Supporting Digital Identities in School

The #edublogsclub prompt this week is to reflect on a challenge in education.


In a recent post on personal identity, George Couros made the following comment:

We can no longer say we are preparing students for “the real world”, when what mean is ”the real world” that we grew up in, not recognizing current needs of today.

For Couros students should leave high school with:

  • A PLN
  • A digital portfolio
  • An About.me page

This left me thinking about the challenge of digital identify in school. For many this debate quickly deteriorates into a battle between supposed traditional literacy and the more modern digital literacies. In this context, students having a blog and a member of a Facebook group is seen as a win. This problem is not discussed enough, especially what we mean by ‘real world’ and what we even mean by digital literacies? This includes where students set up their presence and the templated identities that are permitted in such spaces as Twitter and Facebook. Here then is my thinking on Couros’ leaving list.

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There Are Many Parts to Redefining Schools

Not About the Tool? @peterskillen

“Not About the Tool? @peterskillen” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

In a recent post, George Couros warned that technology in and of itself will not redefine education. Instead he argued that what really matters is agency. This got me thinking about all the things that get discussed as possible solutions. Maybe it is student action? Maybe relationships? Maybe passion? Maybe pedagogy? Maybe learning? Maybe trust? Maybe empathy? Maybe being a PIRATE? Or a champion? Or REAL? Maybe being based on evidence? Or being evidence-informed? These are just some of the solutions that seem ripe for the picking, but do they each in themselves redefine education?

On the question technology, I wonder if we need to reconsider what it might mean to talk about ‘technology’ and the ‘redefinition’ of education. I don’t think that the SAMR model has necessarily helped this. As Peter Skillen points out, the possibilities provided by technology have the ramification of inadvertently redefining the world that we exist in, whether we realise it or not.

Tools shape cognition. Tools shape societal structures in both intended, and unintended, ways.

The question then becomes about how technology changes things. It becomes a question of edtech ethics and technical democracy. For example, although a device like a Fitbit may provide instant feedback, that feedback in the form of data is a public commodity. Importantly seeing technology this way, it becomes a discussion about impact and influence. More importantly though it becomes a part of a wider conversation about education.

This all has me thinking, rather than worrying about the one thing, what if our focus was what constitutes a ‘good’ education? What if we considered choices more holistically? Although each part may play it’s part, maybe they all have some part to play in redefining schools of the future?

So what do you think in regards to schools of tomorrow? As always, comments welcome.


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Technology in Education, It’s Complicated


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

There are many wicked questions in education, such as what is the role of the learner? Or the teacher? What strategies should we use? What are the essential learning outcomes? How do we engage with stack holders and the wider community? Each problem involves grappling with contradictory knowledge and opinions involved, the economic challenges and the interconnected nature. So many of these problems though are engrained in how we integrate technology within education.

A popular solution in regards to integrating technology seems to be the TPACK framework. It consists of seven different knowledge areas focusing on the relationships between technology, pedagogy and content. However, it can be argued that it creates more confusion than clarify. For example, Richard Olsen points out that, “separating technical/digital literacy from traditional literacy offers nothing”. The issue is that the framework sees things that are not necessarily so as somehow being in isolation, such as Pedagogical Knowledge and Technological Pedagogical Knowledge, as well as Content Knowledge and Technological Cotent Knowledge. The question then remains, what part does technology play?

There are many who argue that technology plays a central role in all that we do. The latest message coming from Greg Whitby, who suggests that technology offers the potential to extend our perspective beyond our own limits, offering the potential to deepen learning. The question though is how far do we take this? Where does social media and other such technology belong in schools? There are those such as Jason Markey who share about using hashtags and a shared Twitter account to model best practice. While there are also those, such as George Couros and Dean Shareski  who warn against ‘edu-fying’ every new application, like Snapchat. Eric Jensen touches on this dilemma wondering if schools should provide students with a safe space away from the external pressures of parents and the world wide web. In addition to this, students have a tendency to simply move onto the next best thing. For although technology may offer the potential to deepen learning, it can also turn students off too.

In the end, I am not sure the exact place of technology? Is it a class Twitter account open to the world or is it a closed off space like Edmodo which allows for some sort of security? Is it allowing students to bring into school whatever device they like or is it banning all smartphones and wearable devices? Maybe the reality is that the answer is different for every school and context. What I do know is that Danah Boyd’s book, It’s Complicated, is more important than ever. Not because she necessarily provides all the answers – who does? – but that she paints a picture of technology and the challenges of today.

The reality is that we all have a choice to make and that choice has consequences. So, what are you doing and what consequences is it having? I would love to know. Please share.


