Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Setting the scene for Authentic Learning

Jan Herrington's Authentic Learning is the subject of this week's #change11 MOOC.
She sets the scene really well with a set of nine videos, breaking down the process into steps:
  • Authentic context
  • Authentic activity
  • Expert performances
  • Multiple perspectives
  • Collaboration
  • Reflection
  • Articulation
  • Coaching and scaffolding
  • Authentic assessment
 This approach is not limited to university level work so it is great for the preparation that we are doing as a school to consider "open approaches to learning" within a secondary school setting.
As an introduction, her video explaining the academic and real settings continuum, explaining this against an authentic task and decontextualised continuum, helps greatly.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Falling at the first hurdle - ubiquitous sage on the side not for me

This week's topic on Slow Learning for the #change11 MOOC had me fall at the first hurdle. Clark Quinn's introductory post asked the following question: "What would my ideal learning situation be?"
He replied by saying it would be having a personal learning mentor with him, prompting support at the right moment and developing him slowly over time. He thus develops the concept of an automatic "sage on the side" to prompt, guide and thus produce learning.
Listening to the subsequent live session and participating in the final session was useful to have an understanding of this, the idea of drip irrigation as opposed to flooding and the value of formal and informal learning for novices, practitioners and experts. This slide is worth repeating:

His statement that learning gets better when we work with more people can be true and I liked the idea of the big L in Learning - learning which is more through problem solving, innovation, research and creativity.
But I would not use his learning GPS system (nor do I generally use a real GPS system - I prefer to use it only when necessary in very new and difficult circumstances).
I do not think that a personal learning mentor would be my ideal learning situation. The point of open is just that - open to wherever I want to go, not someone or something else to control.
I have just seen the following video, produced by Corning Glass and called a Day Made of Glass. It is both inspiring and worrying. Could I work with ubiquitous in-your-face technology?
The constant prodding of a sage on the side would worry me because of both this intrusion as well as manipulation - "stealth mentoring" as Carole McCulloch puts it in her post. I want to be totally in charge of my learning and I am not sure that even a human mentor is what I need.

Monday, 5 December 2011

IB Changes - notes from the IB Heads World Conference

Communications is not one of the International Baccalaureate Organisation's (IBO) strong points. Surprising this, given its status in the world.**
So, in response to requests for information about where the IBO is going, I publish the notes that I made for staff at school.
It is worth reading the IBO's philosophy at the outset since this is the driving force for the changes afoot. There has been a change here, a change that has been working its way in for some time. At one time the IBO could have been regarded as a service organisation, providing an internationally recognised diploma (DP) for universal university entrance. Indeed, early pioneers of the IB diploma would describe this exactly in this way - including my father, one of the first IB diploma teachers. Over the years, and particularly since the influences of the Primary Years Programme (PYP) and the Middle Years Programme (MYP), a much more crusading approach has been taken. I recall previous IB World Heads Conferences where hugely expansionist ideas were rehearsed by the IBO and resolutely rejected by the Heads present.
So it is significant that I heard, for the first time, definite statements about the PYP and MYP influencing the DP. Some people might say "about time" but I would urge a much more cautious approach - do not affect the value of the IB diploma nor the investment that schools have in it.
The IBO have split off assessment and curriculum into two departments, and it is clear that these are early days in this split. You will notice a couple of slides on a continuum of validity and reliability and the quote from Alec Peterson which was used by Carolyn Adams to introduce the idea. She used this in answer to complaints about the reliability of internal assessment moderation and marking. I do believe that there are other ways of looking at this, but that will have to wait for another post.
Carolyn Adams explained the ideas behind e-marking, the IBO's answer to improving quality and answering the critics of expansion. This seems an excellent approach although I still worry about the quality of examiners that the IBO find.
The changes as I noted them (please beware - I might have got some things wrong!) are listed on the final slides - and the presentation finishes with me imploring my teachers to get involved. It is a sad state of affairs that such a small proportion of IB teachers around the world take part in the curriculum reviews.

**The IBO's HeadNet, supposedly the online area for Heads, contains ancient information - minutes from 2010 and very little else. A new IB communications person has been employed - let us hope s/he can drag this organisation into this century.

Teacher-tech use for learning - Part 2

In the previous post on the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) from the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, I asked if it could be incorporated as a model for evaluating technology use by teachers. Clearly this was the intention of the matrix and, since it had exemplar material for each of the intersections, it could also be a guide as to how to move up to higher levels of technology integration.
It has proved difficult to use the categories as they are. 
Firstly, the vertical axis which describes the characteristics of the learning environment, seemed to complicate the definitions and made it more difficult to audit. Additionally, we found it difficult to separate student, teacher and environment in the horizontal axis (these are further layers in the model). And finally, the descriptors were not that helpful - particularly at the "Transformation" end.
We had asked teachers to self-report their technology use and had not wished to be prescriptive - so we decided that we should do the classifying afterwards. I am glad that we did not go for complicated categories initially because it is quite difficult to place things reliably and consistently.
The "Entry" level and perhaps some way into the "Adoption" level can be fitted to Puentedura's (SAMR Model) "Substitution" idea, whilst "Adoption" and "Adaptation" could be "Augmentation", "Infusion" mapping to "Modification" and "Transformation" to "Redefinition". Here it is in bullet points:
  •  Entry > Substitution
  • Adoption > Substitution and Augmentation
  • Adaptation > Augmentation
  • Infusion > Modification
  • Transformation > Redefinition
 Even though one can argue that the two are for different purposes, there does seem to be this match.
The descriptors for the TIM model were difficult to use. For example, in the Transformation column, "Extensive and unconventional use of tools" was the prevailing descriptor. Extensive is fine - unconventional? What does this mean?
The purpose behind the audit is to attempt to see where we are now and determine where we shall have to work to get curriculum leaders to review pedagogy. TIM has proved difficult and we have reverted to a simpler model (the SAMR one), but we have to do some work on exemplars so as to make the categorisation more reliable. #change11

