Outdoor Learning Adventures

September 17, 2009

The Boston learning adventure
required organisation turned out to be rather a lot of fun. More importantly I think it provided a number of ideas that can be utilised in hte design of

to explore approaches to nudge learners out of chairs away from screen and into parks to develop active and purposeful learning experiences away from the classroom / or in this case the hotel conference room
to explore the potential of layering activities providing access at different levels so all could contribute regardless of expertise
to provide opportunity y that was not dependent on the personal devices owned by the group

in our group of 11 split to two groups of 5 and 6 there were two delegates without phones, eight various devices and one i Phone

Building a multi-layered learning adventure in a Boston Park
(don’t call it a geocache it will scare off more than it will attract)


first decision I made after a few walks through the park was to focus the first learning task on looking at the wonderful range of trees – a magniificent stand of elms (yes elms) bordering the north side , two rather magnificent ginkos and a statuesque Chinese redwood..the list goes on. Each group had to bring back positive identification / either leaf or picture of three tree types that were new to them. Obviously any notable physical object or location could be used in the same fashion.

to focus attention on the trees I made QR codes to stick on the tree trunk of four trees in the park. Six different codes were generated andeach one held a sURL that linked to a separate page of a Wiki with pictures of a particular part of the Apollo 11 Moon mission. Each group had downloaded a free reader for QR codes which works by using the built in camera in a mobile phone (links for Berquerel etc here – enter your phone number and it sends you link to a reader app if one is available for your phone model. Various readers were downloaded and most worked well. The QR codes (pic are also known as 2D Barcodes and 3D barcodes are also available in the form of Microsoft TAGs these are colorful dot like – hold more info and also allow data tracking via the TAG website (address) It is also possible to overlay the Microsoft TAG as a series of dots on a picture so that the data is available but is barely noticeable – something I’ll be trialling shortly.

I made TAGS for Microsoft and QR codes and put the QR codes on the trees. The Microsoft TAGs were placed in old 35mm film cannisters along with some props to help carry out the activity suggested. Each of the two learning journeys had three way points where there were labels posted and cannisters hidden.

urban earth pictures ?????
took pictures on their phones or cameras
http://www.whrrl.com a useful way of doing this in the future particularly as they allow for further group annotation and reflection afterwards, perhaps as part of a group review.

For each point on the journey the cannister contained resources a little bit of plasticine ( each group had already been fiven some card , felt tis a scissors and a compass (some cluses at the waypoint involved direct geographical fixes (5 yards due north of the statues cane) Each group mentiopned the value of using the compass alongside GPS machines to cement navigation skills at a simple

I suggested walking a triangle and demonstrated in park later (illustration here walk north 20 paces walk west 20 paces walk south east 20 paces)

11 delegates were divided into two groups one entering through north of par oppostire the Cheers bar (site of the inspiration for the long runing bar-room sit com – the group took their pcitures at the sign before commencing the task.

Using the mission designer (pic) part of the gps mission web site I had made a walk for the North and SOuth groups but as only one delegate had a phone that could run the free software the northern group were instructed to entrer the park at the middle entrance and find a Chinese Redwood! In other words verbal clues can replace digital tech to little ill effect.

The southerly group had one iPhone so they chose the Plaza to park adventure I had designed for that activity and this provided cluses to take them to the ginko biloba near the south west? entrance.

Once at their first target tree both groups scannes the QR codes and accessed their respective web oage with guidance as to their first location challenge – s1 was filming the liftoff n1 was the sea of tranquility

tried to represent my impression of the two groups activty as a series of dots on the illustration below

thsanks to for the heads up on QR codes


The Difference Engine Runs Again

August 13, 2008

Chapter 1..

The Difference Engine..

Devices that once filled rooms now fill pockets


A machine to calculate difference and compute mathematical tables  was proposed by Charles Babbage in 1822.  The development was funded by the British Government – who even then (sadly but accurately) recognised the military potential of the nascent computer he was building.


