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Doug Belshaw

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Everything posted by Doug Belshaw

  1. “I not only use all of the brains I have, but all I can borrow.”: The uses of ICT for collaborative teaching and learning. The main point of my presentation is to recommend the elements that should be integrated into the proposed E-HELP website to make it the most collaborative environment possible. Before I do so, I intend to discuss the reasons why collaboration is a good idea in the first place, along with potential barriers and methods of doing so. 1. Reasons for collaboration One of the main reasons for collaboration in teaching is the widening of horizons that it brings. The reason we teach is so that pupils learn: the more we know and the better we can deliver it, the more pupils are likely to learn. As with any job, you take into the workplace your own ‘toolkit’ of skills and ideas. Collaboration is one of the best ways to add to this toolkit and therefore do your best for the pupils in your charge. With collaboration, of course, comes ‘networking’ – getting to know and trust others who share similar interests. In turn, there are opportunities for both professional development and career advancement. It’s all very well being ‘trained’ en masse by a representative of the company which is supplying your new interactive whiteboard. A one-to-one demonstration by a colleague is much better. It is this peer-learning which is an intrinsic part of collaboration: knowledge and skills are cascaded throughout the community by willing volunteers. At the end of the day, collaboration can be summed by being good practice – as Aristotle would have said, it is a good, an end-in-itself. Or as Alexander Solzehnitsyn rather succinctly put it: “Talent is always conscious of its own abundance, and does not object to sharing.” 2. Barriers to collaboration I’m sure we’ve all experienced the situation where at a meeting everyone within the department has agreed that resources should be shared. What happens in practice is that the more conscientious members of the department keep adding to the pool of resources, whilst others simply take them without giving back. A ‘why should I?’ attitude then prevails – the sharer becomes disillusioned as they realise they are perhaps the only one putting in the extra work. The non-sharers notice the shift in opinions and think, “well if she’s not bothering, why should I?” Of course, many teachers are reluctant to share their resources not out of selfishness but out of a sense of insecurity. It is often the case that, with a lack of feedback through informal observations, etc., teachers are often unaware as to how good the materials they produce actually are. Coupled to this is the presumption that to share something it must not only be good but that it must be complete. Given that different teachers use resources in a variety of ways this is nonsense. Something half-finished can be as good, if not better than something presented in toto. Each teacher puts a different slant on what they teach. A resource – for example a Powerpoint presentation on the causes of World War I – may be used as an introduction to the topic by one teacher. Another teacher it has been shared with may tinker with it to use it as a revision tool. There is no need for shared resources to be complete, but if they are they must be editable. Collaboration also breeds flexibility. Imagine you’ve planned a lesson for tomorrow on interpretations regarding the execution of Charles I. You convert relevant videos to digital files and then chop them up into relevant sections. The lesson is planned: you are going to focus on how the execution is portrayed in the film ‘Cromwell’ as opposed to ‘To Kill a King’. As you’re packing up for the day a colleague drops in for a chat. During the conversation he mentions how much his pupils enjoyed watching the Blackadder version of Charles’ execution. He lends you a copy of it, you incorporate it into your lesson the following day, and not only does it add an extra dimension to your lesson but the pupils remember it and the fun they had in History. Collaboration is as much about off-the-cuff suggestions and informal ideas as it is about sharing complete and finished resources. Sadly, there are some teachers – hopefully not many – for whom such collaboration is seen as a threat. As one of the non-sharers in the example above, the threatened teacher sees sharing and collaboration as a dilution of talent rather than an opportunity to enhance pupil learning. They see a certain resource or style of teaching as being ‘theirs’, meaning that anyone else either cannot do as good a job, or is somehow ‘stealing’ something of theirs. These teachers have to be shown that the bigger the pool of resources and ideas, the better! Intellectual property is a myth. There is one thing which I must take issue with regarding collaboration. Some teachers feel that if they share resources their name must be plastered all over it so that they receive due recognition. As Brian Tracy, the management guru, once wrote, “the more credit you give away, the more will come back to you.” If the