So, on onedamnthing you can read my PGCIE assignment on the ideas that teachers bring with them when thinking about and using ICT for learning. The process of writing this piece was much easier that the last thing I wrote, almost two years ago for the Oxford diploma on ITT Mentoring. This was partly because (despite Anna Pendry’s great efforts to help) writing a 20,000 word diploma portfolio is pretty hard with a 6 week old infant. But it was also partly because technology for learning online has changed things over that time (or I’ve caught up with it). So, in a deluge of self-indulgent e-learning geekiness (c’mon, everyone else online does it!). I thought I’d tell you what I’ve been using to get this assignment done.
I used several hardware tools to help me write this assignment. In the attached photo you can see two of the main ones. The first is my old desktop HP Media Centre 1100.uk converted to a server using ubuntu (headless, check it out!). I’ve added a couple of 500gb drives in a raid, set up for time machine back ups of my macbook. The HP also acts as a print server, using avahi, serving bonjour printers to the network. Setting up the time machine was a pig, but now it works it’s brilliant. The laser printer is a real time saver. It is quicker, cheaper and clearer for printing out journal entries than the inkjet you can also seen. As you can see I also used a macbook, which was nice.
So, now for the software. Word Mac 2008 for the typing, which just does what it says it’s going to, without hassle. I love word, always have, despite the many open source alternatives. Word works really well with Zotero, which has revolutionised the way I collate, use and think about references. I know that people say that “such and such has revolutionised some other thing” alot, and that most of the time this is not really true. In the case of Zotero it really is. Zotero will record references for you from web pages. Ask it to cite something in your word (even your mac 2008 word) document and it will. Ask it to build a bibliography from all the citations it made, it will – this alone must have saved me hours and hours of work. I know that it does much more, and I have no doubt that these features will be easy to pick up too. Oh, yes, IT’S FREE!
Then there were the various services offered by lovely people around the world. Athens access from the Uni. of Warwick, the fantastic librarians there also helped. Google scholar makes it easy to find stuff, and to work out who else is writing about the things that you have been reading. Scholar and plain ol’ Google search also made the finding of page numbers for the odd reference a doddle. Amazon’s RDF(?) feeds also helped zotero complete any references I was missing, so that my bibliography was complete in very little time.
I’ll be lobbying for firefox on the UTC servers, so that I can share zotero with the 6th formers and with other teachers.