Blackburn College again

Today was the second of five days work I have with Blackburn College. They have been lucky enough to win one of the LSIS bids aimed at upskilling staff in the use of technology for teaching and learning. (I’m sure it had a far grander name when the bid was announced but any way … they asked me to help).

Last week’s workshop day was reported via an earlier blog post and this one was fundamentally similar – just longer. The group was in the same room for six hours, four of which were mine!

They opened at 9.00am with an overview of Read and Write Gold (RAWG) and an introduction to the college’s preferred Mind Mapping software (the name of which I can’t remember – blush). I knew these timings before I set off, because I was also to deliver an input on the My Study Bar memory stick during that time. I wasn’t sure that the group would cope with such an intense day but they were SO ENGROSSED in RAWG (and later, the mind mapping) that I had to re-assess my opinion pretty quickly.

I opened my 11.00am session by discussing my plan for the rest of the day and seeking their agreement for the way it would work. We began with an introduction to Audacity, iPadio, Cam Studio and Photo Story 3 before spending an hour of hands-on. The group were already on a high following the RAWG session but climbed even higher whilst playing with (predominantly) Photo Story 3. They came up with some nice ideas for use with learners and it seemed a shame to stop and ‘do’ the agreed My Study Bar (much shortened) session.  However, even though they had seen the glossy RAWG stuff, they were still impressed with the FREE products available on the memory stick.

Following lunch we began with some work on mobile learning (specifically texting using the Xlearn TextWall) and Bloom’s Taxonomy. This was followed by the main Web 2.0/Social Networking session, which despite the length of time they’d been in the room – was still devoured with pleasure.

Big ‘ups’ to everyone from Blackburn College today. They survived a long and very intense day’s CPD on two difficult subjects.

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Reflections on 2010

Looking back (as we are apt to do at this time of year) I see that it is almost twelve months since I first blogged about the accessibility functions of the iPhone. [Link to first blog] Since then, a lot has happened in the digital world. That blog post had dealt with my then recent introduction to the Apple iPhone 3GS and how to operate the accessibility features. Since my post, Apple have launched the iPhone 4 (with iOS4) and the iPad, both of which have increased and improved accessibility features. See: https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/iaccessibility/

The iPad has been a real game changer. Unimagined (in its eventual form) in January 2010, it’s difficult now to imagine how such a tool had never previously existed. It is in no way a laptop replacement and cannot cope with some of the tasks [See earlier iPad post] even a netbook could cope with – yet it is becoming an increasingly important actor on the educational stage. This site by Ian Wilson is worth a look if you’re interested in learning more about the iPad in Education: http://www.ipadineducation.co.uk/iPad_in_Education/Welcome.html.

As the financial crisis continues to bite, many trusted and familiar Web 2.0 provisions have begun to teeter. For example, NING, the D.I.Y. social networking site, following years of adequate free provision started to charge at the end of summer 2010. I’m certain that this wasn’t a problem for too many educators but it was a harbinger of things to come. By December Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia was appealing for cash on every one of Wikipedia’s information pages.  Delicious was also under threat from its owner Yahoo! [See news of this] and although there was a form of retraction; the writing is still on the wall – even for this hugely popular and widely used site.

If we take the time to read figures, many such giants of the Web 2.0 world are feeling the pinch. Even Flickr, another Yahoo! provision, despite having a well supported ‘paid for’ membership, is seeing more competition from mobile-based tools such as Instagram and several other App-based photo sites (which will in time come under threat themselves).

Some people say that even Twitter will die – [See James Clay’s blog]

None of this is a bad thing, unless we invest time, effort and/or money into individual sites and provisions. I hope to expand upon this in a future post. Maybe I’ll title that ‘stick to basics’?

Happy New Year to everyone. I hope the financial crisis (caused by reckless banking) does not strike you too hard and that your wishes all come true. 🙂

How big is the web?

It never fails to surprise me how much bigger the web has got every time I look at it.

I use the web for all sorts of things, but mostly to see how its many features might help learners to learn and teachers to teach. I try to work from a position of ‘what is it about THIS site that can/could/will enhance the learning process?’ I deliver workshops that underpin this basic use, but at some point during each workshop, I tend to realise that there is such a lot more that could be effectively used. This week’s workshop in Fareham, for the RSC-SE was no exception.

Over summer, I’d been commissioned to build a Web 2.0 Moodle ‘course’ that informed practitioners and managers about the benefits that Web 2.0 could bring. This had been a huge undertaking, which resulted in five Moodle sites, each one dealing with a different aspect of basic use. As far as I know, this course, and others built over the summer, are being launched at the JISC Advance RSC-SE ‘e’ Fair.

My Fareham workshop had been arranged to introduce the Moodle sites and to try out the staff development exercises that each course possesses. The five pages had evolved as I began to map out exactly what we could do with Web 2.0. Throughout my development, I tried to underpin the course with three core Web 2.0 uses: communication, collaboration and sharing. With these three as my bedrock, I expanded into five main themes: Web 2.0 overview; Blogs, Wikis and Microblogs; Creation; Storage; Social Networking. Each section of the site contains information, advice, lists of sites and services and case studies. Some features, such as Xtranormal and Screenr, are modelled as a matter of course.

I’m really proud of the work and hope that the sites are successfully employed all over the south-east. My remit was to make the course downloadable by institutions, and as a result there is no built-in requirement to use forums etc., or any form of assessment, as these would need to be set up locally. Nevertheless, even as they stand, the five pages are a powerful collection of Web 2.0 I.A.G.

So, back to Fareham: I had to combine ‘storage’ and ‘creation’ as each of these is a huge subject and needs more time to complete than we had available. This, the third session of the day, was less successful then it could have been due to difficulties with the Internet connection but it wasn’t until the final session, Social Networking, that it occurred to me that rather than modelling the Moodle staff development activities, we could have done more exploration of what’s out there and discussed usage. To fill in time lost earlier, I showed iPadio and Screenr to the group and was immediately blasted with lots of ideas for use (whereas creating media and uploading to YouTube and Flickr had not rung any bells).

And there hangs my question: what else could I have demonstrated? What else would have rung their bells and got them excited about Web 2.0 use, whether it be storage, creation or whatever?

What might I have missed when building the Moodle course?