The Trend towards Open-Ness

A new Ted video from the venerable Don Tapscott, that I saw over on Derek’s blog today. I saw Tapscott present last year, and  he was impressive. The world moves towards open-ness, and we fight our own little battles for that direction in our schools everyday.

Ted-Ed and all that

There’s been a bit of bite-back recently around the ‘Ted-Ed’ concept and the usefulness, relevance or otherwise of the whole shooting match of powerful people spouting powerful ideas. Apparently, they censored a Ted Talk that was critical of the inequity at the heart of American society. That idea sure ain’t going anywhere fast. Gary Stager had a field day. He’s hated the Ted Talk thing from day one. Salon described Ted Talks this way

Strip away the hype and you’re left with a reasonably good video podcast with delusions of grandeur. For most of the millions of people who watch TED videos at the office, it’s a middlebrow diversion and a source of factoids to use on your friends. Except TED thinks it’s changing the world, like if “This American Life” suddenly mistook itself for Doctors Without Borders. (here)

Admission 1 – I was always a bit sceptical about the $1000 a seat, or invite only idea that the Ted Talks seemed to be about in the first place. Yes, I too, smiled and nodded in hearty agreement when Sir Ken Robinson told us all how schools were killing creativity, but not a lot of the videos interested me, and the education ones always seemed a bit ‘off’ somehow. Too American maybe? Or too corporate? Or is that the same thing?

So, I hadn’t paid much attention to them really. I like video, and I think that they are a great resource when used carefully and judiciously. I’ve been actively campaigning for YouTube access at my school, first for teachers and, just this week, for senior students too. So far, the sky hasn’t fallen.

Admission 2 – However, I’m very dubious about the Khan Academy kind of approach to learning. **Maybe** the drill and drill kind of repeat and rewind thing might be useful for a skill based kind of subject (a concept in Maths?) but for Literature? I want to show that part from Olivier’s Hamlet where he finds himself in the graveyard as Ophelia is brought there, or the amazing swordfight at the end of Branagh’s version. I want to show it at the right moment in the teaching, that three to ten minute scene, then talk about it. That’s not anything to do with a chalkboard screencast of factorisation repeated until you can say it too.

But (Admission 3) I have become very interested in the concept of the *flipped classroom* and how that might supplement and enhance the classroom work I’m involved in. What if I could deliver that 20 minute overview of the SAC *success criteria* in a podcast or vidcast, and then gets the students to watch that at home? Wouldn’t that leave that 20 minutes or so free for the class to actually talk, collaborate, seek support, get on with things? That’s tempting. And (Admission 4) the tools for creating and delivering some of these enhancements, these ‘flipping’ tools, are so powerful and accessible and first time ever that they’re almost too good not to use. I can add audio to a PowerPoint with Adobe Connect and put it online so my students can watch it, and listen to the audio. I can set up an online meeting (I’ve talked about this before) with Adobe Connect and have a revision session prior to the exams, everyone in their own homes, meeting together. And that’s not to mention Skype, Slideshare, Edmodo, Class Dojo and good ol’ podcasts themselves to support student learning. So many geat tools, so little time.

Which brings me back to Ted-Ed, and their next innovation, allowing teachers to ‘frame’ a Ted Ed video with some questions: questions for understanding, questions for deeper meaning, deeper questions. And, they promise that it will work with YouTube videos too. Which is pretty exciting. A YouTube video taken away from the hideous comments and un-related playlists and brought into a learning context.

I couldn’t get it to work at first, and of course if that YouTube video goes away, so does your lesson. But it’s a much better way of looking at and framing a YouTube video in the classroom, or set for homework like the example below.

Here’s one I put together for Literature homework on Frankenstein. 

Getting started on thinking about ideas in Mary Shelley’s text:

Or this one for the students I’m working with in Pen Club:

I’m still not receiving invites to Ted Talks, and console myself that any club that would have me as a member I don’t want to join. Andrew Douch said recently that he thought audio was more powerful and effective than video anyway, but here’s another tool for learning which, when combined with thoughtful teaching, might make a difference.

