Where are you?

After a largely positive Head of Department staff meeting, where we showed staff a short clip of Will Richardson talking about the SHIFT, it reinforced to me the massive divide that is opening in teaching. The connected teacher is engaged in a global conversation that recognises the need to SHIFT our teaching ethos which has been so well outlined by a number of advocates such as Will, and road-mapped by a number of others – Andrew Church’s brilliant wiki about Blooms Digital Taxonomy being a stand out.

As the year progresses, it is great to see how Classroom2.0 and PBL is allowing students to access the higher order skills that Andrew outlines. What is also amazing is that for the large part, this has happened without any specific directive. Simply creating a Classroom2.0 – dropping firewalls to the bare minimum, giving kids access to scaffolded tasks in PBL and allowing them use Web2.0 facilitates this new taxonomy.

In comparison, the dis-connected teacher will cite, lack of ‘time off class’, being ‘too busy with marking’, ‘lack of access’ or quite simply a dismissal of Classroom2.0 benefits simply by labeling those doing it as ‘having too much time on their hands’, or ‘geek technocrats’.

Unfortunately, the ‘geek technocrat’ is a myth. In the last week or so, I’ve had some great conversations with Jeff, a Maths teacher in Montana. He is a great example of how a teacher is re-connecting with their own professional development, getting connected to a personal learning network, and fast tracking his skills – which in term has opened up his classroom to explore and engage in Blooms Digital Taxonomy.

Using the right tools, such as Google Reader to track comments and facilitate a pan optic view of a teachers classroom – generates time. They move way past previous expectations – faster – as the power of the network is greater than the node. Developing projects that are founded on a digital taxonomy speeds up student work. In a previous post, I have put up a group’s work – a two week project – it is easy to see that the students moved well away from low order skills – which is all too often the current ICT base line.

You do not need to be a ‘technocrat’ to compare the 1950s Blooms Taxonomy to the Digital Blooms Taxonomy to see the language being used and then reflect on what you are asking students to do.

Most Classroom2.0 advocates I know are more than willing to help ‘new’ teachers get connected, but unless they drop the idea that things are going to be delivered on a plate, held in formal sessions during school time or giving ‘time off’ to learn is a mindset that cannot be SHIFTED by policy.

All I, or anyone can do in light of this, is to work with teachers who are willing to give up some time, introduce them to the benefits and keep pushing advocacy as and when we can.

Developing a personal learning network, engaging with other educators and sharing ideas is fun. It is not ‘something extra’ as 9 times out of 10 your network knows more than you when you ask a ‘new question’.

When I compare the skills and work students in our Classroom2.0 to the same projects in Classroom1.0, there is no comparison – The work, the engaged students, the skills they have and the way in which they apply these to personal or un-related problems is evidence.

If a teacher is heard to introduce a lesson as

‘Open your text book, read pages 34-44 and answer the questions on page 45’ – then they are using nothing more than the baseline learning – no matter how much knowledge is in the book – the activity itself is low order. The text book is based on Blooms Taxonomy – so it is asking the wrong questions.

Most of the things that Classroom1.0 teachers involve what Andrew describes as ‘Remembering’. [Listing, describing, locating, finding, bullet pointing, googling, summarising, explaining, classifying] activities.

Doing these activities in a computer lab – make a powerpoint, google this, make a booklet in word – is very very low level stuff. Even if they are using better applications such as Premiere, Final Cut, Photoshop etc., the task being performed – and application of that artifact – is still low order.

But lets not forget – the syllabus mandates the use of ICT in all key learning areas – so the argument of ‘I don’t have access’ is rubbish. They do. You don’t need to be on a computer 24/7 – in fact no one I know who is an ‘advocate for change’ would suggest that is a good idea. You need to ‘mash it up’ .

We are talking about re-thinking the time you have already. Be than 1 hour a week or 1 hour a day. ‘I don’t have access‘ is just one several default comments being used to avoid engagement as far as I am concerned.

This is why advocates focus on the ‘why’.

Designing, constructing, filming, remixing, podcasting, collaborating, beta-testing, networking, commenting, mashing, defending, linking, cracking, playing, reverse engineering, creating / presenting virtually … the Understanding, Applying, Analysing, Evaluating and Creating Language of the connected Classroom2.0 teacher in asynchronous with what students do out of school all the time.

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist. Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat. Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter. Als sie die Juden holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Jude. Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.

