What will it mean to be educated in 2050?

Today I was lucky enough to be at the first of 2016’s Core Breakfasts in Hamilton. Derek Wenmouth challenged the thinking of a group of Hamiltonian educators and inspired them to question their practice.

By way of recording the conversations I have created this Storify.

What will it mean to be educated in 2050?

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Teachers as Learners First

Sheryl Nussbaum talks about schools being “Future Ready” and there are four elements to being future ready 

  1. learning is student centred
  2. the technical infrastructure will easily support the learning,
  3. distributed, collaborative leadership which happens when many people share leadership functions. 
  4. remembering always that teachers are learners first

The final element of “teachers as learners” has been an important part of my last few weeks. They have been a whirl of learning.  In my new role as a Connected Learning Advisor I have been in a team running Professional Learning days for leaders.  First we headed to Whangarei, then Hamilton and finally, yesterday we were connected with educators in Christchurch.  Principals and eLeaders travelled from the far north and the deep south to engage in rich conversations, challenging thinking and robust questioning over the three days.

The sessions dealt with strategic planning, shifting teachers’ thinking and managing change through professional learning, and exploring how social media can build connections between schools and the wider community.

But the focus was on collaboration and connectedness and teachers as learners. Providing time to have conversations, share stories and good practice, plan and make connections was a key element of the days and it seems that it was appreciated by those who attended.

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 I know that I have learned as much as the teachers I have been working with. There is such power in conversations and I have been inspired by so many people and the work they are doing in schools, grappling with overwhelming change with commitment, positivity and open minds.  Thank you.

After each event we “Storified” the days and published posts on the VLN to encourage the participants and those who couldn’t make it to continue or join in the conversations.

The links to the Storifies are below.

Whangarei

Hamilton

Christchurch

We also used Todaysmeet to “chat” and record the conversations. Here is the transcript from some of the discussion in the sessions on Professional Learning.

#28daysofwriting Day 19: BYOD, playing in the waves

In a Whirl
In a Whirl

As usual the school year has started in a whirl, but what an exciting whirl!  We took the plunge last year and decided that after two years of allowing students to bring their own devices to school on a relatively ad hoc basis and introducing Google Apps for Education, we would make it obligatory for all students to bring an internet enabled device for their learning.  We didn’t mandate a type of device that the students can bring, but we did say that it had to have a screen size larger than 10″ and it had to be able to have Google Chrome as a browser. So that means we have classes with a range of devices from tablets, to Chromebooks, to notebooks, to laptops.

The preceding two years were spent enabling our teachers through regular Professional Learning sessions to develop their skills and competency around digital technologies.  As well as providing strategies for their use in teaching and learning, some teachers needed to become proficient and comfortable navigating their way around devices on a personal level.  We adopted a differentiated approach by offering whole staff training as well as one to one and small group sessions.  The administration staff were not forgotten either although, if truth be told, we needed to include them more in the planning.

My role in all of this is as the “Elearning Mentor”.  I have some allocated time each week in which I can work with individual teachers when they have non-contact time when they are ready to move on to the next step.  I also offer drop in “techy brekkies” each week when teachers can come along for some support and I publish “techy tips” on all manner of things.  Usually little shortcuts and niggly things that come up in the course of conversations with teachers in the staffroom or in my sessions with them.   Over the last few years as more and more students brought their devices and teachers enabled their use in the classroom for learning we have  gradually built the capacity of the infrastructure to cope with possibility of more than 1200 devices trying to connect to the internet at any one time.wave breaking

I would like to say that it has all been plain sailing over calm waters in the last three weeks.  But it hasn’t.  However, it hasn’t been a maelstrom either.  There has been some choppy water, and the odd big wave but I think that is what might be expected.  Our teachers have thrown themselves into the challenge wholeheartedly and positively at all sorts of levels.  At whatever level is right for them.  And the students too, have taken up the challenge, they are creating, collaborating, connecting (just occasionally too much and not always about what they should be, but that is teenage girls for you!) and learning.

