“Read Write Respond #012” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

December is always a busy time of the year. Let alone that it is Christmas, there are three birthdays in December in our household and with one of them being our one year old. There was bedlam for a while. In addition to this, schools usually wind up with reports, new timetables and everything else that comes with all of that. Having said that, this year has been different not being in a school. However, I still feel that the rush of a deadline has changed the pace of things, especially when you need to have things completed for next year and schools close down over the break.

In regards to my writing, here was my month in posts. Although it is a little bit sparse, I did that thing where I wrote two posts that probably should have been ten:

  • Lessons Learned as a Parent Teacher – Rather than the usual reflection on all the lessons learned throughout the year, I focused on a particular element that stood out for me – the role of parent and teacher.
  • What or How – which would you choose? – A short musing on what matters most in regards to education.
  • Implementing Hapara – For the Hapara Certified Educator course that I have been involved with, participants were asked to develop an implementation plan. Inspired by Ben Williamson’s work on Class Dojo, I tried to provide something of a thick description as to what is possible.
  • A Comprehensive Guide to Open Badges – After being asked to explain Open Badges in a bit more detail, I compiled everything into a post, which outlined what open badges are, how they work and why they are useful in supporting learning and education.
  • Read Write Review – Voices from the Village (2016) – A reflection on a year of maintaining a monthly newsletter, with a collection of the posts that left me thinking and inspired throughout 2016.

During all the hullabaloo, here are some of the thoughts that have also left me thinking and inspired …

Learning and Teaching

A problem solving routine for mathematics – Mark Liddell shares the development of the ‘ABCDE’  thinking routine to support problem solving in Mathematics. I find it an interesting exercise to develop a tool to support your own needs and context.

A routine can be thought of as any procedure, process, or pattern of action that is used repeatedly to manage and facilitate the accomplishment of specific goals or tasks.

How to Analyze a News Claim and Publish the Analysis on Digipo.io – Mike Caulfield provides a fact checking guide for countering fake news. It is a part of the Digital Polarization Initiative he has developed. Caulfield’s post is useful in regards to grappling with issues and has a lot to offer senior students. Another similar post is John Spencer’s discussion of what he describes as the five C’s of critical consumption.

On average a claim will take anywhere from an hour to half a day to debunk. In general, the more precise the claim is, the more work it is: e.g. “Trump supporter threatens decorated cop in hijab.” takes longer to research than “Trump supporter threatens cop in hijab”,  and that takes longer than “Person threatens cop in hijab”.  Each adjective and noun is another verification challenge. So when starting out if it feels a bit overwhelming, start with simpler claims.

5-Day Photo Challenge to Improve Your Skills This Winter Break – Maria Cervera offers a five step guide to improving photography skills over the holiday break. Spread across the days between Christmas and the New Year, her focus in on Framing, Rule of Thirds, Perspective, Lighting and Telling a Story. I think that this is a useful introduction into something we often take for granted.

Want to learn how to take better photos? Why wait for the new year to start on your goals? During the last week of December, take a few minutes each day to snap some pictures that will help you bring this production technique into your classroom in 2017!

The Secret Algorithm Behind Learning – Shane Parrish explains that if you truly understand something then you need to be able to explain it to an eight year old. This reminds me of a post from Greg Thompson discussing post-structuralism. Although I think that this is an ideal, I do not always think that it is possible.

The ultimate test of your knowledge is your capacity to convey it to another.

Computational Thinking and Learning for Little Ones – Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano documents her computational experience with her grand-daughter. The two activities that they did were Treasure Hunt in the House and Robot Coding. Although there are endless posts on coding out there, I like the way that this post links in with learning, especially in the Early Years.

Every grandmother dotes on her grandchildren. I am no exception. Over the past four years, I was able to witness my granddaughter Elena’s growth and in particular observe her learning. She has been an integral part of my work around #documenting4learning. There are many things educators can learn from observing learning habits of young children. I even would recommend high school teachers take a moment to visit a pre-school or Kindergarten class to immerse themselves in LOOKING for learning. The environment, the play, the communication will yield a much more visible “laboratory” for educators who are looking to see, hear and document a variety of learning than a traditional high school class, with 25 students sitting at their desks might.

