Teacher Talk

For this session our aim was to get a perspective on the current picture of tablet technology use in Irish schools. It was a pleasure to be able to host four excellent presentations and with Padráig’s support we turned our normally segregated two one-hour lecture slots into one two-hour seminar to give due attention to the different stories of tablet deployment in schools being told by our four panellists.

Keith Young (formerly Education Project Manager with Wriggle.ie and currently doing a PhD in the Education Department NUIM) began with an overview of the trends in mobile learning and has kindly shared his paper for you to read at your leisure. Well worth a read, Keith’s short paper contains a number of key references that I am certain students will find relevant for their Action Research projects.

Keith’s talk included a very hopeful message for PDE students, namely that principals’ expectations are changing regarding newly qualified teachers as schools deploy one-to-one mobile devices. The opportunities for teachers familiar with such technology become greater: in other words lack of teaching experience can be compensated for by willingness to embrace technology creatively.

It seems to me that the landscape of technology in Irish schools is finally changing in a profound way. Until now much technology usage was as an add-on that enhanced and maybe made lessons more engaging and varied, but did little to shift from the largely teacher-led transmission model of classroom practice. With mobile technology now being firmly held in the hands of the students, a paradigm shift has occured that allows students take more control of their own learning and this in turn presents new possibilities for the relationship teachers have vis-à-vis both their students and the curriculum. Keith talked about “failure” being the new normal and I was reminded of the words of Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (from Westward Ho, 1963).

The second talk was from Sinéad Henegan, who teaches Maths and Science in Trinity Comprehensive, Ballymun. Sinéad presented some of the findings of her Masters Action Research project (with a class coincidentally called Beckett!). Sinéad’s work came about as a teacher-driven response to a less than glowing recent Whole School Evaluation report. Colleagues  fund-raised to subsidise the cost of iPads for an incoming First year group to create a scholarship class. Their aim was to encourage more children to choose their local school over other schools located outside of Ballymun. The limitations of only being able to deploy the technology in one class creates a potential disparity within the school, but attracting and retaining students from the community has far-reaching implications not only for the school itself but for the entire community and was deemed worth trying as a starting point.

Having tablet technology at their disposal was the initial hook for Beckett 1 and Sinéad discussed the visible increase in motivation and the sheer attachment the students showed to their iPads as well as their profound relief at not having to carry around 10kg bags of books! A high level of humility came through in Sinéad’s talk, in particular through her emphasis on the extent to which she was learning from her students and the impact this genuine exchange of learning was having on relationships in the classroom. It was clear that the experiment has opened up opportunities for genuine praise and encouragement of pupils. The Beckett class certainly had the appearance of an engaged and motivated group of young people. The apps mentioned by Sinéad were: ShowMe App / Showbie NearPod / Basic Fraction and Upad lite.

Irish and Maths teacher Orla Grant followed with another very practical and valuable talk about iPad deployment in Coláiste Bhríde in Carnew, Co Wicklow. iPads were deployed in Carnew to all first year students last year. Orla’s slides can be found here  . She discussed the necessity of clearly outlining to students her own and the school’s expectations concerning the acceptable use of the mobile devices. Operating an open policy in relation to apps and wireless in the school, the sanctions for misuse or abuse of the devices include the immediate withdrawal of the device and its replacement with a large bag of text books making it a very public statement in cases where this sanction is applied. Orla also explored her and her colleagues’ fears concerning the roll-out of mlearning in their school and discussed their uncertainty about how to use it at all; how to cope with classroom management issues and the potential for cyberbullying among other things. It was heartening to hear how such fears have been proven unfounded as teachers have taken up the devices for their own use and for their teaching. The key message I took from Orla’s talk was the shift in teachers’ experience of professional development. While lack of training was an initial concern teachers had, the best form of training was found to be simply teachers sharing ideas among themselves of apps they’d used and how they’d used them. … Conversations. Teacher talk. In addition to posting recommendations to a specific noticeboard teachers were discussing apps in the staff room and finding opportunities for professional development occurring naturally through these conversations.

