Edublog Award Nominations 2008

Here are my nominations for the 2008 Edublog Awards.

Best educational use of a social networking serviceGreen Up 2145 – 9th Grade Students – Lucy Gresser

Best librarian / library blogJudy O’Connell

Best educational wiki Sue Waters (of course)

Best new blog When Darkness Turns to Light – Elliot Cambridge

Best educational use of a virtual worldJokaydia

Connected Cohorts

In the information age, the decade that was the 90s had an underlying message “stay ahead of the curve when it comes to technology, or risk being left out of the loop.”

Offices created ‘cube farms’, where workers did ‘information age things’ in very small spaces. The ‘Cube Farm’ lead to an almost sub-culture, and life in the ‘cube’ still remains a substantial source of inspiration for parody websites.

The cube farm seemed to visually enforce the idea that the information age worker was hard wired to communication tools, and could work globally without ever moving a metre and a half from their desks.

What they didn’t tell the cubical worker in the 90s is that their job would moved to Asia and India where volume ‘information processing’ is conducted more profitably. The very act of being globally connected by technology means they should have mentioned that you needed to be ‘creative and innovative’ with technology – not just conversant.

Post 2002 saw an increasingly fragmented media landscape when people have a range of choices at their disposal gave rise to the idea that you don’t need to be an information worker, and in fact no one got left out the loop, simply that the barriers and costs of technology have come down to make it affordable to most of us in our society. Though of course, we do exclude lots of people.

Our connectedness allowed even those in cubical farms to reach out and connect with the world, via Facebook, MySpace, Digg etc., The effect of which is that offices have to a large degree rethought the cubical walls – and that if people actually talk to each other at work, then it’s actually not such a bad thing after all – because there are so many way in which they WILL do that anyway.

If we look at education today, there is much talk about Open Classrooms. This is actually a pre-information age idea from the 1970s, but has returned as a popular discourse.

The open-classroom movement originated in British public elementary schools after World War II. Open classrooms’ focus on students’ “learning by doing” and reflected the social, political, and cultural changes of the 1960s and early 1970s. An era which also saw the rise of a youth-oriented countercultures.

On one hand we have the ‘instructional classroom’, populated by passive learners and chalk and talk teachers. On the other, the teacher who recognizes that the read/write web opens up new opportunities using technology via inquiry based approaches.

In Open Classrooms teachers structured the classroom and activities for individual students and small work groups. They helped students negotiate each of the reading, math, science, art, and other interest centers on the principle that children learn best when they are interested and see the importance of what they are doing.

For a range of reasons, mostly social and cultural, the Open Classroom had faded by the end of the 80s and education returned to more structured, test based summative learning approaches with specific curriculum detail.

There is little doubt that educational ‘trends’ come and go.

‘Open Classroom’ has a new connotation – it’s internet based.

The catalyst for the current discourse is the internet, the falling cost of ‘being connected’ and the hardware needed to do it – that began with the mass introduction of the home micro-computer in the 1990s. The idea that every innovation dreamed up by reformers inside and outside public schools makes its way into the nation’s classrooms is false. Education reflects so many cultural and social trends that at any point, there has always been debate as to which is the best model. The answer generally lies in ‘what is the best model at the time’.

I think that one critical technology has changed the how we use technology in learning – from ‘instructional based’ – where we information is often (but not always) “presented” to a learner (via lectures, textbooks, and testing) -or student-centered where knowledge is often (but not always) “discovered” by the learner (via individual and small-group work, projects blending different subjects, skills, inquiry and questioning).

That critical technology is TCP/IP – the element what was not present until the advent of the internet in the 1990s.

The New Open Classroom now is that connected to the read/write internet.

The classroom teacher who understands the value of allowing students to create, connect and share – is more relevant to their students – but only when they do that effectively and selectively.

The New Open Classroom may also be a virtual classroom – via Adobe Connect or Second Life. It also brings into play the ideas of Ray Oldenburg and creating ‘Third Spaces’ for learning.

These do not have to be ‘teacher lead classrooms’ – they can be discussion forums, Second Life Simulations, chat rooms, blogs, nings and wikis. They are online places that do not follow ‘instructional protocols’, but at the same time do not need radical building reform or pedagogical overhauls in ‘all education’. They might not even be created by teachers or lecturers but by students – but they do need to be understood, not rejected out of hand, based on the idea that they are too social, too liberal or not explicitly designed as ‘edu only’. A student who works well in these spaces needs to be accommodated – as it is a learning style like any other.

