Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Final Reflection

The Connected World study was a perfect example of team work. The initial planning was done in team time to provide a clear structure and so we were able to utilise the time together to really consolidate thinking.

The use of google.doc for storing documents was a new experience in sharing and editing as we went along. Truly the curriculum as a living document. The chat feature – sadly, disabled rather suddenly - had allowed thoughts to be thrown around and develop before going on to the documents.

The timeline was already created and needed only tweaking, we worked on a blogging introduction (yes blogging) and the rubric created with a lot of discussion on emphasis.

One of the things we talked about was how authentic the learning process was. We experienced as the students will be doing this week. Documents got clogged as two, or more people, tried to work on the same and so work was more clearly defined and we divided into teams to get tasks completed.

It was an excellent chance for me to listen to my future team mates and see what they planned – and then to add in my perspective from my own experiences. The technology was easy to manipulate (despite the usual challenges of internet) but left with a positive feeling that all team members are invested, and a vision of highly motivated students working on the Connected World project.

PLN Revisited

It has to be said that I under-utilise my PLN.

On the positive though…The RSS feed I set up a year ago – following the advice of my personal IT assistant in the next room (Ross Tague), whose wake I am traveling in at times, has saved me hours of scouring the net. Refining key words has improved the news streamed to me. My day often starts off reading articles in my RSS.

Moving beyond my safety zone of programs – Microsoft Office etc when teaching Intro to Technology has been a shift.

I tend to use people who know, rather than figuring it out myself, though think there is more than one down side to this - and I think of the teenage Zolan who pulled computers apart, rebuilt them and sold them . Right now I am happy to adopt and adapt. Oh my – I am an immigrant!.

Blogging (Rambling) On...

Working in a tech savvy team means I am exposed to lots of new (to me) ideas. I am trying hard to do new things in new ways but it is human nature to make links. Yesterday when using Google Earth – to take a trip back in history to the Cradle of Civilisation – the first thing I did was get the students to find their own houses, their friend’s house, a holiday place… – because they are so interested in themselves that unless they have dealt to the personal – they are not ready to move on and learn. The same can be said of adults no doubt.

IT constantly blends process and product. The choices of how to present something, where and to whom is so broad it is exciting.

The realisation mid lesson that we have gone beyond what I know in technology because students move so fast, means we all learn from each other. Some students are so passionate about a program that they know great tricks – I love it because the quality of the lesson improves instantly, and it is truly a learning community.

Continuum of change

Adopt and Adapt: Shaping Tech for the Classroom
21st-century schools need 21st-century technology.


Marc Prensky’s succinct summary is easy to relate to. The ‘Big Tech Barrier’ existing in schools certainly does impact the learning curve. The thought of sharing my lap top is not a comfortable one and yet I ask students to do it every day.

Things have evolved slowly in the past years of education – that is no longer the case. Teachers in a role as the font of knowledge, is also not the case. Facilitator is probably to light a term, and again I think of the Networked Teacher and need to take a deep breath as I dive in deeper.

“Dabbling. Doing old things in old ways”...

Well, one has to dabble to get started – so that’s not all bad, and doing things in the old way worked for so long – the resistance by the Luddite ‘leaders’ has severe ramifications for slowing down the learning process. Letting go of the fear of someone else knowing something that you don’t, is a huge part of moving forth from this. Embracing what others know – as opposed to being threatened by it – opens a whole new world of connectivism.

“Doing old things in new ways.”

The doing old things in new ways seems to be where many learning environments are floundering. Simulations for social studies bring it alive for students who often have trouble with the concept of people being distant in space and time, can help make sense of history. The ways children will be, and are using old things is new ways is exciting. It is hard for adults to stand still when children are moving past them. Unless adults adopt and adapt strategies that help students learn, they are standing in the way of powerful learning experiences.

“Doing new things in new ways”

As more people who really know and understand the power of technology to impact learning are absorbed into an educational environment, the greater the critical mass and the faster the changes. The more the digital ‘immigrants develop a comfort level with the ever changing technologies and the digital ‘natives’ have power over their own learning.

“For the digital age, we need new curricula, new organization, new architecture, new teaching, new student assessments, new parental connections, new administration procedures, and many other elements.” That is a big ask and a lot to do. The organization as a whole has to be on board. It is a lot of education in the community. However it seems ludicrous to not use the capabilites at our fingertips to extend the learning of each and every student.
“Edutopia” may not be as elusive as Utopia.

Random ramblings...

Ruminating on the trials of being a Digital Immigrant I realised that that is better than not being prepared to move at all. Immigration is the first step. Hell you can move countries and create the same environment once you’ve moved – or you can get into cultural diffusion. It’s a start.

Educational issues aside I spent time last night sitting with my son, playing WarCraft in a virtual world which included known and unknown friends. Would I have chosen that game for him – not a chance . But it is the new Cops and Robbers for him right now. If he was not a physically active child I would be worrying but – it only holds his interest for a while before he craves the physical movement. I am conflicted with the virtual world some children create, and tehn don’t move beyond. But f course they could be sitting in on one dimensional space on front of a television set. Not a lot of thinking going on there.

