Twilight – Covert-Operations and banned ideas

Cover of

DISCOVERING who is doing what, sneeking about, looking for covert technologies, is a twilight though bloodless activity I engage in.

How did the Twilight novel end up the banned list in the locker library … 

Maybe some of the attraction is to rebel against the filtration and prejudice that stops what we perceive to be ‘better’ outcomes and opportunities. This action usually changes the social-dynamics of the ‘community’,. Even a once welcomed innovation can easily turn to a nasty intrusion, if we persist enough, and not pay close attention to behavioral signals. There are numerous stories of people feeling private backlash behind the public facade ofcollegiality – and at times they are aware of this, but do it anyway.

There is good reason for newcomers keep a low profile. Indeed many of MITs projects once started as a ‘secret box’ for fear that someone would shut it down. (just for the record, I’m not in the shut down business).

This student story post is a fantastic example of not just being covert; but how others are attracted to groups and networks that appear to be offering change. The multiplyer effect that often drives networks and movements.

Human behavioural intelligence influences perception, belief and propensity to enquire or avoid something different (not just new).

In this case, the tale unfolds of how banned books, are distributed as an initial reaction to authoritarian policy; but leads to attracting others. They be attracted to the cause; but metacognitively, they are thinking about the content – what makes ‘Catcher in the Rye‘ a banned book? – This would make a great project … and indeed that is what it became. Interestingly, the story ends with the provocateur banning Twilight.

There’s a literature project right there! – Why do people do people engage in special-operations others seek to ban?

If you’ve got a project, a black-ops operation, twisting the syllabus and weathering the backlash – good on ya!, love to hear your story or thoughts on this.

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Yummy Ideas need flavour

Templates are the most efficient way to kill creativity in your organisation. Templates are not just the pro-formas of conformity, they are intended to provide creative boundaries in individual communication. In a world dominated by rapid change, templates offer languishing conformity. Office automation was the playground of templates. Powerpoint being the master template of all templates. You can buy thousands of templates from Office Works on CD-Rom (remember those) and when opening Word Processor documents you are prompted to choose a template. Before we offer up an new idea, we have to make a decision to use or not to use, to conform or rebel, to be guided or to be free. We create ‘visual’ templates, such as the one above. Blue and Yellow (the colours of friendly efficiency) mapped into a ‘global’ image of high-tech happy students, clutching knowledge. Our use of templates leads to constrained thinking. There are many ‘tools’ out there that promote new ways to organise information.

The corporate voice is giving way to the individual. The template is now ‘architecture’ – to create infrastucture and building tools that used to be the domain of expert programmers; web developers; engineers and media barons. They allow us to leap-frog the intellectual chasm between non-experts and experts. We don’t need our ‘amateur’ work graphically corporatised to speak with compliant tones or to remove our own identities in favour of the corporate persona. The templates of Web2.0 allow us to be individuals, using and adapting technologies to suit our own individual ideas and ways we like to communicate them.

Templates are allowing us to rapidly develop new information that are sharp and tasty ways to communicate in online spaces – they are ‘kick starters’ that we immediately customise and adapt. Spaces such as Second Life, where we un-template our avatar, a blog where we experiment with writing … all activities that are oppositional to template thinking which leads to tedious, uninspiring, unmotivating, congenial and unemotional ideas. When you think of educational communication in schools –  think about the times that you have been most inspired … because of a tasty idea not a bland proposition? Templates are designed to de-flavour and de-individualise … yummy ideas presented in flavoursome ways are what we need in education I think.

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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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They are just not that into you

http://teachpol.tcnj.edu/amer_pol_hist/fi/0000...
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More ‘yeah buts’ … and more solutions.

“I’d love to give students more personal feedback, but it’s impossible! I have 900 students!” … “there’s no way I could deal with 900 students in on online discussion!” … “if I put my lecture online, half the students stop showing up!”. So, here we go, let’s find some solutions …

Student concerns about linear learning approaches

From the student perspective, they are often critical of the ‘entry’ event into learning – too much information, too little information, lack of consistency etc., and just as critical of the exit point – lack of feedback – “I put my heart into the essay and all I got was a grade, not even a comment!”, “I don’t know what I need to do to get a better grade?”,”why is this 18/20 not 19/20?”.

