australian_curriculum

Living and teaching in an era of big data

4880571255_bf4c3dd279_z

If there was one recurring thread (I typed ‘threat’ subliminally just then and it didn’t auto-correct!) at the first day of the K-12 National Curriculum Conference today, it might have been the idea of data, analytics and ‘using evidence’ to inform teaching and learning.

‘There are two things we all agree with’, said Professor Brian Caldwell, it’s the idea of an Australian curriculum, and the idea of national testing, of some kind.

Systems: universal, national, local, like the idea of data. ‘We’re not just wasting our money here. Look. You’re not doing it right…’ Data to drive improvement, data to drive reform, data to drive teachers out of the profession. ‘PISA has become an article of faith for policy makers …’ someone said. There was lots of talk of data analysis, of acronyms like PISA, NAPLAN, ACER, VCAA, ISQ, GKR, PAT, EBO, PATT … and on it went.

Everyone wants a dashboard, and they want it now. Not as much talk about how we might deal with all that data once we have it, or how that might drive … well, even more data.

There were some refreshing asides, talk about creativity, problem-solving, the value of learning for its own sake and not as an atom in a productivity machine, but data. Everywhere data.

Most of the presentations are on Slideshare HERE

[Vette Dashboard by Wayne Silver, on Flickr – https://flic.kr/p/8rhcNg ]

Gamifying the (Australian) Curriculum

spaceinvaders
Professor Jeffrey Brand – Gamifying the Australian Curriculum (Oxford Conference 2014)
Jeffrey Brand presented a keynote on ‘Gamifying the National Curriculum’ at the Oxford Conference and tried to turn it into the first gamified keynote ever.
Gamifying is not a dirty word, he argued. Games have clear goals, immediate feedback and a social layer.
Other elements he saw as important were ‘badges’, levels, which signify ‘progress’. These have been in the ‘Horizon Reports’ since 2007 but which are not referred to more than sporadically in the AC.
Gamification is using aspects of games (game mechanics) in other activities, like learning. Games are problem solving activities approached with a playful attitude. Isn’t that what learning should be like? It’s different from GBL (games based learning) which is using existing games for classroom activities.
Game mechanics include: points, levels, increasing difficulty, low risk points, progress, narratives, quests, social engagement, mastery, virtual goods, leaderboards, use accumulation not averages …
Some final lessons:
  • Design for narrative-play and flow. I liked that.
  • Don’t add a thin layer, like badges, on content. Oops.
  • Don’t force people to play.
I tried Class Dojo a couple of years ago and I’ve tried things which *might* be construed as game elements (badges etc) but this presentation didn’t really grab me, or convince me. I’m not a game player. I don’t know if my students need an extra artificial construct to be interested in the learning. The more the ‘game’ of the keynote progressed the more I disengaged. The woman next to me was the opposite, getting very animated, racking up points, enjoying answering the questions, ‘how many points was that worth?’, she called out. She interrupted him mid-sentence to point out the deliberate spelling mistake. She was more interested in the game than the learning. The game had supplanted the learning. I didn’t want to play the game.

Where are we with Australian Curriculum?

These are some notes from the keynote by Dr Phil Lambert from ACARA at the OUP Conference today.

Dr Lambert gave an update to the Australian Curriculum, including a reiteration that AC funding was continuing despite recent Federal Budget announcements. He talked about the big achievements so far particularly around the comparison of achievement standards.

ACARA has developed curriculum in eight learning areas, ‘incorporating both the traditional subjects that have stood the test of time while incorporating new content, skills, dispositions’, which he called 21C skills.  Languages was nearly completed and would be on the website soon, as well as new languages being developed.

He claimed that AC was world class, and countries like Brazil, Korea and Saudi Arabia were looking to the AC for inspiration, particularly in the skills and dispositions area. Interestingly, he argued that personalised learning and smaller class sizes were also on the agenda for China as they looked to move from content-only curriculum.

He was more coy about the cross-curriculum priorities, and their future, describing them as ‘choices’ that teachers could make depending on context.

One of the achievements he was proud of was the resource development in Scootle, with links to the AC content tags, being available to all Australian students. 

Some world trends: GELP. and a focus on new metrics. He linked this to Gates Foundation funding. Are we measuring the things we really value? Even when they’re hard to measure. 

He talked a little about the myths and misconceptions about AC that often appeared in the media. He did seem concerned about this in a guarded way but it’s obviously something they are concerned about. He said that ‘some areas of the media’ don’t want to tell the ACARA version of the story. One of their learnings here was not to rely on traditional media, but use social media much more to get their message across.

What next? Secondary curriculum still under discussion. ‘We are in dialogue’ and looking for suggestions from teachers. Implementation will vary, and implementation might be influence, rather than direct use of the curriculum. Illustrations of personalised learning to come, F-10 Arts; Humanities and Social Sciences (Economics and Business, Civics and Citizenship) Health and PE, Technologies. Lots of this on the web with varying status in terms of implementation.  Chinese, French, Italian, Indonesian done and 7 more languages to come, as well as work on indigenous languages. Work samples coming online and continuing to be developed. A completely new website was also coming soon. NAPLAN is now aligned to AC, they’re looking at online NAPLAN, and extending NAP sample. I was surprised that, the day after NAPLAN testing had finished, he didn’t feel the need to apologise for what it has become.

