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Edtechcc Assignment 8: Fin April 3, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in edtechcc, Musings.
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end of the line

cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by Gene Bowker: http://flickr.com/photos/genewashere/3546914951/

We’ve reached the end of the Edtech Creative Collective then with this final task:

… summarise what you have gained or achieved through participating in The Educational Technology Creative Collective.

We could either do this in visual or audio format. A few months ago, there’s no question I’d have gone for the visual option, but having been encouraged in my new found enjoyment of AudioBoo-ing, there was only going to be one winner. And now I have to apologise to sensei Colin – has the Grasshopper learned nothing?! Straight into making an AudioBoo instead of considering the options: a comic or cartoon perhaps, a presentation in any one of a number of different formats, a photomashup from Aviary ImageMarkup or even linking the two as a photo-audio mashup in FotoBabble. Well in truth I guess I did consider those options, if  not quite long enough or in sufficient depth … but I’m getting there.

So here’s my thoughts:

Final impressions? Well I love the notion of professional development opportunities you can ‘buy’ into, that you choose of your own volition and out of your own interest. Has it helped me in my job? Undoubtedly, though untangling precisely how might take a longer post than is available here. I’d suggest though that anyone involved in the education of others needs to explore and test the boundaries of what it means to learn. Experiencing new ways of collaborating with other learners, enjoying a shared venture and yes, testing the limits of what you thought you were capable of is so important in reminding us what the students in our charge experience daily. Only ten short years ago, a learning experience of this nature in which geographically dislocated individuals can come together, learn together and from each other, would have been almost unthinkable.

Regrets? I’ve had a few. But then again ….
[A good job this bit wasn’t in audio. You wouldn’t have liked that!]

  • It was a shame that more folks who signed up right at the beginning weren’t able to see it through to the end. But that’s not uncommon in online ventures of this nature when initial enthusiasm gives way to the cold reality of commitment.
  • I’m still not quite convinced about working across so many different platforms and worry that the interesting creations become so widely spread that they’re hard to track and possibly even lose their impact … or maybe I’m missing the point and actually they reached a wider audience?
  • If I wanted to surface my contributions to Edtechcc through say an e-portfolio of some kind, then the content I created in my blog would probably be OK, maybe even my contributions to the Facebook page. But I hope I added some useful thoughts through commenting on other people’s blogs and I suspect that pulling those contributions in might prove rather more difficult.
  • I think we were all (understandably)  supportive and encouraging of one another and perhaps not sufficiently critical … in a ‘critical friend’ sort of way. I’m sure we’re all aware that ‘Good work’ written on an assignment from one of our students’ isn’t particularly helpful to them; maybe we needed to apply some of the principles of formative assessment with each other? Or maybe next time?

Final, final words? If Edtechcc (or something similar) comes round again – TRY IT!

Edtechcc Assignment 7: Storytime March 19, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in edtechcc, Musings.
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Assignment 7 brought with it a very different challenge and one to really test my mettle:

Generate two random characters, a location and an objective using the tool below and then try writing a plausible story based on the random elements. The story may be for a book, film or videogame.

I decided straight away that the first iteration would be the one I’d go with. No second chances, so here’s the output for me:



As I have very little experience of videogames,that was ruled out fairly quickly. Given the current situation in the Middle East, a film about a soldier rescuing a child (or a child rescuing a soldier?) seemed just too trite. And anyway, how do you write a film?

It was at this point I think I got carried away because I then assumed I should write a story, but now looking back, I’m not sure that was Colin’s intention. Was the task more about saying how a story, film or videogame could be created (concocted?) based on these random factors, rather than actually creating the product itself? Perhaps I should have asked, because my mind then turned to exploring storyline possibilities. Clearly I couldn’t churn out a full story in a week, but a shorter one, maybe.

I’m comfortable writing at length; two 20k dissertations are testament to that, but here’s the rub – I haven’t written a work of fiction, a true story, since O Level English almost forty years ago. I had my characters, a location and a possible plot, but then I started thinking laterally and one thing led to another and … well if you’ve the time, by all means read for yourself.

