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

During a recent ICT planning session the age old argument was raised again, where is the promised digital revolution that everyone promised? Really, it was argued, we are not doing anything different than what we did in the past. For example, the new Digital Technologies curriculum, awaiting endorsement, calls for a focus on coding. However, it was argued by some members that this is no different to the focus on Logo in the 80’s. In response, one participant suggested that one significant change technology has brought about is the ability to communicate with parents on a more regular basis. Instead of being restricted to the usual diaries and school newsletters, technology allows schools to foster deeper connections between home and school.

I agree with Eric. I think that technology has the ability to make listening to voices both in and out of the classroom more doable. The question though is whether such messages that are enabled are always worthwhile. In his book Open, David Price discusses this problem, saying:
Most parents, I believe, would prefer to know about their child’s confidence, their sense of well- being, their capacity for independent thought, or their ability to ask critical questions – the language of milky coffee. Instead, parents only know the language of black coffee, because that’s all they hear. Are they on target for good grades? Are they getting enough homework? What were their last test scores?

For whatever reason, schools often use new mediums to provide same old information. Complaining that parents do not read printed reports, some believe that making them accessible digitally somehow makes them different. I am not so sure. Although it can be easy to blame parents, if we do not give them a reason to engage, can we blame parents when they do not show any interest?In a conversation about education reform on Twitter, Alan Thwaites shared a documentary video including the usual voices, such as Sir Ken Robinson, Tony Wagner and Thomas Friedman.

Education Documentary Clip from One Potato Productions on Vimeo. Although many of the arguments were not necessarily new, what stood out to me was the discussion of High Tech High and project based learning. For the culmination of the project, students had to present what they made to the community at an information night. I know showcasing student work is nothing new, but there just seemed to be something different about what was happening in the video. Maybe that it seemed more authentic than usual, with students enthusiastic about their work. Or maybe it was the space that was created. Whatever it was, parents seemed to be genuinely interested.

Coming back to the planning session, there were many quotes bandied around to create conversation and spur us on. One that stuck out was Michael Fullen’s discussion of technology in Stratosphere, where he states:

New developments must be:
i) irresistibly engaging (for students and for teachers);
ii) elegantly efficient and easy to use;
iii) technologically ubiquitous 24/7; and
iv) steeped in real-life problem solving.
What stood out in this quote was the reference to students and teachers in the discussion of ‘irresistibly engaging’. I was left wondering, what about parents? Don’t they have a part to play in all of this, shouldn’t developments be irresistibly engaging for them too? Are they not important?

Too often when it comes to involving parents in schools it seems to be a one way transaction, simply focusing on informing them:

  • Putting on chalk and talk information sessions for technology
  • Publishing digital newsletters discussing what has been going on
  • Sending texts and emails to parents when a child is absent
  • Providing access to academic and behavioural results online
  • Advertising school events and information on public webpages
  • Putting on showcase events once a semester to celebrate students work and achievements

Many of these things are simply substitutions, with little augmentation. While coming back to Fullan’s argument, I question whether they are irresistibly engaging.

Reconsidering the list and thinking about how they could be changed, here are some ideas:

  • Developing information sessions that are co-constructed and incorporate the practise in question, as Jon Andrews has done when introducing PBL to parents
  • Having year levels/classrooms openly publishing a blog celebrating learning
  • Engaging with parents in regards to supporting goals and homework, as Alan Thwaites has done using Compass as a means of dialogue
  • Provide parents with live updates about student activities, as Andy Hair has done using Google Hangouts during sporting carnivals
  • Publish student work online and showcase to the world, as Bec Spink has done when creating eBooks and putting them on iTunes
  • Engage the wider community using video conferencing, as Alan November has done by Skyping grandparents from overseas into the classroom

Each of these ideas and activities involve a modification of practise, but also in regards to mindsets. Many of these mediums provide the potential for parents to comment, ask questions and provide their thoughts. For some, this is fraught with danger. What if this or what if that. Such fear and trepidation though gets us nowhere. As Price points out, the world is going SOFT whether we like it or not, the question then is how we are going to embrace it. For me, it starts by fostering a culture of trust.


The reality is, many parents work irregular hours and do not necessarily always have the time to participate the way that we would like them to. The ideal of 9 til 5 is fast becoming a figment of the past. However, technology makes connections and communications that were previously not necessarily possible. Maybe there are schools already embracing such changes, if so I would love to know, please share. Or maybe ‘engagement’ is a poor metric, as Richard Olsen has suggested. Having said all this, we must always remember to never loose the human element. As always, comments welcome.

