I’ve recently changed my role in the school that I work at. It felt appropriate to change my blog to reflect my new responsibilities. So here I am now.
Come and join me. I look forward to seeing and hearing from you there.
Thanks for following.
I’ve been using Edmodo with my classes, and have seen a real sense of engagement growing as students share ideas, keep up to date with homelearning, and see it as a useful resource to help socialise their learning beyond the classroom.
A key aspect of evaluating my students’ use of Edmodo is determining whether or not it is able to deliver the concept of a VLE, when used in conjunction with Google Apps for Education.
My judgement at the moment is that ‘Yes’ it does. Time to widen its use…
Some really smart ideas to integrate the use of Google Docs into our teaching and students’ learning.
Attended a TeachMeet at Clevedon School yesterday. Despite being scheduled for the penultimate evening of a long term, I found it inspirational. Simply spending time in the company of other like-minded professionals, all of us determined to find ways to enhance student learning, energised me.
Two colleagues of mine lead on our in-school TeachEats, which is currently a scaled-down version of the Clevedon event. Importantly, both events lead to the same outcome: teachers leaving the session with heads full of two kinds of ideas:
- quick wins: something I’ll try out with my learners tomorrow, or a resource I’ll add to my portfolio
- deep thoughts: something which sparks an idea for a project that could change things for the better in the area I work in.
The best kind of CPPD. Contextualised. And all you need to invest in it is your time.
"e-learning, or learning?"
This is the thought that stuck in my head following this week’s Google Apps training session. I was with the geeks. In fact, I was with the übergeeks who had come back for more! We dealt with the discussions feature in some depth, annotating a document all over the place: enjoying being able to reply, resolve, reopen, send email notifications about comments. All useful aids for effective marking.
Two key issues arose, which face most of us when exploring ways to use new technology with a classful raring to test it to destruction:
"Aargh! I’m losing control in the class: they’ve wrecked it!"
A common experience, especially if we expect the technology to do everything for us [which it can’t!]. We shared some useful classroom management strategies to help us respond to issues that arose, and then got into ideas about being pro-active to prevent potential challenges arising.
"Is it just automation?"
What if the best teachers do all that on paper? Do they need to duplicate it with Google Docs? Are we just using these toys for the sake of using them? I would argue not. Being able to access pieces of work, updates, feedback, responses and questions about learning anytime and anywhere is so much more than just adding a comment to a document. The sooner we stop treating Google Docs as just online-MS Office, the better. Once we’d explored the ways that the document resides at the centre of the process, and that all work on it was seamlessly integrated into how we communicate about it, we [the übergeeks] got it. My mantra became the oft repeated [but all too easily ignored]:
"Don’t forget the ‘learning’ in ‘e-learning’!"
Simple advice, really. We are, after all, in the business of learning - it is our core purpose.
The challenge for us is to strike the correct balance between evangelising about the tools, and securing psychological buy-in from all staff: demonstrating that we’ve not ‘forgotten about the learning’ is the only way to get this done.
"See you in the ning!"
An odd way to bid farewell to someone you’ve spent a day’s training with, especially as you’re both in the middle of a busy train station. But there you have it. Here’s a quick summary of my experience:
And after my 20 words, the challenge is to clearly define a collaborative task based on the ideas shared, and the connections made. Having internalised and reflected on all the ideas thrown at us during the session, I think I’m there with it. More to follow once actions start…
"Do you diigo?"
Diigo represents the future for web-literate learners.
What is it? This is how Diigo describes itself:
If you browse or read a lot on the web, we believe you will find Diigo indispensable. Diigo is two services in one — it is a research and collaborative research tool on the one hand, and a knowledge-sharing community and social content site on the other.
At a recent course I attended, discussion turned to how we are preparing our students for 21st century learning beyond the school, how we are enabling them to create a legacy of their learning to take with them irrespective of which chapter of their life they are in. Diigo has the potential to play a major part in this, and at its simplest level links really effectively with web search engines, and resources shared via Twitter.
There are loads of great features that make Diigo the standout resource for web-literate research.
Online bookmarking: instant access to your bookmarked sites irrespective of which computer [or platform] you are using. Sounds simple. And it is.
Tagging bookmarks: allows you a more organic and personalised way of organising your bookmarks. Multiple tags help you find things quickly.
Sticky Notes: these are great, and are best described as sticking a Post-It to a web-page. You can remind yourself why you visited, or pose a question for when you return. Your notes can be private or public, so you could engage in discussions with other readers of the pages you visit.
Highlighting: for me this is the most powerful feature of Diigo. When I bookmark a site, I can highlight the exact sections of text [or image] that I found most useful, or relevant to the work I am researching. A much more efficient way of gathering information.
It’s important to point out that any sticky notes and highlighted text appear with each bookmark in your Diigo Library, so you can quickly see the important stuff. And of course, whenever you visit the page, the highlights and notes appear right there. Brilliant!
Groups: I’ve just started to explore this aspect of Diigo, and have joined a number of groups that I share common interests with. This means that whatever I post can be shared with the group ‘feed’, and I benefit from the efforts of others in the group.
