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What does learning look like . . . more thoughts March 21, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in research, TELIC.
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I’d like to thank Ed for starting a wonderful exchange on Twitter last night (night for me that is) by asking ‘what does learning look like?’ You’ll spot from my previous post that I’m chasing answers to the same question. It has to be said, there was a dearth of responses, but thanks to Dughall and David for adding to the debate and forcing me to address epistemological issues a little more carefully.
[Wonder why so few people responded? Maybe it’s because it’s such a tough question . . . and certainly not one which 140 characters allows sufficient response perhaps.]


From ob1left on Flickr

David suggested that learning is empowered, enriched, entertained, enlightened. I can see where that’s coming from, but for me those adjectives are more to do with describing how pupils might feel after a good learning experience . . . but maybe using after-effects or consequences might be one way in which pupils describe their learning. In another alliterative response, Dughall saw learning as arising from collaborating, communicating and connecting; a social constructivist viewpoint and one I find attractive – well I would, given what prompted this post! But I also lean (at least by a few degrees) towards cognitivism and that learning is about making meaning from information and situations. Communication with others can be trivial and meaningless unless our thought processes are stimulated and challenged and we try to make sense of what’s being communicated and what we’re communicating.

So how exactly do we capture these things? Given the nature of our data collection tool – the digital camera – I suppose we’re going to need to be looking to capture activities with which learning is associated – collaboration, discussion, reflection, negotiation, investigation. Once again though, I have to remind my self that all of this is what I think. Much as I might regret it and despite appearances to the contrary, I’m no longer a teenager and definitely see the world through older eyes which need optical augmentation (yes, I mean specs!). I just can’t wait to see what learning looks like through our students’ much younger eyes.

What *does* learning look like . . . to a pupil? March 14, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in research, TELIC.
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In a Tweet some while ago, Tom Barrett asked if anyone had thought of giving a camera to a pupil for a period of time . . . it might have been around the new year when all the 365 projects start.  This set me thinking, as posts from Tom invariably do.  In school we’re currently undertaking a thorough review which is looking at ICT as a whole school issue, at teachers’ ICT capability, at ICT across departments and we’ll shortly be exploring student ICT capability.  We’ve a pretty good idea how good students are in ICT, but what do they do with it beyond the confines of the ICT suite?  Part of that review will include a survey of some sort, but Tom’s comment made me wonder if there might be another way of exploring what students do in school and perhaps more importantly how and when they learn best.


From dkuropatwa on Flickr

Starting next year then, we’re going to equip 5 students from different years with a digital stills camera which they’ll carry with them and capture images showing what they perceive to be learning – a 365Learning project.  Now there’s clearly a huge amount to think about – practicalities, technical aspects, ethical considerations, monitoring progress and more.  But what’s challenging me at the moment is the basic premise – Learning.  What actually is it?  How can we recognise it.  Oh sure, we teach, ask questions, assess work, provide feedback, set and mark tests and note that students are making progress . . . ergo students are learning?  Well I guess so, but is that how students see it?  And how might we (they) capture snapshots of it happening over the course of a year?

Back to the ‘textbooks’ then to see what the world knows about learning.  Oh dear!  The answer seems to be quite a lot and not very much.  If my topic had been ‘the behaviour of gases’ rather than learning, I could have gone to a dozen different textbooks and got pretty much the same answer.  But ‘learning’ is a much slippier beast and has attracted a host of theories about how it works.  Greg Kearsley’s ‘Theory into Practice’ database lists 54 different learning theories, whilst the ‘Learning Theories.com: Knowledge Base and Webliography’ lists 5 learning paradigms, 4 Behaviourist theories, 10 Cognitivist, 9 Constructivist/Social, 6 Motivational/Humanist, 4 Design and 8 other miscellaneous theories. So that should be straightforward then!  I’m grateful to James Atherton for a much more accessible introduction on his fortuitously titled ‘So what is learning?’ page.

Perhaps I’m missing the point though and need to return to the original question – what does learning look like from a student viewpoint?  Maybe I ought to be looking at an approach using Glaser & Strauss’ grounded theory . . . might be quite a challenge as I’ve not worked that way before.

Anyway we’re going to run a pilot project to inform the planning and preparation of next year’s main study.  In addition to ironing out the technical and human elements , with luck and a following wind the pilot might suggest how we could design the study to allow us to analyse the data meaningfully.  Have you any thoughts?  How would you capture learning in a photograph?

ATHERTON J S (2009) Learning and Teaching; // What is learning? [On-line] UK: Available: // http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/whatlearn.htm Accessed: 14 March 2010

Glaser, B.G. & Strauss, A., 1967. The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research, Aldine Transaction.

Kearsley, G.  The Theory Into Practice Database. [On-line] Retrieved from http://tip.psychology.org Accessed: 14 March 2010

Learning Theories Knowledgebase [On-line] Available: http://www.learning-theories.com Accessed: 14 March 2010

I-Spy Eye-Fi Wi-Fi February 10, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Resources, Tools.
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When I first followed the link to the Eye-Fi card, I soon realised this would be something we could definitely use.

Eye-Fi card

The most basic 2Gb card

At it’s most simple it’s an SD memory card of the type used in many digital cameras, but at just shy of £50 for 2Gb, it’s hardly the cheapest form of storage!  However it has a much bigger trick up its sleeve because there’s an inbuilt wireless transmitter enabling the card to connect to your wireless network.  What this means is with the card in the camera, a few short seconds after taking a snap, the photo automatically whizzes off through the ether (assuming you’re within range of your wireless network) and lands in the folder of your choice.  Wow!  Now in  a home network that’s kinda neat . . . in a school environment, it’s nothing short of amazing!  All of a sudden the messing about having to get to a computer, find a card reader, log on to the network, then shift the photos to your user area . . . after you’ve sifted through the fifty or so other photos that the last user forgot to delete from the card!  That means that someone could be around the school taking the photos for a project whilst another member of the group is at a computer working on the photos within seconds of the photos being taken.

Only a thought, but could this be a way of providing stimulus material for digital storytelling or writing a newscast?  One group taking a series of photos whilst the others back at base write their interpretations in real time.  Lots of potential I think . . . and I’ve only just started thinking!

A couple of other points.  This wasn’t just a quick load and go.  The setup routine for a home wireless network is relatively painless; in a school that’s far fom the truth.  This is because part of the setup process requires the card to connect through the Internet and to do that, it’s configured to go out through port 80 . . . likely to be blocked in most schools.  After much to-ing and fro-ing between his home and school with card, camera and laptop, my genius network manager Steve (name-check deserved) eventually found a workaround – all credit due.

There are other cards in the range which are of larger capacity and include features like automatic geotagging, uploading of video and online sharing, but this one did what we needed.  Was it worth the price?  Well time will tell in terms of educational gains . . . but I know how much time our ICT Support Team spends uploading photos for rushed teaching staff.  I suspect it won’t take long for the card to have paid for itself in terms of saved time alone.  Now I’ve just got to find a way of providing storage for the bulging folder of photos!

(PS Just found DropResize . .  . watch this space!)