Innovative Programmes

I was recently asked a question about innovation. .. what are some characteristics of truly innovative programs (sic) using technology ..”

I had to say that I no longer have any confidence in programmes.

Like ‘project’, the word programme conjures up something that has a defined beginning and end, and which can be put away when finished. I’m sorry to say that this is my jaundiced view of many such programmes that have taken place over the past ten years or so; there seems to be a nod in the direction of sustainability but no more.

MoleNET for example, was at its outset a truly innovative and far reaching programme. As time progressed (it lasted three years until funding stopped) its value became more widely understood and it became a catalyst for understanding the potential for pedagogical use of technology per se and not just for mobile technologies. Mobile became interactive web and then cloud; each development being incorporated into projects and disseminated via the team of MoLeNET Mentors. It was just beginning to work when the financial rug was pulled. Despite the £millions pumped into MoLeNET and its requirement for sustainability the hosting websites have disappeared from view – they don’t even show up on Google anymore. In fact the Programme administrators, LSN are no more!

I’ve been asked lots of times what innovation is and I’m not sure that I know. Not for certain. I’m sure that it means new things, useful things, exciting things? But what is the purpose of innovation? Is it simply to exhibit new, useful and shiny things or is it to see these through to mainstream acceptance and understanding? I suspect that the latter is right but that innovators get bored once mainstream gets ahold and they move on. In that case I’m not really an innovator. I see the point and given the opportunity will try to mainstream that point.

With MoleNET we were able to see a widespread acceptance for the use of mobile tools and technologies throughout Further Education but I’m not certain that this innovation transferred to schools or universities. Schools are still running scared of mobile tools (unnecessarily in my opinion) and H.E. simply doesn’t get it. e.g. I delivered a workshop at an ALT conference some time ago, showing the then innovative use of PDAs (this was just before the iPhone) to those attending. Afterwards, someone from a university came up to me and asked if I really thought that PDAs would replace PCs because if that was so it would save the university £1,000s. First of all – I’d never said that anything mobile would ‘replace’, only ‘supplement’ and ‘add value’, and secondly, all this person could see was a way of saving money for her Chancellor.

I know that this isn’t the place to say it but … hey ho … the programme we most need is one that doesn’t finish: one where all those of us involved in education constantly seek effective ways of reaching our learners, we use what we can (whether it be a new method or technology or an old one) and move on from what doesn’t work.

Also see:

http://www.m-learning.org/

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Mobile Learning Case Studies

I delivered a workshop the other day for a college in the Northwest. The college has deployed a variety of handheld devices as part of their 2010 MoLeNET project and I’ve visited them on several occasions to discuss the ‘Potential of M’ and ‘Audio-Video capture and editing’ etc. This time they wanted to know how everyone else was using mobile devices. That worried me a bit, because I wasn’t sure how I would deliver a two-hour session (x2) based on Case Studies and the (mainly apocryphal) stuff ‘I’ know (which is definitely not everything!)

I came up with a series of six worksheets that they could explore. Not knowing the exact participant numbers, I worked on a timescale that allowed two bites of the task. Each task gave the small group of two or three, twenty minutes to research the provided links, ten minutes to develop a PPT (or video) and five minutes to deliver their findings to the entire group. Followed by five minutes Q and A, I thought that this would be a nice session. The task asked them to view a series of case studies/video clips and to form an argument (to governors) for deployment. (Continued below)

It turned out that I had very much underestimated the engagement they would commit to the task, the time it would take to do the research and the time to make (especially agree) their presentation. So the morning session only just came in on time. In fact it came in five minutes late and the Q and A sessions were very abbreviated. Furthermore, and this was hopefully due to the pressures of time, the PPTs were much too wordy. I’d hoped that the idea of presenting to governors would make the presentations a bit snappier than they turned out to be.

I therefore decided to change the timings for the afternoon session along with the presentation requirements. I asked them to create a Pecha Kucha – which caused great stress. But hopefully (fingers crossed?) healthy stress. (Here’s one of mine from the RSC-NW conference)

Please click along the above Slideshow, as you watch/listen to the video below

Pecha Kucha (Japanese for chit chat I believe) is a presentation based on delivering 20 slides for only 20 seconds per slide. When I explained this to the afternoon group, their jaws dropped. I changed the rules so that theirs would be 10 slides at 30 seconds each and told them that pecha kucha didn’t require wordy slides – a picture plus 30 seconds dialogue is fine. I also extended the research time and the PK development time and the result was much snappier and focussed. But the real ‘gain’ for me was when I said “you know, you could get your learners to do something like this – say 10 slides, 10 seconds each” (to make them much more focussed on what is required).

