Sunday, 27 November 2016

A Tool to Reflect on The Seven Principles of Learning in Your Class

The OECD brought out a practitioners guide to innovative learning environments called The Nature of Learning.  In it, the Seven Principles of Learning are outlined, and these are based on research on how we learn.
We should use these principles to guide the development of the environment in which we learn.  In other words, as teachers we should be using these principles in our classrooms.
Briefly the principles are centred around:
  • learners being at the centre
  • the social nature of learning
  • emotions are integral to learning
  • recognising individual differences
  • stretching all students
  • assessment for learning
  • building horizontal connections.
I can talk about each of these things to my hearts content but I think it will be more relevant for you if you examine your own practice through these eyes.  So instead I have prepared a document for you to make a copy of and fill in yourself.  This self review document could make a discussion point for end-of-year staff meetings or even beginning-of-year staff meetings, for appraisal, deciding on inquiry or practicing teacher criteria self reflection.

You could add another column - what do my peers say? Linked to the sheet (in the top left hand corner) are a few ideas of what each of these principles mean to me.  Please add comments to the explanations, if you wish - I hope you find both documents useful.

Saturday, 12 November 2016


In my work, I am paid to be provocative.  By this I mean, provoke thinking in others who may be resistant to change.  So sometimes it makes people uncomfortable.  But that is okay, because when someone disagrees with you, it gets them thinking about the opposite point of view and why people would hold that view.  And that is the first sign that there may be a change coming.  It may take time - a week, a month and sometimes a year or more.  Sometimes it may not come at all.
Think about that time that someone made you feel angry because of the opinion they held.  Did you ever change your opinion later on?  That is how we grow intellectually.
We should not place ourselves in echo chambers, completely surrounded by others who agree with us.  I came across the idea of avoiding echo chambers when I was studying Howard Rheingold who wrote the book "Net Smart: How to Thrive Online".  I wrote a blog post about my learnings back in September.
He says there are 5 literacies to enable you to thrive online.  They are:

  • attention
  • participation
  • collaboration
  • critical consumption (aka crap detection) 
  • network know-how.
Critical consumption allows you to look at a variety of sources of media with differing viewpoints and opinions, and to examine them closely to see if they fit with yours, and if they don't, then think about why.  You don't have to change your opinion but if you live in an echo chamber, you are not open to the idea of change.
So back to the idea of thriving online, when someone disagrees with my opinion, I don't unfriend them.  The only time I unfriend people is when they are abusive - not toward me necessarily - but name calling and swearing nastily at others or inciting violence types of abuse.  (BTW I am not against swearing per se).
My 616 facebook friends hold a great diversity of opinion.  It provokes my thinking.  I do make judgments about what I think is right or wrong and sometimes I don't respond at all.  But I thank you all for your contribution to my ability to thrive online.
Image: Pixabay 

Monday, 7 November 2016

Preparing for Exams or The Future?

Are you preparing your learners for exams or are you preparing them for the future?  My work in schools has uncovered some uncomfortable truths.  Many of our schools are preparing our learners for exams.  I don't blame them.  Schools are judged by their success in the qualification stakes.  The Ministry of Education does it and parents do it.

I believe we must look closely at the moral purpose of education.  What are we (educators) here for?  Sometimes educators see their moral purpose as doing the best for the learner.  And, in their view, that the best for the learner is to prepare them for exams.
I beg to differ.  The moral purpose must surely be for the betterment of humanity.  It should be a much wider, far-reaching moral purpose than ever before.    Michael Bezzina says "Leading with moral purpose means having a commitment to making a difference in the lives and outcomes of students as a result of their experiences at school." Will exams make a difference in the lives and outcomes of students?  Short term memorization is not a skill that will be needed in the future.  We don't need to draft off winners and losers any more.  So what is the purpose of exams?
This Weebley site (author unknown) identifies several purposes for exams:

  • so the professors can see if you have really learned about something
  • so they can get to know their students better 
  • to see who needs help
  • to identify which professors can't teach as well
  • to standardise the learning
  • to benefit the education system
Hardly anything there that will make a difference in the lives and outcomes of students, let alone the betterment of humanity, is there?  After all, there are other ways of finding out if a learner has learned. Professors should already have found out who needs help, rather than rely on a summative exam to tell them.  Maybe it is, after all, just a sorting mechanism for who should be professors, but if the standards by which they are judged rely on memorisation skills of their students, then there is something wrong with how you become a professor, surely?

In this recent article on , the author, Christiaan Henney states that exams will be changing completely in the next 20 years as they do not reflect an employee's ability to do what is required in a job.  He suggests that knowledge is best measured alongside the learning and is demonstrated when employees carry out project work on the job.  Visible learning can be shown using multimedia e-portfolios.  Our learners should be encourage to explain concepts and learning in videos for example.    Einstein explained this concept succinctly:  
I long for the day when schools are able to shift their thinking away from preparing their learners for exams, toward preparing their learners for the future.  According to Dr Ruha Benjamin who I listened to in a keynote address at ISTE in Denver this year, schools are laboratories for social change.  
I think it is time for the change.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

A plea to all teachers exploring new digital technologies for computational thinking

