Welcome to Massively Minecraft

You are invited to join Massively Minecraft, a professional community of educators preparing to explore a new game suitable for children as young as 4 years of age, yet expansible enough to still stir the imagination and interaction of late teens and adults.

The purpose of this community project is to trial the use of the game Minecraft (http://www.minecraft.net) in schools as part of voluntary student activity. The community will engage in exploration and research, not to decide or direct any particular application of the game but, to understand where students might take it and how they and their teachers visualise possibilities for it use within the curriculum. This ethnographic approach relies on you, as the professional in the school, to observe and reflect on student imagination, initiative, interaction, engagement and learning.

Currently we have two sessions a week for exploration of New City, which is our second Minecraft world. It is open to the public (we need to know you first), twice a week.

Our first world, District One is closed and only open to the kids and developers. These are also our mentor kids – our senior miners, who we hope will help other kids new to the game.

We have a live map running on our blog if you’d like to take a look at the structures that they have been creating along with a Miner’s Charter, which explains the ‘rules’ of the game – which are developed by the kids playing it.

We will be running some teacher/parent short online courses on game based learning, which is prelude to having  linked mutli-maps to connect kids and schools around the world. From experience, we are aware of the need to provide a space for teachers to bring kids that is safe, fun and fully maintained, and in doing so, Massively Minecraft is not a ‘general game server’ or a child minding service. We expect parents and teachers to come into the world with the kids and help them and us.

We are working on getting District Two up in late August so that we can host worlds for schools, rather than individuals an again this will happen through the community portal, as we begin to explore ways in which teachers can be in the game, and start to build learning activities from it. We hope that we will have over ten more districts by the end of the year – with interconnections and shared practice.

Our intrepid traveller, Bron Stuckey has the hard task of attending the US summer games and educational conferences, including ISTE, so I hope that you’ll ask her about where this is heading.

If you want to connect with us, and to New City, you will need to get an account, which cost approx USD$2o.

We suggest that you spend some time playing in single player, take a look at the blog, join the community and then enter the multi-player world.

Currently there’s no cost for doing this (apart from the buying the game). We are especially interested in parents, organisations and groups outside of schools who would like to begin exploring game based learning and digital citizenship – and that you’ll find our young miners an inspiration.

Later in the year, we will be putting on an event in Sydney and another in Melbourne around games based learning with a hands on immersion and workshops on how to design learning with game, play and flow – as well as meet curriculum objectives.

We invite anyone interested to jump into the community space between here and then and share your ideas We hope that the project will find international players, and that we can also find some international friends to help them – not least as our worlds are only open when there is an adult on deck. Not because we need to keep an eye on the kids, but to support them in whatever it is they want to do – safely.

The project is facilitated by myself, Jo Kay, Bron Stuckey and Kerry Johnson.


TweetFighter3 – How to flash blind teachers

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Dean Groom @ large

A three part Easter bonanza post about how Twitter makes people flash-blind because no one speaks the same language, why Twitter might be useful for literary analysis and TweetFighter3 – another FREE game I’ve invented following on from Shelly’s awesome post this week “We don’t want more professional development” – which I know will make some people out there a bit nervous, not least Rebecca Black.

I wonder if one of the many side-effects of exposure to educational-technology discources is a kind of flash blindness.

We don’t always say it, but suggest a reflective practitioner is a more democratic and grounded facilitator-teacher, creating a classroom atmosphere of equality, reflection and shared wonder. Additionally, experts are presumed to know, and must claim to do so, regardless of my own uncertainty. The reason we hire teachers is because of their experise, not their reflective capacity, which is impossible to measure using the blunt tools called Resumés and interviews that we actually use to hire them (yet leaders say this is what they actually want)  (brain-missing isn’t it).

At times, it seems messages are flashed before us so randomly, we forget that all of it no matter how motivating, empathetic or entertaining are just messages. Any real change in an organization results from an operation theory. A concrete statement –  this is how we’re going to test that theory though action-orientated application.

In the worlds of Def LeppardAction not words.

Right now, we seem to stop short and languish in a tense state of diversity between what we actually mean and say. We seem to devise so many labels (teacher, mentor, leading-teacher, ed-tech, integrator, educational developer etc) that we are constantly blinking in response.

