Saturday, 27 June 2009

Interactive Whiteboards - where are we with these?

An Interactive Whiteboard has such potential. A huge projected computer screen, in effect, with the ability to "click" on the whiteboard.
I have seen really good learning and teaching carried out with these. And I have seen these, unused and abandoned.
A study called "New Technologies and Educational Leadership: Missioners, Tentatives and Luddites: leadership challenges for school and classroom posed by the introduction of interactive whiteboards into schools in the United Kingdom" (2001) carried out by Derek Glover and David Miller, both from the Department of Education, University of Keele, Staffordshire, U.K, was interesting to read because it painted a very mixed picture on take-up of this expensive resource.
They concluded that many teachers saw it as small-scale change with "little compulsion for its adoption or use and with perceived limited impact on teaching methodology."
Increased adoption depended on what they called missioners and the conversion of tentative heads to believers.
There is such potential here. And problems to solve.
The projection is a problem - hot, often with the teacher causing a shadow on the screen with the older conventional throw projectors, and very poor image in any normally lit room (particularly in the tropics).
Resources are improving. This is important because the production of visually satisfying resoures is time-consuming.
And it is easier to do what one has always done.
I still think that large flat panel screens with interactive surfaces are better, even though I have yet to see this being used effectively in the classroom.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Textbook publishers should get their comeuppance.

In his latest and well written post, Steve Taffee summarises his series of posts on the publisher/textbook situation.
As he puts it, "the textbook system is broken. There are too few publishers and those that exist are behaving badly:

  • textbooks cost too much.
  • teachers are often forced into adopting costly new versions with little additional benefit over the previous version.
  • the physical weight of textbooks is contributing to back problems among the students who must schlep them from class to class.
  • textbooks consume huge amount of natural resources in their production. Disposal of textbooks is not as easy as one may think."
Additionally, he writes that many textbooks are produced to be "teacher proof" - that is, whatever the quality of teacher, the student can revert to the textbook to learn. This "can constraint teacher creativity, discourage the exploration of the “teachable moment,” and serve as a nagging back-seat driver that second-guesses the judgment of the teacher as to what it or is not important. The textbook is what one is supposed to “cover” in a given course, and if you don’t make it all the way through, you have somehow failed yourself and your class. Who’s in charge here? You, or your textbook?"
This has been a long-held view about US teachers - they teach to a textbook and seldom stray from it. But if that is all that is available, there is very little room to manouver. UK teachers will often work from several textbooks so as to obtain the learning resource to match the syllabus or curriculum. So having to buy several textbooks for a particular course, perhaps to dip into now and again, is even worse.
Could textbook content be object orientated? You select the bits that you want? Just like Digital Learning Objects....
And why are textbooks so expensive? Why have they not been far more imaginative about how they can deliver the content required?
The textbook publishers are going to get their comeuppance. Just like the music publishing industry. They have fleeced education long enough and it is time to go open source on this.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

One to one laptop programmes - what does research say?

Looking at what research can tell us about 1to1 laptop programmes.
An extensive study was done in June 2005, sponsored by Apple, called
Research: What It Says About 1 to 1 Learning.
Their main findings were:
• Effecting change in teaching practice depends on professional development and changing some teachers’ beliefs about the role of technology and students’ capabilities.
• Available research-based evidence is
generally positive, especially with respect to laptop programs’ effects on technology use, technology proficiency, and writing skills.
• Overall, however, there is limited research-based evidence from rigorously designed experimental or quasi-experimental studies of laptop programs’ effectiveness.
• More quasi-experimental and experimental research is needed that examines both outcomes and implementation if further major investments in 1 to 1 initiatives are to be warranted by the research base.
generally positive, but more research needs to be done.

Saul Rockman (Rockman et al from "Getting Results with Laptops" dated October 2004) produced this list of key points from studies in Indiana and other places:

Learning environments are transformed. Collaborative project work promoted.

Assessment techniques change. More authentic assessment techniques.

Teachers look to a variety of sources for training. Professional development now tailored to teachers' individual content area and pedagogical needs.

Mastery is no longer solely the province of technology gurus.

Students are highly engaged. "Like teachers, students also show improved technology skills and sophistication. But this, too, varies, with some students taking to certain specialized applications such as movie making, and others using the tools as a functional, almost transparent element in their schoolwork. In Indianapolis and Crawfordsville, teachers report, anecdotally, that students have greater engagement in their assigned work, fewer behavioral referrals, and higher attendance—positive trends that other research has substantiated. In their study of the Piscataquis Community High School in Guilford, Maine, for instance, the Mitchell Institute found daily student attendance improved from 91 percent to over 98 percent since the laptop program began last year. And significantly, 48 percent of parents reported their children are more motivated now that they work with laptops."

Productivity increases. Students develop better organizational skills.

Attitudes toward writing improve.

Where is the RECENT research?

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Drop Box - truely awesome.

Had to check the Awesome tick box. On Drop Box . It really is the place to keep your stuff in the cloud.
Drop Box is a folder on your computer. Drag anything into it (or save into it) and off it goes into the cloud. But it remains on your computer. And, if you install Drop Box on your second computer/laptop, it updates it there too.
So you have up-to-date copies of your documents where you need them.
It is really "awesome" to watch when you have your laptop next to your desktop - drag a document into your Drop Box on your laptop, seconds later you can see it in your Drop Box on your desktop. Oh, did I tell you that I run XP on my laptop but Ubuntu on the desktop? It doesn't matter!
Truely awesome.
Please get it following this link and I will get a bit more storage space.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Could Google Wave be a Collaborative Personal Learning Environment?

Taking an on-line course at the moment which uses an un-personisable Course Management System (CMS - Blackboard). I am sure it is well configurable from the university end, but all users experience the same interface.
In an earlier post I considered the CMS as being at the opposite end of a Personal Learning Environment - the latter being well personisable and configurable.
Could Google Wave be a PLE? More, could it be a Collaborative PLE?
A CPLE such as this would allow the selection of the learning group as a Wave, perhaps by the learning facilitator (tutor, convenor, etc). The Wave would then serve as the learning environment.
It would allow the usual asynchronous communication providing for extended reflection, thought and response, the source of documents and assignments, and course calendars, etc. But it will also allow synchronous communication, without any wait time - almost instant responses appearing on your platform as another participant types, no more "Joe is typing..." waits.
Additionally, it looks as if you can have sub-Waves. And also confidential conversations which need not include others (tutor discussions with individuals over late assignments, perhaps...).
Developers, please consider the role that GWave could have as a CPLE!