The Internet etc
teachers can write effectively, using a wordprocessor to create, edit,
spell-check, insert simple clip-art, arrange work and present the output
appropriately. However, the above skills represent only about 10% of the
potential use of a good wordprocessor.
The wordprocessor (or more accurately a 'text-processor') can perform many simple tasks which are quite complex to perform in a spreadsheet or database - for example, using 'Case Swap' or 'Search and Replace' paragraph markers or tabs. Many amateurs still set up non-calculating tables in a spreadsheet which would be better done using a wordprocessor! [I often copy data from a spreadsheet or database paste into a wordprocessor, perform various processes, as above, and then paste back into my spreadsheet or database!]
If we are to raise the competency levels of our students, it is essential that we have at least an 'Intermediate' level of skills ourselves. (See section on Staff Development) The following skills are what I consider to be a minimum expectancy for all KS4 students, whatever their subject specialisms - and certainly an absolute minimum expectation of our KS5 cohort:
Familiarity with the use of stylesheets and the development of a personal or departmental 'house-style';
The use of 'outlining' to manage larger documents, generate a Table of Contents etc;
Competency in creating advanced headers & footers eg for left/right-handed pages etc;
The use of 'Sections' to control the formatting of different parts of a document;
Principles of mail-merge, including selective output, formatting, label printing etc;
Familiarity with setting up brochures, pamphlets and other layouts;
Competency in inserting footnotes, endnotes and indexes;
Familiarity with inserting comments, including voice or audio comments;
Recognise the benefits of saving files in universal formats, such as RTF;
Understand principles of printing, including 'duplex', selection of media etc.
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Many staff feel that number-crunching should be easier than it often is. Spreadsheets are a very powerful resource, unfortunately under-used, misused, and often seen to be confusing and arcane. Spreadsheets, used well, are a boon to all managers of data - ie ALL staff, Heads of Departments, classroom teachers and form-tutors, administrators, technicians and LSAs alike!
Colleagues, therefore, need to understand the benefits
of simple data-handling within the context of school or college departments.
As a 'warm-up' CPD exercise I often suggest setting up a Marks Book that is nicely
formatted, using its 'page-repeat' facilities, generating a term-by-term record
with multiple lists that never need to be re-written again!
Generating individual or class-reports then becomes 'a breeze' - half-termly 'Star Charts' using the pictogram facility is an impressive skill that the younger students appreciate!
Most subject areas have to analyse coursework marks under a series of headings. Once set up your Marksbook suddenly becomes a powerful analytic tool with just a few simple formulæ. Graphical displays of statistics soon highlight problem areas - particularly at Parents Evenings as I have found on many occasions.
Some essential spreadsheet skills include:
Familiarity with spreadsheet layout, formulæ terminology, concept of the 'Print Area' etc;
Ability to format data, borders and backgrounds appropriately to business standards;
Familiarity with the use of Headers and Footers in Excel - and comparisons with Word;
Competency in creating linked cells, sheets and books;
Knowledge of file conversions, exporting/importing data;
Ability to generate appropriately formatted graphs/charts;
Use of 'Conditional IF' and 'Multiple IF' formulæ;
Generation and use of 'Lookup Tables';
Principles of printing spreadsheets.
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Perhaps one of the greatest mysteries in ICT is that of the database. Of
all the software applications, there are a mere handful of spreadsheets, a score
of graphics packages, a similar number of wordprocessors, and yet many hundreds
of databases - invariably dedicated to one topic and with their own individual
format and interrogation criteria.
In recent years schools have seen the situation become even more exacerbated as MIS systems have become increasingly adapted and refined to local requirements. For administrators and senior staff the two main commercial MIS contenders are SIMS.net and CMIS. For many SIMS still suffers from a non-windows legacy but after many transformations and additions is still holding its own in many schools. To me CMIS is refreshingly different in that as an end-user it produces every output I, as a classroom teacher, require. Both packages are extremely sophisticated and need a high level of expertise in setting up and, for that matter, some considerable training in their day-to-day use.
