Monday, 24 September 2012

Government hands ICT curriculum over to industry

The Department for Education has handed over responsibility for the draft ICT Programme of Study for the new ICT curriculum to the British Computer Society (BCS) and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng).
These two organisations will lead on the development of curriculum work for all pupils in key stages 1 to 4 – and they are giving selected, invited stakeholders just one week to respond to its draft programme. The schools community is not included.
On September 18 the DfE signed a memorandum of understanding with BCS and RAEng stating: "It is essential that the Programme of Study is developed in association with and has 'buy-in' from key stakeholders across the sector." They will have to move quickly. The draft programme has to be submitted to the DfE by the October 23. The 'official' version will be published early in 2013 for public consultation.
More information can be found on the EdFutures wiki. The wiki also reveals that the collection of organisations behind the drive for curriculum change – the BCS, RAEng, Naace (advisers and consultants), ITTE (teacher educators), CAS (Computers and Schools), NextGen (industry) and Vital (teacher educators) – have found a very high level of consensus. (Apparently the group also includes three secondary computer science teachers, two university computer science academics and three teacher educators, two of them primary.)

'Digital literacy' an early casualty

It seems the notion of "digital literacy" has been an early casualty. This is how the wiki contributor describes the development: "To my great surprise we made significant progress in reaching a shared (I think unanimously) view about the key high level areas that needed to be included.
"Fundamental to achieving this was moving away from using some of the terminology that has caused so much confusion and disagreement in the discussions of the ICT curriculum over the last few years (eg digital literacy). Instead we went for a three strand approach: Fundamentals; Application; Implications.
"We then proceeded to debate our views on the purposes and aims of ICT. The importance of ICT being inspiring and creative was emphasised, as was the critical need for the impact of ICT on all disciplines to be recognised and thus built into the PoS for all the other subjects. We talked in quite a lot of detail about the specific 'elements' that should be taught at KS1 and KS2 – and again there was a high level of agreement.
"We spent a little less time on KS3 due to the pragmatics (people needed to leave!). There was some concern expressed about there being a PoS at KS4 – some members of the group felt very strongly that the ICT PoS shouldn't cover KS4 because of the realities of how that might work given that the main drivers at KS4 are the national exams (currently GCSEs)."
The group now has its work cut out to get its draft programme ready to share with selected stakeholders by October 1. Respondents will get just a week (until 12 noon on October 9) to make their views known (they are advised "block time in your diary"). Of course there will be the opportunity for responses to the DfE publication consultation but the wiki makes it clear that the important moment to wield influence is right now. That opportunity is not extended to schools and teachers.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Unity

This weekends Games Authoring homework.......  Unity  
 
Any links or advice welcomed?


 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Monday, 10 September 2012

10 Tips for Setting up your Twitter Profile


10 Tips for Setting up your Twitter Profile

10 Tips for Setting up your Twitter Profile

 
As I was setting up my latest twitter profile @MrKnightTweets this week, I found myself subconsciously going through a few 'best practice' rules that I've developed over the last few months. I thought they would be worth sharing to give anyone new to Twitter a helping hand – I'd also love your feedback as to what could be done better as I consider myself to always be learning.

Before you start, think about your aims

Why are you setting up this account? If you don't have a clear answer to that question then it's going to be very difficult for you to create an account that speaks with a consistent voice and provides a great reason for people to follow. Think about what kind of things you'd like to talk about, whether you're hoping to promote something such as a business or a blog, and the kind of impression you'd like to make with this account. Should it be funny or highbrow business for instance?

Have a consistent on-line presence

If you're setting up a personal account, or an account where you're the face of your brand, think about how you're represented on other social networking sites. You may already have built up a lot of currency on LinkedIn or Facebook for example, but if you use a different name and an unrecognisable avatar on your twitter account then your existing network might not realise it's you and you'll have to start all over again with winning them over. Use the same name and the same profile picture and your followers will port across very happily, keen to hear more from someone they've already built up a rapport with.

