EdTech, Pedagogy and the Vision

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I’ve sat back and reflected a few times lately after discussions with teachers and after visits where they have popped in to show me things or ask questions – and I’ve gone on to articulate my thoughts to some of my leadership team members.   What I’ve attempted to articulate is that there seems to be evidence of the tide turning.

I’ve been providing leadership in the area of educational technology for about 17 years and it has often felt like 3 steps forward, 2 steps back and it’s often felt like I’m dragging people to a place they don’t understand and essentially don’t see as important.  Looking back I see  now that there were elements missing from the culture or the approach or the teacher’s skill-set, toolset or mindset.  In different situations it’s probably been a combination of elements.

And it’s never been about the technology.   And I guess that’s where the the lack of alignment can lie – that it does sometimes appear to about the technology, the flashy new toys or the gimmicky tools.   For me it’s never about that – technology, quite simply,  opens up opportunities. It can provide a voice for the quietest child.  It can allow another to fly.   It connects people to each other and others to the world.  In the right hands, in the hands of a skilled teacher who has superb pedagogical skills and deep content knowledge and understanding, technology can be used to bring content alive, to put creation tools into the hands of students, to empower the youngest in the school and to bring dreams alive.  Will technology ever replace good teachers – no. But a good teacher who also uses technology and combines this with inquiry and challenging, problem based learning = they are the teachers that will change the world for themselves and their students.

So, sometimes you have to just stop pushing.  Just stop.   Because people won’t be dragged. They are too smart.   Teachers have noble motives and they will make decisions based on their own sphere of reality or paradigm.   So change is tough and good change takes time.

What is necessary for change in a school environment is many elements coming together:

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Lately, teachers and others have come to me in a quest for more edtech or higher ratios of 1-1 devices …….and I’m the one resistant.  Why?  Because I’m sick of pushing ideas or technology onto people and then it being blamed for failure or dashed hopes.   Additionally, I won’t stand up in front of a group of parents and advocate for something that I am not 100% passionate about.   I now feel the need for quality-control and I need evidence of  good pedagogy because if this isn’t apparent and crystal clear – there’s no point.   If the vision is missing (as in above) or the skills are missing – we are never going to get the change we want to see.

But lately, as part of the conversations I referred to in the beginning of this blog – these are the some of the reasons I’ve been given:

  • We can use this across the curriculum and it enables them to express their ideas.
  • We can differentiate for the brightest kids and allow them to spread their wings and go further than the curriculum says
  • For those struggling, it allows them to move away from the tedious repetition of the skill they just aren’t getting and do it in another more interesting way.
  • Children can document their own learning
  • Children can show me improvements through the use of a digital portfolio.
  • Feedback and goal setting can be aligned and evident through the use of a device.
  • We can show a parent improvements and it can be clear and supported by such good evidence.

And you know what – I’m feeling humbled by the people around me right now.    I’m grateful for the leaders that support change.  I’m humbled by the energy and motivation of the people who work so hard to support me and I’m humbled by teachers who won’t shift until the intent and vision is clear.

 

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Learning Spaces and Design

Professor Robert Fitzgerald is from University of Canberra and is the Director of the Inspire Centre.  He addressed the PD theatre at Edutech during the morning session I was able to get to. He was talking on the design of learning spaces.

http://www.canberra.edu.au/about-uc/faculties/estem/contacts-estem/staff/robert-fitzgerald

He is interested in the combination of space, pedagogy and design and the Inspire Centre embodies much of their work.    He talked about:

  • the importance of building connections
  • making the product and process visible
  • the notion of visible learning
  • the need to take a more expansive view of learning

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He is interested in the narrative behind what we do and why we do it and addressing the idea of what the barriers to change are.

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Design is fundamentally about team work.

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How do we create spaces that foster creativity.  How do we inspires the processes of imagination?

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We need to move from the notion of space to place as this is much more encompassing.

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There is such a change in skill demand – see graph.  How are we fostering the 4Cs that basically represent the ability to carry out the skills that are more in demand?

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Great books for challenging and changing mindsets.

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Interesting research re learning sciences.

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Graph showing the comparison between learning outcomes between students in classes with traditional lectures and those experiencing active learning in STEM based subjects.  Mazur “It is almost unethical to be lecturing”.

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Let’s look at the quality of learning…..we are trying to move to deeper and slower thinking.  Use the TPCK model too to encourage teachers to find their sweet spot for learning – to find a balance  and to find the spot where the three elements interact.

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TEAL Room – Technology Enhanced Active Learning.  Writeable surfaces in efforts to make the process visible.  Blend of analogue and digital.

