Fluency, Feedback and a Search for Authenticity with @TouchCastEDU


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Whether it be Peter DeWitt’s work associated with flipping meetings, Brad Gustafson’s #30SecondTake Podcast or Steve Brophy’s Digital Leaders reflections, TouchCast is one of those apps that keeps popping up here and there. An iPad application, it allows you to not only easily record, but through the use of a green screen, add your own settings and backgrounds. In addition to this, it has a great teleprompter which helps alleviate the problem of not quite looking at the camera, as well as helping with pace and fluency.

More recently, Peter DeWitt wrote about the TouchCast Studio in a Box. This includes a green screen, a microphone and a range of clamps and handles. I recently purchased this unsure exactly what I was going to use it for. Ironically, it has become one of the most sort after things at school.

During Term One, my intervention students were given the task of recording an A Current Affair style show. Only working with them once a week using just one iPad, I decided to set up the screen on the whiteboard with an eye on adding some sort of authenticity to their presentations, as well as the opportunity to work on pace and fluency. After typing up the scripts (some used the voice typing function in Google Docs), students recorded their presentations. What was amazing was the amount of students who asked if they could come back during the break to re-record their videos, a by-product of recording.

On the back of this success, I got different groups to record various summaries and reflections using the studio backdrop. Today, one of my students asked if we could set the screen up to record their stories. It was not what I had planned, but I went with it. What was good was that the need to record added a sense of urgency to the lesson. So instead of wasting time chatting, students quickly finished off their stories and lined up to record. What stood out was the amount of respect they had for each other, especially when providing feedback. I am not sure if it is the fact that half of them attest to having their own YouTube channels, but they seem to value the process of recording even if the product does not necessarily get published for a wider audience.

Moving forward, I see so many possibilities for TouchCast. There are various options and functions that I haven’t even touched upon. At the very least, I imagine recording a class of presentations in front of the green screen as they are given, speaking to a document or making a collaborative production combining different parts.

Recently, I stumbled upon Emilie Garwitz share an activity she did with her kindergarten students where the class used the green screen to explore the beach:

Sometimes we are only limited by our own imagination. So what about you? Have you used TouchCast before? What did you use it for? As always, comments welcome.


For a fantastic example of what is possible using TouchCast, I recommend checking out Brad Gustafson’s #30SecondTake Podcast:

Also this series from Steve Brophy:

Steve has also developed his own guide stepping through the process involved in creating your own TV studio.


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REVIEW: Program or be Programmed by @Rushkoff


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So often the debate around digital technology and literacies seems to be framed around whether we should all learn how to code. As if simply learning a few lines would solve all the world’s ills. Although Douglas Rushkoff touches on this in his book, Program or be Programmed, his main focus is on what it actually means to program. For Rushkoff programming is closely linked to the art of writing, just as the creation of the alphabet focused on hearing and the printing press supported on a rise in reading. This programming as writing is not just about programming as an act of engineering, but as a liberal art. As Rushkoff explains,

Even if we don’t all go out and learn to program—something any high school student can do with a decent paperback on the subject and a couple of weeks of effort—we must at least learn and contend with the essential biases of the technologies we will be living and working with from here on.

This is an understanding of the operating system of the world we live in and the inherent biases that are built into the platforms and devices we use each and every day.

Rushkoff’s discussion is broken down into ten modern day commandments:

  • Time and the push to be ever present.
  • Place and the disconnection with the local.
  • Choice and the pressure to forever choose.
  • Complexity and the ignorance of nuance.
  • Scale and the demand of the global spread.
  • Identity and the digital self.
  • Social and contact as king.
  • Facts and the demand to tell the truth.
  • Openness and the importance of sharing.
  • Purpose and the power of programming.

Each bias is unpacked, providing examples and elaborations to support an ongoing dialogue.

What makes Program or be Programmed the best introduction that I have read on coding and the impact of digital technologies is that provides a considered point of view. It balances between criticism and praise for the modern world, with a clear hope for tomorrow. Although we may not all build our own social media platform or a search engine to match Google, we have a responsibility to be aware how such programs and platforms are influencing us. For as Gary Stager says, “technology is not neutral.”

For more information, listen to this interview on ABC Future Tense or check out the following clips:


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REVIEW: Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus by @Rushkoff


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It is easy to be mesmerised by the purported benefits of the digital age. The ability to easily and efficiently communicate, consume, connect and create though often comes at the expense of older more established modes and mediums, such as telephones and newspapers. A vision of supposed freedom and hope has been converted over time into the poster child of digital industrialisation and growth-based economics.

