This is an attempt to organise many thoughts after spending an amazing weekend with a number of passionate and wise ‘ed-tech’ people at and after the SICTAS symposium in Sydney last weekend.
It may have been an ‘echo chamber’ a little at times but…it felt wonderful. The gathering was passionate, informed, engaging, motivating and hopefully fruitful when our recommendations come to the top echelons of public service in Canberra. A big public thank you goes to people at Education.au for pulling it all together.
Survived the two days of ‘teacher development’ before the students fill the classroom on Monday!
The standard PowerPoint overkill on compliance, procedures, initiatives, scores etc breached just about every rule of good communication, so I decided to cut my presentation from 30-45 minute mix of ‘tech stuff’ and animation (see the intended icebreaker monkeys below, text here) to a very brief 10 minute stand-up address. Even though a bride-to-be upstaged my presentation (no kidding, she walked in about 2 minutes into it and had everyone admiring her dress…she did look stunning, best wishes!), I think I managed to sow a few seeds without those glazed looks on people’s faces.
I flagged the running and the format of regular workshops on the use of technology in class but I didn’t tell staff what the workshops will be on. Moodle is probably a gimmie, but the rest….? Continue reading A bride stole my show→
This morning I found out that ‘Human’ came second in the “Best New Blog” category at the 2008 Edublogs Awards. The quick, competitive part of me went “oh bugger, a handful of votes and I’d have won it” but then the wiser part of me thanked again, firstly the thousands (!) of people who have taken their time to read and engage with my blog since May this year, secondly a number of people around the world who nominated ‘Human’ for 2008 Eddie and thirdly, the people who clicked next to my blog’s name on the voting card. It really is an honour.
Is this starting to sound like “show-me-a-good-loser-and-I’ll-show-you-a-loser” script right now? Someone bitter to have come second going all phoney philosophical? Not quite I’d say…
Gazump. A situation in which the price for real estate or land is raised to a higher price than what was previously verbally agreed upon.* (1)
This week I lost half of my job. The half I formally started this year and was promised to go for another year, the half that gave me a chance to begin to wisen up on ICT, how to ‘infect’ people with enthusiasm for the impact and potential of ICT, the half that gave birth to Moodle and so many other valuable things at our school that have made an impact on the entire school community. Like many of my colleagues working for the same employer (largest in our State…have a guess), I was asked at the start of this job to come up with ways to better engage teachers and students with ICT in ways that are relevant and specific to the context of our school. A number of wonderful colleagues and myself worked hard to do just that this year, only to be…
Over the last few days I have been following a great conversation on the Brittanica Blog about Web 2.0 (pron. “web two-oh”) and its potential to change project-based learning thanks to its collaborative nature. I have thoroughly enjoyed the critical examination of myths and hype by a number of fine minds, notably by Daniel Willingham responding to Steve Hargadon’s vision of (usefulness of) Web 2.0 tools in education. Further, some of the comments have been even more impressive than the post itself! For a useful summary of the post and a handy digest of comments I would point you to Robert Pondiscio’s post.
It was all kind of loose blog lurking until a comment by Sylvia Martinez caught my eye.
“Web 2.0 connection that project-based learning has with Web 2.0 is limited. It happens to make a few things that project-based classrooms do a little easier. So it’s highly unlikely that Web 2.0 will overcome the obstacles to project-based learning. We know what those obstacles are, we know what needs to be done (there are thousands of terrific books on these subjects) — and we still don’t do them. We keep looking for a magic wand, and Web 2.0 is the latest one.
The topic was “will Web 2.0 be an integral part of K-12 education” – but everyone seems to have changed it to “will Web 2.0 CHANGE K-12 education”. Totally different. Web 2.0 may become something teachers have in their toolkit, but still used in a way that supports the dominant paradigm. You can certainly have Web 2.0 drill and test, just as easily as open ended blogs.
Without a serious to change K-12 education, Web 2.0 will simply become integrated into the existing way that schools do business.
“Will Web 2.0 CHANGE K-12 education?” My antennas went up! I have often likened Web 2.0 to a Trojan horse for/of change to something that is better than the centuries old warehousing of kids, sorting them like sacks of potatoes, then calling one student or even a school ‘good’ and another ‘bad’. My school, euphemistically called ‘difficult to staff school’ is more often labelled as the latter. So rather than reheating the ‘learning potential’ debate, I look at Web 2.0 from a slightly different angle.
Ever since I stumbled upon the 11 Things that make a difference by Bryn Jones and Chris Betcher a few months ago, I have often marveled at their uncanny assessment of critical criteria needed for successful ‘meshing’ of teaching with ICT. Within our ICT working group we often talk about and check our school’s progress against these 11 criteria. Yet we can’t help the feeling we need to add another one.
The staff at our school are currently completing (what looks like) a survey on the current level of their ICT skills, obstacles and aspirations. The ‘survey’ is in fact a fairly simple database activity in Moodle, designed to kill several birds with one stone – we get more than just a snapshot of where we are at and what we need. Through this simple, easily searchable database, people can quickly see who in the school has the skill(s and attitude) they (may) need, sometimes literally on the spot, just-in-time, where there is neither chance or time to attend some PD but simply problem-solve and learn from it. Staff can update their entries, comment, thank each other, inquire and so on in a way true to the 70:20:10 principle underpinning our ICT-related PD efforts this year. It is working really well but I might describe it in more detail in another post – back to the ‘12th thing’.