Choose a short, memorable name

Every character counts on twitter. Choose a long name and every time someone tweets you or about you, they're using up more precious tweet real estate than was really necessary, which reduces the space for their message. It's amazing how much difference even two or three characters can make. Ideally you want a name that people can remember so they can tweet you without having to search for you every time. For this reason I always try and avoid the use of special characters or numbers. Sometimes it's unavoidable but I find it useful to think about someone tweeting on a crowded commuter bus from their iPhone… if you're name is @_N1c3_Gur13 they just might lose the will to live trying to type it in and go and tweet @Andi instead.

Lose the egg and NEVER leave your profile blank

Having an egg as your avatar or leaving your profile blank says one of four things.
  1. I'm really new here;
  2. I'm a bot;
  3. I'm really lazy or
  4. I don't take twitter seriously.
All of the above will make people less likely to want to follow you, so make your first move to lose that egg and write your profile. Anything is better than nothing (well, almost anything!)

Make it personal by adding your face

Some people choose to use a logo or brand for their account. This is fine if it's instantly recognisable or well trusted and the account is based on promoting the business, but most of the time I'd advocate that you stick a picture of your beautiful face up as your avatar. This makes people feel that they're talking to a real person and really helps you to build relationships. It also has the added bonus of meaning that people will pick you out from the crowd when you attend tweet meets or other social media events. Make sure it's an up to date picture though or people may struggle looking for the twenty year old you at a tweet-up when in fact you're 53!

Sell yourself in your profile

You have 160 words to sell yourself in your twitter profile. Use it. This is your shop window, your chance to tell people what you're all about and give them a reason to follow you. Make it clear what you're likely to be tweeting about and adopt a similar tone to your tweets – so if your tweets are light hearted, make sure your profile text is too. Your profile can be a key determiner in people choosing whether to follow you or not, take five minutes to write it well.

Include your real name

Even if you're tweeting from a company account with a logo for your avatar and a brand as your twitter handle, include your real name in your profile. This will be displayed next to all your tweets and will help people to connect with you. I always find it slightly unnerving when people don't include their name at all – you can't build a picture of who you're talking to and you are also less likely to trust someone who won't put their name to something. You also find yourself wondering whether there's really a face behind the account at all or whether it's just a series of interns or similar.

Link back to your blog or website

You have the chance to include a URL in your profile. Use the opportunity. This is your chance to tell people more about yourself than the 160 characters in your profile. Some people choose to set up a specific landing page with more information about themselves or their company. I usually like to link through to a blog, other people will link to the homepage of their personal or company website. You could even send people to your LinkedIn profile or similar. Just make sure you use the opportunity as people who are interested in your profile will often want to learn more.

Tweet before you follow

Even though you're talking to yourself, send out a tweet or two before you start following anyone. People wondering whether or not to follow you back will often take a look at your profile, and if they see you've never tweeted they will be very unmotivated to follow you.

Start as you mean to go on

Whether you're talking to 3 followers or 3 million followers, use the same approach in your tweeting. Share the same kind and calibre of links and information. The best way to grow your network and become a reliable source of information is to provide really high quality tweets from the word go.

11 Tips for Twitter Newbies


11 Tips for Twitter Newbies

11 Tips for Twitter Newbies

I can remember when I first started tweeting – it all seemed rather daunting if I'm perfectly honest. It was a bit like arriving a party where everybody knew each other except you, and they were talking in Swahili. Once I got into the swing of things I found it to be a great place to make friends, learn and share so it's well worth persevering, but I was pondering with my twitter friends this afternoon what tips could help a Twitter Newbie land with their feet on the ground, and here's what we came up with.

Know why you're here

Of course, you can start tweeting completely aimlessly, but it's likely that you'll tire of it pretty quickly. Just taking five minutes to decide why you want to tweet will help you to get the most out of it. Maybe you want to keep up with friends, or perhaps you're here to promote a brand, or learn about something specific. There are a whole range of reasons and depending on which ones you choose you'll conduct yourself rather differently. The key question is whether you're here for business use, personal use or a mixture of the two.

