Icon-add-to-playlist Icon-download Icon-drawer-up
Share this ... ×
By ...
Blogging: shift of control
January 21, 2007 08:24 PM PST
itunes pic

By Alan November

Blogging represents one of many tools that pioneering teachers are using to empower students to take more responsibility of managing their own work and adding value to the world. Educators are typically not neutral about blogging. There are fierce defenders and fierce critics. Each has an important voice. As Will Richardson points out, “One of the reasons we fear these technologies is because we as teachers don’t yet understand them or use them. But the reality is that our students already do. It’s imperative that we be able to teach our kids how to use the tools effectively and appropriately because right now they have no models to follow.”

Chris Burnett
“Never. I will never use a blog in my teaching.” My colleague, Chris Burnett, a writing/literature teacher in inner city Michigan for 12 – 14 year olds was clear about her feelings for blogging as she walked out of her first “How to Blog” workshop in the summer of 2004 at my Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston. Chris was a veteran teacher of more than twenty years who was piling up the reasons not to use this popular web communications tool. At the time, she was not alone. Here are common concerns I’ve heard from other teachers:
• Blogs give too much freedom for students to express themselves
• Teachers will never be able to control comments
• Students and parents will have too much access to other students’ published work
• Students will feel too much pressure to improve as they see the work and comments of others.

One year later, Chris has replaced these misgivings with sheer determination for publishing a blog that features student work for authentic review. It is an understatement to say she has changed her mind. She now gives her own workshops for teachers who are willing to learn more about the power of this medium.

“Blogging is now central to student motivation and the whole process of students taking more responsibility for the quality of their work. I have never had students who are so excited about writing. For the first time in my career, I have students who are submitting their writing to me without an assignment, just so they can have their work published for review by an authentic global audience. We have had the author of one of our books, Chris Crowe who wrote the very powerful Mississippi Trial 1955, reply to our blog. “I’m especially pleased by your students’ reaction to my characters; I tried to make the fictional people as complicated and interesting as people are in real life. The students’ insight into the issues and characters are right on, and it’s clear they’re doing careful reading and thinking. I’m looking forward to talking to everyone in a week or two.”

Chris goes on to explain, “Perhaps what surprised me the most is that when the school year finished I had students who continued to reflect on their writing during our summer vacation. It is very validating to me to have a student come back to school to share how they visited the class blog during their vacation to see if there were any comments from around the world. I hope that my students that I have in class this year will be just as enthusiastic about publishing on the blog. One can only hope.”

How often have your students reflected on their writing portfolio during summer vacation?

Shift of Control
Unlike word processing, or using an interactive whiteboard, or having students present a PowerPoint presentation to classmates behind closed doors, blogging shifts the concept of the control of information. Perceptions of time, space and relationships are expanded. The audience moves from teacher and class to the world. Teachers are no longer the sole or even the primary arbitrator of student work. It is even possible that teachers do not have to work as hard to motivate traditionally failing students or to set much higher expectations for excel

Effective e-Learning through collaboration
January 13, 2007 09:29 PM PST
itunes pic

By Steve Lee & Miles Berry

The benefits of e-Learning
e-Learning delivers many enhancements to the teaching and learning experience; the biggest impact occurs when the technology enables social and collaborative interaction where all parties actively build their understanding.

It’s hard to miss the fact that e-Learning provides learning resources in interesting electronic media and makes them available ‘anywhere, anytime’. Such media provides enhanced impact, improved accessibility, can be re-purposed for new uses and also help improve differentiation. However the required media production skills can be beyond teachers’ experience, and often publication is by commercial publishers, or a specialist media or web unit. This can have the effect of de-professionalising teachers, who lose control of the materials they use with their learners.

Even where teachers do remain in control of learning materials, a commonplace approach to e-Learning is to simply publish resources appropriate to the learning. Such content may be ‘interactive’ or describe activities to be performed but is otherwise passively consumed by the students. This can alienate learners, who feel reduced to the level of recipients of content rather than participants in learning. Other methods are used by many teachers to more fully engage students, for example Tim Rylands’ (http://timrylands.com/) use of the Myst computer games in literacy classes, resulting in impressive improvements in descriptive writing, especially from boys. Teachers in the creative arts often use collaboration and group work around technology to create works in media such as music technology, videos or animations.