Following others: I have started to follow others, and they me. As with Groups, this also broadens the information that I have access to. This has real potential for classwork, where students can pool resources quickly.
I’ve been introducing colleagues and learners to Diigo [this has been made easier as it links directly to the school’s Google Apps accounts]. They love the simplicity of it, and the wide range of ways that they can see it positively impacting on learning. Initial comments refer to the way that bookmarked sites can be annotated effectively. My next action will be to create and use groups with classes and between colleagues.
A final thought: at a time when schools are facing difficult financial decisions, and CPPD is being considered carefully, the emphasis is shifting to professionals to find their own ways to develop. If used creatively and effectively, Diigo has the potential to make a huge contribution to teachers leading their own learning.
"It’s a bit busy, isn’t it!"
At one point in my Google Docs training session, the group acknowledged that the document looked a bit like a well-marked essay, with ideas popping up in the margins, bits of text highlighted, and overall comments bringing everything together. Everyone had chipped in with an idea and worked out how to reply to comments.
Welcome to the discussions feature in Google Docs. It’s brilliant! It puts the document at the heart of all the work and ideas that everyone is contributing to. And everyone is always up-to-date and in-the-loop. Add the sideshow of online chat if you are working on a document at the same time as a colleague, and the power of Google Docs really hits home. Or does it? It has the potential to bring a lot of positives to learning, but requires a shift in thinking.
Distance engagement: realising true anytime, anywhere, anyhow learning, bringing a wider range of people together to work on a document. I had to postpone a meeting with a colleague a short notice last week. We had agreed to share some ideas about an aspect of evidencing students using ICT across the curriculum. He started the document in my absence and shared it with me. When I was next at my computer, I was able to add my ideas, and ask a few key questions using the discussion feature. The feature allows you to send the comment as an email notification and for the recipient to respond either within the document or by simply replying to the email. Our discussion led to some quick decisions being taken about the document and we agreed some next steps. Simple and effective.
Better opportunities for collaboration: learners can benefit from a wider range of people helping develop a document. This could be an exchange of ideas with classmates, or the teacher. It also opens up the possibility for parents/carers to engage with the learning more directly. This is something we are currently missing where I work, and demonstrating how quickly and easily parents/carers could get started with helping their child learn would boost levels of engagement.
Easier, more rewarding marking: no, really! Access the documents whenever you are sat comfortably at your computer and mark secure in the knowledge that there is more accountability for what you are writing. Students [and others with access to the document] will see the comments and know that they need a response. Consider also the fact that the marking won’t end up gathering dust in a pile of old exercise books - it is always there and will follow the student from year to year.
More effective Assessment for Learning: two neat things here. Firstly, because all the discussions are tracked, there is clear evidence of how initial drafts are crafted into high-quality final pieces. Secondly, points of discussion can be ‘resolved’, meaning that a particular focus can be pursued in detail and left open until you are happy it has been dealt with. Imagine the same level of interaction with comments in the margins of the books you mark…
So what is the shift in thinking? At a recent course I attended we were posed the question of how effective we are making e-learning in our schools: are we simply automating, or are we informating? Automating at its basest level involves technology simply substituting a process. This could be all that the discussions feature remains unless we use it to redesign the way that students receive feedback on their work.
More exploring for the [über]geeks in my school!
I’ve been evolving the practical use of Google Docs within the school where I work. I’ve been leading out the use of docs to help make meetings more effective with a small group of colleagues. It is not rocket science, just a simple way to apply technology to improve the way we are working. Here are some thoughts to help you evolve your use of Google Docs:
Share the agenda: set up the agenda so that it is shared with all attendees. This way all can easily contribute and consider ideas before the meeting.
View instant notes in the meeting: as minutes are taken, you can contribute/clarify/modify so that all attendees are happy with the final draft
Shared ‘always current’ minutes: this enables transparency about responsibilities and actions completed. When actions are completed, colleagues can use ‘
strikethrough' formatting to indicate this, or annotate alongside their respective actions. Next time you view the minutes, you get the latest updates.
Keep an easy-to-navigate log of meetings: if you are using one Google Doc to record all meetings, then adding a contents panel at the top of the document allows easy access to the correct meeting. Alternatively, keep detailed agendas and minutes in shared collections, so that all attendees are able to view and interact with them.
Related resources: if you have pre-meeting reading materials, or copies of a presentation that is being delivered in the meeting, they can either be shared to the same collection where you store your agendas, or they can be linked via a quick hyperlink in the agenda document.
Early reflections: I have experienced two strong positive outcomes following recent use of Google Doc for meetings.
Next steps: I would like to evolve the use of the discussion feature in meetings to encourage professional dialogue between busy colleagues about specific action points - taking it beyond a snatched conversation in the corridor, and enabling more measured [and recorded] ideas being shared.
Deeper thought: there is still a need to shift the current process/perception of meeting documents so that the document [minutes/agenda] is at the centre of the discussions about it and the actions generated by it. There is still a desire to print off your own copy and work on it without collaborating, or generate loads of additional emails that aren’t easily linked to the document.
This links to some interesting points raised at some recent Google Docs training I’ve been delivering, so more thoughts to follow…