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Caring about sharing January 11, 2015

Posted by IaninSheffield in Musings, Resources.
Tags: ,
sharing is caring

creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by Niklas Wikström: http://flickr.com/photos/niklaswikstrom/5214708665

In a recent discussion with a colleague regarding our learning platform, I was brought up short by a comment they made. One of the affordances of the platform is the capability to share resources and ideas both within our school and between colleagues in sister schools, which strikes me as only a positive thing. Not so perhaps. The colleague observed that whilst sharing and collaboration are fine in principle, the reality is that the performativity demands placed upon individuals, departments/faculties and schools, mean that we are in competition with one another. As individual teachers we compete for recognition or recompense; we strive for things which make us stand out from our colleagues so that we can meet the criteria which allow us to jump through the next threshold hoop. Departments are continually judged against one another by the exam results our students achieve, the approaches we adopt and the opportunities we offer beyond the formal curriculum. League tables and competition for students place schools in competition with one another, rather than encouraging co-operation and collaboration. I was minded of a conversation I had with a colleague a few years ago about an interesting resource they had developed. When I asked how she was going to share that with colleagues, the reply was guardedly unequivocal; whilst we might have a general principle of sharing with one another, she felt she needed to retain sole access to certain interesting resources so that in the eyes of the students, she would be able to stand out from the crowd.

How depressing. When combined with teachers’ hesitancy or reluctance to make their materials open; the possibility of losing rights and control of their materials; concerns over quality judgements of their resources; and possible copyright claims against embedded content that they have downloaded and reused (Davis et al 2010), it’s perhaps a wonder that any ideas or resources are shared at all. But there are indeed teachers out there sharing and sharing generously, as successful repositories1 like TES Teaching Resources, Jorum, MERLOT, and the OER Commons attest. Or indeed by the exchange of ideas and materials that takes place continually through social media platforms like Twitter and Google Plus.

Why then should this be? Perhaps these teachers have found ways to overcome the organisational, cultural, legal and technological barriers (Charlesworth et al, 2007)? Or perhaps they recognise the value of participating in a community of sharing which delivers benefits including:

  • exposure to models of interesting practice;
  • conservation of time and effort by avoiding duplication of resources;
  • scaffolding and mentoring for teachers new to the profession or to a different curriculum area;
  • Inspiration for teachers wishing to redevelop or redesign the curriculum.

(Philip & Cameron, 2008)

For me though, it’s  simple moral issue; one of reciprocity. The Internet and the connections it brings has provided me with a never-ending stream of resources and ideas from which I continually draw. I can trace this right back to a website which provided so many worksheets, teaching ideas and wonderful links to support me in my Physics teaching and my students in their learning. Amazingly it’s still going strong under the name of its author – Andy Darvill’s Science Site, Andy being a Physics teacher and early pioneer of using the Web to provide online resources. It inspired me to do the same for my students (and anyone else who dropped by), though my site is no longer around (other than through the WayBack Machine). I gained so much from Andy and others like him, I felt obliged to attempt to pay back some of that generosity, if not directly, then to the community at large. That’s the way it should work shouldn’t it; the more we gain, the more we contribute? Surely we can do better than 90 9 1?

1Open eLearning Content Repositories

Charlesworth, A.J., Ferguson, N., Schmoller, S., Smith, N., Tice, R., 2007. Sharing eLearning Content – a synthesis and commentary. HEFCE
Davis, H.C., Carr, L., Hey, J.M., Howard, Y., Millard, D., Morris, D., White, S., 2010. Bootstrapping a culture of sharing to facilitate open educational resources. Learning Technologies, IEEE Transactions on 3, 96–109.
Philip, R., Cameron, L., 2008. Sharing and reusing learning designs: Contextualising enablers and barriers, in: World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications. pp. 453–462.

And so it begins … November 28, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in research, TELIC, Tools.
Tags: , , , , , ,

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].

Is IT really necessary? September 18, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Resources.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A couple of years ago, a friend and Head of IT in another school asked my opinion of ICT as a discrete subject in KS3. He was under pressure to have it removed from the timetable and distributed within the rest of the curriculum. At the time I couldn’t provide a compelling argument either way, much to his chagrin. This topic has raised its head once more and I was wondering whether two years further on, the arguments have changed at all?

