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Someone asked me whether I would miss the classroom in my new position as a coach in a central office. I must admit that it is not necessarily the classroom that I miss the most, but rather connections to schools. I have been lucky enough to visit quite a few schools this month, each with their own story to tell.

In other news, I have been doing a lot of work around the use of G Suite and how it might be used to support the transformation of education.

On the home front, our youngest daughter has teetered on the edge of walking all month, while our eldest continues to develop in regards to playing the keyboard. This even included writing out her first song! Apparently the full stops is where you stop in music too.

In regards to my writing, here was my month in posts:


In regards to my thinking, these are some of the thoughts that have also left me thinking …

Learning and Teaching

Emoji Writing Prompt Generator with Google Sheets – Eric Curts adds to a twist to his Writing Prompt Generator by adding Emojis into the mix. People often ask about the difference between Sheets and Excel, I never read about this sort of thing happening within Excel?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If that is so, then emojis should be able to bring even more meaning and ideas and inspiration than just words alone. Giving students a random set of emojis could be a great way to help inspire their writing, as the student tries to find a way to work each image into their story or poem.
Thinking Back to Move Our English Language Learners Forward with Writing – Anna Del Conte shares some tips on differentiating learning for refugee students.
As we teach we use what Pauline Gibbons calls interactional scaffolding which is never planned because it depends on the interactions that spontaneously occur in every lesson. In scaffolded reactions, teachers:
  • listen to learners’ intended meanings

  • build on learners’ prior experiences

  • recap what students have said at regular intervals to remind students of key points

  • appropriate student responses and recast them into more technical or academic wording

  • engage in longer exchanges with students …and so provide opportunities for students to say more or rethink how they have expressed something.

  • allow learners more time to respond e.g by asking them for further explanation of their ideas

  • allow adequate wait time in a variety of ways

 

Creating Virtual Reality Content in Minecraft with Year 4 – Lee Hewes shares some of his learning associated with a recent project involving the use of Minecraft to create 360 degree videos.

My latest class project, which we have just finished and I am about to describe, is perhaps the project that has challenged me the most, both as a player of Minecraft, and from a classroom perspective. It was also, however, way cool! The project, which was guided by the driving question, “How can we use Minecraft to help endangered animals?” was focussed on having kids learn about human impact on the environment, sustainable living practices and animal conservation.

 

Edtech

Paper Twitter: Why and How to Teach Digital Technologies with Paper – Royan Lee suggests starting with paper before jumping into the digital when it comes to Twitter. This reminds me of a post from Thomas Martellone about modelling with paper. To support this move to paper, Lee provides a link to folder full of resources to get you going.

Paper Twitter is a process I’ve borrowed, unsurprisingly, from many of my friends on Twitter. I’ve put my own little spin on it to quite a bit of success, so I wanted to put it out in the world. I have shared my Google folder with you (with instructions for facilitation in the notes of the slides) in hopes that it will inspire you to think a little differently about your next Ed-Tech workshop.

Wikity, One Year Later – Mike Caulfield looks back on a year of Wikity. I love that he learnt PHP just for this project. I must admit that it was not until this elaboration that I saw where it could fit. I think that it is something I am going to have to install and tinker with to find out more

What does “wikified social bookmarks” mean? Well, like most social bookmarking tools, we allow for people to host private sites, but encourage people to share their bookmarks and short notes with the world. And while the mechanisms are federated, not centralized, we allow people to copy each other’s bookmarks and notes, just like Delicious or Pinboard
Sharing/Ownership ≠ Empowerment – It can be easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding connected learning, however as Maha Bali highlights, things are often far more complicated than we like to recognise. To ignore this often suppresses a whole community of voices. This reminds me of Chris Wejr’s post on sharing in online spaces.
Our discourses often don’t reflect the complexity of this and we cheer and celebrate when we use terms like ownership, sharing, participation, agency. No. Adding one student to a committee with 5 faculty and 2 administrators isn’t empowering. Creating a committee of 6 students isn’t empowering. Emancipation is much harder work and it’s a long process that will always need to be reevaluated.
Utopia, pedagogy, and G-Suite for Education – Along with a separate post on the integration of technology, Doug Belshaw share his thoughts of implementing G-Suite, particularly through the use of Open Badges. I developed some thoughts on the matter here.
My aim in any badge system is to encourage particular types of knowledge, skills, and behaviours. Whatever system I come up with will be co-designed and go beyond just the use of G-Suite for Education. As the TPACK model emphasises, the system will have a more holistic focus: integrating the technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge required for purposeful educational technology integration.
OurChatSpace OR What Mastodon could do for #HigherEd – Daniel Lynds unpacks a relatively new open source platform similar to Twitter. I have discussed the idea of using a WordPress blog for a social media space before. However, this is something different again.
Of the main elements that have and will make up a learning environment, Mastodon (or variant builds thereof) seems well suited for handling cross-community collaboration.
Tech Gypsies – I discovered the podcast on critical edtech featuring Audrey Watters and Kin Lane. I must admit that I did a bit of binge listening, but one thing that came up again and again was the power of simple tools, such as Jekyll, when embracing a domain of one's own.
Welcome to the Tech Gypsies podcast, Kin Lane and Audrey Watters' weekly discussion of the latest technology news.
The Dynamics of Static Sites – Tim Klapdor documents his learning around Jekyll and static sites. Not only does he provide links to a number of examples of sites that he has created, but he also discusses a range of tools and libraries that he has used along the way.
If you’re learning about web development, Jekyll is the equivalent of immersion to learn a foreign language. It can be hard at first, but you’ll see results faster and be practicing with more fluency than in any other way.
 

