Reflecting on the Voices in the Village


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

So it is that time again, when lists of top posts start getting populated. As I have said before, I am not a big fan on measuring hits or most amount of retweets on a blog. The question then is what other forms of reflection are there. In the past I have shared those posts that have had the greatest impact on me, while I have also celebrated the voices of others. So this year, to stop and look back I thought wouldn’t it be interesting to collect together all the ideas and opinions that others within the village have so kindly shared. Not necessarily the passing “thank you” or “your blog was useful”, but those comments where people have added something new to the conversation. It is these nuggets of gold that make it all so worth it. So here they are, enjoy!


“It’s funny that we originally connected because we work in different surrounds and come (seemingly) from different worlds but your taste in music and the fact that you are an axe shredder like myself, mean we have more in common than we first thought.” Steve Brophy in response to Memories Through Music

“People often see ‘data’ as meaning test results. For me the key has been realising that EVERYTHING is data. Every bit of information and evidence counts.” Edna Sackson in response to Goals, Growth and Getting Going in 2015

“There must be a deliberate, well-thought out intent and purpose for using this equipment and that links with making the learning meaningful and relevant. Its a bonus when technology is working well and allows us to get to this point more quickly.” Anne van der Graaf in response to 21st Century Learning is More Than Just Technology, But It’s a Big Part of It

“It’s great to know that not only people occasionally take the time to read what I write, but that it also – on occasion – resonates!” Dan Haesler in response to Looking for a Local Perspective on Blogging

“Anyone looking for a simple way to contribute globally, you might like to join the Granny Cloud, part of Sugata Mitra’s School in the Cloud project.” Edna Sackson in response to How Are You Making the (Educational) World a Better Place?

“I find the Melbourne TeachMeets to be most valuable. For me, nothing beats the discussions and chats that are a result of face to face meetings.” Michelle Wong in response to Should Every Teacher in the World Be on Twitter?

“A question I know Dan Haesler asks regularly is not just ‘Why do kids come to school?’ but “Why would they stay?” if they start to see school as lacking the environment and opportunities they need to explore some of those entrepreneurial experiences and independent paths we’re hoping they find. A challenge we’ll face in the next 10 years I’m sure.” Matt Esterman in response to Why Do You Come to School?

“Maybe, instead of what age, the question could be, under what conditions do learners learn how to learn?” Robert Schuetz in response to Why Do You Come to School?

“Professional development is by it’s nature individual. So choices should be made. Lots of colleagues do not feel comfortable online. I find that colleagues that become friends lead to links on Facebook, meet at Teachmeets and other education events or face to face meetings. There is no way that you will ever have all teachers on one social media choice – go with what you are comfortable with.” Andy Knill in response to Should Every Teacher in the World Really Be On Twitter

“Twitter is a great introduction to the world of edchat due to its short sharp format and always try to remind myself that about 80% of teachers have never done any of the above.” Richard Wells in response to Should Every Teacher in the World Really Be On Twitter

“The real reason I blog? Like my friend @acampbell99 says, it’s strictly selfish. I blog because it helps clarify my thinking. By blogging, I basically turn my website into my own reference point. I believe reflection is power, so my blog keeps me a superhero.” Royan Lee in response to Blogging Starts with Why

“I would say that I get a lot more satisfaction from reading blogs rather than writing my own. The ‘why’ comes from learning from others experiences and thoughts!” Corrie Barclay in response to Blogging Starts with Why

“Our school systems tend to support development of passive learners who follow the PAH continuum. Understanding the continuum can help us help them break out if it. If schools allowed for heutagogical learning from the start (such as at Jon’s school) — Wow, that would be transformation!” Lisa Marie Blaschke in response to Why Do You Come to School?

“What we have to keep reminding ourselves though, and I would encourage schools to think about is this: How do we sustain the cultural shift? How do we remain compliant for the ‘must-do’ state and national mandates – but create the space/traction/culture required for take-off? Then, what are the diffusion strategies (story-telling, collaborating, family partnerships and reflection) to encourage further growth and authenticate the shift.” Jon Andrews in response to Why Do You Come to School?

