But Why?

[Using the idea of asking ‘why’ five times, I have an imaginary conversation with a hypothetical teacher about the need to do things differently.]

I’m a good teacher. I don’t have behaviour management issues in my classroom, and my students get good results. Why do I need to shift my practice to this ‘future learning’ thing?

  • Can we start with the assumption that good teaching = good results and therefore = good learning? I think we can all easily fall into the trap of thinking that when our students get good results in their assessments that is because we are good teachers, but when students don’t do so well, then that’s because they experience some kind of barrier to their learning. I think that if we’re being honest we can admit that sometimes our students learn despite us.
  • I also worry about the equation of assessment results with learning. I think at times we’ve all decried the ‘credit-accumulation’ mindset of our students; that they don’t seem to want to learn for a love of learning’s sake. I worry that assessment, like we have here in NZ with NCEA, whereby discrete content areas or skill sets are assessed in an oftentimes fragmented way, doesn’t actually allow for the kind of learning and skill development that we’d like to see in our learners.

Why? What kind of learning do we need our students to have?

  • As we know, we have moved out of the Industrial Age to the Knowledge Age. Wikipedia knows more than it is possible for one teacher to know. The pace of change has increased with a corresponding increase in knowledge. It is no longer really possible to define what we need to know, and it is no longer necessary to store knowledge in our heads in case we need it later on. If we need it, then we’ll Google it. Therefore a different model of education is needed.
  • There are different ways of looking at the future. One of these ways is to discuss so-called ‘wicked problems’. These are problems that are complex and interconnected, such as climate change, food security, the ethics of biotechnology, poverty, etc. These require solutions, but the nature of them is such that they are not easily solved, and in fact implementing a solution for one facet of a problem may well even exacerbate other facets.
  • Therefore we need learners who are capable of dealing with these problems. There have been many attempts to define the skills needed, such as this framework. I also like the ‘4Cs’ of creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. The change here is an emphasis is on skills, rather than content.

OK, I can accept that the world looks different today than it did when I was growing up. But why does my classroom practice needs to be different when I can cover the 4Cs within my subject area?

  • I agree that traditional, siloed education can cover the 4Cs, and the NZC’s Key Competencies, but we know more about the way the brain learns these days, and we know that a diet of only traditional, factory-style lecture from the front of the room isn’t it.
  • Just like wicked problems are interconnected and complex, we need to offer our learner the means by which they can learn to apply their understanding in interconnected and complex ways if they are going to make an impact on society. To do this authentically will require a shift away from a subject-siloed approach.

What role does technology play in all of this? Why do I have to be a teacher of technology as well as my subject area?

  • Luckily, you don’t. Technology is an enabler. We’ve already acknowledged that Google knows more than a teacher can possibly know, but the search results are massive. We need to teach learners skills to deal with information, how to be critical and discerning with information, how to apply information, and how to make new information.
  • Rather than looking for cool new apps, we should ensure that we use the right tools for the task. But the tasks themselves may well need to shift in order to focus on the skill building we’ve been discussing.
  • Models like SAMR and the eLPF suggest that technology allows us to offer more authentic and genuine learning experiences than have before been possible.
  • Redefined tasks that focus on skill development within an authentic, problem- or inquiry-based context also helps young people to learn how to tackle wicked problems.

If it’s all online, why do my students even need me anymore?

  • I’ve been thinking about timetables. I’ve decided that a timetable can be both a literal and a figurative structure. It is the schedule that organises a school day, but it has become a mindset. As adults we know that the world, and even our brains, don’t work in perfectly scheduled 55 minute slots. I believe we do a disservice to our 21st Century learners when we offer than a 19th or even a 20th Century-style education model like this.
  • So, if the emphasis shifts from content to skills, what else can you offer your students? A positive learning-based relationship, encouragement and motivation, learning opportunities, an expert network to tap into, access to you; the most experienced learner in the room. You know, all the stuff that does make you a good teacher – which is where we started. You are absolutely a good teacher. Now, what steps are you going to take in order to be even better?

(Need some ideas of where to start? Start by getting connected and learning:)

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Marsden Professional Learning Session 12

The theme for today was critical thinking, and it was mostly about having two staff members highlight activities they have used to encourage critical thinking in their students.

