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.



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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Blocked Learning

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Teacher Trauma On Twitter

Image by Ewan McIntosh via Flickr

“But is ‘it’s blocked, I can’t access it”.

But the ‘firewall’ supposed to keep them ‘safe’ does not work. They go home to read and watch it, or use their phones? Are we then to install mobile phone ‘jammers’? We have not created a ‘firewall’, but a brick wall – we are Blocking Learning. We might be ‘covering’ it over with policy, rendering it with policical ‘motherhood’ messages, but behind the rhetoric is a solid wall, that believes ‘the internet’ is somthing that can be controlled and monitored, and that a few people (Senetor Conroy, the czar of communication in Australia –  #nocleanfeed) should dictate our social connections, contracts and learning.

My wife tried to access the EPA this week with her year 1 class. Can someone please explain the criteria used for to evaluate the Envronmental Protection Agencies not condusive to learning if the teacher thinks they are? In fact all the science sites on environment they searched for in Google were blocked. This, despite taking part in an online, DET promoted, ‘science competition’.

IMBEE – a social community in which students can only talk to and friend other members of their group (their class) and all chat is moderated – as banned from use – and so were the fabulous parent and student resources, which included cyber safety. “imbee is a parent approved, teacher endorsed social networking site appropriate for kids and ‘tweens.” Posters and booklets specifically designed to address safety – banned. What is better IMBEE or Habbo Hotel or Club Penguin – both of which have MILLIONS of unmoderated residents.

Learning impairment

Teachers can’t ‘plan’ serious ICT activities, and be sure they will work. Many primary school teachers have little to no ‘relief’ time to plan at school, so have to use their own ‘free’ time. There is absolutely no doubt that the DET is out of control, has too many political masters (who DET say are to blame), and lack of clarity or effective policy that can be aligned and aligned in the classroom. The is for example no DET portal ‘request’ for access – even for an hour to a site. What is the point of putting infratructure, wifi and laptops into schools – if what they connect to cannot effectively allow communication flow ?

A connection to a brick wall, not a firewall.

There are ways to deliver better ‘duty of care’ – the current model is based on fear, lack of understanding and policy designed for physical spaces and objects. Rumour has it that Queensland and Western Australia want to ban any site that has ‘data’ stored outside of Australia. Who thinks this stuff up? With No Clean Feed and Conroy re-introducing the ducking-stool and covert ops in state education departments banning anything remotely ‘engaging’ and doing nothing to facilitate, professionally develop staff etc. Stack this up against  public ‘draft’ policy, that smells like ‘National Curriculum’, Gillard talking about adopting New York Ciry school models, vague attempts to introduce low-end netbooks, recent laptop dumps in High School and the ever promised ‘fibre’ to schools roll out.

What does the DET ‘innovations’ department do?

We all know, much of what we can give teachers is free, already tested and widely reviewed and researched by reputable institutions. Quest Atlantis for example. A brilliant virtual world, we a great global community, that will won’t comply to QLD and WA rumored ‘policy’. Has anyone involved in QA been approached by anyone from these ‘elected’ guardians of education? – I doub’t it. Unlocking virtual worlds or any other technology is not something that will happen unless teachers start making lists, and principles start sending those lists to parents, MPs and lobby groups. List the banned sites. ‘Ah’, you say ‘I can’t put that on a wiki, they are all banned’. But here is what you can do, as I am getting a bit tired of ‘yeah buts’ based on no-consultation from elected representatives.

Perhaps Mrs Gillard would like to discuss? But probably not unless there is an imperative, so maybe we should make one. Theres one thing NOT blocked. And that’s ‘email’. So here’s what you can do, to let the DET know what you could not teach in your classroom.

Take action – let ‘them’ know this is – BLOCKED LEARNING


Just send an email!
You don’t need to put in your name or your email address.

A screenshot would be ‘sweet’.

Please include the URL of the site, the grade that could not see it, your state and what you wanted to teach. 140 Characters or less so you can “Tweet it”.
The post will get blogged at and perhaps a beneficial resource for our elected state and government officials.