Technology as the middle ground

I have to think that what happens in the middle is best supported by a discourse community, and in fact attaining large numbers of participants is a great thing, not a bad one. We all know that group activities suffer the long-tail. In a group of 900 students, realistically 90 will be active voices. Not all of them will be ‘creators’ of conversations, some will join existing ones, some will be critics – the vast majority will be spectators – they will read lots, but often contribute almost nothing. They are however influenced by the behaviors and views of the group.

Renewing Motivation and Participation in learning

It all comes down to motivation – intrinsic or extrinsic, whether they are interested in deep or surface learning in the context of the topic. So in reality a teacher will not be dealing with 900 individual conversations, more like 10% of that, and not at the same time, nor do all posts and replies need addressing. The teacher is a mediator who threads together ideas that steer students in the right direction and occasionally ‘jump start’ the conversations. The value of participation is in the feedback and shared learning experiences of the community itself, not because that is where the ‘answer’ is.

Renewing Pedagogy

Imagine a year 12 HSC Advanced Mathematics class, with 24 students and 1 teacher. They are successful learners, deep knowledge seekers, intrinsically motivated and hungry to solve advanced problems to attain sufficient knowledge to ‘ace’ the exam. Now imagine the same class – but with 240 students and 10 experienced mathematicians. The class has a set of problems to solve and can do so whenever they feel like it. They can work with each other, or work alone – but whatever they do, they solve it in an open space online. Does each teacher need to spend as much time ‘teaching’, will more students mean less or more learning? Can students learn – without the presence of a teacher? Can they learn from more than one teacher after the end of the school day? Would they want to?

The point to me is that it is not a 900:1 ratio unless that is how you perceive it. Lectures could be more engaging on the personal level if some of the ideas the discourse community generates are addressed. If a lecture is merely a monologue, then I have to say, I probably would not show up either. What if a lecture was a hybrid – live conversation and online discussion? What if it was perfectly acceptable to do both. What if the lecture was ‘live blogged’ – and driving questions asked online and in the theatre.

Renewing Delivery

Web2.0 makes it easy to deliver a lecture online – live. Let’s say there is an hour ‘lecture’. Rather than present yet another killer PowerPoint (which is debate in itself), break up the time into delivery, challenge and reflection. Bring in the ‘online’ learners – allow them (and encourage them) to form sub-groups to answer questions and drive further discussion online later or at the time. Get a volunteer to ‘live blog’ the hour with a laptop.

Renewing Work Practices

The idea that there are tutorial discussions, lecture monologues and ‘online’ is not the preference of many students. By being flexible in delivery and support, we can accommodate students better. Sure it means changing the way, when and where we work, but not necessarily how long or how hard. Going ‘digital’ does not mean ‘more work’ at all – yet this is a continual argument to avoid change.

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Creativity, Curiosity, Consideration, Consistency Part 3

Science Cafe Seminar @ 21st Century Kaitokudo
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The final part of this three part look at how we got here, looks at engagement.

In just a few years, Web2.0 has re-energised teachers to discuss and share ideas about learning frameworks on a global scale. Learning is changing on a global scale, the personal learning network is the learning management tool for many educators. These teachers see more than software and more than the internet. They see an opportunity to recreate learning frameworks, adapt technology and the re-engagement of students. The generosity of these people allows the rest of us to understand how they are doing it, and to me, these people demonstrate some common traits.

How effective 21st Century teachers tap into student interest.

  • Creativity: Cognitive skills applied to creating and making using technology – that the activity allows interest driven opportunities to remix, remake and construct understanding by ‘doing’.
  • Curiosity: Enquiry approaches, not knowing all the facts and not needing to have all the answers. Encouraging students to ask their ‘own’ questions is more important than answering the teachers’.
  • Consideration: How students learn using technology. How they collaborate, what it means to be a global citizen and develop an ePortfolio to build a positive digital reputation as a life long learner. Preparation for examination and assessment, balanced with our responsibility to adequately prepare novices to become life long learners.
  • Consistency: Establishing pedagogical ‘norms’ that allow students to learn inside frameworks that support learners, using relevant language, protocols and mediation.