Grounded on the operating system built by the chartered monopolies of the 13th century, companies like Apple, Twitter, Google, Pearson and Amazon are in a race to become ‘the one’ company to rule them all. Sacrificing sustainability, the focus is on cashing in on short term gains via acquisitions and public offerings. This culture of disruption, of sprints, start-ups and pivots, often leads to a scorched earth policy of success at all costs. Whether it be the automation of jobs or the decimation of communities, change and innovation is not always positive or productive for the majority of people.

According to Douglas Rushkoff, it is not all doom and gloom though. For just as we can identify where these ideas of capital at all costs come from in the past, so to can we look back to find alternative solutions to such perils. Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus provides a vision for a future built around the exchange of value, rather than the extraction of capital. A future that focuses on a mixture of local and national currencies, as well as focusing on both family cooperatives and international corporations. A return to the ethos of the bazaar, that is spaces designed to maximise the exchange of value and the velocity of money. A digital renaissance if you like.

Similar in vein to David Price’s OPEN, Douglas Rushkoff’s Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus is a story for our time. With eye to tomorrow, Rushkoff provides suggestions and solutions already being explored by some today.  The choice though is left to the reader to make the next step to link these seemingly disparate ideas to help form a better tomorrow together.

For a different view of the book, flick through the slides for a collection of quotes:

While for a visual introduction, see the following clips:


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Reading Texts is Easy, especially When You Listen to Them

Reading by Listening

I was recently asked how I manage to read so much. Beyond dipping in and out when I can, I have taken to listening to texts. This though has been a bit of a journey.

Beyond my consumption of various podcasts, I initially started out listening to texts via audiobooks through Audible. Some of the great books I enjoyed were Start With WhyIt’s ComplicatedFinnish LessonsA More Beautiful Question, TribesToo Big To Know, Smarter Than You Think, Mindsets and David and Goliath. As a workflow, this worked to a point. Although the recordings were always enthralling, they involved a lot of data on my phone, as well as made it a challenge to take note of ideas. In addition to this, I was limited to what was available on Audible.

On the advice of Steve Brophy and his great post, I started using Lisgo as a way of listening to blogs and articles saved to Pocket on iOS. This was useful, but again limited to what could be saved to Pocket.

With a desire to listen to more books, I found a way to listen to Kindle books via the iOS app using the Text-to-Speech function in Accessibility. This involves simply reading out what was on the screen. To make this even easier to use I set up triple click function to activate the Speech-to-Text. The only limitation with Speech-to-Text is that it does not read ‘textbooks’ (although they seem rare). Sadly, this workaround does not work with iBooks.

Since moving from an iPhone to a Nexus device I enjoyed the ability to listen within the Pocket app. While I have explored the use of ezPDF Reader to listen to PDF documents. This app allows a plethora of options, however it sometimes has too much going on and can be a little finicky, especially when stopping and starting a text. Subsequently, I am still looking. I have also found the workaround for listening to Kindle less useful. Although Talkback will read Kindle books (including textbooks), it is a little more limited. Firstly, it always starts at the top of the page, which can be annoying if you want to stop it at any point. Secondly, there is no ‘triple-click’ shortcut found on iOS. Although you can set a button for temporarily turning it on and off, you still need to go through Settings to turn it on and off, which can be annoying.

So that is me, these are some of the ways that I have taken to improving my productivity. For some, the idea of listening to a computerised voice reading a book just is not aesthetic experience. In the end, it is up to you. As always, thoughts and comments welcome, especially if you have have tried anything different.


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REVIEW: #SchoolOfThought by @DanHaesler


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Collected from his writing from the Sydney Morning Herald, The Drum, Generation Next and his blog, the ideas that Dan Haesler presents are not necessarily new, but this misses the point. Like the work of authors, such as George Couros, danah boyd and Clive Thompson, whose ideas began life in various blog posts, #SchoolOfThought offers a different way of viewing Haesler’s work, making new connections.

#SchoolOfThought touches on topics ranging from mindsets, youth suicide, educational technology, digital footprints, future employment, engagement and positive psychology. It is the perfect book for anyone trying to address the question of wellbeing in (and out of) education. The reality though is that in education all teachers are teachers of wellbeing. It is not something to be merely left to that one person in the school who carries the title.

