Reflections on a professional reading – Take 1

I am in the process of reading through this research report: Supporting Future Oriented Learning and Teaching – NZCER.

I have read the executive summary twice, and find the ‘teacher friendly’ curriculum update really accessible: NZC Update 26.  I actually read the executive summary as almost the first piece of initial exploring I did into this area and upon recently re-reading it, it’s amazing how much more sense it makes now!  Thus, I’ve been inspired to read the whole kit and caboodle.

The introduction seeks to define ’21st century’ or ‘future’ learning and to capture what the current educational situation is like in New Zealand.  While only being a third of the way through the report as a whole at present, something I’m finding consistent and striking is a call for a “system transformation” (p. 9) in order to support every single student to “develop the skills, competencies, knowledge, and understanding required to participate in, and contribute to, our national and global future” (p. 9).

The metaphor that is used to capture this need for systemic shift is that of ‘unbundling’ – taking apart structures in order to reassemble them in newer, more meaningful ways.

Acknowledgement: https://plus.google.com/109042623230585069530/posts

I like that the report directly addresses the why of change, and that this response is not just about economy or changing careers, but also about the fact that more is known about how learning occurs, and that there has been a fundamental shift in the way “knowledge is thought about and used” (p. 11).  The two supporting tables which explore these latter two concepts on pages 13 and 15 I find particularly useful.

For example: “It is no longer possible to accurately predict exactly which knowledge people will need to draw on as they move through life in the 21st century.  It has been argued that students need, among other things, opportunities to build their sense of identity, become self-reliance, critical and creative thinkers, be able to use initiative, be team players and be able to engage in ongoing learning throughout their lives” (Table 2: Old and new views of knowledge, and the implications for schooling, p. 13)  for me, this is real confirmation and justification for my focus on what I’ve been calling the ‘3Cs’ of creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.

And: “To learn, people need to be actively engaged – they need to be doing something, thinking something and/or saying something that requires them to actively process, interpret and adapt an experience to a new context or use.” (Table 3: What we know about learning, p. 15).  This is calling for thinking and having experiences to think with.

Speaking of thinking – something I need to do more thinking about is the concept of ‘wicked problems’ – I almost certainly will come back to this at a later stage.

Finally, I have just finished reading the section on ‘personalising learning’, which is the first of six “themes” that the report deals with as those “linked with contemporary views of learning for the 21st century” (p. 9).

The distinction that is made between ‘deep’ and ‘shallow’ practice of personalisation has struck a chord with me.  I can see that staff in my school are genuinely making steps towards the ‘shallow’ end of personlisation pool: offering “choices about which activity(ies) [students] will undertake to master the knowledge determined by the teacher” (p. 19).  This report suggests, of course, that we should be working towards ‘deep’ personalisation where “students’ learning activities and the curriculum/knowledge content they engage with are shaped in ways that reflect the input and interests of students, as well as what teacher know to be important knowledge” (p. 19).

My gut reaction to this was one of guilt – I’ve been kidding myself that offering ‘shallow’ choices to students was allowing for the personalisation of learning.  However, I see that we all have to start something – and the intention behind the choices is a genuine one.  We can’t go from zero to hero in one fell swoop (to mix a metaphor).  I’m also reassured – but need to make sure I don’t use this as an excuse to try ‘deep’ personalisation within my classroom – by the concrete examples of deep personalisation supplied in the report from two New Zealand schools.  I particularly like the model outlined on page 23 that comes from Albany Senior High.  Here we can see the recurring call for a transformation at a systemic level in practice – ultimately this is what is needed to create genuine transformation.

Now, to keep reading…

First Presentation!

I’ve been asked to do a presentation to the English Department on future learning and how my role as Future Learning Leader might help the department tackle the shift to BYOD next year.  I thought I’d use the opportunity to try some new presentation software.

Getting into haiku deck was a drawn-out process, and I found I couldn’t quite do everything I wanted to – but the final result is, I think, beautiful.  As a learning tool, I think it would be powerful to get students or teachers to really synthesise their ideas down to the core.

Check it out:

http://www.haikudeck.com/p/i2Hu3Kqw8F

Future Learning Framework

As I’ve blogged about before, I really like this framework as an overview of future (or 21st Century) learning skills.  So, I thought I would have an initial play with the framework and adapt it to better suit the context in which I work.

Thus, it reflects the New Zealand Curriculum, particularly its values and key competencies, as well as the Marsden pillars.  Because the framework is very much a first draft (if for no other reason that my techie skills are pretty darn limited and it just doesn’t look that good), I’ve also thrown into one corner three verbs that I’m playing with as words that I feel best reflect the various visions and values and goals that Marsden articulates.

I’d really welcome feedback, advice and suggestions – I reiterate that this is very much at a fledging stage, and may yet be used only for myself as I conduct some teaching as inquiry into my own pedagogy and classroom practice.  Just putting my work and thoughts out there…  So, what do you think?

DRAFT Marsden Future Learning Framework

Digital Citizenship

Cue: groan.

This definitely used to be my knee-jerk response to this ‘hot-button’ issue.  In the past few days I have been re-visiting this concept, aided by some really thoughtful blogs which I’ll share further down.