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They have worked with Questacon and National Portrait Gallery….and used design thinking to work with students who wanted to leave their influence or impact on the collections.

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They have also worked with AR within various areas of the university including making this Alumni interactive gallery.

 

Final ongoing challenge – design thinking is a generative process – a set of tools to assist us to utilise a team oriented approach.

Change or Stagnate?

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But stagnating is easy…..isn’t it?

And change is not – especially when people often are weary of change – change that they think happens simply for the sake of change.

And does interest matter?  Does engagement matter?  Does the identity of each child in front of you matter? Do their questions matter?

Do they?

And if we say that these things do matter……

How do we strike that balance – the balance between getting through the ‘stuff’ we need them to learn and allowing their interests, passions and identify to play a part in learning?  How do we strike the balance between the content that we think they need to understand before we let them design, create, innovate and problem-solve.   When is it that greater importance will be placed on the latter before the former?

Does this not mean that we start by not knowing where we might go and what we might learn? Does this not mean co-designing the learning?

I feel so much tension between these two facets right now in education.  But maybe to feel that tension means that change is in the air.  Maybe, without that tension, we stagnate and put up with being just good enough.  And being just good enough means, to me, doing things the way they have always been done.

And change is hard.   It’s oh so hard.

School improvement – how can we continue to meander along a path towards only the improvements that are measurable and visible and those that make us accountable?  Shouldn’t school improvement be bigger than this? Shouldn’t we be striving to discover the new things that we haven’t known about before that possibly are going to be the strategies of the future that become the dependable and proven strategies?   Are we being driven by the wrong drivers in school improvement?

I like to read Fullan when I’m feeling a bit unsure of that stance I am taking or when I am thinking that my intuitive feelings need some kind of theoretical backing.  This article is great as Michael talks about whole systems (and he uses Australian and the US as examples) working towards whole system reform and then selecting strategies that have the least likely chance of achieving that reform.   Australia – being driven by the lofty ideals of the Melbourne Declaration and then putting in place strategies that at best, tighten some looseness whilst doing nothing to change the essential culture of schools.

http://edsource.org/wp-content/uploads/Fullan-Wrong-Drivers1.pdf

And that’s what we need to do…..change the culture…..but to change the culture we have to change mindsets and mindsets are so rooted in experience…..and so we need to change people’s experiences but that requires a growth mindset.  And what if that isn’t present?  What if people think what they are doing is already good enough? What if they are so busy doing what needs to be done that there’s no question that it isn’t the most worthy path?  What if they think that being reflective and making changes based on those reflections is beneath them?

There’s a lot of ‘buts’ in that sentence.     It’s a huge risk, isn’t it – to change what we have always done.   But there’s oh so much to gain.

Break the cycle……hmmmm……

 

 

Banning Laptops

An article published in the SMH about Sydney Grammar Principal John Vallance and his views about technology said as much about his views of teaching and learning as it did about technology use. The principal was was pictured  in the article in front of a Latin class with students in rows sitting in front of the teacher.   This is a picture that, without the short throw projector at the front of the room, could have been taken at any time within the last century…..and certainly would have been a standard image from a classroom before the last 10 years of technological revolution.

In making a conscious decision to ban laptops from his school, Mr Vallance has chosen to ignore the advances and changes  in the world that have occurred in the  last 10 years.  In doing so, he has chosen to ignore any advantage in terms of learning opportunities for his teachers and students.  Many of these opportunities, such as online collaboration,  would provide depth and scope to the very type of learning he espouses.   

Other opportunities include but are certainly not limited to:

  • the opening up of individual lines of inquiry to students with real world applications
  • enabling students to work with teachers to become accustomed to interacting with the vast amounts of information that needs to sifted and critiqued,
  • enabling students to have options to express themselves and to create artefacts of their understanding. 
  • the powerful assistive use of technology and taking advantage of the ability it provides for the playing field to be ‘levelled’ for many students.

He names teaching as a social activity.  I agree. 

He talks about teacher quality.  I agree.  Teacher quality has never been more important and I don’t see that technology will ever replace an effective teacher who also invests time,  energy and a growth mindset towards the adaption and adoption of new technologies.

I agree with other points he makes.   The billions misguidedly invested in the Digital Education Revolution, which used taxpayer funds to buy laptops for high school students was misguided.   Instead, there should have been a significant component of this money allocated to the provision of professional learning opportunities for teachers to use technology when appropriate, across the curriculum.

