Tag Archives: play

Why I play

Art by Lena Torikov

Before I bought my iPad, people would ask me what I planned to do with it. Why was I spending so much money? Was I certain it was worth it? How was the iPad going to be different from a notebook? Should I buy an iPhone instead?

I couldn’t answer any of these questions with any certainty. That’s why I was buying an iPad – to play, to gain an understanding of what an iPad enabled me to do, to figure out if iPads played a role in the changing face of learning in schools.

There’s nothing wrong with putting forward a suggestion before you have all the answers. I didn’t and don’t have all the answers for iPads in education, but I don’t want to wait until the time when it’s safe, when the majority of educators have understood the value of iPads and accepted their place in schools. If I wait that long, I’ll be on the tail end of a movement that doesn’t stay still. I won’t be a forward thinking educator but a safe follower who calls out for others to wait up.

If I waited until I was sure, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Where am I now? I’m on the road to finding out. The iPad apps session I recently did with staff at school was a way in – despite the best advice to hold off because I only had one iPad to pass around, to hold off because iPad education wasn’t a realistic option at my school, because people weren’t ready, because because…

Play is an essential part of being a teacher – it’s the learning part of teaching. Play is experimenting, discovery, it’s creative, it’s action, it moves into a new space. Wouldn’t it be great if play was compulsory at school? Instead of instruction from teachers to students, play would put everyone on the same playing field. Risk would be a prerequisite.

If we wait until it’s safe to do something, we’ve been left behind.

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Filed under 21st century learning, play

iPad apps for problem solving

Higher order thinking is not what the students were consciously involved in while playing with iPad app games, but it’s what they were in fact doing. I gave my iPad to some of the boys at school one day and suddenly there was a small crowd standing around the player, intently involved and offering suggestions. I asked to film a small group of these boys demonstrating a few of the games. They were self conscious and so the natural banter and collaboration is lost but the demonstrations still stand. You can almost see the thinking process in action.

Rafter

Unblock Me

Glowpuzzle

Labyrinth – This one was cut short because of the glare

I think there would be a fair amount of justification for these from an educational perspective, don’t you? Physics teachers might want to look into them, for example.

Thanks, guys!

 

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Music apps – a music teacher’s perspective

As I’ve already mentioned before, I’m in the process of investigating iPad apps for learning enhancement in the classroom. A few weeks ago a colleague and brilliant music educator, Stuart Collidge,  joined me in a meeting with our Deputy Principal (Curriculum) and a few other leaders in the school, to put forward a case for the use of iPads in the school, specifically for learning enhancement. I asked Stuart to write up how he sees the use of the iPad in the music classroom.

Recently, Tania asked me to speak with some of the decision-making powers that be at school to pitch the use of iPads as learning tools.  This was something that Tania and I had reflected on a little and saw some potential in so I was more than happy to make the pitch.  After borrowing Tania’s iPad to have a play on (I am not yet one of the iPad collective L), I worked my way through a few possible applications and uses.  It was also very useful to troll through Google and look at the ways that other music educators are using these beasts.

Being a laptop school, it was important to differentiate the potential of these units from the laptops that are already in the hands of the students. For a school with no laptop program, I imagine that a class set of these would be AWESOME for a whole raft of areas of study, but being outside my brief, I didn’t focus too much on it.

My impression initially (and once we are up and running with a program, I’ll report on the accuracy of those impressions) was that this device would be awesome for me on two levels: as a music/education professional, and as a performer.  I can also see how students could use these devices in the same way.

As a performer, the iPad is now a very comprehensive musical instrument. In fact, several instruments all in one.  There seem to be two different approaches to performance apps.  The first way is to use the device as a synthesiser. There are several things that already do that, but the advantage of the iPad is in the interface which can encourage different approaches to composing and performing.  If you sit down at a conventional keyboard, the notes are laid out in a particular way and we are trained to approach the keyboard in that particular way (unless you are into avant garde composition).  A lot of music is constructed around  melodies and chords that “fit under the fingers”.  Take a look at a synth like Musix.  The layout of the octaves and notes allows us a melodic freedom and an opportunity to audition sounds that are harder to achieve on a conventional piano.  I imagine that you can find many other synths that encourage alternative approaches to melody making.

There is also a variety of apps that are much like a hardware synth allowing you access to oscillators, LFOs, filters, etc. You can also use the iPad to drive Digital Audio Workstations for tracks or DJing live.  Ableton seems to be the best suited to creating and manipulating arrangements in a live situation.  And for patching your iPad into your amp/PA/recording rig, try this: https://www.alesis.com/iodock.

All of this means that with a few apps and some time, students can generate performance material  in a variety of different ways to suit a particular idea or project and allows for a greater degree of creativity and freedom.

