Friday, 30 May 2008

I can use a slide rule ...

Honest - I can ... I still have one ... a little one made of bone (I think) with a dinky little slider on it and a bit that slips in and out of the middle. I found similar ones on the 'Vintage Instruments' site.

And I can use log tables. I can remember that I even took exams in log tables to prove I could use log tables (but I never quite got the idea of why this was a good thing).

And I can use a calculator. My phone has one on it too. I remember that a guy called Ken Tyler and I did lots of work on the use of calculators way back in the mid 70s when they first came into schools and people tried like mad to ban their use (rot your brain, they said).

Now I have Google ... sometimes I think I live on the planet Google (How sad is that?) and it seems to manage my calculations for me without me worrying too much.

I used to write a lot. Holding a stylus type thing between my fingers and making strange marks on refined bits of tree ... but I am better now !! I still have an indentation on the middle finger of my right hand where the stylus thing rested as I moved it backwards and forwards across the bits of tree making marks... but I AM better now.

I now communicate. Honestly - but my wrists ache from all of this picking and poking at the plastic squares ... and I still have to look at the letters. I recently acquired a txt keyboard and that is fun but now my thumb aches a lot.Please what is next?

And the reason for all this ... a very funny cartoon ...which came off the back of a blog post from apophenia.

Brightened my day.


Attribution: Greg Williams, The Tampa Tribune.

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Thursday, 29 May 2008

Dell Mini Inspiron

It's back to my buses theme ... Gizmodo has just released a report of the latest mini laptop ... a Dell Inspiron ... no price yet, but it does look good...

I wonder if it is a standard pencil ? Pictures below for comparison with my Dell XPS M1210 which people think is small and dinky. The picture at the top (the red one) in the new piece of kit - the one underneath that is my current Dell machine ... check out the pencil size !





So it's wait and see ... again ...

PS

More from the BBC, and I bet there will be much, much more at the Computex show in Taiwan next week

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Monday, 26 May 2008

Copyright and Creative Commons

Had a long conversation yesterday with Joe Dale about Creative Commons and Copyright after our Flash Meeting session with friends in Australia.

Today he has put up on his blog a good explanation video which I replicate here.



There is also some really good advice on his blog post about how to get the best out of Fickr ... legally.

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Text2mindmap


Chris Smith has just Twhirled about a new tool for building mindmaps. It is called 'Text2mindmap' and it looks as if it good be a really nice addition to a communication 'set'.

It is a Text-to-Mind Map converter on the web. It converts your text or list of keywords to a mind map instantly.You give it a list of words and it will draw a mind map, which you can download to your computer for future use.

For the technically minded:

Text2mindmap uses an Adobe Flex 2.0 component that displays a set of items that are linked to each other. The component calculates the layout for the items using an organic-looking annealing algorithm based on the size and links of each item, and draws lines to represent the links. The component allows the user to drag and/or interact with individual items.

I have been using Visual Thesaurus and Visuwords for a while now but the ability that Text2Mindmap has to allow me to produce my own word lists for association will add to my tool set.

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Sunday, 25 May 2008

Onwards and upwards or just onwards ...?

Brian Smith emailed round the Naace advisory group earlier today after he had been experimenting with Twitter and had commented on all the new things he had discovered.

Looking down the email I came across the URL to a YouTube video that he posted in Feb 2008 about how culture fails to keep up with technology and how early adoption is pretty well always about replication. In terms of the video we have now, in some way, invented the 'rivets and welds' of Web 2.0 but in doing so have opened up a great number of other avenues as to what can now be done ... and this is beginning to stretch the rules that have always applied to publication.



Harry Lessig in his TED talk How creativity is being strangled by the law begins to address this issue. But it is a similar issue to the one concerning the job market for your people. In the next decade many will be doing jobs that don't exist yet ... we and they will need to adapt to the changes as they com along ... not simply try to replicate solutions as we always did.

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Playing has stalled ... the long school year should end

Okay this is not what the report said. It actually said:

Long school holidays should be abolished to prevent children falling behind in class, a report has said. The Institute for Public Policy Research said studies suggested pupils lose some of their reading abilities because the summer break is too long.

