The sheep was shorn March 12, 2013Posted by ianinsheffield in CPD, Resources, Teaching Idea.
add a comment
Had the great privilege to attend and present at the inaugural Derbyshire TeachMeet last night, organised and compèred most ably by Jim Smith (@jim1982) and hosted by the most accommodating Hope Valley College. I was impressed by the number of staff from HVC who attended and who also contributed some excellent, thought-provoking presentations. But coupled with them were others from near and far, many presenting at a TeachMeet for the first time who also provided stimulating and inspirational ideas. I needn’t name them individually since they’re all listed on the TeachMeet site.
Each and every presentation gave me food for thought, but one theme stood out. At many of the TeachMeets I’ve attended, IT was very much at the fore, often driving the content of the presentations or acting as the catalyst for the teaching idea that was being shared. Here it very much took a back seat and played no part in many presentations. In other cases it was simply the enabler of the activity, allowing the teaching idea to take centre stage. With such a large proportion of people attending their first TeachMeet, perhaps there was no imperative to live up to what had gone before, no preconceived idea of what might be appropriate so attendees therefore had the freedom to speak about absolutely anything. Which all made for an extremely eclectic mix and consequently meant there was something there for everyone.
Identifying one presentation which stood out amongst such riches is always a challenge, but for me Louise Hollis on Literacy in Languages claimed the Academy Award because she managed to squeeze such a wealth of great ideas into her few minutes. Simple and effective strategies which would be easy for anyone to apply in any subject. High quality, high concentration. Thanks Louise and thanks to everyone else too … especially Jim for getting the whole thing off the ground. Already looking forward to the next installment of TeachMeet Derbyshire.
Resources referred to in my preso can be found at http://www.tizmos.com/IaninSheffield
You better, you better, you BETT February 3, 2013Posted by ianinsheffield in CPD, Inspiration.
Tags: #bett2013, BETT, conference, CPD
So the BETT Show shifted lock, stock and no smoking barrels from Olympia across to the Excel Exhibition Centre. How was it for you? On balance I have to say I preferred the new venue for a bunch of reasons which can be found here – Tweets about “#thingsipreferredaboutexcel”, but as for the show itself, well it was a bit of a mixed bag. Somewhat unusually I gained more from the exhibitors I visited than from the presentations I attended.
As you become a more seasoned BETTer you develop strategies for maximising the most from your day. For me there are four aspects:
- attending some of the presentations which chime with either personal interests or link with plans we have in school
- visiting the exhibitors showcasing products which either we need or are considering back in school
- wandering around and benefitting from those serendipitous moments where you might catch a product you’d not even thought about, but which might offer new possibilities.
- catching up with friends both old and new.
There were three observations that particularly stuck in my mind as I travelled home. The first was how disappointed I felt having attended the four presentations I did. This wasn’t because they were poor, in fact quite the contrary – they were interesting, well delivered and contained useful pointers to resources and ideas. My disappointment stemmed from the fact that I didn’t actually learn anything new; these were all areas in which I currently have an interest so I’ve already made it my business to find out what the current state of knowledge is and what the issues are. So maybe next year I need to seek out themes with which I’m less familiar (makes note to self). The second thing was just a wonderfully pleasant little moment as I was walking past the ‘Learning Together – heppell.net’ stand and a young chap of about 10 stopped me and boldly asked if I’d like to see the game they’d created. With that he sat me down next to his partner working at a computer, a Year 5 girl who then took me through how she’d created a simple little controllable animation in Scratch. She’d never used it before, hadn’t been shown what to do, but just followed some of the inbuilt help, experimented a little and in an hour produced a ‘game’ with which she was justifiably delighted. She could also tell me that she thought any of my year 5 students back at school would be able to pick it up as easily and year 6′s would find it a doddle.
It was whilst I was here the third thing caught my eye; the worksurfaces here were writeable and had been written on using dry-wipe markers. Jottings, notes and ideas of people as they’d be exploring some of the exhibits. Yes you’d have to be brave in certain circumstances to treat the desks or walls with this paint, but what a great idea? Brainstorming, group work and capturing discussions could all be done on work desks or walls and be available for classmates to ponder – learning made visible?
Who’d've thought my biggest takeaway from a technology show would be something as low-tech as a new paint?! It just goes to show what a show can show you.
