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Archive for May, 2016

How can we use our tech to enhance subject specific thinking skills?

Posted by jturner56 on May 29, 2016

How can we use our tech to enhance subject specific thinking skills?
A question recently posed to me by a respected Principal.

Apart from the ongoing question as to why is this still a general question, and what is meant by ‘enhance’ and ‘subject skills’ it helped focus on what is a suitable response answer. The following is what I provided:

  • Primarily and epistemological question. So many subjective terms. If talking ‘improved grades’ questionable. I see it more about the relationship between
    •  meaning (relationship between personal and formal systemic)
    • knowledge (relationship between closed and open)
    • expression (domains of valued expression)
    • empowerment (how well do we develop student as independent, connected learners?)
    • social learning (strength of connections)
    • communities of practice (strength of leadership)
  •  But if talking digital value, it has been recognised that the computer as a tool to think with can add value (‘enhance’?)
    • through making meaning
      for example, through students creating multimedia products to demonstrate understanding (such as games), but also through media constructions such as presentations and movies
    • or for modeling learning
      from Spreadsheet what ifs to programmed models
    • personalising pathways
      such as using Khan academy or Mathletics in conjunction with f2f
    • interacting with wider feedback audiences
      such as blogging (provided their is constructive feedback)
    • enhancing skills now valued more so (such as “21C Skills”)
      which includes Technicak Literacy through 1:1 and Collaboration through GoogleDocs
    • digital information handling
      one of the Digital Literacy pillars and a pillar of IB PYP/MYP Inquiry
    • for visualising thinking and learning
      once again blogging, but also mind-mapping, redrafting…..
    • building meta-cognitive understanding (thinking about thinking)
      through the personal cognitive feedback loops created by human-digital interactions

Would recommend work by David Jonassen as best to better understand. His (2006) Modelling with technology: mindtools for conceptual change  and Meaningful Learning With Technology, by D. Jonassen, J. Howland, R.M. Marra, D. Crismond, 2008 support this.

Skills separated from context is so last century. Also danger of container checklists. Not saying not important, but as people are abrogating more of their memory to digital (do we need times tables when we can use a calculator in our phone. What about long division?) I say yes to the former, debatable for the latter.

Schools, though, need to be stronger and clearer in their advocacy.

Digital can help build bridges. But if allowed to be treated as optional add on, value will continue to be debated. It then becomes a leadership issue.

Critical then is what is provided within a school’s vision and planning.

What sayeth ye?

Postscript: I find it of interest in this week’s reading that

  1. teaching programming continues to be approached in wrong ways (Idit Harel goes was back in this)
  2. students continue to be frustrated by teacher ineffectiveness with using digital as part of school education
  3. the ongoing debate about what to do as digital changes memory approaches
  4. that teachers continue to have to try and come to grips with the changing nature of digital on learning. In this case digital v page when it comes to reading and writing.

It’s a complex challenge, but one needed to be met if we are to continue to have hope in schools helping our young prepare for a better world.



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Digital Age Necessities for School

Posted by jturner56 on May 23, 2016

Seems at times we are being swept along by competing interests and overloaded hyper-connectivity. At one end of the spectrum of digital’s relationship with learning we have calls for digital-enabling revolution. At the other gatekeepers of a system forged and entrenched pre-digital. The realities are much more complicated and multi-dimensional than this.

diged spectrumMeanwhile Schools and Teachers are left to contend, with many problems brushed over by marketing, self-interest promotion, or winds of political expediency.

What, then, are the necessities for any school as an institution in such times?
From my perspective this should include:

  1. Recognition of each school as a Social Community that is best built through Respect by example.
  2. Schools, representing the Present, are at the Intersection of Past and Future. Curriculum needs to appreciate this. Digital considerations require inclusion of Inquiry, Projects and a Digital Literacy Curriculum.
  3. Schools are a Teacher-Centric system, yet Student Focused system. Connected Teachers matter as the builders of the learning environment. Teachers inclusion and development matters.
  4. Digital has a personal aspect and can be a distraction, the degree to which depend. School, nevertheless, need to be in the business of Focus Building for Adaptable times.
  5. This needs to include coming to grips with Personal and Social Learning opportunities and challenges that Digital provides.
  6. Leadership is a multi-dimensional consideration. By example. By inclusion of teachers and students. By active partnerships across the school community, (including parents). Committed to building a Shared Vision allied to a workable Strategic Plan.
  7. Student well-being matters – valuing rest, time-out, choice, feeling supported and empowered to became independent, connected learners. To find a good balance.
  8. Teacher well-being also matters (See (1) above)
  9. Education should be empowering, not a matter of trying to satisfy short-term ends for teachers or students.
  10. Learning in schools therefore needs to evolve to include and value the question:  what can you make with that learning? (beyond grades or test scores) Both in digital and non-digital realms.

