thinking

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

 

My brain is full

 

EduTech Stage

EduTech – Day 1

‘How the digital world will change the way we think and learn’

Baroness Susan Greenfield, Neuroscientist.

 

Humans adapt to the environment.  We got a short course in Neuroscience 101. It’s the brain that determines our individualism.

 

Greenfield is a renowned neuroscientist, and  talked about the plasticity of the brain, neural connections and experiments that establish that the mental is the physical.  ‘Thinking is movement confined to the brain’, she quoted, and showed how ‘use it or lose it’ principles of physical exercise also worked in brain cells.

 

Connections give ever deeper meaning over time as the world around you is personalised.  (The opposite happens in Alzheimers)

 

She then ventured into more contentious areas; quoting the Daily Telegraph on the ‘erosion of childhood’ and the habituation of violence from video games,  attention problems from high video game and TV watching. There were lots of peer-reviewed journals (and more of The Telegraph) and some emotive terms like ‘gambling’ and ‘addiction’.

 

She argued that there are two basic modes for the human brain: meaningless and meaningful and you could see where this was going: video games are bad. This lead to a critique of social media, narcissism. ‘In the old days we used to play games like this ..’ (Shows picture of kids in sandpit)

 

Interestingly, she argued that being in charge of your own identity was very important to avoid loneliness, and argued that immersion in social media was losing that control of your own identity.

 

From there it became a bit predictable, and limited. Books are good (I agree) video games (no meaning, no connections) are not, search engines and relegating our memory to Google are bad …. She read a bit about the importance of facts, from Dickens. I think, without irony.

 

Good things she argued for: stories, physical exercise, interacting with nature. Then, a quote from a the ‘laughter, fun and giggles’ of bike riding with the kids. Really.

 

Odd choice to open a tech conference. I guess it reveals that the smartest scientists in the world, with the best machines for registering brain activity in the world, are still prisoners of their own imagination and own neural connections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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De Bono on ‘cave-man’ thinking

Secret Cave, Hai Long Bay

The first session of the Oxford Conference was a video of De Bono talking about thinking.  He had been scheduled to open the conference, but was too ill to travel. It was still very worthwhile to hear him.  De Bono argued that we are locked into standard responses,standard thinking. This is “cave-man thinking” – responsive. He said we were locked into “Thinking to find the truth”, the thinking that grew out of church beliefs. But what about “thinking to create value”?  That’s been neglected.

He argued for teaching thinking directly, and that improved results in all other subject. And, not thinking in subjects, but the explicit teaching  of thinking frameworks.

He also argued that we should be teaching the “now-story”, how the world works now, as being at least as important as history teaching.

He also talked about the six hats thinking tools he developed, and argued for their continued relevance in moving thinking beyond instinct and emotion.

He also talked about the logical and patterning systems in the brain, and how humour was an example of creativity. Lateral thinking, he said, was formalised, creative thinking (random word technique, provocation technique etc). These can be learned.

Our existing thinking is ebne (excellent, but not good enough).  We’ve been hung up on “truth thinking”.

Above: Secret cave near Hai Long Bay, Vietnam.  Photo: Warrick

Happy Holidays

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Teaching is an odd profession in some ways isn’t it? I think I’ve said this before! The timetabled unstoppability of it, the emotional investment (and roller-coaster) that’s part’s of working closely with young people who come to you at all stages of their learning journey. The four-term (I could graph this) rises and lows of energy, workload and feedback. And, at the end you say goodbye and start again. Some keep in touch. Others you never see again.

Last week I went into work and picked up my Lit class results and sat and thought for a little while about all the stories in those scores. Every year some students delight and surprise you, others don’t go as well as you hoped or expected. How can you predict that? What can you do better? Every year I ask myself if there’s something I could (should?) have done for that student who was just off the radar a little, or who didn’t know how to ask you the right questions or didn’t how how to think differently.

So, the ‘down-time’, the summer holidays is a place to start again, to think again, to walk down to the beach and plunge yourself into a different world. After a week of holidays I’m already sleeping better and feeling fitter. And, I’m starting to think about next year, and what to do different.

To all those teachers (and students) who have followed these musings this year, and maybe even have responded, thanks. And enjoy the holiday season.

Gloomy day at the office

We’ve all had ’em I console myself. Those lessons that just don’t quite go right. Where you get out at the end and say to yourself, ‘well that was pretty ordinary’.

I had one last week, a gloomy perfect storm of missed opportunities and mis-chances I tell myself. A room change due to exams putting us up in a weird little room of different layout and logistics and throwing the old tried and true relationship seating upside down, the last lesson or so before their exams and a while off to our next coursework assessment, so no real urgency maybe about the lesson and no end in sight. Combine that with an 18th birthday party to plan in the back corner and me with a sore back from a frozen bike ride on the weekend and not mobile enough to get around and check things out, and you’ve got a lesson that never got really started, half-baked discussion that never got thought about, and half the class who never got involved at all.

Back under the cold harsh fluorescent light back in my office I take more responsibility. It wasn’t ever going to be a great lesson, pretty passive and lacking an explanation of the purpose or learning that might have happened.

We’ve all had them. It’s often our fault. You’ve got to think about and do something different next time. We have, in a year together, so few of these times. These lessons are valuable, they should matter, we should make them count.

Cloud photo by Warrick