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Gamification - increasing fluid intelligence

Thanks to @suifaijohnmak for the link to Gabe Zichermann's TEDxKids@Brussels talk on Gamification.
An absolute enthusiast for games in education (and life) - fast talking presenter with a powerful message.
"Kids are going to be alright" - in fact they are going to be "awesome" - according to Zichermann his prescription to adults is  "get into the game with kids - don't fight the game trend, understand it".

Getting more out of Google

Great infographic from Hack College (tag line "work smarter, not harder") on getting more out of Google, aimed at students conducting online research.
Copying it here as a personal reference since it is a great look-up for search term grammar.

Get more out of Google
Created by: HackCollege

Friday, 2 December 2011

Simulations - design features take-aways

Clark Aldrich's final session on the design of simulations again provided interesting ideas which resonated. An obvious expert in the games and simulations area, Aldrich reeled off statistics, concepts and pitfalls from his area.
Again, I found good ideas and terms that I can take away from simulation design which can be applied in school learning.
One was the idea of skill cones - as a player progresses through the simulation, skill cones can be used to see how s/he is introduced into a new skill and how this gets harder. Truncated skill cones show no ease of transition into a new skill but straight into a higher level of difficulty. By graphically placing these skill cones in the simulations timeline, you can ensure that not all difficulties are met at once. Parallels with introducing skills into lessons...
The other idea was that of the toleration waves for resolution and frustration. I have to use a snip from Aldrich's presentation to explain this:
This was a great way of showing the balance between frustration and resolution, with the dips into frustration being controlled and planned in the timeline of the game. Again, parallels with lesson design and perhaps problem solving.
I wrote about conceptual learning yesterday, in relation to Conrad Wolfram's stance on mathematics. His approach is to use simulations to concentrate on the ideas, the concepts, and really get to understand them - rather than concentrating on calculations and the manipulating algebra by hand. Simulations, surely, will play a bigger part as we move towards conceptual understanding and away from factual knowledge in our learning and teaching.
(As an aside - I did wonder what I would get from this particular week in the #change11 MOOC. Again I was surprised that I really enjoyed and learned useful ideas from another area - the power of connections that a MOOC provides).

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Making Mathematics Conceptual

Knowledge, skills and understanding. This is the way that we educators breakdown the learning which we are to achieve in students. We work from detailed curricula, schemes of work, instructional plans, syllabi - whatever it might be called - and it is usually stated in detailed lists of things to know about and how "to do" things.
Recently, the move to more "conceptual" approaches, where content is not directly specified, has been discussed. Even assessment orientated organisations such as the International Baccalaureate have been discussing having a more conceptual curriculum for the IB diploma subjects. In order to be clearer about the teaching and learning of this curriculum, they are considering ATTL - specifying Approaches to Teaching and Learning (an extension of the ATL aspect in the lower IB programmes). This might include:
  • A recommended pedagogy
    • constructivist learning
    • subject specific conceptual learning
    • contextualised authentic learning
    • differentiated learning
    • inquiry and critical thinking
    • independent, lifelong learning
    • stimulating learning environments
    • study skills common to all subjects
    • e-learning/technology component
(from Andy Atkinson's presentation at the IB Heads World Conference - he is the new Curriculum Director for the IB)

This is quite interesting territory, needing all the usual caveats regarding the value of the IB diploma curriculum to the next stage of education and thus its currency for university entrance. However, it could herald in a new age of learning and teaching at this normally dry and traditional level.

To see how this might work in mathematics, and at an extreme of the concept, I recalled Conrad Wolfram's presentation from October 2010 at TED. Here he presents his arguments for making math more practical and more conceptual, using real world problems for the calculations ("real problems look knotty, they have hair on them"). As Conrad put it:


He stated that it is not the case that computers will dumb down mathematics but that we have (choose to have) dumbed down problems in mathematics (to be able to deal with the calculations that we can handle).

Here is the original presentation:

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Opening up sim creation - Clark Aldrich tells us how he does it.

Today's #change11 MOOC session on building simulations was fascinating - hearing simulations designer Clark Aldrich tell us how simulations are created and designed.
I should not be suprised that the process mirrored the design of learning, but it was refreshing to see these principles being expressed in novel ways. Aldrich started by stating that the goal of education is individualistic - with the intention to build competence and build conviction, through participation and practice, emotion and interactive content.
Building conviction was explained carefully and was an interesting concept since normally we do not address it. He means doing the hard things even if you do not want to, to have your understanding (and experience?) at more than a naive level so that your competence is reinforced by your self knowledge and will (my words - please correct me!).
As a philosophy, Aldrich spoke about aligning what you are doing with what you do well with what you want to do with what you think is important to do (in a growing and sustainable way) - this sentence and emphases taken from his slide (based on his book "Unschooling Rules"?).

The road map for producing simulations is simple:
  1. Determine the concept.
  2. Create and Design.
  3. Code.
  4. Calibrate.
  5. Deploy.
He went into detail about the various roles in the process, of aligning delivery of content with the importance of context, agreeing on the metrics for success (ahead of time) and on the programme goals:
  • Engagement
    • Fun enough (liked this - you are not designing for total stimulation)
    • Relevant
  • Convenience
    • Well chunked
    • Easy to access
  • Acceptable cost per student
  • Acceptable time to creation
  • Comfort level of instructors and sponsors (not sure what this meant for sponsors).
It is interesting that these could be learning design programme goals and relevant to any design of learning.

