Sunday, 3 June 2012

From Hyperspace to Hyperlink

I read this blog post last night after following a link on Twitter – “Social Media for Administrators” - :

“There can no longer be an “opt out” clause when dealing with technology in our schools, especially from our administrators. We need to prepare our kids to live in this world now and in the future. Change may feel hard, but it is part of learning.  We expect it from our kids, we need to expect it from ourselves.”

There have been some key markers for me that have made me become a successful digital immigrant; though maybe I’m one of the early colonists. 
For a start, I’ve always liked science fiction.  I was an avid viewer of Star Trek right from the sixties and ingested sci fi novels at a great rate from the age of about eight.  I became aware of the way real life imitated art: Asimov’s “I Robot” was influential in the development of robots.  The flip phone and tablet had their early equivalents on Star Trek.  

Also impressive were the messages the series gave this young viewer: the importance of connecting, communicating and collaborating.  Like the NZ Curriculum vision, their vision was to value being:
a)     Confident - positive in their own identity, motivated and reliable, resourceful, enterprising (sic) , entrepreneurial, resilient
b)     Connected - able to relate well to others, effective users of communication tools, connected to the land and environment, members of communities, international (inter-galaxy) citizens
c)     Actively involved - participants in a range of life contexts, contributors to the well-being of New Zealand (the universe)  – social, cultural, economic, and environmental
d)     Lifelong learners - literate and numerate, critical and creative thinkers, active seekers, users, and creators of knowledge, informed decision makers.

Alright, Captain Kirk had a bit of biffo regularly, but that was more to do with TV ratings.  What always stood out was that lack of fear of the new and unknown.

A lot like our kids.  They aren’t afraid to get out there and "boldly go where no one has gone before."  I watched my young daughter pick up the new pair of mobile phones, and after a few minutes announce that she’d worked out how to set up the address book and remotely send it to the other phone.  No fear of the alien at all!  This was another key moment, when I realised that I had to have that ability to explore, without fear of getting something wrong. 

At Learning At School 2012, Simon Breakspear said it: “Fail fast. Fail forward. Accelerate learning.” We learn from our mistakes, so make them quickly.

Captain Kirk kept a log – we keep a blog.  The third key marker is being selected to go to a workshop about blogging.  I’d heard the term way back in 2004, but never seen one.  Instantly I was hooked! My class had a blog and published their writing.  Mum, Dad and Grandma in England could leave a comment.  Wow! The cluster map showed that we had hundreds of readers, and we were excited.  I remember one young writer’s eyes opening wide when she realised that her little post had received 235 hits.  It was empowering.

We connected with a class in Malaysia through our blog to find out what they thought was a healthy breakfast.  We followed the travels of our teacher aide through words, photos and video as she travelled through Asia.  What a way to study Vietnam!

The fourth marker was a slideshow using Photostory, recounting one young man’s experiences on athletics day, which he created with the collaboration of a buddy.  He communicated a story of photos with captions.  He was proud of the quality of the presentation, and he shared it with his mother.  All firsts.  She had never come to the parent interviews before.

The fifth marker has to be what I see in my household: three young women who communicate by text and Facebook.  We Skype when they are at uni.  We buy our groceries and do our banking online.  We research with Google rather than a set of encyclopaedia.  I have an iphone, ipad and laptop, and can never find a pen.  This is my present, and I’m charged with preparing students for a future that we can’t predict.

So fellow educators, it’s time to get on board the Enterprise.  It’s already on its way, and has been for a while.  Be one of those who “boldly go where no one has gone before.” Take that hyperlink.

The Trade Off - Bigger Classes for Better Teachers?

Yesterday, the student council at our intermediate sat down with me and wrote letters to the Minister of Education to express their concern about the changes to staffing, class sizes and their technology programme.  To my surprise, we received a reply this morning, although it did look like a very standard reply probably sent by her press secretary.  It included her speech notes and key facts from the Budget.

I absolutely agree that we need to do something about teacher quality - but by increasing class sizes?   Hekia says that we'll lose no more than two full time teachers per school and we'll only gain one or two students per class.  Somehow it doesn't sound like we're going the right way, does it?

I know that we are a little country and there isn't a lot of spare cash around.  The ratio of tax-payers to beneficiaries is very small.  The money has to come from somewhere.  But it does come hard on the heels of moves in the United States and England, to increase class sizes because "size does not matter."  Common sense and experience say it does.  The number of books to put feedback in, students to conference, bodies in the room...!

I've been aware for a long time that the quality of teacher trainees needs to improve.  When I retrained as a primary teacher twelve years ago, it was obvious that members of my cohort were there because it seemed a convenient thing to do when they had finished bringing up families.  With all due respect, and I'm generalizing, but there didn't seem to be the academic rigour that I'd expect in an educator leading a class with my children in it.  Literacy and numeracy standards weren't  always there, and sometimes not the professional ethics.  I remember the representative of one provider saying to me, "but that's all we can get." I took comfort in the fact that some of these student teachers wouldn't finish the course and others wouldn't get through the application or interview.