The cafe at the end of the universe is closed. Please go back.

The array of variable lexicons in the many and diverse discourses around educational technology that we are exposed to (and in turn do to others) is breath-taking. I wonder if we are at a point now where we’ve invented so many new words, theories and praxes that a good deal of any newcomers time is spent trying to make sense of it, even before trying to build the new-grail of the PLN.

For example: A simple Twitter lexicon (which some people would have you believe is the highway to connected-enlightenment) – It’s a flash-gun, maybe a chain-gun of information, lies, truths, ideas and a million other things.

Re-tweet: someone sends you a tweet that you like so you re-tweet it on your account for your “followers” to read

Twoosh: when you make a tweet of exactly 140 characters

Twitterhood/Twitterville: the group of people (followers and those you follow) who elect to see your tweets

Twitpic: one of many applications that enable you to take a picture on your mobile then zip it straight to all your followers via Twitter

Twitterfeeds: news feeds that go straight to your Twitter account

To be a reflective teacher doesn’t mean expert, no more than and expert can be assumed to be non-reflective or reflective. At the base level, teacher educators must begin with persons, places and things. “Learning as transformation” challenges our past learning assumptions and teaching experiences, forcing us to integrate and comprehend old experiences with our present reality. So why are we paying people to chain-gun teachers with bad professional development no one wants?

Because the alternative is … Twitter? Not if you’re an overseer it’s not.

Twitter seems to be a refuge for edupunks –  were everyone has a flash-gun and willing to use it.

It’s attraction to those (me) on it, is at least in part that it appears to have no preconceptions or preformed ideas of what ‘education’ is.

From this some people see emergent themes. While others see nothing, just a bright light.

Better teacher-education means better critical analysis of the world they live in.

What teachers want – from those offering professional development – is actually inductive clarity to make sense of social development. The speed at which information comes really stops reflection if we don’t have the time or cause to stop and wonder.

For example:

Do we ask students or teacher to try an unpack a “Tweet”? Should we? Does it matter which one, who from, when it was sent or from where?

Is this a viable literary analysis technique we should teach – even though it’s not directly called for in the syllabus?

  • What is the narrative strategy?
  • What is the narrator’ s tone?
  • The meaning of literature often rides on paying close attention to the voice or tone of a text.
  • Is the narrator reliable? Is s/he ironic?
  • Are there multiple narrators?
  • Doubles of the narrator?
  • Consider the effects of the narration devices themselves?
So here’s the reward for reading all the way down here.
TweetFighter 3 [credit me if you use this please]
  1. Take a large piece of paper and markers (all the same colour – black)
  2. Pull up a Twitter feed such as #edtech or other popular group-tag and instead of talking about social media for an hour, ask people to create a concept map.
  3. Draw out circles of the participants, try to categorize what the are saying by adding spurs to ideas.
  4. Keep building away for half an hour our so and you’ll end up with hundreds of bubbles and lines to ideas, key words and themes.
  5. Get more paper, just keep writing as tweets appear on the public timeline.
  6. Now spend another half an hour trying to collapse those into 20% of the size.
  7. Combine them, create subsets and pull out people, places and things.
  8. Finally choose the strongest catagory – the one with the most people, the most ideas and the most things … (maths needed).
Now apply the literacy analysis above.
Can your group now come up with a theory of what’s happening and how are they going test that theory though action-orientated application.
Is this process only going to work with Twitter – or would it work just as well for a teacher who’s never going to use Twitter? – How so?
Draw out the new map to explain it, take a photo of it and Tweet “We’ve been #massivelyproductive” and share the image.
That’s Massively Productive, but it isn’t professional development – it is what The Hordie wants – Social Development.

