Archive | October, 2016

The New Age

31 Oct

Connecting

To me, 21st century learning in an elementary school has the same overall goals as a secondary school: it’s only the implementation that differs. We want students to be practicing the 4 C’s: communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. They should be producing content, not just consuming it passively. Though technology isn’t synonymous with 21st century learning, it IS an integral part of it, and it’s often the set of tools that makes this new approach to teaching and learning possible. The purpose of technology used in a 21st century classroom should be (in my opinion) to connect students with their world and enable them learn from others and to share their own ideas. It should also be used to differentiate the curriculum so that students are learning on their own developmental levels and are able to pursue their unique interests and passions.

I think that’s one of the greatest things about technology and one of the most exciting aspects of the vision for 21st century schools: that children are no longer all forced to learn the same thing the same way just because the teacher doesn’t have a simple way to differentiate. I don’t think we’re quite at the point where technology makes it “simple” to differentiate instruction, but certainly simpler. And with the thousands of new apps and websites being launched each day, I believe the quality and a variety of tools available for teachers is going to continue increasing. Even the most tech-averse teacher will be saying in 10 years, Wow,  really makes it easier to help my students. How did I ever live without this? Many of us have already reached that point with tech tools in our personal lives our teaching lives are going to be transformed soon, too. For some teachers, that’s already a reality, and it’s amazing to see.

Digital Natives

30 Oct

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“Our students, who are empowered in so many ways outside their schools today, have no meaningful voice at all in their own education. Their parents’ voices, which up until now have been their proxies, are no longer any more closely aligned with students’ real education needs than their teachers’ voices are. In the 21st century, this lack of any voice on the part of the customer will soon be unacceptable. As we educators stick our heads up and get the lay of the 21st century land, we would be wise to remember this: If we don’t stop and listen to the kids we serve, value their opinions, and make major changes on the basis of the valid suggestions they offer, we will be left in the 21st century with school buildings to administer – but with students who are physically or mentally somewhere else.” (Marc Perensky, ASCD, 2006)

Professional Reading

22 Oct

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Some excerpts from Guy Claxton’s What’s the Point of School? Rediscovering the Heart of Education, 2008.

This week I have been catching up on some reading. Here is a summary.

“The purpose of education is to prepare young people for the future. Schools should be helping young people to develop the capacities they will need to thrive. What they need, and want, is the confidence to talk to strangers, to try things out, to handle tricky situations, to stand up for themselves, to ask for help, to think new thoughts. That is not too much to ask – it is every young person’s basic educational entitlement. But they are not getting it. There is no evidence that being able to solve simultaneous equations, or discuss the plot of Hamlet, equips young people to deal with life. We have lazily assumed that, somehow, it must do, but research shows that even successful students are often left timid and unsettled when they step outside the narrow comfort zones of their academic success. We agonize about the content of the syllabus, and the dumbing down of examinations, yet the core failure of education to prepare young people for their complex and uncertain future passes, year after year, almost without comment…

Instead of developing appreciation and curiosity, the demand for ‘coverage’ often results, in practice, in ‘teaching by mentioning’. What pupils instinctively know is that the content itself is less important than what you do with the content. You can make learning history or maths a dull, tedious slog; or you can make it a vehicle for stretching students’ powers of analysis, empathy and collaboration…

“What matters is not the facts but how you discover and think about them: education in the true sense, is very different from today’s assessment-mad exam culture.” (Richard Dawkins)

Much of what has passed for ‘good teaching’, though it may get the results, does so by creating young people who are docile, uncritical, unimaginative and dependent. Good teaching for the learning age is very different from ‘effective spoon feeding’…

Many academic authorities have revived, and are quoting with approval, the great Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget’s definition of intelligence. He thought of intelligence as ‘knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do’. In other words, the essence of intelligence isn’t what you can do easily and fast. It is how you respond when the going gets tough. Do you have strategies and capabilities you can fall back on – or do you go to pieces?…”

Teenagers!!!!

