As pressure rises on education budgets, some powerful voices are starting to question the costs and value of ICT in schools.
In Scotland, teachers are often finding that the more they understand Curriculum for Excellence, the more important technology seems to become. ICT is key, for example, to personalisation and choice; providing engaging, relevant learning experiences; collaborating with others, in and beyond the school, and creating authentic learning tasks.
Sometimes, though, it can be hard to bridge the gap between the two world views. In New Brunswick, Canada, the Department of Education has produced a 5 minute video to help.
This video was produced by the New Brunswick Department of Education to stimulate discussion among educators and other stakeholders in public education in the province of New Brunswick. The 21st Century presents unique challenges for education worldwide. In order to keep pace with global change we must focus on 21st Century Skills and public education must adapt to keep students engaged. Rigor and relevance are key,
The parallels with our own Curriculum for Excellence are striking.
Are you still thinking the future of libraries is all about providing internet access and access to ever-bigger book selections? Think again.
Lynne Brindley, in a Guardian Response column this week, made me realise they present a relatively untapped opportunity to improve reading, commitment to learning and digital inclusion within communities. I’ve lifted the title of her piece for this post because it’s a message I think needs repeated.
Public libraries will adapt and survive because they have a crucial role to play both in fostering reading and commitment to learning, and in delivering vital digital skills and digital inclusion in an increasingly digital Britain.
I’d fallen into my own favourite trap by seeing the potential of technology in libraries for doing existing things more effectively – finding books, researching, accessing information – but hadn’t fully appreciated how powerful the combination of community libraries and technology could be before reading this piece. The point I’d missed is the opportunities they enable, such as building online skills.
In fact most people have broadband access via our public library network, which has a vital role to play in fostering digital inclusion by building the online skills of users both young and old. Libraries are a safe, neutral, public space with internet access and skilled staff able to offer information and advice about getting online. They also act as a portal to a wide range of other services – particularly in these economically difficult times.
In our public library service we have a great infrastructure on which to build a digital Britain. Through this we can increase lifelong learning, digital literacy and digital inclusion by bridging the gap between online information and services and the millions who are currently “nonline”.
He includes this frank perspective on the value of being able to use typical productivity applications in today’s job market.
If your skill set on your resume consists of “Proficient in Microsoft Office”, then you have no marketable skills. Knowing how to create a document, format a PowerPoint, or organise a spreadsheet are not things you can brag about — those are things every employer expects, like knowing how to pronounce your own name, or remaining continent during office hours.
So, if those skills are taken for granted, what does Charlie think does matter? His examples include:
learning to work remotely (i.e. working virtually, without supervision)
learning skills that are in high demand, and slightly difficult to learn (e.g. from free web tutorials)
creating a blog, so that prospective employers “Have something positive to look at when they Google your name”
Schools could help with developing these skills, but we’re certainly not there yet. How do you teach a student to create their personal blog, or craft blog posts, for example, if blogs sites are banned by your school’s web filters?
Maybe, though, starting to flesh out a set of “recession survival” skills and finding ways to integrate them into learning activities through Curriculum for Excellence outcomes and experiences, could be a worthwhile direction to take? Who knows, the urgency of helping students get through the recession might just enable us to dismantle some of the current barriers.
Looks like Web2.0 is now impacting science in radical ways. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about recording those experiments on-line, and not just in private jotters? Via Slashdot:
Scientific American is running a major article on Science 2.0, or the use of Web 2.0 applications and techniques by scientists to collaborate and publish in new ways. “Under [the] radically transparent ‘open notebook’ approach, everything goes online: experimental protocols, successful outcomes, failed attempts, even discussions of papers being prepared for publication… The time stamps on every entry not only establish priority but allow anyone to track the contributions of every person, even in a large collaboration.” One project profiled is MIT’s OpenWetWare, launched in 2005. The wiki-based project now encompasses more than 6,100 Web pages edited by 3,000 registered users. Last year the NSF awarded OpenWetWare a 5-year grant to “transform the platform into a self-sustaining community independent of its current base at MIT… the grant will also support creation of a generic version of OpenWetWare that other research communities can use.” The article also gives air time to Science 2.0 skeptics. “It’s so antithetical to the way scientists are trained,” one Duke University geneticist said, though he eventually became a convert.
Every child will have an on-line space in which they can keep a record of their experiences and achievements that will track through with them from the age of 3 – 18, – Perhaps even from birth where they reflect upon their learning, their experiences and achievements.
This week’s Times Education Supplement Scotland (Friday, April 6th 2007) includes a feature we’ve been awaiting with interest on the use of social software in schools. Sue Leonard, the author, set out to investigate recent events where public web sites had been used to post anonymous comments on teachers. As part of her research, she contacted East Lothian to hear how we were using these tools.
THE BAD – a discussion of problems arising from the use of a US-based site by students to make comments on teachers in Scottish schools. Perhaps inevitably, and despite inclusion of supportive arguments from the site’s founder, it paints a dark picture.
I’d been a bit worried that the article could so easily have painted a negative picture. It’s a relief to find that Sue’s interviews with some of the Exc-el community have provided more than just an abstract sense of balance: they’ve provided a tangible example of an alternative, positive way to view, and use, social software. I hope that’s helpful to people making decisions elsewhere.
It does make me think, though, we’ve got a much stronger story to tell, though, than can be covered in just a couple of pages. Although we’re trying to share what we’re doing via blogs, for example, we know that – by their nature – they’re preaching to the converted. They also tend to focus on a short time period; what we’ve done today, or this week, rather than what we’ve achieved over 6 months or a year.
There’s a gap here. We need to find ways of making it easy for people new to Exc-el to quickly get their heads round not just what it’s all about, but to find stories about successful examples they can build on.
Now that the number of Exc-el / eduBuzz blogs is going up, it’s becoming more important to develop ways to sort out the information you want to see from the stuff you don’t.
Maybe you’ve discovered RSS feeds, and are using them to subscribe to blogs of interest. So far, so good. In your RSS aggregator, say Bloglines, you’ll see an entry for each blog you’ve subscribed to, and beside that entry a number showing how many new posts there have been since your last visit.
But what if the blog’s very active and wide-ranging, and you’re only interested in posts on one subject? Subscribe to the blog’s feed, and you’re going to have to browse through every new post looking for the ones you want. That’s a waste of time.
Today after-school I ran a 90-minute CPD session on creating dynamic school web sites using WordPress. Until I arrived, I was expecting around 5 people, and had prepared, just in case, for up to 10. In the event, there were 13 on the latest list, and everyone made it. There was great enthusiasm, and I went away convinced the group will be making full use of what they learned.
One of the biggest hurdles we’ve got in the edublogging community is bridging the RSS chasm.
If you’re an edublogger, chance are you’ve got at least a basic idea of what it’s all about. You’ll probably use an RSS reader, or aggregator, such as Bloglines, to keep track of the blogs you read. You maybe even use an RSS feed or two to provide some content for your blog, such as news headlines.
For most people in schools, though, RSS is just another bit of jargon. The potential benefits of RSS tools in education can’t be obtained. And because – if you’ll pardon the Rumsfeld-ism – they don’t know they don’t know it, let alone what the benefits might be, there’s no demand for training…
What has to happen for people to “get it”? In my experience, demonstrating a feed aggregator is a key step. I usually use Bloglines for this, as it has a good user interface. But if you want to try to explain RSS in your blog, as Tess does here, you’re at a disadvantage – you can’t so easily show a live feed in the context of your writing.