Using Databases in the Classroom:
As commercial databases have become more popular in schools I suspect that many teachers have lost their familiarity with MS Access - and the rest have not even tried to learn how to create a database for class use. This, to me, is a great pity. For me, the enquiring mind is an essential element of academic growth.
In recent years the rapid growth of the Internet has allowed teachers to avoid generating large files of relevant data. Instead children are often told to (waste time) and browse the Internet for snippets of often unconnected information. Teachers, possibly with the support of their Subject Associations, should make the effort to amass large amounts of data for each subject, eg Music, Geography, Science etc etc. Simple CSV files of such data could easily be circulated through the Subject networks.
The primary purpose of a database can be described as 'Asking Questions, Getting Answers'. This is powerful stuff - encouraging students (a) to assess the content of a datafile in terms of relevance to their needs; (b) to explore their reasoning and phrasing of questions logically and appropriately; (c) to be aware of the responsibility to manage output effectively and (d) to be able to evaluate the results of their interrogations.
Perhaps this is where we should have my simple definition of a database:
"A database is a system of organising information so that
a logical question produces an appropriate output."
How information is collected, collated and stored, how questions are formulated
and how output is controlled are skills which once established at KS2 remain as
permanent truths right through to KS5 and even for FE and HE students.
It is essential that all staff, without exception, should:
have a knowledge of all the basic database terms;
understand the logic of simple and complex interrogations;
have the ability to create simple datafiles with appropriate data formats;
understand the need to select appropriate output fields;
be able to export data in an appropriate format;
appreciate the problems of printing from databases;
understand the nature of student research and the content of written
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DTP is essentially about combining text and graphics. It is the Editor's tool for the final combination
of prepared text and graphics created from other applications. Far too
often children are encouraged to go straight to their DTP package and start
creating cosmetic layouts before even assembling their materials. -
WRONG WAY ROUND!
Children should be encouraged to research and draft their stories in a basic wordprocessor, proof-read, spell-check and refine their work etc before any cosmetics are added. Otherwise it is far too easy for the slow worker to fail to cover the essential subject matter and waste time fiddling on with a pretty layout! Text is then imported into the DTP package, appropriate illustrations can then be placed according to the stories chosen, fonts formatted appropriately, and layers and layout suitably adjusted.
For many years quality publishing has been a closely guarded craft, using very expensive and individualistic packages such as Pagemaker, or Quark Express. Experts in these packages tended to retain a loyalty to the Apple-Mac hardware that the software was originally designed for and poured scorn on anyone (including me) who thought that professional-quality publishing could ever be produced using a PC. For various reasons both the hardware and software have to some extent converged and now Apple-Macs are emulating PCs and most publishing software is now available for the PC.
It should be noted that it is not essential to spend large sums of money on a DTP package. Everything that one needs to do in DTP can be done directly in Word - once a few basic tricks have been learnt (eg formatting the page layout for an A5 booklet). Another very significant aspect is that of file-sizes. Students who regularly generate text in a DTP package such as MS Publisher instead of Word run a very real risk of running over their allowance of disk-space! These four paragraphs of text consume some 32KB of memory in Publisher, 24KB in Formatted Word, 8KB in Rich Text Format and an amazing 2KB when saved as plain text.
However, the plain fact cannot be ignored that several 'educational' DTP packages have a host of simple formatting techniques which make the designing of Christmas Cards, for instance, much easier, particularly for the KS2 student. Again, over the last few years, packages such as MS Publisher have taken on more refinements and more closely reflect business standards. A host of templates are usually available which can distract students from creating their own unique designs - or is it just me that likes making things awkward?
Two exciting new developments have recently come onto the UK scene: Comic Life (from plasq.com) is designed specifically for organising photographs into a 'comic' layout. (See an example produced by my 8-yr old Granddaughter). Despite my suggestions that this can be modified for more general school use the writers of Comic Life have not attempted to take up my brilliant idea!) At the other extreme- it needs learning - is Scribus , a very powerful OSS desktop publishing application which has many professional features. As a 'freebie' I'm sure that it is well worth the trouble of a few hours familiarisation.
