Archive for the 'E-learning' Category

Wikipedia Zero GB

I give money to wikipedia every month, I’m not sure whether I should admit to that either as a history teacher (unreliable source and all that) or from the point of view of anonymous charity giving, but to me it remains the single greatest achievement in mankind’s history and a reason to celebrate our collective humanity. The site never fails to impress or excite me, as does the organisation. Most recently I’ve been amazed by the Wikipedia Zero initiative which is committed to providing access to wikipedia pages on mobile phones in some of the poorest countries in the world entirely for free. With over thirty countries already signed up the project shows how powerful a force for good in global education Wikipedia is. The question therefore arises which of the UK mobile providers will be first to capitalise on the publicity and make the same offer here?

The Power of ‘I don’t know’

The Power of ‘I don’t know’ in the classroom

I love this poster created by @rebezuniga from a blog post by @tweenteacher . It crystallises many of my thoughts about the direction of teaching with the teacher acting as the curator of knowledge rather than the owner, able to direct students to sources of information and give them skills to interpret it. In this climate ‘I don’t know’ becomes a badge of honour and a route to shared knowledge (as the IB would have it).


As I’ve continued to explore the geek side of teaching over the past few years I thought I had come across most of the useful websites out there. The likes of schoolshistory, thinkinghistory, or tutor2u politics were all part of my weekly routine for ideas and inspiration (but never at the last minute of course). Twitter too was a source of valuable snippets and, through #ukedchat, curated snippets. But TeachThought was a new one on me this week and I like it alot. Partly this is because of the Buzzfeed-esque articles, ’25 Tips for teaching with Apps’ and the like but mostly it’s because there is lots of sensible, positive advice there, dispensed in a supportive way. Like any could CPD it assumes you want to get better at teaching and gives you a variety of tools and suggestions to achieve this. An INSET day spent reading articles would be cost effective and productive.

Challenge walls

An INSET or two ago one the speakers made reference to the idea of having a ‘challenge wall’ in the classroom. The concept was simple but inspired for those with their own classroom. Instead of loading brighter students up with extra work why not have a noticeboard covered with accessible folders in which you dump interesting articles, that way when students finish up the material they are working in they have a choice of what to do next, and you can either stretch them in subject specific ways or just provide interesting material that will challenge reading comprehension. The tragedy of this great idea is that in a school where teachers don’t have individual classrooms the whole concept falls down. However having allowed this to percolate, and redefining the goals a little, I’ve realised that the key point, getting students to read challenging material that stretches and broadens them, isn’t just something that should be locked into my classroom. As a result this summer will see a challenge wall/board going up in the History department with plenty of material for students to choose from. In order to keep a ready supply up I have started collecting material using delicious but there’s no reason why other aggregators shouldn’t be equally effective. Brilliant tools like Instapaper, Pocket or even Evernote may mean that you already have oodles of great material whilst those who get theweek could easily drop in the excellent ‘Briefing‘ section to ensure students that want to be up to date can be. Adding QR codes could even make it accessible to the paperless contingent.

App Review: Skitch

It was INSET yesterday and I did some sample lessons for my colleagues which were designed to put them back in the classroom as well as introducing them to some of the apps I have been using. The principle one I worked with was Skitch, one of a range of image annotating apps that are available on the appstore. Most of the videos on youtube suggest that a principle reasons for liking Skitch is because of it’s links with Evernote. However what Skitch gives you is a quick and easy image mark up tool for looking at portraits on cartoons, obviously these can then be saved and emailed to students with ease (or Chirped!). Perhaps more powerfully it allows you to take a picture of a students work and annotate it live on the screen for the benefit of others, perfect for differentiating work, rewarding students who do a good job and highlighting good practice. Skitch has quickly become the app I use most in the clasroom.


The week before last I spent two inspiring days in Manchester at the iThinkThereforeiLearn and iThinkThereforeiPad events. Both of the days contained plenty of great material to bring back to school that would pay dividends across the different departments. What was perhaps most impressive though was the positivity and questioning of technology’s role in the classroom. It seems that the protagonists at the cutting edge are far more critical of what technology’s limitations are but are also showing huge creativity in working within these limitations to improve pedagogy.
A few gripes though, of course, I felt the keynotes were too broad in their scope, focusing on a generalised vision of a future in education that wasn’t news to me nor anyone in the room. There wasn’t enough hands-on material to really get our teeth into, and there wasn’t nearly enough interaction and networking. A TeachMeet would have addressed this effectively, as would a pronounced twitter presence in advance of the event. These are small gripes though and the event as a whole deserves to grow.

The power of collaboration

I thought I’d make mention of the series of events that led me to contribute to an online document on ways to teach History as it’s a classic example of all I love about the possibilities of web2.0. The short form of the story goes pretty much like this. Last week I was using and in my feed there was a RT from a teacher I didn’t follow @joetabhistory requesting contributions to an online google doc on ideas for teaching History. I had a quick look at the doc and felt there was some good material there that I could repurpose and, in order not to be a leech, I chipped in with a couple of ideas of my own, for which I later received a generous RT (retweet) from Joe. Since then I have checked back periodically as the list has grown and created a new page in my simplenote account to jot down the ideas ready to be incorporated into my scheme of work when appropriate. The whole process has cost me maybe thirty minutes of time for which I have gained five or six good ideas and contributed something back. This level of collaborative power is the true joy of teaching in the era in which we do and the sooner it filters all the way through the profession the better.


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