This is an introduction to +Steve Brophy and I’s presentation ‘Listening to Voices In and Out of the Classroom’ for #DLTV2014 and explains what we mean by ‘voice’ and its relationship with technology …
 
It is so easy to consider technology as the answer, that missing solution, that panacea that will somehow manage to solve all education’s ills. However, there is no tool or technique that will magically solve all our problems for us. Instead, technology is a support, an addition, a supplement, something that helps us do what we do, but better. In regards to Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model, this change revolves around ‘redefining’ what we do. Providing a possibility for something that was often deemed impossible. +Bill Ferriter suggests, “technology lowers barriers, making the kinds of higher order learning experiences that matter infinitely more doable.”
Importantly, the changes brought about by technology are not about simply dispelling the past. For as Ferriter argues, many of those attributes that get lumped with the call for reform are things that highly effective teachers have been doing for years. Various higher order thinking skills, such as the engagement in collaborative dialogue, solving complex problems and manipulating multiple streams of information, are not new.
Take the act of publishing for example. After consulting with a teacher from another state +Cameron Paterson got his Year 9 History class to create picture books around the topic of World War 1 for a kindergarten. While +Bianca Hewes used Blurb, a site that allows you to create both eBooks and physical books, to publish her student’s stories for a wider audience. There is nothing new about composing texts for an audience. Technology though allows us to publish to a more authentic audience more easily.
Another particular area where technology allows for a change is in regards to capturing the different voices associated with learning. Whether it be communicating or collaborating, there are many different scenarios involving listening and responding to voices in and out of the classroom. Voices have always had a central role in the classroom for at its heart, learning is a social activity. However, instead of conversations being dictated by the few, technology democratises the whole process, it takes away some of the social pressures and tedious silences when no one is willing to respond. Technology makes it more doable.
We feel that there are three different categories when it comes to listening to voices in education:
  • Students communicating and collaborating with each other
  • Students and teachers in dialogue about learning
  • Teachers connecting as a part of lifelong learners

As with any sort of arbitrary division there will always be examples which go across categories. However, splitting things in this way helps to highlight some different spaces and situations where voices can be heard and provides a foundation on which we can continue the conversation.
So to the big question, how are you listening to different voices in and out of the classroom? And in what ways does technology make this more doable?

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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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