ManyÂ teachers spend hours concocting activities and assignments that have little meaning to students all in the name of engaging learning. Instead, more voice and choice could be provided to students to take actionÂ to findÂ problemsÂ worth solving and share solutions with an authentic audience.
My Month of February
Thank you for reading. This month my daughter has grappled with the exhaustion with being a Prep student. While school has really kicked into gear. This year I have been put in charge of ‘intervention’. It has included organising groups, liaising with teachers and organising various programs. As a school, we have also continued with our journey in regards to developing a whole school instructional model, with the current focus being effort and mindsets.
In regards to my writing, here was my month in posts:
- REVIEW: The Book Whisperer
- REVIEW: Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement
- Why Blogging (Still) Matters
- Creating the Environment for Learning – Objectives and Feedback
- Creating the Environment for Learning – Effort and Recognition
- Are Great Teachers Bad Teachers?
- Computer Games in Education
- Creating the Environment for Learning – Cooperative Learning
Inspired by the work of David Culberhouse and Ian O’Bryne, I also started a new blog to develop disparate ideas and wonder ‘what if?‘
Learning and Teaching
When I’m not busy working on our teaching websites, I can usually be found playing Lego with our children! It’s an incredibly creative toy, but it can also be used to support work in a number of different curriculum areas. Here is our HUGE list of ways to use Lego in the classroom.
Learning with Lego – Mark Anderson collects together a range of links and resources associated with the use of Lego in the classroom. Really like the idea of making up small bags of basic blocks for each student. Creativity needs constraint.
I’m often surprised that teachers don’t think to use Lego to help in the classroom as a learning tool.
The above are just a few ways to tackle English language arts curriculum through the lens of design. Some have been robust explorations I’ve done with students, others one day sprints, and yet others notions and fancies that I’ve just yet to find the time to put into practice.
We need to start our lean startup process with discovery – and that is harder to hypothesise. But we can’t look for false precision, that will lead us down the wrong path.
How to Talk About Your Project – Seth Godin provides a thorough set of questions to explore when entering into a project. Although aimed at professional projects, there are some really useful questions when engaging in PBL.
Successful project organizers are delighted to engage in a conversation about all of these questions. If you’re hiding from them, it’s time to find out why.
Is the purpose of an assignment to complete the assignment? When we are Assignmenty, we ask learners to do the minimum to achieve some level of reward. Assignmenty things have fixed fences around their yard. Do we leave holes, gates, doors for learners to go farther? is that crazy (or stupid?)
The Thinkerathon – Doug Belshaw provides an alternative to the usual brainstorming task. Along with Dan Rockwell’s argument that brainstorming needs two sessions, it highlights the importance of time and space when digging deeper.
Creativity isn’t just sticking colourful post-it notes on walls — an important part of it involves discipline and process. That’s why we continually zoomed in and out of ideas, continually moving forward while our ideas morphed and evolved.
Gender and Group Work – Alex Quigley explores the topic of group work. Rather than a clear answer, he provides a excellent series of reflective questions to guide things.
If we accept the notion of the ‘wisdom of crowds‘, then what is the magic number for group size? There is no fixed answer, but research evidence shows that any group size above six is unlikely to be effective. Why is this? Well, successful group work relies on group goals, but alongside individual responsibility. With too many students in a group it is too easy for social loafing (students putting in less effort when they know they can because other group members pick up the slack) to happen. Better to have a smaller groups, such as trios or fours. Of course, even then, they’ll need training.
Three Resources for Learning More about Fair Use and Copyright – Bill Ferriter provides a collection of resources to support the teaching of copyright.
Assuming that everything we do with copyrighted content is legal is lazy and irresponsible. Worse yet, it sends the wrong message to the kids in our classrooms, who learn to respect and/or disrespect the ownership rights of content creators by watching the important adults in their lives.
What kids *really* want from us when they ask for help… Dan Haesler shares a strategy to support teachers when students ask for help with issues around bullying and wellbeing.
I think the LATE model offers any adult – a parent or other family member, teacher, coach – a simple way to better engage with youngsters when they seek our help. Furthermore, it’s pretty good model to use when anyone – young or old, family member or work colleague – needs our assistance.
President Obama Discovers Coding – Gary Stager pushes back on the latest hype around coding and technology, identifying some of the historical roadblocks as he sees it.
Computer literacy must mean the ability to do something constructive with a computer, and not merely a gen eral awareness of acts one is told about computers. A computer literate person can read and write a computer program, can select and operate software written by others, and knows from personal experience the possibilities and limitations of the computer.
OEB 15 – What does it take to scale adoption of technology at your school? – Jenny Luca reflects on her journey to scale technology overtime. A useful post, especially in relation to the various nuances associated with context.
Having a coherent strategy around technology platforms to utilise in a school or district system goes some way to meeting the challenge of scaling teaching innovations. When teachers are provided with the tools that allow for collaborative practice, quick and easy insight into student work in progress, ease of providing formative assessment, tools that allow students to become creators of content and the ability for group work to be managed effectively, there lies the potential for teachers to have opportunities to rethink their pedagogical practices.