The horrified response to my teenage daughter when she found out I was teaching IT was quite the proverbial slap. But nothing like a child to get an adult moving. I was not that bad at all – but by her standards I was not ready to take on an IT world. Was she wrong?– of course. They might be small steps but – hey I’m talking them and trying to fit them into my crazy world.

Note to self – must read the Grown Up Digital book Julie recommended.

G7 Project Sketch

(Below is a working draft of our project sketch as created by Robin after a meeting of 7th grade humanities teachers- which I will be joining next year)

Essential Questions:
How do places change over time?
What do we need to live a comfortable and healthy life?

Enduring Understandings:
The students will…
Understand some key issues of least one world problem (hunger, poverty, environment, conflict & peace, etc.)
Make connections between that issue globally, regionally and locally.
Recognize their roles as citizens of the world, their regions and their communities and to see how what they do affects others.
Understand that they can contribute to solving the problem, even in some small way.

The Connected World Unit consists of four separate but related projects.
1) Blog/journalling - Each of the 160+ students in 7th grade will keep a blog, using ideas inspired by Clarence Fisher. We will assign our students one of 19 regions of the world and one of 8 global social issues or problems. We will do this together because we want to make sure that among our 8 classes, we have the students divided into good working groups for the next phases of the project. Each student will work on a different issue for each region. Their blog work will consist of a series of personal reflections/journalling about what they are learning through globalvoicesonline.org and other good websites for MS students to learn about current events and blogs from other countries. This addresses Standard # 3: Research and Information Fluency

2) The second phase of the project is also inspired by Clarence Fisher. Our 160 students will create a link/resource filled 7th Grade online ‘hyperText’ book about the regions of the world. This will be a resource for next year’s students in their regional studies. Students will work online and collaboratively with their regional-counterparts in the various classes. They will work on their section of the wiki - each writing enough about their issues to put together a solid chapter on the region backed up with evidence, examples and sources. One of the sources students will be required to use is to communicate with people from the regions they are studying. This addresses Standard #5 Digital Citizenship. This also addresses Standard #4 Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making.
I am excited to be involved in this as I have a broad knowledge of the South Pacific region, and the literature from there which I know has been missing from the grade. This background knowledge should round off the team as we move into project stage.

3) The third phase of the project is based on one of the Flat Classroom projects. We would now group the students by issue, rather than by region. There could be as many as 8 students per issue, so we may divide them into smaller groups for this phase. Each group would be responsible for making a 2 - 3 minute video about their problem. Their videos will serve the function of educating others in the school community about their issues. Because they will now be working with students from different regions, they will be working together to understand the similarities and differences of how their issues play out in different regions. This will get back to the idea of making connections. They will present their videos to the 7th grade.Symposia? Standard #1: Creativity and Innovation & Standard #2: Communication and Collaboration & Standard #4 Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making.
4) The final phase of the project will have students working together once again to create a project or action plan that has the kids themselves becoming part of the solution. They will create project ideas/plans to help or address the problem (other than through education) and they will present those ideas at a project symposium to a panel of teachers (maybe experts as well) their fellow students and they will post these solutions or action plans on a publicly accessible website. This is when students will have made connections between the EQs and the EUs. They will have evaluated and synthesized research and information about complex global issues. They will have educated others and finally, they will have come up with a plan that aims to help solve the problem.

This addresses Standard #1: Creativity and Innovation & Standard #2: Communication and Collaboration & Standard #4 Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making.

Geeked Out

Geeking Out – Digital Youth

Messing around and being “Geeked Out” is the new cool. The article read as randomly as I see the teenagers act in my home and around me in every environment I come across them. Teenagers have the…
“ability to engage with media and technology in an intense, autonomous, and interest-driven way is a unique feature of today’s media environment.”
They are talking on phones, messaging, uploading another photo on their mail, sent from their latest iphone . (and that could be the adults as well). More and more we live in more than the ‘here and now’ . Technology pervades our lives. Maybe even more so the TCK’s in our environment – out of their own culture they absorb themselves quickly into the tech culture.

Social Networks MySpace, Facebook, Bebo etc take up hours of most teenagers lives. How many friends can you accumulate? The word friends is yet another word being redefined by technology. Who hasn’t been told that you have only a few good friends in your life you can count on? That needs redefining in tech terms as we are so connected that someone, somewhere in the world is awake and ready to be our ‘friend’. That makes us popular – right???? And being popular can be everything to a teenager. More motivation to ‘geek it up’.

The ingenuity and thirst to learn exhibited by someone like Zelan aroused in me some envy and admiration for his determination to overcome resource deficit and navigate the tech world. It is motivating in terms of utilizing the people who know in my working environment and the hardware and programs available.