My take on this is that the Institute might well have missed the point of being a child ... it is not to progress on the contuinued institutional step ladder of inferred educational achievement but rather to enjoy living, to play in the buttercups and to run with friends in the open air. Reading is wonderful and if schools can create in the children the excitement and joy that comes from its mastery what better time than during the 'long summer holidays' to curl up in a private spot and to experience the wonder that is reading.

The report goes on:

If we are serious about continuing to improve outcomes for all children, we need long-term reform that better gears our school system around the needs of children and young people.


'Improve outcomes for all children' ... Wainwright, the celebrated fell walker and writer, often said (and I paraphrase here), 'When climbing a fell, always take time to pause and look back the way you have come. The eyes will be delighted.' It looks to me that the report writers have failed to do that ... in their urgency to get to the top and to move ' outcomes' forwards they have forgotten the purpose of the climb!

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Friday, 23 May 2008

Teachmeet North East London

On 19th May I attended the excellent Teachmeet hosted by Anthony Evans and fronted by Ewan McIntosh ( and organised in the background by David Noble)... from a distance. I, and about 16 others, I think that was the count, witnessed the event via a Flashmeeting. This is the second time I have 'been' to a Teachmeet in this way and I have to say it is getting slicker. After a small tech blip at the start the sound was excellent and the video of the participants wasnot bad at all . Video of the screen was, however, not good but this did not detract from the fact that I was able to get the idea of all of the presentations. You can follow the our comments here.

The presentations came fast and, as usual, were interesting and current. It is great to be able to get up-to-date with what people are doing out in the 'education field/jungle'.

I really need to find out about txttools and I need to have a good look at the 'WhatWorksWell' site.

At the 'four' way breakout those of us on Flashmeeting were a little bit left out for a while ... I found time for a drink ... and it was a pity that there was no time in the process to 'bring us in' or comment that we were 'there' (although I could have missed this when I went out to get a drink)

Watching the Teachmeet itself I felt that the techy bits sometimes ruined the flow ... could be a good idea to have one laptop set up and everyone has to use that and only uses a URL as their visual ... this, I think, would help the flow. The downside of that slickness would be that there would not be as much time for chat around the tables ! Perhaps more people should just stand up and speak rather than relying on visuals ... it is just something we have come to expect (?)

All-in-all an excellent evening well spent ... much information to sift through. When is the next one ?

Many thanks to Anthony for the arranging.

PS

The people on the Flashmeeting felt dis-included in the prize draw so we arranged our own virtual one :-)... I did not win :-( ... but Lisa did write a 'poem' about me !!

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Thursday, 22 May 2008

Don't say I didn't tell you ... is it a book or is it a ???

Another bus has just come round the corner and it could be awesome if it arrives at the bus stop ...




It is the OLPC 2.0: A Striking eBook and a Step In the Right Direction read the blurb or be amazed and watch the video ...

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Language maketh man ...


I do apologise to William of Wykeham (1324 - 1404)and the Motto of Winchester College and New College, Oxford for usurping the motto but it just seemed right or this two part post.

I have recently taken delivery of a cre8txt keyboard being promoted by that exceptional man Russell Prue as I am very interested in the speed that some young people seem to be able to communicate with their mobile phones and felt that such a device could well be one way into reluctant writers.

I have only just begun to get to grips with the USB device and find, at present, that the cable to the laptop rather gets in the way of the small light keypad. I have spoken to Russell about this and await the bluetooth or wireless versions which I understand are 'on the drawing board'.

The functionality is just as it says on the web site and it performs well with the predictive text writer. I miss the auto predictive text that my mobile gives me but this could just be that I am not used to the way the software works yet.

The idea is right and it will develop ... but will it catch on. It would be wonderful if I could use my mobile phone as the keypad to synch with my laptop/desktop and a piece of software that converted my txt to 'real'.

This fits in really well with a report out from Professor David Crystal, honorary professor of linguistics at Bangor University, where he states of texting that: ... such condensed messages enhance and enrich language skills.

He goes on the say: ... texting had had a bad press, and it was merely another way to use language ... The panic about texting and its effects on language is totally misplaced. It adds a new dimension, enriches language, gives you a new option. Any reading and writing was good for literacy ...

