Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Can creativity be taught?

Bob Greenberg has added a new video to his Brainwaves series.  Sir Ken Robinson asks can creativity be taught?

Thanks for continuing your quest to interview and video the brightest minds in education Bob!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Back to the Future

In my first year at ASB I was part of a critical friends group.  One of the activities we did was a future protocol where we looked into the future and talked about what it would look like in the best case scenario.  The protocol also gave an insight into what it would take to be successful.  In this protocol the various members of the group projected into the future and described what it looked like. The interesting thing was that they had to talk in the present tense in order to describe what "is". From that future position, we also had to look back and describe how it looked when we started moving towards that point.  At that point we had to talk in the past tense and to think about the issues, culture, conversations and so on at the starting point.  Looking back from the "projected present" we had to discuss how we moved from the starting point to the projected present.  At this point we could discuss how, when, who and so on.

In the book Technology Together, Renata Phelps and Anne Graham use a similar protocol when considering an IT vision.  They write about the importance of discussing what education might look like in the future because this sort of visioning process helps people to embrace change and to play a productive role in moving forwards towards the vision that they prefer.  In the Technology Together protocol there are 3 different kinds of futures:

  • Possible futures - by thinking creatively and imaginatively people can consider various future scenarios - both positive and negative.
  • Probable futures - this involves thinking logically and thinking about the connection between the current situation and the envisaged futures
  • Preferred futures - involve a choice between the alternative futures
Both these protocols when used with teachers can lead to valuable discussions and eventually a shared vision for change and ideas of how to make the change happen.

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Perceived Usefulness

As our tech coaches embark upon goal setting with their teachers,  one of the most important things I think they are going to be dealing with is the perceived usefulness of technology.  We've all heard the teacher who has been teaching the same way for many years and yet resists change because s/he claims to have excellent exam results.  Whether a teacher will want to change her/his use of technology will depend on a variety of things:
  • Feelings, attitudes and beliefs of what can be done
  • Motivation of why this should be done
  • Strategies of how to do it
In our cognitive coaching course this summer we learned about efficacy.  Bill and Ochan Powell defined this as the ability to embrace problems as opportunities because you know you have the capacity to solve problems and take action to bring about change.  Renata Phelps and Anne Graham refer to this as self-efficacy, which is not so much about the technological skills that you have but about your personal judgement of these skills.

Motivation is also important.  In some schools the motivation will be external because of the requirements of the curriculum or the school.  Intrinsic motivation is of course more powerful, as teachers want to change because they know it is important for students to use technology or because they see that technology engages and motivates students.  One of the things I've noticed as I've been setting goals with teachers is that they are keen to talk about uses of technology and apps that are useful tools for them in their own professional lives, for example assessment apps (personal perceived usefulness) and the usefulness of technology in the classroom (pedagogical perceived usefulness).  Phelps and Graham also write about the importance of motivation in goal setting:  "In order to assist teachers to take control of their own learning they need to be supported to realize that the first step is to personally take on some goals."

I think it's important for teachers to develop their skills as problems solvers, as when you are using technology problems will invariably arise.  According to Phelps and Graham, being able to solve such problems takes time, experience, patience and perseverance - and this in turn requires the right attitude and the ability to apply the most appropriate strategies.  Confidence will come, but only when teachers are prepared to have a go and then experience success.  

I think perceived usefulness is one topic that will come up again and again as we set goals with our teachers so it is important to support them to problem solve and to realize through their successes that they can bring about change.

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Flipped Learning: is it revolutionary or transformational?

When my younger brother was in school in England in the 1960s he was taught to read using the ITA alphabet (see image).  This alphabet was devised by Sir James Pitman, the grandson of Sir Isaac Pitman who invented Pitman's shorthand, as a way of teaching children to read more easily using phonics.  After children had learned to read using the ITA (initial teaching alphabet), they would then move on to learn standard English spelling.

After the 1960s, the pendulum of educational learning theory swung away from teaching phonics, and ITA fell into decline. Another factor that caused this was that it was noticed that many children were not able to easily transfer their early ITA reading skills to standard English, and that they were confused at having to learn two alphabets.  The ITA, for me, is a good example of an educational movement that was revolutionary, yet made no lasting transformation on learning.

Another example I can think of is middle schools.  When I attended school in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s there was basically a two-tier education system:  primary up to the age of 11, followed by secondary - the secondary school you went to was determined by your score on an exam that all children in the UK sat called the 11+.  In the late 1960s views about this two-tier system changed, following the Plowden Report of 1967 which advocated a three-tier system of primary, middle and high schools.  In the 1970s local educational authorities, in line with the new thinking, set about establishing middle schools.  Interestingly there was no common agreement between local authorities about which age of children should be in a middle school - from one part of the country to another it varied so that some middle schools were for children aged 8 - 12, some were for children aged 9 - 13 and some for children aged 10 - 13.  By 1980 thousands of middle schools existed across the UK. When I left school in the late 1970s I'd never even heard of middle schools, but by the time I became a teacher in the early 1980s middle schools were everywhere.  As a secondary teacher we had our children for just 3 - 4 years until they left school at 16.  By the late 1980s, however, when I left the UK to teach overseas, the pendulum was swinging again.  A national curriculum was due to be brought in, and the number of middle schools declined.  In the UK today there are less than 200 middle schools, and the ones that remain are designated as primary or secondary.  Another huge revolution that failed to produce any lasting transformation.

