Archive for ‘ICT’

Friday, 29th November, 2013

MOOCS – evolution for educators

We are coming to the end of an online course –

Here are a few initial thoughts on the experience that may be useful when considering taking or developing online courses.

The subject:

The subject was one that had a clear reason for me to study (I will be teaching this topic soon) and this is helpful in terms of motivation to study.

In general it is probably important to consider the motivation before starting a course. In some cases ‘because it sounded interesting’ may not be enough.

The content:

The content was clearly presented by subject experts who were clearly able to speak from a position of authority, both in terms of knowledge of evolution and associated pedagogical content knowledge. This is helpful.

The level:

This turned out to be about right for me, though some parts introduced a lot of topic specific vocabulary without much or any scaffolding. In some sections the course was frustrating as it assumed quite a bit of knowledge. This would seem to be a significant challenge with this type of course as having the content and delivery predefined means it is not possible to be flexible to take account of students needs or abilities. This may account for the high drop-out rate that some of these courses have.

The learning environment:

The site was clear and easy to navigate and had a lot of resources – almost an overwhelming amount. The key lectures, essays, quizzes and assignments were easy to find. The discussion forums were much more passive in this group than in the previous course I took.


The weekly commitment was probably 2-3 hours or so over 4 weeks. This was manageable. Having the relatively short course period seemed a good idea as sustaining motivation over a longer period would be difficult.


This was mostly by multiple choice with multiple attempts allowed. It was relatively straightforward to complete these tasks, thought it was not always clear how the class material supported the concepts tested – other knowledge was assumed. There was also quite a high language comprehension level expected and I imagine this would be challenging for ESL learners.

The course also involved a written task with peer assessment. The task was quite interesting though it was difficult to see it as a developmental task  – mostly I relied on pre-existing knowledge for this task. The peer assessment involved three people reviewing the work I did, yet only generated one short and bland comment – this was disappointing.

Other issues:

It was useful to do this in parallel with Greg to have a real person to talk to about some of the things in the course – this is useful for motivation.

Timing matters – if this course had been during a reporting period it would have been difficult.

Wednesday, 28th August, 2013

180 Blog redux

Last year I ran a 180blog, showing a picture a day and some comments about what was going on in the classroom. When starting up this I wrote a blog about the how and why, and again when it moved another post that discussed the progress and the need to move this as the first platform closed.

Now a new year starts again. I enjoyed this and liked the product of this process last year. This year I am going to go for a couple of changes;

  • Moving again: lots of 180 blogs I have seen have been on wordpress and so I thought that might work. There seemed to be some appropriate and stylish themes for this and that is where other blogs are.
  • I will make use of the ‘publicize’ and tweet updates. Hopefully this can generate some dialog on occasion. On the other hand, I rarely comment on others. This way it should go with others who use the #180blog tag.
  • I will try and improve the pictures. Previously I made use of my ipod touch which was handy, but in the classroom light the images could be pretty fuzzy, so I will try some other ways this time.
  • The text should be a bit more meaty. Quick is good but there should be a thought as well as a fact. Again typing on the touch is handy and not disruptive of the classroom, but composing on the computer should be better.

So, here we go again. Here’s the new address in case you missed it before:

Thursday, 21st February, 2013

Posterous to ?

I have a blog set up from earlier this year about what I do each day. This has been on Posterous and I have found that a good thing. Posterous is closing and so I need to move it.

Perhaps the first thing to say is that I actually want to move it. I noted earlier that I thought that it was interesting that it encouraged me to emphasise real experiments, activities and artifacts in my class. I think there has been a bit of an implementation dip as I haven’t got to this each day, but I have managed most days and the archive is quite interesting.

What I like about posterous is that it is simple to add content from my ipod in a way that does not disrupt the flow of my class too much. It also take the content and makes it look good in a simple way. I want to retain this ease of posting with a control over the content. I should also make sure that things are commentable and that there is an emphasis on the visual. Also it is free.

Options to try: Tumblr (the kids use it so it would be nice to know it’s syntax), Flickr, wordpress (already on and there are import tools), Google blogger (conflicts with other accounts), Squraespace (notfree), twitter (that would be different)

Sources: here, here

So now I am thinking either wordpress or tumblr. Since wordpress seems the safe option. I will have a go at Tumblr.

