Deft Regional Conference

On Tuesday,  we hosted a regional conference to celebrate and disseminate the achievements of the Digital Futures in Teacher Education project.  The conference started with an introduction from Richard Pountney, our project lead and Anna Gruszczynska our project manager.  Then Julia Davies and Cathy BurnettImage set the scene by outlining the themes that emerged from the project.  Parallel sessions of Case studies were presented in four themes.  The presentations are hyperlinked to the presenters, but you can see their case studies written up on our Digital Futures website.

Getting to grips with Software was the theme for Peter Winter, Chris Welch and Jack Todhunter’s case studies.  Using Social networking was the theme for Chris Bailey and Kate CosgroveJim Hildyard, Rob Hobson and ImageZubida Khatoon showed how they used mobile technologies outside the confines of the classroom, and Mick Connell, Sarah Butler, Michael Payton Greene and Christine Bodin talked about professional development issues.

Doug Belshaw and Bob Harrison gave keynote speeches, and a discussion panel, chaired by Phil Moore from YHGfL invited questions and comments from the floor and the twitter feed.  Our principal investigator Guy Merchant, and academic lead Jackie Marsh ended the day- you can see the full details on our project programme.

It was a great success.  The conference centre was filled with over 80 delegates (some from as far away as Japan) who shared an interest in digital technologies and education.  They came from a wide range of backgrounds- from the students that Sarah Butler brought along- to a researcher of educational buildings; from a retired SEN teacher to a teacher educator from Lincoln.  Our DeFT teachers and tutors, confident and inspirational, succeeded in motivating them all by sharing their creativity and technological know how.Image

Everyone was interested in the same story- the development of digital technologies, the exploration of digital literacies and ways of promoting new and exciting ways of learning. In the words of Bob Harrison this was a “timely” and “genuinely important project”, because “there are massive changes taking place in education at the moments, and the use and impact of technology on learning is really really important”.  Now we need some sort of transformation in the way we educate our children. We need to “educate the educators- or else our young will be left behind”.   Keith Hemsley, who has spread the gospel about the benefits of using informational technologies in schools for the past thirty years, said that he enjoyed listening to the teachers: “I thought I would have heard it all before,” he said, “but it’s a different approach!”

Delegates were impressed with how the case studies showcased a wide range of involvements with digital technologies. Several people I talked to were impressed by the scope:  “we can take these ideas away, and build on them…” said one teacher educator.  A few were amazed at the dexterity of the tiniest of our participants. One delegate, after seeing the Sharrow Nursery project said, ” I have learnt a lot, I am surprised that very small children can use these tools, a video camera, they made video clips, it’s so amazing! Yes I saw a new world! ”   Many more people spoke of how they were really inspired by the case study presentations.

I spoke to Doug Belshaw who said he was pleasantly surprised by the determination and imagination that the teachers demonstrated:  “I was expecting them to say ‘well we were trying to do some stuff, but we were hamstrung by e-safety issues,’ but they found ways round this and did stuff, I would quite happily have my five year old son in that kind of class.”

For other blogs on the conference see Guy Merchant‘s , where you can see Jack Todhunter’s film of the event, and Doug Belshaw’s blog, where he posts the prezi he used for his keynote speech.  Leicester City Council have blogged about Lucy Atkins’s impressions of the day

The conference was a brilliant showcase of all the effort that the project members have been working towards over the past year. We have come so far… it seems so long ago that everyone met together at the start of the project. As Sue Bamford said in her feedback sheet, “Lovely to see the outcomes of this project- having been at one of the first meetings where everyone was putting forward their first ideas about what they might do.”

I have not had all the feedback sheets back yet, but so far the message is clear: it has been a truly wonderful event ….

here are just some of the comments:

“very thought provoking… positive promotion of using digital technology in the classroom by inspirational teachers”

“getting to grips with software. very interesting and useful”

“the themes intro was brilliant at putting the sessions into context”

“A very valuable experience overall.  I have been introduced to many new ideas and issues to think about, which I plan to share with my fellow PGCE primary students”

“great ideas for primary- inspiring, thank you”

“I really enjoyed this event, I was stimulated.  UK is challenging to introduce ICT into schools.  That is amazing.  All presenters were excellent.  Japanese should have a sense of humour like British.”

“Excellent opportunity to learn from others and contribute to that learning … privilege to meet so many creative and daring people who are making a difference.”

“constant frustrations with tech. but seen huge passion and enthusiasm with great examples of innovation in learning and teaching”

“events like this help to provide the most valuable CPD – learning from each other’s, sharing innovative work, how social media is a forum for sharing.”

and you can see many more on the #deft twitter feed.