Students don’t really use email. They social network (MySpace et al), they communicate (Messenger, TXT), the record audio/video and share (mobile phone to peer – via phone, internet), the solve problems (Games), the construct (Second Life, Sims, Games), they present (MySpace), the remix (iPod, MP3), the select and consume (YouTube, Torrents) and they share (USB)

I think as I end this week, I’ve seen new teachers begin to advocate change … and see them un-deterred by the usual ‘not me’ get out comments. As students don’t vote, then I see part of my role in working with them to speak out for them. I realise that I then make an easy target for ignorance – but each week I meet new people, make new connections. Everyone is doing this, so the difference I think I am making in Education is no geographically limited to my school, and certainly not limited to my colleagues. I firmly believe that as we begin to embed a digital taxonomy into our physical and virtual spaces, into our curriculum and into the technology being used in schools, then this year I can see the growth in global professional development and the level of personal responsibility people are applying.

Sunday night I have 2 on-line meetings, a Newbie session to run in Second Life for Edcuators and of course attending Eurovision (which is more fun to me that watching a repeat of Frost on Channel 9).

Sure I’m a gamer – but that doesn’t mean I’m disconnected from reality – and neither will the students I work with or the teachers I’m connect with. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Where are you?

  1. Well said! Most of the knowledge and skills I’ve picked up over the years has been in my own time not on the job. In most sectors there just isn’t time for that. You either keep on top of best practice and are effective or don’t and gradually get left behind and drag others dependent on you down too.

    Whether I remain involved in education-related ICT or move into other communications-related fields, lifelong learning in technology will be vital to me as a professional as well as in my personal life. Finding ways to more effectively communicate and share ideas is what it’s all about for me — if a technology or activity improves on my current methods and helps me more effectively reach my audience — I want to know about it.

  2. What a great post, Dean.

    The ‘time’ issue is one that needs to be addressed. Often i think the ‘oh, I don;t have enough time’ reason is one that is more used as a familar crotch on which to lean.

    I am doing a course called ‘virtual learning environments’ which is taken mainly by teachers. The ther night we were discussing using various web 2.0 tools and one teacher earnestly complained that it was basically a fruitless excercise to introduce web 2.0 things like a chat environment because they would be mucking around all lesson and “no work would be done”. I posed to him the possible scenario that maybe once web 2.0 tools don;t become the ‘other’ rather the ‘norm’ then this wouldnt happen. I didn’t receive a reply. This anecdote is not to berate the teacher, but i think it does show how there still needs to be a change in mindset.

    I train Humanities’ teachers. I am not in a classroom and therefore i don’t have to deal with the minutiae that school life sometimes deals out. The one thing i find though is that some faculties, and levels, seem to deal better with using web 2.0 in their classroom. In humanities faculties, and mainly the schools i visit, you have 1 or maybe 2 ‘young ones’ who are ‘confident’ with the use of ICT but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are using it in non 1.0 classroom. And it always amazes me that you might have a Humanities faculty, trying its best to incorporate this into their classrooms but the ICT component is taken by the ICT teacher. This points to the fact that teachers need to know how to use these tools in relation to their discipline – they have the disciplinary expertise but they need to be aware of and develop an understanding of things such as a Digital Bloom’s taxonomy.

    This, of course, is relevant in secondary school settings where, generally, discipline focused curriculum reigns supreme. The primary school teachers i meet and those who are in my course do truly great things with Web 2.0.

    But just to return to the SHIFT tat you refer to. I think that there needs to be a shift in direction towards professional learning in this country. Professional learning is not just going to the workshop and having a nice lunch and reporting back to the faculty that it was all very useful but “we could never fit it in”. I am also aware that this doesnt just refer to the use of ICT as well. My line is that I feel that there is a misconception sometimes by the public, heck, even those in schools, that teachers aren;t intellectually curious – this mindset has to be changed – once the profession starts getting treated like a profession then you might see a change in mindset of the public and teachers.

    I am not suggesting that ALL teachers re reluctant or that ALL teachers feel like this, but to me, creating or participating in those professional networks is crucial to this sense of professionalism and an intrinsic part of one’s professional learning.

    Last week i was in Sydney facilitating a catch up session, for want of a better turn of phrase, for teachers who had participated in a Summer School in January. Tecahers were sharing what they had developed since we held the school. One teacher has developed a really great podcast project whereby the boys in her school, who have lower skills in literacy and numeracy, investigate the stories of local soldiers who fought in the Great War. There are quite a few podcasts in the project, which starts getting the students to do a site study. Wow! Incorporating web 2.0 – not just a conduit or mere platform for ‘info’ – into truly best practice history education. This is really not doing the project any justice whatsoever because it is so much more complete than what i have outlined here. The main thing is, without the network, the time that she gave gave up to go to the Summer School to start with, the collboration that she had with her ‘more skilled(ICT) colleague, the project would never had emerged.

    I hope the tide is turning – albeit slowly – but it is. We just have to keep at it!

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