I am fresh back from Ulearn.  My presentation there centred around what I had seen at ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) in Denver this last June, compared to what I see happening in New Zealand and, the truth is, not much difference.
President Obama announced a new digital technologies curriculum in the US in January, and our own Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, announced the same, 6 months later here in NZ.  This is because both governments predict that in the near future there are many employment or commercial opportunities opening up for people with computational thinking skills.
So there has been a frenzy of robotics, coding and programming sales and promotion following up on those announcements, which was very noticeable in Denver but also here at Ulearn16.  There are Spheros and Ollies and Edisons and Little Bits and circuitry and AR (augmented reality) tools and VR (virtual reality) headsets and many other options available for teachers and schools who want to think about how to prepare for their digital technology curricula.
I have been trying to get my head around the difference between computational thinking and digital fluency.  Computational thinking is a way of thinking that can be used to solve problems.  Have a look at this excellent resource from Google. This screenshot from the ISTE video on Computational Thinking sums up the skills needed for computational thinking.
Digital fluency is the idea around the ease of use, speed, accuracy and comprehension of use of digital tools.  I have also been trying to get my head around the similarities and the convergence of the two concepts. You see, I have a fear that the new whizz bang technologies will become the interactive whiteboards of the future - ie not used mainly because the teachers didn't get or search out the professional development on how interactive whiteboards could be used to develop learning and/or did not pass the control of the learning power of the interactive whiteboards on to the learners.  What I mean is that, if teachers and leaders focus on learning how these things work and not letting the learners explore the possibilities in an appropriate context, then the whizz-bang things may be relegated to the back room top shelf where they cannot be destroyed by inquiring fingers.  And, yes, I have already heard of a full set of these devices being purchased and given to one department in a secondary school and stored away by that department because they did not use them.  Where was the planning and the cross-school consultation and decision making there?
So what to do?  According to this article from Beth Holland (Edutopia) the ultimate sign of technology fluency is the "ability to manipulate, transform and move information across various media and platforms" - definition supplied by Shawn McCusker.  This helps me understand the relationship between computational thinking and digital fluency.
So when you get home from Ulearn, loaded up with the Spheros, Ollies etc, give them out to your teachers, ask them to give them out to their students and for the LEARNERS to discover what they are and how they work and how they could be manipulated and transformed and translated into new outputs.  Let the learners inquire.  Report back what you find out about the power of computational thinking in your own professional inquiry and please share the stories.
And, ooops, I nearly forgot, here is a resource that you can use to teach computational thinking without a computer or device.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

How to Thrive Online

I watched this (50 minute long) video of Howard Rheingold, cyberculture expert and academic, on How to Thrive Online.  He is the author of the book Net Smart which outlines 5 literacies that we need to not just survive, but to thrive online.  While not specifically directed to young learners, it does very much reflect the literacies that we all need online and so I think outlines the critical literacies that we need to continually teach our learners.
He calls these literacies  - attention, crap detection, participation, collaboration and network smarts.
Attention refers to the fact that digital technologies  are distracting but Rheingold claims that we can train ourselves to overcome distractions by attention to filtering what is useful and what is not.  He quotes Clay Shirky as saying there is no such thing as information overload - it is filter failure. History has taught us this has happened before when books first arrived on the scene.  We learned to cope with this overload by bringing in alphabetisation, indexes, subject headings, taxonomies, reference books, encyclopaedias, authors, critics, and editors.  So now we need to bring in new strategies to help us filter, and make conscious decisions to use them.
Crap detection is the next literacy (critical consumption is the polite term).  This teaches us how to recognise hoaxes and incorrect information.  We need to learn how to "search to learn", validate online sites by looking for authors, triangulate any information, seek multiple viewpoints (if no-one annoys you, you are in an echo-chamber).  Our learners find it hard to be critical consumers without learning those skills - this is where they need support to discard and bullying incidents, distinguish between what is real and what is opinion and grow all of the attributes of self worth as they do in real life.
Participation is about building your own online presence as a leader and he refers to Ross Mayfield's Power of Participation graph.

Collaboration is working together on a common purpose - build your community around this, and build networks rather than groups.  Groups are tightly knot whereas networks are a lot looser.  Use collaborative intelligence to work as a powerful group.  For example crowdsourcing how to solve a problem.   I am reminded of Alec Couros at ISTE talking about learner-led activism.  He gave us guidelines in how to find a good cause to support and lead on social media.
Finally the power of Network Smarts - be aware of the information that you post online, the person that you paint, the picture that you want others to see.  Our networks are in our pockets, and we should build on our social capital, our network capital.  We are more likely to get back if we contribute positively.
My question to you all is - are you thriving online?  Can you give me some examples of how your answer is illustrated?
Talks At Google. (2012, May 02). Howard Rheingold: "Net Smart: How to Thrive Online" | Talks at Google. Retrieved from

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Teachers Stuck in a Tug of War

Having just watched Sir Ken Robinson's latest video about the need for a change in education, I am once again prompted to write about the urgency for understanding among educators in our schools and our society.   You see, leaders and teachers are stuck in a tug of war between educating our learners for the future and educating our learners for success in our standards driven system.  Listen to Sir Ken here.

Children are natural learners.  Sir Ken talks about children as natural learners and how "education" is at odds with this.  He thinks that school wears away at the curiosity of children, until they become disengaged and bored.
He thinks that the human factor has been removed from education due to the emphasis on competition, standardisation and testing.  He supports the involvement of a movement called GERM - global education reform movement - to remove the industrial element from education and replace with an organic one. He states that the GERM approach is "command and control" whereas he believes it should be about climate control - creating the right conditions for learning.

Our education system is like industrial agriculture.  His comparison of education to the industrialisation of agriculture - with the emphasis on yield and outputs having a resultant big price to pay (environment and soil erosion) - points to the idea that you need to get the natural process of teaching and learning right.  We have to create the optimal conditions in schools for each child to thrive as an individual, not as one of identical size, shape and colour.  We need a cultural climate for learning.

