Sunday, 5 December 2010

Who am I really and am I an on-line friend?

I may tell you that I am mid 50s, married, a teacher, mother of a houseful of grown up children, most of whom have children – so – a grandmother too, but am I who I claim to be?

You may tell me you are mid 30s, living with your partner, a teacher, interested in technology and I believe you!

Why?

Can on-line/ virtual friendships be taken seriously?

Can you possibly know who I am from what I choose to reveal about myself?

Can I possibly know you from our on-line conversations?

How can we know who is a friend?


I talk to you in an on-line situation, plan events, work alongside you, trust you as a friend – an on-line friend. I am happy to see you. I chat to you freely, sharing incidents, maybe some friendly local gossip, maybe family details. I have no fear.
I am comfortable and happy with that relationship.
Is it real?

You work in the same school as me. I see you every day.
I gather from conversations your wife’s name, your children’s names, the school they go to, the minutiae of daily life with young children.  The birthdays, the presents, the illnesses, days off, struggling to cope with child care...
I see your eyes during conversation. I see how you cope and deal with small children, colleagues and parents...
I feel that I know you, I share the daily hassles to cope with work, a family etc.. I consider you a friend.
One night you up-sticks move out of the family home and into the home of a lover.
Did I really know you?

I worked alongside you in real life, called upon you when I had problems with technology and you solved them. I was happy to see you arrive. I chatted to you happily, maybe gossiped about friends, mostly just friendly stuff but more likely current events, maybe family events. I had no fear. I considered you a friend.
Years later I heard you were in gaol – your crime was really not nice. I may have been the person on the receiving end... 

What is it to know a person? How can I know a person in physical life or in virtual life?
What an dilemma. I do and always have chosen to believe people are inherently good, friendly and for the most part trustworthy. I know for many money is an issue and they may not have paid for every last video they watch, song they listen to, or picture they use and that is not the sort of trustworthiness or honesty that I am talking about. It is the trust when someone is not under pressure, people in a natural, relaxed frame of mind such as most that we meet in an on-line or local social situation when I feel they should have no reason to fabricate their life.
Am I wrong?
I don’t think so.

Recently I have read with horror the plight of a friend – dare I say that? An on-line friend – can that really be though?
He has suffered dreadfully at the hands of someone whom he thought of as one of his on-line friends - one party deliberately wanting to hurt another – that is strange, abhorrent even to me who dreads accidentally hurting anyone let alone someone I consider a friend... How can anyone do that? It really upset me I was saddened, shocked, experienced pain, but can I really empathise with someone who is a virtual friend?



How can we know who we are talking to when we are on-line?

Part of every one of my e-safety courses is trying to answer the question “How can we know who we are talking to when we are on-line?” During the session delegates try to make a poster of three questions that we can give to pupils so that they can say yes – this is someone I can trust, it is a safe on-line friend, but we have never yet managed it.  We make a question  – think it is good, then comes the “Ah but...” moment. So the question fails. This happens over and over again with every group of people working on the exercise.



The question seems to be unanswerable.



Thinking about cyber bullying

I have happily set off on several journeys to meet my on-line friends and absolutely love them – more from having physically met them, than knowing them purely in the on-line world where they are still rather abstract.
Have they been genuine people?
Has what they have told me been true?
Probably! I have no reason to doubt it.
I don’t want to know private details of friends’ lives if they are on-line friends any more than if they are working in the same building as me all day every day, or I grew up with them and have known them all my life. We are all entitled to as much privacy in our lives as we require. We all choose what to share with others and what to keep hidden. So if I feel that all my friends – on-line or off, are friends, they are not deliberately lying to me, they are not pretending to be someone they are not, and that they are all simply delightful people is there an issue?

Clearly there is as the plight of one particular friend shows.

Is it anything to do with the on-line world? That is where the problem occurred.
What is it in the on-line world that makes such a difference?
Tone of voice – in the on-line world it is often not there as a hint of how seriously messages of being made – is that an issue?
Eye contact – in the on-line world it is missing – is that an issue?
Body language - in the real world distances, personal space, touch or lack of, these things may more easily help people to understand the social requirements of a situation - is the lack of that a contributor?
When physically with someone I  can see easily if words are upsetting someone – so I stop talking, back track, apologise, try to resolve the issue? Is not being able to see someone an issue?

Did someone set out deliberately to destroy someone else?
So maybe I should try going on-line and  deliberately set out to mislead another person, pretend I am 25, make up elaborate stories to hide my real family, age etc... nooo – could not keep that up and no interest in trying to deny who I am or my lovely family...
If I even say something innocently that gets misinterpreted – oh dear, full of apologies and explanations ... followed by a quiet embarrassed withdrawal...

So if someone did deliberately set out to deceive or destroy someone else is that a sign of illness? Is a cyberbully an ill person? If so how can we recognise the illness, deal with it? Support that ill person?

I have to go on trusting people are who they say they are, enjoying their company and all the rest. However – I know how hard it was to completely avoid one on-line “friend”  who decided I needed to be someone else and do things that I am not prepared to do to meet his demands, who told me I was a useless teacher because I did not jump through his hoops when evaluating my own work, he had access to me on MSN, Twitter, e-mail, in Second Life, through various Nings etc., it took ages to stop the contact and was an experience I really did not enjoy. Earlier this year I was at an on-line event and he was present – I was able to ignore him and enjoy the event without contact and without worry, but it did take a while! I am very lucky of course – I am strong and have a family who support me! I read another story yesterday about a teacher who had been bullied in school and it had destroyed her confidence so much so that she is locked away at home unable to work at the moment.

Can I honestly carry on teaching about e-safety and cyber bullying when all I have are questions? I have to! We all have to pull together to stop cyberbullying – any sort of bullying – it destroys lives and what possible satisfaction can come from that? We must try to recognise spark points, reasons, illness involved and create more and better support for all involved.

Friday, 3 December 2010

EduBlog Awards Nominations 2010

Well  - here we are at the last second, I am with a friend, sat in Second Life, trying to think of all the wonderful blogs I read regularly and can't think of them.... ooohhh should have started earlier!

 EduBlog Awards Nominations 2010 

I am sure there should be more - but this is it for me - if I have left you out - I am sorry please don't take it personally!

Best individual blog  E-moderation Station http://www.emoderationskills.com/  An enjoyable introduction to many technological terms, explained really clearly – good for use with teachers new to ICT!

Best New Blog http://emmaherrod.com/category/blog/ A great new blog full of interesting teaching ideas.


Best individual tweeter @eyebeams – keeps me up to date with educational and technological events in the UK!


Best group blog http://digitalplay.info/blog/ - Kyle and Graham give lots of ideas for using games to learn! I frequently share their ideas with Oxfordshire schools.

Best resource sharing blog - http://www.freetech4teachers.com/ Loads of wonderful tools for teachers are reviewed and shared on this blog, again I often share the ideas with Oxfordshire teachers.

Most influential blog post - http://slife.dudeney.com/?p=665 - Bullied, Blackmailed, Defamed, Threatened…The shock of the year! A salutary warning to all of us how vulnerable we are in cyberspace. We really do not know who we are talking to all of the time. That this can happen to such a lovely person is beyond belief.

Most influential tweet / series of tweets / tweet based discussion #UKedchat a weekly discussion on various aspects of education. http://ukedchat.wikispaces.com/

Best teacher blog Dawn Halleybone http://hallyd.edublogs.org/tag/wii/ Dawn shared her games based learning ideas – a gift to all educators:-)

Best educational tech support blog http://nikpeachey.blogspot.com/ loads of lovely web 2.0 ideas offered here ;-)

Best educational use of video / visual http://www.teachertrainingvideos.com/  This is a great resource for all teachers whenever they are trying to work out how Web 2. tools work!