The PT teacher lit up like a beacon and started scribbling notes. RESULT!

iPhone CPD – Apps

I drove over to Burnley on Wednesday to attend a MoLeNET training event that was designed to show us what an iPhone could do in the teaching and learning environment. I sort of feel OK with the iPhone now and what it can do – despite much earlier reservations [see below], but I don’t think that you can ever know everything – which the day proved.

Elaine Coates and Mick Mullane were the presenters and they started with a very simple overview of how the various bits worked – that sounds simple but even regular iPhone users miss some of the functions – as might be seen on this address I shared with Mick (for the day’s blog). We moved on to the inbuilt features such a clock, alarm, calendar etc but then Mick took over to introduce his favourite features; maps and compass. We spend quite some time investigating those features and at lunchtime we set off in search of a near-by GeoCache. Because of the biting cold (is it really May?) I didn’t stay outside for the ‘find’ but I did make a find of my own – 2p -!!

The most interesting bit for me was discussion of our favourite Apps and how we might use them. With so many people in the room, it was hard to keep up with them all – but ones I remember and/or download there and then were (top four are all FREE):

  • Mental Note http://appshopper.com/productivity/mental-note-lite Which looks like the indigenous Notes facility, but allows images to be added, drawing to be added, audio to be recorded as part of the note (be careful when emailed, this comes as an extra attachment)
  • Layar http://site.layar.com/company/blog/layar-is-back-on-iphone/ Which is a great way of seeing what’s around you when you’re out and about. A stab at AR. With local points of interest, near-by Tweeters and maps – it could be a fun way of meeting new friends, finding new places or simply being a geek.
  • GeoCaching http://www.geocaching.com/iphone/ The ‘lite’ version of which we used at lunchtime. This (and Layar) is something I could see being used with students on location and awareness projects. I may even have a go at a bit of GeoCaching now.
  • ZBar http://zbar.sourceforge.net/ Our discussion had moved on to QR codes and many said that the iPhone really wasn’t the best for reading them – but ZBar has been great for me works every time (fingers crossed)

Of course, there are other Apps I regularly use and the best of these are:

  • SpeakIt http://appshopper.com/utilities/say-it (£1.19) is a great way of vocalising text on the iPhone. Cut and Paste (or type) text into the window and it will read it back to you in one of several voices. Resulting file can be emailed!
  • TuneIn Radio http://www.tunein-radio.com/index.html (£1.19) Radio  The iPhone doesn’t have a built-in radio and chasing a channel via Safari isn’t the best or mist convenient way to listen. When you get fed up of your MP3s – TuneIn.
  • Tube Exits http://www.tubeexits.co.uk/ (59p) If you’re travelling in London, Tube Exits is a must. It helps you to plan a route from A > B > C etc. but then tells you where to stand to get on a tube train to more easily find the exit at your destination. Just knowing which side the door opens is a great boon to me.
  • Quick News http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/quick-news-uk-free/id316696944?mt=8 (Free) is a great way of keeping up to date with snippets of news. You can choose from a huge variety of sources such as the BBC; digg; The Guardian; The Mirror; The Times and Metro (many more) – so you are not tied to just one opinion.

Plus – many, many more …

We also had a great overview of the Accessibility features on the iPhone from Luke, an Apple employee. This was much more in-depth than the presentation I saw in December and thoroughly engaging. Thank you Luke. Mick was kind enough to mention the work i had done on this too. See previous Eduvel post for links: https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/iphone-3gs-accessibility/

The most enjoyable bit of the day, as always, was meeting old friends and colleagues such as Mick and Elaine, John Whalley (another MoLeNET Mentor), Geoff Foot, Jo Crumblehome, Ronan O’Bierne – as well as those I’ve just met this year: Jason from the Sheffield Academy and Adam from the Ashton under Lyme Academy. Thanks to everyone for making this such a great day.

Extras:
Some of the following (previous) postings about the iPhone (include Podcasts):


http://dsugden.posterous.com/my-first-apple-day-1http://dsugden.posterous.com/my-first-apple-day-2
http://dsugden.posterous.com/iphone-trail-day-three
http://dsugden.posterous.com/my-first-apple-day-four
http://dsugden.posterous.com/my-first-apple-day-6
http://dsugden.posterous.com/my-first-apple-day-goodness-kn
http://dsugden.posterous.com/iphone-one-week-to-go
http://dsugden.posterous.com/iphone-story-final-chapter
https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/apple-pros-and-cons/

Blooms

This week has been great. I’ve been able to carry out work that I enjoy and that I know I’m good at.