I often relate to my younger students the story of the Lady Mayor who, upon touring a newly opened newspaper production premises said to the Editor-in-Chief, "I am always surprised how you always find the right amount of news for each day's publication. - Never too much, never too little." That is the secret of the art-form called publishing - to transparently conceal the 'joins' and give the whole production a feel of coherence rather than a patchwork of unrelated items.
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Essentially there are two main groups of
graphics programs - those which generate Bit Mapped Graphics and those which
generate what is known as Vector graphics. There are also quite a large
family of applications which are designed to convert an image from one format to
another. However, particularly when modern digital photography is involved,
file-sizes can be very large and thus take a long time to download over the
Internet or process on a local PC. In order to reduce file-sizes images
can be saved in a number of formats - just try the 'Save As' option to discover
just how many different formats there are and check out their resultant
file-sizes! [NB for more detailed information, try using 'define: jpeg' in
Bit Mapped Graphics: Possibly the most common and versatile tool for 'bit maps' is MS Paint. Simple colour-fills and textured effects can be applied quite effectively with a little practice. A straight line, for instance, is drawn as a series of 'dots' or pixels each point being defied by position and colour. Even a small picture, therefore, is composed of several millions of instructions, creating miniature 'block graphics'. More advanced photo-editing techniques require more expensive 'Photo-Shop' packages and include specialised features such as 'red-eye' editing and texture stamping etc.
Vector Graphics: As the name implies, plots the position and direction of a line as a simple mathematical instruction and as such can save memory and therefore increases speed of loading etc. Other mathematical instructions can generate 'graduated fills' and allow for a variety of transformations. There are several simple Vector Graphic applets such as the 'DRAW' facility, 'Word Art' or the 'Organisation Diagrams' within MS Word. Note that however much the vector-file is enlarged, the quality of the image remains high as opposed to the degradation (or 'staircasing') that occurs with the 'block graphics' of 'Paint'.
There are many 'Business Graphics' applications available which enable the novice to quickly generate highly polished and professional-looking diagrams, in A4 or even A3 format, including flow charts, organisation diagrams, landscape, architectural or electronic diagrams etc. Two of the most popular are Visio and ConceptDraw - the latter of which I find more flexible and adaptable to my use. However, lovely as these may be for personal or home use they become somewhat expensive for networking on a large number of school workstations.
Corel DRAW, although a bit intimidating to begin with, is, for me, one of the finest graphics packages which is well worth the effort to get to know. Certainly all our students should become familiar with it - if only to discover that some Windows programs have different Menu layouts to Microsoft conventions! The quality of results from deforming 'envelopes' or creating 'extrusions' can be quite impressive.
Presentation Graphics, similar to 'Business Graphics' allow you to generate column charts, pie charts and scores of other visual representations of business statistics either from a spreadsheet or database or within an applet in Word or PowerPoint etc. Again, these are vector-based applets which allow for re-sizing without any degradation of quality.
CAD: Technically CAD is an expensive Computer Aided Design package, typically for Architects and Engineers, whereby tables of materials properties are automatically interactively linked to the drafting tablet. An engineer would thus be informed of the tensile strength of a component of given dimensions and material etc. Similarly a CAD/CAM package allows an operator to draw a shape which then generates a set of mathematical instructions to operate a machine such as a lathe, plotter or sewing machine.
Animation programs enable the operator to chain and sequence a series of images to simulate movement. Each image is like a frame in a movie. Most such applications are time-consuming, require a lot of patience and preferably some simple knowledge of programming!
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- or rather 'Sensing & Control' - is not as well developed in many schools as it could be.
