Techagogy Blog

About:Blank – All that is said- has been said – and yet I am not disappointed.

Learning Technologies – Minimise in, Maximise out.

Many secondary school teachers complain that their use of learning technologies is hampered by lack of ICT and lack of access to students, often quoting primary schools as having the advantage of more contact with their pupils.

This had led me to the though that the time a secondary teacher has with their pupils is too precious to be spent on logging on, username issues, internet access as well as the low level disruption and control issues that teachers face in ensuring that pupils are on task.

Also APP/AFL means that teachers have to spend more time with their pupils understanding their needs, levels etc.

Therefore effective use of learning technologies should follow the idea of minimal effective use in the classroom and maximum effective use out of the classroom.

The minimum use is the interactive whiteboard and perhaps access to 4 laptops when needed, a teacher flip cam and digital camera to capture key learning events to share on learning platforms

Learning is extended by use of learning platforms as the use of key discussion questions as well as enabling self and peer review. The teacher should also use th learning platform to ensure that students are ready for their lessons when they arrive, making the time with the pupil even more effective.

Maximum use should be made of students own mobile devices, so they can capture in class learning events and share later. The contentious issue of mobile devices is dealt with in the post called “An Effective School Mobile Phone Policy”. This requires that the money saved by a school on purchasing laptops should be spent on enabling an effective wired and wireless infrastructure.

This idea of minimise in, maximise out will take the stress of trying to use ICT in the class to support learning and brings in the idea that the teacher / student interaction time is too precious to be wasted.

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The Future School?

The education system is currently at the mercy of economists and a muti-national profit shareholder driven global society. Their predicted future is for the benefit of a few, enabling the creation of a two tiered society; where individuals are disenfranchised from decision making – from power. Their future is the creation of a new global monarchy and the recreation of surfism through debt and the imposition of a global human disposable resource. This one future has been enabled by technological change, where the initial digital land grab provided opportunity for this few through marketing and exploitation of individuals drive and desire, and the access to creative and virtual credit tools, to plunge society into an ever increasing need for the superficial. These enriched few have had their futures enabled through the control of the press and the deceit of the celebrity. Huxley’s brave new world used Soma as the drug of control, today our Soma is our addiction to celebrity and consumerism. The few will squander any resource to achieve their aim, creating walled havens of peace and tranquillity, plundering the human resource, feasting on their version of Solent Green.

This one future may seem a grim and depressing one, but as increasing global competition for a quality of life increases, there is a real possibility that it could appear before we have educated society to either engage and exploit this, or to challenge and change.

Thus as educators how do we enable two things to happen?

  • How do we enable the learner to participate and benefit from this future model; to survive and prosper?
  • How do we enable the learner to challenge this future; provide the opportunity for change?

From these questions arises a fundamental issue – what type of person/society are we becoming with the advent of the socio-technological future and how the school environment can adapt to enable all learners to participate. We need to ask who are the learners and educators, how can we enable society to live together, build and contribute to fairness in justice, to find out what we need to know and how to participate and create.

The future person is one moved from an autonomous model to one that is monitored, controlled, marketed; an economic resource. But has the power and access to knowledge and networks to challenge and change. Has the opportunity and skill to assess information and make an informed individual choice of where to engage, to participate and prosper.

Thus the question for our schools is how are they adapting their model of delivery to cope with this new individual?

The current school model provides the opportunity for access to a very limited range of knowledge, an opportunity to test themselves against the barriers to professions put in place by interested parties and an opportunity to fail in a variety of different, creative and de-motivating ways. Yet there is an opinion that the education sector has not undergone change and that a time traveller from the past would recognise the school of today. But education has changed; it has change from the perspective of imposition and control of learning to a comsumeristic leaner empowered choice, driven by techno-enabled opportunities . It is the school where the change has faltered, with a compliance league table driven nature where there is real conflict between survival and every child matters.

So what would a school of our very near future look like? How could it create this new individual?

This school needs to change its fundamental identity, to re-brand, market, upgrade, techo-enable its core. This school would not be recognised as an institution apart from the community (local, national, global), it will be a natural part of everything that the community does. The schools needs a make-over; one driven by the consumer, the client, the individual identity that is now our normalised social self. Parts of it can be re-cycled, dispose of, re-created by new learning generations and new social learning groups. These learning generations are those of a learning network, created by the learners themselves, with the “teacher” becoming another resource for the learner to engage with. All participants become learners, all participants become teachers. The “school” becomes a social network, where its core belief is that we are all learners, that learning continually changes and we learn all our life. The learning is about creating skills, sharing expertise and supporting others, this issue is that the physical boundary of learning does not exist, and that learning is about enabling the individual to survive, engage, support and challenge – to provide the environment for joy, fulfilment, surprise, wonder and perspective around learning.

