Sunday, 30 September 2007

Naace All Members' Autumn Conference

In the exceptional surroundings of the Cisco Centre near the River Thames at Runnymeade 50 odd (!) delegates came to discover if they were Web 2.0 or not. The discussion was enthusiastic and the texted questions and comment provided a link from the presentation to what people were actually thinking.

There was much interest in the use of a blog as a presentation tool and also with the way videos, slide shows and snapshot pop ups were enabled to enhance the presentation . Real modelling of the Web 2 model.

You can get to the blog I used for the presentation from here .

Much interest was expressed in the educational concepts and the operation underpinning Honeycomb and people were excited about the prospect of getting their hands on this powerful, educationally focused ICT tool.

While I was doing my presentation James Watson recorded the session in a Podium podcast. To listen to a completely unedited version of the podcast about ruweb2? copy the hyperlink below and paste it into your favourite podcast player (e.g. iTunes).

You can read James Watson's take on the event on the Softease Blog.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

The Great Book Survey

My friends at Television Junction are involved in making a programme for Teachers TV about the books that have influences educators and have supported them down through the years.

Teachers TV and the NUT are looking for people to participate in the Great Books online survey, to be made into a Teachers TV countdown programme later in the term.
We’re looking to discover the top 10 books that have most inspired you in your teaching/ educational career.Everyone connected with teaching has a favourite book in their lives. We asked hundreds of people in the educational community to name the book that has most inspired them in their careers. Now it’s your turn. We want to know what books have had the biggest impact on you. Then we’ll be making a programme announcing the Top Ten – and you could be in it!
Librarians, Teachers, students, educationalists – in fact, anyone interested in education – are invited to vote for the book which has most inspired them personally about teaching and learning. We need you to vote now on what book has most inspired you.
We’re starting off with a list of 40 influential books suggested by Dr Dennis Hayes of Canterbury Christ Church University: from Plato’s Republic to Sue Palmer’s Toxic Childhood; from Rousseau’s Emile to John Holt’s How Children Fai; and takes in along the way books by writers as diverse as George Eliot, Paulo Freire, John Dewey, Margaret Donaldson, Matthew Arnold and Sue Cowley. If your top choice is not on the list you can even add it yourself.

The survey is now open and closes on the 26th October.

We welcome all comments on what makes your choice the greatest book and will feature the best responses in the programmes. So please don’t forget to add your comments and you could be featured in the programme. Please also let your colleagues know about the survey.

You can vote online now at Great Books

Labels: ,

Monday, 24 September 2007

Cyber bullying

Is it all just hype or is it that our media conscious society can now get information about anything quickly and simply? It is very, very right that we protect out young people and that we make sure that the use of wider technology does not leave them open to abuse in any way from anyone ... but please, let us not blame the technology.
The Government launched its documentation last Friday ... read it here.


Sunday, 23 September 2007

Come back Ivan ... all is forgiven !

I have had an interesting weekend of educational banter that has caused me to go back, in the end, to my educational roots. I have never, and I believe, will never be an institutionalist and so have never believed that schools were good places for education. Their strength used to be that they were populated by dedicated, inspirational people who were urgent to make a difference to and for the young people who crossed their paths on a year by year basis. If only I felt that was the case today. It is not to say that I don't believe in the dedication of the people it is just that the pathway has changed and somehow the route has got lost amongst the trees.

So I went back and reread, just to revitalise, the works of my mentor Ivan Illich and I am pleased to say that my ideals are still alive and well.

Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby "schooled" to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is "schooled" to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavour are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question. Ivan Illich Deschooling Society (1973: 9)

In the coming age of Web 2.0 technology this escalated to nature of the ownership of education and the vexed question of 'push' or 'pull' with regard to real learning.

