Tag Archives: challenge

Should teachers make their students suffer? Let’s not show them how to do it.

Scott McLeod shares this video from Michael Pershan in his post ‘A Japanese approach to Khan Academy’.  Michael raises the question: why do US students lag behind their peers in many other countries?’ It seems that the US and Australian teaching styles – showing students how to do something and then getting them to practice over and over – is not the best way to teach. The video shows a Japanese teacher giving students maths problems and leaving them to work out how to solve them. Listen to the video, it’s very interesting. So all is not well with Khan Academy for this very reason, and it’s interesting to project the possibility of Japanese educators’ version of Khan Academy. Problem solving, not practising ad nauseam according to a prescribed model, is the suggested alternative. It would obviously work with numeracy but also with literacy. If our students are disengaged in our classes, this might be one of the reasons. Don’t you think? And while we’re at it, why not give our students real world problems? How involved can they be in something that doesn’t matter to anybody.

Diane Curtis’ post about project-based learning quotes Seymour Papert on the reason why students are turned off by school:

“We teach numbers, then algebra, then calculus, then physics. Wrong!” exclaims the Massachusetts Institute of Technology mathematician, a pioneer in artificial intelligence. “Start with engineering, and from that abstract out physics, and from that abstract out ideas of calculus, and eventually separate off pure mathematics. So much better to have the first-grade kid or kindergarten kid doing engineering and leave it to the older ones to do pure mathematics than to do it the other way around.”

I know what I would prefer – being challenged with real-world problems rather than work from textbooks which are predictable and uninspiring. Recently our year 9s and 10s received iPads – as I’ve mentioned before – and sadly the focus has been on the technology rather than how teachers and students can use these mobile devices to teach and learn differently. So far it’s been more about learning how to use the iPads to do what we already do, and throwing in a couple of apps. Hmmm…. No wonder the general consensus from staff is not overly positive. My favourite aspect of one-to-one devices is the possibility of connecting with others. If iPads are mobile devices then we should be using them to reorganise the classroom or even take it outside. Why don’t we connect with others outside the classroom, perhaps globally? Sharing ideas, opinions, photos and created multimedia is surely more engaging than practising skills in a theoretical situation.

What do you think?

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Filed under 21st century learning

Kick Start Activity 3 (Advanced) – Add Some Muscle to your Blog

Well, my participation in the Edublogs-supported blogging activities is erratic to say the least…
I wasn’t sure if I should skip to the latest activity number 6 or contribute belatedly to previous activities. As you can see I’ve gone for the latter option, and I’m glad I did because it’s given me a chance to take a broom to my About Me page and to think about what other pages I could create.
Here’s what I did to my About Me page:
  • I moved my photo to the top of the page
  • I added my name and teaching role at the beginning of the page. Seems obvious to do that, but somehow I had neglected it.
  • I introduced myself at the beginning and started with a more personal, conversational tone
  • I added my passion for art and animation and linked to my newish art blog, Art does matter.
  • To encourage conversation, I asked the readers to feel free to leave a comment or introduce themselves.
  • I wasn’t sure about naming my school, so I thought I might just say that I was in Melbourne, Australia. After all, my blog is personal, and not in any way representational of my school.
  • I added a Google Map of my location
  • This year I will have the added role at school as coordinator of learning enhancement. I added this information and invited people to share their knowledge with me.
  • I added my involvement with Powerful Learning Practice since this was seminal to my connection to other people and networks

I’d like to add a page which links directly to my wiki but I haven’t figured out how to do it yet, so any help would be appreciated. It makes sense to link everything you do to your blog. In that case, should I have pages for all my other blogs or is it enough to include them in the links on the side? Comments are welcome and appreciated.

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Learning: that’s how we live

Learning is not something that can be captured, predicted or assumed. It doesn’t fit neatly in a table, it’s not defined accurately in a chart, a survey, it doesn’t happen the same way for you as it does for me.

We try to prove that we understand it, control it by conducting research, analysing results, following assessment rubrics, but we should just keep our eyes open and watch. It’s happening around us, at breakfast, in the classroom, the playground, during the holidays, on the bus, and even as we sleep.

Sometimes, as educators, we think that we haven’t influenced the learning process in any of our students (or even our colleagues). We may have been too impatient, too hasty in making that assumption. Evidence of learning can surprise you at the most unexpected times.

I have to admit I wasn’t thrilled to return to school after many weeks of holiday, but it had to happen. Last year I was very happy to join forces with a dear friend, teacher of English, who was brave enough to weather the uncertainties and hazards of ning learning. We tested the Web 2.0 waters together, and made learning interactive with real-life connections and conversation for our students. It seemed that this kind of teaching and learning was not going to catch on fast.