 

Monteney Monsters

School is out now at Monteney Primary School, the children and teachers are on holiday, and the school is empty- empty that is except for the odd monster lurking around the  corridors of the school ‘s virtual spaces…

If you visit there now, you will be able to see what Peter Winter, and the year twos have been up to for the last few months.  Peter has set up a Moodle which hosts a range of resources that he has been using with the children.  They have been learning how to program using ‘scratch‘ .

Peter has created sets of on-line instructions that children can follow at their own pace, and create sprites that can move and talk in their very own settings.  The children got so good at managing sequences and timing in their programming that they were able to create conversations between two sprites on their videos. You can see them for yourself on this link to the website.The children went on to develop their own 3D monsters using a program called ‘spore’, and once the children had designed their monsters, they used ‘fotobabble‘ to talk about their monsters.

They then made music scores using ‘Avary’ for the monsters to dance to! The children have also written some amazing acrostic poems, which were read out by avatars from ‘voki’.

This is about the stuff that the Moneney children have already done. However at Peter’s request we have ordered a green screen, which has finally arrived at DeFT headquarters.  We don’t quite know what Peter has in mind, but I expect that in September we will be blogging about more wonderful things that will be emerging from Monteney.

Panel of Experts

There is a group of experts at Hallam who are playing a vital role to help transform some of our case studies into useful OERs. Julia Myers’ group of PGCE students from Sheffield Hallam University came to meet Anna and I to talk about their perceptions of what digital literacy means to them as beginner teachers and what sort of resources would be useful to them in their own practice.   The intention is that these students will review our case studies and offer suggestions for ways in which they will support future practice.  Through their own practice they are considering the opportunities and potential, limitations and challenges that digital technologies offer.  They plan to look at the relevance of specific case studies in terms of the impact of digital technology and the nature of digital literacies; and seek related opportunities appropriate to alternative age and ability groups.

We want to make our resources user friendly, so we will be acting on the help and support of this highly motivated and inspiring future user group.

At our first meeting, we were amazed at the level of competence exhibited. Some students talked enthusiastically about the excellent projects they had started in their placement schools, apparently undaunted by the fact that they were uncertain that their ideas would be supported after they had left.  They were impatient to try out these ideas in their own schools when they had graduated, with their own classes.  One student talked of how he encouraged his pupils to send emails to a partner school in Thailand, opening up the possibility of quadblogging (that is being trialled at Sharrow and Mundella schools) He had learned from experience that his pupils are much more likely to produce fine writing if doing so for a specific audience.  Other students talked about using flip cameras with students to develop their language skills, others spoke of how they used Edmodo as a facebook for under fourteen year olds.  Their creative contributions gave us a lot to think about.

We were particularly interested to find out from the students where they looked for ideas to enhance their teaching, as this would give us an idea about how to arrange our own resources. The facilities they use most are teach meets, twitter, webchats and the TES magazine, which they found was well set out, and easy to flick through.

They told us in no uncertain terms what they would look for in a case study…

  • They wanted it to be clearly and concisely written- and colourful!
  • They would like a descriptive title, and underneath three or four bullet points about the content.  They did not want to plough through lots of irrelevant pros to find out whether it was useful to them.
  • They would like the findings at the beginning, and hints on how methods/resources can be adapted for different ages and abilities, and they had lots of suggestions as to how this could be done.

With these instructions in mind, the DeFT team are starting to write up the case studies.

We hope that they will meet with approval!

Hallam Digital Agony Aunts

Towards the end of term some of Sarah Butler’s PGCE students from Hallam University presented the work that they had been doing for their final project. Anna and I were invited to attend the presentation by the group that had worked on digital literacies.  Their projects explored how digital technologies were used in their placement schools, and students’ and teachers’ attitudes towards these technologies. It was a really encouraging session. Students reported that aspects of digital literacies are addressed in these placement schools, and have been promoted by the students themselves.  In the words of one student: “digital literacy allows teachers to utilise a vast range of creative pedagogical strategies to ensure that their classroom is motivating and inclusive environment.”

These students gave insightful and balanced accounts of their experiences. They all delivered the message- yes technology can be interactive, fun.  It can promote creativity, excite interest, enthuse students- but it has to be relevant. It doesn’t matter what new singing and dancing stuff you bring in to your lessons: if it is used unimaginatively and repetitively, it can work to turn off the very pupils you are trying to engage.

As this blog has recorded, (souls glitches or just plain evil intent) all this new technology is sometimes not as straightforward as ‘they’ lead us to believe. The ‘final act’ of the presentation was, for me, the piece de resistance.

