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4 March 2009

MirandaNet Newsletter January/February 2009

Wenger on Communities of Practice (CoPs)

Many of you will know that Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger first coined the phrase, ‘community of practice’ in 1991. We set MirandaNet up in 1992, but we did not know we fitted the community of practice category until about 1998 when the concept had wider international coverage. Wenger’s book, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press), had a significant influence on our practice and I had always hoped to meet him.

Fast forward to last month’s snow. Wenger was expected to speak in Canterbury, but the trains in South London were not running and my car was in a deep snowdrift. Wenger’s website with his helpful speaker-programme told me he was in Manchester before Canterbury so I emailed:

“Dr. Wenger you will not know me, but I am very keen to hear you speak because we have modeled MirandaNet Fellowship practice on some of your ideas. It will take me about two hours to dig my car out of a snow drift in South London, so I’d be really pleased to know if you are going to be able to get to Canterbury. Would you mind emailing me if you are going to be stuck in Manchester?”

I was so surprised and pleased by the answer.
“Christina, I have heard a lot about MirandaNet and have read about you in the dissertation of Bronwyn Stuckey, from Australia.”

So we are officially a CoP!  I have also heard us called the FaceBook of the international ICT community, which is another pleasing epithet.

Etienne Wenger will be speaking in London in September and is going to try to fit in a MirandaMod. I’ll keep you posted.
Christina Preston

The CoPs view from Sweden

Ingemar Svensson and Ove Jobring from Sweden have achieved their Fellowships. Ingemar has contributed to our e-journal an article about connecting to an online study circle and an online learning community in supporting continuous teacher development. Here is, for the fellowship, his paper Connecting the online study circle and the online learning community in supporting continuous teacher development.

Ingemar’s colleague, Ove Jobring, at Goteburg University, is also interested in Online Learning Communities (OLC) and Net based Communities of Practice (CoP). He has generously contributed two papers: The first is called Online learning communities - Communities of Practice and their relation to Emerging net cultures. It is about emerging net cultures, comprehensive development of learning communities and Communities of Practice (CoPs). The question Ove asks is “Can CoPs linked to Personal Learning Enironments (PLEs) – or vice versa – be constructed and combined as supporting learning systems for Professionals?  In this case the concept of PLE is an integrated page of several VLE. You might be a member of Mirandanet, Facebook and LinkedIn. You can, therefore, coordinate timely information from these to your own page – the coordinating page is the PLE”. 

Ove has also contributed another paper called Formal support for informal learning in communities. He explains that slowly but surely, we have come to accept the notion that, during our entire professionally-active lives, we will need to develop and learn new things in order to cope with the demands of working life. Knowledge of what is happening in the outside world, outside the physical bounds of the workplace, is a prerequisite for being able to compete. Ove talks about new communication models in the workforce like self-regulated learning or with different forms of experience-based learning, such as taking part in networks, coaching, consultation, or mentorship. These all relate to the ways in which MirandaNet Fellows are developing patchwork models of communication like MirandaMods.

Ove, Ingemar, John Cuthell and I have been working together on a European project about CoPs. You will find the papers in International Journal of Web Based Communities Inderscience Publishers.
Special Issue on Online Learning Communities in Context
Guest Editors: Dr Ove Jobring and Associate Professor Piet Kommers (4.2).

Can you afford to ignore informal learning?

Terry Freedman picks up the theme of information learning in his summary of the presentation he gave at BETT09 show, with Miles Berry. They set out to answer the question:

"What are your kids learning when you're not looking?"

Think about it: youngsters spend no more than 20% of their lives in a formal learning situation - even less if you take school holidays into account. It stands to reason that they must be picking up all those digital native skills in their own time.

And they are. In both our trawl of the published research and the surveys we carried out, Miles and I discovered that young people spend a huge amount of time online. So what are they doing there? Well, in addition to the sorts of things you'd expect, like downloading music and playing games, they are also doing a lot of learning-related activities. In the survey Miles and I conducted via Google Docs, with nearly 1000 responses, 64% of respondents say they are spending their time online doing school-related work, and 44% on learning unrelated to school - surely a degree of commitment that we ignore at our peril?