Learning in the classroom
In ordinary, classroom teaching, we now enjoy a range of approaches that improve on the traditional ‘talk and chalk’ method used on its own. These embrace a social, interactive and constructionist approach to whole class teaching. As stated in the ‘About Learning’ (http://www.demos.co.uk/catalogue/aboutlearning/) report of the Demos-led Learning Working Group:
“experienced teachers draw on a mixture of common-sense knowledge, in which learning usually means acquiring factual knowledge that can be memorised and reproduced in written forms, and much more elaborate psychological accounts, which emphasise that learning is a search for meaning that is built upon pre-existing knowledge and is often realised in a social environment rather than something that simply takes place ‘in the head’ of the individual.”

Many students find that their learning is most effective when they actively construct knowledge during group social interaction and collaboration. Characteristics of such approaches also include: an awareness of multiple perspectives, provision of realistic contexts, a sense of ownership and voice, learning as a social experience, an acknowledgement of multiple modes of representation and a sense of self-awareness (metacognition, or learning about learning). These approaches are variously called social constructivism, social learning, collaborative learning or aggregated learning. The theories of social constructivist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_constructivism) epistemology and Vygotsky’s ‘zone of proximal development’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lev_Vygotsky) provide a rigorous underpinning for such pedagogies.

Evolution of the web
ICT technology centred around the intranet and web are also in a process of evolving from a ‘place’ into social and collaborative platform in which many are rapidly developing a voice and an awareness of multiple perspectives. Publishing information on the web no longer requires programming or web design skills: anyone can do it with the new sites that are emerging. Some are calling this “Web 2.0” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0) and it is having an enormous impact on how we get things done, and is much closer to Tim Berners-Lee’s (http://www.

Virtual Support via the Blogosphere
November 26, 2006 10:52 PM PST
itunes pic

By Mechelle De Craene

Introduction: blogs in the classroom
According to the Perseus Developmental Corporation, 52% of all blogs are created and maintained by 13 to 19-year-olds (Twist, 2004). Yet many teachers in the U.S. still do not use blogs as a learning tool in their classrooms. Additionally, when researching the few pedagogical blogs out there, I found that, of the blogs used in classroom settings, most were geared toward gifted students.

Blogs and special needs students
Thus, I pondered how blogs could be used by students with special needs. What I found was that blogging can be a tool that promotes autonomy in the classroom empowering students to take ownership of their own learning process. Additionally, the medium of blogs also allows students to share their knowledge in a publishable format which in turn may teach their online audience. Now more than ever, the audience can influence and inspire young authors, thereby scaffolding students’ writing abilities as their skills evolve. Hence, blogging can be very Vygotskian, so to speak.

Surprisingly, within our Information Age, pedagogical blogging was new to my school. Many of my peers had never heard of blogs before and much of the research on blogs comes from the U.K. When I explained to my fellow teachers, some expressed concerns about potential legal issues.

I still wanted to explore the use of blogs in the classroom, and selected a small group of 8th grade students (i.e. age 14). To start with, the girls and I had a “refresher” discussion on internet safety. Each of the girls picked a pen name for confidentiality.

Acceptable Use Policies
Acceptable Use Policies (i.e. internet permission slips) were signed by the girls’ parents at the beginning of the year. “Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) typically establish expectations for how students and faculty will use school resources, procedures they are expected to follow and consequences when expectations and procedures are violated”(Grabe & Grabe, 2001).

Currently there are no official laws, rules, or guidelines for blogging in U.S. classrooms. Therefore, we came up with some classroom guidelines. “Preparing students to be responsible users of the internet also involves helping them learn what is safe and appropriate behaviour” (Grabe & Grabe, 2001). Each school year, I ask my students for input on the classroom rules and wanted us to share in cultivating the cyber climate as well.