“Those who lead merely through power seek to manipulate the rest of us for their own ends and have little interest in mutual relationship. If they happen to be very skillful manipulators, then they can make things happen, but benefits to others is quite accidental. Those who lead through relationship seek to enrich both their own lives and the lives of their followers, and if they happen to be very skillful manipulators, then they can help us all make great things happen. Skillful manipulation is not a bad thing except when it is devoid of meaningful relationship. Then it can be, and usually is, awful.” Keith Hamon in response to What is Your Why?

“I think it is important not to limit our “guides” only to the people we admire. People who achieve significant things, whether those things are something good or even if they were something evil, did so by using certain skills, thinking, determination, communication methods and so on. Some guides provide us with clues as to what to do and how to do it. Other guides show us what not to do and increase our awareness of what to avoid. Both are important.” Alan Thwaites in response to What Would You Do?

“Another consideration could be to consider what to do with ‘teaching time’ by reducing mandated hours for core subjects to their bare minimum requirements. Why is is that schools deliver 560 hours of English, or 480 hours of Maths, or 520 hours of Science across Years 7 to 10 when only 400 hours is required for each? Maybe even a reframing of terms such as ‘teaching time’ and ‘mandated hours’ to ‘learning time’ and ‘student agency’ could be a great start.” Greg Miller in response to Electives, What is Your Choice?

“As a historically ‘PD critic’ I have found that twitter and similar platforms have taught me to take the bits I like and forget the rest. It has empowered me in face to face PD as well as my PLN.” Jen Moes in response to It Take a Village

“I very recently heard of a college that did the exact of this where students in one particular class I believe, cooking/home eco/food technology, were wanting to raise money for something or other. They had the ‘math’ class looking at profit margins based on costs, the photography students taking images of the finalised products, the visual arts students design and create the packaging and the multimedia/media students develop the online /offline propaganda/advertising. From all reports, big success with a focus being on DEEP LEARNING.” Corrie Barclay in response to Electives, What is Your Choice?

Elective means a something that you elect, you choose to do. Surely this is different being required to pick from a selection list that others have assembled for you? With respect to Forrest, electives are ‘like a box of chocolates’. You might get to pick which chocolate you have, but someone else chose what flavours are in the box. Personally, I would rather make my own chocolates and experiment with creating my own flavours. Even if I mess it up, just let me give it a shot!” Alan Thwaites in response to Electives, What is Your Choice?

“Blogging is also a conversation, or at least it can be. My learning has been challenged, expanded, and deepened through the comments of others. Comments are like gold – rare and precious.” Robert Schuetz in response to To Comment or Not to Comment, Is That the Question?

“Interestingly enough you then insinuate that you gave the students permission to now use their imaginations ‘So, yes students were definitely allowed to build everything’, This is not a critique of you it merely I feel it demonstrates how all powerful the dominant discourse of education is within our own identities as ‘teacher’ leading to an expectation of required practices in order to both maintain that identity and also participate successfully within the current system (under the principal of exclusion and selection) .” Kynan Robinson in response to Just Make

“I want to engage my students passion, and it’s working within the restrictive curriculum for seniors that I’m trying to get there. One of the hardest issue is making tasks authentic and relevant, linked to their passions.” Jacques du Toit in response to Cultivating the Passion for Learning

“If I was truly collaborative, I would lead learning in a more ‘connected way’, more so than the static delivery of information. 21st century educators understand that connecting, collaborating and learning is essential to their job. More so, they understand the great leverage that technology brings to their ability to do so across the world.” Greg Miller in response to The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

“Giving credit matters not because we need to create celebrities or build people’s followings. Giving credit matters because giving credit means that creators will get that positive vibe that comes from knowing that people dug their stuff — and when people get that positive vibe, they will continue to create and share.” Bill Ferriter in response to What’s So Creative About Commons Anyway?

“Last year a former student came back to our school and hunted down all the teachers who were here when he attended to let us know he had been accepted into a medicine degree. This was so encouraging. In Primary School he had received support for ESL, reading recovery and was on the Macquarie Reading Program. He had been determined to succeed and applied himself to do as well as he did. Who would have thought?” Anne van der Graaf in response to Who Would Have Thought?

