Developing a Blog


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Will Richardson recently reflected on his journey in regards to blogging. He spoke about the changes that have occurred over time and how these have impacted his writing. In another post, he discussed how his authorial voice has morphed from being a ‘tools guy’ to a focus on system change. What is interesting are the actual changes to his writing. Whereas in the halcyon days of blogging he would publish 50 odd posts a month, there came a time when things changed and he wrote less.  A part of this was the change in audience and environment. More recently, he has returned to daily writing as a habit to clarify his own thinking. The lesson that stands out through all of this is that there is no single way to blog.

It can be easy to view a blog as being a set of hierarchical processes. A product organised around a series of clearly defined steps, whether it be creating a space, writing a post, organising around categories and inserting content. This is how blogging is often often spoken about, something simply to be learnt, rather than why and for what purpose.

Another similar such approach is a focus on search engine optimization (SEO). This often leads to worrying about a desired structure of the content, as opposed to the content itself.

A more useful way of appreciating a blog is as a continual act of change and development. This is not a focus on improvements towards some impossible ideal, but rather something that is continually morphing and evolving. Adapting to both the content and intent. On the one hand, the platforms and practises change. Something that Martin Weller has touched upon. However, this development is also personal and more nuanced.

When I think about this blog, there have been many iterations over time. Initially, I started out with the intent to record some of my thoughts and reflections. As I became more connected online, I started engaging in different communities through my blog, such as #Rhizo14 or #CCourses. In addition to this, I began exploring ways to involve different voices, whether it be highlighting comments in a post or curating perspectives, as well as experimenting with modes of expression, including narrativesreviews and an openness to process. On the flipside, my use of different platforms has changed overtime as I have made more sense of the various niches. After beginning with Blogger, I have since moved my main website to WordPress via Reclaim, as well as explored various other platforms.

I was recently asked by someone online how they could get their blog up and running again, beyond simply posting more often. My initial ideas were to tell a story about what you are learning right now, make something new, be the connection that gives other’s a voice or return to why. However, what matters most is where you are at right now. For example, look at the personal blog of Bec Spink. In the past she has included posts exploring classroom habits, uses of Evernote and work associated with her Masters study. Bec Spink does not necessarily post that often on personal blog anymore, but she regularly posts on the Code the Future site. Although she could dual post, sometimes development involves new spaces and new projects. As our focuses change, so to does what we write and post.

In the end, I agree with Bill Ferriter that blogging is about “reflection and making contributions and learning through thinking.” However, what this actually means in action is dependant on context. Although lists of ideas can be useful in providing inspiration, it is always best to start with your own situation and go from there.


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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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Did someone say … SAMR?


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SAMR is an acronym standing for substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition. It is a model for looking at the integration of technology into education. It is often used to support staff with how to make better use of technology within the classroom. Devised by Ruben R. Puentedura, the premise behind it is that each layer provides a deeper level of engagement and involvement with technology. Starting with a mirroring of what is happening outside of technology, it then progresses to opportunities that are afforded only through the use of technology.

Susan Oxnevad has created a wonderful interaction visual guide using Thinglink. Not only does it provide further clarification, but also a range of examples focusing on the skills of research, writing and digital citizenship.

The SAMR Ladder Through the Lens of 21st Century Skills by Susan Oxnevad

While in an attempt to make sense of the model in his own way, Jonathon Brubaker uses the analogy of ordering a coffee from a cafe to explain the different layers.

SAMR: Model, Metaphor, Mistakes by Jonathan Brubaker

In his own effort to make sense of the layers, Richard Wells redefined the steps as:

  • students support with instruction about technology
  • all students capable
  • multiple approaches to using technology
  • returned control to learning

What is significant about Wells’ revision is the focus on teacher/learner mindset, as much as the task at hand. He also provides some good questions to how guide reflection on technology.