Best of Both Worlds

Perhaps we can have the best of both worlds. We have educators with a wealth of experience in instructional and inquiry based approaches to learning.

We have those who prefer single classrooms with single subjects, and other who enjoy team teaching with more holistic subject approaches.

Perhaps the approach is to recognize that students will benefit from the best of both worlds, and that TCP/IP based practice is the important link between them, not the differentiation.

I don’t think that it is beneficial or acceptable for students to have to learn predominantly by ‘listening’ or ‘copying’. Any teachers that think they have all the answers or that the text book is sufficient are clearly misunderstanding the power of Wikipedia or Google in delivering information on demand.

There are times where I want someone to show me, or tell me – I don’t want to jump through hoops to discover it.

Professional Development

To me a successful approach to professional development is not about about efficiently you manage your IT, or how many Web2.0 tools you can use in a project. It about knowing which approach is applicable. Blended, multi-modal approaches work best – and work to the strengths of the staff – you can’t take a teacher whos been used to ‘instructional’ approaches and tell them to now use ‘inquiry’ based, throw a few days training at them, and hope that will be anything other can totally confused, frustrated and under-skilled.

Blended Learning Approaches

I don’t see why a school should be a PBL school or a Regular School.

I don’t think that it is any harder to create a unit in a ‘regular classroom ‘ than it is a PBL classroom – and give students that opportunity to demonstrate their learning.

I don’t think all students benefit from PBL-only approaches any more that ‘Instructional Only’. But surely we don’t have to be absolute in our offerings.

Life is not absolute. There are times when people will tell them and they will need to remember it and times when they have to figure it out and come to their own conclusions due to confusing or missing knowledge. There is increasingly more accurate ‘facts’ available, and aslo increasing ‘rubbish. Students do need to know how to evaluate information –  but at times, the formula for the circumference of a circle is just that.

Forcing teachers and students to be ‘all for one and one for all’ – is blatantly oppositional to the socially-connected world we live in. It also marginalizes significant discourses such as where ‘virtual worlds’ and ‘game based’ learning will feature in student engagement in the next few years – the ‘what comes next’ plays a major role in what we should do now in building capacity.

The critical issue is that we provide quality, relevant learning experiences – that recognise the ease and benefits of extending those experiences though technology, and use a variety of ‘open classrooms’ to do it.

Leave your hat on!

Wearing too many hats is often cited as problematic when you are trying to grow your business. Sometimes businesses endure unnecessary strain simply because the right people aren’t responsible for the right jobs.

In some cases, it can impede growth or even result in a net loss for the business.The solution recommended by most business advisors is to re-structure the workplace. Restructuring roles and responsibilities in the business and assess your company’s activities in the marketplace.

The Extra-Extra-Curricula Hat

Schools however do not operate in the same flexible way. Most teachers do take on extra-curricula activities such as organising fund raisers, taking to soccer team, coaching the debating class or going to camp – these are our market places. We attract students to them through our marketing. Students join the ‘team’.

Successful training requires not only the acquisition of new skills, but also the maintenance of them. As staff refocus, and learn these, there is a performance dip, as everyone tries to come to terms with new work practices. The innovation generally has to come from within.

The Trainer Hat

A school that has embraced Web2.0 and Open Learning approaches – requires even more maintenance.

Right now I think that there are very few lucky enough to have the title, Educational Technologist, or ICT Integrator. Some schools do not have an IT Manager let alone some specialist ‘support’ staff in the classroom.

The Joiner Hat

The too many hat syndrome is a by product of becoming an advocate for change from 20th Century to 21st Century Learning.

I think that schools need to CLEARLY define what they mean by ‘professional development’ and ‘extra-curricula’ – as traditional notions of these ‘extras’ are no longer true of many teachers.

I have a form to fill in right now about ‘PD’ this year – how do I explain it? – 140 characters or less maybe.

The IT guy Hat

Technology is in itself not an automatic provider of 21C learning. In fact, in a recent Elluminate session with Will Richardson and Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach, the 40 or so Australian teachers, when asked to define ‘what 21C learning is’, put ‘technology’ very low on the list.

The all weather Hat

We gladly pull on the new hat without really thinking it through. Our enthusiasm to refocus our learning and restructure pedagogy is extra-curricula professional development and invisible/misunderstood to many administrators and executives – who don’t read blogs or write them.