Too many cooks in the edu-kitchen

Are there too many cooks in the education kitchen? It seems that as technology permeates everything, we are awash with pilot projects, initiatives and layer upon layer of ‘special circumstances’ staff, all with new agendas prefixed by the world ‘digital’. Their agenda is to make innovation more system-wide and sustainable, through 21st century skills, and use technologies to reshape learning environments and the characteristics of “new millennium learners”.

cc licensed flickr photo by quinn.anya: http://flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/3639228204/

Yet too many cooks fail to summarise large bodies of research, and appeal to our hedonistic interest in cyberculture and willing ignore the astonishing lack of evidence presented. We are struggling to find ways to deal with teacher education – and use out-dated methods constantly. Recent research simply finds:

“learning environments are more effective when they are sensitive to individual differences”

Do we really need to fly someone 10,000 miles to tell us this? Do they present us with new evidence of workable differentiation? Is what they say – better than what you do already? Do you believe them – and if so – how will they help you once they leave the stage?

I’m amazed at the number of keynotes who talk about sharing, but don’t – or lock it up behind a pay-wall. Reformist cooks are constantly impacting surface structures and institutional initiatives. Schools however find it harder to reshape the core activities and dynamics of learning in the classroom.

We return time and again to ‘individual differences’.  This is the “great disconnect”. We pour millions into this, and yet can’t find a single hour off for a primary teacher to talk to another – and we know that works.

Pensky (2002) warned that there is tremendous jockeying for financial and intellectual superiority among reformers.

We cannot replicate broad societal trends and culture when we break it up into individual parts. We break it.

Teacher Educators – The missing Association.

Teacher educators as a specialised professional group within education create their own specific identity and their own specific professional development needs. In this post, I look at the identities that teacher educators are creating – their key role in the retention of teachers, and the need to form an Teacher Educator Association that supports today’s digital-paladins.

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cc licensed flickr photo by krossbow: http://flickr.com/photos/krossbow/3099530610/

A teacher educator extends to those professionals who are practising in schools and who have formal or informal involvement in the professional development of other colleagues. There is a distinction to be made, between a teacher – educating undergraduates in the art and science of education,  between the experience of ‘initial teacher training’ and that of continuing professional development, with the latter typified by school- based models of mentoring and coaching, professional learning communities and peer-focused support.

Taylor (2003) illustrated how organizational, technical, and economic factors as well as values about immersion, identity, and legitimacy determine ways in which game designers structure virtual environments and the content available to players

For teacher educators, there has to be recognition of very very similar issues, and we need to think very carefully about the virtual environments that we allow teacher educators to develop and use in their practice – and be carried out by both men and women.

Much of the formal network decision making and environment setting is done by male, technocrats – which seems a bit wrong, given the number of women in teacher educator roles. So why are the girls not building the networks? Is this a factor in why some many women use Second Life as teacher educators perhaps, or more broadly, why teacher educators events in Second Life are 1000 times more insightful than most other conference formats.

In primary and secondary schools, teacher educators have to build an identity as teacher educators. Our identity is constructed by our involvement in the communities of practice that we belong to, and our identity influences these communities. For the teacher educator, there is a sense that they need to create sub-identities to segment their teaching of students, from the teaching of educators and most often their research interests, which for many, was the drive into teacher education. Wanting to share their experiences, passions and insight into what they believe would be useful and worthwhile practice. Unlike studying a Phd for example, becoming an effective teacher educator requires a change in identity and takes place increasingly in online communities of practice.

This identity is both the person and the context.

Let me single out Chris Betcher – the person, who through his work has created an identity many associate with Apple and IWB technologies. In effect, Chris has multiple sub-identities that come from his involvement and relationships and contexts. As we move about the meta-world, these sub-identities come into focus or blur, depending on where we are. Chris’ identity in his school, will be-reshaped when he takes a broader teacher educator role at a conference for example.

Teacher educators are complex people with multiple identities and sub identities. They require a great deal of agency to create that identity, and have to be active in the process of creating and managing its demands. This is quite different to a work place ‘trainer’ for example – with a distinct one-dimensional performance tied role. Consciously or unconsciously, teacher educators construct their own professional identity based on sub-identities that are available in their educational context – and this today includes the exploding metaverse, not any single system, culture or country.

Teacher educators also cherish their identity as teachers because their past experience gives them credibility in their work with student teachers and mentors (Dinkelman et al., 2006b)

In a changing world, teacher educators are professionally active in digital-communities in order share experiences, methods and their research. It is therefore unavoidable that they must also have the time and agency to create these sub-identities as professionals – as these communities and relationships are complex to say the least.