Why Social Media Education Is Needed In Schools – Jackie Gerstein makes a case for teaching social media, making the comparison with sex education. She also provides a range of links and resources to support the endeavour.
One of the goals for education is to provide students with skills for living their lives safely and productively now and in the future. This is in line with driver’s education, home economics, and other skills based classes where the intent is to teach teens skills for being safer in their everyday life. We know that teens and driving can be dangerous. Instead of banning it in schools, we attempt to teach them proper and safe driving practices . . . and driver’s education isn’t just talking about safe driving practices. The same is true with just being a talking head about social media. It needs to be modeled and used in the classroom so students get to experience “proper” social media uses.
Ethics submission draft – Evangelical? – Ian Guest develops a series of categories for the different types of educational uses you find or Twitter. Not only did this leave me thinking what sort of user am I, but also whether the four terms captures all the nuances.
Based solely on my observations during my time on Twitter, I’ve noticed that people seem to regard the platform in a number of different ways. The following classification then, is purely my own interpretation of the attitudes people appear to exhibit: evangelists, advocates, agnostics and atheiest.
Amazon’s Plans for OER – Audrey Watters responds to Kayne West’s tweet that we need cheaper textbooks by unpacking the news that Amazon is set to develop a platform to support OER.
Textbooks cost too much, and everyone knows it, as the 64,000 retweets of Kanye West perhaps underscore. But that inflated price tag is just one of the problems that OER purports to solve. (See David Wiley’s 5 Rs of open content: the ability to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute work.) It remains to be seen if Amazon Inspire will support these activities or if the “problem” that Amazon really seeks to solve here is a stronger foothold in the education market.
Why Open Practice – Martin Weller provides a good introduction to the different reasons for going open.
I gave a presentation recently trying to set out the arguments for engaging with open practice in higher education. I’ve shifted from the “because it’s awesome” argument to a more nuanced one. My starting point is that open practice is a smorgasbord of components from which one selects those parts that you feel most comfortable with and will most benefit your current role.
What is the Value of a Bot? – danah boyd unpacks the world of bots, posing a range of questions in the process. In addition to this, she provides links to other posts on the topic.
Who gets to decide the value of a bot? The technically savvy builder of the bot? The people and organizations that encounter or are affected by the bot? Bots are being designed for all sorts of purposes, and most of them are mundane. But even mundane bots can have consequences.
Blockchain for Education: A Research Project – Audrey Watters casts a critical eye over the blockchain. Not only does she provide a range of information and questions to consider, but she also includes a range of links to go further if you would like.
So buzz and bullshit aside, what – if anything – can blockchain offer education technology? And more generally, how does blockchain work? (And then again, specifically how does it work in an educational setting?) What problems does blockchain solve? What are its benefits? What are its drawbacks? Who’s developing and who’s investing in the technology? To what end?
Storytelling and Reflection
The Measure of Success – JL Dutant provides a harrowing reflection on the challenges of success and the need to go beyond the usual measurements used.
It’s taken all the willpower I have to fight back from that and to stay in the profession. I’ve long since stopped looking for the Boson. That way lie only black holes and ‘spooky action at a distance‘. I get that it’s important to measure and to parcel out and to make sense of things out there in the world, but it’s also important to remember that we have an inner world without which the outer world can make no sense.
There is nothing wrong with seeing what you like on Facebook or Google, but we should also be exposed to those things that we didn’t even realize exist, and our students could benefit from that too. When we talk about learning, too many students want to give us the answer they think we want to hear, instead of the answer they may want to say. And that is like an on-line filter bubble or algorithm that only gives us the information it thinks we want. Student voice is about so much more than that. It’s about breaking out of the streamline and having better dialogue to build understanding.
A Minimum Viable Product Is Not a Product, It’s a Process – Yevgeniy (Jim) Brikman provides a different take on the usual perspective of the minimum viable product as being on a single trajectory.
This, in a nutshell, is the MVP process. Whether you’re developing a product design, marketing plan, or writing code, always ask: What is my riskiest assumption? What is the smallest experiment I can do to test this assumption.
Visions of Education Futures – Jackie Gerstein outlines a vision for the future. Although writers like Audrey Waters make me more sceptical about such lists, it does provide a clear idea about what if.
Writing, inventing, creating media, and entrepreneurship for change will drive educational endeavors supporting the belief that all humans want to live a life based on, “I want to do things that will change people’s lives.” Problems will always exist in the world, but the collective whole of the human race, given the advancements specified in this article, will actively and proactively seek their amelioration.
Connecting Disparate Dots (Recombinant Innovation) – David Culberhouse talks about the need to stop looking for the new innovative idea, instead we need to more actively connect the dots around use to remix old ideas.
They are exploiting what already exists, in ways that were never previously visualized. They are finding fertile ground for innovation not just in the creating, but in the combining. Combining and cross-pollinating those disparate dots that were yet to be linked or considered. In many ways, they are creative concept and idea recyclist.
