Just too easy!

Just too Easy is a fantastic tool for educators. It allows for synchronous publishing in a kind of hybrid manner. Word processing, desktop publishing and webpages. Its something that I think is well worth investigation – especially in K-6. From a pedagogy viewpoint, I can see a great deal of potential for using it really effectively in the classroom. Here is a more formal review that you can look at that I created, just touching on the features and benefits as a quick start guide.

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There are videos on their website that are also well worth a look. The classroom management features are excellent and all wrapped up in almost ‘tux paint‘ like simplicity of it’s graphical interface. The live nature of it’s collaboration is a real step forward to me. I especially liked the idea that a teacher could prepare a task, throw it up on a projector and then ask students to work on it with them from their PC. It almost has IWB like characteristics in that regard, so would make a cheap but engaging addition to the classroom. I am not a fan of teaching kids about ‘office automation’ which is largely what Microsoft Office has done for a decade or more.

J2E allows for simple creation, embedded web objects (YouTube, Teacher Tube) and easily moves between paper and web activities.

It would make a great platform to migrate K6 lesson activities into the collaborative, digital classroom. There are a few things that I would like to have seen differently – but these are very minor in comparison to the potential use of this – within a properly structured programme of work. I think it would make for a great web based project too for students too, given that it seemed to be very able to embed a massive range of object code – and allow for really simple voice recording and drawing. Its at times like these you want to grab a year 3 class and do something fun!

Meetsee – Educators add your thoughts!

After my post about Meetsee, I was really pleased to get a response from it’s creator. I thought it is well worth sharing parts of the conversation, as it gives an insight to just how connected users and creators are though the interwebs. Rather than get all the answers from me, please add your voice to the questions! It can only assist the development. Much better than ‘yeah butting’ later.

I can see from his outline of the service, just how effective it would be in education, as the issues are really just the same!

When designing the Meetsee virtual office, I did a good bit of reading and interviewing colleagues to figure out what problems we wanted to solve for remote workers.

  1. Remote workers do not feel connected to their coworkers or managers. They don’t get to know them or build the trust necessary for a cohesive team.
  2. Managers had difficulty knowing what their distributed teams are working on, how they are feeling, etc. Most managers do this by walking around and talking to employees.
  3. Workers had a difficult time finding the documents and people they are looking for. Meetsee was designed to address these issues.

How do you think educators will want to use Meetsee (office hours, classes, study sessions)?

Yes I do, it is flash based and has a neat audit trail. It is low bandwidth and works better than some other ‘flash based’ video conferencing tools I’ve used. I like the positioning between play and work. There are plenty of uses for study and out of school, especially if you are looking at distributed learners – which is often the case in Australia. When I showed the Educational Development Team this week, they all jumped in and stayed all afternoon. It has something about it that is addictive, and therefore interesting to students.

What classes/subjects do you think can be successfully taught inside a Meetsee room?

I think that K12 is ideal for Meetsee, but I also think that student/tutor classes could be run, especially if sudents can drop off or collect assignments. There really isn’t much you can’t ‘teach’ or ‘learn’ online these days.

Are there other university users to consider other than faculty and students?

Yes, HR for one. Having a range of induction materials etc., the IT Helpdesk could be implimented well for technical support. There are also a lot of research academics, though these vary in IT savvyness. I could see a collection of ‘rooms’ representing student services on campus, and staffed by student interns.

How important is privacy to students and faculty (i.e. should students be able to see each other’s full name, email address, virtual location in Meetsee)?

Critical. I would suggest allowing a teacher to sign-up and then allow them to create ‘classes’ and ‘avatars’ within the class. Students and email is always problematic. Most web-savvy teachers set out guidelines for usernames, ie John Smith, becomes JohnSM. I would therefore see a teacher having a classroom, and students attend it, like normal. If anything, you might have a student locker room for their files.

What additional tools are needed in a virtual classroom?

I think an ability to have a transcript of the text chat (just in case of bullying). Most kids are well behaved online, but you’d have to have private rooms for classes – but at the same time, allow teachers to connect their room to others – a little how Open Simulator backs Islands together. I’d also think that you might have a ‘drop box’ for assignments, and maybe a micro-blogging gizmo. A few drag and drop hyperlinks would be nice, so they can connect to their wiki’s, Google etc.,

I hope this helps, and it would be amazing to think that all those EdTech’s out there will add their toughts.