I thrive on learner feedback and these days my learners are teachers, trainers and people who work most closely with those we might call ‘real’ learners. So; smiles, curiosity, ‘bright ideas’ and enthusiasm for the subject are my reward. I’ve encountered all of these this week.

I delivered two sessions at The Sheffield College for MoLeNET on Tuesday and then co-trained with the delightful Nigel Davies (@e4communities) for NIACE e-Guides in Nottingham on Wednesday.

My MoLeNET presentation was a similar one to that delivered by me last week at The Newcastle College. It dealt with the potential for ‘m’ learning – but for these sessions I doubly interpret the ‘m‘ as meaning mobile AND modern. I try to model ‘m’ activities and techniques throughout.

I try to fix all of the session’s activities, tool-use and techniques to Blooms Taxonomy. This is the taxonomy of thinking skills which aims to raise learners’ achievements through simple knowledge acquisition, comprehension of that knowledge and its application (lower order thinking skills – LOTs) – through analysis, synthesis and evaluation (higher order thinking skills – HOTs). There are lots of reasons for doing this, but my main reason is that Bloom’s is a recognisable theory, one that should/would have been addressed during Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and therefore be an understandable foundation we can build upon.

I suggest to my participants that each learner will progress through the taxonomy’s stages at varying speeds and with varying success; often having to return to a previous level (in a cycular fashion – which fits nicely then, with Bruner’s spiral curriculum model: e.g. “Curriculum should be organized in a spiral manner so that the student continually builds upon what they have already learned.” from: http://tip.psychology.org/bruner.html) where they begin their learning journey again. I emphasise that ‘they‘ the teachers, trainers etc. ARE THE experts at this and that ‘they‘ are the creators of activities designed to allow learners to climb (cycle?) through the levels.

I iterate, time and time again that the ‘m’ technique and the ‘m’ technology should be the tool and not the master.

Occasionally, a colleague will ask me if I am demeaning the workshop participants by addressing Blooms in this way. I most certainly am not – I am often thanked/congratulated for reminding them of this long-forgotten rock upon which their teaching skills are built. Just this week one participant caught me as she left and thanked me profusely for introducing her to Blooms and for making it so interesting. She said that she had never heard of the Taxonomy. I wonder how the ITT team at ‘wherever’ missed that?

I start with techniques for using sms text and for this we use the superb Text Wall supplied by http://www.xlearn.co.uk (£25 per annum – Bargain). Two simple questions illustrate how simple it is to move from knowledge to comprehension, simply by thinking about how the question is worded. A third task (task, not question) shows how sms text can be used to deliver synthesis and evaluation. So – the simplest of technologies is addressing several levels of thinking skill. I then deliver a simple ‘odd one out’ exercise stolen from Lilian Soon (@xlearn). The idea being that the technical skills required to build the task (simply adding words and images to a PPT slide) are the same; even though the two slides require considerably different approaches to the answers (LOTs versus HOTs).

We then move on to Web 2.0 sites and their potential (I’ll return to this in another post), finishing this section with a very practical, hands-on floor exercise (keep ’em moving). Having looked at Web 2.0, I finish with an exercise that investigates the pedagogical use of mobile tools.

Experience has taught me that I cannot rely on there being access to any such mobile tools – and certainly not the variety that I would need to use to underpin my message: So I have laminated sets of cards showing pictures of mobile/handheld tools and a brief description of what they might do. These are accompanied by a handout taken from: http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet25/cheung.html and participants are asked to consider how they might use each of the tools and to film each other deliberating this. The simple act of being filmed helps them to focus on the achievable and to consider things they might not otherwise have considered.

I felt that both MoLeNET workshops were well received and that lots of ‘real’ learners will now benefit from the teachers and trainers’ newfound skills and ideas. Well done everybody. And thank you Benjamin Bloom.

References:

http://faculty.ccconline.org/index.php?title=Blooms_Taxonomy_Tutorial_FLASH

http://www.openeducation.net/2008/04/11/blooms-taxonomy-and-the-digital-world/

My Delicious – Blooms URLS

Coffee

Last week I was involved in a MoLeNET ‘boot camp’. The premise was simple: we all get together and thrash out pedagogical issues which are to be included as part of a resource/activity creation tool, which is being developed on behalf of the MoLeNET community.

We spent two days sat around our laptops in a smallish room at the excellent Novotel in Leeds. Although this post isn’t about the food, it would be a crime to mention the hotel and not mention the food. As always the lunchtime buffet was a delight, with a huge variety of seafood, cold meats and salads to start with and the usual carvery type fayre for mains – but served up in an interesting way. The first day we also had bacon sandwiches (with croissant, ham, preserves and fruit), which was a delightful surprise. Thank you Novotel.

