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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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thinking about thinking, learning about learning

The book Technology Together - Whole School Professional Development for Capability and Confidence refers to the metacognitive approach to technology learning, one that guides teachers to articulate their own learning goals and encouraging them to be self-directed in identifying what they need to learn and how they go about it.  Today I'm planning for our second meeting with our new technology integration coaches, which will take place tomorrow, and I'm thinking about the conversations we will have around their learning goal.

We often refer to the zone of proximal development when talking about the place where children learn. It's the same with adults too:  it is when we encounter difficulties that learning occurs.  The Technology Together approach is interesting for me when considering what we need to tell our new coaches about their role - and how important it is to have them move away from making learning easy.  They need to understand that it's the difficulties and challenges that their teachers will face that will be the real places where learning will occur.

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Action Research -v- Action Learning

I've participated in action research before, but was new to the term action learning.  Action research aims to produce change/improvement (action) and new understanding (research) and has been defined as "a form of collective, self-reflective inquiry undertaken by participants to improve their own social or educational practices, their understanding of these practices and the situations in which these practices are carried out".  Action learning is similar but doesn't rely on making an original contribution to knowledge, which is implied by the creation of new understanding in the term research.

Both action research and action learning are collaborative, with teachers working together on projects to set goals, make decisions and judge the success or otherwise of the project.  Often the projects involve inquiry cycles (planning, acting, observing and reflecting).

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Homeostasis -v- tipping points

We are constantly hearing that schools are basically the same as they were 100 years ago, even though the skills that students leaving school need for work are different.  The word to describe a system that maintains a stable, constant condition in the face of changing circumstances is homeostasis.  This is something that as a technology teacher I fought against for years.  In many schools traditions have developed for using technology and teachers have become comfortable with this level of usage.  Although learning is a part of most school cultures, the rate of change is still often very slow.

But sometimes you come to a tipping point that makes a huge difference in a school leading to a significant transformation in values, attitudes, beliefs and practices within a school, and the whole system shifts to something different.  I heard last week that the tipping point for ASB was about 8 years ago with a new superintendent, a new strategic plan and vision, and with superstructing.  Before this I heard that ASB was not a particularly good school.  Now, this year, we have had over 40 students transfer from other schools in Mumbai to us - and 2 of these students were seniors, in their last year of school who realized how much value even one year at ASB can add.  In addition we have had families relocate from other parts of India in order to send their students to ASB.  In parent meetings last week I heard that we promise that students will grow more at ASB than at any other school - that is quite a promise.  It made me reflect again on how grateful I am to work in such a school, that has already tipped over the tipping point!

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Not watching - but interacting

I love sharing new tools and this week at the Flipping Classrooms workshop I was running I was suggested 2 new tools by Jon Bergmann of Flipped Learning, who Skyped in to talk with our participants.  Typically people think about the flipped classroom model as a system where teachers make videos for students to watch at home, so that they have mastered the content before they come to the lesson.  The time at home is spent on the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (remembering and understanding) and the time in school is spent working on the more higher-order thinking skills with the teacher's assistance.  One of the things that Jon talked about in his call to us was moving away from the idea of watching videos and moving towards the idea of interacting with them.

He shared 2 tools for interacting with videos that I had never heard of before and now I want to share these with you too.  The workshop participants found Zaption to be especially useful.



Monday, August 18, 2014

Taking recruitment virtual

Ten years ago, when I wanted a new job in an international school, I signed up with a recruiting company and attended a job fair.  I found the experience to be expensive, time consuming and not particularly positive in terms of my self-esteem as a teacher, and although I ended up accepting a great job in an excellent international school, I decided I wouldn't go that route again.  The next time I started to look for a new job I took a different approach and contacted schools directly.  Email contact eventually let to interviews on skype and job offers.  While I was happier with the process, I ended up at a school I'd never really heard of, and even though I did as much research as possible on the school website, it was still a terrible mistake.  Moving on from there, I found the job I have now on Twitter.  It seems crazy to say this, but my first contact with the school was in response to a tweet from them.  This time around I had better  and more personal information, I skyped with teachers who worked there and met face to face with someone who had worked at the school several years previously.  I also visited the school six months before moving to India as the school flew me out to ASB Un-Plugged.  I was determined never to make a mistake in choosing a school again and happy that my new school matched my philosophy of education and my values.

This past weekend I've been co-leading an IB Continuum workshop in Singapore with someone I first came into contact with on Twitter, which made me reflect on how social media has opened many others doors to me too.   One of our workshop guests who skyped in was also someone I had first contacted through Twitter.   All in all, a huge number of opportunities to give and receive PD has opened up through social media, including training to be an online workshop leader and a school visitor.

Last week I was involved in a discussion at school about the possibility of starting a virtual job fair.  We already know that good international teachers are very "picky" about where they want to go and who they want to work with.  We also know that a personal recommendation from a leading educator in a good school is worth much more than any number of open testimonials, references and glossy websites.  We discussed the possibilities of starting with a small group of hand picked schools and their teachers, and opening up a virtual job fair very early in the recruitment process (certainly before all the face to face ones start).  We thought that our teachers who have decided to move on would welcome a head start in the process with good schools that have been personally recommended because of their mission, technology and approach to 21st century learning, and we thought these schools would also welcome an early look at our teachers, and those from other top schools who also want to get involved, to get in early before the craziness of the job fairs kick in.  Ultimately our goal would be that good teachers and good schools wouldn't need to waste time and money on traveling to job fairs, but that they could go through the whole process online and cost free.

I dipped into a book called The 2020 Workplace today.  It's a book about how innovative companies attract, develop and keep tomorrow's employees today.  I was reading about how huge numbers of companies (but not really schools yet) use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter as a tool for recruitment. Social recruiting is a practice that leverages social and professional networks both online and offline, from both a candidate's perspective and the hiring side, to connect to, communicate with, engage, inform and attract future talent.  Reading this made me realize that we are on the right track.

I think that a virtual job fair could be really attractive for teachers who are proactively seeking new schools and for schools who want to easily reach a global teaching talent pool as efficiently and effectively as possible.  The ball is going to start rolling soon.  Let's see where it ends up.

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