aim is the development of pupil understanding and knowledge, why must the person who put together the resource attempt to turn themselves into a minor celebrity? I have heard some argue that it makes pupils aware that their teacher is in touch with others who share both resources and good practice. Seeing as the majority of pupils half-believe that I live in the History Office at our school, I find this hard to swallow. As Edgar Quinet stated, “what we share with another ceases to be our own.” It’s better than being your own – it now belongs to the community of which you are a part! So much for reluctant sharers. Imagine that we are now dealing with an individual who recognizes the benefits of collaboration and is looking to share with teachers other than those in her department. She turns to the Internet but runs into a problem: in order to share resources and ideas, our potential sharer must get to grips with both technology and ICT jargon. There is a crucial moment, a delicate balance, in all this. As sharing over the Internet is a purely voluntary exercise, if it becomes too difficult or time-consuming then the potential collaborator is put off – perhaps never to try again. Even if she is successful in ‘posting’ something on the Internet, there is no guarantee that she will be either correctly understood or interpreted. It is crucial that the E-HELP website addresses these issues through necessary guides and explanations. 3. Methods of collaboration Communities only exist in terms of relationships between their members. To build a virtual community requires a structured way of allowing relations to develop, and one of the best ways of doing this is through online discussion forums. Two of the most successful I have come across to do with education are The Education Forum and the Schoolhistory Forum. These are havens of advice, ideas and resources, mixing both formal and informal elements to create a forward-thinking, safe, and friendly atmosphere. It is the virtual equivalent of the quick chat over a cup of coffee in the faculty staff room – except that your staff room is now infinitely larger and you can ‘eavesdrop’ on other people’s conversations by searching through previous threads! It is the little things which often make an average lesson into a great one, and such forums are repositories of small but effective ideas. The E-HELP website should certainly have an online discussion forum to add a sense of community and to make it an interactive and ever-changing destination. This will give it a great deal of user-ownership. Discussion forums are great for linking to other websites and for describing things in words. Sometimes, however, you want a resource you can quickly adapt for a particular class. This is where resource exchanges come in – the online equivalent of photocopying each others’ resources folder. A few years ago the NGFL set up the Teacher Resource Exchange, a highly-organized and categorized place where teachers can share resources and ideas. Although unfinished resources can be uploaded and comments made upon what is shared, there is a sense of a lack of user ownership. I have tried to remedy this with the recent launch of mrbelshaw.co.uk/shareforum, which attempts to be a cross between a discussion forum and resource exchange. It is a simple concept: registered users create a new thread for each resource they wish to share, adding a short description of what it is and how it can be used. Whilst anyone can download shared files, only registered users can add comments, ask questions of the original sharer, etc. The original posting with the downloadable file will always be at the top of the thread. If the E-HELP website has a facility such as this it would be a very attractive feature. Some may be wondering why all this is necessary – what about good old email? Well, there are advantages and disadvantages of this method. One major disadvantage, of course, is the number of people who can access what is being shared. When resources are posted on a website they are of a ‘pull’ nature – you can access what you want when you need it. Email, on the other hand, is ‘push’ oriented – you can only access what someone has sent you and you have stored somewhere. However, one major advantage of email and other one-to-one methods of collaboration (such as burning CDs/DVDs) is getting round draconian copyright legislation. (It baffles me why, as teachers, we are subject to the same rigid laws as ‘pirates’ who run off thousands of copies of a DVD for ill-gotten gain.) Sharing a video clip on a website it likely to get you into trouble; sharing it by email, by post or in person makes it less likely. It is for this reason that the ‘personal message’ (PM) functions of message boards are so useful. Things can be said and suggested which, whilst useful for teaching and learning, may fall foul of out-of-date legislation. I recommend that the E-HELP website includes such a feature. There is a way to anonymize sharing and to get round copyright legislation, although it is only really useful at present for large files which quite a lot of people access. Peer-to-peer (P2P) technology changes the way in which users on the Internet can download