A critical journey commencing?

My early teaching career was not what I had hoped for or expected.  It left me defeated.  I persevered for years at what was an extremely difficult position, with little support from the organisation as a whole.  I know I’m not alone in what my experiences have been and when we come into the profession, we bring our own ideals, background, abilities and emotional intelligence (among other contributing factors and traits).  I was young, too close in age to my student perhaps.  I was inexperienced and I was not emotionally ready.  However, whilst these early years and the negative things that occurred have shaped the direction of my career, I am choosing now to join in the quest for increased support for new teachers and for all teachers at all stages of their careers.

The NSW Government, a few years ago, started to initiate the implementation of large-scale educational reforms, the most significant in the State’s history perhaps.  These reforms are intended to increase teacher quality and thereby increase student outcomes.  But at what cost?  Familiarising myself with all of the reforms and formal documentation regarding the changes being implemented to policies and procedures, I started to ponder the ramifications that these could have on the key stakeholders for the reforms… the teachers/educators and the students.  My key question has been:  Will the reforms and the implementation of them, have a negative impact on the stakeholders because of the scale of them and the nature of how they are being, or are to be, implemented?

Teachers’ day-to-day duties are already so significant, its not a 9-3 or even a 9-5 job, its a vocation that is quite consuming.  Most educators go into this profession knowing the enormity of the duties involved, however, the reforms being implemented are changing the role of school leaders from that of educational leaders to managerial change agents and business executives, without the administrative background and training to support them.  This is just one example.

In pursuing my PhD, hoping to start my research in the new year, I have considered these things a great deal.  Reflecting on my own career has been a huge catalyst that accompanies my contemplation on the reforms and my passion for education.  I don’t wish for new teachers to come into a career they have possibly dreamed on entering for most of their life, only to have those dreams shattered and obliterated by pressures and stresses that crumble their capacity to create successful teaching and learning experiences.  I support the reforms intentions and desired outcomes, however, I just worry that the support mechanisms are not there for staff and that what is intended to produce positive outcomes will perhaps do so, but at the expense of teacher morale, self-efficacy and so much more.

My career pursuits have often been driven by a desire and passion to assist fellow educators to be at their most effective, equipped with resources, knowledge, understanding and skills to deliver teaching and learning experiences that let them thrive, as well as their students.  I hope my PhD can continue to help me enlarge my perspective and impact on educators, especially during this critical phase in the educational context of NSW and Australia.  Education for me has played a fundamental role in who I am in a way but more so, the experiences I’ve had as a learner, only serve to continue spurring me on to new heights of lifelong learning.  I want to inspire and instill that passion for greater lifelong learning in others too.

Planning for a new learning journey

phdfunding

I’ve been very interested in doing it for a long time now, had started the application process a few times, but it wasn’t the right time.  Now it is, so……. I’m going to apply to do my PhD.  Yay!!!  I love to study, to research and to spend quality time reflecting and writing on many education topics.  However, I know I need to define a more specific focus area for a PhD so that is where I am at the moment, and discussing these potential research topics with prospective supervisors. I’m very excited about this and believe it is going to be a great experience and opportunity for me and hopefully for me to impact the field of education.

Like the typical organisation freak that I am, I am also trying to plan now how I will take notes on the literature I read; how I will manage time; how I will record and write things; and, how I will keep myself motivated.  It is a lot to think about and I know its a huge undertaking but I am ready for it… bring it on.

ISTE2015 – Day 3 – Maker, creator, coach and innovator

So much to process so these first posts will just be summaries but they will grow into greater reflections as I get more time to reflect and play.  I went to three sessions today, and the keynote presentation, as well as spending plenty of time in the Expo hall taking in all of the amazing things on offer.  Here are some of my notes.

