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Horizons near and far … February 12, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in research.
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The 2011 Horizon Report1 was released recently, so it was time to revisit the timeline summarising the predictions made by this yearly ‘state of the nation’ style annual report.  Each year the New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative explore emerging technologies and their ‘potential impact on  and use in teaching, learning and creative inquiry.’

Last year I created  a timeline summary of the findings to help see which predictions were coming to reality and to explore the extent to which our school fits in with the developing trends and emerging technologies.

2011 Horizon Report timeline

2011 Horizon Report Timeline

Clicking the above image will take you to the interactive full-size, scalable version.


Year 2011 on its own

I then thought I might focus in on 2011 to see the extent to which our school is adopting the technologies predicted to be of significance this year.  Mobile technology in the form of phones and e-books feature heavily and it is right that we should have begun our first tentative steps in exploring the affordances of this tech.  Our iPod Touch study is well under way and we should have the infrastructure in place (enterprise wireless solution)  to support connection of student devices in the near future.  Our library is undertaking a study of e-books and what place they might have within our provsion of learning resources.  Use of a few QR codes in public places around school is barely even dipping our toes in the waters of augmented reality, but it begins the process of awareness raising amongst our community.  The potential offered by educational gaming continues to suffer little penetration in school with few colleagues aware of its potential.  This is one area which really needs a champion before it can gain credence with colleagues.  An increasing number of schools and teachers are beginning to recognise the impact that blogging and wikis can offer both for collaboration and providing an audience for student work as evidenced superbly by the work taking place at Heathfield CPS and many other schools. Another area we have yet to explore more fully and another which would benefit from a passionate advocate.

In the previous post, I also looked at the range of technologies emerging in the reports to consider the penetration they are making into our school:

Technology penetration in school

Technology penetration in school

A little bit further foward, but not as much progress as we might have hoped for, owing to one or two technological challenges which became manifest.  Time to get stuck in!

I often wonder where we are on the spectrum of adoption across the whole range of schools. Are we behind? Doing OK?  I try to rationalise things by saying that what matters is what’s right for us and what our aspirations are for the learning of our students … but then again, I sometimes wonder what those aspirations are based on.  I clearly need to think and talk about this much more. Damn the Horizon report for making me think!

1Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., and Haywood, K., (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report.
Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Scanning the Horizon – follow-up July 11, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in research, Web 2.0.
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I’m delighted that the kind folks at NMC responded positively to my request and were supportive of my modest attempts to summarise the data from the Horizon reports since 2004 in a different way using Timeglider:

Horizon Reports

Horizon Reports in Time Glider

Exploring the emerging technologies highlighted in successive Reports since 2004, we begin to see two distinct aspects emerging:

  1. The technologies and infrastructure upon and with which we can support learning and
  2. The applications and techniques enabled through that infrastructure

Whilst many of these technologies have become mainstream and our students are increasingly using them in their lives beyond the school gates, it is probably fair to say that their penetration into classrooms lags some way behind.  But that’s a generalisation so I attempted here to assess (subjectively!) to what extent those technologies (most appropriate for K12) in the reports have penetrated across our school:

Penetration of technologies into school

Penetration of technologies into school

I suspect the majority of schools would provide a similar return – how about yours?

This picture would doubtless change however,  if we focused on the classrooms and lessons of ‘early adopters’ – those teachers who are not only aware of the above, but have begun the process of exploring how and in what ways we can exploit these tools . . . or indeed if we should.

But we know that many students carry and use Internet-connected, application-rich mobile phones, yet these powerful devices must remain hidden in class.  Wireless networks, at least in secondary schools have become more robust, yet it’s rare to find a school which allows its students to use their own laptops, netbooks and iPod Touches on them.  Most students, even as young as five and six (through sites like Club Penguin), use social networking tools to play and communicate with one another, yet these sites are often filtered by schools and/or local authorities.

Why is that?  Can school and formal learning really be so disconnected from our everyday experience?

I think that’s probably a topic worthy of its own post.

Scanning the Horizon July 3, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Inspiration, research, Web 2.0.
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Each year, the New Media Consortium, in collaboration with EDUCAUSE, produce and release the Horizon Report – an exploration by a large group of leading forward thinkers what technologies are likely to be of influence in the short (this year), medium (2-3 years) and longer (3-5 years) terms.  Predominantly aimed at Higher Education, there is still much for my sector (Primary/Secondary Ed.) to learn from the suggested emerging technologies, the key trends and the challenges we’re facing.  Begun in 2002 and available in digital form since 2004, the previous editions are available to download and distribute under a CC license.  Even better is that the last two years have seen the release of a special K12 edition of the report.  This year I noticed that NMC had considerately made all previous reports available in a single PDF – the ‘boxed set’ version.  And that set me thinking . . .

Wordle: Horizon Reports 2004-2009

There’s a heap on interesting information in here which could stimulate further discussion . . . but encouraging colleagues who don’t share the same passion(?) for ICT that I do to read and analyse that whole archive was a non-starter.  So I began thinking how I might summarise the main findings of all the reports and also begin to explore the chronology of the emerging trends and how accurate the reports have proven over the course of time.