files. Normally, computers download the desired file directly from the ‘server’ which makes the file available. Using P2P technology, however, the computer requesting the file downloads different parts of the file from different computers. Each computer is effectively turned into a ‘mini-server’: (normal downloads) (P2P downloads) The whole file does not even have to have finished downloading on one machine for it to be shared with the rest of the network. Whatever has been downloaded by one computer is shared with other computers requesting the file. So long as one full copy exists somewhere in the network, all computers will eventually receive the file! At the moment it is necessary for there to be a ‘tracker’ on at least one machine in the network to co-ordinate file-sharing. In the future, however, such trackers will be built into the software each computer must be running to download the file in the first place. There will be no need for a central tracker (e.g. Exeem. Of course, this will be a great boon for people who use the Internet for nefarious purposes: if there is no central tracker which can be closed down, they are a lot less likely to be caught! However, it will also be useful to the average Internet user as it will mean both greater reliability and faster downloads. Why is P2P an important technology in terms of the E-HELP website? Well, people who host websites charge for the amount of data which is transferred from your website to other people. In other words you pay more the more successful your website is. The problem is even greater when large filesizes are involved: it only takes a relatively small number of people to download them for it to cost the site owner a lot of money. With P2P technology this problem is lessened. The more popular the file, the less likely that most users will be downloading it directly from the originating website. Although in the past setting up trackers, etc. was a job which demanded a high degree of expertise, new systems such as Blogtorrent have made the system a lot simpler. A visual interface means that users with sufficient priviledges are able to add files to the server through their browser. Users can likewise download files from a link through their web browser. In the future I envisage P2P technology being part of the normal Internet experience. The necessary client-side software will be embedded in browsers: the user will notice no difference between downloading straight from the originating website as opposed to from ‘peers’. Many websites shy away from allowing large-filesize downloads for fear of cost implications. I believe that the E-HELP website should embrace P2P technology meaning that large-filesize downloads become part-and-parcel of the site. 4. The E-HELP website I’m sure we’re all aware of the difference between a lesson’s content and the style of delivery. You may have the best lesson content in the world but if your delivery isn’t up to much then it counts for nothing. That’s one of the first lessons I learnt as a student teacher! It’s the same with websites: having great content means nothing nowadays, the way it is presented is paramount. Organization is the key: a successful website has a logical structure and way of organizing its elements. Traditionally this has meant employing web design consultants to look after both what you are saying on your website and how you say it. Fortunately, there is a better way… A Content Management System (CMS) is like the most efficient and glamorous personal assistant in the world. It categorizes any information given, making relevant links between it and other elements. Everything is presented in an organised way which is easy on the eye. Creating new content therefore is not a laborious, time-consuming and technically-demanding occupation. In fact, each user becomes a content-maker – meaning that the website itself becomes a truly collaborative effort! How much does this wonderful technology cost? Nothing! In the true spirit of collaboration, many CMS’s are what is known as ‘Open Source’, meaning that not only are they free-of-charge but they can be modified and adapted as you see fit. The four which I would currently recommend, depending on how they are to be deployed, are Moodle, Drupal, Xoops and Mambo. Each of these can be previewed at opensourcecms.com. Combining all I have said above into some semblance of a conclusion, I see the E-HELP website as being a place where collaborations can take place in an unstructured yet organized way. The collaborations will be unstructured in that the website will not prescribe what kinds of collaboration may take place; they will be organized, however, in that the products of such collaborations will be easily accessible and well-categorized. I envisage videos and other resources regarding good practice being made available for easy download via P2P technology. The website would also foster formal, semi-formal and informal partnerships, not least through the discussion forum. Hopefully, the CMS decided upon will allow for all of these elements to be coherently integrated so that the user can get on with collaborating rather than getting to grips with technology! Doug
  2. Doug Belshaw

