Three NEW things we need to see in education

cc licensed flickr photo by Heini Samuelsen:

Cognitive science tells us that learning with technology is a duel-band activity, which in some way explains our desire to live in a world with multiple tabs, multiple devices and multiple streams of information at our finger-tips.

This post is about actively dealing with three things: cognitive load and capacity, the modality in which we teach and learn, and the filter.

I’m going to argue we can’t have it all, but 2 out of 3 aint bad – if we at least get 2 things right – and we’re not yet getting it right.

Learning modalities are the sensory channels or pathways through which individuals give, receive, and store information.  Many students have pervasive access to technology and potentially engaged in extraneous (no relevance), essential (selecting) or generative (organising, integrating, making) activities. I think, that the common modalities we use – don’t really teach use much about our cognitive capacity, but overload us. Our motivational and emotion responses -(which make up a third of our belief-making brain activity) is not to persist.

Take a typical professional development vignette


cc licensed flickr photo by RDECOM:

The presenter has a pre-made Powerpoint, with a dozen or so slides. The room is set up with computers and the presenter has a handout. The intention is to teach the teacher why and how to use some web-tool in their practice to improve learning.

This is arrangement, classically presented to teachers as good practice, is also how most teachers encounter professional development.

Think about the first two things:  modality and cognitive load. Powerpoint to audience decode, translate to the desktop, more input, more trial and error, more questions than answers. All the time the day’s agenda moves forward. Each participant has differing prior-experience, different capacity. The method of instruction presents a high cognitive load. How many times have you been here – fumbling to work the machine, grasp the purpose or the imperative as the presenter says “let’s move on”. It is only our familiarity with this environment that makes it feel normal and unsatisfying. – We can’t be surprised to find decreasing motivation in staff and students when this strategy is presented time and time again.

A second vignette: The keynote speaker delivers a presentation, full of motivation and emotional arguments. The audience lacks the modality to en-mass separate erroneous, essential and generative. The presenter fails to address socially independent knowledge and meaning (the other two thirds of brain-making belief). We are entertained, perhaps inspired, but how many have the capacity to action it. There are many reasons for this, the most toxic is that the presenter – is in-accessible after the presentation, a common problem when we import speakers because of their past profile or because the point of epoch they speak from – is a concensus point for the assumed audiences cognitive capacity – and sadly the popular ‘sweet spot’ messages often imitated as a result – with no evaluation.

Both these common experiences are producing marginal gains in teachers being able to rethink the modality and method they use with technology in learning and teaching. Now I’d like to look at perception, disruption and distortion in relation to filtering.



cc licensed flickr photo by simonov:

Also think about how we present ‘the internet’ as a media and not a method by which learning occurs. We cannot be shocked when students lose interest and motivation, when we present it in an almost opposite modality. They are not distracted, just intensely more interested in socially independent uses of technology at their finger-tips – as they have greater capacity to engage with it this way, that to learn in the manner I described earlier.


The filter  is a very blunt tool to deal with erroneous information and is a subjective as Alan Jones on gin. [excellent social studies clip there]

The filter distorts how we access and manage essential and generative opportunities – and counter-acts the modality of learning that students experience in just about every other area of their technological-lives. It wasn’t designed to do this – it was created to remove risk to the organization, preventing accidental or deliberate access to pornography, hate, drugs, violence etc., but has evolved into a social-filter without any real evidence or discussion with teachers or students. The filter is also applied vary differently between systems, and often between schools.

“there was no evidence that online predators were stalking or abducting unsuspecting victims based on information they posted at social networking sites.” – Crimes Against Children Research Center (CCRC) at the University of New Hampshire, March 2008.

THE SEMANTIC DISRUPTION – The end is coming.

cc licensed flickr photo by See-ming Lee 李思明 SML:

Today much of filter-policy ignorantly assumes the internet’s role in education is predominantly as media delivery mechanism and not a medium to support a method. To some degree, few parents and teachers are lobbying for anything else – making it a social issue, not so much a school one.

Filtering (as we know it) assumes information remains static in the way it is organised and identified. Emerging semantic technology – draws heavily on information produced socially – ending the time where ‘the internet’ was experienced as separate experiences or compartments. Only silly minds will think the browser and laptop will be pervasive in the next decade.