Reflections on Topic 1 … Newton’s First Law. January 27, 2013Posted by ianinsheffield in CPD.
Tags: #etmooc, ple, pln
add a comment
Some of the questions posed during this #etmooc topic are ones I’ve explored before. Given the affordances which today’s communications technologies provide, it would be remiss (negligent?) not to reflect on how we might leverage the potential they might offer. So my explorations of the issues raised by “What does my PLE/PLN look like? How can I share it?” began a while ago. Here I settled on the term Personal Learning Ecosystem to describe the network I had assembled from which I could learn and to which I might contribute. I explored that two-way flow further in this post, then began to consider some possibilities of how that might extend into our schooland begin to answer “How important is connected learning? Why?”.
What I haven’t yet got to grips with is “Is it possible for our classrooms and institutions to support this kind of learning? If so, how?” In the strictest sense, of course it’s physically possible to support this kind of learning; none of the elements in the above diagram are inaccessible in school … depending on your filtering policies! However when I’ve tried to introduce colleagues to the potential that social networking might offer, I think it would be fair to say I’ve not enjoyed unequivocal success. I often wonder why that is. For some, the barrier might be the technology, though given the familiarity all have with email (excessive, many claim!), is it such a big step to a slightly different communication tool? Others do in fact use social networking tools … but for social communication, rather than learning, and perhaps resent the intrusion into their personal lives? Others may have concerns about their ability to manage the online safety issues, though that’s surely a matter of personal development? However I suspect all of these, whilst valid, are peripheral concerns; the actual reason why our ‘classrooms and institutions’ largely haven’t supported this kind of learning is because they are just that – classrooms and institutions. Associated with those terms are specific practices and expectations which bring with them historical baggage and introduce a degree of inertia. Learning in this way was simply not how classrooms and institutions ‘do’ learning … at least not until recently. Increasingly we are seeing individuals and schools pushing back the boundaries through initiatives like The Flat Classroom, Quadblogging, the Digital Leaders Network and through the connections made by individuals between schools and across international boundaries. There isn’t a day passes when I don’t see several posts on Twitter from educators looking to link their classes with others across the globe, or casting for comments on blog posts their students have made. I admit that setting out on learning this way might indeed be rather intimidating. I guess it’s like asking for date – you just need the confidence to give it a go, be prepared for the occasional knock-back and to develop the resilience to stick with it.
Earlier I used the word ‘inertia’ which to a physicist has a particular meaning I’m going to distil down as ‘resistance to change.’ Objects with a large mass have more inertia. Classrooms and schools are ‘massive’ objects with quite some inertia, but that doesn’t mean they can’t change; inertia can be overcome. It’s just a matter of applying a force, albeit it small in the great scheme of things, but keep applying it and change will come. The longer the force is applied, the more noticeable the change will be.
No laws of Physics have been violated in the making of this post!
#etmooc: In the beginning … January 19, 2013Posted by ianinsheffield in CPD.
Tags: #etmooc, bio
Intrigued by the potential and keen to explore a cMOOC, I signed up for #etmooc quite early. I undertook the preparatory steps in advance of the first week, ensuring my blog could be hooked in to the network, joining the etmooc Google community, posting a brief into., linking to the shared calendar … then at this point it became clear that the first week wasn’t going to go too smoothly. I couldn’t join the first scheduled orientation webinar since I was in school that evening, nor indeed the second – a meeting after work meant that I would be on the journey home at the time. Even the ‘repeats’ weren’t really practical on this occasion, since a midnight (for us) until 1.00 am session might have an adverse effect on an already demanding week. Darn it!
Nevertheless since the first two sessions were to explore how Twitter and blogging could be central to one’s involvement in #etmooc, and given that I’m familiar with both, I hope the impact on the remainder of the ‘course’ won’t be too harmful. What it did mean however is that I missed the opportunity for forging some of the initial links that are so important in establishing the necessary relationships vital when learning with others who may be far apart and with whom you might never had contact before. I find I get a much faster(?) (better?) impression of what someone thinks when they’re reacting in the backchannels to the stimuli during the webinar, rather than reading a bio … and with over a thousand (?) participants, even a sampling process will take some time. So I’m looking forward to next week’s sessions with renewed enthusiasm, though in the meantime will be playing catchup to some extent – reading & commenting on the etmooc Google Community streams, checking some of the intros posted, perhaps catching the archived Blackboard Collaborate sessions.
