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Nico Zijlstra

Maintaining your own website

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Point of having your own website - simple - it extends your ability to be a teacher, enables you to continue offering help and ideas 24 hours a day, provides you with added 'reach', offers opportunities for collaboration and extension of your work and ideas.  It also provides something interesting every day in your 'inbox'.

This is a very important point with which I wholeheartedly agree. We tend still to give little attention to the "C" in "ICT".

Having your own website is an extra means of communication with students which significantly isn't restricted by the organisation of the school day.

One added bonus I soon discovered very early on was that students who for whatever reason couldn't seek help and advice in class felt more comfortable doing so via an electronic message. As a then Pastoral Head of Year I found its use went beyond curriculum matters also.

It is the enhanced ability to communicate, teach and mentor I believe will mark out the excellent educational websites of the future.

Andrew Field's student help forum is an excellent example of this as is the International Student Forum hosted by my College and the IST.

We also need to start to come to terms with the potential of web sites to put learners in contact with witnesses, experts, academics and researchers and others - as we have tentatively started to do in the Ask an Expert section of this forum.

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Andy writes:

We also need to start to come to terms with the potential of web sites to put learners in contact with witnesses, experts, academics and researchers and others - as we have tentatively started to do in the Ask an Expert section of this forum.

Has anyone tried the BECTA "Ask an Expert" site? It's part of the ICT Advice section at: http://www.ictadvice.org.uk

I've looked at it many times and I have not been all that impressed with the experts' answers and with the way that this service operates. Firstly, I have my doubts about the choice of "experts" and, secondly, there is no possibility of interacting with the experts online if they make mistakes or miss out something important. You have to write to BECTA direct or to the experts themselves (if you can locate their email addresses), but you are highly likely to be ignored. I have spotted several mistakes and serious omissions. On a couple of occasions I pointed out mistakes, which were eventually rectified, but on no occasion have BECTA felt the need to rectify a serious omission. As the "Ask an Expert" section says: "The experts will not enter into dialogue about individual cases."

I joined the BECTA ICT Research Network discussion list for a while, but I don't like the way it operates. Contributions are censored, and it often takes several days for them to filter through. They also come in bunches, making it difficult to follow a thread. One of my contributions that criticised the way the discussion list operates was bounced back at me, so I decided it was time to leave. See:

http://lists.becta.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/research

What I like about the Education Forum is the free and open discussion that it offers - which is also true of other discussion lists to which I subscribe (all relating to Modern Foreign Languages):

The Linguanet Forum: http://www.mailbase.org.uk/lists/linguanet-forum

Languages ICT: http://www.mailbase.org.uk/lists/languagesict-forum

EUROCALL: http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/lists/eurocall-members.html

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>What I like about the Education Forum is the free and open discussion that it offers<

I agree with Graham. This is what I like about the forum too. Peer review of new ideas is what makes online groups so refreshingly different from the traditional hierarchical system offline of an élite with a monopoly of knowledge and wisdom.

Just to redress the balance a little regarding BECTa, I think they do a good job in the area of inclusion and special educational needs. SENCo Forum, which they host, is a marvellous discussion group and summaries of its threads are published four times a year in a learned journal. It's one of the few online groups to have commissioned an independent university research study to investigate its effectiveness as a way of keeping special educational needs coordinators, who normally work alone in schools, in touch with each other. The research study was overwhelmingly positive. There are other disability groups from the same stable - each covering a particular category of SEN, from autism to visiual impairment. I believe this is unique in the world, unless anybody knows different!

The inclusion site (http://inclusion.ngfl.gov.uk/) does have its "ask the expert" section, but a much bigger bit of the site is devoted to questions from teachers, parents, members of the public. Anybody can submit answers to these questions and so far all mine have been published.

BECTa now needs to get the rest of its site up to this standard!

David Wilson

http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/

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David writes:

Just to redress the balance a little regarding BECTa, I think they do a good job in the area of inclusion and special educational needs.

