Thursday, 14 June 2007

Redbridge ICT Conference 2007 Part 1 Alan November

What can I say Wow. This was a great success and before I go into details about the speakers. I just like to give a big thanks to all those involved in organizing this day.

First up
Alan November - I'll be honest before today, other than Anthony Evans telling me about his book, I'd heard very little about this guy.

To put it simply his 2 part talk was amazing. He talked in depth about Web Literacy and made me rethink what I knew about the Internet and how it should and could be used.

He started simply by saying, how would you go and find information about him. the response was or course Google you. So he did it and he appear in the top 5 or 6 hits. Try it.
Then he asked us do you know who wrote those pages, what do you believe? Of course they are all his site written by him so he can say what he wants people to believe.

He showed a site called which is a tool to search blogs, photos and videos. The hits on the name Alan November where all people commenting on him, he has no say in the content. Try it. (Sandra when I tried this your brand new blog was right at the top.)

What he was trying to get at is that we as teachers need rethink what tools we are teaching children to use. We need to teach the correct tools to search for the right information.

Different sites give different hits. His message is that we need the right tools, most people only use one search engine, only look at the first page of results and don't really understand how the order of the hits work. This gives those pages that appear first a lot of power over the casual reader. He compared it to only looking at the top shelf of a book shelf in a library.

He went on to ask do you know how Google sorts its hits. Because his site is second out of 81,700 sites on the web. This was eye opening as I realised that I didn't have a clue how Google searches worked, yet use them all the time. The short answer was that it is based on how popular a site is, as in how many links lead to it, his site is high because he has alot of incoming links from big company's and universities. To a lesser extent it also has to do with his url and the name of his page being in the search string.

He talked about a guy called Marshall McLuhan who in 1964 coined two prases that you may have heard of, 'Global Village' and "medium is the message." Basically this guy talked about the multimedia revoution we are currently going though back in the 60's. He was saying that if you change the medium in which information is presented, from paper to on screen, all those critical skills that we use to look at paper based text are lost when we look on screen.

When we get a book we ask, who wrote it? Why don't we do that with webpages? Good question and one that is important to do, as there are some sites out there that questionable authors. This site seems to be about Martin Luther Kings but if you look into who owns the site it is by Stormfront, which is a group of white supremacist's. Quite shocking. is a site that tells you who owns websites. Check it out. Why don't we apply the skills we use with books onto the web.

We need to be teaching Web Literacy Skills. The real revolution is INFORMATION not technology. We need to be thinking about how to critically look at and use information.

His site has a whole section on how the web works and grammar of the Internet and how to search effectively. He told us all that you need to get hands on to truly understand all these concepts, "you need to own it." So click here to try them out, he had activities that demonstrated all the ideas he discussed. - It would take too long to explain, but I was very eye opening, definatelty something that needs to be consistered in year 5 and 6 to searching the web effectively for information.

He has an interesting comment on filtering in schools, as that changes search engines behave in school. So searching at home will give different results to searching at school. He also demonstrated how easy it is to get round filtering if you know how. (Lots of kids do, I've seen it happen.)

He said that there are 3 things to remember about learning on the web.
1. The Grammar and Syntax of the Internet needs to be taught.
2. The structure of information need to be taught.
3. Children need to have the capability to think critically.

Using the tools about the grammar of the Internet. He conducted searches to find opposing points of view on various topics. Like the differences between the English and American takes on The War of Independence. It has a way of motivating children, because it challenges what they know or think they know. How about getting information about Hiroshima from website in Japan? How would the bias be different? Using these searches it is fairly easy to discuss and find sources from around the world.

The role of the teacher is changing, and the classroom is becoming a global communication centre where critical thinking is essential.

Alan took a break here, but I'll continue with part 2.

Back to communication, he showed a great tool, which allows you to look at a website in the past. This allow you to role back the click and see what a website looed like years ago. So there is no such think as a deadlink anymore, with this tool it can be retrvied. Making children aware of this could make them much more aware of what they publish, as it could come back to haunt you in 10 years.

Blog's then took centre stage, I'm blogging right now, so I'm one who understands some of there power, but Alan when on to explain the motivational drive they have for children.

Some kids are unwilling to accept criticism fro teacher and pupils in the classroom, but he finds that comments from blogs children are happy to listen to and accept. Your role as teacher changes as you are now helping the student to make sense of the criticism. Its is anonymity used for good.

Children making podcast knowing that others will hear it, dramatically changes there motivation in the work. But its not about the technology it's about the audience.

Before you think blog are bad and can expose children who aren't that confident with their work to start with to negative commnets. Ask the children do you want you work on the internet where people can see and comment on it?

It does call for a shift of control in the classroom, because instead of my class, my lesson. The classroom opens up to a much wider commiunity where children (and adults) reflect and interact in new and exciting ways. was another site, which I already use, where you can set up social bookmarking, where groups of people can all contribue to a shared collective of resourses. Pupils can contribute to the resourses that teh teachers use in lessons (more secondary and university i'd assume)

Now that about wraps up the main points, but i coould go on.

To summarise
1. Web literacy is key, and we need to apply our paper skills to the web.
2. The classroom now is becomming the centre of a global communications network.
3. Children's audience is becoming alot wider than the class they are in.
4. The rules are changing

When should all of this happen? Not overnight. We as teachers need to retool ourselves but over the next 10 years. The new Liteacy Framework, with all its talk of podcasting and blogs allows for scope for some of this in our classrooms. Me, I came away very excited by this and its inspired me to get a class blog going.

Tune in next time for part two - David Ware from Little Heath School

PS Buy his book, I just have.

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