In my own survey of a somewhat older group, average age 15, 90% of respondents use the net for homework and the most common reason for going online outside of school was to learn new things.

We often hear that kids are bored in ICT lessons. If they are, could it be because they are not being sufficiently challenged? We would suggest that you read more about our surveys and look at the slideshow, which includes the audio commentary. The link to that, and the surveys, and other information, is here, or you can go straight to the slideshow here.  Miles has created some ‘Wordle’ tag clouds of the written responses, online, and I would urge you to look at them because they show the data in a rather different way to graphs and charts.

And then, why not conduct your own survey to find out what your kids are doing when you're not looking?
Terry Freedman

Where are the female bloggers?

Several Fellows now write very good blogs.  Below is a selection. Please send me, Christina Preston, other blogs that members might be interested in and we will add them to our site. But where are the girl bloggers? Why do Ms MirandaNettas not blog? They do not seem to Tweet either!

Blog: Doug Belshaw
Blog: Terry Freedman
Blog: Miles Berry
Blog: Drew Buddie
Blog & Website: Leon Cych
Blog: Theo Keuchel
Blog: Chris Sharples
Blog: Joe Rowing
Blog: Dale Jones

Any more we ought to know about? There’s a list here.

Teachers are Heroes just for one day – Open Source Schools @ BETT 2009 - Seminar January 19th 2009

Every once in a while you see something that makes you think: ‘Yes this really is going to change education in this country’ and it makes you smile inside because you know what is going to happen further down the line and how revolutionary it will be; it will touch the lives of so many people and transform learning - making it more effective, more engaging, more personal and build a sense of community far beyond the initial event itself.
One such moment was on the Saturday at BETT 2009, where a small but significant 45 minute presentation by 4 teachers (Miles Berry, Michelle Walters, Jose’ Picardo and Doug Belshaw) on Open Source Schools will, potentially, change the face of how schools use software in the UK and beyond and its knock on effect for how people do business in the classroom. A big shout-out must also go to Josie Fraser who I know was one of the consultants to Becta on the project which is going from strength to strength.

You will find more about this here.

Back in the classroom; internet search techniques 

I've just been back in the classroom supporting the development of a course on Global Citizenship for eleven year olds. Part of the activity was making an iMovie about the effects of pollution on the environment.

The pupils needed to find powerful images to convey their thinking. Just the kind of activity that I promote.  But in this activity they were finding pictures of dead animals and pictures of animals being killed that distressed them. I was taken aback at how gruesome some of the images were.  They also seemed to struggle with the sophisticated search terms they needed to refine their search.

Being there in the action reminded me how searching the Internet is quite a different experience from looking through books or lesson resources that the teacher has control over.

Do you think young people are made more resilient by this opportunity, or more cynical or uncaring?
Do you have any hints and tips for internet searching?
Do you think pupils should be kept in a walled garden?

I'd be keen to hear how members cope with these new challenges.
Christina Preston

Film clips about schools

Recommended by Diane Levine

The film clips can be found here.
The school who has gone to a 4 day ‘in school’ week is here.

As an aside, I thought I’d also highlight the use we have made of more ‘authentic’, unproduced video. Short clips from a BESD-related project can be found here.

Alison Dent managed this project, and as such should act as first point of contact in case you would like further information.

Harnessing Technology for Every Child Matters and Personalised Learning: Book review

John Galloway Taylor & Francis, 2009 ISBN 0415458714,
9780415458719 210 pages

The blizzard of ICT-based initiatives of the last decade has led many of those in school management – and teachers – to assume that doing nothing is an acceptable coping strategy. Initiatives, like buses, come along frequently enough to persuade those who missed one that there will be another one they can catch. And they all go along the same route, to the same destination, don’t they?

Not quite.

