Kevin Blissett: Out of the Cave

Leadership, Classroom 2.0, Curriculum, China

Top eLearning Tools

Jane Hart at Jane’s E-Learning Tip of the Day lists her compilation below of the top 10 e-tools for learners and top 10 e-tools for professionals (hat tip: David Hopkins at eLearning Blog//Don’t Waste Your Time).

Top 10 Tools for Learners

The current Top 10 list of tools for learners, based on contribution of 47 Learners AS AT 4 APRIL is:

  1. Google Search
  2. YouTube
  3. Firefox
  4. Twitter
  5. Delicious
  6. Facebook
    Google Reader

Top 10 Tools for Learning Professionals

The current top 10 tools for learning professionals to use in their own professional practice for creating learning “solutions” for others and their own productivity is AS AT 4 APRIL as follows, based on the contributions of 21 learning professionals

  1. Delicious
  2. Twitter
  3. Skype
  4. Slideshare
  5. Google Reader
  6. Google Docs
  7. Audacity
    Google Search

I’m currently using almost all of these tools, and I’m slowly introducing more of them to my students. Many of the tools have had a profound impact on the way I teach and keep up to date in education, and on the way my students learn and produce. 

I might also add Digg to the list as I use it often to find top articles on topics of interest.


April 21, 2009 Posted by | social media, strategies, technology, tools | Leave a comment

UK Teachers: “Phew!”

So the UK’s Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, assures a teachers’ group the the recent revamping of the national curriculum will not forgo inspiring the nation’s children with a strong dose of history so that it can include skills related to Twitter and other social media. Well, isn’t that special!

First of all, any school curriculum that does not adequately include teaching learners about the past is no curriculum, in my mind. Moreover, as I’ve been pushing since day one on this blog here and here, it shouldn’t be an either/or proposition. History and the other core subjects are essential; and so is teaching students the skills they need in today’s world. There is time enough for a skilled teacher to fit them both in.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | social media, twitter | Leave a comment

Ride the Technological Wave in Classrooms, or Get Left Behind

ride-waveThere continues to be resistance among some in education who see learning social networking skills and online publishing as somehow outside of the framework of the set curriculum. I could not disagree more. I have seen my learners’ writing skills improve astronomically via use of our classroom blogs, and recognize that so much of social interaction, finding a job, shopping, etc. is being done online. These are skills that must be developed–emphasizing the benefits as well as the dangers–in order to prepare learners for success in their future lives.

Julie Lindsay addresses this topic in her e-Learning Journeys blog. An excerpt:

I tried to explain that my class does not end when the students work out the door. The collaboration, interaction and socialisation continues. My students interact with each other, they interact with me, their teacher, via online tools of various names and varieties which could all come under the broad term of ‘social networking’. They have their own online areas, including digital portfolios, as well as community areas. They post to blogs and respond to each other. They are out there using social bookmarking, folksonomy, class wikis, creating podcasts and vodcasts and putting them online, using social imaging (flickr) and anything else I can think of to encourage motivation and excitement in their ultimate quest for learning. I do not apologise for this. I do not essentially see anything wrong with this in 21st century learning. In fact this approach has changed my whole teaching style and changed the way I interact with the students. The development of PLEs (personal learning environments) and ubiquitous and mobile computing means I now start my classes with ‘…open your blogs, refer to the class wiki…etc’ rather than ‘..take out your books and copy from the board’.

Read more.

Photo by San Diego Shooter

April 19, 2009 Posted by | skills, social media, technology | Leave a comment

Finding a Social Media Crack in the Great Wall

This article from TechCrunch details the difficulties that top social media sites are having trying to break into the massive Chinese market.

April 6, 2009 Posted by | social media, technology | Leave a comment

The Death of the Classroom?

I just happened upon an interesting though logically incomplete article entitled “Long Live Instructor-Led Education” by Saul Carliner of Concordia University outlining his reasons for believing that face to face classroom instruction is not being threatened by e-learning courses and training. While I tend to agree with him in principle, I do not believe he offers the strongest arguments for his position. Carliner begins by suggesting that instructor-led classrooms are not being hurt by the current world recession:

For those of you thinking the current recession is the jarring event that will result in a revolution in learning; think again. Although a speaker at Online Educa in Berlin this past December predicted that entire training departments will be obliterated in the recession, that’s only likely to happen if the rest of the organizations these departments serve are obliterated. Otherwise, what we have learned from previous recessions is that training receives—on average—equal treatment. That is, if the overall staff of an organization is cut 10 percent, then the training staff is cut 10 percent, as Training magazine reported in 1993 when it analyzed spending on training during the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s, and in 2002, when ASTD analyzed spending during that recent recession.