They do. I have always been favourably impressed by their work in this area. In other areas, however, I have the impression that they are getting more and more inclined to be technology-led rather than pedagogy-led, combined with a top-down, "we know best" attitude.

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Andy writes:
We also need to start to come to terms with the potential of web sites to put learners in contact with witnesses, experts, academics and researchers and others - as we have tentatively started to do in the Ask an Expert section of this forum.

Has anyone tried the BECTA "Ask an Expert" site? It's part of the ICT Advice section at: http://www.ictadvice.org.uk

I've looked at it many times and I have not been all that impressed with the experts' answers and with the way that this service operates. Firstly, I have my doubts about the choice of "experts" and, secondly, there is no possibility of interacting with the experts online if they make mistakes or miss out something important. You have to write to BECTA direct or to the experts themselves (if you can locate their email addresses), but you are highly likely to be ignored. I have spotted several mistakes and serious omissions. On a couple of occasions I pointed out mistakes, which were eventually rectified, but on no occasion have BECTA felt the need to rectify a serious omission. As the "Ask an Expert" section says: "The experts will not enter into dialogue about individual cases."

I do not think the "Ask an expert" example you mentioned can be really considered a good resource if it does not offer the opportunity of interacting with the experts themselves.

My idea of having academics and experts taking part in the teaching process should consist in giving pupils the possibility to listen to their contributions on specific topics on a videoconference, if possible, then ask questions and debate in real time, also by using a chat or a forum. The questions could be sent to the expert in advance so that all the time online would be devoted to answers and debate.

This would imply finding experts willing to spend part of their time online and share their knowledge with "virtual" people they have never met before: I am afraid this is an "ideal" situation which is still too far away from our present reality.

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Caterina writes:

I do not think the "Ask an expert" example you mentioned can be really considered a good resource if it does not offer the opportunity of interacting with the experts themselves.

I agree. It is extremely frustrating. Have a look at the site and you'll see what I mean.

A real-time conference is much more difficult to set up effectively than most people imagine, but an asynchronous forum like the Education Forum obviously works very well.

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I red trough the presentation and than all of the contributions which here and there caught my interest ….. well, I do believe that many school administrations feel that we unjustly attack them for doing too little when spreading information about the school’s goals into their own community …… they often feel that they are doing a good job and that they are delivering relevant information to readers (parents) …. At the same time they strongly feel that the ”free” web pages interfere with their own official web pages where they are describing the pedagogy and administration of activities going on around the school ….

We too, at our school Fredrika Bremer High School do have problems of managing the “official” school homepage which are supposed to mirror the “true” life of our school. Not quite a few of us think that we are not offering at our home page what is relevant and asked for ……

As far as I remember I do not believe that we did have developed any suitable tools how to cope with this problem.

Is it a problem of an old structure that fights against loosing their privileges? Who are not able to adjust into new technology conditions? The condition where free information could be printed and delivered past the old administrative structures in a few minutes without any hard effort …… I do not know …… I just think about my own school where I teach and all these unproductive debates we, the teacher and the administrators were involved in during all these years …… without delivering any sound conclusions or any working platform for a better development of school’s own web page.

I would like to deliver an optimistic posting. Giving you a solution, but …….

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda

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I don't have a lot of experience with regard to websites aimed at students, as my main area of interest now is teacher training. The 600-odd hits per day that the ICT4LT site receives speaks for itself regarding the popularity of the site, but why do I get so little feedback from teachers who access it? The site is peppered with discussion topics, learning tasks and invitations to address questions to the site management team via a convenient feedback form, but we get no more than a dozen questions or requests for information per month - and about half of these have little to do with the topics discussed at the site. Conclusion: Web people are lurkers and don't appear to read very accurately. However, I do get enough congratulatory comments to convince me that I am doing a worthwhile job.

Ships captains rarely thank the weather service or the BBC shipping forecasts. So despite having a nice web-site, maybe you're in the same position.

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