The policies of ‘Every Child Matters’, ‘Personalised Learning’ and ‘Harnessing Technology’ all depend on the effective use of ICT, and converge to transform the landscape and experience of what we have understood by the terms ‘school’ and ‘education’. In this book John Galloway, Advisory Teachers of ICT/SEN in Tower Hamlets, draws together the ways in which these initiatives should be implemented, and in the process – through carefully chosen examples and case studies – constructs a number of scenarios to show what education could be like.

The book’s five main sections are: Policy development and interconnection; What can the technology do for us? A web of support; A web for learning and Can practice meet policy? The sections could be read as a stand-alone guide to implementing technology, practice and procedures in each of these areas, although the holistic approach taken by Galloway is, in fact, necessary if the full impact of the innovations described here are to be felt.

Many MirandaNet colleagues know how exposed and lonely it can be at the bleeding edge of technology and its implementation: the voices crying in the wilderness about the transformational nature of ICT on teaching, learning and the experiences and life chances of pupils are, at best, unheard: at worst, derided and devalued.

Once, I had a colleague whose eyes would glaze over when I tried to explain how and why ICT could improve the learning of his pupils and reduce his workload.
“I don’t understand a word you’re saying. You’re speaking Hungarian. I don’t.” And he was proud of it.

Here’s a book to give those who can’t hear, don’t understand and refuse to get it.
“The ways in which schools … respond to current changes … to bring about a system that meets individual and societal needs for the twenty-first century … depend on how ready we are to embrace new technologies and harness them to the engine of change.” (p. 151)

And, of course, if we carry on doing the same old things in the same old ways, young people will use the technologies they carry around with them and have at home to create their own learning networks and experiences. Then those whose careers are dependent on the education system will join the ranks of the redundant.

John Cuthell

Reflecting Education

Many MirandaNetters are engaged in post graduate courses and may, therefore, be interested in the free online journal, Reflecting Education, that is available to view here.  Norbert Pachler, from the WLE centre, is the e-journal editor.

Fellows have already published two e-journal volumes on e-learning and multimodal concept mapping. Two new volumes are just out.

Issue 4.2

This special issue, entitled ‘Researching Higher Educational Change and Transformation’ is based on work from the fourth annual EURODOCS conference and focuses on methodological issues and perspectives in the field of higher education studies.  Also included in this issue is a book review (“Sociology of Higher Education: Contribution and their Contents”) and article by Adrian Mee on teachers who undertake M level professional study.  The guest editors are Penny Jane Burke, Christine Musselin and Barbara Kehm

Issue 5.1.

Digital technologies have hastened the globalisation of education which is why MirandaNetters might be interested in Volume 5.1 of the online journal, Reflecting Education.  This special free issue is based on papers first presented at the ‘Learning Together – Reshaping Higher Education in a Global Age’ conference held at the Institute of Education, University of London, in July 2007. This conference explored some of the economic, social and political aspects of globalised higher education, with a specific focus on forms of practice on specific courses or particular kinds of higher education classroom. The guest editors are Dr Elaine Unterhalter and Helen Poulsen.

Education Resources Awards 2009

Now in their eleventh successful year, the Education Resource Awards focus on the resources, services and people that create a practical impact on learning and the everyday work of teachers in the classroom.

Closing date for entries this year is 9 February.

The 2009 award categories include:
-      21st Century Learning Environment Award – brand new award for 2009
-      Leadership in Education (in association with the National Association of Headteachers)
-      Educational Establishment of the Year (in association with the National Association of Headteachers)
-      Education Exporter of the Year (in association with UK Trade & Investment)
-      Supplier of the Year (three separate awards for different annual turnover levels)
-      UK Innovation Award
-      Outstanding Achievement Award      

There are also eight Resource Award categories, including:
-      Best Special Education Resource or Equipment
-      Best Early Years Resource or Equipment
-      Best Primary Resource or Equipment
-      Best Secondary Resource or Equipment

See here for entry form and more information.

New Fellowship

Ingemar Svensson in recognition of his contribution to the MN e-journal for teachers.