I thought a timeline application might suit, so scanned back through my Delicious links, finally settling on TimeGlider, an online offering which satsified the first criterion of being free and also offered most of the other functionality I was chasing.  I decided that in addition to the six significant technologies each report focused on (2 for each term), I’d also include the key trends which influenced these choices.  Much cutting and pasting later, the data is in TimeGlider, but here’s the rub.  The CC licence under which the reports are released allows for duplication and redistribution in full, but not for derivative works.  So is what I’ve done a ‘derivative’ work?  Since I’m not sure, before I publish the timeline, I thought it would be wise and courteous to contact NMC and see what they think . . . so we’ll wait and see.

Think the next post is already writing itself itself and could go either of two ways . . .

Choices, choices . . . June 4, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, TELIC, Tools.
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To close the report for the current Masters module on which I’m studying, I’ve been asked to reflect on the tools I chose to use to support my studies and to deliver the report.  The course itself explores new technologies in learning, so it’s entirely appropriate to make use of them in our own learning.

One aspect of my role in school is to support, advise and guide colleagues in their use of ICT.  In order to do that, I feel it behoves me to have experience of some of the tools I might recommend or suggest.  Not just experience from having read about a tool, but experience from involvement in an authentic situation.  So whenever the circumstances arise which provide the opportunity to explore a new tool, I strive to take advantage.

This case study then has made use of different tools, partially as an exploration on my part, but also to consider an alternative way of presenting a report; one which embeds the tools appropriate to the different tasks undertaken, without having to convert the knowledge that they produced into more traditional forms.

The basic ‘holder’ then for this report was the wiki you see here.  There are many features of a wiki which made it suitable for this task:

  • the ability to revise and redraft whilst others can see that development (or even contribute to that process) through the page history
  • the opportunity to reflect on additions and amendments through the ‘comments’ feature, and for others to join those deliberations
  • the flexibility of the structure. Being non-linear, it makes adding extra sections much easier, it allows others to navigate through it in ways which suit their preferences (assuming navigational tools are sympathetically included), an initial skeleton is can be set up during planning but can easily be amended should the need arise
  • linking to content in other locations is straightforward
  • it’s online which means that it can be exposed to a wider audience, thereby promoting comment during the development of the content – a formative feedback process, rather than solely summative.
  • any rich media which are generated during the study (e.g. audio from recorded interviews) can be incorporated directly into the report.

Not all these affordances were exploited on this occasion, but by choosing the wiki format, the opportunity to benefit from them should the need have arisen was not lost.

I chose to make use of my personal blog as a place to reflect, simply because it enjoys a wider audience than that which this wiki does.  This meant that my musings would be exposed to, and invite comment from people other than those on TELIC and as a consequence perhaps introduce different perspectives.

There were also posts on my blog which I made prior to deciding on the focus of this study which were of significance in laying the foundations for the whole study.

Help-U-Plan Gantt chart maker

Help-U-Plan Gantt chart maker

When it came to planning the project, I have been casting around for some while for a suitable Gantt chart maker – it’s a tool I want to introduce into our wider project planning in school.  I settled on the one you see here, having explored alternatives which offered more features, greater functionality, interactivity and collaborativity (a real word?!)  The choice in the end came down to cost – this one was free and could do much of what I needed, though was far from intuitive nor flexible in use.  Did a Gantt chart help with the project planning?  Well yes, though this was a small-scale pilot study.  I can see however that with larger projects which include other people in key roles, having the opportunity to work together within the planning environment could be quite important.

A Gantt chart provides the function to plan out a schedule for the resources in a project, but doesn’t allow for too much digging into the issues, especially where people are concerned.  The Big Picture was much more suited to that:

The Big Picture

Project Planning with The Big Picture

The intention here is to examine the series of ongoing projects you might be undertaking at a given time and how they might be influencing one another.  It’s also much more amenable to breaking down a project into a set of issues to address and how they might be interlinked with one another. It’s also a collaborative environment and so is ideally placed to function in a team environment.

Project Closure Report

Project Closure Report using Word

When the time came to write a project closure report, I turned to that the tried and trusted MS Word.  This choice was influenced by the audience to which the report was targeted – colleagues in school.  The majority are still more comfortable reading from the printed word and this format would enable them to do just that should they so choose. It has features which support the drafting of such a document and is relatively easy to distribute.

Study reports invariably close with a bibliography.

Zotero for Bibliography

Zotero for Bibliography

For a while now my weapon of choice for recording references has been Zotero.  Since it went online, it became a whole lot better.  I like it’s integration with my browser (FireFox) and that if the online location of a particular resource (book, academic paper, journal, website, video)  has been incorporated into one of Zotero’s translator module, information can be pulled directly into the right fields needed for correct citation . . . all with one click.  By creating an online account, each reference you create in your own bibliographic library is synchronized online.  By using the tags feature, all references relevant to this module can then be surfaced through a filter to generate a list of all the references.  Although Zotero can generate a Harvard (or many other) listing which can be pasted into a traditional report, I elected to stick with the online version which doesn’t have traditional layout, but does have all the necessary information, together with the bonus of active links direct to the resource, assuming it is on the web.

Does my case study report fit the normal conventions for submissions of this type? Probably not. But by being given the freedom to make a submission using the tools of my choice, I’ve certainly chosen to explore other options and consequently learned more in the process.  Perhaps there’s something for us to learn in schools; when are we going to start insisting that the tail of examination procedures and processes shouldn’t be wagging the dog that’s pupil learning?