The Australian Curriculum provides expectations for what all Australian students should be taught in Australia.   Schools are then responsible for the design of that learning so that the learning needs of their students are being met.   One of the key documents used to guide the design and intent of this curriculum was an agreement signed by the Federal Government in 2008.  Titled the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, it is a call to action and sets out to achieve the following:

Successful learners:

  • develop their capacity to learn and play an active role in their own learning
  • have the essential skills in literacy and numeracy and are creative and productive users of technology, especially ICT, as a foundation for success in all learning areas
  • are able to think deeply and logically, and obtain and evaluate evidence in a disciplined way as the result of studying fundamental disciplines
  • are creative, innovative and resourceful, and are able to solve problems in ways that draw upon a range of learning areas and disciplines
  • are able to plan activities independently, collaborate, work in teams and communicate ideas
  • are able to make sense of their world and think about how things have become the way they are
  • are on a pathway towards continued success in further education, training or employment, and acquire the skills to make informed learning and employment decisions throughout their lives
  • are motivated to reach their full potential.

Confident and creative individuals:

  • have a sense of self-worth, self-awareness and personal identity that enables them to manage their emotional, mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing
  • have a sense of optimism about their lives and the future
  • are enterprising, show initiative and use their creative abilities
  • develop personal values and attributes such as honesty, resilience, empathy and respect for others
  • have the knowledge, skills, understanding and values to establish and maintain healthy, satisfying lives
  • have the confidence and capability to pursue university or post-secondary vocational qualifications leading to rewarding and productive employment
  • relate well to others and form and maintain healthy relationships
  • are well prepared for their potential life roles as family, community and workforce members
  • embrace opportunities, make rational and informed decisions about their own lives and accept responsibility for their own actions.

Active and informed citizens:

  • act with moral and ethical integrity
  • appreciate Australia’s social, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity, and have an understanding of Australia’s system of government, history and culture
  • understand and acknowledge the value of Indigenous cultures and possess the knowledge, skills and understanding to contribute to, and benefit from, reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians
  • are committed to national values of democracy, equity and justice, and participate in Australia’s civic life
  • are able to relate to and communicate across cultures, especially the cultures and countries of Asia
  • work for the common good, in particular sustaining and improving natural and social environments
  • are responsible global and local citizens.

(Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians page 7-9)

General capabilities are a key dimension of the Australian Curriculum. They encompass knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions that, together with curriculum content in each learning area and the cross-curriculum priorities, will assist students to live and work successfully in the twenty-first century.  By using ICT as a general capability, students are becoming confident and creative users of ICT – to do this – they should be using ICT across and within all curriculum areas – such that it is a tool and that when it is the best tool for the job – it  is used.

I am not sure how the provision of laptops within labs, as the Principal of Sydney Grammar discusses, supports the use of ICT as a General Capability.   ACARA pinpoint the effective use of the General Capabilities as key component in the work we must all do collaboratively to prepare students for their future lives.

Michael Fullan is a worldwide authority on educational reform with a mandate of helping to achieve the moral purpose of all children learning.   When discussing the steady decline of student engagement throughout schooling, he identifies a solution:

“…….it lies in the concentration of the three forces of pedagogy, technology, and change knowledge. If you want to head off destruction, we need to make it all about learning, let technology permeate, and engage the whole system.”

Possibly we have over-estimated the potential of technology in the past.  The OECD  certainly has found that schools are yet to take advantage of the potential of technology

“School systems need to find more effective ways to integrate | technology into teaching and learning  to provide educators with learning environments that support 21st century pedagogies and provide children with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills. “Technology is the only way to dramatically expand access to knowledge. To deliver on the promises technology holds, countries need to invest more effectively and ensure that teachers are at the forefront of designing and implementing this change.”

but by banning and removing technology we are removing from students and teachers the potential for technology to enhance learning, to make thinking visible, to remove borders and enhance collaboration, to expose students to different worlds and opinions to their own, and for students to create their own knowledge and solutions.

Written in the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda:

“An estimated 75 per cent of jobs in the fastest-growing industries in the next five to 10 years will need science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills and almost all jobs will require ICT literacy.”

So, what does all this mean for schools?  As educators we have such a huge responsibility to ensure that the part we play in preparing our students for their futures is one that

So, in a time when there are so many jostling priorities for schools, how does a community work together to ensure that we are meeting the challenge of preparing our students for an uncertain future whilst still retaining that which will always be important in teaching and learning?  I would suggest that we:

  1.  Accept that our own experiences of schooling aren’t those that we should use to judge our children’s experiences.    This is difficult but If we are unable to do this, we risk making huge mistakes. 

