It’s Monday morning, we’re all back at work, and the gala dinner on Thursday evening in the rooftop of the Hofburg in Vienna seems like a distant memory. Stuart and I were so proud of all the teachers we brought with us to Vienna – Chris, James, Mandeep and Ollie had some of the most innovative projects at the event and were perfect representatives of the great work that is happening in UK classrooms every day.
However, there were over 150 attendees at the Innovative Teachers Forum, and there could only be 12 winners. We’re thrilled to announce that Mandeep Atwal and Ollie Bray were two of the 12.
Mandeep, from Shirelands Collegiate Academy in England, was awarded third place in the Innovation in Community category for her VCT “Young Voices” (which you can access on the Innovative Teachers Network by clicking THIS LINK).
Ollie, from Musselburgh Grammar School in Scotland, received first prize in the Innovation in Community category for his VCT “Thinking out of the Xbox” (accessible at THIS LINK).
As award-winners, both Mandeep and Ollie will accompany Stuart and me to the Worldwide Innovative Teachers Forum in Brazil, where they will be able to collaborate with teachers from over 100 countries around the world.
Stuart and I will be writing more about this event in the next few days, but you can see additional information about the event and the winners on Merlin John’s blog, Teachers TV, today’s issue of The Scotsman and Ollie’s blog. The Teachers TV footage includes in interview with Ollie and other teachers, as well as shots from within the event itself. (It’s almost like you’re there…except without the wienerschnitzel.)
Join us in offering congratulations not only to Mandeep and Ollie, but also to Chris and James, all of whom are making amazing use of technology to improve the learning experience for UK students.
As usually happens at these Innovative Teachers Forums, Stuart and I arrive with big plans to blog every day and become so caught up in the event, the workshops, and checking out the work of teachers from all over the world, that we never end up with enough time to write. Stuart has been Tweeting (look for him at innovativeteach on Twitter) and we promise to post a full report in the coming weeks, but for now, I’ll give you a quick run-down on what we’ve been up to so far.
On Tuesday, we arrived at our venue early to help our teachers set up their Virtual Classroom Tours. The venue is worth noting, as it’s the famous Hofburg palace in the centre of the city. The grand ballroom in which the event is being held is only 50 metres from the Austrian President’s office in the same building, and has been host to presidents, prime ministers, movie stars, and other global dignitaries since its construction. You can get an idea of the grandeur of the space in this photo of our own Stuart, presenting on stage.
We heard some amazing keynotes on Tuesday afternoon, including one from Austrian education consultant Franz Kuehmayer on the Future of Education, which I will definitely blog about next week.
The UK has had quite a presence at this event so far; most of Wednesday was dedicated to an interactive Enquiring Minds workshop given by Futurelab representatives Sarah Payton and Lizbeth Goodman. (I wrote about Enquiring Minds in January HERE.) Stuart’s presentation was a part of this workshop as well. Innovative teachers were divided into groups, told about Enquiring Minds, taken through the 4-stage enquiry process, and then worked together on activities to get them thinking about the concept of student-centred learning.
At left you can get an idea of content in the Futurelab workshop in the art created by the graphic notetaker we have at this event. Isn’t it beautiful?
After the workshop, teachers were set loose in Vienna for the afternoon with maps and free transportation passes, in order to create some sort of multimedia end product based on the theme. The groups of teachers will submit their end products and the best will win a prize. All of the projects will be up on the Innovative Teachers Network, so we’ll tell you when they’re available for you to look at.
And of course, we’re eating our fill of the best crisp apple strudel and schnitzel with noodles that Vienna has to offer. Today we have another full day of workshops and presentations and tonight is the famous gala dinner and awards ceremony. We’re pretty confident that the UK will be represented among the award winners – wish our teachers luck!
I can’t believe that its been a year since the last Innovative Teachers Forum in Zagreb. That is where I first met Dan Roberts, whose journey as an Innovative Teacher we have posted in detail on this blog. In Zagreb , Dan presented his ‘Recharge the Battery’ Virtual Classroom Tour . Here in Vienna, he will be presenting again, but this time as a keynote speaker, in front of over 200 delegates, as an example of innovative best practice in teaching and learning.