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How Are You Making the (Educational) World a Better Place?

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/16080009909

Earlier in the year, I had the benefit of hearing Will Richardson present. Like so many others, Richardson put forward the argument that, with the drastic changes occuring in the world today, school and education is in desperate need of an overhaul.

The two takeaways I left the presentation with were:

  • Start with ten percent at a time
  • Be the change through your own learning

I have discussed both before, but was reminded about the question of learning and change recently by a post from Matt Esterman for the collaborative blog Learning e-Nabling in which he asked the question, “what gifts have you given this year?

It is easy to think that extending your learning into the 21st century is as easy as joining Twitter and creating your own personal learning network. However, for change to truly happen in education, it needs to have more facets than that. I was particularly taken by a post from George Couros where he suggested that there are three levels of ‘teacher’: classroom, school and global. I feel that a good teacher encompasses all three of these elements. It is also a good way of reflecting upon how we are making the educational world a better place. This then is how I feel I made the (educational) world a better place last year …

CLASSROOM

In regards to making the change in the classroom last year. I paid more attention to my pedagogical approach in the classroom. This led to providing students with more choice about what they do and how they do it, especially in electives. To support this push for empowerment, I continued to use ICT as a medium for communication and collaboration in order to foster thought and celebrate new knowledge, especially in intervention,

SCHOOL

On a school basis, I have taken a step back from pushing my notions of change and reform, as this was becoming more of a hindrance rather than a help. Instead I have learnt to work with and through others. For as Tim Kastelle writes, “You need the great new ideas, but you also need the execution skills to pull off the ideas.” This has culminated in getting a few people engaging beyond the school through Twitter, some exploring blogging (see for example https://commandokiddz.wordpress.com/ and http://shapingbridges.blogspot.com.au/), while others took up new ideas relating to pedagogy and technology here and there, particularly around the notions of choice and instruction. I feel that many of these ‘seeds of change’ will often grow and develop overtime. The reality is that instead of cultivating a single tree, I feel I have propagated a forest. Some will not come into fruition as when the saplings pop their heads, they are yanked out as ‘weeds’, while others see something good. The most important lesson that I have learnt is for change to truly occur, we need to hold onto our ideas less tightly. Yes, sometimes someone else might get ‘credit’ for something, but at the end of the day, that is not what it is truly about.

GLOBAL

The last area of influence is the world. It is easy to get caught up with this and jump around the globe, but sometimes the first step to becoming ‘global’ is connecting with those schools in your own area, as Sam Irwin and I did with our digital network. In regards to external professional development, I attended a few Teachmeets this year, presented at a range of conferences/sessions including DLTV14 with Steve Brophy and the Melbourne GAFE Summit. In regards to the more informal, I have continued to grow and nurture my ever so global PLN, whether this be engaging in discussion on Twitter, sharing resources on Diigo, commenting on blogs, supporting others in getting connected, creating images to capture cool ideas and just generally thinking out loud online. Although not always explicit, I think that all of these activities help build towards a better education.


Although it can be good to discuss how we are going to change the world and make it a better place, it can be just as powerful to look back upon and build on the things that we have already done. Sometimes this point of reflection has the potential to be uncanny. So what about you, what you have been doing that has made a difference? I would love to know.


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Baggage in the Classroom

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/16232366752

I was recently at Officeworks inquiring about iPad Minis. For some reason the cost had fallen through the roof and I was wondering why? The sales assistant informed me that Apple were basically trying to offload the first generation minis now that the newer version had come out. The catch, they only come in 16gb. This led to that and we ended up talking about storage and how there are so many unnecessary apps that clog things up. He then told me about a ruling in South Korea last year which stated that bloatware, those applications that are placed on the phone before you even get it, must be deletable. Of course, laws in South Korea are different to laws in Australia (or United States), therefore such rulings are yet to be made here. The assistant wondered though whether at some point of time this might not have an influence on mobile computing.

This idea of inherited applications however got me thinking beyond mobile devices and to the classroom, learning and education as a whole. What are those elements that we take for granted in the classroom? Those structures that simply get enacted each day, month, year? Who is making the informed choices? School? Region? Union? Government? You? Do we have a choice to stop and question such things? Should we? Are such habits and structures useful? Essential for things to keep moving? Or should there be a choice about what structures there actually are?

George Couros touched on this in a recent post in which he put out the challenge to see our schools with ‘fresh eyes’. Importantly, this is not just for those practises which we as negative, but everything. Every now and again, we need to stop and ask ourselves the question, “Why do we do this?” Couros also encourages us to also reflect upon our own personal habits and choices. This though, Couros warns, is to no avail if we are not willing to be persuaded into a new way of thinking.