Fill out your profile

Before choosing to follow you, people will often take a look at your profile to see who you are and what you're about. Consider this your shop window where you get to sell yourself and explain to people what you'll be tweeting about. Filling out your profile can be a good way to help you work out why you're here if you haven't already done so. 

Upload a picture

Ditch the egg – it just shouts 'bot', 'newbie' or 'not interested in twitter' either way, it makes you less likely to be followed. Think carefully about what type of picture you upload – I generally advocate using the same profile picture across all of your accounts so that people who interact with you in other social spaces can quickly recognise you on Twitter and follow you (or not!) accordingly. My preference is always for a well-taken headshot. This will look professional and enable people to recognise you if they meet you in person. Others disagree and there are plenty of people who choose to have a logo or other icon instead of a headshot. This makes particular sense if the account is run by more than one person.

Follow people who interest you

This sounds so obvious but many people skip this step without meaning to. Once you've got your account make sure you actually follow the accounts that encouraged you to sign up in the first place. Of course, this works the other way too. Just because @ReallyGoodTyres followed you, doesn't mean you have to follow them back if you're really just here to talk about fly-fishing. Don't let your timeline get clogged up with people who don't interest you at all or you'll soon find that Twitter becomes rather tedious for you.

Jump into conversations

Don't be shy. It might look like everyone's having private conversations, but Twitter is a strictly open house so if you see a conversation that looks interesting simply reply all and get talking. It can seem a little daunting at first but before long you'll be chatting away to a whole host of new friends and colleagues.

Find and follow relevant hashtags

If it would be helpful I'll write a whole post for you on hashtags soon – but for now suffice to say that hashtags (which look like this on twitter: #Interesting) are a great way of finding people who are interested in the same things as you. For example if you search for #BlogChat you'll find all sorts of people chatting about blogging. Keep your eye open for hashtags in your twitter timeline and when you see one of interest take a look at who else has been using it and it will help you broaden your net.

Be authentic

You are here to be yourself, not some imagined super-self. Don't reinvent yourself. It's not big and it's not clever and you're probably very interesting just as you are. NEVER lie to make yourself sound more interesting or credible.

Keep it professional

Even if you've joined Twitter purely to talk about your love of Pokemon (wow that cultural reference shows you just how old I'm getting) you should keep a professional voice at all times, or at least, don't let it get too unprofessional. Think to yourself 'Would I mind my current or prospective boss reading this?' and if the answer is 'no' then don't post it. Of course, if your account is 100% anonymous you can ignore this advice.

Beware of apps that tweet on your behalf

There are thousands of apps which will offer to auto tweet for you, including paper lis, apps that tell you how many retweets you got last week and apps that tweet who unfollowed you recently. You might want to share this info but think carefully about it, especially if the app may continue publishing tweets on your behalf for time immemorial.

Don't expect to read every tweet

At first you're following three people, and then a dozen and then thirty of forty and you can read every tweet that they each send every day. But before you know it you'll be following hundreds of accounts and it's simply not realistic to expect to read everything that appears in your timeline. You shouldn't even try. Just dip in and out and see what catches your eye. The great thing about twitter is that the really interesting stuff tends to get retweeted in any case so you're likely to catch it at some point.

Check in regularly

Don't leave your account idle for weeks on end and then expect to be able to pop in and instantly pick up where you left off. You'll find that interaction comes a lot more naturally if you pop in and out a bit more frequently. Something that is very easy now that you can tweet from your mobile.
I hope some of these ideas are helpful – old hands, what would you add?
 
With thanks to Pooky
 

How to find great people to follow on Twitter

Pooky Shares
Twitter's no fun without great people to follow but it can be a bit of a mission trying to hunt through the millions of tweeters out there to find the ones who are the right fit for you.  Here are a few ideas to help you along the way.
 
