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Choices, choices . . . June 4, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, TELIC, Tools.
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To close the report for the current Masters module on which I’m studying, I’ve been asked to reflect on the tools I chose to use to support my studies and to deliver the report.  The course itself explores new technologies in learning, so it’s entirely appropriate to make use of them in our own learning.

One aspect of my role in school is to support, advise and guide colleagues in their use of ICT.  In order to do that, I feel it behoves me to have experience of some of the tools I might recommend or suggest.  Not just experience from having read about a tool, but experience from involvement in an authentic situation.  So whenever the circumstances arise which provide the opportunity to explore a new tool, I strive to take advantage.

This case study then has made use of different tools, partially as an exploration on my part, but also to consider an alternative way of presenting a report; one which embeds the tools appropriate to the different tasks undertaken, without having to convert the knowledge that they produced into more traditional forms.

The basic ‘holder’ then for this report was the wiki you see here.  There are many features of a wiki which made it suitable for this task:

  • the ability to revise and redraft whilst others can see that development (or even contribute to that process) through the page history
  • the opportunity to reflect on additions and amendments through the ‘comments’ feature, and for others to join those deliberations
  • the flexibility of the structure. Being non-linear, it makes adding extra sections much easier, it allows others to navigate through it in ways which suit their preferences (assuming navigational tools are sympathetically included), an initial skeleton is can be set up during planning but can easily be amended should the need arise
  • linking to content in other locations is straightforward
  • it’s online which means that it can be exposed to a wider audience, thereby promoting comment during the development of the content – a formative feedback process, rather than solely summative.
  • any rich media which are generated during the study (e.g. audio from recorded interviews) can be incorporated directly into the report.

Not all these affordances were exploited on this occasion, but by choosing the wiki format, the opportunity to benefit from them should the need have arisen was not lost.

I chose to make use of my personal blog as a place to reflect, simply because it enjoys a wider audience than that which this wiki does.  This meant that my musings would be exposed to, and invite comment from people other than those on TELIC and as a consequence perhaps introduce different perspectives.

There were also posts on my blog which I made prior to deciding on the focus of this study which were of significance in laying the foundations for the whole study.

Help-U-Plan Gantt chart maker

Help-U-Plan Gantt chart maker

When it came to planning the project, I have been casting around for some while for a suitable Gantt chart maker – it’s a tool I want to introduce into our wider project planning in school.  I settled on the one you see here, having explored alternatives which offered more features, greater functionality, interactivity and collaborativity (a real word?!)  The choice in the end came down to cost – this one was free and could do much of what I needed, though was far from intuitive nor flexible in use.  Did a Gantt chart help with the project planning?  Well yes, though this was a small-scale pilot study.  I can see however that with larger projects which include other people in key roles, having the opportunity to work together within the planning environment could be quite important.

A Gantt chart provides the function to plan out a schedule for the resources in a project, but doesn’t allow for too much digging into the issues, especially where people are concerned.  The Big Picture was much more suited to that:

The Big Picture

Project Planning with The Big Picture

The intention here is to examine the series of ongoing projects you might be undertaking at a given time and how they might be influencing one another.  It’s also much more amenable to breaking down a project into a set of issues to address and how they might be interlinked with one another. It’s also a collaborative environment and so is ideally placed to function in a team environment.

Project Closure Report

Project Closure Report using Word

When the time came to write a project closure report, I turned to that the tried and trusted MS Word.  This choice was influenced by the audience to which the report was targeted – colleagues in school.  The majority are still more comfortable reading from the printed word and this format would enable them to do just that should they so choose. It has features which support the drafting of such a document and is relatively easy to distribute.

Study reports invariably close with a bibliography.

Zotero for Bibliography

Zotero for Bibliography

For a while now my weapon of choice for recording references has been Zotero.  Since it went online, it became a whole lot better.  I like it’s integration with my browser (FireFox) and that if the online location of a particular resource (book, academic paper, journal, website, video)  has been incorporated into one of Zotero’s translator module, information can be pulled directly into the right fields needed for correct citation . . . all with one click.  By creating an online account, each reference you create in your own bibliographic library is synchronized online.  By using the tags feature, all references relevant to this module can then be surfaced through a filter to generate a list of all the references.  Although Zotero can generate a Harvard (or many other) listing which can be pasted into a traditional report, I elected to stick with the online version which doesn’t have traditional layout, but does have all the necessary information, together with the bonus of active links direct to the resource, assuming it is on the web.

Does my case study report fit the normal conventions for submissions of this type? Probably not. But by being given the freedom to make a submission using the tools of my choice, I’ve certainly chosen to explore other options and consequently learned more in the process.  Perhaps there’s something for us to learn in schools; when are we going to start insisting that the tail of examination procedures and processes shouldn’t be wagging the dog that’s pupil learning?

Blushing at posting – Edublogs Award Nomination December 12, 2009

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration.
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It’s all a bit embarrassing really, but a nomination and shortlisting for an Edublogs Award is quite an unexpected honour.  I guess people start blogging for a whole variety of reasons; for me it was an attempt,  in some small way, to put something back into the community I draw so much inspiration from.

Having read some of the other new bloggers shortlisted in this category, I think I’ll just be happy with the nomination alone – I mean come on, when little ol’ me is up against the likes of Larry Cuban!   But there’s lots of great work out there.  And who did I vote for?  Well I’m really enjoying hearing about the work of @chickensaltash through “Why did the Chickenman cross the road?”, but I’ll also be checking out several of the other newbie bloggers on a regular basis.

Oh and the great thing is I can have a badge on my blog!  Nice!

(A big thanks to @whatedsaid and anyone else who was kind enough to nominate ‘In the pICTure’)