But who knows what the year will hold for this group of UK Innovative Teachers:- James, Chris, Mandeep and Ollie. After registration and putting up posters of their Virtual Classroom Tours, they will have a heavy day of presentations. These include keynotes speeches from the Director for ICT at the Austrian Ministry of Education and a look at the Future of Education from Franz Kuehmayer. In between times, they will be meeting the 200 other Innovative Teachers from all over Europe. If that is not enough, other highlights will be the buffet lunch and the great cakes at coffee time. Well, for me and Kristen anyway! But the real highlight of the day will be of course? What is in the ‘goody’ bag?
We will be posting daily reports from the event. Find out on Friday, how the UK Teachers have done, and if like Dan, they have won an award, which could take them to the Worldwide Innovative Teachers Event to be hosted in, as yet some unannounced location in the world!
Alone in the office, with the lights low, I often succumb to a guilty pleasure! (It's not what you think!) I spend time looking at the Office Labs site. Now before you make any snap judgements, the Office Labs are not the ‘Geek-fest’ you might imagine. After all in her last post, Kristen describes the future thinking around technology going on at Live Labs. She is out and proud, and I thought I would get out of the closet and join her in a celebration of innovation and ideas at Microsoft.
The Team at Office Labs describe themselves as a place to ‘explore, experiment and discuss’. I think you might agree that this is a great approach to learning in the classroom. How does it influence the Office Labs team's approach to developing ideas around technology? The team describe their ideas as “Concept Cars." They aren't actual products or features of Microsoft Office and may not work perfectly under all conditions. However, they are steps toward improving everyday productivity and we’d like you to be part of the innovation moving forward by taking a test drive or two, telling us what you think, and helping us shape the technology of the future.”
Visiting the site gives me sense of pioneering adventure, being able explore these innovations and thinking how they might be used in education. It also gets me thinking how we should be using technology in the classroom to meet the needs and demands of a 21st century curriculum.
So what gems can you get your hands on at Office Labs?
Community Clips – This great little application allows you record, with a commentary, ‘how-to’ videos of not just Office applications , but any activity on your computer. This could be used to create instructional videos for students, or by students themselves to share their ideas and skills. It would also be an ideal way of undertaking assessment, recording students progress and achievements in ICT. The application is very easy to use, it works as plug-in to Office or as a stand alone application. I have had a go myself at creating some ‘How to’ videos for the Innovative Teachers Network. These are a work in progress at the moment, especially as they caused much hilarity amongst my team. (I seem to adopt BBC newscaster persona when speaking into a microphone!)
In addition to the application itself, the community clips site offers the opportunity for users to share their ‘How to’ guides. So if you, colleagues or students are looking for guidance on how to do something with Office, this is a great site to find that information.
If you are an avid Post-It note user in brainstorming sessions then Sticky Sorter might be the ideal tool for you. This simple application allows you to to create simple screen notes and organise them into themes. It could be really useful for students working collaboratively and being able to identify common themes in their research.
I think from my previous posts you know how brilliant I think OneNote is, especially for education. So, I was really excited to find on the Office Labs site, Canvas for OneNote this allows you to view your OneNote notebook as large canvas. Imagine spreading your paper notes over a table and being able to move between notes in any way you want and you will get the idea. This plug-in certainly adds another another dimension to the use of OneNote in education. I can see this being used to allow students to work collaboratively on projects, using an interactive whiteboard to arrange, exchange and manipulate their notes. It's not too far from the touch wall described in Kristen’s Live Labs post. It's both scary and exciting to think how close we are to the possibility of that sort of technology use in schools.
Why not check the Office Labs site for yourselves and have a look at some of the technology they are developing? Why not give it to your students for them to ‘test drive’? The Office Labs team (as well as Kristen and I) would welcome your feedback.
Microsoft Live Labs, the group of scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers and others who brought us Photosynth have put
I love this video, and not just because it starts out with a possible education scenario (and includes several more at :50, 1:03, etc.). I love it because it seems like it could be real (it's not all robots and jetpacks) and includes applications of technology that I think would make my life and job easier.
