Monday, May 31, 2010

The 21st Century Educator

Tomorrow is our big meeting: we start writing our vision for IT and library for the next three years. Today I dipped into Andrew Churches Educational Origami wiki again for a bit more inspiration. I was first introduced to this wiki a couple of years ago at a technology meeting when I was a teacher in Bangkok, and I've been back and forth to this wiki many times, especially to look at the pages on Bloom's Digital Taxonomy. However today I wanted to check out the page on the 21st Century Teacher.

Andrew Churches writes about 8 characteristics of 21st century teachers. They are adaptors, visionaries, collaborators, risk-takers, learners, communicators, models and leaders. I think our vision for what IT and library needs to evolve into over the next 3 years should take these characteristics into account.

With the current state of technology at our school, I think all teachers who are using IT right now are definitely adaptors. At times this year I have found myself planning three different lessons for a single class, because I couldn't be sure that the hardware, software or network would be functioning as they should! Sometimes, when I've only planned for one activity, I've had to come up with something new very spontaneously when it was clear that things were just not going to work out as expected. Other times we have had to adapt software that definitely wasn't designed for young children, for example when we used Excel with our Grade 2s so that we could use negative numbers on our temperature graphs, as the child friendly software we originally planned to use didn't allow the student to graph temperatures below freezing.

In addition, our teachers have had to adapt to the introduction of Web 2.0 tools this year, as they were never used here before. Many of our teachers were fairly competent users of Microsoft Office and were happy leading lessons using Word and PowerPoint, but most had never heard of Prezi, Glogster, XtraNormal and so on. I would sit in planning meetings and listen to ideas they had (based on what they used in previous years) and I would say things like, "Well, you could do a PowerPoint .... or you could try a Google Earth tour." To their credit, they were all prepared to leave their comfort zone of familiar software and learn new things. A lot of what was done in the past few years has now changed - our teachers have shown that they are prepared to be life-long learners and to evolve and change as technology evolves and changes. This, I think, has had the biggest impact on the way technology has been used to support student learning this year.

Half way through the year, just when they were starting to get comfortable with some of the Web 2.0 tools, I introduced another big change - a flexible schedule. Again this took teachers right out of their comfort zones. The teachers and the students were used to having one IT lesson a week, now I was asking them to think more carefully about what they wanted to do and when they wanted to do it. Did they want a lot of IT at the beginning of the units of inquiry in order to help the students tune in? Did they want most of the IT at the end as part of their summative assessment? It was hard for them, initially, to go for several weeks without any IT at all, even though they knew that later in the unit they would perhaps be coming for a whole morning or afternoon to work on something.

I'm hoping that I'm not pushing their adaptability to its limits, but there's another change I want to bring in for next year based on the SAMR model which I've written about earlier. Our plan is to have the teachers lead the S (substitution) and to lead the A (augmentation) with our support, while we focus on the M (modification) and R (redefinition) of tasks that would be impossible for students to do without technology.

Another characteristic of 21st century teachers is vision. As we are educating our students for the future it's important to try to predict what skills they will need. We are looking at emerging technologies and asking how can we use them with the students. We are also taking risks, as we are not really sure how some of these new ideas are going to work out. For example when I attended a Grade 4 planning meeting for their current unit, How the World Works, I suggested it would be good to try some animation with the students. At the time I knew we didn't have any animation software on the computers, but I felt confident that I would be able to find some. I put out a tweet asking for suggestions and immediately heard back that DoInk would be good to use, and this is what we have done. Students were quick to grasp the idea of creating drawings and frame by frame animations and putting them into compositions. Here are a couple of animations they made based on the experiments they did into light and colour:

Another characteristic of the 21st century teacher is that of collaborator. Because we are in a PYP school, all our units of inquiry, maths and language are planned collaboratively. This year we have also used email and skype to collaborate with schools around the world, for example our Grade 2s who inquired into how the weather affects life and who later shared this knowledge using VoiceThread.

Some of our teachers have started to use blogs, wikis and Twitter to build up their own PLNs too. They are beginning to communicate with other teachers worldwide. All of this collaboration is going to have an impact on the way they teach and on the way their students learn.

21st century teachers model the behaviours that they want to see in their students. They reflect on what they are doing and encourage their students to do the same. Some of our Techie Breakie team are now starting to act as leaders in their grade levels - they are modelling how to integrate the IT into the curriculum and are supporting and encouraging others to do the same.

All in all we have come a long way this year. I am confident that whatever we talk about and decide to do at our meeting tomorrow we will be able to do over the next 3 years, because it will be built on strong foundations already established this year.

Photo Credit: Kusudama by Etringita, animations by Yejun and Julia in Grade 4

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Geography of Time

I was sent this movie this morning by my son who is at university in the UK studying Geography. The theory is that people mostly live in one of six main time zones: two in the past, two in the present and two in the future. One of the interesting things research has discovered is that the closer you live to the equator, the more present oriented you are - because the climate, seasons and so on are mostly the same and don't change over time. When I was thinking about places where I have lived I can certainly agree with that - perhaps it could even explain the Thai concept of everything having to be "sanuk" (fun).

Studies into the pace of life in different places by Robert Levine have shown that different cultures have different paces of life, even different countries and cities have different paces that can be measured, and that there are health risks that correlate with places with a high pace of life.

We are all born present hedonistic, and one of the (hidden curriculum) jobs of schools seems to be to take the present orientated children and make them more future orientated - or in some societies more past orientated. However large numbers of students are failing to succeed at school and the argument here is that in the new digital age students are living more in the present, in a world that they create, and as a result they do not fit in well with a traditional classroom which is passive and where they control nothing. This fits in well with my recent reading on autonomy and being self-directed: people who are overly managed are compliant but not engaged. Students who have little control or choice over their learning are similarly disengaged.

