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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
Law Primary’s recent inspection report is now available on HMIE’s web site. The school’s blogs get seven mentions altogether, including in this Good Practice box.
Effective Use of ICT
Staff wanted to be more innovative in their use of ICT. They created a school blog to provide information on all aspects of school life and to encourage a regular dialogue between home and school. Staff worked closely with the local authority ICT team to set up the site and then took on responsibilities for maintaining it.
Pupils were given a key role in providing the content. Pupils at the upper stages displayed and gave an account of their achievements and the range of activities that they had taken part in. Across the school, pupils used the site to provide feedback on school events. At P6 and P7, a pilot programme for homework was introduced with homework tasks and links to helpful educational sites posted on the blog.
The blog also helped parents to keep in contact with their children who took part in the P7 residential trip and let them know about the daily activities. Development and use of the blog has helped to promote pupils’ language, ICT and independent learning skills. It has also proved to be a highly effective way of highlighting and celebrating pupils’ achievements.
Hopefully this positive report will help other schools Scotland-wide make the case for using blogs for educational purposes. Unfortunately we know that Law Primary’s blog, along with all www.edubuzz.org blogs, are currently blocked by web filters in a number of Scottish education authorities.
Via LTS Daily News today: The Scottish Consumer Council has issued a new survey report (pdf, 4pages) which shows that, although things are slowly improving, secondary pupils often still don’t have enough say in decisions that affect them.
Secondary school pupils were also critical of the amount that schools consult them with only one in eight secondary school students reporting that their schools consult them regularly on issues affecting them.
The focus is on Pupil Councils as the mechanism for involving pupils in decision-making. But it doesn’t recognise that the concept of Pupil Councils is based on the idea that it’s not practical to listen to the voice of large numbers of students. The web changes that, and could enable radical improvements, but this opportunity isn’t recognised in the paper. Instead the proposal is just to deal with current inconsistencies.
“We believe that the Scottish Government should convene a working group to develop guidance on pupil participation to ensure consistent standards across Scottish schools.
I’d like to support some Pupil Councils to exploit the web in their school to give more pupils much more of a voice. Any volunteers?
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.
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.
Yesterday’s thoughts on Extreme Learning, where we talked about using the term “mashup” to describe a form of output material, is supported by Becta’s second volume of its Emerging Technologies for Education paper , out this week. It includes this description of the way that use of social software supports the way young people like to learn.
But perhaps more interesting is the fact that (social tools) operate at the intersection of technology, teaching and creativity, which is a need that Sir Ken Robinson, a leading expert on innovation, identified so eloquently at the 2006 TED conference. In this respect, the fundamental pattern of learning and innovation using social tools – find –> remix –> share – seems ideally suited to the way most young people like to discover and make sense of the world around them, which is reason enough for an optimistic view of their likely impact. (from Chapter 1, by Lee Bryant of Headshift, Page 10: Link)
I’ve never seen this connection made so explicitly before. It makes me wonder if, as we develop East Lothian’s new learner-centred social software site eduBuzz.org, our current main menu options, Explore and Share, might be complemented by a third, Remix? That could link learners to some of the tools now starting to appear which explicitly support the remixing activity, such as Dapper (thanks Robert) or Yahoo Pipes (thanks again Robert!). It’s early days in this area, but there’s no doubt use of these tools is now within the capability of some secondary school students, and they’ll only get easier to use.
Ellie, a P2 girl at Haddington Infant school, is going to Western Australia for a period of 6 weeks. We’re going to set her up with her own blog, so she can keep her class up to date with her travels. I’m meeting Mum tomorrow to get her started with WordPress.
The plan is to have one that Ellie’s teacher and her class can write to as well, so they can in turn keep Ellie up to date with what they’re doing.
This way we’re hoping that the blog will help benefit Ellie and her class, and help minimise any adverse impact from the interruption to her normal classes. I find myself wondering if this is how travel journalists of the future are made?