Current policy often fails to recognize youth agency: young people as participants, stakeholders, and leaders in an increasingly participatory environment online and offline.

For the most part, the filter is a crude stop/go mechanism. Given the lack of training to helps teachers learn to manage, create and use technology in sympathy with real world modality. Social filtering distorts learning because it’s not safety from bad outcomes but safety for positive ones. We want to students to be be safe, but do we want our children to play in places that are only safe? This brings me back to modality – and the neo-classical depiction of a classroom. Projector, Laptops, Filter – is this how we want children to learn and teachers to teach?


In the old days, circa 2000 – technology that power’s social media used to be called ‘application service provision‘. Clearly tools like Twitter carry ‘media’ information socially – but the term itself is misleading, popularised by culture and group bias – and even inside the believers, there is argument over what it actually means and affords society. It’s a word, along with Web2.0 that is meaningless to the majority.

Clearly GoolgeDocs, WordPress, Wikispaces etc provide a modality of learning which are clearly different to pornography – yet suffer from filtration (something I’ll come to next). Recent research finds kids are more at risk of peer-use of networks in abusive ways – than from people they don’t know.


  • We have, like it or not, chosen to put technology into learning and teaching though government and organizational investment.
  • We cannot afford to accept we don’t need to train (and mentor) teachers to see technology as a method and find better modality in how we do it.
  • We need to accept how much more powerful technology is when used through personalisation and allowing people to become socially independent learners.
  • We need to accept, that in terms of cognitive load, capacity and modality – technology does not give rise to Frankensteinian epoch moments we can push out as being ‘the future’ or something to ‘work towards’ – but that as events that need corresponding change in education immediately.
  • What we did before and what we do after any epoch moment – causes greater distortion in the classroom.

TWO OUT OF THREE AIN’T BAD – Something I can live with

In approaching teacher development and support – we have to recognise that teachers are capable of asking for help, and that request comes from a professional capacity. What they do out of work is entirely their business. This is a blurred message much of the time – perhaps most problematic in the current popular dialogue of the personal learning network.

  • We need to find ways that we reduce the cognitive load needed to learn something essential – but delete the erroneous – in the classroom.
  • We should stay clear of generative desires when helping and mentoring them – as generating content is now seen as a chore, rather than creative joy.
  • Teachers should not believe that making more content is better – or required in pursuit of using technology in the classroom. (busy-thoughts).
  • Most of all we need to accept that the envelope in which we often work is not realistic – but a simulation of the real world. There is no shame in being clear about this with students – so that they recognise where the classroom-end point is, and where they need to start taking responsibility for their future. Even if this is to find a grade-school game that they could use at home to learn maths, that is banned in school.

Two out of three aint bad, as Meatloaf said.

Accept that we can’t have it all – we never did, and we never will – we live in amazing times, with mind-blowing complexity – but there are ways to do a lot of good with what we have … and each time we do … we push negativity one step further backwards as we make more sense of the positive.

What is it for?

In a world of a million online tools, where we can consume and produce with equal ease, one of the key things teachers struggle with is trying to decide which tools could be used to promote deeper learning. Of course these tools do little without adapting pedagogy, but all too often, the question to from newbies is ‘how do I use this – please give me a roadmap’. Here are a simple set of questions I use to interview a teacher – to get a picture of not what staff what (in terms of tools), but what how they see (any) technology being used as part of learning and teaching. The best way to find this out – is to talk to them. Even better, record the meeting and then you can talk around the these things but not come over as the Spanish Inquisition.

For each of the questions, come up with three dot point sentences. From that you can start to plan a personal learning plan for them (or do it for them).
* What does the technology offer students in terms of developing concepts and content?
* How does it help students to carry out inquiry processes?
* How will students work together collaboratively or cooperatively?
* What is the relationship between technology and other instructional materials?
* What new knowledge of my content or discipline, of teaching, or of technology do I need in order to foster new learning in my students?
* What knowledge processes, and skills do students need before using the technology?

How to disarm in-active staff with ICT

Following on from my previous post about taking an evaluation approach to selecting the best set of classroom tools, here is another activity that will help you get traction … it probably occurs FIRST in all reality – and is a strategy to better understand their needs. Notice here that I’m not talking about new technologies – that is something to do after the session.

It’s a way to set up a piece of technology that you introduce later — to disarm those who enter the session with a certain view. Draw your bow, provoke thought around current practice.