Teacher Problems – Natalie Scott provides an account of education in refugee camps. I remember reading the account of teaching underneath a tree in Malawi via Tom Whitby’s blog, this post also provides a priceless insight into another world so often ignored.
From both perspective of humanities and welfare, this is a powerful read. Important in putting many of our gripes in perspective, but also appreciating the life from which some of our students of come from.
Just Make Stuff – Radical Transparency as the New CV – Amy Burvall puts forward a compelling case for a revisioning of the traditional CV to focus instead around making stuff and sharing it in an open fashion.
One reminder… you can make the coolest “stuff” in the world and still be a jerk. So in this ever-shrinking, uber-connected space that flirts between the “IRL” and the virtual, it is beyond important to play nice. Here are some tips: build up the work of others, and attribute everything; refrain from negativity as much as possible – populate the Web with pleasing things; if you get jealous that someone is better, make more stuff (you will get better too and it distracts); ok, just accept people will be better or their work will be more popular (but realize there is a niche for everyone); share your own work freely (but make it unique enough so people will know it’s yours); encourage remix of your work (remix is the heart of creativity- embrace it).
Our Undereducation – Will Richardson responds to Donald Trump’s statement that he loves the ‘undereducated’. Richardson argues that this is reflection of the education system we have created and what needs to be changed to fix it.
We can’t be ok with what this system has to some extent wrought. We should be working hard to rethink that system to eliminate the “undereducated” as a lovable constituency for those hoping to ascend to the most powerful leadership position in the world.
Email newsletters are the new zines – Simon Owens provides a great discussion of newsletters and how they are different to the average blog.
It’s tempting to merely argue that the recent crop of newsletters are what came to replace the independent blogosphere of the mid-aughts. But I actually think its antecedents stretch back further to the zine culture that thrived in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s.
FOCUS ON … Mindsets
The perils of “Growth Mindset” education: Why we’re trying to fix our kids when we should be fixing the system – Alfie Kohn provides a critique of ‘growth mindsets’ wondering if the real problem is effort or if it is the quality of the curriculum and pedagogical approach being used.
An awful lot of schooling still consists of making kids cram forgettable facts into short-term memory. And the kids themselves are seldom consulted about what they’re doing, even though genuine excitement about (and proficiency at) learning rises when they’re brought into the process, invited to search for answers to their own questions and to engage in extended projects. Outstanding classrooms and schools — with a rich documentary record of their successes — show that the quality of education itself can be improved. But books, articles, TED talks, and teacher-training sessions devoted to the wonders of adopting a growth mindset rarely bother to ask whether the curriculum is meaningful, whether the pedagogy is thoughtful, or whether the assessment of students’ learning is authentic (as opposed to defining success merely as higher scores on dreadful standardized tests).
The Problem With Having a ‘Growth Mindset’ – Peter DeWitt explains why mindsets has such a low effect size (0.19) and how we can change that by not being so fixed in approaches as teachers.
If we truly want to teach the growth mindset it means that we have to dig a little deeper into the practices that we already have in school. The growth mindset is not just about the student “trying harder” but it’s also about our teaching practices, and whether we change them to meet the needs of the students, or expect students to change in order to meet the needs of the teacher.
Carol Dweck Revisits the Growth Mindset – Carol Dweck reflects on a range of concerns with various interpretations of Mindsets, including going beyond effort, supporting both short and long term goals, as well as closing the achievement gap, rather than using the idea of the fixed mindset to deny it.
How can we help educators adopt a deeper, true growth mindset, one that will show in their classroom practices? You may be surprised by my answer: Let’s legitimize the fixed mindset. Let’s acknowledge that (1) we’re all a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, (2) we will probably always be, and (3) if we want to move closer to a growth mindset in our thoughts and practices, we need to stay in touch with our fixed-mindset thoughts and deeds. If we “ban” the fixed mindset, we will surely create false growth-mindsets.
I was handed my writer’s notebook at a meeting the other night and was left feeling a little bit empty. I wondered in which space students were able to collect and create digital artefacts? Is there something about the handwritten text or is this something that harks back to another time? What would be lost in having a digital workbook? One that allowed the collection of a range of text-types and transliteracy?
At the moment, each year level is addressing persuasive texts, from letters to the editor in Year 5 to feature articles in Year 9. This could all be done through a blog, with categories used to differentiate between the different text-types and tags used to organise the particular content. Doing it this way would not only allow an authentic audience, but the opportunity for meaningful feedback and engagement with a wider audience.
What if instead of dreaming and then waking up later grasping at those visions, we recorded them, gave them flesh, let them breathe, maybe only for a fleeting second. I have started this space for that reason. Inspired in part by Ian O’Bryne’s IMHO Blog. It is a space dedicated more to ideas than ideals.
I often stop and wonder, how did I get here? It wasn’t one particular moment, rather a series of interconnected happenings which makes up my ‘unexpected adventure’. I first had a go at telling this fractured story on my blog. However, every time I think about it, other people and events seem to stand out.