Although a little late in the week, here’s my offering for the Orientation week activity (and a link should it fail to display):
I settled on Empressr as the tool of choice – it offered the functionality I wanted to deploy and as always, I chose a tool with which I’m not familiar so that I could learn more about it whilst undertaking an authentic exercise. It has that familiar feel of other slide show-style presentation tools but being online, allows for easy retrieval of other online resources like videos and imagery from common online libraries. Since the product of your labours is online, it also means that distributing it is easy too. Allowing the upload of audio which can either play across the whole presentation (which I mistakenly chose!) or recording directly over each slide means standalone presentations can be much more informative and richer.
Wonder what I’ll be using next week …?
The best things in life are(n’t always) free December 24, 2012Posted by ianinsheffield in CPD, Inspiration, Resources, Tools.
Tags: CPD, professional development
Since viewing the first one, I’ve always been impressed with the simplicity and clarity of Commoncraft videos, so when I became aware that the originator, Lee Le Fever, had released a book, I thought I’d check out how he approached their production. I also wondered whether the contents might have something to say about teaching … but that’s for a future post. Having thought about the tools and techniques that Lee suggests, I just needed a reason to put what I’d learned into practice. Fortunately I had just such an excuse which arose from the resources I’ve produced to support our forthcoming RiskIT professional development programme. In attempt to provide some background and history I included the video available on the RiskIT site, but got a little pushback from colleagues who said it was rather long to watch in its entirety. At atound 40 minutes I guess they had a point, but there didn’t appear to be anything snappier … so there was my opportunity to attempt a Commoncraft-style production, given that one of the primary goals is brevity.
Following Lee’s helpful advice, my starting point was to establish my intentions and decide the nature of the problem the video would solve; in this case it was to provide an introduction to RiskIT. From there I had to flesh out what would be the crucial points to convey, then write a script to cover them. The text has primacy, but given the constraint of an upper limit of 4 minutes length for the video, it was then a matter of editing the script until that criterion was achieved whilst still retaining the essence of the message. My ‘recording studio’ was Audacity which allowed me to record the narration and export it in mp3 format. Next it was on to the imagery which would be used to support and enhance that message and in the Commoncraft spirit, it needed to be simple, accessible and free from background noise. Although Lee advises the use of hand-drawn, expression-free characters, that was a little beyond my artistic skills, so I chose to draw a little help from DoppelMe, an avatar creation tool. The remainder of the images were then either screenshots or photos which were traced in order to extract the meaning and leave behind the noise.
With all my cut-outs ready to go and script by my side, I used a video camera (Kodak Playsport Zx5) mounted on a tripod and began shooting. A couple of hours later, everything I needed was in the can and I could begin editing. MovieMaker was the tool of choice, mainly because I had no other option … but it proved to be a costly mistake. To cut and fit the footage to the recorded narration took about four hours, after which I attempted to finalise the movie. Oh dear! Despite repeated attempts and in defiance of the fact that there was more than ample space on the hard drive, MovieMaker kept telling me that either there was insufficient space to store the video, or that one of the clips I’d used was corrupt (though naturally not which of the 30+ clips was at fault!). So I converted the source files from mp4 to avi, Googled a way to swap them without starting from scratch, then tried once more to finalise the movie. Still no joy. OK, one more try; resample the avi’s into wmv’s. Nope. Next it was onto another computer running Windows XP and the older version of MoveMaker and go right back to square one. Three hours later and I still couldn’t render the movie, so I wondered if I could produce it smaller parts, then stitch them together to produce the whole. Aha! MM would allow me to finalise the first 45 seconds, so I did that and then moved on to the next section. Nope. I trimmed it and trimmed it, even down to a single 5 second clip, but it still wouldn’t render.
Retrieving my dummy after spitting it out, I knew I had to ditch MM and look for something more robust but inexpensive, and came across Serif MoviePlus SE which is free to use for a limited period. Duly downloaded said item, installed it and another couple of hours later was relieved to have a finished movie. Woohoo! I was more than happy with the features and capability that MoviePlus offered and when the 14 day period expires, will happily shell out the princely sum of £4.99 to download the codecs pack to keep it working.
And the final product? Here ’tis:
Look out for further musings on how RiskIT develops as we get closer to our programme becoming ‘live’.