Monthly Archives: June 2013

Diary of a Wimpy Blogger – Publish & be Damned!⤴

from @ Edu Tech Stories

This week my blog got to 10,000 page views, so I thought this would be a good time to reflect on yet another new social media experience for this digital immigrant.

By the way, if you are a digital immigrant does that mean you can get deported?

Blogging, Blagging or Bragging? 
Although, I have to admit, this milestone has ended up raising a few questions as much as anything...

1) Is 10,000 page views in 6 months a good result - I have had this blog since 2011 but rarely posted until Jan 2013.

2) Did all 10,000 people read the entire post? Some posts are quite long, but I know a number of people who did read them as they gave my ramblings some great feedback.

3) I have all the stats on the most viewed posts, how can I use these analytics to improve on future posts? For the record the most popular posts to date include;


4) How many page views and posts do you need before you get to call yourself a blogger? If you call yourself a blogger too soon does this make you a blogger blagger/blaggart?

Why Blog 
My reasons for starting the blog was because I wanted to express an opinion outside of a work context and my first post was well received... Although it resembled more of a mini novel than a blog post!

I didn't do a great deal with this blog until January this year. The reason? Twitter... Again!

Sarah Simons, the moderator of #ukfechat, included a blog section on the chat webpage and this encouraged a core group of FE Chat regulars to began exploring the topics discussed via their blogs.

What to Write About

If you open a new communication channel its important to use it. If you open a new channel up and find that you don't have time to update the content, it might be advisable to shut the channel down.

So account open. Time to think about what to blog about? ...And where to find the time on more social media?
 
The subject matter of my blog does tend to be aligned in some way with either a forthcoming FE Chat (Thu 9pm) or Ed Tech Chat (Mon 1am) topic or on a recently discussed theme. This is usually; 
  • To share the ideas and knowledge on the subject prior to the chat session to help facilitate the debate, or
  • If I blog about a topic after the session this helps me internalise the discussion and share any ideas once I have considered the various points from the discussion
  • To demonstrate to those who are not on Twitter the value of the social media channel
So one of the many advantages of being involved with EdChats on Twitter is that it helps provide plenty of material for Edu Bloggers.

Publish and be damned!
Being all too aware that what you put online can be "A digital tattoo" (ie permanent!) my first few posts probably took the best part of 2-3 days before I was happy to publish. Apart from the odd critical observation about useless or ill conceived government policy, I don't think I'm being in any way controversial.

Today producing new content for the blog only takes about 1-2 hours a week.

I think this is partly an issue of confidence and you do eventually get a mentality of "Publish and be damned." 

This is not to say that it is unplanned and I always try to consider whether the post will be relevant and useful to educators and their partners; and you will never see any corporate communications from me on any social media channel.

If I have written about a topical issue, with educators in mind and, hopefully, have included some new ideas or a different perspective then the post will get read and people may share it... If it's no so good or not too relevant then it won't get read, so no real harm done. 

Blogging or Bragging
As the perpetual "digital immigrant" I faced a new experience this week regarding my exploration with blogging.

This week there was the Festival of Education in the UK and the International Society for Technology in Education Conference (#iste13) in the US, and I found myself asking "Am I blogging or bragging here?"

The issue I had was that every other Tweet seemed to be along the lines of "Oh here's a link to one of my posts..."

Now the content of the post I highlighted did seem relevant to the discussion, and the posts had been well received by educators. 

But how do you know when you have crossed a line from sharing information... To becoming blatantly and shamelessly self promoting? 

I can only hope that I am blogging and Tweeting with the appropriate "Netiquette" and that I have enough critical friends in education who would have a quiet word in my ear... After all I don't pretend to be an expert with any of this social media stuff, but I do see the value in it and the impact that it can have. 

The Impact
So what has the impact of blogging been? It's been an extremely positive experience.