Best educational use of a virtual world #SLanguages 2010 http://www.slanguages.net/archive2010.php

Best use of a PLN Shelly Terrell - #EdTech http://edchat.pbworks.com/w/page/219908/FrontPage

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Tom

Well we have Tom living with us now. He is another rescue dog, an adolescent male, very puppyish still but rather large! He has a huge head and feet but is still quite skinny having suffered a lot from stress in the kennel.

He loves running and runs like the wind, he has chased the turkey and hens, not to hurt them, just because it is fun. He loves chasing a ball. He loves people, dogs and children and will make a lovely pet as we get him a little better mannered, at the moment he is rather too boisterous and would love to be a lapdog taking advantage of cuddling up to and trying to get onto people’s laps when they are seated. He thinks all day is playtime and that everyone is going to play with him! He loves men and as soon as my husband or sons come in the house it is instant play!



I have got through so many clothes this week (working at home as it is half term) as he rushes in from the garden and throws himself at me – when standing on his back legs his paws reach my shoulders so he leaves muddy paw prints all down me :-)


At the moment he is totally bemused when I talk to people on Skype or in Second Life, he thinks that I can only be talking to him as no-one else is around, then tries to get on my lap!




We have one smallish problem – he is afraid of small spaces! I can’t get him to use the dog flaps in the back door and conservatory to get in and out of the garden! As he wants to run all day I have had the doors open all week and it is getting cold here. I have tried all sorts so far – even as far as putting a pork pie on one side to encourage him through – after half an hour of trying to coax, persuade etc., I went and started work leaving him outside hoping he may pluck up courage but Dexy dog went and ate the pork pie - #fail!
So every time he goes in and out and I am with him I open the flaps and get him to go through but for how long  I have to do this is anyone’s guess ;-) It could be a long cold winter in this house!


Happy Rezzday Gizmo and Karelia

Well what a party! It was a complete and happy coincidence that these two wonderful friends joined Second Life on the same day which three years on led to a party and a half! We started by looking at some of the amazing art of Solkide Auer and moved around some of Karelia and Gizmo’s favourite places in Second Life including Lynto Land at the Cross Worlds gallery, Arcachon, Aeonia , Costa Rica, Santiago, Tall Trees and quite possibly more :-)



We met on Learn 4 Life with champagne and merry making along the wonderful reproduction by Solkide of an Escher art work. When the group had gathered we moved on to Aeonia and progressed gradually down the list of places to visit, staying rather than longer at some than intended so by the time the group got back to Edunation for the disco I was not there to take photos.




One of the funniest episodes that I have ever seen in Second Life took place on the Costa Rica sand where after everyone wearing the Baywatch gesture and running in sync across the sand one of the wonderful men in the party, Div, a rather cuddly individual, changed into a Pamela type of bathing suit. That started the laughing…
Next he wrapped himself around Claudio with a huge hug before leaping into his arms. It was just so funny, we had only just finished wiping the tears away and Div had dressed as himself again when Claudio turned into a stereotypical Russian doll type of figure and returned all of the compliments…

For more of the fun photos see the set at http://www.flickr.com/photos/24572238@N02/sets/72157625147493713/


As it was close to Halloween there was a lot of festivity already happening around Second Life and the group were made welcome in the fun everywhere. What a great way to spend an evening!


Flickr set http://www.flickr.com/photos/24572238@N02/sets/72157625147493713/

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Burning Life 2010

Burn 2
http://www.burn2.org/

Second Life’s Burning Life has always been a favourite few days of mine in-world and I thought it was over, finished, not happening again. Earlier this week  ( have been trying to write this paragraph for four days or more) out of the blue a friend TP’s me over to the new Burn 2 islands and I was instantly captivated again!



From the Burning Man website -
“In 1999, Philip Linden went to Burning Man, and came back with new ideas for the virtual world he was planning. Among them was the idea that humans abhor a blank canvas and will compulsively create form to fill void. They will provide their own content and entertainment and create a whole city (or world) when they are given permission and tools to do so.”

Phillip built Second Life and gave the resident the tools to create. Since then they have created a wonderful, artistic world. It is akin to what happens every year at Burning Man in the Nevada Desert when the real-world city of 50,000, is built by its citizens, who transport everything into the desert to build the community. Similar to Burning Man in Burning Life or the newly named Burn 2 there is a vast virtual desert covering six sims and made available to the residents of Second Life where they can go and build works of art, theme camps, art cars, music, performance, and there are usually several copies of the "Man." They have their work on display and being shared by the crowds for a few days but then cleared away with  the “land” being restored to its original condition.
From the website:

"This year's theme is "Metropolis - Civilization in the Desert." Exploration and expression of the urban reality in the style of Burning Man, where materials are trucked into the desert to build a temporary city that then disappears, leaving no trace."





The promo video is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpitbiJq_lI and is well worth watching - it gives an overview of the whole thing.

I had not realized that a new event, BURN 2, was being run by a private community and is designed to be completely self supporting. I have been ignoring notecards, I realize that now ;-( There are simply not enough hours in the day to do all that I want to do and reading notecards that I did not realize the significance of went on the backburner :-)


My first visit, teleported by an avatar friend, Graham Mills, landed me in a circus area and The Stilts Bitches build with free costumes, stilts, unicycles etc.  It was wonderful and the result of very clever scripting, costume making and building work. Very enjoyable and quite mad :-) I can’t wait to go back. I really admire people who can create these wonderful artistic builds and write the scripts to make things happen, it is very clever!


There are so many very clever builds it is hard to choose photos to put on the blog. There are many more on Flickr and I will be adding to them through the next few days. http://www.flickr.com/photos/24572238@N02/sets/72157625225097522/.

See the two of us there enjoying the circus facilities:

Friday, 22 October 2010

Nemo 11

It is very sad to hear that another build is leaving Second Life. Apparently Nemo 11, the stunning steampunk village and more is on its way out leaving on October 30th.


Nemo’s profile description is: "Nemo is one of the most beautiful  and detailed SIM in SL featuring  the Steampunk submarine city (Nemo's workshop, the tesla room), Northelia the steampunk Village, Alnitak the flying City ( the house of mirrors, the Air Museum) and much more!"


According to Wikipedia Steampunk is:
“Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s.[1] Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain—that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc.”


For a video clip explaining the layout and more of the whole site visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTtecn2kPpg&p=D1F52E6280264930&playnext=1&index=65, again it is well worth watching! Another video clip can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXcQVgnOP1Q I guess it is just so successful people like it and can use it for machinima and story telling.  I don't know why he is leaving but is seems very sad to me, there are hours and hours of building involved in the sim.



It is easy to see from the photographs that this build is exactly that and very good quality, absolutely fascinating in all that it has to offer. It is so detailed, every bit of metal has a texture including rust spots, there is grass growing up through the road, the steam is dirty grey – it is so clever!


There is a small selection of pictures on Flickr, go to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24572238@N02/sets/72157625219777268/

Sunday, 17 October 2010

SLanguages 2010

 SLanguages 2010 is over, I have had a few hours sleep and cleaned the house so in a good place to be :-) I have uploaded my conference photos to Flickr and decided that I can at least start to write before family arrive, though I may not finish it this morning.

It was a very enjoyable conference and even though I am not a part of the language teaching world many sessions about teaching in-world are pertinent to my role so there is lots of useful stuff to listen to, particularly the endless debates about if /whether / why teaching in a virtual world is good, bad or just plain ugly. There is lots of interesting discussion between people who have tried it in various ways and have differing opinions whereas often instigating such a conversation outside of such a conference will meet utter disbelief and often non-interest.