Meetsee is the ‘wow’ of the year for me! Well done!

MeetSee

picture-72Meetsee is a 2.5D virtual office built on Adobe Flash platform (so maybe it won’t be banned). It is a pretty simple idea.

I set up my panel discussion room, and have been fiddling with using a pair of web-cam screens and using ‘live’ audio broadcasting to the room. It takes minutes to set up. One neat feature is that you can upload a presentation to it. People in the room don’t have to just use the 2.5D view – they can click the presentation and see the slides in 2D, and they can do that with the webcam too.

Build and customise an office, then invite people to visit you and have a meeting. It has a 2.5D view with chat, webcam, Twitter feed, file sharing, Polls, RSS feeds, virtual wipe board and a clever video feeder from YouTube. Of course you can fiddle with your avatar (though one niggle, I hit the girl button by mistake and can’t switch it). You can upload a photo of your own head, which is cool too.

Meetsee also has a 2D chat and videoconference mode, so in may ways operates just like a simple Elluminate, Wimba Live Classroom or Flash Meeting. I really liked the way you can load up YouTube in your entertainment centre, or select a Twitter feed too –

It is also really simple to move around by just clicking on objects, or clicking chairs, filing cabinets and TVs to interact with them. Meetsee is highly functional, looks great and will appeal to kids and adults alike.

picture-81As the owner of the room, you can of course move the furniture around and choose the interactive items that you need and well as change the décor. Meetsee has a good ‘owner’ interface that lets you track activity in your room and it also lets you download that as a report, so in a classroom setting, it has an audit trail. The applications for its use could be from simple interaction and communication to live blogging. You could use the poll function to give a quick test – and use YouTube to give them the context for that test. Students could upload files or download them from your cabinet.

MeetSee has a flash based webcam feature, so you can broadcast on one of the interactive screens. You could use it in competency tasks for ‘interacting with clients’ or as a role-play. Meetsee could be used in school, or perhaps as distance or out of school tutor groups.

There are a range of ‘settings’, the corner office, the video conference, panel discussion etc., and at the click of a button you can launch a different setting. I think that there is sufficient 2.5D ‘engagement’ to make it fun to use – but backed up with some great features that are really simple to use.

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.

Getting into it

The problem with Web2.0 is that it doesn’t really exist. For a school to say it is going to look into Web2.0 is far too loose an objective as it means different things to different people. For some it means using online ‘tools’ and for others it is about students making global connections.

All to often Web2.0 is used as the collective term is not based on any given technology, but an understanding that the advent of read/write publishing, collaboration and media literacy are now established ‘communication’ methods. Communication has been the most misunderstood part of ‘ICT’.

Originally, communication (the C in ICT) was about networking. The ability to send and receive information, using technology. Email was perhaps the most ‘social’ element, but mainly it related to data transmission of files. Full duplex, half duplex, modems and the digitization of analogue data for transmission was for a long time what the C meant. It was perfectly acceptable then to create word processing documents, presentations and desktop publishing as a method of communicating information with technology.

Web2.0 is a major disruption to this well worn path.  So where do you start?

Andrew Church has recently updated his ‘digital taxonomies’, and still remains one of the best resources to use in understanding and establishing new learning frameworks. It can be used to great effect to renew curriculum and rethink learning frameworks.

In exploring what can and can’t be done, start with a single unit of work.

Unpack the current scope and sequence, read Andrew’s taxonomies and try to establish where they will fit. That in itself is a big undertaking.

Establish a working party to discuss the tools Andrew suggests, and how you are going to evaluate their impact. From there you can select a limited number of technology approaches and introduce them into the classroom.

What is it that you will be evaluating? Remember Web2.0 is a big idea – so chunk it down, and keep it simple.

It is one thing to renew a unit of work, but quite another to start talking about the ‘shift’ and ‘21st Century’ skills. My point is that curriculum leaders and your peers will find renewing a unit of work – setting out terms of reference for evaluation – linked to performance indicators understandable. Selecting one or two read/write methods, investigating them and working towards targeted professional development in those is likely to get supported.