It's an interesting idea that understanding our own time perspective and that of others will help us to understand a little more of what motivates people.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Students as Teachers

This week in Grade 2 we started to look at our family histories as part of our Where We Are in Place and Time unit of inquiry. As we are into the last month of the school year, and as one of the computer labs will actually be unavailable for 2 of those last 4 weeks, it was important to do as much as possible while we still had access to it. At the Grade 2 planning meeting last week I suggested the students make an online timeline of different events that had happened in their families, and that to go with that they could add pictures of themselves as a baby and of themselves now so that they could see how much they had changed. I also wanted to give them the idea of predicting what changes could happen to them or their families in the future so I wanted them to have a go at drawing what they thought they would look like or be doing when they are adults. I didn't want them to bring in photos and scan them, so I decided to have them draw these pictures using the graphics software Pixie. As we only had one lesson to actually work on creating the images each student had to draw 3 pictures during the 40 minute lesson and then export them as jpegs so that they could be added to the events in the timeline the following week. This was quite a tall order, considering that earlier this year during their Communities unit it took them the whole lesson just to draw one picture!
I realised that since the students already knew the tools we were using to draw the pictures, the biggest challenge would be to have all students export their 3 pictures and put them in the right place so that they would be ready to use them the following lesson. I therefore decided that what I would do would be to work with the first student who completed the pictures and show him or her how to export the work and where it needed to be saved. I did this by exporting the first picture myself and showing the student what I was doing, then I asked him to do the second picture with me talking him through it, and finally for the third picture I just watched to make sure that the student was doing it right. This student then became the "teacher" and worked with the next student who had finished all 3 pictures.
Within a very short time we had half the class as "teachers" helping the other students to finish and export their work correctly. The entire class finished all three pictures and exported them successfully during the 40 minute lesson.
My original plan had been to use x-timeline, which I had used earlier this year with Grade 5 students. However when I tried this out it was VERY slow in adding the pictures to the timelines, therefore I decided to have a look at other online timeline creators and I have now come up with TimeToast as an alternative. It seems very easy to use, though I am wondering how it will work with the whole class logged on at the same time all working on their own individual timelines - I guess I will find out next week!
The real thing I learnt as a result of this lesson, however, is how good the students are at explaining to other students how to use the technology. The "teachers" were very proud of their role and by using the same model as myself in "doing one, talking through one and then watching one" they were able to turn other students into "teachers" too.
Shortly after this lesson I came across this tweet from Sir Ken Robinson:
@SirKenRobinson: In the history of immigrant communities, it's often the children who teach the adults about the new culture.
Sir Ken was talking about digital natives and digital immigrants and it occurred to me that empowering the students to be "teachers" is an excellent way of spreading the use of technology around the school. In any class, there's bound to be a student who knows how to use or do something on the class computer, even if the class teacher doesn't. However the teacher has to be comfortable saying "Does anyone know how to use a scanner?", for example, and then giving those students the job of teaching that skill to her and the rest of the student who don't know how.

This week I also had the Grade 2 students for their German lessons. The German teacher had already read them a story about a lost bird, and she wanted to see if the students could make a comic strip of a similar story about a lost dog using the vocabulary from the bird story. This was the first time she had ever used IT in the German language lesson and here the roles of both of us were very clearly defined since I don't speak a word of German. Students knew that if they had a language question they had to ask her, but if they had an IT question they had to ask me. During one of these lessons one of the students, Oscar, made a discovery about how to move the characters in Bitstrips by clicking on them to "grey out" everything else in the scene - this was something I'd never noticed before and I loved it that he had discovered it rather than me - he was so proud to be able to teach me something new! It was a great series of lessons - the German teacher discovered how to use a new Web 2.0 tool, I learned a bit of German and the students created some excellent strip cartoons.
These pictures were created by Freddie, Mateo, Ann-Sophie and Thomas

Friday, May 28, 2010

Forecasting the Future

For the past week or so I've been reading Dan Pink's book Drive. Chapter 1 of the book talks about predicting the future and how the things that motivate us are changing. Dan Pink says that if in 1995 you had been asked to predict which of these two encyclopedias would be most likely to succeed over a 15 year period, you would probably have picked the wrong answer. The choices were:
  1. Encarta, funded by Microsoft, employing and paying experts to write thousands of articles for a CD-ROM and an online encyclopedia.
  2. An encyclopedia written by tens of thousands of people who would be doing it purely for fun. These writers wouldn't need any particular qualifications and would give their time freely so that this encyclopedia could be shared at no cost with anyone in the world who wanted to use it.
Fifteen years ago most people would have chosen No. 1 as the encyclopedia most likely to succeed, and most would have been wrong. Currently Wikipedia is the largest and most popular encyclopedia in the world with millions of articles in over 260 languages.

Next week on Tuesday I'm involved in a meeting at school to discuss the future of IT and come up with a 3 year plan. I'm hoping we make the right choices and decisions. I'm hoping, that just like all the thousands of people who contributed to Wikipedia simply because they were motived to do so by a purpose greater than themselves, that the teachers in our school will embrace this great opportunity to move forward into the future and will trust that we will support them on this journey.

Photo Credit: Sunset in Sarasota by Livingonimpulse

Open Doors and Echo Chambers

Today I came across a post from Mary-Beth Hertz on Jason T. Bedell's blog. Mary-Beth mentions that she is in the fortunate position of being "surrounded by people who are smart, dedicated and who challenge [her] to think deeply and reflect". Personally I would love to be in this position, however the reality of teaching in many international schools in countries where you don't speak the language, is that most of the time, even if you are surrounded by these people out there in the local community, you are probably not able to contact or communicate with them. It is precisely because of this that my PLN, built up through Twitter and Google Reader, is a real lifeline to me. These people are a daily inspiration to me and have enabled me to have the sorts of conversations and dialogues I wish I could have with local teachers here in Switzerland.