As a music professional, I am most interested in using the iPad as music stand. I have spoken with people that do this and received mixed reviews, but I feel that this is where music reading should be going.  An iPad could contain an entire library of sheet music in PDF format (solo music, ensemble parts, method books, scores, backing tracks) and would be fantastic to use in performance or rehearsal.  No longer need to worry about losing original parts, remembering pencils (the software stores any annotations made), or sorting through libraries of stuff (although the logistics of scanning everything might be headache enough, until publishers are in selling more of their material in that format).  Imagine being able to transpose a score instantly into a new key (to my way of thinking, the only way for us to be rid of the archaic institution of transposing instruments).

Of course, it already has a variety of apps that are useful (and which I use on my iPhone) like chromatic tuners, tone generators, metronomes, DMX dipswitch calculators, remote control for lighting desks, decibel meter, power load calculators, chord finders, etc.

All this in a device the size of a small text book!

I am very much looking forward to putting my hands on a unit that I can stock it up with goodies!

Stuart Collidge

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Filed under 21st century learning, teaching, technology

David Astle is puzzled

Last night I travelled to another planet. Sitting in a long, narrow room bursting at the seams with puzzle and palindrome addicts, I wondered where these people had been hiding? Out of body experience? No, just another Wheeler Centre offering. I had come to the session David Astle: Confessions of a Wordaholic.

Father holds six over least arrangement. (5, 5) A gibberish sentence for many of us, but an irresistible clue for those in the thrall of cryptic crosswords. And in the Australian scene, there are none more cryptic, more revered and more dastardly than the man known as DA.

To celebrate the launch of his new book Puzzled, meet David Astle and find out why Geoffrey Rush calls him the ‘Sergeant Pepper of cryptic crosswords’.


As Harriet Veitch said in her Sydney Morning Herald article:

It’s scary inside David Astle’s brain. It’s stuffed full of words endlessly doing things. Palindromes and semordnilap run back and forth, spoonerisms climb up and own, thickets of anagrams form and reform and the tendrils of double meanings reach out to trip the unwary.

Even Astle occasionally wants to get out. “If anyone finds the exit, could you let me know? I’d like a rest sometimes.”

Despite the fact that I am not a puzzle person, that even when shown the answer , I remain puzzled, it was an immensely enjoyable and mentally exhilarating hour. I had expected David to be – dare I say it – more of a geek, considering the intensity of his word obsession, but in fact, he is  very sociable and entertaining, with a sharpened intellect and almost incapable of leaving a word alone, set on automatic pilot to continuously pull words apart, stretch them into new meanings and possibilities. In David’s own words, his gift for word play is ‘like synesthesia, only instead of seeing colours, I just see acrobatic letters’.

David’s new book, Puzzled, is surprisingly thick. Apart from chapters of clues, Puzzled is also a insight into David’s life and ‘how a seemingly normal boy from Sydney’s northern suburbs turned into a man whom people curse on a regular basis’ (Harriet Veitch).

In researching for this post, I discovered David Astle’s website and blog – both which have been added to my RSS now for titilating reading.

Thankyou, Wheeler Centre, for providing the opportunity to meet in person so many diverse and fascinating people. For free!

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21st century learning

‘Our students are changing … but schools are not.’
This is a leitmotif of a professional development program, Powerful Learning Practice (PLP) run by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson, which will run in Australia soon, and in which our school has the privilege of participating.

As stated on the PLP website, ‘Powerful Learning Practice offers a unique opportunity for educators to participate in a long-term, job-embedded professional development program that immerses them in 21st Century learning environments. The PLP model is currently enabling hundreds of educators around the country to experience the transformative potential of social Web tools to build global learning communities and re-envision their own personal learning practice’.

As a result of our participation in the Web2.0 program through School Library Association of Victoria, we were invited by Jenny Luca, who is organising the Australian contingent of the 100 educator-strong global cohort , to join the 7 or 8 Australian teams of 5 educators per school. We almost jumped for joy, but remembered our respectable standing and did some mental leaps instead. After all, how long had we been passionate about transformative learning environments, recognising the potential of emerging web technologies in engaging students and creating global learning communities? And how difficult it is to create a voice that is heard above the clatter of the old school machine? How helpless and ineffective we often feel, like door-to-door evangelists in our own schools, with the door being slammed in our faces, people telling us they have their own god, or that they have no time to listen. At best, we’ve ‘converted’ small, isolate pockets of educators but not had any significant effect on the school community.

Now we have the opportunity to take part in a program based on a highly successful pilot carried out in Alabama and supported by internationally recognised practitioners of 21st century learning technologies. Not only has this given us the opportunity to formulate our thoughts in a proposal to the principal class, but it has also created interest from staff, led to conversations where we have had to explain and justify the cause, and opened up planning for a collaborative team. Suddenly we had something that was worth doing across the school, that was supported both from the top and the bottom. We weren’t isolated any more!

Two of us were able to attend the initial talk by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach at Toorak College this afternoon. I was excited to meet Jenny and Sheryl, and they were as passionate and inspiring as I had expected. Sheryl was amazing – stepping off the plane and straight into the talk, her body clock still at 3am, and engaging the audience with her passion and ideas. I asked her how she managed to deliver an hour-long talk after travelling halfway across the world, and she said that her tiredness was evident in her slower than usual speech, which, for us in Australia, was a comfortable speed to follow.

