Return of the Blog

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Things have been hectic over the last few months, and unfortunately the blogging has took a back seat. But as things calm down for the summer the posts will increase, in part because I have been itching to start blogging again and in part as I have a whole bundle of things worth blogging about.

New tablets, audio equipment and apps. As well as updates to old posts. So expect regular weekly posts to resume. 

 

You Must Use Technology in The Classroom!

There is no disputing from me or anyone else I chat to about exploiting tech in regards to students being digital natives. My four year old has his own android tablet that he now uses having migrated from an iPad. He has been able to change the volume, listen to music and view photos, enter his password, delete apps (much to my wife’s annoyance) before the age of three. Now he downloads apps, renames folders (all to his name!), delights in screen casting to our two main TV’s and can hyandle his way around a Roku 3 with ease (his two year old brother is fast following in his footsteps!) and this was all before starting school in September last year. But….

How many times have we heard “you must use technology in the classroom”, a colleague asked recently “I am not a tech junkie, I am not up to speed with these things and I am afraid of them going wrong!” (certainly words to that effect). So we chatted about the obvious opening statement and that it was all too often bandied about without real on the ground discussions. I have certainly known organisations that chuck money at new systems to give the WOW factor, not all organisations have that sort of available funds. Now don’t get me wrong I am not saying that no discussions have taken place, the dark days of not allowing learners own devices (often superior to anything we could give them) to be used in the classroom environment to take pictures of diagrams, record activities and advice, set reminders for upcoming deadlines but the conversations regarding deploying and engaging with technology are few and far between if we are still having everyday well practised tutors scratching their heads to go beyond photos, video and reminders. As long as these following four points can fit a technology you will be fine.

  1. Curriculum first and foremost, tech just enhances it
  2. Seek support when you have identified a need, such as training, and practice/use it soon – you snooze you loose!
  3. Professional development should encourage existing skills to build upon, not highlight deficiencies as wlel as cover suggested plan B’s but should be easy and not attempt to turn the tutor into a fledgling helpdesk support. 
  4. Teachers need to plan for using technology in their classroom, including strategies to address things they think might go wrong (like we would for any other activity). These could be getting students to support with the tech or good old fashioned traditional methods to revert to.

Well I say “This is how you can use technology in the classroom, and not make it a headache!”. Get those digital natives to do what comes naturally to them and do the work (we only have to facilitate) or dare I say train the trainer? Some suggestions to ease you along…

No work at all (or minimal):

  • If your students have to keep a logbook – get them to blog!
  • Want to get them to write a succinct piece of work – within 140 characters, just like a text or tweet
  • Want to encourage discussion about today’s or an upcoming topic, create discussion using an obscure hashtag of your own, no need for twitter yourself. I just use my initials and some reference the learners will grasp #asctechinclass
  • Glossary or wiki on your VLE course page
  • QR codes or short URL generator such as Bit.ly linking to online resources
  • Online Galleries of student work such as Instagram
  • Learners using aggregators such as feedly or as information aggregators themselves by using pInterest
  • Online Galleries of student work such as Instagram

 

Some work required:

  • Poll everywhere, simply text wall or multiple choice questions you can set up – answers via text, tweet or on the web!
  • Quiz systems such as Socrative, you can even share quizzes with other users
  • Attendance and performance monitoring apps such as classroom dojo
  • Move from PowerPoint to Prezi
  • Podcasts (you knew that was going to come somewhere). My first attempt was simply audio recording a presentation I made of a session whereby a sick learner could catch up by following along with the powerpoint!

 

I hope this moves you forward 🙂

Andy

To Blog or Not to Blog

Last week saw the launch of D.A.V.E at work, Dave is our College intranet featuring all the usual policies, procedures and forms. Where Dave differs is the inclusion of social networking facilities such as status-like updates, blogs, the ability to use @user very much like twitter and an influence rating based on your interactions with the systems and users. The system is the launch page for all our other MIS services (Management Information Systems/Services).

