Monday, June 30, 2014

SAMR and TPACK: Using technology with a focus on learning

 Yesterday I attended Dr Ruben Puentedura's ISTE presentation about how to bring SAMR together with TPACK.  I've used the SAMR model for many years (in fact my posts about using the SAMR model are the most popular ones on this blog), and more recently have considered the different types of knowledge contained in TPACK.  It was really great to see how these two models come together to support technology integration that can transform student learning.  I was really interested to hear that Dr Puentedura stated that PCK (pedagogical content knowledge) is the most crucial of all the TPACK knowledges for any process that involves change/transformation of teaching practice.

Thinking about how this relates to the various stages of the SAMR model, Dr Puentedura said that to integrate technology at the Substitution level you need very little of the TPACK intersections though teachers might need to develop some technology knowledge.  One example he gave is students using online maps.

At Augmentation level we want students to get to deeper level of understanding.  It's important to offer PD at the individual knowledge areas of technology, pedagogy and content but again not much is happening at the intersections of these knowledges.  The example he gave was one of building an interactive map. This is definitely augmentation as it is something that couldn't be done with a paper map.

At the Modification level of SAMR we now start to see a change and the intersections of the knowledges become important.  Teachers will need support at the PCK, TCK and TPK areas as different types of knowledge is needed to redesign tasks at this M level.  Dr Puentedura talked about the need to develop a community of practice at your school -  as knowledge at the intersections is most effectively conveyed from one teacher to another, and not by an outside expert.  Once again, taking the mapping example he described how modern databases can be displayed on maps to visualize concepts. At this level we are supporting exploratory work by students.  

Once we move to the Redefinition stage of the SAMR model we are calling on all three knowledge areas in order to redefine the task.  Once again Dr Puentedura talked about how a community of practice is essential at the redefinition level.  In addition students need to assess the results of what they did and to communicate this to an audience outside of their class.

I was interested to follow the discussion that followed that of taking a single subject (mapping) and taking it through all the levels of the SAMR Model.  Dr Puentedura showed how we can use SAMR for a set of resources or practices (e.g. note taking).  He based this on an article that has been doing the rounds lately about how the pen is mightier than the keyboard when it comes to note taking (for example here is a version of the article that appeared in the Independent).  Dr Puentedura argued that there is nothing wrong with the research, but the problem is with the reporting.  

Here is how he sees the SAMR model being applied to note taking.

Substitution - students are doing all the writing of the notes themselves.  However notes given to students by teachers can be just as good as those they write themselves as long as students get to annotate and fill in (actually the results of this can be better than simply writing notes).  Note taking should not be just passive transcription but instead used as a framework for the thoughtful annotation of notes.
Augmentation - notes don't have to be long series of writing and often it may be better to use a mind map where text is a stream that helps you to recall notes.  Online concept maps allow you to add hyperlinks into the maps (notes within notes)  and to collapse and expand notes in a way you can't do with paper.  In addition you can bring in images, movies etc.  At this stage you can also use pen function to write on a computer/tablet.  He gave an example of this from a maths lesson, and then showed how you can use this writing with an app to do mathematical calculations after handwriting the formula - and in this way students can bring the formula alive.
Modification - the assumption in the articles about handwriting contributing more to learning than keyboarding is that note taking is done alone.  Modification of the task allows for collaborative notes and the use of social media e.g. Twitter.  Once you start to see notes as being social/collaborative then different things become possible.  Students can add into the conversation with extra resources etc. At this level note taking has been significantly transformed.
Redefinition - at this stage notes are part of the construction of understanding of the entire class and beyond and can be an important catalyst in getting people to think differently.  Every student creates their "notes" using the tools they use best and the notes created are shared - in this way you have the construction of knowledge that shows how people are thinking.  These "notes" can be collected together, for example on a Haiku website.  The notes have now been repackaged so they are useful to someone else.

Please click on the images if you want to see bigger versions of them.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Dream Fairs

As Scot and I thought more about our design thinking challenge yesterday, we realized that the end point of empowering students to puruse their dreams would have to be personalized learning.  We all have different dreams - so we all need different pathways and skills to help us to pursue them.  We had left Day 1 of our deep dive with the idea that dreaming is a "making activity" and that if we see school as a MakerSpace for dreams then we need to design and build a toolkit that can be used to facilitate students' pursuit of dreams.  Day 2 was devoted to this toolkit.