Leaders have a role to play.  As long as our society values results in standardisation, this will not change.  I have heard school leaders saying that they do not see the need to change because they are successful in terms of "results" - these being NCEA or national standard results.  They are traditional and that is what their parents want.  Parents want their children to be educated in the same way that they were and they want them to achieve well in standardised tests.  Sadly, the future will not look like it did for them.

Moral purpose:  I do believe that leaders need to think about the moral purpose of education, and start educating their school communities about the moral purpose of education, as well.   We need to prepare our learners to survive AND thrive in the future world.  Our learners need to develop their own personal strengths and passions so that they can find their place in the knowledge society.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Sharing - the Moral Imperative for Teachers

Along the same lines of the last post regarding Tweeting, this video of Dean Shareski doing an online keynote sharing is one of the most inspiring I have seen for a while.  He talks about teaching being sharing.  It is 25 mins long, well past the 10 min videos that I usually recommend but so many ideas relevant to teachers in today's' classrooms.  Please give it a watch if you have 25 spare minutes in your day.  Thanks to Viv Hall for sharing this video with me.  And thanks to Dean for sharing the keynote.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Twitter as a Teaching and Learning Tool

I am not a great tweeter.  I tweet out my blog and, occasionally, I tweet out other useful resources that I like and think other educators might like, too.  However, I do use Twitter in other ways.  If I want to get any ideas, inspiration or help from whoever I can, I often turn to Twitter to search for hashtags about my topic of interest.  And I follow about 600 people who are mainly inspirational educators so if I want to browse their feeds, it is easy to go to my Tweetdeck and watch what is coming through to keep up to date with the topic of the moment.  
Using Twitter. When I am at a conference or meeting, I sometimes take photos and notes on Twitter to make a set of notes which I can refer back to.  I also share my notes using the hashtag of the meeting and if I miss anything, you can be sure that someone else will have captured that and I can crowdsource the missing bits.  I do see the value in Twitter as an awesome resource pool for educators like myself.
Social Tweeting: Some people are engaged a lot more than me, and use a hashtag to share ideas around different topics in education. Some of them have regular meetings to discuss current events in education eg  #edchatnz  and #ldrcahtnz I can go to those feeds by simply going to Twitter and searching for the hashtag.  I can even do do what we call "lurking" - watching the feed and gathering ideas and resources as the conversations unfold but not actively participate. Sort of like being in the back row of a lecture theatre.
Twitter in the Classroom: Some teachers also use Twitter in the classroom, for example #KidsChatNZ and #readaloud.  Check out those links for more info on how.
What I have found out: I have been doing a little looking into Twitter for a paper I am studying and decided to do a little informal research through a survey. Over two days, I received around 50 responses.  Here are some of the results of that.
It is obviously pretty positive for these people, so I am actually surprised that my peers and tutor do not see Twitter as a tool for teaching and learning.  I also asked for some ot the ways in which teaching practice had changed.   Here is a doc that lists the results of this question.
Changes in Teaching In a broad summary these were: -   Inspiration, resources and ideas, collaboration, connectivity(esp for isolated schools), latest thinking around education eg play based learning, PLN, , different perspectives, and also like minded people, validation, change in leadership, challenges thinking (out of comfort zone), learning from others, opened door to opportunities, short and sharp, horizontal connections, authentic audience, access to experts, different perspectives, shared learning with parents, reflect, exponential improvement, makes me question more, affirmation.

 Changes in Learning: I also asked in what ways students' learning had changed (if any change) and here are the results of that question.  In broad summary these were Connected, globally and nationally, collaboration, teaches digital citizenship, authentic audiences, projects, purpose to learning, communication with teacher, better engagement, access to experts (Kevin Mealamu, Kid President etc) , encourages reflection and feedback, visible learning tweeted out using photos, videos, alerts students to changes on VLN website, participation and learning from #kidchatnz #readaloud

What can you say to the doubters? 
Of course I haven't surveyed any teachers who have joined twitter and then gone away from it.  It wasn't exactly a scientifically designed survey but I just needed some ideas on how people were using it and why they found it valuable.  93% of those who answered the survey follow #edchatnz so if you are just starting out that might be a good place to start.  Have a look at the link to the #edchatnz  website to see when those discussions take place.

Research: It is quite difficult to find empirical research about the benefits of using Twitter in primary and secondary classes.   My tutor is a sceptic and says why would you use it if it is not proven to promote deep learning.  But I am guessing it is a relatively new tool in class and also difficult to directly attribute increased achievement (AKA national standard results) to the use of Twitter. 
What is deep learning and does Twitter support it? Michael Fullan is working on deep learning pedagogies and I am pretty certain that he would think that Twitter would enable deep learning as the definition of deep learning in the glossary of the NPDL website is:  
Comprehensive learning that includes a range of skills and attributes related to human flourishing, e.g., creativity, connectedness and collaboration, problem solving, wellness, and the capacity to establish and pursue personal and collective visions. An initial summary of deep learning skills might be grouped within the following realms: character education; citizenship; communication; critical thinking and problem solving; collaboration; and creativity and imagination.
My question to you: It seems to me that teachers and learners are flourishing in creativity, connectedness, collaboration and problem solving through this medium.  So what do you think, is Twitter a useful teaching and learning tool?  

Monday, 8 August 2016

Digital fluency - what does that really mean?

There has been a lot of educational chat around "digital fluency" lately as the Ministry of Education has made it one of the areas of national priority in professional learning and development in education.  A lot of principals and teachers are asking me what that really means.  They are keen to understand and once they hear about it, access the professional learning that the ministry will offer.