I would like to share a conversation I had with a colleague this week who raised many questions about D.A.V.E and made me reflect on how many staff members may be pondering similar question?….Hence the blog!

So the background on my fellow conversationalist, lets call him Dave (which it isn’t but it seemed appropriate), Dave is a tech savvy tutor but is happily a “non-social networker”. To quote Dave directly….. “wife does the social networking thing, I look over her shoulder and its all a bit irrelevant to me” I rose to the challenge, Dave was obviously somebody in need of some social networking enlightenment!

He raised some really good questions during our conversation which I think would be useful to share for other members of staff who may be teetering on the brink of engaging with D.A.V.E as was he.

Blogging Is an online diary open to a wider audience, most recent entry first (called a post) and can be from a paragraph to a full blown article that discusses your topic/focus from your perspective. A short sentence or comment that might be a statement or pose a question is generally seen as a status or comment (or in the case of D.A.V.E “What are you working on?”) and generally is not posted to a blog.

Do I need it in my life? Like anything else it’s not until you start to use it that the benefits start to become apparent I reminded Dave – remember life before the smart phone or sky/cable – he even admitted he would rather not!!!! It isn’t going to change your life but it does allow you to get in touch with like-minded individuals or groups, where you might even get answers to specific questions or share your own answers or findings.

Is it not a distraction or at the very least unnecessary background noise? I admitted it can be if the posts are not relevant or the blogger is developing their skills, but the benefits of using social technologies is that you can elect to “follow” and be informed of posts or move on. The saying “content is king” still counts for blogs – but whilst I may not be interested in hair dressing blogs (having little hair, or do they have a tonic secret!) I would love to see great tasting food recipes from the catering & hospitality team (hint hint!).

He went on to ask What am I not getting? It’s a great opportunity to tap into a wealth of resources, open up dialogue, expand conversations and reach out across our organisation to those you would not normally influence. Another tool or channel of communication. More importantly it is a great way to reach a larger interested audience.

He also questioned relevancy and time (in regards work)? Like any other channel of communication it has a settling in period, most have sent a funny email or a cheeky instant message (have you brightened up a colleagues day or cracked a smile from something you have received on MS Lync at work)? but these ease the burdens of our day, lighten our mood and generally are short lived humour. I remember getting a message to call a supplier back and getting ranted at down the phone by a ‘novelty angry chat line’. Well the novelty value will fade as people experiment and choose to either embrace or let it pass them by, and that is not a criticism, there are those that prefer face-to-face communication as much as those that like a phone call or an email.

He also raised an interesting point – Are we not just pandering to the Facebook generation and ‘liking’ everything? I would rather they did, I don’t want them to re-invent a social networking mechanism for each platform, although I still don’t get why we don’t have a ‘dislike’ or ‘meh’ [sic] option!

After a very engaging and thought provoking discussion he threw down the gauntlet and asked How would you engage me? Wow, this is the thought provoker…..

1. Read some posts, ignore those you don’t like and follow those you do
2. Got something to add? post a comment or question – ignite a debate or two – that’s what your blogger should welcome (as long as it is healthy)
3. You want to post? pick a topic or focus – most people do not want to know about every aspect of your day to day life – mine is edu tech related, I like to think I have a few relevant opinions, I don’t tell you about my latest recipe (although I can if you want – I make a killer focaccia)
4. Posting should be sustainable, I have blogged everyday for 100 days straight and it is a killer, aim to blog at intervals to maintain interest but to not burn out and never post again (called blog fading!). Once a week is more than acceptable
5. Include an image (reference source if necessary) and links for further/recommended reading

So how did the conversation end up? Well I throw the gauntlet back by looking forward to their first comment on this post and their future blog post (you know who you are “Dave”), maybe your first post could be about the path to blog enlightenment! Oh, and thanks for the material that made up this blog post, next step podcasting 🙂

Andy