This document has been created in the Edubuzz Google Docs system, and I’m testing to see if I can publish it directly to my Edubuzz WordPress MU blog using the Google Apps “Post to blog” feature.
If technology has a key role to play in the future of school learning, how big a part should it play in Initial Teacher Education?
Today in East Lothian this year’s probationers, as part of their induction, attended a short session where they were introduced to some of the on-line tools they might encounter in our schools, and that they’d be able to use to support their teaching. During the session, of 75 minutes, we mainly covered Glow and the www.edubuzz.org blogs, with a brief mention of edubuzz Google Apps at the end. (The day also included a session on internet safety from Ollie Bray.)
Those of us involved in presenting the sessions couldn’t help but be struck by the low level of awareness amongst the groups of some of the opportunities now presented by these technologies. Many of the new teachers were clearly surprised that it was as easy to publish to a blog as to send an email, for example. Very few had any idea what Glow offered. In most groups, none were aware of Google Documents and its collaboration possibilities. This wasn’t due to lack of interest or enthusiasm; they just simply hadn’t encountered these tools before, and many soon had great ideas for using them to support their teaching.
If, though, we now know that technology has huge potential to improve learning through, for example, improved personalisation and engagement, it becomes important that new teachers know how to integrate technology in their teaching.
This diagram (source http://tpack.org) shows a current framework which is gaining ground as a way to think about the kinds of skills teachers need to have. In 1987, Shulman¹ developed the idea that teachers needed not just content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge, but specific knowledge (pedagogical content knowledge) of teaching approaches suited to the content.
Now that idea has been developed by Mishra and Koehler into the TPACK model shown. That model, though, suggests that technological knowledge – in particular, in the context of content and pedagogy – is now a key part of the skills mix.
If that’s the case, perhaps courses offered to new teachers could be improved by including not more technology for its own sake, but as a context for learning how it might best be used to support particular pedagogical approaches to teaching particular content?
1. Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-22.
Glow Meet could soon be enabling new links between schools and industry across Edinburgh, thanks to Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s Education Policy Group.
At today’s meeting of the Group, chairman Ray Harris of Edinburgh’s Telford College identified the development of school / industry links as one of the key themes to be progressed this year. This links strongly with the Curriculum for Excellence principle of Relevance.
Children should understand the purposes of their activities. They should see the value of what they are learning and its relevance to their lives, present and future.
Earlier discussions on this had flagged up that many of the barriers to developing links were associated with the overheads involved in organising the physical travel and supervision. Not only does this present difficulties for schools, there are similar difficulties for organisations faced with hosting school children on their sites. Glow Meet offers the possibility of developing virtual links at much lower cost, so I’ll be meeting with Roger Horam of the Chamber to explore the possibilities and get a pilot link-up organised.
Possibilities discussed included:
- Link-ups with a experienced professionals, to allow students to find out about their jobs
- Link-ups with recent school-leavers, to find out what was and wasn’t useful from school
- Link-ups with specialised people, of interest to only a few students, which could be advertised to schools Edinburgh or Scotland-wide
- Recording of these Glow Meet sessions for future careers staff use
It was also agreed to set up a blog to record progress, which will be set up on edubuzz soon.
That’s the question behind a new East Lothian project starting this term. There’s been a lot of discussion of the potential of these technologies over the last year or so and we now aim to make a start on learning about the real-world possibilities. We’re deliberately trying to push this as far as we can beyond what we already do to improve the chances of identifying new benefits – and force ourselves to learn our way past any barriers that emerge. That’s why the project willinclude, for example:
- a focus on web-based collaborative working, using services such as Glow and edubuzz
- issuing netbooks on a one-to-one basis to every child (92) in the Primary 5 cohort
- giving children ownership of the devices, and allowing them to take them home
- encouraging connection to home or other wi-fi networks, such as in libraries, where possible
- encouraging multimedia use through provision of a few Flip video cameras in each class
We have been fortunate to have full support from our IT department for the project. The arrangement is that they will enable wireless network access for the netbooks in the school, but cannot offer software support – if any configuration problems arise, the devices will simply be restored to factory settings by the teacher.
Today Elizabeth Cowan and I met with the Primary 5 teachers at Kings Meadow Primary who will be involved to make a start on planning. The day included an intro to Glow from Ian Hoffman of the Glow team which included useful examples of work going on elsewhere.
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.
It’s become even easier to get publishing on eduBuzz.org following today’s upgrade to Version 1.5.1 of its WordPress MU software.
