A wee blog about me trying to do stuff with computers in school.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Here, youse

Moved hoose! I have moved my blog over to :

I've just moved it to get it onto my geekyteach server, aptly names!

hope to see some of you there.

Edit: Note to self: check that you haven't linked to the page you're writing on... d'oh.


Podcasting is alive and well in Fife - there's a project involving every school and radiowaves so not only should my school be podcasting very soon, but it will be doing so with some decent equipment! Hurrah!

Question for those of experience: my third year blogging attempts have (in my mind) been of mixed standard so far. However, my instinct is not to have a "how to blog" lesson, but to let the kids work it out over time, and to simply structure its use. Am I being too naive?

Prelims coming up - I'm nervous about trying ideas out with S4 at this crucial time. But one thing I am going to try is compiling a glossary by getting 2 classes to collaborate. I'm hoping this will help kids learn, and feel like they've done something useful and cool to help them study.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

baby steps in blogging

I set my third years the task of blogging a quiz. Did they succeed?

You decide!

I decided to give minimal instruction and see who could work it out. Most did, though handling files was a bit complex. We'll post up some of our stuff then I'll summarise the resources, every few days. Also, we will look at doing summaries of each lesson.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The argument for podcasting

I've written up a wee report into what I'm planning to do with a school podcast. I'd be interested in any feedback from those who are more experienced - have I missed any obvious points? Or got anything wrong?


Podcast project

Every pupil in a school has something to say. Not all pupils have the self-confidence to say it without encouragement. The podcast project is an attempt to give a focus and medium for the voice of pupils, in an attempt to foster a community in school, and exhibit the strengths of our pupils outwith the school.

What is podcasting and why would it be good for schools?

Social software - tools that allow users to easily share multimedia with the world and receive feedback on their work - is a growing phenomenon, especially in education. Many pupils are experienced with this form of communication, but little of their online community participation reflects their school community. Internet podcasting allows pupils to focus on a 15 minute production, and display this within the context of an easy to access web site, which offers others the chance to comment on their work.

The main difference between new technology such as podcasting and traditional community projects such as school newspapers is that the content can be downloaded by over 100 million users, all of which have the ability to comment on the success of the project.

Where does this fit into the school's mission?

Podcasting addresses all four areas of the Curriculum for Excellence:

1. Successful learners
Opportunities for pupils to problem solve, think of new ideas
Use of technology for learning
Creative and independent thinking
Linking and applying different kindsof learning in new situations

2. Confident Individuals
Promotes self-respect
Promotes the development and communication of their beliefs and views to the world
Promotes achieving success in different areas of activity

3. Responsible citizens
Promotes commitment to participate responibly
Evaluate environmental, scientific and technological issues

4. Effective contributors
Open to feedback
Pupils will communicate in different ways
Team working
Taking initiative
Critical thinking about their own work
Creating and developing

These are some of the matching aims of a school podcast and a Curriculum for Excellence. A school podcast could give a voice and presence on the internet that a school would otherwise not have. It is not a formal school website. It is an expressive, creative and self-promoting tool for pupils and schools, open to feedback from the listeners.

Who will benefit from the podcast?

Anyone who becomes involved in the podcast will benefit, as will any listener. The podcast opens a broadcast channel from pupil to pupil that would previously be unavailable. It benefits parents because it is accessible from any computer - though it can also be distributed on CD or even iPod - and allows them to comment directly on pupil's work.

With effort, the podcast can incorporate many in the school community - it is a participative medium which could be taken to any classroom or lunchtime club to report on anything that is happening in the school.

What kind of content will the podcast have?

Pupils can decide the content of the podcast. The material should be reflective of the school's environment and feature the school in some way.
Most music is copyright - the podcast won't be a music station. Pupil's own music, however, could be exhibited this way.

Is it safe?

Podcasting has been used by many schools in Scotland, especially to teach Modern and Foreign Languages. A podcast is not live, and can be edited and reviewed. Pupils do not need to identify themselves in the podcast, to be heard. Feedback from the internet can be monitored for safety. Content control remains in the hands of the school, through these processes.

What are the costs?

All the software needed to podcast is available free through the internet. Web sites can be set up in-school or using free podcasting hosts.
There are various ways of recording a podcast. A minimum requirement is 1 microphone. Podcasting could be improved through the use of portable recording MP3 players (under £20), and microphone adapters for pupil iPods. For higher-level editing and studio recording, microphones and small mixers could provide pupils with an excellent setup.

Who else is podcasting? - radio station podcast from dundee high -MFL podcasts - teacher podcast with pupil participation - Highland podcast for modern languages - another MFL podcast - podcast of French verbs - a school that uses podcasts and iPods in the classroom. - Primary school podcast that has interviewed Jack McConnell and Franz Ferdinand - Hillside school's podcast

Sunday, October 22, 2006

edutools - simplified flickr for blog/wiki image store

Following onto the entry below about my concerns over the complexity of some web2.0 sites affecting their usefulness, I started work on a wee program to use with my new soon-to-be-active class blog.

I want the kids to be able to easily find images, and one place they can use is However, I just want them to be able to spot an image, and basically drag it into their 'store' - a big collection of images.

So, the student only does this to get it on their blog:
1. Search for a keyword
2. Pick an image and drag and drop it onto a big folder icon
3. Give it a description
4. Go to their blog
5. Look in the 'image library', organised by category (flickr tag, essentially) and click the image to add it directly to their post.

The interface will keep a track of flickr images already in the store and hide them so they can't be copied again.

I've struggled to find any good ways for students to get images without URLs being involved. But I think this could work. I will be modifying WordPress slightly to simplify the image selection choices, and need to finish the interface for Flickr, but if this at all interests you, let me know, and I'll give you a shout when it's online.

