#Ulearn13 Reflection | Four ideas in evolution

A presenter’s reflection on ULearn, with interesting reflections on her views of the key themes of the conference.  (And you can spot me in the video clip too!)

karen spencer

The #ULearn13  conference last week, for me, was a blur of workshops [check out the end of this post for the full list of my resources] and working with the Social Media team in CORE to blend, integrate and support teachers to look at connecting their practice.

I would have dearly loved to have got along to more of the sessions but, even so, I had plenty of kōrero with an amazing bunch of educators across NZ. Highlights for me were undoubtedly the connections with people:  CORE eFellows ’13, the bandwagon-busting showcase taster from Nat Torkington and the keynotes from Mark Pesce [Google doc] and Dame Anne Salmond – meaty, crunchy, wide in scope, refocusing on the guts of what education is for.

Four ideas in evolution

Having been part of several of these conferences – and blogged about their usefulness as part of…

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An Afternoon with Ken

Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley

3 Principles that supports human life flourishing:

  1. Diversity – “kids prosper best with a broad curriculum that celebrates their various talents”
  2. Curiosity – “curiosity is the engine of achievement”
  3. Creativity – “one of the roles of education is to awaken and develop powers of creativity”

Other gems from this talk:

  • Great teachers “mentor, stimulate, provoke, engage”
  • “The role of the teacher is to facilitate learning” – there is difference between the task of teaching and the achieving of it, e.g. dieting.  You can be on a diet, but not be losing weight…!
  • There is a place for testing but it should not obstruct learning.  We currently have a culture of compliance rather than a culture of curiosity.
  • Case of Finland, where teaching and learning is individualised
  • Also places importance on the professional learning of teachers

It would be interesting to see what the New Zealand Curriculum says about these three principles.  My current understanding is that they are supported.  The intention behind the NZC is for schools to create their own curricula which are in line with the communities and students they serve.

The three principles are also ways to measure the benefit of new teaching practices.  Will they allow diversity, curiosity and creativity to flourish?

Universal Design for Learning

This is another concept which I need to spend more time thinking about – particularly: how does it relate to future learning principles?  However, I definitely agree with the idea of universal design for learning – that students should be able to show their understanding in a way that best suits them.  The principles of UDL seem to be around making knowledge accessible, and making the assessment fit the learning.  I think English as a subject is particularly well placed to do this – we might have more freedom in an English classroom to allow students to present in writing, orally, or visually.  This way we can assess both content knowledge and production skills.  Success criteria therefore need to be flexible, or perhaps even co-constructed with students.

I do think that there is a challenge (albeit not an insurmountable one) to balance the concept of universal design for learning against the demands of meeting NCEA assessment criteria.  Something we’re looking to try at Whitby next year is to focus on teaching key skills in the first half of the year, putting aside various pieces of student work as they go.  Then, in the second half of the year, these pieces can be crafted into items for assessment, playing to the strengths students have exhibited.  It will be interesting to monitor how this approach works towards meeting the needs of students.

As I came to appreciate at ULearn, and as this YouTube clip makes clear, it is about opening doorways for students – and technology has the power to do the same.  Technology can be used to make knowledge accessible to students, and it can be used to help students show their understanding in a way that best suits them.  The New Zealand Curriculum talks about ‘diversity’, and some of the reading I’ve started to do unpacks this idea to not just be about catering to students from diverse backgrounds, and not just a diversity of learning styles, as UDL can do, but it’s also about coping with and managing a diversity of ideas.  In this way technology can be both a boon and a burden.  Perhaps this is also where TPACK and careful, clever learning design comes into play – providing a specific context but flexible success criteria so that students don’t flounder and lose their way.

Today I gave my Year 8 students an independent reading assignment.  Within reason, they can choose their own fiction book to complete the assignment on, and while I have given them a range of activities and questions to complete in relation to their chosen text, I have set them the challenge of finding a creative and original way to present their final product.  They can complete it in their exercise book, as a poster, as a blog, as a podcast, as a YouTube video…it’s up to them.  The girls have embraced the idea and are hugely enthusiastic.  And while, yes, it will be interesting to see the final products, at least it has them excited about learning, and they feel they can attack the task.  And perhaps that’s a real benefit of trialling something like universal design for learning.

TPACK

The TPACK Image (rights free). Read below to learn how to use the image in your own works. Right click to download the high-resolution version of this image.

Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org

I’m still thinking and exploring this model – but from what I’m currently able to glean, it is a “framework that identifies the knowledge teachers need to teach effectively with technology.”  It acknowledges that to integrate and utilise technology effectively into teaching practice, there needs to be an intersection of content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, as well as knowledge of technology.

However, for me, something that I gained from the ULearn conference was that there is really an order to attacking these concepts, and technology is last.  Best practice in e-Learning is not being driven by the latest and greatest shiny tool or funky app.  It is about knowing the purpose behind what the teacher is aiming to achieve, the students’ needs, the curriculum goals, and then thinking about how technology could be used to meet all of these requirements.

ULearn

Oops – a quick post about ULearn – this is a conference I attended 9-11th October, 2013 in Hamilton.   It is a conference about using technology to enhance teaching practice and student outcomes.  There is a huge variety of workshops to attend, and inspiring keynote speakers to listen to.  This year the keynote speakers were: Kenneth SheltonMark Pesce (I have a link to his very interesting website ‘The Next Billion Seconds’ on my ‘Useful Links’ page) and Dame Anne Salmond.