 Particularly impressive were the couple of sessions that I saw that focused on real teaching in SL. One, about making machinima so that students practiced the target language repetitively whilst writing and refining, the practicing and filming a script looked hugely successful but Anna Begonia and Gizmo Latte also highlighted problems of non-attendance, people joining and dropping out frequently and un-developed relationships. It was clearly not all plain sailing.

I loved Baal, the Brecht play performed by German Students, it was quite brilliant and clearly showed how the focus brought the dispersed group of language students together working toward a common purpose and created an impetus which kept them going. I just wonder, now, if the anticlimax could work against the learning experience. It will be interesting to follow up. I wish I had understood it a bit more, but everyone knows that I struggle with English never mind German but I got the gist I think :-) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4VQtLM_8zI 


My favourite tour was the Macbeth visit. I have been there lots of times alone and had a good look around most of it but the explanation from someone who knows the layout made it very much better. Thanks go to Barbara Sakamoto or avi Lynn Carlucci for the tour. I have been in the blood room, or red room or whatever they call it loads of times, but never wearing the hud before. This time when I arrived with the tour I was fighting ghosts – great scripting! I must visit the wiki and read more about it and visit again trying to work out the maze for myself this time  I have been stuck there so many times before and teleported out thus missing the last room where one loses their head! An interesting thing now though, is that every time I visit the Mega Temple I am missing my head! Something there triggers the script that must be in my cache!

As usual I did a short sound workshop. I really enjoyed it and the people managed to achieve far more than I expected in the hour. I think I must have dramatically improved my teaching technique in Second Life since I did my first one a couple of years ago. I can imagine a whole host of avis saying 'Well thank goodness for that.' :-)



Fun Moments


The holodecks that were built by Randall Salder avi Randall Renoir, the forest scene and Mega Temple were lovely, but on one rather momentous occasion in the opening plenary just as we had about 80 people on the sim with all of the stresses and strain that puts on the server, someone from the floor asked if we could all hear and an audience avatar replied in text “loud and clear,” clear being the operational word to end the holodeck simulation so we were all thrown out of our seats as the temple disappeared. Usually rezzing it again is a few seconds task, but with the crowd it was a few very hopeful minutes :-)

Everyone involved will know that Gavin Dudeney started the SLanguages conference but it is a huge task and the workload rather too much for one or two people so this year a committee was formed to take it forward and run it in the future.  Gavin was the founder, so in the style of that wonderful British institution The Proms – where a bust of the founder Henry Wood is honoured each year with a laurel wreath – well you can see where this is going…

Heike Philps  avi Gwen Gwasi  decided that a bust should be presented to Gavin so the search for a good, sculpty bust-maker started. We toured classical sims with IMs “Come and see this one”… poor sim owners must have wondered what on earth was going on as stray avatars flew in examined their architecture for busts then moved out never to be seen again, but the search paid off and a maker was found. Gwen e-mailed me saying send any photos of Dudeney, Gavin’s avatar, and another search began.  I went through years of SL photos to find his little avatar, they all seemed to be stuck on or in a beanbag,  hidden by leaves, other people, instant messages, text chat and more. Between us Heike and myself gathered what we had but the artist needed more.  Gwen decided a video board needed moving so I said “Okay I will come and do that” but was met with a “Don’t you dare! I will ask Gavin if he will come in world and do it so that we can get photographs.” So dozens of photos were taken from every angle, the bust was created and a presentation was made. The instant guffaw from Gavin as he saw it said far more than words ever could have done and he was very nearly speechless, though of course that is never going to happen! Good fun!



Slanguages is the only virtual conference where I do actually stay the course and do the 24 hours, often I can’t be bothered and choose just a few sessions so missing out on the whole conference-like immersion which is a pity because that is the magic of a conference wherever it is.


Many thanks from me to the organizing committee – I think I may be on it, but never did anything (sorry folks) they did an amazing job, Heike, Gary (Motteram), Graham (Stanley), Randall and many more totaling 43 people apparently, thanks to their planning it ran very smoothly and worked brilliantly. I was quite pleased to be involved in the last four days though – think I have won a new title – PA to Gwen Gwasi – an SL job - yay!!

For photographs of the event visit these links and I will add more as I spot them:
My Flickr SLanguages set http://www.flickr.com/photos/24572238@N02/sets/72157625047300627/
Graham Stanley’s Flickr SLanguages set
http://www.flickr.com/photos/grahamstanley/sets/72157625055674405/with/5088434295/
The post event party http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DM_b0R3VU5A

I am sure that later today there will be an address where we can all see any sessions that we missed on video, as soon as I know that I will add it here.

SLang10 - The Summary http://www.virtual-round-table.com/profiles/blogs/slanguages-2010-summary

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Ben

The loveliest most faithful friend of the last eleven years, Ben, died in my arms this afternoon so I am feeling a bit sad! Ben is the creamy coloured dog, rescued at 11 months old and a beautiful family pet ever since. As with all dogs when he first arrived and we didn't know him we were not sure how he would be with children. I phoned a neice who was coming to stay and told her we had a new dog, she arrived and we could see it was instant love. Ben adored children - right until the day he died, which was rather sudden certainly unexpected up until the end of last week even yesterday we were not prepared for this outcome.


 Playing with Dexter, another rescue dog and rather elderly gent!

Playing with Dexter again - most of our lives seems to be playing with dogs :-)

In the snow - playing again!


Favourite pastime - Ben would get into anyone's car! There are three of them in here setting off for a walk in the woods!
Such lovely memories from a lovely dog - the house seems empty at the moment, Dexter is still looking for him :-(

Friday, 1 October 2010

Fotobabble

I love this little tool but it is only for over 13s! That is very sad. I can imagine all sorts of use of it for pupils from Foundation Stage upwards. To try it out visit http://www.fotobabble.com/ - leave a message to try to persuade them to open up an Educational version for schools :-)




Post Script - Yay I have just heard form Fotobabble :-)

Quote: You can absolutely allow students to log in from multiple computers with your log-in information while they're supervised at school.  You can also be sure to go into your profile and change your default setting to "private" Fotobabbles.  This way nothing your students create is searchable or appears on the main FB site.  Does any of this help?  If students want to use Fotobabble at home, all they need is a parent to create a log in and agree to supervise their child's use of the site.  They'll never encounter anything extremely profane on Fotobabble, but nevertheless, parents can keep an eye on what their children are viewing online. 

So - teachers can now log in, allow students to create Fotobabbles and the embed code makes it easy to embed the finished work in the Learning Platform, on a blog etc. I am going to write embedding instuctions for KLP users later today - drop me a message if you want a copy... guess you will know where to find me :-)

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Should Schools use a County VLE / Learning Platform or Go it Alone?

I had a discussion this week with a couple of people on Twitter who thought that using a free Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) provided by Google, their own Moodle, or similar, was good for their schools, they were saying “One size does not fit all.” That is a fair comment but I fail to see that the county provided platform which includes a Learning Platform (LP) and VLE, e-portfolios and personal space does not provide a huge freedom to pick and choose which elements the school needs!

I have a couple of schools who started using it just for staff, so we built a staffroom, a document library to host all of their planning etc, a discussion forum where they can all discuss whatever subject they like and a place that they call a day book – notification of what is going on by the day. Those schools are just beginning to build class spaces now, the teachers having realized the usefulness.

I have other schools that have said the staff systems area all up and running, we want it for pupils. So we have built pupils class spaces. Class spaces include discussions, blogs, wikis, places to put topic web links, fun web links, embed games, embed video, put news, put RSS feeds to Newsround for the older children, put photo albums that children can see in a huge Windows slideshow, a Cool Iris wall or just inspect picture by picture by click on the thumbnails. With many teachers we have embedded whole web pages, imagine very small children trying to navigate to a chosen story in CBeebies – not necessary, just embed it in their area. All of the frequently used Web 2.0 pages can be embedded into the LP. Wallwisher, Wordle, Voice Thread etc – just sit either as an embedded item or as an embedded page very easily, navigation for youngsters is easier at least!!

