Archive for the ‘Collaborative Learning’ Category

We have been busy working with the Regional Support Centre in the South East to get the launch event organised for the 8 November.  We will be there in force from the TechDis team along with our ambassador team who will be doing the bulk of the work with staff and students in the region.

Firstly we have to thank Guildford College for kindly providing us with a venue – a good start to what we hope will be an exciting project.

The Ambassadors team will include Sally Betts,  project manager, faciltators Lilian Soonand David Sugden and me, Lisa Featherstone.   The TechDis team will be Alistair McNaught who will be doing some technology demonstrations as well as offering advice and guidance and Simon Ball who will also be working with a Higher Education colleague to observe and evaluate the programme.  Our colleagues from RSC South Eastwill also be there to lend a hand and provide the all important local and personal input.

The most important people there however will be the delegates.  We have staff coming from a wide range of providers including local authority ACL centres, work based learning providers, Specialist Colleges and Uk Online Centres as well as mainstream FE colleges. There will be plenty of opportunity for networking and sharing of practice.  The main focus of the day will be an introduction and then action planning with each provider.

We’re finalising the details now and all really looking forward to the day.

Read Full Post »

Common Craft are a small company comprised of Lee and Sachii LeFever who produce some short, succinct and brilliant explanatory videos from their base in Seattle on the West Coast of the United States.  I’ve been a fan since the first one hit YouTube in 2007.  RSS in plain English does exactly what the title says – it explains RSS feeds in a simple and easy to understand way.  I’m still astonished that there are many technology aware adults who still do not use RSS feeds – they will save you so much time!!

Since 2007 they’ve grown and expanded and now have a subscription model for use of their work.  We’re delighted here at TechDis to be account holders and there are a number of Common Craft videos on the Toolbox site.

So for those who still don’t understand RSS Feeds – here is the first ground breaking video from Common Craft.


To coin a phrase used in the UK – it does exactly what it says on the tin!

Read Full Post »

The Open Badges and Assessment forum is looking at “investigating new ways to credentialize learning

With the upcoming release of Mozilla’s Open Badges framework this group is an opportunity for educators and interested parties to discuss the various ways such badges could be used in educational contexts.”  The whole concept of open badges is explained more fully on the Mozzilla wiki page.
There is a short one page document explaining the concept –
We’re just approaching the end of week 2 and I thought I’d add a few of my own thoughts.    You can join or just read and lurk at http://p2pu.org/en/groups/open-badges-and-assessment/ 

“I’ve been following the discussions on here with interest and it’s good to have such committed and knowledgeable contributors.  Doug’s comments that “So some badges will be static, well-known things, whereas others could be much more ad-hoc, fluid, or even humorous badges. :-)”  gives us a pretty broad remit for this project.  I’d like to offer a couple of comments.

I really like the idea of the awarding of badges by peers.  In an FE college in the North west of England they set up a staff development system to encourage their staff to use technology to enhance their teaching.  This was set up as an 8 step process from ‘uploading the course documents’ to ‘ facilitating collaborative and interactive learning’.  The nice thing about this was that once a tutor had gained their 8th level they automatically became an assessor and were able to verify work done by another colleague.  This took away the need for the staff development team to spend a large amount of their time in verification and encouraged peer development and support.  This might be a possible model for the awarding of badges within an organisation for staff or learner development.

My main experience in teaching has been with learners with complex needs (short hand for students with more than one difficulty, learning, sensory, physical or behavioural.)  I note the comments about rewards not being the end in themselves but there are very valid reasons for embracing and using them.  Many more complex learners achieve in very small and sometimes almost imperceptible steps.  Tracking learning and achievement for them is detailed and sometimes overly complex.  Involving the learner in their learning has always been something I tried to do.  I like the concept of learners assessing their own and other’s contributions to a lesson and we encouraged them to also reflect on their PLTS (personal learning and thinking skills).  We used to make the evaluation of the lesson part of the lesson and each learner reflected on their own and their peers achievements.  (we had very very small classes!)  However, this was recorded against pre-set targets etc within the information management system of the college.  How great would it have been for the students to be able to award each other and themselves badges to be added to their achievement records, portfolios or blogs.  The badges could also be used as a reminder of their achievements when the next lesson comes along (for students with short term memory loss getting to the place that you finished the last lesson is a major issue!)

An additional problem I did and still struggle to resolve is the ‘spiky profile’.  I was in a specialist provider a month or so ago as a young man showed me how he edited the college’s podcast for the week.  He was a wheel chair user and had the use of only one arm.  He also had no functional literacy (in the general sense of the word).  However, he knew what he wanted to do, and was able to use audacity well to edit the audio track, add some incidental music and record the introduction.  I could see a badges system working well to recognise and celebrate this sort of achievement.  Many learners have a level of digital literacy which is far higher than their perceived traditional literacy.  They can do what they want/need to do – upload photos to facebook, download music etc.  But couldn’t write a college newsletter. ”


Read Full Post »

I was at the iPod 2010 conference at Oldham City Learning Centre yesterday.  This was a celebratory and collaborative event looking at the use of ipod touches in education.  The event started with a look at the educational context to using mobile technologies for teaching and learning, by Richard Millwood, Reader in distributed learning at the University of Bolton.   I would like to say more but the content of the presentation doesn’t seem to be available yet.  There were then a few short presentations on the use of ipods in schools.  I was particularly impressed with the presentation from the ESSA Academy in Bolton.  They had introduced iPod Touches for all pupils as part of a home/school contract.