The blogger Hat

Why bother edu-blogging at all? At some point you need your new hat collection to be recognised as important – both to you and your school community. Job change, career move, success, parent communication, peer engagement … there are lots of personal reasons that make it important to have a blog – and relatively few not to. Having a blog also encourages you to read blogs and makes you much more likely to go read a book. The more you read, the more you write – the more you THINK about learning.

The Butterfly Hat

I take input from a range of blogs. Sometimes I like the content, sometimes the passion and sometimes just the style of the writer. More often it is a combination. One non educational blog I read is Seth Godin – which is a marketing and design sort of thing.

I see a lot of similarities between marketing and schooling right now, maybe that’s just me, but some of the statements that Seth Godin makes influence my thinking.

Trying to convince a CEO of anything is a little like trying to convince a cop not to give you a ticket. It’s possible, but rarely worth the effort, given the odds. Seth Godin

I saw that as significant when thinking about trying to build capacity and change schools.

In another post, he talks about ‘critical mass’ and ‘short cuts’ – something a lot of us are trying for in our schools to kick start change. When I look at the vast range of ‘tools’ that edu-bloggers can throw at teachers it made me think about how I was going about it.

Every day at Squidoo, thousands of people build pages. And most of them lose interest and fade away. But a few stick it out and many earn $2,000 or more a month in their spare time (for themselves or for charity). The difference is clear but sad. The shortcut didn’t work right away, so they’re off to the next thing.

If you have a presence on twitter, squidoo, blogs, facebook, myspace, linkedin and 20 other sites, the chances of finding critical mass at any of them is close to zero. But if you dominate, if you’re the goto person, the king of your hill, magical things happen. One follower in each of twenty places is worthless. Twenty connected followers in one place is a tribe. It’s the foundation for building something that matter.

I thought this was more applicable to school, not so much the ‘blogosphere’. The ‘goto’ hat is probably the hardest to wear. In the metaverse you can be a very small fish, but in your school, you can be a tribal leader. To a small group, you are the ‘goto’ person for a while, but at the same time, you are also seen by other tribes (and schools are tribal) – as a serious concern.

In order to balance out your extra-extra-curricula life with your real job, blogging allows you to create a record of showing that your are working towards better professional practice, connecting with others and demonstrating changes in your practice in a neutral zone.

When reading a blog, I hope to find ideas, stories and things that challenge my own.

What do all these hats say about you?

I think that the 21C Teacher has certain characteristics – and a blog is the evidence of that.

  • Uses technology to support learning in and out of the classroom
  • Undertakes self-directed professional development in learning communities
  • Provides peer coaching and support – to teachers outside of their school and within
  • Is a teacher
  • Is a learner
  • Engages in student centered learning activities, using freely available Web2.0 tools
  • Is an integrator
  • Shares experiences with others online

In doing this, they will talk about the following things

  • The shift from prescribed passive to authentic read/write activities
  • Collaborative Learning
  • Inquiry based Learning
  • Connected Learning
  • Media Literacy (not information literacy)
  • Creating ‘content’ not ‘copying’ content
  • Develops a sense of mystery and wonder in learning
  • Explores online communities and rethinking how to use technology in multi-modal ways

How does this change the HR process?

As schools, systems and governments all seek to define and build frameworks around ’21C Learning’ – the need to build capacity is critical. Putting the 21C teachers, or the tech savvy ones in postions to under-pin the less conversant is a terrible strategy. If a teacher is wearing the ‘new hat’ and demonstrating vision, leadership and understanding of the characteristics, then surely they are better employed as Peer Coaches not ‘under pinning’ roles. Time served to me, is no indicator of a teachers passion, innovation and engagement with students, just as people agree that exams are not the best indicator of student ability.

Blogging to me, is the resume of the 21C teacher.

  • Personal reflection on specific achievements and frustrations
  • Evidence of leadership in the wider learning communities online
  • Ability to refocus ‘skills’ and ‘tool’ to provide ‘deeper’ learning opportunities
  • A range of visible profiles in Social Networkss.

I think that ‘blogging’ your story, your extra-extra-curricula work and sharing that is probably the most important record of professional development right now – and the most effective way of getting you/me/us to challenge each other and make change in schools not only sustainable, but enjoyable and exciting.