Orla’s talk was also evidence based as the school undertook to survey teachers’ attitudes – comparing the fears expressed early on with the views colleagues held at the end of the year. The findings showed a high level of teacher positivity regarding iPad usage and general feelings that while comfort zones had been breached this was all for the good. Orla concluded her talk with that message to move out of comfort zones: just as she had done in accepting to give this talk to students in the university today! (… and we’re very glad she did!)

The apps mentioned by Orla were: Educreations (writing with a stylus and recording explanations) and Edmodo (a popular in class ‘social network’). She mentioned the eBooks from multiple Irish publishers and as an Irish teacher recommended Edco’s Iontas in particular. She also uses iBook for document storage, SimpleMind mind mapping, iDoceo (as a teachers journal) as well as the camera, photo gallery and audio memo apps built in to the iPad.

Finally, Aoife O’Dwyer the Deputy Principal in Coláiste Bhríde spoke eloquently about the impact of the iPad initiative on the school as a whole and focused her attention on the improved relationships with parents. Again her talk was supported by evidence from a number of surveys undertaken in the school, in one survey they explored students’ preferred learning styles. This was prompted by the policy shift in the Department of Education and Skills who emphasise teacher self-evaluation. The students’ preferred ways of learning corresponded closely to the task-based, active learning potential of the iPad when used creatively. Another survey conducted with parents, found that parental fears expressed at the start of the year also failed to materialise. Although some parents did continue to express concern about the amount of time their children were spending on the devices at home, the on-going conversation between the school and parents about ways to monitor and control that was proving effective. Again Aoife presented a very strong message the PDEs about embracing technology by simply starting where you are.

I want to end this post by reiterating my own point that there’s no app for good teaching, but you will find many apps that good teachers are using on Technology Made Easy (a list curated by Thomas Creighton) and featuring a friendly tech-savvy dinosaur!

(Although both of the teachers who presented at this seminar discussed iPads, I had approached another teacher who is using an Android tablet but it wasn’t possible for her to take the time out on this occasion).

Watch this space

My aim in these lectures is of course to highlight the amazing opportunities for creativity and learning that social media offer, but it would be remiss of me not to also look at some of the risks online, of which cyber-bullying is only one.

Before I spoke in this session I showed the superbly scripted Up2us video from watchyourspace.ie. The video balances very cleverly both the opportunity and risk elements of young people’s relationship to the Internet, and I think the style and quality of the video convey the message more eloquently and powerfully than any lecture(r) could ever hope to.

Up2us focuses in on how a voice, one voice, can dominate and exclude a vulnerable person. But equally, the narrative reverts to a positive and empowering counterpoint, including the all-important message that it is up to young people to educate themselves and each other (and us adults) about how to make the space, their space, a place for good.

This video also suggests to me the idea that young people perceive social media to really belong to them. Although the Internet has existed for many decades and the WorldWideWeb has been around since 1989 (and also in spite of the fact that the average age of a Facebook user is 41…), it is quite easy to see how Web 2.0 or “the social web”, which has only existed for about ten years, can be viewed as a young person’s space. The ever-changing nature of social networks, sites and apps that young people adhere to, makes navigating it and keeping up a difficult task for teachers and parents, but keeping the conversation open with young people is the best way for you to ensure that you understand it.

What is Cyber-bullying?

Cyber-bullying is defined as “any hostile act directed towards another person that occurs using digital technology” but this definition does not include some of the other aspects that are associated with bullying in the off-line space. So it is worth first examining what constitutes ‘traditional’ bullying.

Definitions of bullying usually include the idea that it is intentional, unprovoked and repeated over time, and that it involves an imbalance of power. At school it is “used by many children and adolescents to … manipulate relationships so that they can meet their psychological needs, which may be to control, to dominate, to gain attention, to show off, to look cool or to gain status among their friends and those around them” (O’Moore 2010: 23).

