learning environments

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. 

 

 

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Talk and Tek (the way I teach now)

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This week I was finishing up my planning for a unit of work in Literature loosely called ‘Views and Values’ and focusing, in this case, on the poetry of Adrienne Rich and the kinds of viewpoints about the world, as well as the underpinning values that emerge, in her work.

Rich is an American poet with strong feministic beliefs so, besides being an excellent poet, she’s ideally placed in this aspect of the course. Students need to work with the poetry but also unpack and analyse the way the author critiques society. It’s challenging, but also really interesting.

This is a senior Literature class, mostly of self-motivated students who are interested in the material and want to be there. It’s a privilege and makes teaching a pleasure. My teaching in this subject involves a lot of talk: discussion, student presentations, me talking (sometimes too much), students talking (in groups, pairs, or whole class) reading aloud, annotating, summarising, synthesising, analysing, coming to judgement and personal evaluation. Developing a reading, by talking it through, is the key I say.

But it’s not talk and chalk, but talk and tek, for me in my teaching these days. Quite a while ago now I pretty much stopped using the analog whiteboard altogether and projected the notes and discussion points on a screen via data projector; firstly using PowerPoint as the preferred note-taking tool, and then, as screen resolution improved to Word, and finally OneNote. Where is is today.

OneNote is a wonderful tool for organising and capturing note and research, but I find it also worked really well to organise the notes (and teaching) for a course. I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but my Literature OneNote notebook has a section for each text and pretty much a page for each lesson. It structures itself wonderfully as the lessons unfold. Students would have their OneNote notebook too, and I’d generally email them a OneNote page for homework, or with material to read. Moving notes around from email into OneNote is a bit of a pain, but it was still worth it.

This year, a lot of that approach changed as we’ve been trialling Office 265 and OneDrive. The game-changer here is the possibilities in OneNote Notebook Creator; a tool that takes a lot of the hassle out of setting up and maintaining OneNote as a learning tool, and adds some powerful features that simply weren’t possible or were really tricky to do before: a collaboration space and a personal shared notebook space with each student. You can read about the features on the Microsoft site, but I’ve used OneNote this year for course content delivery, for collaboration spaces for student groups, for a space for students to submit work for feedback and lots more. Its the main teaching tool I use.

Along with that, I’ve got a couple of standard technology tools I use and like. I like Padlet for online brainstorming, and use Schoology, thought not as much as last year, mainly for its assessment and feddback and assignment/homework completion qualities. I put student results up there so students are able to get their results online rather than wait and get the results in class in that social context. I also have used Office Mix to jazz up PowerPoints with audio and video, Office Sway a new tool for delivering information; you can see a Sway on an Adrienne Rich I put together HERE. (However, I’m thinking that the main use of Sway might be in students presenting their own findings and in their presentations, and use Diigo, online bookmarking to set up lists like Resources on Adrienne Rich, to supplement the classroom work and resources.

Funny, that after I’ve been so critical of Windows and the operating system and the Office tools, and am such a fan of the Apple ecosytem that the principle tools I find myself working and teaching with in 2015 are from Microsoft.

Microsoft Sway

amadeus

So, it’s only January 3rd but it’s too hot to go outside so I am having a look at some new online tools, trying to figure out the best way to work with my students in Year 12 Literature this year.

I’ll certainly continue to make OneNote the basis of the notes, and am looking forward to the new OneNote Notebook Creator and the possibilities of Office 365 which we’re introducing this year, but will I continue to use Schoology and what else could I be bringing to the classroom?

One new tool I saw is Microsoft Sway, which claims to be a bit of a cross between PowerPoint and other tools like Prezi (Prezi makes me a little dizzy!)

Still in development, I played around with using Sway to introduce the task conditions for the first text, Amadeus by Peter Shaffer. It allows you to create a ‘storyline’ of images, text and share that via a weblink which is scrollable and looks pretty good. More features are coming.

