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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.

Lack of Access . . . or lack of clarity? December 28, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Musings, research.
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Since a number of people had been retweeting a news article on the BBC website (A million UK children ‘lack access to computers’ – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-12075057), it seemed I ought to check it out.

No computer

from maximolly on Flickr

OK, cards on the table first. Had the events described in this news item been taking place when I was in school, then I suspect, given my family circumstances, I’d have been one of the disadvantaged. Now that’s out the way, to the nitty-gritty.

Apparently the Government refused to comment, the journalist told us … twice. Well to be honest, I’m not surprised, but I’m not going to let that stop me.

Let’s start with the opening paragraph – ‘More than a million school children in the UK still lack access to a computer at home, research suggests.‘ Well exactly how many more? And is a raw figure particularly helpful? How many children of school age are there anyway? (8 071 000 in the 2009 school census according to the BIS Statistics site) So does that mean that about 1 in 8 children doesn’t have access? And if it does, how bad is that? Is it bad (or good?) on its own terms, or in relation to other similar countries?

Let’s pick that apart a little further then. Of the 1 million children:

  • how many are in the same household with siblings? Should we suppose that if there are let’s say three siblings in the same household, none has access? If that is the case, then addressing it might demand a different approach by the school, LA or Government, than if the 1 million are all in separate households.
  • How many are in families who have chosen not to have a computer in their home? And what should our response be to that choice?
  • What is the spread of lack of access by age? Should we expect all children of all ages to have the same level of access? Does a three year old need the same level and type of access as a 17 year old?

Moving on a little, the ‘research’ the article is based on is from the e-learning foundation, a worthwhile charity whose goal is to reduce the ‘digital divide.’ If you visit the site, I’d be grateful if you could point me at the ‘research’ item from which the BBC article drew its substance. It’s not in the News section, nor the latest Newsletter, nor the Chief Exec.’s blog, nor Press Releases. There is a reference to a Rowntree Foundation Report which sites 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK, though I could find no reference to the computer access figures in there (I concede I might have missed it somewhere in the 120 pages though). Perhaps then the BBC had interviewed someone from the e-learning foundation who had provided them with the figures, and the website is yet to be brought up to date. There is mention of 1 million children lacking access to a home computer and Broadband access right there on the home page, but there’s no reference to the data source from which the figure arose.

The BBC article goes on to cite the results of a TES survey in November in which ‘more than half of teachers who took part in a survey … said pupils without access to internet or a computer at home were hampered in their learning.‘ Again since there is no link to the raw figures, it’s hard to take on face value. The journalist could of course have put it ‘almost half the teachers … said pupils without access to internet or a computer at home were unaffected in their learning.’ How many teachers were surveyed, from what backgrounds etc? And while we’re at it, how do these teachers know that not having access to a computer and the Internet hampered their learning? Where did their data come from? Let me just throw this into the mix – in the homes lacking in access, was that the only factor which might have hampered their learning? I suspect that sadly, these children are likely to be impoverished in other ways too.

Having swung a kick at the crutch of precision in the article, I have to declare my support for the sentiment it expresses. However the numbers arose, there are undoubtedly vast numbers of children who are disadvantaged with respect to ICT in their homes. It behoves us all to consider what we in schools are doing about that. As a reader of this blog, I suspect you’re not going to suggest that we back away from ICT, so what can we do to reduce the digital divide? Maybe we can look to the e-learning foundation to help us here … or maybe they ‘seeded’ the BBC article to prompt just such a reaction!

Did the article get a little more prominence than it deserved because the ‘retweet’ button’s just a little too easy? Maybe we ought to step back a moment before clicking? Maybe clarity was sacrificed … but given the cause, does that matter? Maybe I’m overdue a visit from the ghosts of Xmas past, present and future?

And so it begins … November 28, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in research, TELIC, Tools.
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Well to be fair it’s actually been going on for a while now. What?! Ah, sorry, I’m referring to my dissertation/extended professional project (EPP) for my Masters. (haven’t yet decided on which is likely to be the best route for my final study … but it’s getting closer!)