Most dreams are about the future, so we started to come up with a "Futurecasting Framework".  This framework would be made up of 4 parts:
  • Collecting data:  through interviews, rubrics and measuring learning styles
  • Displaying data:  through student infographics and a "Talent Treasury"
  • Using the data to redesign learning: which could involve "Dream Coaches", internships, apprenticeships, curiosity projects and courses to give students the skills they need
  • Sharing and inspiring:  Dream Fairs
There were several of these we wanted to flesh out a little more and we looked into what Futurecasting could involve.  The definition we found that we liked the best was this:  a framework of life skills that enable young people to connect who they are today with the person that they will be in the future.  We also discussed what the student infographic should look like - it should be something dynamic that visualizes data about each student's progress towards his or her dream (for example skills acquisition) and the evolution of the dream - these artifacts to be collected into a Talent Treasury.

Yesterday afternoon was spent diving deeper into the concept of a Dream Fair.  The two main purposes of these fairs would be to inspire everyone to pursue their dreams and to personalize learning.  They would give the opportunity to share and tell about dreams and the stories behind the dreams and at the same time would create awareness about the diversity of student dreams.  The students we interviewed about their ideas of a Dream Fair mentioned storytelling, showing the dream and the journey towards the dream including the hardships and challenges and what it took to achieve the dream, and one-on-one conversations about their dreams.  They also saw these fairs as a way of networking and connecting with others (experts, mentors, coaches) who could help them achieve their dreams.  I really liked the way one student described how he wanted to "feel the dream" and experience the dreams of others.  He told us that sharing makes dreams real, but that a Dream Fair can also be a place to explore how the dream can morph into something else.  The students felt that the fair could include both exhibition and workshop - about how to turn a dream into a reality.  They felt it was important to show how a dream has changed your life - both the way you view things and how you act and react.

Do you have any ideas about how to empower students to achieve their dreams?  If so, please leave a comment as we are hoping to develop these ideas further once we return to school.

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The pursuit of dreams

Bring a wicked problem to work on at Fuse14, my colleague Scot Hoffman and I were told.  The most wicked problem we could come up with was contained in our school's mission statement:
We inspire all of our students to continuous inquiry, empowering them with the skills, courage, optimism, and integrity to pursue their dreams and enhance the lives of others.
What does it mean to pursue dreams, we asked ourselves, and how can this be evaluated? By the end of the first day we had come up with an interesting theory:  that dreams are a making activity, and we asked ourselves if a school is a MakerSpace for the dreams of students, what happens in that space and what does it look like?  We decided we needed to design and build a toolkit that can be used to facilitate students' pursuit of dreams.

An early stage of design thinking is empathy.  We needed to interview people, both students and adults, to find out their thoughts about dreams.  These were the questions we asked:

  • What dreams do you have for your life?
  • What does it look like when you are pursuing your dreams?
  • What gets in the way of your dreams?
  • Do you talk with anyone about your dreams?
Having interviewed a variety of people we started to look at the common threads - and some that were not common.  For example we noticed that we don't all mean the same thing when we talk about dreams.  Some of us have big dreams and some of us have small ones, and the time frame that they are spread out over can be very large.  We were surprised to find out that most of those we interviewed said they didn't talk to other people about their dreams (some of them found it hard to talk to us about their dreams too!)  Dreams are personal and tied closely to identity, but eventually we found that after a shaky start for some, people did like being asked about their dreams.

Another thing that we came to understand from our interviews was that dreams can morph.  Most of the adults we interviewed did not have the same dreams that they’d had as teenagers - the dreams of adults were more about a meaningful life and making an impact, whereas the students’ dreams were more about doing/achieving something. We also discovered that the ability to change dreams was dependent on the skills that had been developed in pursuit of dreams.

Our dreamers talked a lot about networking - it was a theme that cropped up again and again as they realized that their dreams require other people to come to fruition. We also noticed that when we asked about how they were pursuing their dreams, the people we interviewed all talked about building skills. This seemed to be an interesting observation because while we realized it was hard to evaluate dreams, we believe that it is possible to evaluate the skills that people are building on the journey towards their dreams. We had a long talk about whether skills were more important than passions in this journey.

At the end of the first day of design thinking we realized the following things about our mission statement:

  • Dreams are a Making Activity
  • There is a need to make dreams understandable, more concrete and buildable.
  • We can evaluate if someone has a dream.
  • We can evaluate if they are pursuing that dream.
  • We can evaluate how talking about dreams affects the prevalence of having them. 
  • More students might have more dreams if they had more conversations about their dreams.
Today, in Day 2, we started to consider a "Futurecasting" framework and we talked about Dream Fairs. I'll be writing about this part of our design thinking deep dive in the next blog post.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

A mediator of thinking

The goal of the cognitive coaching workshop that I participated in last week in London was to help us grow in our capacity as mediators of thinking.  This is one of the important differences between this type of coaching and the type advocated by the recent MOOC I participated in, which was more instructional coaching.  Cognitive coaching firmly believes that the solution already exists in the person being coached - and that the coaching can bring this solution out by encouraging the coachee to deeper thinking.  Instructional coaching, it seems, is much more about coaching someone how to do something.