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creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/15770495488

There is so much written about change in education. What is wrong, how things should be fixed. I have added my voice to such dialogue penning a few pieces focusing on innovation and technology. The more that I reflect upon the matter though, the more I feel that an incessant focus on technology often misses the mark. It is the wrong ‘driver’, as Michael Fullan would put it. The real change to me is that of mindset.

In a recent post on George Couros postulated about which attribute was more important when hiring a teacher, “someone who is great with relationships and terrible with technology, over someone who is terrible with relationships but great with technology.” After arguing that relationships trumps technology any day of the week, Couros then went onto suggest that the ability to teach kids how to learn is what is most important at the end of the day. I was left wondering what Couros’ discussion says about education and where it has come in the last few years. It is easy to get caught up in debates about technology when I believe that the greatest change has been a move from a emphasis on power and control in classroom, to a dialogue about culture and environment.

At the start of this year, one of the goals that I set myself was to place students at the centre of the classroom. To step off the stage and let them shine. In reflection I feel that this focus missed something. Instead of ‘students’ at the centre, I now feel that the focus should have been on fostering the optimal conditions for learning. Although students are integral to this process, it is the creation of a positive learning environment, in and out of the classroom, that is central. This starts in my opinion with the teacher and the way they design learning.

Maybe my students have improved, are more behaved than when I started teaching, but I just don’t talk about ‘discipline’ any more. In class or out. My focus instead has moved to learning and creating a classroom where students are able to get the most out of themselves. If there are students who are disengaged, my first port of call is not to chastise them or make veiled threats. My first port of call is me. What are they meant to be doing? Why are they disengaged? Is there anything that I could be doing to support them, either now or maybe next time.

A part of this change of mindsets is being open and honest with students. No secret teachers business, no surprises. I always attempt to share why I chose what I did, whether it be in regards to assessment or curriculum, as well as why I feel that something is not necessarily working the way I intended it to.  I may not go to the extent that Cameron Paterson does in sharing research literature with students, but I at least involve them. I do this in the hope that they too can be honest about where they are at and that they feel safe in taking risks with being wrong. For as it is said, you need to be wrong if you are ever going to be right.

We so often give lip service to the saying that students have a right to learn, yet the habits we form in and out of the classroom can seem to counter this. For a right to learn is surely to be spoken to in an appropriate manner, to be given some ownership over learning and to be given a voice about what is and is not necessarily working. The biggest change for me in my time in education has been the introduction of such programs as Restorative Practises, Leading Teams and the Framework for Understanding Poverty. Maybe not necessarily for what they have brought in regards to actions and process, but more so in regards to the way we see things. That are a part of significant shift in paradigm.

For me, without such a change, what are we really aspiring for? For in the end, I believe we are most productive when we have a purpose for learning driven by intrinsic desire, but to have a that learners need to be able to have a say. So let’s start there.


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I took to the recent #DLTV2014 Conference with a renewed sense of creative vigour. Instead of simply recalling information and posting titbits here and there (which I did as well), inspired by the likes of +Amy Burvall, I set myself the challenge of being more visual and more imaginative in my postings. Using creativity as a medium to express my voice. So here then are some of my ventures:

#DLTV2014

Leading up to the event, I created a couple of memes to stir up the conversation around DLTV2014.



#EduVoice

I created a couple of images in the build up to +Steve Brophy and I’s session ‘Listening to the Voices in and out of the Classroom’.

Sketch made using Paper 53 app on the iPad 

 

Original image via creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by hackNY: http://flickr.com/photos/hackny/5685391557
Edited using Phoster on iPad

 

 

I think that maybe this one has mixed messages

 

Made using Trading Cards app on iPad via +Corrie Barclay post ‘1 iPad, 1 Task, 15 Ways’


#WhereisHa

Armed with +Dean Shareski‘s recent suggestion that Twitter can be a creative medium, +Corey Aylen, +Eleni Kyritsis, +Bec Spink, +Mel Cashen and I started a hashtag #whereisHa (link to Tagboard) in response to +Michael Ha‘s absence from the keynote on the second morning. As a part of this playful folly, I created the following memes to add to the Tweets:

Playing on the hysteria around the Beatles, I thought that I would extend the mania.