I recently saw Microsoft "futurist" Dan Rasmus speak at an Innovative Schools event Microsoft hosted in Kent. Dan looks at the near future of information work and travels the world listening, learning and thinking about what work may look like 10 years from now. (I personally appreciate Dan's slogan on his blog "Being a futurist means never being wrong today." I think I'm in the wrong career.)
Dan's done some thinking on the future of education; when he was in England in January he visited Eton College, where he spoke with students about developing scenarios for education in the next 10 years. You can read about these scenarios here. (Don't worry - I chided Dan during this visit about the future of education being for boys only, and he promised that he'd change some of the characters in his scenarios to girls...)
We'd love to hear what your students think about the future of education and how technology plays a part. What do they imagine learning will be like for their children? How will technology look in their home and workplace? How will it change their lives? Let us know what they're thinking, and we'll share with Dan and others at Microsoft headquarters.
Age, it seems, is a relative thing, even when speaking about things like social networking. Now, I don’t usually worry about my age. At 43, I have my own hair, as many of my own teeth as you would expect from playing rugby and the odd aching joint. I think I am up-to-the-minute with celebrities and the latest music; my fashion sense is, I admit, dated and yes, when I do dance, I dance like my dad. I didn't feel old until I was sent this article from the New York Times. It suggests that the largest group of Tweeters and users of social networking sites are 25 years old and live in cities. I am nowhere near either of these.
So am I too old to understand the nuances of social networking? Or am just trying to recapture my youth by jumping on the social networking bandwagon?
But seriously, this does have implications for schools? I have seen recently a number of requests from teachers asking how social networking sites can be utilised in schools. I have yet to see any responses. Does this beg the question, ‘Do social networks have a place in school?’. I certainly think there is an issue of awareness for students using such networks appropriately and there is a need to educate them on the implications of posting ‘What are you doing now?’ (There's also the issue that many teachers like myself are well past the age of 26 and may just never get it.)
What do you think? Are we way off the mark here? I would really like to get some ideas around this.
But lo and behold, the good old Daily Mail may have come to our rescue. An article published on 24 February suggests, ‘Social networking websites are causing alarming changes in the brains of young users, an eminent scientist has warned. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo are said to shorten attention spans, encourage instant gratification and make young people more self-centred.’
(Hm...it seems I shouldn’t worry. If these articles are correct, I will not have to worry about getting old at all. I will have such a short attention span, I will never remember how old I am!)
Do you agree or disagree with the Daily Mail?
Does anybody have some positive examples of how they are using social networking with young people, that they would like to share with us?
(By the way, the person who sent me the article was the ever-youthful Kristen. The youth of today have no respect for their elders.)
Chris Henderson is the final teacher accompanying us to Vienna later this month for the European Innovative Teachers Forum. Chris is from Saltash.net Community School, which you've heard us talk about many, many times at this point. Dan Roberts (aka, the 6-foot chicken), our award winner in Hong Kong is also from Saltash, and he has been directing many CPD activities involving the Innovative Teachers Programme at Saltash over the past several months. Stuart has also visited Saltash on more than one occasion to help lead CPD workshops that have introduced many teachers to our technology and programmes. (Why am I the only one that misses out on these trips to the ocean in Cornwall?) Chris clearly took advantage of this new learning in his Virtual Classroom Tour on Interactive Revision Strategies.
Chris is co-head of Science at Saltash, and his VCT arose from a need to help his pupils discover new revision techniques and strategies in science -- with the hope of finding one that worked well for each as an individual. Students today are the same as students throughout time; very few actually enjoy studying for an exam or other assessment. Chris hoped to use new technologies to further motivate and engage his pupils in revision.
Chris started by guiding his pupils in a revision strategy brainstorm and then took them on a modern-day "show and tell" exercise using Photosynth and Deep Zoom. Chris had taken hundreds of photos of his classroom, with various chemistry experiments underway. (You can see his classroom at right.) The students were then asked to tour the Synth and Deep Zoom images and develop questions about the experiments they saw. They answered questions developed by their classmates and then began to create their own revision resources.
What made this project interesting to us was the way it centred on the individual needs and interests of each pupil. And the pupils seemed to react positively to this as well, showing a lot of creativity in the resources they produced. One group created a song about the process, the project and the topic they were studying. They then sent this song to their classmates' mobile phones. I'd say these were pretty motivated students...