I think that teaching is potentially overrated and it stupefies creativity in sport, work and life ........... the truly greats are and were individuals defining their own truths in their own way and our education systems appear to do nothing at all but institutionalise and take of all of the exciting peaks and troughs in peoples' learning pathways and make them into plateaus. It is not just about being good ........ it is about developing the 'goodness' ............ teaching can play a part but education is different. We should not be taking so much of the lead as educators we should be opening doors and drawing maps ..... the ownership and control needs to shift to the learners and it is up to us to ensure that as it does they, each and everyone, is in a state to take on the power that this ownership endows. I see this approach as one towards personalisation. Not the institutional idea of personalisation : Personalisation in education, though, means pupils get what they need; not what they want. It is not the pupil’s decision, but someone else’s. You can read about the institutional inconsistencies here but ..... mine (and I hope Ivan would have agreed with me!)

To see where all this might be going in the modern idiom read Ewan McIntosh's blog post about the MET Schools.

Labels: ,

Saturday, 22 September 2007

VLE or VLP ?

William Shakespeare - Romeo and Juliet -
'What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;'

What matters is what something is, not what it is called but where do the boundaries lie?

A Learning Platform (LP) is “a generic term to describe a system of information and communication technologies that is used to deliver and support leaning” (DfES)

A virtual learning environment (VLE) is a software system designed to help teachers by facilitating the management of educational courses for their students, especially by helping teachers and learners with course administration. The system can often track the learners' progress, which can be monitored by both teachers and learners. While frequently thought of as primarily tools for distance education, they are most often used to supplement the face-to-face classroom.(Wikipedia)

I have spent some time now pondering the 'electronic space' conundrum and have read much about the various merits of the vast variety of systems on offer. My current view is that there ought to be one idea and one meaning and one system and I just can't imagine why there isn't. ( Naive or what !)

I was in a primary school the other day and the head told me that in her group when her colleagues realised that they needed to do something they asked their LA who told them that 'it' could not give advice as to which way to turn but could give them places to look. The heads did not want this ... in reality they wanted someone who knew and someone who could help to make the decision for them. What happened was that they all did nothing .... for a long while ... then one head said 'I'm going to go down this line.' ... and everyone else said 'Okay , we will do that too.'

So I asked if the thing that they had chosen was a Virtual Learning Platform or a Virtual Learning Environment ? ... and that just stopped the conversation. VLP or VLE .. which TLA do you want?

My current view is that a VLP is a carrier bag in which you drop everything else ... with luck and a following wind ... when you shake them all together they become interoperable ... isn't the Internet a VLP ?

All views greatly appreciated.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Google Sky

There is a relatively new version of Google Earth about and it has an exciting new feature or two. Google Sky allows you to view the sky over any location in the world and discover the fascinations of astronomy. There are some really cool educational aspects to this particularly in the understanding of the passage of the moon across the sky. Google Sky is an add on to the original. You need to download the latest version and then you get an extra button on the button bar which is amazing. Just go and see.

Hidden away in the new version of Google Earth there is also a flight simulator.á Once you've started it all up, then all you have to do is hit Ctrl+Alt+A (if you're running OS X it's Command+Option+A; some people have reported that Ctrl+A or Ctrl+Windows+A work when the standard Ctrl+Alt+A does not). You must be in Earth mode (i.e. not Sky mode) for this to work .

Labels: ,

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Learn 2.0 unconference Shanghai 2.45 AM

An interesting night. Unable to go to Shanghai I delivered my presentation, with the help of Eugenie Morley and Danielle Markland , to an audience at the Conference from my office at 2.45 AM this morning ( 9.45 Shanghai time!)

We used a normal Skype web cam video link which connected to Danielle's laptop and her web cam. This projected onto the Conference screen with my image on one side, the blog I was working from next to it and Skype Chat open for comments and links. People in the audience were on their laptops using the blog and links to explore while I was talking and Eugenie was taking in and responding to comments on her own Skype Chat. Participants were also Twittering about the session. I was actually chatting on Skype at the time with a guy in Chicargo who was following the Conference on Twitter and was hoping for a SkypeCast so he could join in ... perhaps next time.