This pdf is somewhat helpful in understanding the big picture around how digital fluency will be implemented and embedded but many leaders and teachers want to get into the nitty gritty of what it means in their schools and classrooms. A lot of teachers have started their journey to becoming digitally literate - that is knowing how to use digital technologies, but fluency implies a bit more than that.

Think about how we view fluency in a language.  Fluency implies that you speak the language like a native.  Now I am not going to enter into the digital native vs digital immigrant philosophical argument (because I don't give that any weight at all - you are either an inexperienced or experienced user of digital technologies and when you were born really makes little difference) but language fluency helps us understand digital fluency.

If  you are literate in a language, you know what the words mean and can translate them.  If you are fluent in a language, you are able to slip easily into using that language and out of it.  You are able to use words that convey a different nuance or meaning quite naturally.  For example, if fluent in Maori language, you would know in what contexts to use the word "aroha" from the Maori language.  Although I know what the word "aroha" means in a general sense, I know that fluent Maori speakers use this word in a number of different contexts, with a lot of different nuances, and as I am not a fluent Maori speaker, I cannot do this naturally.

So, being digitally fluent means not only knowing what the tools can do (digital literacybut also being able to move in and out of using digital tools as easily as breathing or speaking a second language fluently.  You select the right tool for the job at the right time.  You use digital technologies safely and easily.  You search for and examine different sources of information for their validity.  You create using digital technologies.
Derek Wenmouth from CORE talks about digital fluency being "an infusion of technology" in the classroom, and "unconscious competence" in its use.   Let's imagine what that might look like in the classroom:

  • I would see teachers and learners who know their passwords and use them regularly (not always common, even in these days) and/or they use online password apps to manage this.
  • Online collaboration would be commonplace.  Not just sharing but working together on a common aim with purpose, using tools like google docs, padlets, skype, blogs and video making etc
  • I would see teachers and learners bookmarking and sharing their bookmarks to various working groups (social bookmarking), colleagues and students.
  • Personalised learning (not teacher directed) would be supported through digital structures and processes to scaffold students into becoming the lifelong learners that our curriculum framework desires.
  • I would see app smashing used often and in an uncontrived way,  building knowledge and creating new digital products for online collaborative critiquing and evaluation
  • Multimedia creations would be commonplace as evidence of learning, but also in engagement, expression and representation following principles of UDL (Universal design for learning).
  • Students would have agency (control and choice) over which device they used for learning.
  • I would see teachers and learners regularly following their favourite or most useful websites and blogs using RSS or email feeds.
  • Digital citizenship would be embedded across the whole school community, including appropriate posting and commenting on blogs by learners, whanau and teachers.
  • Teachers and learners would be digital citizens and not be using any online resources without permission and attribution.
  • Editing - adjusting, trimming, adding value to learning and knowledge would be a natural and seamless, ongoing process for learners and teachers.
  • e-portfolios would be totally integrated with everyday learning and personal and group reflections would be commonplace and often open to others - a metacognitive activity to really show deep understanding and learning.
  • Searching, locating, sorting, evaluating, tagging and using online resources would make every researching task easy. 
  • Engaging in online communities, networks and social media like twitter through multimedia would ensure quick and timely feedback around any questions 
  • Linking - learners would be working with other learners nationally and globally, making connections and knowing the right people to answer the questions would be part of the natural workflow.
So these are just some of the ways that digital fluency might manifest itself.  It is not enough to know how digital technologies can be have to use them, blend them into your practice every day.

Friday, 29 July 2016

What a Terrible Infographic!

OMGosh can't begin to tell you how bad the content and presentation of this infographic is, considering it is supposed to be representing the benefits of integrating technology in classrooms. Students sitting in rows in a classroom. Really? Teacher at the front - really? How about some modern learning environments? Powerpoint? Really? How about creating their knowledge on a presentation of any kind? Saying 95% are using internet for research - how limiting, how absolutely underwhelming use of the internet , what about activities for learning? (Reminds me of the OECD report that said screen time was bad for students' achievement. Turns out the ones having 4+ hours of screen time AFTER SCHOOL were the ones doing not so well.) Differentiated learning is reported on in a very small corner of the poster - and what about personalised learning? Big let down, this infographic. Benefits of Integrating Technology in Classrooms Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Saturday, 23 July 2016

The Power of A Tweet

I've been feeling a bit down.  On a personal note, my mum died last month.  She was a good old age, nearly 90 and she just seemed to decide it was her time.  Everyone's mum has to die and I am grateful that she kept in pretty good health until the last 3 weeks.

On the work front, I am presently jumping through a series of new hoops to prove that I am a capable facilitator, as the Ministry of Education has decided that all facilitators working in New Zealand schools for MOE centrally funded professional learning must be accredited.  This means showing evidence of meeting the criteria that they have formulated, to be placed on a website so that school leaders can select who they wish to work in their schools, and so I am putting together a Word document (which is the MOE's preferred version of a facilitator's e-portfolio) to show that I meet all 13 criteria.

It is similar to teacher registration - having to show that you meet all 12 of the PTCs except this is not a process over a year. Rather, it is capturing a story that you think shows evidence of you meeting the criteria.   So you tell your story and then try to match the criteria to parts of the story.  Which brings you to a point where you try to elaborate on why it shows evidence of practice.  Which disrupts the flow of the story.

It has meant a lot of teeth gnashing and hair pulling as I rewrite the story trying to forge and fashion a readable piece which truly reflects the way I work.  I have nearly thrown in the towel and said, that is it! No more!  I have cut up the criteria and printed my story and physically sellotaped the criteria onto the story and then in frustration at seeing the criteria met in many other parts of the story, I have screwed that version up, too.

