Learning@School has been a great opportunity to meet and talk with teachers, and a real highlight was breakfast this morning with Lenva Shearing (Bucklands Beach Intermediate), Ian Fox (ex-Bucklands Beach Intermediate) and my colleagues Paul Seiler and Ian Munro from the SMS Services Team at the ministry.
We started with coffee and Lenva’s wikis, which are world famous in New Zealand for demonstrating student inquiry online. We moved on to examining the core benefits that the group of tools broadly known as learning management systems (LMS) can bring to what Lenva is doing:
scalability and data exchange (accommodating large numbers of students in many online work spaces)
levels of privacy and permissions (including single log on for teachers)
What Lenva wants is these services plus ‘a big empty box’ so that she can orchestrate the messy, non-linear, unpredictable, student-led and teacher guided, social process that is teaching and learning with her students.
In this context, the LMS is the glue – the enabling services – that hook together the applications, tools and content that exist outside the LMS – voicethread, blog, wiki, social network, TKI resources etc – allowing new tools to be added to the classroom repertoire over time and avoiding duplication of development effort in the LMS itself. At the centre of Lenva’s model is the e-portfolio – the expression and distillation of the process of learning enacted across the range of tools.
I really enjoyed Pam Hook‘s keynote presentation. My colleague Helen Cooper says she liked how Pam’s ideas spanned both primary and secondary and NCEA. Helen is talented at spotting defining characteristics and patterns.
Pam outlined the range of reactions that educators have when teaching and learning is not going well in the institution:
get rid of school
get rid of teachers
find a ‘new way’ of doing school
introduce a re-vamped curriculum
change the teaching and learning interactions within existing schools
go for something we have yet to imagine
deny … deny … deny.
Shifting deck chairs on the Titantic? Possible options but not sufficient in themselves?
I think Pam was saying that all we know is that we need to change the way we teach (was she telling us to harden up?!). Hattie tells us that anything we do in the classroom – even just having a pulse – can result in a .2 to .4 effect size. We need to get above .4 to justify our e-learning interventions.
Videos of student learning, samples of student work and teacher reflections from a range of schools and across learning contexts are organised around the ‘teacher actions’ listed in The New Zealand Curriculum as promoting student learning.
The classroom stories are accompanied by facilitation strategies that support teachers and educators to use the wiki for professional learning in their own schools.
Rochelle Jensen and Fiona Grant, Digital Content and Software Coordinators, are giving presentations at Learning@School09 on the new, improved Software for Learning website and wiki.
Thanks to the schools and teachers involved who have kindly given their time to be filmed and who have allowed their practice to be scrutinised!
image c by Fiona Grant – Stephen, me, Fiona, Gita and Helen from Sunnybrae (who contributed a classroom story to the wiki)
The engaging and charming Andy Hargreaves delivered the opening keynote at Learning@School. He spoke about the ‘fourth way’ (and fortunately all the other ways leading up to the fourth way, too).
The first way – In the 60s and 70s, teachers had a lot of flexibility. This meant there was a lot of innovation but not many ways of spreading the innovation around, which resulted in inconsistent results for education.
The second way – In the 80s and early 90s, government required more consistency, introduced competition between schools and set criteria for competition (standard curriculum and standard assessment). The corollary of gaining more consistency was, however, a narrowing of the curriculum and the loss of teacher-leaders from the profession.
The third way (yep, this is Tony Blair’s third way) is a pick ‘n’ mix of the previous ways. Features include public-private partnerships, involving parents in schools, schools collaborating to move good practice around, and better resources and support for teachers. It also still means relentless testing and ruthless competition between schools, which overshadow what he thinks are the more desirable characteristics.
The fourth way recognises the importance of a clear societal vision – a higher goal over and above ‘this learning outcome’ and ‘that target there’. The vision and conditions of work – not the pay – draw high-quality teachers. Schools are a high trust environment; responsibility comes before accountability. Other features are locally developed curriculum with high-level steering by the state, leaders who teach and teachers who lead, and schools working together for their communities.
An astounding session from the futurist, journalist, traveller and science fiction writer Bruce Sterling. I’m not sure what to say about it though – perhaps because Sterling isn’t taking sides on the future. He refuses to say whether it’s going to be good or bad – just that it promises massive change. He describes what is (or, as he said on Kim Hill’s show on Nat Rad this morning, he describes what will be).
Sterling described web 2.0 as glorious, hazardous and make do. He said the ‘transition web’ is what we’ll have left over after the collapse of the economic system. He looks forward to the ‘ubiquitous web’ when we’re through the other side, but it’s a painful, dystopian future ahead – the financiers are broke and the users are too.
He said the metaphor of the state-sponsored information super-highway is history. Well, it’s still alive and kicking in some parts of our government, I reckon. There are still too many web managers building ‘portals’ and ‘one-stop shops’, reinventing tools that already exist, and believing that if they build it, users will come. However, I’m hopeful – shift is happening – the organisers of Webstock might well have renamed it Public Servant Stock, given the large numbers of civil servants here talking about web 2.0, community features, open data and open source.
Sterling scares the bejesus outta me, but I’m pleased he’s around. Read his blog. He recommends the website World Changing too.