I think that no matter how passionate you are about the way we use ICTs to prepare students for their future, no matter how fired up you get after reading posts such as Chris Betcher’s ‘Digital Divide’, you have to try and separate advocacy from the reality of the day to day processes that make schools operate.

Change has rarely been radical in schools and trends come and go, so it’s not surprising that your frantic signaling may be misunderstood completely. The most significant barrier if you do start waving at them, is the perceived ripple effects that may de-stabilize established (and successful) teaching and learning approaches.

Establish how these new approaches fit within your assessment schedules. How are you going to convince your head of department that your modifications will improve learning?

Developing revised performance indicators mapped against outcomes within established learning frameworks is language that they understand. Mapping these to established systemic initiatives, such as the NSW Quality Teaching Frameworks will strengthen your argument. This is overtly possible.

Working on a single unit is also very manageable for busy teachers. If you can convince your executive to bring in someone from outside your school to help you workshop your unit, to identify areas of professional development that can be realized, then do it. If not, pick you way carefully by developing a personal learning network. Find someone online who will act as a mentor – join a common interest group such as OZ/NZ Educators. The process may be slower, but still better than trial and error in your classroom – and you WILL be supported.

Give yourself time to create your unit, develop your framework, and plan your evaluation. I’d suggest 3-6 months for your first unit of work. Don’t try and take in the enormity of Web2.0. Take on your curriculum first.

Motivating Online Learners

Digital scaffolds are essential to motivating online activities – if you want to do more than swap the exercise book for the glass page.

These things go a long way avoiding the ‘exercise book trap’ such as “Identify two factors that caused World War 1” onto a blog.

I’ve often seen that, usually from teachers who accept that moving to read/write activities is needed, but find it more difficult to find ways to do it – so how do you motivate learners to do more than answer text-book style questions?

2089763143_df440a5eb9Firstly, in planning the online activity consider what is the extrinsic reward of taking part?

Starting with the end in mind

Make this clear throughout each activity. This is achieved by starting with the end in mind.

What, at the end of the online activity will students be presenting to you? How will that encompass the standards/outcomes/content needed?

Enquiry based Digital Taxonomies

Much of today’s classroom ‘questions’ are based on Blooms Taxonomy. That can be elevated and integrated into digital taxonomies to motivate learners.

Blooms
Identify 3 factors that caused World War One.Explain why they went to war. Justify your response.

Digital Blooms
Create a podcast to explain the causes of World War One through events and people leading up to ‘the war to end all wars’.

Inquiry Based Digital Blooms
World War One was called the ‘war to end all wars’. Why then, do we still have wars?

Which of these statements would lead to a more motivational project? Why?

The question drives the learning. The overall end goal will probably sound quite interesting. It is open ended, and initially starts with them thinking from a personal level. “Have I heard that said before?”,”That sounds dumb”,”What are you on about!”. The point is that the answer is neither obvious or explicit, nor does it state which technology to use, nor how what is embedded in the learning.

Those things appear in the documentation of the project, the ‘requirement’. So you can ensure you also embed the key syllabus needs and choose a technological approach that will allow them to explore more than ‘written text’.

Student Generated Questions – they are the experts

That will lead to a lot of questions, which you don’t have to answer. But you do have to discuss them with the class, and get them to clearly understand what they know as ‘fact’ and what they need to know.

Often students think they know – or worse they think that can easily find out – via Google or Wikipedia.

What is a podcast?
Who said ‘the war to end all wars’?
How long is it?
What do we need to put in it?
When was WW1?
Who was involved?

Motivation though ‘chunking’ activities.

When planning, you have to think – how can this ‘end’ be ‘chunked’ into smaller activities to make it more motivating? – Can they cope with being given it at once?

This means that you have to be very explicit about the end goal. To do that you will have to give some resources and boundaries. But take the opportunity to ‘Google proof’ their learning, and clearly explain your expectations.

In developing your podcast, each person will need to research and reflect each lesson on your learning. When you record your group’s podcast, each person will contribute one possible cause, and personally record it for the production.