From 0 to 60: jump start a maker culture in your school

  • Prototyping – piloting with iterations.  This is how they developed the model for how they would run Maker spaces
  • Start small and think big, grow and scale through iterations
  • Essential conditions
    – empowered leaders
    – engaged leaders
    – intrinsic motivation
    – resource capacity
    – design thinking competence, not just one-off instances but purposeful maker projects
    – future connection
    – skill capacity
  • Accelerator 1: focus on a high-impact opportunity (understand potential)
    – global shifts: trend shots, urgent need to address Stem gap, and emerging technology
    – Deloitte maker report
    – trend maps
    – global shifts: collaborative production will define the future of work
  • In education, practice trumps theory.
  • Rise of the professional amateurs
  • Accelerator 2: attract and maintain an inquiring coalition (find your leaders)
    – teams
  • Accelerator 3: envision impact and design a prototype
  • Do with what you have at first, find space at is visible, set it up for students and watch it transform.
  • Materials
    1. Recycle, reuse, remake
    2. Use what you have at first
    3. Materials for targeted age groups
    4. Educational electronics
  • Level 1
    Basic craft supplies
  • Level 2
    Some electronic kits, basic mechanics and electronics
  • Level 3
    3D printers, robotics, soldering irons, more complex building
  • Prototypes are not a one size fits all – different approaches for each division/level
  • Maker Saturday – parents and students making
  • Making in the high school
    – advisory maker challenges
    – engineering club
    – free math day
    – new media in art
    – integration with science curriculum
    – maker Saturday workshops
    – maker elective classes
  • Accelerator 4: attract volunteer inquirers (recruit the engaged)
  • Find volunteers who are passionate and engaged
  • Barriers: identify and overcome
    • Lack of knowledge – http://bit.ly/ISTEmaker2015
    • Provide reading, hands on learning and examples
    • Resistance to change – maker PD, spotlight success/ignites, distribute resources to interested individuals
    • Time – engineering club, elective classes, workshops
  • Scribble box activity – box and motors/batteries
  • Accelerator 6: generate and celebrate early impacts (spotlight success)
  • Family activities, collaboration, community engagement
  • Create videos of sessions and their impact etc
  • Get students to record video of process and put on YouTube
  • Accelerator 7: keep learning from evidence and experience (gather data)
  • Maker look fors rubric
  • Accelerator 8: institute change
  • It’s not done yet, embed it into the culture of the school
  • Great resources are available at Instructables.com

Rethinking Library and Learning Spaces for 1:1 Schools

  • Learning-ecosystems.org (furniture arrangement)
  • Library Design – Rethinking Spaces with Students in Mind
  • A Library is like what appliance?? Thinking outside of the box on what a library actually is.
  • “Sometimes we need to UNTHINK before we can RETHINK.”
  • noise level
  • a place to work individually
  • Language of School Design by Prakash Nair
  • notosh.org – Digital Lives are made up 7 spaces
  • Purposeful design – cave space (maybe in front of windows
  • Give it a name! – Transparent Library, Learning Commons, etc.
  • High Tech High in San Diego – all classrooms are glass – very transparent
  • Teknion – Glass wall that hangs from ceiling tiles
  • Survey teacher and student needs to gather input from students about the space. How do you learn?  What kind of space do you like to study in?
  • Taped floor for testing
  • Teacher focus group
  • Edutopia project Remake Your Class – visual thinking – Pinterest on a bulletin board – give limited number of dots and allow users to post dots on favs
  • Become an anthropologist
  • identify obstacle points with sticky notes
  • observe student behavior
  • ask critical questions
  • Gamestorming – exercises outside-the-box
  • Staple Yourself to Something
  • Think of your day through the lens of space
  • Amplify what already works/priorities
  • Strategic Brainstorming
  • Creating Analogies
  • Give yourself a THEME to work toward – what is your overall VISION?
  • Listening Walk through the space – TED talk by Julian Treasure: Why architects need to use their ears
  • “Make a room that doesn’t smell like school.” – Paul Bogush
  • Stanford design school – 90 minute crash course
  • Channel the optimism of a designer, the resourcefulness of a hacker, and the playfulness of a maker. Melanie Kahl Remake your Class: 6 Ways to Get Started
  • Locker repurpose??? – use them for displays – hacking a space that’s doing nothing!
  • Hack a vending Machine – library vending
  • Design is not just what it looks like and feels like.  Design is how it works. Steve Jobs
  • How do we learn best interview – Where? How? Sounds?
  • Brainstorm – what are you doing well?
  • Inspiration?
  • Design Share
  • Find wasted space – staircase
  • Google Color Search
  • Books – The Robin Hood Foundation and NYCity elementary school The L!brary by Siddiqi
  • Language of School Design
  • Make Space – How to Set the Stage for Creative Collab
  • The Third Teacher –
  • Dave Thornburg From the Campfire to the Holodeck 21st century Learning Environoments
  • Why wouldn’t we want our spaces to be beautiful and inspiring?
  • Google Sheet of resources
  • Grant Resources –
  • Future Ready Schools
  • Donors Choose
  • Partner with a Vendor
  • The other presentations didn’t involve so many notes.