One of the biggest challenges is for our boarding house.  As students have come back from the day school with homework to do online, the boarding house network has not been able to cope with the traffic.  Another issue is getting a whole class full of students to upload finished products into their portfolios at the same time.  And another is dealing with the different types of media that the girls are choosing to create in and them not really understanding how their own device works or how the app they have chosen works.

But they are not insurmountable problems and we have to remind ourselves to take baby steps.  We may fall down occasionally but I am heartened by the positive comments I hear and the solutions that are being found.  We are all in this together and we are talking and building resilience amongst teachers as well as students. We are “Keeping it Real” and moving forwards, one big stride at a time.

Celebration of Learning: Brave, Resilient teachers

prizegivingLast week during our Professional Learning session some of our teachers shared what they have been doing with their classes this year.  I probably need to give some background for this.  2014 was supposed to have been our year of consolidation after exploration and experimentation in 2013.  The idea being that teachers would choose an element of their learning from 2013, work within their departments and look at how they could embed it into their programmes of learning.  We were thrown a curve ball when, late in 2013, our BOT agreed to us adopting Google Apps for Education (GAFE).  That meant that in Term 1 of this year we focussed solely on training for GAFE.  It also meant a fair degree of stress and anxiety for some of our teachers as they had to adapt to a completely new way of doing many of their admin tasks.  Nevertheless, we think the process went relatively smoothly (more on that later) and so over the last two terms we have concentrated on blending pedagogy and “e-tools” to enhance the learning of our students.

Our Professional Learning programme is structured thus;

School finishes at 2.30pm every Wednesday afternoon. PL sessions are set in three week blocks.  In the first week we have a whole school “formal” PL session, the second week is set for Learning areas to work together.  These are sometimes “guided” by the “formal” session the previous week and discussion documents are shared.  In the third week, teachers can work independently or with their buddies on their own inquiry.  Some weeks there is no PL if, for example, there is a Parent Teacher consultation evening.

So in our last “Learning Area” PL session we asked departments to volunteer somebody to share an element of their pedagogy in a five minute presentation, and gave them these guiding questions;

  • A strategy – digital or otherwise – so that could be an app, an online tool, a pedagogical philosophy, an activity – that you have used with your class(es) this year.
  • Why you chose it
  • How you used it
  • How might it have transformed – or started to transform – your practice or thoughts about your teaching practice
  • What the impacts were on the learning outcomes for your students
  • What the benefits and challenges were
  • Your recommendations for its wider use

Just as we were last year, we were blown away by the passion, the pride and the learning of the teachers who presented.

In maths, one of the teachers has introduced the idea of “Guest Lectureres” in her class this term.  The girls volunteer to be experts on a topic and prepare a “lecture” for the rest of the group.  She said “the girls already know the concepts, so why should I teach it?”  They sourced their own notes and used a variety of media to present. She said that they loved being able to direct their own learning. And the girls who didn’t volunteer were responsive, they asked hard questions and they challenged themselves. Putting themselves outside their comfort zones meant that they thought more critically, were adaptive and collaborative.

In English, one of the senior classes has explored different media for creating Visual Stories.  This was a challenge for the teachers as they didn’t have any expertise in creating or editing videos or any other tools apart from Powerpoint. But they knew that the some of the students did, especially those who were studying Media Studies or Photography and they encouraged them to share their knowledge and transfer their skills across disciplines.  The results are outstanding but they say that the engagement of the students and the learning process was fascinating to observe. Lots of things didn’t work, they had to find solutions to problems, and there were frustrations as well as jubilations! More importantly, as teacher learners, they have role modelled the idea that we don’t have to know everything, that we can “learn as we go” and that it is ok to fail.