The use of 'Big Track' and 'Roamer' packages at KS2 and the inevitable
high-jacking of Logo-programming by the Maths departments in many schools tends
to create a gap in students' application of their learning. With a little
practice and some delving beyond the basic instructions some very sophisticated
interactive control 'games' can be designed by students. Using a program
such as MS Logo one can soon establish good practice in procedural
Way back, some 20 years ago, when the BBC computer first came out Scientists around the world suddenly found an impressive tool already equipped with built-in interfaces for sensing and control and for a time schools' workshops enjoyed a period of teaching 'Control' of simple artefacts, 'traffic lights' etc. However, as the 'Beeb' gave way to more conventional PCs without the built-in interfaces so a period of hiatus occurred - 'Smart-Boxes' were introduced but initially (in many schools) only as an expensive demonstration tool.
It is the writer's belief that many more schools' departments should be regularly using Sensing and Control as a regular and practical demonstration of the use of computers not only in Science and Technology but also in Geography, Physical Education, Health Education etc.
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Presentation software should be seen primarily as an interactive Visual Aid. Still far
too many 'lecturers' insult their audiences by reading back exactly what is on
the screen - instead of using the screen to support, highlight or add to the salient
points of their delivery. Again, another thing which is most off-putting
is the use of the Microsoft Office standard templates rather than developing
appropriate themes or House-Styles more appropriate to the subject matter.
In the modern teaching environment, where plenary sessions are encouraged, it is most important that page numbering is included on the screen so that (along with suitable hyperlinks) teachers and students can quickly 'hop' from one screen to another when discussing issues. - Certainly, for example, I always have a direct link back to the 'Lesson Objectives' page from my plenary page.
It should go without saying, that appropriate colour schemes should recognise readability, along with appropriate font-sizes and type-faces. Illustrations should be relevant and only used when required.
For many years I have prepared all my lessons using PowerPoint. I find it quite therapeutic to go through the discipline of thinking through what the students will see on screen (remember those 'blackboard summaries' we had to produce on teaching practice?) Again, as in preparing a wordprocessed document, it is a simple matter to modify the content of a presentation where differentiation from one group to another is required.
Particularly when introducing a new topic, I often include the use of Concept Maps (see listed topic for more information) within my presentations. Along with appropriate colour-coding and hyperlinks I am thus able to graphically demonstrate relationships between differing sections of a topic which help to give students a more coherent overview of the work.
Not only can the Presentation be use as a visual aid, I often save each lesson's presentation as a protected 'Show' in a separate subject folder for access by students. - How many times does an absentee arrive at a lesson unaware of what he/she has missed? By regularly placing coherent presentations in a folder for access by students we have a very useful revision resource for absentees, the forgetful or just those who want to reflect more carefully on material covered.
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The Internet: is a worldwide network of computer networks. It is an
interconnection of large and small networks around the globe. The Internet began
in 1962 as a resilient computer network (ie. a distributed system with no single
point of failure) for the US military and over time has grown into a global
communication tool of more than 70,000 computer networks. The 'Net', is a
worldwide system of computer networks providing reliable and redundant connectivity between disparate computers
and systems by using common transport and data protocols.
'The World' is a very big place, filled with all kinds of dangers - 'The World' of the Internet is no different! However, two immediate dangers confront us all, but in particular our children. The first is glaringly obvious but so often not appreciated - as soon as any child steps through the portal of the Internet they are instantly in any part of the world with often strange or alien cultures, beliefs, ethics and bias.
At home, amazingly, most children's computers are kept in bedrooms where parents invariably have little knowledge of what their children are actually doing or what part of the 'world' their children have strayed into. I have often advised parents (in relation to homeworks) that they should make every effort 'to keep the bedroom door open'. Once the door has become shut and a no-go area established the parents of teenagers have lost an important aspect of parental responsibility. This is particularly relevant to Internet access. Parents and guardians MUST exercise suitable control over Internet access in the home and also understand and expect the same standards at school.
As stated elsewhere, Network Managers, teachers and all other staff in schools have a legal responsibility to maintain secure and safe Network AND Internet access. Monitoring must be seen to be taking place on a regular basis, Blacklists and Whitelists regularly maintained and filtering logs regularly checked. Above all, all staff and students must be subject to the school's Internet Policy Documents and Code of Conduct or Acceptable Use Policy - the 'AUP'.