Cognitive coaching aims to develop capacity.  There is a great analogy here:  when a container is full it cannot hold more, but building capacity is about increasing the size of the container.  People's beliefs, values, capacities and behaviors are always congruent with their sense of identify, so if coaching can provoke a change in the sense of identity, it can also lead to a change in capacity and behavior.  A coach can pose questions in such as way as to help the coachee self-assess, analyze a problem and develop his or her own problem solving strategies, and in this way a coach can strive to enhance behavior by impacting the quality of the thinking process.

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Important developments in technology for K-12 education

I'm reading the final part of the Horizon Report K-12 Preview which is about developments in technology in K-12 education over the next few years.  As I'm reading this I'm considering how these trends are impacting (or, in many cases, have already impacted) education at ASB.

The Near Horizon - 1 year or less
  • BYOD - students bring their own laptops, tablets and smartphones with them to class.  Around the world this movement is being driven by a lack of funding for 1:1 learning.  BYOD can make 1:1 learning easier by having students use the devices they already own.  Questions are still being asked about providing funds to support families in financial need and on the importance of standardizing on a small set of devices and software packages.  ASB introduced BYOD in the 2012 school year with the primary device being a laptop.  In 2013 an R&D Task Force initiated 3 mobile device prototypes in Grades 4, 8 and 10.  Last year 38 teachers and teaching assistants also participated in a mobile devices prototype.
  • Cloud Computing - the Horizon Report notes that "the number of available applications that rely on cloud technologies have grown to the point that few education institutions do not make some use of the cloud."  At ASB one of the pre-requisites for BYOD was a move to the cloud.  Both these trends, on the near horizon, have been been adopted by ASB for a number of years already.

The Mid-Horizon - 2-3 years
  • Games and Gamification - Games have moved out of the realm of pure entertainment as scientific studies are showing the impact of games on education.  There is increased attention surrounding ramification for motivational purposes.  ASB studied games based learning in 2011, and went on to establish an R&D task force on gamification in 2012 which has been meeting regularly for the last 2 years.  Several game designers work in ASB's R&D department.
  • Learning Analytics - Education is turning more to data to provide a high-quality personalized experience for learners - the data can allow schools to build better pedagogies, target at-risk students and assess the effectiveness of programs.  Many ASB faculty underwent DataWise training in 2012, and we have employed the services of a data scientist to help us understand trends emerging from the tech audits and the mobile prototypes.

The Far Horizon - 4-5 years
  • The Internet of Things - I'm not sure how this may affect education in the future.
  • Wearable Technology - I understand that the PE department has invested in FitBits but I have  no idea about how they are currently being used.  Wearable technology can allow the tracking of sleep, movement, eating and location and integrate it with social media.  Another example I was able to try out recently was Google Glass, at the 2013 Google India Summit that was hosted at ASB.  It will be interesting to see how wearable technology can impact education at ASB in the future.
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Update 22nd June:  The 2014 NMC Horizon Report K-12 has now been published.  Download the full version here.

The challenges of adopting technology in K-12 education

Reading further in the Horizon Report Preview for K-12 Education I'm on the section about challenges.  Here are the notes I made based on that section.

Creating Authentic Learning Opportunities
  • Bringing real life experiences into the classroom via technology to engage students and prepare them for the future in a way that traditional educational practices are often failing to do.

Integrating Personalized Learning
  • Personalized learning organized by and for the learner including apps, social media and related software.
  • Adaptive learning which is intervention-focused, interpreting data about how a student is learning and responding by changing the learning environment based on these needs.

Complex Thinking and Communication
  • It is essential for students to tackle complex problems and tasks, and that they use communication skills to apply their thinking in profound ways.
  • Communication skills and social intelligence are essential for effective leadership.

Increased Privacy Concerns
  • School leaders want to use data to improve learning outcomes, yet parents voice their apprehension about collecting data from K-12 students.

Competition from New Models of Education
  • Competition from alternative schools and online programs.

Keeping Formal Education Relevant
  • Schools must rethink the value of education from a student's perspective and consider what they can provide that cannot be replicated by other sources.
  • Growing numbers of schools are using online resources to implement the flipped classroom approach so that time spent at school is focused on peer-to-peer and student-teacher interactions for problems solving.
  • Schools can provide the environments for students to socialize and participate in extracurricular activities that enrich their minds and bodies.
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Previewing the Horizon Report for K-12

I've been reading through the preview of the NMC Horizon Report 2014 K-12 Edition and thinking about some of the key trends that were identified for driving technology in schools over the next few years.  Here are a few notes I've made based on the report.