Dan Olweus’ work on bullying, which he began in Norway and Sweden over forty years ago, opened up for the first time an understanding of the characteristics of bullying and of the role played by the other members within the peer group. Olweus devised what he called the bullying circle. In this adaptation of Olweus’ idea you will see that the protagonists are all drawn as children. However, in his later work he also noted the role teachers have to play within that circle rather than being external observers to it. He said that “teachers’ attitudes, behaviours and routines play a role in the prevalence of bullying behaviour” (cited in Starr, 2010). I find this a very challenging idea: that what teachers think about bullying could be a key factor in supporting it. Researchers who write about bullying dismiss unequivocally the idea that bullying is a normal part of growing up. In other words if we believe the myths about it we will have very little success in making it stop. According to an observational study by Pepler and Craig (2000) bullying occurred every 7 minutes in the school yard and every 25 minutes in the classroom, stopped when an adult intervened but an adult intervened 4% and 14 % of the time in the respective locations.

The Let’s Fight it Together DVD, recounting “Joe’s story”, was created to raise awareness of the forms, effects and potentially fatal consequences of cyber-bullying. In the lecture I was asked if this video was intended as a resource to use in class. On the spot I answered that I thought it was intended for teacher professional development, but I have since discovered that there is an online version and lesson plans associated with it. You’ll see that this includes interviews with some of the characters from the video, making it a very rich resource for a focused anti-bullying campaign.

In the eu-kids online survey figures concerning instances of cyber-bullying in Ireland were actually quite low, a finding that surprised the researchers, but they add that where it does occur it has a particularly strong negative impact. The pervasiveness, the relentlessness and the invasion of a person’s private space, make it not only devastating to the victim, but also make it very difficult to determine what role the school can and should play. Again, ambivalence on the part of teachers may easily result in it not being seen as a school problem, but rather a problem for the parents and an issue for the Guards. The message of the Let’s Fight it Together campaign, and indeed all of the research, is that it is only when the different stakeholders come together that it can be dealt with effectively.

The scene in Irish schools is now changing: a greater awareness among teachers has been prompted by the publication of by Department of Education and Skills of a new Action Plan on Bullying. The document was the result of a lengthy and detailed consultation process undertaken by the DES. The main recommendation of the committee was not to call for more legislation but for a more consistent implementation of existing legislation, guidelines and policies. The document includes useful descriptions of the different forms bullying can take, including for the first time, specific reference to homophobic bullying.

What distinguishes Cyberbullying from traditional forms of bullying?

It does not stop at the front door,

A single incident (image, video message) can be replicated infinitely,

There is potentially huge and unknown audience of onlookers,

It is not limited to time or space as in the playground,

It is virtually impossible to delete,

There is greater scope for anonymity,

It is mainly written, verbal, or image based – so less obvious to spot, more prevalent among girls and the effects of it are harder to identify.

Of course the Internet itself is the place to find advice about cyber-bullying: WEBWISE.ie your best portal in the Irish context. I suggest you follow @Webwise_Ireland on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

Finally, I was struck by one neat summary of good advice against cyber-bullying is contained in one of the young people’s videos on watchyourspace.ie. In the short video a girl says that the letters WWW represent a world too wide and vast for some which is why, she says “we need to make D.R.E.A.M.S”.

  • D: DON’T STAND BY AND WATCH THE EFFECTS OF CYBERBULLYING
  • R: REPORT THE INCIDENT TO A TRUSTED ADULT OR TO THE SITE
  • E: EMPATHISE WITH THE VICTIM
  • A: ADVISE THE VICTIM TO BLOCK, UNLIKE OR UNFOLLOW
  • M: MAKE A DIFFERENCE – BE SOMEONE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT
  • S: SUPPORT THE VICITIM. BE THE PERSON’S HERO.

 

REFERENCES

O’Moore, M (2010) Understanding School Bullying: a guide for Parents and Teachers, Dublin: Veritas

Pepler, D. J. and Craig, W. M. (2000) Making a difference in bullying (report #60). Toronto Canada: LaMarsh Research Centre on Violence and Conflict

Starr, L. (2010) Sticks and stones and names can hurt you: De-mythifying the classroom bully! http://www.educationworld.com/a_issues/issues102…. [accessed: 10th October 2013]

Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling is one of those ideas that has gained purchase in schools in recent times, largely due to the ease with which images, audio (narrative or music) can be combined and produced as short mini-videos. It’s hardly surprising since it is through stories that we make sense of the world, indeed we make sense of ourselves through the stories we tell in and of our lives. There’s nothing like a good story to engage the brain and ensure that we remember and associate positive emotions with the information that we are exposed to. There’s scientific research to back this up, essentially concerning how the brain works to create associations and memories. And if further proof is needed to show how stories can enhance value, the Significant Objects experiment is a good illustration. The experiment involved “using 100 stories by talented authors as item descriptions for 100 objects that [were] listed on eBay, the “value in trade” of those objects increased from a mere $128.74 to an astonishing $3,612.51”.

