Dysgu Ponty

The Pontydysgu website is always full of news about the big projects we are involved in, like FP7 Learning Layers or Taccle2.  This is pretty inevitable as they take up the majority of our time and budget.  However, there are lots of other, smaller Pontydysgu projects running in the background that we rarely post anything about.  This is a bit of an oversight because although we often use these projects as test beds for trying out new ideas or as vehicles for piloting specific bits of technology that we then roll together in a much bigger package, they are also successful in their own right.

All of them are running in Pontypridd, (known locally as “Ponty”) which is where the Wales half of Pontydysgu is based. Some are part funded through the LLL Partnerships programme; some are funded in-house. We thought we might write a series of posts on what these projects are all about….

First up is Dysgu Ponty, which translates to Learning Ponty.  We chose this name because apart from the play on Pontydysgu (meaning approximately Bridge to Learning), we wanted to convey the idea that the whole community of Ponty was learning and that the town called Ponty was a learning resource.

The project is based on a very simple concept – let’s cover the town with QR codes linked to a learning resource.   The codes are being printed on decals (for shop windows), enamel (for the exteriors of building) and on varnished wooden plaques for hanging around trees in the park.  Codes come in three colours – red for Welsh, green for the English translation and black for careers.

So far we have 200 and our target is at least another hundred.  The town has a population of 30,000 but this covers all of the outlying villages as well.  It also has a great sense of community, which means that the level of support has been brilliant. The whole community is involved – schools, the Town Council, shops, businesses, the local newspaper

The link from each QR code goes to a website page on which there is a question that relates to the location.  The level is approximately 8 -12 yrs olds. Following the title question is some simple information using a range of multi media.   The location of the codes will be on Google Maps and we are currently sorting them out into a ‘Maths trail’, ‘Language trail’, ‘History trail’ etc so that children can choose whether to follow a subject trail or focus on the codes in one part of the town.

The purpose of the project is really to provide a bridge between formal and informal learning and to improve home school links.

We are currently working of a way of  ‘rewarding’ children for completing a number of questions – not sure Mozilla badges quite fits.  Also thinking about how we can get kids to be able to upload pictures as well as comments. May rethink the platform.

Meanwhile here are some examples of the sorts of things we are talking about

Location:  on the bandstand in the park

  • Links to… Question:  Have you ever heard brass band music?
  • Additional ‘information’ – mp3 of Colliery Brass Band with one line of text explaining that most all the pits had their own band

Location: Outside Costa Coffee

  • Links to… Question: Do you know where coffee comes from?
  • Additional information: You Tube video of coffee being harvested and processed

Location: Outside travel agent underneath exchange rates

  • Links to… Question:  How much is it worth?
  • Additional info:  Text and image – If you had £37.50 to take on holiday, how many Euros would you get?  Which travel agent in town has the best exchange rate today?

Location:  On the river bank adjacent to the confluence

  • Links to…mQuestion:  What rivers are these and where is their source?
  • Additional info:  The place where two rivers merge is called a ‘confluence’.  Use Google Earth to trace the two rivers back as far as you can, find out their names and where the river enters the sea.

 Location:  On the war memorial

  • Links to… Question:  How many died?
  • Additional info: Look at the names on the Great War memorial and then the names on the Worls War 2 memorial.  In which war were the greatest number of people from Pontypridd killed? How many times more people?  Why do you think this was?

 Location: Market Street

  • Links to…Question:  What has changed?
  • Additional Info: Picture of the street taken 100 years ago from same spot. Text – List all the things that are different between Market Street in 1910 and the same street today.
You get the idea!
[We also have black codes for older students linked to careers information as part of the EU New Jobs project.  The codes take them to links asking "So you want to be a baker?" or "So you want to be a printer?" with videos explaining what the job involves, what qualifications or skills you need etc. Some are purpose made and some from You Tube or Vimeo.  More on this is another post.]
Next time – Learning about Art in Ponty