Our rules included safety guidelines such as not to reveal students’ and/or teachers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, or the name of our school. Hence, we all had varied and somewhat creative pen names. Interestingly, when I asked the girls for suggestions regarding the classroom blog guidelines, I noticed a pattern among their comments. I placed these comments into the following main categories: (1) confidentiality (2) authenticity (3) respect, and (4) teamwork. Much of the discourse pertaining to blog rules took place online between the students.

The purpose of our blog
The purpose of our blog was to serve as an experimental digital platform for class discussion. Since all the participants were considered “at-risk”, addressing the social-emotional needs of my students was a part of their curriculum. We decided to use the blog to discuss various topics that concerned them. In a sense, our classroom blog served as a virtual peer support group.

I asked the girls which topics they would like to discuss on the blog and the following were their suggestions: (1) music (2) hobbies (3) self-esteem (4) parents (5) boyfriends (6) sex (7) drugs, and (8) education. The girls then voted on which topic they wanted to discuss. The topic of self-esteem was chosen. Many of the girls said they chose self-esteem because they believed that the other topics were all interconnected with self-esteem.

Prior to discussing self-esteem online we read a chapter titled Self-Image and Self-Improvement in th

Blogs you must read!
November 12, 2006 10:55 PM PST

If you would like to expand your blog-reading horizons, there is no better way than to find a few bloggers whose writing you like, and then check their blogrolls – the list of blogs to which they subscribe – in order to see which blogs they are reading.

If they are listed in Bloglines (http://www.bloglines.com) you can see who else subscribes to their blog – and then explore the blogs of those subscribers!
You can get started by looking at the blogs of the Edublog award winners and, of course, the finalists – the website addresses for these are given towards the end of Josie’s article on this page.

Below are just a few of my own favourites which you might like to explore.

However, here is something to ponder.

Everyone knows that finding good information on the internet is like finding a needle in a haystack, right? In fact, it's worse than that because when you find a needle at least you know it's a needle, as opposed to something masquerading as a needle; you don't have to go looking for objective proof that it's a needle.

So why do so many “edubloggers” think that the concept of blogrolls, which are lists of blogs that subscribers to a blog subscribe to, and similar devices (such as, in effect, shared favorites) are so wonderful? 

I can see the (superficial) attraction of having many more potential sources of information, but if finding good information is like finding a needle in a haystack, what is the point of increasing the size of the haystack?

• David Warlick’s 2 cents’-worth: http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/

• But She’s a Girl: http://www.rousette.org.uk/blog

• The E-Learning Queen: http://elearnqueen.blogspot.com/

• Mark Berthelemy’s Connections: http://www.berthelemy-family.org.uk/blogs/index.php?blog=5

• Stephen Downes’ OLDaily: http://www.downes.ca/news/OLDaily.htm

• Teach42: http://www.teach42.com/

• Weblogg-ed News: http://www.weblogg-ed.com/

• Xplanazine: http://www.xplanazine.com/

• Technology & Learning: http://www.techlearning.com/blog/main/

• David Jakes: http://www.jakesonline.org/

• Miguel Guhlin: http://www.edsupport.cc/mguhlin/

• Wes Fryer: http://www.wesfryer.com/default.htm

The international Edublog Awards 2005
November 12, 2006 10:24 PM PST
itunes pic

By Josie Fraser

Fear of blogging
Recent news regarding student use of web logs has not been particularly positive. Fears that students may misuse the platform or, conversely, find themselves at the mercy of evil blog trawlers, have led to institutions calling a halt to student blogging – in at least one instance, even in the student’s own time. Rather than looking at how the curriculum might best address the task of supporting learners in becoming responsible, web-savvy citizens, sites such as MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/) and Xanga (http://www.xanga.com/) are, instead, being outlawed.

And it isn’t just obviously recreational sites that are being blocked on school networks. Although educators, learners and researchers have been using blogs constructively for over five years now, educational web logs – edublogs – are currently being blocked at district level by school authorities (see http://incsub.org/blog/2005/edublogs-being-blocked). In effect, this means that despite the recognition by multiple governments of the value of e-learning (to individuals and economies), and despite an emerging body of research and numerous examples of great educational practice, web logs – which provide a simple way for educators and students to create and participate in collaborative, conversational and distributed learning communities – are being excluded from the day-to-day business of education.