I actually began laying the foundations way back at the start of this year, the spark having been ignited by a single tweet, which all developed into a pilot study. Momentum began to gather as the final year of the course started, although the summer break provided some opportunities to get down to the requisite desk research which, despite setting off in what’s transpired to be an unproductive direction in one sense, nevertheless proved quite compelling. Having settled on a grounded theory approach and with the data gathering process in full swing, I’ve been casting around for some mechanism for recording ongoing thoughts, resources and references which may prove pertinent, developing lines of enquiry, whilst assembling and cross-referencing them all in a meaningful way. Previously I’ve simply started with a Word document, produced the chapter titles and added notes to each section as I went along, refining them as the study progressed. For this study however and having elected to attempt grounded theory which utilises “simultaneous data collection and analysis, the constant comparative method used at every stage of analysis, ongoing theory development, constructing codes and categories from data rather than from preconceived hypotheses, memoing to refine and elaborate categories and their relationships’” (Babchuk, 2009), I clearly needed a more supportive and informative system.

Outline view

Compendium outline view

Having considered and discarded the usual mind/concept mapping suspects which were just too limiting, a web search threw up “Compendium” from the Open University which appeared to tick many boxes. Having already downloaded it (no, this one’s not in the ‘Cloud’), this week I installed it, checked a couple of their tutorials and commenced the process of transferring what I’ve already produced into its database. When I say database, that’s the architecture which underpins it, but the user front end is purely

graphical and simple to navigate.

The basic building blocks are ‘nodes’ – think bubbles on a concept map. There are different types of node enabling you to express different ideas: questions, answers, lists, notes, references etc., all of which support the discursive, reflective process through which your study develops.

Map view

Compendium map view

As one would expect, nodes can be linked; they can also be tagged enabling powerful search and filtering as the complexity of the map develops. To ensure the view doesn’t become too cluttered, each ‘map’ node opens a new window so topics can be provided with more space in which to develop lines of thinking. Bringing in the resources (links, quotes, research papers, images) couldn’t be easier – just drag and drop. I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve done so far, even though it’s early stages, but I think there are two areas where Compendium will really help me:

  1. Gathering together the snippets of ideas I have along the way, discarding others which don’t bear fruit and making the formal process of writing the dissertation that much moe efficient.
  2. Perhaps more importantly, tracking the ongoing development of theory using memos about the data and how they are gathered, informing adaptations to the process to better refine the theory. Tagging, sorting, and filtering will be cricual here and I’m hoping the features Compendium will enable these processes to take place more effectively. All the while emerging findings will be linked in with the rest of the project.

Maps can be exported in xml, web (html) and jpeg formats, although I’m not up to the task of creating a dynamic link between my local maps and the web-based version, so to show any updates, I have to re-export them manually each time.  However I do like that the links and pop-ups are all live, providing a degree of interactivity for the viewer.  The option for viewers to provide feedback or ask questions would be useful, but I guess that could be achieved if the maps are hosted in an amenable location.

Oh and did I mention it’s free! [This software is freely distributed in accordance with the GNU Lesser General Public (LGPL) license, version 3 or later as published by the Free Software Foundation.]

Babchuk, W.A., Grounded Theory 101: Strategies for Research and Practice. In Proceedings of the 28th Annual Midwest Research-to-Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing, and Community Education. Chicago: Northeastern Illinois University. Available at: http://www.neiu.edu/~hrd/mwr2p09/Papers/Babchuk01.pdf [Accessed November 27, 2010].

