Saturday, 16 April 2011

Weekend Work for week 3 MobiMOOC

As I am away until Monday evening I may not even see a computer for
two days so I have rushed through the weekend work and decided I had
better post before I go:-)

What is your perspective on the OLPC programme?

It was a great idea but flawed!

What do you like about it?

I love the concept of being able to educate pupils with technology to
help them overcome some of the difficulties they have to get the most
basic education. I admire the ideology that pupils given a computer
will educate themselves and the amount of money that various people
have put into this dream. The fact that it was initially aimed at
those pupils who have virtually nothing and this was going to give
some sort of equality is great.

What do you think went right and wrong?

The foundations for this initiative simply were not in place. Pupils
and schools needed electricity, a support system, wireless
infrastructure, the internet, and staff training. Most of those needed
to be in place before there could be serious hopes of success.  Sadly
that lack caused huge problems, staff had little idea of how to
approach using them, often schools did not have the means to charge
them, did not have the repairs when they broke and the computers do
seem to have suffered even though the design was that they were to be

The project, in some places, suffered at the hands of man, crime meant
that the computers did not get into the hands of children, and even
where crime was not an issue still many computers did not get in the
hands of pupils.

 The assumption that children would learn proved not to be the case.
Children did not learn how to use them, look after them or repair them
as had been expected in far too many cases. Being aware of Sugata
Mitra’s work I can’t help but wonder whether there was too much made
available and to individuals not groups. He proved that groups of
children will support each other and work things out but his computers
had internet access, power and were hardy desktops not laptops being
carted about.

Possibly children who were given the computers were given too much too
quickly so that they could not get to grips with them. This is where
the SMS on the simple mobile phone projects teaching pupils to read
and write seem to have the advantage, they can do much less but what
they do is more structured. Mobile coverage is improving all of the
time and they are much cheaper.

I am not sure that much actually went right though I am sure that in
some places people are striving to make as much use of them as
possible such as Uruguay seems to be doing.

When compared with the statements:

“The cost of implementing an XO program, including the purchase of
laptops and other infrastructure, as well as development expenses, has
been estimated at about $75 per student per year. Even a less
expensive national program would be difficult to afford in a country
such as Rwanda, which currently spends a total of about $109 per pupil
per year on primary education.
If donors are expected to foot the bill, they need to consider how the
costs and benefits of laptop computers compare to the proven cost-
benefit ratios of other aid programs for improving social or
educational conditions; in short, opportunity costs. For example,
apportioning a total of $8 per person per year over the next five
years to basic health expenses could save 11 million lives in Africa,
according to projections of a prominent coalition.  A total
expenditure of $0.50 per pupil per year in Kenya on deworming was
found to increase school participation by 14 percent.”

One cannot help but wonder whether the money used in the initiative so
far may have been better spent!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Week 2 MobiMOOC

Hi MobiMoocers - I am not at all sure where I should have posted my mLearning project so will put it here :-)  already posted it on the wiki for week 2 but obviously no-one found it there :-)
Hope that is okay!!

My Learning Project 

Define your objectives:
  • Why do you want a mobile learning project?
I am still exploring the possibilities of mLearning and take every opportunity of trying new things out for the primary classroom
  • What unique result do you want to achieve?
To motivate pupils to explore local history and get involved with researching, finding and sharing information in groups to make presentations for school assemblies.
  •  How you will know when you have met your goals?
On presentation day and by talking to the pupils and their teacher
  • How will you evaluate your effectiveness?
By talking to the pupils and their teacher and looking at the pupils’ work, how they worked, the motivation levels etc. all anecdotal

Define your audience:
  • For whom is your mobile initiative intended?
Primary school pupils at a local primary school
  • What user support do you need to provide?
Nothing extra to normal classroom support, I doubt that the pupils will be phased in any way

