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Archive for March, 2014

Practical Examples of Learning in and for the Digital Age

Posted by jturner56 on March 23, 2014

I sometimes tend to take a philosophical prism to what may be. But always grounded in what is actual. And it is in this light that I share three examples from this past week which support and highlight Digital Age Learning.

  1. Exploring Algebra with Grade 6 students
    Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 7.21.10 AMInvited to show students and teachers how spreadsheets could be used to broaden mathematical experiences beyond traditional worksheets, I re-visited experiences 20 years ago when I created a comprehensive set of maths challenges for middle school students. Why little progress after 20 years? Perhaps a clue lies in Sherry Turkle’s 2004 article How Computers Change the Way We Think when she opined that “in most elementary schools today, the ideas being carried by information technology are not ideas from computer science like procedural thinking, but more likely to be those embedded in productivity tools like PowerPoint presentation software.” The value of Spreadsheets to support computational thinking through inquiry is always worthwhile.

    BTW, when quizzed afterwards, about a quarter of students reported they preferred the worksheets, which was a similar response in my PHD 15 years ago. Perhaps they represented the Maths teachers of tomorrow (sorry, just being deliberately provocative).What I learned from this experience > #NewPedagogies and #DigAgeLearning have been around for quite a while. It’s a value judgement, but one still needing to be made.

  2. Grade 7 Movie Making Project
    photo(1)As part of a Humanities + Design project all students created a short movie on Saving The School. Kudos to the development team and in particular David Larson. What was particularly interesting in this project was the students’ use of their mobile phones to take the shots. In a 1:1 laptop school they incorporated their personal mobile devices to good ends. This raises the question of how BYO might be employed as a personal auxiliary device to add value.

    Another example could have been in the previous Grade 6 Spreadsheet task. Paper was provided to add switching, although if students had personal tablets (and about 30% indicated they already have one) then they could have been used (as well as for the supplementary inquiries).What I learned from this experience > BYO possibilities need to be assessed against learning and curriculum opportunities of value.

  3. Grade 8 Science + Design iBook Project
    photo(3)Finally, a project where all Grade 8 students working in teams of four are creating chapters on particular diseases for a Class iBook. What was interesting here was the minimal amount of time needed to ‘teach’ how to make iBooks. The students deconstructed, peer supported, problem-solved and manged themselves as an effective publishing unit. My role was to help them set design specifications and introduce the iBook mechanics, bring to their attention other resources that were useful, such as Bookry and, provide milestone discussions (ie Project Management modelling) and support the subject teacher in supporting the students on content.

    What was also noteworthy was the interest in teachers creating subject iBooks which was supported by this curriculum project towards rethinking subject materials not through textbook Substitution (according to the SAMR model) but as evolving knowledge.

    What I learned from this experience > The importance of teacher modelling and recognition of student capability to learn and take on new technical challenges in collaborative ways (This was similar across the three examples).

Overall, these are but three examples, but highlight the need for constant evolution of ideas, recognition and revisiting of shortfalls, the importance of teacher modelling, curriculum linkage, and appreciation of student Digital Age potential.

I am sure I could give at least three more examples next week. The challenge though is to connect and evolve ideas across a whole learning community that is progressive and adaptive. This is where something like a #NewPedagogies approach comes in.

As Rebecca Alber recently pointed out when writing about 21stC Literacy:

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 7.12.13 AM


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15 Digital Age progressions that are here if you want to value them.

Posted by jturner56 on March 16, 2014

My starting text today is the recent blog post 14 things that are obsolete in 21st century schools by Icelandic elementary teacher, Ingvi Hrannar Ómarsson. It is in a similar vein to 21 Things That Will Be Obsolete by 2020 by blogger Shelly Blake-Plock. A listing is provided at the end.

What struck me was how few had become obsolescent, or how uneven changes have been. I could focus on issues of economic expediency, political expedience, hidden political agendas, bureaucratic agendas, self-serving intransigence, or structural inertia. But I thought better to pen 20 Digital Age progressions that are here if you want to value them.

NOTE: I am only focusing on digital aspects, and consider them only worthwhile if used in a balanced approach to personal and social development that includes space for creative enterprise and time for real thinking.

1. Wi-Fi as a standard

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 9.12.32 AMIf you wish to provide a education that is valued, visible, connected and progressive (which happens to be my school’s driving vision) then web connections need to be available, at-hand and integrated into daily learning.

2. A Personal Digital Inquiry and Creation device

Each teacher and student needs this in the same way they needed pens to write and paper to read.  It is not though, one approach for all for K-12. Development needs to take into account the cognitive, social, physical and emotional needs across a decade and a half  (and beyond) of development.

3. Multiple Ways of Valuing

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 9.23.51 AMPersonal cognitive development, social learning and community learning all require feedback systems, objective inclusive discussion, and recognition of progression. The Field of Dreams still had to be built.

4. Teacher Learning System

In a fast changing digitally-enhanced world should we leave teachers to their own devices, or commit to everyone being recognised and valued as a learner? This needs to encompass individual ownership and diversity in support of organisational objectives.

5. Teacher ModellingScreen Shot 2014-03-16 at 9.19.45 AM

Further to (3), how the teacher leads is more important than what they say. Active modelling of flattened learning educates.

6. Leadership by example

While critical at the educating level, there is also a critical need for school leaders at whatever level. Non-involved school administrators is a no-no for any worthwhile progress. I tip my lid to David Loader on this one.

