Online Collaboration – The Gift Culture

There are so many ways to collaborate online nowadays but what makes for effective online collaboration?

The NCSL wrote an evaluation/review of their online collaboration for Headteachers, 1000,00 Heads are Better than One and can teach us much. 

They found that online learning does not need new models of learning but that it refines existing models and that clarity about this enables us to determine the types of activities and purposes.

  • the behaviourist persepective looks at task completion through a sequence of activities, usually with a focused set of objectives or competencies. (the what)
  • the constructivist perspective looks at conceptual development by building understanding of broad principles. (the how)
  • the culturalist perspective looks at developing relationships through collaborative problem solving. (and the why)

Whilst this is about online learning, I think that it also captures online collaboration although it is noted that the first two theories could be undertaken without any collaboration.

Things that I have learned whilst running several online collaborative projects are:

  • just because it is built does not mean that people will use it
  • it needs to be as simple as possible.  People don’t have much time to go online on top of their work.
  • that online collaboration can be time limited – some projects stop once the task is completed, others continue.
  • face to face demonstration of how to use the tools is best with films easily available to remind people of how to do things.
  • clear purpose

Add comment Posted in  epict ,Module C  Tagged:  March 25, 2009

Images to support learning

There are many ways in which people have described or categorised the use of images to support learning and I want to see if my catogrisations for the use of images in literacy match with any others.

Becta’s description of the use of images in RE focuses around reflection and understanding and lists

  • support for concept development as well as knowledge and understanding – a prompt to encourage research into all aspects of a topic
  • stimulus to help pupils to identify feelings, emotions and mood, and to respond to these in appropriate ways
  • a point of interest and focus to inspire discussion of a topic, enabling pupils to interact, respond appropriately and create their own responses
  • a stimulus for writing to task and bearing an audience in mind, therefore enhancing creative and language skills
  • support for individual, paired and small group work, and therefore fostering collaboration and the sharing of a learning experience between pupils while also developing their ICT skills
  • a lead into follow-up tasks – researching and sourcing other images relevant to the religion, concept or theme being explored.

The links with literacy are met mostly through the first bullet point.

 The nrich site for maths discusses the use of images as being internal and external and here there are many links with literacy.  Both readers and writers use images.  Readers create them in their heads when reading and writers describe the images in their heads when writing (visualising).  In order to show children this, we have to externalise those images at first to show how to work with them and then children can use them internally.

Inspirations, the company that produces Kidspiration, the mind-mapping tool, categorises using images to:

  • Make abstract ideas visible and concrete (making literary techniques visible)
  • Connect prior knowledge and new concepts
  • Provide structure for thinking, writing, discussing, analyzing, planning and reporting (sequencing and structuring)
  • Focus thoughts and ideas, leading to understanding and interpretation (attention to intention)

This resonates very strongly with the categorisations for literacy.  We may use different language but mean the same things.  Our words are in brackets.

Add comment Posted in  epict ,Module M  Tagged:  , March 14, 2009

The role of digital images in learning

We have catgorised the use of ICT to learn (as opposed to learning to use ICT) as being bringing the outside in or the inside out.  It sounds like the hokey cokey but is a way of trying to explain the role images play in learning.

What does bringing the outside in and the inside out mean?

Bringing the outside in can be as simple as going on a trip and bringing the images back to use as a memory jogger back in the classroom.  It can also be a search on the internet to find some information to bring back and share with the class.  But bringing the outside in can also be taking new information in and adding it to your schema or understanding.

Bringing the inside out can be a concrete experience such as creating a film on Moviemaker which shows what you understand about the theme of a poetry or novel.  Here the images are used to help explain, structure and describe a child’s thinking.  Other words that could be used to describe these process are internalise and externalise.

What does it look like in practice?

These two do not usually work in isolation but form a circle of one leading into the other.  As an example a work of art was shared with a class of reception children.  They studied it carefully, explaining everything that they could see and what they thought the story behind it might be.  This would be using talk and an image to bring the outside in - internalising an understanding of the image.

 A group of children then went outside and using materials chosen by themselves created their own version of the picture.  This is externalising or bringing the inside out. The children asked an adult to take a photograph of their creation and showed this on the interactive whiteboard and the whole class discussed how accurately they had created the image.  Here the use of the photograph to discuss accuracy of creation was reinforcement of their understanding and was used as an outside in or internalising.