It is not their role to have to sit and listen to people complaining, ranting and venting on networks that they create – to support professional learning. But it is often a daily-soul-draining experience if they don’t have sufficient agency. This is a significant downside to being a teacher educator using digital space – you have to be thick skinned, hold the party line in a crises, be humble in success and to be willing to tank all the toxicness that comes with it – in order to support those teachers who are not, as a colleague commented “retirement focused” or just plain oppositional sociopaths.

So again, being able to switch identity is a key role in both tanking problems and healing situations that most of the time you didn’t create. So, if teacher educators get to spend a week at a conference – good, they need it.

There is little research around the transformation of a teacher, to a teacher educator. Qualifications, Masters and PhD do not give a clear indication of an evolution, as traditionally the path would be first order (school teacher), second order (teacher educator), third order (higher education teacher) and ultimately Research.  In today’s world, the internet seems to have short-circuited this onion. Teacher educators are intensely more interested in building their identity in communities of digital practice, than they are in further, lengthy formal study – as the end goal is not research, but agency, experience and connectedness. This seems to be driven by a belief that change is now an inside out thing, rather than a top down thing.

Formal education cannot provide the relationships and contexts in which teacher educators create their identities – and build their reputation. At the same time, education systems need to understand this – and find ways to not only value it, but to realise that their teacher educators are rare, evolving assets – that can build tremendous agency through their identities.

Networks such as Twitter are used extensive proving grounds for teacher educators – some declare their role while many others are obviously building sub-identities and in some yet to be understood transition. I find there is a distinct pay-wall that comes up, as many teachers appear to be teacher educators, but somehow add a sub-identity that promotes crisis, in order to promote their business aspirations. This is a context for teacher educators – which of course appears simultaneously and at various moments – but I see it as a risk, as to me a big role for teacher educators – is in retention of teachers – rather than training.

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cc licensed flickr photo by krossbow: http://flickr.com/photos/krossbow/3475719909/

I think that the digital-communities create better ‘teacher educator researchers’ – and in that, teacher educators build better sub-identities through their research.

I don’t believe that standing on a stage and delivering the crisis/hope message adds a great deal to the issue of teacher retention or encourages them to take more risks or place more trust in localised teacher educators. It may do the opposite.

Teacher educators have multiple identities to manage and sustain. For example, I’m clearly interested in what we can learn from games. This is just one identity. Depending on the context, this identity appears invisible, or irrelevant. But the process by which I’m learning about games in as a subset. It doesn’t dominate everything I do, but obviously it influences how I do it.

While we have multiple associations in Australia for teachers – History, English, Maths, Science etc., there is a need for an association for teacher educators themselves, so that that they can share experience and research, and not see it washed away in a daily tweet stream.

By doing so, their work and research can help to frame practice and standards.

I think a formal organisation is needed for declared teacher educators – which a declared vision and agenda; because it needs to speak to other organisations who don’t yet speak ‘Twitter’ or “Warcraft”.

If teacher educators are going to build sustainable professional identities, they need to go about it in a professional manner than can be articulated into evidence based research, practice, standards and models – and to civic society – this means a visible Association.

I think this would remove the cycle of crisis/hope messages that spew out at conferences – and focus more on the solutions, than on the problems – and give teachers educators a clear visible identity as learners, not just ‘teachers’ or ‘trainers’.

Anyone know how to form an association?


Dinkelman, T., Margolis, J. & Sikkenga, K. (2006b) From teacher to teacher educator: reframing knowledge in practice, Studying Teacher Education: A journal of self-study of teacher education practices, 2(2), 119–136.

Taylor, T. L. (2003). Multiple pleasures: Women and online gaming. Convergence, 9, 21-46.

5 Ways to create spectacular classrooms

I am a firm believer that asking teachers to do more with technology is the wrong approach to renewal, unless you are removing old habits, old methods and genuinely improving outcomes. In sessions I run for teachers, I believe that it’s more effective to change the culture and narrow the participation gap between autonomous and co-operative learning. By establishing a few simple norms – for spectacular results – especially in 1:1 technology situations. To achieve this, I’m proposing 3 tools, and  dropping some old approaches to get a performance gain.