You can see the result HERE (I don’t think you can embed it yet) Looks pretty interesting. Here’s the promotional video from Microsoft:

What do I hope for my students this year?

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It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been teaching, you can’t help but feel a frisson of nerves, or tension, or anticipation at the start of each year.

Maybe you’re in a new role, or teaching some new content, but more likely, and most often, it’s the thinking about meeting your new class and planning to get that beginning going well and those interactions commencing on the right foot.

The advice I got in my first year of teaching, from a grizzled old salt from the History Department? ‘Don’t smile until Easter’. Talk tough. Start firm and relax later if you can.

But I’m not talking to discipline and behaviour. I’m talking about the anticipation around this particular group of students and how you’re going to create that learning culture that works. The students: Who are they? What do they hope for? How are you going to get to know them at the same time as you know you’ve got some key content and skills that they need to develop. I sometimes wonder if we over-estimate out importance; that maybe we think too much about it, or try too hard, plan too much for what will come. But, I don’t like to think like that. And I’m not getting all blasé about ‘just another year’ and all that. This year matters, for them, and me.

And I plan to smile before Easter.

Above: Flowering gum (symbol of hope!)  Photo: Warrick

Thinking about community

The last staff day for the year. Farewell. Speeches. Long standing staff members with nearly one hundred and fifty years of teaching between them, leaving and taking all that experience with them, before we all went out to lunch together.

They all gave funny or moving retirement speeches, talked about teachers they’d worked with and the students they’d taught, often about getting the job and always about the teams they’d been involved in and the people that had made a difference. The retiring swimming teacher gave a dignified speech, the EAL teacher talked about what she’d learned from her students and the time-tabler read out her old reports from Year 9, to everyone’s amusement.

The Head of Music, who gets everyone to sing every year, introduced us to a new carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter”, a bleak and beautiful song that his father used to sing for him and we all sang it as well as we could, then “Joy to the World”, which we all knew better. There was a tangible sense of community.

I thought of my wife, who works in business, mostly by herself or at bi-annual conferences where they all get together and where the bottom line is everything and where respect and loyalty don’t count for much, and was sorry that she didn’t share in this.

Not all business is like that I know, but there’s something in good schools that is inherently different from that; that creates an sustains community and that makes a big difference for the students and teachers who work there.

Best wishes to everyone for the holiday season.

Below: the carol we tried to learn; sounding a bit better than we managed!

The Network takes Over

This post was written at the Idea13 #idea13 Conference, MCG, 12/11/2013

Mark Pesce, from the University of Sydney was the opening keynote.

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Connected World

Pesce opened with the idea that ‘this is the moment’, when things aren’t going to be transformed. They already are. Pesce argued that we’ve gone from little or nothing to a radical change in just over fifteen years; about a billion seconds. Eighteen years from the beginning of the web to now.

The biggest change, he argued, was connectivity and the literally unimaginable possibilities that connectivity created. He said it was about ‘knowledge amplification’ and gave Wikipedia as a key example.

He argued that the next key moment after the internet was the smart phone. ‘A fundamental transformation to the construction of human knowledge’. The smart phone and tablet (he reminded us that the iPhone was only five years old in Australia) were desktop computers in the palm of your hand; ‘a huge, growing wealth of human knowledge’ was the world of our students.

It was interesting, for a futurist, that Pesce seemed to assume that he evolution was now complete. ‘I’ve seen the full evolution of the connected computer’.

‘If the classroom lacks the tools for sharing that are available everywhere, then how is it going to survive?’ was something like a key point. He gave the example of the students who invented a social network for their school, because it needed one.
He called the new generation ‘sharing natives’; sharing and collaboration was native to them, and that’s why THIS moment was the greatest challenge in the last 200 years. Knowledge is not not rare, it’s ‘universal’. What does mean for librarians? What does that mean for teachers? What does that mean for schools?