Define your budget
  • What do you need to get the project done?
  • How are you going to fund it?
  • How long will you be able to sustain it?
Apart from my time the project is already funded – the school have 30 iPod Touches for the class.
The class have the iPod Touches for 12 weeks, this will be a small project within that time
Identify your Instructional strategies
  • Is it an interactive team / community network?
  • Is it a broadcast distribution framework?
  • Is it for formal learning programs or informal learning assets?
It will be informal learning, assessment will be by outcomes i.e their presentations
  • Who is going to produce the content (e.g. is it going to depend on community or commercially produced content)?
I will do the research and produce the content
  • Where is the content going to reside? N/A
  • Who is responsible for placing content in repository? N/A
  • What content distribution methods will be used (e.g., web delivery, copyright, registration for use, charges, etc.)?
I will distribute the qr codes
  • What content management mechanisms need to be in place?
  • How will you assess learning?
I will teach the pupils only how to read the qr codes and let them explore the local are 5. Identify your stakeholders
Primary school children, their parents and their teachers

Identify the technology
  • Who will provide the service?
School wifi
  • What kind of reception technologies will be used?
iPod Touches with QR code readers
  • What content creation tools will be used?
Any of the presentation / story making apps or Quick Office on the iPod Touches – pupils make their own choice
  • What network will be used for distribution?
School wifi / DropBox
  • What security mechanisms will you have in place?
The county filtering system
  • What kind of user interface will you use?
The iPod Touch and an Interactive Whiteboard
  • What user support will you provide?
Normal classroom support – I do not anticipate that anything extra will be needed

Determine Intellectual Property

My own – shared freely with the pupils and anyone interested under s CC license. I am still experimenting with mLearning and examining what excites pupils and motivates them to really get involved with a project.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Folk Songs on the iPad :-)

I have been playing with Garageband on the iPad for the last two days.  I need to learn the program properly so that I can make podcasts and more with it but even though I have had a Mac for a couple of months I have not yet devoted any time to it finding it much easier to return to the well known Audacity for sound work that I have had to do - mostly because of time constraints!

I thought using the app version of it on the iPad may give me some insight, it seemed a good plan as we have had a few days of beautiful weather and it was great to be able to start the learning journey outside. However I was not bargaining on finding and getting hooked, within seconds, on the acoustic guitar synthesiser  which sounds very realistic. I was so delighted with it I starting to work out the chord sequences of dozens of old folk songs.

It has a full range of keys both major and minor and a preset selection of finger picking rhythms which seem to be set in a straight 4 time, any speed but not any time signature, not that I have found so far anyway!! Consequently I abandoned the presets but am enjoying playing myself.

Having a few iPads in schools would give children comparatively cheap opportunities of playing a large combination of instruments together. With preset chords it should sound lovely and allow pupils to add real instruments with with an in-tune chordal accompaniment. We have had the drums being played on a class set of iPod Touches but Garageband opens the field much wider. I am not sure yet whether the built in recording facility would be useful in this situation but I guess not as it would only record what was being played on one iPad.

Here is a You Tube example of a piece of music composed on the iPad - somthing like this but with  real instruments, flute or clarinet for eample playing a main melody would be great in school giving great opportunities for improvisation too.

Teachers who use songs in class to aid teaching such as those who teach languages to very young children would really find this app useful - not having to carry a guitar to and from school, having it on-hand at any time and so easy to play - simply a dream :-)  Not only that it is very easy to record a song so that the teacher could just start it playing then be with children doing actions or whatever without having to play at the same time.  I would have loved this at school!!

There are a few blog posts to share ideas for this very new capability

From the comments on the following blog clearly not everyone shares my opinion…

Experienced musicians can get quite an amazing sound from this app, my favourite so far is this version of Let it be but the walk through here  and other demos may be much more useful!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Images and Sounds for use in Educational Presentations or Podcasts

This week it seems that I have been asked almost every day about free images for use in schools so I decided to start to compile a list! There is a Creative Commons Search Engine: which can be used to search many different creative commons sources from one page. Google images and Flickr have settings that can restrict images offered to those with a Creative Commons licence, it is worth exploring the settings. The following should be an embedded Google Doc - I have never done this before so it will be interesting to see how/if it works!