If we’re not excited about the potential of learning, we can hardly ‘demand’ it from our students.

I have had three hats at my school – IT Manager, Integrator and Teaching and Learning Designer. The first one is what I did officially, the last one is what I really love to do.

As of the 10th of November, I’ll be moving my hat to Head of Teaching and Learning Design at Macquarie University in Sydney, which is exciting. So I really hope that someone at my school will take up the blogging of what is happening, but if they don’t then I am sure that student’s like Tanuj will do it.

Graphic-A-Day#8 – What I hope I do.

My job says I have to ‘teach’ students skills and information to pass exams. The result of my efforts has a determination on the immediate steps that students can take, and things they can do.

If they choose to go to University,  I hope that the way in which they learned gave them ideas and skills to be creative and enter further study with that mindset rather than some form of human photocopier.

Telstra – Unlock this.

Dear Mr Groom,

Thank you for your email dated 10 October 2008 to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) regarding Telstra.

The role of the ACCC is to ensure compliance with the Trade Practices Act 1974 (TPA), which is designed to encourage fair trading and discourage anti-competitive conduct through a specific set of competition and consumer protection rules.

I note from your email that you purchased an iPhone from a Telstra store for $850 and you were informed that you needed to call Telstra to arrange for them to unlock the phone to enable you to use it on the Three Network. You indicated that you asked Telstra staff if there was any applicable fees for unlocking the phone and they advised you that there was no fee. You also stated that you perused Apple and Telstra’s websites and did not see any reference to a fee for unlocking the iPhone. However you subsequently found that there was in a fact a ‘hidden fee’ for unlocking your phone. The conduct you have described could potentially breach sections 52 and 53(e) of the TPA.

Section 52 of the TPA is a broad provision which prohibits a corporation, in trade or commerce, engaging in conduct which is misleading or deceptive, or which is likely to mislead or deceive. Whether particular conduct is misleading or deceptive is a question of fact to be determined in the context of the evidence as to the alleged conduct and to the relevant surrounding facts and circumstances. If you think you have entered the contract under misleading circumstances, you should first attempt to pursue a remedy with Telstra. Section 53(e) prohibits corporations from making misrepresentations about the price of goods and services. The conduct that you describe may be at risk of breaching these provisions of the TPA. For this reason I have lodged details of your complaint in our national database.

In assessing any complaint, staff of the ACCC would generally determine whether or not the matter falls within the jurisdiction of the TPA, whether or not there appears to have been a breach of the TPA, and if so, whether the impact of the conduct is so serious and widespread that it is appropriate that the ACCC should take some action. The ACCC generally takes enforcement action in circumstances where there are broad flow on benefits for industry and consumers alike. While there may be some instances were a breach of the TPA has occurred, it may be more appropriate for consumers to pursue these matters individually as a private matter and in many instances their local Office of Fair Trading will be able to assist with advice on how to proceed in such matters.

The conduct about which you complain may also contravene the Fair Trading Act in New South Wales. For conduct occurring within New South Wales, the ACCC would generally refer consumers to the New South Wales Office of Fair Trading (Tel: 13 32 20; website: www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au). If you have suffered any loss as a result of relying on any misrepresentation, you may be able to recover that loss in a Small Claims Tribunal. The New South Wales Office of Fair Trading can also provide details about this procedure.

Your matter is important to the ACCC as it assists us in determining issues with national or wider public interest implications. We closely study the patterns of complaints that we receive to ensure that our enforcement and education actions are focused on the areas of greatest concern to Australian consumers. Consequently, the details of your matter have been recorded and will be used to determine whether there is a pattern of behaviour by a particular trader or in a particular industry that raise broader concerns.

Thank you for contacting the ACCC with your concerns. I trust this information is of assistance.

Yours sincerely

Monica

ACCC Infocentre

Ph: 1300 302 502

Metaplace – Virtual Word to Go!

Metaplace is not out yet, but is in private beta, so it won’t be too long. It is a very interesting idea which has grabbed millions of dollars of investment. Watch the YouTube video for a visual explanation of the technology. What is allows us or students to do is to create a world in which all the programming is done for you, all you need to do is choose what you want to pull into it.