Craptastic World

What does the educator offer now? In two years the now craptastic $79 tablet will be powerful enough, as powerful as today’s smart phones, which means that everyone will have one. Schools will hand them out every year, with the textbooks on them. The digital divide has expired, he argued. It’s available to everyone, everywhere.  A key point is that sharing is not going to be restricted to the wealthy (the $29 Indian tablet) nations.

He talked a bit about ‘flipped classrooms’ and the rise of MOOCs. ‘The classroom is the least natural environment for the new learning. Peer mentoring is now easier for students to access than a classroom or a teacher. Teachers (professional educators) will need to be problem solvers: innovative, creative, capacity amplifiers.

But…

Sharing can be distracting, the ‘weapons of mass distraction’ and it can arrive too early for some students. We know we can’t stand against this ‘tide of change’, but ‘what do we have to surrender, when the network takes over.’

Keep Calm and Find a Peer Mentor

There may not be a class in the future. Or a school? If everything is connected, why centralise it? Pesce argued that the ‘foundation skills’ (reading, writing, numeracy) are an essential preparation for immersion in the culture of shared knowledge. Digital citizenship, time management, etiquette, safety still need ‘an attentive educator to monitor their progress and provide assistance.’

The next question was around, ‘how does assessment work in a world of shared knowledge?’ Pesce said that this question was a furphy; the key point is that ‘assessment is intrinsic to the act of sharing’ Every moment of peer-mentoring is a moment of assessment. Being able to critique, and receive critiques of mentoring, is a new key competency in the middle years of learning. Schools initiate students into the culture of shared learning and establish patterns of behaviour. The role of the professional educator will change, will be mentoring students some of whom will be face to face, some who won’t. It’s not either/or.

The secondary school will be:

  • Connect.
  • Share.
  • Learn.
  • Do.

A never-ending process of continuing education.

Students need to be able to grow their own networks, beyond a learning network for teachers, but a network of peers, mentors, problem-solvers,for life. ‘The classroom, as it is beginning, is the initiation into this network … the path is clear.

Questions I had
Is the internet ‘wisdom’ or even ‘knowledge’
Is it overly optimistic to believe that peers will shape things nicely and positively for learners?

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On The Facebook

It’s the last lesson of the term, period 1, and some wag of an occulist student* has suggested we do breakfast to celebrate, before the oral presentations on Peter Carey stories continue. Good idea, I think, and I grab the Maths Department toaster on the way to class, with my loaf of raisin toast, wondering just who’ll remember and whether there’ll be enough to go around.

But there was food a’plenty. Blueberry muffins, fresh slice, croissants, more toast as well as two kinds of juice, tea (English Breakfast) and hot chocolate. Someone had bought plates, someone else had bought plastic knives and forks. When I asked them how they’d organised it all? On the Facebook, of course.

Which reminded me that, as with my class last year, they all are in a Literature study group where they (presumably) discuss things in class beyond the food requirements or ‘cake day’. I say presumably, because I’m not on Facebook, and even if I was, there are school rules against ‘friending’ students on social media.

It annoyed me a lot last year. I was busy trying to create these vibrant online spaces for class collaboration, and they were all across ‘there’, already doing it. I blogged about it a while ago here: https://learningau.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/should-i-be-on-the-facebook/ and got a really good comment from Ann Evans who wrote:

“On the other hand, why not leave them a space where they can help each other. They can bring the questions and conclusions they devise to class and discuss them there. The challenge of helping each other will be lessened if the professor is looking on.”
Which is probably right. I actually asked my students what they thought; would it make any difference to the freedom of their interactions if their teachers were in those groups. One said that they’d have to change their language a bit. No-one looked super-keen on the idea of me looking over their shoulders online.

Maybe I should be learning to let go. Let go of some of that sense of control, and that it’s got to be me who sets the learning agenda. It’s their final year. Next year most of them will be at university, doing their own thing. And they got breakfast organised!

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*Okay, gratuitous Gatsby reference.