Yet other schools just want a VLE – they want to offer courses, tests, surveys, they want work marked and graded, marks and feedback given to pupils automatically – they can do that!

Primary schools like the Quick Assignments better, they can take content from the provided content packs or their own resources, allocate it to a class, the VLE provides a mark book to track who has open the file, done some of the work, handed it back in etc.

Governors, in my experience have embraced the LP as a place to store, share and provide for the committees, each having their own document libraries, a shared calendar and as many discussions as they can manage.

PTAs and similar parent groups enjoy having a space to share posters and information about coming events, a place to share photo albums, a shared calendar for meetings…

There is so much that can be done it is hard to see why a school would not adopt it!

I was told that it is not intuitive – it largely depends on how it has been set up and the support given. I worked in a school yesterday where the new ICTC had come from out of county so never seen our chosen platform before but having worked through it she is delighted! She is planning now to scrap the school’s external website, develop the top level area and make that public!

I was told, in the Twitter discussion that there are no disadvantages to going alone, and then asked what they were!

  • Support and training, we can only support one LP for the county, it is impossible to do all of the same stuff for several systems for nearly 300 primary schools with 3 people. Whatever we develop we develop for all and share with all. We can make all resources available to all schools and give everyone access. The other county teams – e.g. the Strategy teams, the Inclusion teams, MFL, ASSET and more, all share their resources through the LP.
  • If you want to do a cross- school project such as a transition project at the moment it is easy – all partnerships have a partnership area that they all have access to and can be built as they want it to be, it could have subject areas for coordinators, a heads’ area, deputies’ areas, pupil areas and so on.
  • There may be no-one left to run your own personally developed system when you leave! The answer to this was that the person I was talking to had no plans to leave – I will remind him one day when he goes off to be a deputy or head somewhere else in county!! But this is the most serious issue I think, just this summer in one of my schools that was using the LP very effectively the head was offered a post in a bigger primary school, the ICTC was offered a deputyship in another school. Both were better posts, progression along the continuum so they went. Suddenly from being very strong, with lots of support there is only one teacher there who really understand the management etc., who can pull them through whilst the new staff get their heads around the LP, and she is pregnant, due to go on maternity leave before Christmas. Does that sound like a problem? It would be if they were using a different system – as it is we can offer training, I have spent a day there this week – we have screen casts, easy guides, update training sessions, constant e-mail support, they can even phone me and I can log in to sort out a problem or tell them how to sort out whatever the issue is. Before the first month of the school year is up they are enabled to move forward without many hiccoughs. If that was another platform we could not move in and provide that support.
  • Parents can access their pupils data held on the county MIS so as far as we can, certainly as far as I understand, we meet all of the current Freedom of Information Act needs and Data Protection issues and needs.
  • The last thing that I can think of – and more thoughts may come later, it has been on my mind a lot since the conversations – Security! The LP that we use is secure. It is backed up regularly. We can make bits of it public and bits of it private, everything is permissions driven down to the last bit of paper in a document library or discussion on the discussion forum. Apparently though other well known providers where one can build their own learning platform, pupils can keep their accounts forever and more do not meet even the most general of security agreements and could in fact be hosted on open servers in third world countries…. User Beware seems to be the message on a lot of these – even Google Docs that I use all the time http://www.legalandrew.com/2007/09/24/warning-google-docs-is-not-safe/ may not be secure, which is fine for me as an adult I can choose the info that I am happy to be seen in public if it does ever escape but we have the right to protect children from possible data escape. Children are building their e-porfolios, they can add images and private data even though we spend our whole lives as adults telling them not to – we have a responsibility to keep them safe!

It was a very interesting discussion. Had it not been at midnight we may have carried on and got more people involved. It may be a good question for #ukewdchat on Twitter one week!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Skype in the Classroom

Skype™ is a free software program that, when installed on your computer, works with your Internet connection to turn your computer into an Internet phone. It allows you to make Skype-to-Skype (IP to IP) calls to anyone in the world at any time for FREE. Download it from http://www.skype.com .

Skype, over the last few years, seems to have become a verb, it is one that I use at home, but have not used much in schools. I regularly have Skype chats with friends or colleagues, "Skype me" is quite a regular and well used saying.

Lately our old VC client in Oxfordshire is not holding up so well and I have been wondering if Skype could be used in schools to replace it. In Oxfordshire I think most of our video conferencing, especially in primary school, has been linking with experts at the Maritime Museum, National History Museum etc. and I have seen some fantastic teaching by specialists pretending to be famous people, dressed in costume and explaining, demonstrating, sharing artifacts and more with pupils. I have been aware of it being used for language teaching, but not so much for learning about children around the world. This is a field that fascinates me – schools without walls, flat Earth, global school and I am sure that I have seen projects with all of those names. I am starting to get together examples of how teachers are using Skype and the projects that they are doing – there are some very interesting ones!

Video recording of pupils

http://vimeo.com/9917988 Around the World with 80 Schools by Martin J Gottlieb Day School
http://vimeo.com/12206352 Students from Martin J. Gottlieb Day School and Jenkintown, Pennsylvania recite and read poems to each other.

Small Projects

http://iditarodblogs.com/teachers/2010/04/21/21st-century-skills-skype-project-in-pa-wins-award/ tells of a class project to learn all about the Alaskan Iditarod – and so lacking is my education I had to look up what that was before I understood what the children had achieved ;-)

http://pdsblogs.org/mattscully/2009/05/06/skype-and-tell/ Skype and Tell – “Two kindergarten teachers in Charlotte, NC are now connecting with another kindergarten teacher from in Raleigh, NC to allow their students to share their show and tell. The students eagerly come to the computer and share the clues about their secret item tucked into their little brown paper bags. Their peers watching and listening on the smartboards in both classrooms ask questions like “what letter does it start with?” or “does it rhyme with wagon?”. Once they narrow it down, one student will approach the computer and triumphantly announce the answer. Both classrooms erupt with applause.” Just a small clip from Matt Scully's blog post.

Huge Projects

http://langwitches.wikispaces.com/Around+The+World+With+Skype  The English version of this video gives loads of ideas for getting started with Skype and there are lots of links on the page too. This video also reminds people to check the time zones of schools that you want to talk with, it is no good arranging a session that is 2pm here and midnight in your target school! This video clip goes into great detail about the whole Skype/ school meeting event with lots of helpful details.

World Class Schools http://worldclassschools.00politics.com/ is a website where one can sign up one’s own school and arrange to meet other schools around the world…
“In addition to providing innovative, cutting-edge projects, World Class Schools is bringing technology to change the future of how we learn. The future is in communication and the students who learn this lesson will be successful in life. By keeping schools in touch with each other all over the world, World Class Schools helps to provide enriched curriculum enhancement augmentation programs for any high school.”

http://www.markwoodexplorer.com/2010/05/global-schools-project-%E2%80%93-newsletter-update/
“Adventurer and polar explorer Mark Wood is aiming to attempt the toughest journey on the planet by skiing solo, unsupported and unaided to the Geographic North and the Geographic South Poles.” On route Mark has managed to get sponsorship to set up electricity as well as computer networks for all to benefit from.
He says “On expeditions I connect with schools, universities and businesses around the world.
Relaying day to day films, blogs, podcasts and live links I hope to give people real insight into how and why our world is changing.”