Aldrich went through the "storyboard" of several simulations to show how you can use instances to explain the simulation. These took some listening to and the chat channel was quiet during this process. I, certainly, had to concentrate and not chat!

Two rules of thumb stick in my mind from the presentation:
  1. The cost: $100k / 6 months / for every finished hour. This seemed very reasonable for a well-planned, designed and executed simulation, and a great statistic to have from an expert in the know. There were adjustments to this for single player (-25%), adding multiplayer to a single player (+60%), light-weight mechanics (-70%) and 3D client installed (+100%).
  2. The number of critical decision makers: this was a great way of putting it which I am sure could be applied in all sorts of situations. In symbols, where d is the number of critical decision makers:
        If d < 4, costs are 25% less; if d > 10, costs are 100% more.

What a great rule of thumb, and we can all think of situations where this is so. I would add also that as d gets larger, the probability of reaching a decision approaches zero.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Attempting some structure for #change11 - some harder technology

The change11 MOOC site is well designed thanks to Stephen Downes and serves as the nerve centre for this fast-paced gallop through all things change in learning.
I am trying out symbaloo as a dashboard for all things connected with this MOOC - if it works for you please feel free to add and adjust!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Introspective look at MOOCs - too soft a technology?

Today's #change11 MOOC live session allowed us to hear from Jon Dron and his area of expertise - technologies. After a discussion on constraints, the conversation focused on the pedagogy of MOOCs.
Activity in this MOOC has cooled, even though the topic under discussion generates interest and is a meta-concept that allows us to consider assemblies of technology, so it is of interest to educators (pedagogy is a technology), or should be.
It seems that the drop-off is par for the course. I do not have the figures but I suppose one could question what is massive about this MOOC (now an OOC?).
Dron spoke about about the evolution of a community about a MOOC, and how we could look to evolutionary concepts to consider its likely development. Would the MOOC community parcel up into separate groups like the Galapagos finches? Would there be some partial parcelisation but maintaining loose boundaries that would enable filtration of ideas (genes)?
This perhaps is the only natural outcome that we could hope for. The massive part of the MOOC is not sustainable as it is - there are limits on time and attention that a MOOCer can give and with time this will erode.
There seems to be a philosophical reluctance on the part of the MOOC designers to provide any further structure (if I read Stephen Downes' chat posts correctly) and so it will be inevitable that we have many that will fall by the wayside in our journey. Providing structure will harden the technology/pedagogy but could a better sweet spot be found?
We did touch on having a beginner strand and I suggested intelligent tags (something that allowed a hierarchy like an account structure: #change11 for just change for truly open learners, #change11-core for those who wanted their path charted somewhat, perhaps even #change11-tech for those who wanted to follow the week's technology strand only and perhaps #change11-  for those who wanted to receive all the sub divisions of the tags).
 Despite my comments I am still on this learning journey - MOOC or OOC.

Dynamic Views in Blogger - giving the user the views they want?

Tried the Dynamic Views template for this blog for the past few days.
It certainly is attractive and the user is able to select different views - views that allow for easy browsing, looking at the media/pictures, by timeline, etc. The viewer is in control.
However, I lost the ability to customise it. I could not change any of the features. I do not have the html programming ability to change or add features. Visitors could not sign up for posts nor customise it beyond the several views that the template provided. The viewer is not really in control.
So blogs are pretty hard tech after all....

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Dron's balance between hard and soft technologies - seeking the Goldilocks moment

Jon Dron presented a very informative session in Week 11's #change11 MOOC.
Titled "Soft stuff, hard stuff and invisible elephants", Dron described the following:
  • the meaning of technology 
  • the inclusion of pedagogies as technologies
  • SOFT and HARD technologies
  • getting the right balance between them
  • how to move from soft to hard and vice versa
  • and the elephant in the room - "it ain't just what you do, it's the way that you do it. A bad technology, used well, can work brilliantly, while a good technology, used badly, can be useless".
He describes all this well in his post on the nature of technologies.
Dron defines technology as the "orchestration of phenomena for some use" (W. Brian Arthur) and classifies them as:
  • Soft tech - an active orchestration of phenomena by people
  • Hard tech - the orchestration is embeded into a device.

Dron spoke about refrigerating food being a hard technology (difficult to do without automation) and that soft technologies needs people - the technology does not have everything that it takes to make it happen.

He points out that all technologies are ASSEMBLIES of other technologies and tools, some soft, some hard.

Getting the right balance of this for a given time, context and learner is difficult and needs the "Goldilock moment":
  • Not too soft
  • Not too hard
  • Just right!
Aggregating is a way of making technologies softer and replacing with harder things making them harder. A mashup could be made harder or softer.
In discussions about the MOOC approach, Dron said that making the learner have control over the hardness or softness of the technology will allow the learner to have the right balance and find their Goldilocks moment.

Findings regarding the effect of technology on learning generally state NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE - Dron makes the point that it is not the technology but how it is used, what he calls the elephant in the room.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Teacher - Tech Use for Learning - Matrix

The Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) from the Florida Center for Instructional Technology offers both a way of categorising teacher use of technology to enhance learning, and also a plan for developing teacher learning and technology for learning integration.