Provide these as a set of questions on paper.

Ask teachers to read it and spend 5 minutes answering them as individuals. (This avoids immediate group bias and getting side-tracked into conversations they’d rather have).

1. Think about an evaluation of work that you have recently carried out, or are planning to do.
2. Ask them to select a pathway for the evaluation to determine it’s purpose.

a) because you wanted to learn about your own practice
b) because you needed to be accountable.

3. Highlight the characteristics that best describe the evaluation

* Evaluators include staff, students and other stakeholders (parents, executive)
* Examples used in the evaluation are randomly selected to represent the whole
* Evaluation has an emphasis on finding out reasons for success and failure
* Evaluators are independent perhaps external to your classroom
* The aim of evaluation is to improve future activities
* Used a mix of data – qualitative and quantitive
* The emphasis of the evaluation was on qualitative data
* The evaluation was carried out at the end of the project cycle
* The examples are selected because they illustrate a point (what you were looking for)
* The examples are selected because of a potential to transfer the wins and loses to other things
* The aim was to compare current and past activities
* The emphasis is on how successful/unsuccessful the project has been
* The evaluation is carried out during the project cycle – as part of the planning cycle
* The evaluation data is collected once, at the end of the project cycle.

4. Pair with someone; and decide which of the above characteristics best describes evaluations carried out for the purposes of accountability – and which best describes evaluations for the learning process. Draw two columns (accountability and learning). Allow them to only place a maximum of TWO items in BOTH columns (you will have some who hedge their bets).

5. Are the characteristics which describe your evaluation all in the same column or divided between them? – Ask for feedback and reasons (allows people to talk/vent).

If we are interested in introducing technological interventions that bring benefits to a child’s learning – then we are interested in the approach described in the learning column. There is a cross over, but that should not be seen as a conflict.

We should be emphasising the learning column’s potential – and use these characteristics as criteria when looking at technology.

Now let’s gun-down some of the current practice.

Form people into groups of about 6. Ask them to take their tables and start to order the characteristics from most to least important. Get them to draw up a sheet and stick it on the wall. This allows everyone to see how the cohort sees evaluation itself.

At this point – you should be happy – you have just found out a lot about your environment; what they see as important and will have a clear idea about who is leading your table conversations. Observation here is key – figure out who is most likely to support you if you invest further time.

Now ask them to do something they didn’t see on the agenda.

By each of the items on the sheet – ask them directly – “which ICT is best used to help you do that?”

ie Which ICT do you use because it illustrates a point? – an example might be – scanning student work samples.

Now you have your research – you can now go away and find some tools that will allow them to do what they say they are doing – perhaps better use, perhaps entirely new. In the above example; you might introduce a digital camera as a way of imaging student work – during the learning, not just scanning work at the end.

So the action step for you – as the educational developer; review and suggest tools that present characteristics most likely to deliver the things everyone put in the learning column.

Will they stay the same – or change? What can you do with available time/resources – what are the priorities – for learning.

The great thing here is that you are taking an evidence based approach … you have something ‘real’ to talk about.

Now track down people and issues one by one – start to work directly on their practice. Avoid large groups – and make sure you schedule time(s) with staff. Perhaps you can tie this to individual performance reviews; time needed to evidence professional development; or some other organisational requirement. The more you make it appear to be part of their job – the more likely you are to see them adopt or at least consider what you are suggesting.

Make sure you write up your workshop; and give it to everyone who attended for feedback and comment. This is really important. More important – write a further report for the executive to make recommendations – based on your new evidence. Getting the backing of leaders is critical. If they don’t take the time to read it and discuss it with you — then think hard and long about beating your head against the wall in the future. Set it up right and you become empowered – don’t allow your efforts to be a time-filler or nice to know. Make it matter to everyone.

Bad blogger!

Don’t be a bad blog teacher.

Things to avoid include: inappropriate controlling behaviour (telling, not asking): discounting, without consideration, the views of students; ignoring negative comments from others (the worst are those who delete comments to avoid dealing with it); disengagement from the subject “we have get through this”; blaming others, lack of time, skill etc. for not being Socially and Humanistically involved in their efforts. Ie treating it as “more work”.

If PD does not get past a surface level of understanding; all you get is a digital-facelift – resulting in bad pedagogy, which in turn reinforces past belief and behaviour, resulting in abandoning or discounting the value of the discussion, writing and plenary reflection.

