Tagged: professional learning

Great Moot but …

#mootau11 collage
A memorable moot !

Quick slideshow…

This is what I tweeted at the end of 2011 Australian Moodle Moot 2011:

To sum up #mootau11: We flew First Class! Thank you @ns_allanc [Allan Christie] and @netspot crew.

It was truly wonderful.  Great ideas, great people, great venue, great organisation, great community vibe. It was a three day Moodle love-in.

Highlights – meeting soooo many people I have net-known for a while but we have never crossed paths in person (Mary Cooch, Helen Foster, Geoff Young, Nigel Mitchell, Shannon Johnston, Nathan Hutchings, Michael Woods, Claire Brooks, Jon Powles … to name just a few!!!), working collaboratively with the one and only Sarah Thorneycroft on the game-based learning stuff, sitting in some very cool sessions and speakers, watching Martin strut his stuff on the dance floor, toughing it out with four fellow moodlers at the inaugural MoodleMoot jog on a wet, cold and windy morning, doing the Baywatch slo-mo impersonations with the indomitable Louisa ‘Buzz’ Wright … and so much more!

Mark Drechsler has posted a few reflective posts day by day and I invite to you to head over for a great rundown with added personal reflection of a team member who has worked very hard to make this moot such a success.

But it made me a bit … sad, too.

Sad because ideas like:

  • Give students a course to create and demonstrate what they can do and care about.
  • Give students the power (and associated responsibility!) to edit and become co-creators in a course/parts of you run.
  • In staff PD, get reluctant teachers to come up with examples of use of a tool as a buy-in before they learn how to set it up.
  • Pique curiosity with quest(ions), interesting challenges for staff or students to complete and build-in some feedback as they go along (game-based learning).
  • Don’t spoonfeed – teach how to think not how to do the new tool.
  • “You never know more than the people you train.” – be humble and listen, value, adjust.
  • Get the audience to contribute their ideas via real-time editable doc and use, build on those.
  • Instead of building new ‘portals’ for content to hoard and lock down – open up and build networks instead with a few simple, existing tools and invest in people instead.
  • Make your assessment match the conditions of the ‘real world’, make it as authentic and relevant as possible.
  • and more …

were met with ‘wow’ and gushing tweets how ‘fantastic’ and ‘innovative’ that was to hear and see. Yeah sure, these are all great things. But why aren’t they as common as dirt? They are hardly new or revolutionary – arguably, they have been around for millennia in different contexts.

It is truly sad to see ‘tighter submission of assignments’, ‘improved procedures for protecting content’, ‘better tracking capabilities’, ‘faster delivery of content’ (whatever that means …), ‘building content portals’ etc. becoming so pressing yet normalised concerns and ideas.

It is equally, if not more, sad that things that we as species are so intuitively damn good at, such as ‘working out a problem’ and ‘challenging ourselves’ and ‘being curios’ and ‘wanting to be involved’ and ‘valuing listening’ seen as some incredibly smart, ‘progressive’, bleeding-edge notions?

Hey, some folks are making a mozza on speaking circuit peddling the obvious…if we took a second to think for ourselves. But I do wonder how and why have these rudimentary human strivings become so counterintuitive to ask, wonder about, and try to stimulate for learning?

I know schools and universities aren’t going to disappear or change in a hurry. And they shouldn’t, for my money. But if education is/were a business, what is its currency? What do you/we want it to be?

I know I’m using broad brush strokes here. I know the minutiae of our professional lives prevents the odd navel-gaze and wonder. But it is important to see the forrest from the trees sometimes.

Once again – thank you organisers of 2011 Australian Moodlemoot. I hope to see you next year on the Gold Coast, weather (aka $$$) permitting.

Catch-A-Teacher Day

If you see an ad on top of this post – it is not my idea(l) 🙁
Welcome!
Welcome!

It’s over! Our four day school Web 2.0 Expo extravaganza over the last few days of school year was largely (and I don’t use the word lightly) adjudged as ‘a success’, ‘eye opening’, ‘interesting’, ‘informative’, ‘fun’, ‘enjoyable’, ‘a bit crazy’, ‘unusual’ by a range of people around the school (eclectic and funky as our cover clip 🙂 )

For four days, three teachers (Simon Carabetta, Jaeik Jeong & myself) and about a dozen student-helpers (13 to 15 years old), put on a ’23 things’ of a kind for our school community to inform, teach and stir about ‘Web 2.0’ and its culture-changing potential that is starting to be realised in our societies yet (still) largely outside school walls.