So how about flipped learning?  I was interested to see that Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams tackle this question in their new Flipped Learning book.  They write that the difference between revolutions and transformations are that revolutions happen from the outside in and from the top down - which certainly seems true when I consider the failure of ITA and middle schools in the UK. Transformational change, they write, is different in that it happens from the inside, and that it happens virally as ideas spread from one person to another, who share their learning and become change agents.  In transformational change, change happens from the bottom up.

Examples such as ITA and middle schools were definitely top-down revolutions and seem to have had very little input from teachers.  Teachers often see these changes in the form of bandwagons that they are forced to jump onto for a short time and then find they have to jump off again.  Is flipped learning different?  It does seem that it has started with teachers and it has spread around the world as many different teachers adopt this model in order to "reclaim" the face to face time with their students in class, to focus on supporting students to learn, instead of simply using this time to teach.  I suppose only time will tell, but for me it does seem that the classes where flipped learning is going on are certainly the ones that are making transformational change.

Tech Integration Coaches - our second meeting

The first few weeks of school have flown by and already we have had our second all school Tech Integration Coaches meeting.  This meeting was much more concerned with the "nuts and bolts":  the whats and the hows.  We talked about PD opportunities for coaches (in fact we are hoping we can share our experiences at the ISTE Conference next summer).  As we are hosting the 3rd Google Summit in India in November, and as this is also timely for India's first Google Teacher Academy, we talked about some of the benefits that this can bring us for increasing our own knowledge about technology.  Other things we mentioned that can be good sources of PD were webinars, books and online resources.

At the end of our first meeting our coaches still had several questions:  What do we do?  How do we start?  How often should we meet with the teachers we are coaching?  For what we do we revisited ASB's Tech Integration Standards for Coaches, which was based on the ISTE Standards for Coaches.  We had a discussion in pairs about where we were individually on this rubric - were we approaching, meeting or exceeding these standards?

Based on where we felt were areas of growth we then set our goals as coaches for our own learning. We wanted to give teachers a model as to how they could approach goal setting with their teachers, so we modeled a 10 minutes planning conversation, based on the cognitive coaching model:
  • Clarify goals
  • Specify success indicators
  • Anticipate approaches
  • Establish personal learning
  • Reflect on the coaching process
We asked our coaches to discuss what they had observed and then it was then time for the coaches to sit in pairs to practice the planning conversation with each other, as they discussed their goals for the year as Tech Integration Coaches.

As the meeting ended we considered our next steps.  By division we will meet individually with our tech coaches to ensure that they are empowered to take the next step - that of coaching the teachers in their divisions.  We will be discussing them starting to set up meetings, the planning conversation around goals, how they can give input as teachers plan our their units and how they can start conversations about the artifacts that can be added into this year's Tech Audit.

Once again I felt that the meeting had flown by way too fast, but I was also very pleased at how much could be covered during the 10 minute planning conversations.  Next week our coaches start their individual meetings with their teachers.  I'm interested to see how these meetings go, so I have suggested that if the coaches want me to come along to observe them and give feedback about their coaching skills that I will be happy to do that.

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Changing Spaces

Last weekend I was in Singapore co-leading an IB Continuum workshop on flipped learning.  Since returning to school I've been thinking about the implications that flipped learning has on learning spaces.  If the whole idea behind flipping the classroom is to make it more student centred, then clearly the teacher is "off the stage" which means s/he doesn't need to be positioned at the front of the room presenting content.  I'm lucky in my job because I get to go into every single teacher's learning space and all of them are very different.  At ASB we talk about learning spaces because there are no classrooms as such as there are no real doors or walls.  Spaces are divided up by moveable furniture and glass or sliding panels.  This week, as I went to talk to our upper elementary students about the responsible use of technology, I took a look around to see if there were classrooms that still had a feeling of a "front", and I found that many of them did not.  There were often a number of different spaces that could be used for whole class teaching, for example an easel, a flipchart, a whiteboard, a TV and in some classes a rug on the floor that all the students could sit on.  There were groups of desks and some desks by themselves.  There were the regular chairs on wheels, some chairs not on wheels, some Hokki stools and some soft seating such as cushions and beanbags.  In a couple of classes I went into there were also "cave spaces" which children could sit alone.

This week I also dipped into the book Flipped Learning:  Gateway to Student Engagement by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams.  There is a section there on optimized learning spaces too.  They argue that while technology has changed (from the blackboard to a projector, screen or IWB) the basic teacher centredness of classrooms didn't change - in fact these new tools often just emphasized the role of the teacher as presenting content and the students as passively absorbing it.  However, of course when teachers are no longer presenting content in class to all the students at the same time, as with the flipped learning model, then teachers can consider how they want to change their spaces.