Rethinking the Roles of Teachers (1-2 years)
  • Teachers are expected to use technology for delivering content, supporting learners, assessing students, collaborating with other teachers, organizing and documenting their work and for reporting. 
  • Many schools are rethinking the primary responsibilities of teachers.
  • Teachers are engaging in professional development using social media and online tools and resources.
  • Teachers are using social media to build learning communities.

The Shift to Deep Learning (1-2 years)
  • There is a new emphasis on challenge based, active learning both inside and outside the classroom.
  • Educators are using tablets and smartphones to connect the curriculum with real life issues.
  • Active learning approaches are more student centered, allowing them to take control of how they engage with a subject.
  • Connecting course material with their own lives will lead to students immersing themselves more in the subject matter and becoming more excited about learning.

Open Content (3-5 years)
  • Open educational resources are growing in breadth and quality.
  • Content is free both in economic terms and in terms of ownership and usage rights - open content is freely copiable and remixable.

Hybrid Learning Designs (3-5 years)
  • Online learning components are frequently used.
  • Increased focus on collaboration with the classroom.
  • Using both the physical and virtual learning environment allows teachers to engage students in a variety of ways and extends the learning day.
  • Hybrid models enable students to use the school day for group work and project baed activities, while using the internet to access readings, videos and other learning materials in their own time.

Rapid Acceleration of Intuitive Technology (5+ years)
  • Natural user interfaces allow users to engage in virtual activities with movements similar to what they would use in the real world.

Rethinking How Schools Work (5+ years)
  • A change to the traditional classroom experience and rearranging of the school day.
  • Project and challenge-based learning requires school set-ups that enable students to move from one learning activity to another more organically.
  • Learning is becoming more multidisciplinary, connecting classes and subject matter to each other.
  • Schedules will become more flexible to allow opportunities for authentic learning experiences to take place.
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Friday, June 20, 2014

Five States of Mind

One concept that underlay much of what we did during the first 3 days of the Cognitive Coaching course with Bill and Ochan Powell was the five states of mind.  We found ourselves coming back to these over and over again and found that we needed to be very conscious of all of these in our coachees, when we are taking on a coaching role.  As they are so important, I decided to devote a whole blog post to exploring these further.

Consciousness:  this is a sensitivity to what is going on both internally and externally.  It involves knowing what you are thinking and how you are thinking as well as being aware of your actions and their effects.  One way to increase consciousness is to seek out data.  Teachers who exercise consciousness are aware of their own values, which form the criteria for decisions they make.  They are aware of the events that are occurring and feel comfortable and confident to direct their course.

Craftsmanship:  this involves setting goals because we want to achieve.  People who are developing their craftsmanship are ongoing learners who are willing to work towards excellence.  I see a lot of teachers who are strong in this state of mind - they are learners who are constantly honing their craft and generally have high self-esteem which results from positive feedback.  Teachers often have clear visions and goals and make considered decisions about the actions they will take.  As a coach, when we want to coach for craftsmanship we often just need to ask these teachers how they are going to do something to help them clarify their thoughts.

Efficacy:  this is the ability to embrace problems as opportunities, knowing that you have the capacity to make a difference through your work.  Another way to put this is that you have internal resourcefulness and so can make choices, solve problems and take action.  We want to coach for efficacy as this is a catalytic state of mind in helping to resolve complex problems:  we want teachers to know that change can happen, that they can be optimistic about the outcomes and that they can be adaptable to change and take action.

Flexibility:  being able to see or generate alternatives for your own work and being willing to empathize with others' perspectives.  As a result of this, flexible teachers are willing to change their mind as they receive additional "big picture" data and are able to adjust to others' styles and preferences.  Being flexible involves considering cause and effect while at the same time being comfortable with ambiguity.  Flexible teachers are able to work within the rules, but are also able to find ways to use the rules to help rather than hinder their work.  

Interdependence:  the ability to give and receive support relies on the knowledge that we will benefit from participating in and contributing to professional relationships. It involves considering the common good through collegiality and collaboration.  Teachers who are high in interdependence are able to balance their own needs with the group needs.  Interdependent teachers are altruistic who value consensus, however they also regard conflict as valuable as they trust their own abilities to manage group differences in productive ways.  Interdependence is essential as schools and learning become more collaborative, and interdependent thinkers know they have the potential to significantly influence their school community.