The Phys Ed and Health department have been wholehearted pioneers of Google Apps.  They were using them before we became a GAFE school and have used Google Forms for formative and summative assessments.  They showed us how they have used Add-Ons such as Flubaroo,  Doctopus and Goobric.  They reported that students have been more motivated to do online tests rather than paper ones.  They have found that the biggest impact has been on achievement through the use of marking rubrics and the ability to give feedback on specific elements of the assessments and areas to work on.  We noted that now that Google has introduced Google Classroom, it is possible that Add Ons like Goobric will not be needed in the same way.  Of course, giving feedback using rubrics can be done in other ways, but using Goobric has proved effective for the Phys Ed way of working and made it easier for large classes doing the same assessment.

The Music Department took the opportunity to show us how their students are using Sibelius to compose for different parts of an orchestra.  This software really makes the process of composing much more real and immediate – the sound of the music can be heard note by note as the student adds the notation. The finished product is a “real” score, and the students have the evidence of their efforts in their hands.  Seeing one student’s process of creating a composition and then her conducting the orchestra as they played her composition was fascinating and certainly made me excited!

In social studies, the Year 9 students do a unit on sustainability in which they choose a topic and follow an inquiry project.  Over the last two years the Social Studies Department have developed these as digital portfolios but with GAFE this has gone to a new level.  The girls are using Google docs to collaborate both in and outside of the classroom and as well as written logs some girls have chosen to make video diaries of their progress.  Progress is much more continuous as work on the inquiries can happen anytime and anywhere, and the students don’t have to work in allocated blocks of time as they used to.  This has the added bonus of helping maintain momentum and interest and it means that when someone is absent the group can still get on and even work with her whilst she is at home sick!

Kahoot has been a big hit in the classics classroom.  It is easy to make quick quizzes to test terminology and language and the students love the competitive element and the challenge of time limits.  Kahoot is device agnostic so the students can access it on any device they have, but even if all students don’t have a device, working in a team collaboratively leads to great conversations and learning.

The Science Department has been trialling the use of Education Perfect.  This started out as Language Perfect but the developers have been adding subjects to it as its popularity and success has exploded.  This is the platform that will be used for online examinations as they are introduced over the next 5 years so it is worthwhile students learning their way around it.  It is a fairly traditional way of learning terminology – the premise is based on flashcards for key words and concepts – but like Kahoot, the competitive element is what hooks kids in.  There certainly looks to have been some work on building its capabilities to cope with longer text answers and there is a range of past papers for practice.  One of the key elements is that teachers can track a student’s progress, set homework and monitor the rate of their learning. The more questions the students attempt the more points they earn.  If they challenge themselves to try new sections they learn more whereas if they only do the sections they know they can do, their learning level doesn’t increase.

Another teacher in science talked about how Solo Taxonomy has revolutionised the way that she teaches and manages her classes.  She is enjoying being a “guide on the side” rather than the more traditional, and for her, more natural “sage on the stage”.  She has observed the benefits to her students’ learning as they select and identify the level they are working at and can also see what they need to do to access the higher levels.  She admits that she has “bastardised” the philosophy to suit her classroom, her kids and her own teaching and learning style but also acknowledges that she has challenged herself as well as the students which has to be great for her professional learning and development.  She says that she needed something to prompt change, had been searching for the right thing, heard about Solo and realised that it could work for her.

Our Te Reo teacher showed us how she has developed a Google Site for her multi level classes where they can choose the level that is appropriate for them and select the resources they need to further their learning.  It is a great example of self-directed learning and provides support for her face to face activities in the classroom.  She reflected that she had attended another colleagues PL sessions a couple of years ago where he showed people how to build websites for learning.  She wondered if she should have started earlier and if that was a waste of his and her time.  But I think that, although she could see the benefits then, she wasn’t ready herself to start to create.  Two years down the road, she is ready and has taken the learning from then, added it to her new knowledge and is excited about the possibilities.