Here is a copy of the wrap-around presentation I used:

I enjoyed talking about thinking, particularly the opportunity to share how I feel I have been guilty of having quite a shallow understanding of the ‘thinking’ Key Competency specifically, but all the Key Competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum more generally. When I put the slide up of points about what ‘Thinking’ entails from Bolstad et al’s book ‘Key Competencies for the Future‘ (2014) there was quite a buzz that suggests to me that I was not alone in treating the competencies lightly. We need to ensure that we don’t play lip service to thinking, but are offering explicit strategies to our learners, and to highlight to them times when they are thinking to build this awareness.

It was fantastic to hear from a PE/Health teacher and a Science teacher about their practice. The staff were impressed by the health advertisements some Year 9 students had produced. It was great to see Health content, English and Performance Media skills coming together. A challenge would be to do this in a more explicit way for cross-curricula links to be forged. I also loved how the teacher spoke thoughtfully and honestly about worrying that her students would ask her for technical support and she wouldn’t be able to offer this. She learned over the course of her unit that it doesn’t matter if she doesn’t have all the answers. Powerful stuff.

A Science teacher spoke about the collaboration I have blogged about here – whereby we teach the same Year 8 class and the girls used their forensics knowledge from Science to write ‘whodunit’ plays in English. I appreciated that she highlighted the usefulness of Google tools such as Docs and Slides to allow the students to more easily move across the learning areas and tasks. She also commented that she thought the task was a challenging one, but the students showed resilience and critical thinking in having to interweave the skills and content needed. I’m pleased that she’s keen to use the unit again next year!

My workshop was one offered previously on Edmodo, and the helpsheet for this is available here.

Marsden Professional Learning Session 10

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Always seeking to improve, in today’s Professional Learning session, I started with a ‘hook’: make a piece of jewellery from two pipe cleaners in 60 seconds. It always amuses me, and it’s something for me to remember, that adults are just like kids: we like to have something to fiddle with, and the soft, pliable nature of a pipe cleaner is no exception. (Next time – note to self – playdough!)

The purpose of this task was to introduce the future learning themes of creativity and critical thinking. I enjoyed the opportunity to make passing references to design thinking, and also to acknowledge some of the very recent learning I have been doing about the maker education movement. The accompanying presentation is here:

I felt a bit incoherent today, and I’m not at all convinced that my presentation was as fluid as I would have liked it to be. Luckily, the presentation is freely available for staff to refer back to, and there are lots of hyperlinks to allow people to continue to explore and learn. And also luckily, the next professional learning session in two weeks’ time also focuses on creativity, but this time showcasing examples of it in our classrooms.

The workshop I offered looked at the presentation tool Haiku Deck. The ‘help sheet’ I produced for this is available here. The lovely people who attended were very quiet, so I choose to interpret this as meaning they were thoroughly engaged in playing with the tool 😉 I enjoyed the clear link between the themes of creativity and critical thinking to this workshop. I also liked the question that I was asked as to what a concrete application of Haiku Deck in the classroom could be. I could think of two. This also reminds me, that like the pipe cleaners, all learners like to have ‘real world’ connections.

I would like to acknowledge Steve Mouldey’s work in creativity and curiosity. He is extremely well versed in this area, and I shamelessly plundered his blog (especially this post) for inspiration for this professional learning session. Why reinvent the wheel?!

Yet another reason why Design Thinking is Genius

I wrote a post a little while ago declaring my passion for Design Thinking. Since then I have done loads of reading and thinking about it. I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time participating in the #dtk12chat on Twitter – especially the day that it was summer vacation in the States, so I basically got an hour of one-to-one time with the lovely and uber-helpful Lisa Palmieri to ask her all my annoying novice questions. I’m currently preparing a design thinking exploration for my Year 8s in Term 4, and this resource centre, curated by Thomas Riddle, is proving exceptionally useful.

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But this doesn’t explain why I have such enthusiasm for design thinking. And today it struck me. At the risk of making design thinking into some kind of panacea, I truly believe that it offers powerful potential for schools to address the needs of their 21st Century learners.

Last November, as I was starting my Future Learning journey, I read Bolstad et al‘s  (2012) research report “Supporting future-oriented teaching and learning”. I blogged about the reading here, here and here. Today I’ve had occasion to revisit those blogposts and the research, and I can see that design thinking can mesh beautifully with several of the future focused themes Bolstad and her colleagues pinpoint in their report.

There is the notion of personalising learning – that the activities and curriculum content students engage with should reflect their input and interests. Design thinking will certainly allow this, as students generate their own questions in relation to the topic or issue at hand, and then follow these ideas through a prototyping and feedback cycle.