Here is, for the fellowship, my paper Connecting the online study circle and the online learning community in supporting continuous teacher development.

This is actually a further elaborated abstract for a presentation I had at the Online - EDUCA in Berlin in November 2007.

I have worked for the past 12 years with the development of net based study-circles in the non-formal adult education sector in Sweden. First as a Project Manager at the Swedish Council of Adult Education and for the past six years I have, at the Swedish Agency for Flexible Learning, been responsible for developing and running the national teacher development programme for folk high school teachers and study circle leaders in the area of flexible learning. As part of this programme we have developed a "Teachers Learning Plaza", a CoP for continuous pedagogical and methodological development in blended learning. At the agency, I was also editing the e-journals "Nät och bildning". I and Dr Ove Jobring at the University of Gothenburg, have a close collaboration researcher/developer, trying to further develop the CoP and relate the CoP to emerging net cultures, especially what we know as Web 3.0 and Personal Learning Environments.

New Scholars

Rizal Ahmad
I am currently studying at De Montfort University in Leicester. I am in my final year. I am studying Business Information System (BIS). For my final year project I have focused my project topic based on the use of ICT in schools.

Scott Allsop
I have recently taken up my first international teaching post, teaching History at an international school in Egypt, having been the Head of History as well as an elected Staff Governor at a comprehensive school in the UK for the previous four years.

I was nominated for the national Teaching Awards in 2008 and was shortlisted for the BBC History Magazine/Historical Association History Teacher of the Year award in 2007.

I'm a keen advocate of the use of ICT to help students study History, and operate a website aimed at students and teachers of Modern World History.  I have a particular interest in the use of podcasts to aid revision, which were featured in a publication by the Training and Development Agency for Schools as well as an article on digital learning for the Guardian newspaper.

In the past I ran a website dedicated to abandoned shopping lists, which was been featured in the Times Educational Supplement as well as television programs including The Wonderful World of Weird for CBBC and Richard Hammond's 5 O'Clock Show for ITV to explain how this strange hobby links with the skills of an Historian.  I also contributed to a feature on the Open University/BBC television production The History Detectives in 2008.

Doug Belshaw
I'm an educator who's extremely interested in the possibilities of using technology in education. Mostly I'm very pro-educational technology, but I do have my reservations when bandwagons are jumped upon. I'm a Ed.D. student at the University of Durham researching the concept of 'Digital Literacy' and am enjoying applying theory into practice!

Fred Boss
An Art teacher in a Post Primary school for 18 years, now seconded to the Department of Education and Science's National Centre for Technology in Education. I am working in the area of Continuing Professional Development in ICT for both Primary and Post Primary teachers in Ireland.

Steve Bullock
I am E-learning Development Leader at Wembley High Technology College, developing a Moodle-based VLE and training staff to use technology to enhance teaching and learning. I am currently researching methods of evaluating the impact of technology on learning, working towards a Masters with the Institute of Education. I’m interested in connecting with like-minded professionals to share best practice specifically in VLE development and staff training.

Chris Campbell
Chris Campbell has been working at La Trobe University since 2005, and teaches pre-service education and masters students and Physical and Outdoor Education students ICT skills (Educational Technology). She is currently research active with various projects and is on several Faculty and University committees. More information here.  Chris has been using interactive whiteboards in her teaching since 2005 and has conducted staff professional development as well as classroom teacher professional development.

Prior to working at La Trobe University, Chris was an elementary school teacher and taught at various year levels, up to the 6th Grade. She taught Reading Recovery for two years. She also was the computer coordinator during her time as a teacher and she taught computers to students.