Bergmann and Sams suggest several ways that the traditional classroom spaces can be changed:
  1. Flipped learning is collaborative - so furniture needs to be arranged in ways that encourage collaboration
  2. In flipped learning, some students may be working individually, so they need a place where they can avoid distractions.  (On the face of it this request seems to be completely opposed to point number 1 above so teachers will need to think about how to create this space in a collaborative classroom)
  3. The focus should be on the students, so move/get rid of the teacher's desk from the front of the class.  In flipped learning the teacher can be anywhere in the class.
Are you a teacher who has flipped your classroom?  How has this impacted the way the physical space in your classroom is used?

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Friday, August 22, 2014

-v- (versus)

When I lived in England I would often see the term -v- used to describe sporting events, for example football or cricket matches which generally meant "against" as in England -v- Holland or England -v- India.  I realize I've been using it on my blog, and yet many readers, not from England, might wonder what this term means since versus is often written as vs. in other parts of the world.  I've also come to realize that I'm not often using it to mean "against" but more often to mean "compared with" to recognize that there are different opinions or ways of looking at things.  Today I thought I'd look back at all these posts to see what things I've compared over the years.

Average -v- Extraordinary
One shot PD -v- Ongoing PD
Student -v- Teacher -v- Relationship Centred Coaching
Constructionism -v- Instructionism
Interaction -v- Participation, Standardization -v- Innovation
Self-esteem -v- Self-control Part 1 and Part 2
Action Research -v- Action Learning
Homeostasis -v- Tipping Points
Capability -v- Competency
Flipped Classroom -v- Flipped Learning
Feedback -v- Feedforward Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Learning the new -v- Giving up the old
Economic carrots -v- jumping through the window of opportunity
Going fast -v- Going far
Genius -v- Scenius
Approaches to learning:  integrated -v- interdisciplinary
Scientist -v- artist
Standardization -v- Personalization
Being reflective -v- Living in the now
Knowledge:  product -v- process
Thinkers -v- Test Takers
Doing what you love:  concern -v- control
Caring:  empathy -v- sympathy
Aptitude -v- Ability
Bragging -v- Branding
Creativity -v- Rubrics
Research -v- Inquiry
Rapid prototyping -v- TMI
Science -v- the Scientific Method
Disruption -v- Innovation
Good -v- Growth
Dependence -v- Independence
Character -v- Personality
School -v- Work
Directed -v- Self-directed: Building a Maker Mindset
Thinking:  the past -v- the present
Open -v- Closed questions:  the importance of the first word
Pseudo-problems -v- Real things
School house -v- Real world
Computer Science -v- NETS
Achievement -v- Development
A career -v- to career
BYOD:  diversity -v- monoculture
Collecting the dots -v- connecting the dots
Using technology -v- integrating technology
Teaching students how to use technology -v- teaching students how to use technology to learn
BYOD2 - a consumption tool -v- a production tool
IWB -v- Apple TV:  which is best for 21st century learners
Differentiated -v- Personalized
Knowledge -v- Wisdom
Highly effective -v- effective
Free range -v- House arrest
Coming home -v- moving on
Child -v- adult learners
Coaching:  independence -v- dependence
Learning differently:  standardized teaching -v- customized learning
Sport -v- needlework
Deciding to learn:  big dreams -v- small dreams
Competency -v- change
Engaged -v- entertained
Connected learners:  engagement -v- outcomes
Isolation -v- connection
Fear -v- passion
Good behaviour -v- good values
Rewards -v- Relationships
Transparent teaching:  the risks -v- the rewards
Flying -v- going with the flow
Learning from -v- learning with
Content -v- meaning:  disrupting our thinking
Cultivators -v- hunter-gatherers
Coaching -v- evaluating
Bridge -v- Barrier
Questions -v- answers
Leading -v- coaching
International teacher -v- global educator
Growth -v- change
Knowledge of the parts -v- wisdom of the whole
Technology -v- Nature:  what are we missing out on?
Experience -v- Quality
Reformation -v- Transformation
Homework -v- Learning
Tech Savvy Leaders -v- Lead Learners
Meetings -v- #edchat
Dissent -v- The Echo Chamber
I - They - We:  Multiple Perspectives -v- Group Think
Freedom -v- Privacy
Gathering, Processing, Applying:  Inquiry -v- Fact Finding
Covering -v- Discovering
What you know -v- what you can do
Concepts -v- Topics
Students -v- Learners
Working -v- Learning
Ignorance -v- Apathy
The Learner Profile:  Risk Taking -v- Courage
Assessment -v- Motivation
Assessment OF learning -v- Assessment FOR learning
Learning outcomes -v- Differentiation
IB -v- AP
Teaching with Attitude

When I started this blog post I had no idea at all that I was going to search through my blog and find over 100 -v- posts over the past 4-5 years.  I'm thinking that this shows something about myself and my thinking.  I'm thinking also that I need to sort and categorize these a little more than a simple reverse chronological list.  I'm thinking I might be able to take this further and maybe even put them all together into an e-book about different ways of thinking about things.  I thinking about how I can connect this to the IB Learner Profile (maybe open minded?  balanced?).  Let's see.  I'm now contemplating the possibilities.

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