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21st Century Learners – Myth or Reality? April 26, 2015

Posted by IaninSheffield in Musings, Teaching Idea.
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Earlier this week I was working with a colleague and her Year 6 group (10 year olds), introducing Google Maps – how to create your own customised map and add your own content. The group is shortly to visit Eyam on a field trip and we were exploring an alternative way to synthesise their learning from the trip, which has both a History and Geography focus. Rather than presenting the findings in a conventional way, using a customised map enables them to be rooted it in the geographical context from which they arose. Although familiar with Google docs, slides and sheets, creating a Google map constituted progression in their digital skills. This lesson then was about laying the foundational skills to enable them to work in the new environment, so the aims included creating a blank map, sharing it with their partner so both could edit, locating a specific point and adding a placemarker, editing the placemarker, adding text and an image, adding a line to represent a route from school to Eyam (then finding a shorter one). An extension task involved exporting the map to Google Earth and ‘flying’ along their route(s). If you’ve never used Google maps for anything other than searching for a place, then all of the above is likely to be quite new and (other than the notion of sharing) involves a different set of features than the ones commonly found in other applications. So in addition to teacher-led demonstrations of the tasks they were to undertake, I also produced a set of instructions to follow; a recipe book if you will. What happened next was quite interesting.

When the class began the activity (working in pairs), few bothered to refer to the instructions I provided and dived straight in, trying different parts of the available interface until they made headway. Those adopting the ‘trial and error’ method made faster progress than those following the instructions, up to the point where they got completely stuck then they floundered, trying to find the relevant point in the instructions (perhaps I need to rethink the way the instructions are compiled?). Once back on track, they raced ahead once more. They also made more mistakes, but seemed comfortable with that, happy to retry an attempt which had gone awry. Fascinating and delightful to see such resilience.

What intrigued and surprised me, though it probably shouldn’t have, was how different these ten-year-olds were when compared with the teacher groups with whom I often work. If I’d undertaken a similar activity with colleagues, I’m fairly sure (albeit anecdotally) that the proportions of those who begin with the instructions and those who would open with experimentation would be reversed. Which then begs the question, do young people these days approach a new task with more abandon than their older counterparts? Is this evidence for 21st Century Learners being somehow different i.e. that the digital era into which they were born is affecting their attitude? Or perhaps younger people are more experimental and happier to take risks, where time-poor teachers would rather adopt the low-risk strategy in order to ensure successful completion? If the two groups are not fundamentally different and all I’m seeing is age-related, developmental differences, I wonder where the transition from one approach to the other takes place and if it’s an incremental change, stretched out over time? As ten-year-olds, they’ve little experience of high-stakes testing; perhaps that’s the point when a trial-and-error approach becomes more of a liability and has to be dropped in favour of the safer, low-risk option? Sadly I don’t have the data to provide answers to these questions, but that one lesson prompted an awful lot of pondering!

Footnote. Two days later I was working with another class when a couple of students came by and said they couldn’t find the Google maps they had created last lesson. I couldn’t immediately leave the class I was supporting to help, but suggested they look in the instructions. They had; without joy. Fifteen minutes later when I could pop across to their class, they were all back on track, maps open and immersed in their activities. It transpired that my instructions had lapsed owing to the update to the new version of Google Maps. Although initially flummoxed, their ‘Try. Fail. Fail better.’ approach helped them to get up and running independently … and to be able to explain to me how my instructions needed amending!. I wonder if … more mature learners would have shown such persistence and adaptability?

In this TED Talk, Tim Harford talks about using a trial and error approach, which others discuss in more detail here.

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?!

Data … in absentia December 4, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Teaching Idea, Tools, Web 2.0.
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snow depth

How deep was your snow?

School has been closed for three days this week; quite an unusual situation for us.  I’m looking forward to exploring how much the technology we provide has ameliorated the potential loss of learning.  Initial figures from our VLE are encouraging, then there’s the Learning Platform and email traffic to consider … but that’s for a later post perhaps.  Inspired by a post from Tom Barrett, as I often am, and given the uniqueness of the situation, I wondered whether there would be any value in trying to capture a similar snapshot for our little community.

My first concern was that our students don’t necessarily have Google accounts as part of our provision, though they may of course have set up one independently of school.  In order to post on the map in the way Tom describes, I’d first need to guide them through creating an account – not impossible, but perhaps putting in place a barrier to a successful outcome.  So instead, I elected to make the data capture as simple as possible and use a Google form to collect the data.  Only two questions: depth of snow and postcode. I later wished I’d added a third field to capture some aspect of where within our school community the respondent was located – maybe year group or form perhaps. It might have provided a little information about who is likely to act on information presented in the following way.  I considered sending an email to all students, including a link to the form and explaining what we trying to do.  But then I thought it might be more interesting to embed the form in our learning platform home page and see how many students (and staff?) would take the trouble to undertake the task without prompting – another reason for keeping things as simple as possible.  It also meant I could provide the developing Google map together with the form.