That’s not the teacher or the blogs fault – it is more than likely a result of poor professional development design.

Peer Assisted Learning and SackBoy

I have strayed from the path – and this post I returns to the games and – professional development of teachers. Yey!

In this post I want to look at why teaching Twitter is problematic. I also want to talk a little about why using games in learning grabs the attention of learners (adults included). Hopefully, you might be able to use some of the thinking in your own PD sessions.

Peer Assisted Learning

Much is written about the value of Twitter as a personal learning network — aka PLN.

For those presenting in workshops, one of the hardest concepts to explain is how a mass public access social network fits into education.

Many previous encounters of the digital kind have been designed for educational environments. Attendees have never needed to adapt any commercial offering to an edu-instance before. It has been provided at the institutional level – WebCT, MyClasses, Blackboard, Moodle and the all powerful Portal. Your audience is not motivated, but questioning – as you churn through your slide-deck of choice.

Your audience will be confused by notions of ‘networked learning’ – where learning happens formally between participants, inside a walled-garden, and have been told to value privacy and security.  As their conflicted minds and folded arms try to reconcile the impact (to them) of adopting and adapting your ad-hock, public communication — they are in fact deciding critically whether you are are a genius or a lunatic – challenging their belief.

It is advantageous to align Twitter academic ideas around peer assisted learning (PALS) which is widely accepted as a sound learning strategy. PALS develops a trust network … and your audience has absolutely no need for what you are offering them, unless you have created that value proposition for them.

Ideas need selling, not just explaining.

Twitter is an example of a peer assisted learning platform, that connects people with similar interests and goals. It offers ad-hoc communication entirely at the users discretion.  Participation requires us to send and receive information presented by trusted peers. Success requires on-going and meaningful discussions with global peers on key issues in practice”.

If you ping the Twitterverse live – it looks impressive, but so would pulling IWB out your ear. It says that you have a magical power they don’t.  You can bling up your powerpoints all you like – but don’t miss the under pinning reagent needed to get the change in behaviour you are after.

Why kids use PALs to play games.

Think about games and MMOs – they run on peer assisted learning. PALS is at the heart of the motivation that game designers understand so well. The initial stages of play are semi-autonomous with the game provides guided instruction. Very quickly, players gain the basics and start to work together to solve their first problem – with little ‘in game help’ … very soon, they rely on each other to help them overcome new challenges – that are un-predicted. (Isnt’ that how we use Twitter? – Part learn, part belonging and part fun)

Pre-school, primary and secondary learners have a constant exposure to PALS with technology.

Watch 4 and 5 year olds with their NintendoDS, they immediately look to co-opt. It’s a human instinct to find collaboration and belonging. Strength in numbers or a friend in need. Ever wondered why a 4 year old is happy to watch an 8 year old play a Wii for 3 hours – they are learning and supporting the player — their turn will come. Mobile phones provide the same function – but at a more sophisticated level. This is why 4th graders can reach Level 80 in Warcraft, or nail a new console game in a weekend – peer assisted learning is central to today’s digital-learner.

Using Sackboy to explain PALS

If you want adults to ‘get’ PALs, let them level for an hour using Sony’s Little Big Planet. Teachers don’t engage in collaborative learning with technology – so it is no shock they don’t do it in class. If you play a game that required them to use PALS then you they are actively re-thinking their belief. Little Big Planet is great for this on PS3, but you can do it with Nintendo DS and a cheap quiz game too. Let them figure out what to do, how it works, how to hook 4 players into session … after 20 minutes they will be able to reflect on it – even more so if you record them playing and highlight teachable moments.

Once they accept that PALs is a viable teaching strategy – then you have a meta-cognitive basis upon which you can now start to explain Ning, Elgg, Twitter – or anything else.

Thanks SackBoy.

Proximity of influence

Picture 21

Suzie Boss at Edutopia, posted a great article about ‘a back porch for teachers’, illustrating why it is important to create some time and space in the local community to talk about the business of learning and teaching. In this post I’d like to share how Suzie’s post aligns with some of the work I’m doing in the professional development of teachers.

Suzie reflects after meeting with teachers.

