Today’s Blended Teacher: The Blended Schools MOOC – Week 1 – Pie in The Sky

I am currently picking up bits from the MOOC, currently being run via a combination of Google+ and a SoftChalk course.  I have seen BlendedSchools present at events and thought it was an interesting idea for them to offer such a course for free, in addition to their traditional services including offering of professional development.

So far, most of my interest has been in seeing the US-centric conversation’s similarities with the UK including concerns about school systems delivering the highest quality education.  Much of the Google+ discussion in week 1 seems to have centered on the limits of professional development in the US.  However, the main issue, that teachers see personal development as a set number of hours/days a year, would be the same as the UK’s approach via inset days.  This is not to say this is unique to teaching, I once attended a trade union health and safety course to be shocked that most people wanted to drag the day out as an escape from their day jobs.  Even in the banking sector there seems to be a need to encourage staff to realise learning does not end with school/college/university graduation, within the wider L&D agenda.

This week’s MOOC ‘create’ activity offered a number of options the below is my response to:

The Pie in the Sky

This activity is ideal for theorists or for pre-service teachers who do not yet have their own classrooms.

Write a blog post describing an ideal blended classroom in the year 2013.

You may post this blog using any tool you would like. If you want to build your blog using Blended Schools Networks’ BSNshare blogging tool, you can view the tutorials above for instructions.

  • What sort of content is delivered online? What is delivered face-to-face?
  • Which assessments use the Internet? Which assessments do not?
  • What benefits does this environment have for students?
  • What sort of resources are being used in the classroom?

My Pie in the Sky

I have mentioned on blogs and in conference discussions in the past my belief that we need to totally overhaul the predominant model of British K-12 schooling.  In the USA, and elsewhere, we have seen the growth of online K-12 schools.  What I would see as ideal in UK, in 2013, is a ‘hub and spoke’ approach.  The responsibility for learning will be shared between pupils, parents and teachers.  Large amounts of knowledge work will be completed electronically via video, reading and other asynchronous technologies.  Students will then congregate in synchronous learning ‘hubs’ which are both virtual and physical.  Physical hubs could make use of unused shops and other buildings to offer students across the community access to the latest technology, such as 3D printers, whilst most learning is undertaken remotely from home, public libraries and other low-tech study centers.  The ratio of study center to student would partly be determined by the area’s technology, if high speed home internet is easy to establish there would be less need of hubs.

Formative assessment and tracking technologies, such as the Tin Can API, ensure students are ‘attending’ school via appropriate learning outcomes, not bum on seat time.  This also allows for learning time to start later in the day (as recognized by science, teenagers need to sleep later than some other ages groups) and be more flexible for those who have major extra curricula interests such as acting and sport careers.

As with any ideal blended learning solution, the focus would be on valuable synchronous communication to develop student capabilities in communication, timekeeping and problem solving whilst allowing them to learn at their own pace at other times.  Reflection, through blogging, would be a key aspect aspect of this model, ensuring the key attribute of understanding the importance of lifelong learning is achieved.

The implications Google perhaps does not see with Reader

Google, of course, knows a lot about me, they know what I search for online, via Google Docs they know a lot about my interests, via my old Blogger site they have a record of my personal development for a couple of years, they know my friends and family via Android contacts and much more.

However, the announcement to close Google Reader has got me thinking that it is perhaps a sign of how a multinational, living in the era of ‘Big Data’, can struggle to engage with their users and thus fail them horribly.  This failure is unlikely to impact hugely on Google’s bottom line (as has picked up they could get over a lot of the bad PR just by spinning it off into a different company)  but enough failures, over a length of time, and they will start to notice loss of customers and that would, eventually, hit the bottom line.  Google infamously has not supported users in the traditional sense, most services offering a Google Group or other limited form of a manual with the expectation being that by using search someone will have posted an answer to customer queries.  Similarly, updates have been rather ad hoc and forced upon people (although Google Apps for Education and some other services have started to alert users better) and I do not remember ever seeing a traditional survey from Google.

Reader is perhaps the single most important website in my life – it aggregates some personal information (local news sites), entertainment (podcasts via RSS), and formal (journals) and more informal (blogs, etc) professional reading.  There are also a host of notifications setup with Page2RSS.  Sure I use Twitter to keep up with some things and LinkedIn and Facebook but only in the same way that I go directly to the BBC and Guardian.  Virtually everything else is via RSS and Google Reader.  If they needed to make money out of Reader they could have, adverts for additional journals and news sites would have been relatively easy to map out from my folders and the titles of read stories.

Personally I am holding off transferring away from Reader to see how the playing field levels out – not least as it is a clear opportunity for Microsoft to build something with a great W8 app, but also cross browser compatibility, to take on the crown of the champion of RSS.  Indeed the live tile approach and RSS could merge quite nicely (and perhaps already does with some apps?) and Reader already works better in WP8 IE than it did on my old Android phone.