As I was talking to people I recorded the session in a Podium podcast. To listen to a completely unedited version of the podcast about RUWEB 2.0. copy the hyperlink below and paste it into your favourite podcast player (e.g. iTunes).

So really low tech as far as video conferencing was concerned but certainly fit for purpose.

My thanks to Danielle and Eugenie for handling the setting up in Shanghai and thanks to the Confernece organisers for publicising the event and sorting space in their crowded programme.

Labels: ,

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Shanghai - ruweb2 ?

Innovative Technology for Teaching and Learning
Social networking - the primary classroom and beyond

This post is set for those people who are at the Learning 2.0 Conference in Shanghai where I was due to give a presentation this weekend. Unable to travel I put much material into a blog at and for some reason this is now not accessible from China.

In view of this I have copied the bulk of the materials here ... enjoy !

I will also be doing a virtual 'unconference' session at 9.45 AM Shanghai time on Sunday 16th September ... perhaps you can make it ?

So ... RUWEB2 ? or more importantly ... 'are your children/students?'

'The future is already here - its just not evenly distributed'
William Gibson

We have seen it coming, we have used many elements of it and we all call it different things. Is it ‘social software’? Is it Web2.0? Is it ‘New Generation’? The title matters not, but the operation is the difference between ‘push’ and ‘pull’.

In our own social and professional lives as mainly digital immigrants (see the work of Marc Prensky) we have begun to embrace a new form of ‘living’. We have returned to older ways of finding out; we ask to know. But our asking is wider and involves interaction and debate. We have begun to embrace the technology to help us with this but its exponential change leaves us gasping at what we can now do and who we can talk to and, best of all, what we can say.
There is real power here for our own professional development that we have only just begun to tap into. We need to make a personal move from ‘immigrant’ to ‘native’.

The latest generation of social software is evolving. That is part of its power and its excitement.

In our schools we are dealing with digital natives. This is their world and they have never known one that is different. If we do not make use of the power of their native technology in our work with them as educators then there is a high chance that they will want to bypass our system. The very essence of schooling as we know it is at stake here.

Up until now the questions and the answers have been applied to older students working in our secondary schools but now the message is coming down the age range. Older brother and sisters have younger brothers and sisters who want to know. They watch their older siblings deal with ‘MySpace’, ‘Facebook’ and ‘Bebo’; they use ‘Flickr’, ‘del.ic.ious’ and ‘Diigo’; the write on ‘Zoho’; they communicate on ‘Skype’ and ‘MSN’; and they ‘Google’ everything from calculations to maps and beyond.

They already know how to do it and they bring their skills and knowledge with them to the school education party.

What, if anything at all, are schools doing about making the best, most efficient use of this power to enhance teaching and learning? What are the strengths that we can latch on to and work with? Where are the weaknesses and the problems? Where will we find best practice?

Have a quick glimpse into the future before you start ... we all could do with 2020 vision. Written in 2003 in the time of 'Web 1.0' does excite or ...?

The age group is falling and falling for the use of social software and we must all be aware and beware of that. It is our job to educate and support our young people in the educational and social use of the tools that they have available ... the distinction between the two aspects is, after all, ours not theirs.

Below is something to watch and listen to so that the focus shifts ... what we want to do here is to move with our young people ... to change practice where appropriate, both theirs and ours.

There is a tremendous debate about this and I expect that a large part of the audience at the Conference will have their own views and their own personal definitions.

So what is the Web 2.0 thing and how will it affect teaching and learning particularly for our younger children?

A sensible, starter version of the variety of basic applications can be found on the Softease site.

But if this is you ... have you tried your ideas on teachers who are not as knowledgeable as you? How can they see through their own practice that there is power to be had and why are they so frightened?