Mary-Beth talks about being in an echo chamber and comments on how it is important to open up to other teachers who are not yet on the same path as you are. This year I have tried my best in my new school to be that open door, to suggest some new ways of doing things and new ways of thinking about things. I'm currently working on a vision for IT and a plan for the next 3 years and I'm asking myself: how accepting will my colleagues be of these changes? Is this vision one that they also have, or may come to share? Are we moving forward fast enough? and even Are we moving forward too fast, and not getting everyone on board with the changes?

Mary-Beth offers the following suggestions for opening doors and encouraging dialogue. I think I need to keep all these in mind, not just in working on a plan for technology for the coming years, but also in giving ongoing support to all of us who are on this learning journey together:

  • Find a colleague who seems open to new things: Even if it’s only one colleague, you can open someone’s mind to new ideas and strike up a conversation.
  • Share: Not only share links, articles, ideas and viewpoints, but share lessons, resources and feedback. Model the “what’s mine is yours” mantra and give, give, give.
  • Don’t keep quiet: When you have an idea, say it. When you see a problem, mention it. When you see something amazing, praise it. When you think you’ve got something really exciting going on in your classroom, drag an administrator in to see it.
  • Be a model for what you believe teaching and learning should look and sound like: The best way to share what you have learned or show a new method or approach is to model it in your own classroom and share it with your colleagues by inviting them in or discussing it with them.
  • Keep the conversation going in the Echo Chamber: You need this conversation for support and to hash out your ideas with people who understand your perspective.
    Photo taken in Hue, Vietnam

The PYP: education for a better world

Most of the people who read this blog do not work in IB schools, and many might not really know much about the Primary Years Programme of the IB. This movie from the IB does a great job of explaining what the PYP is. I feel honoured that I have worked in IB World Schools for my whole overseas teaching experience and also that my own children have been lucky enough to have gone through all three IB programmes.

Techie Breakie Session 5

Today was a slightly different Techie Breakie.  It was time for the teachers to try out a Web 2.0 tool of their choice.  the only stipulation was that it had to be a tool that had not been used by their class this year, but one that they thought they might like to use with their class next year.  A couple of the Techie Breakie team are actually moving to different grade levels next year (and in one case, to a different job entirely as Louise will become the Early Years librarian) so this was quite a challenge for them.  In the end they all decided to try Prezi this morning and we had a good discussion about the advantages of this over a more traditional PowerPoint.  Of course one advantage is that it can be accessed from any computer connected to the internet.  Ease of use was also important to our teachers.  It took them about 2 minutes to actually create an account and start to use it - basically all they had to do was to double click and start typing, choose a text style, upload images, explore frames and add a path.

For our next session we are going to look at Delicious, Diigo, Evernote and Dropbox.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I'm almost through with the Dan Pink book "Drive" now and I certainly have a lot to think about. My most recent thoughts are about the chapter entitled Purpose. You see it's not enough to have autonomy and mastery, because one of the most important factors in determining how successful anyone is is also having a sense of purpose - the most motivated people are those who are working for a cause greater than themselves. It is this sense of purpose that makes us feel a sense of achievement when we reach our goal.

There are two sorts of goals: profit goals, for example to make money or become famous, and purpose goals such as to make the world a better place, to help others, to learn something new and so on. Strangely enough, when people achieve their profit goals it doesn't make them any more happy or satisfied than before, therefore they just tend to increase the size of the profit goal in the hope of feeling better. Whereas when people achieve their purpose goals they tend to feel happy with their achievements.

As teachers perhaps we can learn from this. If we are encouraging our students to strive for profit goals, for example getting the highest score on a test or the highest grade on an assignment, maybe achieving this will not lead our students to feel any better about their performance or their learning. Last week in the EdChat on Twitter several people wrote about the problem with giving grades. Kelly Tenkely wrote:
The problem with grades is they don't give students information they can use to keep learning. What would give them that info?
Edna Sackson wrote:
Assessment informs further learning. If there's a grade at the end, is that the end of the learning?
Joe Bower wrote:
Being motivated by grades is not a learning style to be tailored to. It's a problem to be solved.
and Mike O'Hara wrote:
Grades turn school into a game. School is a place of winners & losers, not a place of learning.
The real issue seems to be that when students are motived by extrinsic factors (grades, test scores and so on), they end up not being truly satisfied and therefore their motivation will eventually wane. When students are motivated by intrinsic factors and see a purpose to their learning, they are more likely to be successful in the long run.
Photo Credit: Helping Hand by Rishi Menon

Monday, May 24, 2010

We need a Revolution, not an Evolution, in Education.

Sir Ken Robinson has been speaking again at TED2010. He talks about the urgency of dealing with the crisis of human resources and how we make poor use of our talents which leads to many people enduring rather than enjoying what they do. He says this is because education dislocates people from their natural talents - it does not allow these talents to show. Although education around the world is being reformed, Sir Ken argues that what is needed is a revolution in education - education has to be transformed, not just evolve into something new. This innovation involves challenging what we have always done and the way we have done it. Sir Ken gives the example of people over the age of 25 continuing to wear wristwatches, whereas teenagers often don't wear them. This is because they live in a digital culture - time is everywhere - so they don't need to wear a watch. We don't need to wear one either, but most of us still do because "that's the way we've always done it".

In education we think we have to be on a linear track - however life is not linear it is organic. Human communities depend upon diverse talent, yet education tends to value conformity rather than diversity. Sir Ken likens education today to fast food (all standardised). He says we have sold our selves to a fast food model of education which is impoverishing our spirits and our energies whereas what we should be encouraging is passion and excitement.

Sir Ken's message is that we have to go from an industrial model of education based on linearity and conformity to an agricultural model as human flourishing is an organic process. We cannot predict the outcome but we have to set the conditions under which children can flourish. We have to customise education to our circumstances and personalise education to the students we are actually teaching. We need to revolutionise education so that our children will flourish.