Please share the URL, post on Twitter with #blockedlearning – so we can see the list growing. This will let other teachers know, ahead of time – what is already blocked by the various ‘experts’. If you want to attach a screen shot of your favourite blocked filter message – we can start a meme!. Just attach it to the email, Posterous figures it out.  This is a practical way of using technology (posterous, email and twitter) to highlight the ‘blocked learning’ in K12 – and to save other teachers and students the frustration of trying to learn though the policy or non-teachers and learners.

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Realism, Relevance, Retention


This is a bit of a passion piece, but I think it’s important to say. I listened to some of the audience’s questions during Will Richardson’s presentation in Sydney last Friday. As ever Will was pulling out the main issues that face parents and teachers. As ever, some questions were very specific ‘which blog do I use’ or system-damming ‘but it’s blocked’ and ‘but I don’t have time’.

The Industrialist 3Rs (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic), are still being cited as the capstones of learning –  when learning is cited as ‘failing’-  the call is to go back to basics – as if technology is somehow disconnected from these things. Learning with technology is part of the ‘digitial’ 3Rs – realism, relevance and retention. These are things to strive for in relation to a broader array of classroom activities. They are enhancing the capabilities of gifted teachers, not displacing them. But even motivated teachers find it difficult to access professional learning that is going to allow them to learn to do it. We have the ability to transform learning  and increase motivation though technology, and still address traditional ‘values’.

Imagine a global virtual world in which students have to negotiate through the complex politics surrounding a wildlife habitat construction project in the developing world, making the case for its economic and environmental benefits. Students take on the ‘role’ of diverse stakeholders, and though classroom research – the can role-play, using exploratory and explicit learning to put forward their solution for a negotiated outcome. They interact in a virtual world, develop models and ideas – blended these with reflection and discussion in other online media such as a blog or wiki to collect and justify their collective action.

picture-11We now have 6Rs, Reading; Writing; Arithmetic; Realism; Relevance and Retention. The above experience can be created using a range of technologies; MeetSee, Edublogs; Skype; Google Docs etc., and easily blended into the classroom. Teachers can connect with other schools (see Jenny Luca’s recent presentation), and can easily ‘chat’ using very low bandwidth, low-tech web tools such as Tiny Chat. In primary years, this can be created with Quest Atlantis, or ever the excellent eKidnaworld (an Australian parent developed virtual world – that needs your support!).

What is critical is that teachers have access to ongoing ‘mentors’ that can show them how to create this – though adaptation of existing, readily available technologies.

To be effective, teachers need to learn about more than Bloom’s taxonomy, but to learn how to develop learning frameworks that contructively align outcomes (what do we want them to learn), activities (how to be create motivating classrooms) and assessment (how to we know they did it). Teachers also need to learn about ‘communication’ with digital media. More often that not, they focus on ‘marking’, and not ‘talking with’ students using more informal strategies.

So before teachers begin to utilize new laptops and faster networks, there remains a huge need to help schools develop goal-orientated, achievable learning frameworks to renew curricula, and will place valid, relevant arguments to the Department of Education as to why students need to access curricula that motivates. Duty of care relates to a physical state, not a virtual one.

The current policy of ‘banning’ sites is at best inconsistent. Are schools breaching Google’s AUP in schools?. If a child is bullied on their way home on a mobile phone – does the school breach it’s duty of care? If someone complains about a ‘blog’ then, despite following policy,are teachers are left at the mercy of the legal system? In short, unless ‘we’ move to a  position where we have effective policy, effective leadership, professional learning and on the ground ‘help’ for teachers, we might as well return to the 3Rs of the 1950s. We will fail and continue to orbit the issues and not end the digital winter. The best professional learning is happening inside personal networks, not systemic ones – and I don’t see any movement forward in public schools.

The DET needs to be brave, it needs to release teachers to mentor based professional learning, and link that with clear assessment via the NSW Institute of Teachers, in co-operation with the Teaching Unions to ensure equity. Instead we find Queensland and Western Australia blocking Quest Atlantis (as the data is held off-shore) and the DET using Twitter to make announcements, but blocks it in school. In short it is a mess and the debate over laptops and school intrastructure is meaningless unless clear policy and action is taken at DET level. I’d love to have that conversation.