The name he gave the machine, an intricate series of cogs and ratchets, was the Difference Engine. Development of the concept of a computer as organiser and calculator continued apace informed by algebraic insights from gifted autodidact George Boole and punched card data entry from Joseph Marie Jacquard a French silk weaver who was seeking to automate the production of complex weaving patterns. A slingshot surge in the concept was brought about by the brilliant wartime code breaking activities of Alan Turing and others in the early 1940s. Slowly, the Difference Engine became the forbear of the modern computer.  As the microchip emerged from Texas Instruments in the early 1960s the original name was lost in the mists of iterative development. The multiplication of speed and capability ensured a quickening pace of progress.  Moore’s Law 1965 observed that “the number of transistors on a chip doubles about every two years”.. Until suddenly we arrive at the “future in the instant – devices that once filled rooms now fill pockets. .


The journey from a hand-cranked machine of bronze and steel weighing three tons to the feather-light computer nestled in the palm of your hand took just one hundred and eighty years.


Now it’s time to dust off the name and to crank up the machine once more…for the difference engine runs again  . This time multiplying capability, fostering communication, assisting micro- surgery (even at geographical distance) and learning at the time and place of choice. Electron microscopy and digital modelling tools now even help us observe the aggregations and dispersals of neurons as simple “maze memory” flickers and builds to axon and dendrite clusters in the brain.  We now have at our disposal tools and opportunities beyond the dreams of Babbage, Boole and Ada Lovelace, daughter of Byron, and a gifted mathematician. Ada is often considered to be the first computer programmer with her 1842 method for calculating Bernoulli numbers.


Welcome to the age of adhocracy

Welcome to the new age of adhocracy1. It is time to face up to the fact that if you unleash the difference engine (as we have with the media variety and the mobile tools of our time) you can’t expect things to stay the same. The description “ad-hoc” used to have slightly pejorative associations – now it will have to become a potential antidote to the static or the pointless. Homogeneity is off the menu (perhaps permanently). Teachers and learners are already taking the inevitable opportunity (and responsibility) to set learning free. There is a revolution starting in the range and scope of education and it will come from the school and travel outwards. ICT will be one of the key enabling tools in the process To manage content and make connections in new ways, ways that those who invented the tools or wrote the curriculum never quite imagined. In the age of adhocracy individual schools will use different tools in different ways and there will be no one path to the future of learning.


Meanwhile the study of computer, IT or ICT will disappear as a subject in schools as it becomes a tool of difference and opportunity in lifelong learning. It’s time of great potential school are doing wonderful things, what’s more they are starting to share and learn powerfully and quickly from each other as wiser web applications (sometimes known as Web 2.0) bring the wisdom of organisation and interconnection to online resources. We are all learning researchers from here on in. Each school has the opportunity to plot its own path and to bask in and struggle with its own unique set of opportunities and challenges.  The good news is that there is no great uniformity- no singularity – even the web in all its web 2.0 glory is only a part of the whole story that make up learning opportunities in the 21st Century. We are not on our own from here on in and we will be able to meld, join and merge our education experiences in new ways. In short “teachers are doing it for themselves.” In part this is illustrated but the edupunk movement which caught the spirit of the times in Summer 2008 “an ideology referring to teaching and learning practices that result from a do it yourself (DIY) attitude”


Playing Difference Bingo (tidy up and illus Spike?)

The next time you catch a train or bus or plane, count  how many different media types and technologies ( / phones / papers/PDAs / computers / paperback books)  you see in use by the five or six people sitting closest to you.  I hadn’t realised it before but these people are all learning . It might look like they are just reading, texting and listening – but it’s learning in disguise. They are not even in a classroom!


Now look at the different ways these devices are being used  eg  watching movies, reading the paper, texting friends.  building spreadsheets, listening to MP3s –  it’s a difference bingo if you find three people  using exactly the same device for exactly the same purpose  …unless you are in a classroom of course.  Feel free to shout “difference bingo” in the carriage! Send me a digital picture to prove the bingo  and I’llemail you a small digital gift by return. If the three people are reading the same newspaper or book  they have to be on the same page – gift supplies are finite!