2.  Along with no. 1 (above), it is important to question our assumptions.  Our assumptions are based on our own experiences and the lessons learnt from our own experiences might not necessarily be those we should be applying to our children’s present and future.

3.  Understand that pedagogy is the driver in any learning.   A range of pedagogies is essential for any learning and balance is key.  The use of technology can be used to accelerate pedagogy and can play a different role depending on pedagogy.

4.   A school needs to be become a ‘learning organisation’ (Fullan, Technology and the Problem of Change) –  with teachers and the organisation itself committed to understanding and enacting improvement.   This can often mean collaborative work cultures (or professional learning networks) with teachers becoming learners and enactors of change for improvement. 

Other articles written since the first article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald:

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/why-we-need-laptops-in-classrooms-20160403-gnx31h.html

http://www.julielindsay.net/2016/04/ban-technology-no-lets-ban-outdated.html

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/computers-class-scandalous-waste-money-philip-callil?trk=v-feed

A Poem from Carol Tomlinson

A poem for my future community of learners…

I am a child

I come to you, a teacher.

I bring a whisper.

Can you hear the poem in it?

Or will the noise of the day

Render me mute?

I am a child.

I come to you, a teacher.

Will you tell me what to think

Or show me how?

Will you teach me answers?

Or the symmetry of a question well composed?

I am child.

I come to you, a teacher.

Will learning be about things right

Or doing the right things?

A thing of joy

Or duty?

I am child.

I come to you, a teacher.

Which will matter most to you?

My soul

Or my grade?

I come to you, a teacher.

Can you teach me to chart my journey

Or must you use a standard measure

to place me always

In the shadow of others?

I am a child.

I come to you, a teacher.

Will I go away from you ascending my strengths?

Or hobbled by my weaknesses?

I am a child.

I come to you, a teacher.

I bring you all I am,

All I can become.

Do you understand the trust?

-Carol Ann Tomlison.

My commitment to my future learners: I will VALUE you, we will TRUST each other, and my classroom will be a place that you will LOVE TO LEARN! 🙂

FutureSchools – March, 2016

I’ve been at the National Future Schools conference for the last few days in Sydney.  It was much smaller than Edutech and my immediate reaction was to feel more comfortable in the intimate atmosphere that this created for the attendees.    I was presenting in the Young Learners strand of this conference – about Supporting Young Innovators of the Future:

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My school was also facilitating a round table discussion on the Advancing Education agenda in QLD and the CodingCounts initiative within this – the Government’s plan to fast-track the Digital Technologies curriculum in its State Schools in QLD.   Additionally, my principal was a member of panel discussing the same topic.  It was an amazing opportunity for our school and I have to admit that I only realised this post conference, when my presentation nerves were gone, all was done and I had regained some much needed sleep.

A video I saw in Peggy Sheehy’s session on gaming in the classroom is a nice way to start this blog entry:

Peggy’s session started brilliantly well and I enjoyed the passion, enthusiasm and the provocative nature of many of her messages.  She also shared this lovely poem by Carol Tomlinson.   Peggy uses World of Warcraft in her teaching and other games and is considered a pioneer in the use of commercial games for education.  She brought up something I have been wondering lately – ever since Microsoft bought Minecraft – and that is about what happens when we take hold of games for educational reasons and we ‘edufy’ them – is this a good thing or a bad thing?    Will Microsoft take Minecraft and ‘tweak’ it to the point where it no longer grabs kids’ souls, imaginations and interest?   Should we, rather,  be taking the commercial games, as they are and simply trying to understand what it is that makes them so beguiling to children and then to try to harness that for learning……instead of taking them and trying to control them and shape them so that we are the experts and so that we are ultimately in control?

I always like to summarise the key take-aways for me in terms of what I learned and to keep these to about 3 or 4.  Here they are:

  1.  The power of collaboration between teachers and particularly teachers who are on different year levels, with different skills and areas of expertise.     Larry Rosenstock for example, spoke about the amazing things he sees on a daily basis when he supports a pairing like a physics teacher and an art teacher.
  2. The schools who are doing really innovative, student centred things are the schools that recognise that ‘silos’ of curriculum aren’t the most effective way of preparing our students for tomorrow’s world.  The ‘Fuse’ program by Surf Coast Secondary College is a great example of this.  This school involves their students in ‘Fuse’ for just under half their time at school.

