#mootuk10 (Holes In Walls & Cyberspace)

I just found out that I have been quoted in an article on Moodle Monthly written by Kristian Still (@Kristianstill) and Craig Sumner (@hamblecollege). The article offers a recap of the first day of this years Moodle Moot UK. You can read the article here.

I am quoted, responding to the back channel discussion (via Twitter) that was flowing, in response to Professor Sugata Mitra’s keynote on “Hole In The Wall”. A stunning and humbling project which began in 1999 when he was working in Delhi. Working next to a slum he knocked through a wall and stuck a computer in with an Internet connection. After just a month many kids had taught themselves to use the computer improving their literacy and numeracy skills. This turned into a huge project that has seen massive success.

His talk, while I am yet to see it, was clearly very inspirational as it prompted masses of praise on Twitter and sparked a very interesting discussion about the nature of learning, literacy and the benefits/drawbacks of different learning environments.

Learning environments is a topic within eduction that I have been researching and discussing quite a lot recently after reading “Campfires in Cyberspace” by David D. Thornburg, Ph.D. I was therefore naturally intrigued by the discussion arising on Twitter and got involved.

I am currently working on a visualisation of the ideas presented in “Campfires in Cyberspace” and will be blogging about this in the near future. To help myself in this process I used MindNode to create a mind map (click to view/download the mind map) of the concepts presented in the paper, collecting my thoughts and ideas as I read.

Both Prof. Mitra and Prof. Thornburg, Ph. D. through their research raise some very interesting ideas about the way learning takes place and the environments in which that learning happens. My own thoughts at the moment are centered (as the quote in the article suggests) around the idea that the traditional notion of the classroom as “learning environment” is outdated and that “learning” is not constrained to any one environment but is facilitated by multiple / interchangeable environments – many of which are free of walls; be it outside (like the “Hole In The Wall” project) or virtually (in “Cyberspace”).

Here is the quote as featured in the Moodle Monthly article:

I will stop there as I am using up content that will be included in a future post.

Moodle Moot UK (#mootuk10) seemed enthralling and I really wish I could have been there today. I was happy to follow the conversation online however and as usual the wonderful people on Twitter provided me with much food for thought today. You can catch up with and follow the tweets from Moodle Moot UK via Twitter Search here or view the archive on Twapper Keeper here. Why not go one step further and join in with the discussion – the hash tag for the event is #mootuk10.

Find out more about Professor Mitra and the “Hole In The Wall” project at the following links:

Find out more about Moodle and Moodle Moot UK here:

Find out more about Professor Thornburg, Ph. D. here:

Thanks to Kristian and Craig for including me in their article.

If you would like to know more about anything mentioned in this post please e-mail me or contact me on twitter @jamesmichie. Comments are always welcome.

Connecting With Parents Online

rubiks cube

Last night I delivered an online presentation to parents of Year 11 English/English Literature students.  50 parents were in the room as well as myself and a colleague from the English department.  We had numerous e-mails from parents who wanted to get in to the meeting but couldn’t due to the fact that we were over capacity.  While that is frustrating, it is also very exciting. The highest number of participants in previous online meetings had been a little under 40 – a new record for the school. We are going to look into the capacity issue so it can be resolved for future events as the Science and Maths departments are due to do similar meetings in the very near future!

Link to the Online Meeting. (Link removed at request of school SLT)

A little background on CCC and its use of online conferencing:

At my school we have been using Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro for some time; video conferencing having become “a part of what we do”.  Our most prolific use of Connect Pro can be found in our delivery of an “Online Games Design Course” that is attended by Creative Media Diploma students and any other students who have an interest in games design.  This is currently running on Thursday nights between 7:00 and 8:00.

The meetings are led by @rhadad who is a teacher/games designer from Chicago.  She beams in every Thursday at 7.00 along with a guest presenter (Moses Wolfenstien@camaxwell@gtrefry) to teach the students about  games design.

This was pioneered by @greghodgson and @hstower last year and is now set to become a yearly course.  I (@jamesmichie) have been supporting the delivery of the meetings this year along with @iusher who continues to be an invaluable resource to us, in all of our online endeavours – including the session with parents last night.

Right, back to last night’s meeting!

The parents were invited to attend the meeting in a multitude of ways: text message, e-mail, postcard – each one had a link to the meeting room and brief explanation of how it works – Connect Pro install a patch the first time you run it.  As far as I am aware the parents had no problems with this.  We also put a banner on the front of the school website as a reminder.

We received many e-mails in advance of the evening from parents who wanted to be there but had prior arrangements .  As I mentioned earlier, after the meeting we received numerous e-mails from parents who could not get in and many e-mails also from the parents that did get in for a copy of the PowerPoint presentation that I used to show useful ideas, web links, our VLE and an iPod touch app (Flashcard Touch).

The number of parents online (or who wanted to be online) is amazing.  It felt during the presentation and afterwards that there was a real buzz – which continued throughout today.  Most importantly the response demonstrate that parents want to be involved in their child’s education and they want to be informed. Below is the PowerPoint presentation I used in the meeting:

[Update]: Presentation is no longer available.

[Aside] I also learned that I need to find better lighting for future meetings – I look too much like some strange lurker in the dark!