Time to notice difference  – time to just notice

Then I got to asking myself “when did they become different?”  When did these differences  in learning and media preference kick in with the individuals  that I am observing ?– Did it happen magically when they left school? Or were they always different  and we just didn’t  notice? Perhaps its time to start noticing the need and preference of the learner a bit more and measuring their notional achievement a bit less. Yes time to notice more and measure less. One of the biggest sadnesses in formal education at present in many countries are the students who  travel through schools, are often assessed but never get “noticed”. The Zulu people mindful perhaps of this danger have evolved a greeting that doesn’t say hello but rather, more profoundly “I see you” Sawubona. The key question now is how do we acknowledge each individual learner, notice difference and how can we we use our new tools to help accommodate their needs. It’s difference that should concern us more than personalisation – whatever that might be. You can still acknowledge and group according to difference even in the large groupings that learning sometimes involves.


I wish to thank Martin Large who was instrumental in getting this project started, providing early encouragement and support so that schools can find real and practical ways to adopt the new technologies available. He and his colleagues at Steljes Ltd have been very helpful in bringing the book together and in sharing examples of best practice across the country.”

Macbeth,. Act 1, Scene 5

Alvin Toffler first coined this term in 1970 in his book

Future Shock b Alvin Toffler (ISBN 0-553-27737-5)

http://codezulu.com/isizulu.asp – learn Zulu online

Welcome to the Post-Literate Era

March 10, 2008

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I ought to link this to the active passive axis

If this ain’t RGB…

January 14, 2008

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If this ain’t RGB…, originally uploaded by [felicitas (away)].

What a splash of colour
Just the job for january

ebb and flow from digital to analogue and back again

January 4, 2008

Ebb and Flow(and how leave space for it)…This principle concerns itself with balancing the use of tools and activities so that the learning opportunities  get renewed and remain fresh.

In a nutshell it reminds us that we need to establish many bridgeheads and pathways back and forward between the real hand-made world  and the digital domain. It also serves as a reminder us that learning needs to run wide, wild  and free at times .

Use this principle to support planning and the design of “new learning environments”

The permanent use of one method, resource or media no matter how new or dramatic the tool will eventual lead to boredom, ennui and “disconnection” in the learner.  There are great benefits in not seeing one tool as the answer and integrating the range of approaches that make for  authentic learning experiences…Doing one thing , watching one media or using  one tool or approach to the exclusion of others has been a considerable  drawback in the adaptation of new tools in the learning process. Interactive whiteboards have in the past been as an answer in themselves.  Just remember  there is no one answer and there is no one common path to the future

Children can make their eBooks own complete with illustrations  (ebb and flow) 

Card/paper and computer in cahoots rather than competition

Real notebooks & PDA as complimentary tools


The principle of ebb and flow also has major implications for classroom design and use Ewan Macintosh in Scotland  wanted students to start a blog on Google to capture students colaboration Google.  Then he thought about doing it in the real world with sheet of A3- it worked really well – “ Its’s a wiki” says Ewan” but not as we know it.”


Ebb and flow in Stoke UK came  from studentsat St Peter’sSchool  composing their own song melody bass lines in GarageBand and then Standing in front of live audience, eveneually in the Royal Albert Hall  and singing in choir to their own composition


It was a delight to watch them perform. Seeing the recognition of the subtleties in the music and knowing what was coming next – they should do – they wrote it.


Get tracing, painting, mapping,  modelling and card and paper collage in cahoots with the  computer in rather than in competition. Remember a real-life drawing notebook & PDA as complimentary tools . The most useful notebook we could give students is a flat paper one that slips into a pocket along with fostering the embryonic skills of graphical note taking, drawing and collage.


Establish as many bridgeheads as possible  between the analogue world and the digital domain. See Zoning 

The Legacy Loop

January 1, 2008
As part of a New Year Resolution to blog more frequently…On reflection it seems that we got TV before we made the most of radio and we got the computer before we had made the most of paper. The speed of  technological progress means we don’t get the most from what we have before the headlong dash to the “new tech in town” It’s time for a little S&N (subtlety and nuance) we need to track back and revisit earlier tools and opportunties  as we have started to do with paper and with radio.

Lovely Picture

November 1, 2007