Using Cartoons for Engagement

GoAnimate.com: Episode One – Jenny Jobseeker by elleemployability

I’ve been working on a series of webquests on the use of the internet far careers guidance and counselling. And I stumbled on this great blog by Elle Dyson. Elle is making a a mini cartoon series following the journey of ‘Jenny Jobseeker’ as she battles through the unemployment jungle. As she says there are limitations to the free version of Go animate (the online tool she used to make the cartoon) but, she says, “it serves as (I think) a rather nifty tool for engagement – providing a little bit of advice, giving them a bit of a laugh, and most importantly engaging them in the service, encouraging them to access support from us, and in accessing local opportunities.”

Introducing e-learning – getting started

The introduction of technology Enhanced Learning into institutions or the workplace implies change. This can be difficult to manage. senior and middle managers complain of resistance by staff to change. Many teachers I talk to would like to use more technology for tecahing and learning, but are frustrated by what they see as organisational inertia or the lack of management backing for change.

My colleague Jenny Hughes, has recently written a chapter called ‘Introducing e-Learning – getting started’ to be published in a forthcoming e-book series. The chapter looks at practical steps to introducing e-learning from the position of a senior manager, a junior manager and classroom teacher. As ever we would be grateful for your feedback on this first draft. Does it make sense to you?.

Introducing e-learning – getting started

If you want to introduce e-learning methods into your organisation the way you go about it will be largely determined by the position you hold. We have considered how you may approach it firstly as a senior manager (e.g Head of HRD or a VET school principal) then as a middle manager (e.g a training officer or section leader) and finally as a classroom teacher or trainer.

Senior manager

Before you even consider introducing e-learning, ask yourself why you are doing it – what problem are you trying to solve with it and what do you want to achieve?  Just as important, how will you know that it has been achieved? What are your targets? Over what time period?  Change needs to be measurable.  ‘Introducing e-learning’ is just not specific enough! Do you want to install a complete learning management system including computerized student / trainee tracking, a repository of materials and course content or would you be happy if a handful of creative teachers or trainers got together and started experimenting with social software tools?

  • Consult early and consult often – if you force change on people, problems normally arise.  You need to ask yourself which groups of people will be affected by your planned changes and involve them as early as possible. Check that these people agree with it, or at least understand the need for change and have a chance to decide how the change will be managed and to be involved in the planning and implementation. Use face-to-face communications wherever possible.
  • Try to see the picture from the perspective of each group and ask yourself how they are likely to react. For example, older staff may feel threatened and have no interest in adopting new technologies.  The staff who teach IT often consider that e-learning is really under their remit and resent the involvement of other staff in their ‘territory’.   Another very sensitive group will be your IT technicians. They can make or break your plans by claiming they ‘cannot support’ this or that and raising all sorts of security issues and other obstacles.
  • Although you may be enthusiastic about e-learning try not to be too zealous – this is not sustainable in the long term. The idea is to convey your enthusiasm and stimulate theirs rather than hard selling e-learning. If you do, people will nod their acceptance then completely disregard it thinking this is yet another of those initiatives that will go away in time. Change is usually unsettling, so the manager, logically, needs to be a settling influence not someone who wants to fire people up with his own passion thinking this will motivate them.
  • Think carefully about the time frame. If you think that you need to introduce e-learning quickly, probe the reasons – is the urgency real? Will the effects of agreeing a more sensible time-frame really be more disastrous than presiding over a disastrous change? Quick change prevents proper consultation and involvement, which leads to difficulties that take time to resolve.
  • Think about the scale. Are you going for a top down approach which may be standard across the institution and include a Learning Management System and a Learning Content Management System? Or are you going to stimulate small scale explorations in the classroom with a few interested teachers and try to grow e-learning organically?
  • Avoid expressions like ‘mindset change’, and ‘changing people’s mindsets’ or ‘changing attitudes’, because this language often indicates a tendency towards imposed or enforced change and it implies strongly that the organization believes that its people currently have the ‘wrong’ mindset.
  • Workshops, rather than mass presentations, are very useful processes to develop collective understanding, approaches, policies, methods, systems, ideas, etc.
  • Staff surveys are a helpful way to repair damage and mistrust among staff – provided you allow people to complete them anonymously, and provided you publish and act on the findings.
  • You cannot easily impose change – people and teams need to be empowered to find their own solutions and responses, with facilitation and support from managers. Management and leadership style and behaviour are more important than policy and sophisticated implementation  processes and. Employees need to be able to trust the organization.
  • Lead by example – set up a Facebook group as part of the consultation process, use a page on the organization website to keep people up to date with planned changes, use different media to communicate with staff, make a podcast of your key messages and publish it on YouTube

John Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School has designed the following eight step model, which we think is really useful so we have included it in full.

  • Increase urgency – inspire people to move, make objectives real and relevant.
  • Build the guiding team – get the right people in place with the right emotional commitment, and the right mix of skills and levels.
  • Get the vision right – get the team to establish a simple vision and strategy, focus on emotional and creative aspects necessary to drive service and efficiency.
  • Communicate for buy-in – Involve as many people as possible, communicate the essentials, simply, and to appeal and respond to people’s needs. De-clutter communications – make technology work for you rather than against.
  • Empower action – Remove obstacles, enable constructive feedback and lots of support from leaders – reward and recognise progress and achievements.
  • Create short-term wins – Set aims that are easy to achieve – in bite-size chunks. Manageable numbers of initiatives. Finish current stages before starting new ones.
  • Don’t let up – Foster and encourage determination and persistence – ongoing change – encourage ongoing progress reporting – highlight achieved and future milestones.
  • Make change stick – Reinforce the value of successful change via recruitment, promotion, new change leaders. Weave change into culture.

Middle managers

As a middle manager, in some ways you are in the most difficult position if you want to introduce e-learning methods in your classrooms or workplace as you have to convince both those above you and below you. Convincing senior managers is usually fairly easy to start with if you present them with some concrete benefits of using e-learning in a specific context and tell them that in the first instance it will not cost anything. For example, telling management that you are going to get your first year building apprentices to set up a wiki around new materials or record their work experience on a blog and that there are no cost implications is very unthreatening whereas announcing that you are going to introduce e-learning across your department is going to raise all sorts of concerns.

The important thing is that once you have done something, share the success stories with your senior managers – get them to listen to the podcast your apprentices made or invite then to join your engineering students’ Facebook group.  This reassures them they made the right decision in allowing you to get on with it and actively engages them in the process. It is then much easier asking for extra money for a vid cam to improve on the audio podcasting than it would have been without any concrete outcomes.

A lot depends on how familiar your senior managers are with e-learning technologies and pedagogies and whether they are promoting it, indifferent or actively against the ideas.

If they are lacking in knowledge, one of your jobs is to educate them and the best way of doing this is to do some small scale stuff (such as the things suggested above) and show them the results. Make a clear, simple but well produced slide presentation explaining what you want to do and the benefits it will bring. Don’t send it to them as an email attachment – upload it to Slideshare and send them the link. In this way you are ‘training’ your managers in the use of e-learning -  don’t miss an opportunity!

If you do need extra resources, set out a clear proposal showing what is capital cost (such as hardware) and what is recurring revenue cost (such as broadband connection). Make sure you cost in EVERYTHING (see list above) – there is nothing designed to infuriate senior management as much as a proposal that is deliberately under-costed to increase its chances of approval then to find out after implementation has started there are extra costs which, if not met, waste the rest of the investment. Of course, this is true of any proposal but investment in e-learning seems particularly prone to escalating and ‘hidden’ costs.

When it comes to dealing with the people below you, the same rules apply as those set out for senior managers. To these we would add one or two specific ideas.