As to how a you can create digital stories to make the material you want to present to students more memorable, there are many tools to choose from. In the lecture I mentioned PhotoPeach as one possible online editor that is a cinch to use. For the FairyTale of PDE demo I did for the class I downloaded a set of images from this Royalty Free Images webpage, I saved these to my computer, logged in to PhotoPeach and uploaded them. It is easy to arrange or rearrange the pictures as simple drag and drop tiles on the screen and once you have decided on the sequence you want you can simply add the captions you want in the quick editor. Click Edit if you want to alter the position of the text, the sequence of the images etc. My demo originally took me just over 15 minutes from start to finish for me to make. In that time I sourced the images, added them to PhotoPeach and produced the video. I had to quickly re-do it for this presentation as it has been a while sitting on PhotoPeach and the images had vanished (so I learned that there’s a shelf-life to these masterpieces!). Once I had the idea for the “Story” by far the longest time I spent was on choosing the music! But for a more serious effort more thought and time might be put into the original choice of images, arranging them into a storyboard and planning what to include in the text. When it comes to the music you can choose from a selection offered by most of these services, or you can draw in something from the web or go to a dedicated royalty free music site like Jamendo. You will also see that using PhotoPeach you can include a quick quiz at any point. This is one of the reasons I like it: here’s an example by a former Dip using the quiz feature. Would this work for a topic of you are planning to cover soon?

The second online tool I showed was the very popular Animoto. Again very simple to use… (provided you have a browser that doesn’t insist on hiding the main frame of the webpage off the screen as those in the lecture theatres seem to be doing these days!) The basic version gives you 30” video creation tool to play with and particularly where you might like to get your students creating their own 30” potted summaries of different themes that should be ample time. The point of this isn’t really the end product at all but rather the process and the learning that takes place when students are tasked with finding the relevant material to produce the work. If you want to experiment with other tools that allow for longer productions Stupeflix is another similar to Animoto, but it looks like they have dropped the basic free account. Still it is very flexible and easy to use.

Another approach to digital story telling is to de-emphasise the computer entirely and use a visualiser or hand held camera/mobile device (a flip camera or a phone even) held over paper based drawings or cut-outs etc. in the style of Common Craft videos as described in this blog post. Create and save an ‘off-line’ video and show in class. To show it to the wider world you can create your own video channel with YouTube or Vimeo. I do recommend you keep school and personal videos separate!

The third method I mentioned for how to digitally storify a presentation, you can make a ‘screen cast’ of regular slides using CamStudio. Mac users can find a screen recording facility in QuickTime media player. Another alternative for the PC user is Jing. Or let’s say you wanted to give oral feedback on a piece of work submitted this could be used for that…. Providing resources like this for key concepts allows you to create and store resources that can be revisited by students for revision.

Whichever of the three approaches you choose the preparation effort and rehearsal time students put into this work is where the real action is. They will be more willing than you think to engage with this and find it considerably more enjoyable than ‘book’ learning. But that is not to say abandon the book, rather it is to say use it to entice them back to the books for the material they need to produce the videos. Of course I recommend that you choose carefully the time, topic and group to do this with, but I do urge you to keep an open mind about it. Students find working in this way considerably more motivating than sitting silently in listening mode for long periods. Wouldn’t you? Here are a few suggestions made by teachers on using the camera in teaching.

How to make what is produced available to students is something we can come back to, but I suggest you experiment with the ideas I’ve outlined here. Try this out, ideally with someone in your methods class – integrate it into your methods assignment. You will have self-produced, engaging materials that are relevant for your students and especially useful to draw on for “snow days” or to pass on to absent students.

