Teaching 21C, and no teachers in sight

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Is it okay to attend an all day conference called Teaching 21C: the big issues facing the profession today and not, in the whole day, hear from a practising teacher?

I understand that you don’t come to a conference to hear only from teachers . You can get that around the photocopier or at the water cooler and there has been the growth of more hand-on options like TeachMeets where practitioners can share practice, not to mention the networks you can develop in platforms like Twitter. You go to hear from experts, and learn.

But I did feel, at the end of a long day that felt at times a brow-beating (if not belittling) of the teachers who constituted most of the audience, that it wouldn’t have been hard to include some teachers who might be able to contribute to the discussion, if only to respond to some of the provocations.

Don’t get me wrong; there were some good moments, particularly the session on evidence-based practice that seemed firmly grounded in, and linked to, how real schools work. Suzie Riddell (SVA) took us through a toolkit for schools called Evidence of Learning, which seeks to help schools make good choices about what kinds of change you might choose to implement in terms of $$ costs, evidence for a positive effect on learning, including links to more reading and the scale of that effect; a bit like Hattie’s work put to good use.

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Earlier, Jan Owen took us through the FYA report on ‘The New Work Order’, emphasising the forces of automation, globalisation and flexibility that are disrupting work opportunities, especially for young people. You can download the whole report HERE (PDF)

But they were the highlights.

It wasn’t great to hear Teach for Australia rep. Melodie Potts Rosevear telling us how she was looking forward to the present generation of teachers to retire. (Spoiler alert: I wasn’t a fan of Teach for Australia before and I’ve blogged about that HERE and HERE; I just don’t think parachuting fast-tracked graduates into teaching and leadership, no matter how smart, does anything more than diminish the profession. Lawyers for Australia? I’d like to see that.)

Geoff Masters (ACER) was one of the keynotes and one of the most disappointing. He showed a series of un-labelled slides, designed to highlight falling standards in Australian learning outcomes (PISA, naturally). In some of the slides (shown below) high results were good, others when they were bad. It was hard to follow; they had no titles, there were no scales.

Masters talked about ‘Five Challenges’ facing Australian education: declining standards, growing disparities between schools, students falling year level expectations, students starting school at risk of being locked into long-term low achievement and (irony alert) teaching is becoming less attractive as a career option for able school leavers. Masters didn’t take questions.

And not a teacher got to speak.

It was all summed up in final plenary panel of grey-haired white men, a dynamic that even they felt a little embarrassed by.

Cultivating global competencies

Cultivating Global Competencies

Dr Yong Zhao

University of Oregon

CEE-Melbourne Girls Grammar, 1/6/2016

Yong Zhao is an engaging presenter and began by talking about some of the problems facing young people, particularly youth unemployment. In the USA 30% of graduates live at home with their parents,the highest percentage ever. ‘We mis-educated our kids, we educated them for a society that no longer exists’.

Zhao emphasised the differences between learners, in their intelligence/s and their human motivations (Dr Steven Reiss lists 16 basic human motivations and their objects of desire) Not everyone has the same motivations, not everyone is equally driven. However, schools ‘shoot for the average, students have to fit into existing positions’ (aka standardised testing)

Zhao described the fourth industrial revolution (steam engine, electricity, computers, AI) and the loss of jobs in what were high skill human jobs (passports, banking, assembly lines …)

So, what can we do to ‘counter the machines’? We need to re-think education (Problem for me here: I don’t agree that education has been preparing students for low-skill jobs)

‘Evidence only works within a certain paradigm’ – be careful of over-reliance on evidence (eg NAPLAN) Norm referenced assessment leads to deficit driven actions.

How can we make children thrive? Celebrate the human-ness of us, our diversity. Diversity has not been valuable in the past; in the future it will be. Artists in the work force have tripled, there are things that machines can’t do. We have a huge appetite for psychological, aesthetic and spiritual products, products that create choice for the new middle class. Computers aren’t good at that. The useless has become useful! Run away from what you’re not good at.

So, what for schools? Embrace the ‘deficits’. Start with the students. Became places of opportunity. School readiness should be about the school being ready for the child. I liked: “PISA is a homogenisation measurement”. Foster social and emotional learning, entrepreneurial mindset: accept the fact that there is no job and create value and your own job. Don’t teach problem-solving, teach them to choose what problems are worth solving. Find the opportunity in crisis. He argued for student autonomy: voice, choice, support (social intelligence, not collaboration), working towards authentic products. (World Class Learners) Teachers become ‘curators of learning opportunities’, mentors. Don’t try to teach. Move away from ‘just in case’ teaching, to product-orientated learning.(meaningful products, sustained process, from isolated classroom to global perspectives) (see http://www.edcorps.org) We worry too much about teaching, and not enough about learning.