Although many of the ideas are simply beginnings, this is intentional. The book is not a manual, a thorough guide providing step-by-step instructions to change, rather it is a provocation, the start of a conversation. As Haesler states:

Whether it resonates, challenges or irritates, I write not in the hope that readers will like what I write, rather they will think about what I write.

For in the end, you are the expert in your context.

You can find out more details about where to purchase the book at danhaesler.com with all profits from the sale to support literacy programmes in remote Indigenous communities around Australia.


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A Lean Education


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People often cringe at the idea of bringing business principles into school. See criticism of Pearson, problems with free schools in England and the out-sourcing of education in Africa. There is the belief that business will undermine the intent behind providing a public education for all through the means of economic growth and inevitable cost cuttings and compromise that come with it. This however denies the possibilities of bringing in various principles and practices into the classroom to support with the discovery of new learning possibilities and potentials. For every year and every context brings a new set of students to guide, each coming with their own interests and challenges. Here then is my take on Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup and what possibilities going lean and thinking like an entrepreneur might bring to learning in the classroom:

Build-Measure-Learn


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Starting with a vision linked to a hypothesis, the lean focus is on the build-measure-learn feedback loop. This is about learning at each step along the way and making adjustments accordingly. Whether it be Jackie Gerstein’s iterative process, Gary Stager and Sylvia Libow Martinez’ idea of think-make-improve or Alma Harris and Michelle Jones’ disciplined collaboration, each framework provides a structure for learning through a constant cycle of feedback and reflection. Providing his own take on this, Doug Belshaw has written about the possibilities of Kanban and Agile workflows for education, while Steve Brophy has reflected on the use of the Modern Learning Canvas to support innovation.

Minimum Viable Product


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Rather than committing endless resources to an idea, the minimum viable product is designed to quickly develop an experiment in order to test out the riskiest assumptions. Yevgeniy (Jim) Brikman argues that the MVP is better considered as a process of gathering feedback, rather than the actual creation of a product. In education, this is significant as too often extensive resources are committed to a problem with little thought given to refining the initial hypothesis. For example, Richard Olsen suggests that before investing time and money into a new digital platform to increase writing results, get students to swap laptops in order to test whether collaboration makes a difference. This initial information can be used to develop a clearer picture of the problem.

Archetypal Customer


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It is so easy to come up with an idea and forget who it is actually designed for. Although we may think that we know the customer or audience, it is important to be open to actively developing this understanding. In education, our customers are the students. Although it can be easy to be guided by the age expectations of curriculum documents, this often overlooks where students are actually at or what their interests may be. It is for this reason that simply rehashing old planners can be problematic.

Vanity Metrics


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In a recent post, Corrie Barclay spoke about the importance of using data to identify what needs to be done. This is true, but the problem is that too often we measure what is easy or obvious, rather than what really matters. This can lead to confusion about what work we actually need to do. Eric Ries describes this as ‘vanity matrix’, those numbers that are rolled out, but with a little digging are shown to bare very little information. The problem is that we need to be more creative about how we measure innovation. This often begins by defining what the problem is in the first place. Simply coming back to NAPLAN results, PISA rankings or progression points does not always suffice. To gain a deeper perspective we often need multiple points of data to draw a clearer picture of the problem at hand.

Pivot


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Whether it is zooming in, zooming out, changing customer, moving from an application to a platform, moving from a platform to an application, changing how value is captured or adjusting the channels used to deliver the product, a pivot is best understood as a significant change of tack. Eric Ries describes this as, “a change in strategy without a change in vision.” In education, this is about making those significant structural changes to support an improvement in learning. For example, Greg Miller provides different methods for reallocating time to support self-directed learning. While Corrie Barclay has shared how his school has used the flipped classroom model to improve student outcomes and engagement. Each of these changes involve a considerable change in resources and thinking.

Sandbox


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One of the challenges associated with innovation is the fear of risk and failure, especially when it comes to larger organisations. One answer is to sandbox such change, that is portioning off a part of the whole to focus on research and development. Once such changes have been appropriately refined and prototyped, they can then be taken out of the sandbox and added to the status quo. Adrian Camm describes this as running ‘dual operating systems‘. An example of this is idea of electives. Instead of doing more of the same, electives offer a prime opportunity to test and trial different practices to find out what works best.