It is no small feat to claim that I found the conference inspirational, and really significantly for me, re-energised my passion for teaching.  I love the emphasis that thinking about e-learning and future learning principles places on my teaching practice and pedagogy.  Before now I have been very critical of education as an academic pursuit, but now feel like reading some research!

If nothing else, I have these two fab sayings to take away:

“Feed the hungry; don’t water the stones.”  (And, for the record, I’m famished!)

And Ghandi’s, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (ahem, even if he didn’t quite say it like that…)

Concrete Where-to

Here are three key things I plan on actioning as a result of my ULearn reflections:

  1. Flip my language teaching as much as possible – especially the content for junior common tests.  Get onto TED-Ed, and organise flipped lessons around punctuation, grammar, figurative language learning.  Choose the dedicated language lesson once I know my timetable so that there is a day’s gap – time for me to see which students have grasped the concepts, and which haven’t so that I can target individual student needs best.  No reason why seniors can’t be flipped like this too, especially around content revision for Unfamiliar Texts teaching.
  2. Analyse the Marsden vision statements to formulate some key phrases.  This will help set an overall vision to measure new ideas and strategies against.  I’ve collected some from other schools which will help with the phrasing.
  3. Read and research fully future learning principles so that I can articulate them clearly and succinctly to staff.  This will serve as ‘double duty’ – on a micro level for planning my class programmes, and on a macro level to help me formulate a ‘teaching as inquiry’ for my position as Future Learning Leader.
  • I will also sign up to the Virtual Learning Network to help me access research, help, advice, guidance – other schools’ stories as they have ventured into these uncharted territories!

ULearn 2013 Reflections

Day One:

Love Claire Amos’ talk – e-learning facilitator (actually future learning facilitator) is the role I want to carve for myself at Marsden. I also liked the questions posed by Mary Anne Mills.

Starting places – articulating the essence of Marsden vision to measure possible strategies against, e.g. 3 Cs: communication, creativity, critical thinking
Read, read, and read some more.  Follow up on links, surf web, watch TED talks.
Nut out teaching as inquiry – what do I actually want to achieve in a classroom next year?
Need to realise/keep in mind my context.  Some teachers reluctant. Work on this level.  Can’t expect immediate and whole-hearted buy in.
Lead from the front – model the processes I believe in:
  • Teaching as inquiry
  • NZC – effective pedagogy
  • Future learning principles
Model my own teacher inquiry process. Blog and regular sharing. Don’t bombard with a gazillion websites/tools. Keep reinforcing key principles.  Link to Marsden context and NZC.
If technology is just a tool to help us achieve future learning goals, then be sure to offer strategies that aren’t technology related! Possibly build on techniques that we already/currently use.
Survey staff mid-year to gauge understanding of future learning principles.  Must be able to articulate why the need to shift.  Keep a running record of requests – play with making videos/flipped learning to start to build library of ‘go to’ tools.  Students could also help create these.
Could make videos of cool things already happening in classrooms at Marsden, eg flipped learning.  Make experts of others. Find out what colleagues are doing and highlight this.
Survey students – what do they want their learning to be like? If they could change one thing in the classroom to help them learn better, what would it be? Where do we go right? Where do we go wrong? What are the skills we think we are teaching our students, and what skills do they think they’re learning? If there is a disconnect, why is this so? How can we change that?
Very fun stuff to think about.
Ultimately about being a better teacher and therefore achieving better outcomes for our students.  This is why we went into teaching in the first place.  Love it.
CORE education eFellows?
How can I get on an educational tour?
To do some reading/thinking/learning about collaboration – lots about this at ULearn.

Day Two:

Themes I picked up on today:

  • Have a vision and stick to it
  • Be able to clearly articulate WHY the need for change
  • Feed the hungry, don’t water the stones
  • People need willingness and readiness to change
  • Inspiration from Ghandi: ‘be the change you want to see’
  • Really clear that change must be driven from the top, or at least with significant and positive support from the top. This must be tangibly realised in the form of time and money, e.g. PLD. We must build inquiry model into teacher appraisal.
To think about further:
  • Concept of connectivity and collaboration – implications for students and the classroom.  What do we already do that helps promote collaboration? Group work, literacy circles…how can technology help us do this further? Implications for assessment too.
  • Interweaving future focused learning and NCEA. Choice, asking students what they want to learn, which texts to study from this range that I have knowledge of?
  • Innovations around timetabling and spaces
  • New Marsden arts centre as a future focused space

Day Three:

Session with Karen Melhuish Spencer

  • Lots of sites to check out, but priorities are: joining the virtual learning website, and checking out the elearning framework. Also would like to find and read the 2012 research she referred to.
  • She offered to have a coffee sometime – a great network contact to have, who knows the Marsden context.
  • Smart suggestion – what opportunities does the ‘new’ creativity centre off us as a future learning space? Embarrassingly, hadn’t even considered it myself!
  • Activity to try: Flickr visual concept.
  • Linking IT and SOLO
  • In summary, she really emphasised the same threads of the conference – knowing why you’re doing something, it’s about learning design to meet student needs, not about the “shiny things”.