Tag Archives: engagement

Schools can no longer provide students with a complete toolkit for their futures

Schools and unis can no longer provide students with the complete toolkit for their futures; now it’s about equipping them with skills to be lifelong learners.

Our students need self confidence, adaptability, and strong values

School’s task to develop people as successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.

Knowledge remains vital but it’s not enough. Success depends on deep understanding and having the skills to turn knowledge to useful effect. Deep learning and the development of skills is important.

The curriculum should not be a catalogue of content – things to be learned. Students should be building networks and developing collaboration.

Deep learning and development of skills are critically important.

In the modern world, the evidence needs to be increasingly in advanced transferable cognitive skill – critical thinking, problem solving and creativity.

There is a new emphasis on learner engagement. There is the idea that the learner has to take responsibility for his/her own decisions and has to be involved in his/her progress.

All learning has to become more ambitious. We have our new mission statements. We share the objectives but nobody has yet made the breakthrough to real 21st century practice.

When will we stop talking about this and start taking apart an outdated, irrelevant system?

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Filed under 21st century learning

Making learning personal and social – Presentation at SLAV conference

Last Friday I had the privilege of sharing some of what I’ve been doing with blogging at my schools at the SLAV conference, Celebrations! An eye for literacy. I believe SLAV hosts the most informative and inspiring conferences, deepening our understandings and broadening our horizons.

Unfortunately we were running late with this session, and at least half of my presentation had to be cut. I wasn’t able to fully develop my presentation of the topic:

Social networking: giving students an online voice. In this session you will explore the initiatives of threeschool libraries and the use of social networking to buildcommunities of readers. What worked – and why it’s worth having a go.

That’s why I’ve embedded my slideshow and accompanying text in case anyone is interested in the complete presentation.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Here is the link to the accompanying text.

The educators in my session were inspiring in their presentations – Tricia Sweeney and Michael Jongen (Our Lady of Mercy College, Heidelberg) talked about Twitter and Facebook to engage students, and Rachel Fidock (Mooroopna Secondary College) talked about Google Lit Trips.

Thanks to SLAV for the opportunity to share some of my work with teachers and students. Like the others, I was incredibly nervous but ended up enjoying the experience. Sharing of ideas and experiences is very satisfying.

My slideshow is also embedded in my wiki.

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Filed under Education, Presentations, Social learning, Social media, Teacher librarians, Uncategorized

In a world in which information is like air, what happens to power?

JP Rangaswarmi  wrote a post about Us Now, a one-hour documentary by Ivo Gormley about participative citizenship, mass collaboration and the internet, and their implications on government as we know it.

The Us Now website links to the thinkers asked to determine the opportunity for government in the radical new models of social organisation. Some of these are George Osbourne, Ed Milliband, Don Tapscott and Clay Shirky.

It’s interesting to follow the new democracy that online social organisations have opened up. More than interesting. As stated in the Us Now website, ‘In a world in which information is like air, who has the power?’

The Us Now blog includes interesting information by Paul Miller from the School of Everything. The School of Everything is a social learning network that connects people who can teach with people who want to learn.

Having been led to read about the School of Everything, and linked to Wikinomics through Paul Miller, I started to think about how, on the whole, we accept schools as the way to go with learning and trust them with our kids. My father, who completed his school education at the age of  14 so that he could get a trade and contribute to family finances, revered Education as a hallowed institution. Throughout my schooling, though, he had moments of disillusionment when I was unable to understand the politics in the TV news report, when I was useless at practical things or what he termed as ‘common sense’, or when I started philosophy and started questioning whether the table was really there. My own experiences as a parent saw me disillusioned at times when my older son was told to dumb down by the primary school psychologist so that he could more easily fit in, and even now, fighting  frustration when my younger son is instructed not to cut and paste, but to use his own words in a project that simply asks for basic facts about a country.

I have friends who have home schooled their children. Is this an option? Hasn’t  home tutoring been one of the ways to educate young people throughout history? And yet, these options have always made me nervous. Maybe because I was told my children would be socially impaired without normal social contact with their peers. Or maybe simply because it wasn’t the norm, and therefore frightening.

I’ve just had a conversation about this and alternative schooling with my older son who has completed year 12 recently. He’s a good example of a passionately curious child who stood out from ‘normal’ children and suffered for it in his primary years, but eventually toned down to fit in. It was interesting to see him become defensive and uncomfortable when I mentioned the School of Everything and questioned the relevance of traditional schooling.

No, you can’t have that, he protested.

Why  not? 

Well, it’s not all about learning of content, it’s about being with people and learning from them.

Who said that an alternative or online learning program excluded face to face contact or social opportunities?

OK, well, you can’t just do your own thing. You have to learn that not everything in life is interesting.

Tell me, how many teachers did you find boring and unengaging, and how much of your schooling have you retained or found valuable in life?

(squirm) But you can’t have life without suffering. You need to learn to cope with disillusionment and disengagment. You can’t totally remove it.

I’m not going to unpack this. I’m just going to ask you to give me your thoughts.

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Filed under 21st century learning, creativity, debate, Education, internet, learning, parents, teachers, teaching, technology, Web 2.0

Hating school, loving learning

 

Nevertheless, the point about disengagement of students is one with which most educators would not argue. Wesch entertains the idea of ‘play’ as opposed to dull routine and meaningless tasks.

Perhaps the word “play” is imperfect. I could say that in school, they should be invigorated or engaged or even inspired. But whatever the word, the idea is to create a stimulating environment were the learning comes natural and not forced, where the desire to learn is created first. Then, the labor of learning is a labor of love.

Technology is what students of today play with. As many advocators of 21st century learning suggest, technology plays a large part in the new vision of education. But technology is also the thorn in the side of a large number of teachers. Although we use the language – ‘integration of technology into learning’ – not many of us have actually taken this seriously.  Managing technology in the classroom is often seen as asking for more problems. Wesch is clear about the role of technology in his classroom:

Texting, web-surfing, and iPods are just new versions of passing notes in class, reading novels under the desk, and surreptitiously listening to Walkmans. They are not the problem. They are just the new forms in which we see it. Fortunately, they allow us to see the problem in a new way, and more clearly than ever, if we are willing to pay attention to what they are really saying.

What are they saying? I think they’re saying that they’re bored, that their tasks are not relevant, that their projects are not engaging, that they’re sick of being passive recipients of content over which they have no control. When they turn to texting or web-surfing, they’re getting out of the classroom, they’re reaching out into the world.

Wesch explains this problem: 

And that’s what has been wrong all along. Some time ago we started taking our walls too seriously – not just the walls of our classrooms, but also the metaphorical walls that we have constructed around our “subjects,” “disciplines,” and “courses.”

When I was in primary school,  I had a strong sense of where I belonged. I belonged only with kids who were born within 12 months of my birthday.  I was afraid of those a year ahead of me who belonged to an entirely differentand superior group, one that I wasn’t to have anything to do with.  If I had known what learning took place in the older years, I would have wanted to be there, but I learned to sit and wait during reading classes, as students took turns to labour over stories in our reader, stories I had already read early in the year. There was no wider reading, there was no skipping ahead, we all had to be open to the same page, doing nothing but daydreaming. The reader was all we had for the entire year. And so would the next class the following year. Of course, now things have changed a great deal. Now we have many more reading choices, and in some cases primary students can choose to read library books instead of readers from the box. 

But I’m not sure that things have changed as much as we think. We still teach from textbooks. We’re not all consistently planning scaffolded inquiry-based projects which ask rich questions. We’re not experimenting enough ourselves with technological applications and seeing educational possibilities. We’re still proud of research assignments that supposedly encourage independent learning, assignments which leave our students to google incompetently, to copy and paste, to present superficial findings, to lose interest, to just get the thing done, hand it in and sigh with relief.

Wesch is clear about the solution:

Fortunately, the solution is simple. We don’t have to tear the walls down. We just have to stop pretending that the walls separate us from the world, and begin working with students in the pursuit of answers to real and relevant questions.

He says we need to acknowledge the shift in learning based on information being everywhere. What we should do is let go of ‘the sage on the stage’.

When we do that we can stop denying the fact that we are enveloped in a cloud of ubiquitous digital information where the nature and dynamics of knowledge have shifted. In the process, we allow students to develop much-needed skills in navigating and harnessing this new media environment, including the wisdom to know when to turn it off. When students are engaged in projects that are meaningful and important to them, and that make them feel meaningful and important, they will enthusiastically turn off their cellphones and laptops to grapple with the most difficult texts and take on the most rigorous tasks.

Something is not right in the state of education. Wesch, to finish off:

And there’s the rub. We love learning. We hate school. What’s worse is that many of us hate school because we love learning.

It doesn’t have to be this way… 

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Filed under Education, play, Web 2.0

Is school bad for kids?

Further to my recent post about open assessment tasks and true learning, you may want to have a look at Clay Burell’s posts on his blog Beyond School. I suppose I’m late to discover Clay but I figure others will be able to share my new discovery. Here’s what he says in his post entitled ‘Beyond school’ : on the death of genius for the sake of college’ (he’s talking about young people’s time being taken over by ‘education’:
‘I mean the ones who are so over-scheduled with schoolwork, homework, SAT test-prep cram schools, and all the other madness that keeps them focused on memorizing the data and pounding out the grunt-work, one assignment and one GPA-increment at a time, year in and year out – from what, grade 9? Or is that too late to begin worrying these days? – that they rarely have time to pull back and reflect on anything at all’.

I can’t help thinking back to my primary school years; for some reason memories of those days keep coming back as a kind of lost paradise, and what stands out is the time spent in idleness. And during that idleness, whether it be walking home from school in the slowest way possible, or sitting in a tree, creating a cubby house – a long-lost sense of freedom full of possibilities, ideas and dreams is evoked. So much time to reflect, time that is taken up now as an adult with adult responsibilities, and sadly, for many young children, this is also the case. By the time they’re in secondary school, the freedom is gone, the dreams taken over by instruction, the self-initiated learning through curiosity replaced by delivery of prescribed content during the school day, and fulfilment of prescribed homework tasks at home.

We would do well to remember that our students were awake to the wonders of the world as very young children – not knowledgeable wondering, but eager to experience, keen to ask questions. But do we, as teachers, ask young people what they’re interested in, or do we make their learning relevant to their world? Do we give them time to reflect? Is reflection valued?

Clay Burell, some time ago (not sure when), set up Students 2.0 to give young people a voice. In the ‘About’ section of the blog, he talks about the past paradigm of schools being effective for the times, but not so any more:

‘For decades, students have been stuck in classrooms, behind desks, being told how and what to learn… However, we have now entered a new age: an age where thinking is more important than knowing, where thoughts out-do the facts. Borders are melting away; project teams collaborate across the globe and intelligence is being continually redefined. The world’s information is at our fingertips and anybody can publish their thoughts for virtually no cost… Everywhere, we see changes: with how business operates, how people interact and how success is accomplished. There is unfortunately one place that remains unchanged, the place that could benefit most from the changes we see today… the classroom.’ He then explains the purpose of the blog: ‘This blog is an attempt to give students a voice in where the future of education is headed.’

I looked up some of the individual blogs of the students involved; it’s great to read what they have to say, their ideas, etc. Here are some of them:
Two penguins and a typewriter
Love and logic
The bass player’s blog
Betaphor

Newly ancient
(archived)

Another thing I’d like to get off my chest:
if we as educators are working towards integrating Web 2.0 tools in order to engage students and create authentic learning, then we drop all that at year 11 because we have to focus on preparing students to regurgitate prescribed curriculum content so that they can get the highest scores and get into university, etc. then it’s crazy. Surely we need a bigger change. Surely this is a mindset change. Otherwise, we’re doing a little Web 2.0 here and there, then we say, hang on, we just have to go back for a bit; this is really important. Just doesn’t make sense.
Does anybody see a bigger change to the whole system in the near future? Is this really going to happen unless we change our assessment criteria?

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Filed under Education, Teacher librarians, Web 2.0