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Long, long time ago … August 20, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Musings, Tools, Web 2.0.
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Wayback Machine website

Wayback Machine website

When someone on Twitter provided a pointer to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine (WBM), I never really gave it a second thought; it was something I was already aware of. Later however, I got to wondering whether the website I set up to support our Physics Department had been captured? It was a fair ‘way back’ and I couldn’t imagine that any archiving mechanism would have picked up something of such little global significance, but hey what the heck.

On visiting the WBM, the first hurdle was going to be to try and remember the URL of the site, but after leaving it and returning later, the grey cells had done their bit (They do say it’s the short term memory that deteriorates as you get older don’t they?). After typing in the string, jings, crivvens and help ma boab¹, the WBM elves had done their stuff and found my old site! OK, some of the images were missing (I guess they never got pulled through?) but the structure was intact, the links (at least the internal ones) seemed to work … and goodness me, what was I thinking when I made it?!

To be fair, this was the ‘olden’ days as far as the Web was concerned. I guess it was on the cusp between Web 1.0 and 2.0, where social interactions and user-generated content were just beginning to be made more accessible. The earliest iteration captured by the WBM is given as 30th July, 2001; I know I had things up and running before that, but I guess the crawlers hadn’t picked up the site any earlier. So this was just after Blogger had started, around the same tie as Wikipedia, a couple of years before MySpace, Facebook and Second Life, four years before YouTube and five before Twitter². To get anything posted on the Web in those days, you had to work a lot harder. I used some of the free website creation space I’d got when signing up with my first ISP (Lineone, which became Tiscali and later still TalkTalk) – school certainly had none at that stage and VLEs were unheard of in secondary education. I learned the rudiments of site creation and management using NetObjects Fusion (which is amazingly still going, but has moved on from version 5 that I used to version 12!), but as you can see, had little awareness of design consistency. Hey, everyone had animated gifs on their sites then … didn’t they? There was no way for students to submit work, comments or feedback other than by email and the email address I gave was a personal one; we didn’t have a school email address back then either. Looking back, how incredibly naive?

stiffy

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo by Last Hero: http://flickr.com/photos/uwe_schubert/4658993521/

The glaring thing I guess was the pedagogy I was attempting … or the lack thereof. It was very much about providing resources online which we also provided offline; about supplementing and supporting the students’ studies rather than offering an alternative way for them to experience their learning. Or am I being too harsh? Three years before that in pre-Web days, I’d created everything needed to study the A Level Medical Physics module (because we couldn’t afford the books!) using Hypercardon the Macs. An ebook if you will. In the late 1990s! And it all fitted on a 1.44Mb ‘stiffy!’ (Remember them?)

In the eleven years since the website was archived by the WBM, so much has happened, both in the world of ICT and in my own personal development. Only 6 months after that first archive, I’d changed jobs to pursue that developing passion to explore what ICTs might offer and have had plentiful opportunities to investigate more appropriate and effective mechanisms for enabling online learning. Although I wouldn’t change things for a moment, I can’t help but wonder what activities I’d be planning and delivering now, had I stayed in the classroom? Would I have maintained my interest and kept up with the pace of developments? Or would I have burn’t out or become frustrated with the slower pace at which school was progressing?

No regrets. Unlike the Wayback Machine, I can’t go back.

¹ “Oor Wullie” 1930s onwards

² Social Media Timeline – idFive

VLE … not just a distribution tool? December 2, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Resources, Tools.
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A colleague came to me recently asking if there was a way our VLE might be able to help with an initiative he wanted to undertake within his department and with their Year 8 students. They’d always solicited feedback from students, but this was usually ad hoc and with the intention of informing the course and lesson structures. Their wish was to make the feedback process more structured and more useful to the students, enabling them to monitor and reflect on their progress.

Although we have a learning platform built around a SharePoint implementation, we decided on using the Feedback tool in our Moodle VLE since the resultant data could be viewed, extracted and manipulated a little more easily. Referring back to the feedback they provided would also be slightly easier for the students.

history review questions

Question sheet

We chose a traffic-light system (Red, Amber & Green) to give a three point scale, which they would set against different aspects of their course, what they learned, what skills they developed etc. In addition each section concluded with a free-text response into which they would add action plan points.

Once all the responses are submitted, the teacher can see an overview, allowing topic or skill areas the students felt less confident with to be seen immediately … which of course enables remedial action to be taken where necessary. S/he canhistory feedback results also see the action points the students feel they want to address, again making the choice of an appropriate course of action so much easier and hopefully subsequently more effective.

Each individual student can see a summary of their responses and print it out for future reference if appropriate. More importantly, they will be able to refer back to their responses later in the year when they repeat the process and thereby be able to see whether their action points have had the intended effects.

Here we can see the free-text responses showing the action points students had for one of the sections.

feedback cloud

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/6443365481/

Formulating targets for self-improvement is never easy and as we can see, some of the responses perhaps need teasing out a little more. Part of the process of moving the students forward will be in helping them develop the more reflective aspects of their approach, so their action points become increasingly SMART.

Wouldn’t it be great if all subjects required their students to undertake self-reflection like this, on a regular basis so it simply became a natural part of learning? And how about if that data was fed into a central system so a student could see their progress profile across their subject range? And if their pastoral tutors (mentors) had access to that data too so that students got timely and appropriate guidance on addressing areas needing further development … and got praised for areas in which they’re improving?

OK I know. Small steps.

footprints

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by cjsimmons: http://flickr.com/photos/cjsimmons/130008318/