Other Useful Links

50 awesome ways to use Skype in the classroom http://www.teachingdegree.org/2009/06/30/50-awesome-ways-to-use-skype-in-the-classroom/ many of the ideas have examples to read about, in fact had I found this first I need not have bothered, it is very useful :-)

A Skype lesson plan for secondary school https://wiki.itap.purdue.edu/display/INSITE/Skype+Lesson+Plan+for+Secondary+School

People looking to Skype in school http://skypeinschools.pbworks.com/Want-Ads

The Skype educator’s phonebook http://skypeintheclassroom.wordpress.com/

Many of these and more seem to have been pulled together in http://livebinders.com/play/present?id=25372

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Sri Lanka

 Sri Lanka is a small island with the most amazing variety of different landscapes imaginable. The flat, dry grasslands of the National parks provide a home to elephants, leopards, lizards and some 400 species of birds. They give way to the wetlands with its lush green vegetation and rainforest jungle from which rise mountains consisting of wonderful waterfalls and tea plantations. Wide rivers edged by all sorts of palms, hardwood and acacia trees open out into mangrove swamps and provide home to the fish eagle, cormorants and loads of other birds. Prawn farms are set up along the rivers with huts for the night guards who are there to protect the catch. Fishing lines, nets and fishermen in canoes can be seen all along the rivers with their catch for sale outside their homes just a few minutes later.

Tropical fruits, pineapples, papaya, mangoes, ramutan, jack and durian fruits grow on the lower lands with tea, carrots, turnips and potatoes on the higher land. King coconuts are a main crop, very important to the Sinhalese people, once harvested they are husked by poor people who get paid about 2 pence per coconut for this very hard work! The fibres in the husks are then used to make coir mats, ropes etc., the king coconut itself is what we get desiccated coconut from, the leaves are usually plaited for roofs and mats whilst the stems of the leaves are used to make brooms.

We visited the botanical gardens to see some amazing trees, there is a weeping fig which apparently can give shade to 1500 school children though we were not there when they counted!  Banyan trees with loads of trunks that leave spaces that enable other trees to grow up the middle of them are really interesting. The whole country seems to be decorated with beautiful orchids, lilies various colourful creepers and the national flowers, mahanel, are plucked from rivers and waterways to make necklaces for the women (I was so sad when the young man taking us on a river trip did one for me – would have preferred it to stay in the water :-( but it is considered an honour to present visitors with one!)

The country is recovering slowly from the war, some 16% of the people there are very poor, scraping a living from selling the coconuts or bananas that grow where they live, often with a wooden stall or on a mat in front of their wattle and daub homes. Once people have squatted in their home for twenty years and one day they can apply for ownership.

Towns and villages
We drove through busy village streets with shops jammed together in every space, some wooden constructions, some tin huts, some cobbled together from all sorts including bits of plastic sheeting and held down with bungies. The shops were the most unlikely mixture, a bridal shop next to a cement shop which was sharing cement dust with the ice cream shop next door. Used tyres, alloy wheels (second hand imported from Japan) used domestic machines, car spares (second hand) single bunches of king coconuts, clothes plastic toys such as swimming aids, bats and balls, Christmas type of reindeer and awful naked pink dolls were some of the offerings that these lovely people were hoping to sell. In the towns the shops tend to be gathered together by type. We went into a clothing arcade, fruit, fish and meat markets, down roads selling all hardware, all bags, luggage etc., or all jewellery.

Despite the fact that many people are quite poor most of the women dress beautifully and look really lovely all of the time. We talked to ladies selling saris in a silk factory who thought that the average Sinhalese lady would have about 30 saris.  Every village has its religious shrine or shrines, Buddah sits in beautifully painted splendor in every village, often there are Hindu shrines and Christian shrines nearby. These are bedecked in flowers and candles most of the time, even when the houses in the road are a series of tumble down shacks that have never seen a coat of paint.  The shrines and / or temples which are often far better than the homes that some of the villagers live in. People spend much of their free time at the temple, lighting candles, making offerings, in prayers, chatting to friends, they can be quite social gatherings. There are many historical temples and shrines that are quite wonderful to visit. We went to the cave temples at Dambulla and the ruins of the temples at Polonnaruwa.



Animals 
Dogs roam everywhere, they are totally street-wise animals who will move from the road after being hooted at and watch the traffic every bit as carefully as the pedestrians. At one time there was a programme whereby stray dogs were taken to the pound, the owners were contacted, strays not claimed after 30 days were offered to good homes after that they were put down. Buddhist clergy though did not approve so now the dogs are left to roam and scavenge every bit of food etc. they can.   Monkeys are everywhere on the island, to me are wonderful, mischievous, playful and very entertaining. I really enjoyed watching their antics but at the rainforest hotel some people were frightened of them and sending for staff members to move them on before they would come out of their chalets. We were told of times when monkeys modeled bikinis so we made sure our swimming kit was tied firmly to the rails, the most we saw was them playing in groups, youngsters chasing each other and gamboling down banks – occasionally tipping out the bins to scavenge left over food.  At another hotel breakfast buffet we watched a family gather rolls butter etc, then go back to fetch their main course, whilst they were gone the monkeys came down and cleared their plates. The family looked totally puzzled on their return, looking suspiciously at the waiters, who, of course, did not have a clue what had occurred! Crows did similar antics at another hotel but specialized in pinching the little bags of sugar put in a bowl on each table. Chipmunks provided endless amusement, watching their antics racing up and down trees, drinking out of glasses and taking food from one’s hand, they provided many a video or photograph opportunity.  As we drove round Habarana, the dry area more or less central, we saw a “Tusker” an elephant about 12 years old wandering freely, in fact he crossed the road in front of the bus. That was a quite wonderful moment; we were told it was a one in a million chance. The guide and bus driver were as enthralled as the holiday makers. We walked along a waterway following a water monitor lizard, apparently if they get cross with people on land one swish of their tails will cut the flesh off one’s leg, he obviously did not like us following him and sunk to hide below the water. We moved up to the other side of a bridge was looked back. After a few minutes he rose and carried on his journey, as he came under the bridge we were able to photograph him.   We had to stop the coach for a land monitor lizard that was blocking the path. Seeing these amazing animals in their natural habitat is great – an experience in itself! During the holiday we went on several very long river trips and ended up watching dozens of the water monitors.  On safari seeing elephants, crocodiles, huge lizards, mongooses, jackals, pelicans, storks, kingfishers and monkeys was lovely. The animals were obviously unmoved by the approach of the jeeps which visit them daily as they go down the drink in the late afternoon. It was fascinating to watch the female elephants hiding the baby in their midst. We only caught a glimpse of it being shuffled between the females.  Probably the only disappointment was the elephant orphanage at Pinnawela. At first I was entranced at seeing the elephants in the water, it soon became clear it was little but commercial exploitation of the poor animals that had suffered at the hands of man. Bullet wounds in the legs of some, a foot missing from one who stepped on a land mine – that these animals need looking after seems feasible until you go on safari and realize there are more of the same living freely in the wild. The “poo paper” factory – the completion of the visit to the orphanage where they sell paper products, Christmas cards, calendars etc made from elephant dung put the finishing touch to the day.

 Children  
I was fascinated by the school children – all wearing white, state provided uniforms, the ties worn by each child denoted the school that they were at and the girls had long hair worn uniformly in two long plaits and tied with matching ribbons at the bottom. To keep these uniforms clean would be hard enough in the UK but many of these children live in houses with no running water and their clothes are washed in the river – I was told the answer was “rubbing with blue” and one would have to be at least as old as me to understand that :-) School starts at 7am and finishes at 1pm but many pupils take extra classes in the afternoon and evening and we saw lots of them, still in uniform in almost every place we visited in the evening. The children visit all of the temples, shrines and cultural centers; I don’t think we visited any of them without seeing the white clad crocodiles.