Use lists – but be selective
Lists can be a great source of potential people to follow.  There also list services such as listorious and  twellow which list tweeters in categories – but don't just assume list membership means someone is a good follow.  Do your usual checks like reading profiles and checking out recent tweets or you risk bloating your follow list with people who aren't relevant or interesting.
 

Follow people your followers follow

Another good way to find people to follow is to take a look at who the people you're following follow.  The people who share the best links are most engaging on Twitter tend to be following a lot of equally excellent tweeters that might make a valuable addition to your network.
 

Ask for recommendations

Tweet asking for recommendations of the best tweeters to follow.  If you're interested in a specific type of person, make it clear: 'Can anyone recommend any tweeters with a keen interest in SEO to follow please?  Please RT' for example.  People are always keen to recommend excellent members of their network and are likely to retweet your request if you've been a valuable connection for them.
 

 Search for Hashtags

Search for twitter hashtags that are of interest to you and see who is posting with that hashtag – they may well be worth following.
 

 Join in with Twitter Chats

A great way to engage with other twitter users and find some new relevant people to follow is to throw yourself in at the deep end and take part in a twitter chat.  You're also likely to gain some relevant followers this way too as long as you contribute to the conversation and exchange some good ideas.
 

 Think QUALITY rather than QUANTITY

Remember – it's not all about the numbers.  It is better to have a small but highly relevant and engaged personal learning network than a network of thousands of people who you aren't interested in and never exchange ideas with.
 

Twitter hashtags – what they are and how to use them

Pooky Shares
Twitter's no fun without great people to follow but it can be a bit of a mission trying to hunt through the millions of tweeters out there to find the ones who are the right fit for you.  Here are a few ideas to help you along the way.
 
Use lists – but be selective
Lists can be a great source of potential people to follow.  There also list services such as listorious and  twellow which list tweeters in categories – but don't just assume list membership means someone is a good follow.  Do your usual checks like reading profiles and checking out recent tweets or you risk bloating your follow list with people who aren't relevant or interesting.
 

Follow people your followers follow

Another good way to find people to follow is to take a look at who the people you're following follow.  The people who share the best links are most engaging on Twitter tend to be following a lot of equally excellent tweeters that might make a valuable addition to your network.
 

Ask for recommendations

Tweet asking for recommendations of the best tweeters to follow.  If you're interested in a specific type of person, make it clear: 'Can anyone recommend any tweeters with a keen interest in SEO to follow please?  Please RT' for example.  People are always keen to recommend excellent members of their network and are likely to retweet your request if you've been a valuable connection for them.
 

 Search for Hashtags

Search for twitter hashtags that are of interest to you and see who is posting with that hashtag – they may well be worth following.
 

 Join in with Twitter Chats

A great way to engage with other twitter users and find some new relevant people to follow is to throw yourself in at the deep end and take part in a twitter chat.  You're also likely to gain some relevant followers this way too as long as you contribute to the conversation and exchange some good ideas.
 

 Think QUALITY rather than QUANTITY

Remember – it's not all about the numbers.  It is better to have a small but highly relevant and engaged personal learning network than a network of thousands of people who you aren't interested in and never exchange ideas with.
 

Twitter acronym and abbreviation crib sheet

 
Pooky Shares  

 


What with only 140 characters it's hardly surprising that Twitter is the homeland of the acronym and abbreviation.  But what do they all mean?
 