If you have any sites to add please go to Google Docs to add them and share the page with anyone who may find it useful - visit

Re the embedded Google doc - I had to add some code to give a bit of height and width, it started off very tiny with no measurements in the original code. It is pretty usless - but an interesting trial :-)

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Educational Origami  - I visited Educational Origami and was amazed and perturbed that I have spent so many hours on the internet, supposedly learning about teaching and learning with ICT, looking for and understanding theories, searching for ideas, facts, good ideas and ways of assessing and more and have never before seen this wiki offering Blooms Digital Taxonomy!

From the site:
“This is an update to Bloom's Revised Taxonomy which attempts to account for the new behaviours and actions emerging as technology advances and becomes more ubiquitous. Bloom's Revised Taxonomy describes many traditional classroom practices, behaviours and actions, but does not account for the new processes and actions associated with Web 2.0 technologies, infowhelm (the exponential growth in information), increasing ubiquitous personal technologies or cloud computing.
Bloom's Digital Taxonomy isn't about the tools or technologies rather it is about using these to facilitate learning. Outcomes on rubrics are measured by competence of use and most importantly the quality of the process or product. For example. Bookmarking a resource is of no value if the resource is inappropriate, invalid, out of date or inaccurate.”

This information on the site helps to place all aspects of ICT onto the developmental continuum. The quick sheets give examples of ICT exercises and how they fit into the the progression of the taxonomy. I would love to map these into the learning objectives of the National Curriculum so that we have a clearer method for assessing the ICT work of our pupils - if and when we get the new curriculum I may do exactly that but there is no point at the moment.

There is a downloadable PDF giving lots of information, ICT ideas and examples for each level that would be so useful in assessing a pupil’s ICT work.'s+Digital+taxonomy+v3.01.pdf

Not totally convinced I am really for primary school children to be hacking and reverse engineering - but hey ho... 

and more...

The same wiki does loads of work on Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

Cyber Safety

Interactive Whiteboards and Pedagogy 

The whole site is a little gold mine of interesting things to investigate it will take a while to get through!

 Thanks to Cyber Placebo for mentioning it in the SL VRT11 :-)

Monday, 4 April 2011


One year on I am attempting to take part in another MOOC and having failed miserably last year I am not too hopeful :-)

I do really want to do this one though, it is about mLearning and started April 2nd and is running until May 14th. Two days in I am overrun with e-mail, all interesting but just too much! I have done loads of week 1 reading and answered the week one questions. So – up to date on the 3rd day ;-) Long may it last.

Anyone still wishing to join visit the wiki!
And join the Google Group

One of the videos for week one was the 2007 Teacher’s TV on the use of mobile phones in school – I watched it when it came out but had not revisited and it is quite astounding that even though the statistics will have increased dramatically since the film was made the attitudes of the adults probably hasn’t in many cases, it could have been made yesterday!

The survey carried out very recently in the States and reported on today would appear to uphold that view
"The results are pretty fascinating, as they show great adoption of technology among even very young students, but lingering resistance on the part of school administrators to sanction some of those tools into the classroom."

The report on the survey finishes with the most telling quotation:

"74% of high school teachers, 72% of high school principals, and 62% of parents of high school age children said yes, they thought their school was doing a good job using technology to enhance learning and/or student achievement.
Only 47% of high school students agreed."

I am looking forward to taking part as much as I can in the MobiMOOC and hopefully learning more about what is probably the most fascinating aspect of educational technology for the near future.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

mLearning History - The SMS Project

I did a very interesting course run by The Consultants-E that I have already written about see That course spawned a very small project to see if SMS and mobile phones could be used to inspire reluctant readers and so improve their reading.

This project is still in progress!

SMS for reading project - a journal

Week 1
I visited the school doing the SMS project and was shown by a very excited and willing group how to use the phones, talked through all they they have been doing etc. There is lots of enthusiasm within the group that are taking part but they were really upset that a new message had not arrived to coincide with my visit.

It is very early days but the children are clearly very involved in receiving texts and sending replies. The text they got earlier this morning was "How many months have 28 days in them?" they all have responded "February" - so it will be interesting to see what they make of the answer "12."