To ‘walk the talk’, we not only set up stations, but also created the event’s wiki (largely student work!), even a Ning (well, sort of … 🙂 ), got a bunch of students to start up their blogs, Twitter, set up RSS readers, fooled around with Skype, Etherpad, Twiddla, Moodle etc.. We had a number of educators from around the world dropping in virtually via Etherpad (copy of excellent contributions here, thank you SO MUCH to all who have contributed), we had encouraging tweets from around the world … all in all, we were ‘doing’ Web 2.0.

But out of the four days of messing up, playing, teaching, learning, succeeding, working together, guessing and generally having a ball, the last day will remain seared in my mind forever.

Until the last day, we had very few staff that came to the expo. They would bring groups of students down but then (most of them) didn’t quite engage with the expo in any way. “That’s for the kids, not for us…” was the general sentiment, with few notable exceptions. With the whole thing PRIMARILY for staff, we weren’t making the dent. The matter was raised at our regular morning ‘war briefing’. We made the decision that the last day was going to be ‘catch-a-teacher’ day.

It was pretty simple really. Student-helpers were encouraged to approach a teacher, invite them to the expo, try to work out and ask what the teacher might be interested in to learn…then demonstrate, teach and help them learn (about) a particular Web 2.0 tool and how it could be useful to them (the teacher). We also asked our student-helpers to note down on the central ‘tally’ board what teachers they taught what.

Students took up the challenge very seriously and we had them literally chasing teachers down the halls to invite, talk to, teach the teachers. With most teachers agreeing to come (even if out of courtesy if not curiosity) it was an incredible sight.

Catch-a-teacher ... live
Catch-a-teacher ... live
Catch-a-teacher ... come in
Catch-a-teacher ... come in

And this is what the tally board looked like after only a few hours!

21 teachers, 10 different tools, 4 hours - ALL by students!
21 teachers, 10 different tools, 4 hours - ALL by students!

Yes, I repeat: teachers are far less likely to say no to a student than a ‘tech integrator’ with a resonable (tech) proposition for teacher’s problem/idea in class. It just works!

Another highlight of the day was the technically so damn easy yet so profoundly different (to ‘regular school’) Skype conference of our ‘helpers’ with a good friend Ira Socol. I saw Ira tweeting, hooked up over Skype and within seconds the whole class said ‘Hello” to Ira and his dog (“with a weird name Sir…”) in Michigan. We soon shared a screen with Google Earth on it where Ira literally showed us around his neighbourhood, place he works, we zoomed out to see and learn a bit about the Great Lakes (some of the kids watching have not been further than a few blocks from their place in their life!), cracked a joke or two and after a few minutes thanked Ira for his time. After the event Ira tweeted:

Damn right!

I read the tweet aloud to claps, cheers and hollers of approval at our post-expo ice cream ‘debrief’ (yes, we did treat the awesome crew 🙂

Yum! Well deserved.
Yum! Well deserved.

The sense of community, appreciation, working together, problem solving, the JOY of learning, particularly on the last day of our Expo was palpable. Many of our student-helpers ‘got off’ on it, dare say far, far more than many a lesson in the year just finished. There it was, a working rhizome of education I dream of, where roles/status/label/credit did not matter, only what we can learn, share, help, improve. Sure, it was quite an intense day, but one where the students saw the potential of what many of us have been banging on about for … years now.

Before we took our parting group photo, I asked the student-helpers is they would like to attend a school organised and run a bit like our expo – passionate, hard-working, following people’s interests, funny, a bit messy and unexpected, unclear at times but always valuing learning of all kinds: “Yes, sure, we’d love to…” I replied with just a line: “Demand it for your own kids.”

Just imagine! Or as a colleague quoted in his farewell speech yesterday: Logic will get you from A to B, imagination will get you anywhere.

And since I mentioned farewell speeches – I delivered mine yesterday too (copy here). I will miss the people of Belmont City College (and my first Moodle, my baby 🙂 ). They matter.

Thank you!
Thank you!

Through Web 2.0

Today, we kicked off a Web 2.0 Expo at our school with two main aims. The first one is to make staff and students see and reflect on the changes in online world that are rapidly transforming and building communities on and offline…and all with a slightly pointy educational bend (see clip below). The second aim is to go hands on and start to dabble in or improve on ‘Web 2.0’ with a helping hand nearby – a modified “23 things” of a kind.

While the expo is the brainchild and organisational baby of ‘three amigos’ (Simon Carabetta, Jaeik Jeong & yours truly), it is the students as volunteer helpers that are the real drivers and superstars.