The day was punctuated with workshops for discussion.  Unfortunately these were dominated with technical questions and while technical matters are vital to successful implementation of mobile technolgy for learning, they were not of particular interest to a non techie like me.  Perhaps future events could split the delegates according to their interest.   I was also disappointed that all the good work that has been done by the MoLeNet projects over the last 3 years was neither acknowledged nor even referred to.  It did seem to me that the delegates (and possibly the organisers) were unaware of their existence – a sad state of affairs considering the amount of work done on learning using handheld devices (not necessarily iPod touches).  As usual with these events the networking opportunties were excellent and they have set up a Ning to enable ongoing discussion and collaboration.

The afternoon session saw three year 3 and 4 pupils talking about how they used their iPods.  They were obviously keen and it was impressive to see them talk to a room of nearly 100 adults.  Finally there was a presentation from Sharon Tonner from the University of Dundee on how to enable teachers to take ownership of the tecnhologies and embed their use in their own practice.

A good event and it was useful for me to see what the school sector are doing  to embrace handheld devices.

You can catch up on tweets from the day with the hashtag #ipod2010 (I didn’t read the wifi instruction to the end so omited the proxy settings – situation normal – RTM!)  This will hopefully be the first of a number of events organised by the City Learning Centres network – I hope I’m invited to the next one.

Read Full Post »

A major new website has been launched by the Government to give unprecedented access to free data all in one place.  The site was open to 2400 developers prior to the official launch on the 21 January so they could make a start on developing products using the data.

It contains more than 2500 sets of data from across  many departments, is non personal and in a format that can be re-used by individuals or companies.  For example, there is a video showing the traffic congestion on the UK motorways in the last ten years.

Traffic distribution according to vehicle type

More images are available on the developers’  flickr site.

The Newspaper Club have developed a ‘postcode newspaper’ which details the public services available within a particular postcode.

Tim Berners Lee comments  “Government data should be a public resource. By releasing it, we can unlock new ideas for delivering public services, help communities and society work better, and let talented entrepreneurs and engineers create new businesses and services. ”

There are some interseting comments and some insite into how they’ve eventually managed to do this  in the Prospect Magazine from the University of London Whitehall’s Web Revolution, the Inside Story.

Read Full Post »

I visited the Manchester College yesterday and was very impressed with some of the work being done by the Intro to Work course.  This is one of the MoLeNet supported courses using mobile technology for learners who are achieving at around entry level on the Adult Qualifications Framework.  They are using the social networking tool, Ning to support each other and work together as part of their college course. It was great to see each of the learners using the site independently and showing me how to upload videos from YouTube and create mash ups of photos. The site is effectively being used as an eportfolio for the group.

Each of the group had a work placement on a weekly basis and a couple of them were doing a great piece of work for mobility training.  They had taken a numer of bus rides and photographed landmarks along the way.  They then used a piece of software I hadn’t come across before called ‘Comic Life‘.  This uses uploaded photos with added captions to and create a comis strip type story.

While I was there one of them said to me  “You should use more technology for education – it’s easier for people like me to use”  I did suggest he might like my job!

Read Full Post »

This year it is 40 years since the first ‘Internet’ traffic occurred between the first 4 computer nodes of the experimental military sponsored network which grew to become the internet.

The original network was known as ARPAnet and linked computers at Stamford Research Institute and the University of California, Los Angeles as well as military computers.  Forty years on DARPA – the Defense Agency Research Projects Agency are offering a challenge.  “be the first to submit the locations of 10 moored, 8-foot, red, weather balloons at 10 fixed locations in the continental United States. The balloons will be in readily accessible locations and visible from nearby roads.”

Red weather balloon

10 balloons in total will be distributed across the United States.

There is a prize of $40,000 for the first person or groups of people to submit the correct locations of all 10 balloons.  This isn’t some flippant piece of marketing but a serious piece of research to learn more about social behavior in computer networks and how large computer-connected teams use their resources and connections to compete.

You do not need to be resident in the USA to take part in this as the object of the research is to look at the roles the Internet and social networking in particular play in the timely communication, wide-area team-building.  Registration is now open and the balloons will appear in the US on Saturday December 5th.  You can register your interest here.

Not really inclusion I know but an interesting piece of work!

Read Full Post »

This week I was fortunate enough to be able to attend Handheld Learning 2009 at the Old Brewery in the Barbican in London.  This was the ‘world’s leading event about learning using mobile and inexpensive access technologies’.  There was an impressive  list of speakers and for most of the conference more than one strand happening at a time.