Check out Chris's great VCT here on the Innovative Teachers Network.
Stuart and I will be back to our regularly-scheduled programming in this blog for the next couple of weeks. After that, we'll be blogging LIVE from Vienna, and we hope you'll be able to hear from Chris, Mandeep, Ollie and James as well.
Listening to the views and perspectives of students was a central recommendation highlighted in the in the 2007 Diversity and Citizenship Curriculum Review. Technology has had a major impact on allowing schools to successfully meet the recommendations our students have made. Mandeep Atwal from Shireland Collegiate Academy in the West Midlands has produced a Virtual Classroom Tour that describes how her students have increased their religious and cultural awareness and sensitivity within their diverse community at the same time that they have developed high-level website building skills.
Mandeep, who is Head of Religious Education for Shireland, co-ordinates the Young Voices project at her school. This project aims to give youngsters of all ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds an opportunity to share their experiences, in the hope of developing tolerance and acceptance. Becoming ‘Young Voices’, students are not only ambassadors for the school, but also for the faiths and cultures they represent.
The students undertook a unit of work that gave them the ICT skills needed to build websites, and the project produced a number resources to support students in learning these skills. Although important in this project, ICT skills were not the central focus. Students needed to produce an online virtual platform that would generate awareness beyond the classroom walls to reach a much wider audience such as families, communities and the Academy's partner and link schools. The message that the students needed to communicate was the main focus in this project.
Mandeep said ‘‘I hope students in this project strike a natural balance of developing their e-learning skills, whilst also contributing to their own and other’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural development".
One of a number of projects that provided students with content came from Shireland Collegiate Academy’s involvement in a cultural celebration event held at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. The event showcased the diverse dance and cultural backgrounds of students, who worked with top Birmingham based art professionals. The show hosted various arts forms ranging from Bhangra, Dhol, Bharatanatyam, Dhandia, Bollywood, Afro-Caribbean Fusion, Carnival Parading, Contemporary and Street Dance and much more.
Students used their newly found ICT skills to promote the event, inform other students, parents and the wider community and to showcase the event.
Kirandeep, a student involved with the website said, ‘‘’We work on creating Podcasts and documentaries for the website. We think it’s a really good idea hosting these as then we can share what we have done with our families and friends at home’’.
You can access Mandeep’s award winning Virtual Classroom Tour on the Innovative Teachers Network by following this link.
Mandeep will be joining us at the European Innovative Teachers event in Vienna in March where she will be presenting her work to teachers from all over Europe.
Representing Scotland in Vienna will be Deputy Head Teacher Ollie Bray, from Musselburgh Grammar School outside of Edinburgh. As Ollie mentions in his own blog, he's not new to the Innovative Teachers Network, having joined back in 2005.
Ollie's Virtual Classroom Tour is called Guitar Hero Transition and was designed to help improve pupils' transition from primary to secondary school. In this project, students work in groups using Guitar Hero for Xbox as a context for learning across the curriculum. One of the things that impressed us most about the Guitar Hero project is how it is now being implemented across other schools in East Lothian.
Ollie seems to be a bit of a rock star himself up in Scotland, as everyone I have met with on recent visits knows him, this work, and his blog. He has made a reputation within East Lothian for the innovative work he does in creating technology-rich environments for teaching and learning. He also drives a lot of CPD activities within the schools in his authority. Although he led the development and execution of this project, he did not work alone; 9 teachers from 6 other schools were credited in his VCT, along with the support of East Lothian Council.
Ollie's project had three phases:
There were so many things we liked about this project, that I don't really know where to start. (You can look at Ollie's award-winning VCT on the ITN by following this link.) I was particularly interested in something Ollie said at the Forum when he was presenting this work to the other teachers. He said he initially received some resistance when he wanted to purchase so many Xboxes and copies of the game for the schools. People were concerned that he wanted to spend so much money on technology. Ollie's response was perfect, I think. He said that first of all, Xboxes were much less expensive than computers. And secondly, they were investing in children, not in technology. You can't really argue with that.
I've already mentioned Ollie's project to a local authority in London that is interested in using it. I can't wait to see the reception it gets when he showcases it in Vienna.