“Blogs give everyone the chance to have a voice and that’s what I love most about them. You can hear from all of the top notch educational gurus, however I personally find that those deep in the trenches have just as much to say, which is just as important.” Corrie Barclay in response to There is More Than One Way to Write a Blog

“About 6 years ago I went to an informative presentation by Mark Treadwell. Mark made comparison between our current times and the Renaissance of last millennium. One essential difference being that changes which took place then, took place over some 400 years. The changes that are taking place at this time in history will take place within a 40 year time period, exponentially accelerated by the immediate accessibility and extensive connectivity that comes with the world wide web.” Greg Miller in response to Innovation, Context and Why

“For transformative change to occur, it requires stable leadership, possibly for ten plus years and occasionally refers to research when stating this.” Greg Miller in response to Innovation, Context and Why

“I’m not a huge fan of the statement “pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator.” Technology should be more accurately seen as the enabler. Without technology many innovative pedagogical approaches are not possible at all.” Richard Olsen in response to Doing the Right Thing

“If you focus upon nouns – the gadgets – instead of the verbs – what you are doing with them – you are using the wrong ruler.” Alan Thwaites in response to Doing the Right Thing

“Sometimes it might be the job of schools to create that safe space for students away from their families, and therefore not provide quite the level of transparency that we might like. It’s a tricky balance.” Eric Jensen in response to Irresistibly Engaging for Parents Too

“Online spaces might be considered the last bastion of teens because many of them have yet to feel the power, nor reap the benefits of sharing their learning transparently. In the near future, what will carry more weight with students, high marks in geometry class, or comments on their blog post from a reader a half world away? How can we help teachers and parents feel the power, and understand the benefits of transparent, socially networked learning?” Robert Schuetz in response to Irresistibly Engaging for Parents Too

“Relationships are the key and developing a classroom where students have voice and choice in their learning. Where student engagement is intentional and something we reflect on, attempt to improve, and don’t blame on the students or their parents.” Tom Whitford in response to Discipline or Learning, What is Your Mindset?

“I really don’t know who actually believes in the myth of content. I taught from a textbook in my first job as a teacher but moved away from that approach as soon as possible. Process- and practice-oriented approaches to curriculum have been around for along time – I am thinking of Dewey. I would think of ‘content’ and people as a both/and not an either/or.” Francis Bell in response to Feedback, Content and People

“Stories always linger, if they are worth saving. Some get lost and then found, too.” Kevin Hodgson in response to The Impact of My Teachers

“It is the discussion that derives from people blogging and sharing their thoughts which is perhaps where the real benefit of blogging comes in.” Corrie Barclay in response to #MakeSchoolsDifferent

“My instinct also feels there has been a shift towards more consumption of content via Facebook and away from some of the other social networks. I’m still pondering my thoughts on Facebook.” Sue Waters in response to A Guide to Following Blogs

“I believe that all students need to be literate and numerate, but when is someone ‘literate’ and ‘numerate’? Once a student has achieved an acceptable level of literacy and numeracy, how much more ‘literate’ and ‘numerate’ does someone need to be before we encourage them to engage in self-directed interest projects that may better promote the higher order thinking skills required to develop ‘critical thinking’, ‘creativity’ and ‘collaboration’?” Greg Miller in response to Are Ideals Really Ideal?

“The reality is, nothing will ever be good enough. If it’s too good, we can’t achieve it. If it’s not good enough, it’s unworthy of our practice. The truth is, we just have to push through and use technology to enhance teaching and learning.” Miguel Guhlin in response to Did Someone Say SAMR?

“We are actually right now in a kind of no man’s land, or is it a milling area … not sure. In any case there is the old education culture, still going strong, and the new still finding its way, but knowing the old culture is not the way anymore. The old culture to my mind is like an old fellow who is confident in old ways, suspicious of the young whipper-snapper challenging those ways. The old will give way to the new in the end though.” Alan Thwaites in response to Who’s Allowed to be Innovative Anyway?