Mastery is a Mindset

I've been reading Daniel Pink's book Drive and am now about half way through. I've just read a chapter about Mastery and it was so interesting I just wanted to reflect on it here.

The part of the chapter that spoke most to me as a teacher was the section entitled Mastery is a Mindset. Here Dan Pink discusses the findings of Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford, who has studied motivation and intelligence. Carol's findings are that people have one of two different mindsets: either they believe that intelligence is a fixed entity, in the same way that height is, or they believe that intelligence is incremental, that it is something that can be increased by effort. The argument is that if students believe intelligence is fixed, then education for them is just about measuring how much they have. If students believe that intelligence is something that can be increased, then education is viewed by them as an opportunity for growth.

Carol argues that there are therefore two forms of goals: performance goals and learning goals. With a performance goal, the student is trying to get the top score on a test or assignment - this can lead to motivation. With a learning goal the student is trying to get better at something - this can also be very motivating and it is what leads to mastery. Studies have shown that students who have learning goals, rather than performance goals, try harder when assignments are difficult and are more easily able to transfer their knowledge to new areas. She says:
With a learning goal, students don't have to feel they are already good at something in order to hang in and keep trying. After all, their goal is to learn, not to prove they're smart.
This leads to a different view of effort. Students who view intelligence as incremental see working hard as a way to get better. Students who view it as fixed require "a diet of easy successes" as they believe if you have to work hard it means you're not very good. These students therefore choose easy targets that affirm their own abilities but do little to extend them.

The second part of this chapter is entitled Mastery is a Pain. It's about how achieving mastery is often a painful experience - which is why many don't opt to become masters. Often students are called "talented" when in fact what they have achieved isn't something that has come easily to them, but something that they have practiced and worked hard at for many years. It is the effort that they have put in that gives meaning to their lives. For example, about 10 years ago when I was a Grade 5 teacher, I had a Korean girl in my class. She was a wonderful pianist and could also play the violin beautifully. During her year in my class, she decided she would also start learning the flute. She decided that in order to get better at music she needed to practice each instrument for 2 hours a day. She was already practicing the piano and violin in the evenings, so she decided that to take on the flute she would need to get up 2 hours earlier every morning. She did it! Everyone who heard this 10 year old girl play talked about how musically gifted she was, yet it wasn't something that came easily to her - it was something took enormous effort every single day, and yet she was happy to put in this effort because music meant so much to her.

This brings me to a blog post from Clint Hamada that I read yesterday about Celebrating Passion. Clint talks about Jordan Romero, the 13 year old who is trying to conquer the Seven Summits. He talks about how important it is to support others so that they realise their dream and about how if sometimes that dream takes students away from the classroom it is still worth supporting their passion. In the case of students I have taught, like the Korean student I mentioned above, most of the time the passion and commitment they showed to their "extra-curricular" activities, be it music, ballet or even girls' football, had a knock-on effect in class. Those were the students who were also prepared to go the extra mile, to give a little more effort to solve a maths problem, or put a little more time into editing their writing. These were the students who knew that what you put into something definitely influenced what you got out of it.

Photo Credit: On the Road Again by Morag Casey

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Drive and Motivation (or start treating people like people and less like horses)

This weekend I was at the Evolving Schools for a Whole New Mind conference at Munich International School. The opening keynote was by Daniel Pink who has spoken and written about motivation.

Today I came across the animation below on the Blogging About the Web 2.0 Connected Classroom blog.

As teachers we have often been told If you reward something you get more of the behaviour you want, if you punish something you get less of the behaviour you want. However this does not seem to be the case as studies with university students in the USA and studies in rural India with small, medium and large monetary rewards as incentives for people to perform well on tasks showed:
  • Bonuses worked well for routine, mechanical tasks
  • Where tasks needed creative and conceptual thinking, a larger reward led to a poorer performance
Factors that are more important than money include:
  • Autonomy, the desire to be self-directed. People who are overly managed are compliant but not engaged.
  • Challenge, mastery, the desire to get better at something, the personal satisfaction of having a purpose and of making a contribution, of making the world a better place.
Now I have started to think about what drives or motivates me. Certainly autonomy is really important to me - most of the time I forge forward with the things that I believe need to happen. I think I am definitely the sort of person who does it first and then lets people know about it afterwards. I am wondering why I do this: I think it could be because I am reluctant to ask for something that I know is the right thing to do if I think the answer will be no. I think it is because of trust: I trust myself that I know the way forward with IT. I don't really trust an administration if they don't appear to be so current in their reading and thinking about the best way forward to give our students the skills they will need for the future. Perhaps I am also concerned that there is too much emphasis on what Edna Sackson describes as "weighing the elephant" as opposed to "feeding the elephant". Perhaps it is also due to my experience in previous schools which has led me to the absolute conviction that what I am doing is useful, has a big impact on student learning, and is the right direction to move here too. Perhaps it is because in the big picture technology leadership is a long way down the administrative food chain and that the general feeling I have is one of powerlessness to make the changes necessary unless I actually make them myself. And yet at the same time I do know and understand that effective change is only possible if the whole administration team and staff are pulling together and moving in the same direction. At the bottom of all this is the feeling that if I am "managed" and told to do something then most likely I will do it. But if I am given the freedom to do the things that need to be done I will probably be more motivated and productive because I will feel more ownership of the direction we are going in.

Challenge is also very important to me. When I first came here I knew I was taking on a big challenge - my feeling was that I had gone "backwards" about 5 years in what I could expect the students to know and be able to do, but that I knew the way forward having been there before and that I could get the rest of the teachers to move forward too. So many things that I have set up here have been done in my own time, just because I felt they needed to be done to make the learning experience better for the students. Half the time I don't know that anyone higher up even notices or appreciates many of these initiatives, or understands why some of the things I do that are so time-consuming are (I believe) so necessary. I am proud of the fact that I am making a contribution. One of the things I am most proud about is the Techie Breakie initiative as I feel too much emphasis has been placed on the infrastructure, hardware and software and not enough on actually supporting the teachers to be independent users of technology.