In conclusion:

It was a great experience! The buzz throughout the day has been great.  Since I began writing this post I have had over 20 more requests for a link to either the presentation or for copies of the PowerPoint. The school switchboard has had a similar number.  Adding the total number of participants to the number of e-mails we received from people who could not get into the meeting, we could have had over 90 participants – which would have been a third of the year group!

As a colleague put it: “We do all this hard work throughout the year but it’s just 20 minutes on a Wednesday evening that could make the difference.”  Hopefully the “difference” will be seen in the students results this summer!

If you would like to know more about what we are doing with online conferencing you can e-mail me or tweet me @jamesmichie.

Image courtesy of Toni Blay on Flickr.

Assessment For Learning With Twitter

There is a lot of discussion within the #edtech community about the value of using Twitter within the classroom, which is, in turn, followed by a second conversation about whether educators should be using Twitter in school at all.

I personally believe that Twitter has the potential to be invaluable within education as long as the right safeguarding precautions are taken.

The most obvious use for Twitter I feel is to utilise it as a tool for giving feedback as part of assessment for learning.  Therefore, I decided to start there and trial this with one of my Year 10 classes.  Why Year 10?  Mainly due to the fact that I believe they are mature enough to handle the use of Twitter sensibly and that if successful it could become part of our working process; having time to develop its use through to the end of Year 10 and beyond.

My students set up their accounts with me in the classroom.  I gave them a clear set of instructions about how to set their account up – most importantly that their account name be created in such a way that they can not be personally identified by it and that their account is locked so that they can control who is following them.  To make the “following” aspect even more straightforward I followed (with a specific Twitter account I set up for use in school) all of them and created a group “list” that they could then follow.  It meant that they were not searching through lots of other people to find each other and possibly coming into contact with people and tweets that they shouldn’t.

I wanted to be sure that they looked on this as an educational tool – although that was not too hard as some of them were quick to tell me that: “Twitter is for old people like you sir and Facebook is for us, teenagers!” – thanks a lot I thought to myself.

The group of students I decided to trial this with were my Creative Media Diploma students.  They are a small pilot group so provided a situation that was manageable to try out a new form of Assessment For Learning.  Here are some examples of tweets by the students:

twit feedback 1

I feel that the 140 character limit was actually one of the most effective aspects of the process – the students found it challenging at first but once they got over the fact that they were being allowed to communicate as they would in a text message or e-mail with friends they quickly adapted and began sending very short but constructive comments to each other.  The unit had culminated in the students creating a multi-media presentation (animated still images and audio) comparing BBC Radio 2 with either Capital FM or XFM.  The students were required to evaluate both the analytical content of the presentations and the visual/auditory features.

twit feedback 3

To facilitate the process each student was assigned a hash tag which was made up from the first three letters of their name and then the initials of the course “cmd”.  This allowed for easy searching and provided some uniformity and structure to the task. I asked them to make one positive comment and one comment that offered some constructive criticism.  This was handled fairly well and only one student on one occasion wrote something about another students work that the rest of the class and I felt was not appropriate.  Due to the public nature of the process the students were quicker than I in picking up on it, making the student who sent it send a tweet apologising and for them to delete the offending tweet.  You see it is about teaching the responsibility.  If we treat what we do online seriously they will take it seriously.

twit feedback 2

Each hash tag ended with cmd as an identifier of the task being evaluated.

After the evaluations were complete the students were asked in the following lesson to use Twitter Search to locate all of their tweets.  They printed out a copy of all the tweets that contained their given hash tag for their portfolio and read through them reflecting on the positive and negative points that they had been given.  They then set themselves two targets. One target explaining how they could improve the content of their presentation and one target as to how they could improve the visual/auditory features.  Here is an example of a students targets which they submitted to our Virtual Learning Environment (moodle), printed out and stapled to their tweets inside their portfolio.

example of target setting

This was an enjoyable and (I feel) highly effective process.  It certainly was for me as a teacher, being able to offer feedback and advice instantly but in an alternative way to the usual verbal approach.  The 140 character limit helped I believe as I had to get to the point rather than waffling on! There was a record of it all, just as if I had filled in some laborious assessment sheet. And they were able to respond to the feedback and they got to not just know what I thought but what their peers thought as well.

Furthermore, it was helpful to me to see what the other students were saying – giving me an insight into the way they saw each others work at the same time I was assessing and evaluating it.  This made me stop sometimes and re-evaluate what I was saying in terms of feedback.  As the process developed, being able to read each others tweets, we all got better at it – providing better and better feedback for the student being evaluated.

While Twitter remains available at school I will definitely use it again for this process and hopefully for others.  I have considered using Twitter to help develop my Y10 English class’ writing skills – a story or poem developed tweet by tweet!  I also saw, just today, as I was working on this post that @tombarrett used Twitter in his classroom today using his PLN to tweet what the weather was like in different parts of the country.  I’ll say no more as I know that he plans to blog about it himself! This to me was a fantastic use of Twitter in school and exemplifies the value of it being left open and free for use, not shut down (behind a firewall) like so many other great social learning tools seem to be.

If you would like to know more about this project or other ways I plan to use Twitter in my classroom please feel free to tweet me @jamesmichie.