During the first day, we had a bunch of kids creating blogs, wikis, even a newly born Ning dedicated to the expo. We had a wonderful but usually very withdrawn student, who doesn’t have Internet access at home, absolutely flourishing after setting up his Gmail account (first ever) and within 45 minutes TEACHING (!!!) five other kids how to set up RSS through iGoogle (very “hole-in-the-wall”-ish). We had teachers saying things like “wow, this Skype is really neat!”, or “do you think we could set up a Ning with our pen pals in Hawaii?” (OK, we had our share of stuff-ups too :-P)

When asked about Ning, I simply pointed my colleague who asked the question to a self-appointed ‘Ning specialist’ among our student helper crew and 30 minutes later I saw them in deep conversation about “settings and updates”.

I said it before and I repeat – magic happens when students help teachers. I have not seen a teacher who refused help with tech when a kid says “did you know Miss there’s a really good way to do … Do you want me to show you?”

If I said it, it would not stick nearly as much (if at all).

For the occasion, I made an ‘introduction’ clip about Web 2.0, based on a fantastically funky YouTube clip by Kutiman (Thru-You-01 Mother of All Funk Chords) . The wording is appropriate because it is through the changing web (shhh, don’t mention Web 3.0 yet) and through the people that I for one hope to see the changes happen. Real ones.

I hope you enjoy the re-mix, feel free to share (see CC licence). I knew we were onto a good thing with it when a Year 10 student clapped when he saw it first. Students – the yardstick that matters by far the most in things ‘educational’. (if YouTube blocked, version here)

PS. We are hoping to bumble through our next few days just as well 😛 A message to people who were happy to ‘drop in’ – look out (& pass onward if you like) for tweet(s) with a drop-in link. Sorry, but it’s a little “crazy good as we go”. Any line, sound, tweet, comment from ‘the outside world’ will be read and appreciated, thank you.

(If you see an ad on top of the post… not my idea(l) 🙁 Sorry)

Using real world

I can’t claim some sort of exclusive on this line, I think it belongs to Michael Wesch, collected through Twitter (where else!). But I just had to put it in a strip comic this afternoon.

Real world

The tall person in the comic is meant to be a teacher, the small one a student. On the ground, where it matters most, questions like these stick more than seminars full of ‘gurus’. No, this isn’t some book-bashing, it is about seeing education as a part of OR divorced from the society it operates within, draws from and sustains.

Speaking of seminars, our school will be running a ‘Web 2.0 Expo’ for four days next week (Tuesday, 14 Dec to Friday, 17 Dec; 9.00 (9am) to 15.00 (3pm) UTC +8 world clock here). The three amigos Simon Carabetta, Jaeik Jeong and myself plus 15 student volunteers who have signed over the last few days through our school forum will try to live our expo slogan: “This is not about computers, this is about people.

We will showcase ‘Web 2.0’ and demonstrate what it runs on – people, their care and their ‘cognitive surplus’.

For that reason, we would love it if you or anyone you know might be interested to drop in via Twitter, Skype or other ways to meet, share, laugh, ask, learn. For now, if you could tell us your location, contact (you can tweet me @lasic, leave a comment below or email me moodlefan at gmail dot com), when you could drop in and maybe a mode (Twitter, Skype, your choice…) it would be FANTASTIC!

Thank you & feel free to spread the word.

Merit or demerit?

Fixing the Money Pipeline

There are some teachers who are just better than others. In many ways, with many people, many colleagues. No secret really, observed many times. So why should they (not) be paid more?

There are many cases of (failed) merit pay schemes for teachers around the world. They pretty much show that merit pay for teachers, based fundamentally on extrinsic rewards for, in most cases, intrinsically rewarding job of a teacher as a ‘service to public’ … simply does not work. So why should we pay teachers differently, ‘on merit’ then?

Volumes have been written on this topic from the opposite ‘camps’. Can we have both (sounds like a politician’s wet dream)?

For the record, I would not dismiss the idea of rewarding good teachers. Let’s not throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. But if we as a society (or rather our elected representatives we always deserve) think teachers will ‘lift their game’ so they can get paid a few bucks more – very few will do so and not necessarily in the neat accounting brackets either (“extra 10% in pay will result in 10% better student results” – oh, come on!).

