Saturday, 29 August 2015

Will a facebook "purge" put an end to the problem or is that just turning a blind eye?

This image from Johannes de Ketham's Fasciculus Medicinae (Venice, 1492) reminds me in so many ways of Facebook, and, to a much lesser extent, other social media.
It seems you can post just about anything on there with no forethought as to whether the facts are correct, and the masses will help you villify the perpertrator of your supposed ill fortune (or the reported ill fortunes of others).  They will use every instrument - blunt and sharp- to maim, wound and kill the evil one.  Somewhat like a witch hunt.  Judgement is pronounced, urging the masses to seek out and destroy.Now I do understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but urging and inciting people to do wrong?  THAT is against the law.  Think carefully before you urge someone to hunt down "that bully" and deal to him/her.  

Of course, it works the other way, too.  You can post some trivial, unproven emotionally blackmailing garbage and the masses will oohh and ahhh and like to their hearts content, thus raising the post in your feed.  Thank the facebook gods for allowing me to turn off notifications. It is my facebook version of turning a blind eye.

Which brings me now to professional posts.  As a professional eduator, I am privvy to a number of professional groups on facebook as well.  The number of times that I cringe when reading posts in some of these groups is increasing, I am sad to say.  If you are a professional teacher, you must be one of the 100,000+ registered teachers in New Zealand.  There is a code of ethics and also practicing teacher criteria  which you must show evidence that you meet every three years.  One of those criteria is number 6. conceptualise, plan and implement an appropriate learning programme and the key indicators of this are
i. articulate clearly the aims of their teaching, give sound professional reasons for adopting these aims, and implement them in their practice
ii. through their planning and teaching, demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of relevant content, disciplines and curriculum documents
So this means, you should be following the relevant school curriculum.  You don't just fill a space with stuff that you like doing.  You find out what the school has decided are the important things for the students to learn and you design a programme so that they will learn those things.  For instance, if a school has decided that the students should be exposed to a variety of art styles because they want students to learn to be creative in art, and be able to employ, describe and critique 5 different styles, then it is quite appropriate that you incorporate making a variety of art styles into your programme.  With your curriculum committee, you will decide when and how this happens. 
There should be no posts saying "I need a unit to fill in a week before the end of term - can someone help?"  I am sorry if this hurts your feelings but YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL!  You are paid as a professional, now use the facebook page to share professional resources and experiences, but be a 21st century educator who sifts and sorts and uses what is relevant to your school curriculum the learning outcomes that your school desires for their students.
Your students need you to be a critical thinker, too!  If you think your school curriculum is not cutting the mustard, then it is up to you to show leadership and make some changes.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Forms - fit for purpose.

One of the most under-utilised apps of the google suite is the google form.  I blogged earlier this year on how I used a form, embedded in my appraisal site, to collect my professional development.  But the form doesn't have to be embedded in a site.
If you or your students have ipads or even phones in your class, download a QR code reader like Quickmark or QR Reader so that when you produce a QR code then the students can go straight to a form using the reader,
If your students have emails, it is easy to send a form out.  Otherwise share via a link or QR code.
A really good way to get a link or QR code is to get the Chrome extension URL shortener.    When you have made the form live, you just click on the extension and you will get a short URL or a QR code to copy and paste, then print if you need to.
Like this:

Some ways that you could use a form include:
  • Collect information from your parents, students or teachers using a form (emails, addresses, phone numbers etc) .  
  • Take orders for a fundraiser (multiple collectors can get all of the orders in one place, easily)
  • Organise your EOTC trip (eliminate the need for those long letters that get sent home)
  • Write about an image (insert the image into the form)
  • Fill in feedback for student voice on a unit of work
  • Hand in work by inserting a link into the form
  • Do teacher observations which a specific purpose in mind (or walk throughs)
  • Flip your class (add a video)
These are just a few of the myriad of ways that teachers can use forms in their daily work.
The nicest thing about forms is the way that the responses are organised into a spreadsheet.  It is an awesome way to save time and organise.  There are also a number of add ons that you can put into the response spreadsheet to help you even more.  Like the Flubaroo add on which will self-mark short answer or multichoice questions for you.
Go on, give it a go!  You will love forms.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Backlash or Implementation Dip?

Are you seeing and hearing a bit of a backlash against the use of digital technologies in our society?

More robust discussions around learning with digital technologies have also been happening in the education sector in recent times.  People are questioning the role of digital technologies because around them they see less face-to-face interactions and more face-to-digital which is disturbing them. It is making them feel uncomfortable.   I have heard people say, we just are losing the ability to communicate with each other.  And yet we are communicating with each other more that ever before. It is just in a digital way.
In the beginning, digital technologies were increasingly seen as some kind of black magic, whizz bang tools for learning.  Some of the comments I heard were
  • Wow, isn't that so cool?
  • It is so amazing.
  • My students will love this.
  • I can't wait to try it out in class.
  • This will really impress the parents  

People did not focus on the "why" then - they were more interested in trying out the whizz bang tools, and excited by the "showmanship" of different fonts, making links, using different apps, making QR codes, altering images, making their own videos, making comic books and ebooks. The list goes on. Confidence grew quickly at the beginning of their journey and now......... new discussion is emerging.

  • Why are we expected to do this?  
  • Why am I spending so many hours learning? 
  • This is taking me away from my regular work.
  • What is the point of connecting and collaborating anyway?
  • I don't have time for this - is it worth it?
  • What evidence is there to show this improves outcomes for my students?
  • I have no connection in my classroom so why should I try?
  • Dont you think there are too many barriers for me?
These are all really good questions and actually, although it has come as a bit of a surprise after all this time, I am glad that educators are actually asking.  Because that is what they should have asked in the beginning.