Chris has written numerous papers and presented at conferences across the world in the area of ICT. Recent publications include: Campbell, C. (In Press). The role of the Internet in the primary school classroom: From a teaching and learning perspective. Germany: Verlag Dr. Muller.; Peters, M., & Campbell, C. (In Press). Applications des TIC pour be dévelopement des compétences technopédagogiques. In M. Peters (Ed.), Integration des technologies au primaire. Montréal: Éditions CEC.; Campbell, C. & Deed, C. (2008). Using an online journaling tool to promote elementary students self reflection. Paper presented at International Conference on Information Communication Technologies in Education (ICICTE). Corfu, Greece.; Campbell, C. (2008). Pedagogy before technology: Making educational sense of interactive whiteboards. University of Montreal, Canada: Le CRIFPE Montreal, Invited Speaker.

Karl Goddard
I'm part ICT Curriculum Support, part VLE Support, part postgraduate student and part software developer. I currently work at Canon Slade CE School which is a very successful, over subscribed state school in Bolton, England.

After spending more years than I can remember designing, implementing and supporting IT networks in the education sector and developing databases and applications in industry I now work in a secondary school developing and managing VLE's, learning resource creation and ICT development across the curriculum.

My areas of interest are the use of emerging technologies in secondary education, social networking / peer based learning, m-learning and ICT management in secondary education.

Veerendrasingh Gunessee
The genesis of my interest in education combined with ICT evolved when I was given the fantastic opportunity to volunteer as a Mentor at West Ham United Learning Zone in Upton Park. I was fascinated by the original and unique teaching methodologies using ICT to make learning effective, enjoyable and interesting.

Moreover, my two years career as science teacher solidified my resolve in this field. While teaching, I discovered the diversity of students in terms of their learning and perceiving abilities and different strategies of teaching that needed to be focused on using the conventional materials and resources which were available. Today, I realise the huge difference of how the use of technology has a positive influence in promoting learners' motivation and engagement as well as improved learning across a range of subjects. In addition, in a few years to come, major reforms will be introduced in the field of education in Mauritius, where the use of modern digital technologies will be implemented in schools and colleges for learning and teaching. Furthermore, my area of interest is how to combine my knowledge of science, skills in art and digital technologies to explain difficult concepts in science and thus enhance learners' motivation and self-esteem.

I am interested in teaching science, particularly biology. My project supervisor at the University of Mauritius has been a role model and an inspiration towards science. Having completed a module in ICT and the final dissertation, not only deepen my knowledge in the different fields in biology but also I became more acquainted in using ICT effectively.

Furthermore, I once helped a group of students in preparing a PowerPoint presentation on HIV/AIDS organised by the Ministry of Education, in which good insights of ICT, creativity as well as good time management and research were needed. The students won the second prize at regional level in Mauritius.

Apart from science, I am also keen at creative art. In collaboration with other Art Teachers, I enjoyed helping students designing posters and other creative activities which needed drawing, painting and other research work during competitions or extra curricular activities. My travels and studies have taught me a lot about self-direction. I believe that my experiences and skills combined with my willingness to learn and enable others to learn.

Martin Hramiak
I have been teaching IT for 10 years, currently I am involved in the delivery of Applied A Levels and Btec National Certificate.

I am passionate about technology and feel that students should be able to use new technology to enhance their learning.  I am currently investigating new ways in which students can provide evidence for assessment using a variety of exciting options including video and audio.

Carol Humphreys
Teacher with an interest in promoting an awareness of the innovative uses of ICT by pupils in primary school setting to encourage other educators to meet the learners where they are and thereby to begin to engage with these pupils in more meaningfully ways.

To help pupils gain a better understanding of their responsibility to become aware 'eco-citizens' and to be pro-active in maintaining the health of our fragile planet and its inhabitants.

Ove Jobring
Ove Jobring has a PhD in Business Administration focus on Organizational Science. Throughout his research Jobring has studied Interaction and Organizing in mutual contexts, first in his thesis (1990) Cooperatives and Social movements and then Business Network development. At the same time, he has been involved in the development of ICT and Learning in education and distance education. In the last 10 years he has conducted research on the development of Online Learning Communities (OLC) and Net based Communities of Practice (CoP). He is now engaged and particularly interested in the development of support systems for continuously learning and Competence maintenance for Professionals through CoPs.

