Sunday, 23 June 2013

An Amazing Week!

I don't normally post diary entries - but this week has been special in many ways. The week started in Turkey - and a somewhat slightly precarious journey to Esenkoy, near Yalova, Turkey. I was meeting about 70 school teachers and presenting some of the technologies of the iTEC project. I had already gained some idea of what I was heading for because I had conducted a seminar online with a few of the teachers a week before. On the whole, English is not a strong skill in Turkey (although I did have some excellent interpreters) - so slow delivery and careful planning was needed. And lots of activities. Which was fine - because that was the basic message I was wanting to deliver anyway.

I started by talking about how important it was to be together. We were all together in a rather dingy classroom on a hot day with the occasional power-cut. But after an ice-breaker involving drawing pictures of themselves, and introducing each other through their pictures to somebody they didn't know, things were going quite well. "The bottom line with the iTEC technologies is to enhance and facilitate this experience of togetherness," I said - taking a few liberties. But it felt like the right thing to say. Although few of the iTEC technologies actually do anything specifically about togetherness (apart from shared-editor widgets, shared drawing and chat), I also highlighted the importance of coordinating a variety of activities to keep people engaged and a lively dynamic in the classroom - the widgets in iTEC can at least do that.

I then demonstrated what might be possible in terms of shared experience online. The Virtual Choir is still the most compelling example - and it grabbed their imagination (as it does mine). I was asked to continue after lunch (which I hadn't planned to) and so took them through the process of accumulating their own collections of tools, videos, etc through the iTEC Widget Store. Everyone seemed to 'get it' and (most impressively) everyone, almost without exception, was keen, motivated and in a mood to experiment. I've never seen this before in such a large group of teachers.

Day 2 and everyone was expecting me to tell them how to 'make' widgets. I thought about this, and I came to the conclusion that the most significant 'widget' that I could get everyone to make was a video widget. That meant that the session focused on making video. Although one or two teachers had done this before, the vast majority hadn't. This was the first time they were forced to deal with problems of microphones, screen recorders, powerpoint voiceovers, and finding somewhere quiet to record their voice. This is one of the videos that was created:

I was getting tired by the end, and a failed attempt to link up to an iTEC workshop in Bolton meant that I had to go over some of the exercises that I had done over the two days (this time with volunteers from the audience to help me out). Everyone seems to have got the hang of it.

My next stop in the week was Marseille for a conference on "Ethics and responsibility in economics and business studies” (, where I was delivering a paper on George Bataille's economic theory. This is a small group that I weirdly found myself involved with through the Cambridge Social Ontology Group who first introduced me to Critical Realism more than 10 years ago. It was rich, intimate and profound event, with contributions ranging from Social Ontology and Ethics (with particular focus on a critique of Sen), the nature of the person,  business coaching, Corporate governance, and numerology. Marseille was beautiful.

On the saturday I delivered remotely a session for Bolton's new EdD course on "Education and Reality". It was interesting the extent it was possible to stimulate rich discussion amongst the students, despite the fact that I wasn't there. I think I also managed to upset them with an awkward statement: "science teachers are not really scientists - if they were, they'd be doing science"... an audible gasp! Maybe I should have rephrased it... but hurling a few unintentional insults into lessons at least gets peoples' attention (although I don't want to end up like Niall Ferguson!)

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