I don't like working this way - I much prefer the powerful multimedia representation of my work that a website like Google sites, or Myportfolio, or a blog can show.  I have come to a dead slow, deccelerating, grinding, and demoralising halt without feeling like I have really represented myself.

This morning I woke to a tweet from the awesome Barbara Bray (see below)
and I thought to myself - wow - that is me! Barbara Bray thinks I am an Amazing Leader!  And in such awesome company.  Oh, the power of that tweet.  I woke up properly and thought, this is all wrong.  The story of my practice should be a celebration of my work, not a dirge.  So I am going to attack it again with a new vigour.  I don't know that it will improve it but the power of that tweet has been enough to inspire me to blog out about it.(I had come to a dead slow deccelerating grinding halt on the blogging front, too).

So thank you, Barbara, for reminding me that praise is so powerful in our lives and in the lives of our learners.  I am reminded of the wise words of a former principal of mine (thank you, too, Josephine!) - appraisal should be all about praise - that's where the word comes from and we should never forget the power of improving our practice through praise for work done well. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Highlights of ISTE - the people you meet.

Standout highlights for me at ISTE were definitely meetings with educators in the digital technology realm whom I have long time admired for their resourcefulness, helpfulness and common sense.
These are some of my favourites.

  • Sue Wyatt +Sue Wyatt - blogger extraordinaire from Australia, running the student blogging challenge
  • Daniel Rezac +Daniel Rezac education technologist and maker, long time facebook friend through EdTech Team
  • Barbara Bray @bbray27 - personalised learning guru and just a downright lovely person
  • Monica Burns +Monica Burns long time clever education technology coach on Simple K12
  • Shelly Sanchez Terrill +Shelly Sanchez Terrell also a clever education tech coach on Simple K12
  • Noah Geisel +Noah Geisel - digital badging, all round clever dicky and nice man
  • Kathy Schrock +Kathy Schrock educator extraordinaire - grand pooh-bah of sharing resources
  • Sylvia Duckworth +Sylvia Duckworth fabulous sketch-noter I have followed for as long as she has been doing it (very surprisingly only 18 months)
  • Susan Oxnevad +Susan Oxnevad - very clever thing-link lady, whom I didn't actually meet but I have followed her webinars and I did watch her in action demonstrating and connected through twitter later.
He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata he tangata.
What is the most important thing in the world? The people, the people, the people.

ISTE Smackdown unconference

This session follows the smackdown format of 2 - 3 minutes talking by participants who want to share a resource.  Great things to try - depending on your purpose.
1. Moodle adaptation - Troy to make moodle look pretty
2. Google Streetview - can take your own 360 photos click on dots using the + button - must be published.  This I can use!
3. Multicultural ebooks by kids for kids.  Write Our World
4.  Formative - - upload a worksheet - feed comes in as soon as the learner touches the screen.  Looks very cool for teacher directed work.
5. Nicky Bourgeois (NZ teacher teaching in Bangkok) - connecting with  learners around the world.  Adding a creation makes the wondermeter rise.
6.  Donna Quizizz - similar to kahoot but the questions appear on their devices.  Completely free.
7.  Open source annotation brings up a side bar with annotations threaded discussions, images etc can go in the side
8.  Kahoot - good for language!
9. collaborative problem solving. - a heap of games online already made up.
10.  Voxer combines voice with text, video and photosharing
11. Pobble - Dave Winter! - a story starter must dos and can dos. creative pictures
12.  Symbaloo - digital literacy - cloud based resource to allow students to access resources - publish and available to students - good way to access work
13. Switcher studio
14. conference room - up to 8 people in a room
15.CS unplugged  Computer science field guide - for CS teachers in NZ Produced by uni of Canterbury.
16. -  digital writing for classrooms built in writing prompts. Engage , connect to similar groups,
17. Gretchen Kaizena - voice comments on google docs - helps with formative assessment - can enter rubrics as well and can give feedback via those.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Changes - the COLS are Coming.

It is a time of change in education.  Big changes.  In New Zealand, we are adopting a new approach for schools.  Instead of being relatively independent entities, schools are being encouraged to join a community of learners (COL) - that is,  a community of schools.  When I say encouraged, I mean that it is not compulsory, but as the Ministry of Education will prioritise any free professional learning for the schools inside a Communities of Learners, it seems pretty imperative to try to join up if you want access to that, for a start.
The idea is that together, the learners (teachers and students) will be able to draw on the strengths of all contributing schools.  Which is admirable - I like this image that was shared with me at a conference last week.  There is a lot of potential for schools to draw on the strengths of others.

The average number of schools in a COL is around 10 and they include primary and secondary schools, so there should be a reasonably wide range of expertise across the schools.  Together the schools are expected to look at their data and formulate achievement challenges which reflect how they will, as a group, improve outcomes for their learners.  The Ministry of Education will then aim to provide the professional development that the community needs, if the expertise is not available in those schools.
The disadvantages that I see coming are firstly that small schools, particularly those which are isolated, will miss out.  These schools have very limited budgets.  Often their clientele migrate to far off boarding schools and so they are not feeder schools for any secondary schools and so they are unlikely to be able to form a COL easily.
In addition, when communities of schools are in close proximity to each other,  they will likely adopt the "flavour" of that community.  I believe this means that in a low socio-economic region, the school will likely adopt a low socioeconomic outlook and likewise for high socioeconomic areas.  Personally, I would like to see a lot more cross pollination of ideas and resources that can help raise achievement for the learners.  The way that the COLs "form, storm, norm and perform" and develop their collaborative identity will be crucial to avoid glitches caused by competition and ego clashes.
These are my initial thoughts around the COLs and I do realise that the landscape is changing by the day.  I welcome any feedback and discussion on this subject.