Success Theatre


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In Counting What Counts, Yong Zhao suggests that, “numbers don’t lie, but they can be used to endorse lies.” This says so much. Sometimes the worst thing that we do is find any way possible to provide a supposed story of success. This unwillingness to recognise the elephant (or elephants as Will Richardson would have it) in the room often leads to a failure to innovate based on the initial vision and hypothesis. The challenge is often developing a collaborative culture which recognises failure and confusion as an opportunity to feed forward, that is the potential to see where the next learning step is and act on it.


Now maybe I am wrong. Maybe I am being too optimistic about the benefits of business to support learning. Maybe it is all just a part of the neo-liberalism ideal, whose roads all seem to lead to Pearson. Can such principles be used to develop a system that encourages the creation of value as opposed to fostering growth? As always, thoughts and comments welcome.

For more on Lean Startup, here is a collection of videos to get your going or else visit the website The Lean Startup.

Also, check out Tim Kastelle’s Lead Startup series for further elaboration on the different concepts, as well as the Episode #o68 of the TER Podcast for a discussion of the merits of business in education.


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Collaboration, Autonomy and a Culture of Thinking (SITJAR)


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Today, I received notification that a case study I wrote for a special edition of the Southern Institute of Technology Journal of Applied Research (SITJAR) has been published. I feel a little out of my league. However, heutagogy is one of those topics that seems to go beyond leagues. Thanks as always to Stewart Hase and Chris Kenyon.

You can read my paper below, enjoy.


Abstract

Personal growth is often sacrificed at the expense of organisation reform. The modern challenge in creating more effective workplaces is providing meaningful time, space and opportunity for self- directed learning. A part of this change is fostering a culture of thinking. This is explored through a case study, reflecting on the co-creation of a conference presentation. This is not used as a representation of the how it is to be done, but of the complexities associated with collaborative learning. For there are many different models and methods for achieving the desired outcome of autonomous learning. Whether it be TeachMeets, Twitter chats or staff driven meetings, what is important is that learning is disciplined.

Introduction

Like the students we teach, teachers too have areas of interests that they often never get a chance to unpack, passions that never get explored, ideas that never properly get thought out. Although many discuss the benefits of Genius Hour for students, there is often little time, space and support for anything like this for teachers. Instead, meetings and professional development is often defined by perceived objective needs, rather than focusing on personal growth. As Matthew Kraft and John Papay explain,

We tend to ascribe teachers’ career decisions to the students they teach rather than the conditions in which they work. We treat teachers as if their effectiveness is mostly fixed, always portable, and independent of school context. As a result, we rarely complement personnel reforms with organizational reforms that could benefit both teachers and students. (Kraft & Papay, 2015).

The question that remains then is how might we build a culture of thinking that fosters autonomy in order to create a more effective workplaces?

Learning to Learn by Learning

One of the essential ingredients to teacher growth and autonomy is collaboration. David Weinberger makes the point that, through networks and the inextricable abundance of knowledge, “the smartest person in the room is the room” (Weinberger, 2011, p.12). This does not mean that simply being in the room is enough. For being a part of the room we are challenged to engage with others to build both physical and digital networks that make us all smarter. This involves, what Mike Wesch describes as, going from being knowledgeable to being knowledge-able (Wesch, 2009).

A case study of such learning is the collaborative development with Steve Brophy of a presentation for Digital Learning and Teaching in Victoria 2014 Conference. As teachers we often talk about collaboration, yet either avoid doing it or never quite commit to the process. Some may work with a partner teacher or in a team, but how many go beyond this? When do we step out of the comfort zone and the walls of our schools, to truly collaborate in the creation of a project or a problem? Immersing ourselves in what David Price describes as ‘self-determined peer learning’ (Price, 2014, p. 115)>

Having spoken about the power of tools like Google Apps for Education (Davis, 2014a) to support and strengthen collaboration, communication and personalised learning, I realised that what was needed to take the next step was to actually do it. Mindful of taking the easy path of simply working  with a colleague from my own school, I sort out someone different who I could co-create with, but to also be knowledge-able through the use of various tools to actually collaboratively co-create a presentation from scratch.

Brophy and I initially met online. A modern trend. The Ed Tech Crew podcast ran a Google Hangout at the end of 2013 focusing on the question: what advice would you give a new teacher just appointed as an ICT coordinator? (Richards & Branson, 2013) I put down my thoughts in a post (Davis, 2013), Brophy commented and wrote a response of his own (Brophy, 2014). It was these two perspectives, different in some ways, but the same in others, that brought us together.