All in all, it is another reason to use Google products less often and as I posted previously they probably do not care but it means:

  • Phone – I bought my Windows8 phone as something of an experiment but in many ways I prefer it over Android.  I doubt I will go back, the UI is great and most things I need to do I can.
  • Calendar – I have continued to use as WP8 very nicely allows you to import Android contacts and access Google and Yahoo services via the phone in unified interfaces – Microsoft playing ball with everyone else more than Google.  Who’d have thought it!
  • Docs – I still use Google Docs (sorry Drive) but things on my phone also go to Skydrive.  Docs is really the only area Google has me locked in.
  • Search – Google still often seems to trump Bing (on my phone) so I do not expect to switch from Google here but I could and I doubt it would make too much difference.
  • Video – YouTube is still the first port of call but SlideShare and others are stepping up.  Kudos to the YT team though for the improvements over subscriptions as I now visit daily to check what is new and use my ‘watch later’ list.
  • RSS – lets wait and see what happens in the next month or so but by cutting off Reader at the very least Google pushes Audio users away to podcasts via iTunes.
  • Google Alerts – I have a few of these setup, perhaps one G product to benefit in that it might gain some use away from Page2RSS and other alerts.

On previous blogs I have posted on my current tech usage – it will be interesting to reflect on what the GR changes mean in a few months time.

Reflecting on some recent Tweets & Google+ Shares

Whilst I log some of my personal development here I do not intend to consider everything I do, including reading.

Instead I will often share my reading via other networks.  Why?


  1. Most of my professional reading is via Google Reader.  I previously setup the option to push ‘shares’ in Reader to Twitter.  When Google+ launched this stopped working.  If I see something particularly interesting I will still share it in my ‘Work Related’ circle…just in case anyone is interested.  Its easy to do and at least allows my Google+ profile to have some use.
  2. Websites.  If something leads to me having a question or is something I think my Twitter followers might be interested in (especially if it is from a source they might not read) I will share there from time-to-time.


  1. I do not tweet often, usually limiting it to live tweeting of events – with more in-depth reflections later in blog posts.
  2. Reflection on some particular tweets:

“Virtual classrooms are a response to austerity”  “Virtual learning cannot replace the learning…of a classroom” …wow some old arguments there. Sounds like someone needs a friendly Learning Technologist to show them how. Also ignores student demand.

This was really just a reaction to The Globe and Mail (a paper I used to read now and again) choosing to publish what effectively seemed to be some ranting about a workplace…without much evidence of a justified argument.

#bett_latw great presentation on global l&d, another arguing for curation over creation.

The official hashtag for BETT Learning At Work was quite quiet so I tried to post a few summaries for anyone following.  The rising importance of curation was a theme – as picked up prior to Learning Technologies/BETT.

Opening talk of #BETT_LatW reminded me of the silly Idiocracy movie, suggestions of attention problems and obesity in the future world.

The presentation was excellent at considering the brain and the science behind learning.  This post was a little bit of fun as I doubt the Baroness would be a fan of the movie.

Leaving #lt13 exhibition – good catchup but nothing hugely new. Or did I miss something? Or a sign of things bedding down and maturing?

The Learning Technology and BETT shows seemed to suffer from multiplication of different hashtags.  Therefore, not many people may have seen this – I did get one reply confirming my feeling.  Other posts confirmed that people are concentrating on the learning outcomes rather than tech for tech’s sake.

Some #lt13 exhibition delegates VERY keen. Perhaps the security staff were just doing what they’ve been trained to do?

This was me being a bit bitchy – which is rare I would say.  I was simply blown away by how rude people were being to the Olympia staff  – would opening five minutes late really make much difference?  Do you have to be the first person in the lift?  I’m still presuming/hoping the worse culprits are not Human Resources professionals.

@ldnoverground part suspended. No crystal palace service.

Apologies to any Twitter followers that my rule of keeping it professional (with most personal/private stuff elsewhere – i.e. Facebook) is starting to slip.  If only because what was the East London Line now seems so badly served by London Overground information services.  I find Twitter hugely useful for getting around London when there are problems and will try to contribute.

Quick bit of reflection on the #6TrendsLD webinar yesterday…

Finally, for now, a tweet which was a rare bit of advertisement for this site.  I’m still torn between if this site should aim explicitly to be useful for others or just be my random thoughts, if anyone reads this far do let me know what you think!

5 Trends for L&D in 2013 (#6TrendsLD) Webinar…Could a corporate library service be the answer?

Donald Taylor yesterday went through five trends for Learning and Development that acted as a nice lead in to the upcoming Learning Technologies Exhibition I blogged about last time.

Don’s 5 themes were the below:

  1. Globalization & big picture changes
  2. Integration
  3. Data
  4. The role of L&D
  5. Performance

It was point four which perhaps interested me most.  The suggestion was that the LPI Capability Map and survey results are suggesting a skills gap in the areas where L&D focus can be seen as moving towards (and away from course delivery)…

  • Curate (find/filter/interpret/share)
  • Community management
  • Performance consulting
  • Research
  • Networking and influencing

Now I do not think these are really unique to L&D, but they are interesting to me considering I have come to L&D from an information/education background.  Indeed at the most basic level you may well say that resource management and building a community around the recommended materials are what libraries have always been about.

