Dabbling and Dawdling

Our school website is something of which I, my school and our students are very proud, an organic and evolving eclectic and sometimes quirky mix of celebration, attempts to create a corporate web image while sharing resources and ideas developed within our learning community. But beyond this it also exists as a frame to pull together, experiment and engage with new and emerging publishing and communication technologies through a single point of contact. These platforms are increasingly providing contexts to reach out and share our achievements with an audience beyond traditional community bounds, and closer to home, providing contexts for modeling how we might embed digital technologies within our cross curricular activities.

This frame has evolved through experimentation and playful engagement with a host of tools, resources and activities, and over the course of this year particularly, I have come to think of and begun, I hope, to enable colleagues to begin thinking of the space less as an advertisement, and more as a dynamic vehicle, portal or window through which we can share our work as a complex and diverse community of practice.

The area, that has been perhaps most instrumental in this has been Tizz's travels, in providing a basis to combine and experiment with a number of technologies to frame one simple aim. I set out with the intention of utilising hyperlinking to develop a scaffold for developing student awareness of their place in space. Originally the concept was one of an interactive atlas, through including stories developed in Powerpoint and 2 create a story, this began as a resource, for use with the Interactive Whiteboard and for children to visit as part of their geography topics within the ICT areas in class, but it has also begun to capture the imagination of colleagues, prompting contributions not only in digital form, but through the sending of postcards, addressed from Tizz to school when on holiday, and is becoming an extension of web based work within the classroom too. This was evidenced in the Y3 Podcasts, where students having taken Tiz on a local visit with them, used her as a focal character in the audio recording and the development of visual scripts. It has also lead colleagues to use 2 create a story to develop narratives from Tizz's perspective about places they have visited to share with students and a wider audience. As well as the virtual space, this has also lead to the development of wall displays, that seek to mimic the unique multimodal forms presented in the digital representation, and this has no doubt challenged colleagues to think about how this can be achieved, providing in itself a basis for considering the affordances that the technological solution brings, which are different to the wall based and essentially flat representation.

Traditionally I guess web site development has been placed in the hands of those who can, requiring some skill acquisition in coding or the use of specialist tools to create, maintain and manage the resource. Even though our current website still requires remote maintenance, it is continually evolving and changing. In September last year it was entirely my responsibility to maintain and develop content, and as I have pointed to in previous posts, the inclusion of year group blog spaces was a proposed solution to this, gradually handing over responsibility for the development and maintenance of class community pages to students and colleagues, with established and largely static content supported by dynamic engagement through the blog. As John Johnston pointed out the other day, though this could eventually also become the property of students and colleagues since the wordpress blogging platform we are currently using allows for the addition of pages that could replace the current frameset I use to redirect the blog, increasing the role of our home page as a portal, while devolving further responsibility and ownership to the year group communities for engagement with the space. Recent experiments with podcasting and vodcasting have pointed to possibilities about how we might further develop use the allocated FTP spaces we have through our LA, to exploit these technologies. Though I recognise the steep learning curves some of us may have to go through in achieving this, a starting point has to be recognition of the role these technologies have to play in the teaching and learning process, something which is not always evident on face value, and which needs to be drawn into the open. Starting simply and dropping pebbles, planting seeds or modeling these roles in practice is key to this. Technological determination alone will not help our colleagues see beyond the interface and identify the potential roles technologies might play in enhancing or adding value to their work. Personal determination driven by recognition of purpose is what I feel drives us to learn new skills, and this requires engagement with tools in context, and framing this will be a key facet in the further development of this process in school. Starting small has been key to some of the success I have already had , and I am grateful for the contributions, advice and supportive comments I have received lately from other colleagues and visitors to my blog regarding my developing thoughts. I am looking forward to engaging further though currently my dissertation is occupying most of my time. I have managed though to get back to engaging with my personal web space during down times and am beginning to say a little more about who I am, and pull together, share and develop some of the ideas I have begun to explore in my blog. I hope to develop this further once my project is complete, and look forward to any comments.

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