Padlet – Getting started

Padlet – Getting started

Padlet gets a lot of interest at the school I work at and what’s not to like?  It’s easy to use and a great way of assembling content and building an easy to use lesson resource.  For those that are new to Padlet, I thought I’d link to an old post by @ictevangelist as it’s a really nice demonstration of how to get started and has some great ideas for how to use in the classroom.

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Long time, no post.

Greetings!  A cool year or so since my last post I’ve decided to resurrect my blog once more.   Why?  Well, the principle reason is a forthcoming change of job and a return to working in schools – something I’m really looking forward to.   When I started to work for Frog  (a period of my life that I have enjoyed immensely), I simply didn’t feel it appropriate to run my blog, worrying that I couldn’t be objective if I perhaps, even unwittingly, had a commercial interest.  As 2014 sees me returning to the ‘front line’, I’m very happy to pick up where I left off and commence blogging again.

So what will I be doing?  Well, my new job title is ‘Learning Technologies Manager’.  Why does that thrill me so much?  Well it could have easily been ‘Systems Manager’ or ‘Network Manager’ as there are elements of both in the new role, but it would have put an emphasis on the type of tools I’ll be looking after and not their intended use.  I’ve always felt happiest acting as an interface between technical and non-technical worlds and the new role puts me right where I want to be.

So, I ask again, what will I be doing?  Naturally, there’s going to be a  lot of ‘taking stock’ – I’ve been hired to provide a strategy that looks to the future but first must take stock of the present – early attention will have to focus on the basics, are we secure, do we know what we have, what everything does and where to look when it goes wrong?  Once I’ve been able to audit the existing provision, identify any immediate risks and implement solutions, even temporary, to mitigate them…after THAT is when the fun starts.

I’ll be spending time in lessons, observing the use of technology and identifying gaps where technology could add value and improve the T&L experience – it’s all too easy to see the implementation of technology as the goal, it’s why so many schools refer to projects as ‘iPad Rollout’ or ‘Cloud Migration’ – those titles describe delivery milestones, not T&L benefits or improved outcomes.  My focus will be on the latter, but I’ll be paying a lot of attention towards the journey and exactly how we get there.

So here’s to 2014, it’s going to be a good year…

iBooks Author kills DTP. Boom!

Apple kill DTP!

Sorry! Couldn’t resist it! As the blogosphere enters meltdown with the claims of the death of textbooks (didn’t that already happen?), I’m thinking the real boon to us in the education sector is the opportunity to open up the world of Desktop Publishing to students, free from the confines of Quark, inDesign or *shudder* so-called ‘accessible’ education titles.

Is it the end of DTP? Of course not, but what iBooks Author offers students (and teachers) is the opportunity to create engaging and interactive resources that can have the potential to outlive their purpose as merely evidence of completing an assignment or coursework! It’s a welcome entry into a notoriously difficult subject area, previously reliant on powerful hardware, expensive software and specialist knowledge. If we’re supposed to be helping students prepare for the future, I can’t think of a better way!

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A belated update!

ImagePhew, it’s been a busy time – we’ve been planning Christmas works in IT Support at school, getting ready for the holidays and I’ve just returned from a trip to Frog HQ in Halifax.  I’m very excited to say that I am joining the extended Frog School Improvement Team as a freelance trainer!  If you end up buying Frog in the south-east of England, it could be me delivering your ‘Day 1’ training – but please don’t let that put you off!

The time at Halifax offered a great chance to put some faces to names, catch up with some existing friends at Frog Towers and also meet some fellow trainers from Eggbuckland who are doing some great stuff with their Frog VLE at http://www.eggbuckland.com

The new freelance role is an exciting time for me – I really enjoy training people, I love working with Frog and I’m excited to see where our closer links with Frog takes our VLE. I’ve returned from Halifax inspired and today has already seen some exciting developments regarding our platform with plenty more to follow.

Exciting times ahead – Merry Christmas!

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Tablets in your music lab?