I thought I’d mention some of the things that stood out for me as I listened to Sheryl’s presentation. Firstly, she emphasised that 21st century learning, although based on technologies, was primarily a human network. These technologies enable global connections and wisdom of the crowd. Sheryl gave the example of Twitter as a means of finding the best information about buying a new car. I suppose it’s an extension of the network of friends and colleagues people turn to when looking for a good car, or finding a good plumber, only the global aspect facilitates expert knowledge more effectively. In a fast-changing world, where the information today will be outdated tomorrow, rather than teach memorisation of content from a single text, we need to teach students how to work collaboratively. As Sheryl said, ‘don’t think computers, think innovation’. Our students need to be able to be productive, self-directed and effective communicators, understanding digital communications, and not be overwhelmed by the fast pace of change in their lives. It’s not about the tools, the technology, but about learning.

Sheryl challenged us about the relevance of school education, and spoke about the low percentage of students who thought that what they had learned at school would be relevant to their future lives. She spoke about the learning that takes place outside of school within the networking communities of young people. We saw Darren Draper’s film that asked educators if they had been paying attention to students in their classes, if they had been watching them or listening to them, and challenged educators to use the technologies that these students loved in order to teach and engage them.

What inspired me, towards the end of the talk, was Sheryl’s prediction that members of the PLP cohort would eventually have the courage to be bold and challenge the status quo. How true, that, in order to inspire change, we have to model it. As Sheryl said, ‘you can’t give away what you do not own’. I’m ready to share what I’ve learned. I’m not learning to keep. It isn’t much, and so I’m also ready to keep learning. We need to keep up with the pace of change. We hope to help diminish the digital divide – between those who know how to collaborate digitally, as the world shrinks through global connections, and those who don’t. Our job is to prepare students to be responsible, global citizens. We need a change in pedagogy, playing to students’ strengths instead of their weaknesses (ie. what they don’t know, what they’re not good at). We need to cater for different learning styles. We must become 21st century educators. These are the main ideas from Sheryl’s deep-reaching talk today.

What I’d like to say to teachers is what I read on Darren Draper’s excellent blog, when he talked about Kevin Honeycutt and one of his ‘favorite quotes regarding teachers and our relationship to our students: “We’ve got to be willing to play where they play… even if we don’t feel comfortable.” ‘

I’m looking forward to an enriching, collaborative, global PLP experience.

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Filed under Education, Teacher librarians, Web 2.0

Web 2.5

Darren Kuropatwa remarked on the development of Web 2.0 learners over a period of 12 months.
‘Last year I left the conference hearing everyone saying things like:
I have to learn flickr
I have to learn wikis
I have to learn blogs
I have to learn [insert social media tool du jour]
This year the buzz was much more about pedagogy. The talk in the halls sounded like:

» I can use [this] to teach [that]
» I can see how much easier it would be for my students to understand if I used …
» My students are going to LOVE learning this way!’

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it takes time to get to the educational purpose of new Web 2.0 tools. First you play, and then you think about how you could use the tool to enhance teaching and learning. Or you find out how someone else is using it. Secondly, the first stage, that is,
playing with the new toys, is a necessary step. What’s the implication? You don’t play – you don’t get it. You don’t get the bug, you don’t get to the point. Another supposition: the people who went to the conference in the first place were probably the ones who were already open to new things. They turned up ready to hear about something new. The ones who didn’t go may be more difficult to convince. They might hear others raving about the pedagogical this and that of the new tools, but they have to actually play to get hooked in the first place, and only then perhaps start having lightbulb moments about educational potential.

Having joined Edna Groups a while ago, an unreasonably large number of them, I’ve recently participated (minimally) in Kerrie Smith’s ‘blogging corner’. I’m so grateful to Kerrie and others for taking the time to organise this group, allowing bloggers and bloggers-to-be to interact with each other and find out what they’re doing, and how they’re using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. And it’s good to share. I get a thrill out of seeing people get excited about new things, the same as I did.

Blogging corner, like other groups, give structure within a social context. Kerrie has posted starting points for discussion, eg. ‘what do you use to blog’, ‘where is your blog’, ‘recommended blogs’ blogging tools, forums, questions and answers, ‘blogs in the classroom’, ‘monitoring blogs’, etc.
Very useful for busy people is the weekly challenge which is not overwhelming, but gives you an opportunity to do something small, and connects you with new people all sharing, commenting, thanking and encouraging. Talk about community. I’m so grateful to Kerrie and others for making this possible (sounds like I’m collecting a Logie).

We’re all moving along, like the shrimp on the treadmill (hope that analogy offends nobody) of my very first post earlier this year, when I started the SLAV steps program. And as long as I’m moving ahead, I’m happy.

Web 2.5? Innovation within the paradigm.
I’ve brought the shrimp back for your enjoyment

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