Will’s session was another demonstration that teachers want to learn, but lack access to people who can help curriculum leaders, libraries and classroom teachers renew curricula and develop 21st Century pedagogy. There is no preparation for the introduction of fibre connectivity or laptops in the classroom, and well over a decade since the DET ‘re-trained’ teachers.

Realism is not present; what we are doing is no longer realistic. Relevance; current professional learning is limited to policy implementation. Retention; motivated teachers are ‘expelled’ by systems unable to recognise the significance of what they are trying to do. In our desire to be equitable, we fail students. Access to powerful professional learning and therefore powerful schools is increasingly limited by geography and social capital. Bringing any scale to what is a massive problem is difficult in Australia, imagine how much more complex it is in the UK or USA.

However, I wonder at what point someone (maybe me?) form some organisation to deliver 21st Century Learning in whole school, public access level in Australia. PLNs are great, but I think that we need to start something far more significant, that is recognised as professional learning and in some way aligned to recognition and motivation, and in such a way that it transcends the organic and provides constructive advice, policy and lobby for change.

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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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Never mind the blogging …

A few people have been talking about ‘the end of blogging’, suggesting that the rise of more micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter has transformed the exchange of information and communication.

The ‘end of blogging’ discussion is akin to that of the ‘end of the long copy advertisement‘, which has be raging for decades.

One of the texts I remember in Ad-School was first published in 1938, and continuously modified in the following decades. “Tested Advertising Methods” by John Caples. He mentions about writing

“Ads with lots of facts are effective. And don’t be afraid of long copy. If your ad is interesting, people will read all the copy you can give them. If the ad is dull, short copy won’t save it.”

David Ogilvy, in 1963 commented

“Research shows that readership falls off rapidly up to 50 words of copy, but drops very little between 50 and 500 words. In my first Rolls Royce advertisement I used 719 words—piling one fascinating fact on another.”

In 1963, most people read newspapers and long copy ads were perfectly acceptable, predominantly full of ‘important’ facts – to sell an idea or product.

20 years later, Ogilvy explained why they still worked

“I believe, without any research to support me, that advertisements with long copy convey the impression that you have something important to say, whether people read the copy or not. Direct response advertisers know that short copy doesn’t sell. In split run tests, long copy invariably outsells short copy.”

We are immersed in media that knows and exploits that we are essentially ‘difference’ engines. We notice things that are ‘wrong’ or opposite to the expected perception. They are smothered with aspiration, sexuality and cultural semantic devices – in the hope, we will ‘read their message’ before the next one a few moments later.

Retention in advertising and education is desirable, yet conflicting.

In doing this, the media are very comfortable to rehash, remix and leverage past media messages – and often blatantly rips off the work of artists in the process. Few are making the effort to create new ideas in the way Ewan McIntosh is attempting at 4ip. But then again, it takes a stack of cash too, and that is not something education can draw on.

We then wonder why teens find it acceptable to do the same – remash, repurpose, rip off – and call it evidence of learning.

We constantly devalue communication by taking shortcuts. Students are continually exposed to commercial ‘push’ content, who’s sole intent is retention through differentiation. I learned in advertising that very few copywriters are great at the long copy ad and just about everyone thought they could write a short ad.

A short ad is star burst  information usually designed, like Twitter, to grab your attention to do one action in just a few words. As the price of media placement falls and the opportunities increase – they can blast us more often. The long ad strives to inform you of much deeper thoughts, and relies on accuracy and relevance. It contains much more information. You don’t advertise using long copy to teens. They are conditioned to receiving short, sharp busts of information – which they cope with by learning to multi-task.

picture-2Educators never needed to market themselves in K12 – they have tenture! We never needed to allow for multi-tasking or digitally media ‘savvy’ read/write/create learning environments.

Teachers always set the agenda and the pace and held the keys to formal learning. Web2.0 is then a disruptive technology. People have become brands and brands now leverage popular culture and visual imagery to grab your attention. The messages are no longer about, as Oglivy said, “piling one fascinating fact on another”‘.  Like it or not – educators have to ‘sell’ learning in new ways, using new approaches and help learners make sense of it all.