You might like to read here:

There is some terrific work going on in Primary Schools around the world ... Some schools have easily taken on board the excitement and the potential that Web 2.0 offers:

Newbridge Primary School offer a 'mash up' site that gives a flavour of what can be done.

Some of the things that Miles Berry says are very apt as far as primary education is concerned. You decide.

If you don't know it a really good read is the collaborative book edited by Terry Freedman entitled Web 2.0, Coming of Age:An introduction to the NEW worldwide web ... this link from Chris Smith's Shambles site.

Here Brian Kelly reports on Andy Powell's use of Facebook in the Primary School. Another example of a 'mash up'.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand at Stratford Primary School they explored the goodd, the bad and the ....

So listen to Paul Harrington from Cefn Fforest Primary school in Wales and his view on Web 2.0 in the primary classroom.

You could go here and see the links that East Carmuirs Primary School in Falkirk have saved on or even read their blog.

In New South Wales, in Australia is widely used.

Teachers TV has run on blogging ... well worth a watch and a listen.

And so on and on and on ...

Are you there yet ?

Worries about the Web 2.0 ideas and how they will affect teachers are rife ...

Whenever I talk to teachers or advisors about using Web 2.0 applications in curriculum contexts they invariably come up with worries about security. In a growingly litiginous society this is understandable but the worries should not provide barriers.

There are ways forward and I note that my good friend Peter Woodhead from Hong Kong ( who is there with you all in Shanghai) offered a look at how they are making steps or even leaps forward ... 'To see how we are using Web 2.0 on our learning platform - which gives all students a safe place to create their digital identities - go to the ESF home page and sign in with the guest account details as given on the page explore the web 2.0 folder for goodies - nothing new but it's what we like doing and also see how I have used a freebie java script editor to embed an RSS feed from my Furl site onto the home page - something your kids could probably do easily' ...

From parents to Local Authorities the constant worry about using web 2.0 applications is one of security and who will have access to what. In this litiginous society everyone wants to be safe and secure. A quick type into Google shows numerous conferences and articles seeking to clear or even muddy the water.

The State of the Net Conference has some interesting bits on 'child safety on the net'

Nancy Willard has a good grasp of things to think about.

In the UK the agency Becta has the responsibility to lead.

In the UK the Government announce a new review about e-Safety:

Children, Schools and Families Secretary Ed Balls said:

“Children and young people have faster, easier and more immediate access to online information than ever before. More and more children and young people have mobile phones and play video games in their spare time.

“These technologies bring our children new, fantastic opportunities and lots of fun but we need to balance this with the risks and worries that parents have of their children accessing inappropriate content.

“This Review is not about stopping children having fun or preventing them from taking full advantage of the educational, social and entertainment benefits that the internet and video games technologies offer. But it is about making sure they can do so safely, as far as possible, without being exposed to harmful or inappropriate material.”

Let us just take a look at blogging as a Web 2.0 example ...

My daily trawl of my 'feeds' brings up a useful blog, from John at the now famed Sandaig Primary School, related to blogging in the classroom.

Well worth the read if you feel that blogging has an important place to play in an educational/school context.

If you have not kept up with the Marin Country Day School's Trout Blog then you have missed an unfolding treat of really powerful education.
The story told in blog, video, poetry and song is a testament to the work of a dedicated teacher and a group of children who excitedly 'wanted to know'. An example of good practice education at its very best.

Subscribe to the podcast here and listen, watch and be enchanted... or simply go the blog ... enjoy !!

... and so to Podcasting ...and we will stick with 'educational' podcasting ( though it is a good bet that most podcasts will be educational in one way or another!)

Your views are urgently sought .... please !

How's this for a start:

Why Educational Podcasting?