The Hotels 
We arrived in Colombo very late in the evening after an 18 hour journey, had dinner, a swim and sat by the pool having a drink. A man carried a laptop over to another table and sat down clearly working. Being me – could not resist – went and asked him if wifi was available and how much it cost etc. He told me it was not available where he was but if I went and stood in a specific spot it was fine – and it was free to me! It turned out that I was talking to the manager and his office was close to where he told me to stand. I contacted home and told them we had arrived etc. So far so good!  We moved on to Kandy, visited the temple and took part in a festival – that was an interesting experience, not bad, but different and in a way quite exciting. We attended a cultural concert of Kandyan dancing – the costumes were amazing representing cobras and peacocks amongst others with brightly coloured face masks and all accompanied by intricate rhythmic drumming. We were in the equivalent of the Royal Albert Hall in the capital – the swallows nesting in the eves were making nearly as much noise as the drummers and dive bombing the audience all through the concert. As we exited the swallows were replaced by huge fruit bats by the hundred. From Kandy we visited Polonnaruwa where we investigated lots of ancient temple ruins.  Once again at the hotel I asked about wifi and was told yes they had it but it wasn’t working. In the next hotel my query was met with a huge guffaw and the following one, on the top of a mountain in a tea plantation they had heard of it, they thought they knew what it was…   In the final hotel where we spent the last six days I asked and was told, yes we have a business suite – 2 internet linked for about 400 rooms ;-).

I tried to explain that I wanted wifi access, yes I could buy it for an hour. Could I buy it for 10 hours to be used over several days like I had found in Colombo? Hmm – not sure can you come back tomorrow? So when I got back they said the right person was not working – come back tomorrow – on the third day the answer was no but they would give me a cable link in my room… no I want to link my phone… so that I can talk to my family…. Never mind I will buy hour long tickets as I need them!

Travel 
Travelling by road in Sri Lanka is not for the nervous. Tuk tuks, brightly patterned lorries, cars, bicycles and motorcycles drive alongside ox carts and share the roads with dogs, goat and cows. Overtaking, undertaking is all normal and if there is a space big enough for one’s vehicle then it is fine to put said vehicle in it. Overtaking on blind bends is good so long as you have give the little toot on the horn as a warning. Wide yellow zebra crossings are places where the pedestrian takes their lives in their hands if they really need to cross… traffic giving way is by no means guaranteed.  We took several tuk tuk rides and most of the young drivers were delightful. We had one though – when we gave him our destination address took us straight to a gem factory. We said no – we were not going in – he knew where we wanted to go. Next he took us to a family shop – no! He did himself out of his tip!

We had a mad impulse to see the country by train. Having flown into the airport near Colombo and spent just one night there we thought we had not seen enough of it. We decided a slow train journey would give us opportunities to see a different aspect of the country, take photos etc., we could spend the day in town and make our way back to the hotel for dinner. What a stupid thing to do! We boarded the slow train and had to stand, it was already quite full. Each station more and more people got on the train and squashed themselves in, there were soon three people deep hanging out of the doorways. That journey gave a whole new meaning to the word intimate! It was hot and hellish and those poor people do it every day to go shopping or get to work! At Mount Lavinia we had to swap to the main-line train. It was ancient, rusty, dirty, open,  packed beyond belief and fast. The journey back was even worse. Sinhalese people lined the platform both sides, as soon as the train came in they jumped down from the opposite side of the track so that they could leap on the train from both sides. I always had this romantic notion of crossing India by train – it has well and truly gone!

Historical Sites  
From Habarana we visited the 12th century Sinhalese capital of Polonnaruwa, it is a whole ancient temple complex, something like 316 recognised sites but with only about 60 that have been uncovered so far.  We visited Sigiriya rock with its fresco paintings. The cave temple at Dambulla and the temples at Polonnaruwa were all a huge surprise, I had not expected ancient temples for some reason. There is lots of Chinese influence in the temple buildings; many take the pagoda shape with 18 meters between floors. Most artifacts are at the Museum in Colombo so we saw lots of them there.

We took about 1500 photographs and several short video clips. I am sure I will remember loads more as I look through them and start to name them etc.  It was a longish journey – a 10.5 hour flight then an hour long stopover in the Male. Seeing the Maldives from the air is a quite extraordinary sight, it is like the biggest set of stepping stones imaginable, some submerged, some above the water, some surrounded with salt, some with surf. After the hour stop it was another hour out to Colombo. It seems a long way to visit an island about the same size as Ireland but it is so diverse I felt that we had covered lots of Asia in that one short visit. It was a really interesting holiday, good fun in part, sad to see the remaining Tsunami damage and the poor people struggling simply to survive but I am really glad that we went. Apparently the beaches are lovely – but where we stayed it was still winter and the end of the monsoon season, hot rain was a novelty though.  We could not swim in the sea it was far too dangerous. The pull was so strong to try to swim would have been foolhardy. Even those determined to try soon gave up. If we ever go back it will be to the undeveloped north coast.

There is a selection of about 100 photographs on Flickr which shows a variety of animals, vegetation, temples and lifestyles that one can experience on Sri Lanka. http://www.flickr.com/photos/24572238@N02/sets/72157624631186083/

Friday, 30 July 2010

Google Tools

I have been involved in discussions about the use of Google Tools in the classroom twice in as many days. On the first, with a group of educators, we decided that a set of screen casts showing teachers how to use them would be good,  the second, last night on #ukedchat was where @didactylos said there are already loads of resources out there we just need to find them – so – here goes…

This list is by no means exhaustive – but hopefully these will be some of the most useful for learning the tools and giving ideas how to use them for teachers.

http://sites.google.com/site/gtaresources/events/2010-07-29  The Google Teacher Academy  resources  - there are some amazing resources here – it is going to take me ages to look through them all, there are so many useful videos and ideas. Also the people that went on the Google Teacher Academy yesterday may start blogging and add their ideas. If so I will try to list them as well.

http://sites.google.com/site/gtaresources/events/2010-07-29/apps  Google Apps for Education

Get Google apps for your school http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/edu/index.html

Google Apps training centre http://edutraining.googleapps.com/

Google Docs http://echucaelearning.wikispaces.com/Google+Docs

Screen Casts and Ideas

http://www.vimeo.com/album/18311 - a set of five videos, calendar, mail, talk, docs and opening page

http://sites.google.com/a/nausetschools.org/googlegoodies/ screencasts includes forms and making a Google website

A whole Google search result

24 Interesting ways to use Google Docs in the Classroom http://www.ideastoinspire.co.uk/googledocs.htm

Sketchup

Sketchup - http://sketchup.google.com/industries/edu/primary.html

Video Tutorials http://sketchup.google.com/training/videos.html

Self paced tutorials http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/cldetails?mid=36e1fa0d054a15eecc725c514c21d975&prevstart=0

Primary school projects https://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dc837t9h_12g2pxr6


Geo Education Google Earth & Google Maps

http://www.google.com/educators/geo.html Google maps, Earth, Sky and incorporating Sketchup

Google Earth for educators http://sitescontent.google.com/google-earth-for-educators/

Google Maps Mania http://googlemapsmania.blogspot.com/2006/08/educational-uses-of-google-maps.html

25 interesting ways to use Google Earth in the Classroom http://www.ideastoinspire.co.uk/googleearth.htm

Using Google Maps in Education including tutorials http://www.warrensburgr6.org/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectiondetailid=382

Blogger

Blogger http://www.google.com/educators/p_blogger.html

How to use Blogger http://www.docstoc.com/docs/4107328/How-to-use-blogger

Using Blog to integrate Technology in the classroom http://www.glencoe.com/sec/teachingtoday/educationupclose.phtml/47

Picasa

Picasa in Education http://picasained.wikispaces.com/
How can Picasa be used in Education https://wiki.itap.purdue.edu/display/Social/Examples+of+Picasa+in+Education


If anyone knows or more resources that schools really need to enable them to use the Google Tools in the classroom please do add them as comments, or e-mail them to me carolrb@rmplc.co.uk and I will add them to the post.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Simulations to aid the Modelling Programme of Study