All of these 5 states of mind are temporary states so any that are low can be changed.  This is the goal of cognitive coaching:  to listen for these states of mind, to find the one or two that are low, and to coach towards helping the coachee to develop them.  It is to be a mediator of thinking.  In the case of the 5 states of mind this is what the coach hopes to enable:

Consciousness:  a movement from a lack of awareness towards an awareness of self and others
Craftsmanship:  a movement from vagueness and imprecision towards specificity ad elegance
Efficacy:  a movement away from an external locus of control and towards an internal locus of control
Flexibility:  a movement away from narrow egocentric views towards broader and alternative perspectives
Interdependence:  a movement away from isolation and separateness towards connection to and concern for the community

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014


I'm at the end of 3 intensive days learning about cognitive coaching.  Over the past few days one word that really resonates with me is the word self-directed.  We talked about how teaching involves constant decision-making - in fact the figure we were given was that a teacher makes around 1300 decisions over the course of a school day and that most are "gut reactions" that we never stop to think about.   The aim of coaching is to facilitate decision-making because in order to learn something new an alternation in thought is required.  This is where the coach works:  with the internal thinking process of the coachee, which in turn leads to a change in observable behaviours and enhanced performance.

Cognitive coaching empowers teachers to be self-directed.  It gives teachers the skills to think of ways to solve problems.  It helps them to consider the cause and effect and to improve their craftsmanship.  It can help them to forecast future performance, set challenging goals and persevere in the face of barriers.  I'm excited about what I have learned and I'm really looking forward to using these news skills when I get back to ASB in July.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Enter as a consultant and leave as a coach

Over the past few days I've been doing a Cognitive Coaching workshop with Bill and Ochan Powell at the American School in London.  While I will probably write many posts over the next few days about my learning at this workshop, I wanted to start with reflecting on my current role and how it will change next year as I take on a new position of Director of Educational Technology at ASB.

We talked today about 4 support functions, only one of which is cognitive coaching (the others are collaborating, consulting and evaluating).  As I reflected on my role over the past 2 years I felt it was more a combination between collaboration and consulting.  As Tech Coordinator I would attend both the grade level PYP meetings so that I could understand the curriculum and the content that each grade was teaching, and I would also have tech meetings where I would be called upon to find new tools, share how to use these tools, discuss pedagogy, provide technical assistance and discuss both the NETS-S and NETS-T standards.  I was also very much of a collaborator, co-planning and often co-teaching with the homeroom teachers.  We discussed different ideas and approaches as we considered how technology could support student inquiry.

One thing I felt I never did was to act as an evaluator.   I did help teachers to collect artifacts of student learning that matched with the NETS-S standards, and although we did discuss at which level of Bloom's Digital Taxonomy these artifacts fell, and in addition I did discuss with teachers their tech goals for the year based on the NETS-T standards (this year we focused on Standard 2 about designing and developing digital age learning experiences and assessments), I was not responsible for evaluating whether teachers met their goal.  My job was to help them to move forward but not to judge how far they went.

Now I'm adding a new dimension to my role.  Cognitive coaching will allow me to transform the effectiveness of what teacher are doing but the learning they engage in will be self-directed.  I will help them to consider a menu of suggestions and to discuss with them which one looks best for them as they move forward with integrating technology into their teaching.  I think that cognitive coaching will help me to make a shift in my role - that I originally approached teachers more as a consultant to help them figure out what to do and how to do it, but that now I will be helping them to think in new ways to integrate technology.

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Future Forwards Volume 2

I'm pleased to be able to share with you Volume 2 of ASB's new eBook entitled Future Forwards:  Exploring the Frontiers in Education at the American School of Bombay.  This book is a collection of thoughts, hypotheses, discussions, and reflections on practices, research and ideas that are relevant to emerging new paradigms of teaching and learning.  

Inside Volume 2 of Future Forwards you will find three sections:

Paradigms - “Looking to the Future”
These chapters deal with paradigm shifts - different approaches that radically challenge established conventions about traditional subjects.   Here you will read chapters about prototyping, mobile devices and social entrepreneurship.

Ideas - "The Next Step"
This section examines how current research is changing or impacting existing practices or established norms. Here you will find chapters about the maker movement, using Minecraft and gamification.

Practices - "Innovating in the Now"
These chapters describe the application of an instructional practice in a completely novel way or the successful mash-up of different practices. In this section you will read about collaboration and research in international schools, Day 9, project based learning and design thinking.

The eBook is completely free - enjoy and please consider sharing it with others in your professional network.