I am not saying that there is not need for process and structure. For as Tom Barrett recently suggested, “By having a simple, clear, and shared process we actually offer some certainty amidst the planned doubt and mystery that is to come.” The question though is whose process is it and who is owning it. As I suggested last year, the new year offers a great opportunity to once again reconsider the baggage in the classroom.


POSTSCRIPT: For more ideas and inspiration in regards to seeing things differently, I also encourage you to read Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.


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Discipline or Learning, What’s Your Mindset?

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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So You Don’t See Yourself as a Connected Educator, What is that Really Saying?

 

 

 

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/14929330102WALL-e quote
A teacher at school came into my office the other day excited that he’d just received a new document at a recent network meeting. The document was ‘Towards a New End: New Pedagogies for Deep Learning’. A document produced by Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy as a part of the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning global project. The teacher in question was disappointed that we weren’t also apart of the project.
The odd thing was that I had already seen this document. Firstly, via +Jenny Ashby on Twitter and then through her blog post requesting opinions and perspectives on the various skills. While I then came upon it as a part of the WMR 21st Century Network that +Sam Irwin and I set up. +Chris Karageorge shared how his school had also joined the project.
This whole situation highlighted two things to me: one, we are all influenced in life by networks whether we care to recognise it or not; and two, are we missing the point in focusing on being connected, is that what it is all about?
In a recent post, Quinn Norris painted a picture of life in a networked world. In it she spoke about the usual – Internet, passwords and trojans. However, what struck me was how in a modern world we are all dependent on networks (not just the Internet) in some way. As she stated, “We live with and in networks every minute of everyday.” Whether it be food networks, the legal system or roads and transport, our lives are built upon an array of networks that more often than not we simply take for granted. What I felt was missing in this discussion though was the human network, the personal networks that we form. Although social media and other such platforms capture such connections and help to strengthen them, they do not take in everything. Unless you are a hermit living in a cave, which would mean that you would not be reading this, then your life is connected – to family, friends, colleagues, communities – whether you like it or not.
This perspective of being forever connected got me wondering about the notion then of the connected educator. It is easy to caught up in a discussion of the supposed benefits of being connected. However, like the discussion around having children of your own, surely what is important is the openness to new experiences, not the actual experience itself?
As I have suggested elsewhere, one could easily have children and not necessarily learn a single thing. What matters most in my view is your perspective. I think then that when people say that they don’t have time to ‘be connected’, that they are in fact saying something completely different. To me, what these people are really saying is that they already know everything and that, just maybe, they have nothing else to learn in life. They in fact don’t have time for learning.
I didn’t actively become connected to become connected. I first stepped outside of the world of Facebook and stories about high school weddings and babies into the open world of Twitter in search for greener pastures. I was in a situation at school where there were a few things that just weren’t working and I was after a different perspective on things. Ironically, I feel like I know less now then I did before I stepped out. As +Katelyn Fraser quoted, whether it be the principal, the network coach, the subject association, early on in my career I thought that it was someone else’s job to tell me what the supposedly ‘best practise’.
Through my journey, I have come to the belief that there is no one approach to rule them all. Instead, I feel that the challenge is finding the best solution for the situation at hand. That is what I tried to explain in my post on pedagogical cocktails. The idea that our pedagogical practise is a concoction of different ideas that is constantly evolving. It would be easy to argue that I have come to this position because I am a connected educator who curates a lot of ideas and information. However, I believe that I came to this position because first and fore-mostly, I am a lifelong learner, being connected accelerates this whole process.
Coming back to Norton’s discussion of networks, I would argue that all our learning is linked to networks in some shape and form. For learning involves interaction, whether it be with people, ideas or simply the world around us. Learning is never in isolation. It is complicated. It is messy. It always involves others. +Doug Belshaw provides an excellent discussion of this in regards to the myth that literacy is an isolated activity in his book, ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’. There is no escaping interaction, there is only ignorance of such associations.
I am reminded again and again of +Clive Thompson‘s piece for Wired, ‘Why Even the Worst Bloggers Are Making Us Smarter’. Thompson’s point is that whether strong or weak, our interactions constantly influence us. “The things we think about are deeply influenced by the state of the art around us: the conversations taking place among educated folk, the shared information, tools, and technologies at hand.” The act then of curation and critiquing not only forces us to be more convincing, but also accelerates the creation of new ideas and information. It can then be argued that the measurement of learning is not what you keep to yourself – scribbling in a notebook, essays kept in a filing cabinet – but how much you share with others, what you add back. Instead of the question: ‘Are you really connecting if you are not giving back?’ Maybe the real question is: ‘Are you really learning if you are not sharing that learning?’