From that point we built up a connection online – on Twitter, in the margins of a document, within blog posts, via email – growing and evolving the conversation each step of the way. For example, Brophy set me the 11 question blog challenge (Davis, 2014b), which he had already taken the time to complete himself (Brophy, 2014b). We met face-to-face for the first time when we both presented at a Teachmeet at the start of 2014.

What clicked in regards to working with Brophy was that although we teach in different sectors, coming from different education backgrounds, we shared an undeniable passion – student learning and how technology can support and enhance this, or as Bill Ferriter would have it, “make it more doable.” (Ferriter, 2014, p.14) We therefore put forward our proposal for the 2014 Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria Conference around the topic of ‘voices in education’. Interestingly, once the submissions were accepted, those wishing to present, were encouraged to connect and collaborate with other members in the stream, rather than work in isolation.

In regards to planning and collaborating, it was rather ad hoc. A few comments in an email, brainstorming using a Google Doc, catching up via a Google Hangout, building our presentation using OneNote. Most importantly though, there were compromises at each step along the way. This was not necessarily about either being right or wrong, but about fusing own ideas with those we had collected along the way. So often presentations are planned with only our own thoughts in mind. Although we may have ideas about our intended audience, nothing can really replace the human element associated with engaging with someone else in dialogue.

In regards to the substance of our actual presentation, I put forward the idea of dividing it into Primary and Secondary. However, as things unfolded, this seemed counter-intuitive, for voices are not or should not be constrained by age. So after much discussion we came upon the idea of focusing on the different forms of connections that occur when it comes to voices in and out of the classroom. We identified three different categories:

  • Students communicating and collaborating with each other,
  • Students and teachers in dialogue about learning,
  • Teachers connecting as a part of lifelong learners.

A part of the decision for this was Brophy’s work in regards to Digital Leaders. (Brophy, 2014a; Jackson, 2014). This focus on students having a voice of their own really needed to take some pride of place, especially as much of my thoughts had been focusing on the engagement between students and teachers.

The next point of discussion was around the actual presentation. In hindsight, I fretted so much about who would say what and when, as well as what should go in the visual presentation. This is taken for granted when you present by yourself for in a traditional lecture style presentation you say everything. However, when you work with someone else it isn’t so simple. The irony about the presentation was that so often plans were often dispersed in an effort to respond to the moment. Sometimes the worst thing you can do is to stick to the slides, because somehow that is the way it has to be, even though that way is often a concoction in itself. The other thing to be said is that the slides for the presentation also allows people to engage with the presentation in their own time, in their own way. I sometimes feel that this is a better way of thinking about them.

The best aspect about working collaboratively was that by the time we presented we knew each others thoughts and ideas so well that it meant there was something that one of us overlooked then the other could simply jump in and elaborate. This was best demonstrated in our shortened TeachMeet style presentation, where instead of delivering a summary of what we had already presented earlier in the day, we instead decided to go with the flow. The space was relaxed with beanbags and only a few people, therefore it seemed wrong to do an overly formal presentation. Focusing on the three different situations, we bounced ideas off each other and those in the audience.

What stands out about the case in focus is that much of it occurred both online and outside of regular school hours. This is all well and good, but the question that remains is how we make such practise sustainable? How might we support teachers in taking more ownership over their own learning?

Culture of Thinking

In Ron Ritchhart’s book on creating a culture of thinking, he touches on three essential beliefs: (i) non-direction, (ii) pressing for thinking and (iii) supporting autonomy.(Ritchhart, 2015, p.218) The case study presented covers each in its own way. However, what is important is that there are many different models and means for achieving this mix.