I am so looking forward to having a bit of time next weekend to really get into Daniel Pink's book Drive. No doubt I will be blogging more about this next week too!

Photo Credit: Ideas by H. Koppdelaney

Saturday, May 15, 2010

New Students, New Media, New Literacies

Opening New Doors
Jason Ohler gave the keynote this morning. His theme was transforming learning through digital creativity. Jason started by mentioning two teachers that had been very influential to him, both had given him something that had stayed with him his whole life and had "opened new doors" for him. He said the greatest teachers are door openers - they are constantly looking for the door to open for each child. And his question to us was: Are you a door opener? Do you look for ways for students to express themselves when the normal channels don't work?

Today many students want to express themselves using their iPods, through digital storytelling etc. As adults, we control the door - unless we open the door we will never understand what they know and how they see the world. What he said very much reminded me of an experience our son had during his first year in Thailand. He was asked to summarise the first two Acts of Macbeth. He chose, instead of writing, to make a Flash movie. Thankfully his English/Drama teacher accepted this. Contrast this with the approach taken by his IT teacher who wanted him to make a movie using MovieMaker, later that same year. Our son had already had 3 years making movies in iMovie and therefore made his movie using that instead. The reaction of this teacher was "Who taught you how to do that?" Our son explained that his mum (me) had shown him this about 5 years earlier. The teacher was incredulous and scoffed "Your mum??!!" Our son didn't mention at the time that his mum was a computer teacher, nor that he had already had his own computer which he used on a daily basis at school for the previous 3 years before moving to Thailand - however these things certainly became very apparent to his IT teacher at the first parent conference later that year .......

Two Lives
As teachers we need to be aware that many of our students are living two lives: a digital one at home and a non-digital one at school. Many students can do so much, just using their mobile phones, yet these are often banned by schools. The phone is a communication device where students can go to make things - where they change from being consumers of media to creators of media. He asked: What is the next big thing we will ignore at school?

Jason went on to talk about the dangers of living two lives - by isolating the two we lose the opportunities to give our students many valuable lessons and have many important discussions. He argued that schools need to use technology effectively, creatively and wisely. We are saying turn it off, we should say turn it on these are the ways you should be using it.

Media Collage
Jason then went on to discuss literacy. Literacy is consuming and producing the media forms of the day whatever they are. Students shouldn't just watch television, they also need to write television - to pick up a camera and use it. Students need to understand the persuasive nature of media, and they can only understand this by creating it themselves. Baseline literacy used to be words, now it is a media collage - putting things together. The collage needs design, colour, animation, movie, music (things that used to be considered fluff in the arts curriculum). In order to be literate they need to be able to do all these because literacy is not a content, but a fundamental part of our lives. Moving pictures used to be "read only", now anyone can make them. With the web, the first people to post were nerds - now anyone can do it. Media collage is the new baseline literacy.

How the Web is Changing
Jason outlined the ways the web is moving:
Web 1.0 1990 - 2000 - most people were the consumers of information.
Web 2.0 2000 - 2010 - everyone is online, everyone contributes.
Web 3.0 2010 onwards - the semantic web changes the way we search the web - traditional searches looks at words on pages, the semantic web is a recoding of the web by millions of people - a new search will not show a list but will bring back a report with things linked in intelligent ways. This is a huge change that will impact everything and will probably be affecting education in about 3-5 years for education. It is already used now in science. We can and must plan for this in education.

Digital Literacy
Jason came up with 10 digital literacy action guidelines:
  1. The shift from text-centrism to new media collage.
  2. Writing is more important than ever, but it doesn't have to look like the essay - now we know where writing is the most effective way of communicating and where it is not. But writing is only part of the equation - it is the foundation on which we build the media collage. We need to write in different ways. Visually differentiated text (VDT) is now more important than essays. Essays are still functional but VDT is easier to access for information. It forces you into the synthesis of Bloom's taxonomy as it is a higher order skill.
  3. Adopt art as the 4th, next R - it is not a content area but a literacy, as fundamental as reading and writing. Unfortunately many still see it as fluff. Art should be infused across the curriculum as a general literacy in the same way reading and writing are - we must be able to communicate visually to be functionally literate. The multimedia collage is universal, it is real work for real pay - it is a visual culture. ISTE is on board with this and has refreshed their standards to include innovation and creativity. All international educational technology standards flow from ISTE. He also mentioned that if students make everything then there are no copyright issues.
  4. The DAOW of literacy: digital, art, oral and written. Our challenge is to take all these literacies and bring them together.
  5. The attitude is the aptitude - attitude towards learning is a better predictor of intelligence than your aptitude. Students are intelligent if they can bring it all together.
  6. Practice private and social literacy - if you are literate by yourself but can't add to a blog or wiki or add to a media production team then you are not functionally literate.
  7. Develop literacy about digital tools.
  8. Develop literacy about literacy. This also includes digital citizenship. We must talk to students, for example, about the responsibility of using cell phones and the ethics of what happen on line. We mustn't have our students live two lives. Jason talked about how every technology connects and disconnects and gave the example of the microwave which has led to the obsolescence of family diners - anyone can use one any time and you don't have to sit down and eat just when the meal is ready. We did not predict the impact of the microwave, that now in most new homes it is the dining room that has disappeared and there is no place where we eat and talk. Jason asked: How does technology connect us and disconnect us? We must have this conversation. We have more individualization but at the result of socialization. Another example he gave is about images: 90% of all images online are digitally doctored. As of last year France was considering putting a warning label on doctored photos - because of health concerns for young women who were anorexic as a result of constantly looked at airbrushed photos and thinking they were the norm.
  9. Fluency is important, not just literacy. People who are fluent become leaders - literacy is not enough. Fluency is knowing how to lead and manage with all the tools you have.
  10. Harness both the report and the story. Actually Jason said we should embrace the story. Our students come to school very versed in the story form that connects information internally. A story is a way to structure information in an age of information overload. We come to school understanding information presented in a story, but at school we give student information in a list orientated format without the internal connections.
The 80/20 Rule
One of the most powerful things Jason mentioned in his presentation was the rule of 80/20 - teachers often don't use these new tools, for example movie making, because they think making a movie takes too long. In fact you get 80% of the project done in the first 20% of the time (taking rough clips) but it takes 80% of the production time to tweek/edit the last 20%. His suggestion was to forget the last 20% Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Media production is possible within the first 20% if you put the story first and the technology second. When you allow lots of special effects most students don't go for the meat of the story but go for the special effects and are often graded based on these extras. His advice was: Get rid of the special effects. Good transitions are the ones you don't even notice. The story must come first. If you have a weak story and you make it high tech, it just makes a bad story worse.