We have a way to go. But is has always been thus. Viva Education.

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Value Making or Miss the Opportunity

Posted by jturner56 on May 16, 2016

This week I have had the opportunity to work with some teachers in the Middle East on how Digital Literacy can be approached to help progress teacher and student learning. After last working with a  similar group three years ago, what I first noticed was how much teacher digital literacy has advanced over that time (something I have also noticed in other places).

What also was apparent were the limitations they had to work with in schools when it comes to digital. Limitations in school vision, objectives, curriculum, assessment….

When I see contentions that digital is failing education, be it from digital visionaries or ‘leading’ academics, I am reminded of how far we still have to go. Recent Jisc research points to the digital literacy gap we as educations should be bridging.

Until we are willing to both implement a valued Digital Literacy curriculum, and value what students can Make with their Learning, we are limited by the grade-focused value systems, and will continue to get only so far, despite the good efforts and good intentions of many.

Working with teachers shows the system still has a way to go.

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Is digital innovation in schools possible?

Posted by jturner56 on May 2, 2016

We live in disjointed times. Exemplified by Sydney Grammar’s ‘ban on laptops’ up against the Australian Prime Minister’s call for innovation, allied to calls for innovation requiring a digital mindset. Innovation that requires digital mindsets, willingness for reinvention, investment in new ideas, understanding of process, product, technologies, organisational structures and behaviours, as well as corporate culture changes, leadership change, and willingness to compete. Where should education sit within this?

A journey through how laptops have been viewed in schools may provide some illumination. Bob Johnstone’s (2003) Never Mind the Laptops: Kids, Computers and the Transformation of Learning documents the largest ever digital innovation to hit schools. It charts the historical hopes (realised, ignored and subverted) of what could, should and has happened when students were given access to computers. At its heart is a belief that digital can (and should) provide each student with more control of their learning (which I believe and can testify to).

Starting with research-based investigations of what is possible, through to the introduction of 1:1 laptops in Melbourne, Australia and then in parts of the USA,   Johnstone document the hopes, aspirations, and unrealised scalable potential of digital personal learning devices within education. While the book finishes in 2002, and predates  the impact of social media and personal digital devices such as smartphones (as well as only touching on the mainstream impact of the web), it links early days with contemporary positions of the learning power that digital can provide. It documents the personalities and places where 1:1 laptops and its antecedents found favor, as well a reasons why they fell short. At the centre was the first 1:1 laptop school, MLC, led by its head David Loader in Melbourne, Australia, starting in 1989.

Interesting to revisit characters and events when I was there or thereabouts for some of the moments described in Johnstone’s book.

While the belief in computer as solution justifiably falls short, the possibilities in education when teachers generate scaffolded challenges and mediate open learning environments continues to be valued in open-minded educational environments, even if still running up against school standardisation philosophies exemplified by external testing and segmented curriculum.

To do true justice to what digital can provide education, curriculum development needs to evolve to build curriculum that embrace

– digital literacies
– project-based learning that value ‘what can you make with that learning’, and- enterprise opportunities to enable educational bridges to be built to new value systems

I remain convinced this can be done parallel and in conjunction with traditional cognitive training structures. But it requires leadership in Education which unfortunately too often falls short of what society needs. And social leaders that can take a lead in this as well. This is where true innovation is needed. Loader and MLC in the late 1980s demonstrated what could be started, but as Johnstone documented, this is but an entree to what is needed. He concluded

So what about the students caught in the gap between the receding and oncoming ideas? Do these kids have the right to be educated “in the medium of their own times?”Of course they do. The question is not whether, but when.

This remain apposite.



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