Click here to read Volume 2 of Future Forwards

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The challenges and wicked challenges facing universities

With one child already through university and another still there one question I'm constantly asking is what value a university adds to someone's prospects of getting a good job.  The Horizon Report for Higher Education asks this question too - and it is clear that universities will need to change if they are to remain relevant.  Here are some of the challenges and wicked challenges outlined in the latest Horizon Report.

Low Digital Fluency of Faculty
Just today I was talking to a colleague about the fact that many university professors have never actually been teachers or undergone a teacher training course.  The Horizon Report also acknowledges that while digital media literacy continues to rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession, very little training is given in digital literacy skills and techniques.  One good point is that the lack of formal training is being offset through professional development and informal learning, however the report points out that an attitude shift is required of instructors to embrace new technologies that promote digital literacy.

The Lack of Rewards for Teaching
In higher education there is a sense that being involved in research is more valuable than skill and talent as a teacher.  In the UK, studies have shown that compared with the 1960s there has been a decrease in interaction and feedback between professors and students.

Competition from New Models of Education
Over the past 2 years I've turned down 2 opportunities to get an additional degree through an American university in favour of taking MOOCs and online courses that seem more relevant to my interests.  Despite the low completion rate of many MOOCs (between 5 - 16%),  they have done a good job at enabling students to continue to learn through free, online courses.  World renowned universities have enrolled thousands of students in online courses, most working at their own pace, which has called into question the value of degrees earned face to face (and at huge expense).  Universities are now starting to offer credits to students who pass the MOOC if they register and pay a fee, though at present it appears take up rates for this are low.

Expanding Access
Here's what I think is at the heart of the problem:  we are shifting from labour-intensive economies to knowledge-intensive economies which calls for higher education to be expanded.  There is still a link between educational attainment and earning potential, and in developing countries a better education population is driving the rise of the middle class.  However expanding access to universities means opening them to students who traditionally would not have been able to attend (because of ability or finances).  Universities which at one time catered to the elite are now having to re-examine their market, especially as free credit-based MOOCs are growing in popularity.

Here's a staggering figure:   over the next 12 years there will be a 25% increase in global higher education.  In Africa this equates to having to build 4 universities a week to accommodate the students who are reaching enrollment age!  In my current country, India, there are 234 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 - how are they going to be educated?

The digital divide is alive and well - and even expanding as far as access to technology is concerned.  MOOCs can only be effective at educating these young people if the proper infrastructure and connectivity is available.  Yet in many developing countries online learning could be the key to increasing access to higher education - particularly for young women.

Keeping Education Relevant
As online learning and free educational content become more pervasive universities need to address the question of what value they provide that other approaches do not.  Although my children probably don't appreciate it right now, they are "fortunate" in that they were both unable to apply for student loans (as they went to universities in countries where they had never lived).  My son left university 2 years ago debt free and my daughter will do the same.  It has been tough for them to have to work long hours every week on top of their studies to support themselves financially, but I believe they will come to see that it is worth it to be debt free.  Many students leaving universities today owe more than 20,000 pounds or dollars and are still facing unemployment in the uncertain job market.

One thing I've found difficult working at an American school is the whole course credit system - something that did not exist when I was at university.  I think it's good that questions are now starting to be asked about whether class time can be equated with meaningful learning - surely students should be required to prove competency and not just that they have put in the time?  The notion of other forms of credentials that allow learning to be tracked (such as badges or ePortfolios) are becoming more popular.  Clearly a university degree doesn't guarantee a return on investment in these economically difficult times - universities are going to have to re-think what they are offering in order to stay relevant.

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What's on the mid- and long-range horizons for higher ed?

Yesterday I blogged about some trends that are going to impact higher education within the next couple of years.  Today I'm looking at the mid- and long-range trends as identified by the Horizon Report 2014 that will impact higher ed within 3 - 5 years.  A couple of these trends are ones I'm seeing in K-12 education too.

Data Driven Learning and Assessment
I have seen a huge rise in the amount of data we are able to collect about our students and use to inform our planning for learning.  The Horizon Report identifies online learning as a good source of data that can be mined for insights.  The report states "Learning analytics experiments and demonstration projects re currently examining ways to use the data to modify learning strategies and processes."  At ASB we conduct a yearly tech audit where teachers submit student artifacts based on the ISTE NETS-S standards.  These artifacts are then further categorized into type of artifact and where they fall on Bloom's Taxonomy.  Over the past 2 years we have used this data to pinpoint changes that impact student learning, for example we are seeing more teachers intentionally planning for higher order thinking with students, and we are able to track the adoption of new tools such as augmented reality.  We are using the services of a data scientist to visualize the data and can see clear year on year trends.  The hope is that he will develop an app for us that will make the collection of this data even easier.  This fits well with the trend indicated in the Horizon Report that "there is a growing interest in developing tools and algorithms for revealing patterns inherent in data and then applying them to the improvement of instructional systems.