“I think that’s probably the greatest crime of education today. When students fail to recognize that they can be interested in topics outside of those topics in the required curricula, we have failed as educators.” Bill Ferriter in response to Genius Hour, My Genius Hour

“Thinking of ways in which one device can not only be ‘used’, but used purposefully as either a device to teach, a device to learn from, or both requires a little thinking outside the box, especially when wanting to do things that perhaps have not been not before or are deemed as common practice.” Corrie Barclay in response to One iPad Classroom

“I am not sure the event was life (or career) changing for me, however I am grateful for the takeaways I got from it all. Who knows, perhaps one of those (seemingly) small takeaways will end up behind the huge difference for me in my future journey.” Riss Leung in response to Learning, Innovation and Success – A Reflection on the Impact of #GTASYD14

“Connecting with other educators, especially outside of your own setting, should be an absolute given. As for the logistics behind this… who cares… it should just happen!” Corrie Barclay in response to Ten Step Program to Being Connected

“I do not believe that it is complicated anymore. It once was, when the technology was so restrictive in what it allowed you to do. Now though all that has changed.” Alan Thwaites in response to Technology in Education, It’s Complicated

“The successful class blogs I have witnessed are being created by teachers who network . The ‘why’ is to provide an audience, model cybersafe behaviour, model and receive feedback and write in online spaces (amongst many other possibilities)” Celia Coffa in response to Blogging in the Classroom

“Blogging is something you need to do to appreciate it whether it be your own personal educator blog or starting off slowly with a class blog. I’m a strong believer in slow and steady wins the race. While I’m passionate about blogging as part of a global communities I also know there are some very successful private blogging programs; and lots of very valid reasons why specific privacies are chosen.” Sue Waters in response to Blogging in the Classroom

“Too often we forget that playing, taking risks, making mistakes is just a whole bunch of fun. As a PE teacher, I would often join in the activities as a way to showcase my passion for learning and physical activity. I think students need to see the enjoyment that our passions bring, it is contagious.” Steve Brophy in response to Leading by Learning – Building a Hut

“I am fully on-board with the practice of flipping pieces of meetings that can be read, or viewed, independently. Done correctly, this practice provides greater opportunity for face-to-face discussion of key concepts, along with differentiated / personalized sessions learners prefer.” Robert Schuetz in response to Flipping the Development

“The usefulness of data at its most powerful will address the needs of the learner – when the learner is the driver. The benefit of data is weakest when other people are the drivers. It is true that the learner needs a context to know what data matters, but gradually understanding that is also part of the learning process.” Alan Thwaites in response to Technology, Data and the Untold Stories of Learning

“Our PD for staff has to become self driven at some point or it will only be a hit and miss scenario.” Jenny Ashby in reponse to Supporting the Development of Digital Pedagogies

“t’s frustrating that education gets caught in cycles of doing to both teachers and students instead of thinking about improving learning outcomes.” Margaret Simkin in response to Supporting the Development of Digital Pedagogies

“On goal setting – I’ve found ISMART helpful. Just putting the word INSPIRING at the front leads the conversation away from mundane easily achieved, tick-box goals. The stems: By…… I (or the students) have……. so that…….. (Ref. GCI) are really powerful when setting goals too. The “so that” is where all of the learning, thinking, justification, and ownership happens.” Chris Munro in response to Supporting the Development of Digital Pedagogies

“The notion of writeable surfaces, using whiteboard paint, was a great inclusion. A splash on walls and tables allows for greater collaboration between students (and staff)!” Corrie Barclay in response to Imagining Different Learning Spaces

“I love your tip about embedding video from Drive. I’m not yet sure when I’m going to use it, but I’m sure I will, and I’ll certainly get students to embed video into their portfolios this way.” Eric Jensen in response to Powering Up Blogs by Adding Content

“Instead of flipped, I envision ‘rotated’ classrooms where students take on the role of teacher by sharing learning processes and products transparently. The teacher’s role becomes learning facilitator, learning leader, and learning model.” Robert Schuetz in response to What Sort of Teacher Are You?

“I like how you weave from Goodman to Reggio to Making Thinking Visible and join the dots between them. It’s also nice to see you connecting to Gary Stager’s ideas and Silvia Tolisano’s cutting-edge work.” Cameron Paterson in response to An Introduction to Making Thinking Visible

“What is achieved by perpetuating the idea that blogs can be ranked? That some are better than others and educators should rather read those? Let’s encourage as many thoughtful educators as possible to share, so that everyone can benefit.” Edna Sackson in response to Just Remember, It Takes a Village

“Is it recognition and feeling valued that teachers and students desire or is it that trophy, certificate and prize? I wonder if we recognised all our colleagues and their strengths and make them feel valued, would it create a more positive culture?” Andrea Stringer in response to Just Remember, It Takes a Village

