Boo #2: Shipping, Gifts & Email

This is a recording of a blog post published earlier this month. You can read the original post here where you will find all of the links to people, books and concepts that I mention in the recording.

You can find all of my Boos here.

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Education Eye – Mapping Innovations

education eye

I received an email today from Sarah Grier at FutureLab to inform me that my blog has been selected to feature on Education Eye.

In her words: “Education Eye is a free resource for the education community, pulling together a wide range of relevant and useful innovations selected from the best of the web and updated daily.”

In my words: Education Eye is a search engine by which you can find useful articles, blog posts and resources. Many of the articles (innovations) have been suggested by users of the site and the information is presented via a visually engaging user interface that brings joy to your searching.

The site also offer a variety of features which I have yet to try out but seem at first glance very useful, including the ability to register for email updates, a personalised home page and the ability to favourite articles and resources that you find useful.

So go on, click on the link and give it a try. If you’re not sure where to begin, how about a cheeky search for “James Michie” – you never know what you might find!

Shipping, Giving Gifts & Combating the Email Onslaught

seth godin blogI finished reading Seth Godin’s Linchpin a few weeks ago and while I found it to be an interesting read, the main thesis of the text was nothing I didn’t already practise. I strive every day to “ship” and “give gifts” and I can’t evangelise enough on how important both of these concepts are as a teacher.

You have to “ship” because your day is filled with deadlines: lessons to be planned and taught, data to be input, reports to be written and homework to be marked. If you want the learning inside and outside of your classroom to be any good you have to “ship” on all of these tasks. Also, you have to “give gifts” because it’s good to be generous. Share what you do, not to get noticed and win promotion but to help make sure that every student gets the best possible education they can. I love to “ship”. I love to “give gifts”. Why? Because I care about learning. In fact, I love learning; it’s the reason I’m a teacher.

Shipping is fraught with risk and danger.

(Fear of shipping, Godin, 2010)

It’s easy to be afraid of “shipping” and “giving gifts” because many teachers are perfectionists and many teachers are protective about what they do.

  • What if every part of your lesson has not been meticulously planned?
  • What if you didn’t mark every essay in minute detail?
  • If you share an idea or a resource what if someone steals it and presents it as their own?
  • What if no one thinks what you are doing in your classroom is of any value?

To questions like these, I say remember it’s the students in your classroom that matter, so get smart. Digitise everything you do/use and back it up. Reuse and improve should become your personal mantra from day one. The better you get at this the more time you will have for the marking and data analysis which is (honestly) more important than much of the planning that you spend your time doing. What’s more, good formative assessment and understanding your students’ potential will ultimately lead to better planning any way. They inform each other and will lead to better teaching and better learning.

One of the keys for me, in ensuring that I “ship” on time is the way I deal with email. I, like many of you, work at a school where email has become the number one method of communication. However, the reality of this is that your inbox can have a stranglehold on your productivity as a teacher and certainly get in the way of the learning by impinging on the time you should be spending marking, planning and experimenting.

To combat the email onslaught I religiously use the following approach to email set out by Merlin Mann in Inbox Zero. Implement this into your work day when checking your email and your productivity will improve significantly, leaving more time for the marking, planning and most importantly the learning.

inbox zero

As for “giving gifts”: blog. Blog what you do, get a creative commons license and don’t let someone else show your ideas off. Do it yourself! Deliver CPD, sign up to present at a TeachMeet, build sessions into department meetings to share your ideas and encourage colleagues share what they are doing. If you take control of your gift giving you will find that you can (and will want to) share selflessly. Others will benefit but so will you.

To close, I will give a gift and allow Seth to have the last word:

A life spent curled in a ball, hiding in the corner might seem less risky, but in fact it’s certain to lead to ennui and eventually failure.

(Fear of shipping, Godin, 2010)

Welcome to ‘the zone of optimal challenge’

Futuelab Logo

Last week Merlin John (@merlinjohn) published an article (through FutureLab) titled: “Welcome to ‘the zone of optimal challenge’.” The article is about the Online Games Design course that I was involved with and have tweeted about often using the hash tag #cmdgames. Merlin asked me to provide a quote for the article and I was more than happy to oblige.

He followed up the FutureLAb article with an additional piece on his own blog: Merlin John Online titled: “Chalfonts scores high with Games Design Workshop”.

You can find out more about both the Online Games Design course and the Creative Media Diploma on the Chalfonts Community College ‘Creative Media Diploma Blog’‘. Working to a “real”, “creative” brief, the students collaborated in groups to produce a game related to the 2010 paralympics. The finished work is fabulous and links to play the games can be found here.

The online course was a tremendous success, breaking new ground for online learning and providing further proof of the value that video based conferencing tools (Adobe Connect) can have within education.

The brainchild of Greg Hodgson (@greghodgson) and Roxana Hadad (@rhadad), the online course lasted for 10 weeks and was supported by classroom teaching and a dedicated Moodle course – used to help the students remain organised as they worked on developing their skills as both game designers and game makers.

The students thoroughly enjoyed taking part and the level of progress they made was fantastic. Alongside Greg and Roxana there were a wide variety of people involved in making the course happen including myself, Hannah Stower (@hstower) – Leader for the Creative Media Diploma, Ian Usher (@iusher) – Buckinghamshire E-Learning Co-ordinator, and a sleugh of games designers (who spoke on the course) including Colin Maxwell (@camaxwell) and Josh Diaz (@dizzyjosh).

Thanks to Merlin for writing the articles. I really enjoyed being involved in delivering the course and look forward to helping to improve and deliver it next year.

If you would like to know more about the online course or about our use of Adobe Connect please contact me by email or send me a tweet @jamesmichie.