Saturday, 5 February 2011

Water, water, everywhere . . . And all the boards did shrink . . .

OK - so I'm, at heart, always (and forever)an English teacher . . . And I KNOW Coleridge wasn't talking about WHITEboards (interactive or other) but I must confess to being pretty overwhelmed by the sheer amount of what's out there in terms of Information & Learning Technology. Water, water indeed . . . . .

In fact, that's not really it anymore . . . I've moved on . . . Now it's more that I'm pretty overwhelmed by how (on earth!) I'm going to organise & attempt to categorise what's out there. Suddenly 'surfing' doesn't seem an appropriate word any more - I'm not even sure that there IS a verb that conveys the feeling of being 'lost in a gigantic maze with an attack of the tangential connections' but I think we may need to coin one soon!

So my task - started this week - is to try to 'organise' ILT into roughly different categories. I've managed to cut down the click, click, click of high-speed surfing that leaves me in a bit of a head spin - inspired but confused in equal measures - by deciding to 'follow' a few famous ILT experts. One of the features of "Blogger" that I really like is being able to 'follow' the blogs of others as it feels like Blogger is doing the hard work - Blogger waits until they publish a new post & then reminds me when I log in. If after a few weeks it's not my cup of tea then I can unsubscribe without worrying that I may have missed the good bits. So, I'm feeling up-to-date (relatively) without having to venture out into the darkest depths of Internet-world as, for now at any rate, there is enough interesting stuff arriving via Blogger for me to focus on other aspects of organising ILT.

God bless "Blogger" . . . Seriously though - I know people who view computers with an equal measure of fear and loathing - I believe that's because they haven't made it 'work for THEM' yet - the point of the things is that they are supposed to make things easier, quicker etcetc - once you do something that used to take an hour in 5 minutes. . . . Then you're sold - so thanks again "Blogger" :-)

So here is a vague list to begin with - of categories / headings under which I am going to try to file & order what I am finding / looking for. Interestingly ( or not), in thinking about what to include in the list, I actually thought of a few areas that I hadn't naturally come across through my somewhat random surfing from link to link to link . . .

1. One or two "readable" methodologies - ideally written in the style of Geoff Petty and even more ideally, following the structure of a Jeremy Harmer or a Jim Scrivener with initial methodology followed up by practical activities for students to do in the classroom (or, in the case of ILT - probably not 'just' in the classroom).

2. how blended learning courses are funded - not very exciting-sounding, I know - but if blended learning really is to be effective, it can't have at it's heart some poor teacher who has just crawled out of the classroom & logged onto their computer to do a bit of admin only to find a maelstrom of blog updates, student forum posts & assignments uploaded to Moodle - surely this is teaching? Contact teaching? And needs to be counted as such?

3. Activities which promote interactive student use of VLEs during induction - and I DO mean interactive - not just looking at a photo or two and a load of word docs and power points - I've found that student use of forums tends to work best when they are introduced at the very beginning of the course as an actual learning activity rather than telling them - "here's Moodle - we'll use it later"

4. Mobile technology

5. Clouds & 'Delicious'

6. Developing the use of Apps - I think I read somewhere that the billionth app was recently downloaded - in just a couple of years . . .

7. Already available online activities that students could do in the classrooom as most or part of a 'normal' lesson.

8. Already available online activities that students could do OUTSIDE the classroom.

9. Engaging learners through multi-media

10. Practical skills I can develop to become a more rounded classroom practitioner - I saw a link to a book written by Pete Sharma, who did a bit of teaching for OCVC when I started in 2003, called something like "400 ways to make an interactive whiteboard interactive" and I thought "400!! I think I only know 6!" . . . . Then I thought about it and realised it was more like 4 :( definitely not lolling out loud . . .

So that's 10 areas that could help subdivide & help organise & help make sense of what's already 'out there' and I have already thought of a few more . . . I think in the spirit of EFL guru Scott Thornbury , I'm going to come back to this post & keep adding until I come up with a definitive list of categories . . . . More than 10 definitely . . . . But I don't want it to be TOO more than 10 or I'll start to feel like I'm rewriting the Internet . . . And I definitely DON'T want to do THAT! I'm definitely 'waving & NOT drowning'.

Although if THAT was really true, I'd probably go:
1. Student activities (inside class)
2. Student activities (outside class)
3. Teachers - developing confidence & proficiency in ILT
4. Colleagues - CPD - googledocs & wikis
5. VLEs - why, what & how?
6. Experts - methodologies, blogs & 'following'
7. Mobile technology
8. Multi-media
9. Searching - building research & study skills for the 21st Century
10. Safety