And although they took their work seriously, it was easy to see they were enjoying the extended time to talk through ideas and learn from each other. Such intensive, ongoing, and collaborative professional development is exactly what research shows to be most effective for improving both teachers’ practice and student learning. Yet for most teachers, this remains a rare experience.

How to minimise the cost and maximise the opportunity.

It seems unlikely that effective, enterprise level professional learning is about to flow into schools in proportion to the technology right now. It seems almost impossible to put a plan into enterprise action.

Professional learning:

  • has to be ‘on demand’ and fit their schedule. This means that you have to prepare resources that allow them to level up their knowledge in under 10 minutes in multiple formats.
  • text information has to be summised and digested in a minute, it has to lead to further action in one page or less. Video has to be 2-4 minutes, and each segment of interest (topic) no more than a minute and it has to play in their browser.
  • contextual development rules. They have to use the minute resources, watch the videos and take the action in close proximity to the mentor – the same room. They have to ask the questions, you have to listen not talk, and help them answer the questions.

Here are some rules I have:

  • you must be prepared to do 50% of their work for them, and in doing it, create independence sufficient for them to complete it – with you riding shot gun. Don’t do it for them.
  • you must expect that most people will have less than 10 minutes to learn something, and want to spend at least half that time ‘playing’. Observing them is key to teaching them.
  • If they walk out the room, and not applied what you taught them to a contextual situation (solving a real problem) – you will get a push back later and it won’t be adopted
  • you need to ride shot gun on their projects as a critical friend, by working though their students and not trying to ‘train’ the teacher directly about teaching.
  • iPhones are great tools – load the video – pass them the phone. People love to hold technology, not look at it. YouTube is your friend.
  • more is learned in 10 mins over coffee than at that fancy seminar. Seminars are critical however – they provide community connections.
  • limit the scope and tools: 2/3 tools is more than enough. Repeated bombing runs over 1 target is effective, aerobatics is just amusing.

Now forget all these rules; and re-write you own. Then break them. This is massive problem with quangos and committees; you have to re-write the rules often – but leave the under pinning theory in place for a very long time. That seems the opposite of what committees do much of the time.

You have to collect local data and information in vastly more quantities than ‘teach’ new things.

This collection can be the 10 minutes on the back porch. Just talking over coffee; pointing out things on a laptop and listening is so important in the professional development of teachers. They are after all professional talkers – and we are learning about listening. Finding ways to listen uses the same rules and ideas – no survey that takes more than a minute etc. Not only are we trying to teach new skills; we are trying to create new pedagogy – and that will not happen unless you find ways to spend very short amounts of time listening followed by similar amounts of time helping – them create. I don’t like ‘spoon feeding’, but do encourage you to put all your staff on a slow drip feed.

Put another way, we have to gain inches not miles, and corrupt people in minutes not hours. Why – because ‘traditional PD’ smells like ‘boring’; so we have to try to find alternative strategies, spaces and times to do it. As soon as it looks like ‘PD’, you’ll get a bolt for the door – but when it looks like I’m getting help – all about me! – I am interested.

Finally, give it TIME. Lots of time. Think in semesters not weeks or even terms. It’s easier to recover from the next ‘yeah but’ if you do.

23 Things about Classroom Laptops

ruddstoolboxLAPTOPS in the classroom will be for many teachers a rude awakening or a liberating departure – depending on your ideology. There is no disputing the fact that students will have a printing press on their desk.

Schools are not ready for this; but teachers have to be – so I’d like to put forward 23 things teachers might consider in regard to a problem that we’ve been talking about for a very long time.

I highly recommend you read this post about Dr Alan Kay’s thoughts over at Parallel Divergence. I was thinking it was 3 years ago, and have been corrected! – I love the inter-webs.

So in the tradition of 23 Things, here are just some of the considerations that teachers might consider in the lead up to laptops ‘hitting the classroom’ as Nathan Rees puts it.

1. Modding Behaviour

Students will also want to mod the laptop, which will probably be locked-down. Modding it, or circumventing the security will be a mission for some students – as a laptop is so much more useful when it’s tuned to the user.

2. Work avoidance just went digital

Laptops present a wealth of opportunities for the strategic learner to avoid work: low battery; lost wifi signal; ‘lost’ files etc., a range of ways to rebel.