The whole class then looked at the image and compared the two.  Here in looking and describing the image the children have

Add comment Posted in  epict ,Module M  Tagged:  February 24, 2009

Using Images to Support Non-Fiction Writing

A writer wants to convey or create images in the reader’s mind.  In fiction this image is the writer’s creation which can be conjured up in the reader using any number of devices.  In non-fiction it is not an imagined image which is being conveyed but an actual image.  When writing a non-chronological report about tigers and their conservation it is not enough to describe the image in the writer’s head.  It must be accurate and the language and devices used must be to convey clarity and precision.  It must also out of necessity be technical.

In fiction an activity freqeuntly used it to take a piece of text, even that which is well written, and look at word choice and offer alternatives that could be used.  In a piece of well written non-fiction this activity is almost impossible.  To say that a bird ‘swoops’ when it siezes prey should describe exactly the shape of the flight path taken by the bird and also conveys something about the speed of it.  It would be hard to replace this word with any other that so precisely describes both aspects.  If the word ‘dives’ were used it would bring an image of a different flight path and speed.

To support non-fiction writing it is therefore essential that we use first-hand experiences but also capture images to help us describe what we see accurately.  These images may be still or moving depending upon what is being written about.

The purpose of the image is to be able to look at it again and again to find the exact words that can be used to describe precisely so that the reader can ‘see’ the object, process, activity with clarity.  For example in instrucions you may say something such as ‘Whisk the batter until it has the consistency of thick milk.’  The addition of the batter’s consistency helps the maker of the batter to be really clear about what their batter should look like and implicit in it is the fact that there are no lumps.  Children do not always include this type of detail in their writing and so we need to use images to revisit the experience to draw out the particular type of language needed.

One of the most successful activities to develop this type of language is to use the phrase ‘say what you see’.  Children could look at a picture and be given a short amount of time to jot down what they can see in the picture to describe it.  The teacher can then intervene and take the children on a journey around the picture asking questions – how could you describe the……, what shape are they making, look at the …….., could you use a simile here to say what this looks like, what pattern would you call this ?  The children can then look again at the picture and spend 3 or 4 minutes jotting down further phrases.  The time element (or lack of it) is important here as it creates a tension which produces unusual combinations which can be played with later.  Words and phrases can be shared and a zone of relevance can be used to plot the examples. 

A zone of relevance is a series of concentric circles arranged to look like a bulls-eye target.  The bulls-eye has the highest relevance which decreases as you move out.  A part of the image is chosen such as the way the tiger moves when hunting and all the words and phrases for that are measured for clarity and precision and are placed in the circles with the best on the bulls-eye.



Add comment Posted in  epict ,Module M  Tagged:  , , February 22, 2009

Day 31 of 31 days to be a better blogger

Well, I have made it to day 31 although I do still have some challenges to go back and complete.  My learning curve has been incredibly steep.  Below are some of the biggest lessons learnt:

  • blogging is about contacting, collaborating and commenting
  • google analytics will tell you how many people are visiting, where they are from, what they are looking at and how long they look at it amongs other things.  In fact I have learnt so much here that I have put google analytics onto our website .  What I also know is that my intended audience, literacy subject leaders in Devon, are not visiting the blog.  This means that we will promote it at our next subject leader meetings and then I will be able to track the impact that has and whether people come back again
  • technorati will let me know about the links to my blog and rank me (very low).  This has been useful as I have had a couple that I didn’t know about
  • good blogging is about having content that people are interested in
  • that posts may become popular some time after you have written them.  I had one about digital fiction which has steadily grown in popularity probably because there is a link to it from a much more popular blog
  • that I don’t have any free time any more

I must say a big thank you to the rest of the group that are doing the 31 days challenge.  They are writing some great posts.  I subscribe to them all and will keep on reading them and commenting on them.  I will also come back top the challenges that I have missed out and complete them when the time is right.