The interface redesign is the result of a lot of work by the WordPress community, including extensive usability testing. First impressions are good, but we’ll need to do some checks to see how students and staff react. Some differences bloggers will notice:
- a more up-to-date appearance
- a new arrangement for adding media
- the confusing term “slug” has been replaced with Permalink:…/ Edit
- a full-screen editor facility has been added
- “Timestamp” has been replaced with Publish immediately…/Edit
Testing is still under way, but so far at least things seem to be going well. An existing bug with creation of new blogs, which was leading to login difficulties under Internet Explorer, has also been fixed with this update, although a few existing faulty blogs still need to be fixed.
Update: There’s an issue with inserting images in posts. I’ve encountered it under Firefox, but have found it’s working OK under Internet Explorer 7. Thought things were going too well…
Building the Curriculum 3, a recent framework for developing learning and teaching approaches to Curriculum for Excellence, is a thought-provoking read. For those keen to get on with it, it provides a very comprehensive checklist of dos and don’ts, and it’s generally quite readable.
That’s not to say it would win any prizes from the plain English people. Some parts would have benefited from more ruthless editing, such as this on Principles of Curriculum Design:
The principles of curriculum design apply at all stages of learning with different emphases at different stages. The principles must be taken into account for all children and young people. They apply to the curriculum both at an organisational level and in the classroom and in any setting where children and young people are learners. Further consideration to applying these principles is given in the sections of this paper looking at the different stages of learning.
There’s much less mention of vocational education than I’d expected, but maybe my expectations had been raised by recently reading the OECD report on Quality and Equity in Scotland’s Schools. The OECD’s recommendation for a bolder and broader approach to vocational studies in schools is mentioned, and the entitlement specified. But as it’s almost completely absent from the rest of the paper, the net effect is to tilt the status balance once more towards the academic subjects, which is a pity. Peter Peacock was right.
The biggest concern with it has to be, though, where the resources are going to come from to get the planning done. The paper makes it clear that the responsibility lies with schools and partners to produce these programmes, but this is happening just when schools are under more efficiency pressure than ever.
Perhaps one way to square this circle might be to break with our normal practice of a few expert people doing most of the work, and engage a lot of people in doing a small amount each, using collaborative software such as wikis? That would reduce the barriers to involvement to an absolute minimum. Wikipedia, after all, started out as the expert-written Nupedia. After only 12 articles were published in the first year, the wiki was introduced to help create content more rapidly.
Tags are one of the most important tools for finding information on the web. Edubuzz blogs are now much better equipped to make full use of them.
If it’s new to you, here’s an intro to tags from Wikipedia:
A tag is a (relevant) keyword or term associated with or assigned to a piece of information (a picture, a geographic map, a blog entry, a video clip etc.), thus describing the item and enabling keyword-based classification and search of information.
Tags are usually chosen informally and personally by item author/creator or by its consumer/viewers/community. Tags are typically used for resources such as computer files, web pages, digital images, and internet bookmarks (both in social bookmarking services, and in the current generation of web browsers – see Flock). For this reason, “tagging” has become associated with the Web 2.0 buzz.
If you’ve an edubuzz blog, you’ll have noticed a new “Tags” box has appeared below your editor window, and might be wondering what that’s all about. After all, you’ve always had Categories. How are tags different? If you think of Categories as being like big, clunky filing cabinet drawers you won’t go too far wrong. They’re a good thing, but you can have too many of them. It’s best if each post isn’t in too many Categories.
Tags, on the other hand, are used on a much bigger scale. A post may have lots of tags, and that’s not a problem. Tools like tag clouds make it easier to navigate them.
If you’re interested in using tags, the first thing to do is activate the Simple Tags plugin. This plugin, by Amaury BALMER, adds a host of tag-related features to take full advantage of this new capability. Have fun!
What sort of things would you like to see on the edubuzz home page?
At this week’s edubuzz Open Meeting the idea of it becoming a busy, one-stop shop providing an overview of what’s happening across East Lothian’s edubuzz community was proposed. It looks like we need to move it to something that needs minimal clicking, and provides the maximum information without the visitor having to scroll down.
What do you think?
An East Lothian teacher I met tonight mentioned how odd it seemed that, in her few years teaching here, she felt that she knew so many staff in the other authority schools, and so much of what was going on.
She’d been in a city school in a previous life, and had felt much less in touch with what was going on despite the relatively short distances between them.
She didn’t put forward any reason for this, but went on to mention how her class had been:
- using blog stats from other school’s blogs for data handling exercises
- stealing ideas from other class and school blogs to use in class
- enjoying publishing their own blog and getting comments back
She had been actively involved, too, in publishing the work of a project for others to share, and enjoyed browsing staff blogs.
Of course, this doesn’t in any way prove cause and effect, but more and more of this kind of anecdotal evidence is emerging to suggest that this spider’s web of connections between schools, classes, students and staff is gradually creating a strong sense of a single learning community.