First I am going to have a look at shifting existing content

This seems to fall flat as I don’t seem to be able to enter data that it is happy with. I have checked the password.

I will try wordpress and then maybe go back.

Waiting for the backup file, found this for moving posterous to tumblr. Something I hadn’t realised is that tumblr doesn’t include comments, so maybe it is a non-starter. Also, the process went to a dead end. On the other hand, vidoe upload from the iOS app is easy and that would be a plus – none of that on the wordpress without a payment.

Still waiting for a backup – should this take this long?


I have tried to structure this blogpost as a bit of self cognitive coaching.

Tuesday, 22nd January, 2013

Networked privacy

There are some things in this piece by danah boyd entitled ‘Networked privacy’ that seem very important. I think I would summarise this as saying that the ideas that we use for privacy are routed in the individual and that these are not (or at least will not in the future) relevant for issues of privacy in a networked world.

Any model of privacy that focuses on the control of information will fail. Even achieving true control is nearly impossible because control presumes many things that are often untenable. Control assumes that people have agency, or the power to assert control within  a particular  situation

From this it seems almost like we should give up trying to keep our privacy settings up to date.

The future is only going to be more networked, more interwoven, more of a gnarly hairball that’s impossible to untangle without harsh cleaving. Expecting that people can assert individual control when their lives are so interconnected is farcical.

This part I follow. She goes on to add:

Moreover, it reinforces the power of those who already have enough status and privilege to meaningfully assert control over their own networks.

I am going to need to think about what this means to me and why it is the case. I think this is not just talking about facebook and their control, but the people in our lives who serve as nodes in the networks and actively manage their online communities. In this latter case I wonder if the implication is that we should all strive to be these actors, but this can’t make sense – we can’t all be the node.

In order to address networked privacy, we need to let go of our cultural fetishization with the individual as the unit of analysis.

I wonder if this means that I should not be thinking of this in terms of me?

A lot to think about.

Tags: ,
Sunday, 23rd September, 2012

180 Blog

Amongst the stream of things that passed through my google reader last year was a blog from a Physics teacher showing a picture a day. I would ignore this sometimes but occasionally take an idea or thought. The idea that it was mostly based around an image appeals to me and the take it or leave it nature is nice, so I thought I would try something similar this year. I have still called it a 180 blog, even though I am very slow of the mark and we are down to about 155 by now. I hope no-one is really counting.

I think the point is to have something to put out and get comment from a wider community. I think there should be a week or so of pictures, the I will try and see if this can be shared.

I have used posterous, since that was the original I am copying. I have managed to test post from email and from my ipod, so this should not be too onerous.

I wonder how wide or narrow to make this – maybe it should be about anything in school, maybe about the teaching of science, maybe even just the experimental ideas. I think I will start with a week on something that is happening or happened in class, and see how that goes. I will stick and annoying calendar reminder in for each afternoon.

In case the link was too hidden – here it is again:

Tags: ,
Thursday, 8th March, 2012

Turnitin vs Managebac (vs paper)

As is traditional at this time of year, when one cohort’s IA work gets submitted, I make a resolution to be more efficient with the process next time.

The bottlenecks in the current system would seem to me to be:

  • The 4PSOW is a pain to complete
  • There is always some chasing of missing student work
  • There isn’t always clear improvement in student work over the course
  • Students take to long to complete the tasks and as a result they end up only doing the minimum

There should be some roles for improved systems here and technology might be able to help. To look at this I tried using a couple of systems that the students already have some familiarity with to evaluate a piece of work. When they had completed an assignment I asked them to submit it to both turnitin and managebac.

The only additional load this gives for the students is that everything has to be in one file. Sometimes diagrams get hand drawn and different applications are used for graphing, tabulating and writing. For this exercise there were no tables or charts, but a diagram was often necessary. Some of theses were photos of drawings and this seemed to work fine. This works because all the students already have accounts and experience with each system. Teacher accounts are also established.

Once the work was in it was time to review the work.