 

Using +David Weinberger‘s notion that ‘the smartest person in the room is the room’. Learning is then about how big your room is. If you keep your learning to yourself or simply share it with colleagues in your school, how deep is your learning? +Steve Brophy made a really interesting point, suggesting that “The best professional development requires giving, whether it be your opinion, your story or your skill.” Often we set out on a journey for solutions, however if we are not open to the unexpected, the responses, the alternatives, how deep will the learning be?
Coming back to Norton, “Networks have shapes and geographies, and once you can see them you can use them.” If this is the case and all learning is connected then the challenge is understanding how you are connected and to best use these connections to come up with the best solution for your context and situation.
It is important to remember that connections, like learning, should never be a thing in themselves. The challenge is to take this learning, this knowledge, these ideas, and make them new again. Change them, adapt them, pay them forward. +George Couros sums this up best in his recent post, where he states, “The network is where the information has been found, but the ability to remix it for your own context is where innovation happens.”
So what are you learning right now and how are you using your connections to accelerate this process. I would love to know.

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Are Excuses Holding Us Back from Change in Education?

 

 

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.

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What Digital Revolution?

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In a recent ICT committee meeting, one of the participants made the remark that the digital revolution has failed to deliver all that it supposedly promised. Having been a part of the YVeLC pilot program almost ten years ago which focused on the potential of 2:1 laptops, it has been interesting seeing the changes that have occurred since that time. In a conversation with +Catherine Gatt, this is the list of reasons that we came up with as to why the digital revolution has failed to be the saviour that so many said it would be.
 

Failure to Invest

The government, both state and federal, has invested a lot over the last ten years. Whether it be providing Internet for students, WiFi access in schools, support in regards to servers and switches, as well as devices for students. In addition to this, the state government Victoria made a big investment with the now defunct Ultranet, a learning platform that was supposed to be the intermediary between staff, students and parents. The big question however is whether it has been enough?
 
For even though the government has provided Internet access, it cannot always be trusted due to insufficient bandwidth and tendency to drop-out. This has led to some schools investing in their own lines, creating a new culture of equity surrounding access. In addition to this, even though the government provides state schools with WAPs and other such infrastructure support, there are schools who find this hardware insufficient for their needs. Therefore, although the government has made significant investments, the question is whether it could have been done better?
 
I will never forget sitting in the meetings in regards to the Ultranet being told how many thousands of dollars that it would cost to make even the most minuscule of changes. Maybe instead of investing so much money developing a new product, the government could have invested more in regards to support and infrastructure, letting schools choose their own solutions, whether that be Google Apps for Education and Edmodo or some other combo and simply providing support in the form of coaches with the implementation.
 

Lack of Leadership and Guidance

Another point of confusion relates to the leadership and guidance surrounding the support of ICT in schools. I cannot think of another area in education with so many competing positions and job titles. One school has an ICT Co-ordinator, another has an eLearning Coach, while another a 21st Century Learning Coach. Then you have some schools who have nothing? You just need to look at the various posts on the matter to get a feel for the matter:
Each post encompasses the topic in its own way, but never completely, for how can it when the area itself is still largely undefined.
 
Whereas in the past the person in the ‘role’ might have worked with a technician to manage the moderate school network and maintain a few computer rooms, now it has expanded to include anything and everything. Spanning pedagogical practice to administering various systems to exploring areas of technological innovation.
 
Unlike other areas, such as literacy and numeracy, which are relatively settled or at least people feel that they can comfortably define them, ‘technology’ offers something that some just aren’t sure about. For how do you really measure the success of technology in schools? Instead, the management and leadership in this area is at times left to those with a passion and interest, therefore sometimes limiting the scope to change possible in some educational settings.
 

Fear of the Unknown

Attached to the confusion over leadership is the culture of fear often associated with technology. One of the biggest changes to education, I would argue, in the 21st century has been the attempt to reposition the place of the teacher away from being the one at the front of the room, to becoming a facilitator whose prime focus is to amplify the thoughts and ideas of the other learners in the classroom. With this comes the move from teacher-as-authoritarian to teacher-as-lifelong learner. For some, this shift is easier than others.
 
In the heyday of technology in school, the message preached was that students knew more, therefore let them run the show. The problem with this is that instead of being a facilitator, the teacher became a ghost in the room, someone largely absent, unsure about exactly what was going on, living in good faith. 
 