On the horizontal axis are the levels of technology integration in the curriculum, stated in teacher actions, with the increasing levels Entry, Adoption, Adaption, Infusion, and Transformation.

On the vertical axis are the characteristics of the learning environment, this time stated in terms of what the students do: Active, Collaborative, Constructive, Authentic, Goal Directed.
"The TIM incorporates five interdependent characteristics of meaningful learning environments: active, constructive, goal directed (i.e., reflective), authentic, and collaborative (Jonassen, Howland, Moore, & Marra, 2003)." 

As an example of the matrix, the Active Infusion entry contains the following descriptor:
Students understand how to use many types of technology tools, are able to select tools for specific purposes, and use them regularly.
The teacher guides, informs, and contextualizes student choices of technology tools and is flexible and open to student ideas. Lessons are structured so that student use of technology is self-directed.
Multiple technology tools are available in quantities sufficient to meet the needs of all students.

...and at the Active Authentic intersection:
Students select appropriate technology tools to complete activities that have a meaningful context beyond the instructional setting. Students regularly use technology tools, and are comfortable in choosing and using the tools in the most meaningful way for each activity.
The teacher encourages students to use technology tools to make connections to the world outside of the instructional setting and to their lives and interests. The teacher provides a learning context in which students regularly use technology tools and have the freedom to choose the tools that, for each student, best match the task.
The setting provides a variety of technology tools and access to rich online resources, including information outside of the school and primary source materials, that are available in sufficient quantities to meet the needs of all students.

The matrix links to resources and examples in Maths, Science, Social Studies and Language Arts - with a really good and detailed range - a great resource.

This new TIM replaces the 2005-2006 version previously published, and seems a good descriptor of teacher practices in the K-12 area. 

It is interesting to compare the horizontal axis labels with Puentedura's SAMR model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition). They both attempt to describe technology integration in terms of what the technology does, although Puentedura describes it in terms of change from what was done before.

I like the possibility of the predictive nature of the TIMatrix - it can drive teacher learning and adoption of T4L to the next level.

Could this be incorporated as a model for teacher evaluation of technology use? And so drive technology for learning adoption? #change11

Friday, 18 November 2011

Erik in Abundance

It has been really instructive learning about how Erik Duval teaches.
This week's MOOC #change11 subject, Learning in a Time of Abundance, has allowed us to see into a practitioner's teaching environment (classroom, lecture hall, virtual space, not sure what to call it). Duval has organised teaching (note that I am using this term even though what he has really organised is his students learning approaches) to minimize the direct teaching for memorising current knowledge and leverage the abundance of information. As stated in his presentation at the beginning of the week, Connectedness, Openness and Always-on gives us the environment for this leverage.
Yesterday's COOLCast on JeffLebow.net added another part of the story. Here we were able to learn about Duval's motivation - that his life is really a MOOC, and he said that this week has been a little bit less massive than he expected it to be.
Abundance in the title means also the abundance of content. The availability and abundance of content is such a different experience that Duval says he can concentrate more on what meaningful activities can be built around it.
What tools does Duval use to sip from the firehose of online information? Duval has simple principles, is a strict keeper of time, he has down time which he really respects (family, for example). Secondly, he books in time with his students when he does not do other things. He does a lot of Twitter to be pointed to material, following a # tag for a few days until it does not interest him anymore. He uses RSS and e-mail as good filters.

The other Duval resource was his presentation "Learning with Open Eyes - The Role of Learning Analytics" given as an opening keynote at de OnderWijsDagen in Utrecht on the 8th of November 2011. This was given in Dutch but I think that you can get a lot out of the Slideshare presentation:

This is a key area and I now see why Duval answered the question on Assessment in such a way (see my post on his Monday presentation) - Learning Analytics is what he was talking about as self-tracking data.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Late into Learning in a time of abundance - Erik Duval

(from archive.org Erik Duval)

#globaled11 drew me away from the MOOC #change11 this week, but I'm back! So late into making sense of this week's topic - Learning in a time of abundance by Erik Duval.
Duval said three things are different now:

  • Connectedness
  • Openness 
  • Always on
These make it appropriate to look for a different approach to learning and teaching. Implications for learning:
There will be differences in
  • WHAT we learn
    • Things keep evolving so rapidly that memorising current knowledge (of engineering - his subject) does not make sense. We still do emphasise knowledge even if we say we do not.
  • HOW we learn
    • We should leverage the abundance of information to change how we learn, using the three differences above; "please put your mobile phone ON" is his comment at the start of his lessons.
    • Duval's lessons can be up to 5 hours long and the learning takes place throughout the day and night, with dips in the very early morning.
Are students strategies to learn appropriate given that factual information is so easy to find? Duval implied that the internet has changed the dynamics of communication, people are always on (that is to say, even though you are off [asleep] your digital identity and information is there for all to find). 

Assessment - the inevitable question:
Paraphrasing Duval: "We should do something else but we have not figured out how to assess it so we should keep on doing what we have always done" - Duval says that this does not make sense to him.
Duval uses a lot of formative assessment and self-tracking data as feedback, not as assessment. He says that he does assessment in the same way it is done in professional life - he will have a conversation with the student and then translate this into a number between 0 and 20.

Question - how much do you tell your students?
Duval explains the following at the start of the course:
  • Students will publish in blogs - not write report documents
  • He will not just stand in front of the class
  • He explains why they have to tweet (mandatory)
  • The dangers of neglecting other classes.
Sometimes too much analysis paralysis (great term!) - talking about some issue for ever, need to just move on.

