Saturday, 5 February 2011

Water, water, everywhere . . . And all the boards did shrink . . .

OK - so I'm, at heart, always (and forever)an English teacher . . . And I KNOW Coleridge wasn't talking about WHITEboards (interactive or other) but I must confess to being pretty overwhelmed by the sheer amount of what's out there in terms of Information & Learning Technology. Water, water indeed . . . . .

In fact, that's not really it anymore . . . I've moved on . . . Now it's more that I'm pretty overwhelmed by how (on earth!) I'm going to organise & attempt to categorise what's out there. Suddenly 'surfing' doesn't seem an appropriate word any more - I'm not even sure that there IS a verb that conveys the feeling of being 'lost in a gigantic maze with an attack of the tangential connections' but I think we may need to coin one soon!

So my task - started this week - is to try to 'organise' ILT into roughly different categories. I've managed to cut down the click, click, click of high-speed surfing that leaves me in a bit of a head spin - inspired but confused in equal measures - by deciding to 'follow' a few famous ILT experts. One of the features of "Blogger" that I really like is being able to 'follow' the blogs of others as it feels like Blogger is doing the hard work - Blogger waits until they publish a new post & then reminds me when I log in. If after a few weeks it's not my cup of tea then I can unsubscribe without worrying that I may have missed the good bits. So, I'm feeling up-to-date (relatively) without having to venture out into the darkest depths of Internet-world as, for now at any rate, there is enough interesting stuff arriving via Blogger for me to focus on other aspects of organising ILT.

God bless "Blogger" . . . Seriously though - I know people who view computers with an equal measure of fear and loathing - I believe that's because they haven't made it 'work for THEM' yet - the point of the things is that they are supposed to make things easier, quicker etcetc - once you do something that used to take an hour in 5 minutes. . . . Then you're sold - so thanks again "Blogger" :-)

So here is a vague list to begin with - of categories / headings under which I am going to try to file & order what I am finding / looking for. Interestingly ( or not), in thinking about what to include in the list, I actually thought of a few areas that I hadn't naturally come across through my somewhat random surfing from link to link to link . . .

1. One or two "readable" methodologies - ideally written in the style of Geoff Petty and even more ideally, following the structure of a Jeremy Harmer or a Jim Scrivener with initial methodology followed up by practical activities for students to do in the classroom (or, in the case of ILT - probably not 'just' in the classroom).

2. how blended learning courses are funded - not very exciting-sounding, I know - but if blended learning really is to be effective, it can't have at it's heart some poor teacher who has just crawled out of the classroom & logged onto their computer to do a bit of admin only to find a maelstrom of blog updates, student forum posts & assignments uploaded to Moodle - surely this is teaching? Contact teaching? And needs to be counted as such?

3. Activities which promote interactive student use of VLEs during induction - and I DO mean interactive - not just looking at a photo or two and a load of word docs and power points - I've found that student use of forums tends to work best when they are introduced at the very beginning of the course as an actual learning activity rather than telling them - "here's Moodle - we'll use it later"

4. Mobile technology

5. Clouds & 'Delicious'

6. Developing the use of Apps - I think I read somewhere that the billionth app was recently downloaded - in just a couple of years . . .

7. Already available online activities that students could do in the classrooom as most or part of a 'normal' lesson.

8. Already available online activities that students could do OUTSIDE the classroom.

9. Engaging learners through multi-media

10. Practical skills I can develop to become a more rounded classroom practitioner - I saw a link to a book written by Pete Sharma, who did a bit of teaching for OCVC when I started in 2003, called something like "400 ways to make an interactive whiteboard interactive" and I thought "400!! I think I only know 6!" . . . . Then I thought about it and realised it was more like 4 :( definitely not lolling out loud . . .

So that's 10 areas that could help subdivide & help organise & help make sense of what's already 'out there' and I have already thought of a few more . . . I think in the spirit of EFL guru Scott Thornbury , I'm going to come back to this post & keep adding until I come up with a definitive list of categories . . . . More than 10 definitely . . . . But I don't want it to be TOO more than 10 or I'll start to feel like I'm rewriting the Internet . . . And I definitely DON'T want to do THAT! I'm definitely 'waving & NOT drowning'.

Although if THAT was really true, I'd probably go:
1. Student activities (inside class)
2. Student activities (outside class)
3. Teachers - developing confidence & proficiency in ILT
4. Colleagues - CPD - googledocs & wikis
5. VLEs - why, what & how?
6. Experts - methodologies, blogs & 'following'
7. Mobile technology
8. Multi-media
9. Searching - building research & study skills for the 21st Century
10. Safety


  1. Hmmmmm - having just praised Blogger, it didn't include any of the links I though I'd embedded:

    (and the best one - or the only one linked to teaching):

  2. Thought your comments regarding induction, sounded so true. We introduce moodle at induction and then forget about it for a term then suddenly expect student to be using it. We would be best to set up the forum first use it in each tutorial class. Students are so used to face book that I feel sure they would be confident to use as a discussion board. We would get some honest answers on how they were feeling about the course!

  3. Hi John, I agree with you, I am fascinated by the amount of technology that is out there I had no idea! I think your idea of making categories for yourself is a really good one as it seems to have focused your thoughts a advanced organiser good old Ausbel! I notice you have listed Delicoius and clouds, this is one of the resources I have been working on with some success, Have a look at my blog and see what you think, I have managed to create a tag cloud, would like some feedback. I want to ba able to use this with students, for collaboration.

    I tend to use Moodle through out my delivery of Anatomy for the level 2 programme but I want to bring it into the 21 century because it has become a dumping ground for PowerPionts and documents there is not much interaction going on!! It could really do with an upgrade!

  4. Carol - I agree with you completely - there are so many things students will do during the first week or so that it seems a real pity that so often we "tell" them stuff rather than "teaching" them stuff (how eloquent!). I think successful sites get Ss into the habit of uploading & collaborating very early on (i.e. first week) so they attach more importance to it.

    Always worth spending time both in the classroom and on the VLE itself in discussion with students, making sure that they are fully aware of rules regarding acceptable behaviour etc BEFORE they try out the interactive online activities for the first time - - - rather than waiting until AFTER someone has behaved inappropriately.

  5. John - I have never heard of Clouds & Delicious but will take a look this next week and learn more about them.
    Regarding Moodle ... it is a resource that I encourage my learners to use particularly more so from home then at college.But I'm sure its one that I could still use more effectivly!

  6. Hi John
    I use moodle all the time not just for induction but for students uploading work and marking on a regular basis. It's worth having a go at a small activity with your students and seeing how you get on with it. If you need any help I'm more than happy the help you.