These last two teachers are evidence that we understand concepts when we are ready, seeds need to be planted but only when we see a purposeful application for an idea will we adopt it, develop it in our own way and embed it in our practice.  Just like our students really!

A learning and sharing celebration

tee-shirt showing words I'll stop learning when I'm dead...maybe

This afternoon we celebrated the learning we have done throughout the year. Our Professional Development focus for 2013 has been on blending technology and effective pedagogy into classroom practice. The main aim was to encourage our teachers to explore and develop their personal competency and skills and, when they are ready, to incorporate them into their teaching programmes. We hoped to provide a non-threatening, encouraging backdrop whilst also setting expectations that this was the way we wanted our teachers to go.

As you might expect we are all at different stages both as far as technology goes as well as pedagogy.  It was interesting to note from discussions in our final module workshops that younger teachers are keen to learn more about traditional teaching strategies, such as story telling and role-play that are used by the older generation of teachers, as they have not learned these at Teachers ‘ College.  How powerful is the opportunity to talk, share and learn from each other? It gives us food for thought for the future – how can we take advantage of the experience and expertise of our older teachers to pass on their knowledge to the new generation?  Interestingly, it is not always the young that grasp the technology in both hands, many of our older teachers are proponents of embedding technology into their teaching.  Developing an effective two way flow of ideas and strategies has to be a focus for next year.   All this makes me think how lucky we are that we have the luxury as a State Integrated school to provide the time for Professional Development that other schools may not be able to.

For the final session of PD we wanted to be able to celebrate the work that we knew teachers were doing, the journeys they had been on in developing their expertise and exploring the possibilities that technology could offer to enhance the excellent teaching and learning that already goes on in our classrooms.  We didn’t want it to be onerous at this busy end of the year (though which part if the school year isn’t busy?) so we asked for volunteers to do no more than a five minute presentation.  We followed up the email with some shoulder taps and then arm twisting!  It isn’t that our teachers aren’t happy to share; they are just reluctant to “show off”! Lots of lights hiding under bushels!  We were also keen that it wasn’t the “early adopters” that stood up, but those who the rest of the teachers would see as “one of them”.

I have to confess to being a little nervous that the “sharefest” that I had planned would fizzle but I should have had more faith in my colleagues and with a bit of cajoling and gentle encouragement (that may not be quite how they saw it!) I had 6 willing volunteers from a range of departments.

I am not going to go on here as I have created a Storify of the session.  The conversations were rich, the sharers were amazing and we clearly have lots of ideas for the future.

Ulearn13 – catching up

claudelandsA week back at school and the stimulating discussions, interactions and keynotes at Ulearn13 at Claudelands, Hamilton, seem to have faded into the dim, distant past.  My head is still in a state of confusion; the demands of what I need to do at work at odds with wanting to get to grips with the seeds of ideas sown at Ulearn and in the interactions since then on Social Media.  I wake up at night after dreams in which I am not really sure what is real and what is make-believe!

Anyway, as I am the world’s best procrastinator, instead of writing my reports or processing all the data from the medical forms for Year 10 camp that looms in Week 7, I have spent today in the garden, at the Hockey Club AGM and presentation (my youngest gained an award and I ended up on the committee – what is it about my hand that seems to have a mind of it’s own!?) exploring BlendSpace and other tools I found out about at Ulearn13 and thinking about how I could use them to help me synthesise my thoughts.

One of the sessions I went to at Ulearn13 was “10 tips to socialise sustainability of elearning” which was facilitated by Megan Iemma and David Kinane.  It was affirming to realise that I already knew and used most of the tools that they talked about but I was pleased that I also learned of some new ones.

image of Blendspace - digital presentation

A colleague had decided not to go to Ulearn this year as she has been before and felt that she wouldn’t learn anything new and that someone who hadn’t been before would benefit more from being able to go.  Another who was very excited at her first conference last year realised that she needed to pick her sessions more carefully in future as this year she ended up attending similar sessions to 2012, and she has come so far in her own learning that she was ahead of many of the other attendees.   My perspective is that there is always something new to learn, the conversations that you have are invaluable and the opportunity to share and to learn is infinite.  However, I am also aware that the cost to schools to send teachers to conferences such as this is huge.  This year we were lucky as there were no accommodation costs as Ulearn13 was here in Hamilton and so we could send 8 teachers.

