Saturday, December 31, 2005

How men and women use the Internet

The Pew Internet survey project has published "How Men and Women use the Internet", available online in PDF format.

A BBC story "Gender gap alive and well online" highlights some of the findings, such as men making more use of online transactions such as purchasing and women being better communicators with tools such as email.

Currently we lack such detailed research knowledge about UK users, and its a pity that use for the purposes of learning isnt surveyed too. But Ofcom are doing some very good research on media literacy and use, which should provide useful material.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Modern Languages and Football

For me, the main attraction of 2006 is the FIFA Football World Cup in Germany. I've got the dates in my diary, the strip washed and ready, the beers cooling in the fridge. The British Embassy in Berlin has created a handy website with information about the games, venues, etc, with a glossary of football phrases in German such as 'it's a game of two halves' and 'sick as a parrot'. - now this is a real reason for learning a foreign language, a context that matters to people.

On the other hand, The BBC story "Schools to get language targets" reports that secondary schools in England are to be given a target of at least fifty percent of school students to study a foreign language until they are sixteen. The Department for Education and Skills is trying to address the decline in pupils choosing to learn languages such as French and German.

Such a target is unlikely to make any difference to the numbers studying languages at university, or go after careers with a need for language ability. If schools are forced to make reluctant teenagers learn a language, its quite likely to put the young people off for good and lead to classroom discipline problems too. Most English kids have already made their mind up and decided they can get by in life just fine without knowing another language.

If you think its important to increase the number of Brits who can speak a language other than their own, give them a real reason to desire it and make language learning an exciting and enjoyable thing.

The 'Modern Foreign Languages Environment' is part of the approach to supporting MFL learning and teaching in Scottish schools.

ICT Masterclass

For those of you that don't know, 'Masterclass' is an ICT professional development programme for Scottish education that Learning and Teaching Scotland has run over the last few years, funded by the Scottish Executive Education Department. Local authorities nominated a mix of staff to attend, including practicising teachers, school librarians, and central ICT support staff. Residential training and workshop sessions were supplemented by an online community for Masterclassers and local follow-up activity, plus a laptop for individual use.

SEED has now published "Evaluation of the Masterclass Initiative" in both summary version and full report. The programme aimed to support local authorities in their integration of ICT into school learning, and has been largely successful.

My own view: It has assisted in changing practice in schools by stimulating the creation of an 'ICT-aware' core of staff in every local authority in Scotland. Many of the individuals were already believers in the potential of ICT, but many came to it unconvinced and went away persuaded. It built capacity for more use where appropriate, and more effective use, of ICT in Scottish schools.

The model was then adopted and subtly refined for new audiences, such as the Early Years Masterclass programme.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Website Development Process

This is a nice web page which explains how to build a website - using dolls.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

NOS Directory

This website provides a directory of National Occupational Standards (NOS). These Standards are industry specific and are becoming increasingly important in defining educational and training targets.

Monday, December 05, 2005

ICT and Education show

BETT 2006 takes place at the Olympia exhibition centre in London from 11th-14th January 2006. Its the biggest show in the UK for anything to do with ICT in schools and lifelong learning, including hardware, software, digital content, online resources, etc. A huge exhibition area is full of companies and organisations showing off, and well over twenty thousand educators will flow through the halls over the four days.

There's a seminar programme too, but for me that's not often a significant attraction (our own Scottish show SETT, each September in Glasgow, is stronger in this area). The thing that pulls me down to Olympia most years is the unrivalled range of digital 'stuff' on show.

So, if you're going, register online first. Then check the exhibitor list and plan your day to see what you can fit in. Each time I visit some of the regulars who will always have something fresh:
BBC, Channel 4, Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, Immersive Education, Intuitive Media, NESTA Futurelab, etc. I also hit the government stands, like Department for Education and Skills, Department for International Development, and Becta, all good for practical support material. Then I allow time to roam around a bit, to see what good things I come across by serendipity. Last year the Gigajam stand (music and ICT) was a hot one.

If you're a Scot, come over to the Learning and Teaching Scotland stand near the middle of the main hall.

Top tip for the day: Wear comfortable shoes!

SQA e-zine volume#2

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Literacy and Phonics

Currently the hottest issue for professional debate among educators in England - the best ways to teach children to read.

An independent Review group on the teaching of early reading, including the role of 'synthetic phonics' methods, has issued an interim report which came out in favour of that approach as most effective.

Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Education, accepted the point and her Department for Education and Skills acted quickly. From September 2006 primary schools in England will have to work with a new literacy strategy which prescribes synthetic phonics. A Guardian article reports on the anger of many teachers at this change.

Research findings in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, are a key part of the evidence in favour of synthetic phonics. A BBC story 'New reading system wins backing' outlines support for this approach.

But one of the strengths of Scottish education is that it does not usually prescribe or insist on one solution. It accepts that there are alternative ways of doing things, and allows diversity to test out different ways ahead.

There is also some debate about whether the gains experienced by primary children taught by synthetic phonics methods are sustained into their secondary education. More research needed?

School Buildings

The BBC story 'Call to ask pupils about design' outlines a suggestion by SchoolWorks, a not-for-profit advisory organisation in England. It calls for mandatory participation of students and teachers in the design of new or refurbished schools, because considering the views of the building’s intended users will result in structures that are better used and more fit-for-purpose.

Sounds sensible. You might have hoped this already happened on a systematic basis, as a requirement for planning permission, but teacher friends tell me they've never been consulted in such situations.

Another charity, the Sorrell Foundation, runs an initiative called 'JoinedUpDesignforSchools'. This also aims to help create better school buildings by involving "the consumers" (also known as children, young people or pupils) in the design process. They have a series of roadshow events to show off what children want in their schools, but sadly the roadshow isnt visiting us up in Scotland. Maybe next year?

Testing time for education system

BBC article on possible changes to the exam system in Scotland. Interesting interview with Peter Peacock (see audio link on right-hand side).

Friday, December 02, 2005

Gaelic Education

This week the Scottish Executive Education Department published "The Report of the Gaelic Medium Teachers Action Group". The Group made recommendations to improve the recruitment and supply of teachers who can teach in the language, to expand provision of education in Gaelic medium generally, and particularly into secondary schooling.

A news release from SEED, titled 'Bid to boost Gaelic teacher numbers', says that implementation of the recommendations will increase the numbers entering GME teaching and make it a more attractive career with improved promotion prospects, etc.

This is good for Gaelic. But already teachers are saying 'what about the other subject areas where there are shortages? Why can't we have financial incentives to attract extra teachers too?'..