Teachers are more important than they have ever been. His advice was: leave the clicks and tricks to the students with time. Let the student who knows how to use the scanner do it for everyone who doesn't know and to show them how to do it. The teacher doesn't have to do this, in fact doesn't even need to know how to do this as students will often teach themselves - our job is to be the guide on the side not the technical magician. We need to encourage students to become good teachers to other students. We need to create learning communities, to encourage creativity and give assessment and feedback. To control the quality of the story not the bells and whistles. We must use Bloom's taxonomy to assess media literacies - is there just the remembering and regurgitation of knowledge or is there something more. To assess something it might be necessary to play the media several times and it is important to ask questions before looking at it and be clear what happens in this that takes it beyond just a report. We need to have evaluation rubrics which ask if the story is good, not that focus on the technology.

Jason said digital media is the door. Students will walk through it, but not if they are living two lives.

Turn Concerns into Goals
He pointed out that there will always be concerns - from parents or from other teachers, but we must not be ruled by concerns - but instead turn concerns into goals. If one person on the team has concerns then don't let those concerns stop you moving forward. A concern is just a negatively stated goal. Turn it around - focus on the goal. Keep moving forward.

What Teachers Want in a Tech Director
One problem that sometimes get in the way is the tech team, who put limitations on what the teachers and students can do. He said: Techies are from Mars and teachers are from Venus. Teachers want the IT team to WORK FOR THEM. Tech directors that are loved:
  • go to curriculum meetings and ask how they can help
  • get up from the bench and go and sit in the classrooms (for at least half an hour each week)
  • support academics in their mission and vision.
He ended giving us a challenge:
Go tell your story!!!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Evolving Schools for a Whole New Mind

Today I have been at Munich International School listening to the keynote from Dan Pink. This was a great start to the conference. Dan started with a quote from Dr Richard Moniuszko:
We need to prepare kids for their future, not our past.
He argued that the purpose of education is to allow individuals to participate in society and to have young men and women being the best they can. At the moment education spends a lot of time talking about preparing students for the future - but are we approaching this in the right way?

At one time parents used to say get good marks, go to university, find a job that will give you economic security. Manufacturing jobs are disappearing so students need higher education. In all advanced economies schools were a big part of trying to build the capacity for higher education - but today these abilities are mattering less and less. However schools are still preparing students for this future - one that no longer exists.

Dan spoke about tasks that are done by the different hemispheres of the brain. Left brain tasks are lineal, sequential and logical whereas the right side of your brain is useful for processing all at once, for dealing with context rather than text and synthesis rather than analysis. The most important skills for work used to be left brain skills. Today those abilities are necessary and indispensable - you must have them - but they are no longer sufficient. Now right brain skills such as artistry, inventiveness and cognitive skills matter more than left brain skills! Future for our students is therefore different as it is the right brain abilities that determine who moves forward and who is left behind.

Dan went on to discuss what is causing this shift: Asia, automation and abundance:

Asia: Computer scientists, engineers and so on in Europe earn 50-70,000 euros, in Asia they are earning about 12 - 15,000 euros. This has lead to offshoring and outsourcing. Countires like USA and Europe have not taken account of this - India has a billion people - 15% of India's population is educated and able to compete in the global market - that is bigger than the entire population of Japan and bigger than the entire working population of the USA! Even if 85% of India's population gets left behind, there are still more people in the top 15% in India than the working population of the USA.

One advantage countries such as the USA, UK and Australia have had up to now is that they are English speaking, and English has become the linguistic operating system of the global economy. However within 2 months from now India will be the world's largest English speaking country and within 10 years China will be the world's 2nd largest English speaking country! Since the cost of communication between Western economy and India is free using skype it is clear that many "English" speaking jobs will migrate to Asia.

Automation: The effect this will have will be on routine work - it is disappearing from Western countries - spreadsheets, computer programming, brain work, law etc can all be done by the cheapest provider - these jobs will disappear in our Western economies (yet we are still training our students to do them). Software is replacing our brains - though only the logical, linear, sequential side of our brain. Once people would go to an accountant to fill out tax form - now they can use software to do this - accountants are therefore not necessary for these tasks. Divorce is another example as now lawyers are being replaced by software - there are online sites where you can fill out the forms and then submit them directly cutting out the lawyer - some of these jobs will go too. The medical industry will be hit too as you can buy diagnostic medical software - and a lot of diagnosis is routine.

Abundance: Dan talked about cars, TVs and mobile phones - everyone has them these days. In some countries it's above 100% with more than one phone per person. 1 million iPads were sold in the first month, yet 6 months ago nobody was missing one - the idea of success is to define a new need and to give the world something it didn't know it was missing - it's the most important cognitive skill today and it is basically artistic.

Things that are needed are skills that are "high touch" not "high tech" - novelty, nuance and customization - however what is going on in schools is routines, right answers and standardization - at precisely the moment that the future of the world is not about this any more.