On a chilly Melbourne evening, it was stimulating stuff.

Books he talked about:

  • ‘World Class Learners’
  • ‘The Second Machine Age’
  • ‘The End of Average’
  • ‘Counting what Counts’

He did this whole presentation using just the camera roll of his Ipad.

Images from The Illustrated London News for April, 1853. 

 

 

What’s in the backpack?

Next time: I’m taking a robot

 

Whats in the backpack?

I thought I’d do just a little on the changing technology landscape, this time in terms of what I use personally.

For three days at EduTech this time I just took my 64GB iPad, installed with Telstra 4G and a Brydge Bluetooth keyboard, an IPhone and one charger. This worked well, except for the one charger business; a full day out at a conference note-taking, twittering and occasionally checking on Outlook as to what’s happening back at school, takes its toll and both devices were seriously depleted by day’s end. It would have been better to charge both overnight but I certainly enjoyed the lightness of the iPad, especially on conference seating with no desk or table.

For the writing, I began by using OneNote to take my notes, but I decided I wanted to blog the sessions on the spot and found a great blogging tool for the iPad called BlogPad Pro. So, I switched to doing the note taking in Ulysses (my all-time favourite distraction-free text editor) and then exporting HTML directly into BlogPad via the clipboard. That worked pretty much flawlessly and I was also able to insert some images I’d taken along the way at some of the sessions.

They were just about the only apps I used over the three days: Ulysses, BlogPad Pro, Safari and Outlook, and I found that, more than ever at this conference, that unholy mix of Apple, Microsoft, Google and independent apps is more and more common. The Firbank session I attended (see blog notes) wasn’t the only school that was happily using a real mix of technologies, albeit mostly tying to find a dashboard for them all, usually via an LMS.

It was funny, looking around at all the fancy technology and heavy-duty laptops on display, that I found the iPad worked well (despite the naysayers and the prophets of doom from various quarters) but it only works well for me with the keyboard attached.

I did spend a long time at one morning tea looking over the various Chromebooks at the Google stand and they are appealing. For less than $400 you can get a light, long-powered, keyboard driven computer; for around $100 a Chrome dongle that contains a computer – just add screen and keyboard. I’m tempted to say that’s a better option than a haphazard BYOD program, but I’m still thinking about that.

 

 

Reflections on EduTech

Program or be Programmed

I always come away from a big conference with a mixture of big ideas, cynicism, idealism and genuine tiredness, mostly in equal measures. In a big conference (5000+) like EduTech you can get lost in the streams and the conversations and never come to anything at the end. So, some final reflections from my Qantas flight home.

  • The various strands work well, but they probably too broad. Ed-Leaders? I’d like to see some more specialised strands: PD, LMS integration, maker-spaces, these are all potential conferences within the conference
  • Some of the keynotes seem short and a bit rushed
  • It’s driven by the makers of tech ..we’re along for the ride. If we aren’t the product, we are being actively marketed as the buyer of it. Most speakers had something to sell, some more obviously than others.
  • Besides the games which sort of worked, a bit more interactivity wold be good at times, but sometimes that ‘stand up and talk to the person next to you’ is just a bit tokenistic and annoying.
  • STEM is everywhere. That, and making, scratching, coding, playing and building. ‘How many of you are planning a maker-space?’, one speaker asked. Lots of hands shot up. There were drones and robots in equal measure; I was waiting for them to fight each other.
  • The interactive white board thing is done.
  • The flipped classroom thing is hanging in there.
  • I’ve got to think again about what good PD looks like; I was ashamed at myself for not doing more to respect teacher prior knowledge and individual pathways, even if they follow school-wide goals. This is my new goal.
  • I wanted to explore more feedback options (apps and devices) and there were plenty that I hadn’t seen before, and want to explore with my own class before I try them with teachers.
  • LMS proliferation continues, but our choice of Schoolbox seems to be more than holding its own in this space. Major competitors seemed to be Firefly (UK) and Canvas (USA) but I saw nothing startling out there that justified a major re-examination. One problem is that some of the textbook makers also pretend to be an LMS. To me, the future LMS will integrate beautifully with the full range of learning tools; you want Office Mix, OneNote, Yammer, but you also want Google Forms, collaborative Docs and to be able to embed YouTube and ClickView.
  • Teachers are pretty dedicated. They get up, they do their best. They want to learn, they want to help their students. For many of them, getting away for a couple of days with peers like this, is pretty special, and very valued.