From a #ukfechat perspective there is a small but merry band of regular bloggers, many of whom are posting twice a week now, this includes;

Sarah Simons -     Tes Articles & curator of UK FE Chat  
Jayne Stigger -      FE Culture
Steven Keevil -      Teacher Learner
Carolyn Houlihan - I Can So I Will
Clare Fenwick -     Tech, Innovation & Learning
Nikki Gilbey -         FE Teaching Thoughts

Some of these bloggers have also submitted articles to TES and FE Week and, like the chat session itself, the number of regular FE bloggers looks set to grow.

It would also be great to hear about any other FE Bloggers, so please feel free to post a comment below with the details of your blog.

I think it is important that blogging does increase within FE as it is a useful form of CPD, it will also benefit students too. 

Content creation is becoming a key skill, but how can FE advise students on blogging if they are not doing it themselves?

And will this be an important skill in the future... It's difficult to see why it wouldn't be an advantage or to see how much content creation;
It also makes sense from an educators perspective too;
As for the impact blogging has had on me personally? I think a good example is when I was taking part in a US chat session and when people saw me join the discussion, they commented that they enjoyed reading my blog posts and reports... Which was so unexpected that I asked "Are you sure it was my blog?"

This was all the more of a surprise when I saw that one of the people was an education expert from a prestigious US Ivy League University.

So my advice would most definitely be "Publish and be Damned" whats the worst that could happen? 

One thing is for sure any educator will most certainly be in a better position than me to explore this medium - but I'm giving it a go and am getting a lot out of it - connecting, collaborating... and learning!

If you did want to experiment with blogging before opening and managing a blog you might be interested in;

1) Submiting posts to @MrsSarahSimons for publication at www.ukfechat.com 

2) Contact Steven Keevil or Carolyn Houlihan who are encouraging people in FE to blog about their week 

3) I am sure that any of the FE bloggers would be happy to discuss their experiences of blogging with anyone interested in finding out more about this platform. 

4) There are also a host of US educators who I am sure would be delighted to offer assistance to any aspiring "Connected Educators." Edu blogsTeach 100 and Connected Principals have a list of popular blogs

If you already have an FE blog I'd be delighted to hear about it and subscribe to it.

Conducting an observation – workshop task⤴

from @ Cat's eyes

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Love Coffee by Ahmed Rabea
Attribution-ShareAlike License

For our next PhD workshop we have several tasks to complete – most are based on readings but some are exploring methods. One of the tasks requires us to carry out an observation in a public space, and the focus of the observation is: what are the social/cultural rules of this space and how do different individuals perform them?

My first thought was to observe children in a school playground. The number of bodies, variety of activities and energy levels would allow for plenty of material. As a final year student in Edinburgh I lived in a flat perched high above the Grassmarket on Johnstone Terrace, which had a spectacular view  extending across the city to the Meadows and beyond. Heriots’ school was part of this vista and I’d  often looked out on the children who exploded out of the building at breaktimes, then spent a frenetic 10 minutes buzzing around in a confined space like flies in a jar, or particles colliding, then disappeared again.

This would be interesting observational material, I could do it at our local school which I know, it’s convenient; I knew where I could sit and could get the job done. However, ethical issues  began to unsettle me – I was sure the school would give me permission but what about the children I was observing? PVG is an obvious first hurdle to clear, but could I assume their consent in the task? And if they did consent would they be collaborators  in the task with me or would I sit outside of their group, objectively recording their behaviours? Reading Angrosino and Rosenberg (2011) I realised that I’d need to take much more consideration of my own role and my situation in this context. Although this is a practice task for us, and a far cry from ethnographic observation, we still need to understand the ontological ideas behind it  and as such, objective observation carried out by  a detached, silent observer ignores too many of the problems around perspective, context and bias for the exercise to have value. This is expressed neatly by the authors above:  ”Social scientific powers  of observation must…be turned on ourselves and the ways in which our experiences interface with those of others in the same context if we are to come to a full understanding of sociocultural processes” (Angrosino and Rosenberg; p 470, 2011).