So to wrap up the session I put out a call to action: I am inviting you to take part in a competition! It will be a totally, fun non-judgemental competition. Simply create a digital story using any of the tools or methods I have described here and you will be in with a chance to win iTunes vouchers!

There are two rules and two deadlines.

Rules: Your digital story/resource must be:

 

1. created in collaboration with another PDE student … and

2. original (simply copying something from the web – and this is easy to detect! –  is called cheating and is not nice!)

Deadlines:

Thursday 10th October: Get an outline of the idea for the resource to me either via email, or message me in Moodle or use this site: http://thursat10.tumblr.com/ (the password is in Moodle)

Thursday 24th October: Complete the resource and submit it to me (or via tumblr).

First Lesson in Technology

17th September: While the title of this blog post makes reference to this being our first formal lecture of the semester proper, it is also a hint at what I take to be the REAL first lesson for teachers when using technology: that is to check the hardware before the class starts!

I’ve become used to (complacent about?) the multi-media set up in NUI Maynooth being reliable, but a recent power outage resulted in some damage to the computers/projectors in the lecture theatres across the campus. But I don’t suppose I can blame that for my trouble with technology in this session such asthe Firefox browser being unequipped to show a video, nor for my difficulties accessing the SlideRocket presentation that I’d prepared for this lecture! (embedded here for what it’s worth).

When I tried to use Internet Explorer to access my YouTube video instead of within the presentation as planned I was greeted with a blank page (only later discovering that the page was lurking down the screen!). Fortunately, I had taken the precaution of bringing my laptop … unfortunately, however, the laptop projector then refused to cooperate and we were back to the problem of hardware! So the first lesson in technology may indeed be to check everything, but you may still be surprised at technology’s capacity to disappoint!

Even when you do check everything and you feel confident it works it is advisable to have a simple Plan B at the ready, at least until you get comfortable with overcoming difficulties. Plan B in the case of using SlideRocket, can be to create a PDF of the presentation to use off line should you have problems logging in. SlideRocket Lite is free and you can export different file types using the print option. There are of course many other online presentation tools available and we’ll be exploring some of those in future lectures.

Coming back to the content of this session: I wanted to prompt a reflection on the implications for teachers of using or not using technology and hoped to pitch this at two levels. The first: implications for teaching and learning and the second: implications of teachers’ personal use of social media.

For the first of these we looked at the, now classic, video A Vision of Students today, created by Michael Welsch a number of years ago. Watching it again I was struck by new things compared to when I first viewed it and I wanted students to take time to reflect on and discuss its claims and the impressions they had on viewing it. In the past I personally may have been more persuaded by the not-so-subtle suggestion in it that technology can solve many of the problems that the students in it highlight. Nowadays, I am more likely to also consider how technology has contributed to the development of these problems. Nevertheless, I remain impressed by an overall message in Welsch’s video about the need for young people to address social issues outside of their own daily lives. And I am convinced of the value of collective action to address larger social issues and the role technology has in enhancing such action and creating disruption generally.

The optimistic view presented by Welsch and his students is that when used creatively and responsibly, technology has incredible potential to support efforts to bring about positive change in the world. Technology won’t do so on its own, of course, nor do tech companies such as Facebook and Google create these tools to disrupt the status quo (far from it!). But engaging with technology as educators is much more useful for our students than ignoring it or giving up on it when it appears to be complex (or when it fails to cooperate with our best efforts to be creative in the classroom!).

Following the discussion about that video I spent a short while talking about GoogleDrive (- ah yes the omnipresent Google!) and this was prompted by the fact that the students in Welsch’s video had collaborated in the creation of the video using GoogleDocs (the precursor of GoogleDrive). I showed a possible use for Google forms to create a quick quiz or test. Like a lot of educational services provided by Google all the document storage, file creation and management offered in Google Drive is free (‘free’ that is in exchange for the data about ourselves we are willing to surrender to this advertising giant!).

But I digress – the form I created was just as a quick demo, to show how easy it is to collect and examine results. The point was made that an online test doesn’t recreate exam-like conditions, as it would be so easy to just look the answers up! And, of course, that is true but it is an equally valid activity to use it as a formative rather than a summative assessment or to get students to use the questions to prompt an online research task in order to find the answers to the questions you set.