Here goes…
Avi – avatar or profile picture
B/C – because
B4 – before
BB – blackberry (not the fruit..)
BFN – bye for now
Bgd – background
BR – best regards
BTW – by the way
Chk – check
Cld – could
Clk – click
Cre8 – create
CUL8R – see you later
CT – 'cutweet' a retweet that's been shortened to make it fit within 140
Deets – details
DAM – don't annoy me
DM – direct message
DP – profile picture (I don't know why!)
Dweet – tweet sent whilst drunk (just say no kids…)
DYK – did you know?
EM – email
Eml – email
EMA – email address
F2F – face to face
FF – Follow Friday – you'll see it written as #FF and it's a recommendation that you follow that person
FML – F**K my life
FOTD – Find of the day
FTL – for the loss
FTW – for the win OR F**K the world
Fwd – forward
FYI – for your information
GLHF – good luck have fun
GM – good morning
Gr8 – great
GTFOH – Get the F**K outta here!
GTS – guess the song
HAND – have a nice day
HO – hangover
HT – Hat tip or heard through – e.g. if someone shared a link to a blog post you might HT them (some people choose to write via @user instead)
IC – I see
ICNBI – I cannot believe it
ICYMI – in case you missed it
IDK – I don't know
IM – instant message
IMHO – in my humble opinion
IYKWIM – if you know what I mean
IRL – in real life
Itz – it is
JK – just kidding
JSYK – just so you know
K – okay
KK – cool, cool
KYSO – knock your socks off
L8 – late
L8r – later
LHH – laugh hella hard
LOL – laughing out loud / lots of love
LMAO – laughing my A** off
LMFAO – laughing my F***ing A** off
LMK – let me know
Mil- million / mother in law
MILT – Mum I'd like to tweet!
MT – Modified tweet – a retweet that has been tweaked or shortened
Njoy – enjoy
NSFW – not safe for work
NW – now watching
OCT – obsessive compulsive tweeter
OH – overheard / other half
OMB – Oh my God (the B stands for Bieber in this instance)
OMG – Oh my God
OOMF – one of my followers
Peeps – people
Plz – please
Ppl – people
Props – proper respect
R – are
Rec – recommendation
RT – Retweet, tweets prefaced with RT @User indicate that that user's tweet is being shared
RTHX – thanks for the retweet
RU – are you?
SEO – search engine optimization
Shld – should
SMH – shake my head
STFU – shut the F**k up
Speets – spam tweets
Sweeple – sweet twitter people
Swhit – tweeting whilst on the toilet
TJ – joining into someone else's conversation (butt in)
TFF – twitter friend forever
TFTT – thanks for this tweet
TTFN – ta ta for now
TGIF – thank God it's Friday!
Thx – thanks
TY – thank you
TIA – thanks in advance
TL – timeline
TOYBT – tired of your Bulls**t
TT – trending topic
TTYL – talk to you later
TTYS – talk to you soon
TYL – tweet y'all later
U – you
Vols – volunteers
W – with (sometimes w/ )
W/E – weekend
Wld – would
WTF – what the f**k?
WTH – what the hell?
Wtv – whatever
WLTM – would like to meet
Wzup – what's up?
YKIM – you know what I mean
Ykyat – you know you're addicted to
YOLO – you only live once
YOYO – you're on your own
YW – you're welcome 



Monday, 3 September 2012

Blogging in the classroom: why your students should write online

 
For the past few months Michael Drennan's GCSE and A level students have been doing all their writing via student blogs. Here, he reflects on the power of blogging in the classroom
Blog Definition 