A Shift from Students as Consumers to Students as Creators
This is another trend identified by the Horizon Report that will impact higher ed in the coming 3-5 years.  Again I'm already seeing this shift in K-12 education at ASB.  The report states: "A shift is taking place on university campuses all over the world as students ... are learning by making and creating rather than from the simple consumption of content."  Makerspaces are appearing in colleges and universities, and libraries are also developing physical building spaces equipped with craft tools, lazer cutters, microcontrollers and 3D printers, as well as places for creating video and publishing, where students can create together.  At ASB the ground floor of our secondary school library was transformed into a Makerspace this year.  A further trend identified in the report is that crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter or Indegogo are allowing student projects to be brought from model to fruition.

Online Learning
I was surprised to find this in the long-range trend section of the report, especially considering the findings of a recent article in The Journal that states 83% of high schools offer online courses to prepare students for higher education and careers.   The Horizon Report indicates that more higher education institutions are developing online courses to replace and supplement existing courses.  Having taken and facilitated quite a number of online courses over the past 2 years, I was interested to read that the use of voice and video tools is improving the quality of such courses.  Tools such as VoiceThread and SoundCloud allow the capture of human gestures, voice and eye contact and body language which are important ways of communicating.  I've found a huge difference between my first online course (a photography one where I had no connection with the instructor or with others on the course) and the ones I'm doing now where video and discussion forums are regular features.

Tying this with one of the earlier trends, online learning can produce a huge amount of data, which can in turn lead to a more personalized experience as technology detects patterns of students' successes and failures with the course material and adapts accordingly.  Combining data driven analytics and online learning can certainly lead to courses catering to all types of learning styles, leading to more student success.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What's on the near horizon for higher ed?

I always look forward to the NMC Horizon Reports.  While I'm most curious about the K-12 report which will be issued later this month, yesterday I started to read the Higher Education edition.  I was interested to read about 2 trends that are likely to drive changes in higher ed over the next couple of years.

Social Media
I was fascinated to read that 40% of the world's population regularly use social media, and when considering the % that attend universities I would assume that almost all university students are social media users.  The Horizon report notes that "today's web users are prolific creators of content and they upload photographs, audio and video to the cloud ... Producing, commenting, and classifying these media have become just as important as the more passive tasks of searching, reading, watching and listening."

Social media use spans all ages and demographics and is used by more people for recreational and educational purposes than television.  This impacts education, as social networks are growing and educators are using them as PLC (for themselves) and as a platform to share links about what is being studied in class with students.  The report notes that understanding how social media can be leveraged for social learning is a key skill for teachers.

Online, Hybrid and Collaborative Learning
One only has to look at the recent growth of MOOCs to see that increasing numbers of universities are using online environments as part of their courses.  Content is being made more dynamic and is accessible to larger numbers of students.  Students are often asked to be creative and online courses can be more collaborative than traditional courses as students have to access the course outside of the classroom where they can "meet" to exchange ideas about a subject or project as a group.

As an online workshop facilitator for the IBO I have definitely seen a change in recent iterations of the courses offered.  I've found that I've been bringing in more and more Web 2.0 tools and expecting the participants to use these tools collaboratively.  Quite a number of those in my workshops are not native English speakers and face to face communication may be more challenging for them, whereas online they have the time and the tools to compose their answers.  Personally I have found an enormous increase in communication skills by participants in these courses and also I have seen a positive "can do" attitude emerging as they try out and succeed at using new tools.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

PYP Skills, Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Several events have combined recently to prompt me to write this post.   First of all I'm facilitating an online course for the IB, which means I always reflect on the essential elements of the PYP as I work with the participants to make sense of the programme.  Secondly, I was recently sent a great article from the Harvard Business Review on emotional intelligence and leadership, and thirdly leadership is uppermost in my mind as I move into a new role next year.

Let's start with the skills first.  The PYP suggests that 5 transdisciplinary skills are important for teaching and learning and for life outside of school.  These skills are thinking skills, social skills, communication skills, self-management skills and research skills.  Several of these are important components of emotional intelligence.

Daniel Goleman wrote his book Emotional Intelligence almost 20 years ago.  He found that the qualities traditionally associated with leadership such as intelligence, vision and so on, are not enough to ensure success.  Goleman noticed that effective leaders had a high degree of emotional intelligence, which was also made up of 5 components (some of which you will notice overlap with the PYP skills): self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.  The first 3 of these match well with the PYP self-management skills.  The last 2 concern a person's ability to manage relationships with others, which match well with the PYP social skills.