The second danger is more subtle, that of attribution. When we buy food from the supermarket we regularly and automatically compare products, check such things as the manufacturer, the additives or E-numbers, whether a product is safe for children and, above all, the sell-by date. However, children find it all too easy to accept information on the Internet as 'gospel' without checking the date of authorship, the actual source of the information or comparing different but similar materials. We need to ensure that all children are well-taught to investigate the accuracy, relevance and bias of any materials they find and, of course, to get into a good academic habit of always quoting their sources.
Browsers: As a quick search will reveal, there are more than a dozen popular Internet browsers available to choose from. However, having tried most of them at one time or another, I must confess that I still tend to prefer Microsoft's Internet Explorer - particularly version 7 with its multiple tab/pages facility - but Firefox is catching up quickly!
As a definition: a web browser is a software application that enables a user to view and interact with HTML documents hosted by web servers or held in a file system. Popular browsers available for personal computers include Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Safari. A browser is the most commonly used kind of user agent. The largest networked collection of linked documents is known as the World Wide Web.
Search Engines: There are surprisingly many thousands of search engines available. However, like databases, many are dedicated to particular topics or academic disciplines, sometimes using particularly arcane criteria or interrogation commands.
As a definition: A search Engine is a computer software program designed to help users of the Internet locate information on the World Wide Web. It collects and indexes Internet resources (Web pages, Usenet Newsgroups, programs, images, etc.) and provides a keyword search system allowing the user to identify and retrieve resources. The search engines maintain databases of web sites and use programs (often referred to as "spiders" or "robots") to collect information, which is then indexed by the search engine.
There are many search engines available and each is different in their scope, search protocols, and appearance. Some common search engines are: AskForKids, Alta Vista, Google, Yahoo, Excite, Lycos, Dogpile and HotBot. Originally some were dedicated to specialist topics like Dogpile which focussed on Geographical and environmental issues. Others, like Ask Jeeves have metamorphosed as children have become more sophisticated in their use of the Internet.
As a personal comment I have preferred Google ever since it was first launched. Some so-called educational search engines have links to games which I find to be a distraction others have far too many 'pop-ups' and advertising matter or 'adult' illustrations. At least Google has a set of preferences which can be pre-set to avoid some 'accidental' problems. In recent years Google has developed and is still piloting a range of 'Beta' applets - one of the most useful, which I often use, is their Define: command. I am sure that I am not the only person to use Google as my Internet Home Page!
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When one considers that the first web-page was only written some 15 years ago and
that now even 5-year olds are writing web-pages at home and at school we can understand how quickly the technology has moved on!
In many ways Web Design is comparable to Desktop Publishing - it is an art-form
combining text and graphics - with the optional extra of sound and video
attachments. As such a website is an information system - it needs to be
coherent, attractive and easily navigable. A good website should load
quickly and allow the reader to move efficiently to any part of the site.
(As I hope this site demonstrates). The layout, content, language,
illustration, typefaces and methods of navigation should be appropriate to the
age and abilities of the reader.
Definitions: Web design is the design of web pages, websites and web applications using HTML, CSS, images, and other media. Web design is in contrast with web development, which includes web server configuration, writing web applications and server security. For a fuller set of articles on the subject click here for the Wikipedia reference.
HTML: HyperText Markup Language, is the basic coding language used to create hypertext documents for the World Wide Web. In HTML, a block of text can be surrounded with tags that indicate how it should appear (for example, in bold face or italics, in a selected colour and with indented margins). Also, in HTML a word, a block of text, or an image can be linked to another location within a document, another file or a site remotely on the Web. HTML files are viewed with a Web browser.
CSS: Cascading Style Sheets, (similar to templates) is a style sheet language that allows authors to attach style (eg, fonts, spacing, and aural cues) to structured documents (eg, HTML documents and XML applications). By separating the presentation style of documents from the content of documents, CSS simplifies Web authoring and site maintenance. Individual HTML pages become much smaller and thus faster to load (and easier to read the HTML code!) Cascading Style Sheets are a big breakthrough in Web design because they allow developers to control the style and layout of multiple Web pages all at once. With CSS, when you want to make a change, you simply change the style, and that element is updated automatically wherever it appears throughout all the pages within the site.
not necessary for the basic functioning of a site. Too many visual effects
add significantly to the total size of the site with subsequent increase in
download times. The 'front end' to this site was built using an aptly
named application called 'TrendyIntro Flash Builder'.