The students set themselves up as a panel of Agony Aunts. Two female and one male aunt bravely invited questions from their audience.

Just tell us your digital problems, and we will help you solve them!

As you can imagine, this was an extremely entertaining and engaging way to encourage discussion and share solutions.  We have all been there!  Amidst groans of recognition and sympathy, the audience started to share their own ‘worst nightmare’ scenarios when using digital technology in school. One student described how she had based her entire lesson on a DVD that the children needed to watch, but the computer kept crashing after two minutes…another mentioned that the sound track on the DVD she was hoping to present did not work… another stated that after having spent all night on a brilliant powerpoint based lesson, there was no computer in the classroom when he got there.  Another wanted tips on how to present inclusive lessons to the visually impaired and deaf students in his class. Students aired their frustration on the limited access of internet provision in some placements, and lack of software.

The panel remained calm, and offered some excellent advice, taking each question as it came.  The solutions were brilliant.  These included- pretending that the glitch is deliberate- that you have stopped the film for the pupils to complete the story line, or that you have carefully deleted the sound track on the film so that pupils can invent their own.  They stressed the importance of liaising closely with the support available within the school, and letting the right people know what you are planning to do so that they can offer help when needed. The discussion demonstrated clearly how these students recognise that digital technologies are a double edged sword: on one hand it is essential for teachers to keep up with the latest technology.  As one student said: “I previously thought that I was digitally literate but I have discovered that there are so many technologies out there to use that you can soon become outdated”.

However on the other hand, in the shadow of unreliable technology, teachers these days sometimes need to think on their feet and draw on all their personal resources in order to deliver lessons.  These students certainly demonstrated that they were fully aware of the issues involved, and embraced the new technologies with the cautious respect they command.  The students were anxious to share the expertise that they had gained on the course, and although many of them had not heard of the OER movement, they were keen to contribute to the DeFT project.

By the way, we found out later that during our session with the students, our DeFT digital recorder did not work, leaving us to rely on our video cameras. On inspection (by a member or our learned e-learning support team) the memory card decided not to function at that particular time.  It is fine now.

Any suggestions Aunties?

 

 

 

DeFT Film

While the Sheffield doc fest was happening last week, the DeFT was making its own documentary film about the project. Artist Clare Young and I put together a digital animation of the DeFT poster which describes the players and story of Digital Futures for Teacher Education.

We elicited the help of six year olds Ben, Macy, Gabby and Michael from Mundella Primary School. , who took on board the project’s philosophical and empirical intentions, and worked together very patiently to provide the film’s narrative.

We have entered it into a competition held by the Creative Commons, U.S. Department of Education, and Open Society Foundations, who aim to promote the benefits of open educational resources for teachers and schools everywhere.  You can hear The US secretary of Education Arne Duncan talk about its benefits

You can watch the film and vote for us on this link.

Digital big melt: News from Winterhill

I have just come back from my visit to Winterhill school in Rotherham and I am very impressed with their progress on the case study where teachers and students are producing OERs for Magna Science Adventure Centre and are exploring the use of  QR codes in that context. The work on resources is in full swing and there are some great examples of incorporating OER creation within the curriculum, with students and teachers bouncing off creative ideas and working collaboratively. I first had a chance to talk to Chris, an art teacher who is working with year 9 and year 10 students exploring the creative potential of OERs. As part of their BTEC Diploma in Art and Design, year 10 students have visited Magna and took some photographs in the water and fire pavilions, drew field sketches and on that basis are now creating artwork which is informed by futurist paintings. As the teacher emphasised, what the pupils really appreciate about the project is that they are involved in a real brief for Magna and working on resources that will hopefully resonate with the future visitors and enhance the exhibits. At the same time, this case study is a great example of incorporating OERs within the curriculum and fostering collaboration between the students since in true spirit of re-use and repurposing, year 9 students are Photoshopping the pictures taken by year 10 class to create slideshows accompanied by soundscapes representing an industrial theme (see picture above for a sneak preview!). Even better, the soundscapes are created with freesound, a collaborative database of Creative Commons Licensed sounds.

I then had a chance to talk to year 8 English students who shared with me the poems and the short impressionistic writing they have created on the basis of their visit to Magna and also told me about the plans to interview a steelworker to create additional resources for the project. I was quite impressed about the range of creative ideas them kept bringing up as to how they could enhance the content, I must admit I sorely regretted not being able to record that conversation but I am hoping to go back shortly and to continue talking to the students and the teachers. Hopefully the students will also accept the invitation to share their perspective on the project through this blog and tell the readers a bit more about their fascinating work.

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.