Today’s teens are fed a daily diet of  instant, franchised information – short messages that have specific intentions – few of which worry too much about being un-biased, impartial, ethical, moral or accurate. The result has been a generation who now ‘skim’ content, not critically analyse it.

Ever seen a teen read a game manual before playing the game?

In 140 characters I can make a point, shout or push a link, but I really hope that people don’t pass the idea to students that ‘blogs’ – or more specifically – extended writing is not relevant or worse –  as long as you can short message and skim, you’ll succeed.


I stared a blog post and discussion form on Classroom2.0 for this, which I figured was the best place to ‘go fishing’.

As a few of my friends know, Mr.7 is a kid with Aspergers. Not so much a kid with special needs, more a kid with special interests and a different perspective on the world. These kids simply learn in different ways and are often ‘above standards’ in their given year group, highly perceptive, but struggle to deal with implied meaning in language, social situations (especially new ones) and struggle to understand emotional decisions ‘neuro-normals’ make.

They will often have an affinity with technology (machines are more predictable than people), and have some kind of interest focus. This can be transient – with the interests moving over time, or a range of interests : Star Wars, Mythology, Cars – to more extreme single interests. I once met a child was only interested in cornices.

However, they generally enjoy maths and sciences – subjects which are are less interpretive.

There’s way to much to say about it from a medical view point here, but as a parent, the most significant issue is that their schooling is not inclusive – even though they attend an inclusive school.

These amazing kids often appear to be just like every other kid, their needs are often not explicitly addressed in school.

This is a great video, I love to share with teachers.

Simple things make a BIG difference – one way or the other. For example, moving from one class to the next is a very anxious time, yet schools will almost no effort to ease the transfer (they are busy). Putting kids into more general ‘funded’ groups is another. In my case, our kid is stuck in a reading group with a few other kids. He can read, and he knows the kids – and they are always the same kids. This is a waste of time and funding – yet try as we might, the teacher and school fobs us off continually over this.

I think the start reality is that the mass of information on kids with Aspergers concerns itself with medial and social (behaviour) issues. There really is little out there (or that I can find) that is hands one classroom advice.

So here’s my idea.

To create a wiki – Apsi2.0 – that:

  • Can be used by parents to give to teachers as a general resource with classroom activities they can use.
  • Practical lesson/learning activities that last about an hour – that specifically address their needs
  • Differentiated use of technology to engage them in the same ‘classroom’ activities as their peers – but approached from alternate, less confronting social situations. (Quest Atlantis, collaboration, peer review etc.,)
  • To allow parents to develop their own ‘life long learning’ wiki for their kid that they can give to teachers, as a resource so the teacher knows what the students engages with or dis-engages because of.
  • Allow teacher/parents to share pedagogical success stories (be them based on individual focus’)
  • Allow teachers who DO engage properly (no lip service laggards) to share interventions and learning approaches that have led to better learning outcomes
  • A resource for siblings to learn about their brother/sister – and help support them
  • A resource for parents (struggling with schools) to self-help learning
  • A knowledge bank of lessons/strategies/activities that can be used – right out the box – to improve the lot of our kids in schools.

I am not saying that the whole spectrum of Autism is not a major concern in inclusive education. But I am saying, that from experience, the professional development and ‘self’ development in teachers is just not there. I am sure there are amazing teachers, but a lot of the time – these kids struggle in school as they try and interact with other students and kids. They need to learn how to interact. An example of this could be, a new student joins a class. There is an established group of friends, and one kids has Aspergers. While the new kid joins the group, the Apergers kid will not understand why, and probably see it as a bad thing, as it disrupts the social balance. The immediate reaction might be to try and get rid of the new kid. That seems logical. It was okay before, now it’s not – what changed? Easy – get rid of the annoyance. They don’t understand that making friends is the way that new people enter a group. They have to learn it, while most kids will learn it by doing it. The danger is that in attempts to bounce the new kid, they are segregated from them, and most likely segregated from their friends.

The teacher doesn’t understand this, and indeed might have no idea that the kid with Aspergers is frustrated, anxious and burning up to understand why thier world is suddenly under attack, not just from the new kid, but from the teachers and their friends.