Students for example, could create a world in which they pull in webpage content as part of an assignment. They could then invite other students. They could discuss content or add content. The virtual world itself simply pulls in ‘media’. It is another great example of how exisiting content and read/write feeds are mashing with 3D environments. Rather than creating new places, this kind of technology is bringing social network media into three dimentional representations. It is not the fact that these are ‘virtual worlds’ – more that the distance between 2D content browsing, and 3D immersive experiences are merging.

The advent of printing, really changed the way we learned. Before that, learning was not text and image based, nor did it start of page one. We learned in 3D spaces in which language, sound, movement and multiple inputs formed the whole. Almost all of what we did to commit learning to some sort of retained storage media was, and still is, 2D. Gaming is now almost entirely 3D – But by that I mean it’s still 2D, but simulates ‘first person’ with sound and images being artificially manufactured to give the impression of immersion in a 3D space. As the cost of creating and delivering this, using tools like Metaplace, are reduced – effectively to almost zero, then the human, who is by nature built to learn in 3D space – is more able to do so. This to me is one of the reasons to at least be aware of how virtual worlds are/can/might be used in education. It is evevitable that the 2D nature of ‘the internet’ will continue to move towards 3D experiences – based on social interaction. Right now the internet is busy ‘linking people’ – the future is moving towareds linking shared experience.

Audio for example. Sharing the performance with friends is a different experience to listening alone. Why do we go to see performances? Because we want to ‘see’ not just hear, and we want to share that experience with people we know – or who we think are like us. To me it seems natural that this is what we are seeing happen. The question is – how does this affect student learning in the next five years. Will we still be asking students to represent their learning and creativity – in 2D ways.

Graphic-A-Day#6 – Driver, please stop the bus!

I had a discussion with some EdTech teachers about the idea that has been put forward by a number of administrator types who are suggesting that in order for education for change and meet the 21st century challenges, we need to get the ‘right people’ on the bus. So todays graphic is about that.

I don’t think the ‘bus’ is an appropriate metaphor at all.

They are notoriously late when you actually need them to be timely. They are over crowded or virtually empty. Their prescribed route is repeated, regardless of traffic conditions. The occupants rarely interact. Some commutors have to stand while others recline. Everyone is passive, their only choice being when to get off the bus. They are also far too small, so often never bother to stop to collect their passengers.

If we must use a mechanised metaphor, then I’d rather ride the bullet train. It’s fast, comfortable, well designed and efficient. But then I like trains, maybe we should just be asking people about what kind of journey they are going on instead. In my experience – its the people you meet that make the difference as a teacher and learner. You can’t do that if you the last one on the night bus.

Graphic-a-day #5 – I’m Engaged

Engaged Learners are active in making sense of the world – through media literacies.

They are not listing, identifying or seeking, but collectors (delicious), critics (comments), creators (youtube), phototogaphers (nokia), composers (garage band), joiner (facebook).

The pace of change has not yet been matched within education-especially higher education. We need curriculum leadership that values flexibility over rigidity, and process over content.

Media Literacy should be a core component of all school learning frameworks.

Yet with our complex system of faculties and departments, courses and units, curricula and assessment, we offer students little control over their own learning. We should be discovering which are the most effective way of using technology to facilitate learning and building classroom practice from the student outwards.

The NSW Quality Learning Framework promotes

  • Intellectual quality
  • Quality learning environment
  • Significance

These are very ’rounded’ desires. As a parent, I am not sure these things are anything less that I expect from the educational system. Whilst some schools are still preparing to adopt the aims identified in the QLF, the Rudd government has released proposals that transcend many of the ‘desires’ of the older framework. Specifically, greater ‘online’ learning.

Online Learning is in itself a complex notion – do they mean ‘learning management systems’ or facebook? However the original NSW QLF is far less specific about technology than the federal government is.

The Howard Government’s was cited as having a lack of investment and passive approach to technology. Rudd’s ‘digital revolution’ has been labeled ‘too ambitious’ by the NSW Teaching Federation and the Department of Education – who deliver on the QLF. By 2012, over 16,000 of teachers will retire anyway – placing the burden on higher education to deliver ever greater levels of ‘tech savvy’ teachers.

Darcy Moore describes the problem.

“As you know we have been concentrating on professional development and introducing systems to support digital learning. We really need leadership at the moment and expectations are not being met”

Engaging students through ‘frameworks’ is problematic using 20th Century management strategies. The ‘lag’ between policy and adoption is getting bigger. We need to be brave and clear about what ‘online’ means. Engaged online means active online, not spectators – for everyone – not just students.