The Edublog Awards
Last year saw the second international Edublog Awards, a web-based event that recognises the many diverse and imaginative ways in which web logs are being used within education, and promotes positive and creative uses of new web technologies in the classroom. Peer- nominated blogs from across the globe compete in 10 categories, these being:

Most innovative edublogging project, service or programme.
• Best newcomer.
• Most influential post, resource or presentation.
• Best designed/most beautiful edublog.
• Best library/librarian blog.
• Best teacher blog.
• Best audio and/or visual blog.
• Best example/ case study of use of web logs within teaching and learning.
• Best group blog.
• Best individual blog.

The full list, descriptive paragraphs, and links to all the finalists can be found at the Edublog Awards site at http://www.incsub.org/awards/ – providing a powerful example of how educators are harnessing the potential of weblog technology, and a rich snapshot of the methods and practices of the learners and educators at the forefront of educational technology today.

The results
Winners were announced at the awards event webcast, hosted by Worldbridges (http://worldbridges.com/livewire/) on Sunday December 18th.

The Awards
The international Edublog Awards (http://www.incsub.org/awards/) are an online community-based initiative designed to recognise and celebrate excellence in educational and scholarly blogging (edublogging) and promote the use of web logs to support teaching and learning.
The awards were founded by James Farmer (http://incsub.org/) in 2004, in response to a call by Alex Halavais (http://alex.halavais.net/) for an award programme in response to the under representation/recognition of educational uses and users of blogs in existing blog awards, and are currently managed by Josie Fraser (http://fraser.typepad.com/edtechuk). This year’s awards team were geographically based in Europe, Canada and the US.

The event is designed to achieve four things:
• Promote and publicise the positive and creative use of new web technologies and practises in the classroom and throughout both formal and informal education.
• Create an annotated archive/resource which captures the spirit and concerns of the edublogging community and exemplifies best practice.
• Recognise and reward the achievements of individual edubloggers.
• Contribute to edublogger community building and networks of practise.

You can find the full list, descriptive paragra

Factoring Web logs to their Fundamentals
September 30, 2006 05:34 PM PDT
itunes pic

by David Warlick

During much of 2004, I included in many of my conference presentations, brief explanations and demonstrations of blogging technology, or web logs. Teachers grasped the concept easily. After all, as a technology, blogging is pretty simple. But the potential of a writing environment with peer review and authentic assessment explicitly designed into it, drew a lot of attention and lots of questions. The number one barrier was that student posts immediately became public, with almost no oversight by the teacher.

The birth of Blogmeister
With no alternatives available and my 2004 December weeks without extensive travel, I set out to build a blogging service that offered teachers a comfortable level of control over their classroom blogging content. By the end of January, educators, predominantly from outside the U.S., began knocking on the digital door of Class Blogmeister. They wanted school pass-codes so that they could set up classroom web logs, and set their students blogging.

Almost immediately, I began to receive e-mails from teachers saying things like, “I can’t believe that my students are begging me to let them write.” Just yesterday, I received a message from a teacher from the Outer Banks including some quotes from her students – “This is so cool!” and “I don’t want class to end!”
It is not an uncommon occurrence, to have students become so motivated in classrooms that infuse technology. But I suspect that the excitement expressed by student bloggers has less to do with “technology” and much more to do with something far more fundamental.

Writing is often taught as a technology – a tool that we invented to enable us to communicate across time and space. We teach it as a set of rules and procedures to be followed precisely, as students are given contrived prompts and formulas to write to. The difference that students see in blogging is that it is much less about writing as a set of rules, and much more about communicating.
Students are not merely writing what the believe their teachers want to read – what some students refer to as “playing school”. Instead, they are writing to a real audience, understanding that the audience will be responding to what they have to say. Students are in control, and empowered to influence other people through the skilfulness of their writing.

This is a deliciously potent lever, with which to help students develop better writing skills. Rather than a task to be performed, students are communicating. Their success appears not only from their grade, but from the interactions that they participate in, where the quality of their writing becomes either brilliantly or brutally apparent.