In the first couple of days at school this year, to my delight, several teachers have approached me to help them create a ning, blog or wiki for their class. I’m stoked. I hope that this year will be as fulfilling for them and their students as it has been for me in my own participation in learning communities online: learning from each other wherever we are.

One (or even two) of our classes will be participating in a photo blog project with Marie Coleman in Florida, USA, and Sinikka Laakio-Whybrow. Inspired by our own experiences in the Flickr 365 day photo challenge (and similar projects) – and this is how we met – we wanted to try this out in the classroom. With a weekly theme for photos, we hope that students will enjoy learning from each other,, and that literacy development will naturally spring from curiosity and an exchange of cultures.

A seemingly simple task, posting a photo and writing about it, can actually be a higher order exercise. Marie’s and Sinikka’s posts attest to the depth of thought which can be achieved.

Sinikka’s post:

Today’s Daily Shoot also became the theme of my 365 photo:

“Let’s have some fun on a Friday. Make a photo that goes with the title (or lyrics) of a song. Interpret away!”

Another ordinary day at school, in the familiar red-brick environment. I am thinking what is the state and purpose of education today. I’m sure many students would still sign Pink Floyd’s message of not needing any education from back in 1979. At least not the same old, numbing and repetitive, factory style.

Aren’t schools still too often working like the meat grinder in the brilliant Gerald Scarfe animation of the song where kids are dropped only to spew out uniform minced meat at the other end? Is there any space for individual thinking, learning methods and goals, or chances for each individual to realize their full potential? Why does it seem that the spark, the passion, the joy and creativity are all buried and forgotten inside these walls? Can our students, in their bright pink and red coats, be themselves, and not just other bricks in the wall?

By the way, there is a Finnish expression ‘counting the ends of bricks’, meaning to serve a prison sentence. Sometimes, for me as a teacher, the brick school seems prison-like, too. There are too many outside pressures, constrictions, national assessments and rigid attitudes, which tie my hands.

Marie’s post:

While keeping an eye out for right angles (today’s @dailyshoot assignment), it became apparent that there were a large number of examples in ‘man-made’ structures. On the other hand, there were fewer (or perhaps less obvious) instances in nature and humankind.

Though there is an expectation of support from the angled structures, this cobweb’s network may exemplify the ‘real world’ much more accurately! It certainly reflects the ‘hyperlinked’ nature of today’s youth in their learning and in the interconnectivity of the Internet and all of its tendrils. The web is also much more appealing to the eye, but where would it be without the support and structure of the foundational right angles – guess we need the synergistic relationship of both!

I think these examples illustrate the depth of thinking and fluency of writing which can result from a single image selected to address criteria which still allows choice.

One more thing…

The learning that springs from passion is a wonderful thing. My elder son, who has never studied photography or even art (as an elective) at school, has recently discovered a love of photography, and is learning on the fly. He has joined Flickr groups, and has challenged himself to a daily photo blog. Just last week, he was approached by Zulya and the Children of the Underground for a photo shoot for their next album!

I’m holding onto these examples of learning in the hope of making a difference to student engagement with learning, not for grades, but for life.

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Filed under 21st century learning, learning, networking, photos, teachers, teaching, technology, Web 2.0

The 365 photos challenge

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Seems people are taking up the 365 photos challenge on flickr – committing to posting one photo per day for a whole year. Why, you ask? Well, that’s what I asked myself too. Why would you want to commit to more tasks on top of the already toppling mountain of daily tasks?  In my usual contradictory way (contradicting myself usually) I found myself joining 3 of these groups which just means I upload the same photo a day to each of these groups. Just in case I miss out on the interesting photos, since different people will be found in each of the groups. The 3 groups are Twitter 365 project; 2009/365photos; 365/2009.

Just today I followed Jo McLeay’s lead and decided to give my 365 photostream a home, so here’s the link to my new blog. If you look at the twelve days of photos, you’ll realise why I’ve been absent from blogging for so long – lots of things to do in the physical world.

Just a few thoughts. As usual. Apart from the fun factor, I think this kind of project has some promising educational possibilties.  Getting to know people in your personal learning network through photos and others’ comments is different to knowing them through text comments only. It adds a personal dimension, and the comments don’t have to be cerebral. I imagine the end result will be an interesting testament to my year – memories I may have otherwise forgotten.

I can imagine this as a class project, can’t you? Maybe one which includes teachers, and gives students an insight into teachers outside of the classroom.

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Filed under 21st century learning, Education, flickr, photos

Embellish the interior passageways

I know that you would have seen these before – these strangely reworded Christmas carol titles or, as described on the site, obfuscated Christmas carol titles, but I thought I’d pull them out – as one pulls out of a dusty box that’s been sitting in the back of a dark cupboard – as a light challenge for the season.

The website calls them titles of Christmas Carols, rewritten in florid and multisyllabic language!

