Alan November’s transformational six

Alan November’s 23 January 2017 post, Crafting a vision for empowered learning and teaching: beyond the $1000 pencil, in his blog November Learning reminded me of his invaluable and powerful six transformational questions.   What great learning could occur if every assessment was built on this foundation!  What wonderful critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills could be learned!

  1. Did the assignment build capacity for critical thinking on the web?
  2. Did the assignment develop new lines of inquiry?
  3. Are there opportunities for students to make their thinking visible?
  4. Are there opportunities to broaden the perspective of the conversation with authentic audiences from around the world?
  5. Is there an opportunity for students to create a contribution (purposeful work)?
  6. Does the assignment demo “best in the world” examples of content and skill?

Personalised professional learning

Today, there is a thought-provoking post from Edutopia: Why don’t we differentiate professional development?  Pauline Zdonek’s comments caught my attention:

As I prepare for another afternoon of district-provided professional development activities, I always make sure that I bring plenty of work to do (papers to grade, lesson planning, etc.)…the sad fact is that the majority of PDs I attend are repetitive, simplistic, or downright boring. I bring other work to do so that I don’t get irritated when I feel that my time is being so carelessly wasted.

“One-size-fits-all” professional learning does not work, and we have known that for many years through experience, anecdotal evidence and research.  This was a hot topic in the nineties and early two thousands!   In 1999, NCREL (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory) produced a toolkit Professional Development: learning from the best; in 2002, Dennis Sparks published Designing powerful professional development for teachers and principals for the National Staff Development Council, which produced a set of standards for meaningful professional learning.

What have we learnt?  How many colleagues have been “talked at”, in our beginning-of-the-year professional development sessions?

In 2014, AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership) produced Designing professional learning, a report to…

…help readers design, revise and evaluate high-quality professional learning by clarifying the elements of learning design that significantly increase participants’ learning outcomes and their use of those learning outcomes in classroom practice.

This report provides an excellent basis for developing robust and meaningful learning experiences.

Snippets from holiday browsing

The summer break is over!  Reality returns!  So what snippets, bits and pieces crossed my path over this glorious break?

Edsurge asks  “Has your School reached an edtech plateau?” suggesting several ways to “move the needle” for administrators, teachers, parents.  There is nothing new here, but common sense for those wanting to lift the game.

Here comes yet another Top 10 list. Edsurge publishes its Top 10 S’Cool tools of 2016.  (Love the S’Cool name!) Most of them have not previously been on my radar.

Education HQ caught my attention today with Lesson idea: get students cracking with codes.  The Caesar cypher, Morse code and the Enigma Machine are explained as reasons to start discussing and playing with codes (not necessarily coding).

An ABC Splash email reminded  me of the wonderful classroom resources available to both primary and secondary teachers.

For those interested in perspectives from countries other than Australia, NFER (National Foundation for Educational Research, UK) has posted a list of the hot topics from 2016.  Of interest to me are the blog posts Research in schools: experience and tips from the frontline and The rise of Edu-Twitter: chat, collaboration and CPD.

I’m sure there is more. What have I missed?

Word Processing and the Loss of Simplicity

It makes no sense that the word processors are still designed for the printed page” – this is the title of an amusing piece from the Motherboard blog ,complete with links to 1960s and 1970s video clips promoting the paper explosion.

The author takes us through a short history of word processing since the 1970s, and asks “for all they’ve gained, what have modern word processors lost?”   He suggests the loss of simplicity. 

“Since I started writing as a career, I’ve always preferred my writing tools to have a certain style – I want them as little like Microsoft Word as possible”  – Ernie Smith.

Although the online world is capturing our attention with multi-modal texts, are we ready to forsake the printed word?  I’m not so sure.  However, I do wonder about the percentage of the features of word processing (I’m talking about Word, of course) I use – not many!  

Choosing and Evaluating Educational Technologies

We have seen it all too often – school leaders seeing a new technology application, thinking it fulfils an immediate need, and purchasing without investigating how this product integrates and overlaps with existing applications.  I find it difficult to comprehend why one would not start with a needs analysis.

Edsurge, an organisation committed to connecting educators with emerging technology trends, products, events and the entrepreneurs who build new applications,  has good advice on choosing, vetting and purchasing Edtech products in this post  and downloadable sixty-eight page guide, The Edtech Selection Playbook.

The message is clear:  start with a needs analysis; ensure that research studies are reliable, valid, without bias and not merely marketing-promoted hype.

edsurge-edtech-book

Minecraft for Education

Today, Minecraft Education announced that the full version Education Edition is now available for purchase in eleven languages and fifty countries.  For more information see the Minecraft: Education Edition website

minecraft

According to the marketing information, “this full version includes the Classroom Mode companion app, allowing educators to manage world settings, communicate with students, give items, and teleport students in the Minecraft world. It displays a map view of the Minecraft world, a list of all the students in the world, a set of world management settings and a chat window.”

Voicethread revisited

I am always amazed that my colleagues have not shared my excitement about Voicethread as a potential tool for communication and collaboration.  What is Voicethread?  Upload a stimulus image, slideshow, document or video clip, post a provocative question, then have students respond, either in text or verbally.

Here’s a short introduction to creating a Voicethread:

I am delighted to learn that Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia is embracing Voicethread, integrating it into the learning management system, iLearn, as a tool for collaboration and asynchronous chat.

Read more at http://teche.ltc.mq.edu.au/human-science/ilearn-goodbye-wimba-voiceboards-hello-voicethread/

Ideas on presentation…or what not to do!

Rebecca Ritchie, Senior Designer at Macquarie University writes an amusing account on making PowerPoint presentations interesting in her blog post Ideas you can steal to make your presentation not boring.  We all know the “rules” but we continue to see presentations that bring to mind “death by PowerPoint” – too much text, too much animation, too many bullet points.

Be sure to follow the link to Death by PowerPoint for Don McMillan’s video demonstrating what not to do – it is very funny.

 

Re-igniting the Fire

Confessions of a Cognitive Heart – I relate so well to this post!

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach talks about the struggle to remain creative with one’s use of technology in education and in professional learning.  She discusses the excitement that came from watching and, even more important, being involved with the first wave of social media and connection.  Then the “new wave of learners”!

“At first, it seemed they were enthralled with our messages and a few (now thought leaders in the connected spaces) took the ideas and ran with them. They became the new “us” (the ones who were sharing transparently) on Twitter, which became the new blogs, and in 140 characters of cognitive bliss they began to teach us all.”

Then, she states, things changed!  Instead of original ideas, there were “echoes” – nothing creative, nothing new but a repetition and regurgitation of the older ideas.

I loved the opportunities for professional learning and followed my favourite academics and practitioners…BUT…  I don’t really want to hear about walking the dog, or the dinner menu.  I stopped reading for a while – my loss, not those I follow!

Sheryl took up the challenge and embraced changes to her work, attitude, research, content and performance.  The passion came back.  Share her wisdom with fourteen reality checks – there’s good advice for us all.