To me, palming responsibility off to students is not stepping to the side, this is stepping out of the classroom. What eventuates in this environment is a culture of fear where because you never really know what the students are doing, you jump at every flash and bleep that may occur.
 
I understand that as a teacher you will never always ‘know’, but to me teachers have a duty of care unto themselves, to lifelong learning – to at least try and understand in order to support students as they come up against issues, rather than curse that technology will be the death of us all.
 
With this, teachers need to embrace the unknown and with the students in mind, model how the solve problems. Sometimes it is through such moments of honesty that everyone learns the most.
 

Technology as the Answer

One of the things associated with technological fear is the expectation that somehow technology will be the panacea to all of the modern ills. Too often teachers expect technology to somehow change what they do without them changing any point of their own practise.
 
I have seen too many examples where teachers have introduced technology into the classroom as if it were a solution in itself. Then as soon as there is a hiccup, they baulk and revert to what John Goh describes as our default position. The problem with this is that technology is always doomed to fail if it is not linked to pedagogy and purpose.
 
In the end, technology is not the magic cure, rather it is how it is used that has the potential to have meaningful change. It is one cog in the complex construct that is 21st century learning. For it is through the sum of many parts that students learn. (See my post ‘Sum of the Parts Different to the Whole‘ for a better explanation.) The reality is, you just need to look at the work of John Hattie and you soon realise that the biggest point of influence in the classroom is the teacher themselves. That does not mean that we should simply rid ourselves of technology and focus on the teacher, instead the focus should be on how technology can be used to further practises, such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking
 

Another Thing to Fit

One of the big changes in regards to curriculum over the last few years has been the advent of interdisciplinary strands, such as thinking and interpersonal learning. In addition to this, the curriculum has been made even more explicit, especially for primary school. For example, whereas in the past students in Early Years had to assess against ‘the Humanities’. this has been split up within the National Curriculum and made more explicit. In this environment, ICT and technology becomes another thing to consider in an already cluttered curriculum.
 

ICT as a Subject

Seeing ICT as another thing ‘to do’ misunderstands its place and purpose. Instead of seeing it as an integral part of every lesson, ICT is too often seen as something done with the ICT teacher. Sadly, what should be done in ‘ICT’ is something more akin to computer science. However, it has sadly come to be seen as the time when students get their dose of technology for the week, therefore absolving any requirement to report against it elsewhere. For as we all know, students only engage with literacy in English classes, don’t they?
 
As +George Couros has stated, something is missing when we treat technology as an event. To achieve meaningful change, technology needs to be at the point of instruction. It is then that the potential to redefine the way students learn can truly occur.
 
In his book, ‘The Five Minute Teacher’, +Mark Barnes suggests introducing different applications and tools on a regular basis to help student build up a toolkit of possibilities. In this scenario, students then build up an array of possibilities so that when they are given choice in regards to working in a collaborative manner or communicating an idea they can make an informed choice. ICT is then an aide to learning, not the actual focus.
 

Outdated

Whether it be the choice of tools, applications and programs or operating systems themselves, the world does not stand still. Things are always evolving. Ten years ago the school I had kept a small collection of cameras in the library,  now just about every teacher let alone student has one embedded in some sort of device, whether it be a tablet, smart phone or laptop. With this change means that devices like Flipcams have become obsolete. Although the hardware may still function and would probably have cost quite a bit to buy, their quality and ease of use has become superseded.
 
One of the traps that teachers often get caught teaching the tool as opposed to emphasizing on the purpose. In focusing on skills, it no longer matters what tool or application is used, instead the focus becomes on why it is being used.
 

Change as a Mindset

Education has evolved during the last few years, sometimes though we just don’t recognize all the subtle changes. Maybe what we have is the revolution that we were promised and instead the problem is our inability to see it. I am reminded of +Chris Betcher‘s closing keynote at Melbourne Google in Education Summit 2013 where he explained that in many respects what happens in schools has not necessarily changed. Instead, the friction has been taken away, meaning that what may have taken hours in the past, can now be done in seconds.
As I stated in a previous post ‘Looking Back to Look Forward‘, it is easy to identify our failings, to think that nothing has changed, but if we stop and reflect for a moment we often find that a lot has changed. The challenge then is to change the way we look at such things, rather than change the things themselves.
 
What About You?
These are my reflections, what about you? Have I missed something? Do you disagree? Is your system of education different to the one I have portrayed? Is this specific to Australia or are these issues global? What do you think needs to happen now? I would love to know. Please leave a comment below.

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Repositioning the Use of Technology in Schools

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?

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