If using forms, or any online tool with second level students, it is good practice to encourage them not to include their full names. It should be sufficient for them to add their first name and the initial letter of their surname, as it is better not to identify themselves online. Alternatively, you may want to create a poll (anonymous if you like) to determine the collective class view of a particular issue: for such as task it might be more useful to create an online poll with something like Poll Everywhere (or Socrative which is popular and devised especially for educational settings) and like PollEv and Socrative can be used as an app on a mobile device and is becoming very popular for use in schools using tablet PCs.

Moving on to the second theme of the lecture, namely the implications for teachers in using social media I used Poll Everywhere to probe opinions on the following issue:

“Teachers should have the right to post anything they want in the privacy of their own social media”

As you can see a surprising number agreed with the statement, although the discussion in the lecture seemed to suggest that this didn’t reflect people’s real opinions. The distortion may have had something to do with me showing the chart live and with respondents competing to move the bars along. Whatever the reason the question led to an interesting discussion and one that I hope PDEs will continue to engage in.

This seemed to be a good juncture at which to mention the story of Stacey Snyder, a student teacher in the US who lost her case and subsequent appeal against her school and the university authorities who used this image as evidence to prevent her being granted a license to teach, although she was permitted to graduate with a degree. Stacey’s story is a salutary reminder of the potential damage even a silly picture loaded unthinkingly into a social network can do to a teacher’s career. And of course she is not alone in having been hoist by their own social media petard. In the past the symbolism of the skull and crossbones seen on the unfortunate Stacey’s head would have served to warn other seafarers not to mess with pirates, and it seems that Stacey’s own photo could be a modern day code for teachers not to take chances with the images and comments they post online. Whether you agree with the statement above or not, the point is not to say give up using social media but to navigate these waters carefully.

Be assured too that your prospective employers can and will Google you: it’s for you to decide what version of yourself you’d most like them to discover.

Although we didn’t have time to explore them, the resources on Teachers and Social Media from the New Zealand Teachers’ Council are useful starting points for discussions about this topic.

I’d have liked us to discuss your reflections on this animated video, but perhaps you would comment below on some of the questions raised by the scenario depicted in it…? Perhaps you could answer one or more of the questions in this slide… which we would have got to had the hardware behaved itself at the start of the lecture!

Every Little Helps

I thought I’d be using the title Together Everyone Achieves more (T.E.A.M.), as I’d started with this message in mind, as I aimed to promote working together and sharing ideas, but at the end of the lecture the supermarket slogan was proffered and it seemed even more ‘on message’ for the session.

My aim was to offer some insights and recommendations for students to get started with technology in the classroom and to prompt some recommendations from the class. But it also prompted a number of questions as we discussed the merits of Open office as an alternative to MS Office and where to buy low cost editions of the latter (hence supermarket slogan).

I was very pleased about the level of openness and willingness of the PDEs to share ideas that is already evident in the class, and in the presentation my aim was to encourage you to do this online as well.

The large lecture format, for all its openness and apparent informality, still precludes deep discussion or engagement with technology. This can really only be achieved in smaller groups, ideally also informal, and better still, student led.

People are talking about PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) and one way students can pick up ideas is by linking in to networks that already exist. It can come as a surprise to many that Twitter is one source of ideas being tapped into increasingly by teachers. If you are new to Twitter NCTE’s Scoilnet provides some introductory links. I suggested a few names of Irish Teachers who tweet and the regulars among them contribute to the weekly discussion forum moderated by Fred Boss (@fboss) from NCTE. Search Twitter for #edchatie and you will see the discussions (and discussants). Fred also archives the discussions so if you miss out you can catch up on the themes covered.

Many of the colleagues tweeting on #edchatie are also part of CESI (Computer Education Society of Ireland). CESI is a unique teacher association with membership from across the three sectors of Irish education. It hosts a series of live and online events during the year as well as a very active online discussion group. Not limited to the 140 characters of Twitter, this forum very often provides detailed answers to questions raised and members’ requests for recommended sites, software and hardware are frequently answered promptly and comprehensively.