The Power Of Spreadsheets – Chris Betcher shares an example of how he used Sheets to compare the offerings from various energy companies. This is a useful resource in regards to working with various formulas to compare and critique data.

What if you gave your students the basic skills of calculating numbers with a spreadsheet, and then a bunch of different rates from different competing companies and simply asked “Who is offering the best deal?”  This process usually raises lots and lots of questions, and will certainly make them better consumers, better at understanding data, and better users of spreadsheets.

Edtech

Expanding Chromebooks for all learners – As a part of the day long Google Edu on Air Conference which included speakers from around the world, Google announced some new options in regards to signing into a Chromebook. The additions relate to using pictures and smart badges, something that I first noticed with SeeSaw. I think that this will be a positive addition to Early Years.

As more students use Chromebooks, we’ve heard feedback from teachers that a challenge remained: even the mere act of logging in can waste too much precious learning time. So today we’re excited to announce that we’ve expanded Chromebook integrations to allow alternatives for logging in that are simple and fast.

Would You Give Google a Passing Grade on Its AI Project? – Responding to a recent article exploring Google’s role in regards to ‘fake news’, Mike Caulfield argues that maybe Google should invest some of their billions of dollars solving their algorithms.

Maybe Google should be spending less time funding smart thermostats and self-driving cars and launching wi-fi balloons, and more time funding programmers who can write algorithms that can use the massive amount of documentation on the Holocaust to determine that one of the definitive events of the last century did in fact “happen”.

Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2016 – Audrey Watters mammoth review may not be as concise or prophetic as say the Horizon Report, but the lay of the land provided is priceless. Even if it is focused primarily  on the US, many of the discussions have a wide ranging impact. Although a part of me would like to recommend that you dip into her discussion of open-washing or personalisation, I think that if you are going to put your leg in then you may as well get your whole body wet.

2016 is the seventh year in which I’ve reviewed the most important trends in the ed-tech industry from the previous twelve months. (You can look at the trends I identified from previous years here.)

  1. Wishful Thinking
  2. The Politics of Education Technology
  3. The Business of Education Technology
  4. “Free” and “Open”
  5. For-Profit Higher Education
  6. The “New Economy”
  7. Credentialing
  8. Data Insecurity
  9. Personalization
  10. Inequality

Arguing on Education Twitter: BINGO – In response to the rise of derision online, Deb Netolicky shares a bingo card for the coming (un)festive season. When people like Tom Whitby and Will Richardson ask why more people are not connecting online, I think that this is a big part of the challenge.

In anticipation of more enthusiastic debate and derision over the holiday period in the world of education Twitter, I’ve prepared this handy BINGO card for the festive season.

Digital literacy can be an insurgency – Bryan Alexander discusses the active nature of digital literacies, highlighting the problems with the idea of digital citizenship. Alexander suggests that  digital often counters our usual notion of democracy and civility, instead providing the tools to speak out. It is this lack of control that often puts people off. Interestingly, this proactive citizen is at the heart of what Gert Biesta describes as the democratic citizen. It is also represented in the documentary on Aaron Swartz.

This is one reason digital literacy has a hard time growing.  It represents the potential to empower students to challenge each other and instructors, as well as become insurgent outside of class, as with my student’s homoerotic paper.  Not all faculty find this a desirable or even tolerable thing.  How many teachers and professors spend time trying to maintain or expand their authority?  Conversely, how many were trained on how to teach an actually interactive class?  How many of are thrilled when students grow into their agency and act upon it?

Interface Innovation: From MashUps to McLuhan-esque Metacognition – Amy Burvall combines the idea of mashing different inventions together, with Marshall McLuhan’s notion of the tetrad.

I’ve long been fascinated by Marshall McLuhan and in particular his Tetrad of Media Effects from the posthumously published Laws of Media. I’ve sketched out some icons to help visualize the concepts.

Portfolio Work and Interweaving the Personal API – Tom Woodward continues his investigation into the power and potential of personal APIs. I am left wonder the place of APIs within the debate around coding and education.