Can clear objectives be maintained but work in a much messier, fragmented way?
Duval doubts that there are such clear objectives except in an abstract way. He says that it is just how life is, messy. Answer is never 42 in engineering terms....

Permission to operate in this way?
"Don't ask anyone for permission"! Like a good lapsed Catholic he just asks for forgiveness afterwards if things go wrong. Great approach.

Comment on coherence and messiness: Duval will spend quite a bit of time with students if what they are presenting is incoherent. Incoherent - self contradicting statements - but messiness? Things connected to many different things in messy ways? Fine.

Practical guidelines for educators based upon his experience:
  • "Let go" is his best advice - let go of fake control, since we as teachers focus on things we can control since we often doubt our capabilities to teach.
  • Accept that other teachers will be just as scared.
  • Connect to the life of students - how do I make it authentic and valuable to them.
Erik Duval's challenge for the week:
  • Find examples of where this approach works really well.
  • What are the limitations to openness? Challenge him with situations where openness does not work.
Good practical MOOC session - thanks!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Howard Gardner at Global Ed - Keynote

This was a first: Howard Gardner was interviewed by his son Andrew, for the Global Education conference keynote. There was a nice relaxed relationship between them - but son was asking the questions his dad was wanting to answer - could a more incisive moderator have got more?

Andrew started by asking dad about the distinction between Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences (MI), an issue that was obviously a Gardner hang-up. Originally, MI was NOT an educational theory and he talked about standing back to see where the educators would take MI. He described it as the different things the brain computer did. Learning Styles, however, was a different concept and to him was a particular style, preference or tendency and may cross different Multiple Intelligences. So - LS and MI are not to be confused.

An unkind person would say that as an author-thinker, Gardner did the inevitable promotion of his books, but there were web plugs too, for Project Zero, for example.
He talked about his motivation for working in different areas, and how market forces were taking over as the raison d'etre, how owners of "for-profits cook the books" with little incentive to teach the arts or humanities and other "soft" areas.
He also talked about the Good Work project and which composed of the following
  • Technically excellent
  • Personally engaging
  • Carried out in an ethical way.
Digital age questions that Gardner raised:
  • What does identity mean online?
  • What about privacy?
  • Ownership of authorship?
  • How do you determine trustworthyness and credibility?
  • What does it mean in the digital era to participate in the community?
Common Sense Media was a curriculum based upon the five points above, and the ethical guidebook from the Good Play project called OurSpace.

Quotation: People have always been greedy but there has not been so many ways to be greedy. Alan Greenspan

And from his book Five Minds for the Future:
  • The Disciplinary Mind
  • The Synthesizing Mind
  • The Creating Mind
  • The Respectful Mind
  • The Ethical Mind
Spoke about the Tea Party and Occuply Wall Street groups as what happens when large group of population feel that they are not being listened to. But these two groups are not forming a conversation, just extremes.

So, although intersting, nothing particularly new.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Alan November asks "Who owns the learning?"

In the opening keynote of the GlobalEd conference, Alan November looks at some fresh ideas (fresh from him). He states that there is little to indicate that there have been significant or measurable improvements, on the whole, after the spending of tens of billions in technology.
He asks that there must be no more of the following:
  • No more Technology Planning
  • No more 1:1, students should have but that is not the central issue
  • No more Ed Tech - no more technology directors and less talk of technology
But have more on Learning Design - define problem as improving learning for all our children, then Learning Design is what we should be aiming for. 
(and November asks if anyone has changed their titles - well, we are now talking of T4L so as to emphasise that it is all about the Learning).
Critical questions to ask - do we have:
  • Right information about learning
  • Right relationships to support learning
Students - do students have the right information and the right relationships? "Our teachers know too much, but student tutorials are pitched at the right level", depending upon your friends are you probably will do better or worse at school. Build capacity of students to help students - less emphasis on teacher technology training.
So change in the relationships is vital: mentions Eric Mazur - designing an online community of his students (November says Facebook might be based upon this since Zuckerberg was in Mazur's class!), brings out an amazing treasure trove of information on how learning is happening.
(Mazur's presentation at BLC11 is a "must watch", 20% of learning achieved with the best lecture; figures out that students need immediate feedback with a lot of peer conversation, and that Sochratic approach is better; hence the flip classroom).
As far as professional development is concerned, November says that it is much more rewarding to be global, for your personal learning network to be beyond campus.
($1,000 pencils: students taking notes from teacher in class - a nice way of stating that 1 to 1 means nothing unless the pedagogy changes).
The knowledge of the teacher is in the way of the learning, says November, it is not about knowledge transfer.
November talks about the flipped classroom - here is the video from Clintondale High School which has gone through a complete transformation of pedagogy:

Learning design is the key, not the technology.
Question to ask is who owns the learning? And not how many computers do you have. 
November talks about new student roles for developing empowered learners:
  • Tutorial designers
  • Official scribes
  • Collaboration coordinators
  • Researchers
  • Contributors to society
  • Curriculum reviewers
  • and specifically:
    • Videographer
    • Photographer
    • Data entry
    • Live blogging
    • Interviewers
    • Skype connections
    • Backchannel
So, November asks:
  • Who owns the learning?
  • Are your students producing a legacy?
  • Who works harder in the classroom?
  • Are students publishing to a global audience?
But he says that TEACHERS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER to emphasis the need for learning designers.