    ICT for collaborative teaching and learning

    It's now been over 3 years since the very enjoyable time we spent in Toulouse discussing ICT for collaborative teaching and learning. Since then, I've moved on to a new school, and the shareforum has gone from strength-to-strength. Some observations: 1. Be a catalyst I went to the Head of my current school to ask what could be done about the situation we had. Lots of hardware and software, but no training for staff. As of this academic year I'm E-Learning Staff Tutor with a reduced teaching timetable and a budget. 2. Have patience After a few incarnations, I'm fairly happy with the shareforum. It's now at www.historyshareforum.com and currently stands at just under 700 members. It's turned into a great place to get resources you can actually edit to be useful! 3. Run with new technologies Web 2.0 has been somewhat of a revolution. The biggest changes to the way I work and collaborate have come through the micro social-networking site Twitter and the hard-to-explain FriendFeed. 4. Start new communities The famous ice hockey player Wayne Gretzsky once said "You miss 100% of shots you never take." Taking that as a principle, I've attempted to start several communities around a theme. One that worked and is now a year old is EdTechRoundup. We're a group of mainly UK-based educators, but with no geographical bar on membership. We meet virtually on a Sunday night to discuss issues and resources relating to educational technology, and then release our discussions as podcasts. It's going well so far! I'd like to take this opportunity to thank again all those involved in the project and for inviting a fresh-faced NQT to present. : Doug
  3. Doug Belshaw

    Wishlist for your classroom

    Interesting? Only in so far as they'd probably be a quite a competition for the Most Unimaginative Use of Classroom Space Award 2006! A lot of rows with the occasional 'C' shape with a few desks in the middle. I like the idea of having individual workstations which 'snap' together somehow for infinite possibilities... : Doug
  4. Doug Belshaw

    Wishlist for your classroom

    It's an ICT suite, but Andrew Field has mused about room layout at the EffectiveICT.co.uk Forum... : Doug
  5. Doug Belshaw

    Wishlist for your classroom

    I think you've covered most bases there Dan, but the important things would be the way things interacted: A guarantee that technical support was available at short-notice The ability for screenshots/text/content from students' PDAs/tablets to be wirelessly transferred to the projector A school ICT infrastructure which wasn't flakey! : Doug
  6. Doug Belshaw

    Interviewing eyewitnesses

    That looks like a fantastic project and one which would work well if replicated in many areas of the UK. I grew up in what was known as the 'largest mining village in the world' - Ashington, Northumberland. The mines have now shut and unemployment is rife. Men have lost their sense of identity and haven't found one to replace it. Some kind of project which brings the community together like the one you have been part of here would be just the ticket. Well done! Doug :hehe:
  7. Doug Belshaw

    Legislation and the Bible

    This shall be my last post, Andy - I don't want this to get personal. ...but still haven't defined what you mean by certain terms you have used (e.g. 'fundamentalist'), despite my repeated asking! I have been willing to debate these issues and care enough to 'unclog' your head. Before I became a Christian I used to think much like you, Andy. So without patronizing you (as you have done to me) I, in turn, hope you come to realize the truths I have discovered. Signing off, Doug
  8. Doug Belshaw

    Legislation and the Bible

    Given the two statements above, when are we going to see some coherence in your posts, Andy? It's easy to espouse contemporary beliefs and assumptions, however wrong they may be. Can you explain your system of beliefs in a coherent way as I believe I can? Doug PS I'm still waiting for your definition of 'fundamentalist'!
  9. Doug Belshaw

    Legislation and the Bible

    Why don't you have a look rather than just assume?! I'll leave it to neutral observers of this thread as to whether the 'religious' or 'non-religious' are being the more tolerant and rational here... Doug
  10. Doug Belshaw

