Case studies

Visiting Jack at Newman was a bit of a hall of mirrors experience for me. We came to talk over case studies, and Anna ended up being in one! Jack and Simon videoed Anna being interviewed by a Newman student – originally from Poland. The student used voice software on an i-Pad and Anna used Polish. So it looks like we may well have two other case studies, as well…. one will be an autobiographical account of Jack’s media work at Newman and the other a developemental view of his AST work at Laughton Primary. So it’s all digital literacies in action. Meanwhile I’ve been working with some colleagues on virtual literacies. Note most of us are the same people (!), although we have different roles as editors and DEfters. Is there a difference between digital literacies and virtual literacies, I hear you ask. Order a copy of the book and you’ll find out!

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Out and about on school visits

Apparently this Monday was supposed to have been the most depressing day of the year but here at DeFT headquarters we are too busy to even consider catching the blues. We’ve even managed to keep to our New Year’s resolutions, which included visiting all of DeFT schools and talking to the teachers about their ideas for the case studies to be included in the open textbook we are developing for the project.

Throughout January, we have been exploring new territories, both metaphorically and geographically, given that school don’t always make it easy for visitors to get access and we do have a couple of stories of spending considerable time circling round the building, trying to find the reception as opposed to the “no visitors” signs. Fortunately, once you pass that test, things appear to be much more welcoming and we are lucky enough to work with an amazingly creative group of teachers who are bubbling with ideas as to how they would like to use the space of the project.

Interestingly enough, while digital literacy seems to be a concept that is quite well established and well understood within the school context (not an unproblematic one of course, but that is a whole different blog post), our second key strand within the project, Open Educational Resources is a completely new beast. This is not to say that sharing doesn’t happen as we keep discovering, time after time, that sharing resources and advice is part and parcel of the profession. As one of the student teachers we’re working with put it, as a teacher you will be sharing your knowledge with the kids anyway, so sharing your teaching resources should be a logical extension of that process. In quite a few instances, our work consists in facilitating the process of sharing which is already underway at a given school, so that the teachers can take full credit and recognition for their hard work. For instance, one of the case studies will explore the story of maths teachers at the Notre Dame High School who have produced a textbook and decided to release it openly. We would like to use the case study to learn from them what sort of conditions made that possible and what inspired them to go for an open access publication rather than go via the traditional publishing route, At the same time, we want to work with them on developing a model for other teachers to follow in their footsteps in a way that ensures the resource can then be re-used and re-purposed by others as this is something they have yet to work out for themselves. Given that Notre Dame pioneered the use of student mobile devices in the classroom, we are very pleased that we can help them potentially become pioneers in the area of OERs.

SCORE Meeting

I went to a SCORE event in Milton Keynes last week. It was good to meet others working in the same fields, and to be able to put the faces to the people behind the tweets and blogs. I met David Kernohan and Theresa Connelly who is working on a parallel OER phase 3 project, ORBIT. Theresa and I spoke briefly about the mechanics of presenting case studies and cataloguing resources. I also met Non Scantlebury, an information specialist from the OU who kindly offered support in this area, and I planned to send her a link to our wiki so that she can take a look at what we have collected so far.
As a relative newcomer to the concept of OERs, It was very interesting to find out what the other projects had been doing over the past 2 years. Although I often felt out of my depth grappling with unfamiliar jargon and acronyms, I did glean some interesting and relevant points. The evaluations offered by JISC OER phase one and two projects and the OLnet projects, highlighted some of the issues we have already encountered in our digital literacy for student teachers project. Our focus groups of student teachers are throwing light on assumptions about material used for educational purposes and copyright. They too have worries about issues surrounding authorship, access and validity.…, and it is becoming very clear in our work with schools that there is rarely enough time and training for staff and learners to explore the changing modes of learning. It was quite reassuring (in a way) to discover that we are not alone in struggling to find solutions.
It was also interesting to explore the political aspects of OERs and to hear different viewpoints. Looking at the video from Desmond Tutu (one of my first tasks on the OCL4Ed12-01 open course that I have registered for to learn about OERs), I am reassured that we are going in the right direction, and that free and open access to knowledge for all remains a top priority.

New year update

I hope everyone has had a good Christmas break, and is enjoying a happy new year. This is an update of what has been happening within the DeFT team since the meeting of the 8th December… We have been busy. Thanks to everybody’s flexibility and cooperation we have now established dates for the preliminary visits between participating teachers and the core team.The link tutors, and Anna or I, are looking forward to seeing all the teachers before the end of January.
We have also been contacting the PGCE tutors from Sheffield Hallam University and The University of Sheffield, and have been hearing about the exciting developments that will contribute to the project. One of our partner tutors has filled us in on the ways her PGCE students are using blogging to help pupils develop writing skills. Another has described a mini topic that he arranged with his students involving film, cemeteries and poems (!) He suggested I should meet with some of those students to get their perspectives on how they feel it went. He mentioned (amongst other things) his involvement with Rawmarsh CLC, http://www.rawmarshclc.org.uk/. This is a city learning centre that is exceptionally well kitted out with exciting up to the minute technology. Anna and I will be visiting there the end of the week to find out if they have any resources to share with us, and whether they are interested in becoming involved with the project…
I have had a very productive chat with Sheffield Hallam’s own expert information specialist who gave us a useful outline of an information literacy framework presented through the lens of digital literacy… He also offered useful suggestions on how to catalogue resources for the open textbook for teacher education that we are aiming to produce as part of the project. I have been keeping an eye out for various resources related to digital technology and open education resources that have been recommended by partners and twitter contacts.
Anna and I have found an interesting venue for our next team meeting: a room that presides over the square between the two Sheffield theatres. We expect that the Crucible’s function room will, with its quirky features and open aspects, inspire us to reach even greater heights of creativity!