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Reflection on the Seminars


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#1 Andrew Field

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Posted 28 July 2003 - 09:25 PM

In response to Richard's suggestion in the main forum, I've started this thread to allow people to post their responses to the seminars in the 'first term'.

Comments should ideally focus on the strengths and weaknesses (if any) so far. If you have any suggestions how they could be developed further or indeed any positive comments for the authors then this is the place for you...


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#2 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 28 July 2003 - 10:15 PM

My own feeling is that this first series of Seminars has gone extremely well. I'm sure many teachers (especially those in small or one-person Departments) have welcomed the opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience with others in the profession and to 'attend' what has amounted to 'virtual INSET'.

I for one have learned a great deal and have appreciated the opportunity to interact in a slighty more formal way (than elsewhere on this Forum) with online colleagues from a wide variety of backgrounds both in the UK and around the world. This, it seems to me, has been one of the greatest strengths.

Furthermore, the materials are there to return to whenever one wishes and to share with others too. Many of these discussions would be an excellent basis for in-school INSET. I know one HOD at least has emailed all the members of his Dept. pointing them to Seminar materials. They could also be printed off for circulation amongst colleagues.

To do this click on the Topic Options button at the bottom left of the open Seminar of your choice and then select 'Download/Print this topic.

Andrew asks if we feel there have been any weaknesses. I'm not sure that it is a weakness as such but I must admit to being disappointed that it has largely been 'Forum regulars' who have participated in most of these Seminars. I know John S. has worked hard to publicise their existence and am aware that quite a lot of 'Guests' have read the the various contributions, but we do not seem to have attracted the level of participation that I had initially anticipated.

I think I have learned an important lesson about how best an online Seminar should be conducted (and conversely what can be seen as a weakness). It strikes me that things work best when the Seminar leader doesn't say everything that they wish to say in their 'lead' posting, but instead begins by providing information and/or ideas which they then develop over the course of the week. The best example of this for me has been the one on Thinking Skills.

Leading a discussion - whether it be online or face-to-face - is a skilled business if one is to get the best out of potential contributors and I think this is something that could be reflected on.

I feel sure others will wish to do so ..... ?

#3 John Simkin

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 08:40 AM

I tend to agree with much of what Carole has said. I think the quality of the original postings has been outstanding. They have been so good that I am sure many schools will use them for INSET.

However, I have been disappointed by the number of people who have responded to these seminars. There has also been a lack of people willing to question what has been said. It could be argued that the original posters have put forward such sound arguments that there was little to say. I doubt if this is the real reason.

The seminars tended to fall into two different categories. (1) Those that offered practical ideas and the main role of the posters was to add further suggestions. Carole’s seminar on essay writing fell into this category and on the whole these seminars worked very well, although I would have liked to have seen more people contribute to them.

Other seminars raised controversial topics - issues on which the teaching profession is deeply divided. For example, the seminars led by Andy Walker, Dafydd Humphreys and Dan Lyndon. However, there appeared to be a reluctance to debate these issues. Maybe people thought it would be impolite to challenge the people who made the original postings. Hopefully, in time, these debates will take place.

I have also noticed a decline in responses during the last month. I suspect the reason for that has been the fact that PGCE courses have finished and that we have been reaching the end of the school term.

During the summer break I will advertise in Teaching History Online and Education on the Internet some of the earlier seminars and I will also attempts to get some of the debates going again.

I have put up the provisional list of seminars for next term. Please feel free to suggest new topics for the future.

http://www.spartacus.../conference.htm

#4 Richard Jones-Nerzic

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 12:13 PM

My own feeling is that this first series of Seminars has gone extremely well. I'm sure many teachers (especially those in small or one-person Departments) have welcomed the opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience with others in the profession and to 'attend' what has amounted to 'virtual INSET'.

As the only English speaking history teacher for about 200 miles, I'd just like to thank everyone for the fantastic INSET provided over the last few months. Although I haven't always been able to contribute, I have certainly read every posting and printed off many 'complete' threads.

I think that some of my pre-conference reservations have been borne out by the lack of contributions on occasion. As Carole said, it was intended to be be more 'formal' and as such required a more considered approach that not everyone had time to give. (?) Personally, I think we should rethink the next schedule perhaps allowing more time between new seminars and/or having less seminars in the term. Having this natural break was also a good idea. I think I would have contributed more had there been a little less to contribute to.

Most of the other reservations (mine and others) were unfounded. It's great that seminars stay perpetually open. I notice that even the first is continuing to attract new contributions. I came across some interesting sites about laptop classrooms recently and now that I have some free time, I'd like to add a few more comments to my seminar.

To John's two categories of seminar (practical and controvertial) I'd like to add a third for Juan Carlos' sort of seminar (and mine for that matter) which aimed to share experiences which were a little out of the norm. It was never likely that these types of seminar could attract many contributions, but judging from the number of 'views' they have at least managed to generate some interest.

On the whole we had a good mixture of different types of seminar (political, practical, international, ICT etc.) led by different types of people (young enthusiasts, old heads, experts and passionate amateurs). I hope this can be continued and built into future planning.