I hope by web2.0-izing the USE of content from other sites, i can get the pupils to use multimedia without losing any concentration or time.

Got questions about this but am desperate to cut down the length of my posts so that's enough for now.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

One small step for GeekyTeach, one giant leap for... er, class 3G?

I've decided that I'm going to take the plunge with wikis after the October holiday (I get 2 weeks - hurrah for Fife!). I've installed TikiWiki and am currently setting it up. It has thousands of options, some which should be really useful. It's not just a wiki - you can attach user blogs, forums, comments, and more onto users and entries. There's a lot to get through in terms of the technical aspects of it but I'll spend the next few days to do that.

My plan with the wiki would be for each student to have an account on the wiki, and be able to:

- Add, edit and update pages
- Write in a blog (though currently need to think of what uses this could have)
- Comment on other pages and work

I want to try and bridge this with a Moodle site, which will have links to recommended sites, inter-linked glossaries to help with definitions, and maybe some lessons that students can choose to go through.

I'm going to use the Standard Grade arrangements as the basis for the wiki structure. It also allows me to make Moodle sections and filespaces that students can upload quizzes and revision materials they have made to.

If anyone is reading and has some feedback on what they think of this idea, please let me know. My main concerns are, at the moment:

1. How do I motivate the class to use this, and use it properly? I could cynically predict that some of the class will replace pages with expletives, etc, but I'm going on the basis that they have to understand that class rules extend to web pages. Would some sort of points/reward system make sense for contributions?

2. Pupils will need to make up their own definitions for the wiki, but can use my glossary and examples on the Moodle site to do this. The reason I want to give them this information is because of the not insignificant gap between real-world terminology and exam terminology when it comes to high school level Computing. Is this a naive way to view their use of the internet, or am I right to provide a solid cross-check for students to make sure they have the best of both worlds?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Social software and ownership

A quick thought about video/photo sharing websites.

Is it good or bad that educators do not control the periphery of a website like youtube - i.e. what effect does advertising and the interest of the .com have on the use of the content?

And while the sharing of web2.0 videos/photos is condoned by the sites themselves, does this cause a bridge or reliance between educators and content providers? For instance, A student or I use a video to explain something - I can't/don't copy it from a video sharing website. The author changes or deletes the video. What now?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Blogging (again) in a different light

I'm a Computing teacher, in Scotland. And I'm interested in using new technology to teach. I love teaching but since I'm a massive geek I find it very hard to leave computers out of teaching. This can lead to problems. This isn't blasphemy - I am a Computing teacher who doesn't believe that computers are doing it for kids as well as they should be - but I know that can be changed, and this blog's here to keep me writing and doing and updating. I've had blogs since 1998 - but this is the first time i've used one to document something.

I had a search about on the internet to see who else was interested in new technology in education (in Scotland) and found there was a lot of interest and a lot of information. I'm still weeding through it as we speak. But the reason I'm writing this just now is because I want to track the path to enlightenment - post up what I've found and where I've found it, so that I can go back and maybe use this to guide others who plan on undertaking similar ICT endeavors.

I shall be following this with something more substantial later, but just to introduce myself - my name's Peter, and I'm a computing teacher. I am fully qualified as of this year, and am working in Fife. I've been using online revision materials and online assessment for the past year, but I really don't feel that the material most schools are using is anywhere near good enough to be fully effective. For example:

1. Revision websites. I have yet to come across a revision website with an easy to understand structure. Why? Because teachers aren't web designers, and most websites feel linear at best (random at worst). WebCAL, highly popular and recommended in a Scottish Exec report, isn't particularly easy to navigate, and is unsearchable and unindexed. Can you imagine a textbook without an index or contents?

2. While teachers are effectively using Hot Potatoes and other programs to create online assessment, these rarely offer the teacher feedback. Only observation can be used to monitor this. Can you imagine this being the case with any other class assessment?

3. Pupils have very little input to what could be an interactive process. Pupils often use computers to make revision materials, but these are rarely available for sharing to other pupils.

Points one and two are the most important to me. Bear in mind that I'm just an ordinary classroom teacher. I'm talking about what I've seen in the schools I've visited or worked in. There may well be much more advanced solutions out there.

What I want to do is this (and it's a mixture of personal and political):

1. Establish a functional demonstration of how important structure is to online educational materials, through Moodle. Can you imagine how effective revision would be with cross-referenced terms/concepts AND easily to navigate through topics?

2. Create a set of online assessments with full statistical recording of success for teachers. These will fit into the structured materials in the Moodle site. They will offer monitoring of every individual, and show patterns with answers.

3. Produce creative commons materials in a standard format (an educational XML format of some kind). That corresponds to SQA arrangements. This would make it much easier for teachers to share and improve the standard of online materials. This could easily be incorporated into a national wiki for a particular subject. How quickly could a high-quality set of explanations and examples be built up?

4. Involve students in the process through opening feedback channels within the resources.

5. Work on ways to take the resources and individualise them for each student- resorting and filtering information until it meets the student's needs.

6. Make it possible to format materials for offline use.

I realise how grand this sounds, and I'm nervous about that, as I'm so new to my profession, as well as this particular are of technology. But I also know that these questions need to be answered. While I don't doubt that they will be answered in time, how likely is it that solutions will be free, and easily applicable to Scottish education?

I'm looking for as many comments as you can muster - just now all I'm after is more signposts, to find out what I'm right about, and what I'm wrong about.

P.S. - I realise that many of my concerns could be addressed with GLOW - but what do I do till then?