Managebac offers annotation tools to add comments and highlights to the text. It also has a gradebook with all of the IB criteria added and you simply have to tick the box to assign the scores. You also get to comment in general and on each aspect of the assigned criteria. Unfortunately it seems that the paper viewing and annotation are separate from the gradebook part, so you need to record your observations and then remember them and reproduce them in the gradebook. The great thing is that the gradebook understands the IA system so it collates the results into a sensible format to highlight performance towards the overall IA goal. It may also be a good system to encourage students to look back at feedback from earlier assignments to avoid repeating mistakes. In theory we can also generate a 4PSOW here, which would be great, but that does require the input of all of the investigations, even ones that are not assessed.

Turnitin offers a lot more customizable features for annotating and recording. I was able to make a rubric based on the IA levels pretty quickly and assign this to a paper, which made for a reasonable record. It was also possible to make a custom library of ‘quickmarks’ to annotate the papers so that it was quick to associate parts of the work with specific criteria. I felt that this was an efficient way of giving specific feedback. Since the libraries of rubrics and quickmarks can be exported, they should be easy to share with other people (in school? on OCC?). Since the feedback with quickmarks could be easily located on the paper and comments directly associated with the criteria statement, this worked quickly. Quickmarks can easily be created and added to the system. It may be possible to take existing checklists and put them in the system.

Turnitin also offered an interesting option – peermark. This means you can ask the system to assign papers to students so that they can provide comments and see  each others work. They were generally able to complete this task, though I did stuff up the dates (in fairness I would say that this part of the application is pretty complicated). My view of the quality of the feedback was that it was not good, but I think that is partly because I chose the questions poorly – I simply copied the criteria and asked them to score and comment on these. An improved checklist and some questions may help. It seemed like this was not a significant extra load on the students, though this should be checked.

I guess one way to go would be to use turnitin to assess and managebac to record, but this seems cumbersome. I will try and get some feedback from the students and see how the final product works with printing and filing.

Another option is to keep the work on paper. We are more active with paper so that is great.

Friday, 3rd February, 2012

The usual

It seems like it is the usual to start a blog post by saying ‘it’s been a while since my last….’

Some of this is probably down to the fact that there are other blogging and recording obligations – for a different audience than this, but one still seems to displace the other. This might also be due to the fact that things have reached some kind of stasis – I have orked out what I am confortable with to some extent and am not looking for many new things.

Stuff on the agenda:

Getting the high speed video working

Thinking about file resources – my stuff is generally on the server but that is not a familiar thing for the students. There are google doc shared collections that work well for some things, but that is quite dynamic and it is not tidy for making a locker of key things. The blog is the other possibility – pages of things. Seems like this is a moving target. I wonder what most people do.

That’s about it.

Sunday, 4th September, 2011

New school year

The school year has started back up again – in fact it has been going for a couple of weeks already.

New computers – the 1:1 has started and the kids are carrying computers to class. All seems to be going smoothly with people managing these things well. There seems to be a bit of a difference between 2 grade 7 classes as far as how they use them – one group seems a lot less discriminating than the other and a lot happier to get off task. Would be nice to have a look at.

I have blogs for classes. Since I set up docs whiteboard pages again, I am still looking at what these are for. The grade 7 unit planner comments was good. I am not sure about posting stuff that does not expect a comment.

A new toy is Socrative. This could function like clickers, though students are anonymous. You can verbally ask questions and get an instant displayed response. First use it took a while for people to get to the page and it was not super responsive but, once we got going most people were able to get it to work and we could check responses to quite a few questions. I could see over using this application, but for a once a week formative task with a few planned questions the instant feedback is pretty cool.

Tags: ,
Wednesday, 22nd June, 2011

Public, publics and privacy

Here danah boyd discusses public and private.

It’s not what we expect.

Wednesday, 22nd June, 2011

practical work in science

This isn’t really a post about ICT in science, except that this has all been accessed on line, and it is interesting how we get our informtaion as teachers now.

Alom Shaha posted on a guardian blog about the role of practical work in science. There is much to read here.

Basically practical workisn’t good per se. This has something to say about inquiry and enquiry as well.

There are a bunch of great pdfs linked here