A final point about the format. The first motor cars resembled the horse-drawn carriage and the first computers look like typewriters; our seminars have been very similar to traditional seminars and lectures. I wonder if we might try to be more imaginative with the technology in future? Just an idle thought in a very, very hot south of France afternoon. Thanks again everyone.
All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.
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#5 Mary Beth Borden

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 12:40 PM

Just a message from the states. I have loved the seminars. They have been
better and more meaningful than any faculty meeting I've sat through, and I've
sat through loads of them. Ann's seminar was a slightly different format and I
think that Carole is right about the sense of dialogue and anticipation being effective in keeping people involved.

Frankly, they've all been great. Thank you so much to everyone who took the
time to contribute.

#6 Andrew Field

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 12:56 PM

I have put up the provisional list of seminars for next term. Please feel free to suggest new topics for the future.

http://www.spartacus.../conference.htm

Excellent comments so far - working together in this way has meant the creation of an excellent body of knowledge. The variety of ways different seminars have been put forward has added to the quality. Thanks to all involved.

There is one problem, as mentioned by Carole elsewhere (I think). Why are these timetables being published elsewhere? We've got the timetable in the pinned thread in this section - surely this should be where the up to date timetable is.

This timetable is also different to the one published elsewhere - see the Education Telegraph pages (if you're logged on) - this could puzzle people - it's puzzling me. :crazy:


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#7 John Simkin

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 03:56 PM

This is just a provisional list of seminars. Please feel free to change the title of the seminar you want to do.

#8 Andrew Field

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 04:05 PM

That's not what I'm asking - I'm asking why the seminar timetable hasn't been added to the forum where those responsible can then edit and develop the timetable as appropriate.

I take it the other proposals will be added to the next 'lot'.

How about Richard's proposal above as well - should we have fewer seminars next time to allow a greater focus? Not quite sure how else they can be presented though - perhaps some sort of interactive webchat or presentation is what he's after? Would changing it further mess up the promotion that has already taken place?

As an afterthought I've also opened a new thread asking for seminar titles / topics that people would like to see. After all, it might be better to be demand led rather than supply driven....

Edited by Andrew Field, 29 July 2003 - 04:16 PM.



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#9 John Simkin

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 05:08 PM

That's not what I'm asking - I'm asking why the seminar timetable hasn't been added to the forum where those responsible can then edit and develop the timetable as appropriate.

When I try to edit the page I get an error message.

#10 Andrew Field

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 05:10 PM

That's not what I'm asking - I'm asking why the seminar timetable hasn't been added to the forum where those responsible can then edit and develop the timetable as appropriate.

When I try to edit the page I get an error message.

Could you post what it says - then I can sort it out. Thanks. :)


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#11 Richard Jones-Nerzic

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 08:00 PM

Not quite sure how else they can be presented though - perhaps some sort of interactive webchat or presentation is what he's after?  Would changing it further mess up the promotion that has already taken place?

As I said it was a fairly idle, longer-term thought, and I myself am not really sure what I'm after. Most of the cars I can afford still resemble horse-drawn carriages and I reckon this keyboard is going to be around for sometime to come...

However, had we all been sitting in the same room listening to the presentations, the seminars and responses could have been very similar. Maybe the fact that we can all sit in the same 'virtual' room is the magic point of this form of communication. Its just that I enjoy taking a piece of technology and asking questions of it. I certainly don't think the next set of seminars need be technically any different to the last set, it's just that there are some unusually imaginative people out there who might have some ideas...

If I was using a forum with students I would be interested in (i) how the technology allows me to do what I do already, but better (ii) how the technology allows me to do things (good or bad) I couldn't possibly do without access to the technology.

We have a number of committed history teachers scattered around the world (ok largely England), all of whom have computers and internet access, many of whom also have their own websites. What we have done so far is put these teachers in the same virtual room at the same virtual time. What else could we do? Perhaps this is a question for the other thread?
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#12 John

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 09:42 PM

Absolutely Fantastic - Just don't erase any of them for a new round next year.

#13 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 09:49 PM

We have a number of committed history teachers scattered around the world (ok largely England), all of whom have computers and internet access, many of whom also have their own websites. What we have done so far is put these teachers in the same virtual room at the same virtual time. What else could we do? Perhaps this is a question for the other thread?

How else could we hold an online seminar? Just to think outside the box .....

We wouldn't have to have an asynchronous discussion, would we? There's video conferencing for starters or a version of a chat room.

We could use a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) such as Moodle which I've heard good things about (and it's free) though I think this is a better environment for online learning than it is for discussion.

Those who lead a seminar could prepare a PPT presentation hosted either on their own site or here and then people could respond to that via this Forum (or video conferencing)

These are all things which could theoretically be done now and I guess a Seminar discussing the ways in which more sophisticated teaching and learning in History can/might/should be developed would be interesting and stimulating.

The problem of course with most of these suggestions is that not everyone has access to, for example, video conferencing. I have been involved (elsewhere) in serious online chat sessions too. In my view they are not very successful for serious conversations.

I'm quite happy to stick with the current format, but it would be interesting to hear what others think.

#14 Stephen Drew

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 09:50 PM

There is no risk of that.

They are (as are all threads and posts not deleted fairly quickly for whatever reason) permanent features of the forum.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

#15 Andrew Field

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 09:54 PM

There is no risk of that.

They are (as are all threads and posts not deleted fairly quickly for whatever reason) permanent features of the forum.

:ph34r: Your confidence in the new web hosts is honourable. I've also just run a backup of the forum to be safe. As you say, I hope there is no danger of the data disappearing - there certainly was just over a month or so ago. :crazy:

:) Backup complete - all 17MB of it.


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