#OEC2014

The future is blended

Blender

I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a presentation I’m giving at two Oxford Conferences soon. The title of the presentation is The Future is Blended, and the descriptor for my session is:

In this workshop the focus will be on blended learning and approaches that extend and enhance the classroom experience. The latest research tells us what we have always felt: that good teaching is critical to student learning and that feedback to students is also critical. New technologies provide teachers with powerful tools to organise, collaborate and give feedback and to re-envision the classroom for the twenty-first-century learner. In this workshop participants will get a snapshot of the latest learning theory and get to play with some digital tools in a range of platforms that that can have immediate application in any classroom. The future is not digital, but it is blended.

The Education Changes Lives Conference is focused on Australian Curriculum but my session is more about technology and blending traditional approaches with new ideas. Last year I presented in the English teachers stream; this year it’s for general teaching audience.

The Melbourne conference is on May 16th

The Sydney Conference is on May 30th

Hope to see you there.

Incorporating the Australian Curriculum

The Bridge

This third session at the Oxford Conference was presented by Howard Kennedy (NSW  Board of Studies)

I felt like a spy. Maybe the only Victorian in this NSW syllabus briefing getting the secret perspective from below the surface!  I thought it was interesting to title the session: ‘incorporating’. This was a session focused on the NSW changes. They aren’t talking about implementing. Its incorporating.

NSW announced a new syllabus website last November. They’ve had thousands of hits. ‘And we’re not even teaching this yet’. Okay. We are.

Kennedy went through the rationale for the AC, and I was surprised to that the old chestnut about families and students who move annually around Australia; I thought that had been dismissed as the reason for all this stuff, and he actually dismissed it a bit himself, when he gave us some Defence Force data about research they’d done, about it not being the curriculum that was the hard thing for students who moved, but the different starting ages, which haven’t really been addressed by anyone to my knowledge. I was surprised to see that he still felt the need to explain and/or justify the rationale for the AC at all, but it was an interesting enough looking-back at the history of this space since 2008.

He denied that “NSW had gone off and done their own thing”, which is basically what I thought. Instead, he argued that the NSW stakeholders requested additional elements. His slide said that in 2010 they endorsed the content, then agreed that the content should be refined. We want more detail, argued NSW teachers (not the response from most Victorian teachers) NSW was used to detail. A study in NSW was 70 pages each. In the ACT, the whole syllabus was 32 pages. Apparently NSW teachers love being told what to do, or love clear, detailed outcomes. Take your pick.

His take-away message to phase 2 and 3 teachers: ‘the curriculum needs to be achievable within existing indicative time requirements and NSW KLA structure, and the appropriate time-frame (a full 12 months preparation). I read that as your time for the subject you teach won’t change.

He then showed us how NSW were basically explaining the ACARA dotpoints. One dot point in ACARA Science becomes 4, one Maths dot point on triangles, becomes 12, the word ‘perspectives’ needs to be explained (imagine how a Turkish person would have felt at Gallipoli?)

Every student has to have been taught this stuff by the end of 2015. (pretty much indecipherable diagram)

The NSW syllabuses for the Australian Curriculum website looks pretty good. He was very happy with the level of interest in the NSW web site from all over Australia and the world. When he showed us the site, some malware or spam started coming up. It was nice to see the site being used live, which is always risky.

The site itself has some good features, some learning support materials, and a thing called ‘Program Builder’, which is available to NSW teachers and others (?) through Scootle. In this section, teachers can create units and programs based on the NSW syllabus. Already, 71,000 units have been developed in Program Builder.

You know, in all this talk, not a mention of the learning, the intention, the big picture and, in the program builder, units build of content and assessment with none of the enduring understandings or intentions that characterise UbD. In this model, curriculum units were cut and paste out of content. I did like that they had unit templates which were able to be customised.

The bridge: photo by Warrick

Waleed Aly on National Curriculum

I said in the previous post that I was having trouble figuring out Aly’s take on National Curriculum in the latest issue of The Monthly.

Some of the key points seem to be:

“(Curriculum) … is a form of political activism.”  [National Curriculum, like Texas curriculum on evolution, is political]

AGREE


“…Perhaps I never got a decent education in Australian history – but it is abundantly clear that the failures of our education system have occupied a significant place in this country’s culture wars in the past decade or so” –

DISAGREE –  The ‘failures’ of our education system are ‘alleged’ and also political.

“Is this the Rudd government finally putting its stamp on the country, Education Revolution and all? Well, sort of. Certainly, the idea of a national curriculum, displacing the various state-determined curricula that currently prevail, sounds suitably muscular and revolutionary. It has the resonance of ‘getting serious’, of ‘raising standards’ – of whipping our kids into shape. But only very modest changes have been made to the maths and science curriculum we presently have, and these changes will actually make the materials less dense, with an increased focus on statistics and probability. The biggest change is history – which will now actually be taught in its own right – but even here, the revolution is incomplete. And who, exactly, is going to teach it? “

UNSURE. Most experts I’ve talked to who’ve looked closely at the drafts so far have seen them as regressive. Aly seems to be arguing for DENSE curriculum (think stand-alone history rather than soft and fluffy SOSE) but the curriculum drafts seem content heavy and old-fashioned.

“You could be forgiven for assuming Australian students have become an embarrassment when it comes to literacy and numeracy. Nobody seemed to listen when Peter Freebody, the lead writer of the English syllabus, said that “Australians are more literate now than they were when grammar was taught intensively, but in isolation from language use and literary studies.” Freebody’s point was that “the basics” are no panacea, and have to be combined with a study of literature. But Gillard chose to stand before the media scrum, spelling – “c-a-t, cat” “

AGREE – See previous post.

Aly  goes on to argue that Rudd seems intent on being both Asian-centred and progressive, as well as tougher on teachers and asylum seekers than Howard.

However, I was surprised to find that the whole piece is online and you can try to figure it out yourself HERE.

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 …’?