Are ‘best of …’ lists useful or useless?

Do you bookmark long lists giving the best of this and the best of that? Do you ever actually go back and look in detail at each site / app on the list?

I have spent much of the last week going through my bookmarks on diigo and on the whole have been able to see how relevant each one has been and how I could use it in my teaching or CPD. However, I have also found that I have been bookmarking ‘best of’ lists over the last couple of years and never really looking at them. I think that there should be some guidelines for publishing best of lists.

1. Any list of more than 10 items is too many to go through and will invariably mean that the reader will bookmark the list but never actually dip into it.
2. Any list of more than 5 items is still probably too many although the reader will probably attempt to click through the first 5 so may find these useful.

This means that in my opinion a best of list is only any use if it has a maximum of 5 items on it. This makes it practical to click through and means that the creator has identified (hopefully) the ones that they use and know work. Like all rules there probably will be some exceptions especially where different tools achieve similar outcomes in different ways (e.g. PowerPoint / slide rocket / prezi).

I know that in the resources that I have been collecting for my revised #ictcurric (still not sure of the proposed name #digitalstudies) I need to make sure that I am not going against my own advice. One thing is for certain, I will no longer be bookmarking lists of more than 5 items as I know I won’t have the time to go through them (even if I did have the good intention).

Please leave a comment and let others know if you think best of lists are useful or useless?


Bookmark Therapy – When was the last time you looked through your bookmarks?

Over the last few days I have been going through my diigo bookmarks and copying them to a mindmap that I have made as part of gathering of resources for an upgrade to the ICT Curriculum. The upgrade is currently called #digitalstudies. Each time I bookmark a site using diigo either through my PC or iPad I add the necessary tags and then almost invariably forget about the site or can’t find it when I want it. I love the nice and easy way that @ianaddison has developed his ICT planning website where appropriate tools and resources can be found according to the topic or strand being taught. This seems a much better way of doing things!

Inspired by this, I have been going through my bookmarks one by one and copying them to the appropriate topic that could be covered in #digitalstudies. Whilst this is very time consuming – I am only half way through – I have found it bizarrely quite therapeutic! I have decluttered diigo and at the same time found websites, software and apps that I had forgotten about, as well as news articles that could provide my pupils with additional evidence in their learning. I strongly recommend having a declutter of your bookmarks and if possible copy some of them across to the mindmap. Doing this, you will feel better, remind yourself of what you have and most importantly will be sharing with lots of other teachers. Go on – give it a go!

If you want to share your resources via the mind map send me your email through twitter to @teachesict and I will give you editing permissions.

UPDATE: as well as being therapeutic it is also interesting to note the number of websites that are no longer live or might as well be as last updates are 2 years+ ago. This has been a useful exercise and I shall be more careful about what and why I bookmark from now on.

Mindmap #digitalstudies

I have been collecting links using Diigo for a couple of years now and have amassed over 1100 of them. Whilst using the tags in diigo is useful, it isn’t particulalrly efficient if I haven’t tagged them right in the first place (more often the case than I would like to admit). The recent momentum at which #digitalstudies has started to take on has really motivated me on to do something more useful with the links that I have collected.

I recently shared a mindmap based on @sharland’s #digitalstudies strands and I have been pleased at the interest that has been shown in this. It then dawned on me that the map was a much better place for teachers to find resources and more importantly gave me the opportunity to place the resources in the areas of the new #digitalstudies curriculum that was the most relevant.

I had gone through around 200 of my diigo links when @sharland pointed out in a blogpost of his that it might help the map become more of a collaboration tool if a consistent structure was applied to it. Whilst going over the next 100 links in diigo I began to edit the start of each description with one of the four headings that @sharland suggested (News / Videos / Apps / Websites). I know that Apps could mean software; however, I feel that this should mean mobile apps or online software.  I propose that we add “software” to be used for downloadable software.

Using mindmeister, an editor is able to add notes and this is where I have listed my news, videos, etc with very short descriptions. The editor can also enter a URL under ‘link’ so that the user can go straight to a website.