“Defining and describing learning environments and learning experiences is a challenge because interpretations are so varied. This is why the blog posts, comments, and conversations are essential; to develop some common language, coherence, and as you mention, vision. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to arrive at consensus without these conversations.” Robert Schuetz in response to Vision for eLearning

“I have used bee bots in my early years (and actually upper primary for different purposes) and although programmable, the learning intentions weren’t about coding or programming or the bee bots at all. They were just the medium utilised for the collaboration, critical thinking, maths, problem solving, science, fine motor skills and more that were engaged.” Steve Box in response to Did Someone Say Coding

“Why do they need to learn to code? It all comes down to purpose and necessity. I’m stuck at this point (just like your kids with NXT) and I need this to bridge the gap. The medium is merely the path chosen. The important part is the motivation that drives the learning.” Steve Brophy in response to Did Someone Say Coding

“Introducing technology into a social setting such as education is probably more about establishing new social norms than about the technology.” Marten Koomen in response to One Word – Capacity


I am sure there are comments that I have missed, whether they be on Twitter, Voxer, Medium or email. However, this at least captures some of the priceless perspectives that the village brings to bare. So a big thank you to all and here is to a wonderful year of learning in 2016.

For those interested, here is a list of my supposed ‘Top Five’ posts:

  1. Did Someone Say … SAMR
  2. One iPad Classroom
  3. Why Do You Come to School?
  4. A Guide to Visualisations
  5. Ten Step Program to Being Connected

Or if you are interested in the full WordPress report, click here.


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One Word – Capacity


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

When I reflect on 2015, it probably wasn’t what I hoped (is it ever?) Taking on a more explicit role in regards to leading and teaching ICT, I had lofty dreams of being able to implement change when it comes to using technology in the classroom. As I have stated elsewhere, ideals are not always ideal.

Although there were some wins, such as the use of iPads in Year 4 through the use of Adobe Voice and students engaging in a virtual learning community via Global2, it felt like there were more failures than successes. For example, I thought that actually teaching Year 6 ICT would allow greater possibilities to introduce things such as Google Apps and blogs. However, when such platforms and processes are only used once a week, it is hard to develop much of a habit. The result was that much of my time was spent doing seemingly frivolous tasks such as resetting passwords. A problem that had hindered much of my work with the Ultranet, back in the day.

I think that Gary Stager is onto something when he says that technology needs to go beyond mere engagement to get to a point of boredom. It is at this point that learning, not a device, becomes the focus. Sadly, I don’t think that many of the students were even engaged, let alone bored, with the use of technology. They were more annoyed at the disruption from the usual cut-and-paste posters and handouts.

This ‘failure’ has led me to realise that for technology to succeed more than anything else it takes a team. I had thought that I could lead such change through hardwork, however, as Michael Fullen explains, I was left in a state of inertia. With little clarity of vision from above and support to go forward, nothing really moved anywhere. The challenge then moving forward is not necessarily that of ideas themselves, but building capacity to actually drive the ideas forward.

By ‘building capacity’ I do not mean indoctrinating others in regards to what I deem as ‘best practise’, instead I mean the ability to actively support others to identify areas of innovation in regards to teaching and learning. In some respects this is just as much about supporting students to take action and drive their own learning. In part this is also about continuing to build my own capacity as a teacher, coach and mentor.

Although I have started out on this journey, exploring the use of the Modern Learning Canvas to support the development of digital pedagogies. I still feel that there is so much more to do, together.

So that is me, what about you? What is your one word? Do you have any thought and advice to support me? As always, comments welcome.


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Did Someone Say Coding?


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

A few years ago, when every second student was reading one of the books from the Hunger Games series, I was asked by a student whether I had read them. I explained that I hadn’t. Shocked, the student questioned how I, an English teacher, couldn’t have read them. I asked the student whether he had read Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Confused, he said no. I asked him, why, even though it was considered a classic text of the Western Canon, he had not read it? Surprise to say, the irony was lost on him and the conversation did not go much further. With a feeling of shame, I subsequently went off and read the whole series.

In many ways, I think that the debate over coding in the curriculum follows the same lines. Many call for its inclusion with little explanation why. Another thing to add to an essentialist curriculum. Often the debate is about what is being done and whether staff are adequately prepared, rather than clarifying why coding is even being taught and how we should actually go about it. The first conversation that we need to have though before all this is surely what constitutes coding.