Google VR

With Rupert Denton from ClickView

The Main Stage

Coding

View from inside

Brisbane

 

The DNA of a STEM Academy

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DNA of a STEM School

Amanda Fox

@AmandaFoxSTEM

The STEM Academy at Bartlett

Fox talked about the DNA of a STEM school, wearing a DNA inspired dress to do it. She talked about STEM as a trans-disciplinary approach, and talked about her journey over the last few year as a social science teacher, arguing that STEM had to change year after year.

It was interesting to hear about the journey; how she’d been involved in hiring and creating the team and the changes that had taken place in such a short time. I was interested I want to know more about how to make STEM actually work in a subject orientated culture. Some of the things she stressed were:

  • Adaptability. Don’t keep doing things that aren’t working
  • Content comes after you teach it for a while
  • Rigorous curriculum: Problem solving, trans-disciplinary, story-centred, real world
  • A story-centred curriculum
  • ‘Tell your story before someone else does it for you’

They set ‘grand challenges’ that run over nine week intervals, solving a problem like creating a ‘planetary rover’, renewing urban infrastructure. They used iTunes U courses and student worked through the course. Students also worked in teams, fostered community involvement and had on-site visits and field trips.

Session Details

STEM DNA: Design, Narrative, Application

We all know what STEM stands for…Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics…but what does it look like in action? How can you design transdisciplinary, problem based curricula that is unique to your school and community?

Amanda share the narrative of what it’s like to be teacher in a STEM public school; how we began; what is the curriculum, and how in just three years they have evolved to be considered THE top middle grades certified STEM program in the nation. Decode the genome of their transdisciplinary approach, and learn what you can transplant to your own program.

Amanda Fox, Film and Broadcasting Instructor, The STEM Academy (USA)

 

 

One model does not fit all

 

One model does not fit all

This session by Tamara Sullivan focused on professional development, and used sli.do to gather delegate feedback. One thing I’ve been focusing on is feedback tools and this was a new one to me.

Sullivan used the AITSL learning design model to frame professional learning at her school. They ask ‘what is the purpose of this PD, and is that clear to participants?’ She took us through the process her school had gone through in trying to instil 21C skills across the curriculum.

This bit became a bit specific to her school and her problem, but she was able to unpack it and think about the bigger principles, though those threads could have been made more explicit.

Some of the core principles and practice she talked about were:

  • Clear purpose, clear purpose to participants
  • Collaborative
  • The tools, features, design, accessibility
  • Taking a ‘flipped classroom’ approach to PD in lieu of physical attendance after school (highly collaborative, self-directed, respecting teachers as learners, aligned to priorities, sustainable, modelled 21C pedagogies and technologies.
  • Shared ownership of the change (6 leaders took a course and became mentors/coaches)
  • These coaches then made the ‘flipped’ modules, using Office Mix.
  • Teachers were then asked to do something practical with the learning – Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 responses.
  • One purpose was to MODEL their tools. As an Office 365 school they used Office Mix, Yammer, Mosaic and SharePoint. Yammer was important, she argued, in encouraging participation.
  • This learning was followed up with a survey (using Excel?) and a three hour whole staff workshop to look at practice: looking at action plans and auditing existing tasks and assessment.
  • Other factors: a Learning Innovations Committee (about 30 staff)

I liked this session. I had some things to take back to school. I was impressed with the strategic thinking involved and the respect for teachers as learners.

Session details

One model does not fit all – Professional development for the 21st century teacher

Educators around the world are undertaking school wide reforms to ensure that they are preparing students to live and work successfully in the 21st century and beyond. However, teacher professional development is not always designed or delivered to meet the needs of the 21st century teacher. So how can we restructure professional learning to ensure that all teachers are well equipped to cater for the needs of students in today’s environment? This presentation will explore practical strategies to transform professional development at a school level to develop the competencies of lifelong learning for both students and educators.

Tamara Sullivan, Dean of E-Learning, Ormiston College