Margaret Williams from Lakers School has produced some really great lesson starters from the question bank in her Learn your Tables authoring group (requires login). They are so fast that I got really flustered the first time I tried one, and muffed it completely. They are a great aid to getting the times tables wired in.
What I really love about them is the simplicity. I tend to be always looking for how we can add features and do cool new things with Yacapaca; Margaret has reminded me that complexity is not necessary for great learning.
Anyway, here’s a sample. Have a go yourself.
So it’s bye-bye BBC Jam, or at least au-revoir.
If you have not been following this story, BBC Jam was the renamed BBC Digital Curriculum, which aimed to produce high quality online learning materials for up to half the English curriculum. It has now been suspended following some legal argy-bargy.
Plenty of pundits have weighed in with opinions about whether Jam was a good or a bad service, and just what its demise (if permanent) might mean, so I won’t. If you are interested, here is a pro-Jam post and here’s an anti-Jam post.
What struck me was just how small it was for something that has eaten £150M of the taxpayer’s money. After two years of effort by what must have been a very large team, they had 170,000 users. That sounds like a lot until you do the arithmetic. Supporting those users cost £882 each.
At that ratio, Yacapaca’s 359,455 members (as of 13:08 this afternoon) would have cost Chalkface just over £317M. Which happily it didn’t, as I would have had to do rather more than just re-mortgage the house to fund it.
What on earth did they spend all that money on?
Flickr is my role-model of how to build a successful collaborative community. This is from an interview with Stewart Butterfield, one of the co-founders (via Citizen Agency):
Whats the key to making online communities work?
Im not sure I have a universal answer to that. Take the people working on Flickr, including myself, a lot of the development team and Caterina Fake whos my wife but also the co-founder; all had really extensive experiences with online communities, most of us going back to the days before the Web. We worked really hard but I dont think we had any formula for how to pull it off. Flickr could have gone in a million different ways.
A lot of our success came from George, the lead designer, and Caterina. Both of them spent a lot of time in the early days greeting individual users as they came in, encouraging them and leaving comments on their photos. There was a lot of dialogue between the people who were developing Flickr and their users to get feedback on how they wanted Flickr to develop. That interaction made the initial community very strong and then that seed was there for new people who joined to make the community experience strong for them too.
Interestingly I remember this. I had some correspondence with Caterina when I first joined, and it really did make a difference…eventually. It was probably two years before I really started to get my teeth into Flickr.
Those of us involved in the creative end of Yacapaca often get frustrated at the way teachers often join authoring groups and then don’t get involved. We do offer quite a lot of support to those who really put energy in, but we are not so good at the ‘meeting and greeting’ side for newbies. Time to take a leaf from Caterina’s book and fix that!
There are now 15,000 individual questions in Yacapaca, compiled into just under 2,000 quizzes. That’s a huge resource teaching material! You probably would not know it is there, though, because much of it is hidden away in authoring groups which you have to join before you can use it.
So, to give you an idea of the astonishing variety available, we have pulled together some of the more complete offerings around just one topic: spreadsheets, and pulled them into a single category under “Set Tests”. See it here (requires login).
If spreadsheets aren’t your thing, read on. There are 139 public authoring groups in Yacapaca, with every (I think) curriculum subject covered. If they don’t contain the quizzes you want now, it is an easy matter to compile your own. Try a search on your subject or topic here and astonish yourself with how much is now available to use with your students.