Add comment Posted in  31 days to be a better blogger  Tagged:  February 15, 2009

Using Images in Literacy

Visual literacy is a necessary part of life nowadays.  It stands alone as an area in its own right but it can also be used to support the teaching and learning of reading and writing. This post is an attempt to describe how we do that.  We:-

  • use images to support understanding of literary techniques, e.g. putting title slides in a film that has been run through Moviemaker to show where there would be paragraph changes if it was a written text
  • use images to demonstrate understanding, e.g. collecting a group ofimages that reflect the meaning of a poem or the theme of a story (focus on images that show not tell)
  • use images to support memory and create a shared understanding, e.g this is most frequently used after a trip or a visitor to the classroom
  • use images to suppport vocabulary development, watch the film for an example of this

  • use images to support understanding of text structure, e.g. through sequencing activities which can develop to show flash backs and other time management techniques
  • use images to help create the message for the reader, e.g. choice of image in a persuasive text or an explanatory text
  • create film

Technorati Profile

Add comment Posted in  epict  Tagged:  , , , February 7, 2009

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and Web 2.0

If a new way of learning arises, does it follow that previous schema, understandings, theories will still hold true?  Now that we have web 2.0, or the read/write web as some prefer to call it, would it be true that Gardner’s multiple intelligences would still fit?

What I am learning about web 2.0 through interacting with social networking sites, forums, blogging and wikis is that it is all about collaboration.  They are all about creating connections with others in particular spheres and then entering into discussions and challenges.  And very often the feedback is instant.  I asked on twitter if anyone had heard of GoogleLitDocs and before 10 minutes was up I had about 22 responses. (Basically the answer was no!)  Through all of these connections I have what is called a Personal Learning Network (PLN) which is far greater and more diverse than my face to face network.  Through this network I have access to a varity of media, words, images – moving and still and sound.  The question is, how does the profile that I have of Gardner’s intelligences fit into this?

So what I have decided to do is list the tools that I use in my PLN and look at whether they fit the visual, auditory and kinesthtic modes of learning and then which multiple intelligences link to them.

Wikis and nings - visual – linguistic, interpersonal, intrapersonal  (ning – Images4education would also include visual/spatial)

Blog - visual – linguistic and can be inter and intrapersonal if it is a reflective blog and others comment on it and you reply)

Twitter – visual – linguistic, inter and intrapersonal   

Facebook – visual – inter and intrapersonal, visual/spatial

TeacherTube/SlideShare – visual, auditory – visual/spatial, musical, inter and intrapersonal

So from this list most of the intelligences are covered but naturalistic and kinesthtic aren’t.  There are tools that can cater for the kinesthetic such as Second Life (haven’t investigated this yet) but is there anything for naturalistic?

What I find interesting is that the number of times Gardner’s intelligences occurs in my list and how that equates with the results of  my intelligences survey.  Here I have ranked them according to the order that they came out on the survey and then the number of times they appear in my list.

  1. lingistic (3)
  2. intrapersonal (5)
  3. interpersonal (5)
  4. musical (1)
  5. naturalistic (0)
  6. kinesthetic (0)
  7. visual/spatial (2)

As web 2.0 is a collaborative tool it is not surprising that the inter and intrapersonal intelligences occur so frequently.  This is followed by linguistic and that again is not at all surprising as I think most of the places I go on the web are words and when you consider my profession.  So, what does this mean?

Well so far it would seem that the web 2.0 does cater for multiple intelligences although some are very necessary such as those intelligences needed for collaboration.



Add comment Posted in  epict  Tagged:  , , , , February 7, 2009

How was it for you?

My days are stretching at the moment as I take longer and longer to complete tasks and in some cases go back and update previous tasks.  However, I think I can now divide my tasks for the blog into three distinct activities;

Development - this is about writing posts that are interesting and that others want to read, finding your style and responding to others be they on your blog or reaching out to other bloggers.  This would include blogging about other sites/blogs and making a reader famous.

Housework – these are the rather boring activities that are best completed at regular intervals otherwise they become enormous.  They are things like checking for broken links, going back and adding links to forward posts and for me looking at Google analytics to see what is happening and whether I can link it to anything that I have done.  What I have discovered is that somethings are slow burners.  I posted about digital texts some time ago but recently someone tweeted about it and the number of hits to that page has increased.

Promotion - I hate this title but can’t think of anything else to describe it.  I have been contributing to nings, twitter and other blogs and where appropriate linking to my blog but only every now and then.  Is it that British rather reserved part of me coming out?  Probably.  I just keep thinking who on earth would be interested in what I am saying.