SAMR Success is not about the Tech by Richard Wells

Continuing on a similar vein, Jackie Gerstein reframes SAMR in regards to the move from pedagogy to heutagogy. She marries the different layers with her case for Education 1.0, Education 2.0 and Education 3.0.

SAMR-Education3

SAMR as a Framework for Moving Towards Education 3.0 by Jackie Gerstein

Providing a more creative perspective on SAMR, Amy Burvall renames these steps as:

  • same same
  • not so lame
  • reframe
  • changing the game

Using rhythmical rhyme, she creates what Oliver Sacks calls an ‘earworm’.

In regards to examples, Anthony Speranza wrote a post exploring the different uses of Google Apps for Education. In it he unpacks the possibilities of applications like Google Sites and Blogger using SAMR as a guide. He explains how applications can be used as a means for everything from recording personal writing to transforming the classroom by connecting and collaborating with other students from around the world.

Considering SAMR from the perspective of iPads in a secondary environment, Richard Wells provides some examples of ways in which technology use changes at the different levels, from simply using it to generate digital tests to making a series of videos on a topic.

If you search on the web you will find a lot more great examples of how SAMR is being used to describe technological change. However, there is also been much discussion about some of the merit of SAMR as a model. Here are a few of the different issues raised:

  • OBSTRUCTION: Alice Keeler talks about the dangers of pushing technology for the sack of it, where instead of redefining learning, it becomes a frustrating obstruction. In addition to this, the focus becomes what rather than why. Ewan McIntosh touches on this, in his book How To Come Up with Great Ideas, when he gives the scenario of investing in old technology to fill the desire for a one-to-one laptop program. In the long run, such a ‘grey compromise’ can actually set back similar innovations.
  • TASK NOT TEACHER: Catlin Tucker suggests that a focus on tasks overlooks the holistic nature of technology integration. Tucker proposes her own model focusing on teacher development. Starting with getting connected, then incorporating technology within instruction, after that using it to engage students in learning. The final challenge is to skilfully use technology inside and outside of the classroom to enable learning. Mark Samberg continues in much the same vein pointing out that there is little detail of instruction, instead technology is described as the transformational solution.
  • CONTEXT: Mark Anderson explains that SAMR is not a ladder. Being so makes it an exclusive club that is measured by those best apt at utilising different programs and applications. Instead, technology integration needs to be seen as a part of a wider context. Talking about the same concerns in regards to context, Steve Wheeler argues that the opportunities afforded by technology are often missed when we do not situation learning in real situations. While Alan November contends that even though the learning may be deemed as redefined, it really needs to be transformational.
  • TOO SIMPLE: Darren Draper questions whether the integration of technology is ever obvious. In addition to this, he wonders what the supposed benefits to be gained are? More fun? Improved engagement? Better test scores? According to Draper, teaching at a ‘higher’ level does not guarantee better, merely different.
  • AMBIGUOUS: Chris Hesselbein discusses the confusion associated with augmentation and modification. His solution is a mash-up of Marzano’s four point rubric with Joan Hughes’ RAT Framework. Focusing on only three steps – replacement, amplification and transformation – Hesselbein adds leadership into the mix to achieve Marzano’s four points. The suggestion is that surpassing the transformation phase involves working collaboratively to share and support other teachers on their journey.
  • TRIVIAL: Jonas Linderoth suggests that the ideas put forward through the SAMR model are not only obvious, but nothing new. This is something echoed by Gary Stager in a recent present where he remarked that there has been nothing new in regards to the implementation of technology for the last 30 years. Stager makes the comment that we would do well to go and reread Papert’s 20 Things to Do With a Computer.  In addition to this, Puentedura’s work is based on unsubstantiated research and a doctorate in a completely different field of study (Chemistry).
  • FUNCTION NOT FORM: LeiLani Cauthen argues that the model actually stifles any discussion about new models of school and changing the traditional paradigm. According the Cauthen, we need to redefine function, not form. “Form follows function, and the current educational forms are not aligned to new function.” Coming at the problem from a different perspective of learning spaces, Matt Esterman suggests that instead of designing for the unknown, teachers more often simply want a shiny version of what they already have.