 

This was in reference to the fact the +Michael Ha was meant to present during the first session, yet he hadn’t even arrived yet. Interestingly, +Samantha Bates jumped on the comment, even though she wasn’t at the conference, and argued that he could via a Hangout etc …


#LegoPoetry

This was created in the ‘Games in Education’ space under the guidance of +Dan Donahoo. Really we just chatted while discuss the myriad of potentials associated with the idea of Lego poetry.

This Lego poetry is clearly in jest, because I clearly value my Twitter connections and the awesome work of +Alec Couros


+Riss Leung‘s Keynote

 

My take-away from +Riss Leung‘s keynote, ‘be the change’. Was a common them throughout the conference. 


ABC Splash

My summary of some of the great things on offer through the ABC Splash website

 

This is my sketch of a Splash live event coming up on the 10th September

Accelerating Innovation In Your School w/ +Richard Olsen

This was my initial sketch based on Olsen’s key questions as well as the Modern Learning Canvas
In Olsen’s overview as to way our current attempts to bring change, reform and innovation into the classroom, he made the statement that “Heroic teachers have little impact on schools”


Best Conference Ever

While a few days afterwards, I created this to sum up my experience at #DLTV2014. I agree with +Rick Kayler-Thomson on the Two Regular Teachers podcast that it was the best conference that I have been to. However, I think that in some part that this was because I was willing to let it be. Whether it be taking a risk in collaborating with +Steve Brophy for our presentation or going outside my comfort zone in embracing the games in education space. Instead of entering as a teacher, I feel I entered as a learner.
 
This is a play on Juan Antonio Samaranch’s statement after each Olympics that ‘I declare this the best olympics ever’ or something like that.

 

In many respects I think that professional learning as a whole needs a shake-up and DLTV took a step in that direction with this years conference. Although the spaces could have been more flexible and conducive to participant driven learning, for what do you do in a lecture theatre? Lecture? I still feel that the push to collaborate and communicate within streams, as explained by +Kynan Robinson in his fantastic post, was an excellent idea. For as I have stated elsewhere, the smartest person at the conference is the conference. 
 
I would love to know your thoughts and experiences of the DLTV2014 Conference or any other conference for that matter. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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Lego poetry at DLTV2014
 
As I sat through one of the most horrendous presentations on Office 365, it got me wondering about the question, what makes a good presentation? I sat there thinking what would make this better? What was missing?

At first I thought that it was the absence of any conversation about pedagogy. A point that +Edna Sackson made about last years GAFE Summit in her post, ‘‘I Want to Talk About Learning…’ There was reference to pricing schemes and packages, what this includes and what that does. However, I had signed up with the hope that I could take back to school a few more tips relating to how to get the most out of Windows 8 – whether it be new applications or different functionalities – I was wrong.
The one thing that held me together throughout was the conversations I was having on Twitter with +Rich Lambert. He too was lost in the presentation. Although our banter was critical of Microsoft and their lack of innovation, much of it was in jest. We were adding a layer of humour that was seemingly absent. However, what occurred to me later was that it wasn’t learning or even humour that makes a great conference, it is people.
+Steve Brophy and I presented on the notion of listening to voices in and out of the classroom. Even though we created a range of spaces to continue the conversation, whether it be in our Google+ Community, through our Diigo Group or even simply using the hashtag #eduvoice. The place where most people wanted to connect and share was not necessarily online, which may come later I guess, but rather in person. People wanted to talk, they wanted to tell their story, share their ongoing journey.

Creating new connections is what ALL conferences should be about. Building relationships and expanding your PLN. This sense of people connecting with people, both digitally and online, is what makes them such a fantastic place to learn. To riff on +David Weinberger‘s point, “The smartest person in the conference is the conference.”
One of the things that I loved the most about #DLTV2014 was actually neither a session nor something that can necessarily be deduced to ‘one single thing’. Instead it was an initiative to generate conversations about change and reform called Institute of the Modern Learner. The idea was that anyone could add to the conversation. What made this so interesting wasn’t necessarily the idea itself, which was important, but the way in which it was carried and communicated. Some were handed random cards as they moved throughout the conference, an online space was created which was linked to a Twitter handle, while short injections were made during many different presentations. At its heart though, this movement to me was connected with the attempt to create a space for learning as embodied by ‘Gaming in Education’ stream. There were no presentations as such, instead there was a space with different hands-on posts set up, such as old console games, programmable devices and Lego poetry. Here you were at the centre of your own learning with people like +Dan Donahoo, +Kynan Robinson and +Jess McCulloch there to support and continue the conversation.
+DLT Victoria 2014 then to me has been a success. For it is easy to say that the spaces were sometimes confusing or there were too many sessions and streams, however if you walked away from the conference without creating one new connection or strengthening some ties that already existed, I would argue that you weren’t really there. Coming back then to Weinberger, “Even if the smartest person in the room is the room itself, the room does not magically make all who enter it smarter.”
Were you at DLTV2014? If not, did you follow online? What is your story? Tell me, because that is what learning is all about.