My point is, that schools are highly social spaces. Teachers need to know how to, and be seen to, use any funded time, spare time to create social learning opportunities. They often don’t, or won’t. It’s easier to get a reading group than it is to address their specific interests or needs. It means doing something different – which is not in their program.

You might tell me, yeah but there is an individual learning plan, there has to be. I’ll tell you that is all crap. There might be a piece of paper somewhere, but that is not the reality that parents know. We can’t be there all the time, we can’t negotiate the world for them, so we must advocate for them – as they can’t do it for themselves.

Here’s a couple of examples of the replies I got in Classroom2.0 – these are exactly what we need to hear.

I showed your post to my daughter and she suggested having a section on your Wiki for the siblings of children with Aspergers. She benefited a great deal when she understood her brother’s special interests and wanted to know ways to become closer to him. Our school system found simple ways to let her become a resource for my son during the school day without making her assume adult responsibilities. For example, the school scheduled their lunches so they could eat together. They simply felt like they were enjoying time together and never realized my daughter was providing a model of social interaction each day for half an hour. She never resented this time together and eventually my son began to sit with other students and interact successfully. Tanya Travis.

Here is one from a teacher, David Wees

I had a student with Asperger’s who spent every lunch hour reading by himself. His favourite thing? Japanese mythology and culture. So I introduced him to a collectible card game about Japanese mythology and then introduced him to some people he could play with. Now he plays cards at lunch time with his peers, interacting socially far more often than before.

How amazing would it be to hear things happening for my kid. So far this year, I have had nothing positive or volunteered by the school, yet have been ‘up there’ several time to get tea and sympathy messages – when quite clearly they are wasting his time and mine. It is all very frustrating for us, but easier to pass off than address by the school.

Critical, hell yeah! – but we want our kid to be in public education and to be included. As he goes through life (not in a wheelchair), the world won’t deal him a different deck, but the biggest need he has is to learn about how the social norms work. He won’t pick it up unless it is taught. We do it at home – but we want to see it in his school – and so does every other parent like me.

I’d hope that this something I can ‘teach’ parents in the future, as it seems to me to be a direct positive step.

So that’s my ‘new’ thing – if I have a ‘thing’. I’m over the apathetic approach, the light on pre-teacher preparation. Right now, as a parent, I think this is the ONE thing I can do for my kid. Have a resource that explains to his teacher how he has learned over his whole school engagement. I would love it if his teacher added to it – but it’s not likely this year. I think this every year, maybe I’ll get a teacher who ‘gets’ him.

Mumbai – Twitter Feeds


I am sure everyone, as they wake up or get in the car to go home will have heard about the events in Mumbai today. It was a hot topic on Twitter Search all day. About 6 months ago, Will Richardson was telling a story about Wikipedia and how it reported new on the Bharpour more efficiently than new channels. It was interesting to note that as I hit Twitter Search for the first time and used the #mumbai tag, there were 20 more results each time I pressed refresh. Some reporting the news, some reporting on the mass media’s interpretation of events, and local sources posting emergency phone numbers. At one point, people talked about how the mass media had gone soft on it’s coverage – but at the same time talking about how the authorities were attempting to remove the #mumbai tag from Twitter.

It is amazing to me, that in only a few months, we can once again talk about another news vector being more efficient (I’m not saying accurate) at publishing that even the ‘masses’ that edit Wikipedia.

Perhaps Twitter isn’t a news outlet. If not then it’s the worlds biggest ‘rubber necking’ event for sure.

During the same day, I read Annabel’s post about the situation of internet access in rural cities – talking about her recent professional development event in Mildura, Victoria. It is amazing to think how dis-connected even Australian society is in terms of access to information, and at the same time how important we don’t dis-connect our society.

Given the changes in just 6 months, it really makes me wonder how we will be reading the news in the next 6. Hopefully the news will be better than this though.

Wikipedia is near enough good enough

97338266_ed37f724dfWhich is more important – getting the answer right or learning how to get the answer right?.  Rather than run PD on skills, maybe you need a U-Turn?

Googling the word ‘solar energy’ at the time of writing responded with  23,500,000 references. That is a lot of reading, which may be one reason that students often favour Wikipedia in which thousands of people try to define and classify the term in just a handful of pages. They don’t see the value in understanding how that summary has been arrived at. Its just there to use.  Learning to how to get the answer is the part of learning that should be teaching with ICTs.