This year is full on. Even the Webstock Conference feels like a vortex of urgent invention.
Perhaps it’s merely the result of trying to cram in work around sessions and blog about sessions and network.
So I really enjoyed the funny calm of Thursday’s session with Ze Frank. Ze says we spend a lot of time making new things. His thing is to inhabit creatively the spaces that already exist. He does this in very human ways through projects on his website.
Like inventing ‘Songs You Already Know’. Dealing with ‘scale’ by making an earth sandwich (he created an application for users to locate the exact point on the other side of the globe so they could place a slice of bread on one side and coordinate with someone to place a slice of bread on the other – sandwiching the earth). Inviting his network to send in photos of themselves as children and then to reconstruct the photo of themselves, today. Seeking reconciliation between Obama supporters and McCain supporters (and finding creative ways to deal with the hate mail).
Phew. What a relief. I can learn from this. Filling technologies with life, as he says, is why we are here, after all. Check out Ze’s website. Follow this crazy cat on Twitter: zefrank.
image from Ze Frank’s website – an example of voice drawing
Courtney Johnston from the National Library has sent me this little gem – a turn-of-the-century tweet, if you like, mined from the Papers Past collection. It’s from the ‘personal items’ column in the paper – the Grey River Argus, 16 May 1906: ‘The many friends of Mr Arthur Yarrall (jnr) will regret to learn that he is confined to his room suffering from a severe throat.’
I’m attending a Webstock workshop in Wellington. It’s run by a hero of mine – Derek Powazek - and his equally talented partner Heather Champ. Derek’s book ‘Design for Community’, published in maybe 2002 now, is a great read even seven years later. Here’s their presentation in the form of top tips for building communities and lessons that I’m taking away for the e-Learning Research Network.
Interface is everything – communities fail if the interface is wrong (what are the lessons for TKI hmm)?
Ask your community to do something small to begin with – don’t ask them to do everything at once or something too big.
Aggregate the wisdom from your community (eg ‘interestingness’ on flickr) – watch out for popularity competitions where the winners never change.
Support the characteristics of ‘wise crowds’: diversity, independence, decentralisation, aggregation.
Hire a community manager from inside your community.
A good community manager is all these things: shepherd, editor, cheerleader, advocate, judge and even executioner. (Being a community manager is like being a pinata – people beat you with sticks and you still need to give them candy.)
The first 6 months will set the tone of your community – you can’t step down, during this period, from the work of creating the kind of community you want.
Allow members as many options as possible to sculpt their interactions – to opt in and opt out of many ways of communicating.
Bubble up the good – feature great content or a role model for members – this speaks louder about what you want than site terms or policy (although these things are necessary too).
Have a strategy for change when you make significant changes. Feedback in the first 48 hours after change is just a reaction to change; feedback over the following two weeks will be more informative and help you change the change.
Having the right to do something doesn’t mean that you have the community’s permission to do it – respect members’ ownership of the community and their content in particular.
If users don’t use a feature the way you expected them to, you may have identified a different need or a different problem that needs solving.
All virtual communities resolve to real life – at some point, it’s inevitable.
Are you reading research? Doing research? Keen to take an evidence-based approach to teaching and learning?
The e-Learning Research Network is freshly launched and gaining a following! It’s a place for teachers, educators and researchers to share the evidence for the impact of e-learning on education.
We’re at fifty-five members and counting. There are eight groups focusing on topics like curriculum, assessment, leadership, and effective teaching. Each group features summaries and discussions about research, for example, BECTA’s reports on web 2.0 tools and NZCER’s study into key competencies.
If you haven’t already, sign up. It’s instant! It’s free! Join a group or two, and you’ll get email notification of new content and discussions as they are added.
But wait, there’s more … In a couple of months, the network will be first to get their hands on a synthesis of NZ and international research into e-learning, linked to themes in the curriculum.
Late last year, Danny and Peter in my team published eight great little videos of tertiary students talking about their experiences with and views on e-learning (the video above is part 1). Sometimes the concerns of tertiary take a different emphasis from ours in schooling, but more often than not, working alongside these guys just sharpens my focus (check out Ako Aotearoa for more on teaching practice in the tertiary sector).
The videos were designed to inform students contemplating taking online and blended courses, although the messages are useful too for tertiary staff I’m sure. The wider social scaffolding that e-learning provides these students is one of the clear values of e-learning.
I was struck by the number of statements by the students along the lines of ‘I can check out MIT lectures on same subject’, and ‘Missing class is not a problem because I can catch up later’ and ‘I’m able to get on with it without waiting for lectures’. What are they saying about their relationship with the institution?
Before he left the ministry last year, I had the pleasure of a long chat with Dean Carroll, who was also working in the tertiary area. He argues that we are going through a ‘digital reformation’. Back in the 16th century, the Catholic Church mediated its worshippers’ relationship with God. The invention of the printing press and increased circulation of copies of the bible (amongst other social and technological changes) enabled the common person to seek a relationship directly with their God, avoiding the church altogether, contributing to the break away of the The Church of England from the authority of the Pope, and bringing the Catholic Church into crisis.