In the Harvard Business Review article Goleman asks what makes a leader?  He writes that without emotional intelligence a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won't make a great leader.  Leaders show a high correlation between emotional intelligence and effective performance.  Goleman is not dismissing cognitive skills, but he felt that when compared with technical skills and IQ, emotional intelligence was twice as important as the others for performing well in jobs at all levels - and at the highest levels of leadership technical skills are of negligible importance.  In other words, the higher the rank of a person, the more emotional intelligence capabilities played a part in his or her effectiveness.

One thing I wanted to know was whether emotional intelligence can be learned.  Apparently there is a strong genetic component to emotional intelligence and nurture as well as nature plays an important role.  However the good news is that emotional intelligence and be learned and in general it increased with age and maturity.

Let's examine the 5 components of emotional intelligence in more detail:
  • Self-awareness:  an understanding of your own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs and drives.  Goleman writes that people who are self-aware are honest with themselves and others.  They recognize their feelings and how these affect them and the people around them - and so how they affect their job performance.  Self-aware people are also strong on doing things in keeping with their values and goals (for example turning down a job that is financial lucrative but which compromises a person's principles or long-term goals).  Self-aware people make good leaders because they are comfortable talking about their limitations and strengths, they demonstrate self-confidence and know what they can do and when to ask for help.  Self-aware people, who can assess themselves honestly, are also more able to do the same for organizations that they run.
  • Self-regulation:  being in control of your feelings and impulses.  People who can self-regulate can create an atmosphere of trust and fairness, where politics and infighting are reduced and productivity is high. 
  • Motivation:  a drive to achieve beyond expectation.  Goleman noticed that leaders are motived by a deep desire to achieve for the sake of achievement as they display a passion for their work.  They seek out creative challenges, love to learn and take pride in a job well done.  He also noticed that they display enormous energy to make things better as they are dissatisfied with the status quo and are eager to explore new approaches to their work.  Motivation is great for businesses because when people love their jobs they are committed to the organization they work for and will often stay with that company even when offered more money to move elsewhere.
  • Empathy:  making intelligent decisions by considering the feelings of others.  Goleman writes that empathy is an important component of today's leadership because people are increasingly working in teams, because of the rapid pace of globalization and because of the growing need to retain talent.  He notes that leaders have always needed empathy to develop and keep good people.  Interestingly he also writes that coaching and mentoring play a huge role in better performance, improved job satisfaction and with decreased turnover.
  • Social skills:  the ability to manage others.  Socially skilled people are effective at managing relationships as they can manage their own emotions and empathize with the feelings of others.  They tend to have a wide circle of acquaintances as well as a network in place to help them take action and are good at managing teams.
Earlier today I was given a copy of Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence book.  I've read it before but clearly it is time to dip back into this book again.  I'll be blogging more about this as I read.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014


Doing online PYP courses for the International Baccalaureate is a great way of keeping my ideas about international education sharp.  Recently I have been reading a new position paper Reflections and projections on the IB learner profile by Dr George Walker, Professor Wing-On Lee and Dr Farid Panjwani,  that was published on the IB Learner Profile which deals with international mindedness.  It is defined in the following way:
International-mindedness is the motivation and the capability to study issues from different national and cultural perspectives.
I like this definition as it provides a solution to the often one-sided perspective we are presented with of the problems that occur between and within nations.  The idea is that if a person's mindset shifts from a local one to a global one, the issues can be viewed from a position of shared humanity.

The IB Learner Profile is at the heart of what it means to be internationally minded - some have likened it to a description of the ideal learner or even the ideal person.  This is expanded upon in the paper in the following way:

The ideal learner is:
  • a learning being (inquirer, open-minded, knowledgeable).  Inquirers and open-minded learners are intrinsically motivated and enthusiastic about learning.
  • a social being (caring, communicator) who cares about others and who shares what s/he has learned and knows
  • an action being (risk taker) who applies knowledge to action and who is willing o risk uncertainties in the process of learning and action
  • a wisdom seeker (thinker, reflective) who goes beyond information and knowledge to seek understanding.
  • a principled being who converts all their learning and experience into principles and is unafraid of being different from others who hold different views and beliefs
  • a balanced being that intellectually, physically, socially and emotionally combines the above attributes.
I like the way the attributes of the Learner Profile are linked with international mindedness.  In our #pypchat today we discussed wellbeing (both teacher and student wellbeing) and the last of these points about balance really resonates with our discussions.

Original artwork by an ASB student