Writing in classrooms seems to me to have two wildly different, conflicting purposes: a limited, traditional and strict purpose - because exams, like many decent jobs, will be about written skill; and a wider, idealistic one: the ultimate method of exchange of ideas in depth. So, first, we should repeatedly use formal tests to acclimatise students to exam-specific writing requirements - dull, precise, necessarily regular. And beyond that, we'd let writing have free rein, encouraging students to be as ambitious, open-ended and wide-ranging as possible. That would mean loosening up most classroom time outside of the revise/test/peer-mark cycle to be about project work, self-directed learning, talk and flexibility; and we'd make the recording of learning a highly flexible process, for students to write what, and when, they like.
So I've spent the past few months with GCSE and A-level classes doing absolutely no writing at all beyond sample tests and student blogs.
Students realise how high the bar of public domain writing is. This can be initially intimidating, but that removes all apathy or sense of the humdrum. Asking all students to write blogs as learning unfolds and interlinks empowers the teacher to be more supportive because they're less tied to the bureaucracy; it raises challenge levels; it enables IT-skilling; it lets students see their own progress and differentiates well; it means more productive and accelerating learning-talk over rote-writing.
The breadth of results has impressed. Students have collated and commented on topical news, explained practical implications and real-world examples of syllabus phenomena, asserted their views on issues, designed and written up experiments in depth, published and evaluated data they have researched or sourced, and commented skillfully on one another's work. And if, as the best have done, they write professionally in the public domain already as teenagers - which top university admissions director wouldn't offer them a place on a degree course of their choice? (Inspectors were extremely impressed, too.)
Student blogging is powerful and stimulating and enriching. The online capacity to link-reference makes for a punchy way to write interconnectedly. The range of interfaces and appearances available professionalises students' work and they rise to that implicit reward: this is considerably more motivating than writing longhand in that dog-eared exercise book. Feedback, group work and a visible papertrail are all effortless gains. Display student work for class discussion, comment on student posts as feedback; set homework to post short peer critiques; devise project tasks requiring reading multiple peers' work and synthesising an overview with linked references. No hassle taking other students' work home for peer-comment (and losing it.) Read across classes and year groups. Resources are unloseable. My line manager can trace everything we do to the minute - without leaving their desk. (I'm not intimidated by this intrusive rise in monitoring capability. I do my job well and want students to feel that accountability isn't something to be scared of. In return, I give students, and expect from SLT, considerable flexibility in using this powerful system: stick to the big picture of whether there is good engagement overall.)
This is all massively more powerful, and infinitely easier, than collecting exercise books for monitoring and restricting peer-feedback within the classroom, and a source of far less hassle/conflict than fixed small-scale written homeworks with exact deadlines. Parents can be directed to helpful information, to the evidence of what their child has achieved, and to comparative students' work from within the same class.
None of the risks justify avoiding student blogging. Defamatory/provocative remarks are a behavioural issue, not a technological one: don't deprive all of an exciting outlet because of the remote possibility of misuse by a tiny few. Others may worry that student work is too weak. But where better than a blog to show the arc of individual development? Student bloggers are not meant to be the finished article (I'm not sure most professional bloggers are!); what we're looking for is emulation of, and participation in, a global community of discussion, however fledgling their efforts. Plagiarism is, surprisingly, not a problem. I've had one incidence of this all year: a discreet, firmly-worded email explaining copyright law to the student (copied to the parental email) and the post was swiftly amended.
Use of strong language is moot. A2 sociologists this year persuaded me to allow them to use it in political/satirical posts; tellingly, they did so freely early on, but then it fell away - its casual use disempowers it and makes writing appear lazy. Students came to reflect that they should choose words more carefully. "You don't hear Polly Toynbee saying 'What a dick' in her articles, even though she clearly thinks Cameron is one," concluded one perceptive wit, to general agreement. Language is a thorny issue, so I share this story without imposition. Child protection issues are minimal. Teach e-safety once, well, and take firm action when needed - but don't lock kids away from the world. My students were delightedly amazed to discover postgrads in Germany, travellers in South-East Asia and Occupy activists in the US liking, commenting on and following their blogs.
Our first year of use has been rewarding and engaging. I am confident it has enhanced students' enjoyment, writing skill, and university prospects. Our use has been hit-and-miss - but that's what a trial is for, and I go into year two with a clearer idea of the advantages, limitations and required timely guidance in asking students to write for the public forum. Remember what writing is for: to share what we see, think and believe, and invite response. Remember what schools are for: preparation to enter a wide world of possibility. Durrenmatt said: "A writer doesn't solve problems. He allows them to emerge." Who wouldn't want their classroom to look like that?
Michael Drennan is head of psychology and head of careers at a non-selective British school in the Gulf. He tweets as @MBDoe. A expanded version of this article, with further details for interested teachers, can be found here.

New O Level will happen!