Friday, October 28, 2005

the British Council ICT Co-ordinators Handbook

It's been my day for discovering past projects.

The British Council ICT Co-ordinators Handbook is a collaborative project that came out of work following ICT courses around the world. It's basically aimed at an audience of British Council ICT coordinators, and I had assumed that it would only be published on the British Council intranet, so am pleasantly surprised to see it on a public website.

Much of the content will only be of interest if you work for the British Council (and there are many links to private British Council intranet pages), but there are some sections that may be of general interest.

One of these sections is the glossary, although, sadly to say it's already looking outdated!

Newspaper article - blogging

A while ago I was interviewed for El Periodico, a Spanish newspaper, for an article on blogging. I'd forgotten about it until I came across this pdf copy of the article.

Monday, October 17, 2005

IWB articles

Different opinions about IWBs recently expressed in the Guardian:

1. Chalk one up to the whiteboard: "The drive to get interactive whiteboards into British classrooms could be missing the bigger picture."

2. Interactive whiteboards let them see the light is about the use of the IWB in EFL. This passage in particular caught my eye: 

"The advantages for students may be even more compelling. The board encourages an "eyes-up", rather than "eyes-down" culture. It helps me to see that my students are with me and not lost somewhere in their own world. This has proved particularly effective with discussion activities."

3. In this school, the classroom revolution is now a reality - all 360 degrees of it

"Teachers circle the room in an experiment that could change the shape of education. And the pupils love it." 

Two positive and one negative view.

IWB Activboarding

Graham Wegner's helpful email about dealing with comment spam led me to discover both his ActivBoarding blog and also his Teaching Generation Z site.

I've been using the interactive whiteboard that Graham's blog deals with, so it's of particular interest to me. I have found that IWBs are a fascinating way of integrating technology in the classroom, and are producing changes to the way teachers approach their classes and lesson planning. Unfortunately they are very easy to use badly, and need careful thought and a lot of training and extra time and effort on behalf of the teacher before they can be fully integrated and used well.

In our school, we only have one IWB equipped classroom at the moment, which makes it difficult to judge the impact they make on the students' learning and on the teaching. What is true, however, is that they do require the teacher to plan their lesson well beforehand, thinking very carefully about what the students will see on the board during the class. They just don't work well if a teacher walks into a classroom without having prepared the 'boards' (usually called 'flipcharts' when designed for the IWB)previously.

And here is the rest of it.

Saturday, October 15, 2005 -- Free Web Logs For the Classroom

Thanks to Teresa for this link to a "weblog" client made specially for teachers.

I haven't tried it out yet, but certainly will. This is how it is described on the site:

" puts powerful management tools in the hands of the teacher while protecting students' privacy and identities. Students are added into virtual "class" by a teacher or instructor where they may keep a personal blog, interact with fellow students' blogs or react to topical blogs created by the teacher."

Friday, October 14, 2005

Comment Spam

A while ago, I turned off the commenting feature on this blog because I was hit by a lot of spam. I thought I'd give it a week or so and turn the feature on again, but I've just seen that my posts have been inundated by this junk.

Why me? It's strange - I really didn't think a blog like this would merit such attention. Or perhaps this blog comment spamming is now being done by bots? Anyway, I've turned off the commenting feature, which makes me a little sad, because it's one of the best things about blogging. It's actually ironic that I don't have a problem now with email spam - my gmail account has really worked wonders and I never get any spam.

So, my proposal is for any would-be-want-to-comment-people to send me an email and I'll attach your comments to the end of my posts. As I never get that many comments anyway, this seems like the easiest way to fix this problem. Unless any of you out there have any bright ideas...

Update 17/10/2005: Thanks for the bright ideas...

Graham, Sergei and Michael all suggested that it might be enough to turn on the word activation system in Blogger. They all suggested that this system will deal with the spam from bots at least. I've decided to try this out - if I get more spam, I'll turn the comments off though as I really don't have the time to eliminate them (I received about 60 spam comments the last time, and I still haven't erased them all).

Thanks also to Cleve, for the link to the post Turning off blog comments, which talks about why people might take the decision to turn off blog comments. It's not just about comment spam - some people turn off comments just because dealing with them take up a lot of time.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Dead Time Learning

The phrase Dead Time Learning has been used to refer "to time that you have where you're not really doing anything else and you could be learning. Commuting is probably the #1 opportunity for Dead Time Learning that most of us have. Exercising is another great time. You can even be a Dead Time Learner when you're doing chores around your house, brushing your teeth, making dinner, etc."

Of course, podcasting is one of the best ways of making use of this time for learning, and this is one of the reasons why it has attracted so much attention. Of course, this is great for me, and I have been taking advantage of the growing variety of podcasts about all manner of subjects to learn in time that previously I would have just not taken advantage of.

But, what about my students? And here comes the irony.If they were adults, I'm sure I'd be able to interest them in podcasts, but then few of them would actually have mp3 players to really take advantage of 'learning in dead time'.

The majority of my students are either young learners or university students and a high percentage of them own mp3 players, but I doubt that many of them will be interested in using their mp3 players to listen to podcasts in English. Maybe I'm wrong, but I just don't see them taking advantage of this way of mobile learning.

I am going to introduce podcasting to the, however. I've seen just how useful and interesting it can be, and I hope I'll be able to share this enthusiasm. And I hope to be able to convince at least some of them to try this idea of 'dead time learning'

Although I'm doubtful that many will take to it (especially at first), I think it is something that will appeal to a minority of students, and maybe others will come back to it when they start work and realise just how precious time is, and how lucky it is to be able to spend some of that dead time learning.