Dan had 4 ideas about how to prepare students for the future:
  • Explore new metrics: qualifications, IQs and SATs are unable to predict who will succeed in life - IQ contributes 20% to the factors that determine life success, 80% is due to other forces (Daniel Goleman) We don't yet have ways to measure that 80%. For example empathy is one of the most important cognative skills in the workplace today ( as you can't outsource or automate it). Dan talked about the JSPE index which measures empathy - these scores correlate most closely with success in life. Generalists score better than specialists on JSPE tests. In medical school in the USA clinical empathy is now taught.
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM subjects) are important for the future but the way we approach these in schools is dangerous as these disciplines train students to come up with one right answer. In some schools art programmes are being cut in order to put in more STEM subjects. Engineering employers are looking for passion, systems thinking, the ability to work in multicultural environments, interdisciplinary skills and communication skills. These are not "routine" abilities. Yet we are not preparing our engineers to do these things. Dan explained that employers want people who are T shaped - they need depth and they need breadth - to connect what they know to another discipline.

  • Rethink motivation: we offer carrots and sticks in schools but these do not get students to get to a higher level of motivation. Dan discussed the candle problem which is the subject of one of his TED talks. In this experiment some people were timed to see how long it took to solve the problem and were told this would be used to work out averages, some people were given money incentives as to how fast they could solve the problem. The problem was that the group given the money actually took longer to solve the problem. If you want people to do simple routine tasks money is a good incentive, if you want people to be creative money doesn't work - it inhibits people's work. His argument therefore is that you cannot use the same motivation for routine and non-routine tasks.
  • Infuse arts education throughout the curriculum: the arts have traditionally been seen as "ornamental" now they need to be "fundamental". Artists do things that left brain thinkers do not. China is infusing arts into the national curriculum at the same time that the West is taking them out. Dan argues that creative arts are not a frivolous luxury, but essential.
This was an amazing start to the conference and I'm looking forward to reading both of Dan's book which I bought today (A Whole New Mind and Drive) and am very excited about the rest of the conference tomorrow.

Photo Credit: Inverted Gradient by fdecomite

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kindergarten students ask "What is a living thing?"

Following our earlier success with VoiceThread this year where we used it as a summative assessment in our How the World Works unit, one of the teachers in our Techie Breakie group decided she wanted to use it as a formative assessment for the Sharing the Planet unit of inquiry. The central idea of this unit is all living things have needs.

This morning Emily brought her class to the IT lab and we then went to the library and checked out a set of cameras. We had enough cameras that almost every student in the class had one each. We asked the students to walk around the school with us and to take a couple of photos showing living and non-living things. This afternoon we put all the photos into VoiceThread and each student or pair of students talked about what they thought a living thing was, what living things do and what living things need.

Emily now has a good idea of what her students already know and think and she is going to start to address these issues next week and plan for where this inquiry is going to take the students.

Photo Credit: Viability by Spice

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Pass it on

I was so excited when I switched on my computer this morning and fired up TweetDeck to see a DM from Edna saying that she's recommended my blog! I have been writing a personal blog for over a year now - ever since accepting a job in Switzerland - as I wanted to keep a record of what was happening in our lives and to share the experience with family and friends. However I've only been blogging to reflect on my teaching for about 6 months. I think at the time I started writing this blog it was more survival than anything else. Moving to a new school made me think deeper about a lot of things I had been doing for years. As my new school was a long way behind from an IT perspective, I've tried to find the right ways to suggest to teachers that they move out of their comfort zone and take on the teaching of some 21st century skills. As mentioned in an earlier post today, I needed to find the WHY of what I wanted to do, rather than just tell them the WHAT and the HOW. What started off as a collection of fairly random thoughts about teaching, has evolved into a celebration of students' inquiries, a way of reflecting for me and a way of looking forward to where I want us to go next. Writing straightens out my own thoughts - however I never thought that what I was writing about would be remotely interesting to others. From very small beginnings I have now found myself part of a community of learners. I write down my questionings and wonderings and I get fantastic feedback. I read about the amazing things that other educators are doing and it inspires me to do more too.

Today's recommendation is from Edna Sackson's What Ed Said blog. As she explains:
It’s part of an initiative called ‘Vale a pena ficar de olho nesse blog’, which means ‘It’s worth keeping an eye on this blog’. The recommended blogger copies the picture, with a link to the blog from which they received the award and recommends ten of their own favourite blogs.
As a way of encouraging teachers to use more IT, I have been running a series of Techie Breakies. So far we have looked at Twitter, Blogger, Google Reader and a variety of Web 2.0 tools that have been introduced to the students at our school this year. At the session where we were setting up our Google Reader accounts, teachers asked me for some recommendations as to which blogs they could include in their readers. These are the ones I recommended:

Kelly Tenkely's iLearnTechnology blog - Kelly was the person who really got me blogging by organising the iLearnTechnology blog alliance. As a result of joining the alliance I became part of a group of 74 educators - reading the blogs from this amazing group of teachers is often the highlight of my day! Thanks so much Kelly for all your hard work in setting this up and supporting us all. (For anyone else who is interested Kelly is starting a round 2 of the alliance - check out her post here.) I really like Kelly's blog and recommended this to our teachers because she not only introduces many new tools and resources, she also explains how these can be integrated into the classroom.

Another blog I always look forward to reading is Shelly Terrell's Teacher Reboot Camp. I first started reading this blog at the beginning of this year when she was writing the 30 Goals Challenge (now available in an E-book) which is truly inspirational. This blog also led me to the #edchat discussions that take place on Tuesday evenings (my time in Europe).

An educator that I met a number of times when in my last school is Kim Cofino, who worked at another school in Bangkok. Kim and I ran into each other a couple of times at conferences and at the Apple workshops in Bangkok. Kim's Always Learning blog prompts me to think deeper. I like Kim's perspectives on technology integration and am always interested to read about her international perspectives.