    The school increased flexibility and choice in the curriculum, increased student-centred activities, problem-solving and creativity by fusing subjects together and teaching students in open spaces. This has led to integrated and in-depth learning and flexibility of involvement. Technology is important with everything online and lessons focused on meaningful discussions and collaboration

    3. The MakerSpace mentality is one that should infuse into teacher mindsets and student mindsets.  It is also one that directly supports the implementation of the Digital Technology curriculum.  This is a great video about this alignment:

4.  Design Thinking is absolutely the right thing for us to be doing.

5.  We are absolutely on the right path in terms of what we are doing with the DigiTech curriculum and we need to maintain this momentum as we move forward.

Things I’m wondering:

  • How might we give more agency to teachers wanting to trial really innovative practice?     This may include a trial of hexagonal thinking in a year level to lead to the ‘de-silofication’ of curriculum.  Does everyone have to wait until they have done a whole year of practitioner inquiry?
  • How might we tweak the MakerSpace so that students are doing more than tinkering and sharing?  And how can more of this mindset be supported in classrooms?

Links to summarise on other sessions – already nicely done by others, are  below:

Claire Amos  on Jane Hunter http://www.teachingandelearning.com/2016/03/dr-jane-hunter-turning-high-possibility.html

Claire on her own presentation http://www.teachingandelearning.com/

Claire on partnerships between schools and corporations: http://www.teachingandelearning.com/2016/03/ayesha-khanna-externships-why.html

Claire on Makerspaces – a talk by Stephen Lethbridge

Claire on Darren Cox and a culture of learning

A summary by  Michael Eggenhuizen | Director ICT, of sessions I saw:

Larry Rosenstock – CEO of High Tech High – laments the fact that schools are not keeping up with a changing world. He begins his keynote with a Socrates quote, “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think”. He asks the audience to think about their school education and who were those teachers that had passion that drew students into the subject and made them think – we should thank these teachers! Rosenstock spoke of the ‘old education paradigm’ that still exists in schools today, sitting in rows, facing the front, compartmentalised subjects, teacher-led lessons, measuring student success on knowledge. He says that schools need to break these old molds and move with a changing world! Rosenstock gives us a glimpse of what takes place at High Tech High, a school where students are chosen by zip code rather than on ability. He draws on a quote from Dewey, “understanding derives from activity”. At High Tech High students learn through activity. Project-based learning replaces compartmentalised subjects. Students work in collaborative groups in open spaces that on the surface appear to be disorganised. Students work on real-world problems and solve them using realworld tools. Student work is displayed in public exhibitions and around the school. He relayed a story about how Year 5 students at High Tech High, wanting to eradicate rats and mice from school classrooms, researched the problem and, wanting to steer away from traps, chemicals and dangerous predators, came up with a solution to use barn owls. Barn owls eat approximately 2000 rats and mice a year! So the solution was to build a number of barn owl habitats around the school – problem solved! Read Claire Amos’ summary of keynote. Watch this High Tech High video created by students

Erin Weightman – Assistant Principal – Surf Coast Secondary College – says engagement & collaboration are key to learning. She quotes Newman who says “student engagement occurs when students make a psychological investment in learning”. Schools should invent the future rather than fixing the past. She quotes Ken Robinson in saying that humans are different and diverse, inherently creative and that curiosity is the engine of achievement. Weightman says the same old same old approach to teaching and learning in schools is often the result of an “it’s all too hard” frame of mind. Excuses like, we need to teach the curriculum, what about NAPLAN, the students will be too hard to control, we can’t change the timetable, the principal won’t let us do that, stifle creativity, engagement and collaboration in schools. To overcome these barriers at Surf Coast Secondary College, Weightman says that they needed to educate the students, teachers and parents about what the school was doing and why they were doing it this way. The school increased flexibility and choice in the curriculum, increased student-centred activities, problem-solving and creativity by fusing subjects together and teaching students in open spaces. This has led to integrated and in-depth learning and flexibility of involvement. Technology is important with everything online and lessons focused on meaningful discussions and collaboration. Claire Amos’ summary.

Minecraft -Connecting, Deepening and Extending

This week I have started supporting a teacher in Year 1 who had seen some potential in their Geography unit for using Minecraft.    This was exciting as possibilities for using Minecraft as part of Geography often occur to me but there hasn’t yet really been the opportunity.    Working with younger learners and minecraft also, is something that has tempted me…….but, I have to admit,  also worried me.  The reason for this is that I would want the learning intent to be clear and the potential outcomes to be clear…..in order to be able to justify it to others, but also to ensure future use is not put at risk.     Teachers are skeptical of Minecraft – partly because they don’t understand it and don’t see the attraction but also because they know they are automatically not the expert in the room.   I was worried that putting 25 minecraft obsessed children in front of a screen to use minecraft would just immediately reinforce their views.   My son is this age and I know the depth of his knowledge and that of his mates………and I know how scary this might be to someone who just doesn’t ‘get it’.