Diary of a Potential Podcasting Junkie
September 17, 2006 12:57 PM PDT
itunes pic

By Chris Smith

The beginnings…
Working briefly in an International School in Hong Kong allowed me to buy a newly released video iPod. I’m not sure why I purchased this new one as I already had a regular (yet old) iPod that holds my 5,000 song collection and still has lots of free disk space. But the lure of an iPod that could also show video could not be resisted and I parted with my dollars for my ‘toys for boys’ purchase.

My first technical challenge (easy) was to upgrade my version of iTunes, the free software from Apple, running on my Windows XP laptop. This version of iTunes now also works as a podcast aggregator and organises all the programmes downloaded from the internet before they are sucked into the iPod.

Finding good podcasts
I was now ready to start looking around for podcasts that had some relevance to education, however tentative. There is a lot of ‘hype’ with the term “podcasting” but it is in fact not much more than the ability to produce audio/video mp3/mp4 files to then be downloaded from the internet and played either directly on your computer or on a portable player. One of the important extensions to this technology is the ability of the software (aggregator) to automatically check online for new programmes and download them without requiring your active involvement.

Some users are suggesting that podcasting is simply a resurrection of the ideas of the old ‘ham’ or ‘short wave’ radio hobbyists. I’m inclined to agree with them but with the caveat that the ‘broadcasts’ can now be portable in a device in your pocket to be listened to when you wanted to rather than when transmitted. I suddenly have this mental image of all the students on the school bus all plugging in their Japanese earrings (headphones) and listening to homework assignments on the way home from their portable players, I bet the driver would appreciate that – but I digress.

The first podcast I found, using the Directory at Yahoo http://podcasts.yahoo.com/,was TWiT (This Week in Technology), a sixty minute informal roundtable discussion of the latest trends in digital technology from a group of USA ICT innovators; this is audio, not video. The informal style was a little disconcerting at first but each programme has resulted in gems that are relevant to my work in ICT in Education and has forced me to keep a notebook and pen close by to make notes as I listen. (there is still a place for the old technology!)

This subscription was quickly followed by others to, for example,’ Learning and Teaching in Scotland’, ‘IT Conversations’, Naace, ‘Daily SearchCast’ and Comedy365... but all audio. With no video yet in sight I needed to find something to look at on my 4x6cm screen in order to justify my original expenditure.

Using a number of different podcast directories, I searched and subscribed to podcasts (VideoBlogs) offering video, which included TILT, DL.TV and Diggnation.
First impressions were that the video did not really help much, the programmes could generally be listened to without looking at the screen which was often just displaying a ‘talking head’. One additional disadvantage is that these particular files were very large and took an age to download.

Probably my most valuable introduction to multimedia education podcast opportunities was TILT, (Teaching Improving Learning with Technology), produced by Danny Mass out of the USA. There are not many programmes available and the quality is variable but what Danny does illustrate are some of the ways that this media could be used in teaching and learning: he is somewhat of an trailblazer for which I’m appreciative.

This is, of course, only half of the story: I’ve been looking at being the passive recipient of podcasts..... but the contribution to learning is almost certainly strongest when students are producing their own podcasts. There are several examples in the lists below: don’t miss the ESL Students’

Photo-sharing and clip-art
September 09, 2006 10:40 AM PDT
itunes pic

By Terry Freedman

If you like taking photos then you will probably want to share them with others. There are a number of photo-sharing sites available, perhaps the most well-known of which is Flickr (http://www.flickr.com).
There are others too, though: see this review:

Do-it-yourself “clip art”
Let's face it: clip art is, generally speaking, boring. And the reason is not hard to fathom: if a popular program comes with clip art all ready to use with no extra payment needed, then people who are in a hurry are going to use it. The question is: should we not encourage children in schools to look beyond the standard fare?

The answer is a cautious “yes”. Why cautious? Because one of the things we should be teaching children is that there's no point in reinventing wheels just for the sake of it. If a piece of clip art is just right for the purpose, then why not use it? The problem is, many teachers seem to go no further than telling kids where the clip art menu item is. In the words of the standard school report, they could do better.