    Legislation and the Bible

    Here's a summary of what I've said so far Andy: Nowhere have I said that Christianity should have no influence on legislation, and in fact I applaud the work the Christian Institute does in the UK. I'm not going to get involved in right-to-life debates as I'm not an expert in these matters. I'm sure you'd agree, Andy, that in a multicultural and cosmopolitan society all views should be considered - although in the end any legislation is going to offend someone. Doug PS I'm still waiting for you to define your terms - do you still equate a 'liberal' with an 'agnostic'?
  11. Doug Belshaw

    Legislation and the Bible

    Now try imagining persuading a Muslim fundamentalist and Doug to debate in a tolerant way about who is the true prophet. Worse still try imagining either of them having the final say over the social legislation of a multi cultural nation state. Fundamentalists do believe and are sure. If you are actually right, then it is absurd to be tolerant of those who are wrong. You are putting words in my mouth, Andy. It is not absurd to be tolerant of those who are wrong - but it would be absurd not to try and demonstrate to them why you think you are right. As you keep insisting I am a fundamentalist, could you define your terms please? As far as I can see your rather blunt definition sees those who are 'sure of their faith' as fundamentalists, and presumably those who 'are a bit unsure' as liberals. If these are accurate descriptions of the terms you are using, please could you use more accurate ones? Doug
  12. Doug Belshaw

    Legislation and the Bible

    (As an aside, Andy Walker has refused to continue our debate via personal correspondence. He has also rejected my offer to send him a Bible so he can check what he's arguing against)
  13. Doug Belshaw

    Legislation and the Bible

    John, you keep talking about 'what I'm going to do about people having sex outside of marriage'! I'm going to do nothing about it, apart from evangelize to them. It's not my role to judge as I'm a sinner as much as them. The difference is I've been saved through my trust and faith in, and relationship with, Jesus Christ. People often comment that Christians are 'hung up' on the issue of sex. I think you'll find that it's the secular world that blows this out of all proportion... I wholeheartedly agree with Mike when he says: As Mike notes, issues regarding abortion are completely different: the termination of life is of a different order to issues regarding sexual morality. Ultimately we are all accountable to God, not the state. Doug
  14. Doug Belshaw

    Legislation and the Bible

    Sorry Andy, I shall keep my posts nice and serious from now on and without the smilies you provided for forum users. Which part of the second post on this thread don't you understand? Oh, the famous get-out: I'm older than you therefore you will end up like me - 'enlightened'. I've just sent you a personal message to ask to continue our debate privately. I shall be interested to see how you respond. Doug
  15. Doug Belshaw

    Legislation and the Bible

    When asked "What is the Enlightenment?" Inmanuel Kant replied Sadly it does not apparently yet to have appeared to have influenced either the United States of America or certain areas of Yorkshire Andy, I'm quite happy to continue this debate privately or on a separate thread. However, for the sake of your students, hadn't we better stick to the topic? Doug PS Know much about Mr Kant, do you?
  16. Doug Belshaw

    Legislation and the Bible

    Oh dear Andrew. You think that anyone with religious faith who disagrees with you is a fundamentalist?! I believe Jesus saves and that everyone should come into a relationship with him, yes. Religious people do tend to think they're correct, just as atheists do. I am interested in debating matters seriously and openly. If you can prove to me that my 'religion' is erroneous then I will change my system of beliefs. Could you say the same, Andy? What would it take for you to alter your belief system? Thanks for simplifying what I said and patronising me, Andy. Government action is a very pertinent question for Christians, hence organizations which aim to have a Christian influence on legislation, etc. All I was saying was that governments, being secular, have no final say over morality. I believe others (non-Christians) have said this within this thread. Please don't misrepresent me unfairly to your students, Andy - I wouldn't do the same to you. Disagreement and debate is healthy. Misrepresentation and patronising behaviour is not. Doug
  17. Doug Belshaw