  • Begin with a grass roots approach
  • Start where you have most chance of success. – Find out who in your section or department is interested in e-learning or is confident about using ICT. Encourage and ‘grow’ these people and make sure you reward them in some way. (This could be a few hours non-contact time to develop some e-learning materials or chance to go to a training course, conference or visit. )
  • Talk about the successes at staff meetings.  Most people will see e-learning as yet more work for which there is no payback – you have to motivate them in some way.
  • Find a vocal group of beta testers
  • Don’t set strict rules – encourage exploration and experiment
  • Create opportunities for staff to look at e-learning being used effectively. This could be visits to other VET schools or training centres, (real or on-line), YouTube videos or practical training sessions – the best are those where they leave with e-learning ideas or materials or other products that they can use immediately in their classroom or work place.
  • Encourage staff to join in on-line forums or open meetings about e-learning. If they are not confident to start with, it is perfectly OK to ‘lurk’ in the background occasionally. www.pontydysgu.org is a good site for finding out about on-line events for trainers
  • Hold informal training sessions and encourage the use of microblogging as a back channel during training
  • Constantly monitor feedback and make changes as needed
  • Communicate the stories behind e-learning e.g How did social software start? What made Twitter happen? Will Facebook survive?

Teachers / trainers

If you are an individual teacher or trainer it can be very daunting trying to introduce e-learning into your teaching if you are working in an organisation where there is no experience or culture of e-learning. You cannot change this easily from your position. The best way of influencing things is to just try something out in your own classroom. You are definitely better starting off with some simple web 2.0 based activities as these have no cost implications. Choose this activity carefully – think of any objections that could be raised, however ridiculous. For example –

A Facebook group? – Facebook is banned or even firewalled because staff and trainees waste too much time on it.

A skype video interview between a group of apprentices and a skilled craftsman? – IT support section will not let you access Skype, (which uses a different port, which they will have closed and will not open for ‘security reasons’)

Sharing bookmarks using del.icio.us ? – the students will use it to share porn sites.

An audio podcast may be a good start if you have enough computers with built in mics and speakers or access to a mic and a recording device like an i-pod. Setting up a group wiki around a particular theme is also difficult to object to. Another possibility is to get trainees blogging (For detailed instructions on how to do all this, look at the Taccle handbook)

If you are lucky, you may find that your managers are just glad that someone is interested and give you the freedom to operate. There are very few who will actively prevent you as long as it does not cost them time or money, although you may find that some other staff have a negative attitude.

From this base you can gradually build up a small informal group of like-minded teachers to share ideas or swap materials.  A group of teachers will also have more influence. Make sure any positive outcomes are disseminated, preferably show casing trainees’ work.

One good way of doing this is to print out a list of guest log-ins and passwords to anything you are working on (e.g a wiki) or the url to web pages where your trainees are publishing work. Add a brief explanation and stick it on the wall as well as routinely sending it by email to other staff in your section ‘for information’. This has the double benefit of keeping what you are doing transparent and also makes some people curious enough to click on the hyperlink.

Invite other teachers along to your classroom when you know you will be using e-learning or invite them to drop in to your group meetings.

You will also need to introduce the idea of e-learning to your trainees.  Although many of the younger students will need no convincing, it can be difficult with older workers who may have a very fixed idea of what constitutes ‘training’ or ‘learning’.  Make sure that the first time you introduce a new application to a group that you allow enough time to explain how the technology works and time for them to familiarize themselves with it using a ‘test’ example before you start. For example…”let’s all try setting up a wiki about things to do with Christmas  / the World Cup / the best pubs in …” before you get onto the serious stuff.

25 practical ideas for using Mobile Phones in the Classroom

We have been writing a lot about ideas on how mobile devices, and particularly phones might be used to support learning. But most of this work has been from a somewhat theoretical angle. Now Jenny Hughes has written a great guest blog on the practical work she has been doing on the use of mobiles in schools.

“I’ve been working with (primary and secondary teachers) on e-learning in the classroom – particularly the use of web 2.0 applications – as the roll out and dissemination of the TACCLE project. Part of this has been looking at the use of mobile phones as learning tools in schools.