1. Use reflective, self-reporting activities

The internet is a complex and diverse environment – simplify it for students. Use technologies that accurately reflect classroom activity and narrow the gap between what you want them to do and what they actually do – and save a heap of wasted or off task time. Diigo is the tool for this. Use it to model resources for students (lists); ask them to justify their own explorations (bookmark); and reflect on group learning (forums). Diigo is not a bookmarking tool! – It’s a learning management system and should be central to online learning.

2. Students must believe their choices and opinions matter

Probing questions in online spaces, allow teachers to discover student opinions; use a weekly question in your Diigo forum to ask them a probing question that allows them to express their feelings. Encourage participation by engaging in socio-centric conversation with students in the online space – as an aside from the rigor of the syllabus routine.

3. This week matters, because there’s another one following it.

Use TodaysMeet to create a simple question and answer page that expires after a week. Let them know that information is not persistent; but needs application to become knowledge. Encourage them to take turns in using it for passing notes and asking questions. Allow them to answer them and then at the end of the week, ask them to write a weekly journal entry – by asking a driving/probing question. Students are often poor a daily journal writing (you just get recounts) – make each week a process of leveling up to a Friday summit question. Base your assessments on summit questions.

4. Make authentic connections

Bring external voices to your classroom via technology, even if it as simple as using Google Chat, or finding a voice from YouTube. Locate an authentic dimension to problems. One great way to do this is to find your schools entry on Wikipedia – and make it better!

5. Build Vocabulary Bank

Each week a student is asked to find one word that relates to the week learning. Make one page in PBWorks, and ask them to add to it – alphabetically.

•    They have to give the meaning and how it relates to the discipline.

•    They should locate a web-reference of this being applied

These two actions provide continuous formative assessment of their ability to learn, comprehend and apply – digitally and conventionally.

What does this do for learning and engagement?

These 5 things, as a norm, repeated over a semester, promote socio-disciplinary learning. For the teacher it represents a very small change to promote the read write process in their learning and welcome students with a positive approach to learning with technology. Students will begin to select when and how best to use these spaces and  replace some of the tiresome activities of writing in Word, printing it out, collecting it or transferring it to flash memory or via email. Rather than think about ‘new’ ways, this appraoch blends existing, successful practices that allow technology to augment learning, keep students on task, be accountable, and interested in working online – though teacher facilitation and communication in those spaces. Doing this over and over, insisting and persisting; will create that norm – and may take several weeks to embed in student behaviour. Don’t fall into the trap that many another technology might work better – after all for the last decade, students have used little more than office automation and Google Search. Give them and yourself time to adjust and to be confident.

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Diigo – The power of collaborative thought

Shirky posted a very ‘oh my god’ post about the future of newspapers, weaving though it the problems faced by organisations when old ideas don’t work in new dimensions. This post becomes far more engaging for Diigo users, as there are numerous highlights though the text, with associated comments from people like Clary Burrell, who add the ‘educational’ dimension to the writing. At the time I read it, I think the blog post was up to about 900 comments with ping-backs, but the commentary though Diigo is something that I really value – when looking at the ‘power blogs’ like Shirky or Godin. Viewing the web with Internet Explorer and not Firefox is a little like listening to mono songs, verses surround sound these days. You miss the ‘spacial’ nature of the information.

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Diigo is a great ‘classroom’ tool – given the ability to sign on whole classes and the ability to not only bookmark and classify information, but to offer collaborative reflection. It is another tool that requires very little adaption of the standard network in schools, not does it pose a safety issue – and allows teachers to scaffold learning pathways. Teaching Diigo for pedagogy should be manditory professional learning in my view – and without doubt – any Web2.0 workshop needs to show just how powerful it can be when properly aligned in curriculum.

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Hulu to the future?

I haven’t done an ‘I wonder’ post for a while, but a few things I’ve read this week lead me to wonder about what creates change, not just in school – but in our beliefs.