So I turn to plan B – a coffee shop in my local town, Many people make sociocultural observations in coffee shops but not so many for the purposes of PhD research, I imagine. This may make the exercise a little less obtrusive than it might be elsewhere. I can sit making notes and participate in some of the norms of the place without looking unusual. But the ethical issues still remain unresolved. This is an open public space where it’s difficult to predict who might walk in and therefore unknowingly take part in this exercise. Do I ask for permission to put up a big sign saying observation being conducted here today? Or for those who enter the space can I assume their consented participation, even though they will not be named or identified? If I don’t does this devalue the exercise? If I do, and some refuse, as they would be entitled to do, do I still have enough to work on and will I be able to work around the non-participants? Would declaring my task change any of the dynamics or interactions in the space? And lastly, am I clear enough about the implications of my own experience as the observer as noted by Angrosino and Rosenberg above to be able to engage authentically in the task?

It looked so simple on the list we were given. I should have known – complexity seems to underlie everything in PhD research. Observation notes to follow.

ANGROSINO, M. and ROSENBERG, J., 2011. Observations on Observation: Continuities and Challenges. In: N.K. DENZIN and Y.S. LINCOLN, eds, The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research. 4 edn. USA: SAGE Publications Inc, pp. 467-478.

_______________________________________________________________-

31/07/2013

Just done the observation. I left it until the summer holidays to do which was not a good idea – should have done it sooner. This meant I had to take the children along with me and they had lunch while I observed. It also meant that the place I was conducting the observation was quieter than normal, possibly because most of the clientele are either working or local parents who use the place more often when their children are at school. If the age profile of the clientele today is compared with the more typical age profile during term-time this would appear to be the case, however there was enough for me to be able to observe some social and cultural behaviours. I observed for 25 minutes and stopped then because it really was getting quiet. I was the only person doing anything other than eating, drinking and talking in the place (other than the staff) but no-one asked me what I was doing or why. I had intended to make general observations for the first 15 mins then make observations on up to 3 individuals for the second half, but there wasn’t enough going on for me to do this. So I just made general observations. Here they are:  Observation frame


Thought Bombing with y10 French⤴

from @ Pedagoo.org

I teach in a 13-18 High School in the North East of England. We roll over our timetable after the Whit holiday, so our y9 students have already embarked on their GCSE option courses. I’ve therefore only taught this particular class for 2 weeks and they have come to me via 4 different year 9 [...]

5 Years Old: No More Worksheets (Please)⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

I'm not too keen on worksheets

Catriona's just finished Primary 1 (Kindergarten) and was asked to give her feedback on her learning, for the benefit of the school. It's a fab school - 360 feedback is something I'd love to see in every school, more often. I just loved her comment, and hope that every teacher she ever has, from now on, pays heed: Catriona, and most other children, are not so keen on worksheets.

SQA – Special Arrangements⤴

from @ Alan Stewart's AT Blog

I attended an SQA seminar at the Scottish Sensory Centre last week where the special arrangements for Nat 3, 4 and 5 were being teased out.

There’s a video out (still under development we were told) outlining the changes/issues that face students as of 2014.

……

…. and Patricia Macdonald’s presentation.

……

Specifications

All of the specifications will come into effect from August 2013.

Specification 1 – Course Assessment

In relation to National Courses at National 5 to Advanced Higher, exemption of an assessment component which comprises 30% or more of the total Course assessment will not be a reasonable adjustment.

Note — An assessment component refers to one of the seven agreed assessment methods in a Course assessment; they are assignment, case study, performance, practical activity, project, portfolio, question paper.