An excellent thought provoking session.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

BYOD does not necessarily mean only mobile phones

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a shorthand for the idea of having each student with a computing device - their own. The assumption of many writing about this is that the device will be a mobile phone. In 7 Myths About BYOD Debunked, Lisa Nielsen gives a pretty good account of why mobile phones can be the "D" in BYOD.
She phrases the two "myths" that I question in this way, but I think misses the point:
  • Myth No. 2: BYOD will result in lessons geared toward the weakest device.
  • Myth No. 6: Cell phones are not that powerful, so we should not waste our time with them.
Firstly, mobile phones ARE the weakest device. This is not to say that they always will be, or that they are not powerful, but in comparison with other "Ds" they are the weakest device. Two factors make them difficult to work with - the size of the display and the multitasking limitations. The first will not change until we have virtual displays appearning in front of our eyes. The second may be improved but it is related to the first problem.
So, if the option is ONLY mobile phone, then they can be the device. But if it is realistic to consider other options, from netbooks through i-Pads to laptops, then these other "Ds" win hands down.
For digital scholarship, involving extensive writing, researching and reading, the mobile phone does not hack it.
(For messaging, light e-mail, Twitter, G+, FB, everyday camera, recording audio, and even reading from i-Books in the dentist's waiting room, the smart phone is great)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Models - usefulness and otherwise

Well, my last piece on Rhizomatic Learning.
In today's #change11 MOOC live session a series of questions allowed Dave Cormier to expand on the ideas and again it was an interesting hour.
At one point Stephen Downes started to sketch to explain traditional learning and rhizomatic learning (it was me typing in the labels - it may not have been exactly what Stephen meant).
All of a sudden it started to make sense, the idea that nothing new is created with traditional transmition of knowledge, that rhizomatic learning created something new, and then STOP! On the wrong track, Dave dragged us back underground to draw the rhizomatic approach (top right).

For me, a model has to be simple to follow and we should not need to read French philosophy to "get it". Stephen's alternative started to make sense, Dave's rhizomes clouded it for me. So, for me (and I stress that others may well find the concept useful) it goes no-where and as a model fails.
However, let me add something more concrete to the question raised about "assessment" or at least the badging or verification of such learning.
I can see that for teacher professional development, an open non-curriculum self-directed connected learning approach works (have I just described rhizomatic learning?). In my school, those at the cutting edge of technology for learning are learning in exactly this way. The ideas that permeate from them are proof that the learning is taking place. They are badged by their subsequent actions, and this is a perfectly acceptable verification.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Rhizomes - back to basics

If the metaphors don't work for me, what can I suggest?
Well, let me write it in other terms without using the rhizome, worker, soldier, nomad metaphors:
The first dichotomy is formal and informal learning.
Formal, of course, is everything conventional, perhaps existing already, based on courses, structure, teaching, VLEs, etc.
Informal is that learning which is achieved outside of the official formal learning structures but includes online, PLEs, MOOCS, in fact, anything driven by the learner and including books, experience, and other interactions which are not necessarily technological.
Another dichotomy: under informal we can include the learning which is facilitated by a person or persons bringing resources, ideas and people together (the social artist?) as well as the learning achieved by those who truly direct (or wander) through their own selected learning experiences (the nomad in rhizomatic learning?).
What is missing here that should be here - is this too simplistic? What ideas are in rhizomatic learning which can't be derived from here?

Metaphors that don't work for me - Social Artists, Rhizomes, Nomads

We are categorisers. It is how our brains work. We can't help placing labels on concepts and this helps us refer to huge ideas in a simple way.
We use metaphors as particularly apt labels. The mind-ideas generated by the metaphor helps us remember and work with the concepts.
I have found both the Social Artist metaphor and now the Rhizomatic Learning (including Workers, Soldiers and Nomads) particularly difficult to work with.
Dave Cormier's facilitation on #change11 MOOC's session yesterday was excellent. A fairly large number of participants interacted on chat and on the screen. But it took me the session to understand each of the metaphors for Rhizomatic Learning and none of them, for me at least, "clicked". In fact, they seemed distracting. The "Workers", "Soldiers" and "Nomads" metaphors brought many other not entirely relevant ideas to mind. They simply did not work for me. As for Rhizomatic Learning, I was left with the feeling of "so what?".
Clearly the work on the Rhizomatic Learning concept has gone a long way. Have I been left behind in a developing thought process where the original labels worked but the ideas have matured?
The only benefit of such a loose or inappropriate coupling of metaphor to concept is that it needs such deep explanation and understanding - perhaps that is a good thing.
Oh, it did seem to me that there were too many flippant comments in the interactive session. You come to expect it on chat but I was disapointed with the negative and lightweight responses on the interactive board. Purpose of education? Why did my fellow participants have such limited and cynical views?

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Time for a Learning Revolution

It takes a 16 year old to say it so clearly:
Policy-wise, we need a national curriculum, based on lean standards, so that teachers have the full autonomy to shape and mold the curriculum.
Nikhil Goyal writes about project based learning in the Huffington Post under the title "It's Time for a Learning Revolution".
I propose that we institute a 21st century model of education, rooted in 21st century learning skills and creativity, imagination, discovery, and project-based learning. 
He gives as an example of this idea in action, the High Tech High in San Diego, California, which has this as its descriptor for its eleven schools:
All of these schools serve a diverse, lottery-selected student population; all embody the High Tech High design principles of personalization, adult world connection, common intellectual mission, and teacher as designer.
[the example comes from his post within Andrew Revkin's article here]. 
What would it take to make this happen?
Learning by Breaking - a project approach:

Social Artist doubts - process and "feel-good"