Why Do Learners Engage in Learning?

This infographic gives us 26 tips on why humans engage in learning.   I am sure a lot of these resonate with us as teachers.  They are as follows:  I wonder if you can think of other reasons why your learners engage in learning.

  1. Compliance.
  2. Gap Awareness.
  3. Curiosity
  4. Intrigue
  5. Challenge
  6. Craftsmanship.
  7. Contribution.
  8. Authentic.
  9. Reflection.
  10. Consequence. 
  11. Fear. 
  12. Burn.
  13. Collaboration. 
  14. Competition. 
  15. Flow. 
  16. Fun. 
  17. Agency. 
  18. Teaching. 
  19. Empathy. 
  20. Narrative. 
  21. Feedback
  22. Affection. 
  23. Reward. 
  24. Cause. 
  25. FOMO. 
  26. Connection.26 Impulses that Sustain Engagement Infographic

Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

How nice!

I was in a school today where the teacher asked me if I wouldn't mind answering some big picture questions about the use of digital technologies for learning.  Now this is more like it!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Arggghhhh - I heard it again!!!!

Yes I heard it again - someone discussing in a restaurant how computers in classrooms are really bad for the students' education.  OMG - please, get in the real world.  We are surrounded by computers, often immersed in them in our daily lives. The are INTEGRATED into our world.  That is right, integrated!  As they should be in the classroom.
Computers and digital technologies do not stop us getting on with our lives - they enhance it.  How awesome to go for a walk with my granddaughter this morning, check out our distance on the phone en route, take a snapshot of the lake and city lights to store in my google photos to look at when I am old and cannot walk any more.

How awesome to be able to google for a friend what colour hood to wear for her graduation so she could look for the right outfit.
How fabulous for my granddaughter to face-time her friend every morning as they get ready for school and discuss everything that teenagers do discuss.  And yes, she still talks to the family here, in fact they all talk to each other.
How amazing to talk for free on Mother's day to my daughter in the outbacks of Australia, and to share the photo of how many steps I walked.  
How astonishing that the team that I work with live from Gisborne to Tauranga to Rukuhia to Taupo and yet we all know each other better than colleagues that I have lived next to in the past.
How empowering to have a professional learning network of over 20,000 NZ teachers on Facebook with whom I can interact daily, along with all the other national and global PLNs I use - VPLD, VLN, etc.
I go back to my previous post and quote my colleague Jan- Marie Kellow, again.
             "Any tool used poorly without a sound pedagogical basis will be ineffective or even damaging. I have seen the effects of digital technology used well and the results are amazing. Far from isolating students it connects them globally and the creative results can be awesome and empowering. 

               As for sitting for long periods, this is certainly not new, just take a look at pictures of classrooms taken in the past, sitting for long periods was certainly the norm then. I would argue that in modern collaborative, innovative classrooms there is a lot less sitting than there ever was in the past. And having devices in a classroom does not mean you can't go outside for PE or sports."

If you are having thoughts that digital technologies in schools are bad for the students, then you need to look again.  Is it the way they are being used in your school?  Ask questions - how are the digital technologies being used in your child's school?

As Andreas Scheicher (OECD head) says "The biggest barrier (to improved outcomes) probably is the delivery in the classroom  - Intelligent use and effective integration (of the technology) - thats where most of the work is needed." 

See - there is that word again - integration!

Sunday, 8 May 2016


VPLD stands for virtual professional learning and development.  It is a programme I have been privileged to be involved with since March 2011. The last VPLD hui is coming up soon because the Ministry of Education is calling a halt to the contract at the end of 2016.
Without VPLD I would not be where I am today.  I have been mentored by a succession of supportive and awesome people.  In return, I have offered mentoring to others who have joined in along the way. It's like that ad.  You tell two people and they tell two people and they tell two more people and soon..... everyone wins.

As a result of the mentoring, it is a big part of my journey and my VPLD story is summarised is these slides.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

GAFE learnings

I have been presenting at the GAFE Edtech Summits in Auckland and Wellington over the school holiday break, leading a couple of workshops at each one.  In between my own workshops, I attended a number of other workshops and keynotes that were not only fun and full of learning, they were inspirational (and I do not use that word lightly because it is bandied around in social media so much I have almost removed it from my vocabulary as a protest.)

The main shift that I noticed was the move to more questioning -  questioning every moment in the classroom.  Is this the best learning for my students?  Why is it the best learning?  Am I prepared to take a risk to learn better ways?  Did the risk pay off?  There was also huge shift into the discussion of creativity as being the vehicle for learning.   How will creativity promote learning?   So exciting to hear these questions leading to rigorous conversations around why our learners are at school.

One of the other main themes was about change.

  • Letting go of old ways.
  • Taking risks.
  • Letting go of the trapeze.
  • Being adaptable.
  • Walking the bridge of creativity into transformative practice.
  • Living life in Beta.
I liked the things I heard.  

10 things that baffle the hell out of me.