Anyway – they also brew a passable (not great, but passable) coffee. And there’s the rub: we were all free to get tea and coffee whenever we liked. Each morning we had a selection of biscuits to soak up the drink and on both afternoons we were presented with a selection of cakes and buns. So the tables in our small rooms gradually filled up with the usual long meeting detritus.

So let this story be a warning to everyone – cakes crumbs and coffee do not go well with laptops.

We’d almost finished our two-day meeting and I was returning from the bathroom to begin packing up, when a cup of coffee was accidently knocked over my (I still think of it as new) MacBook Pro. I think I went into an instant ‘oh it’s only a keyboard’ form of stasis. It had never seemed a big thing before, keyboards on college machines had always been the cheapest of the cheap and any lasting damage from spills could only be caused to the PC itself, often hidden right away under the desk or sat at the back of the desk – a fair way from potential damage. But the Mac (or any laptop) is much more vulnerable than that – potentially £1,200 of vulnerability.

Luckily, the MoLeNET Mentors are such a stellar team that they instantly sprang into action. Instructions were being shouted from all over the room: the main one being ‘remove the battery’. I’d already pulled the power cable and the machine was by now being held upside down so the ‘remove the battery’ instruction was probably a laptop saver, as I would not have thought to do that. Paper towels and serviettes were coming from all over the place as colleagues rushed to help and the mess was eventually cleaned up. Apart from one person’s ashen face, my otherworldly stasis and an upside down MacBook Pro with an overwhelming smell of coffee, things soon settled down to the normal goodbyes and see-you-laters.

I was advised not to use the machine again for a minimum of three days to let it dry out completely, before being allowed to cross the fingers of one hand whilst turning it on with the other. All the advice was coming from people I trust; long-term Mac users, so my stasis would continue into Sunday – only 48 hours, but my fingers WERE already very tightly crossed.

When I finally turned on the MacBook Pro, it worked. I opened as many windows as I thought fair and breathed a slow sigh of relief when nothing ‘blew’.

Then, later, I noticed that the keys were sticky. We’d wondered whether the coffee had had sugar in it, but not knowing whose it was made that impossible to know – I’d hoped not, as the sugar would have made it nigh on impossible to fix without some kind of surgery. But all of the keys eventually came unstuck and now, 24 hours later, they seem to be working fine.

I’d looked on the Internet for sticky keys advice and two helpful addresses were sent to me by Simon Finch on Twitter: http://bit.ly/6SATq8 and http://bit.ly/4qiBmw. Apparently you can carefully lift off the keys (which I didn’t do) – James Clay suggested cleaning them with baby wipes; Mick Mullane said cotton buds and distilled water. In the end I loosened the sticky keys by tapping them and then blowing compressed air across the keypad. I’m sure that this practice is frowned upon as it may move debris into more corruptible areas of the machine – but it worked for me.

LATEST NEWS – somehow, the video-out slot has become faulty. I’m not sure yet whether the coffee is responsible but at the moment, the only way of connecting to an external source is to keep pushing the plug right in – sadly there’s no way of keeping pressure on.

So three things to say as I wrap up this post:

· There are many sites out there aimed at helping you in times of technological stress:

· Thank you to all those of you who volunteer to help people in need – Simon, James, Mick – thank you.

and

Don’t leave coffee (or tea, or biscuits, or food/drink of any kind – and while we’re on it – all pets, young especially – but older are not immune to walking all over the keyboard) anywhere near your laptop!

Mobile notes

Although this post is about taking notes on a mobile device, I have to admit to using my Mac Book Pro to compose it. My apologies to all purist readers.

I am prompted to write this after reading Col Hawksworth’s recent blog post and subsequent comments. http://mindmug.wordpress.com/2009/12/04/take-note/. Half way through my reply to his post (and Jame’s agreement with Col’s frustration) I realised that I had the makings of something to say that might be useful to others. My post is not entirely unrelated – but not about the iPhone undo function – which Col has solved.

I used to be an avid note taker. At meetings, conferences and throughout my various University courses I took notes. Lots of notes. These helped me later to form ideas, plans and write reports for managers. All were on paper – at the time it would have been impossible to take a laptop with me (or in earlier times the slate and chalk) :-). When I received my first Palm PDA (back in 2002) I begun to realise that this could be a useful device for taking notes. After struggling with the script writing software I quickly updated to a WM-OS iPaq. Now this was great, all I had to do was tap away at the screen with a stick and at the end of the day synch the notes up to the PC mother-ship and there were my notes; in Word ready to spell check, add to and move on. But something was missing. As the keyboard became smaller (actually, the keyboard remained the same – but my eyesight deteriorated) it became much more frustrating to use. And – have you noticed the position of your arm when you’re tapping away with a stylus? I eventually stopped taking notes on a mobile device and resorted once more to paper.