PS

Following my feeds led me to this in the Christian Science Monitor ...( thanks to Will Richardson for the link)... the title should be enough to get you reading - Turn teen texting toward better writing. Teachers who co-opt Web tools for class have the best of both worlds.

And secondly ... while driving home from Swindon last evening across the wonderful Cotswolds listening to Radio 4 news I chanced on an article about simplifying spelling. The argument was that the way we spell may words is just fairly ridiculous and we should simplify the whole thing ... language evolves like this and it would not be a problem to begin to remove the redundant 'silent consonants'.

The debate has been going on for a while now ... the BBC running it just last year. What makes it current is that I understand the Germany has already been through this and so has Spain and the BBC PM programme chose to report on it ...it is possible to read what the BBC PM listeners thought of the idea here.

I never thought that the way we spell many common words was sensible and it seems that there is just the possibility that a combination of txting and simplifying may stir up the evolution. I wonder when the tipping point will be reached?

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Tuesday, 20 May 2008

The good, the bad and the ****

The title was just to catch attention ... I am reporting here on the excellent and the, frankly, stupid ...

The excellent first. I have been following the 'Cool Cat Blog' for some time now and am often amazed by the insightful nature of the comments there on students' work. A particular statement caught my eye today reported from the Horizon Project 2008:

"A teacher should, as Don Tapscott said, no longer be a transmitter of information, but a regulator of educational settings. Our teacher Mrs. Vicki could stand in from of the class room all day and lecture us on exactly what to do and how to do it. We would ace tests and learn a lot . . . for a while… However by next year about 65% of what we learned will be irrelevant due to technology changes and development. Instead, she gives us projects to complete that pose challenges to us that can repeat themselves. Such as giving us a project to make a video by using a program we are unfamiliar with. Though we may not ever make another video, it is inevitable that we face the challenge of having to use an unfamiliar program, ergo, we will be prepared to deal with this for the rest of our lives.

So in conclusion, the role of a teacher is now: to regulate the educational environment; to introduce students to the realm of ambiguities; and to no longer evaluate our overall knowledge, but our constructive, creative, and adaptive capabilities."


I just love the last paragraph. If this teacher has taught her students this then my optimism for the future is reset ! The idea of teachers introducing students to a realm of ambiguities is awesome and I want to hear more about it.

...... and now the frankly stupid .... and it has to STOP ...

Drew Burrett is a teacher and GLOW mentor from Argyll and Bute and his frustration boiled over:


Super School, Super Speed & Web(non)Sense

How Brilliant is Microsoft’s Worldwide Telescope?

I’d love to be able to answer that question, but unfortunately my home PC is under spec’ed to do it justice - graphics card not up to the job of rendering the terabytes of images.

Nor is my school machine - lovely MacPCBookWinProXP - able to do it justice, simply because Websense will not allow it access to the internet.

I was quite excited by the announcement of the release of Microsoft’s Worldwide Telescope, as I hoped it’d make for some interesting ‘find out for yourself’ collaborative Web 2.0 work for the kids as part of our up coming ‘Space’ topic.

Alas, Websense feels it is unsafe to allow such programs (and Google Earth, Stellarium etc) to be used in the education of children. This piece of software is slowly crushing my enthusiasm for incorporating ICT into my teaching.

[I had to laugh when I saw Websense’s corporate website - where they are selling themselves as ‘Integrated Security for the Web 2.0 world]

Andrew Brown made an interesting observation on his blog regarding filtering -

I wish there were some trust in the professionalism of teachers, rather than a blanket ban on everything until its proven to be’safe’. In the meantime, I’m thinking of abandoning any attempt at using ICT and going back to chalk.

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Friday, 16 May 2008

Asus Eee PC ... the story continues ...

Picking through my feeds today I notice on Joe Dale's blog a news feature from The Telegraph about a 'grown-up' version of the original ... you could call it Asus 2 ! The video is of the Gadget Inspectors (!!) It now has a 9" screen and runs ... wait for it ... WINDOWS !! ... and the 'new' price £329 ( I am sure I heard that right) ... now for £277.55 I can buy an HP 530 - Celeron M 520 1.6 GHz - 15.4" TFT and I suspect many other full laptops.