  1. Educators who have no idea of why they are teaching whatever they are teaching. If you are one of these, go and find out now before you ruin the education of your learners.
  2. Educators who think that blocking websites and apps is a good way to protect their learners from internet evils.  Educate them instead about the good, the bad and the ugly.
  3. Educators who think that their technicians know the best digital options for learning.  Enough said. Worthy of a whole blog post by itself.
  4. Educators who think they are there to teach the national standards and or the achievement standards.
  5. Educators who feel pressured to buy/make gifts for their students at the end of the year, and go ahead and do so.
  6. Educators who spend their own money on classroom resources.  Stop it now.  You are making a self-perpetuating monster of low school funding.
  7. Educators who don't like students using phones in their classes because they are worried they will lose control.  Come into the 21st Century and realise what a fabulous learning resource phones are.
  8. Educators who cannot spell online despite spell check on computers (which I know is not fail-safe but least try to use it.)
  9. Educators who consider their well equipped school computer labs illustrate that their teachers are using 21st century learning.  They don't.  Integration is the answer.
  10. Educators who have no idea of good grammar and/or punctuation. (Is this really an issue anymore, am I stuck on last century ideas of what "well-educated" means?) 

Friday, 29 April 2016

How did your learners learn about Anzac?

Anzac came and went in the last week.  A time for reflection on our history.
It did get me thinking again about curricula in our schools in the context of the last week.  Schools need to examine very clearly what they want their learners to learn and above all why they want them to learn it.   Only then should they focus on how they should learn.
Anzac is a big "topic" in schools in the last weeks of the school term.  Why learn about Anzac?  What do they need to learn about Anzac and then how are they going to learn about Anzac?
Some answers to these questions may centre around the following.

Anzac is an important part of the culture of New Zealand. It represents a struggle of grit and determination against the odds which many of us should identify with. It links our past to our future - what will we do in the future based on what we did in the past?
Our forebears went through hell for what they thought was the right thing to do.
They were so young.  There was so much suffering on all sides.
Poppies represent the blood lost by so many on foreign soil.
So many losses of our people in the field, fighting for a cause which may or may not have been remotely relevant for them.
The paradox of war - strength determining an outcome that may or may not be morally right, and the fraternisation of soldiers on opposite sides.
Many of our grandfathers and grandmothers and great uncles and aunts were involved in the Anzac battle, either directly or indirectly.  These were the people who suffered so much for what they believed was the right thing to do.
No doubt you will have other learning intentions associated with Anzac but now focus on how your learners were able to take on board some learning around Anzac.  How did your younger children learn about some of the concepts associated with Anzac compared to your older children?  Did they draw pretty pictures of poppies?  What did they learn from that? Did they erect white crosses on the school lawn.  Did they fill in a worksheet about Anzac? Did they listen to an Anzac service or the mournful "Last Post" played on a bugle?  Is there a knowledge building from year to year?
Do you think that they learned any part of the "What?" listed above.  How could you have enlisted their creativity to enable them to really take on the learning? What did your students learn about Anzac and how do you know they learned it?  What is the visible evidence of their learning and how was it relevant to them?  And what are your learners going to learn about Anzac next year?

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Google Photos -

Google Photos must be the best way to store your photos in the cloud for free, that I know of. You can synchronise all of your photos from your phone or ipad by installing the Google Photo App on your phone.   You need a google account (ie a gmail address) and the rest is easy.

Note: You should adjust the settings on your phone, so that you only synchronise photos to the cloud when you are on wifi to save your phone data.  Open the app when you are within range of wifi and it will synchronise as shown below in the latest (top right hand side) photo.

How big can your photos be?
You can store all of your photos for free if you choose the 16mb per photo option.   The i-phone photos should take a maximum of 8mb per photo so this works well.  You won't lose resolution on any of those photos.

Managing the photos is really easy.  You can create albums, share them on facebook, google+ or twitter or just share the link via email.

Searching the photos is simply the easiest it can be, and with Google able to recognise faces, it will group all photos of the same person together for you, as shown in this video below.

If you haven't done so already, give Google Photos a go.  I think it would be perfect for teachers, organising photos of their learners, as well.

Watch the video below for a few tips on how to organise and search.

Monday, 4 April 2016

No response came the answer.

In my last post I asked about alternatives to the 5 minute per teacher scramble that is secondary school parent-teacher evening.  No response.

If I ruled the education world, it would look like this.  Every student would have an e-portfolio.  A site or a blog.  The site or blog would cover all of the learning areas that the learner was involved in.

The learning intentions for every learning area would be very explicit.  The learners would know what they were learning and why they were learning it.  And then they would also know how they learned it.

The teachers would have commented on how well the learners have learned whatever it was they should be learning.  And they would have indicated what the next steps could be.  And they would have seen what the learners were learning in other subject areas.  And maybe they could all work together to make cohesive links in their curricula.

Wouldn't that be a grand thing?

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Parent Teacher Interviews

It has been many years since I had to go to a parent teacher interview as a parent, so it was exciting that my daughter wanted me to go along to her daughter's first college parent teacher evening.

"What do you want to find out about your teenager?"  I asked my daughter.
"I want to find out how well she is doing compared to all the other students," she said.
"Why do you want to know that?"
"So I can compare her with the other students."
"So I know if she is going to be able to compete with others to get where she wants to go."
"So why don't you ask what she needs to learn, what are her next learning goals and what learning outcomes are important?"
"Because I want to find out if she is going to do as well as other students."
"I think you have been brainwashed."  I said, and then added, "what makes your daughter special and different from other learners so that when she applies for a position or a place at university, they can see that she has expertise and interests in areas that others do not have?"
"Well she IS a great organiser, she is very creative, and she does get along with people and she can convey her feelings well."
"Right, lets start with the key competencies and also find out what she has to learn to do in each of her subjects."

And so we began the interviews.  We wanted to know what the learning outcomes were in each class. That was not easily available nor explicit.  Generally we learned a lot about the activities that she was doing and how she was behaving when she did them but not exactly why she was doing them.