More notes and reflections shortly…

ISTE2015 – Day 1 – The Immersion begins

As I sit in my hotel room, reflecting on my jam-packed full day, there is fireworks going off out over the Delaware river.  It is reflective, ironically, of the way my brain kinda feels at the moment.  Today is only day one of ISTE2015 here in Philly but I am so pumped to learn more about how they are doing things in education here with technology.  Already I’ve had some great conversations and learned about areas of education that Australia could really benefit from adopting, and perhaps areas that America could learn from us about too.

My morning was spent learning about Hummingbird Robotics, and learning the fundamentals of robotics and how to program simple expressions and sequences of expressions.  It was much easily to do than I originally thought and I loved the ideas many others came up with when making their own group project robots.  There was all sorts of use of the light sensor to trigger flashing lights and movement of parts.  The imagination of some of my colleagues in that workshop was great so I can only imagine what our students would do if let lose with the same equipment.  We often forget as teachers, that students will learn these things faster than us, and that they still have an imagination that is not bogged down in administrative duties etc that we might get weighed under.

I am full of hope and excitement about taking what I have learned about robotics and applying it in a MakerSpace environment that I really want to get running at my current school.  It is such a fantastic way of engaging the disengaged amongst our student population and I cannot wait to see untapped potential fulfilled more through new opportunities this might present to them.

A20150628_124346fter that workshop I went and experienced more of Philadelphia and went to The Franklin Institute to check out The Art of the Brick exhibition that was AMAZING, and made entirely of Lego.  Artworks such as The Scream and the Mona Lisa were replicated, using only Lego pieces, and they were phenomenal!  I love Lego and this exhibit was Lego at its best. The rest of the institute was great, and I can see it being the perfect excursion venue for schools to bring students too but the highlight for me was definitely the Lego.

20150628_124548

Tonight’s keynote speaker at ISTE2015, highlighted for me, the importance of the teacher in recognising potential in students and in providing unique opportunities for all students to experience learning in multiple ways, not limiting them because of who they are seen to be or who they think they are.  The short Ignite session brought to us prior to the keynote was so poignant in also highlighting the significance of diversity in education.  We fail to cater for the diversity that does exist within our school systems so much.  We try to cater well for those with diagnosed learning difficulties and physical disabilities, but what about those who are from a low socio-economic background; who do not have literate parents; who are isolated; who are without the basic necessities in life; who have had little exposure to other cultures or demographic groups; and, so many others types of diversities that exist? Do we bridge the gap, only to create a new one?  I feel we do.

By @jmattmiller

By @jmattmiller

Soledad O’Brien was our keynote speaker tonight, and she was very inspirational.  Her parents were married in the late 50s, at a time when it was illegal for a ‘white’ American to marry a ‘black’ American.  They suffered prejudice and discrimination but did not let it sway them.  She spoke about how technology can be leveraged to bridge the gaps of diversity, and how it can be leveraged to provide greater opportunities for students to reach their full career potential, even for careers not yet heard of by them.  She shared a story about a group of American students who went to help a community of students in South Africa, even worse off than they were, and how the laptops that Dell provided them, gave them a voice in the projects they were working on in South Africa.  The key here for me is, it gave them a voice!  Do we allow our students to have a voice?  Or do we place to many rules and restrictions around them that it neglects to leverage any benefits from technology whatsoever?  I think this is a big point we need to consider in Australian education with technology.