The first day is known as the Festival and is free.  In the afternoon there were very well attended sessions on ‘Learners Y Factor’ hosted by Jason Bradbury from the Gadget Show.   This involves selected school children showcasing the work they have been doing to a live audience and a panel of judges.  Having learners talk about their work is an excellent idea and probably something we should think about for our annual event.  Alongside this was the ever popular Pecha Kucha, an idea which we did use  this year.  Both these events were very over subscribed and it was difficult to even get into the room never mind find a seat.

Tuesday was the first day of the conference proper and was opened by an interesting speech by Zenna Atkins who is the non-executive chair of ofsted.  She certainly surprised me with her discussion on a possible future vision of education.  She envisaged an education system which allows learners to ‘benchmark’ their abilities against others as and when they felt able.  She repeatedly referred to pupils and their parents as consumers and their role in pushing educational reform.   One memorable comment of hers was that ‘Schools are not about education and learning they are insitutions’.  She did however, frequently state that these were her opinions and not those of ofsted.

Malcolm McLaren followed her with an entertaining wander through his early educational experiences and how he was inspired by early art professors to strive for ‘magnificent failure’.  His tirade against what he termed ‘karaoke culture’ was thought provoking.  Yvonne Roberts managed to alienate me in her first sentence by making a facile remark about dyslexia and then went on to offend the whole room.  I think she probably had something valuable to say but as an example of how to turn an audience off it was priceless.

I’ll just mention a few of the highlights for me.  John Davitt opened the afternoon session on Creativity and Innovation.  He started with a slimmed down ‘Blooms Taxonomy’ – Know – Show – Grow- Flow.  He showcased his random activity generator for the iPhone to – “put lesson planning back where it should be – in the corridor on they way to the classroom”.  The audience produced a new font using fontcapture.com and also a ‘twit-school’ using google apps.

The final morning had the sub-title Inclusion.  This was inclusion in its broadest sense with speakers talking about home access computers, One laptop per child and game based learning.  Professor Elizabeth Hayes is doing some fascinating work on gender and social exclusion using a version of the Sims game.  It is a mod based on the best selling book by Barbara Ehrenreich on (not) getting by in modern America.   Finally Sal Cooke from Techdis highlighted the good work that is already going on in all sectors and thanked the delegates themselves.

As well as the conference there was an exhibition and I was particularly taken with the product from Sanako.  This was developed as a language teaching facility but it is an excellent classroom mangement system which could be used for many subjects.

The conferece had a hash tag – #hhl09 which managed to get into the top 10 globally on the Tuesday morning.  If you search twitter for this be prepared – there are thousands of posts and shows how twitter can be so effective.  A couple of memorable tweets included ‘great – if I miss anything , someone else will tweet it’ and ‘are power sources the new water coolers’ a reference to the sight of lots of people sitting in huddles round the plug sockets!

Finally I’d like to say congratulations to Sandra Taylor from Ashton Sixth Form College who won the secondary teacher award at the award ceremony on Monday night.  It was a great conference, one of the best, well done Graham and the team from Learning without Frontiers.

Read Full Post »

On Tuesday we held a mobile learning event at the Leyland Hotel, just off the M6 near Preston.  We’d had quite a few problems with the organisation, totally down to me being unprepared and not giving myself time to do things.  Fortunately, Kev stepped in and he and Helen our events organiser managed to put a programme together.  In the end it was a really great day.  Dave Sugden gave a brilliant introduction to mobile learning and the MoLeNet projects and then Paul Coulton from Lancaster University showed some fab stuff that he’s working on.  He’s part of a Nokia group of developers and a lot of their work can be found on the MobileRadicals wiki. He demonstrated locoblog in which photos and GPS can give an accurate representation of where you’ve been and various games which incorporated a heart monitor and involved jumping in order to ‘fire’  – who needs a Wii fit?  The list of applications that the group are working on is huge and it’s worth checking out the wiki – I’m sure someone will be able to use these for learning out in the FE community. one of the applications was the production of 3d photographs. This of course involved wearing the silly glasses – so attractive.

3D glasses

For the rest of the day we had presentations from 8 different colleges and all very different.  We saw and had a go at using Nintendo DS, iPods, PSPs and saw lots of evidence of  learning taking place in a less traditional way.  If the Nintendo DS have done nothing else they have made mental arithmatic cool!  Interestingly, 5 of the 8 presentations involved projects for learners with some sort of learning difficulty or disability.

Sheena from Trafford had the delegates lined up and ‘speed dating’ discussing steps to acheiving collaborative learning. As someone who bangs on about collaboarative learning  it was a bit of an  ‘Allelluia’ moment for me.

steps to m-maturity

The final presentation of the day was from Colin Hawksworth from Birkenhead Sixth form on encouraging learners to use their own devices – another Hallelluia from me!

We’d set up a hashtag for twitter and other feeds – #MNW09 and were delighted to get nearly 4 pages of posts!  – definitely a something we’ll use again.  By the end of the day, I was pretty exhausted and so probably didn’t do a very comprehensive feedback but it was a great day with lots of sharing of ideas and discussions.

Read Full Post »