reflective moments?


A large part of the methodology for this project is based on participants’ reflections.  As we work through the different stages of the project, we punctuate our journeys with questions that will make us stop and take stock of where we are now and how far we have come.  By doing this we can see how the project is influencing our thinking.  This is a good way of verifying our research- showing individual journeys, and illustrating general trends towards the way we will be at the end of it all.  Was it worthwhile, has it had any impact on us, has it changed us for the better?  The answers to all these questions will, we hope be ‘yes.’

It is my job to collate these reflections, and I feel a bit like the BFG wandering around  not with a dream catcher, but with a reflections catcher, ready to file them neatly into an especially prepared page on our project wiki. Here they will be kept safe and secure until they are analysed, anonomised and summarised.  We have received a few, but I must say they are not pouring in.  These reflections are difficult to extract, and I wonder if it is not just because people are incredibly busy at this time of year.

I think it is because they are really hard to write.  “Just spend fifteen to twenty minutes at the most” I heard myself saying to one wary participant.  But as I found when I wrote my own reflection, this is quite impossible to do.  What we decide to include, and what to leave out is a very difficult decision.  Students in a recent focus group recognised this sort of dilemma.  They talked about how during  teaching practice, they were asked for reflections on their own pedagogical practice.  Some of them were quite blunt about their approach:

“We only write in things that will make us look good”, they said, “ like ‘we spent too much time planning our lessons’, or something like that.  We would never write ‘that lesson was so crap I came home and cried!’”  They know that their tutor is going to read their reflections, and that whatever they wrote would be judged.  They saved what they really thought for their conversations on facebook – with peers whom they trusted, who would not judge them, who would recognise their sentiments because they might be in a similar situation.

These reflections are not for public consumption, and unlike the case of the students, no-one is judging their content, and yet I still find them hard to do.   Is there anyone else out there who is struggling with similar thoughts?


Plans are afoot

There are plans afoot for the workshop sessions for the participants of DeFT.  Richard Johnson will be leading a session on how to capture creative moments on ipads using the brushes app.  We will all become budding David Hockneys as we experiment with the various features of the app, and Richard will be giving us tips on what (and what not) to do with children in schools.  He will have come hotfoot from Mundella Primary School, where he is working on the digital bloom project which is part of the Sheffield’s Children’s Festival.

We are also planning to put Jack Todhunters skills to good practice. Based at Newman Special School  Jack is planning to run a workshop on video editing.  This is a useful skill, and it will enable us to add creative and informative clips to our websites and case studies.  Jack has already done extensive work with Dr. Emma Moore with her Linguistic and English students at The University of Sheffield. She has seen the value of the work he does with younger students and realises that his approach lends itself to work with adults too. Jack says that if he doesn’t turn us all into experts on imovie after 20 minutes, we can throw stones at him…


Action at Base Camp

While Anna and Richard are off in Cambridge 2012 delivering a paper about the early findings of our DeFTOER3 project, things have not been static at base camp.

Today I am delivering 5 ipads to Kate Cosgrove at Mundella Primary School.  Kate wanted them early so that her children would have a chance to become familiar with some of the features of the brushes app. before Richard Johnson from the Sheffield Children’s Festival comes in next week to run a workshop with her class.  Inspired by the Hockney murals, they will be using the brushes app to produce their own masterpieces for the Children’s Festival.

I am also delivering all but one of our ipods to Jim Hildyard at Winterhill Comprehensive.  He will be using them with his children to develop resources that will be linked by QR codes to displays at Magna Science Adventure Centre.  We don’t know what these resources will be yet- they might be historical or scientific insights that his children have researched- or they might be artistic creations inspired by the magnificent displays at Magna.  We will have to wait and see…

I said all but one of our ipods… the last ipod, (number 14 on the list) is with Rob Hobson, from Halfway Junior School who has spent his Easter holidays experimenting with GPS, QR codes and geocaching.  He is planning a spectacular event at his school that will be created by his Y6 children when they have finished working hard to get through their SATs.

And this is just a glimpse of the action….. watch this space…using the brushes app on the ipad

capturing stories

Capturing stories
This is not as easy as it seems. At DeFT we are aiming to capture and re-tell stories of our participants, but we know we will come across all sorts of questions when we start to do this. Will the participants want to be identified? If so what implications does this have on their colleagues, pupils, friends… if not how are we going to portray these people in these specific places without the world finding out who and where they are.
Also whose voice will we be using when we tell these stories? Will we use the words and voices of the participants, or will we be using our words to portray their experiences? As we are making our study into OERs, we are hoping to tell the world about their experiences: how will our participants feel about this?
It is with these questions in mind that I went to see Ice and Fire, a small theatre company that explores human rights stories through performance. It is supported by Actors for Human rights. The theatre group draws from a small group of actors and uses minimal props so that they can tour around to different venues with minimal fuss and expense. The production I saw this time was a part of a conference run by the British Red Cross, looking at issues around asylum seekers and refugees. The actors sat on high chairs to deliver their material in a way similar to ‘vagina monologues’. They read scripts of real stories from real people. The stories were harrowing. The effect was powerful.
I was curious as to how this company addressed some of the questions we will come across in our study. The methods they use respect the needs of their participants, some of whom need to remain anonymous for their own safety. At a performance in Sheffield, it was explained that some participants are willing to tell their stories over and over again, as a way of expelling horrors: through iterative tellings, the story becomes an object in itself, and in this way people are able to put a distance themselves and their experiences. These people take part in the actual productions. Others found their story so traumatic that they were disinclined to repeat it. This is the reason the theatre company use actors to deliver the anonomised scripts. An interesting and effective way of overcoming questions of confidentiality!

Go, Polish Digital Schools!

Happy news for Polish OER movement – today Polish Council of Ministers announced the implementation of “Digital School” programme aimed at raising ICT competences in Polish schools and.  380 schools will be equipped with hardware, including tablets, computers for students and any additional equipment. It is not just about hardware, though, as the outputs of the project will include the creation of Creative Commons-licensed (or compatible) open textbooks for grades 4-6 (K4-K6) in primary schools. The project is the first major government initiative of this kind and scale, as 45 million Polish zloty – approximately 14 million US dollars has been assigned for the creation of the textbooks. This is quite an exciting development for DeFT for a number of reasons – first of all, we happen to be in the business of creating an open textbook focusing on digital literacy and so are keen to learn about similar initiatives; secondly, I have a personal interest in any digital literacy development taking place further east, especially when they take place in my home country. It would be fascinating to exchange our experiences and the DeFT team is not afraid to venture further afield, as evidenced by our recent forays into Belgium.

Furthermore, the DeFT project is aiming to offer a framework for digital literacy, which incorporates the socio-cultural aspect of digital practices and takes into account current debates focusing on issues of ICT/digital literacy in the curriculum. We will be following with a keen interest what happens with our Polish colleagues and whether they experience similar tensions between understandings of digital literacy as a set of skills and competencies as opposed to understandings that focus more on socio-cultural and communicative practices.