The 31st MediaSnackers podcast discusses Scottish education.
(WORLD) The MediaSnackers podcast focusses on individuals, organisations or companies who are simply impressing us and which are crying out for more discussion.
Ewan McIntosh blogs on Edu.Blogs and is also the New Technologies Research Practitioner, for Learning and Teaching Scotland—he discusses with MediaSnackers the role he has to play in the Scottish education system.
0.10—1.21 Ewan outlines his blog and his new role
1.22—2.37 examples of his role focus
2.38—4.22 lessons learned and opportunities missed
4.23—5.40 why can’t young people work in teams?
5.41—7.43 blurring the lines of public and private activity
7.44—8.49 why don’t kids blog on myspace.com?
8.50—11.05 teaching the teachers (reciprocal-education)
11.06—11.24 Thanks and outro
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DK: I’m here with Ewan Macintosh. Welcome Ewan. And if you could tell us about your current role and obviously, your blog, which I find you on please.
Ewan Macintosh: Well, the blog is edu.blogs.com and that’s really my personal stock professional place. You find barbecues next to documents there. And my new post which I have just started in the summer is new technologies practitioner which is a very unfunky title for an incredibly funky job. I’ve basically got three parts to the job, one is to carry on with the strategy of a national mother languages project. The second is to try and inject some new technology into my own local authority, East Lothian Council and the third part is to report back on that in lots of different ways so that if you’re a teacher, if you’re a school manager or a district manager, you are able to see how we do it and see what not to do because we’ll be making lots of mistakes in the next two years and maybe copy some of the ideas into your own area.
DK: Okay, man, that sounds very exciting. We chatted before this interview started and you threw at me a lot of interesting things that you’re going to be doing. Is there anything you’d like to share or can share with this kind of wider world here about exactly what you are going to do within that realm?
Ewan Macintosh: Well, of course, what we do depends on where and what works out in the very first place. Kind of things are we want to get some blogging going on where it’s appropriate, so English language classes, we’re an ICT so we’re not used to that much at all at the moment. We didn’t expect to see lot of creative writing and lots of collaborative work going on and prototype model studies, history classes, using blogs.
Podcasting is something that for and anything in the oral arts, so English language again or modern languages. Also for just the creative arts part of the school, performance arts, I think podcasting will be big. We’ve also got a lot of kids who are not turned on by a school and for them, I am hoping that the use of some gaming technology such as PSPs, the XBOX D60 to get some collaborative gaming and collaborative work going on that might be the kind of thing to bring most guys in. The most quick thing, there’s a game out for the PSP to learn Japanese and I’m determined to use that to teach Japanese.
DK: Wow! That is mad! And obviously, you know, just within your role and just reading your stuff, you’re obviously a big advocate of using these new technology in current teaching practices. But coming from maybe a personal or professional sort of view and from the people that you work with, what are the lessons that you’ve learned up until now and obviously the opportunities that you kind of missed would like to go back and revisit?
Ewan Macintosh: Well, yeah, the opportunities missed, there’s a lot of them because it’s just as I have gotten into the swing of things I got taken out in the classroom to go and do stuff for the nation as it were. and by I think great because one thing for example is that I can say quickly, kids just don’t really know how to work in teams, they don’t know how to work collaboratively. And I think that even before teaching the technology and I’ve been doing this in workshops this year, is teaching kids how to work in a team. And showing them how they can do it and talking with them to find out how they think they can work best in a team.
So ironically, not the technology but this other stuff is like that is the kind of thing I’m looking forward to working on. It comes down as roughly to digital literacy and something I really missed out when I was teaching just because I kind of hoped that the kids would imbibe this as they went along. But I think we need to be especially now with these, the kids are more savvy about the social technologies than what I was using with them two years ago, three years ago and we need to cross train on that. I think the opportunities being missed are at the moment huge and many and I am looking forward to really addressing the balance in that.
Ewan Macintosh: And yeah, if there was a lesson learned is to teach the kids how to work in a team first.
DK: Well that’s interesting because obviously, one of the questions I asked of my many podcastees is what trends are you seeing in young people’s media consumption and creation which is exciting and scaring you. Now you’re bringing up the idea that these kids can’t work in teams and is that a product of the media consumption habits? therefore that they consume and interacting all online during some messaging, but all singularly.
Ewan Macintosh: Well, if you ever observe kids on instant messenger, if you ever go into their social spaces, MySpace, Bebo, for example, there’s a lot of broadcasting going on but there’s not a lot of reception, there’s not a lot listening. and if you look at the comments spaces of Bebo, for example, there’s lots of people shouting but no one really listening or having a conversation. So we think that young people do know how to use all technology, they know how to click the buttons but I don’t think they’re taking it for everything its worth.
