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‘Jockeying’ for position? November 29, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Teaching Idea.
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cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by electricnerve: http://flickr.com/photos/electricnerve/1168546515/

Recently started reading “The World is Open” by Curtis Bonk which promises to stimulate my thought buds in several different ways. Barely through the first chapter (‘To Search and to Scan’) though, he mentioned in passing the notion of a ‘Google Jockey,’ a completely new term to me. A quick search (yes … with Google!) revealed it’s actually quite a well-know idea; Educause defines it as follows:

A Google jockey is a participant in a presentation or class who surfs the Internet for terms, ideas, Web sites, or resources mentioned by the presenter or related to the topic. The jockey’s searches are displayed simultaneously with the presentation, helping to clarify the main topic and extend learning opportunities.

It seems to me there are several advantages to using Google Jockeys in the classroom, but that there are three groups who benefit:

  1. The Jockey – able to practise and hone his/her Web searching skills whilst being able to take an alternative or sideways look at the topic and learning activities in class. They aren’t constrained to focus on the teacher and have the opportunity to follow what piques their interest in the area of study. They bring a new perspective, viewing the topic through their lenses … and perhaps inspiring other students to see things differently too.
  2. The rest of the class – provided with a bunch of supplementary support resources that they might not otherwise have had the chance to experience.
  3. The teacher, who, thanks to the efforts of the Jockey, is blessed with someone finding resources that they might be able to use with subsequent classes working through the same topic.

I guess that some teachers might feel that a parallel information channel could prove distracting; I suspect it would need practice to not only become comfortable with, but to make the most of those serendipitous teaching moments which bubble to the surface as a result of the Jockey’s meanderings. But if having a ‘live’ feed was too intimidating, perhaps devoting the plenary to an exploration of the finds with the while class might be more manageable? It would also be a shame if those finds were lost when the lesson has ended, so perhaps the Jockey could be adding their nuggets to a LiveBinder, ScoopIt or Popplet so that their peers can access them at a later time … perhaps to support their homework?

Now what if the role was actually commonplace in most lessons across the curriculum, or at least where appropriate? Through regular exposure, students would have the chance to sharpen their search skills as they learned from the searching and information mining of their fellow Jockeys. Think also of how much interesting material could accumulate in a relatively short time – clearly an opportunity for learning about managing and cataloguing/tagging information … maybe involve the school librarian if you’re fortunate to have one?

Still only just started thinking about the possibilities; you might already be using them or have a different slant, so please do chip in with a comment. My one reservation is the term, Jockey. Maybe it’s a cultural thing or maybe it needs to be that funky(?!) to be appealing … or maybe it just doesn’t matter. Anyone think of a different expression?

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.

A man. A plan. A canal. Panama. April 11, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Teaching Idea, Tools.
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Oxford Canal

Cruising the Oxford Canal

Just back from a wonderful week away exploring the Oxford Canal by narrowboat where one evening the postprandial discourse (after dinner yackin’) turned to planning … just in general, not specifically about education. So given our situation, I dropped the titular palindrome into the conversation … to a stunned silence. My friends weren’t familiar with this well known example, though knew a few others like civic and kayak, yet weren’t aware of any longer ones. I asked, had they been given that as an exercise, how would they go about it and the immediate response was to ‘Google’ it. (We couldn’t actually do that because as ‘experienced‘ adults, none of us had an Internet enabled device to hand)

Given that the majority of the group were teachers (or had recently retired), I wondered whether they thought that would be a reasonable expectation of students in class i.e. having discussed what a palindrome was, using Google to find some examples. We were split, some thinking Google (or at least an Internet search) made sense whilst others were concerned that the shortcut route was detrimental, since an opportunity for students to exercise their thinking skills might be lost. But how easy is it to conjure a palindrome from scratch?

When we dug a little deeper, we thought that actually getting some quick examples by Internet search outweighed the apparent loss of demand in the task. In fact this largely trivial exercise could be then quickly followed up with more complex tasks like ‘find science-related palindromes’ (more complex searching required) and ‘find the palindrome in a jumbled set of letters.’ The final task might be to create a completely new palindromic word (phrase), making up its definition or meaning. Which moves us neatly up through to the higher levels of Bloom’s. Would we have been able to do that so rapidly without that brief kickstart provided by the Internet search? I suspect not.

My point was that ‘Googling’ has its place. It’s neither good nor bad, you just have to use it effectively by choosing the task wisely.