This week's MOOC #change11 has not held my interest.
Without doubt, Nancy White is a charismatic facilitator, using graphical tools to have participants express themselves and develop a particular view. I think this approach (using such graphical tools) is excellent for the participants.
I learned long ago that my wonderfully produced mathematical notes were excellent - for me. The iterrative process of producing these and improving them was valuable to me, the writer. My students needed to produce their own versions (yes, to construct their own knowledge), for this to be valuable for them.
So the outcome of the process did not mean much without being a participant.
Also, there seemed to be an inordinate amount of "feel-good" commentating. Why? Could there be a cultural difference?
Hence my Tweet: the Queen has got no clothes on. There, I said it.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Platform hinderance to universal OER use

No Flash on the Apple i-Pad and no Java on Google's Chromebook is a problem when producing and using Open Educational Resources (OER).
I had prepared a Screencast-o-matic video for a virtual lesson to find that this did not work on my Chromebook. As part of the same course, I used some Flash-driven fractal modeling sites - this does not work on the i-Pad.
These issues are not just to do with these two machines since the same compatibility problems are faced with different mobiles, but it is serious if you adopt a free Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) approach at school. It forces OER producers and users to restrict themselves to no Flash and no Java if we want to be universally compatible. #change11

Friday, 28 October 2011

OERu will legitimise open educational resources and practices

The Friday session of the #change11 MOOC on Open Educational Resources (OER) and Practices (OEP) was useful to learn about the OERu, its logic model and its plans. 
Its aims are: OERu
(Directed by the core principles of engagement the OER university collaboration:)
  • Will design and implement a parallel learning universe to provide free learning opportunities for all students worldwide with pathways to earn credible post-secondary credentials.
  • Offer courses and programs based solely on OER and open textbooks.
  • Design and implement scalable pedagogies appropriate for the OER university concept.
  • Will implement scalable systems of volunteer student support through community service learning approaches.
  • Coordinate assessment and credentialising services on a cost recovery basis for participating education institutions to ensure credible qualifications and corresponding course articulation among anchor partners.
Rory McGreal posed the question - which course is better? One of say, 20 students with an 80% pass-rate or one with 2 million students with a 50% pass-rate (he spoke of different figures but these came from his slide). The implication was that all the talk of completion rates was not the full picture and that such an open approach will lead to much greater educational good. In the chat the point was made that even the drop-outs were probably learning as well. So the emphasis was - let's go from elite to open.
He also spoke about someone NOT having a modern education UNLESS s/he engaged with the internet. Good point.
He asked - why OER? and went to describe some restrictions regarding DRM protected material (Digital Restriction Management, as he put it). Included in the list was really some things to make one think: DRM owners not having liability even if product does not work, users have the "privilege" of using the product and do not own it and you are prohibited to show content to others. In other words, they have sewn up intellectual rights for their total benefit.
Wayne Mackintosh gave a detailed presentation of the OERu, starting with the University of London's External System as being a pioneer of this idea. He balanced an equation which showed an increase of OER plus an increase in OEP giving better quality, better access and reduced cost.
The logic model had learners as an input through a system with OERs and then through educational institutions providing assessment, credential and community services, going from free to fee.
One sure consequence of this has to be the legitimising of OER and OEPs. This must be good so that it can counter the publisher lobby comments about theirs being the only approach.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

OER week more about university structure than OERs

"A key Question for the discussions will be: What is the role of OER in supporting not only informal learning but also change in educational systems?".

Rory McGreal's presentation on the #change11 MOOC session on Tuesday was more orientated towards how universities should structure themselves so as to deal with openness than Open Educational Resources in informal learning. He was describing this in terms of his work as Canadian UNESCO/Commonwealth of Learning Chair in OER and I got a couple of useful points out of the presentation and discussion.

Clearly, if universities are to accredit learning then they must ensure that the standards which are set are met. The back chat on the session revealed some disquiet about the testing focus (and the likely backwash effect on learning as well as an undue pressure to have the university support so as to improve your results).

However, it seemed inevitable that a university should ensure the "standard" of the end product by such an approach.

Of interest also was the recognition of prior learning, another essential component for open approaches at university level. This was not just at the level of doing so for granting credit but also to recognise it as part of the package of results.

McGreal used the following diagram (credited to Judith Murray) to describe the adaptation to open approaches at university level - thanks for this since it clarified it succinctly.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Tech Professional Development in Schools - a model

Following on from last week's MOOC discussion on Managing Technology and my post on "Have a process/structure but don't kill the innovation", I have been talking (yes! F2F) with our team and looking at a process for technological professional development for schools. Thanks Jennifer for Diigo-ing Mark Brumley's April 2011 post on a "New Paradigm for Professional Development - Part 2", which I have mashed up into something that might work for us and our "Technology for Learning" initiative.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Have a process/structure but don't kill the innovation.

Tony Bates facilitated a good discussion on the MOOC Change11 session: "Managing Technology to Transform Teaching" (not sure why not "...to Transform Learning"). He sought to involve the participants in his questions, so it seemed much more interactive than usual.
He asked two questions which seemed remote from the immediate discussion (do institutions need to change and should this be done from within or outside) and went on to describe the findings from the book he has written together with Albert Sangra  - "Managing Technology in Higher Education: Strategies for Transforming Teaching and Learning". The link gives a good executive summary of the main findings of their book.
The research brought out some interesting and valid findings, including that more successful technological implementations occurred when the Leadership Team were speaking from the same page, all having bought in to the concept of technology being important to develop learning, had set measurable strategic goals, with academic disciplines having specific technical skills for the particular discipline, with planning at all levels (and specifically not just top-down), using F2F earlier on and later more e-learning (first year more F2F), program level innovation, planning and decision making (with an Exploration -> Resources Planning -> Pilot -> Evaluation -> Spread across school methodology). He made the point of the importance of getting away from line management and silos, and for having a strategy for supporting the initiatives in technology.
This was all related to Higher Education. I am interested in how these ideas transfer to K-12 schools.
Reflecting on how we managed the introduction of technology in my school, I notice how we have developed:

  • working with enthusiasts at the start and trying to appoint teachers with ICT capabilities
  • taking the view that, on the whole, ICT is taught through the medium of subject disciplines and not on its own
  • taken the approach of "sowing a thousand seeds and letting the flowers bloom"
  • appointing key people to ICT teaching jobs, having key supporters in leadership posts
  • holding enthusiast workshops, offering training in Web 2.0, using various systems for sharing technological resources
  • providing initially a network infrastructure with roaming desktop facilities, then various stages of wireless networks, increasing broadband access and bandwidth (now at 30Mbits)
  • noting the growth of many weeds amongst what we had previously sown and so standardising on Google Apps for Education, including Sites for webpages and Blogger for blogs; pulling all this in with a Communications Strategy to harmonise and centralise
  • use collaborative technological systems at school to both increase technological expertise and have a collegiate approach to decision making
Where do we go to from here? The financial constraints are real and inhibiting. So we have to take this into account and develop strategies to ensure that we continue to develop our technology so as to make learning and teaching effective and efficient, whilst maintaining our desire to create independent learners of our students (and teachers).
Bates' idea of through-institution development and not just top-down makes sense. However, his approach seemed too structured and inhibiting - but perhaps this was because of its Higher Education setting. I read Viplav Baxi's post on Death by Structure with great interest - and urge you to do so too. It prompted me to comment on his post as follows, and I give his reply:

Viplav – Thank you for your view on this which has made me think hard. Tony Bates has put forward a standard solution to the organisation of technology issue – use structure, committees, perhaps consultants, have clear strategic goals shared by the Leadership Team, involve people from program level through to the LT.
It is hardly surprising that the “coming of age” of technology should be institutionalised through standard organisational processes.
However (certainly at K-12 school level), this model may not work as well. Busy teachers, successful but traditional pedagogy (tweaked to include technology at the Substitution and Augmentation level of the Puentedura’s SAMR model, perhaps including some Modification but hardly ever Redefinition), will be more successful in a much messier approach. Providing the infrastructure and the encouragement to seed lots of initiatives and let the flowers bloom has been the approach the I have found successful.
At this point I think it is necessary to provide some structure, to zero in on some standard resources (say using Google Apps for Education and Sites instead of personal blogs on various blog platforms, so as to provide for institutional continuity). But the driving force is still teachers developing individual expertise in areas where they see the advantages.
It is necessary to engage teachers at all levels, from “program” or EWB-face through department and school leadership. Include enthusiasts, skeptics and wannabes. And continue developing the pedagogy and direction but always asking “where is the learning in this”.
His reply:
I completely agree. Structure is not antithetical to complex systems. In fact, there is an orderliness about them as well. However it is not ordered as in centralized direction or uni-directed cohesion. The best structures are those that provide the ability to self-organize and adapt. That is what I feel shall bring change and it is where we must focus. Thanks!

So, we have to have a structure which is not top-down, is innovation-friendly and has the ability to allow self-organisation, but allows us to plan strategically and make appropriate financial decisions. We will try a Technology for Learning Forum (T4L-Forum) to develop the pedagogy necessary, working with enthusiasts, wannabes and even perhaps skeptics, but always asking "where is the learning in this".

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Whole, Deep Learning from a Hole in the Wall?

(#change11, #ibheads)
Sugata Mitra is well known for placing computers in "holes in the wall", ATM style. He has given the opening inspirational speech at the International Baccalaureate Heads Conference in Singapore.
Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University and also at Media Lab, MIT, he certainly entertained us all with a great talk.
He asked a question which is at the heart of the Change11 MOOC - what will the world look like in 50 years time? He did this by going back 50 or so years and looking at the radiogram (then MP3 which then vanished into a mobile phone), the telephone (from operators to connect people to mobiles which then vanished - we now can't tell whether people are talking to themselves or on a phone), and now the computer (already the size of a page, will it ever disappear altogether? Will we need body scanners in schools to prevent implanted mobile phones (!)). Will arithmetic be needed at all in 50 years time? Will it be an obsolete thing when you can do it automatically and powerfully with your implanted "thing"?
Could Education be an obsolete thing?
He described his progress from the Hole in the Wall computers through to his latest work in Gateshead. His point was that small groups of children (had to be a small group, not individuals), created a Self Organised Learning Environment (SOLE) and, given a big question, could learn together. There needed to be an appointed police officer-student to keep order, no more than groups of 4 or 5, and crucially, a big question on the lines of "who was Pythagoras?" or "what happens when you die?".
He described the scores obtained in India by children themselves (30%) and how these could be augmented by the "method of the grandmother" (stand behind and admire - the score went up to 50%). And also how aspirations can be changed by giving children other models to admire (TED talks instead of just media-pushed celebrities).
Returning to his original question, he left us with our challenge - since we cannot know what the world will look like, we need to develop the skills of reading comprehension, ability to search for information, and the development of a rational system of belief. I would add (what was implicit in his talk) that by asking questions which stimulated the interest and motivation of children, they would find out about the world they live in and develop the skills to go on doing so.
I asked myself in what ways is a MOOC a self organised system - one that might change in unexpected ways as it developed - and in what ways might it change?
Here is a version of the talk from TED: