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.


If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.

 

 

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/14502665342

 

 
I recently got into a discussion about 1:1 devices. My argument was that we needed to be pushing for more devices in primary school as a part of the long term plan, not just in 7,8 and 9. The response I got in return was that 1:1 wasn’t viable for the taken on and BYOD simply wouldn’t work with our community.
I didn’t accept this. Fine there are some ideals which are not always ideal, but I still felt that there were better solutions than simply perpetuating the present. One of the concerns that was brought up by some other teachers in our ICT committee was that if you look at the continuum produced by the Victorian Government:

 

 

Planning for 1-to-1 Learning via FUSE 
We are currently situated somewhere between the past and the present having 1:1 in secondary, but predominantly depending upon netbooks in trolleys. What was disappointing was that the future being proposed from above was barely beyond the present and definitely far from the future. Although we have moved beyond technology being something done in a lab, the dependency on trolleys still makes it an event. +George Couros sums this dilemma up best, suggesting that “technology should be at the point of instruction and be as accessible in learning as a pencil.” Sadly, this dream seems to be a world away.
 
Having done a lot of reflection lately on the matter, I had a realisation that a part of the problem isn’t that I am not dreaming big, but rather that I am not dreaming big enough. For I recently caught myself making the same excuses that I was being so critical of. I had gotten involved in a debate about pedagogy and integrated curriculum. As much as I agree with inquiry-based learning in whatever guise it maybe, as demonstrated through my past posts, I still had my reservations and subsequently caught myself making excuses why such methods don’t, can’t and wouldn’t work at all schools. My thoughts were that it wouldn’t be appropriate for all clientele, that it required a certain type of student, from a certain type of background. However, what I was denying was that such views and opinions were not only based on innuendo, but also hindering the potential to bring about such change.
It can be so easy to make an endless list of excuses why things won’t work, why we can’t do something. However, how often are these statements based on sound reason? Too often our excuses are based on myths, someone else’s stories, a few numbers viewed out of context. In addition to this, such beliefs actually become a self-fulfilling prophesy where we predict failure, rather than believing in success. This was all brought to a head whilst listening to a fantastic presentation by Andrew Solomon reflecting on difference and disability. In it, he spoke about the choice we face, quoting Miguel de Unamuno,”It is not usually our ideas that make us optimistic or pessimistic, but it is our optimism or pessimism of physiological or pathological origin that makes our ideas.” Too often we think that it is our ideas that come first, but first and foremost it is our take on the world, our mindset, which dictates what we see and the ideas we produce.

 

 
Another teacher in our committee at school, also taken by the desire to have 1:1, put forward his proposal. He suggested that our three year plan should be:
  • P-2 school purchased iPads
  • 3-6 windows tablets
  • 7-9 optional new upgraded tablet

 

Although I felt that this was ill-thought out, it was certainly optimistic. Couldn’t argue with that.
 
I think that the captain from Wall-e sums the situation up best when he says, “I don’t want to survive, I want to live.” Sadly, too often in education we limit ourselves to what we feel is possible, rather than start with what is impossible and work back from there.

If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/113562593@N07/13990305951
 
In a recent post in his Myths of Technology series, +George Couros wrote about the idea that ‘technology dehumanises’. In this piece, Couros suggests that it is a misnomer that technology is anti-social and takes away from our relationships. Instead, technology actually provides the potential to amplify our relationships. Rather than technology, Couros posits that “people dehumanize one another, not technology”. This got me thinking about a point +Doug Belshaw made in his book ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’ that digital literacies are at there heart social.
 
In a presentation for Promethean, Peter Kent put forward that interactive whiteboards offered an opportunity to modify the way we teach and the way students learn. Instead of merely using the projector to provide information, the interactive nature of the boards allow students to come up to the board and engage with information and ideas, providing the opportunities to build further conversations and opportunities. For a further explanation, see my post ‘Sum of the Parts is Different to the Whole‘. What I find most interesting about Kent’s idea though is that this focus on the use of technology to instigate conversations goes far beyond the interactive whiteboard, it can be applied to just about any technology. 
 
For example, this year I have taken to using an iPad to help model and manipulate ideas during intervention sessions. Teaching in a space with only one interactive whiteboard between three classes, I have started using the Inkflow app by Grayon on the iPad to get students to visually demonstrate understanding. Instead of getting them up to the board, the device goes to where they are. Using the iPad in this manner has allowed students to both create and comment on ideas.
 
Another example of where I have used iPad in a social manner lately is through the a series of games from Toca Boca with my daughter. Whether it be Toca House, Toca Doctor or Toca Band, the Toca Boca games provide a stimulus for some great conversations, such as discussing recycling fruit, killing germs in the mouth while brushing our teeth or the different instruments involved in a band. Although it is possible to play these games in solitude, they are not the same. Even if the conversation is later on, they provide the stimulus for so much more.
 
In another post exploring BYOD, Couros questions why we still depend upon booking time in labs in order to get access to technology in the classroom. Instead, he argues that BYOD initiatives offer the opportunity to have technology available where the instruction is. The myth therefore that technology dehumanises often starts when we see technology as an event. The human side is taken away, because instead of being incorporated into the lesson, technology becomes the sole focus of the lesson.
 
What is interesting about Couros’ message is that technology has the potential to either amplify and augment our interactions or to kill them off all together. In the end, it is us who have the final say. So how are you using technology today?

If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.