He has been Project Director for the implementation of ICT & Learning projects at the Gothenburg School of Business, Team Director for the research program Interactive Learning at the Viktoria Institute in Gothenburg and Coordinator at the Research Program LearnIT at the Swedish Knowledge Foundation. He is also the founder of the research group Online Learning Communities (OLC) at the ICT-university in Gothenburg.

He currently has the following positions at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden:
•    Senior Lecturer at the Department of Work Science
•    ICT Coordinator (part- time) at the Faculty of Education
•    Member of the University Advisory IT-board
He has an extensive list of publications and edited books. Recently he was editor of
Jobring, O, Kommers, P, (Eds.). (2008). Online Learning Communities in Context, International Journal of Web Based Communities IJWBC, Vol. 4 - Issue 2 - 2008, Inderscience Publishers

John MacNutt

John directs which brings together both his desire to improve the quality of education and transform the learning experience using simple technology. 

As Director of, I oversee an online global teaching and learning community of over 1,000 schools in over 100 countries.  Previously I worked for Oxford, Cambridge and RSA for 10 years in their Sales and Marketing Division. brings together both my desire to improve the quality of education and transform the learning experience using simple technology.  The DCSF is keen to close the gap between home use of ICT and school use. bridges that gap and integrates social networking (which is so familiar to pupils e.g. Face Book, Bebo and My Space) into the learning experience increasing motivation with the knock-on effect of raising attainment across the curriculum as pupils work on curriculum driven projects using a diverse range of communication and collaboration tools e.g. instant text messaging, email, video/audio conferencing, chat rooms and forums.

Peter Miles
I am a self employed leadership consultant with experience in large and small commercial companies, the NHS, charities and schools

I am the Lead Online Learning Facilitator on the National Professional Qualification for Headship, the National College of School Leadership's flagship leadership programme.  I've worked on NPQH since 2000 and now have 8 years experience of creating vibrant, active and supportive online communities.

My main interests and pre-occupations at the moment are:

1: Understanding more about how leadership is learned online
2: Developing the skills of online facilitators
3: Using Web 2.0 tools to enhance learning online.
4: Effective leadership of an online facilitator team.
5: Widening and sustaining participation in online communities.

I want to network with others who are committed to using technology to enhance learning, who are conscious of its limitations, who are at the forefront of online learning, and who care about making schools even better places for both young people and for all the adults who work in them.

Joe Rowing
I teach Physics to 11-18 year olds at a top school in Essex.

I'm an enthusiastic believer in using whatever tool I can find to help my students learn more effectively.

I'm keen on the appropriate use of ICT to support teaching and learning, and have been involved in a number of exciting projects over the years.

Some of those projects include:
•    videoconferencing
•    student blogging
•    various learning platforms
•    pod and video casting
Finally - I frequently run training sessions for staff on the use if ICT in lessons.

Garfield Young
I am a university lecturer in the Caribbean and my specialisation is Engineering Education.  My research interest is in the area of educational strategies for Geomatic Engineering Education.  I have particular interest in role of visual aids and computer technology in this field.

New Members

Sarah Barber
I work in the E-Learning Department at Southampton City College.

Robin Gadd
I'm Head of Information Services at Brockenhurst College, a tertiary (FE) college on the south coast of England. The College is a Becta Technology Exemplar provider.

Katrina Kennedy
I am a training and development provider working with adults in government settings. I am excited about opportunities to provide more innovative approaches to learning at every age!

David Robbins
Technology is here and it is an important part of our lives and I believe that it is important for children/students to have access to technology so they can further develop the needed skills for life that the 21st century will demand of them.

Littleangel Safar
I am a teacher of primary school, I have 3 years experience.
I love teaching kids, and I always try to prepare my lesson and bring flash cards for the topics to help students understand the vocabularies easily.
I think it is very important for teachers to have some knowledge of computer programs as it will help them to prepare the lesson plans, search the net for activities and materials or prepare flash cards or some classroom decorations.

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