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Dan OBrien - Competitive Classroom

Dan OBrien - Competitive Classroom

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Published by: Classroom 2.0 Book on Aug 13, 2012
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09/10/2012

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5th
 AnniversaryBookProject
Blending Twitter, Wikis and Webquests in aCollaborative (and Competitive) Classroom
By:
Dan O’Brien
Creative Commons License:
CC BY-NC-ND
Author contact:
dan@danobrien.net
Author Biography:
I am an education consultantspecialising in technology-enhanced teaching and
learning. Over the last fteen years I have workedclosely with hundreds of schools, colleges and universities in the roll-out of eportfoliossystems, curriculum mapping tools, audit frameworks and web 2.0 teaching tools. Moreinformation about my work can be found at www.danobrien.net.
Activity Summary
This is my account of what happened when I took fty “budding entrepreneurs”, gave them with atwitter-like tool and asked them to ‘tweet’ their way through a series of online tasks. I’ll explain howI kept learners focused using a specially created Wiki with videos, photos, downloads and linksto relevant websites. I’ll describe the way learners responded when they were given short, onlinetasks in the form of mini-webquests with visible countdown timers (and how their responses weremoderated of course!). I’ll discuss how the session was controlled in real-time using an interactivewhiteboard and how the evidence of learning was captured and shared with others. I’ll also explainhow I overcame the many safeguarding and security issues involved in using twitter in the classroomas well as the techniques used to make sure learners were able to use devices such as iPods,iPhones and mobile phones to record and submit photo, video and audio evidence of learning.
Class or subject area: Cross-curricular (off time-table) event, focusing on enterprise skills andemployabilityGrade level(s):
All
Specifc learning objectives:
Improve learner’s enterprise* and employability skills
Enable learners to develop and apply existing ICT skillsEncourage learners to use phones, iPods, tablets and pda devices to capture evidence of learningAllow learners to collaborate and compete in activities which are “fun” and “fast-paced”.Provide learners with ‘exportable’ evidence they can use to further their education/career 
 
The Challenge
I was asked to create and deliver an engaging ‘enterprise skills’ session to a group of fty learnersat Whitgift School in Lincolnshire, UK. During this technology-driven, online session, teams of learners would need to carry out web-based tasks which would guide them through the process of developing an idea for a commercial or social venture to regenerate a piece of wasteland in the localarea. At the end of the online session, each team would present their idea (and evidence of learningfrom the previous tasks) to a panel of ‘judges’ comprising of a young person, a business person, anenvironmentalist and a town planner from the local council. The online session had to be “fun, fast-paced, collaborative and competitive” (competitive because the theme of the day was that teamswere competing against each other, with only one idea chosen as an overall winner).My initial idea was to design a ‘real-time’ session where teams of learners would access a purpose-built website (Wiki) containing background information and relevant tasks. The teams would then useTwitter to Tweet back their responses to the tasks on each web page. I would then ‘watch’ the streamof Tweets and use them as a basis for class discussion and feedback. After a few initial test runs, Irealised there were a few problems....The website (Wiki) would need to be private and each team would need their own account(hassle!)During the session, teams would jump ahead and respond to tasks on different web pages(chaos!)Any responses sent by learners using Twitter could be viewed by the general public (danger!)Twitter streams ‘watched’ in front of the class could be posted to by the public (even more danger!) Although the initial idea for the session was met with positive feedback - the problems associated withsetting up a private website (Wiki) and using Twitter in the classroom meant I had to look for another means of achieving the same level of impact, engagement, collaboration (and don’t forget - fun!)
The Solution
I discovered a tool called ClassBubbles (www.classbubbles.com) which seemed to provide all thebenets of using Twitter in the classroom, whilst eliminating all of the risks. It had been purposelydesigned to function like Twitter - but in a closed, secure environment with added features for managing content and learners. Instead of posting “Tweets”, learners would post “bubbles” - hencethe name “classbubbles”. I contacted them and found that I could pre-load the system with my ownbackground information and tasks (like the Wiki I had envisaged) - plus I could deliver the session inreal-time to our entire group of learners. Perfect!
Creating the session and adding content 
Creating the session was fairly straightforward - itwas just a case of completing a short web-form withbasic information about the session I had planned.Interestingly, I was able to choose my own web addresswhere the session would be accessed and protect it witha unique security key.[Fig 1] The screenshot to the left shows the web form
used to create the session.
 
Once I’d created the session I was able to use a wysiwyg editor to add a series of twelve content
pages and relevant tasks. I kept the tasks
short and to the point and provided extra“hints” so that learners knew the type of responses they were expected to make.[Fig 2] The screenshot to the right showsa panel of background information loadedonto the left and the matching task loadedonto the right. (In this task the learners hadto post “bubbles” containing the start-upor running costs for their ideas - I took thescreenshot after the session so you canactually see their real responses!).
On the day
On the day, I divided the group of learners into teams of ve (one computer per team) and askedthem to log in at the unique web address I’d chosen when creating the session. (I could have askedeach learner to log in on their own and work independently - but I felt there would have been too
many responses appearing on the screen
at one time.) As each team logged in I sawtheir avatar (icon) appear across the bottomof my screen on the interactive whiteboard.
Interestingly - I didn’t need to create any teamor learner accounts prior to the session - theysimply entered a team name and choose a
password the rst time they logged in. Theteams could then log in with the same nameand password at any stage throughout the dayand it would remember their previous “bubbles”.[Fig 3] The screenshots to the left showsthe difference between my screen on theinteractive whiteboard used to run the session(top) and the learners screen on their desktop(bottom). Notice that on my screen (top) I
have additional buttons and session controls
whereas the learners have a box to enter their responses (their ‘bubbles’).I’d been given a few handy ‘tips’ from the
team at classbubbles to help my session run
smoothly. Firstly, I “locked” the informationand task panels so whatever appeared on myscreen (on the interactive whiteboard) also

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