There seems to be a lot of debate around the technology, the theoretical perspectives, the social dimension and so on but just at the moment the ‘doing’ is engaging me far more than the research. And as I’m always the first to complain about the practitioner – researcher divide, I thought maybe we should contribute by sharing some stuff we are experimenting with in the classroom.

What follows is some of the output from teachers. Firstly there has been a debate around the feasibility of using mobile telephones in schools; teachers from schools that have banned them outright, teachers from schools where they are allowed and teachers who are actually using them for learning generated a list of For-and-Against arguments. Secondly, there are some practical suggestions for using mobile devices (mainly phones), tried and tested and either contributed by teachers or trialed on the TACCLE course.

Arguments against allowing mobile phones in schools – for learning or social purposes

  • Loss and theft and potential bullying
  • Distraction and interruption
  • Taking photos of tests and instantly passing them on to other pupils
  • Texting answers of tests to other students
  • Taking photos of pupils in changing rooms, toilets
  • Spreading rumours fast
  • Sex texting and cyber-bullying
  • Non-filtered web access that can be used to spread content that some parents do not want their children exposed to.
  • Recording teachers and pupils in the classroom – can be detrimental to teacher and student reputation and proper consent to publish not asked for or given. Even bigger problem with younger children vis a vis Child Protection issues
  • Privacy issues with teachers having personal phone numbers of pupils and vice versa.

About using phones as learning tools –

  • Have and have not situation – some pupils will not have them, some will not. Some will support less applications than others – need to work at level of common denominator.
  • Cost implications for pupils and their parents – not just the cost of the hardware but the cost of use. Many pupils on ‘Pay-as-you-go’.

Arguments in favour of allowing them and using them for learning

(We excluded I-Phones, Blackberries etc as teachers in this area said most pupils do not have them) -

  • Is cost effective for schools
  • Reduces the need for all students to have access to computers in classroom
  • Need less equipment like digital cameras, camcorders, mics etc
  • If pupils are going to have them in schools anyway, irrespective of whether it is officially allowed, they may as well be exploited for learning. Overcomes some of the problems of ‘distraction’ etc.
  • Uses cheap and familiar technology
  • They are a good vehicle for teaching about ‘use-and-abuse’ issues such as digital identities, protocols, bullying, net safety etc
  • Can be used as data collection and recording devices – audio, pics and video – for recording experiments, field work, voice memos etc
  • Can be used as creative tool – making podcasts, picture blogs, twittering etc
  • Can use the phone itself as learning aid – creating ringtones, wallpaper etc (more on this later)
  • Pupils can ask questions of the teacher they may be too embarrassed to ask publicly.
  • Encourages engagement e.g SMS polling can ensure every pupils  voice is heard.
  • SMS polling (e.g using Wiffiti or PollEverywhere) can be used for formative assessment
  • Can be used for collaborative learning and communication (see below)
  • Pupils are encouraged to use general reference books so why not phones – as dictionary, spell checker, thesaurus, encyclopaedia etc
  • As specific research tool via web access

Practical ideas for using phones for learning that teachers tried out

(NB these are ideas generated by teachers working in a formal learning environment. We are aware of the huge potential of mobile devices for informal learning but this was not in our brief!)

Firstly, a few ideas about using the phone itself – rather than using it as a communication device.

  • Pupils can customize the wallpaper on their phones using something like pix2fone or pixdrop.
  • Either the teacher can ask them to take a picture with their phone around a particular theme or can send everyone in the class a picture she wants them to study / talk about to use as wall paper. This could be a photograph or a key message or reminder of some learning point.
  • Pupils can create ring tones using e.g  phonezoo. They create the ‘tone’ in Audacity, Garageband etc and export to phonezoo which then sends it back to mobile phone where it is saved as a ringtone.

We tried making up jingles for a particular topic, key dates for a history test, a poem to be learned for a literature test, a foreign language phrase and lists of chemical elements in a particular group in the Periodic Table!