Another post linked to the fact  that we are retaining the 2000 ICT curriculum for the foreseeable future and there are so many resources available, many of which are not used by our teachers and children.  Why would we use computer simulations? See what Marc Prensky said about them in 2007…

“Computer-simulation technology is a way of looking at objects or systems that encourage a learner not only to wonder, "What would happen if . . . ?" but also to try out those alternatives virtually and see the consequences. It is a way for learners to acquire experience about how things and systems in the world behave, without actually touching them. I call it interactive pretending.” http://www.edutopia.org/simulation-nation

Simulation games suitable for use in schools

Primary Age Range
Run your own lemonade stall - play it on-line
The Great Balloon Race – burn gas to go up or vent it to go down but do not crash!
Lego World Builder
A roller coaster - manage it on-line
Design a room – Victorian, Tudor or modern
Growing plants - grow your own crop and make a profit
A Graphical Modelling exercise for year 5 pupils
A coffee simulation game - a year 3/4 exercise from the Northumberland grid for learning
An Eco House See how much money and carbon dioxide can be saved by running the energy system in a house efficiently.
Building Blocks – recreate models demonstrated or make your own

Foundation Stage
Early years ICT skills from the Northumberland grid for learning
Create a Village Add houses, roadways, water and trees.

Secondary Age Range
Parking a Peugeot – young teens will learn why they need driving lessons :-)
Build a sustainable house
Dinosaur Sim -  Set in the time of the dinosaurs, the task is to raise the baby allosaurus in the hard Jurassic wilderness.
Google Earth Flight Simulator
GoogleMaps Flight Sim
Run an Eco House See how much money and carbon dioxide can be saved by running the energy system in a house efficiently.

Friday, 16 July 2010

#ukedchat & Creativity

The #ukedchat session last night was all about how one can inspire creativity in the classroom. It was a very interesting, exciting event as usual with lots of ideas shared.

Not many seconds into the session people were trying to define creativity.

I quite like this definition

“I define creativity as the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. Innovation is the production or implementation of an idea. If you have ideas, but don't act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.”  Linda Naiman http://www.creativityatwork.com/articlesContent/whatis.htm

And this one:

The experience of thinking, reacting, and working in an imaginative and idiosyncratic way which is characterized by a high degree of innovation and originality, divergent thinking, and risk taking.
www.usm.maine.edu/~trudy/frame/fgloss.htm

Roger von Oech - Creative thinking involves imagining familiar things in a new light, digging below the surface to find previously undetected patterns, and finding connections among unrelated phenomena.


From the QCDA  http://curriculum.qcda.gov.uk/key-stages-1-and-2/learning-across-the-curriculum/creativity/whatiscreativity/index.aspx we get:
First, they [the characteristics of creativity] always involve thinking or behaving imaginatively. Second, overall this imaginative activity is purposeful: that is, it is directed to achieving an objective. Third, these processes must generate something original. Fourth, the outcome must be of value in relation to the objective.
Creative people are purposeful as well as imaginative. Their imaginative activity is directed at achieving an objective (although this objective may change over time).
Skilled teachers can help pupils tackle questions, solve problems and have ideas that are new to them. This makes pupils' ideas original, the result of genuinely creative behaviour.
Teachers need to help pupils judge the value of what they and others have done through critical evaluation. This means asking questions such as, ‘Does it do the job?’, ‘Is it aesthetically pleasing?’, ‘Is it a valid solution?’, ‘Is it useful?’


I sat having coffee with, and talking to my son and his wife last Saturday whilst their little son got paper and crayons and crayoned a flag (World Cup inspired) on his rectangle of paper. He then went and found a kebab stick and sellotape, he sellotaped the flag to the stick and stuck the flag in the nearest plant! He enjoyed that activity, completed it and we all knew that he was delighted with the outcome. I think that, along with all of the lego creations often found in corners once he has gone, recordings he has made on the recording toys, pictures, play dough creations all demonstrate true creativity. It is natural in small children.


Children will tell the most amazing stories, creating it as they go, they will dance, sing, make up songs and jokes, invent games and more. Why then, as they get older and in school, are we trying to inspire creativity? It does not make any sense, it is there already, it simply needs harnessing, guiding and nurturing. Is there something about school that kills creativity in the young child?

So what does creativity in school look like?

“Sit down, fold your arms and eyes this way…” I remember that as a child, in fact with some teachers it lasted right the way through secondary school… no creativity inducement there, far from it. Chalk and talk! I did have better teachers though - those that instilled a love of music, art, poetry and literature by inspring me to investigate, listen and look for what I like with gentle guidance.

“Choose a topic that you are really interested in, study it and find a way to share what you find out with the rest of the class, I be here if you need me”… great but how many times did that / does that happen?

The National Curriculum - the first prescribed curriculum this country had faced started the real slow down of creativity in primary school, the QCA Schemes of work even more so. Teachers began to lose their creativity and do what they were told hour by hour. In 2003 when Excellence and Enjoyment came along schools were told to take control of the curriculum, make it creative and exciting, but too many teachers had already lost or never acquired the creative style of teaching. Things should have got better over the last seven years, to be fair they have in many places but there are still teachers who “do the QCA”, I have even be aware of one I the last few weeks told to do exactly that to improve the school! (Thanks goodness not one of my schools or the boxing gloves would be out by now.)

So what it a creative curriculum?
Is it
•    One built around acquiring necessary skills through any exciting medium and subject but based on a theme free enough to let pupils take their own route?
•    Giving children challenges and problems to solve, time to reflect, improve, collaborate and investigate whatever they are curious about?
•    Giving them freedom to express themselves in the way they want to including with video, sound files, music and drama?
or a mixture of all three? Or is it something different altogether?

What does a creative curriculum demand from a teacher?

•    Above all confidence in their own ability to teach – even when things seem a little chaotic the children will be learning
•    The confidence to let go and let it happen and know that they are getting it right for their children
•    Enthusiasm – it is no good a teacher wondering in to the classroom disinterested, exhausted or in a bad mood – the children in class, just like children at home reflect the adult’s mood – consequently going in full of enthusiasm and fun will bring its own rewards
•    Commitment – to the children and their learning
•    The ability to value all of the learning processes

About 10 years ago I worked with a class of children on a project about bullying. A couple of the groups wanted to make presentations. They made story boards, PowerPoint presentations that were very good, they gave presentations to the class, and later that month to the visiting teachers at the ICT conference. I made a display of the presentations and started to put the story boards up on the wall. A colleague said “You can’t put those up, they’re crap!” It seemed very sad to me that she did not value the preliminary work showing how they had got the where they had got and just wanted the polished, finished version on display.

I think that more than anything a creative curriculum needs time. It has to be okay to take several days dedicated to a project e.g. to do some D&T in a Tudor’s project where pupils may choose create a Tudor house, plan it, measure the pieces of dowel needed, cut the wood and card carefully, construct it, decorate it, keep a video or photographic diary, write a reflective log about what went well and what could have been improved. There is so much in that simple project, so many life skills, maths, literacy, D&T, historical research, art for the finishing, maybe ICT if CAD used to plan, digital camera were used for the photographs or video log, a word processor was used to write up plan or report etc. There will be opportunities for creativity – planning, constructing, problem solving, recording, presenting, collaboration, in-depth study into Tudor housing. It could be expanded to go wherever the children wanted it to go – Tudor gardens, furniture, clothing, food, music, banquets, religion, Shakespeare, The Globe, theatre, play writing etc. So long as everybody is comfortable with this it is easy in primary school, maybe not so easy in secondary school and that is very sad.

