Heppell from the 90s

Its amazing how my interests change. From what can I do now to what should I be thinking of next. What happens after we get critical mass to allow students to participate in connected digital conversations. If the goal is simply to share an electronic exercise book – is that indeed a worthy goal at all or short of the mark.

I’ve come to accept that social constructivism theory, when played out in online discourse communities, does unify, encourage and improve student engagement, perhaps not at the top end of the class, or the bottom – but certainly, those in the middle appear to engage in deeper learning. I have little doubt, that when students are given projects that intrigue them, that are in someway worthy of exploration, then they are much more engaged than learning in passive environments.

This needs enthusiastic teachers, armed with online access to engage students in personalized, reflective learning – and Web2.0 tools are very good at achieving that.

I’ve been following the connectivism and connective knowledge ‘open online course’. George Siemens and Stephen Downes co-facilitate the course and the daily email they send out is so packed with ideas and suggestions, that its hard not to engage in it.

Aside from the content that they are putting online, the very idea of running such a powerful course online and for free makes me rethink about how and when learning can take place.

Chris, sent me a link to the UNSW’s YouTube space – a respose to an article I read about students at UWS being unhappy with ‘podcast’ only lectures.  Two more ‘spaces’, neither physical or time critical.

When I think about ICT integrators, integrating learning technologies into classroom – I wonder if this is what High School should be doing? and if so –  for how long? When will we be pre-packing, opt in and on-demand learning as normal activities (and what age is that appropriate). We might think never, but I imagine we could have said the same about Universities not too long ago. Ewan McIntosh is another example with his 4iP project – where the boundaries and definitions of learning, play and content become fluid, collaborative and networked. What kind of people will work at 4iP? what do our kids need to learn to work at a place like that.

If University and academic study is moving to ‘open classrooms’ and ‘breakout areas’, then are we in fact saying that small groups can work more effectively when connected to everyone else by technology than physical space.

How much of our lesson structures accommodate the notion that learning only occurs between set times, lead by set individuals within set boundaries (something I’ve been challenging in in the design of the 9th grade Animal Farm project).

Will our desire to rethink and build new physical classrooms – be pointless, as much of our learning will be in virtual communities via mobile phones or point of view cameras by the time they are built. I learn so much from so many from the comfort of my lounge … physical interaction is now socially driven, not ‘content’ driven.

I love this video from Stephen Heppell in the 90s and find it quite amazing. Even his latest presentation from K12 Online, gently asks questions about if we are even thinking about what is next, let alone what that will look like. Are the futurists right? If so, what happens to all those guiding education right now – how many of them are ‘futurists’.  I wonder if we are focusing too much on what we want to see in the classroom today and not thinking enough about what all this connected ‘usness’ means in the future.

I worry far less about teachers learning about tools, or kids using them – as I do about where we go after they become as Chris Lehmann recently said – like Oxygen, and Chris is citing a student who asks

“we need to have the ability to choose our own education and not have our hands held all the way to adulthood for we will be a child trapped in a human’s body mentally and won’t flourish like we were supposed to. In short the concept of school is horrible but the concept of learning things you like is what matter most.”

Spaces, realities, conversations and language become increasingly fluid which has to be problematic for educators who like: classrooms; doors; timetables; bells and defined terms of reference. If anything the industrial age model that was never really quashed (in education) by the information age in ways we saw in the workplace or our personal lives. Now we are faced with the ‘conceptual’ or ‘media age’ … we are reflecting and perhaps predicting the future, based on the last decades massive shift in ‘connectedness’ and ideas of time and space.

The question asked today was ‘what to you think 21C learning is’ … perhaps the answer is … another tidemark on the ebb of learning to a much more distributed and networked model.

Where will learning go? …. mmm, more questions than answers. Damn you RSS reader, I’m still at the beginning.

Go on an ICT Diet – you need it fatboy

If you are a teacher, or know a teacher that uses and ICT classroom, this ones for you.

What are you feeding your kids? – How do you know that what you are feeding them is good for them? Is your classroom really that healthy?