See how many you can guess.

  1. Move hitherward the entire assembly of those who are loyal in their belief
  2. Listen, the celestial messengers produce harmonious sounds.
  3. Nocturnal time span of unbroken quietness.
  4. An emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good given to the terrestrial sphere.
  5. Embellish the interior passageways.
  6. Exalted heavenly beings to whom harkened.
  7. Twelve o’clock on a clement night witnessed its arrival.
  8. The Christmas preceding all others.
  9. Small municipality in Judea southeast of Jerusalem.
  10. Diminutive masculine master of skin-covered percussionistic cylinders.
  11. Omnipotent supreme being who elicits respite to ecstatic distinguished males.
  12. Tranquillity upon the terrestrial sphere.
  13. Obese personification fabricated of compressed mounds of minute crystals.
  14. Expectation of arrival to populated area by mythical, masculine perennial gift giver.
  15. Natal celebration devoid of color, rather albino, as a hallucinatory phenomenon for me.
  16. In awe of the nocturnal time span characterized by religiosity.
  17. Geographic state of fantasy during the season of mother nature’s dormancy.
  18. The first person nominative plural of triumvirate of far eastern heads of state.
  19. Tintinnabulation of vacillating pendulums in inverted, metallic, resonant cups.
  20. In a distant location the existence of an improvised unit of newborn children’s slumber furniture.
  21. Proceed forth declaring upon a specific geological alpine formation.
  22. Jovial Yuletide desired for the second person singular or plural by us.

If you reach saturation point guessing these, scroll down past the picture for the answers.

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  1. Oh Come All Ye Faithful
  2. Hark the Herald Angels Sing
  3. Silent Night
  4. Joy to the World
  5. Deck the Halls
  6. Angels We Have Heard on High
  7. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  8. The First Noel
  9. Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
  10. Little Drummerboy
  11. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  12. Peace on Earth
  13. Frosty the Snowman
  14. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
  15. White Christmas
  16. Oh Holy Night
  17. Winter Wonderland
  18. We Three Kings
  19. Jingle Bells
  20. Away in a Manger
  21. Go Tell It on a Mountain
  22. We Wish You a Merry Christmas

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Filed under humour

Teachers today on Youtube – how do you rate?

Is the picture of teachers in this video fact or fiction?
Let’s have a look at some of ideas here.
Firstly, teachers today work in a world that is fast-paced and rapidly changing.
Do we realise this fully?

Teachers today work together to facilitate, innovate, coordinate, participate, investigate, advocate and illuminate.
How are you doing so far?

Teachers today may have limited autonomy, opportunities and resources…
Is that true? Does that make you feel uncomfortable?

but their possibilities are unlimited; they are leading, shaping, finding new approaches, new technologies and discoveries.
Sounds exciting.

Teachers today instil curiosity, extend possibilities, make connections, engage students, excite learners to solve problems of the new generation.
What are the problems of the new generation?

Teachers today overcome obstacles, embrace change, redefine education, are fluent in technological tools, are aware of global concerns.
This is a huge job and an amazing responsibility.

Teachers today are challenging students …
to find solutions;
to find their voices;
to change the world.

I’m interested to find out how teachers react to the messages in this video.

To quote a teacher recently:
‘Where does the academic fit into this?’

Isn’t it time we opened up our vision of what our role as teachers today is?

While you’re at it, have a look at Digital World: Kids today

Thanks to Judy O’Connell for putting me onto these videos.

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Filed under Education, teachers, Web 2.0

Learning through discovery at the Melbourne Museum

The Discovery Centre within Museum Victoria makes research interesting and hands-on. A young person can wander in and spend a few hours without realising that it’s been a learning experience. Let’s say you came in and browsed some of the 2,000 plus natural or cultural objects available – not just on display in cabinets and drawers, but also available to touch and examine – then you’d be able to delve into a little research in a number of ways; you could:

have a close look at these objects under magnifiers or video microscopes;
use the reference library of books, journals, education kits, DVDs or videos;
browse through the extensive collection of online resources on public computers;
and you could always ask a staff member for help.

When I visited the Discovery Centre as a student of teacher librarianship, the staff were eager to help, but not eager to supply a quick and easy answer – they encouraged students to find information and answers for themselves, pointing out resources available and suggesting ways of searching. The research process becomes a challenging discovery task, well supported by the excellent variety of materials and resources. It’s great to find research modelled in such an enjoyable way.

The Discovery Centre’s website is user-friendly, and offers an ‘Ask the experts’ section. If you have something you want identified, or you need help with a research project, you can email the museum’s information experts, either with a general request, or an identification request. Every week, there is a ‘question of the week’ published on the website.

I think this is a valuable resource for primary and middle years students. It’s great to take research out of the classroom, and into such a dynamic and resource-rich environment.

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