More tomorrow…

Social networking and communities of practice

I greatly value the potential that social media presents for both my personal and professional life.  In my professional life, the impact has been surprising.  I received one of my job opportunities through social networking and the community created through social media.  I have used social networking to further my own professional knowledge and skills, demonstrating the enormous value that can be gained from social networking and online communities of practice. However, there are still many teachers who are reluctant to see the value of social media in their professional lives and who do not actively involve themselves in online communities of practice, or physical ones for that matter, because they don’t see the value in doing so.

In my leadership positions with technology, I have encouraged many educators in particularly the secondary and tertiary sectors, to embrace the affordances of social media.  I have typically shown them a YouTube clip, like one below, to serve as a catalyst highlighting the benefits that can be gained from social media and networking.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQ3j6zf9Xms]

My next move would vary and from my experiences, I think a reflection on previous interactions with social media in an open discussion would be valuable, however, I also like to immerse participants who are learning about a new concept or tool, within an activity that makes use of just that.  Something that I would like to try is:

Get teachers to think about the last time they were involved in professional development and think about what they learned about.  Ask them then, to write a few points on what they learned using 140 characters or less.  Following up from that, get them to find links for supporting resources that relate to the points written and get bit.ly URLs for those links. Guide them then, in including those bit.ly URLs in the 140 characters of those points. Twitter is of course the tool I am implying use of in this example.

The aim of this activity outlined above is to demonstrate the ways in which Twitter, and other social media tools can be used, to disseminate professional knowledge and skills.  It provides a purpose for using social media and a way for starting to create social networks.

Reflecting on my pedagogical development

I finished my undergraduate teacher training in 2006 and I was taught many traditional pedagogical strategies, however, I was also taught the NSW Quality Teaching Model (QTM) and it was perhaps my first step towards realising the importance of reflection in my teaching practice.  I was constantly reflecting on the lessons I taught and how they were engaging students in aspects of the QTM.  As technology became a bigger part of my teaching practice, it became evident that the pedagogical strategies I implemented and utilised might have to change more as well.  

For a few years now I have been researching and reading up on heutagogy and andragogy.  I am always keen to investigate new ways to teach content and skills to my students.  Technology has been a huge catalyst in me doing this.  I realised early on in my career that technology was entering education institutes at a rapid pace and that there was going to be a need for teachers to develop further skills in ICT integration and that how we taught would also change.  

It was when I did the Intel Teach Essentials Master Trainer course that I realised just what kinds of pedagogical strategies would be required to harness the potential of technology and teach students who were engaging with technology more and more every day.  This PD course looked at problem- and project-based learning and how to integrate technology within it.  This was the first time I had learned about PBL and I quickly saw it as a valuable pedagogical strategy for the 21st century.

What is the significant position and place of pedagogy in education?  What is it in reality?  What should it be?  These questions came to mind as I was reading Lingard et al. (2003),  Zammit et al. (2007) and DET (2003).  Where is pedagogy placed within our current education system?  Is it placed in high enough a position?  I don’t think it is in reality.  When I look at the Australian school system as a whole, the focus is always on content… cover this, cover that and culminate in a test at the end.  Do educators today think of pedagogy as simply the foundation strategies they learned about when they were studying to be a teacher initially, but something that they don’t need to consider as much with experience?  Perhaps they do.

The QLD education department seems to have it going in the right direction when in their ‘Pedagogical Framework – FAQs’ they emphasise that: 

The State Schools Pedagogical framework policy requires every Queensland state school to develop a school pedagogical framework. It needs to be informed by research, yet respond to the local context.  From 2013, each school is required to enact a pedagogical framework that is collaboratively developed with the school community and aligned to state and regional requirements. This requirement is listed in the P–12 curriculum, assessment and reporting framework.” (p. 1).  

However, when I went to the NSW Syllabus website for the new NSW national curriculum syllabus documents, I did not see the word ‘pedagogy’ anywhere.  Where is the value placed on pedagogy in the new Australian curriculum? 