OMG – I have to participate, and I have to talk about what I am doing towards it all the time!

Prepare yourself for the work-avoiders to mount a rebellion

Yes! they will moan, yes they won’t be used to it, but they will do it! Don’t pander to it – you have just made them accountable to you and more importantly, to each other. That is motivating. It may take several days for them to stop saying ‘I don’t understand’ – remember, students have a wealth of experience in claiming they ‘don’t understand’ – it is simply work avoidance. Ignore it, and focus on praising those who are participating – you are removing the oxygen that that has previously sustained work-avoidance and plagiarism. Be ruthless. The worst thing you can do is ‘give the answer’. Make them find it and believe it for themselves.

That means that each lesson ‘chunk’ has to be considered. Are the ‘breadcrumbs’ I am giving them ‘too hard’ or ‘too easy’?

Tackling the ‘lurkers’.

When presenting the project to students, don’t threaten them with failure. Just talk about the success opportunities for them. Talk about what they have to ‘lose’ by not actively participating. How are you going to stop the ‘lurkers’? We all know that in typical ‘group’ work, with a ‘group’ presentation that some students do nothing, as they know more studious students will carry them.

Are there things you can build into the project  – to stop lurking? – Are there ICT technologies that can act as effective ‘activity trackers’, as an intervention to discourage lurking?

Of course there are. Lots of ways. This to me is one of the more powerful reasons to use social media tools. They use time and date as their differentiators.

Motivation to participate comes though them discovering how ridiculously easy it is to identify their level of participation – anytime, all the time. Of course, you don’t need to labour the point, they soon figure it out.

It is quite liberating for students and teachers to discover that it is no longer difficult to figure out who did what in a group project, to communicate with each student at a personal level, weave conversations and then to allocate rewards. This makes the learning, conversational, rethinking formative assessment.

So when in class, you don’t have to give the answers, as you don’t need to ask the questions. You can give clues, lead them down thinking paths and ultimately use the power of the ‘community’ to keep the conversation on track – through ‘comments’.

This is when a blogging community should be used, to reflect, discuss and weave conversations on learning as they happen. Weaving the comments is often a new skill, and quite different from the classroom experience.

Of course, this is a quick summary … but if you can identify the benefits in this approach, you can then start to think about how this changes the use of ICTs. You will start to think about how ICTs can work better for students and how digital pedagogy does that.

In short re-thinking student motivational factors is an effective approach improving learning as a group and as individuals.

Independence from interest

122154814_462df2f7c6How much important are you putting on ‘independence’ in transforming classroom practice?

If you walk about talking to people about the ‘wow’ of the week, your favourite Web2.0 gizmo this week, sooner or later people switch off. The honeymoon period is over. Initial interest can fade as people get lost in the fog of technology.

You might think what you are talking about is crystal clear, but others are simply looking into the murky unknown. Too many conversations, too many tools leads to confusion and inaction.  At times I have thought, ‘wow, I thought they were getting it, but what happened?’

Now I have learned that from an educational development perspective, there are some critical questions you have to ask yourself before saying much of anything.

For example : I want to create podcasts for my distance students. How do I do that?

The easy answer is : Audacity, Podomatic and a microphone. But that answer is incomplete.

We have to also ask

  • How will what I do/say next build independence, so they can sustain this?
  • How will the way I maintain this build capacity in the department to do more?
  • How will this intervention in the established ‘norm’ – strengthen learning?

Independence

We want to ensure that whatever we do to develop education creates independence in those we help. This adds value, and prevents you being the ‘go to tech’ person – to ‘do’ it for them.

Capacity building

How will your instruction be recorded, shared or published so that it can be re-used by others repeatedly. What is the cost of this? Developing a resource such as a wiki or creating a screen cast has is a cost outside that of the mastery skills needed. This is normally measured as your time.

If you are able to create an independent teacher, with supporting materials – then they will be able to model the educational development in others.

Strengthening Learning

Locating and aggregating quality supporting resources will strengthen learning. This could be connecting the person with people who have experience and passion in this area (their blog, wiki or actually having a conversation).