The learner will not enter or be enrolled, but will as a right be part of that social learning network, the physical opportunities for learning will be provided by a variety of experts in differing locations, where those locations are technologically enabled and environmentally motivation. The learner can choose and change learning mentors, can expect that their learning needs and styles are managed and they have the fullest opportunity to experience a range of opportunities and also to be challenged and stretched continually. The social learning network will have a full set of accessible quantitative and qualitative data, and that this data is used creatively and appropriately by learning experts to ensure that not only every child does matter, but that every learner matters. Learners through the core belief of the social learning network will be expected to collaborate, to ensure that they are technologically literate, that they engage and respect other learners through a learning bill of rights, something that learners will be continually asked to reflect against. Learners will not be classed by age, or limited by age, but will be classed through their choice of learning network and learning path. Learners will be supported by professional learners, whose role is mentor, expert, carer, peer, challenger, friend, family, consultant, creator, collaborator and conduit. The role of the professional learner is to ensure that every learner matters and that no learner leaves the learning community.

The learner (who ever they are) is cared for by the social learning community, neither enters or leaves this community but is engaged throughout their learning life; developing the responsibility to ensure that all other learners have the support, opportunity and right to learn; to ensure that the learner become the new society, that to be called a learner is the ultimate accolade.

Are we Ready for the Google School?

As with many thoughts, it takes the serendipity of intervention to create a blog such as this. There are two events that have motivated this blog, one being the intervention of a a friend and the other a conversation with a teacher. The intervention led to a purchase of a book (What would Google do) which triggered a reflection after the conversation.

The conversation was regarding the use of a learning platform to support students with their learning, it was related to support that I was giving regarding how a learning platform could support parents to support their children to achieve the precious “C” grade in mathematics. This fantastic initiative led to the development of the school’s learning platform being used to identify targets around maths shared with parents. These parents are now using their learning platform to access and comment on these targets. This initiate had led to a number of emails to the teacher requesting further revision links and  information. The teacher wanted an online space so that the email conversation was reduced, and that parents would have immediate access to further information.

I suggested the use of a discussion with the parents having control over this space, so that they could have an area for communcation with the school and a network space with other parents. The teacher got extremely nervous about this stating that the parents could gang up against teachers. I tried to invert the conversation saying that the parents could take their frustrations elsewhere, where the schools would have no control or knowldege of the problem, e.g. the local press etc.

From the book “What Would Google do”, the issue around Dell as explained by the author could be the same that schools face with the consumer turning their attention to education, using other social networks to share their frustrations. I feel that the social/education sector is some years behind the commercial sector regarding consumer interaction, essential being the same thing, the purchase (even by taxation) of services such as education.

Are schools planning for this change, are they ready for the consumer impact on their service, are they ready for online reporting parents, are they ready to take the challenge of the google school?

This google school is applies the ideas of understanding that the consumer has the power and through the media of the internet can create the network that can make or break the school as a brand. Are schools ready for this? Or do they see communciation as being one way.

If so then perhaps some schools will feel the the Dell Hell effect.

Technology and “The Quality of Learning”

From the Ofsted Framework for Inspection 2009 for UK state schools, I find the statement on page 31 on “The Quality of Teaching” very interesting.

It states from it’s “Outline Guidance” that “Inspectors should take into account the extent to which:”

… Appropriate use of new technology maximizes learning…

I find this interesting from the language if “new” and the argument of ignorance is no excuse.

“New” infers not “old” or even “last year” or perhaps with the rapid development of ICT – “last month”. Thus could it be argued that a calculator is old technology whilst an iphone with a calculator on it is “new”.

From the argument that “Ignorance is no excuse”, suggest that if “new” technology is not used appropriately, or indeed not at all, this suggests that the teacher must have a very good knowledge of learning technologies in order to make that critical judgement of its appropriateness.

The inspectors judgement (pg 32) for “Satisfactory” is that “Adequate use is made of a range of resources, including new technology, to support learning”. This judgement of course comes not only from the inspection but also schools monitoring systems and evaluations.

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Therefore a “Satisfactory” teacher has to adequately use “new” technologies to support learning.

Thus this imposes on the professionality of  the teacher to become technologically literate.

Are you a Multi-Blogger?

First what is a multi-blogger and how did I come to this new definition?

This notion came to me whilst investigating the automatic mp3 podcast generator within this wordpress environment. This feature created quite a good audio version of a blog entry, automatically. I then decided to take this idea further into the field of the creative blog. I took the transcript and created an Extranormal video from this script with some action features added. By linking this in with the microblogging feature of twitter linked into Facebook you have a multi blog.

Definition – A Multiblog is a multi-media creative blog which incorporates text, audio and creative online media to enable the same message to be viewed differently. This blog is then enabled by microblogging the link with a short 140 character text.

So what type of blogger are you?

Mono – A single type of blog entry such as text.

Many – Microblogging linking into another longer blog entry.

Multi –  Microblogging linking into other social networks leading to a muti-media creative blog entry.

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Using Learning Platforms to support Kagan Structures

From the book Kagan Co-Operative Learning, I have been thinking of how a learning platform could support implementation of this sort of co-operative pedagogy in and out of the classroom.

My previous blog stated how the RM Kaleidos Learning Platform could be used to support one aspect of this – jigsaw learning. I have now looked at the Structure functions from this book ranging from Carousel consensus to Timed Pair Share. Again referring to my previous post, for me the time in the classroom is the most precious resource and allows the teacher to asses pupils performance.