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creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/14425906657

It is only a few weeks until the inaugural DLTV conference. +Steve Brophy and I will be presenting a session on listening to other voices in the classroom. Here is the blurb for those interested:

One of the biggest challenges in education today is how to empower everyone and give a voice to every learner, this means moving beyond listening to those who seek to be heard and finding ways to capture every voice in and out of the classroom. From collaborating on a document to using a learning response system to reflect on a unit of work, this session will look at not only how we can use various web 2.0 tools to capture the different voices in and out of the classroom, but also how these tools can be used to provoke and prompt further ongoing dialogue. Presenting our thoughts and reflections from a wide range of settings and scenarios, both Primary and Secondary, we hope that you leave this session armed with an array of tools and ideas that will help you go and listen to some of those lost and hidden voices today.
 
As it is all about you, we have a quick question to help get the ball rolling:




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creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/16109207045

 

In an insightful post, ‘Missing the Moments By Trying to Capture the Moments‘, +Chris Wejr spoke about the dangers of missing the moment by failing to just be there. Wejr’s issue is with technology and the modern trend to try and capture each and every moment. However, I think that it is not just technology which prevents us from being there. Sometimes the helter skelter nature of life means that even though we are there, we are not always aware of those significant moments that occur around us each and every day.
 

Final Moments

This was all brought to the fore with the recent passing of my mother. It is a strange experience being told that there is no more treatment that they can do, that the cancer is terminal. On the one hand, the doctor gives some indicative date, while others talk about how they were told that there was nothing that could be done for them and that was over ten years ago. Subsequently, every time that I saw my mum in the last few weeks of her life, I was never sure if it would be the final time. A part of you realises this, however I feel that there is also something inside that simply denies that it will never happen. This is something that I have written about elsewhere (‘Denial Never Worked for No-One’).
 
My last real one to one chat happened when I was least expecting it. With my step dad out picking up my brother and sister from school, I had a few moments with my mum. All of the sudden the tone of the conversation changed from being chatty, talking about this and that, but nothing in particular, to being more serious. I am not sure if it was something that I said or whether it was something that mum was just waiting to say, but she learnt forward from the couch and told me that I was a great brother, an amazing son and a fantastic husband and that I should not listen to anyone who says otherwise. In my usual manner, I tried to dodge these compliments. Like my mum, I just don’t like being pumped up. However, it didn’t occur to my till much later that these were mum’s last meaningful words for me. Although we had a few more conversations, none of them were as deep as this moment.
 

Being Aware of the Other Voices in the Classroom

This all got me reflecting about the conversations that we have in the classroom and thinking about the opportunities that we may let pass by because we were distracted by or more focused on something else. With so many conversations occurring in and out of the classroom, it can be so easy to fall into auto mode where we respond but we are not really there. Where we give a student answer, but fail to realise the intention behind the question. Where we may negatively respond to a student who is acting out, when the student in question may in fact be calling out for help.
 
In a post ‘Listening to the Other Voices in the Classroom‘ I spoke about the role of technology as being a vehicle for capturing all the voices in the classroom. Whether it be sharing ideas with Padlet or collecting responses using Socrative, there are many ways to collect information. However, what this overlooks is that the true other voice in the classroom is that voice whose response is incidental and unexpected, whose response doesn’t have a place in a daily planner, whose response is not necessarily easily resolved. The problem with this though is that we are not always ready for such responses, nor are we always willing to accept them.
 
So how are you making sure that you are listening to those other voices in the classroom? How are you making sure that students feel comfortable sharing those things important to them? Would love to know your thoughts and ideas.

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