As I search back through the links I have collected over time, I find teachers and administrators exploring models for learning, each touching on these elements. In a post about enlivening whole school professional development days, Edna Sackson talks about empowering teacher voice by giving them all a chance to present, rather than simply bringing in outside providers. (Sackson, 2014) Inspired by the work of Daniel Pink, Chris Wejr shares how he incorporated time for teachers to tinker into the day by providing them release. (Wejr, 2013) While reflecting on learning about Little Bits, Jackie Gerstein unpacks the importance of educators openly being lead learners. (Gerstein, 2015) Taking a different stance, Tom Whitby wonders with the rise of unconferences, whether the traditional conferences are relevant anymore? (Whitby, 2014) Discussing much the same point, David Price touches on potential of different models of self-determined learning, such as TeachMeet events and Twitter Chats, which are threatening traditional models of learning. (Price, 2014) While unpacking the conventional workshop, Chris Kenyon demonstrates how using a heutagogical approach learners can be supported in developing their own solutions. (Kenyon, 2014)

What each of these examples demonstrates is that there is not one model that fits every context and nor should there be. Every situation is unique and has its own needs and requirements. Beyond actually incorporating such opportunities within schools, the challenge moving forward seems to be how to best recognise such opportunities in more formal environments? How might we, as Will Richardson asks, transition from master knowers to master learners? (Richardson, 2015). The one guarantee is that no matter what model is implemented, learning must be disciplined.

References

Brophy, S. (2013). Reflections of an lLearning coordinator. transformative LEARNING. Retrieved 24 May 2015, from https://stevebrophy.wordpress.com/2013/12/29/reflections-of-an-elearning- coordinator/ 

Brophy, S. (2014a). Digital Leaders. transformative LEARNING. Retrieved 24 May 2015, from https://stevebrophy.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/digital-leaders/

Brophy, S. (2014b). 11 questions. transformative LEARNING. Retrieved 24 May 2015, from https://stevebrophy.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/11-questions/

Davis, A. (2013). I was just appointed ICT co-ordinator, Now What?. Read Write Respond. Retrieved 24 May 2015, from http://readwriterespond.com/?p=118

Davis, A. (2014a). In search of one tool to rule them all. Read write respond. Retrieved 24 May 2015, from http://readwriterespond.com/?p=109

Davis, A. (2014b). 22 Questions …. Read write respond. Retrieved 24 May 2015, from http://readwriterespond.com/?p=95

Ferriter, B. (2014). Do we REALLY need to do new things in new ways?. The tempered radical. Retrieved 24 May 2015, from http://blog.williamferriter.com/2014/04/27/do-we-really-need- to-do-new-things-in-new-ways/

Gerstein, J. (2015). Educator as lead learner: Learning littleBits. User generated education. Retrieved 31 May 2015, from https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/educator-as-lead-learner-learning- littlebits/

Jackson, N. (2014). OzDLs | digital leaders Australia – Empowering young people with technology.Ozdls.com. Retrieved 24 May 2015, from http://www.ozdls.com/

Kenyon, C. (2014). One way of introducing heutagogy. In L. Blaschke, C. Kenyon & S. Hase, Experiences in self-determined learning (1st ed.). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Kraft, M., & Papay, J. (2015). Developing workplaces where teachers stay, improve, and succeed. Shanker Institute. Retrieved 30 May 2015, from http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/developing-workplaces-where-teachers-stay-improve- and-succeed

Price, D. (2014). Heutagogy and social communities of practice: Will self-determined learning re- write the script for educators?. In L. Blaschke, C. Kenyon & S. Hase, Experiences in self- determined learning (1st ed.). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Richards, T., & Branson, D. (2013). Xmas Google Hangout. Edtechcrew. Retrieved 30 May 2015, from http://edtechcrew.net/podcast/ed-tech-crew-238-xmas-google-hangout

Richardson, W. (2015). From master teacher to master learner. Bloomington: Solution Tree Press.

Ritchhart, R. (2015). Creating cultures of thinking: The 8 forces we must master to truly transform our schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Sackson, E. (2014). Personalised learning for teachers…. What Ed said. Retrieved 23 May 2015, from https://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/personalised-learning-for-teachers/

Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know: rethinking knowledge now that the facts aren’t the facts, experts ere everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room. New York: Basic Books.

Wejr, C. (2013). Creating time for teachers to tinker with ideas #RSCON4 | The Wejr Board. Chriswejr.com. Retrieved 31 May 2015, from http://chriswejr.com/2013/10/05/creating-time-for-teachers-to-tinker-with-ideas-rscon4

Wesch, M. (2009). From knowlegable to knowledge-able: learning in new media environments. The Academic Commons. Retrieved 31 May 2015, from http://www.academiccommons.org/2014/09/09/from-knowledgable-to-knowledge-able- learning-in-new-media-environments/

Whitby, T. (2014). Are education conferences relevant?. My Island View. Retrieved 31 May 2015, from https://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/are-education-conferences-relevant/


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An Expedition into @GoogleCardboard


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I will never forget Jim Sill’s keynote from my first GAFESummit. In it he showed a video of the virtual field trip. Through the use of Google Glass, a class of students was taken inside CERN, the home of the Hadron Collider, in Switzerland. They were given a first hand view of the inner mechanics and provided with an adaptive running commentary the whole time.