Using the Learning Platform, the first step would be to setup a co-operative learning interest space for all the school. This space is for students and staff to interact with when getting to understand the pedagogy and expectations in the classroom. Here students should add their own comments in a range of media around the types of structures, their understanding of this as well as their experiences in the classroom. They could also upload mobile phone images/photos of their experiences. Students could also rate the different structures and also create their won for teachers to use.

The teacher in sharing their planning should make reference to the structure that is going to be used in the lesson, and even determine and publish the expert teams before the lesson, this would mean that the students have the opportunity to be ready for the learning experience before. This could be useful for those students who are natural leaders, perhaps enabling them to lead the lesson organisation or perhaps some be elected to do this.

During the co-operative lesson, the teacher will have the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of the learning, as well as determining which co-operative structure could be extended outside the lesson. For example Rally Round Robin could be performed outside the classroom using media tools such as voice or video within the Home Group (see previous blog item). Thus it is possible that within a jigsaw session, the expert groups could be performed in the classroom and the Home session set as a task outside the classroom.

My next step of thinking is looking at online tools such as Xtranaormal, wallwisher and etherpad to support co-operative structures as well as the collaborative tools within a learning platform.

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Linking co-operative learning into a Learning Platform

This is an idea of how an aspect of co-operative learning could be implemented into a learning platform. The aspect of co-operative learning will be a jigsaw method. The learning platform I will focus on will be the RM Kaleidos Learning Platform (Sharepoint with a wrap).

The first job for the teacher would be to create “Home” Teams for their knowledge of their students they wish to work with. Generally with a group of 30 students, with 4/5 members of the home team, that would be 6/7 groups.

My consideration is that these how teams are “private”, the resources and learning created with that team stays with that team, they can produce resources for others, or presentations etc. but this would be the final product.

Expert teams are loose associations of students around an aspect of a theme for learning. This could be “Energy” in physics where the students investigate the various forms of energy, report back to home teams and extra learning resources created around those resources.

Using a Learning Platform and specifically the RM one, the “Home” teams can be created into distinct and closed “Learning Spaces”, the members of this space are generated automatically with the teacher having access as well. The teacher could then give full control to this team to develop the site, with each taking a rolling responsibility for its development. Within this space the team could generate a blog, discussion, wiki, sub space around a learning topic, with the ability to embed video, audio etc.

Expert teams could have access to resources created by Home teams, e.g. for Energy teams create a resource which becomes an expert area for other teams as well.

By setting tasks outside the classroom, sharing planning and perhaps sharing teachers video of expectations the students will arrive at the classroom with a higher degree of readiness for co-operative learning, meaning that valuable hour in front of the class becomes much more effective.

Indeed this probably goes back to the notion of fitting co-operative pedagogies into a crowded learning day for students, by using the “homework” feature of school life via the learning platform for students to prepare for their “learning experience”, perhaps this is a way of enabling the transformation of learning via the back door of secondary education.

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The purpose of a teacher

Whilst on twitter I examined a tweet about “seesmic”, knowing nothing about this I looked at the video and what it had to offer. After wading through the corporate fantasy and marketing illusion they were toting I was struck by the quote from Peter Drucher used by the presenter that:-

“The purpose of a business is to create a customer”

This led me to adapt this phase into..

“The purpose of a teacher is to create a learner”

Further the presenter amplifies the business metaphor within the social media simulation that we are all willing participants in to..

“The purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates a customer for your business”

The next obvious step is to create the social learning metaphor from this into..

“The purpose of a teacher is to create a learner who creates a leaner as a teacher”

Why is this important within the idea of transformation of learning? This statement from business is framing our social simulation, a place where our learners exist, they exist in this networked, technologically driven space, they are constructs of social media. The teacher has to enable this learner to learn in this space, to create the learners to become teachers within that space. These new learners will then be able to create the new learners who will be perhaps in a completely different social simulation.

This transformation of the teacher comes through the technology, to dip into the depth of the social simulation in order to create these learners.

The death of constructivism? – Hail consumeristic learning?

I am getting the feeling in schools that we are moving away from a constructivist patriarchal model of learning delivery towards a consumerist, free market notion of learning. My notion of constructivism comes from the teacher developing the framework to learn with the student working their way around this, yet in classrooms today with the emphasis of Every Child Matters, the students is now opting for their learning, choosing from a free market of learning products. Students are demanding the resources to learn what they want, driven by a grim economic and environmental future.

Where has this come from? Has it come from our failure as the Elders of Society, our abject waste of resources, our binging on hydrocarbons to support our obese thinking and outlook. Have we as the Elders stumbled like saps and drunks out of the tavern of “prosperity” to realise that our pockets are empty and realise that we have wasted our inheritance – sobbing and begging forgiveness from our children, realising that they are only hope? In order to mitigate our failure we have created fantastic new schools, superb new pedagogies and teaching, to ensure that Every Child does Matter. To equip our students with hope through their learning, equivalent to the hapless father forgetting the wedding anniversary and desperate for forgiveness offers the world.

But this is fantastic, students are engaging with their learning, using their consumerist power to demand higher standards. They can see our failure and are demanding justice.