Over the intervening two or three years my handwriting (never my best feature) had, like my eyesight, deteriorated. My scrawl was hardly legible and therefore hardly any use so, over time I became more reliant on memory: never the best of all human features. I tried laptops (sometimes too heavy, no battery life, too big for use in some places – sometimes just too laptoppy!) and thought that all my note-taking ships had come in at once when the Asus eee popped onto the market. But I fell out of love with that too.

So now what?

Well, I’m currently using the iTouch to take down my reflections on train journeys. And I’m loving it.

Why?

I think that it’s a combination of ease, of software choice and Web 2.0 connectivity. Thanks to Lilian Soon and Ron Mitchell, I’ve been persuaded to use Evernote. This sits nicely on the iTouch and on my Mac. I suspect it will also work on one of my other laptops but I’m not currently speaking to them (long story). I’m also using Dropbox on both (all actually) devices. So, I now have the ability to grab, capture and compose bits and pieces on any device and with the magic of Web 2.0, knit them all together later when I have the time and patience. But (and here, finally is the link to Col’s post) the main convenience is the finger tappingly good interface on the iTouch. Despite aging eyes, despite the screen size (which for a mobile device is excellent) I’ve found that I can manage to tap out a convincingly long piece of reflection without a problem. My Penzu personal reflections (prepared for IfL) have never been so good. My blog posts (apart from this) are often formed via Evernote and the iTouch. And why is the iTouch ok and the iPaq not so good (for me)? Because I use my fingers. Simply that. It’s tactility makes it the tool for me. I can increase the text size by spreading two fingers on the screen, I can tap away at a reasonably sized keyboard and (most importantly) my brain can keep up with my fingers in a way that it could never keep up with the stylus on my iPaq. So, now that hand, brain and device are in synch – I seem to manage perfectly well. And also because of this, I’ve not (yet!!!) had the problem James and Col describe of deleting the whole damn lot.

And finally, why am I using my Mac to write this instead of my iTouch? Well, there’s a real keyboard and it’s the right tool to do the job. The iTouch is perfect for impromptu note taking, but there’s no need to use it all the time.

Drafts

This is the first Saturday for many weeks where I’ve had no work to do. At all. But it all starts again tomorrow.

The Advanced e-Guide/PDA programme kicked off last month with the first face to face meetings last week (in the middle of my Leeds-European week). The participants were reminded that (to get the two pronged funding) they should have submitted ‘action plans’ by 20th November. Which sort of gave us two weeks to get draft action plans read and returned before the finals had to be in. The 20th is an important date because if we (Sally, Nigel and me) don’t get them by then the Advanced e-Guide/PDA won’t get their £1,200 bursary or £1,500 capital funding. So – next weekend and Monday, we (I) will be reading action plans and (hopefully) signing them off in time for the money to be released. But this week it’s been one for chasing up drafts, reading drafts and commenting on drafts. This has been appreciated by those that submitted them but that is less than half the group I have to support. So tomorrow and Monday I will have to be chasing up those that haven’t sent in drafts.

There’s still no news of my ‘lost’ camera from the Thistle Hotel in Birmingham. I wonder what I have to do to get a manger to talk to me?

On Thursday all the MoLeNET Mentors met in London as part of this years (round 3) programme. Once again it was great to be there with everyone – all gurus to me and all considered good friends. But I do wonder why we were there in the afternoon. Some of us I understand – because the LSN sales team had to be informed about MoLeNET life and mobile learning generally, but Elaine, James, Mick and I were not involved and were only listening to what we already (mainly) knew. I suspect that if the four of us had been asked to leave and work in a different room for 2 hours, the product of that meeting would have been far more useful that the 2 hours we did spend.

Then Lilian, Ron and I went to Nottingham to join the Becta-supported (delivered by ALT) Sucessful Deployment of networked hand-held devices workshop at the National College for School Leadership. This was a vibrant meeting with lots of different input and cross-sector talk about the pedagogies of mobile learning. We three had been asked to come along and foster discussion by delivering our cool wall idea. I think it took a while for delegates to ‘get it’ but eventually they did (I think). Out point had been to begin the thinking around the use uses (video, photography, text, search, memo, reflection etc) rather than the kit itself – also, what tool might the learner own that could enable these uses?  A great day (Friday) – really enjoyed it.

Got home as quick as I could because Karen and David were coming up for the weekend. Karen is at TechDis today (Saturday) but Dave and I are shortly going to the pub!