We got a pretty good idea of where she was compared to other students.  I found myself wondering if there was a better way, for parents to understand what supports are needed for their children to develop into the best person they can possibly be, than a 5 minute scramble to see teachers that another 5 parents were waiting to see.

I have lots of ideas.  What ideas do you have?

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

To block or not to block - that is the question.

All educators and parents are concerned about the safety of their children.  There are policies and processes in place at most schools to try and minimize the risks for children working online at schools.
In some schools, there are so many blocks that it just creates barriers for learning.  Sites are blocked that can be so useful.  Youtube is one of the most commonly blocked for students.  Another is facebook.  Many teachers and parents believe that these sites are "too distracting" for the learners.  In these cases, teachers should be focused on the outcomes of the lessons - what knowledge or product is the child expected to create as a result of their internet work?  And how is that learning made visible.  If this happened more often then the students would have less time to be distracted as there would be consequences for not producing the work or showing the evidence of the learning.

A term came up at a recent conference as Lorna Earl from Ontario warned my colleagues and fellow educators to beware of "activity traps".  She said we do a lot that does not make a difference.  She is a co-author of "Building and Connecting - Learning Communities" by Katz, Earl and Jaafar.  I believe that there are many "activity traps" in a day at school.  Get the students focusing on achieving learning goals instead.
But getting back to my main point - to block or not to block.
It is important to remember that school is often the safest place in students' lives.  So when students go home at night, they are more than likely to be working with devices which have no controls or restrictions on them in many cases.  For this reason, I believe it is more important to teach learners that there are unsuitable sites and people out there in internet land, and teach them  why they are unsuitable and how to manage them when they come across them, instead of blocking access to each and every site which may hold dangers.

In addition, parents should closely supervise and be involved in their children's use of digital technologies, just as they are when they are on the beach or at the playground.  This includes occasionally checking up on the history of the sites they have visited and also when a child quickly closes a webpage, bring that webpage back up again to see what was visited.  You can do this on Google Chrome browser by pressing "control + shift + T" all at once.  Keep pressing it to bring up the latest history.
Just as you teach the learners about family and school values, teach about the contexts in which they will use these values - not only in every day life but also online.  And use the huge range of educational resources available online as much as you possible can.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Learning and Teaching in the 21st Century

I came across this video recently and thought it was one of the better ones I had seen because it could be a really useful video to show parents and whanau of our learners, who often yearn for an education similar to the one they received.  It really tells the tale of how different education needs to be in the 21st century.
It starts by questioning if the role of the teacher is obsolete.  Students can obtain facts, dates, content and formula on anything, anytime, anywhere so where does that leave the role of the teacher?

It goes on to explain that students need to be taught skills of handling limitless resources like skills for using search engines.  They need to be able to validate, (check the soundness of)  synthesise, (process and make sense of), leverage (take advantage of and use), communicate (translate into meaning for others), collaborate  (work together with others on) and problem solve with the information.
Teachers need to ask students to create their own knowledge.  This could include creating a podcast or a blog, animate, plan or record, design or programme.
There are a whole lot of other ICT skills as well.  
  • Bookmarking - so to find resources again easily
  • Paraphrasing - rewording to show understanding
  • Mashing - using a number of apps together
  • Experimenting - taking risks
  • Attributing - not stealing others work
  • Subscribing - allowing easy access to useful resources
  • Posting - exposing opinions and creativity in a safe context
  • Uploading - sharing work to the world
  • Editing - adjusting, trimming, adding value
  • Reflecting - a metacognitive activity to really show deep understanding
  • Locating - sorting through millions of resources to find the right one
  • Tagging - adding a label to enable easy searching later
  • Twittering - using the power of 140 words and mixed media wisely
  • Commenting - being positive and aiding understanding
  • Searching - finding exactly what you want online
  • Integrating - mixing one medium with another
  • Networking - finding and knowing the right people at the right time
  • Linking - making connections
Do our learners know how to do these?  And can they do them reliably, responsibly and with integrity?   Do they know how to be professional - to avoid plagiarism, pirating, and slander?  Do they honour copyright, crowdsourcing and confidentiality?
Our roles have certainly changed from being the sage on the stage. We need to be able to gather data from a whole new set of resources - facebook, twitter, RSS feeds, crowdsourcing and online surveys, be able to assess its reliability.  
Students need to be able to create and collaborate in new ways.  We need to be able to provide multiple forms of representation, engagement and expression and action using the UDL principles.

The video gives some examples of kinds of problems that could be put to students to answer in many different ways.
  • How many grains of sand on the average beach?
  • What is the current relationship between India and Pakistan?
  • Which organisation would you give money to for hunger relief?
  • Where would the best place in the earth be to live according to data?
  • What are the top rated jobs in your country and what are the common skills for those jobs?
  • Which is the best presentation programme?
  • What are the key ideas in Youtube's terms and conditions?
The video also addresses the idea of behaviour management when using devices.  This is a favourite topic of mine as I often see teachers trying to manage behaviour through removal of "privileges" of using devices.
Managing devices (laptops, phones, ipods etc) at school should be the same as managing all the other tools available in the past (books, pens, pencils and paper).  You don't remove those tools when students misbehave.  If learning is engaging, relevant and challenging, then issues of distraction and temptation rarely arise.  The devices are not there to entertain, but to engage our learners in learning.  
In summary, the video exhorts us to make changes. The responsibility lies with us, as teachers, to take risks and move into 21st Century teaching by up-skilling, collaborating and trialling and asking ourselves, what does it really mean to teach?  I do think the video will help whanau and communities understand what this means as well.