I have another 800 of my diigo bookmarks to go through and will endeavour to get them all done in teh coming weeks (maybe!) but feel that to really make a success of this mindmap, many more teachers need to contribute.  So if you are sitting on links that you feel would enhance the map and help others in our profession, please send your email address to @teachesict and I will give you editor rights.

I would be grateful for any comments on this post.  It is an exciting time for us all and with a collaborative drive could really change the way that teach this ” (@sharland).


As some of you know I have been looking, as have many of you, at revamping what is taught under the ICT curriculum within our school. Being an indpendent 3-16 school (VIth Form coming soon!) means that I should have much more flexibility; however, I feel that I have been tethered to the NC with little leeway. It was my intention to keep researching how to change things and then present towards the end of next term; however, some proposed changes to other curriculum areas (i.e. subject choices for Y8 going into Y9) motivated me to get initial proposals into SMT a little earlier than anticipated.

For this morning’s meeting I presented the case for a #digitalstudies currculum using the strands proposed by Brian Sharland (@sharland) in his fantastic blog. I also showed my initial MindMap for what to include in the curriculum where my ideas have been heavily influenced by @chrisleach78 and also by @ianaddison, especially Ian’s ICT Planning website. The presentation was very well received with the HM being ‘excited’ by the proposals! What I really wanted was that I could be unshackled from the NC and left to devise our own curriculum and therefore our own methods of Assessment. My Director of Studies has also given the go ahead for this and has said that I do not need to follow the NC in any way! I am now in a position to really move forward and start putting some flesh on the bones.

I still have a very long way to go and will be keeping an eye on others such as those already mentioned as well as @largerama @mwclarkson, and @jpgreenwood. I also really do want to pursue the idea of Project Based Learning (PBL) in both Key Stage 2 and 3 and have had some useful advice and ideas from @mrlockyer.

The mindmap can be seen with this link:

KS3 ICT project based learning mindmap

I have been looking at ways to better engage pupils, whilst still covering the requirements of the KS3 NC.  In earlier posts in this blog I deconstructed the attainment targets and then rebuilt them into something that I found more manageable.  It was also very important that I could use the levels in a context which was more modern than for when they were written.   This is still a work in progress which you are more than welcome to contribute to.  The relevant shared google spreadsheets are:

KS3 Topics – a spreadsheet of the topics that I want to cover, broken down into quite small detail.  Here, I have also been adding the relevant attainment targets to ensure that each topic allows each pupil the opportunity to achieve (not yet complete)

KS3 ICT Curriculum Map – a spreadsheet showing the topics that I want to cover in each age group (by no means fixed in stone) and the levels that the pupils would have the opportunity to reach (may move from a three year curriculum to a two year)

Whilst looking at the KS3 curriculum, I have also decided to introduce the iGCSE from September starting in Year 9 (rightly or wrongly we are making ICT an optional subject from Year 9 – not my decision).  This means that I need to cover the KS3 curriculum in 2 years rather than 3 (hence the spreadsheets above are not set in stone).  To this end, I have been thinking about how best to do this and have come up with the following mind map (using iThoughtsHD on my iPad):

KS3 ICT mindmap for 2012 (click on link to open a PDF of my mind map)

The idea is to introduce a project theme for each topic and then allow the pupils far greater flexibility to engage with the required software and actually use it in a more realistic context.  The ‘better’ pupils will be encouraged to learn new skills independently in order to fulfil the project, whilst the ‘weaker’ pupils will still be encouraged to learn idependantly but may not require as many complex skills to complete their work and may need a little more direction.

I realise that I have a lot of work still to do in terms of researching how to set the project problem and how best to word it so that the pupils have an idea of where they are going but the route they take is down to them!  I would also like to ensure that the work covers a variety of work practices and that small group work is encouraged.  I am very keen to make ‘getting things wrong’ acceptable as long as it on the way to learning something new.

I want to ensure that I am not too prescriptive.  I feel that I should show what a completed project looks like, but then again, I don’t want the pupils work to be just a copy of mine.

I very much welcome comments and would love to here of examples or further reading that I could look at.  Thank you!