Although children can create simple web-pages using no more than a wordprocessor such as MS Word a basic knowledge of HTML is essential if larger or more complex documents are to be considered. File-sizes need to be kept as small as possible if they are to load efficiently over the Internet. There are a surprisingly large number of web-authoring packages available. Some are cheap and cheerful, others are seriously complex and expensive. Until a few years ago MS Front Page was difficult for children to master, however, the latest version appears to be much more foolproof, allows the generation of good quality work (as this site should demonstrate) and is moderately priced for school work.
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There are many e-mail
systems available from the 'free' packages such as Google-Mail to the ubiquitous MS Outlook. Some systems allow for
specific configuration and filtering, which is very attractive to schools, but
can be expensive. Although teachers regularly use e-mail there is a
significant reluctance to allow students to use e-mail in schools. There
are, of course, a number of understandable hazards to be overcome but, in my
opinion, that is no need to 'throw out the baby with the bathwater'.
Essentially, those activities whereby children are encouraged to share and develop work as a group activity, where each can make a contribution and quickly generate a completed article containing a number of ideas and shared values must be a good thing. Obviously, as with any group activity, it is essential that the individual contributions are identified and presented as a balanced work. At a more mature level students can comment upon the various opinions or ideas raised as anyone would in a formal debate - with the added advantage that those otherwise transient comments become documented and reflected upon.
Critics may raise the age-old problem of 'cheating'. However, for those who want to cheat, the USB pen is a simple alternative if e-mail facilities are banned. I believe that teachers must grasp this particular nettle and teach towards a non-cheating environment - helping students to understand that the penalties for plagiarism can be serious, particularly in relation to examination coursework. The sooner that students get into good habits - the better. Good teaching on 'peer-assessment' and the development of peer-assessment strategies can overcome many of these problems.
Of more concern to me is the need to educate everyone, staff and students alike, concerning e-mail etiquette. Schools should publish a clear 'netiquette' policy document. Similarly, a simple document on the use of Wikis. For a longer guidance document click here. But more of this in my training programme!
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Audio/Visual editing is an essential part of the teacher's toolkit. Even
if the time-consuming fine-editing is done by a technician it is still essential
that teachers know what is possible and reasonable. I sometimes start a
lesson with a 2-min video playback on my IWB as the introduction to a Business
Studies lesson - or how about a spot of soothing Mozart before a passionate
Perhaps one of the quickest ways of learning the basics is to run a video-club for students. Small video-clips of say, playing a musical instrument, dance steps or an athletics technique are a good start. Using Microsoft's Windows MovieMaker is a good place to begin. Another very effective group-approach is to compile a set of stills, eg Health & Safety Cartoons, and add an entertaining voice-over.
Often we can have problems saving soundfiles in a suitable format. Changing .WAV files to .MP3 format or vice-versa may require a simple and relatively cheap piece of software such as SmartAudioConverter which I have found very useful at times.
Another application that adds to the on-line support one can give is through a program such as ScreenFLash for Schools which is a cut-down version of UNFLASH. Using this application (with a bit of practice) it is easy to record on-screen activity with voice-over.
For those who have mastered the basics and want to move on to more professional presentations the Camtasia suite of programs allows for on-screen annotations and voice-overs. An amazing suite - but it will take some time to learn - but the effort is well worth it!
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Last, but not least, my favourite teaching tool, not only for my own presentations but also for my students from Yr-7 to
Yr-13 and beyond! When combining prepared Concept Maps with the interactivity of the IWB
lessons become so much more fast-moving AND comprehensible.