Even after a cursory analysis, something clearly stands out from the data from approximately 75% of staff so far – lack of time they have to ‘play with’ ICT, improve their skills and consider the improvements to their practice ICT can/could have. In the data, I can see (in)direct references to the other 11 Things but “(lack of) time to learn and work on/with ICT” comes through really strongly and makes a strong case to be the 12th Thing. Surprised? Not me.
A couple of days ago I attended a dinner with a world-renowned educator and presenter Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, her family, and a few fellow Perth bloggers and ed-tech enthusiasts. The company included a famous chocoholic and THE Edublogger Sue Waters, whom I met personally for the first time, Jean Anning, Jane Lowe and Paul Reid. The evening was very enjoyable and sprinkled with a wonderful dose of fun-spirited Aussie/American bashing and ‘war stories’ – all in all, we hit it off well (I am just not sure how much Sheryl’s family members enjoyed our passionate and often noisy rants, complaints and (mutual) inspirations).
I was particularly pleased and in many ways reassured to hear Sheryl’s passion to push for greater use of ICT and particularly the Web 2.0 (for lack of better word) tools with ‘tough’ schools and kids like ours (see my previous, cathartic post for details – thank you good people for your comments). And as we started getting into the thick of discussion, we recognised that not only the group of people present, but a wider community of bloggers, ed-tech educators etc. (you know the labels…) is vulnerable to the ‘echo chamber’ effect. We all pretty much agree on many things, we fuel each other’s passion, we share and exchange ideas, in short – we ‘get it’. That’s all good but we act mostly in our own individual spaces, despite creation of large (inter)national networks, so easily afforded by the tools whose usefulness and transformative power we try to unveil to others. We are doing great things but without generating the amount of synergy that would make powers-that-be stand up and go beyond, in the words of Seymour Papert (thank you for correction Bryn) ‘strapping a jet engine [of technology] on a horse and cart [of 18th century model of education]’.
Before reading this post a word of warning. If you are easily offended by expletives or graphic descriptions please avert your eyes. If not – welcome to my world.
Our school carries a wonderfully bureaucratic euphemism – it is a “difficult to staff” school. We operate in one of the poorest areas of town. Many parents who send kids to our school have not been rewarded by the system of education and they hardly instil the values of importance of education in their offspring.
Last week, one of our students got assaulted by a former student of ours at a bus stop waiting to go to an excursion at a neighbouring university. I stopped the assault only to be assaulted myself. This afternoon, on the way to the bus stop I was called, loudly and in my face, a “fucking cunt” by a Year 10 student after calmly disposing of a piece of plastic hurled at me few moments earlier. He had sat in my class just a few hours before. This school term alone, I have lost track of the times I was told either directly or indirectly (but clearly) to either ‘fuck off’ or ‘piss off’, or was simply and completely ignored as a person, let alone some sort of person invested with authority and responsibility to care for and (forbid!) teach, role-model or ‘inspire’ as the quote garden would have it. About half of my Year 11 Economics class openly say that they are ‘dumb and don’t care about the grades anyway’. My colleagues could recount dozens of stories just like this or worse as part of their ‘regular day’. Yes, we have a reputation of a ‘bad’ school and, depending what measure you look at, we have numbers to prove it (hello bean counters and ‘performance managers’ out there!)
Before starting to work as a part-time technology integrator at our school this year, the principal asked me to come up with one ‘thing’, one key strategy for staff and students to ICT to improve their teaching and learning. After seeing the flexibility, robustness and ‘organic’ nature of Moodle the choice was pretty simple to make.
The video, shown here in two separate clips, is not so much about the technical features of Moodle but about people using it. I am forever indebted to our wonderful network administrator Russell Clarke, my colleagues from Moodle champions to Moodle beginners, and the students, who have taken to it so well (well, a healthy majority of them at least). Without them, none of the things shown in the clip would happen.
The focus of the first clip (9:58 min) is on the ways different, mostly standard features of Moodle have been used by various teachers and students at our school. If you can’t see this video (Part 1) please click here.
The second clip (5:43 min) shows the positive and in some cases very significant changes the establishment of Moodle has brought to our school in terms of using ICT to improve our core business – teaching and learning while modelling, establishing and maintaining healthy human relationships. If you can’t see the clip (Part 2) please click here.
I end this post with an anecdote from a teacher at our school. Over the last couple of weeks of holidays, my colleague Kim Bebbington built a fantastic course on Australian History, now shared by four other Year 8 classes. The course includes an assignment, due in week 3 of the upcoming term.
Deliberately or not, Kim left the course open to students to enrol and look at as he was building it. Imagine his (pleasant) surprise when he received a fully completed assignment (due in week 3) by one of the students in his class two days before the start of term.
But as wonderful and useful as Moodle has been, it is the people who are making the difference. It is not the technology itself – it is what we do with it.
If you are a ‘moodling’ teacher yourself, looking into it, or a person responsible for getting (particularly) teachers up to speed with Moodle and ICT in general I would love to hear from you – there is much to share and learn from each other.