  • Provides another way of sharing and transmitting audio for teaching and learning in schools and at home
  • Children and young people are able to record, produce and publish on the Internet podcasts of their very own
  • Tailored to any curriculum area
  • Can provide bespoke materials to support any learning situation
  • Provides instructional content to reinforce learning
  • Excellent for homework
  • Potential to support or extend the work of any pupil with special needs
  • Great community/school link potential
  • Useful for children who miss sessions/ illness etc
  • Useful for those with a reading difficulty or for English as a second or third language
  • Promotes a concept of ownership of materials
  • Promotes sustained effort in publishing for specific audiences
  • An easy vehicle for personalised learning.

Some Contexts

School weekly magazine

Reports of school visits on line

Development of collections of poetry

Collaborative work with other schools

Audio jargon busters

Information for parents

Information for new pupils

Historical interviews

Regular school sports reports

Summary …Podcasting has the potential to offer the following for personalised learning in schools:

  • creating audio material for learning "on demand", at anytime and anywhere
  • using differential materials that can be matched to the abilities, needs and motivation of identified children and young people
  • engaging in curriculum activities grounded in an emerging technology and integral to the world-wide communication revolution
  • providing curriculum-related teaching and learning in a wide range of contexts and in different locations both within and away from school
  • As with all technologies, podcasting has the potential for releasing the imagination of children, young people, their teachers and parents/carers.

Trawling through my various feeds I came across this interesting guide to podcasting from the world of education outside schooling but often referring to schools. More food for though. The podcast on the 'kineo' site by Donald Clark of Ufi is well worth the effort.

I like the idea that podcasts are pure content which help rather than distract

The University of Leicester in the UK is doing some interesting work in a study called IMPALA that takes podcasting into the realms of HE.

The thing about podcasting is that for it to work in a classroom context the technical issues have to be none existent and the software that is used has to be transparent, simple, quick and straightforward. So the question here is 'Is your podcasting software fit for purpose?' bearing in mind its use may well be about creating autonomous experiences for children. Anthony Evans, primary ICT consultant in Redbridge says: “if an application is going to take a long time to work out, or if the interface looks unfamiliar [teachers] will leave it to the tech teachers to do.” He continues, “teachers need something easy, something they can switch on and work out quickly”.

In my opinion such a piece of software is Podium from Softease. You can read more of Anthony's views on the Podium blog.


For a while now we have been thinking about how we can move people forward so that they will take advantage of the enormous potential that Web 2.0 apps offer and how we can make them safe and secure for users in educational contexts but also take into account the power that comes with publication and peer review etc.

Moving people forward is like herding cats ... not for the faint hearted but gives immense satisfaction. As the man says 'I wouldn't do nothing else.' (thanks to Tricia for this)

(The video just seemed appropriate ... we have no connection with EDS)

And we have made a start ... it is called 'Honeycomb'

What is it ?

• It is an online tool … delivered online, used online and accessible from anywhere at any time and is always 'up-to-date'. No CDs to load, no updates to install. Every time you log on you are working on the latest version.
• It is a safe tool as it exists in a secure environment for which access is customisable at a personal variety of levels
• It is a collaborative tool designed for users to work alongside each other on documents and ideas from wherever they are
• It is an engaging tool as it fits the current idiom of customisation and personalisation. It is ‘your’ tool… a users tool !
• It is a creativity tool in the hands of creative people who will think in spaces and communicate appropriately
• It is a community tool because ideas created in it are designed to be shared
• It is an easy tool to publish ideas with as access can be granted to anyone anywhere
• It is a tool designed for education to move forward from the one person - one recording system idea into a multi-collaborative, cooperative environment
• It is an easy to use intuitive tool where items are placed, moved, changed and adapted to suit the developing ideas
• It is personal to each and every students
• It is a tool that can and will be integrated into every aspect of educational life

It is a honeycomb ... each bit tessellating with each other bits, separate but totally integrated. It is not a 'mash up', a collection of apps in a carrier bag. It is an entity and works as such.

So to find out what the bees do go to Softease and discover ...