From the original £169 version the price has now doubled and the claim is 3hr battery life. Now I have an original and if I get 1hr with the WIFI on I think that is good.

I am not doubting the powerful kit ... and I do like mine ... but at twice the price i think I might think ...

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The Byron Review ... getting going

Yesterday the Department for Children, Schools and Families announced that:
Kevin Brennan and Vernon Coaker today announced the UK Council for Child Internet Safety will launch in September 2008, six months ahead of the recommended timescale set out by Dr Tanya Byron in her report ‘Safer Children in a Digital World’.

Notice this is a UK Council ... not a European one or a World one but a UK one ... frankly I am surprised that it is not English!

So now soon we will have CEOPS and UKCCIS ... the timetables is:

• Inviting stakeholders to join the Council – 14 May
• Cross Department Action Plan - end of June 2008
• Launch of the UK Council on Child Internet Safety – September 2008
• First Child Internet Safety Summit hosted by the Prime Minister - spring 2009


It is difficult to be positive when the realisation that it will take until this time next year for anything to actually happen at the 'highest' level ... I wonder when the good ideas will get to the ground floor?
By then I suspect we will have all moved on a long, long way...

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Thursday, 15 May 2008

Is Microsoft out Googling Google ?


I really do have to tell about Microsoft's World Wide Telescope. I have downloaded it and am doing my best to compare its functions with Google Sky.

Both are very, very clever and both are very, very FREE ...

I am not able to give a breakdown of their functions because my science isn't up to it but feel sure that some teacher users will quickly latch onto either or both of these as exceptional Web 2.0 tools with a difference.

Just WOW really ... wouldn't it be great to have a Google Ocean ?

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Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Hector's World

Tricia Neal on her blog Butterfly24 expains about Hector's World ... so I won't. Just to say that it is a series of animations aimed at 5-11 year olds has been launched on thinkuknow. From a successful New Zealand project they are to support teachers in internet safety work with those very young children.

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Tuesday, 13 May 2008

A test by any other name would be ***** as sweet !

I told myself that I was not going to get on the yearly band-wagon of dissing the SATs ... but it is hard ... there is no doubt about the fact that they are not good for children, parents or schools ... they may be good for the Government but I am not even sure of that as each year they spend an inordinate amount of their time and effort justifying them !

Today the BBC is on it usual rant about them quoting the Government Committee:

The national testing system in English schools is being misused to the detriment of children's education, says a report from a committee of MPs. The Commons schools, children and families committee says teachers spend too much time "teaching to the test". "The inappropriate use of national testing could lead to damaging consequences," warns the report. Schools Minister Jim Knight welcomed MPs' recognition that the "principle of national testing is sound".

I love the way that Jim Knight missed the plot by a political mile. On BBC news this lunch time he bumbled his way through some very straightforward questioning that would not have convinced anyone.

It is heartening to note that some schools who have for years put their children through their 'paces' by using the non-compulsory SATs for Y3, Y4 and Y5 have this year declined to do so ... hooray for common sense and teacher professionalism.

Panorama last evening also did its best to add fuel to the fire by, I think, taking the side of the children ... the best bit of it was the progressive use of ICT to demonstrate emotion by using animation in cartoons ... excellent. I would download the video and embed it here but my technology in cahoots with the BBC will not allow me to do this ... Why not ?

The answer to all of this is to simply stop doing it. Other countries don't. All of the justification is based on a political concept of 'what parents want'. Just think what the money could have been spent on to support and advance teaching and learning ... I would love to know how much it all costs ...

PS I was in a school yesterday and had a good look at the KS2 Science SATs ... I thought that they were really quite clever in the way they were put together and the questions they asked. Talking to the teachers quickly showed me that the science understanding was masked by the pupils' ability to read and then understand the question ... there were times that it wasn't science that was being tested.

PS.

25th May 2008 ... a report just in concerning '8th Grades in New York refuse to take the test'

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Saturday, 10 May 2008

Will Richardson in Brisbane

Well worth a listen ... here it is ...

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Friday, 9 May 2008

The dog wags the tail or the tail wags the dog ?

Facebook appears to be getting really serious about protection ... but is it about protecting themselves if people look elsewhere because of their fears.