Few people will not have heard of the ABC or Disney. But what about Hulu? What if I was to say that Hulu is a TV channel that ABC and Disney have decided is a brand that they cannot effectively compete with, so is negotiating to work with in the future. “Disney made a bet three years ago that the strength of its ABC and Disney brands would be enough to attract online viewers, and so it chose not to participate in Hulu during its launch”. Is there any alignment here with the position that education systems are taking?, are they holding out that they would continue to attract students due to their heritage, should there be some alternate. What is amazing with stories like this is the speed at which millions of people move to new spaces and how powerless traditional media channels are in preventing it. With so much content heading to the web, and even CBBC focusing on their online delivery as a primary activity, with TV secondary, ending long running shows – as “children no longer saw themselves as exclusively schoolchildren”.

Content on mobile phones and netbooks used to be on the lounge room television. Increasing lower costs access to wifi with pre-paid and 3G wifi will sweep away metropolitan broadband ADSL, as more people lower home-consumption in favour of greater mobile. Mobile learning, with high quality content will increase as organisations like the BBC focus their attention on it’s development and delivery.

How will this affect students? Now they won’t need ‘your’ network or ‘your connection’, and will be sharing net access though informal, add-hock networking, using 3G and Bluetooth connectivity. 3G dongles look just like USB drives, but do remarkably more. Once they wanted SMS credit, now they want’web credit’. I see dozens of high school students on my trip from the Central Coast using mobile internet on their phones. They are not just texting, but emailing and chatting in IRC with Skype, and this is a big motivator for teens to have ‘smart phones‘. In fact now you send a txt message to get the URL of internet content. We are seeing TV increasingly interested in ‘virtual worlds’ and ‘online games’. A solo experience or game, as an add on for traditional TV and film marketing, is no longer enough.Advertisers know that we are connecting to each other, more than their messages, and know that social media is where their customers are – online and mobile.

New pre-school entertainment comes with ‘virtual world’ connections.- as they are painfully aware how tomorrows media-consumer is motivated. Anything that was on TV is now on your mobile – and more than likely connected to a massive mutliplayer environment. Few teachers are even beginning to think abut how this is going to impact them in the next 5 years. Much of the operational instruction we used to provide – such as information literacy and ‘computer mastery’ is being taught by online avatars and popular culture websites.

source: news.com.au

source: news.com.au

Students in Grange Hill in the late 70s, experienced classrooms and process of learning that has changed little in over 30 years. Yet the students in them are increasingly there because of ‘tenue’, and not motivation. We have more strategic, surface learners that deep, life long learners.

What do we have to do to ensure that ‘schools’ are the best ‘channel’ for learning? It seems entirely possible that something could appear in education from an unconventional quarter. It is happening everywhere else, ask the Mouse, who has several ‘virtual magic kingdoms’. If encumbent, successful, organisations are being unseated from their traditional markets, will they education be seen as an opportunity? Will the slow change and lack of central government investment see schools being commercialised? Well maybe, it’s here already with McDonalds, free online software for schools. The media was fixated with facile ‘McSchool’ jokes, or if burgers would be advertised, once again showing how out of step they are with reality. Of course McDonalds software is FREE – it’s online, and online is predominently ‘free’. A paid model is not how it works anymore. We have Google ‘educators’ already, and Apple have been claiming ‘Apple Schools’ for years.

I wonder how near we really are to the Florida Virtual High School, If the AIS and Catholic Education Offices are talking to McDonalds, and therefore parents are accepting commerical, third party teaching input, then can parents and students opt to study Anchient History in a commerically funded Teen Second Life’ class. Does software have to be ‘linear’, given that some of the most innovative learning environements in Australia are ones in which, as Will Richardson observes “the kids are driving the learning, from the design of the school and the curriculum to the decision making around school policy and more”. Policy is therefore central to the debate. We have ‘outcomes’ prescribed by the Board of Studies, and assessments are guided by policy compliance and the HSC summative examination.

If a parent wants their child to do well, and there is an alternate offering – online, mobile or virtual – then the central issue is about ‘tenure’. Students are required to be at school. I’d like think they ‘attend learning’, through effective activities, guided by outcomes and assessment  (attendance, may be an outcome/assessment btw). This is not so futuristic. In China, thousands of students attend class via mobile phone as well as online webinar.