As I'm working in an IB school, I also try to read blogs by teachers who are teaching the different IB programmes (PYP, MYP and IB). Recently I've started following Jessica's Stars and Clouds blog where she reflects on her teaching of the PYP in Italy. I also follow Edna's What Ed Said blog from a PYP school in Australia. I always look forward to Edna's Toons, and I love how she uses the PZ Thinking Routines. The one MYP blog that I follow on a regular basis is Clint's Learning on the Job blog, especially the way he uses the IB Learner Profile.

Other blogs I always look forward to reading from the blogging alliance include the Bits and Pieces Place, Digital Tools for Teachers, Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom and Bright Ideas which are always full of great resources and ideas for using them in the classroom.

Finally one of my favourite blogs is The Magic of Learning - Langwitches Blog. I'm lucky enough to have collaborated with Silvia's students on the Around the World with 80 Schools project and her blog posts are a real inspiration to me, encouraging me to seek new ways of connecting with schools worldwide.

I think one of the most important lessons I've learnt from the whole blogging experience is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. By connecting with teachers around the world, the vast majority of whom I have never met or spoken to in person, I have become a better and more reflective teacher myself. Thanks everyone!

Vision, Leadership, Management and Staying in the Why

This week seems to have seen a lot of posts about visionary leadership and about living out your Why? Or perhaps I've just been reading a lot about this, as I contemplate moving forward next year with the IT programme. I think one of my concerns is whether or not the administration at my school have the same vision for IT as I do - if they don't, if they have a different vision or different priorities, then I am going to find it hard to have them support the changes that I believe are necessary to move our IT programme forward and to focus on 21st century skills.

The first blog I read that really spoke volumes to me was the What's Become Clear blog which asked the question: are principals visionary leaders? In this post Dr Steve Wyckoff discusses how our principals are more managers than leaders, asking their teachers "are we doing things right?" rather than asking "are we doing the right things?" He goes on to say:
It is my opinion that if our principals were “leaders” they would be looking at society and asking the question, “Is what we’re doing in our schools preparing our kids to be productive members of a 21st-century society?” Perhaps I’m in the distinct minority, but I can’t imagine anybody thinking that what we are doing in schools today is in any way visionary, and preparing our kids for the 21st century.
This week I've had various discussions about how we need to move forward next year - currently in my school there is a great emphasis on defining benchmarks and learning outcomes in all subjects and I have become quite frustrated with these which focus very much on the micro (can the students left align in Word?, for example), rather than the big picture (can the students make appropriate choices when presenting textual information?) Since I believe that technology is a tool, and not content, I believe the idea of alignment of text and other skills will come up naturally in what the students want to do. I don't believe I need to teach this as a specific stand-alone lesson out of context. If I did that I would be teaching the IT as the content which I don't want to do, as my whole drive this year has been to integrate the IT into what the teachers are doing in their classrooms. I see the current focus on measurement and benchmarks very much as management, not as leadership. And as Steven Anderson said in a tweet earlier this week:

So I have been questioning what I can do to bring our school to focus more on the big picture. At this point I watched this TEDtalk from Simon Sinek who talks about how great leaders inspire action.

Simon Sinek talks about how important it is to start talking about why we believe what we believe first, then talking about how and what to do about it. The following day I came across the Leadership Now blog entitled Are You Living Out Your Why? The message of this is similar: passion inspires because it comes from inside ourselves and is something that we live: it is our why. A true leader inspires by example. As Michael McKinney says:
Watching someone live out a why is compelling. It makes people want to follow, connect and be engaged. It forms the basis of trust and the moral authority that is the spark of the leader/follower relationship.
So what have I learnt this week? I need to stay in the why, I need to talk more about what I believe about technology but even more about what I believe about teaching and learning, about how functional skills are only a small part of what our students need to be successful in their lives after school, about how we need to focus more on the communication, the collaboration, the critical thinking and the creativity.

Photo Credit: Perspective by paul (dex) busy @ work

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Techie Breakie Session 4

This week in Techie Breakie our focus has moved away from the tools that the teachers can use (Twitter, Blogger, Google Reader) to help them develop their own PLNs and reflect on their own teaching and learning, and we have moved onto looking at the different tools that the teachers can use with their students.

Our first question this week was: What are Web 2.0 tools and how can I use these with my students? We started with a look at the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. I had earlier found a presentation about this using Vuvox and I thought it would be appropriate to show them the differences using an actual Web 2.0 tool.

We then went on to look at the Web 2.0 tools that we have already started using at school with the different grade levels. In Kindergarten students have used VoiceThread to show their learning about materials so we went and had a look at what Emily's class had done using this tool. Grade 2 students have used several different tools this year: as well as using skype and email to connect with other students around the world, they have used VoiceThread, Glogster and ZimmerTwins. I decided to show an example of how 2 students in Susan's class used ZimmerTwins to make a short animation about the importance of getting enough rest - part of their Healthy Lifestyles unit.

Our Grade 4 students have used Glogster and VoiceThread, but one project I really wanted to show the Techie Breakie team was the Google Earth Tour made by Karen's class. Right at the beginning of the year, when all the other 4th Grade students were using PowerPoint to show their learning about different regions of Switzerland, Karen's class were doing something different: they were looking at landforms around the world and how the physical geography of a place impacts on the culture and lifestyles of the people living there. We therefore shared that tour with the team.

In Grade 5 Rebecca's class have done a lot of different projects using Web 2.0. They have used Bitstrips, blogs, wikis, netvibes, xTimeline, XtraNormal and Prezi. We therefore had a look at the animation made by 2 of Rebecca's students to show their understanding of different life phases. I loved the idea of using the work done by students to showcase what is going on in those classes and encourage teachers to have a go at using these tools themselves.

For our next session I want to get onto social bookmarking and tagging and to show the team Delicious, Diigo and Evernote, as well as to get onto looking at creative commons and using Flickr.