Facebook, the world's second-largest social-networking web site, will add more than 40 new safeguards to protect students and other users from sexual predators and cyber bullies, attorneys general from several states said. The changes include banning convicted sex offenders from the site, limiting older users' ability to search online for subscribers under 18, and building a task force seeking ways to better verify users' ages and identities.

"The agreement marks another watershed step toward social-networking safety, protecting kids from online predators and inappropriate content," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who announced the agreement with his counterparts in several other states.


This from eSchoolNews

So in USA States seem to have the upper hand at the moment ... meanwhile in Europe ...

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Reading Recovery

Early morning tea and television (just look at the title of the article ... Scheme helps bad readers catch up ... and wonder at the word 'bad') must be bad for me ... seems to raise my blood preasure and indignation levels. Today I learned that six year olds need to go on 'reading recovery' programmes to get them up to speed. The first question that comes to mind is ... who decides what 'speed' is? ... and what about reading readiness?

Is it really necessary to put in the minds of young children and their parents that by the age of six they are in danger of 'falling behind' ... behind what? In our seemingly 'one size fits all' plan how does personalisation stride forward?

I read again and again that Finland lead the world: Attendance is compulsory for 9 years starting at age 7, and free meals are served to pupils at primary and secondary levels. In the OECD's international assessment of student performance, PISA, Finland has consistently been among the highest scorers worldwide; in 2003 Finnish 15-year-olds came first in reading literacy, mathematics, and science, while placing second in problem solving, worldwide.

If children in Finland do not start their compulsory education until they reach seven there seems to be little chance that they will be put into 'reading recover' at six years old ... so how is it that they appear to lead the world?

Have we something to learn here that we are not learning or is reading a political pawn that i have missed?

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Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Cyberwellness

I have been alerted by a post from Martin Owen concerning the Cyberwellness program operating in Singapore. In the 'Teaching and Learning' section there is a step-by-step planning guide to the development of a 'cyberwellness' programme:

The Framework focuses on developing the child’s instinct to protect himself and empower him to take responsibility for his own well-being in cyberspace. Thus, this framework highlights two principles to guide pupils in their actions, describes a 3-step process to explore cyberwellness issues and encourages schools to partner parents in promoting cyberwellness among pupils.

Well worth a look ...

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Monday, 5 May 2008

Chooser Charts - do you know what's there?

Reading Ewan's post 'We don't know what we don't know we don't know' reminds me of the last session I had with my students before they embarked upon their final teaching experience of the crowded year called 'PGCE'.

I spoke to them of embedding ICT in curriculum contexts and reminded them that they couldn't hope to do this effectively if they were not aware of the tools that they would have at their command. I urged them to get in there and seek out the tools, both hard and software that the schools had available and then, as they planned their programmes, begin to look for opportunities where ICT was going to enhance the teaching and learning. I commented that it wasn't all 'whiteboards and PowerPoint'!

In a way this, is what Ewan is saying about the 'stopping and blocking'. Teachers can't hope to know what is there if they can't, in the first place, access it to find out. Whitelisting is all well and good but does not take into account the spontaneity of great teachers teaching and wanting immediate access to the things of 'today'. If great teachers planned everything down to the last click then they would not be great teachers and the creativity that makes them great would be lost.

Whitelisting will only provide access to the normal and usual, not the exciting and tenuous. It will have the ability - like the Readers Digest - to dumb everything down almost to a precis level - like watching the cartoon video of Macbeth rather than reading the play. It is like using a vocabulary from a wordlist so that all the writing becomes the same. It is utilitarian, not creative and very, very sterile.

A teacher was heard to say in a history lesson recently ... there are some great videos about the Blitz on YouTube. Go home and watch them! ... Even more recently I came across a group using a Vodophone dongle to access sites on one personal laptop so that they could then copy the bits they needed to a USB key so that they could use the information in a lesson in the afternoon ... this was done on the field, at lunch time.

Teachers, educators, children and students are beginning to develop a 'thing' about doing their learning and preparation 'out of school time'. This surely cannot be sustainable. Soon the 'buyers'(the learners) in this deal will be bypassing (if they don't already) the institutions. There could be a real market here for companies to develop to support independent learners!