You’ll by now have realised that my not so ‘cunning plan’ has a flaw. How does the data get from the spreadsheet behind the Google form into the map?  Well given the nature of the interlinking of Google Apps, I guess it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that data fom the two fields could be fed directly into a Google Map. Not beyond possibility maybe, but certainly beyond my meagre capabilities!  So the transfer was done manually, but this also meant I could ‘shift’ the locations slightly from those provided by entering the postcode into the map search box and thereby offer an extra layer of ‘privacy’ for respondents by providing a more general location for their data.  Locating the form within our learning platform also meant that incoming data could be restricted to our community; perhaps not quite in the spirit of global learning, but for our first tentative steps in crowd-sourcing data, a little more control is perhaps more reassuring.

Was it successful?  Well during the two days since the form was deployed, 75 students and/or staff posted data. I’m quite pleased with that, especially since there was neither fanfare nor publicity.  Is that it?  Although it was an interesting exercise in it’s own right, perhaps we can wring a little more learning from the data?

  • Maths: Plenty of opportunities to refer to the Data Handling elements within various specifications. In addition to manipulating the data, its veracity might be interrogated – to what extent is it likely to be reliable?
  • Geography: Are there any relationships between snow depth and location, terrain etc?
  • English: super idea posted as a comment on Tom’s post from Candace Shively
  • ICT: Data, information and databases – investigate this as a data collection method; strengths, weaknesses, errors etc.
  • Languages: for number practice, display the map large screen, click on a flake and pupils have to respond to “Quelle est la profondeur de la neige” for example.

It’ll be interesting to see where our little snow depth map turns up in lessons … and whether this type of exercise offers potential for future explorations.  Thanks again to Tom for lighting the spark.

Maths Maps . . . but across the curriculum? December 22, 2009

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Teaching Idea.
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I’m lucky to work in a school that’s a member of a wider partnership, a sisterhood, a community.  If there’s an issue I’m struggling with and no-one here who is in a position to help, I know I’ve colleagues in that wider network to whom I can turn.  Other colleagues here in school however, don’t recognise that they could do that too and bemoan the fact that they feel isolated . . . but then they haven’t

  • had the chance to meet other colleagues from our community in the same way I have
  • yet begun to establish a PLN to which they can turn.

When @tombarrett produced his first Maths Map (do check it out; Tom explains the principle so well) ) and invited his PLN to contribute, I wondered whether this might be a way to open links between colleagues in our partnership?  I began to envisage a project where I’d take interested colleagues here through the principles of setting up a Google Map along the same lines as Tom’s Maths Maps, but from any curriculum area.  Once they’ve initiated their map, they would then contact colleagues in sister schools and invite them to join (we have a global address list which should make that easy).

Now I know that some colleagues may struggle to see how they can get started i.e. they just can’t spot a topic that they can ‘ground’ (pardon pun!) in a map.  I had no problems in the area with which I’m most familiar and was able to initiate this Physics map on the topic of Energy Resources:

. . . but what about other topics in other curriculum areas?  Can anyone help?  What topic from your curriculum area could use a Google Map to provoke, stimulate or open a discussion and provide a backdrop for a Maths Map-like exercise?  If you have an idea and can spare a moment, could you pop it into this form and we’ll see where it goes.  (Will post a follow-up and feedback on how the project went, together links to any maps we create)


Thanks to @bevevans22 for a couple of great ideas:

BevEvan's ideas

Inspiration from @bevevans22

Castles & Digital storytelling

Mapthematical November 4, 2009

Posted by IaninSheffield in Teaching Idea.
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During the last couple of days, I’ve seen something really quite impressive.  A teaching idea for an activity spanning several curriculum areas and exploiting the potential that ICT and the Internet can offer.  Moreover, it addresses one of those issues that teachers regularly face – “I just haven’t got the time.”

The credit for this superb idea belongs to Tom Barrett (@tombarrett) who has used Google Maps to deliver a series of Maths activities for KS1 & 2 students which are firmly rooted in the real world.  By using the satellite view and zooming in, the students can see the places where the activites are set.  The placemark tool allows mini problems to be attached to a feature in the landscape – click on the placemark and the pop-up balloon provides the student with instructions and the problem.  Ingenious!  But there’s more – by using the colour coding in placemarks, the problems can be differentiated by year group.

Where this venture really takes off for me is that Tom used his Twitter network to publicise the idea and invite folks to contribute by adding a placemark and a problem to the map (which anyone with a Google account can do).  All too soon, the bank of activities can swell as more people contribute.  Though Tom enjoys a wide network of educators, I wonder how quickly a group of Maths specialists could assemble a series of activities?  (Collective noun for a group of Maths specialists – ‘set‘ perhaps?)

More details about ‘Measures in Madrid’ and ‘Shape in Paris’ on the Maths Maps page on Tom’s blog. (If you haven’t seen any of Tom’s ‘Interesting Ways . . . ‘ crowd-sourced ideas, then they’re well worth checking out too)

Just wish I was a little better versed in the Primary Maths curriculum so I could join in!