At the Conference seek out Eugenie Morley or Danielle Markland and whisper the code word 'Honeycomb' and find out more.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, 11 September 2007


Web 2.0 comes to Scotland at TeachMeet07 with more than a vengeance to allow teachers to meet and talk ... this alongside the Scottish Learning Festival. This is a superb example of the blended nature of the whole idea where people are meeting F2F, blogging, adding to the wiki and entering Flash Meetings as they see fit.On his blog Ewan McIntosh explains the ideas behind an 'Unconference'


Saturday, 8 September 2007

BBC KS 1 Bitesize Games

If you haven't already discovered them the BBC KS1 Bitesize Games for both Literacy and Numeracy may well 'float your boat' as starter activities, independent work or even plenary. They look good to me as the sort of thing I would tell children to have a go at when they get home. Love the idea that the levels are 'medium', 'hard' and 'very hard'.

Labels: ,

Friday, 7 September 2007

Pay Attention !

I am newly reminded of an interesting post that occured on Teacher Tube some time ago. It is important so I have repeated it again here. It first appeared on You Tube and then on Teacher tube... it should change practice !!

Labels: , ,

WebSlides by Diigo

The idea of providing groups, whether teachers on courses, children in school so that they can easily continue working at home, or just interest groups with a selected list of web sites has been used extensively in a variety of ways I feel sure.

My methodology is to build a very simple blog and just list the sites in it. This has some advantages over using such sites as del.ic.ious for sharing as users don't need to be members, don't need to log on and those that are unsure don't need to do the password 'thing'. All they need is the url of the blog and they have access to chosen sites. Agreed that they can't actually add sites in unless you give them the rights to do so but the blog can be made reasonably secure by setting it so that comments are moderated and 'bots' eliminated.Some blog providers are better than others for educational purposes.

This blog set up for some PGCE students at Leicester University is an example of the sort of thing I mean.

Although Blogger is very easy to set up and use it has the disadvatage that there is a 'next blog' button on the top line which is fraught with opportunities (if you see what I mean).WordPress does not have such a function.

Today, however, I have discovered that Diigo have a really appealing new application for sharing web links with groups. It is called slides and is certainly worth a consideration in these heady Web 2.0 days.


Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Aintree or Sefton Beach

Teachers local to Aintree gathered for an informative teacher day and in the bright sunlight glinting on the main Grandstand at the famous Aintree Racecourse they learned many things.

I took the opportunity having travelled north to go to the beach to see the Anthony Gormley sculptures 'Another Place' ... see the presentation below. The sun shone and the beach had just been cleaned and people were enjoying the early September sun. As the tide came in the sculptures slowly submerged .... cause for thought ...

Labels: ,

Monday, 3 September 2007

Should we worry about WIFI ?

An interesting article that was reported in the TES Magazine on 31st August that could give SMTs the information that they need should they be challenged by parents et al re the wireless networks in their schools. But, even after reading the research it seems that the jury is still out and that if a definitive answer is needed then the scientific community don't seem to be the people to turn to. So what to do ?(following the awful Panorama programme) ... I suspect some will keep their heads down and some will look up !

The article is worth a read though ... just to keep up to date.

Labels: ,

Saturday, 1 September 2007

ictopus is here !

The tentacles of ictopus are now extending freely into the world after its launch at midnight on August 31st.

Ictopus (ICT online primary user support) is a free support service for primary education which was launched on 1st September 2007. Each week registered members of the service will have access to a six page printable magazine (Sharing Good Practice) and a set of activity suggestions (lessons2go). There will also be a regular newsletter and a variety of other resources and projects. All the resources will be available from the web archive and members can also opt to receive alerts offering a one-click download service for each item.

Ictopus builds on the highly successful Becta Direct2U service and also the legacy of MAPE (Micros and Primary Education).

Register now to be a part of this exciting new venture. Registration is free.

Please join us now – be part of ictopus.

Labels: , , ,