Fair enough. I accept the statistics as accurate. However, he does admit that the recession will likely increase the number of instructor-led e-courses. Won’t an increase in the number of these online courses lead to a decrease in face to face courses and, accordingly, an overall decrease in the number of teachers/trainers?

Carliner next approaches the meat of his argument by averring that formal classroom learning will not be replaced by informal learning–exemplified by blogging, social media, etc.–for the following reasons:

a) Informal learning is flawed. It is too narrowly focused and “sporadic.” That is, the learning does not have a proper context and is, consequently, unconnected. I tend to agree with this point.

b) Informal learning is inaccurate:

  • Content errors are higher.
  • Sources are unverified or not properly documented.
  • Bloggers, for example, are relying on other inaccurate bloggers, which compounds the problem.
  • Writing is not as meticulous.

These points do not appear to be very convincing. Ultimately sourcing a piece of writing, be it a university research paper or a blog post, depends entirely on the writer. You can have sloppy essay writers as well as sloppy bloggers. I suppose his point is that having face to face interaction reduces the possibility of error due to accountability to the instructor. However, aren’t bloggers accountable to a far larger audience, which has no compunctions about “calling out” and correcting the poster on shoddy writing? Wikipedia is a good example of this. Errors tend to be pointed out fairly quickly, perhaps even more quickly than a teacher would do in marking a term paper.

c) Interruptions cause a breakdown in the learning process.

No problems with point “c.”

d) Social media is often not a proper mode of training:

  • Quantity of users does not equal quality of content. (Ain’t that the truth.)
  • A study shows that only 21% of social media users actually create their own content and multimedia.
  • Research indicates that face to face interaction is still more effective socially.

Carliner seems to echo my own thoughts here.

He concludes by posing a question: Then, why are many bloggers trumpeting the “Death of the Classroom”? Carliner explains this–rather simply–by reasoning that bloggers hold this position because they feel that they have learned effectively via e-learning so everyone else can too. While he may be correct, this is not a very strong point.

We are a long way from abandoning the tried and true learning practices of the past in the face of the technological onslaught encircling us; however, using a high dose of technology in the classroom setting is not only preferable but essential.

April 2, 2009 Posted by | social media, teaching quality, technology | Leave a comment

My Students’ Progress via Class Blog

create_a_blog_best_free_hosted_publishing_services_mini-guide_size485My Year 11 students and I are really enjoying our class blog. I’m seeing a side of their creativity that I would not have seen otherwise, I’m guessing. The students are engaged, innovative, and genuinely seem to be excited about posting even if it’s an “assignment.”

Basically I’m having them do three types of post: One is a summary assigned to one student every day detailing what we did in class; the next is a daily reflection on most any topic; the third is a specific writing assignment which we collaborate on.

What I’m noticing is that I’m no longer spending time on discrete grammar lessons, and the students seem to be learning grammar faster because the learning is more meaningful. I highly recommend the use of class blogs for any subject.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | social media, technology | Leave a comment

Another Either/Or Choice?

Digital Education reports that UK schools will be forgoing some content in the National Curriculum in favor of learning classroom 2.0 skills like Tweeting, blogging, podcasting, social media networking, etc. This is another one of those choices that I don’t believe is “either/or.” Learners will need some instruction in learning these skills, but I doubt that a considerable amount of content needs to be excluded in order to accomplish the task. Quoting from The Guardian:

“The proposals would require…children to leave primary school familiar with blogging, podcasts, Wikipedia and Twitter as sources of information and forms of communication.”

And from Digital Ed:

Even before the new documents are released they are fueling debate over content in UK schools. I can just imagine the response it will bring from subject-area specialists: Without the content, will students have anything meaningful to blog about?

March 28, 2009 Posted by | social media, twitter | Leave a comment

Social Media in the Classroom

Christopher Sessums breaks down an article on businesses’ use of social media and wonders whether the same questions asked of those engaged in business media should be asked of educators wishing to use social media in the classroom.

Sessums states:

What I like most about Chandler’s metrics is their candor. For example, a question like “How does this application further our goal?” begs the question: “What is our goal?” — a great place to start! 

Questions such as “How do we measure the results?” and “Do our customers [nee users] want to communicate this way?”

The questions I’m asking are “How would I use social media in the classroom?” and “How would I measure the results?” Certainly there are a number of ways to write in social media, but the fact is that the most writing people do is to update their status. I would be interested in investigating applications for the classroom. I enthusiastically use social media in my personal and professional life, but I’m straining to see how my enjoyment could extend to my students in a concrete and productive way. I would love some comments and ideas.

March 23, 2009 Posted by | social media, technology | Leave a comment