Picking breakouts is a fine art and I think there is an evolution.  The first year everything is new and you are so overwhelmed by the choice that there is an element of potluck.  Having said that the descriptions now are more specific and it is easier to filter the different sectors.  I know that in my first year I ended up at some very specific Primary sessions at which I found little that I could adapt to Secondary.  Nevertheless, it is always interesting to know what is happening in early years, after all they are our future students.

In subsequent years, when you understand the system better, you can be more judicious in your choices.  I can now recognise speakers’ names, identify sectors and spot themes.  I also don’t feel obliged to book every breakout – the interactions in the Social Media space and in the Trade Hall are just as valuable as the Breakouts, Spotlights and  Research Papers. The Twitter chat backed up with blogs and reviews and videos of Keynotes and presentations on Slideshare and websites allow more people  to “virtually” attend conferences, but nothing really beats the face to face interactions, connections, and shared experiences.

I have also had a play with Martin Hawksey’s TagsExplorer which I encountered whilst I was doing my MOOC in January.  The visual display of tweets is fascinating and so I decided to create one for the EdchatNZ last Thursday evening.  It took me a while but I eventually got there ( just not good at following instructions!)  It only picks up tweets within 7 days so when I tried to do one for Ulearn13 it only aggregated the tweets from Friday onwards.  Interesting to note though the level of interaction over the weekend following the conference.

image showing tweets

So, where to now? I am still processing ideas, still following tweets, trying to keep up with schoolwork, wondering how to maintain my focus on the day to day stuff and keep my thoughts from flying away and being lost somewhere in my hyperactive brain so that when the holidays come, I can retrieve them.  Watch this space!

#edcmooc

IMG_1509crop

Well, I have taken the plunge and signed up to a Coursera online course called Elearning and Digital Cultures.  I actually signed up back in November but the reality of it has only set in now that I have had a welcoming email, joined the edcmooc FB page, Google+ page and started tweeting with the edcmooc hashtag.  Reading the posts on FB and G+ I have started to feel a little overwhelmed and hope that I am not going to be out of my depth. 

It is a busy time of year here too – the start of a new school year and I have a lot to do to get ready for my classes as well as for the other areas for which I am responsible. Two school camps to get through this term so there is tons of paperwork for that although the time away, once we actually get there, is always great fun and definitely worth the hard work needed to get there.

One of my reasons for wanting to do this course is because I am the “IT Teacher Coach” at my school. It is a strange role and the story of my having it is complicated, but essentially I am available 7 hours over 6 days (we have a strange timetable!) to help my colleagues with using technology.  I have no formal qualifications and am definitely not a tech geek ( I leave that to the IT support team – they do the fixing and trouble shooting!) but developed a passion for using computer technology with my classes back in the 1990s when I had challenging French classes which consisted mainly of boys.  It was an attempt to find some way of reaching them and catching their attention so that I could sneak some French language into them without them really noticing! 

My role has metamorphosed, but I still have the official title “IT Teacher Coach”, and I still spend a lot of my time helping teachers with basic “nuts and bolts” of how to do stuff on email, how to insert images in docs, how to do stuff on the SMARTboard, how to use Google Docs etc. However,  I am finding that, as I and a few other teachers experiment with different ways of teaching and learning with our students using online activities, more and more of our colleagues are gaining in confidence and wanting to try things out too.  So I have spent more time helping and them to do that. 

