Monthly Archives: May 2011

Naplan our benchmark? Why not “The Horizon Report?”

Our school is in the process of an external review. As learning enhancement coordinator, I was reviewed as part of a small group which included the learning support and transition coordinators.  During our meeting the reviewers focused on the NAPLAN results, and asked us how we used this data. We were encouraged to drill down into specific data which would allow us to address the specific issues. For example, if our students’ weaknesses were revealed in the area of writing, we would make it our business to find out if the weakness resided in the mechanics of writing, the critical thinking component, etc.

At some point during the meeting I started thinking about how we came to put so much emphasis on NAPLAN testing, and if we had any other criteria with which to evaluate our teaching. Surely there were more contemporary skills to base our assessment on – beyond spelling, grammar, numeracy, reading and writing? It’s pretty obvious that, although all these things are important, we’ve come a long way in terms of essential skills in the last few years.

Just look at The Horizon Report. Its discussion of technology adoption highlights critical challenges, and these include digital media literacy, new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing and researching (eg blogs and networked presentations). These trends and challenges are indicative of ‘the changing nature of the way we communicate, access information, connect with peers and colleagues, learn and even socialise’.

And yet how many schools are engaging in conversation about these challenges? Or are they still looking at spelling, reading and writing. During our meeting I was disturbed to hear educators blame the introduction of one-to-one notebook computers for the decline in writing standards. Don’t get me started on that.

Back to my original point – who looks at the Horizon Report in schools? At best it’s read as an interesting or challenging extra piece of information. Is it too challenging? Considered irrelevant? Too far from what we are doing so we just put it away since it isn’t seen as crucial to learning and teaching? Or is it that we refuse to acknowledge how ubiquitous technology has become and think we can prevent the adoption of things like mobile phones? And yet, The Horizon Report states: “Mobiles enable ubiquitous access to information, social networks, tools for learning and productivity, and much more”.

We are still focusing on the problematic nature of digital and mobile technologies – problematic because they disrupt our orderly, nineteenth century classroom. They create chaos. But we need that chaos, we need to shake up the traditional lessons to re-engage students and help them connect to and take ownership of their learning.

I see the problem residing in the disconnect between school and life. How can students be engaged in an artificial construct which separates knowledge into rigid compartments, knowledge which is delivered in a way which students find foreign and unengaging. Shouldn’t we look at how our students find what they need to know, how they create things, how they organise events within their networks? We still see this as separate from learning. We are convinced that young people’s online socialising is superficial, a waste of valuable time.

Howard Rheingold’s post, How does digital media impact youth political and civic engagement?says otherwise. Rheingold points toJoseph Kahne‘s very important empirical study about young people’s use of digital media and how it impacts their engagement — or lack of engagement — in civic affairs and politics.

That research, Kahne says in an interview, punctures some core myths about online activism, and strongly indicates that the virtual world nourishes youth engagement in real-world issues.

What we found is that young people were more likely to volunteer offline when they were part of online networks.

The question becomes, how can youth’s embrace of digital media and enthusiasm for the Internet be leveraged for social enterprise and civic engagement?

And I would add, how can youth’s embrace of digital media and enthusiasm for the Internet be leveraged for what happens in terms of teaching and learning at school?

Online, young people are gaining skills … how to work in a group, how to negotiate things, how to get organized, how to organize other people… We also found that their online participation increased their exposure to diverse viewpoints… 

How diverse are the viewpoints students are exposed to in the classroom? I really think, not diverse enough. Rather than shut down possibilities for our students to connect outside the classroom out of fear, we could enable connections and guide our students to behave responsibly and maturely. I would even go so far as to suggest that we encourage young people to join specific online groups to broaden their range of experiences. If we take students out on excursions then we could do the same online.

Does anyone teach in a school which formulates its strategic plan while looking at The Horizon Report?  

Here’s the full interview with Joseph Kahne taken from Howard Rheingold’s post.

Does social media and the Internet fuel youth political engagement? from DML Research Hub on Vimeo.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 21st century learning

Are we Copyright Cops?

I saw this film on Tom Barrett’s blog post. It’s a powerful film about young people’s behaviour on the web and the extreme reaction of the law as they succumb to ‘stealing’ that which is to easy to take.

Not so long ago information wasn’t as accessible and tantalising as it is now. You only had one identity (unless you were a celebrity). Now people, predominantly young people, enjoy and possibly cultivate an online identity which may or may not be identical to their face-to-face identity. They enjoy audience most of the time through mobile technologies. Even when their blog posts claim that they are alone in their despair and will not be heard by anyone, they are generally enjoying the thought of being ‘read’ by their ‘friends’.

It’s an exciting time with the possibility of connecting with so many instantly, the possibility of finding so much information, viewing and copying so many images, so much music. It can be a confusing time, not knowing if something is true (as sometimes occurs with news on Twitter) or if it has been played with.

As educators we should try to understand the online existence from the inside, and from that perspective proceed with instruction and guidance so that young people approach that part of their life as wisely as we would hope they approach any part of their life. We should not overdramatise, not use fear-mongering, not pull them back. There is so much to be enjoyed, so much creativity possible. This needs to be tempered by an informed knowledge of how to use and share information, images and music responsibly and legally. So much is shared through Creative Commons, and it is a very good idea to attribute everything; it’s just manners.

I like the fact that this film is open source, and that it encourages people to remix and take a personal spin on what’s available.

It’s an exciting time. Let’s be open to it, be informed and respectful of each other. As educators let’s support young people in a world that doesn’t stand still, let’s not police them inappropriately.

Leave a comment

Filed under Copyright, creativity, networking

Face2Face GTA meetup with friends

I like Judith Way’s style; she makes things happen. Soon after a few of us returned from Sydney as newly certified Google Teachers, Judith set up a time and place for a face-to-face meeting and debrief. The time – this Saturday 14th May 2-4.30pm, the place – Mill Park Library, 394 Plenty Road, Mill Park. Should be good. I’m looking forward to sharing GTASYD experiences together with Jess McCulloch, Tony Richards and Glenda Morris. The session can fit 30 people and there is still room for more, so if you’re interested you can add your name and details to this google doc. Pity the rest of our Victorian cohort is unable to make it – Corrie Barclay will be playing football and I’m not sure what is preventing the rest from attending. Still, it will be good to see everyone who’s coming; some are even coming down from the mountain! Others live just around the corner from me but I haven’t seen for a long time.

Hope to see you there!

1 Comment

Filed under Google, Google Teacher Academy

Tech Talk Tuesdays – Chatting about Google Teacher Academy experience

There’s a first time for everything. Recently Glenda Morris and I were asked by Anne Mirtschin to talk about our experiences at the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney on Tech Talk Tuesdays.  Normally I would have been very nervous about speaking in front of an audience but the fact that Anne was running the show was very comforting, and there’s something to be said for talking to an unseen audience in the comfort of your own home with your slippers on, holding onto a cup of hot coffee  and your dog asleep next to you. I knew that Glenda felt the same way that I did, and presenting together was actually a lot of fun. I recommend it.

Happily, we had the company of people from  USA, NZ and Malaysia, as well as Australians. I hope I haven’t missed anyone – I have to say, trying to construct comprehensible sentences on the spot was challenging enough, and I found that, unless Glenda was speaking, I wasn’t able to keep up with the chat and questions, so luckily Anne had all that under control.

Our intention was not to present a detailed account of Google apps but to share our experiences, provide some ‘inside information’ about the Google space and agenda, and pull out a few examples of Google apps which had resonated with us.

Here is the slide presentation and you can listen to the archived recording of the session here.

Sorry about the two blank slides; not sure why the pictures are not showing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Presentations

Whole school site for learning enhancement

Lately a lot of my time and focus has been devoted to creating an online portal for learning enhancement at my school. Part of my brief for my new role was the promotion to parents of learning enhancement opportunities provided at school. I decided to try out Google Sites, supported in a major way by a talented colleague, Dawn, to whom I owe so much for her technological expertise. Here is the site at this point in time (click here).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I referred to The Friars Factor earlier as a portal because I think it’s a central place serving more than one purpose: an opportunity for members of the school community to write about events in detail and include images/videos (blog posts); resources defining and clarifying aspects of giftedness for both parents and teachers; resources to support teachers in providing a differentiated curriculum; the opportunity for teachers to develop a personal learning network (PLN) after reading blogs and connecting to bloggers; lessons/tutorials/games to extend students at point of need; the opportunity to read widely far beyond the confines of the curriculum; the opportunity for students to follow their passion; ideas and resources integrating technology into student-driven learning tasks.

What made me happy after the talk was receiving emails from teachers wanting to contribute resources or suggesting students who might like to write blog posts. That’s so satisfying, knowing that the school community wants to collaborate in the project. That indicates the start of ownership. Win.

4 Comments

Filed under Learning Enhancement