Wikipedia is not always right (as students will often tell you), but they do think it is ‘accurate enough’. For so long, they have been copying and pasting its content into essays and presentations that teacher in-action has made it acceptable.

But what are teachers doing to guide them though the critical thinking processes to evaluate information? What formative scaffolds are in place to be able to show the development in understanding though critical analysis of information from a wide range of sources?

Jenny Luca spoke recently in an online discussion in the Powerful Learning Practice network meeting. As a teacher librarian in a girls secondary school, she has noticed that non-fiction borrowing is almost nil because students turn to the internet for faster ways to get ‘facts’.

I don’t see this as a problem with ‘the internet’ or that books may become redundant,. I see a problem with assessment.

Assessment has been based on repeating ‘content’ back to the teacher in classrooms since back in the day. Mapping student response to syllabus ‘content’ and therefore meeting a learning outcome is the accepted method in most classrooms.

But there is no new learning in using the Internet to do this. It is simply a searching task. Wikipedia is as students say ‘accurate enough’ to give a matched response to question, and pass. When students present an essay or PowerPoint – teachers tick the ‘ICT box’ and the ‘content’ box. Teachers accept that is ‘near enough’ too. Seriously, how could any 14 year old not be able to present a graphical, accurate slideshow to explain ‘solar energy’.

A teacher will say ‘yeah, but I have a test – so if they don’t learn it, then they will fail’. Is that the point of learning to pass a test at the end – or to develop and support them in the process of learning. Testing is not a ‘digital insurance’ policy just in case your students Googled the answer.

Use a test to check to see if students learned ‘enough’ at the end seems to be an acceptance that what you did in the process of learning was not sufficient to gauge the depth of their learning without it.

Teachers need to learn how to use ICTs to develop independent critical thinkers and devise formative strategies that demonstrate a continued effort and growth in student understanding. This is academic not technology skill development.

Professional Development needs to be a three step process.

Firstly teachers need to become ‘media’ and ‘network’ literate and understand how technology and people impact learning. Secondly, they need to want to stop teaching. They need want to become designers, mediators and facilitators of the process of learning. They need to develop ‘media’ aware formative assessment methods that demonstrate how students derive meaning and answers, not just repeat them. Lastly, they develop greater awareness technology itself in order to learn about and select the appropriate ‘tools’ to achieve these goals. They won’t and can’t do step three without the first two.

I worry that the term Web2.0 immediately means ‘software’ when talked about in staff rooms and PD sessions. In order to begin to understand how to use any of it effectively to change learning, it is critical to start at the beginning, not the end. ‘Looking at Web2.0 tools’ is the end of the journey, not the start. It all starts with curriculum renewal, which leads to professional development onto effective classrooms, engaged learning and better outcomes – for students. It’s academic development just as much as it is technological.

Has your curriculum expired?

4576395_e360bb5439_oOne of the projects I am undertaking at Macquarie Univeristy is ‘curriculum renewal’. It taken me a week to read all the planning and research into this – and I’m not done yet.

In K12 speak, this is looking at ’21st Century Skills’, those things that have previously fallen outside summative performance testing, yet recognised as critical skills to be a lifelong learner. Having the ability to collaborate, participate etc., to act out a role in society as an ethical, productive and reflective individual.

At Macquarie, student capabilities are an embeded part of the curriculum, with the ‘curriculum renewal’ project – specifically addressing the wider issues in the 21C discourses.

The questions being asked are very similar to those that K12 is asking (or perhaps those which I’ve been focusing on before last week).

How do we teach institution-wide graduate attributes?  How can we measure the capabilities of our graduates?   How can universities bridge the gap between institutional rhetoric and the reality of the student learning experiences?

The process of beginning to do this involves, as we know, mapping the curriculum to these capabilities.This I think is where K12 Curriculum Leaders need to, well, lead.

Identifying and being clear about these in a school – and articulating that to parents and staff providing the opportunity to explore and select technology tools with pedagogical approaches towards change.

It is not going to be something that can be done quickly, but then since when have schools worried about ‘speed’ in relation to adoption of technology. It has been a long, slow process in schools – not a revolution, but a consistent evolution since the 1980s.