What ever you do with technology, what stands out to me is the importance of starting with why. Although models, such as SAMR and RAT, TPACK, can be useful as a reflective tool or to guide discussions, they do not necessarily guide the pedagogical practise. As Kentora Toyama has suggested, technology “amplifies whatever pedagogical capacity is already there.” This to me is why ideas like the IOI Process may be a better place to start. Although tools like the Modern Learning Canvas may not involve the quick fix simplicity that SAMR and other such models provide, it allows for a more fluid and holistic perspective on learning. Maybe question is, as Steve Brophy has suggested, how do we innovate focussing around the development needs of our students. For me, Miguel Guhlin summed it all up best in his own recent reflection on SAMR:

Go ahead, tear down your SAMR god…whatever you put in its place will serve for a time then be smashed to the ground. Not because the gods are unworthy, but because you invested them with so much of your understanding that when you grew, you failed to see how the model serves as a springboard for thinking, not a locked room that keeps fresh ideas out.

So what are you doing to drive change? How are you thinking? Is there something that you think I may have missed? As always, comments are welcome.


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Innovation, Context and Language – A Reflection on #IOIWeekend


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Last Friday night I attended the IOI Weekend Taster event providing highlighting the IOI Process. It was a great night, these are some of my thoughts and summaries …   

Teachers pose so many questions each day, the problem though is that many of the questions are often limited. They are responses to the here and now, to what is already known. How often do we ask the deep questions? Those that lead us into the unknown. Those beginning with ‘What If’ or ‘How Might We?’

One reason often provided is that of time. There just isn’t any space in the day to delve into such questions. However, as Godin points out,

“I didn’t have time”, this actually means, “it wasn’t important enough.” It wasn’t a high priority, fun, distracting, profitable or urgent enough to make it to the top of the list.

The challenge then is how do we make such conversations important enough.

Another issue is how to go about unpacking such questions. Frustratingly, such conversations seem to quickly lead to discussion about what is and isn’t possible, with little reference to evidence or understanding about context. On the contrary, IOI Process provides a structure to not only understand the intricacies of context, but help map out a path to change and innovation.

The IOI Process is built around three tools:

  • Modern Learning Canvas (PDF): Influenced by the Business Model Canvas, the Modern Learning Canvas is split into nine sections: learner’s role, strategies, enablers, practice, culture, policies, educator’s role, learning outcomes and pedagogical beliefs. Each section adds to the perspective. What is different to other tools and models is that the canvas is pictured from the learner’s point of view.
  • Pedagogical Quality Framework (PDF): Like the Canvas, the Pedagogical Quality Framework is broken into four sections: teachers role, teacher role, student needs and compelling opportunities.  By combining these together, it provides a means for creating a definition of pedagogical quality and an innovation thesis. That is, the biggest opportunity for growth and improvement.
  • Learner Development Profile (PDF): Based on Nikolai Veresov’s General model of genetic research methodology, the profile tool is made up of four sections: characteristics, motivations, sources and results. Just like the canvas, the profile focuses on the learner, rather than simply applying some predefined topic or progression.

What is interesting about the three tools is that in many respects they are yours to make of them what you will. Whether it be laying the groundwork for what may need to change or a means for creating a vision of learning and teaching to work towards. Each of the tools provides a common ground to come back to again and again. Providing a means for identifying the intricacies of learnings and areas for further improvement.

At the end of the day though, the success of IOI Process is language. Each of the tools, the sections, the guiding questions, they help to frame the conversation. It provides a clear picture of learning and teaching as it is or could be. Often such conversations get lost in semantics about what is meant by learning. A point Will Richardson made clear in a recent post. By framing the discussion, maybe we can get closer to talking about what is and what innovation is possible in the future. The rest is up to us.


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