Some more general applications:

  • Use sites like gabcast or evoca to make ‘instant’ podcasts straight from a mobile that can be accessed from a mobile (and you only have to be over 13 to use them) without having to use podcasting software. We did a geography quiz on local landmarks and geographical features “From where I’m standing I can see….where am I?”
  • Setting up audio tours e.g one group is working on a guide to places of interest in their town where at each point of interest there is a notice “to hear the story ring this number”
  • Using their phones to access podcasts. Some mobile phones can already subscribe to podcasts and a fair few can listen to streaming MP3s from the Internet. Even if these features are missing, pretty much every mobile phone you can buy nowadays can be hooked up to a computer and have MP3s sent to it to listen to on the go.
  • creating mini-documentaries using the camera in their phone. We did ‘food preparation hygiene’
  • recording field trips – using photos or voice or texting back observations to other pupils.  We did a nature walk where leaves / flowers / trees were observed by one group and identified by another group back in the classroom. We experimented by sending text only descriptions, pictures or voice calls and combinations of those to see which was the most effective. (Also posting back pictures to their blog / wiki whilst they are actually on the walk.)
  • be in different places working on the same project and be talking via instant-messaging.  Our example was a history  ‘Treasure Hunt’ where groups were competing to find objects and information. The groups split up and group members updated each other on progress using mobile phones.
  • recording science experiments and including the pictures /video with their written reports.
  • Using twitter. History teachers chose a period in history (was the second world war) and had groups of evacuees, host families, parents of evacuees back in bombed cities sending messages to each other about their feelings.
  • Use twiddeo to upload video made on mobile phone to twitter.
  • Make a tee-shirt using Reactee on twitter that you can wear in the classroom. Ours was a line to ring to get homework assignments and deadlines.
  • Photoblogging using telephones. (Blogger is particularly good for phones). We did local landmarks and geographical features. Also a vocabulary exercise where each person was given a word to illustrate with three photographs by the end of the day. (If you are going to use blogs use one that is mobile-friendly – like WordPress where you can get a plug-in called WP-Mobile so that students can access them from their mobiles)
  • Making slideshows for mobile phones You can make slideshows for mobile phones. It’s easy but you need a few basic techniques (which we can share if people are really interested.)  We made ‘revision’ slideshows which each teacher could produce for their subject area to be viewed on mobile phones.
  • Brainstorming using wiffiti. We found wiffiti is a wonderful way of getting pupils to create a communal, real time visual brainstorm, on a screen, from their cell phones.
  • Accessing Voicethread. You can use mobile phones to comment on Voicethread, which is a ‘digital conversation’ application. (We used some pictures of geometrical patterns and shapes and asked people to comment using mobile phones on where they could see those shapes and patterns in their townscape or in nature.)
  • Making simple Stop Motion animations. Take lots of photos on a mounted mobile phone e.g of a Plasticene model or bendy toy then import them into a slideshow presentation and set the show to change slides on the fastest (e.g 1 second) autochange. We did pictures of a the notes of a simple tune drawn with felt pen on an A1 sheet then ‘moved’ an arrow to each note in turn so that the pupils could see which note was being sung.
  • To save the cost of texting, use freebiesms on your computer
  • For those students with Bluetooth, a natural progression from students e-mailing homework or assignments might be to get them to send it by phone to your laptop at the beginning of a lesson.

Plans for future events

  • Experimenting with QR codes into which you can embed text, url, phone numbers and sms. (Camera phones can have software freely installed on them to recognise these codes and decipher them into meaningful text/links/images. This could be useful for homework or for embedding a ‘live’ link on a paper-based worksheet.)
  • Experimenting with 12seconds.tv for asynchronous debates, for synthesising work, commenting on Voicethread, making composite class documentaries, as a reflection tool for e-portfolios, as an ideas box, exemplifying good practice
  • Thinking about how we are going to use Google Wave

Thanks Mr Belshaw http://teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk for these great ideas – he should be on everyone’s RSS together with his blog http://dougbelshaw.com/blog .”