18 Oct

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I remember being a teenager. It was a while ago now, but the maelstrom of growing up is still very immediate. In fact, I don’t think it really stops. It’s a myth that you emerge from your teens as a fully formed mature adult. I’m still learning, changing, developing every day, connecting new experiences and ideas with old ones to update and develop my own personal map of the world – and I stopped being a teenager in 1989. Take my last metaphor, for example – I robbed it from a TED talk I watched yesterday by John Green on Paper Towns and Why Learning Is Awesome, in which he likens learning to a cartographic enterprise. I liked it and I’ve already woven it into my own way of thinking about education

Larry Rosenstock at ULearn

8 Oct

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How can we reorganize timetables and learning structures to better utilize teacher strengths; teachers moving to where the kids are and vice-versa in school environments where we don’t have ‘Innovative Learning Spaces’, but single-cell classrooms?

He cited the influence of John Dewey and the work of Paulo Freire. I also like that he noted that nothing they are doing at High Tech High is new, it might be unusual, it isn’t new. I include the link below regarding changing the subject video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a036N5N5Hlk

Rosenstock noted that he visited 38 schools when researching schools, and talked of the mosaic of schools and started talking about the “American High School is still missing” suggesting a hole in the educational landscape that needed filling.
Other concepts I noted:

  • Project Phases: observation, reflection, documentation, presentation
  • STEAM instead of STEM because art and design are central to all aspects of STEM. Rosenstock’s Integrations: integration between the mind, heart and hand; integration of social class (accepted by lottery and never segregated in any way); integration of head and hand (need to use both well, not just one); integration of secondary and post-secondary (geared towards college acceptance) integration of school and community
  • Focus on the experience
  • Huge focus on production and not consumption; students can only play games that they created
  • Have students behave like or be like a professional since a huge part of adolescence is trying on new roles and identities
  • Rigor: Not only increased complexity of content, but “I would argue that rigor is being in the company of a passionate adult who is rigorously pursuing inquiry in the area of their subject matter and is inviting students along as peers in that adult discourse.” 
  • How do you know you are a good teacher? “The sophistication of your kids’ work. If your kids are producing work that’s worth doing and that has a lasting value and learning that’s worth learning, you’re a good teacher.”
  • Judge teachers by quality of their students’ work through public exhibitions
  • Use and bring in teachers’ interests; teachers’ excitement is a huge part of engagement
  • “Walls permeable” with the outside world through internship and community service
  • Take methodology of tech like group perform, team-taught, experiential, applied, expeditionary, and producing; connecting pedagogy of tech (not content) with academic content
  • Design of the school: Lots of glass (incubator or startup), so that student work can be showcased (curation), and allow students to see what is going on in other classes

Environment matters. Interestingly he then followed this up with a project where the learners actually published a book. High Tech High turns students into artists, inventors and authors.

Knowledge is socially constructed. This is a statement that appears to be at the heart of what Rosenstock and High Tech High does. Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum. As he kept flicking through projects, there was a real sense of authentic learning. Students solving real problems, tacking very real issues and producing very real products and actions. He made a comment to me in a group at coffee that I wanted to highlight here.“End the autonomous isolation of teachers.”

For interest this clip puts in place where we are and where our students might be.

The Kids table.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeFr-BqEaBM

ULearn16

8 Oct

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Today I am sitting catching my breath after ULearn16. A truly outstanding experience. This blog will reflect some of the ideas and developments in education in the next few weeks. Here though is my favourite memory.

 

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Pathways

6 Oct

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This seems to be the new buzzword in the media these days. But whether or not the choice is good or bad, I am still very much in favour of people having a choice!

As educators, we at times are concerned about our students, faculty and staff not staying the course and making choices that are neither scripted nor a part of the “this is what we have always done” philosophy. But when these same entities (students, faculty & staff) are given the opportunity to create new ideas and when they are provided with the ownership to implement these ideas, our students, faculty and staff often become the beneficiaries of these “good choices.”

For example, when students are offered the chance to choose one of three essay questions to complete, the choice of a book to read or the choice of a research paper topic, we know they will be more fully engaged. I understand many educators feel the need to control the conversations and the intended outcomes, but it really doesn’t take much more effort to offer our students a choice of which of the 25 of the 40 math questions they choose to work/answer.

As a school leader I am a firm believer in offering their staff the choice/opportunity of choosing new methods, like using 365, Slides, kahoot, etc., as a more efficient way to share information with others?

Leaders should be encouraging their teachers to choose a different way to deliver their content either by truly integrating technology or by “flipping” the instruction

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