Whilst waiting for a repair authorisation on a Macbook the other day (bad Apple, naughty Apple), I caught sight of this – the Akai Synthstation.  This, at last, appears to be an answer to a problem:

For some time now, there’s been lots of talk about tablet hardware in class however such discussion often stems from an eagerness to find uses for new technology as opposed to trying to solve pre-existing issues via deployment of alternatives.  The Synthstation is a distillation of why I think Apple (and those affiliate manufacturers who play nice with them) have really ‘got’ it – true integration of the hardware with the tablet – even those of us that are somewhat technolgy-averse can see the potential benefits.  For certain tasks, it’s possible to remove the need for a ‘host pc’ entirely, gaining desk space, reducing power consumption, licensing costs and classroom clutter.  Instead, using a Synthstation (or similar) to work with the iPad allows music to be created, edited and shared in class with greater ease than ever before.

Before anyone suggests it – this isn’t an advert!  I’m going to petition my place of work to get one and trial it and will post the findings (both positive AND negative) on here, in case anyone else is interested.

 

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Technical planning and implementation – whose responsibility is it?

It’s an all-to-common issue that new technology arrives in school, usually generating a buzz among early adopter staff and is proudly trotted out at open evenings and via various publications to impressed looks and knowing nods of approval, but what then?  In fact, what happens a month, term or even year later?  Recently I’ve been doing a lot of research into tablet computing and something that comes up again and again is that it’s very much a technology that relies on the user putting significant time into considering the possible uses that the gear can be put to.  But where does this come from?  If a school is fortunate, it will enjoy an element of the staff who actually embrace and revel in the opportunity to see how things can be done differently,however in many cases there are plenty of teachers and support staff for whom change has to be managed carefully to avoid fears of alienation or being considered somehow ‘preachy’.

So, do we leave it to the techno-enthusiasts to get things going?  In my opinion, not at all.  Enthusiasm gets you a long way, but it can make you blind to the real-world benefits of certain technology, and possible alternatives.  How can we motivate as many staff as possible to get thinking about the possibilities of new equipment?  Here are some of my thoughts:

1). Build a project team, but mix it up – ideally a blend of technical and teaching staff.  The whole team don’t have to be involved with the day-to-day running and reporting of the project but you’ll find answers easier to come by if there’s a broad skill set on tap.  Senior Leadership involvement would naturally be of a benefit but there’s plenty of opportunity to empower other staff by giving them the chance to make a difference and shape the future of the schools’ technological adoption.

2). Be transparent – don’t make a secret of trials or plans.  Make the mission statement and list of ongoing projects available to all, invite contributions and actively seek interaction outside of ‘the group’ – this will help to avoid the feeling that the projects could become ‘personal’.  Consider using ‘public’ forums, shared documents and public demonstration sessions to develop this.

3). Don’t be afraid to fail.   Personally, I’d rather spend £500 now to save £10,000 later.  Consider purchasing trial equipment and sharing it out where possible, but keep ‘prodding’ for feedback and results – if the equipment languishes in a drawer, move it on.

4). Stop ticking boxes.  Chances are, if your project begins with ‘we need iPads’ then you’re already on shaky ground.  Take a step back and look at what you’re trying to achieve and relate this back to real world goals.  If the equipment you’re considering purchasing cannot be evaluated against the schools’ wider aims, then the project is unlikely to be giving useful results when considered to be complete.

5). Be aware of factors outside of your control.  Let’s go back to ‘we need iPads’.  Okay, we hear you!  So what does this mean for infrastructure, deployment, lockdown and management?  Do we need to investigate the purchase of additional equipment, software or training to support the equipment?  If so, what is the TRUE cost of this and in what order should these be approached.

6). Factor in resistance.  There are a million reasons why staff, and even students can be indifferent to the introduction of technology – it can be viewed with suspicion, fear or even plain ol’ ignorance.   Users often need time, exposure and repeated encouragement to come to their own conclusions regarding the usefulness (or otherwise) of technology but sometimes these need challenging via the circulation of best practise and the showcasing of exceptional implementation elsewhere in the institution.

7).  The most important part?  Have a plan.   This shouldn’t really be a point on its own but it’s so important that it surely justifies its inclusion.  It’s not possible to evaluate technology using the same metrics year on year, things change and your projects should reflect this – think of it as a 360 degree appraisal!  Projects should be reviewed not just as a means of concluding them but to allow them to develop and morph into future projects – this WILL help those involved develop a greater understanding of how these things fit together.

As usual this is just my own personal opinion, but thanks as always for reading and I hope you found it useful!

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Two 16 Space Lap Cabbys Available!

In case anyone is interested, my place of work (St Albans High School for Girls) has TWO 16-unit LapCabbys up for grabs – they are both heavily used, a bit creaky but come with one key (each) and DO work and could be useful for someone?

They must go to another school and are free to a good home!  Please let me know if you’re interested in these, they must be collected at your own expense and are as seen!  You don’t have to make a donation, but if you wanted to that would be most appreciated!

Contact me via ‘About’ above or on twitter @button_bashing if interested!

Movember: Looking daft for charity

Together with some of my colleagues at the wonderful St Albans High School for Girls, I am donating my face to ‘Movember’ this year, in support of raising awareness of Men’s Health and in particularly, cancer.

If you’d like to donate, please follow this link http://mobro.co/stahs – any donation, no matter how small, would be great!

I shall post some before and after shots, be prepared to be underwhelmed!  Those that know me will no doubt be pleased to hear that my ‘rock beard’ has already become a casualty of Movember!

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Google Plus – It’s not going well, is it?

Oh dear.  It somehow had a feeling of inevitability about it, but Google Plus just doesn’t seem to be making much of an impact.  I’m not calling in the undertakers, but wonder whether it can really make the statement Google so badly want.

I’ve tried to like it, it makes sense for me to use it as I’m a GMail user (and a big fan) and I use a lot of Google App services, but Google Plus is failing to tie it together.

Of course, Google tells a different story – squillions of users sign up every day, but as ever the numbers are only part of it.  Early figures showed encouraging signs that users were registering in their droves – my fellow early adopters, keen to see what the Buzz (oops) was all about.  However, looking in on it these days feels like it’s already stagnated as a service and the pessimist in me already fears it’ll go the same way as W*ve and Bu*z (sorry Google, it doesn’t feel fair to speak their names!)

However, Google is nothing if not persistant – it WILL make it work to some degree – it has to, as it can’t sit and watch Facebook biting its thumb in its direction much longer.   But how to convince users to jump ship?  They could just wait for Facebook to do it themselves, after all, recent changes to Facebook’s ‘Top Stories & Most Recent’ feed had users frothing at the mouth and threatening to reactivate long-lost Myspace and Friendster accounts in rage.

Realistically though, to loosely quote one of my favourite films ‘No-one gives it to you, you gotta take it’, Google NEEDS to have something it can shout about from the rooftops and really move us onto the next level of Social Networking.  The difficulty for them is finding something that is attractive to enough Facebook users to make all the related hassle of porting across worthwhile and it’s here where I think Google slightly misunderstands the different roles in Social Networking:

1). Broadcaster.   We all have them, the friends that merrily update their status with what they just ate, their journey to work and their cats’ every thought.

2). The Stalker.   The user who, despite replying to every utterance from their favourite Broadcaster with a volley of ‘likes’, ‘lol’s and inane ‘You go, girlfriend’ comments, doesn’t really dare put much of their own personality out there.

3). The Mystery.  Remember Friends Reunited?  Remember those people that clearly registered just to check if everyone else was having a better time than they were?  The Mystery is an engima, wrapped up in the anonymity of the Internet – they are a name, a sillouhette or perhaps a distant photo taken on top of a mountain somewhere, on a Tuesday.

4). The Social Butterfly.  This is the new breed, the people who were born to exist in a public theatre, admired by many and always first to the bar – but can you remember their Birthday?  Or actually their Surname? Hmmm…

5). The Advertiser.  I think we know what’s going on here.  Regretting saying you ‘Liked’ Whiskas cat food?  Fed up of the constant status updates offering 25p-off coupons?  Still, at least my friends are under no illusions as to my preferred choice of Meow Chow.

So, returning to the point of this post?  Google doesn’t know what to do with Advertisers, Mysteries and Stalkers – it doesn’t really want Advertisers using Google Plus as an alternative to Sponsored Advertising, it doesn’t want Mysteries to make its platform look bad by never putting anything out there and it certainly doesn’t want Stalkers, as it’s created the tools (circles) to be able to deal with them in a way that Facebook never really got to grips with.

In short, Google still doesn’t get the different ‘faces’ of social networkers.  Until it does, Google Plus stands to be quite a lonely place to be.

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FAO: iPad and iPhone users – Free Storage!

Just a head’s up, I have no connection with the company, but it strikes me as quite a nifty offer!  50GB of free online storage for iPhone and iPad users!

http://blog.box.net/2011/10/12/were-giving-ios-users-insane-amounts-of-free-storage-box50gb/

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