For some coding signifies a bunch of characters used to make the web, others it is about making things happen, for some it is all about the app culture associated with going mobile, while for others it is deeply connected with the formulas, flows and algorithms associated with computational thinking. The reality is that coding means different things for different people in different contexts.

In a recent episode of the #2regularteachers podcast, John Pearce suggests taking our understanding of coding beyond the tool or application, instead considering it as a ‘way of thinking’. For example, rather than seeing a Raspberry Pi as a mini computer which allows you to play Minecraft, we need to consider the affordances that it allows, such as programming a camera to capture an experiment at regular intervals or detecting wifi signal to map free internet points around Australia.

For years when I taught robotics with Lego Mindstorm, I would spend weeks getting students to learn the intricacies of NXT before exploring the possibilities of making. This year I decided to skip the weeks of instruction and instead focus on just making. It was not long before students realised their limitations and dug into the possibilities associated with programming in order to improve their designs. With a purpose, they worked their own way through the various tutorials provided.

The challenge to me is to go beyond the question of instruction and understanding of different languages. Beyond debates about fitting it within an already crowded curriculum. Instead the focus should be on creating the conditions in which students are able to take action and create new possibilities. Maybe this involves Minecraft, Ozobot or Spheros, maybe it doesn’t. Most importantly it involves going beyond worrying about training or competency, as Ian Chunn would have it, and instead embracing the world of making by leading the learning.

So what about you, what does coding mean to you? What have been your experiences? Positive and negative. What do you see as the biggest challenge moving forward? As always comments are welcome.

 


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Vision for eLearning


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I was recently asked by a colleague about my ‘vision’ for eLearning and 21st century learning. Inspired in part by Gary Stager educational philosophy in 100 words, as well as my work with with DET exploring the EDUSTAR planning tool, this is the list of attributes that I came up with:

eLearning …

Is Transformative: More than just redefined, learning is purposeful and involves wider implications.

Is More Doable: Makes things like critical thinking and collaboration more possible.

Enables Student Voice: Technology provides a voice for students to take ownership over their work and ideas.

Involves Modelling Digital Citizenship: More than a sole lesson, eLearning should be about foster competencies throughout the curriculum.

I supported this with a list of readings to clarify where my thoughts had come from. Although as I have stated time and time again, it takes a village and recognising everyone in the village can be a futile act.

My concern with this whole process though is two-fold. Firstly, a vision is not created by one person, however compelling that may be. A point that George Couros makes in his book Innovator’s Mindset. This is a problem I had with the DET EDUSTAR training where a few random representatives were expect to be the voice of a whole school. While secondly, an eLearning vision needs to marry with the school’s wider vision for ‘learning’. The question then remains as to how we make a vision for learning and technology which supports the whole school with a common goal?

So what about you, what is your eLearning vision? How is it integrated within the wider school vision? As always comments are welcome.

 


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Can I please get the Lego out? – A Reflection on Making


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It all started with one students asking, “Can I please get the Lego out?”

As I had promised the students that they could choose their own activity if they had finished off their work, I got the tub out and the student in question set himself up on the floor. As the session unfolded, student after student came to the meeting place. What started as a case of putting this piece with that soon turned into some sort of battle with the rules of engagement created as they went. What was most interesting was that many of students involved had been bickering of late, unable to play well together either in class or out in the yard, arguing about this rule or that decision. However, for the hour in which they built, not one student complained. Instead students successfully negotiated each step along the way. The only issue I had was that students didn’t want to stop.