We are due to meet literacy subject leaders and will promote the blog with them.  I don’t mind doing this as this was the audience that I originally blogged for.  Google analytics shows me that not many are visiting.  I need to talk to them about why this is and what we can do about it.  Should be an interesting discussion.

Image by Laughing squid.



Add comment Posted in  31 days to be a better blogger  Tagged:  February 4, 2009

Day 14 of 31 days to be a better blogger

These past few days can be categorised as know your blog, and know the blogs in your niche.  This has meant becoming familiar with Technorati and Google blog search.

Technorati is fascinating.  You put a URL into it and it will tell you  the number of people linking to it (known as reactions)and who they are.  It will also allow you to add your blog to the list to get the same information on it.  This meant that I could look at blogs that were similar to mine and find out what their key tag words are and who is linking to them.  it is then worthwhile looking at those blogs. Google blog search allows you to set up alerts in Google Reader of blogs that use key words you have identified.  Through this I have identified a couple of blogs that are similar to mine and linked up with them.

I have also set up Google Analytics on the blog Literacy Resources to see who is visiting and where from.  I don’t have many visitors so the data is not overwhelming but I can imagine that it could become so.

From looking at the style of blogs in the same niche, there are several things coming through.  (I am looking at the Masters here). Most of them have a regular feature such as Chalk Talk from Angela Maiers and  from Jenny Luca , School’s Out – Friday.  These people post every day, and are also frequent tweeters.  I can’t manage such frequent posts but could manage a regular post every month.  I had thought of videos that are useful in the literacy classroom.  They also both have a friendly, informal style and I think I have too formal a style and too many How to … posts which just become a series of instructions with little personal input.  So, a slight style rethink and a little more inspiration!

Image An Old Mirror by  Storm Crypt  licensed under the Creative Commons Licence

Add comment Posted in  31 days to be a better blogger  Tagged:  , , January 24, 2009

Bloom’s Taxonomy – verbs not nouns

We should be teaching the verbs not the nouns.  This is the basis of Marc Prensky’s articles – Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants in 200l.  Rather than teach children Powerpoint, Word, Excel (the nouns) we should be teaching children to present, to communicate and to create (the verbs).  There are several reasons for this: the nouns may no longer be around in their current format when today’s children enter the workplace and each company probably uses different nouns.  Far better to learn the principles of effective communication using image, text and sound.  This will be relevant whatever the noun.

It was with great interest that I then read that Bloom’s taxonomy had been updated in 2001 by Lorin, et al.  Here the nouns had been converted to verbs to take into account new technology and the notion of the read/write web.

Knowledge to remembering; comprehension to understanding; application to applying; analysis to analysing; synthesis to evaluating and evaluation to creating.

Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS)

  • RememberingRecognising, listing, describing, identifying, retrieving, naming, locating, finding  (digital world – bullet pointing, bookmarking, socialnetworking, social bookmarking, searching, googling)
  • UnderstandingInterpreting, summarising, inferring, paraphrasing, classifying, comparing, explaining, exemplifying (digital world – advanced searches, Boolean searches, blog journaling, twittering, categorising, commenting, annotating, subscribing)
  • ApplyingImplementing, carrying out, using, executing (digital world – running, loading, playing, operating, hacking, uploading, sharing and editing)
  • AnalysingComparing, organising, deconstructing, attributing, outlining, finding, structuring, integrating (digital  world – mashing, linking, validating, cracking, media-clipping)
  • EvaluatingChecking, hypothesising, critiquing, experimenting, judging, testing, detecting, monitoring (digital world – blog commenting, reviewing, posting, moderating, collaborating, networking, testing)
  • Creatingdesigning, constructing, planning, producing, inventing, devising, making (digital world – film, animating, blogging -video and podcasting, mixing, re-mixing, wkiki-ing, directing, broadcasting)

Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS)

So how does this affect what we do in the classroom?  It means that we now have a language to judge the challenge of tasks that involve ICT and Web 2.0, in particular.   It means that we can evaluate the cognitive challenge of our lessons and shows that blogging etc is not just a diary or random thoughts but can engage us at the most challenging levels.

Other resources - original article that stimulated this post:, - description of taxonomy: - explanation of updated taxonomy and sub-categories

Image Once a noun now a verb by Twm licensed under the Creative Commons license


Add comment Posted in  epict  Tagged:  , , , , January 20, 2009

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