In a recent blog, +Vicki Davis shared about the idea of having an ‘App of the Week’, where she has a focus each week on a particular application. As she suggests:
I want my students to be productive geniuses. They are a human being not a human doing but they carry around a full blown secretary in their pockets, if they’ll learn how to hire it. If you are a BYOD school, you should do everything in your power to help students really “Bring it” using their mobile device and an app of the week is just one way to do it.
Using Dragon Dictation as her example, she shows how she introduces a new program and gets the students using it in five short minutes. This is a great example of how to manage 1-to-1 programs.
 
One of the biggest challenges I have had in being a part of the group implementing a 1-to-1 program is how to get the most out of the devices. I have found one of two things happen, either the devices are rarely used, only when they fit a particular need in the lesson, such as research, or students simply use the programs and applications that they feel comfortable with, rather than the programs that would best address the purpose and audience. Associated with both of these issues is how we see the devices in and out of the the classroom.
 
 
If you follow Ruben R. Puentedura’s SAMR model, ‘tools for working’ that many teachers have in the classroom should not only support learning, which they often do, but also add to learning, with the aim of redefining education and providing possibilities which were previously unavailable. The big question is how do we help this move from enhancement to transformation happen?
 
Having had the experience of being a Lead User for the now defunct Ultranet, one of the problems that occurred was actually developing the habit of use amongst both staff and students. A part of this was finding authentic purposes and having the confidence with the system, but I feel that the biggest challenge was associated with people actually overcoming the hurdle of how to use this. I could list a range of systems and programs where the lack of time and opportunity to experiment and understand them has hindered their take-up. Take for example ActivInspire, Photoshop Elements, student email, Edmodo etc … At some point 1-to-1 programs needs move the focus away from the device and to the learning.
 
In addition to Vicki Davis’ idea of an app a week, another example of a program that I found, which provides students with opportunity to be immersed within digital technologies, not just use them, is Ben Gallagher’s idea of a ‘Digital Sandpit’. Developed as a way to improve some poor Attitudes to School Survey results relating to motivation and connectedness, Ben incorporated a set time each day where students would engage with a range of different devices set up as rotations.
With the support of my Principal and Staff I decided to start the Digital Sandpit at 8:50, 10 minutes before the schools start time and run it to 9:10, a 20 minute activity that only takes 10 minutes out of the regular school day. The sessions originally consisted of 4 rotations, Nintendo DSi, iPod, Nintendo Wii and Laptops. All of the activities were carefully selected and had educational underpinnings, such as the Brain Training and Math Training games on the DSi, Racing on Mario Kart and ordering each other’s times from fastest to slowest and many more.
I think what is significant about the idea of the ‘Digital Sandpit’ is that it is both structured and done on a regular basis.
 
 
 
Finding time within an already busy curriculum to incorporate such opportunities is often the biggest challenge. The Western Metropolitan Region set out a few years ago to increase levels of reading across all levels. One of the initiatives that were introduced was a set reading time each day supported by regular conferencing. Although the initiative hasn’t been smooth sailing, with its speed humps along the way, one of the reasons for its success is its regularity. At my school, the students read from 2:15 til 2:30 each day. Like Ben’s ‘Digital Sandpit’, this could not be possible without the support of the whole staff. Coincidently, as soon as a few staff stop supporting an initiative like the reading program, then cracks begin the appear. 
 
On the flip side, if an initative like the 1-to-1 devices is left to too few, then nothing seems to be ever achieved. One of the challenges for 21st century learning is the integration of ICT within the classroom. Often, however, the responsibility for this change, for the upskilling of students, is left to the ‘ICT’ teacher. Interestingly, when you look at AusVELS, ICT is a form of interdisciplinary learning, yet it is so often spoken about as a ‘subject’ to be taught. One of the negatives to this, other than the fact that it expects too much from too few, is that students often enter such classes expecting to simply learn programs or how to code. Sadly, this is more akin to computer science. Engaging with the various tools for learning is bigger than exploring computer science. Personally, I recently changed the focus of my ‘elective’ subjects from ‘ICT’ to ‘Media Studies’ as too many of my students were caught up in what they did rather than why and how. In reality, whether it is English, Humanities, Media Studies, everyone of my classes is an ‘ICT’ class. Although it may not be the focus, it is often how learning is facilitated and coordinated.
 
One of the other claims that is often made about laptops and technology is that students are digitally native and that they already know how to use it. The problem with this is that they may be immersed in different technology within their day to day lives, this does not necessarily mean that they always know how to get the most out of it. Associated with this, many students lack the ability to find the most appropriate application or program to use, let alone how to get the most out of these them. +Rebecca Davies sums this dilemma up in a blog ‘The Digital Native Myth: Why we still need to teach kids HOW to use the iPad‘ suggesting that:
Students need to be taught how to use the iPad. They need to be taught how they can use it to create amazing things, to share their learning and connect it with the real word, to deepen their thinking.
What is important is that they need to be given the opportunity to explore and experiment. In my view, for such an approach to work it needs to be integrated across the board. Just as we encourage students to share, we also need to provide staff with more informal opportunities to share.
 
 
+Tom Whitby sums up the whole problem in his recent post ‘20th vs. 21st Century Teaching‘ where he suggests that, “What we learn should take a back seat to how we learn.” And how we learn is something that we all have a stake hold in. 
 
I would love to here of any other ways that people are introducing different tools, programs and applications into the classroom. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.