There are parallels for others too, including marketing professionals who will be experiencing similar ideas in needing to manage a social network around the brand rather than standalone marketing campaigns, which might be seen as the traditional equivalent of a L&D learning event.  Other aspects would be generic to any industry – everyone should research where they are in comparison to colleagues, competitors, etc. with appropriate networking and influence for their department to achieve its aims.

The decline of corporate libraries is well documented, elsewhere they have survived through a focus on competitive intelligence, knowledge management or sector/client research.  The question then is does the current L&D landscape mean investment in a ‘library’ service could be worth an organization’s time and money?  The answer – perhaps not a library but certainly a clear manifestation of supporting learning via different mediums, suggesting different ways for people to develop in the way the business needs.

Finally, how best to do this?  It might be that a learning management system with embedded social features – treating people (and communities of practice) as a resource alongside courses, reading, videos, podcasts, etc etc. or other similar platform?

Do we really need another conference?

This time of year is my peak time for conferences with (in December, January and February) a number of events I am interested in, including:

  • Online Educa (I have never attended but have followed from a far)
  • CES (which seems to have got a lot more coverage in Britain this year)
  • the UK Blackboard User Group (very relevant in my old role but missed this year)
  • Learning Technology Conference and Exhibition (I have not attended the conference but have visited the exhibition for a number of years) and…
  • BETT (where I have also attended the free exhibition a number of times).

The big change to the above, this year, is that BETT (British Educational Technology Tradeshow) is transforming itself.  Moving from Olympia to the ExCeL, BETT is expanding from its 5-18 year old learner focus with new parallel Higher and Professional Education conferences.  These two events are free although presumably the aim, by filtering applicants this year, is to ensure their success and then sell tickets next year.

The move by BETT is interesting in that they are looking to support learning technology in the wider sense.  Their diagram illustration of this is similar to some of the explanations I have done in the past for how my experience and skill set can be applied and are not specific to industry or the age of the learner ‘customer’.

This change can be seen as a brave move by the organizers of BETT – whilst there has clearly been support for the event in the past (Michael Gove opened it last year; Vince Cable this) – expanding into new areas in the current economic situation seems risqué.  Alternatively, having the event in the same week as the Learning Technology event may cut participants/delegates travel costs as they can ‘make a week of it’ – or it puts BETT in direction position as an alternative (considering many people will only be able to take limited time off work).  Interestingly the Association for Learning Technology are listed within the ‘in association with’ section for the HE event, I did not attend ALT’s own conference last year – partly due to the cost.

On the COLRIC JISCMail list there has recently been a discussion on what words can be used other than ‘conference’ – this got me thinking about what different events are really trying to achieve.

  • conference (mix of sessions [talk, workshops, seminar, etc] but normally talk led with sponsor stalls – in academic spheres conferences will include full ‘papers’ and a focus on research based practice)
  • tradeshow (wider mix of stalls, focus on selling and product developments)
  • symposium (suggestion on the COLRIC list that this might be too American to be widely used in the UK)
  • workshop (interactive with participants ‘doing’ rather than listening)
  • user group (normally smaller than a full-blown conference but with a focus or common thread on a piece of software, theory, methodology, etc)
  • roadshow (demonstrations, presentations, end-user support/training)
  • roundtable (everyone on an equal footing, bar possibly a coordinator, contributing their viewpoint – highly interactive)
  • seminar (singular meeting/discussion often started by a talk/presentation/demo)
  • webinar (singular event or the delivery mechanism for parts of an online conference, user group, etc; usually presentation followed by discussion)

In all of the above examples networking around the ‘event’ is of course a key aspect and online networking (Twitter I am looking at you) will keep the conversation going beyond the physical or scheduled activity.

So are the changes to BETT really needed?  I would say that, especially when I worked in HE, there was no shortage of elearning events and conferences which supported the need for the sector to develop.  A number of years on, some changes are happening (MOOCs being the most obvious) but a lot of talking has failed to really drive change.  Therefore, I set the new BETT conferences, both the HE and corporate events, the challenge of focusing on how attendees can get best practice embedded in their organization – not just agreement between attendees which is all too often ‘preaching to the converted’.

If they fail to do this then BETT remains, as it was before, a networking opportunity, an opportunity to catch up with changes in technology and theory.  But this would mean that in many ways I would feel the HE and corporate strands would risk replicating and repeating other events.  The benefit of attending BETT in the past was to be more aware of the 5-18 (k-12) sector and learn lessons from it.  Pushing people intro the three stands of compulsory, post-compulsory and corporate education will risk loosing that cross-pollination.

Overall, it will be interesting to attend the corporate stream at BETT this year (my other physical event attendance is likely to be limited to the Learning Technologies exhibition) but I would not be surprised if, when I reflect on the week, I decide BETT is best for getting me away from my current sector and engaging with those companies whose primary focus is elsewhere but ideas and technology can be leveraged in corporate training and higher education.