Diet, according to the mass media, is vital to our health and well being. We also hear how playing video games is bad for teenagers – they should be out playing ball. But is it all bad? Here is a great post in Teen Health to read later.

Going past the ‘home’ use of technology, I’d like to propose the idea of a ‘healthy ICT environment’ for learning in school. I propose that many teachers need to go on an ICT Diet, and loose some pounds and bad consumption habits.

Googling is not healthy. Nor is skulling Wikipedia. Both activities do not promote healthy consumption of information, and the student brain rarely turns it into knowledge.

Fact based information is everywhere. Asking questions that can be easily Googled is hardly going to break students into a sweat. And as all the fitness gurus tell us – no pain no gain. ICT in classrooms is not to be used as the Ab King Pro (click it’s funny).

Using a computer is not short cut to learning and water, I mean information retention (ah the fitness puns come thick and fast). I think that many ICT lessons are fundamentally unhealthy.

Here are few things that I think are serious problems in high school ICT lessons.  Sharing a computer with someone else is NOT collaborative learning. Asking kids to look up answers to things you wrote on the board in NOT enquiry learning. Showing kids a powerpoint you made last year for the same class is NOT a teacher exposition. Writing answers on a worksheet after they look them up on Wikipedia is NOT multimedia – nor is adding sound effects to power point.

ICT Workouts for healthy classrooms

Firstly, I don’t like the digital native idea – Don’t assume that someone in primary (elementary) taught kids how to touch type, no kid was born to text – they learned it.

Being a competent typist is much more important to 7th graders than being a ‘blogger’. It might look good to administrators and parent – ‘hey, look how 21C my abs are’ – but if you only have limited hours in the ICT gym – teach them to type please.

Make sure that they have key mastery skills, take on board differentiated learning needs. Assume nothing. Make sure you have a list of things you want to ‘check’ for before launching into your newest Web2.0 love. They have to type, they have to read, they have to know where to look for information, they have to JUSTIFY it. If you are finding that kids are heading to the cookie jar (Control Copy/Paste) then make sure how screw that lid down tight. (Ask questions they can’t Google).

Paper is still an Olympic champion – think of ways in which you can use paper in formative assessment. Give kids paper that they can use to construct meaning. Don’t give them things to fill it – eating between meals will spoil your ICT appetite. Come up with formative scaffolds that help them work online. Don’t assume because they eat at Bebo, that they know what to bring to class. They don’t know, and mum doesn’t know what to pack for a healthy ICT lunch either. Design paper things that help them learn WITH technology.

Use the ICT gym equipment safely. Put the kids on the IWB, not your powerpoint. Use tools like Mindomo as a vitamin IWB enhancer. Get them to work collaboratively to solve a problem, not to colour in or click things. Its a big visual space so let them run around a bit.  The internet is VERY BIG, take them on a virtual field trip. Find ways to put them in front of the board, not you – you’re the coach, you don’t need to run around all the time. But you do need to keep them motivated.

Leave bad habits at home. Don’t bring your MS Office bias into class. Honestly – how teachers ever do a mail merge or set up a macro – or need to teach kids to – EXPLICITLY? Most people use like 10% of Word’s ability. Instead, go have a look at GoogleDocs, Buzzwords or Zoho. Think about how you can get kids to work collaboratively with you and others – using the same core functions that Word has been drip feeding you for a decade or more. Don’t learn more Word Tools, learn more collaborative writing tools. Maybe there’s a project idea in which they’d need to learn to mail merge – give it context and purpose.

Get in a coach or pro mentor. No one ever said that getting healthy would be easy. Connecting to people who can help you – is called a Personal Learning Network. You can get all kinds of great advice and also give advice. You+Network=Winning Team. You+Bad ICT Diet=Unhealthy Learners.

I think that if we took the average ICT lesson to Dr Learning, we’d find that it is unhealthy for the students. Chris Lehmann talked last week about technology being like Oxygen for students.

I think oxygen is not the only thing we need to live, diet and (brain) exercise will create collaborative, creative and engaged learners – who will suck down plenty of O2 in ICT classrooms.