What have I learned?

  • Writing fiction is much, much harder than the other forms of writing with which I am acquainted, though maybe it becomes easier with practice?
  • That using prompts generated randomly in the way they were here, encourages us to take paths we might not otherwise consider. I’ve always wanted to try John Davitt’s LEG (Learning Event Generator before you jump to conclusions!) with a class. Well this assignment put me in the place of a learner … and I have to say it was tough, though rewarding.
  • How easy it is to publish material online with Page-O-Rama – no account needed
  • There are some things I learned which I’m not yet comfortable with sharing here. Let’s just say I found this assignment incredibly cathartic.

Edtechcc Assignment 6: Mapping it out March 4, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in edtechcc.
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Our next assignment (unfortunately missed the last one – the previous post might explain why) is:

Use Google Maps to create your own custom map that includes photographs of places.

So I thought I might take the opportunity to add a little background about where I’ve been hiding:

Perhaps one of my most memorable bike rides … so far!

What have I learned?

As I was already familiar with creating Google maps and adding supplementary information, there wasn’t much new ground turned here. However, what the task did remind me was that despite how easy (relatively speaking) it is to get information onto a map in this way, a mechanism for automating the system still appears to remain elusive. So for example whilst it’s possible on GPS enabled phones to geo-tag images (or sounds using Audioboo for example), getting them all onto a map under a single theme seems to be still awaiting an app. I wonder why this is? John seems to have been beavering away at various solutions, but it clearly isn’t as straightforward as it might first appear. In my naive little mind, the workflow ought to be something like:

  1. Create a blank Googlemap as a placeholder.
  2. Go on the field trip or walk.
  3. Take photos, record Audioboos or videos.
  4. Upload them to the named Googlemap, having the map grow (perhaps for viewers elsewhere) in real time.

How hard can it be?!

Edtechcc Assignment 3: Comic Strip February 5, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in edtechcc, Resources, Tools.
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cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by sparetomato: http://flickr.com/photos/sparetomato/3223220181/

You know how sometimes you set off down a road and you’re not quite sure it’s the right route? I’m sure there’ll be a mathematical formula for balancing how far you travel, thinking there might be an off-shoot that’ll set you back on to the right track, weighed against the further you go, the further you’re going to have to back-track when it all goes pear-shaped. It’s occasionally happened to me whilst out cycling or running and it certainly tripped me up on this assignment. Kept pressing on regardless until I eventually realised I wasn’t even in the same postal district as where I wanted to be.

Anyway the starting point for our assignment was:

Make a comic-strip style set of instructions for a practical task. The task you choose is entirely up to you. It could be something that relates to your subject area, or alternatively you can do something more generic like starting up and shutting down a computer, how to set an alarm clock, or how to use the office photocopier.

My stimulus came from an issue we’ve been trying to resolve at work where colleagues have been struggling with classroom projectors not displaying the output from their laptops. Since we changed staff laptops (and the docking stations went) this has been quite a problem for some. The time was due to re-issue a reminder of the most efficacious way to connect a laptop; unfortunately the assignment came just too late, but it got me wondering how I might have provided the instructions if it had been in comic format … and how that might have been received by colleagues. My planning in one sense had already been done since I’d laid out the content whilst producing the instructions I issued a short while ago. Mistake 1! This is a different medium and demands a different approach. OK, I may have had a notion of the information I needed to convey, but ended up bending it into the comic medium. Was that the right thing to do?