Meanwhile back in NUIM, the forum of choice will be Moodle. You will find the link on the homepage of NUIM.ie. I asked students to go in and change your profile picture. Please do this as it personalises the experience and helps us to get to know who’s who in the class. I neglected to mention also that there is a Moodle app for your smartphone, if you have one, and although slightly more limited than using Moodle on a computer, it does provide an easy way for you to upload images to store for future use. We established that for each one of you new to Moodle there are two others who are not and will be (I hope!) willing to help you if you are stuck on anything – don’t be afraid to ask.

I ended the session with two recommendations – Teacher’s Pet, which I think is just magic: it allows you to create simple, customised worksheets using a macro or computer code in Word. (Computer experts may be wary of macros but this one is not malicious!). Although other puzzle makers do exist, of course, I don’t know another where you can create so many worksheets off line and within Word itself.

My second recommendation was blendspace.com (formerly edcanvas) a popular site where you can create lessons based on online content and/or use content curated by other users. Both sites are commercial but each offers quite a bit of the service for free… so no free lunch but at least I hope … a ‘little help’. I’d be very interested to hear how you find them.

Finally, and to use another popular slogan, ‘Comment is free’ and it is very welcome on this blog. So, dear reader, what sites do you recommend for creative uses of technology?

Pimp my slide

Do something today that your future self will thank you for.

These were the random words of wisdom that 4th year BScEd student Eva A. found that morning on Facebook as she wondered what she’d let her self in for when she agreed to facilitate an Ed Tech seminar for PDE students. But she was not alone in feeling anxious as I and five other volunteers (former Dips) were anxiously anticipating how our jointly prepared mini Ed Tech showcase would pan out. Our stated mission was to minimize fatalities caused by boring bulleted PowerPoints being unleashed in second level schools. In other words how to make PowerPoints deadly not deathly!

It’s about time…

Earlier this year I took part in an eLearning summer school where I spoke to colleagues about the Ed Tech course on the Dip. The title of the summer school “It’s about time” served me well then and in this induction week session I used it again to illustrate why technology is not only useful, but vitally important, for teachers. At one level it’s about (saving) time, both for the preparation of lessons and for their delivery. Our aim was to provide some creative suggestions about reducing the time needed for student teachers to find good resources, as well as the amount of time they spend in class writing on the board, and therefore standing with their backs turned to their pupils.

But I also think that it’s about (feckin’) time (!) that more schools and more teachers embraced technology without fear. At nearly 30 PowerPoint is older than most of the people in the room, so it really is about time that the optimism about computers’ potential to transform learning was finally realized.

In my view that will happen when people stop thinking in terms of technology and start thinking in terms of creativity.

The Greek philosophers had separate words for different concepts of time, where Kairos or kariotic time (as opposed to Chronos or chronological time) evokes the idea of time suspended, where enjoyment and creative energy make it seem as though time is not even passing. Kairos signifies an opening According to Wikipedia it is “a time between, a moment of indeterminate time in which something special happens”. I think it is a useful way to think about opening up to creative possibilities that come from having fun doing what you do, working together, up-ending conventional ways of doing things and integrating the senses in teaching. Like a sense of mystery, a sense of humour, a sense of occasion – not to mention sheer common sense! (I say why confine yourself to only five senses?! Most classrooms are lucky to include two physical senses- the visual and the auditory – but more on that another day!)

So in spite of the nerves (and I include mine in that especially when I copped that I hadn’t checked the sound system!), I think we did achieve what we’d set out to do. The Pimp My PowerPoint set of suggestions was well received. (It will be available in Moodle in due course). We all used the same basic outline to present ideas but the uniqueness of the facilitators and of the settings (especially Tony’s which was delivered sans a computer in the room!) meant that no two sessions were identical. The discussions and experience of everyone participating prompted many rich and diverse ideas being shared – all of them valuable and worth hearing.

This is what I’d like to encourage you to do in the weeks and months to come. I hope you will share your ideas and sources, that you will see the value to your future selves in starting to do this today. And who knows, maybe you’ll lead next year’s cohort out into Life after Death by Powerpoint!

In the meantime tell us what ideas you picked up during the first Ed Tech session that you liked and will use. I’d really love to hear from you.