The Flipped Classroom

I’ve been a bit interested in the Flipped Classroom lately; the idea of turning things on their head so that the predicatable, the ordinary and the mundane gets tackled with technology and the real learning takes place in the classroom.

I became interested in this a while ago, even bought a microphone to do more podcasting and audio with my own class and collected a list of resources and made a Diigo list of them, as you do. []

But there’s another side to this too. A nagging concern that what might come out of this movement is not the freeing up of the classroom, but the intrusion of the bureaucracy, the big business backed educational resource sites such as the Khan Academy.

How many teachers, in reality, will have the energy, motivation or expertise to develop their own material? Our educational institutions really going to free up teacher time to develop new resources in new technologies?

And, if they don’t, aren’t we going to end up with mass-market resources that don’t fit my classroom and my students or my course?

I can imagine that a closely knit, organised and cohesive team of teachers working together on a course could collaborate closely enough and effectively enough to generate resources together. I can imagine that such a team, with perhaps two or three staff with expertise in new technologies feeding into the main team, could in fact create a course that was flipped. But I can’t see it happening often in the daily, stretched lives of the teachers.

Perhaps flipping the classroom makes more sense the universities with a lecture model still predominates. And where perhaps hundreds or thousands of students undertaking the same course. But I want personalised resources of my students doing my course at the right time, appropriate to the level of ability and the timing of the course. Which means I may have to create them myself.

And, if flipping the classroom means we all go home to watch YouTube, then I’m against it.

Excuses, Excuses

What Are Our Excuses, Again, For Not Putting Computers in the Hands of Our Children?

So began Scott McLeod’s blog post today which was backed up by an inspiring Ted Talk video about kids learning from each other. I couldn’t agree more that, with the price of powerful computing coming down and down we’re still so reluctant to put these most powerful learning tools into the hands of students in any systematic way.

So why not? Well, here’s some excuses I’ve heard

  • It’s too dangerous for students to be connected
  • It’s distracting
  • It’s not the real work
  • How do we test for it?
  • Our teachers don’t like it
  • It’s easier to keep the computers out of the classroom than re-educate the teachers
  • It’s not proven
  • It’s not literacy or numeracy
  • They can use computers at home
  • Their handwriting will suffer
  • It makes them hollow and vacuous and sallow and emaciated (or words to that effect!)
  • We can’t afford it
  • They won’t look after them
  • We can’t afford the bandwidth
  • I want them to look at me, not a screen
  • Parents don’t like it
  • It’s not collaborative
  • It’s too collaborative

I’ve honestly heard all of these, and mostly in these words!  I’ve seen schools begin a 1-1 notebook and abandon it because entrenched conservatism from teachers or parents made it ‘unworkable’. I think we’ve got to be bigger than that.

Below: the TED talk video


It’s so silly it’s now almost funny. This week the Australian Education Union decided (for some pretty good reasons) to boycott the forthcoming NAPLAN national tests in literacy and numeracy because of the league tables which (inevitably) emerged from the publication of data on the MySchool site last year.

The response from the Minister for Education was to suggest that parents be brought in, effectively as strike-breakers, to supervise the tests. I’m not sure what the old shearer’s who helped form the Labor Party in the first place, would think about all this. Probably have a chuckle. Certainly most of the parents aren’t all that keen on the idea.

Here’s the AEU’s take on this. There’s a swag of other videos on the site. I can’t find the Gillard statement anywhere. I was going to blog about the growing scandal around the school funding, but enough it enough! I’d love to be talking about curriculum and learning but education is now pretty politicised in this country.

C.A.T Curriculum

I didn’t think I’d find it online, but after reading Waleed Ali’s piece on the National Curriculum in the latest issue of The Monthly, (more on that piece later if I can actually figure out what he is arguing) I went looking for Julia Guillard explaining the return to basics (basics +) emphasis on our new future looking curriculum. Anyway, I went looking and found it.  This is the vision for a new National Curriculum. Be afraid.

Did she really say ‘Children will be learnt to read …’?