I opted to use ToonDo rather than Chogger, simply because I already had an account, had used it before and thought I could get up and running a little more quickly. Mistake 2! It was so long since I’d last used it, there was definitely a lag whilst I got back up to speed. The real time-sucker though, was finding the image which best conveyed the message I was trying to deliver, whether from searching the Internet or browsing the extensive gallery in ToonDo. Eventually I got there, but soon hit mistake 3: I didn’t have enough panels and quickly discovered that ToonDo only provides a maximum of four … it is after all a cartoon creator rather than a comic one. As always, “Fail to prepare and be prepared to fail!” Anyway here’s my effort:

By IaninSheffield | View this Toon at ToonDoo | Create your own Toon

Maybe there’s a plus-side to only having four panels though. It does tend to focus your mind more, in the way that condensing a message into 140 characters often requires you to think carefully about what you want, or rather *need* to say. Or, OK so I went down the wrong path, but hey, the view from over here’s not too bad after all.

What have I learned:

  • More!! Making mistakes meant I learned an awful lot more than if things had gone more smoothly.
  • I went for the easy option of a familiar tool, but missed an opportunity to learn a new one.
  • If you’re heading down what might be the wrong track, back up quickly and take a look down the other possible routes. A few moments spent here may just save you time in the long run.
  • If I was going to be using ToonDo with students, I’d want to think carefully how I introduced them to it, building in time for experimentation so they can explore all the features at their convenience. It would be so easy to waste away a lesson changing characters, poses, backgrounds, objects and the like, whilst the real focus should be on the learning activity. Maybe set them a homework ‘taster’ activity so they can come prepared to the lesson, knowing what features they’re going to need to use.


Images used in the Toon:

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Phil Hawksworth: http://flickr.com/photos/philhawksworth/5114743884/

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by CraigTaylor1974: http://flickr.com/photos/49333396@N06/4796073717/

Edtechcc Assignment 2: Soundscape January 29, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in edtechcc, Tools.
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menin gate

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by Calotype46: http://flickr.com/photos/calotype46/5883327155/

For almost a dozen years I helped organise a yearly, week-long visit to Belgium with our Year 10s. We invariably stayed near Ieper (or Ypres) and always spent one evening taking in the Menin Gate Ceremony.

I never failed to be moved by the atmosphere generated in this awe-inspiring arch, commemorating those fallen in the local area for whom remains were never recovered. It was to this event I felt drawn when the second assignment was posted:

Sound is a powerful but often forgotten medium. Play sounds at the start of a class and the students’ chatter will fade; they’ll tune in and try to make sense of what they’re hearing.
For this assignment, combine audio effects into a soundscape to represent a place or an event.

Having visited the area so regularly, and having taken in many of the sites significant during the Great War and those which commemorated it afterwards, my idea was to gather a mere few sounds evocative of the period and overlay them on the Last Post – the music played by local buglers, each and every night.

The sound effects were found within two of the recommended sites: Soundbible and Sound FX Now, whilst the last post was taken from a YouTube clip of the actual ceremony. ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ was found on FirstWorldWar.com and the reading came from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s ‘Remember Me‘ site. Finding the right sounds was definitely the most time consuming part of the assignment, but then research often is. Having some familiarity with Audacity, that was my weapon of choice and around an hour’s work pulled all the clips together for uploading to Audioboo – chosen since I already have an account there.

Here then is the finished product:

Although I was already fairly familiar with Audacity and despite only working on a one and a half minute clip, it still represented an hour’s labour. I think this is an important factor to bear in mind when producing edited media of whatever flavour. It will take longer! I guess we have to ask would there be value in spending so long on a similar task with our students? Well I’d argue yes, provided they are not working individually. In discussions during the editing process their learning is enhanced and assuming the task is thoughtfully chosen and introduced , greater meaning and understanding is possible … though I suspect you’ll be unlikely to be able to spare the time to do this in lessons on a regular basis.

What have I learned?

  • How long producing a media file can take!
  • To be aware of the steps I ought to consider for those with hearing impairments, if I’m producing audio output. (Thanks Joan)
  • We rarely focus on our sense of hearing. Working in an audio format encouraged me to think in a different way and consequently exercised my creative and analytical capabilities.
  • That removing the visual input stream occasionally, might help our students to focus in more closely on content and meaning.
  • I’m now even more keenly aware of the time some students give over to preparing video sequences, as alternative presentations for homework.