I exist in a world where specialized knowledge networks and communities are my fingertips to impact my own learning, and thus those of the students I work with. A timely reminder indeed

Blogging on...

Our surprise Friday night guest got me thinking. Too true that before starting a major project you have to make sure you will be finishing it! The flatconferenceconference.ning.com sounds great and I will take some more time to check it out.
citizen journalism?
I am going to make a point of remembering to mix it up and use the following more often
• Youtube
• Teachertube
• Ning
• Twitter
• Google groups
• Google calendar – at least department wide
• Delicious
• Flickr
• Wikis

Interesting, and out of this what most stand out for me is how the impact of technology can be life changing if it is in a place in the world
where there are not different nationalities. We exist in a community of over 50 different cultures and so cannot help but be touched by them and understand the scope of our differences and similarities. So I forget the countries were there are still pockets of people who live in isolation of other cultures.

I was horrified to learn that Luddite leaders in schools are blocking youtube and internet access. One step forward – how many back?

Connectivism Changing the MInd Set

Connectivism A Learning Theory for the Digital Age: by George Siemens

“Over the last twenty years, technology has reorganized how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn.”

This would have to be one of the biggest understatements I have read. It certainly has reorganised all three areas (and created chaos when it does not work) over the last 20 years – but the exponential growth is as yet unrealized. It is escalating at a pace that is mind boggling. In the IT class of 50 people – the level of skill competence and confidence is huge. Multiply that and imagine implications for teaching and learning.

“Learners as little as forty years ago would complete the required schooling and enter a career that would often last a lifetime.”

The learning of a former ISB student – my daughter Alexandra – is on my mind constantly these days as she begins her university studies and pilot training tomorrow! What will flight look like in the future? What will the technology “look” like? What challenges face her and how has ISB prepared her? How do we all prepare students for what lies ahead when we aren’t too sure ourselves? Gonzalez’s (2004) notice of the ‘shrinking half-life of knowledge’ is probably already out of date.

A learning trend “Technology is altering (rewiring) our brains. The tools we use define and shape our thinking.”

Marion Diamond spoke in Egypt (2001) about being at the forefront of neuroanatomy a mere 45 years ago. Pat Wolfe was at the same conference and spoke of implications for learners way beyond “fight or flight”. What are these tools define and shaping us? Interesting to ponder the ‘infantilising’ of the human mind after reading an article in the Guardian about Facebook and Bebo.


And then there is this...

Beginning thoughts...

What I hoped to get out of the course to date was time to ‘play’ with technology and embed it in my work and IT in order to improve learning and communication. Improved comfort level with IT and a chance to meet and work with people I don’t know yet. What I am finding is that I have TOO much to find out about and absolutely no time right now to do so. Constantly feeling in a fog and overwhelmed, considering bailing but I know that all of ‘this’ will be still here to absorb and use and I just have to realize that because it does not get my best effort now – doesn’t mean that it won’t later. That this community of experts and learners I move in is here to teach me – and I will indeed pass that on to others.

I’m excited by things like cluster maps that will spread the message further in charities I am involved in, such as Operation Smile. I see far reaching opportunites there . Must get on to that!

Skyping personally is great but I want to use it more as am ‘expert’ link – or motivator for teaching. Yes – old ideas new ways – but someone will push me further.

I fear this is going to end up a list of things I still have to do! Someone out there will make me!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bloom's Goes Digital

Bloom’s organisation of the thinking/learning structure is nothing new. It’s been around since 1956. In 2002 I discovered a book in a Sydney bookstore with Anderson’s revised model showing the elevation of creating beyond evaluation, which of course made sense. I wondered why I had not thought of it? The change to verbs is glaringly obvious in hindsight and so much more learner friendly. Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS) to Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) in and of themselves provide a clear structure for learners and as structure for ensuring thinking is occurring. Independent learning can be scaffolded and personalized easily with models such as these. The projects that have been produced show exactly how far the learners will go when they are able to challenge themselves.

The direct relevance of Andrew Churches New Bloom’s Taxonomy Digitally is clear. His wiki, Educational Origami is a wealth of resources. The pedagogical underpinnings are sound. Technology is imbedded in an authentic manner to challenge learners. The terminology and structure has already been added to the learning environment I work in. I expect to continue to see growth in the standard of both process and product.

Personal Learning Networks

Personal Learning Networks – An oxymoron

There is nothing ‘personal’ about learning networks. Once ‘it’ is one the web it is there forever. We’re told that over and over – so as a totally reflective learner who mulls matters over, changes my thinking and constantly connects to new ideas – it is with a many false starts that I sat down to write blogs. Do the reading – sure. Talk about it – not a problem. Write about it – not yet thank – maybe in a month – or more.

“We must also be adept at negotiating, planning, and nurturing the conversation with others we may know little about -- not to mention maintaining a healthy balance between our face-to-face and virtual lives” Will Richardson (World Without Walls: Learning Well with Others)