7. Community Value

Avenues and strengthened connection to parents and the wider community draw on expertise and elicit constructive feedback. They are part of any worthwhile learning community.

8. Digital Services

Any digital support expertise needs to be incorporated into the learning level.

9. Design Thinking

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 9.59.07 AMProjects and the construction of any digital project requires a mindset that can effectively (and efficiently) produce the best and learn from the process.

10. Digital Literacy Curriculum

A digital literacy development structure is needed to ensure all reach a workable level, can pursue personal interests, and take on new challenges.

11. New Information Processing Skills

The Internet redefines information gathering, processing and publishing. It’s not just The Library’s job any more, it’s for all of us.

12. Social Media Education Plan

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 9.25.06 AMAs part of the needed commitment to recognise the social and emotional basis for any quality learning, the integration of social media requires an understanding of what the Digital Age demands and requires. The NYC Department of Education Social Media Guidelines is a good starting point.

13. Personal iFolios

Each person’s digital image is taking on increasing importance. In part, you are what you produce to share.

14. Supported Maker SpacesScreen Shot 2014-03-16 at 9.22.36 AM

Virtual and Physical. Valued and Integrated. Supported and Visible. Shared and Connected #CreateTheFuture and they will know.

15. Coding

Like a car we don’t need to know everything about what goes on under the hood. But we need mechanics, and they started somewhere learning basic maths. As our digital image becomes more entwined with our digital capabilities where will the educational basis come from?

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 9.23.22 AMWhen I look at the ‘obsolescence’ lists below I am struck by how we need to build the future rather than just measure it by what we want to lose (for whatever reason). Ken Robinson is half-right. We need coordinated, connected leadership at all levels with an honesty for improvement for which we are all too often found wanting

21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020
14 Things That Are Obsolete In 21st Century Schools
1. Desks2. Language Labs3. ‘Our concept of what a computer is’4. Homework5. The Role of Standardized Tests in College Admissions6. Differentiated Instruction as the Sign of a Distinguished Teacher7. Fear of Wikipedia8. Paperbacks9. Attendance Offices

10. Lockers.

11. IT Departments as we currently know them.

12. Centralized Institutions

13. Organization of Educational Services by Grade

14. Education School Classes that Fail to Integrate Social Technology

15. Paid/Outsourced Professional Development

16. Current Curricular Norms

17. Parent-Teacher Conference Night

18. Typical Cafeteria Food

19. Outsourced Graphic Design and Webmastering

20. High School Algebra I

21. Paper (In ten years’ time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%)

1. Computer Rooms2. Isolated classrooms3. Schools that don’t have WiFi4. Banning phones and tablets5. Tech director with an administrator access6. Teachers that don’t share what they do7. Schools that don’t have Facebook or Twitter8. Unhealthy cafeteria food9. Starting school at 8 o’clock for teenagers10. Buying poster-, website- and pamphlet design for the school11. Traditional libraries

12. All students get the same

13. One-Professional development-workshop-fits-all

14. Standardized tests to measure the quality of education

“Education can be encouraged from the top-down but can only be improved from the ground up” – Sir Ken Robinson

graphics  CreativeCommons authorized

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Is the computer the ultimate Digital Age game for learning?

Posted by jturner56 on March 2, 2014

I have observed over the past two decades the foci of computer power for learning  shifting firstly from schools to home in the late 90s, and then to mobile devices towards the end of the first decade of this century. What I more recently have observed is the growing embedded relationship between digital and the brain, particularly in the young, but across all age groups.

Neuroscient researcher Jay Giedd summed it up well:

The way adolescents of today learn, play, and interact has changed more in the past 15 years than in the previous 570 since Gutenberg’s popularization of the printing press (Giedd 2012)

There is a danger for schools and systems that continue to externalise this as an optional consideration for curriculum, school structures and decision making.

What does this have to do with computer games? Well, in considering Klosowski’s Psychology of Gamification (2014), what struck me was the close relationship between school education and gamification. Consider

  • Gamification uses game mechanics in a non-game context to reward you for completing tasks.” And school does what?
  • Gamification, like learning, works best when there is
    • Autonomy
    • Value
    • Competence building

Way back to when Logo programming and Appleworks supported engaged, personalised, competency building, I could provide examples across the years where well designed digital learning tasks have led to levels of engagement and focus that the computer gaming industry aims at. Of course education has enjoyed neither the money nor expertise that business and entertainment have. So the game setters, the teachers, remain integral, but their understanding and pedagogical skills need to continue to evolve.

Because in the Digital Age the computer is the ultimate game+

  • bestowing autonomy, value, competence
  • personalizable, yet challenging to break beyond, add value
  • linking learning into ever changing environments
  • opening the door to creating the future we want

The digital environments and tools available have thrown up, and continue to put forward, opportunities to use the game-nature of digital to support learning. Context matters. So does connection as the social brain takes on more consideration.

There is, though, a danger in seeing this or that game as a solution, rather than the evolving relationship between gaming and Digital Age learning. A danger exemplified in the Open University’s (2013) Innovating Pedagogy

There is increasing interest in the connections between games and education. When implemented as ‘edutainment’ or ‘gamification’ of learning, teaching practices can gain superficial elements of entertainment and reward. This may encourage learners to continue, however misses the power of digital games
for engagement, reflection and self-regulation. (p5)

So as the relationship between the brain and digital evolves, will schools create learning experiences utilising gamification that embrace and respond to Digital Age needs? Or hold on to outmoded industrial priorities?

If the Climate Change debate is any guide, the worry is it will be the latter until the gurgler beckons.

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