Ewan Macintosh: And I intend to have kids making film. I intend to have kids publishing film and audio and text. and I want them to do that in a way which they’ll be proud later in life when they’re Googled for their job interview in a way which will make them seem real unique.
DK: Definitely. Wow. Okay. Cool. You did a post recently on your blog which I am an active reader of regarding student engagement in social software outside of the school context. I really found this fascinating just because of the idea of blurring those lines between the private and public online activities which you were kind of touching on when kids are going out for job interviews and they’re going to be Googled at some point. All the stuff that they’ve thrown out online, are they going to come back to bite them in the ass basically? But I’d really kind of would love to explore the idea of how that would work, how the idea of you know the stuff that they’re doing then impacting on their e-learning portfolio I think you used the term as? Could you kind of explain a little bit more about that?
Ewan Macintosh: That was one of these blog posts that was really intended to ask lots of questions but not necessarily give any particular answers. My thinking has been brought rein by some of the comments that were left in that. One of them was, basically, you know, this is their playground. Do you go and teach a Latin class in the playground and the answer is no. And I think as they’re social space and I prefer to leave it that way. What I find interesting is that on MySpace and Bebo, hardly anyone uses their blog. They all use photos and they all use the comment boxes, the flash boxes, they want their multimedia but they don’t like text, they don’t like the blog.
Maybe there would be a way for them to getting them to publish some of their better poetry from their English class or some of their short stories on their blog because they’re not using it anyway and that way schools wouldn’t have to bother creating blogs for them and that would create some kind of length there. But I think that the personal spaces, there is one thing we could maybe learn from them is what the kids like on them and the kids like the photos, the video, the flash movies, they like sharing their YouTube videos. So maybe rather than using the actual medium, we can use some lessons learned from it which is we need to use more of this multimedia in the classroom.
DK: I totally agree and it was interesting because a week ago, you obviously know I delivered the training day up in Birmingham to train young people how to weblog and podcast and I was really interested of the three young people who had myspace.com profiles on that day, none of them were using the blog facility on there. And that’s why I use myspace.com as one of the blogging platforms because I see that totally and I don’t know why they don’t do it and maybe it is because they rather like the visual aspects of online activity rather than that textual creating.
Ewan Macintosh: An interesting example is where a teacher asking a kid to set up a blog for the Spanish class and the kid, of course, what do they do? They don’t go and look at WordPress or edublogs, they go and look at MSN spaces and they created a superb little blog for the class and that amazingly isn’t blocked from the school. And I think that’s very cool and the fact that the kid created it gives them ownership over it and maybe more of that would be a nice thing to see. and you know in the same way that rock bands created their own MySpace profiles, maybe schools could.
DK: That’s interesting because that comes on my next point because you know you have kids then teaching the teachers and the participation from me because of my old professional history is when I think of the great mechanisms people can use to close the gap between youth and adults in any sphere that you’re talking about. Do you see this model of kind of reciprocal education being used a lot more especially when it comes to technology where young people can teach the teachers.
Ewan Macintosh: I’d like to see it used more. I don’t think that it is, for example, the blog set up by the kid, I don’t know if the kid actually showed the teacher how to do it, the teacher was not aware of how to do that so there was a missed opportunity there. When I was 12, I taught the teachers in my school how to use Apple Max and I actually remember giving them an in-service thing getting 15 pounds to do it which is quite a lot for a 13 or 14-year-old.
I think there’s more to be done here and I don’t think it’s just the teachers. I think the wider community especially vulnerable groups like single parents and the aged. If they could come into the schools and see that the school is not this horrible, frightening place where the kids dirty the streets. It is a place where the kids will actually teach them some life skills in terms of technology. I think that would be a very valuable thing to happen. I hope that we could maybe do that in this East Lothian in the next year or two. In fact, I’ve attempted to push that forward. but quite a lot of the teamwork appears to be receptive to co-education is actually just the kids doing stuff for the adults and the same way everyone’s had the teacher that doesn’t know how to work the video player and the guy, the little boy who comes in there and fixes it but never tells the teacher how, so it’s always wee Billy has to come and sort out the video player. That’s not right. That’s not reciprocal. That’s just the youth doing stuff for the teacher. And when you teach, you really have to know your stuff. It really helps you learn as well so I am absolutely convinced that we need to do more of this and that involves teachers to giving up control and a lot of teachers are not fans of that.
Ewan Macintosh: Quite how we get around there? I don’t know but that’s something maybe the other listeners can help sort out.
DK: Definitely. Well, I look forward to continuing to reading your blog, man. I’m sure your new development draw will you know throw out some of the tangible answers to the questions I told you and I just want to thank you for giving up your time, Ewan.
Ewan Macintosh: Well thanks a lot and you can follow the adventures in the blog.