Find out more…

Specification 2 – Set Question Papers

In relation to National Courses at National 5 to Advanced Higher, the explanation of words or questions to candidates in a SQA-set question paper will not be a reasonable adjustment. Find out more…

Specification 3 – Literacy Units

In relation to the National Literacy Units at all levels: (i) exemption from demonstrating any of the four assessed skills of reading, writing, listening or talking will not be a reasonable adjustment and (ii) using human readers and scribes will not be reasonable adjustments where reading and writing abilities are being explicitly assessed. Find out more…

Specification 4 – Modern Languages & Gaelic Learners

In relation to National Units and Courses in Modern Languages and Gaelic (Learners) at all levels, human scribes or speech-recognition software will not be reasonable adjustments where the ability to write with technical accuracy in the target language is being explicitly assessed.

Note — Human scribes may be used in situations where the candidate is physically unable to write but is able to dictate and spell out words in the target language, letter by letter. Find out more…

Specification 5 – British Sign Language

In relation to National Units and Courses in Gàidhlig, Gaelic (Learners) and Modern Languages at all levels, using British Sign Language (BSL) to demonstrate reading, writing, talking or listening abilities in the particular language being assessed will not be a reasonable adjustment. Find out more…

Specification 6 – Communication Units

In relation to National Core Skills Communication Units and to National Certificate Communication Units, exemption from demonstrating abilities in reading, writing, listening or speaking will not be a reasonable adjustment. Find out more…

Also supplied were two sheets detailing the Outcomes and the Evidence Requirements for the Unit Literacy (Nat 3) and (Nat 4)

Biggest talking points were that if VI pupils are allowed to listen to text in the reading assessments, HI pupils should be allowed to read (subtitles) in the listening assessments. SQA reps said they’d take that request back to HQ.

Also mentioned was the overstated usefulness/uptake/benefits that Speech Recognition is given by SQA and other Government departments.

Download: alan_stewart-sqa__special_arrangements.mp3


Filed under: Accessibility, CPD/Training/Events, Inclusion

Support for tablets in schools: can we learn from the early days of PCs?⤴

from

Schools are getting quite excited about how the latest computers might help improve education. But could this excitement blind us to lessons from the past?

The devices have suddenly become much more intuitive and fun to use, which is attracting people who have never used them before.  They’re getting cheaper, so schools can afford to buy them from their own budgets, without relying on corporate IT funding. They offer new forms of interaction which are much more intuitive than those we’ve had up till now. Their displays, too, are much more attractive and capable of showing us the world in new, more engaging, ways. We don’t need technicians to make them do what we want; adding new functionality is something almost anyone can do.

The scenario I’m describing, though it describes what’s happening now with tablet computers, is from about 20 years ago. It describes what happened when the first personal computers, with their text-based monochrome displays, gave way to the first Windows PCs. Their intuitive new interface used windows, icons, menus and pointers to reach new levels of usability; today tablets offer touch user interfaces and haptic feedback.

But tablets are completely new, innovative technology; how can experience from 20 years ago be relevant?

The reason it’s relevant is that the same patterns of organisational behaviour are emerging. And if we notice that, we can identify a  significant risk and start to think about how we might manage it.

What are these patterns? Here are some examples:

  • The user enthusiasm is partly driven by the ability to customise the device, just as with early versions of Windows which permitted end-users to install programs. (PCs at this stage were generative devices.)
  • There is a sense of tension developing between end-users and IT departments.  Hard-pressed IT departments don’t have the resources to start managing thousands of devices that were built for consumer use. Yet they worry they’ll be held to account for the licensing of the software installed on them, and know that end-users don’t read licence terms. Similarly, they worry that once the devices start to age and need repairs and software upgrades, they’ll be expected to get involved – but can’t see any likelihood of having the resources to do so.
  • The staff deploying the devices are responding to end-user demand and simply hoping that the long term support issues will sort themselves out. End-user departments don’t have the desire, technical skills, or resources to get involved.
In each case, the pattern is identical to the early days of PCs. So how did this play out? Some examples include:
  • Organisations had to engage more staff to support PCs, and costs started to rise.
  • The PCs became essential, and organisations became less tolerant of failures.
  • The job of managing them was given to IT departments, who asserted control of purchases.
  • IT departments bought PCs in bulk, leading to avoidance of premium consumer models.
  • Software vendors responded to that change by marketing to IT departments, adding more and more refined lock-down capabilities to make their lives easier.
  • IT departments learned that they could minimise support costs by locking down the PCs to the maximum extent. IT departments used software licensing and software conflict risks to justify preventing users installing software.
  • Over time, remote management systems were developed which enabled central management of thousands of PCs; but these  took a long time to mature and required highly skilled IT staff to manage.
  • Eventually, end-users became frustrated and bored by their locked-down PCs.
What is the risk we face now?
 If large numbers of tablets are deployed into schools, and become important to learning, it is no more likely that the support issues will sort themselves out than they did with PCs. Given the similarity of the situation, it seems quite possible that organisations will seek to throw the support and management task over the wall into the domain of the IT department. By this stage the issue is likely to be big enough for IT departments to justify additional staff, just as they did with PCs.
We can already see software for managing large numbers of tablets developing rapidly, so centralised management is starting to become possible. But what choices will an IT department in this situation make?
It is very likely that the same strategy will be adopted as with PCs:
  • User installation of apps is likely to be prevented for support and licensing reasons.
  • A standard build will be preferred to simplify licensing and enable swap-out support.
  • Updates of operating system software will be centrally managed, and will often lag behind current versions.
  • The devices will be used for as long as economically practicable before refresh.
Unfortunately, though, the devices, if this happens, are now much less attractive to users. Given the rate of progress in the market, the locked-down, ageing school tablets could start to look very out of date by comparison with user-owned devices. In the meantime, these have become more and more powerful, and cheaper.
In that situation, perhaps what will matter most is a good-quality network for “Bring Your Own Device” use?

 

Support for tablets in schools: can we learn from the early days of PCs?⤴

from

Schools are getting quite excited about how the latest computers might help improve education. But could this excitement blind us to lessons from the past?

The devices have suddenly become much more intuitive and fun to use, which is attracting people who have never used them before.  They’re getting cheaper, so schools can afford to buy them from their own budgets, without relying on corporate IT funding. They offer new forms of interaction which are much more intuitive than those we’ve had up till now. Their displays, too, are much more attractive and capable of showing us the world in new, more engaging, ways. We don’t need technicians to make them do what we want; adding new functionality is something almost anyone can do.

The scenario I’m describing, though it describes what’s happening now with tablet computers, is from about 20 years ago. It describes what happened when the first personal computers, with their text-based monochrome displays, gave way to the first Windows PCs. Their intuitive new interface used windows, icons, menus and pointers to reach new levels of usability; today tablets offer touch user interfaces and haptic feedback.

But tablets are completely new, innovative technology; how can experience from 20 years ago be relevant?

The reason it’s relevant is that the same patterns of organisational behaviour are emerging. And if we notice that, we can identify a  significant risk and start to think about how we might manage it.

What are these patterns? Here are some examples:

  • The user enthusiasm is partly driven by the ability to customise the device, just as with early versions of Windows which permitted end-users to install programs. (PCs at this stage were generative devices.)
  • There is a sense of tension developing between end-users and IT departments.  Hard-pressed IT departments don’t have the resources to start managing thousands of devices that were built for consumer use. Yet they worry they’ll be held to account for the licensing of the software installed on them, and know that end-users don’t read licence terms. Similarly, they worry that once the devices start to age and need repairs and software upgrades, they’ll be expected to get involved – but can’t see any likelihood of having the resources to do so.
  • The staff deploying the devices are responding to end-user demand and simply hoping that the long term support issues will sort themselves out. End-user departments don’t have the desire, technical skills, or resources to get involved.
In each case, the pattern is identical to the early days of PCs. So how did this play out? Some examples include:
  • Organisations had to engage more staff to support PCs, and costs started to rise.
  • The PCs became essential, and organisations became less tolerant of failures.
  • The job of managing them was given to IT departments, who asserted control of purchases.
  • IT departments bought PCs in bulk, leading to avoidance of premium consumer models.
  • Software vendors responded to that change by marketing to IT departments, adding more and more refined lock-down capabilities to make their lives easier.
  • IT departments learned that they could minimise support costs by locking down the PCs to the maximum extent. IT departments used software licensing and software conflict risks to justify preventing users installing software.
  • Over time, remote management systems were developed which enabled central management of thousands of PCs; but these  took a long time to mature and required highly skilled IT staff to manage.
  • Eventually, end-users became frustrated and bored by their locked-down PCs.
What is the risk we face now?
 If large numbers of tablets are deployed into schools, and become important to learning, it is no more likely that the support issues will sort themselves out than they did with PCs. Given the similarity of the situation, it seems quite possible that organisations will seek to throw the support and management task over the wall into the domain of the IT department. By this stage the issue is likely to be big enough for IT departments to justify additional staff, just as they did with PCs.
We can already see software for managing large numbers of tablets developing rapidly, so centralised management is starting to become possible. But what choices will an IT department in this situation make?
It is very likely that the same strategy will be adopted as with PCs:
  • User installation of apps is likely to be prevented for support and licensing reasons.
  • A standard build will be preferred to simplify licensing and enable swap-out support.
  • Updates of operating system software will be centrally managed, and will often lag behind current versions.
  • The devices will be used for as long as economically practicable before refresh.
Unfortunately, though, the devices, if this happens, are now much less attractive to users. Given the rate of progress in the market, the locked-down, ageing school tablets could start to look very out of date by comparison with user-owned devices. In the meantime, these have become more and more powerful, and cheaper.
In that situation, perhaps what will matter most is a good-quality network for “Bring Your Own Device” use?

 

Lets Make Things! – Using Technology to Innovate in STEM (Summary) [+ @Raspberry_Pi]⤴

from @ OllieBray.com

Exciting Learning - STEM

This is the last of a series of posts that talks about a few things that schools could invest in to improve and enhance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math’s) Education. They each contribute to the bigger picture of making schools challenging, fun, exciting and desirable places to be. 

The complete list of posts are:

I’ve been quite overwhelmed with the response to the posts and the amount of hits they have generated – which indicates to me that this is a pretty hot topic. As a result I intent to add a further five posts some time in the new academic year.

One thing that I did want to give a quick mention to is the Raspberry Pi. The Rasberry Pi is a credit-card-sized single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools.

800px-RaspberryPi

These little bits of kit have got huge potential and it would be great to see them being used more in schools. I would also be keen to hear from any school using them as part of the curriculum and not just as an after school or computer club.


Lets Make Things! – Using Technology to Innovate in STEM (Summary) [+ @Raspberry_Pi]⤴

from @ OllieBray.com

Exciting Learning - STEM

This is the last of a series of posts that talks about a few things that schools could invest in to improve and enhance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math’s) Education. They each contribute to the bigger picture of making schools challenging, fun, exciting and desirable places to be. 

The complete list of posts are:

I’ve been quite overwhelmed with the response to the posts and the amount of hits they have generated – which indicates to me that this is a pretty hot topic. As a result I intent to add a further five posts some time in the new academic year.

One thing that I did want to give a quick mention to is the Raspberry Pi. The Rasberry Pi is a credit-card-sized single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools.

800px-RaspberryPi

These little bits of kit have got huge potential and it would be great to see them being used more in schools. I would also be keen to hear from any school using them as part of the curriculum and not just as an after school or computer club.


A Play Strategy for Scotland – It includes schools!⤴

from @ Pedagoo.org

“We want Scotland to be the best place to grow up. A nation which values play as a life-enhancing daily experience for all our children and young people; in their homes, nurseries, schools and communities.” Yesterday the Play Strategy for Scotland: Our Vision was officially launched.  This is the first part of the Play Strategy [...]