Monday, November 8, 2010

Twitter and the teaching of History #gtp2010

I've been absolutely inspired by Winchester House School's use of Twitter to make the Gunpowder plot come alive over a number of days. See and

This is a prime example of teachers embracing the technology to make it work for them and their learners and I'm so grateful that examples like that exist because it makes my work so much easier! Hats off to @chrisleach78 who is the brainchild of this inventive use of Twitter for History. It's worth looking at his blog for other interesting ideas. I only came across it because I follow @deputymitchell, another inspirational teacher. We have much to learn in FE when it comes to this level of creativity!

Can't wait for my next opportunity to share the use of Twitter with FE teachers and to see the light bulbs come on above their heads ;-)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Google Docs has a new fan

In the last two weeks, I have created more Google docs, forms, presentations and spreadsheets than ever before. To use an analogy I read in one of Doug Belshaw's blog posts (and I think he attributes the idea to someone else...), it's sunrise time for Google Docs in my world.
So what is the sun setting on at the same time? Etherpad. Having touted it for a while now, the various incarnations available out there (piratepad, ietherpad, typewithme) have been less and less reliable. (With the exception of PrimaryPad, probably, as it's being lovingly maintained by @johnmclear). When using Etherpad, we have also 'itched' for more functionality and that's exactly what we're getting now with Google Docs.
A year or two ago, I wouldn't have relied on Google Docs for my training events. Formatting was a nightmare on the 'Word' equivalent. The spreadsheets did funny things when you scrolled across or down it - data cells crossed over so you weren't sure what you were looking at.
Coming back to it a year later, using the Word equivalent is like using Etherpad, with the chat pane on the right hand side, only this time, we can embed pictures as well, yes!
Multiple people can edit the document directly yet you can keep this as a private document between a group of people (unlike Etherpad) or you can create a public document, turning the doc effectively into a wiki-like page.
A group of trainees and I tried this with Google Presentation too. For feedback and reflection, I asked each person to edit a slide. This helped to structure the input a little bit, compared with using a Doc or Etherpad. @tombarrett inspired the idea as he uses Google presentations to collate ideas together.
And I've gone mad on Forms. What a lovely invention. And all the lovely templates you can apply to them. :-) They are so easy to set up, with the results going into a Spreadsheet (Google of course) with instant graphing feedback. Wow. All my event evaluation forms have now gone online. Unlike the drama involved in getting people to fill in an evaluation on Moodle...but that's another story ;-)
And as I've mentioned in a previous post, is my favourite URL shortener at the moment as having a Google account means that you have a record of all the stuff you've ever shortened. You get the Google analytics to tell you how many users access the site using one OS versus another. (Not sure why I might want that info at the moment, but might be handy in future.) My only gripe is that I need another column so I can fill in a personal reminder of what the link is!
And when you're making a Doc, Spreadsheet or Presentation shareable, why not give you a URL in the first place? Maybe someone from Google will read this and get it implemented pronto...
I know there's loads of other Google bits that are immensely useful but they will surface in my world when it is their time.
One tutor did bring up the fact that we ought to be careful using something like that in teaching and learning - what about Google and privacy concerns? Hmmm, valid point but IMHO, it's a case of how paranoid you want to be. With the stuff that I'm doing at training events, I'm not too bothered who sees it - share and it all comes back to you manifold!