The last few years have seen change like never before – and perhaps as technology has become cheaper and easier to access – we notice it more than once we did – when Computing was a Science – not a fact of life.

We can’t ignore or deny that social networks and our ability to create, share and publish – is something that students can do – easily.

What skills and capabilities do we need to provide learners beyond content related learning?

The challenges in doing this in such a large institution as Macquarie, with thousands of staff and distributed students are very similar to school systems. There is a need to develop capacity in both teachers and learners to develop these skills – over time.

In a discussion today, the Ed Development team could identify lots of opportunities to introduce blogs, wikis, second life, virtual classrooms etc., but the challenge remains – how to develop ‘teacher’ technology-savvyness to see where in a unit of work, or classroom that these are best deployed. We accept that we will need to help, support and probably ‘do’ it for a while – but the goal is independency.

We can’t expect to ‘sit’ on skill levels as we once could – new ideas, new tools and new opportiunities appear daily. We can’t know everything … but at the same time, we do know we can’t sit still as we have done in the past.

I wonder if in the rush to see read/write, collaboration in K12, spearheaded by innovative teachers – how many ‘curriculum co-ordinators’ are actively seeking to define and build school policy around these student capabilities? Do teachers find curriculum leaders a barrier or a gateway to what they are trying to provide students?

Given we are in ‘exam’ and ‘A to E’ reporting, how do we convince parents that these skills are just as important as exam grades. How many schools have clearly identified them in the current curriculum and mapped them against outcomes – so that teachers know exactly what they need to learn in order to meet these using ICTs. Curriculum and Technology are not exclusive anymore, one needs the other to survive and remain relevant to learning into the immediate future.

Change starts with curriculum leadership by identifying 21C capabilities and making firm committments to staff and students that if the process is started, then it will be supported and maintained.

Will the curriculum you have simply expire and become less and less relevant to what students really need – be that K12, TAFE or University. How long is the expiry date on it? 1 year, 5 years a decade?

Wanted: Aspiring Leaders


The phrase ‘aspiring leaders’ – seems to be a phrase used by the incumbent leaders to describe those teachers who are demonstrating innovation and passion about their role as both a teacher and a learner in schools – and have been elevated as having potential to be a future leader.

This is often what we read in institutional newletters. “So and so has been awarded as the …” complete with nervous looking photo opportunity, which is often remarkably indifferent from long service or even retirement reports.

It seems some what presumptuous to assume that these people can only be called leaders at the discretion of the incumbent leaders of learning. Akin to being anointed or given a badge of office, the opportunities to be placed in this spotlight misrepresent the depth and number of teachers who are already leaders within the common interest groups (CIGs).

Contrasting ‘Aspirational Leaders’ with Common Interest Groups (CIGs) helps illustrate the gap between the incumbent leaders and the self organising, self determining leaders who we generalise as being active in the ‘Edublog’ CIGs.

CIGs overlap, intersect and deliver interoperability for participants. This is what continually drives them, as there is always something new, something to diversify into or just to learn about.

An example of a CIG in action this week can be further illustrated. We are looking at ePortfolios  at Macquarie University. This is part of the ‘innovation to integration’ educational portfolio.

I spoke to Allison Miller – a leading expert in my CIG. Allison’s research into ePorfolios in Delicious makes the process faster, more focused and easier for the whole development team. Allison is leading by proxy.

To me, there is a stark contrast between permissive leadership attainment in school communities and social leadership attainment through CIGs.

Incumbent leaders need to demonstrate far greater understanding and willingness to accept CIG leadership as not only vital but a significant attainment as professional development as a 21C Educator. Supporting them is the action that is needed, not ignoring them.

To me, leading learning is a combination of experience, passion, practice, skills, passion, work ethic and connectedness. The very skills many educational leaders talk about as things students need to learn … but are not effectively recognising in teachers.

When educational leaders ask (perhaps rhetorical) questions such as ‘how to we encourage and retain leaders?’ – reply, “You have them, you are just not using effective criteria to recognise it’.

This to me is one of the biggest issues that Australian teachers should be raising with thier ‘leaders’.