Delayed Blogging from ICT Research Expo – The Other Sessions

Well, if you read the last two posts and were confused, a little bit of background is in order. Today I attended the ICT Research Expo at TSOF which featured presentations from the 2005 ICT Research Grants. The Action Research Grants have been a DECS initiative since 2003 and I was lucky enough to score one back then for the development of student friendly school websites, working with my class and my good educator friend, Lindsay and his class. I was encouraged to take a look today by my principal especially as several of the presentations featured the use of Interactive Whiteboards. Our network manager came along for a look too so it was good to have a professional colleague to bounce thoughts and ideas with. As the previous entries showed, I had a go at live blogging using the wireless network at TSOF but I wasn't too brave. I used the Tablet PC input panel to scribe as I went, turning my scrawl into the Open Office Writer document and pressing save regularly to avoid loss of text. At the end of each session, I cut and pasted into my blog and posted. By the third session, I'd had enough and listened to Mike Roach's presentation on live NASA feeds into his high school Science classes and listened like a regular human being.

After that, I still recorded my impressions but I'm sticking them all in one post here a couple of hours after the event. I don't think that it'll make much difference as they were my thoughts as I listened and I'm no David Warlick or Stephen Downes whose thoughts I might like to read as they unfold!

So you've got an Interactive Whiteboard! Now what?
Beth Measday, Ingle Farm PS.

I've referenced this research report before over at Activboarding so I knew the gist of her conclusions prior to this presentation. I would also say that Beth is an extremely engaging speaker and I can see how she will be a tremedously succesful consultant for Electroboard, the distributors of SmartBoards here in Australia. Consequently, Beth is an active proponent of the SmartBoard brand but I've been really keen to hear what she has to say re: IWB technology in general terms as her research was not brand based. This fits with what I've been exploring with about whether IWB technology is the best way to go. Beth also wanted to look at how to support teachers to become powerful uses of IWB in their classrooms. She started by using the DECS ICT skills and abilities survey and found 75% of teachers were at the basic level. She started the implementation by getting the staff in three phases - the keen, the ones who saw the keen users and wanted one, then the reluctant teachers. She ran regular weekly sessions to support those teacher for just in time learning, Beth talked about "play to learn"as her preferred model of learning, but different teachers need different learning structures as well. The first group of teachers filled the "play to learn" model but the second group needed a "trickle feed" model. Some needed a "read the manual" approach and other wanted a 1:1 approach. Beth commented that if those teachers had to offer that to their students that would be a different matter! Training and time to learn is essential for success. A key factor for the last group was essential technical support. It was also key to have the software available on all computers and important to disperse the expertise on staff to have more than one way of troubleshooting problems. IWB's also increase the use of other technologies - scanners, camera, slates etc. I even got to ask a question. How do you move teachers from using it as primarily a teaching tool towards using it as a learning tool? Beth's reply was that at her school,the IWB has never been used as a teaching tool only. However, she qualified that by saying that she had seen the transition from teacher designed materials extensively prepared prior to now getting the students to construct lessons as they went through the day.

Improved Learning Outcomes for Anangu Students on the use of ActivBoards.
Kathy Smerdon (AESEO Ernabella), Gail Carroll, Kirstie Holmes and Bianca Lally (Mimili Anangu School)

This was a very cool session as it was beamed in via Centra - ie Powerpoint Show and online voice and video link (webcam) controlling the presentation. After an intro, the presenters (apologies, I lost track of who was speaking when) played the Photostory file about the project to give some background to Mimili. One of their aims was to cater for the Anangu way of learning, particularly the use of images to demonstrate a concept - their point of success was in helping the students to move from concrete concepts to more abstract understanding via the IWB. The staff take up has been steadily growing. Whatever level the staff starts at, an IWB is a tool that they can get started with in the integration of ICT. The relative isolation of these communities means that professional development and technical support is a major issue. They did say that they have had very little trouble with the Activboards. They support each other via network meetings, training across the district and are still working on ways to share their resources via their district website on Commander's website.

Are blogs an effective tools to support SHIP students research collaboratively and to improve literacy?
Kirsty Amos, Grant High School.

She takes a SHIP (Students with High Intellectual Potential) class and wanted to investigate show communication skills could be improved via the use of blogs. After a quick explanation of blogs and RSS, she moved onto describing the project. The blog system was set up internally and completely protected. The aim was to get them out onto the world wide Web, but that didn't eventuate. Kirsty said they were glad that it didn't progress to that stage as one child had blogged about an inappropriate topic and because of the closed system, it could not be traced back. She referenced Peter Ruwoldt's metaphor of the using the internet like a road when a child starts crossing the road, you hold their hand, as they get older, you accompany them etc...until they are aware enough and skilled enough to do so. Used a set up called Serendipity on their local server and subscribed to each other's RSS feed. When the students started a lot of them used TXT language. Again, access to computers was key to success and Grant High School used a thin client setup to have lots of computers available reading from the server.(Correct me of I'm wrong, Peter.) Kirsty actually said that the kids were losing some of their interest now. She did say that the research proved their theory that blogging has the capacity to improve communication skills. The project did encounter a lot of technical hitches along the way - if she did it again, she would use a public blog server. (I suggest learnerblogs.) She gave us the example of a student who was gaining acceptance and being listened to via this medium. A very interesting research project and of interest to the wider edublogosphere - I think the report link above will yield more in depth information.

Using iMovies to reflect on, understand and change learner behaviour.
Mark Hansen, Gilles Plain PS

This project focused on the use of movies to improve some poor behaviours. The child whose behavior was being targeted had to create a movie that portrayed themselves and showed different choices that could be made. It also showed the child how they would appear to others. The child owned the video and could choose to share it with his peers if he wished. Mark's point was that you get powerful results in video if the stories are about the students themselves and about what could really happen.

That's it - these are only my formative thoughts that I scrawled as it unfolded. It can be hard to focus properly when you are trying to get sentences down but a recent Stephen Downes post had me wanting to try the live blogging thing to see how it flies for my immediate learning. I might try some reflective posts later.

Or not.

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