Here is a late night cobble of few ideas on how we could perhaps keep the baby in and change the water. Just ideas, with all their faults and crazy options…

  • Build and reward positive interdependence and pay for success of the team. Good teachers do it in class and often when a group effort is called for. The synergy of a well thought-out team will outweigh any individual scheme anytime plus have a range of positive side-effects. The one that first springs to mind is the growth of a culture of innovation and collaboration in a workplace. Of course, the trick is in the leadership, getting it right and spreading the rewards (the equity or equality argument) but if we can do it with students – why not with teachers too?
  • Pay a decent base rate pay, then pay extra amounts to those who mentor and/or support colleagues (particularly those in need). Young or old, regardless of years spent teaching. In other words – pay more to leaders, not merely non-leavers. While excellence and experience are often related, there are some very important differences between the two and they definitely should not be used interchangeably by default (when found, will link to an excellent paper I had come across on this … 😛 ). Some teachers will do it (mostly) for the money, most will do it for passion, interest, recognition … and maybe a little extra cash will be nice, yes.
  • Every 3 to 5 years, give teachers a few months to upskill, mentor, study, research, publish etc with less pressure of the constant class-related rush… a ‘classroom sabbatical’, not a holiday. Getting out of class sometimes, even if for a couple of terms to recharge and refresh batteries would surely be well received. This would be an opportunity to get a better, deeper outlook on things and, importantly, (re)discover the value of learning and the business we are in. Are you thinking ‘retention of teaching workforce’? I am.
  • Re-brand ‘teacher’ as a learning professional. Make the university undergraduate course very challenging, including lots of practical work and forms of ‘internships’, but knowing that once declared ‘a teacher’ (or learning professional or whatever the title), the person would have a set of skills, knowledge and flexibility to work in virtually any environment that requires (re)learning. This would include theories and approaches to learning, communication skills, use of technology and similar. The up and coming Gen X (often dubbed the ‘options generation’) as power-brokers and the subsequent “Gens” would certainly appreciate the range of options available.
  • I don’t know about you but some of the best teachers in my life were not even remotely teachers by profession! Let’s involve the community. It is amazing how many passionate, talented and keen people in the community are able and willing to contribute, help and (mostly unknowingly) inspire. And many of these people who could teach parts (or the whole) and work with students on something they and/or the students are passionate about probably live in the community just around the corner from where the kids live and school is placed in.. Sounds crazy? Ask Dave Eggers (one of the best TED talks I have seen!) and his Once upon a school project.

How does this sound to you? Any others you can think of or expand on? Feel free to (comment) …

Best when human

Getting busy at the Education.au ICT in Learning Symposium

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.

But there were some curious moments and statements that made me think. Continue reading

One sentence

Good news travels fast. ‘Sticky’ ideas even faster.

In her recent comments, fellow teacher and moodler Mary Cooch (known also as @moodlefairy) mentioned how the staff at their school spend a couple of minutes of their weekly meetings talking about their use of Moodle in the classroom. I loved the idea and in the brief email exchange that followed hinted that I will try to use it here at our school too.

This afternoon, I had a cryptic staff meeting agenda item called ‘Share’.

When I got my turn to speak, I simply asked:

‘Could you please share ONE thing or strategy you have found Moodle useful for in your classroom.”

Silence. Tick, tock, tick, tock – 15 seconds.

Then it opened. What followed was just about the best 8 minutes of my three years at this school – 10 short stories, 10 people, 10 different uses, 10 different skill levels. Genuine, specific, relevant, encouraging … and more we haven’t heard because of the crammed agenda.

As I write this, an email popped into my inbox from a colleague Aaron. This is the last sentence from it:

“What took place in today’s staff meeting is exceptionally rare, so from one colleague to another, well done”

I find myself happy and sad at the same time.

Sad? Because, as Aaron says, it is exceptionally rare. Making such things standard practice won’t change a few staff meetings – it will change the profession we are in.

A bride stole my show

BrideSurvived 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

Gazump

Squeeeeze! (Lemon Grenade)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…

gazumped!

Continue reading

Top 5 myths about teaching with Moodle

5 MythsIf you are trying to introduce Moodle to teachers or staff at your school or a similar organisation, you have or you will probably hear at least some, if not all, of the five statements below in some shape of form. I deliberately called these ‘myths’ because they simply do not stack up when compared not only to my own experience and that of my colleagues at our school, but to the experience of literally millions of teachers around the world using Moodle in their daily work.

These five myths deal exclusively with teaching and learning with Moodle. I have distilled these after experiences at our school and reading about experiences of fellow Moodlers over the last year or so. For more myths about the technical aspects of Moodle (Top 10) you can visit the Moodle forums at Moodle.org.

So, here are my top five … with replies.

Continue reading