Digital citizenship has been dominated, and almost become entirely synonymous with, cybersafety.  Teachers have thought that essentially we could scare kids into behaving themselves on the Internet.  Hmmm.  That’s worked well.  I would perhaps make an sweeping generalisation and guess that most schools’ Acceptable User Policies (AUPs) have focused primarily on this.  They become akin to a list of ‘do nots’ or commandments, for example: thou shall not take photos without permission; thou shall not use social media on your devices during lesson time; thou shall not bully or harass others online (or off!); thou shall not share passwords or logins with others.

Now, cybersafety is a really important issue and I’m not belittling it at all.  All users of technology and the Internet should follow appropriate codes of practice.  But.  As the video by John Fenaughty below rightly points out, this approach is very much in an ‘old school’ model – lecturing from the top down.  It is a model largely divorced from values/purpose/the ‘why’.

So, just like everything else that I seem to blog about, a shift is needed.  A shift to a broader, more genuine idea of citizenship.  One that not just about laws but about contribution.  Not just about taking but giving.  Not just about obeying but respecting.

This is an idea beautifully explored here by ‘Miss D’.

What often frustrates me with the reading and researching that I do in my quest for future learning is that people are very good about defining and describing, and passionately conveying to me why I should care (and it works – I do!), but not necessarily that good at giving concrete ‘how to’ suggestions.

A ha!  Enter this wonderful blog post by Holly Clark which, I think, offers an excellent, accessible ‘how to’ model.

Ultimately, I agree that we need to adjust the cybersafety lens to incorporate a view of considering our online ‘brand’, our reputation, alongside how to be a positive contributor to the (online) world.  This is a shift that engages in ‘real world’ terms which are accessible and easy to relate to – by learners/ako of all kinds.

Higher Order Questions

As teachers, we know that we need to ask the (dreaded?) high order questions to spark in-depth thinking, engagement and evaluation.  These kinds of questions help us to connect to the critical thinking and creativity we want to teach to embed future learning principles and skills.

I really enjoyed this blog post by Rebecca Alber, which reminds us that ‘higher order’ questions do not require agonising thought processes on the behalf of teachers to pose them.  The old adage of ‘KISS’, keeping it simple, works well!  She suggests the following five questions as being powerful ones:

  1. What do you think?
  2. Why do you think that?
  3. How do you know this?
  4. Can you tell me more?
  5. What questions do you still have?

Better yet – make these into posters for around the classroom walls, and get the students asking these questions of themselves, their peers, and …  their teachers?!

Collaboration is conversation – communication.

#EdChat Radio – Collaboration: Sounds great, but … Making it work in practice 4/9/13

Collaboration podcast

Accessed 13/11/13

  • Collaboration can be tough because it requires “a balance of individual autonomy and group unity”
  • Online groups, webinars, chats, school-based hashtag – but not just online, e.g teacher to teacher; student to teacher; parent to teacher, etc
  • Learning is “inherently social” – has to happen “between and amongst people” – to push your thinking, help you to see things in a different light – collaboration gives you access to multiple points of view.
  • Collaboration amongst teachers is also positive role modeling – showing students that it’s okay to work together.
  • ‘Collaboration’ can be seen as a “dirty word” because it is equated with “cheating” – but this is only the case if the end goal is a right or wrong answer.
  • Woodrow Wilson: “I not only use all the brains I have, but all that I can borrow.”  We can borrow a lot more brains through collaboration (and technology) these days – why limit yourself to only what you know?
  • Angela Meyers: “The smartest person in the room is the room.”
  • “If you have a thought, once that thought is shared, it becomes an idea … that’s what an idea is; it’s a shared thought.”
  • Collaboration points to the “importance of conversation” – not to be underestimated: the importance of listening – participate and contribute, but also listen and hear.

Reflection

This podcast really ‘demystified’ collaboration for me, and brought home that ‘group work’ is collaboration; a conversation with a colleague is collaboration; that collaboration is communication.  Similarly, like always, there are ways to incorporate collaboration on a surface level so that you can tick that box and say you ‘do’ collaboration, but that there are also ways to explore collaboration in a deeper, richer, more meaningful way.  Providing authentic learning contexts for students is possibly a way to do this.

I was particularly struck by the concept of collaboration as ‘cheating’ – this is something I’ve been guilty of considering, but more in the specific context of NCEA and assessment.  How can we assess against standards, but still promote collaboration?  The notion of project-based, inquiry work versus finding the ‘right’ answer is true, but still, how can that be individually assessed?  But then this question in and of itself indicates a bias towards assessing rather than learning – got to keep challenging my own thinking!

Finally, as an English teacher, so much of what I do and promote in the classroom is discussion, I love the quotes by Wilson and Meyers – using all the brains you have for the room to be the smartest.  Sharing thoughts is creating ideas.  Collaboration is conversation – communication.

20th vs. 21st Century Teaching

Content may no longer be king – and teachers may need to learn to put their ego aside in order for this kind of powerful, student-centred learning to take centre stage.

My Island View

This week’s #Edchat was about teacher-centric learning vs. student-centric learning. It is a topic that often gets teachers actively involved in discussion. The reason why so many teachers are so passionate about this subject is unclear, but if Twitter chats and tweets are any indication, it is obvious that many of our connected educators strongly favor student–centric learning. Many view it as 20th century education vs. 21st century. In fact we have been having the “sage on the stage” vs. “ guide on the side” argument for quite a few decades.

Direct Instruction and Lecture are methods of education that have dominated our lessons in education for centuries. They are probably the lessons that most Americans imagine when they are asked to think of what a typical lesson in school should look like. It is the way that most content experts often deliver content to their students. Lecturing is…

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