Top 100 Learning Tools in 2011

It’s just about that time of the year when people start compiling their list of favourites from the year gone by , whether it be music tracks or films or books or anything else. So I thought I’d get in early, not with a list of my own, but with this terrific list of top learning tools compiled by Jane Hart of C4LPT which I found via Twitter. What I particularly like about it is the simple formatting and the fact that it includes quite a number of tools which have been around for so long we have stopped thinking of them in that way. Have fun counting how many of them you use already and making a note of the ones you will be desperate to try out.

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Welcome to Planet Alice

Fans of the digital novel Inanimate Alice – and the number is growing rapidly – will be interested to hear of some new developments and more resources for teachers. The series was given a boost this week with the publication, in conjunction with new global education partners Promethean, of the third edition of Alice’s School Report which features a ringing endorsement from no less a figure than filmmaker, media expert and educational authority Lord David Puttnam:

“Here is a terrific reading-from-the-screen experience that talks the language of digitally literate educators. Kids will read this when they won’t read from books. It’s vivid moving imagery embracing some of the techniques used in both film and video-games. It’s authentic rich-media, yet it is a high-quality text that teachers can rely on. Surprisingly intimate, the feeling for the characters forms in your head, just like reading a book, surely more so for those whose prefer engagement with “born digital” material. Kids will love reading with Alice.”  David Puttnam

Read the full School Report here.

One welcome change to the new-look IA website is the addition of a Starter Activities Booklet on Episode 1 for teachers who are new to the story, while a host of extra materials can be found on the Promethean Planet website. No need to have or use a whiteboard to access the materials, simply open a free account and go to the User Group to find out how other teachers and kids have been engaging with Alice and taking her on their own adventures. If you are a teacher discovering Inanimate Alice for the first time, I suggest you watch and listen to the introduction from teacher-librarian and media specialist Laura Fleming, and if you are  introducing young people to Inanimate Alice for the first time, this film trailer is perfect for setting the scene. Perhaps after reading the series you could challenge them to make their own version. Find out how to make a film trailer here.

Learning to be Independent

“It’s ridiculous to think that kids can be trusted to learn things on their own.” Teacher, anon.

A couple of months ago I wrote about a primary school in Scotland which had embarked on some very interesting ‘joined-up’ learning, and I have often written or spoken about the challenges which secondary schools face when attempting to do the same thing. By definition, when your starting point is a structure which is built around a number of subject departments, when time is allocated to those subjects on the basis of their perceived importance in the hierarchy, and where young people move around from one to the next in the course of the school day, it is always going to be difficult to provide experiences which add up to a coherent whole. Add to that the enormous pressure to produce better and better exam results at the exit point, and the opportunities for real student choice, self-directed learning and learning based on outcomes rather than inputs are going to be restricted, to put it mildly. So is it possible for every secondary school to accommodate the needs of every young person? Can they support and challenge the more creative, the non-conformists, the independent thinkers? And is it reasonable to expect them to deliver learning which is relevant, joined up and personal in every case? Do we need to think about alternative school models, or should we begin by looking at the possibility of creating ‘ a school within a school’ as they have done in this bold experiment at Monument  Mountain Regional High School in Berkshire County, Massachusetts? Incidentally, if you listen carefully you will realise that the quote at the top of the blogpost is taken from near the beginning of the video.

My thanks, as so often, to Kenny Pieper for bringing the film to my attention. If you haven’t found Kenny’s blog yet, you’re in for a treat.