So how are we going to ensure this quality? Certainly not performance pay.  A lot has been said and written about how this might go wrong: principals who use it to make sure subject areas which are difficult to staff remain covered; teachers who get the credit for students who do well when the work had been put in the previous year.

  - Hekia Parata, speech notes, "Raising Achievement for All in Budget 2012", 16 May 2012.

The days and months ahead will be interesting.  We can take some hope that there will be a working party to look at the situation for intermediates. 

It's a shame the emphasis has been on where the money will come from, especially if the Minister is right and the effects will be minor (though I don't want to be one of the two teachers per school that might lose their jobs).  We will all benefit from raising both the quality and status of the profession, if that is indeed the end result.

Let's hope that it is the learners who are the winners.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Are You a Master Weaver - or a "Guide on the Side"?

I found Sharon's thoughts really thought provoking.  The fact that we might stand aside in order to be seen as facilitators rather than directors, and thus fail to see that we need to be there, right in the thick of things, is something to take on board.  We need to be the "weaver of the threads" who is able to correct the warped bits to keep the tapestry growing!

ICTs will only make a difference with direction.  Every tapestry had a Master weaver who was hands on.  What a wonderful metaphor!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Using Microblogging: Twitter and Other Tools to Faciliate Teacher and Student Learning

On the site "Software for Learning" Simon Evans talks about Twitter and its powers for enriching teacher knowledge through linking with a large pool of other educators and experts.
He has embeded an Edtalk from Chris Betcher who reminds us that to dabble is not enough to sell the tool; " Twitter only becomes useful when you have scale."

I agree...I joined Twitter several years ago and then left it as my lesast useful tool.  I saw its power at Learning @ School in February, when I could discuss what I was hearing and seeing with others in the room; a great tool for someone like me who needs to reflect out loud!

I've also seen it as an effective way of publicising events, whether it be the latest word from a politician or getting people to look at the latest blog post (in many cases a good way of advertising your own wares!)

So get in there.  It forces you to be succinct as you only have a limited number of characters to use.

See you in Tweet land with the rest of we twits!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Social Media - Tools for Schools or the Latest Cultural Bad Boy?

James Careless looks at the role of social media in the classroom and reflects that many still regard it with the same distaste as the older generation did when rock and roll came along.
The NZ Curriculum entreats us to contribute and collaborate - and what better way than using the platforms provided by the whole range of social media.
It's part of my everyday life now so I can see the benefits.  Most of my professional reading comes by way of my laptop or cell phone.  Yet many I work with are still not engaged.  It's certainly where my own children are and want to be.  How should I as an educator, harness this with my students?  Should I at all?  How can I not?

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Karen Meluish posted this on the VLN. While she finishes by saying that her need and her passion for the tool kept up the momentum for the change to her practice, she needed the tool first. How many of our teachers express that frustration because we can't equip them with enough tools? Is it really an excuse? Read on.

What comes first - the teach or the tech?

I remember justifying my purchase of a smartphone two years ago. I wanted
to be able to work while travelling, catch up on reading, listen to music
on the bus, I reasoned. Pretty unremarkable rationale. Nothing for Steve
Jobs to be worried about.

What I didn’t expect was the way it seemed to change the way I worked and
organized aspects of my life in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. So much
so, in fact, that I felt inexplicably bereft when I recently mislaid it
(the phone, not my life). Would I have worked so hard on my photography if
I hadn’t had access to all those apps in my pocket? Would I have managed
the work-home-children juggle so easily without that access-anytime

So - what came first? My needs – or the technology?
In September 2010, the-now-sadly-defunct BECTA published a report on the
ways that digital technologies impact on learning. The assertion that
caught my eye was that

“ICT has reconfigured classroom practice in the project schools in
important ways.”

What causes teachers to adjust their practice? Can the affordances of
technology alone open up possibilities to learning that teachers had not
thought of before – and does this impact on the pedagogy they use?
And, how far is it risky to assert that the technology can drive
pedagogical shift?
The report’s two key findings are interesting:

When teachers make changes to activities, room layout and processes, to
accommodate technology, it makes new forms of classroom practice possible.
In particular, this impacted on differentiation, inspiration, coherence and
engagement, resource-sharing, access to the internet for research and access to
read-to-hand tools can widen the variety of learning practices.

But was it the technology alone that caused shift?
The report also highlighted the there were themes that were central in the
classrooms and schools that experienced change: evolving vision and
leadership, a developing infrastructure for out-of-school learning;
multifaceted staff development and the role of students; redefining
learning spaces.

While technology may be a catalyst for change, it can’t happen without
corresponding change in the surrounding infrastructure, a lift in the
capability across the organization.

So, even if the tech does come first, the report suggests you need some
pretty sound teaching structures in place to keep it flying in a way that
will make a difference.

And that smartphone needs a fairly harassed mother who adores photography
to make the most of what it has to offer;-)
[Source attached: Crook, Harrison, Farrington-Flint, Tomás, Underwood,
(2010), The impact of technology: Value-added classroom practice.
BECTA: The impact of technology_value-added classroom practice

[Originally posted inthe e-Leaning Research Network, April 2011]

( that a good excuse for me to get that smart phone I want? Annemarie)