Setting out terms of reference to evaluate the benefits to learning will assist in turning the intervention in the existing ‘norms’ in to a measured argument to sustain or modify it. It is likely that un-seen factors will affect this. Bumps in the road, such as access issues, technical issues or policy issues. Documenting and addressing these will help with maintaining the use of the technology over a period of time, not being a one off field trip.

Educational development requires more activity than the act of ‘teaching how’, it has to predict issues, challenges and further opportunities that will create independent advocates, that build capacity to do it again and again. This has always been the issue with ICT in schools – how to maintain and build on any given ICT introduced into learning. The major difference today, than a few years ago, is the amount of existing freely available materials and connected intelligence that we can draw on.

We simply don’t need to show people everything, but we do need to ensure that we scaffold resources and provide wider information that they can explore, knowing that it has been provided a result of our own evaluation.

Three questions I ask myself, whenever someone asks me for help.

Capacity through intervention strategy

What do we mean by capacity building in Educational Technology. Perhaps right up front, it is advisable to remind people that you are working with that you don’t mean ‘learning computer skills’.

That is often the assumption that people attending workshops make as that has largely their prior experience. PD + Computers = Mastery Challenge.

Capacity should be addressing critical areas such as participatory planning, curriculum, units of work, lesson design, implementation, evaluation, research, information, advocacy, networking and financial planning.

Building capacity in yourself is far easier than attempting to do this at the whole school level. All that knowledge and connectedness that comes with the acquisition of capacity in yourself – is not easily replicated.

Often in our eagerness to see reflections of our own advocacy and practice in others, it is easy to forget just how confusing, frustrating and massive it was to climb out of the 20th Century teaching norms and look towards the horizons of what could be possible.

Flash was easier to learn when it was version 1, Photoshop was far less complicated in version 7, and RSS was far easier to deal with when there was less information flooding in. The capacity of all of us to generate information that we think helps the rest of ‘them’ – means that early adopters are critical to any educational institution to interpret and lead.

To me, it is an ongoing tragedy that these people are often not empowered to ‘lead’ – hence the perpetual question ‘how do we effect sustainable change’ that senior educational leaders orbit. It is hard to plan your future, if your point of reference is the past – specifically, time served is preferable over capacity to lead change.

Friere (1973) Pedagogy of the Oppressed argues

“the process of learning to read and the act of reading are deeply political: our reading of the word is shaped by our reading of the world”

Student’s own experience of technology combined with teacher interventions are mutually reinforcing in building capacity – for change. We simply don’t need to know ‘everything’ anymore. Mastery ICT skills are less important that understanding how technology changes learning.

“We are going to blog” or ”We are using Web2.0 tools in the classroom” and other statements are unlikely to improve learning outcomes for students.

I say unlikely, unless they are seen as interventions essential in strengthening teaching practice. To say you are working to build capacity is

“Meaningless unless you insist on using language and terms that have precise meanings.” (Moore, 1995).

While we are talking about promoting change, the interventions that teachers are doing right now in their solo-classrooms are part of a wider social transformation.

“We are going to blog” – is an output of increased capacity not mastery skills – writing a blog is no harder than writing an email in that regard.

Capacity comes through understanding how using blogs is an intervention within wider social change. In education it directly relevant to renewing pedagogical approaches, developing media literacy skills, reflective learning over passive learning etc.,

In fact web2.0 is part of the digital-soup of Learning Objects within curriculum.

Chiappe defined Learning Objects as:

“A digital self-contained and reusable entity, with a clear educational purpose, with at least three internal and editable components: content, learning activities and elements of context. The learning objects must have an external structure of information to facilitate their identification, storage and retrieval: the metadata. ” (Chiappe, Segovia, & Rincon, 2007).

Any professional development seminar, workshop or in-service – that promotes ‘learning about Web2.0’ – has to address ‘capacity.

It must clearly explain the wide reaching implications that it has to have to become sustainable, and that on their own, Web2.0 applications – such as blogging are unlikely to improve learning outcomes for students.

Once you done that, you are in a much better position to understand which Web2.0 tools could be used in ‘capacity building’. And it may be that you shortlist a relatively short, but considered list.

What are the interventions? What are the learning objects? What are your criteria for capacity building? – The tools are easy in comparison.

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

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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’.