I’ve been building a new portfolio site and I think some of this is kind of interesting even if it sounds boring. There are a few different goals in play. One challenge is to create a site that stays up to date with minimal work on my end. It’s a parallel of the small-pieces-loosely-joined mentality. I want tiny-actions-over-time (from the aforementioned small pieces) rather than widely-spaced-herculean efforts. I’m also trying to make sure that it fits in well with my current workflow and that I’m capturing the work I do elsewhere in ways that make sense.

Blogs: Do They Serve Any Real Purpose? – Tom Whitby considers the place of blogging today. This seems similar to the endless debate about the death of Twitter. Whitby makes some points about personal and institutional use. However, I think that it comes down to developing your personal purpose. It is also interesting considering in light of Bryan Alexander’s comments on insurgency and digital literacies.

There are many new things that are evolving in our world. We must keep up with the change in order to stay relevant. The best way may be to subscribe to blogs within the areas of our concerns. We can involve ourselves in the conversation by commenting respectfully on blogs for pros or cons. The ultimate mastery is to write a blog to share personal ideas and points of view to gauge how they stand to scrutiny. We can take critical analysis and adjust. We can only do all of this however if we first recognize the role of the blog and teach about it to our kids. Yes, we need the classics, but we also need relevant and real information, as well as the ability to discern it, if we are to survive and thrive.

 

Storytelling and Reflection

Writing and thinking about qualitative research: 2016 reflection – Naomi Barnes provides a reflection on her journey associated with qualitative research this year. I must admit that this is something that I have become far more aware of via the work of Ian Guest in regards to Twitter. Deborah Netolicky also wrote an interesting follow up.

Social Media has been a reductive force on qualitative research because often people only read the headline/tweet, share the link, make a comment on the headline/tweet and don’t read the blog. It is easy to share a table or a diagram, less easy to share a philosophical argument.

Communities: A Story In Social Leadership – In his continued work on Social Leadership, Julian Stodd reflects on the various communities that we are a part of. It is an interesting topic and important as we progressively move into a more connected world.

We belong to many different communities, some of which overlap. Some communities are visible to both us and the organisation that we work for, whilst others are hidden, deep in our social networks, out of sight of the organisation, although still very relevant and connected to us individually in our day-to-day.

#3strengths – Andrea Stringer argues that we need to spend more time on our strengths. I would add to that suggesting we need to change our mindset from improving to developing. I have since added my strengths to my Twitter profile as a step forward.

Education typically focuses on identifying shortcomings and challenges and what is needed to improve (NAPLAN, PISA). I suggest we often forget to balance working on areas for improvement with strengths.

PD is Sinking…Here Are 3 Ways to Save It – Brad Gustafson describes three strategies for further developing professional learning sessions: be responsive, get teachers talking and keep learning connected. Not sure if this is a silver bullet, but it does provide a good conversation starter.

It’s never too late to revive a meeting or PD. The practical tips below may sound surprisingly simple, and that’s because they are. I’m succinctly sharing three PD tid-bits combined with recent research on HOW professional learning works.

Prising Open the Housing of the Pedagogical Clock – Tom Barrett asks the question, is your class timetable the real school wide pedagogical statement? In the process, he unpacks the impact of such things as timetables and why simply changing things is not enough. This in part reminds me of David Zyniger’s findings associated with class sizes.

When we say personalised learning the ideal would be a valid timetable for all learners. In most cases though we attempt to find a balance between reliably moving humans around and offering a valid experience for everyone.

Hypothetical learning styles (modalities) – There has been a lot written about the problems associated with learning styles lately. See for example Mark Johnson’s satirical post or Stephen Dinham’s critique. This post from Charlotte Pezaro reframes the discussion around learning opportunities and asks us to instead consider the possibilities.

My argument against learning styles is an argument against limiting the learning experiences of our students. It does not mean that I expect that all students learn the same information in the same way all the time, and I definitely do not see this as a reason to move toward didactic pedagogies in which we expect that learners can just be told what they need to learn. I very much believe that no teaching or learning strategy has a guaranteed outcome in all cases all of the time (or even most cases, most of the time). Teachers must be experts in pedagogy, and know, understand, and be practised at a wide range of strategies and approaches to teaching and learning. A teacher is in the best position to decide, in negotiation with students and their families where appropriate and possible, what approaches and strategies will be best for any given learning objective.

