Sunday, 29 March 2009

Twitter for Teachers

When I first tried Twitter, the microblogging site, a year ago, it didn't grab me.

12 months on and with a greater exposure in the mass media, Twitter is coming in to its own as a way of making connections and doing so in a timely way. 

I've found it most useful as a tool for sharing and gathering ideas between colleagues on the MA in Online Education I've begun at the Open University, and increasingly as a means to find other educators interested in technology-enhanced learning.

One of those people, Laura Walker, has written a good blog post about why Twitter is worth using by school teachers. You can read it here.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Learning via games

An excellent piece from the SXSW digital conference. 

Prof Henry Jenkins, from MIT, is one the great proponents of using videogames into education. 

The following interview is well worth a listen.

It's shot, incidentally, by David Dunkley Gyimah, a friend and one-time fellow videojournalist pioneer at Channel One.

The Business of the Web is the business of Free

Details from the Guardian of a fascinating interview with Chris Anderson, the Wired editor-in-chief, about the changing economics of online business. He also has some interesting thoughts on how all businesses might change, offering a free version of a company's software or content, with a premium option that appeals to only 5% of the target audience, and for which there's a payable premium.

Given the way web usage culture is emerging, especially amongst younger users, there are some poignant observations made.

Read all about it here.

Mistrial by Browser

A fascinating story from the New York Times, about how jurors are causing mistrials by using web enabled mobiles to research defendants, legal teams, and key facts about cases they are hearing.

This is expressly forbidden under American law, and I suspect, many other legal systems too.

What's come to light is that increasingly legal cases are being declared mistrials, because the alluring power of Google, Twitter, and other research/communications websites are resulting in jurors trying to investigate cases themselves, rather than listen to the lawyers and consider the evidence presented to them.

Why the phones aren't just confiscated at the start of the trial is a mystery to me. Expect it to become enshrined in law shortly.

Monday, 16 March 2009

A Wolfram at Google's door

The new Wolfram Alpha search engine takes us one step closer to blending human and computer interactions into a more synergistic existence.

Wolfram, which specialises in mathematical learning tools, has devised a new search engine, due to launch in May, that aims to use natural semantic based language, to allow searchers to write in full questions, to which contextually relevant answers will be provided.

If it works it'll be a major step forward, as most people tend to write natural English into Google et al, not realising this isn't a suitable way to mine for data on the internet.

Wolfram Alpha, as it's called, may bridge that gap.

I've been learning about activity theory recently, together with situated cognition, which state that learning needs to take place in a related environment to the activity at hand; and, that the relationship between the learner, the activity, and the technology used to enable that process to occur (for which  read the Web in this case) is triangular and inter-related. In other words, the technology itself is not a neutral conduit, but becomes in effect an active constituent of the learning process. It's a view that's seen as contentious in some quarters, but there's merit to considering it as one perspective on how learning in the online sphere is developing, and perhaps should be reviewed. Situated cognition itself also emphasises learning as being centred in social interactions, and the notion that the traditional teacher-student, expert-apprentice model of direct knowledge transfer no longer hold true; especially in a web-connected multimedia age

Wolfram Alpha is a good example of how the activities we engage in during online participation, whether with other humans, or powerful databases, is blurring the distinctions between knowledge, fact, and all that lies between.

The Medium is the Mashup

A cute but informative mashup video, based on an interview by Marshall McLuhan, the man who gave us such terms as 'the global village' back in the 1960s, and who foresaw how mass communication would change the fabric of society irrevocably.

Thinking the unthinkable about newspapers

A great article by the ever controversial Clay Shirky.

This blog posting suggests that while there is still a need for journalism, the newspaper model itself is utterly dead in the water. 

In a world where information is free to send, receive and produce, the old school ways of selling information can no longer survive.

Read more here.

What is Web 2.0? A historical perspective

I came across this 2005 article while doing some research for my MA in Online Education.

Written in 2005, it provides an interesting link between what was predicted, what's turned out to be, and what may yet occur.

Read more here.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

I'm looking to hire a teacher!

I've not tried this before, but it struck me that maybe one of my blog's readers might fancy coming to work with us at Berkhamsted School.

You will need a permit to work in the UK. You should also have experience of teaching Media Studies within the British secondary curriculum, ideally using the OCR examination board.

We have a vacancy for a Media Studies teacher, with some teaching of ICT at KS3.We're an independent school with excellent resources, lovely students and beautiful surroundings, located in a town 25 minutes north of London by train. Currently we have two classes in years 12 and 13, each with about 12 students per class.

We're based in former art studios (the top floor of the left hand building in the photo) and have a room for teaching and another for filming/photography. There is a full time technician. We're kitted out with an increasing number of HD camcorders, Apple Macs (you'll get a Mac laptop), lighting rigs, MP3 recording kits, and an assortment of other kit to make your life easier and enable the students' creativity to blossom.

The classroom is equipped with an HD projector and surround sound system, plus a digital lectern, so everything you do can be delivered digitally. There is significant investment each year in the provision of new technology. Currently, the school network is being overhauled, to allow us to run audio and video at HD levels into classrooms and the outside world.

The Principal of the school chairs the Independent Schools' Council ICT committee and is a big champion of Media Studies as a discrete subject. His vision for the school includes the adoption of Media and Web 2.0 technologies across the curriculum. There is a new learning platform being installed over the next couple of months, and part of the job spec for the successful candidate will be to work with colleagues, enabling them to produce new learning materials. Currently, we are piloting using Flip camcorders and MP3 kits in a number of departments, and I'll be running Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom INSET for staff after Easter.

It's an exciting time for the school and will place digital literacy right at the heart of how the school operates.We have extensive sports facilities, incuding a fitness centre, which are available for staff use. Accommodation may be available as well.

We use OCR for A level Media Studies, teaching the TV drama option at AS, with film making as the preferred medium for coursework. The ICT will involve teaching years 7+8 only. It is possible that we may extend to offering the ECDL qualification in years 9+10 in the future, although that is subject to review. Full training would be provided.

If you're interested then please do get in touch, either with me directly - or have a look at the advert here

Please note that the advert states the teaching of ICT to A2. That is incorrect.

The closing date for applications is March 13th.

I hope to hear back from you.

With kind regards, 


Sunday, 1 March 2009

New business models for newspapers

These are tough times for traditional news institutions. The world around them, technologically speaking, is changing at a frantic pace. The Web 2.0 read-write paradigm means consumers appear to want hands-on interactivity. And they want it for free.

The roll call of newspapers shutting down continues to rise, particularly in the USA. Does all of this spell gloom and doom for the journalists, editors, photographers and others involved in the craft of societal storytelling? Perhaps not. The signs are that alternative models will arise, and opportunities, hitherto unseen, will come sharply into focus. 

Here are two contrasting yet in some ways complementary views of where the news industry is and where it might end up.

Michael Rosenblum, the godfather of videojournalism, sees the move to visual communication in a multi-platform environment as one of the drivers for change. Content must cease to be static and evolve into a multi-dimensional offering.

Nicholas Carr offers a detailed review of how eventually we may end up making micro-payments for news-oriented content, however unpalatable that might seem now.

The bottom line for me is that how things were can't be the way that things will be. I look at my students, some of them as young as 11, turning out documentaries, making interactive PDF content for online delivery, recording podcasts, and see a paradigm shift in user expectations. It might be wrong to assume that future consumers will want to be active participants on a regular basis. It might be correct to suppose they will be looking for multimodal models of content delivery. 

The successful providers of advertising and sponsorship platforms will be those that understand this future reality and prepare for it now.