By IaninSheffield

Let’s take a step back for a moment and look at ICT in the primary phase. At our school (ages 4-18), ICT is taught across and is embedded the curriculum in KS1 & 2; there are no discrete ICT lessons. The philosophy is that ICT should be used when and where appropriate to support learning, thereby ensuring that it is used in authentic situations, rather than being studied in its own little box. At KS3 however, ICT gets its own ‘slot’ on the timetable and becomes a discrete entity. Here it is felt that it can be explored in greater depth, is as worthy of study as other KS3 subjects, that pupils need a solid grounding for study at GCSE and beyond (should they so choose) and that subject specialists are better placed to provide for those needs. I think I’d be right in saying that our ICT in the Juniors section is similar to that in the majority of primary schools (but am happy to be corrected) and similarly our KS3 provision to that in the majority of secondary schools.

In addition to the above points, there are other factors which come into play:

  • The expertise of the teachers in embedding ICT within the broader curriculum. Primary teachers are perhaps more adept and certainly more experienced at using thematic cross-curricular approaches. Colleagues in secondary are often keen to play to the strengths of their subject disciplines, leaving other elements to those who are more capable.
  • Literacy may be integral to English lessons, but it clearly cuts across all other subject areas too, demanding that all teachers address it when necessary. Similarly numeracy may arise predominantly from the study of Maths, but it too is a touchstone to which all subjects will refer at some time. How far then should skills associated with a particular subject need to surface elsewhere? How about ‘carteracy?’ Understanding the information that maps provide us with is crucial in Geography, but many other subjects refer to maps too; another cross-curricular skill, if not less explicit. So where does ICT sit? With the other ‘…eracies?’ Or at the same level as History, French etc?
  • Resourcing. ICT taught as a discrete subject demands greater resources, invariably in the form of ICT suites/labs. ICT covered across the curriculum may allow resources to be deployed in a more distributed way, perhaps meeting the needs of subject areas more effectively in their own environments. The former is more manageable, the latter more flexible.
  • Ownership. It is increasingly apparent that mobile devices of various flavours are becoming more commonplace in the pockets and bags of our students. Supported by more cloud-based applications, schools have the opportunity to consider a completely new model for surfacing ICT in lessons, one in which ownership of the devices (and the learning they support?) transfers to the hands of our students. How might/should this affect ICT within the curriculum? (The issue of equity of access is for another post perhaps?)
  • Apprenticeship. Some would argue that learning with and about ICT occurs daily and nightly as our students interact with one another to explore ways to ‘get things done.’ Purists (some ICT teachers?) might say that this only serves to get them into bad habits; formatting text rather than using styles, spaces instead of tabs, images ‘poached’ from the Internet rather than correctly referenced etc.
  • There is much concern at the moment about the decline in the numbers of students studying computing and the ramifications for the nation’s future economy. Do ICT and Computing actually require more emphasis on the curriculum?

So I’ve singularly failed to answer the question whether ICT should be entirely embedded or taught discretely. I’d be really interested therefore to hear your views, both ICT subject teachers and non-specialists, primary and secondary. What works for you? Which directions ought we perhaps to be moving? What issues have I missed? All musings much appreciated.

Do we reeeeally need all that stuff? February 27, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Management, Resources, Tools.
Tags: , , , ,

In a given school year, how much ‘stuff’ does a student need to support their learning?  I’m thinking about books (both for writing and reading), equipment they find in their pencil cases, resources used in lessons (equipment used in Science, Music, Art, Geography etc etc), AV equipment and so on.

Well here’s a list, which I certainly wouldn’t claim to be exhaustive, together with some notional costs, taking into account that they wouldn’t necessarily need sole acess to all the items:

Table of costs

Grand total – about £300 . . . or twice the cost of an iPod Touch!

iPod Touch

iPod touch by Mike Rohde, on Flickr

Each of the items listed in the above table could be replaced by the device itself, or an App, a free App at that.  Now I couldn’t claim my knowledge of Apps is that extensive, so I’m sure you could think of other things which could be replaced (perhaps you might make any suggestions in a comment to this post).  We might also be able to find App alternatives for some of the full applications running on the PC?  And let’s not forget all the other free ebooks that an eReader App would provide access to.  It might even be worth . . . dare I say it? . . . buying a few Apps if needed.

So even if we took the computer out of the above list, the Touch would pay for itself in the first year.  Surely that’s a ‘no-brainer’ then?

Post Post:  Wouldn’t normally update a post, but become aware of another couple of apps which could replace physical devices and just had to include them.  There are a few apps which allow you to use the Touch as a remote input device (mouse, keyboard) or better yet, gyromouse or slate – these devices retail at approaching £100, so that’s quite a saving.  The real corker though is an app (iResponse) which turns theTouch into a response device (‘clicker’) . . . which means another £30 saved.  In other words, replacing the items in the list now buys us 3x Touchs!