Creating the time and space for self-directed, personalized, inquiry learning – David Truss provides an elaboration of self-determined learning that goes beyond simply offering students a ‘genius’ hour. It is better read as a  provocation about what if, than a structured guide that explains how to. Truss provides an interesting take on the challenges of timetabling.

Students get course credit for their self-directed inquiries and passion projects. By implementing so much time in a students’ schedule to DCL, teachers must redesign their program to create time and space for students to work independently. When teachers plan their teaching time with students it necessarily needs to shift to include assignments that connect to, facilitate and support learning happening during DCL time. By also explicitly teaching inquiry learning as a course (Foundations of Inquiry), we create space for students to work on projects of their choice, assessing competencies of core skills rather than on content they are learning, which can vary based on their passions and interests.

Time For These Seven Edu Funerals – Michael Niehoff makes the call on seven aspects that he feels needs to change in education moving forward. What I find interesting is that many of the elements seem to be more prominent to me within secondary schools?

Only in education, do we continue to try to breath life into things that may never have been successful – and most certainly are not now. These things are so embedded in the culture, frameworks, policies, practice and mindsets of our schools and educational organizations, that many educators just blindly accept them, implement them and perpetuate them…..all regardless of their lack of success. Indeed, there is often overwhelming data or evidence that these things are not only unsuccessful, but often counterproductive. So, let’s have the funeral. Let’s start the fire. Let’s bury these SEVEN forever.

Trump is a Media Virus – Douglas Rushkoff casts his eye over the recent presidential election explaining how Trump is a media virus. Until we understand this, we will not be able to cure it. Beppe Severgnini made a similar point in his comparison with Silvio Berlusconi. This all reminds me of Roland Barthes work with myths in the 50’s.

Even this article will be understood by many of Trump’s supporters as an attack, and by many detractors as an apologia. Yet understanding our response to Trump is the very best medicine we can take if we want to develop the ability to engage in the conversations his viral spread has proven need to take place.

This Simple Tweak in Goal-Setting Changed My Creative Output – As it comes to the end of the year, John Spencer reflects on his emphasis of process over product. As a caveat, he discusses short verses long term deadlines and how he balances process and product within this.

A year ago, I switched to process-oriented goals. Instead of saying, “I’m going to run 25 miles this week,” I’m said, “I’m setting aside 40 minutes five days a week to go running.” If I run slower, fine. If I run faster, okay. If something comes up and I can’t get it done, that’s fine. It’s not about mileage. It’s about routine. Instead of saying, “I’m going to make two videos per week,” I’m saying, “I want to spend about a half an hour a day working on sketchy videos.” I had almost an entire month where the video I attempted simply bombed. However, because I hadn’t focused on the product, I was able to take risks and learn from the mistakes. The process didn’t feel wasted.

In Which I Teach Like a Dirty Racist – Scott Millman unpacks what it means to ‘teach like a champion’ and questions the inherent inequality that seems to be built into such practices. Although such approaches may have a place in some situations, such as a beginning teacher, they should not be seen as the solution for every context.

If you watch video clips of teachers teaching like a champion, or more recently, of Michaela teachers putting the fun back into drill-and-fun, you’ll notice mostly white faces teaching mostly black and brown faces. It seems like “No Opt Out” and “No Excuses” are something we save for our poor children and our children of colour. I’ll take pains here to establish that I’m not accusing any of these folks (teachers or authors) of racism; I do worry, though, about how our unexamined good intentions might further entrench systemic inequality and racism in our communities.

FOCUS ON … PISA

With the release of the results from the recent PISA and TIMSS tests, there has been so much written about their purpose. It can be easy within such discussions to simply take a side. However, I hope that in collecting together some of the recent posts on the matter might help to form a more reasoned dialogue:

READ WRITE RESPOND #012

So that is December for me, how about you? I hope that you were able to spend some time slowing down and reflecting. As always, interested to hear.

Also, feel free to forward this on to others if you found anything of interest or maybe you want to subscribe?

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