I believe that school plans should be made with pedagogy in the forefront of leaders’ minds.  Pedagogy is not just classroom teaching and learning strategies, it is the ‘art and science’ of teaching.  It is the facilitation of students and teachers alike, expressing and reproducing their learning with creativity and individuality.  It is the psychology, philosophy and specifics of how to teach and learn, how we process information and what we do with that information.  That is more important than the content we teach, because it carries into life beyond the classroom.

REFERENCES

DET, N. (2003). Quality teaching in NSW public schools. Sydney: Professional Support and Curriculum Directorate.

Lingard, B., Hayes, D., & Mills, M. (2003). Teachers and Productive Pedagogies: Contextualising, conceptualising, utilising.Pedagogy, Culture & Society.  11,3, 399- 424.

QLD Department of Education, Training and Employment, (n.d.). Pedagogical framework — Frequently asked questions. [online] Available at:     http://education.qld.gov.au/curriculum/pdfs/pedagogical-framework-faqs.pdf [Accessed 2 Sep. 2014].

Zammit, K., Sinclair, C., Cole, B. Singh, M., Costley, D., Brown a Court, L., Rushton,K. (2007). Teaching and leading for quality Australian schools: a review and synthesis of research-based knowledge.  Acton, A.C.T.: Teaching Australia, Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. LB1727.A8.T45

Horizon Report 2014 K-12 Edition – Going deeper with technology

Another area of learning technologies that I am very passionate about and would like to see more prevalent and competently integrated in all educational contexts is the second fast trend identified in the K-12 Edition of the Horizon Report 2014, which examines the growing emphasis on deeper approaches to learning.  These approaches can include, but are not limited to: project-based learning; problem-based learning; inquiry-based learning; challenge-based learning; and, other active learning experiences.  I have observed that most educational institutes will utilise one of these methods, but will be of the mindset that one approach is enough, or it is all that is possible.  However, I believe elements of each approach can and should inform planning and preparation for teaching and learning experiences.  Many of the approaches overlap in their elements and overall intent, however, there may be some differences in the practical aspects of implementation.  The report says that deeper learning approaches can be defined as:

“… the delivery of of rich core content in innovative ways that allow them to learn and then apply what they have learned.” (p. 8)*

This is not only the definition of deeper learning approaches, but in my opinion, this is how all teaching and learning experiences should be.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjuM88N28DY]

Deeper learning approaches appear to be fundamentally about facilitating learning experiences that lead to practical application and real-world relevance.  However, the problem is that much of the syllabus and curriculum requirements dictate large volumes of content that teachers need to cover and they feel that it is not feasible to cover it any other way than through traditional methods more often than not.  The time needed to plan and implement deeper learning approaches is most likely the biggest deterrent to its increased uptake but there may also be the issue of lack in professional development and the clear understanding of what it is and how to implement it within the classroom context.

Whilst it is encouraging to read in the report that policies are being developed that will embed these deeper learning approaches into education more, what will it take to have it more universally implemented in national curriculum?  Another aspect of deep learning that was also raised in the report was that of competency-based learning.  Universities often outline graduate capabilities that students should be able to demonstrate at the completion of their degree, and syllabus documents outline learning outcomes that students should be able to demonstrate in primary and secondary education.  However, the report raises the question of students receiving credit for each competency achieved.  I am of the mindset that students should be rewarded/recognised for all new knowledge and skills and sometimes assessments only assess knowledge.  Of course skills are tested in different ways but if it is a skills that is developed in a cross-curricula context, should there be some way for students to receive credit and/or recognition for their achievement that goes above the other curriculum outcomes?  I will be interested to find out if there are schools that implement models that achieve such for their students.

 

So how is this achieved and facilitated by technology?  Well, if we go back to that definition of rich core content, that is presented in innovative ways and facilitates learning and application, technology plays a very important role.  In the 21st century, technology provides both students and educators have access to rich core content in the form of video, infographics, and other digital media.  These options are providing multiple ways for each learner to access core content in ways that not only suit their individual learning styles, but also in a way that is creative and often very innovative.  Teachers need to be curators of rich core content and creators as well, that is an essential role for a 21st century educator.