A key difference here was that the teacher came to me because she saw the potential.

The ACARA Inquiry Question is:

How do people use places?

As part of this unit the students investigate the inquiry question of

  • What are the different features of places?
  • How can we care for places?
  • How can spaces within a place be rearranged to suit different purposes?

I poured over the documentation from the Australian Curriculum and saw links everywhere.   I don’t see myself as an expert at Minecraft by any means…..but I see myself as someone who can see the potential, knowing I am surrounded by experts if I need to know anything.   To me, the justification is obvious.   We are looking at features of places, talking about managed, constructed and natural features…….discussing how we care for things and rearrange things………

In Minecraft, can they not:

  • wander within different environments and identify features
  • create different environments
  • construct buildings
  • manage the environment by planting plants and watering them, fencing animals, chopping down trees, building a path or bridge
  • …..and the list goes on.

Our local interpretation of the Australian Curriculum listed using places as the playground and school yard and I get this.  But then the assessment task includes images of Slovakia and other equally disconnected images.  Why can’t we use a familiar place as a minecraft world that they have built and love?  Why can it not be a world in which they have invested so much of themselves?

I was still a little worried about using it but the teacher’s enthusiasm calmed me and my knowledge of her skill, experience and general approach.   I looked at the first few lesson ideas and immediately saw that even the use of Minecraft images would enhance the learning in the first couple of lessons. This was easily achieved – printed and laminated and delivered.  The teacher said that upon using them, she saw the lights in kids’ eyes come on and this was, in a few cases, with kids with whom she struggles to get a connection in terms of much of the subject matter.

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That afternoon, the class was over with me doing their Library borrowing.  The teacher took the Library iPads and discussed with them a 10 minute task and off they went into their Minecraft worlds in groups of 2 or 3.  I visited and joined them and was amazed at the quality of the discussion and the collaboration going on.  Children were using the language and responding to adult’s questions about the features of the environment. They were building a path or bridge to add the  managed feature or looking at natural features and commenting on the cuteness of a chicken (as a natural feature).  The below image is quite delightful as I just noticed that the book inside the boy’s borrowing folder is a minecraft one.   Perhaps he is being motivated in his reading now too.

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I’m excited to see how the learning within this unit evolves.

Welcome back SB.

Catering for the Young Innovators of the Future

The mindset of a maker or inventor is one that allows someone to take ideas and turn them into some kind of reality.  It’s about being aware of what you already know and can do and being confident and brave enough to do something with that or to tinker and trial on your way to doing something with that.  Questioning is a major part of this and the inquiry process is one that will support the finding of questions and a way to possibly answer them…….or might mean embarking on another line of questioning.   It’s also about being comfortable with uncertainty and comfortable with failures.   Failures can be part of a productive struggle  and this is something that I might make a focus for me this year – learning to acknowledge of a productive struggle and being explicit about its importance for both teachers and students.

Sylvia Libow-Martinez, coauthor—with Gary S. Stager—of “Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom” discuss how this mindset is important to develop not only in students but in the teachers working with them.  It’s a scary thing to just dive in blind with no certainty about outcomes….

It’s something that I am hoping to explore, support and build upon in our Library Makerspace this coming year.  http://osstechenablinglearning.edublogs.org/

Little Bits are described as the ‘ultimate invention tool box” on their web at http://littlebits.cc/  and they certainly hold much potential for supporting the young innovators of the future.  I blogged about my holiday learning experiences on our school TechWeb here and since then, we have done even more work with them including this project initiated by my 6 year old son:

What is valuable as a result of this type of tinkering?  Is it the final product which meets a need or addresses a real world problem?  Is it the struggle that is necessary to achieve some degree of success?  Is it the learning within STEM areas that is occurring?  Is it experiencing a line of inquiry with distinct steps?

I would suggest it is all of these……and that this type of equipment amplifies quality learning and allows paths for students that take them so much further than minimum curriculum standards.

 

A Letter for 2019

Dear colleague in 2019,

Farewell and good luck.

What a wonderful three years we have had and how things have changed!

Our focus is now firmly on the student.   No longer is our focus the prescribed curriculum that needs to be covered.  Instead there is a real focus on the individual faces and the needs in each room.   There are still curriculum outcomes that are mandated at a national level but there is an expectation that teams of teachers will design learning units based on class needs, our community and our locality.  

