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This has been a very busy half term, both in terms of school work (it’s been exam season) and also as regards other very interesting things that have been on in the background. I’ll be talking about the OpenSourceSchools project, Bett and TeachMeet 09, being filmed about the use of Web 2.0 in the classroom and the use of computer mediated communication.
Last year, I was asked to participate in a Becta sponsored project called OpenSourceSchools, which aims to promote the use of free and open source software in schools. I was asked to write a case study on using WordPress, an open source blogging and content management platform that I am using to host a classroom blog, interactive exercises and grammar podcasts for my students. I also attended a meeting in London which was really a brain storming session on the best way to launch their new website, which really aims to be the hub of a community of practitioners involved in the use and promotion of open source software.
Well, the website launched officially just in time for this year’s BETT exhibition, after much hard work by Miles Berry particularly, but also by other keen case study writers and forum instigators who have collaborated in the production of such a great resource. Miles also coordinated a seminar session at BETT in which he extolled the benefits of Moodle, the open source VLE, Michelle Walters explained how she is using OpenOffice at her school, Doug Belshaw demonstrated how he is using netbooks running Linux in his lessons and I showed how Audacity, the open source sound recorder and editor, can be used by both students and teachers as a tool for creativity and assessment. You can watch this presentation in full here.
BETT and TeachMeet
The BETT exhibition itself was a much more enjoyable experience this year, after a very disappointing first contact, if you like, last year, when I felt overwhelmed by the sheer size of the event but underwhelmed by the relative lack of offer for classroom teachers (I felt most of it was aimed at school managers and ICT directors and the like).
This year, however, I was there for 2 days, so, for a start, I had more time to look around and take more in. Secondly, having learnt from my experiences last year, I planned my visit carefully and went straight to the stands which interested me, mainly to do with language teaching resources. It is often the non-customised little stands hidden away on the first floor that are actually of more use to the classroom practitioner, rather than the big corporate behemoths taking acres of prime space on the ground floor.
But once again the best of BETT for me this year was the TeachMeet unconference, which was organised and compered masterfully by Drew Buddie and Ian Usher. TeachMeets are, as the name implies, teacher meetings where like minded teachers come together and share practice and experiences, and are often described as the best CPD event you can ever go to. Go to the TeachMeet website to find out more and where and when the nearest TeachMeet to you is happening.
Web 2.0 Film
Right, let’s go back to school now. In my last (and first!) half-term review I told you about how I had been using Go!Animate, which is a website that allows you and your students to create cartoon animations, to help my pupils practise vocabulary and dialogues in Spanish. Well, my students and I were very fortunate to be asked by Theo Kuechel and Leon Cych to take part in the filming of a CPD course they are putting together on behalf of the TDA, the Training and Development Agency for Schools. The video will show my students using Go!Animate and being interviewed about the use of Web 2.0 in the classroom. The course will be available online as from September 2009 and you can read about our experiences both here and in our classroom blog.
Computer Mediated Communication
Also in my classroom, there has been a definite consolidation of our use of computer mediated communication. In my previous half term review, I mentioned that I was using both Ning, which a private social network, and Edmodo, a private microblogging platform, with my older 6th form students (16 to 18 year olds). This term has seen a natural gravitation towards Edmodo as the means of communication of choice for my students. I decided to let them use whichever of them they felt most comfortable with or best suited their needs and Edmodo definitely came up on top, which is why I am still recommending that you go and give it a go if you haven’t yet.
Computer mediated communication has definitely been an strong undercurrent for me in the past 3 months, not only because I am experimenting with it in my classroom and I have been studying it at more depth for my Masters Degree, but also because it has become more and more important for my own professional development. And what tool to better highlight this last point than Twitter, which is quite simply redefining the way I communicate with friends and peers in a way that is not quite synchronous or asynchronous, so older definitions of CMC simply begin to evaporate. After having reached a critical mass of friends and followers, Twitter has become an essential tool on my desktop on which I rely for support and information. Again, if you haven’t got your Twitter account yet, what are you waiting for?
As ever, let me know what your thoughts are about any of the topics mentioned above. Thank you!
Cover photo by the socialnomad