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ICT for Learning with the NQTs at Little Heath School

I’ve an hour (gasp!) with the NQTs after school tonight, and in that time I want to introduce them to the idea of using ICT for Learning (especially for homework).

We’re to start with a cool voice thread – the NQts will log in (after creating a user name and password in line with the safety guidelines)

Then we’ll look at a wallwisher wall – http://www.wallwisher.com/wall/ICTLHS.

Then we’ll have a go at some activities on yacapaca.com

And finally, we’ll take a gander at feedback and data gathering using google forms. I’d like you to give me feedback too!

It’s only an hour, so we’ll have to run quickly through the issues – which I’ve helpfully slimmed down into a prezzi!

We love yacapaca

As you might know from my last post, I made various presentations today at the University of Reading Institute of Education about using ICT to teach history.  I think it went well, and I’ll find out later when I see what feedback I got using a google form.

I had great help in preparing for this presentation from Ian (@yacapaca on twitter) and his colleagues at Yacapaca.com.  One of the sessions involved the student teachers having a go at a mock up of an old style GCSE paper 2 that I’d made using yacapaca.  I discovered last week that the links had stopped working.  I mailed the support line at yacapaca.  Not only was I given excellent advice, but then I received an email from Ian this morning:

Ed, you lucked out. My colleague Alex worked until 2am to fix the
files list in time for your presentation tomorrow. I’ve just checked
it, and it all works now.



Talk about service.  To top it all off yacapaca raised a great deal of interest at the session.  Thank you Ian (and Alex!)

The right tools (Full Marks)

I was at the SSAT conference on embedding learning last week, and it really fired my imagination, and one thing in particular has been rolling around my brain, the issue of ‘having the right tools’.  If you have met me at an event you’ll probably know that I’m a passionate believer in good software, that well made tools can not only make work easier, but inspire people to new things.  I’ve never been in agreement with BECTA’s proposition that ‘platforms don’t matter’ – that all that matters is what you do with them.  BECTA might not be able to bring itself to recommend one platform or another, and I think it might have done more harm than good with its infamous ‘approved’ but not really ‘approved’ list of VLEs, but I certainly have strong views.

What I’m less hung up on now is how awful the platform is that we have at school.  It’s soooo bad that it is frankly an irrelevance, its use is restricted to page creation for hardy souls that don’t mind links randomly breaking, or working without version control.  As I said, I’m not so hung up about this imposition from the LEA, its ad-hoc, creaky and un-intuitive technology and its huuuuge cost (I think, I can’t actually find out how much it costs my school)…. Anyhoo.

Some of the people I heard talk on Wednesday last at The SSAT conference are making me think that the VLE is not the foundation stone of e-learning in a school (though a decent one would make things a LOT easier thanks).  I’m coming around to the idea that we can afford to ignore it (apart, as I say, from the cost).  I’ve already posted about Mark Richardson from www.filmsforlearning.org and his conviction that most children have access to technologies that will allow them to make films, without extra cost.  Two other marks, Mark Toombs from Woolmer Hill Technology College, and Mark Clarkson, Egglescliffe School took me further down this road during that day.

Mark Clarkson spoke persuasively about free and very cheap ways of innovating teaching and learning using ICT, using technology such as refurbished handhelds, free tools such as etherpad and voicethread (thanks to an amazing example by Ant Heald), Mark also used a wiki to collate student work as well as his own thinking.  I’ll say more about the particular insights that Mark brought in a later post.

Mark Toombes also discussed homework and mobile phones.  His philosophy was certainly one of ‘bringing in the outside world’, and of using pieces of technology to meet communication needs in his school.  During the day I talked with delegates about the excellent www.yacapaca.com and bubbl.us.  At school we’ve been using 21classes.com and google docs to distribute information, but also experimenting with creative ways of closing the feedback loops between school, pupils, parents and teachers.

Of course, it would be great to have a flexible, powerful, easy to use VLE, hub or clearing house, which managed identities, pushed out information and could act as a virtual gathering place for the whole learning community, wouldn’t it.  The point is that it’s not a necessary condition for moving forward.

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Films for Learning

filmsforlearningAbout 5 years ago I was working with a friend, Dan Raven-Ellison, on using video in the classroom using mobile phones. The whole thing was quite hard really, and if I’m honest, we didn’t really get our heads around how we could make mobiles work.  Vodafone generously lent us a dozen high spec mobiles and we set out to lend them to pupils, so that they could make films with them.

Dan’s idea was sound, but, basically, it didn’t work for me. It didn’t work partly because I didn’t think carefully enough about how it was going to work, and instead focused on the technicalities of uploading and downloading and editing.   Of course in those days mobiles didn’t capture in standard formats, we had to convert them.   The pupils didn’t have computers at home that were powerful enough to edit video, even if they got over the problems of conversion.   So, we’d have to hunt for a PC suite in school and then waste hours downloading footage, converting it and watching the students edit it.

Most importantly, I didn’t help them understand what videos like these might be used for, how they might be well made, and I didn’t really integrate them into my teaching and the students’ learning.  I thought we’d have to teach them how, and assumed that they’d work out the why themselves.

So, I was really excited when I visited Mark Richardson’s talk at the recent SSAT conference on “raising achievement through embedding learning technologies”.  Mark’s realistic, but very enthusiastic approach, and his clear thinking, really “moved me on”.  I was very impressed with the idea that, whilst most problems of downloading and the technicalities of editing could be easily solved by most children, they still need teaching about how and why to make a good film.  This means that digital literacy is much more than being able to ‘do stuff’ with computers, and that, contrary to the myth of the digital native, the role of teachers’ is more important today than ever.  It also chimed deeply with my prejudice against teaching ‘packages’, which change rapidly.  Instead we should teach concepts, ideas, and foster an attitude of experiment.

Freed from the burden of teaching technicalities, we can focus on learning objectives, clarify our thinking about why using video with these students for this topic at this stage in their learning will offer benefits.  Then we can communicate this thinking to our pupils, sell the activity as a learning activity, rather than (as well as) something fun. Along the way we can devise success criteria around skills of communication, argument, presentation, team working and production.

All of this means ‘HOMEWORK’!   One of the themes that kept emerging, for me, throughout the conference was the possibility of sidestepping the problems we all face of ‘finding a computer suite’.  Then we have to justify our time in there by spending the whole of it with our pupils staring at screens, rather than interacting with each other, or (god forbid) the highly expert and expensively trained teacher in the room.  Let them stare at screens and use ICT for communication at home, whilst they’re in school let us plan, talk, decide, listen and organise our ideas.

Mark Richardson teaches at The Thomas Hardye School in Dorset.  He also runs the website ‘Films for Learning’ (http://www.filmsforlearning.org/), with the help and (really quite large as it happens) generosity of Microsoft it should be added.  On this site students and teachers can upload and comment on each others’ films.  The site is moderated, so should be ‘filter friendly’.  Mark is looking for volunteers to help him moderate films and develop the site, if you’re interested you can contact him on info@filmsforlearning.org.  When you visit look out especially for the biology teachers explaining cloning, and the film made by three of Mark’s students on the train to visit London.

When I’ve got around to joining I’ll upload my increasingly dated video on Castles near Newbury – which as it’s pre-beard will amuse my pupils!