This year our school theme is “Connected”, the whole focus of our Professional Development is on Blended Learning and I am one of the leaders for that.  We are still finding our way, and I am sure it is going to be one that we stumble our way along but it is surely going to be an interesting journey and we will learn from our mistakes. 

Hopefully this course will help me see the way a little more clearly, or maybe, as is often the case when there is so much information bombarding you, the waters will initially be even more muddied?! Nevertheless, I am excited to be on the expdition, nervous about taking the first few steps but eager to set off.

Procrastination….

Wooden Brick Letter F Stencil Letter O letter N Magnetic letter F

I created this “Spell with Flickr” word to use as an image for my Learnist learning board on TBLT (Task Based Language Teaching).  Why did I decide to create a Learnist board on TBLT?  Because, of course, I have real work to do that I don’t really want to apply myself to! I have almost (no, not really) convinced myself that because the Learning board is about TBLT that I am really working.  I have a presentation to do next Friday (21st September) on the report that is due in the first week of October.  I also have a presentation to do to the BOT on elearning in my school, and 140 medical forms to process for the outdoor education camp that I am organising in Tongariro National Park in November.  You can see why I am creating Learnist boards!

So what does FONF mean?  Better go and have a look at my board!

Passive consumers or active producers?

Learning and teaching should not start with the embracing of new technologies, but rather it is a matter of contextualising the learning first before supporting it with technology  from Wikipedia

I have been looking at the results of the elearning survey that we conducted with our teaching staff which are interesting, although not necessarily surprising. One of the things that seemed to stand out to me as that as a group  we are all quite comfortable with the use of technologies.  Many of us may not see the technologies that we use as being relevant in a classroom context.  However, if you know how to program your video recorder/Freeview box/Sky thingummabob to record a programme that you want to watch that is on at the same time as another that you want to watch, you are far ahead of me. (we don’t even have a video recorder/freeview/sky thingy!) If you can do that, or programme your washing machine or set the timer on your oven, book a holiday online or shop online, or set your Navman to take you to that bijou restaurant in Auckland, then you have skills that you can transfer to a learning context.  Making that step depends on your motivation and also an understanding of how it might benefit the learners in your classroom.

We were all quite confident and deemed ourselves competent at using a variety of tools – Word, Excel, PPT.  I know that many people create excellent worksheets and presentations for their students. I am sure that as you have perfected your skills using these tools you have become more confident and your worksheets/presentations have improved and become more engaging for students and more effective learning resources.  I know that I also have learned a lot about my subjects through creating my own resources.  Lots of the other things though, the ones we are less confident about, we are using in a mainly passive way – we upload resources to Dionet reasonably confidently but few teachers are creating interactive tasks in classroom pages.  We show videos, but do we create them? We show videos but what do we expect the students to do whilst they are viewing them or once they have viewed them – is it a passive experience or an interactive one? We give them a worksheet but does it provide opportunities for collaboration, for reflection, for co-construction, for interaction?  Research has shown, and we all know this anyway from our own experience, that for learners to really learn, for them to exercise and develop deeper thinking skills, they need to be actively engaged in the learning process, they need to interact, collaborate, co-construct, take ownership of their learning.  Just as important though is the opportunity both during and after a task or a unit of work to reflect on what they have done, how they have done it, what they have learned and what they could do the next time to improve.

So, where to from here? I believe that if we are to encourage our students to take the step to being independent, critical thinkers, if we are to help them develop the lifelong learning skills to cope in the 21st Century, if we want them to take ownership of their learning, then we have to do the same.  It’s not going to be easy – the biggest challenge cited in the elearning survey for our teachers was the lack of time to practise skills and to gain confidence using them, but even more people said that they were excited and keen to embrace the opportunities that BYOD offered for teaching and learning. Let’s take up the challenge!

Just got sidetracked! Found these links that talk about the Learning Continuum and the relative merits of Formal Learning, Non-Formal learning and Informal Learning.  So much to think about it’s scary!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7UF6Kf7Ts0

Informal Learning