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Bolstad et al also speak of diversity. Design thinking offers a means by which a great deal of ideas and questions are generated, welcomed, and indeed valued. Learners must generate (ideate) a wealth of ideas, and learn to filter these through the human-centred lens of empathy. Different perspectives offered by people of diverse backgrounds can therefore only be of benefit in order to empathise with others and add to the collective knowledge and ideas of the design thinkers.

Design thinking requires creating and using knowledge in ways that are different to traditional schooling. Filling an empty vessel is so contradictory to the process of design thinking as to render it inconceivable and redundant.

And to work within a design thinking process is to fundamentally shift the roles of ‘student’ and ‘teacher’. The teacher truly does become a facilitator as learners explore their own ideas in relation to the issue at hand. Teachers are just the most experienced learner in the room.

Furthermore, design thinking offers much potential to integrate and foreground the Key Competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum. The potential of the Key Competencies to shape the senior secondary curriculum is discussed in another of Bolstad and Gilbert’s publications, Disciplining and Drafting (2008), which I read in the recent school holidays. I suspect the next book in my reading list, Key Competencies for the Future (2014), will continue to make this kind of compelling argument. By following a design thinking process and adopting a design thinking mindset, it is inevitable that learners would be thinking, using language, symbols and text, managing self, participating and contributing and relating to others. This is because design thinking is a human-centred process that has a bias towards (social) action. In fact, it has the power to equip learners to tackle with the “wicked problems” outlined in Keri Facer’s seminal book, Learning Futures (2011), which I have read and blogged about here.

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Acknowledgement of images: The K12 Lab Wiki

So, when I get excited about design thinking, it is because I believe so strongly that belying its seeming simplicity, it offers a wealth of rich possibilities to transform education.

My ‘Thing’

Since I began this future learning journey, I’ve been wondering what my ‘thing’ is. What would be the particular aspect of future learning that would really capture my imagination, and seem to offer the best possibilities to move forward with future focused pedagogy? It was never going to be just about integrating technology. Jumping on the bandwagon of the shiny new app strikes me as both short-sighted and not big picture enough. I wondered if PBL (project- or problem-based learning) might be the thing. But as interesting as it seemed, it didn’t seem to gain traction in my mind. Ditto SOLE (self-organised learning environments). Linked to both of these was the inquiry process. And I do think this is important, but didn’t seem to go quite far enough for me. It wasn’t going to be maker-ed, although I acknowledge the potential in this.

And then, today, it hit me.

Design Thinking might just be my thing.

Why Design Thinking? Because inherent in this process are the 3 (or 4) Cs of critical thinking, creativity, communication – and collaboration. Because the process requires an inter-disciplinary approach. Because, as the Hobsonville Point team have convinced me, the New Zealand Curriculum aligns beautifully with it. Because it seems to offer the best of what PBL/inquiry/maker-ed calls for. And because I believe it has the potential to dovetail with the values of our school, such as aiming for the highest, service, resilience.

And, crucially, because Design Thinking fits with me.

I’ve always held that I teach because I want to teach not what to think, but how to think. And I believed that English as a subject really had this potential. We read literature in order to be confronted with ideas of what it means to be human. To think about moral, ethics, how to live. But, upon reflection, I think I haven’t really aligned well with my educational philosophy. I have been teaching ‘not what to think’, but not the ‘how to think’ part of the statement. I feel it’s been more like ‘not what to think; but to think’. Which, I now think, is insufficient. However, Design Thinking does offer a concrete solution because it is a process. It is ‘not what to think; but how to think.’

So, I think, I’ve found ‘my thing’.

 

 

First Whole Staff Presentation!

First things first – here’s the presentation!

Staff Presentation 30 Jan 2014

I do love Haiku Deck – beautiful presentations, guilt-free Creative Commons images, minimal text means avoiding inflicting ‘death by PowerPoint’.

And my reflection will simply consist of saying that I was worried that I was presenting to a crowd who weren’t that thrilled to hear the message – especially with numerous network, server, internet and printing issues at present – but the staff seemed genuinely receptive.  I am so grateful for the positive feedback I received 🙂  The next presentation won’t seem so daunting!

My fabulous co-presenter and senior manager and I understand from staff that they are pleased to know there’s a clear vision, that time and resources are being devoted to carrying that vision through, and that there is genuine choice for them as learners.  Hopefully that’s role modelling for ya 😉

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

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?!