Current access to such a vast range of technology, hardware, handheld technologies, software, web 2.0 resources offer a much bigger and better range of tools to facilitate creativity than pupils have ever had before but complex tools are not essential, an easi-speak mic or digital camera can make a difference!

Best quotes from the #ukedchat: (NB no more that 130 characters allowed, #ukedchat takes up the other ten, I may have added a few letters in for easy reading)

  • Primarypete_: to allow creativity to flourish, you need to allow children to risk and fail with grace
  • Dughall I think we can only have creativity with a high degree of pupil choice, involvement and personalization of the curriculum?
  • Eyebeams: so elicitation using mind mapping, cross curricular, risk taking, just building a list here
  • ChrisFullerisms: not just taking risks but an environment in which errors are accepted and embraced, by erring we often learn more
  • Eyebeams: I think creativity might allow for being receptive to and exploiting serendipity
  • Nellmog: I think applying creativity in the classroom is throwing away the lesson plan when something more relevant happens
  • Didactylos: We are naturally programmed to use play / creativity as our mode of learning.  Schools therefore are often unnatural habitats
  • Natty08: Life doesn’t happen in straight lines so why try and teach it as so – creativity encourages bumps and corners
I started writing YES!! At the end of the statements I feel strongly about – but it got too repetitive :-)

All in all a very interesting session! Follow #ukedchat on Thursday evenings 8 – 9pm BST, to find out more visit: http://ukedchat.wikispaces.com/
 

Sunday, 4 July 2010

The National Curriculum - ICT at KS2

Well it seems that we are stuck with the 2000 version of the National Curriculum so I am revisiting to have a fresh look at how it fits the needs of KS 2 children today. The National Curriculum text is black, digital literacy text green and my text blue!
The ICT Curriculum for KS2 opens with a general statement:

During key stage 2 pupils use a wider range of ICT tools and information sources to support their work in other subjects. They develop their research skills and decide what information is appropriate for their work. They begin to question the plausibility and quality of information. They learn how to amend their work and present it in a way that suits its audience.

Okay – that general statement gives plenty of scope for the newer technologies, much of the research can be done with iPod Touches or mobile phones, games machines can easily support work in other subjects – no problem there.
Thinking of Digital Literacy which is something that we all agree all children need to be taught, and take Becta’s http://schools.becta.org.uk/upload-dir/downloads/digital_literacy_publication.pdf definition of what that it:

The term ‘digital literacy’ relates to:

•    the functional skills of knowing about and using digital technology effectively
•    the ability to analyse and evaluate digital information
•    knowing how to act sensibly, safely and appropriately online
•    understanding how, when, why and with whom to use technology.

Then we can see that that first NC statement gives the scope for the first bullet about Digital Literacy: “knowing about and using digital technology effectively.”

Knowledge, skills and understanding

Finding things out

1.Pupils should be taught:
  1. to talk about what information they need and how they can find and use it [for example, searching the internet or a CD-ROM, using printed material, asking people] 
  2. how to prepare information for development using ICT, including selecting suitable sources, finding information, classifying it and checking it for accuracy [for example, finding information from books or newspapers, creating a class database, classifying by characteristics and purposes, checking the spelling of names is consistent] 
  3. to interpret information, to check it is relevant and reasonable and to think about what might happen if there were any errors or omissions.

The Finding Things Out section reads a bit out of date, mainly due to the reference to CD Roms but gives plenty of scope for making branching data bases, normal data bases and the interrogation of both. This gives opportunities for the higher order thinking skills, questioning, hypothesising, testing the hypothesis, classifying, analysing and interpreting the information. NB the second bullet point in the definition of Digital Literacy is present in this section – see “the ability to analyse and evaluate digital information.” Think about using Word Clouds made with tools such as Wordle to analyse a text, to find key messages from a speech after watching a video recording of a speech. ICT add so much more scope here now than when the statements were written, there was no YouTube bank of videos and Web 2.0 tools that we now take for granted. Think about using Wallwisher or Voicethread to meet the "asking people" bit, the NC is not restricting here but it needs think about a bit more broadly than was intended originally and use other tools as well as database software to enhance it.

Developing ideas and making things happen


2. Pupils should be taught:

1.    how to develop and refine ideas by bringing together, organising and reorganising text, tables, images and sound as appropriate [for example, desktop publishing, multimedia presentations]
2.    how to create, test, improve and refine sequences of instructions to make things happen and to monitor events and respond to them [for example, monitoring changes in temperature, detecting light levels and turning on a light]
3.    to use simulations and explore models in order to answer 'What if ... ?' questions, to investigate and evaluate the effect of changing values and to identify patterns and relationships [for example, simulation software, spreadsheet models].

Developing ideas and making things happen – how many presentations do I see children creating each week?
Statement 1 is covered fairly well in all schools by the use of PowerPoint, brochures, newspapers etc.
Statement 2 relating specifically to control technology is covered well by younger children with bee-bots and various software control simulations, some schools using Lego NXT and robots do it well, but the majority of our school's coverage of this is poor. Many schools seem to have abandoned using Logo - sad, some use Scratch which is fine, Go and Flowol contribute towards coverage but there is still loads of scope here for our schools.Control technology is such a big part of our lives pupils do really need to have some idea of how it works. Data logging is so easy and can be great fun, still many schools shy away from getting data loggers and doing it!
Statement 3 Spreadsheets – some schools do this section well but it is not sound across the board. Computer simulations are improving by the year and there are games galore to introduce to pupils to meet the needs of this statement.

Exchanging and sharing information

3. Pupils should be taught:

1.    how to share and exchange information in a variety of forms, including e-mail [for example, displays, posters, animations, musical compositions]
2.    to be sensitive to the needs of the audience and think carefully about the content and quality when communicating information [for example, work for presentation to other pupils, writing for parents, publishing on the internet].

The examples here are old, but they are only examples, if we replace them with EduGlogster posters, stop motion animations, photostories, podcasts, wikis, blogs, forums and videos with sound track and narration added where appropriate then it would seem more up to date and maybe more exciting. Thinking of the digital literacy aspect 3rd bullet - knowing how to act sensibly, safely and appropriately,  - then knowing how to share and exchange information may take on a slightly expanded meaning, it probably needs the word “safely” added to update it for current times. The last Digital Literacy bullet also understanding how, when, why and with whom to use technology is relevant here as well as in the last section!

Reviewing, modifying and evaluating work as it progresses
4. Pupils should be taught to:

1.    review what they and others have done to help them develop their ideas
2.    describe and talk about the effectiveness of their work with ICT, comparing it with other methods and considering the effect it has on others [for example, the impact made by a desktop-published newsletter or poster]
3.    talk about how they could improve future work.  

Think forums, voicethread, post it type notes added by each other and teachers as well as e-portfolios and showcases (if you have the same learing platform as us).

Breadth of study

5. During the key stage, pupils should be taught the Knowledge, skills and understanding through:

1.    working with a range of information to consider its characteristics and purposes [for example, collecting factual data from the internet and a class survey to compare the findings]
2.    working with others to explore a variety of information sources and ICT tools [for example, searching the internet for information about a different part of the world, designing textile patterns using graphics software, using ICT tools to capture and change sounds]
3.    investigating and comparing the uses of ICT inside and outside school.

There is so much scope here if we think more broadly about the words and add web 2.0 tools and newer software such as wikis, blogs, forums, polls, quizzes and game making resources into the range of software that it was actually designed for that is should pose no restrictions whatsoever on what people want to do in the classroom today. Still the ICT curriculum is not covered well in all schools, some bits of it are done brilliantly, and some are barely looked at!

It does not matter which topic are being covered in a class, ICT can be used to enhance the learning, almost anything imaginable will fit the National Curriculum expectations and the Digital Literacy agenda, as with any subject it just needs a planned structure to cover all aspects and all learning objectives for all children.