It is interesting to note that the children have been told that they are only allowed to use the texting facility. Yesterday their teacher was with us at our ICT Conference all day. Today when she got in she found that they had all been using the camera while she was away - it does not take them many seconds to work out how it all works! While the cat's away… We have promised them that if they behave we will use the camera facility for the treasure hunt so I must try to spend time at the school soon to write that!!

Whilst the teacher involved was talking to other teachers at the conference yesterday she was amazed that there were secondary school teachers who had never thought to ask the pupils to use their phones in the classroom, apparently a few went away quite excited by the idea... let us live in hopes that we get a few more converts, they are quite hard to come by!

Week 2
I visited the school again at lunchtime today and was able to take some video of the children getting, reading and replying to the messages. They are very enthusiastic - whether that will pay in terms of reading or spelling improvements I am not at all sure  They seem to have an understanding now of what a riddle is. Next week the messages will be based on the Greek Myth of Pandora's Box. The answers should be longer than the one or two word answers to the riddles. It will be interesting to see if their interest diminishes with the need to type in more words. Friday I am going to create the Treasure Hunt for the following week.

Week 3
I visited the school on Friday and planned the treasure hunt, they are going to use the Learning Platform for this project. I made up a sentence of brightly coloured huge words and cut them up putting them into tiny envelopes. Their teacher is going to take pictures, real close-ups of tiny images from the classroom. Pupils have to find the image, photograph it and send their photo of it to their teacher, close by they will find a tiny envelope with a word on it! The words need to be collected, they can be assembled into a sentence on the last day and their sentence sent back to their teacher. So 13 words, 13 picture clues to lead them to their envelopes!

The words given to the pupils for the treasure hunt make up my sentence:
Little Red Riding Hood and how she beat the big, very bad wolf. The children will have to end up with a similar sentence. The treasure hunt is running next week.

This week has fallen apart somewhat! On Friday I did not talk to the children, they were playing Red Nose Day Games, when we planned the visit I should have had about 20 minutes with the children and then done the treasure hunt but they were otherwise occupied, we had forgotten Red Nose Day.

Week 4
Today (21st March) I sat them down, started the camera and asked them to tell me the story of Pandora’s Box so far. They denied having it, they said the messages they had were the riddles....

I read the first message to them
•    We are going to work through the story of Pandora’s Box over the next day or two. It is a Greek myth. See if you can find out what Pandora’s Box is.
- yes they had all had it and answered - they all told me it was a metal box. When pushed a little further apparently there was a Pandora’s Box episode in Dr Who! So I asked what that story was but no-one could tell me. I asked what this story was about and no-one realised they had had the first part of a story in the next four messages. They told me they had received something about the Romans - close but not close enough and not enough of it. I mentioned a sacrifice - they knew about a bull - and a god - really no idea at all. So - I read them the story, explaining it as I went, they were fascinated as one would expect but unable to take enough meaning from the text episodes to get the gist of the story.  I have left the teacher to send them the last 6 messages, the next two they have already heard but the last four are new, what was in Pandora’s  box when she opened it and that hope was left etc - I have asked them to tell me the story next time I visit!

One rather strange thing is that the children do not seem to be bothered by the fact that they don’t understand. I asked them what they would do if they did not understand a text, they replied they would ask.... but they didn’t! When I pointed that out they seemed pretty nonplussed, as though they had not realised that they did not understand... hmmm difficult to see how to encourage them to think about it to decide whether or not they understand. Answering questions should provoke thought.... maybe the riddles are working against thinking for understanding!

I chatted to the teacher about this story, it is simply too hard so we are finishing it quickly and getting on the the treasure hunt. The teacher had an idea for sequencing another story, a traditional tale. I have used Red Riding Hood for the treasure hunt so we agreed on the Three Billy Goats Gruff. I have split it into texts and mixed it up as requested but not sure what the teacher envisaged - numbering the texts and sequencing them by number? Waiting to see what she has in mind. Meanwhile I need loads more riddles and one liners :-( That seems to be the level of understanding, reading capacity etc..