There is no quick, simple answer to this in the present climate in schools but as Ewan again notes: Elsewhere, such as in the schools I saw in New Zealand, the politik might be to filter after the fact, and use the Acceptable Use Policy for what it was designed: to pull up those who abuse the freedom the net (should) offer. Around the world there are many, many dedicated teachers doing everything that they can to open up information for education. The institutions must, more clearly, play their part. Learners should not be tethered by their geography nor by decisions made 'protect systems' rather than to facilitate learning.

We are already into the eighth year of the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child which states in Article 13:

1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.
2. The exercise of this right may be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; or
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.


The key to implementation of this is at the end of the first bullet: 'of the child's choice'.

All of the things we discuss are in the name of the child ... time to make it work for them. It is their lives, their world, their choice. We are privileged to be there to help.

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Sunday, 4 May 2008

Flash Meeting OZNZ

This morning I had the pleasure of joining about twenty or so teachers from Australia and New Zealand in their regular weekly 'flash meeting'. The span of distances on the far side of the world from me is so great that for teachers to travel to meet is impossible so this informal but very informative platform gives and shares information across distances.

While we were chatting in the Flash meeting many of us were also talking privately to people in the meeting on Skype or Twitter a real development of communications.

Today's meeting spent time discussing the new Flip Video cameras and how great they were for educational use. This lead us on to the use of ustream across the countries and how lack of broadband connectivity was, in more ways than one, slowing down engagement with this powerful tool.

In a couple of weeks time we (they said I could join in) are going to meet in Second Life rather than use Flash Meeting ...

The hour past quickly, was engaging and informative and I felt connected to like minded people on the other side of the world.

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Saturday, 3 May 2008

Podium Podcasting in Luton

The sun shone on us on Friday in Luton where, in the ICT suite of the Luton Learning Resource Centre a group of primary consultants gathered to podcast using the Podium Software from Softease.

The idea was for these professionals to discover both the functionality of the software and the curriculum implications behind its use. Able users they were, with lots of enthusiasm and interpretive minds to see challenges and advantages. The software proved itself on all counts, being simple to use and safe and secure in its operation. The key thing was the application of the concept of recording sound and syndicating it so that subscription meant continuity.

Ideas flowed thick and fast as the consultants worked with the software.

The use of the podcasting as an audio record of reading was developed and as one professional said: 'Rather like and audio blog with each book read being a blog post.' ... and so it was. In Podcasting terms each episode of the podcast of a reading record was associated with a specific book on a specific date with room for comments and 'book review'. The idea that this meant that there could be a wider audience for reading progression and that this could engender a sense of ownership and audience was not lost on the group.

As they mastered the software the consultants worked with multi-tracking ... recording a story on one track and adding sound effects on another. 'Rosie's Walk' by Pat Hutchins was a favourite text here with some very inventive animal sounds produced.

We looked at, and experimented with, the idea that podcasting was a great revision tool and examined its application in teaching and learning languages.

Finally the group looked at the 'scripting tool' and examined how its use to practice and refine speech before publication with its manual autocue could be a real 'tool' for developing the links between reading, writing and speaking.

By the end of the two and a half hour session the consultants had loaded the software onto their laptops, set the systems up to 'ftp' their podcasts to the server, sampled and experimented with the functionality of the software and discussed the contexts.

A great afternoon in the sun in Luton.

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Thursday, 1 May 2008

Help is at hand ...

Over the last couple of weeks I have noticed that the number of web sites/blogs etc to help and support teachers seems to have grown sort of exponentially...or is it me that just finds them?

Three that have caught my eye specifically are:

TeachToday

escholarteacher

School leader

Each has its own flavour and each gives lots of information ... of the three I think that 'teachtoday' looks most interesting but I intend to keep my eye on all of them ... just to make sure that I don't miss anything. Problem is that my feeds grow daily and expand across the world. The question is how much information can one person take in and how do you sift for relevance without missing that, tucked-away important idea.

Listen to the whispers !!

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PGCE Students go from Horizontal to Vertical

Just had to blog about the wonderful PGCE students at Leicester University School of Education. Here they are getting their fill on robot control at KS1 and KS2 before they go out onto their TE3 experience in schools ... lots of good ideas and lots of fun in a crowded 3 hour session.

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