3. Screen-wagging and DVD Draw popping, display flipping, keyboard locking …

An interesting behavior – Students often like to ‘waggle’ the screen back and forth in group discussion. They don’t even know they are doing it much of the time, but is often distracting to the teacher. It is a sign that they are in private conversation and off task. Find ways to make them accountable for their own time. Students may ‘prank’ others by locking their keyboard, remapping drives, setting the keys to type backwards, flip the display etc.,

4. File Sharing

Sharing is a behavioral status currency. A laptop is an excellent way for students to share video and music they have downloaded illegally. Students will share work via flash drives, hard drives as well as emailing it to each other.

5. iGoogle or other portal to friend-networks

Laptops represent an opportunity to stay connected with friends, there are numerous ways to stay connected, and students are increasingly using asynchronous methods such as Twitter and Plurk, not just Messenger. You need to find ways to bring that into class, not try and ban it.

6. Search

Learn about ways for students to ‘search’ beyond Google, and create lessons around how information is shaped to appeal to a diverse range of learners. Googling and using World will be incredibly tedious for students. If you don’t know how to use visual search engines, custom Google search, Wonderwheel yet … now would be a good time to find out.

7. Sage on the stage

If you stand at the front of the class, you’ll see the back of laptops, so movement around the class is important. Sitting students in rows doesn’t work like it used to. The best place for the teacher to be is online and mobile – learn to multi-task and be prepared to access and work with students – online after school (great way to build respect).

8. Learn to use ‘mass’ collaboration tools and create learning spaces

Find ways in which one or two students can ‘share’ work with many. Create online spaces where students can use ‘friend-networks’. Do not expect or ask students to work alone as they used to – that is the last thing they find motivating. Teachers will not be provided with these spaces – they need to be created in context with the needs and preferences of their learners.

Example: Three students take notes; then share with others; who then improve them online.

9. Digital Blooms

Learn about Andrew Church – (if you really must stick to Blooms).

10. Use Diigo – everyday.

A Diigo account – even if teachers do nothing else, learning to manage student progress via Diigo is a critical skill. Use Diigo as a forum, a learning management system and an exercise book!

11. Don’t be boring!

Using a laptop to type in answers to textbook questions, print them out and hand it is absolutely facile. Your textbook is NOT compatible with student motivation towards technology. Boring computer activities lead to work avoidance strategies and self-interest use of the internet.

12. Don’t try to win the proxy war

Filters can be got around, they will always find a way. Entering a proxy war means more wasted time trying to work out what sites will work – You have to test your lessons using THEIR proxy (web access) – as you’ll find that things you want to use are blocked. Overtly policed and blocked networks are counter-productive.

13. Learn about Enquiry, Problem and Project Based Approaches to learning

Social construct approaches work well with technology – but take MORE preparation.

14. Music soothes restless minds – or distracts them

Consider allowing the use of headphones for study (yes the like music), but also consider how great they are if you are giving them a YouTube to watch or a Podcast. Encourage them to remix, recreate and construct new audio – to put intrinsic interest to positive use.

15. The wipe-board is no longer the hub of activity – unless you put it online.

The board is not the place to ‘look’. Consider how it can be used to work with ‘small groups’ to workshop ideas – and use the laptops as a student management tool to keep them busy and focused on work – not you or the board.

16. Parents!

Parents find it hard to judge if students are working at home – or playing (socializing). The lack of text book and pen might send the wrong signals. Run parent orientation nights! – Get in guest-expert to talk about the issues and benefits – get parents onside.

17. Get a school mentor! or enroll teachers on professional learning plan (not a ‘tools’ trail – they suck)

If you don’t have an ICT integrator, or cant identify a teacher-blogger, then get a mentor. Invest in a long term, 12 month, mentor program to allow teachers to undertake a course that leads them through the re-establishment of new skills and classroom management strategies. You won’t achieve this in a day’s in-service. Make sure you are working with a practitioner at all times, not a ‘consultant’ who can’t drop into a school and model their theory in practice.

18. Empower and enlist your Library

Librarians are teachers with an additional skill – enlist them in your classroom as a team-teacher. Don’t ask them to find online resources for you – that’s lazy, as them to teach you how to do it, or teach your students.

19. Teacher will use the same strategies as students when the going gets tough

I don’t know how, I don’t like to, No one has told me … expect that some teachers really do believe that schools never change and will refuse to change their teaching approaches. You won’t get 100% buy in – even if they nod politely in staff meetings – asking for help is challenging for some – and age is no indication of belief and attitude.