I find Concept Maps help my own lesson preparation and as such provide powerful visual illustrations of, for instance, a body of knowledge or experience to be considered. As with any software, the ability to edit or re-arrange items is very powerful in and of itself. Quite often a traditional paper-and-pencil brain-storming exercise with small groups of children can result in a very untidy final document. But, ask those same children to do the same activity on a PC and the debate can become much more animated, more thought goes into the activity and the finished product is arranged perfectly ordered and neatly presented. The finished product can then be incorporated into a wordprocessed document or presentation software.
There are many different forms of ‘mind-maps’ – from simple list sorting, group comparisons, 'brain storms', mind-maps and concept maps. However, I find that the freeware, CMAP, meets all my needs and beyond. For a simple interactive presentation, introducing the study of Hardware & Software to a group of 15-yr olds, using CMAP click here. (Suggest you select 'view full screen' for best viewing)
CMAP from IHMC (Florida Universities) is a very powerful tool backed by masses of world-wide academic support. I understand that it will shortly be upgraded with more tools such as RSS feed etc. A brief introductory extract from one of their papers must suffice:
"Concept maps are tools for organizing and representing knowledge. They include concepts, usually enclosed in circles or boxes
of some type, and relationships between concepts or propositions, indicated by a connecting line between two concepts. Words
on the line specify the relationship between the two concepts. We define a concept as a perceived regularity in events or objects,
or records of events or objects, designated by a label."
Kayuda is somewhat different to other mind-mapping applications. It doesn't have all the flashy clipart of some but is a potential revolution in text-manipulation. All teachers of creative writing should look at this!
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How time flies! When I first set up this website, we did not know what a 'blog' was and certainly did not view 'blogging' as an educational tool. Now almost every child has their own ID and 'avatar', and has links to many chat-rooms, blogs and photo/video repositories such as Flickr or YouTube. And what's more, far too many of them know the 'cheats' to get round common internet blocking in schools. The fact that these are so attractive particularly to children makes me wonder what we are doing wrong in class - no wonder some of them get so bored! The challenge is to get the best from these sites for curriculum purposes, educate our students how to use them responsibly and have proper controls in place to prevent inappropriate use.
If teachers have not used a blog before my simple advice is just try it - you will never be the same again! I have only become a 'blogger' since Spring '07 and now regularly use some dozen or so blogs, contacting various groups totalling 10's of thousands of regular readers - there is always someone who has an answer to your question. See my page listing some common sites.
We have already referred to the problems of 'cheating' using e-mail or USB pens. We know that where schools try to ban the use of mobile phones, they are generally fighting a loosing battle. Legislation only gives powers for punitive action where serious inappropriate use is clearly identified. So what is the solution? For what it's worth, my opinion is that we should teach towards responsible use - starting at a very early age, certainly by mid-primary school - along with making our curriculum more attractive to a new generation. I'm repeatedly haunted by the phrase:
“Don't limit a
child to your own learning,
for he was born
in another time.” There
are several collaborative applications that recognise the need to establish good
practice in the Junior school - see Edujam for my
favourite example. It combines a broad range of media skills,
collaboration and peer-assessment along with controlled supervision and the
facility for 'supervisors' to allow finished work to be put up 'on stage' for
VLE access. By the time children enter Secondary education they should be
prepared to use collaborative tools constructively - and this means that
teachers should be conversant with a wide range of challenging scenarios to get
the best out of this approach to learning. Obviously, many teachers have a
genuine concern about the safety of such a tool. Software writers have
developed a variety of solutions - again I list my preferred choice, LL4schools,
but see the relevant page
for he was born in another time.”
There are several collaborative applications that recognise the need to establish good practice in the Junior school - see Edujam for my favourite example. It combines a broad range of media skills, collaboration and peer-assessment along with controlled supervision and the facility for 'supervisors' to allow finished work to be put up 'on stage' for VLE access.
By the time children enter Secondary education they should be prepared to use collaborative tools constructively - and this means that teachers should be conversant with a wide range of challenging scenarios to get the best out of this approach to learning. Obviously, many teachers have a genuine concern about the safety of such a tool. Software writers have developed a variety of solutions - again I list my preferred choice, LL4schools, but see the relevant page for others.
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