Week 5 - sadly the teacher was away ill when I got there. Knowing that there would be no messages to look at, talk about etc, I did not even go in the classroom, the pupils involved would have rushed to me and grabbed their phones and been disappointed!

Now we are headed towards week 6. The pupils should have done their treasure hunt and we should be on to a sequencing activity, In theory this little test finishes on Friday - must talk to the teacher before I talk to my boss on Monday to see whether we want to carry it on, whether the teacher is able to put up with the disruption, whether the pupils are making any advances in their reading - though I am already sure that their attitude to reading has improved - and more!!

This is a link to the presentation re the SMS project presented at BETT 2012
Videos that were embedded are now linked to You Tube for ease of viewing.

mLearning History - setting the scene 2

IPod Touches

Following the Handheld Learning Conference in 2009, and the pensioning off of the EDAs the team bought a set of iPod Touches. Almost immediately my colleague who was setting them up discovered that the ports we needed to access the iTunes store were blocked – after all someone may want to buy music whilst in one of the educational establishments :-( The kit consisted of:
•    Class set of 30 ipod Touch (8GB)
•    Two Parasync docking stations (take up to 20 ipods each) in a ‘suitcase’
•    One Mac Book for synchronisation
•    One wireless router (Netgear) (is robust enough to allow 30 ipods onto Google Maps)
•    A selection of apps

Eventually they were ready for use by children and they were loaned to a Year 5 class of a large primary school based in Witney, Oxfordshire. The Class teacher was fairly new to the school and was very keen to try new things.  This teacher was willing to let the ipods be used as classroom learning tools as well as for directed tasks. The iPod Touches had general class tools loaded such as - dictionary, internet look-up, Quick Office linked to Dropbox, mental maths games as part of maths lessons, a copy  of Dragon story as a literacy text and the use of Google Maps for Local Study project.
Class Teacher

“When the iPods arrived, the children were so excited. We played and  explored the apps downloaded. The children have now got used to them  and use them to help their learning. They use the thesaurus and  dictionary in literacy. In geography we looked at map work which was  great to plan a journey using google maps. In literacy we created a Martian and then wrote a Description. The children use their iPods as they would pick up a pencil and it is not very often they are not available.”
“The parents are very keen and have embraced the experienced. A parent said she liked the fact that the children were able to work at their own abilities in the lessons. The children's favourite apps are spelling bee, hangman and touch pets. We have used the books for guided Reading. The only disadvantage is that if things go wrong (which does happen with ICT!) and sometimes when looking at images or paintings the screen is too small... Now if they made one with a bigger screen - now you’re talking!

 For more information on the apps and a video clip see our project page

mLearning History - setting the scene 1

Hand-held Learning and Game-based Learning

Our first Venture 2008

For a couple of years at Oxfordshire County Council  the ICT Curriculum Team’s has had an interest in mLearning or Handheld learning. After a wonderful conference presentation made for us by David Wiley from the Wolverhampton mLearning project we bought a class set of EDAs and a county loans scheme started.

The team bought a class set, a colleague set them up, installed software, he spent loads of time and work, it was not particularly easy. We, as a team, had a training day booked.  The software we were intending to use was Wild Key a really inspired program with various data bases that could be used to identify minibeasts, plants, seaside wildlife and vegetation, butterflies and more.

Our training day arrived. The router or something similar that was supposed to give us all wireless access out in the field arrived and we started out. I never did get connection, I kept breaking my EDA, it had to be re-streamed so many times it was unreal – eventually mine was used as a reserve machine for others that went wrong :-(

Four machines only connected to the wireless, but even then once those users identified a minibeast the GPS to feed back the information to the master database failed… we did not have a lot of luck.

However – the team all blamed me for breaking them ;-) and the trial went on! For some things the EDAs were very good - where they have a fixed wireless link they were fine, and where I was happy to use my iPac some people kept hold of, and used their EDA. A few schools has some success (one at least left them in the cupboard I found out recently!).

Eventually the EDAs got pensioned off to where they could be set up permanently at one of our outdoor education centres for which they are ideally suited.

For more information see