This video was about asking the question, what if we could overcome the challenge of access and availability by bringing a field trip into the classroom? Making it possible to venture around the world (or even universe) and walk the streets of Paris or visit the Great Wall of China. Does this constitute the next best thing to being there or is it something else again?

I had a similar such experience recently when I tried Google Expedition for the first time at Melbourne West GAFESummit. A combination of Classroom, Cardboard, Street View and Photosphere, Expedition provides viewers with a choreographed 360 degree experience. It involves a collection of Cardboard devices connected to a central tablet via a network connection. It does not require the internet. Featuring everying from the Mars to the Great Barrier Reef to the Seven Wonders of the World, the app takes the viewers on a journey, providing a prescribed commentary for the teacher to present all along. It provides the means for the teacher-as-guide to focus attention on something by circling on the screen, rather than have the class lost in the experience.

As I moved through the different experiences, I was left wondering about the different possibilities associated with Expedition and Cardboard in general. Here are just some of my ideas:

  • Vocabulary – Robert Marzano suggests the best way to build academic vocabulary is through real life experiences, such as field trips, but then says that this is not always feasible. I wonder if Expedition and Cardboard make this more possible? The opportunity to move around in a foreign space and build up vocabulary at the same time? And what about EAL/D students and newly arrived migrants. Not only could we introduce them to new places, but they too could share a part of their world by taking us back to where they may have travelled from. A priceless experience when building empathy.
  • Real Life Problems – Sitting above the Taj Mahal provides an opportunity to explore the subjects of culture and engineering first hand. Or while climbing El Captan in Yosemite National Park, we can discuss why the only thing growing on the cliff face is a cactus.
  • Narrative and Storytelling – Although Expedition comes with a prescribed script, what interests me is the ability to write your own story as you go along. It provides the means to make predictions and provide explanations about what might be happening. Taking this a step further, I am intrigued by the possibility of students being the guide, providing am opportunity to really develop their speaking and listening skills.
  • Sparking Curiosity – Building on the idea of narrative, I see the possibility for students to ask questions and really drive their own inquiry.

Having said all this, I was left thinking about where such technology might develop in the future. Would this be our only view of places like the Great Barrier Reef or ancient monuments destroyed in cultural upheaval (see giant Buddha statues of Bamiyan in Afghanistan.) Would it be possible to recreate the same place, but in the past, so when we stand at Circular Quay in Sydney we can appreciate how much such a space has been transformed over time. It all makes you wonder, but in the end, the success of such applications is not in their wonder and awe, but rather than opportunities that teachers allow to happen. Such opportunities are further opened up with the option for solo expeditions. As Rachel Jones states,

Google Cardboard is a fantastic hook for learning. I think that children in both primary and secondary settings would find using the glasses an engaging way of encountering a topic – but for me the real potential for success lies in the learning that would take place after the viewers have been used.

So what about you? What have been your experiences with Expedition and Cardboard? What do you see as it’s future? As always, comments welcome.

Additional Resources


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An Introduction to Google Docs and Hyperdocs


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Google Docs is the application that Google Apps seems most well known for. More than just a basic word processor, Docs provides a space to connect and collaborate in real-time (something Microsoft is finally doing with Office 365.) It includes such features as the ability to import and export a range of formats, extend communication through comments and chat, work across platforms, including the ability to work offline, add text via voice, edit Microsoft Word (originally via Quickoffice), as well as build documents and add to a range of templates found within a gallery. Going a step further, there are also a range of add-ons which allow you to do everything from create a bibliography to making a flowchart.

Some possible uses for Google Docs include:

  • Digital Workbook: One of the greatest benefits of Docs (and Google Apps) is the ability to move to a paperless classroom.
  • Collaborative Writing: Docs makes cooperative learning more doable, providing the means for interdependance.
  • Administration: Whether it be taking minutes or sharing curriculum documents, Docs provides the means to organise such work.