One way is to create their own photographic clip art with a digital camera. Storage is no longer a problem if a class Flickr account is opened: it's free. What's more, there are thousands of photos on Flickr which have been uploaded by other users, many of which can be used free of charge under certain conditions. Most of these pictures are as unique as the people who took them.

There is another outcome of going around taking photos: you start to notice things more. Here's an example: when I went around taking pictures according to a theme of “numbers”, I noticed for the first time ever that London buses have three numbers: the licence plate or registration number, the bus number itself, of course, and also, inexplicably, another number displayed in the driver's windscreen.

That outing also made me start to notice that some shops advertise goods at 50% off while others advertise goods at half price. Does that make a difference to people's perceptions? I have no idea, but I do know that once I'd got going I started to notice numbers all over the place – and I noticed even more numbers in some of the pictures when I looked at them afterwards on my computer screen.

What better way to fire up a young person's interest in numbers and in their environment?

My most recent venture was to take pictures of patterns in the street: it's astonishing what you notice once you really look. Some are very nice indeed. And there would have been even more of them had I remembered to charge up the camera battery and the spare battery before leaving home!
You can see the photos I've referred to by going to www.flickr.com/photos/terryfreedman
Good practice guide
Before closing this article, a few words of caution about using Flickr, some of which apply generally.

1. It's good practice to tag photos, and discussing with children the most appropriate words and phrases to use is a worthwhile exercise. Part of the information & communication technology (ICT) curriculum in the UK is concerned with finding things out, so pupils need to know that the use of appropriate tags makes this process a whole lot easier.

2. You will need to exercise the same sort of attention to what pupils search for as you would for any internet search. Although I haven't found anything explicitly pornographic on Flickr, there are pictures with ample amounts of flesh on display. I'm not sure if they would be blocked by an ordinary filtering system. Clicking on a link to Yahoo image searching resulted in my being transferred to Yahoo with the safe searching option on by default.

3. Remember that people own the copyright in their pictures, so you can't use them without permission. Flickr makes available 6 different kinds of copyright licence and explains what each one means in terms of what people can do

Giving Students a Second Listen
August 30, 2006 08:30 PM PDT
itunes pic

By Shawn Wheeler

The Start
The most enchanting facet of technology is the fact it is constantly changing. In October 2005, I realized the term “podcasting” was entering my brain with increasing frequency. Considering a primary function of my job is to evaluate new technology and its ramifications in education, I felt compelled to look into this term. Sitting at my computer, I “Googled” the term; within minutes I had entered a new world. An entire subculture had been born and I found myself an outsider looking inside.

One of the first sites I encountered was http://www.podcast.net. I picked a Genre, (Learning & Instruction – what else?), and began listening to a few shows. To be honest, I was not impressed with what I heard. However, the concept intrigued me. Could this work in our classrooms?

Podcasting in education
I began to remember the times I read through my notes as I studied for a test thinking, “I know the teacher had more to say about photosynthesis besides “Makes plants grow,” I sure wish I could have recorded the lecture”. It was at that moment the light bulb appeared above my head. Podcasting has value in education. This technology isn’t just for techno geeks with a love of their own voice. This technology would extend the learning day, change the way students review for tests and allow those students who were absent to hear the lesson. Podcasting was going to change education.

With this revelation, I found myself quickly immersed in the Adventure in Podcasting. Reading everything I could find on the web about podcasting and related tools, my excitement grew and I wanted to share this with the world. Okay, that is a bit much, but I certainly wanted to share this with the teachers in my school district.

On November 25th, I published my first podcast and its corresponding web page titled Adventures in Podcasting . The focus of the show is an audio archive of the process involved in bringing Podcasting to my school district. I share with the listeners the triumphs, challenges and disappointments I encounter along the way. With any luck, those listening to the show will learn from my experiences and embark on their own adventure while implementing a positive change in the education of our children.