Insistence that a teacher has to include ICT in an assessment task is just a bad idea if they are not able to do it. It doesn’t matter if the school is instructional based, inquiry based, under or well resourced. If schools are going to use the Internet, and offer students access to information and services on it – then these are criteria in which they can assess their learning frameworks. We simply need to admit that might have to start again, to accept that building planes in the sky is not working. We may need to accept that we are no longer able to teach effectively with ICTs until we re-evaluate how we use them in the 21st Century Context.

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Leadership 2.0

I listened this week to people talking again about the ‘skills’ students need as 21st Century Learners. They spoke of their frustration that their community leaders didn’t ‘get it’. This made me think about the polorisation they were discussing; advocates talk of media literacy and collaboration while many schools focus on ‘skills’ that deliver the current measure of attainment – examinations. So what makes a ‘great’ leader?

picture-31Firslty I think they demonstrate an understanding that‘skills’ are a continuum that ranges from ‘reproductive’ to ‘productive’. Reproductive requires students to repeat a set performance to required standard. Productive requires students to apply their knowledge and skills to new situations that may be unique in that context. While technology that is powering social media and connected learning makes productive not just possible, but easy – we still have to recognise that to do so they need reproductive skills to be learned and practiced – and curriculum leaders that can understand that relationship – not just do as they are told – they have to know it.

In this regard I don’t support the ‘either or’ approach to learning. I get a chill when people talk about a ‘model’. We live in times where schools have to take new risks and media literate curriculum leaders need to be installed to  inspire, advocate and bring new ideas to what has been essentially a reproductive approach to learning. Chris Lehmann leads by doing – and the culture that he creates fuels the wider community. You have to ask – does yours? if not, what can you do about that?

Your childs curriculum leader should be talking to parents and staff about

  • Students interpreting situations;
  • Calling up knowledge of strategies and procedures to solve problems;
  • Students planning their responses – setting their own goals and asking their own questions;
  • Students performing – delivering on the continuum – demonstrating collaboration, social sensitivity, fluidity – whatever may be characteristics of skilled performance identified.

If they are not creating opportunities to talk about these things with parents and staff - then don’t be suprised if little changes in anything they ‘control’. We need to design learning better and deliver reproductive skills by teachers who do that well, and pass productive skill based activities to others who are more media literate and understand how to leverage Web2.0 technologies. We don’t need to be ‘either or’ or ‘model’ something that has worked in the past, in another context. That is a huge risk and huge strain on everyone. We need people who can assess risks, take a change, but not be polarized or paraluysed by their decisions. “Risk recovery is more important that failure avoidance” as the guy from Pixar says. PBL is not a panacea for learning in the 21st Century any more than technology, the internet or laptops are. It’s the degree to which the curriculum leader can understand and mange students on the skills continuum.

Skilled curriculum leaders are using frameworks:

  • to allow self-instruction;
  • intensive reproductive learning workshops;
  • workplace and authentic experiences to apply productive learning.
2nd half of 14th century
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They must be talking clearly about the limitations of resource-based learning and the benefits of embedding flexibility in the programme of study. The must place value on the preparation of materials for resource based learning and offer flexible delivery options. For example – discipline intensive workshops, online self-exploration, and practical constructive.

Students need to select how best to learn – and not be placed into ‘either or’ situations, or no choice at all. I don’t think one teacher should be pressuring another is a productive use of time. They should want to do it, and understand why – because of the leadership. You simply don’t need ‘everyone’ – but you do need to elevate people who do amazing things with technology and renewed pedagogy to positions where they can influence. Right now, we still appoint people on time served and qualifications, and that is no longer a valid indicator of leadership ability.

I sympathise with the comments I listened to this week. Change in teachers, or even in groups of teachers – must be recognised, valued and enriched. In 2009, though the number of teachers who have extended their own continuum is growing, sadly the furstrations I am hearing have changed little in the last few years. How do we infuse curriculum leaders? How do we break the glass ceiling? How do we get then to authenitcally join the conversation?.

I think this is a powerful conversation we need to have again and again this year.

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