feeble effort, provided to get things started:

#movemeon cover idea

Please do share this with as many people as possible. Not only would I like the book to look as good as it can, but I’d like to make sure that as many educators as possible can tap into the wealth of tips and ideas that have been shared. I’ve certainly learned a lot! ๐Ÿ˜€

Sign up for TeachMeet ETRU edition 09!

I’m delighted to announce on behalf of EdTechRoundUp that we’ll be having a (completely online) ‘TeachMeet’ on Sunday 6th December 2009. It’s called TeachMeet ETRU edition 09 and will hopefully be the first of many!

If you’re not too sure what a TeachMeet is, watch the excellent explanatory video by the BrainPOP team below:

Please do sign up to do a 7-minute ‘micro’ presentation, a 2-minute ‘nano’ presentation or to be an ‘enthusiastic lurker’. The idea is that we’ll be using Adobe Connect Pro for the TeachMeet. Presentations can be done live, but I for one will be pre-recording mine! ๐Ÿ™‚

I noticed that TeachMeet Falkirk had a QR code* to make life a bit easier for those publicising the event. Here’s one containing the URL of TeachMeet ETRU edition 09

qrcode

Finally, please remember to include the tag TMETRU09 when discussing the TeachMeet on Twitter, uploading Flickr photos, YouTube videos or blogging about it! ๐Ÿ˜€

* A QR code, for those who don’t know, is kind of a barcode that stores information – in this case the URL of the wiki page (more at Wikipedia). Try it by downloading the software from qrcode.kaywa.com.

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My presentation @ TeachMeet Midlands 2009

TeachMeet Midlands 2009

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

My (micro)presentation

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

Student feedback

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! ๐Ÿ˜€

Short URL for this post (for Twitter, etc.) = http://bit.ly/4jD6V

Buddha knows best, or why ‘digital literacy’ is so hard to pin down.

The more you try to pin down a concept, the more slippery it becomes. I’ve been collecting definitions of various terms relating to the topic of my thesis (‘Digital Literacies‘) on my wiki and have found almost as many definitions as there are authors. In fact, I’m considering beginning my thesis with this quotation from Buddha himself:

All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else. (Buddha)

Why is it, for example, that whilst everyone seems to know and understand what it means by good old-fashioned ‘literacy’, there is such confusion in the digital domain? Conceptions and definitions of ‘literacy’ in this regard range from the overly-simplistic:

[Digital literacy is] the ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide range of sources when it is presented via computers. (Gilster, 1997)

(what about iPods? TVs?), to the laughably complex:

Information literacy is not a fixed or static phenomenon; rather, it is a self-renewing panoply of capacities using critical thinking, metacognitive strategies, and, perhaps most important, creative abilities, dispositions, and native talents to foster self-motivation, to construct new knowledge, to build up expertise, and to acquire wisdom. (Center for Intellectual Property in the Digital Environment, 2005)

The trouble is that all the definitions I’ve come across capture something of the essence of the nebulous concept that is ‘digital literacy’. Perhaps the problem lies with the fact that we conceive standard literacy as being a state that is achieved, rather than an ongoing process? If this were the case, then it would be easier to define digital literacy as being something akin to the ability communicate effectively using contemporary digital tools. But even that is a bit wishy-washy. Hmmm, more work needed methinks… :-p

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Seminal blog posts

World mapIn the (large!) comments section of a recent post entitled The Map Is Not The Territory: the changing face of the edublogosphere it was suggested that we need a repository of seminal blog posts for those new (and not so new!) to the edublogosphere.

These are the posts that have provoked thinking and discussion in the edublogosphere – either in the comment section directly below the post and/or more widely on other blogs.

Professor Doctor JP Scott McLeod, a.k.a. all-round nice guy and fantastic blogger at Dangerously Irrelevant, has kindly put together a wiki page to collate the blog posts and articles that those new to the edublogosphere should have as required reading!

You can find the wiki page at:

http://movingforward.wikispaces.com/Blog+posts

Seminal blog posts wiki page

After Scott added the initial links, I’ve spent some time dating the posts and arranging them in reverse chronological order. If this idea takes off, I’d like to run a competition to design a blog sidebar badge for people to link to this page.

I don’t want to be dictatorial, but if you could please follow the following 3 simple guidelines, it will make life easier for all:

  • Don’t spam the wiki by adding lots of links to your own blog. That’s not cool at all.
  • If you don’t think a blog post should be included, use the strikethrough formatting feature and explain why.
  • Include only those that talk about pedagogically-oriented concepts and ideas, not just those that talk about cool ways to use Web 2.0 tools.

It would be great if some of the people who kindly left comments on the previous post could get involved in rectifying the situation! ๐Ÿ˜€

What do you think? Good idea or not?

7 ways to improve your productivity as a teacher

I’m fairly productive. Not outstandingly so, but reasonably. I try to pick up tips for improving my outputs from websites such as Lifehacker, amongst others. What follows is a brief rundown of seven tips for being more productive as a teacher. ๐Ÿ˜€

Read more →

EdTechRoundup needs your help with Google Apps UK!

Google Apps

EdTechRoundup, the fledgling educational technology podcast show with which I’m involved wants YOUR help! We’re going to be interviewing the Google Apps team in the UK soon.

If you could ask the Google Apps UK team anything, what would it be?

Responses either in the comments section below, or on the ETR wiki here please! ๐Ÿ™‚

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