My first non-believer
Recently, I came across my first non-believer. I am not sure if this person truly did not believe in the concept of podcasting or simply was not interested in trying something new. Either way, it left a horrible taste in my mouth and one I needed to cleanse. Once again, I found myself in front of my computer looking for validation of my belief in podcasting. I hit the motherlode! Bearing in mind that podcasting is still in it infancy and education embraces change at glacier speed. The Education Podcast Network, (http://www.epnweb.org) is loaded with content from other educators just as passionate about podcasting. EPN is provided by David Warlick and The Landmark Project with a focus of bringing teachers together to share podcast content. Looking through the podcast subjects, I was not only vindicated but surprised. Topics such as History, Science and Language Arts, (in American Basketball terms), are a “Slam Dunk ”. I would have assumed the subjects Mathematics, Theatre Arts, Visual Arts nd certainly Dance would not lend themselves to podcasting. Fortunately, there are educators who think “outside the box”.

Foot note from Terry - I am assured by my American colleagues that this means that the topics cited are obvious candidates for podcasting. Thanks to Peggy George and Shawn Wheeler for explaining it!

I began reading the descriptions and listening to various podcasts beginning with Dan’s Math Cast… Mathematics for the Masses. Even with my Math skills, I was able to close my eyes and visualize the example questions being solved as he described the process in his podcast. His show also included a Math Problem of the Week as well as a Math Jo

Podcasting and wikis By Ewan McIntosh
August 15, 2006 10:42 PM PDT
itunes pic

- Podcasting for an audience
Blogs, podcasts and wikis are what we refer to as ‘social software’ and this is a very revealing piece of jargon. For in the current UK classroom socialising is positively discouraged. I began to encourage socialising offline, in the classroom, and online, on blogs and podcasts, and saw a monumental improvement in students’ work and grades.
The reasons for the best work were clear: students were not doing their work for me, for their parents or even for themselves. I couldn’t expect every student to have an innate desire to learn, could I? No, they were doing it “for their public”. My students had about 30,000 different readers and 11,000 listeners hanging on their every word, subscribed free of charge to our school blogs and podcast, waiting to see what had happened on the latest school trip or charity day at school.
Podcasting is where an individual can create an audio file – in school we call it a radio show – on their computer. They place it on a blog and instantly the show’s subscribers receive the latest edition. It’s as simple as that. I’m surprised that more schools weren’t doing it when we launched Europe’s first schools podcast in collaboration with students in a Polish partner school. That was in May 2005, when podcasting was six months old. Now there are numerous schools realising the potential of students who weren’t performing as well as they could have done. And the only differences? Firstly, students were using a computer or MP3 recorder to capture their thoughts. It’s tech and it’s fun. Secondly, they were realising very quickly, from their web statistics and comments left on their blogs, that large numbers of people were listening to their work. On a regular basis. They now had an audience to keep happy, to keep entertained, to keep interested. Making interesting and entertaining copy is more than we ask in the curriculum of speaking tests and assessments.

- Why are social technologies such a Big Deal?
I challenge anyone to reckon that blogging, podcasting and wikis are not a big deal. In my experience it’s only those who don’t know (and some who, with ignorant pride, refuse to ever learn) that would even bother to question that. It’s not that I or any other blogger have some kind of cause to fight, a cause from which we stand to gain.
It’s just that these social technologies work for something in learning.
And lots of people are using them.

Yes, there are only 30 million public blogs, the same again in private ones and a tiny proportion of internet users have a Flickr photo-sharing account. But there’s a new blog every minute and many more are reading them and looking at the pictures. These are the early days at the beginning of the renaissance. In fifty years I hope that our kids wonder what all the fuss was about – these tools will be just another part of the daily toolkit, and might even be obsolete.
So why should teachers look up from their textbooks and take note of blogs and podcasts? The reason these social technologies work is because they are social. But they are also changing the way that we socialise.

- A changing-changed social world
These technologies cater for a need until now unfulfilled by the on-off yes-no 1-0 binary of technology. They are allowing us to socialise in a different way. Where technology has thus far helped us in a changing world, social software tools are being proactive in helping us work, rest and play the way we want to and not, for the first time, the way that the rest of society wants or expects us to behave. Nowadays, children and teachers have less time to socialise than before and taking breaks from learning is frowned upon.

So where are we getting our social input? The answer: learners are getting our social input on mobile phone messaging, MSN chat, on multiplayer games (World of Warcraft http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/lowbw.html), on blogs (and on leaving comments on Fl

Next Page