20. Leadership is critical!

Powerful learning, comes from passionate, motivated teachers who never stop learning. Don’t lock-step these people by industrialist notions of hierarchical power play – or resort to moral or ideological pressure to teachers to do more. It is a long slow process to renew learning, not overnight change. Recognise how important the goodwill of staff is – given the absolute lack of central government funding to invest in teachers – the way it is investing in infrastructure. The criteria used to target ‘future leaders’ is not going to be as effective as it once was, so be prepared for innovation to come from the grassroots.
21. Get student advisory / maintainers.

Students make great tech experts. Enlist them in general maintenance of laptops – don’t assume students know how to care for laptops! – Learn about OH&S, OOS in regard to the Ergonomic use of laptops. If all you do is put them on the desk, then there are some serious OH&S issues happening. Develop a maintenance and support program – and allow students to run it. Let students have a BIG say in how IT Support should work.

22. Plan for ‘wi-fi’ down times or server failures.

Do not make the laptop the center of the activity – just in the same way we never made the ‘calculator’ the centre. A lesson should not fail or win – because of the laptop or lack of.

23. If you don’t have a learning management system – get one.

If you’re a department get Moodle, if you’re a teacher, use Edmodo if there is no Moodle. Managing digital learning is thought, not labour intensive (of can be).

If you are a school leader, then my suggestion – come up with a strategy and long term professional learning program for staff. If you don’t have one, drop me a line. Don’t assume that it will all just work or get better – it won’t – you are going to have to find ways to invest in people – even if the politicians won’t.

Look forward to any more tips – or mods to this list!

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Graphic-A-Day#8 – Printers

Give a teacher a printer and make a friend for life. Todays poster is for all those teachers who love a printed worksheet. Some just love to print out ‘content’. Last year I did a study with year 12 students in the lead up to the HSC. Most said they were getting well over 100 sheets of paper a week. Most also said that they didn’t read it. The sheets they read were the ones that had ‘work’ on them, and even so, the majority said that it was easier to use the internet to get the answer than it was the paper.

Some teachers love the printer so much that they will come into school during the holidays just to get print outs ready.

To these people, that is what computers are for: Preparing CONTENT or TESTING for content retention.

If you want a rebellion, pull the toner drum out for a day. Teachers will chase the IT department with pitch-forks and torches. If they cannot use the printer – then a computer is like a car without wheels.

The reality is that it takes less effort to save a document and share it via the internet, than it does to print it and get a class set photocopied. Trying to explain the benefits to them – and the students is not something that goes down well. The notion of being parted from their printer it too unthinkable.

It is maybe ironic however, that the paper-pushers also claim Google and Wikipedia use as one of the ‘yeah but’ arguements against using computers in the classroom. The most common other one being lack of time (well printing and photocopying is very time consuming). These teachers do that themselves with technology. When going beyond the class text book, they can be seen preparing ‘content’ sheets. Its almost a cottage industry in some schools. The above poster really tries to sum that activity up – as a satire on process driven learning.

Create the document, and share it with not just your class, but other teachers is more efficient and consistent. Posting that online where kids can get it, is more effective. It saves time and paper. How many paper pushing teachers hear from students ‘I didn’t get the worksheet or I don’t have it here’. This 20C activity is easily improved.

Put that content or worksheet in an online space where students can discuss it, creates conversational learning. Developing a GoogleDoc with collegues, and then sharing that with students is even better. Working on a GoogleDoc with students is engaging and promotes one to one learning.

“Yeah but” … I don’t have that much access to computer classrooms, so I need to print!

Well, yes and no. It’s all about rethinking how you use the time you have. As a teacher, it is possible to take the time you will be in and ICT classroom, and create an activity which promotes improved classroom practice and professional development. In short, it’s not so much about access as it is about building your own capacity to begin changing how you use technology with students.

If you are designing lessons, that are essentially question driven – based on students seeking similar information that you yourself ‘found’, then that is BORING. It is also low level activity, and is not building capacity in the students.

If your printed worksheet contains instructions such as ‘go to and answer the following questions … then that is fairly basic and boring. If you say go to Google and do it, then the kids will be struggle – as you are not teaching the most critical skill – how to select and justify quality information.