Deep Impact? October 18, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Musings, research, Teaching Idea.
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Comet McNaught

from chrs_snll on Flickr

At a recent meeting of ICT leaders from our partner schools, my colleagues from our iPod Touch Project gave a short presentation outlining progress in the first couple of weeks.  It seemed to stimulate a fair amount of interest judging by the number of questions which followed.  One colleague asked how we were going to measure the impact of the project and whether any of the apps might help in this respect; he wondered whether performance in some of the maths skill and drill type apps might be monitored for improvement.  A reasonable question, but one to which I suspect we already know the answer, but it got me thinking more seriously about measuring impact and whether crude ‘test-like’ performance indicators were actually what we ought to be using as impact metrics.

A good starting point might be to say what we mean by ‘impact.’ In the major ‘ImpaCT2’ study undertaken in 2002, impact is the result of an intervention intended to achieve an underlying policy goal; in this case clearly focused on the effects on pupil attainment as measured by national tests.  In a similarly wide-ranging study undertaken in Nordic countries, the focus was more on pupil learning and explored pupil performance, the teaching and learning processes and communication and co-operation.  Arguably less quantifiable than ImpaCT2, the Nordic study explored the perceptions of pupils, teachers and parents.  Given the depth and rigour of these (and other) studies, perhaps it is disappointing that the degree of impact is lower than we might hope, given the level of investment in ICT.

At present the evidence on attainment is somewhat inconsistent. And. The literature is very positive about some aspects of ICT use, rarely negative, but mainly incomplete or inconsistent. (Condie & Munro, 2007)

There’s two ways to look at this: either ICT isn’t solely about raising pupil attainment, or maybe we’re looking for impact in the wrong way.

The ICT Impact Report from European SchoolNet cautions us that

… measuring ICT impact on learning outcomes is only one area of potential impact. Much depends much on how ICT is used and so it is important to consider the factors that prepare the ground for improved learning and consequently lead to better learning outcomes. A second  crucial area of ICT impact is  therefore the underlying teaching conditions that promote ICT enhanced learning.

Within the four key objectives in the DfES Harnessing Technology Strategy from 2005 we find ‘sharing ideas,’ ‘providing motivating learning experiences,’ ‘building open and accessible systems’ and ‘providing online resources.’  Maybe these are areas rich for mining examples of impact?  In fact we perhaps need to heed Trucano (2005):

It may be that more useful analyses of the impact of ICT can only emerge when the methods used to measure achievement and outcomes are more closely related to the learning activities and processes promoted by the use of ICTs

So maybe on our list of metrics ought to be:

  • Motivation and engagement (though this has been covered in other studies like Passey et al, 2004)
  • Presenting and representing information in different ways (perhaps involving multimedia)
  • Classroom talk and pupil interaction & collaboration
  • Personalisation of learning, targeted to the needs of each learner
  • Facilitation and enabling of creativity
  • Involvement, inclusion and engagement of parents in the learning process
  • Level of access to ICT (anywhere/anywhen)

Though we need to keep in mind the cautionary note that

ICTs are used most by teachers to fit with traditional pedagogies, but the greatest impact is with teachers who are already experienced edtech integrators.

It’s perhaps a wise move if we return to the original premise on which our project came into being.  It was intended to be a proof of concept; an exploratory study seeking to surface the issues with mobile devices (technical, pedagogical, behavioural, safety, security) in school so that we are better placed to plan our next steps forward.

How do you think we ought to measure impact?

Condie, R. et al., 2007. The impact of ICT in schools: a landscape review, Becta.

DCSF, Harnessing Technology: Transforming Learning and Children’s Services. Available at: http://publications.education.gov.uk/default.aspx?PageFunction=productdetails&PageMode=publications&ProductId=DFES-1296-2005 [Accessed October 17, 2010].

Harrison, C., 2002. ImpaCT2 The Impact of information and communication technologies on pupil learning and attainment. Available at: http://research.becta.org.uk/index.php?section=rh&rid=13606 [Accessed October 15, 2010].

Passey, D et al., 2004. The Motivational Effect of ICT on Pupils, DfES Research Report RR523. Available at http://www.education.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/rr523new.pdf [Accessed October 18, 2010]

Pedersen, S. et al., 2006. E-Learning Nordic 2006: Impact of ICT on Education, Ramboll Management. Available at: http://www.oph.fi/download/47637_eLearning_Nordic_English.pdf [Accessed October 15, 2010].