It feels like a kind of backlash against using digital technologies. Some are actively slagging the use of digital technologies.    I think there are those who are looking for excuses not to use digital technologies.   They are putting barriers in the way rather than trying to remove them.

But actually I think they have struck the implemetation dip. They are in the trough of disillusionment.

It is well documented why we need to change the way we teach.  Our students will be entering the knowledge society instead of the old style industrial model.    We live in an unsettled world. We are entering a future with wicked problems.   Our learners will be expected to work in teams, use connectivity to communicate, collaborate, be critical thinkers, and to be creators.  How are you empowering your student to be ready for these uncertain times ahead?

Can educators really imagine a world without digital technologies now?  Look at the journey you have travelled.  Now that you can see the potential, how can you turn away from empowering your students to be the best digital citizens they can be?

When people tell me that they don't like the effects that digital technologies are having on society, I tell them to get used to it.  I strongly believe that people will do what they need to.  If you have a problem about the way digital technologies are being used in society, work out ways that you can deal with it.  If you need to take control, do it.  But don't expect that digital technologies are going to go away any time soon.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

What does Maori culture look like in the digital world?

I am an education professional, working with schools to build capacity for learning and teaching with digital technologies. As a middle class white woman teacher, I tried to build good relationships with all of my students and honour the intention of the Treaty of Waitangi which I believe laid the foundation of a bicultural nation. I am not sure if that was the intention of the Treaty of Waitangi, but but it certainly influenced my practice in that I wanted my Maori students to achieve and flourish in my classes.
 Acutely aware of my lack of knowledge around Maori culture, I tried to learn more and make connections to what I did in the class. Years on, I am still in the same predicament, - a middle class white woman trying to learn more and reach out and make connections. How do you capture the essence of Maori culture in a digital world? Efforts that I have made so far are almost a bastardisation of the Maori culture. I don't believe that culture is a static concept - it changes as the world progresses, but is it just downright rude of me to try to incorporate what I know of the culture in my work, or should I graciously bow out of trying? These are my thoughts this morning.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Phones in class - yes or no?

I am working in a high school this week where teachers are debating whether the students should be allowed to have and use their cellphones in class. Some of the teachers think that the cellphones are a huge distraction because students get on Facebook, or Twitter and also use the opportunity to text each other.  

Despite the shortage of other devices in their classes, some teachers do not recognise the phones as being powerful tools for learning. In the end , it will be up to the school community to decide whether the students can use their phones in class but I love trying to change that point of view.

I think that many teachers still want to use the cellphones issue as a control mechanism - they want to control when and how the student gets instruction from them. They want full attention when they are talking. Some students also say they focus best when they are not distracted.

 Here's the thing.  Even the most attentive looking students are not always listening to (or understanding) the teacher instruction. There are other ways of getting your instruction across - not using the middle of the road, one size fits all approach.  For example, flip your class and provide instruction through technology so you are freed up to attend to individual student needs.

Of course there is a place for the whole class coming together at times.  For example, class discussion still - and students can show learning in student discussions,  but often the unheard voices are those with the most diverse, robust and valuable opinions.  Digital technologies allow quiet students the opportunity to express these.
Here are some of the slides I will be talking to with the teachers in the discussion.
To help the teachers with their discussions and decisions, slide 9 has a number of links in the notes (watch the slideshow in Google Slides to access these) so that teachers can read through and assimilate different points of view.

From slide 10 onwards, I give examples of some useful apps and links to ideas about what the teachers could do making use of phones in class.  They will research these themselves.
I am definitely all for using cellphones in class as they are a powerful way to learn. Why do I think like that?
  • Firstly, I believe that students should be learning to work in the class in the same way that they would be working in a real life context and for most of us that means with cellphones nearby and switched on. They offer us all quick reference to research and ability to connect with others.
  • Secondly, the cellphone offers a number of ways that students can learn and develop 21st century skills of communication, connectivity, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and embracing culture.  They also offer the opportunity in class to become digitally savvy and behave appropriately online, with the teachers being an important part of this ongoing process, often acting as guides in this matter.
  • Thirdly, and most importantly, I believe that students and teachers should be focusing on student outputs. By outputs, I mean the ways in which they are showing their learning. So the teachers should be looking for evidence that the students have learned what they need to learn. Not a simple "fill in this worksheet" or "answer this test", but can they create artefacts which demonstrate their knowledge?  Cellphones are powerful devices for these purposes.  Using Facebook and Twitter becomes a non- issue in this case.  It is not about the diversions, it is about the outputs.  If students are not producing the expected outputs, then there should be consequences (as with every instance of not meeting expectations in the workplace.)
If you are worried about engagement, THE Journal published 6 key drivers of student engagement. They are relevant learning, personalised learning, collaborative learning, connected learning, information literacy and dialogical/dialectical thinking, Digital technologies enhance each and every one of these and therefore using a phone in class fits the bill.  I am sure that if you take the plunge and allow your students to use their phones in class, you will see a lot of rewards in terms of student engagement.
I am still in awe of Zac Hawkins words in 2012 (see slide 5).  He was a 15 year old student who was imploring schools to embrace BYOD.  His words? - "In an age of information technology, the last limiting factor that you would expect would be the education system." Still the debate goes on.