    Legislation and the Bible

    That's not for me - or the government - to judge! Lock him up and throw away the key! Doug
  18. Doug Belshaw

    Legislation and the Bible

    I think what you're trying to say, Andy, is that the 21st century is radically different from the times in which the Bible was written. And you're correct - at least in terms of technology and (natural) knowledge. It's just that the same isn't true of human nature: we're still pretty much in the same position... Although it may sound controversial, Christian marriage is (God-willing) supposed to result in children. Doug PS I'm going to ignore your point about married couples 'not being allowed to enjoy sex' as it was childish.
  19. Doug Belshaw

    Legislation and the Bible

    John, I think you have missed the point with most of what you have said above. Sex is for procreation and, fortunately for us, also happens to be pleasurable. Part of the reason for homosexuality being regarded as sinful by Christians, therefore, is the inabilility (note: not the prevention) of the action being for the purposes God intended it. This, again, is part of the reason why marriage is sacrosanct for Christians and casual sex so damaging. Birth control within marriage is different from casual sex in that, according to the Bible, the purpose of this relationship is procreation, whereas the latter is purely for pleasure. Birth control simply gives married couples more control over when to conceive. It cannot really be compared with birth control outside marriage. Doug
  20. Doug Belshaw

    Morality and Income Tax

    I understand the 'eye of the needle' was a camel shaped hole in a city wall that allowed a camel with a set load to pass through toll gates, Thus an early means of calculating tax. Unload the camel until it fits through. Then you can move onto market to sell goods and make your money. A 'rich man' then would be a grossly overloaded camel. I've heard this as well, but as with many things to do with the seemingly more radical parts of the Bible, I think that many Christians try to change what Jesus actually said to what they want it to mean. Man's - and especially a rich man's - love of money can prevent him from identifying how he needs to change. To focus on what is important in life it is important to cut away the chaff. As the passage that John quoted continues: Mark 10:23-27 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?" 27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." The situation regarding the rich young man was that, as many Jews had done all their life, he had obeyed the Law. However, this was not enough. His heart needed to be changed, which required radical action. Jesus cut right to the heart of the matter by identifying the man's love of material wealth. This was what was stopping him from entering into a saving relationship with God, but this can be different for everyone. At the end of the day, as the saying goes, you can't take it with you. Without turning this thread into an overtly evangelistic one, Jesus - as John Simkin has mentioned - advocated radical action to do with the poor. This, however, was as much for the giver's sake as the receiver's! Doug
  21. Doug Belshaw

    My Political Ideology

    Political ideology? Erm... I strongly believe in a minimal state: that the government should not interfere unnecessarily in the everyday lives of people. For this reason I oppose such 'innovations' as ID cards. I suppose this makes me fairly right-wing to do with the grand scheme of things. Although we obviously need some form of taxation to provide public services, it is up to the individual, I believe, to decide issues such as the giving of money to charitable causes. I suppose this makes me fairly socialist to do with local and small-scale things. Doug
  22. Doug Belshaw

    Legislation and the Bible

    I should imagine it will be interesting for Andy's students to see how people's worldviews impinge on absolutely everything, leading to fundamental differences within a society. Doug
  23. Doug Belshaw

    Morality and Income Tax

    I agree wholeheartedly, if you trust the Government to spend money wisely. I know that everyone perhaps doesn't think like me, but I'm quite happy to give time and money to things that don't benefit me directly. Perhaps education rather than taxation is the answer? Doug
  24. Doug Belshaw

    Morality and Income Tax

    I think that this is one thing upon which we can all agree. It is not the place of the state to force people into 'moral' decisions. It is true that the state encourages donations through charities being able to claim back tax, but perhaps if income tax was reduced people would actually end up giving a greater percentage of their income away? Doug
  25. Doug Belshaw

    Legislation and the Bible

    Just as I would like to see you get out of explaining yourself on Judgement Day... Doug
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