When I think back over the year, many of the moments that stand out the most are those that involve students getting hands on:

  • Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden: Stemming from Stephanie Alexander’s initial pilot program at Collingwood College, the aim is to provide students with a ‘pleasurable food education’. That includes an understanding of foods and flavours, as well as an awareness of seasonal produce and waste. It encapsulates many of the aspects associated with permaculture. Instead of focusing on textbooks and set curriculum, SAKG focuses on cause and effect in order to develop a more sustainable food mindset in a collaborative manner.
  • Camp: Whether it be the Year Nine’s exploring the geography of Tasmania or the Year Four’s working in teams to build huts, too often camps are the only time when students get to learn together outside of the confines of a classroom. What is interesting are the conversations and connections that arise out of these seemingly uncommon situations. Often this is a consequence of students been placed in contexts where the only way to work through problems is within a team.
  • Digital Leaders Group: A lunchtime group with the purpose to support students in having more of a say when it comes to all things digital. Although it has not necessarily delivered in regards to student leadership, it has provided a voice and choice for students to tinker and explore with technology. Whether it be competing in a robotics competition (an extension of the elective program into Years Five and Six) or exploring different maker products, such as Raspberry Pi and Little Bits. Students worked together each week focusing on the cycle of what Stager and Martinez describe as ‘think, make, improve’.  
  • Hands On Learning: Designed to support disengaged students from different age groups, the focus is on fostering talents not normally recognised in the classroom. Using project-based learning, the program has included such projects as designing on a budget, building a garden and restoring old furniture. The overall aim is to help young people develop the skills and abilities needed to succeed in work and life like collaboration, problem solving, communication, resilience and empathy.

All of these examples have left me wondering how we might create more opportunities for students to engage in hands on learning? More importantly, experiences that are a part of the core curriculum, rather than just the margins. So what about you? How do you enable making in your classroom? Are there particular programs you run? As always, I would love to know.


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Just Remember, It Takes a Village


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I discovered this week that I had been nominated for the 2015 Edublogs Awards under the category of best Ed Tech / Resource Sharing. What an honour to even be considered in the same space as Alan Levine, Richard ByrneAlice Keeler and Mark Anderson. Like others, it has left me wondering what it might actually mean to be nominated? Why do I even blog? And what do such awards represent?

edTechResourceBlog_2015-1tsmz8b

So, is the best blogger the most prolific? Most helpful? Most regular? Most influential? For me the ‘best’ blogger is the one who gives others a voice. Holds on loosely and provides a space for ideas to grow. A place of new beginnings. The problem with this is that such a space is a connected one and difficult to isolate. Rhizomatic in nature. Although we may try to trace ideas to their beginnings, we can never be sure.

So many of my posts are: responses to others, reflections on ideas and activities, a curation of perspectives. Do I deserve credit for these? Are they mine? What I feel is often forgotten is that it takes a village. Although someone will be the ‘winner’, each blog within the different categories adds something to the conversation, all helping make the room smarter.

In the end, like Richard Olsen, I simply hope that I might benefit people onlookers. What that means is up to those who take the arguments and thoughts. If that means you vote for me, thank you. If that means that you disagree with me, thank you. If that means that you build on my ideas, thank you. For it is only together that we are truly made better.

So what about you, what do you think constitutes the best? Maybe more importantly, why do you share? As always, I would love to know.


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Creating a Deliberate Social Media Space for Students in School


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

This semester I have been using Edublogs with my students. This has included managing over 70 student blogs, all facilitated through one ‘class’ blog. By using this workflow, students are able to keep up with different ideas being shared in the stream presented within the dashboard. A stripped back view of the posts which, like applications and add-ons, such as Pocket and Evernote’s Clearly, cut posts back to their basics. This has worked for some, while for others the experience is frustrating. Although some get annoyed at the visual layout, the biggest issue seems to be managing the plethora of information in a meaningful way.

One solution that I have been tinkering with of late is changing the way I use the class blog. Originally, I had imagined using the central space to house resources about blogging. Whether it be creating images, visualising information or adding different content. Although I still think that there is a place for such posts, I wonder if they are best housed elsewhere leaving the class space becomes something of a meeting spot. The question though is how?

One idea that I came upon via Doug Belshaw on the TIDE Podcast is to use the P2 Theme within WordPress (Houston in Edublogs) to create a personalised social media space. Unlike the usual blogging themes, which rely on navigating the dashboard and drafting posts, P2 constrains the process to being able to quickly text and tag. My thought was that students could then share canonical links to their work or other interesting ideas, similar to Twitter. It also provides a safe space to learn about social media and explore. Although spaces like Edmodo and Google Classroom offer a similar functionality, neither allows users to organise their posts or have any sort of ownership over their content.