Hyperdocs

An interesting example of the use of Google Docs is in the creation of HyperDocs. A cross between Thinglink and a webquest, a HyperDoc is a document which incorporates different interactive features, such as graphic organisers and linked content. In its basic form, it can be conceived as a digital worksheet. However, as with all technology, it has the possibility of amplifying preexisiting practices, providing a means to structure self-directed learning. As Highfill, Hilton and Landis explain,

A true HyperDoc is much more than some links on a document. Digital collaboration is choreographed through the inclusion of web tools that give every student a voice and a chance to be heard by their classmates. Critical thinking and problem solving skills can be developed through linked tasks that ask for authentic products to be created and shared digitally.

Some of the benefits for using HyperDocs include:

  • Deeper Engagement: With the interactive nature of such documents, students are unable to move on without actually clicking through. This is often provided through scavenger hunts.
  • Additional Resources: Through the use of links, HyperDocs provides a means of providing additional stimulus and resources,
  • More Cooperative Learning: Provides the means of working collaborative, as well as independently, whether this be completing a personal copy through Google Classrooms or adding to shared content.

Here then is four steps to creating a HyperDoc:

  1. Identify area of learning: This might be a skill or a point of understanding.
  2. Choose a structure of learning: This involves two steps, firstly choreographing the learning task (see templates) and secondly how this might look as a series of documents.
  3. Incorporate different content: Hyperdocs involve links to a range of different content, from videos to Forms
  4. Publish document: This might involve simply sharing a link or could be done through Google Classroom. As people will be adding content, it is important to think about how this will be done.

Here are some additional resources for Google Docs:

Google Docs Cheat Sheet – Anintroduction by Kasey Bell covering all the key features

The Best 10 Google Docs Tips For Teachers As They Go Back To School – Joshua Lockhart provides a good list of suggestions as to how to use Google Docs to support you in the classroom, including providing creative feedback and giving access to resources.

Google Docs began as a hacked together experiment, says creator – Ellis Hamburger interviews Sam Schillace, the man behind Writerly, the text-editor that became Google Docs, and discusses some of the challenges faced in the process.

12 Free Add-Ons That Take Docs and Sheets to the Next Level – A collection of useful add-ons, including the ability to add a signature and translate text.

6 Powerful Google Docs Features to Support the Collaborative Writing Process – Susan Oxnevad unpacks the writing process highlighting the many benefits of collaboration.

Google Docs Templates – A collection of templates that users can access, as well as add to.

Voice Typing – A discussion of voice typing and how it can be used to support learning.

Hyperdocs – A resource created by Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton and Sarah Landis unpacking everything associated with Hyperdocs.

Hyperdoc Tour – An example of a hyperdoc whcih provides a tour of some features associated

HyperDocs – Changing Digital Pedagogy – A collection of hyperdoc lessons from a range of subjects and year levels.


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Three Lessons Learnt from Using Social Bookmarking


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I was recently asked whether I use social bookmarking and if so, which application? Although I have tinkered with using my blog and Flipboard, my main space for storing links and resources is Diigo. Although it is pretty straight forward how it works, what is not obvious are the challenges in getting the most out of it. Here then are some of the lessons that I have learnt through my experiences over time …

  • Think About Your Structure: Amy Burvall once described hashtags as the soul of the internet. The ability to collect and connect ideas and information is the biggest benefit of social bookmarking. This however has its challenges. I have found over time that it is better to over tag items as this can make it easier to find items at a later date. This includes adding the author as a tag. In addition to this, Diigo provides a means organise around outliners and collaborative groups. When I started I focused on subjects, with one category being 21st century learning. The problem is that most of my links end up in the 21st century so I think that I should probably unpack that a bit more.
  • Be Mindful: The biggest challenge with social bookmarking is actually remembering to add links when you find them. This is best done through the use of widgets and bookmarklets, although Diigo also allows you to email links. I used to have my Diigo connected to my Feedly via IFTTT. However, that recipe has been discontinued. While in regards to mobile, I could never master iOS. However, I have found Android much better, with the ability to connect between applications.
  • Don’t Have Expectations: I remember setting up a collaborative space for school. Most staff could not see the point in it. They felt that simply Googling information would suffice. Although this may work for surface knowledge, it does not necessarily allow you to dig deeper over time. Tom Barrett describes this mining of knowledge as the ‘resurfacing of ideas‘.

So what about you? Do you use social bookmarking? Why? Why not? As always, comments welcome.


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