Innovation is valued, rather than stifled as it was in the previous 4 years when under the guise of consistency teachers were expected to follow the same programs despite their students and the changing nature of the world.  We have reached a balance where best practice is balanced with next practice.  Teachers are allowed to experiment and share their learnings, failings and successes.  We celebrate this at a ‘TeachMeet’ forum each month (for the cluster) at which they are encouraged to share what they are doing.  Others get inspiration and know that they are able to try new things.  Teachers regard themselves as designers of curriculum and of learning experiences.   

Engagement matters and teachers understand that this is different to entertainment.   We understand that we need to see a spark in the eye of our most able learners.   We understand that online courses might enable these students to demonstrate their understanding at a rapid pace and then to work on something that extends them.  Teachers value the lessons of emerging research on brain based theories of learning and make attempts to include many of them in learning experiences.  We realise that a misbehaving child might need alternate experiences and we make adjustments to our teaching or seek assistance on how to do this.  Options are explored for how students demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. This is done in collaboration with students as we are aware we don’t have all the answers.

We see that empowering our students is important.  We value expertise in a wide range of areas and recognise that creating a breadth of experiences is important if we are to cherish the place we play in creating an environment in which every child can discover their talent/s.  Alongside this, we value the individual talents and passions of our teaching staff and parent body and utilise these in creative ways to provide a forum for children to discover that about which they are passionate.  We are awestruck by the abilities of students and work hard to create opportunities in which they flourish.  

We have realised that personal mobile devices are just a given.  They enable differentiation and personalisation.  It is widely accepted and celebrated that the use of technology levels the playing field for many students and accessibility options are sought out and used.  Technology is valued as it enables students to work in the way the people in the real world work.  The use of technology is also valued as it enables our students to have impact on the world around them.  Our students use technology to be persuasive, creative, and collaborative AND TO MAKE AN IMPACT.

Students publish their work for the world to see. This authentic audience means they enter into the creating, editing and publishing process with so much more interest and energy.  They understand the use of Creative Commons and publish with appropriate licenses whilst respecting the work of others which has been published in the same way.  We also value the place of teacher created digital resources.  A position for 3 days a week enables the creation of digital resources to support learning across the school.

At the same time, the use of technology doesn’t need to be spoken about very much as it is practically invisible.  We are moving towards digital normalisation in all that we do.  Our network is fast and there are few infrastructure issues.  In 2015 and 2016, we realised that we needed to direct funding towards infrastructure rather than hardware as the age of BYO was upon us. Our focus for hardware support has moved from our school owned devices to supporting parents in how to manage the BYO devices.  We work with parents on  regular basis on workshops, digital citizenship issues and other support areas.  BYO has now extended through to Year 2.

Teachers are becoming more comfortable with working alongside students on the use of technology.  They seek their opinions and advice.   They are much more comfortable knowing that they are the designer of learner experiences but that the skills and outlook of students might mean that the path and the outcomes might be different for different students.   We have a role for a teacher creating and  maintaining our school’s  Minecraft server. There is a world for each class and most teachers feel comfortable working with this teacher and seeking his advice on how minecraft can be used to support and extend  learning.

Our work with NoTosh lasted three years and Tom Barrett remains a critical friend as we continue on our journey.  Students now approach tasks with a design thinking mentality.  They are comfortable in the role of problem finders and solution seekers.  Teachers work with the HOC and the Digital Learning Coordinator and with each other to look at the intent of the curriculum and to address this in a personalised and meaningful manner. They appreciate the value of design thinking as an outlook and now appreciate the way that trust in their professional abilities and judgement has been restored.  Literacy and Numeracy blocks remain but the rest of the curriculum is challenge based and inquiry based.

Literacy is no longer a narrowly defined term.  We understand that Digital Literacy, Media Literacy, Information Literacy, Cultural Literacy and Visual Literacy are important and play an essential role in the way our young people will interact with the world.  We have a part-time Digital Literacy Coach in Prep – Year 2.   We also have a part-time Digital Literacy Coach in Yrs 3-6.

Our interaction with STEM is ever evolving and we constantly seek ways to instil outlooks and skills in our students that place them at an advantage in term of STEM and their real world implications.  QUEST Club has evolved so that every class, every year completes an 8 week unit per semester.  As a planning team, we looked at the outcomes met by these units and mapped across the year to ensure that all the National Science and Technology outcomes were met by the end of the year.  Our experience with Design Thinking supported us to do this.  The QUEST teachers work with the teachers on this, ensuring that the unit is prepared and resources are ready.  Then both teachers work together to work on the unit with the students.  In the alternate terms, the QUEST teachers work with a smaller group of students from each year level who have been identified as a result of their QUEST class challenges.

