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Reflecting on Vienna

Reflecting on Vienna

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Wednesday, 01 April 2009 07:23

From our recent posts you will know that last week we attended the European Innovative Teachers Forum in Vienna. I thought I would spend a little time reflecting on what was a great event. This time last week I was presenting part of a keynote with the team from FutureLab, Sarah Payton and Professor Lizbeth Goodman. Their keynote and workshop described the Enquiring Minds project. Enquiring Minds is a joint project between Futurelab and Microsoft, you can find out more about it in this post.

Sarah did all the hard work in creating not only a great workshop, but managing a large group of European teachers. What is it imageabout teachers and getting them into groups? This was a difficult task and one Sarah achieved admirably, despite the Scandinavians all ending up in the same group, with only a lone Scot, our award winning teacher Ollie Bray, for company.

Sarah give an outline of the concepts behind Enquiring Minds and took the 200 or so delegates through the 4-stage enquiry process. One of the activities she guided groups through involved drawing a picture of a 21st century learner. Almost all the pictures the various groups produced had the learner at the centre of a digital world, where the teacher was a facilitator of learning rather than the deliverer.

The groups were then challenged to create their own piece of learning, incorporating a theme centred around the city of Vienna. This required them to look at the city from a different point of view. It's also where I stepped in to the workshop, to give them ideas of other ways in which they might use digital media to present their end product.

My first task was to support the group in generating ideas for their projects. I discovered a great tool to do this in the classroom, created by John Davitt and available on his website www.newtools.org. His Learning Events Generators create random scenarios that can be used as a basis for a project. These generators are easily customisable, and as such can be adapted for any subject or situation. They are available in formats for the iPhone, Twitter (@raggler), online and the version I used - in Excel. The Event Generators create a "DO" and an "AS" from a list. For example, you might get, DO the Solar System AS a rock opera. I easily edited the list of DOs to cover the features of Vienna. So an activity suggested might be DO the Hofburg Palace AS a silent movie. Using this generator, the teachers had an almost infinite supply of ideas.


We also wanted to challenge them on the applications they could use to present their ideas. The application of choice at these events is often a video created in Windows MovieMaker. I suggested through some brief demos, that they could also consider Photosynth, Deep Zoom Composer and even my new-found favourite application, SongSmith.

SongSmith lets you sing and record a song to any tune and then cleverly adds chords and percussion. This is great if you are a not musician (as I am not) but still  secretly want to be a rock star. It also makes it a creative application to use in any subject as a way of recording students' learning. Just imagine maths students recording the features of triangles as a song. The possibilities are endless.

Armed with their ideas, digital camera and a guide book, the delegates were set loose on the unsuspecting population of Vienna. The following morning the groups had time to refine their projects and submit them to the UK Innovative Teachers Network. Many groups produced videos, like the group in the example above, which also also showcases the group’s use of Photosynth and a custom-recorded song. Others tried out Deep Zoom and a few went for good old PowerPoint. You can see the final projects by joining this community on the UK ITN. I have to ‘judge’ these projects in order to award a prize to the best one, so if any of you have an outright favourite, let me know before I make the announcement next week.

Finally, the whole Innovative Teachers Forum was recorded in a way that I have never seen before. Deirdre Crowley, recorded the whole event graphically on large charts that were displayed around the rooms. How she managed to do this, I have no idea; I just watched in awe as she extracted key points from each talk and presented them in such a unique way. The image below is her recording of the Futurelab presentation. That little bit on the far right…that’s me.

You can explore a Deep Zoom of this image at http://photozoom.mslivelabs.com/album.aspx?alias=StuBall&album=2



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