In an atomised way, the elements of negotiated learning, mobile learning and virtualised learning are there – together with an economic imperative for large organisations to re-position themselves and find new opportunities. It’s not going to happen tomorrow – but at the same time, I wonder if the ‘shifts’ for learning will actually come from the education sector leadership – or from more motivated commercial enterprise.

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Lost Generation

Julie Lindsay found this. It is very powerful, and very clever in how it works. It made me think that there must be a ‘teacher‘ version that could be applied.

I refuse to believe teaching is changing or that I can bigger difference with technology to improve learning if I engage with it

… could easy become …

if I engage learning with technology, I can make a bigger difference and I will refuse to believe that teaching can’t change.

Will Richardson has said this many times, that the change starts with you – not with the system, the school, the administration, the network, the institution. It helps if they openly assist and not cling to the mantra of 19th century industralists – but I for one seriously lack the social capital to change a great deal. I can do it for myself and for my own kids – and at least advocte to them (as they can’t yet to it themselves). For all our abilities and opportunities at the individual level we are frail. At the network level we are amazing. I think for me, like many, the network gives you the bounce you need. Reading about things, people and events on the other side of the world renews the spirit to push on, when logically you should log-off.

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Infinate Learning

FI-ligature type in 12p Garamond.
Image via Wikipedia

It is an exciting and challenging time for education. In the 20th century we perceived information as scarce while in the 21st century it is over abundant. Now students have the ability to search, work or publish at will, using text, audio, and video, or any combination these. The have un-precedented access to technologies previously cost prohibitive for schools, which are usually instant and often free. Learning and teaching has become a multimodal, multi-literate conversation – where participation is an everyday reality for teachers, librarians, administrators and students.

The opposing forces of ‘memory and forgetfulness’ no longer dominate learning. Since Gutenberg’s movable type in the mid 1400s, technology has allowed us to expand our creative and mental horizons, progressively chipping away at the need to ‘memorise’ and ‘recall’. Today more information is stored digitally than in all the libraries in the world combined. We simply don’t need to ‘remember’ everything. The output of ICTs exceeds the wildest dreams of nineteenth century industrialists, and alters our view of memory; forgetfulness; creativity and originality.  Schools need to extend their vision of learning beyond ‘memory-arts’. We are in a hyperdynamic world of connections, relationships, and adaptive tools that help us make sense of the information flooding about us. We are standing at the entry of an age of infinite recall and infinite memory, the lines between original works and derivatives is blurred because duplication is simple and storage cheap. The idea that students learn from single or even limited origins is naive. Originality and creativity is now an additive and transformative process. Students need to develop insight into how to navigate and select a pathway in the online world – and for that they need help – by creating better resources, developing better frameworks inside what schools call ‘information literacy’.

Students that score well on exams can also be strategic surface learners. They want and demand the ‘answers’. While there is pressure to ‘perform’ and ‘get results’, it seems that online learning is adapting and evolving regardless of what mainstream education thinks.

For example : The Florida Virtual High School – has a very different pedagogy, and very different approach to learning.

In two words? Personalized instruction. You want choices. You want to feel that you or your students are not just numbers. You want to work at your own pace. You’d like to study at home or from a library or coffee shop. You want some say in your education, and you want classes that hold your interest!

If these are the things you want for yourself or your students, you have come to the right place. We have built our school on these beliefs:

  • Every student is unique, so learning should be dynamic, flexible and engaging.
  • Studies should be integrated rather than isolated.
  • Students, parents, community members, and schools share responsibility for learning.
  • Students should have choices in how they learn and how they present what they know.
  • Students should be provided guidance with school and career planning.
  • Assessments should provide insights not only of student progress but also of instruction and curriculum

We are presented with infinite memory. We can store, retrieve infinitely more than our fragile memory. Our lives are not limited by local contemporaries or restrained by single sources of information. The internet wiped away that idea a long time ago. The next wave for education to deal with is the nature of schools and the mode of learning itself – in the global context. It is already happening. As Australia starts looking at the next phase of it’s ‘digital education revolution’ – I hope that it pays attention to schools like the FVS. I wonder what would happen if we had a HSC Virtual High School? – Now there’s an idea.

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