Storytelling and Reflection

When ‘What Works’ Doesn’t: Comparative Pedagogies and Epistemological Diversity in Education – Frances Vavrus challenges the idea around what works and best practices, suggesting that such stances ignores context. Having recently started reading Gert Biesta’s book on measurement, it is important to note that there is more to education than what can be measured.

The educational landscape today is marked by numerous texts for teachers that identify ‘what works’ in the classroom and ‘best practices’ for bolstering student achievement in different subjects. Although these guides may provide valuable information for educators, they frequently ignore a central imperative of critical studies in education to situate educational knowledge within the contexts in which it is produced.
Getting Schools Ready for the World – A lengthy article from Will Richardson elaborating on what it means to support students with learning how to learn. It is full of examples and elaborations that help paint a clearer picture of the tensions of our time.

Regardless of how we define the skills needed by today's global graduates, however, it's undeniable that these needs will continue to morph as our ability to create and share expands and as we face increasingly complex global challenges—climate change, workforce shifts, changing demographics, the growing global threat of terrorism and violence, and more.

Schools will teach ‘soft skills’ from 2017, but assessing them presents a challenge – Bill Lucas discusses the role-out of soft skills within the Victorian Curriculum in 2017. He shares a range of insights from his experiences in the area and some of the challenges that will need to be grappled with.

Assessing capabilities is harder than assessing subjects – and the evidence base is much less well-formed. Knowing that a student achieved a level 8b in critical and creative thinking is not particularly useful. But from the trial we are finding that students need to become more critically reflective and develop digital portfolios of evidence.

No Excuses and the Pinball Kids – Tom Sherrington adds his voice to the debate around 'no excuses' in regards to behaviour management. It is a useful post in that Sherrington touches on the nuances of something too often painted black and white.

Within the 10% there is a small % – maybe up to 30 students out of 1000 – who simply hit the boundaries all week long.  They get knocked from sanction to sanction, from meeting to meeting, from intervention to intervention, without their behaviours changing. They’re trying, we’re all trying but there are only so many detentions you can sit. We’re way beyond excuses here…these are not bad people; they just find life difficult and need a lot of support to manage time, relationships, learning, concentration. The weekly Support Planning Meeting between our SEN team, Behaviour team and Heads of School is one part of a matrix of provision planning that looks to support these students. ‘No excuses’ is way off the map in terms of being relevant here. Nobody is making excuses; they’re too busy trying to find solutions.

10 Secrets to Raising an Award-Winning Student – Chris Wejr reflects on rewards as a measurement for success and wonders how we can do better to raise the standards of all students.

As a community, we need to help ALL students go over/around these hurdles so we can create the conditions to bring out the best in each of them. Having said this, we need to ask ourselves, as a school community, if traditional awards ceremonies actually promote excellence and bring out the best or if they simply promote achievement using narrow criteria defined by adults within the building. Are awards the best we can do to highlight student learning and growth in our schools?

The Road to Damascus – Jose Picardo reflects on his recent involvement in various Edu debates. In the process he shares his thoughts on the dangers of having a Damascene moment.

There is clearly a tension between the different approaches that may lead to a great education for children, and the ensuing debate can be very healthy, but I think it would be healthier if it were more moderate and balanced. At the minute, it seems as if the tenor of the debate and the policy agenda are being set by those who believe the most and shout the loudest, and I’m not sure that is good for anyone.

The Unconference – David Truss shares his thoughts on unconferences compared to more traditional professional development experiences.

Unconferences are not about adding content to your brain, they are about synthesis of ideas, and about dialogue that challenges you to think about where you stand on a topic. They help you both make and articulate your perspective. They are about listening intently and asking questions. They are about making tangential connections that you might not make without a dialogue on the topic. They are about reflection and learning in a self-directed, empowering way, with a group of people that you wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

Third Places and School Community – Robert Schuetz unpacks the ideas of Ray Oldenburg in regards to third space. In the process he wonders what all this might mean for online learning? 

Oldenburg's research from 1989 focused on face-to-face interaction, but the internet has become a principle place for social interaction. Can third places be established in social media? Whether it's in-person or virtual, I believe in the power and longevity of informal learning. I am looking forward to raising a coffee mug in the name of our school community.

Learning Ecosystem Participant Model – Dave Cormier offers a model of online participation. To me this is something of a continuation of the work presented by Dron and Anderson within Teaching Crowds, as well as White and Le Cornu’s work around visitors and residents.

Four kinds of participants in a learning ecosystem

  • Consumer (What temperature do i take the turkey out?)

  • Student (How do I prepare a turkey from purchase to eating)

  • Rhizomatic learner (How can I come to my own approach to turkeys?)

  • Mentor (How can i help others with their turkeys?)

Must a classroom be high-tech to make personalized learning work? – This report from the Hechinger Report captures the culture of learning that is required when it comes to setting up a personalised learning environment. It touches on the processes of goal setting and time management, as well as the use of little data to guide all of this.

Big data analysis allows an online bookstore to recommend what a student might like to read next based on previous purchases and downloads she’s made. That suggestion is based on data collected from millions of other consumers and used to spot trends (a reader who likes history books might also be interested in historical fiction). But little data analysis can help the student learn something about her reading habits: Is she more likely to read more pages in the morning? Which words did she highlight to look up in the dictionary? How many times did she re-read the same chapter? A teacher can then use this little data to pinpoint the student’s exact strengths and weaknesses and develop a personalized learning plan to meet her needs. This is what the Dysart school district is hoping to do for every student, from the most high-tech classrooms to the most traditional.

 

FOCUS ON … Trump and the US Election

Here is a collection of thoughts and reflections associated with the recent US Election. I am still trying to make sense of it all and there is so much commentary out there. This then is only just a start to a further conversation:


READ WRITE RESPOND #011

So that is November for me, how about you? Maybe there is something that you have read that stood out to you. As always, interested to hear.

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