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One of the key benefits from the use of the web in schools is its ability to turn artificial, “pretend” learning activities into authentic, relevant experiences. For example, writing for a real, potentially world-wide audience is more engaging than writing in a jotter for an audience of one or two people.
This video, from Alan November, takes this idea further than I’ve seen before. He starts from the gradual erosion of the contribution historically made by young people to their community, and then shows how this property of the web can be exploited to enable learners in classrooms to now become contributors by taking on jobs such as global communicator, global researcher, tool builder and internal collaborator. These, of course, are exactly the sorts of skills now being identified world-wide as important to 21st century societies, such as the “four capacities” of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence.
Via Frank Crawford
Understanding content tagging is an essential skill for effective use of a wide range of internet tools. WordPress blogs now, in addition to Categories, offer a powerful set of tagging tools. But what exactly is the difference?
I’ve now mentioned the addition of the new tagging functionality, briefly in passing, to a few edubuzz bloggers. I haven’t felt, though, that I’ve succeeded in explaining the difference very well. Today I decided to have a look for different approaches, and found this really good explanation of the difference, from Stephanie Booth, who – successfully – argued the case for adding tags to WordPress.
Here are, in my opinion, the main differences between tags and categories, from the “tagger” point of view.
- categories exist before the item I’m categorizing, whereas tags are created in reaction to the item, often in an ad hoc manner: I need to fit the item in a category, but I adapt tags to the item;
- categories should be few, tags many;
- categories are expected to have a pretty constant granularity, whereas tags can be very general like “switzerland” or very particular like “bloggyfriday“;
- categories are planned, tags are spontanous, they have a brainstorm-like nature, as Kevin explains very well:
You look at the picture and type in the few words it makes you think of, move on to the next, and you’re done.
- relations between categories are tree-like, but those between tags are network-like;
- categories are something you choose, tags are generally something you gush out;
- categories help me classify what I’m talking about, and tags help me share or spread it;
Today Matthew Taylor, former chief adviser on political strategy to the Prime Minister and current head of the RSA, gave a lecture to Scotland’s Future Forum on:
how best to encourage communities and citizens to become fully engaged in progressing matters that are important to them and society at large.
I was particularly interested to hear his views on how this might relate to our attempts to increase engagement in education by parents, carers and others in the school communities.
His main argument:
- It’s not about getting policy right – there is no right answer to many modern problems
- It’s not about “Who do we choose to run things?” – the question now is “How can we become the people we need to be to create the future we want?”
- The role of politicians is to support this citizen-centric process – there’s broad agreement on the kind of future we now want: free, fair, decent and environmentally sustainable.
It was interesting that he took the time to explain to the group the huge difference between “Web 1.0” technologies, which he described as just speeding up existing relationships, and “Web 2.0“, which he described as having “immense scope”.
He raised a number of points in relation to education, in particular what he saw as a “vital need for change in the nature of schooling“. Continue reading Engaging Citizens: Communities for the 21st Century
David Puttnam, in today’s Guardian Education asks why it is, despite children having been quick to grasp the joys of new technology, schools are lagging so far behind.
At a recent digital education conference in San Francisco, one of the more memorable remarks quoted came from a child: “Whenever I go into class, I have to power down.” That roughly translates as: “What I do with digital technology outside school – at home, in my own free time – is on a completely different level to what I’m able to do at school. Outside school, I’m using much more advanced skills, doing many more interesting things, operating in a far more sophisticated way. School takes little notice of this and seems not to care.”
He refers to a recent Demos report, Their Space (81 pages, pdf). This report, supported by the National College for School Leadership, includes a whole range of ideas that could help inform eduBuzz developments, for example this from Chapter 4 , “Start with People not PCs, How schools can shift investment”:
This chapter has laid out a set of changes that when taken together add up to a shift in values: a shift in terms of the kind of investment that is needed to reach the potential for change in the system, and a shift in terms of the kinds of skills, experiences and relationships that schools value. Shifting schools’ value systems in this way will create more meaningful learning experiences for young people, and also more active and engaged learners. It will also enable schools to reconnect the currently disparate parts of young peoples’ lives – in school and out of school – and enable them to transfer knowledge and skills across a whole range of experiences. But finally it is important because by building on young peoples’ interests and enthusiasms, and doing it in ways that are going with the grain of their lives, schools will succeed in effectively providing all young people with a set of tools that they can use far beyond their formal learning experience.
8 Carronvale Primary students who attended Falkirk Council’s Education ICT Fair this week have won a Silver award for their P7 class blogs. Of course, they’ve blogged it: you can read the details in posts from Danni, Nicola, Lisa and Rebecca; there are some photos on their class blog too.
Their individual blogs are hosted on eduBuzz as part of our efforts to share what we’re learning with other authorities. It’s working the other way, too, as these blogs are providing us with great practical examples of how individual blogs can be used effectively with P7 students.
The ICT Fair Press Release includes this quote from Julia Swan, Falkirk’s Education Director:
We are seeing the growing use of ICT in the classroom and pupils are responding very positively to developments. Feedback from teachers shows that pupils are generally more eager to participate as they use the ICT equipment to engage with learning.
Many staff have reported that they have found attainment rises the more pupils are involved in using ICT in the learning process and suggests that this is an area in which we will be prioritising our resources.
This anecdotal evidence is consistent with HMI’s recent ICT in Learning and Teaching report, which reported that: “In primary schools, progress in particular aspects of learning was linked to effective use of ICT”. It’s interesting to see this now reaching the stage where it’s leading to the prioritising of resources, despite the apparent absence of systematic studies. If such increased resourcing of ICT is to be sustained, it’s going to be important to improve our knowledge of where exactly the potential benefits lie.
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.
You can read a cut-down version of the article on the Times Ed site. It’s in two parts, and the on-line version provides about 3/4 of each:
- 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.
- THE GOOD – a review of Exc-el, based on interviews with Don Ledingham, Lynne Lewis and Barry Smith. In addition to the on-line text, there’s coverage in the full article of the Pencaitland Primary blog and Preston Lodge High School’s Active Learning Partnerships (ALPs) programme and the student learning logs.
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.