Although Twitter would offer much the same experience, it is not necessarily the solution for every context. One of the issues that is brought up again and again is the privacy. Creating a digital sandpit is a step towards that in that it provides the means for a safer and more supportive environment. Whether it be knowing what to share or how to protect themselves online, we need to consciously teach our students best practise when it comes to participating on the web. We need to develop the deliberate practice of students regularly sharing their work and ideas in collaborative spaces.

For a different perspective on technology and web literacy, watch Cory Doctorow’s informative TED Talk which explores the questions of privacy and networks in schools:


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An Introduction to Google Classroom

Image via JustLego101

Image via JustLego101

Google Classroom is a platform for communicating and collaborating using Google Apps for Education. Unlike other platforms, Classroom focuses on three key areas: pose questions, make announcements and set assignments. Although this may seem somewhat limited, as Alice Keeler demonstrates, it provides a foundations for so many possibilities.

Some of the benefits include:

  • Sharing Resources: Whether it be as an assignment or through the announcements, you can easily share resources with students. In addition to this, Classroom creates a structured filing system in Google Drive.
  • Structured Organisation: Unlike spaces like Edmodo which can end up with a random student who mysteriously has three accounts, Classroom provides a central management system through Google Apps Admin meaning that you can in fact add students yourself. In addition to this, you are now able to have multiple teachers, something that was not possible at the beginning.
  • Extending Google Apps: Not to be confused with Learning Management Systems, Classroom works best when it is integrated with Google Apps. For example, through the creation of an assignment you can generate an individual copy of a Google Doc.
  • Multiple Device: Like Edmodo, Classroom is available in the browser, as well as on the iPad and iPhone.
  • Assessment and Rubrics: Although there are answers, such as Alice Keeler’s Sheets Add-on RubricTab or Andrew Stillman’s use of Goobric and Doctopus, the easiest way to create a rubric with Classroom is by creating a copy for each student via assignments. Associated with this, Classroom provides the ability to turn work in. This means that students can signal to you that although they may have shared a document with you, they have actually finished with it
  • One Less Logon: A part of Google Apps, using Classroom as opposed to other spaces means one less log on for students to remember.

So what about you? Have you used Google Classroom in your classroom? What have you seen as some of the benefits and challenges? As always, comments welcome.

Resources


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What Sort of Teacher Are You?


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

In a recent article for The Atlantic, Alexandra Samuel suggests that when it comes to parents, there are three clear types: limiters, enablers and mentors. Limiters keep their children away from the internet meaning that they are kept out of the digital world. Enablers trust their kids online, but leave them to their own accord. Mentors on the other hand, walk hand in hand guiding producing. After reading the article, I was left wondering whether the same categories could be applied to teachers?

I know that technology is required in every classroom and many schools are full of devices, but it seems that one of the greatest variables to success is the teacher willing to embrace it. Dr. Jane Hunter has published a book about ‘high possibility classrooms’. What seems to come out of this investigation is that success is often based on the strength of the teacher. If we were to consider Samuel’s three types, many of the teachers who created high possibility classrooms could be described as mentors, teachers who stood side-by-side with students. Although on the one hand they make possible certain opportunities, they also supported students with these being wary of the challenges and consequences. An example of this is Lee Hewes’ work with Mindcraft. For without his support, the opportunities for students to be in a virtual world simply would not exist.

In contrast, the limiter grudgingly allows technology into the classroom, only to be secretly plotting its downfall the whole time. For some this is a fear that technology will leave them obsolete, while for others it is a belief that learning face-to-face should always take precedences.

On the flipside of this, there are those teachers that enable their students. They allow them to use technology, but having little idea as to what they are doing and how they are doing it. This leaves the students experimenting with little support or feedback.

Maybe this is not useful, maybe it is not the same or maybe it is just wrong? How do we support teachers with different mindsets? At different points on the innovation curve? Like Knud Illeries’ perspectives of learning, can we really change people’s ingrained beliefs about anything? And what does it mean to ‘teach’ technology, especially in a BYOD environment? Maybe we need to start with how we use it ourselves and go from there? Should every teacher be a mentor? Are there times when we simply need to enable possibilities or limit others?

I feel that I have more questions than answers, but maybe that is a part of the conversation that we need to have around any aspect of change. Like Sherry Turkle’s discussion about the place of technology, the more discussions we have the better. If you have anything to add, I would love to hear it. Feel free to comment below.


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