The use of coding has spread from being used only in clubs or enrichment programs to being used across the curriculum by those who wish to use it. We also utilise the skills of a teacher on staff to ensure that advanced programming and robotics is taught on one day a week.  We have finally understood that although coding – the language of computers – is not something we find interesting or comfortable as teachers, it is something that will benefit our students in the future.  This makes it a priority.

Our students in Year 5 and 6 work as a team in term 2 to plan and run a student led conference.   Students from the cluster are invited and experience a range of activities as they work towards the creation of a  film (stream 1) or a website (stream 2) or an iBook (stream 3). During this planning phase, there are teams of students focussed on catering, publicity, financial planning, workshop coordination and celebration, publishing and sharing.  The students engage experts from our community, including parents, teachers and students.  This conference is a one day event.

Our students in Years 4-6 spend one day a week or one day a fortnight on a student directed project in which they are encouraged to have an impact or to leave a legacy.  We provide structured support in the process of inquiry.  There is a modified version of this in Years 1-3.   Students are encouraged towards projects that help our school, its members or our community.  The outcomes are celebrated.  This is our ‘Genius Hour’ or Legacy Time.   Teachers also have their own “Genius Hour” – an hour each week where they are allowed to work on their interest area and develop a learning portfolio.

We have strong links with Cambodia and Mrs Gillet’s mission in this area.      As a school, much of our fundraising is directed towards this goal.  We create strong links between Oakleigh SS and Ms G’s school.  Many students in Year 5 and 6 communicate with students in Cambodia and speak passionately of their desire to visit when in Secondary School. We investigate possibilities in terms of providing this school with our outdated iPads and our community’s outdated iPads and develop plans to assist them with their use.  We focus on supporting them with literacy and enabling the sharing of stories.  We prepare them to send to Cambodia ready with a small number of key apps and some literacy and numeracy apps.  A small group of teachers (along with their own children) volunteer to accompany them in their holiday.

The appearance of classrooms has changed.  After a trial in 2016 in the newly refurbished hall, we used QLD Gov funds to refurbish the main Heritage building to create an increased number of open, double teaching spaces.  Each of these spaces were jointly designed with the teachers and students and incorporated open teaching spaces, flexible spaces and a number of smaller areas enabling small groups to work on recording, green screening etc.  The importance of teaching areas outside the classroom has been realised and multiple ‘outdoor learning environments’ have been established.

The Library – purpose and use – has evolved.  We make use of our experts from our community and run regular workshops for our community of learners.  Students design, tinker, create and share their work.  One day a week, after school, we have a Tinker Club where parents and children come together.  We learn as a community and each shares his/her expertise to assist others.  Parents and students work together and there is an area for work to be displayed.  The focus is on learning together as a community and valuing the skills that evolve throughout the design and creation process.

ADE 2015 – Singapore

What a fantastic week and what an awesome learning experience!

Apple runs a very slick show and the line-up of learning experiences was impressive. Added to this was that we were in a  very exciting city – Singapore and in a top rate Hotel AND we were looked after very well.

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The week was going to be all about four things:
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Highlights included:

Showcase Sessions:  Each day started with an hour long session titled ‘Showcase’ which allowed 10 speakers to talk about a chosen area.  Usually it was their learners and how they had been enabled by learning experiences.  They were allowed 3 minutes.

Accessibility options enabling disabled learners:  The stories that emerged from many of the showcases highlighted how Apple accessibility options were changing lives for the disabled and transforming learning. These options were levelling the playing field and giving the students and the teachers opportunities that would not have been possible without the technology. They were amongst the most touching and impressive  of all the stories.

Masterclass with Bill Frakes:  Bill Frakes is a Pullitzer prize winning photographer, responsible for many of the iconic images we all know from sport, politics and global disasters.  It was a complete honour and privilege to have him speak to us, tell us stories about his images and stories about the subjects.  He gave us photography hints, opened his heart, and told his stories.   His images made us cry, made us wonder and dream and affirmed the power of visual imagery.

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Nebraska Project

Other images captured by Bill

The passion and energy shown by the community of learners with whom I spent the week.   It was emphasised to us again and again that we need to be bold, that we need to celebrate mistakes, that we need to keep pushing and that we need to celebrate the community of learners what we had just become a part of.

 

 

Other items of interest, many of which have come up since the conclusion of #ADE2015.

A great blog by John Burns who was responsible for the quote below “Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the face”.  An Australia, John spoke in a very articulate way about his challenges when leading change at an International School.  This was during the daily ‘Showcase’ session at which 10 speakers from the Alumni group and the current class spoke for exactly 3 minutes of their experiences at their own sites.

 

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