A better way would be to ‘tag’ several sources in delicious – and ask why one is more applicable or more authoritative than the other. They will still learn the ‘content’ but the need for learning is to compare and justify it, not just use or identify it. Delicious is the ‘worksheet’. All you had to do was create one ‘tag’ for the students, which is less work that stripping out content and re-packing it for paper delivery.

If you can’t give up paper – then this activity can be done with paper. Students can use the tags and the content in the ICT lesson, make paper notes and then do some offline activity. That is a better use of the time you have – and you are teaching critical literacy.

So thats the rant for today – make the most of the time you have in ICT, and don’t simply make it an electronic search of the classic text book chaper task. Kids can find millions of pages about anything you ask them to look for … there is TOO much information now. A decade ago there was less. It was easier to find it and much more obvious if Site A is better than Site B. That is no longer the case. Think before you print! Finding ‘the’ answer is not as important as choosing the ‘most relevant’ in a context.

Google Proofing for Freeloaders

Designing projects that include ‘public’ formative assessment using Ning continues to ‘out’ some real issues that students face. I maintain that the design of many ICT based ‘group’ projects is too linear. The task is issued, then at some point 2/3 weeks later it is collected. The summative ‘end product’.

What I’ve had a lot of success in doing – is re-inventing methods of formative assessment with technology, which justifies and supports (or not) the summative end product. Here is a recent ‘post’ from a student surrounding this idea.

Students are usually silent about the ‘freeloaders’ in group work during linear ICT based project.

The freeloader knows they have to do almost nothing in a group task. They are betting that the can lean on someone for the answers, or ideally be paired with people who do actually work. They know that someone else will do it, as they want to get the marks despite the freeloaders lack of effort.

The code of student silence surrounding this issue prevents effective action to prevent it all too often.

The next category of offenders are the last minute Googlers – skimming off information and placing in into the paper as their own work. I don’t believe too many teachers have the time to re-type printed papers into Google to track down the plagiarism – even though they suspect it.

Digital formative and summative assessment can be different.

You can easily ‘reverse Google’ any post and show them where it came from. They soon stop doing it.

Students often in a classroom will not ‘expose’ the freeloaders due to peer pressure – or worse. Online however, I’m seeing that students will talk about the issues. They don’t name names – but they do talk about work ethic and the irritation they have with students who are un-motivated in doing anything more than the minimum.

In designing projects for seniors, technology provides leverage to change this dilemma. Consistent effort can be seen though ‘reflective writing’ and talking about content, context and their understanding.

Formative assessment online is far more lasting and permanent than traditional methods such as observation, completing worksheets, text book questions.

It can give the teacher far more understanding of group dynamics than a ‘test’ – which is ultimately a solo summative activity. It can be a strategic and effective intervention in to a massive problem in many schools.

If a student feels they are falling foul of freeloaders, then they can talk about it in an open forum – or they can message the teacher with their concern. The teacher can ‘see’ the potential issues, and offer some mediation and reconciliation between in the group.

Project Based Learning has group responsibility in built, so it’s much harder to freeload and indeed students in a short period of time develop some effective mechanisms to deter it. Most of our 9th graders reject ‘Googled’ information outright, as they know that if it is posted, then it will get detected far more easily than ever before.

Designing projects to be ‘Google Proof’ or rather to ensure that Google is used effectively to build knowledge is something that I am seeing and hearing that students want. Working online in this way is far less about ‘being a blogger’ than it is about being able to demonstrate that they are ‘learners’. I get the impression that re-inventing ICT based projects in this way is critical to any classroom cultural change. But when it is introduced, the change happens very quickly.

They question I hear most from principals is ‘How do you implement better ICT use – sustainably to improve outcomes for students’.

That’s they key learning I think most attendees really want to walk away with at conferences right now. All the more critical given the Rudd Government’s 8 rounds of ‘laptop’ handouts, with schools getting hundreds of laptops for 9th-12th graders.

Are they going to do with these things what they did with the beige boxes – or do they want to develop effective, workable solutions to never before seen problems.

It’s a massive challenge for many schools – but there are solutions that can be adopted and modeled via Professional Development. The focus however is not on how many IWBs you have or how much Web2.0 you can add to your Delicious. Its about making teachers ‘want’ the changes that ICT can now offer.

It works. Teachers like it, kids like it – freeloaders and Google Jockeys hate it.