Trucano, M., 2005. Knowledge Maps: ICTs in Education-What Do We Know about the Effective Uses of Information and Communication Technologies in Education in Developing Countries?. Online Submission, p.77.

#TwitterBookRead September 1, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Inspiration, research.
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Well that proved a really interesting experiment . . . but did I gain anything from it?

Read a book

from bethan on Twitter

If you missed the tweets, yesterday I tried using Twitter to record my progress and any points of interest as I read a book – Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs.  There’s a little more about it here.  I guess I wanted to find out whether it added anything to the process of reading, reading for academic purposes that is, as opposed to reading for pleasure.  Had I been reading the book sans Twitter, I’d have made notes as I went.  If you want to pick up the record of what took place, there’s a Twapper Keeper archive here, but because a few Tweets didn’t have the hashtag, I scanned back through the stream and pulled them into the document below:

View this document on Scribd

On the ‘upside’ then:

  1. 140 characters meant I had to really focus on the contents and structure of the ‘notes’ I was taking, so that they still carried meaning.
  2. The ‘chronology’ of the stream means the notes follow the order of the book.
  3. Having occasional comments from other tweeple challenged me to revisit some of my notes and rephrase them, or think more deeply about what I’d noted.
  4. It’s very encouraging when others are taking an interest in what you’re studying (a very important point methinks!)

On the ‘downside’:

  1. I perhaps wasn’t as prolific in my notetaking as I would normally have been, conscious of not wishing to pollute the Twitterstream too much with my ramblings (folks can get very tetchy!)
  2. Sometimes squeezed a little too hard to fit the message into 140 characters and consequently may have lost meaning.
  3. The ‘linear’ nature of the stream meant that cross-linking ideas and concepts wasn’t really possible; I’ll often take notes in the form of a mind map, if I think I can gain something.
  4. Although the stream is linear, some of the additional comments and follow-up replies come out of order.  This can make the archive a little hard to follow.

So weighing the balance of the above, the obvious question I guess is ‘what next?’  How (or should) I take it any further?  Well it’s a start and having done it once, repeating the process with another book would enable some of the wrinkles to be ironed out.  I certainly think I’d like to be on the receiving end; watching someone else take the lead and contributing as an observer.  With that in mind, earlier today John Pallister made a couple of interesting comments by way of follow up:

Tweets from John Pallister

Now there’s an idea!  If other people undertook the task when they’re reading, we could begin to form a library of summaries of interesting literature.  Better than simple summaries though because they would have the additional layer of comments from others who had joined in.  #TwitterBookRead as John termed it.  It’s a win-win-win endeavour surely:

  1. the reader is perhaps encouraged to think more carefully about the ‘notes’ s/he is making, in the same way creating a blog post often makes us think twice before hitting the keys
  2. collaborators/observers can dip in and out as they are able, enjoying the opportunity to contribute to the final product
  3. all get access to a swelling archive of summarised books, enabling them to make a more informed choice before parting with their hard-earned on the full version . . . or maybe find inspiration and pointers to books they might have otherwise missed.

Anyone up for taking this further?

And perhaps this doesn’t have to be restricted just to the edtech community in Twitter.  Surely there are potential benefits for our learners, whether they be students in higher ed or primary or secondary for that matter.  Working together to review/summarise/précis books or longer articles using the 140 character format could involve a host of different skills.  In a single activity, there are opportunities to work up through the levels in Bloom’s taxonomy, undertaking increasingly complex tasks, leading to a higher levels of understanding surely than just reading an article/book sitting at a desk or lounging on a couch?  Reading with a purpose surely?

Just needs fleshing out a little.  Anyone?

(Footnote:  If you want to see a much more elegant and thorough summary of the book itself, then check out this post from Silvia Tolisano (@langwitches) – it’s what inspired me to buy the book)