Daily Archives: September 8, 2006

My initial raw thoughts for an ICT vision for my school have had a few boosts through the blogosphere over the last few days. I even sat down yesterday and had a brain-spill over a large piece of A3 paper for about 40 minutes, trying to distill my ideas about what we should be using to guide our thinking (and our spending) in continuing to develop 21st Century classrooms. I did my thinking in "digital immigrant" style, using a Sharpie and a good quality felt tip and ended up posing more questions than concocting solutions. Basically there are heaps of ideas swirling around the page and it's even too big to scan and reproduce here. I thought I'd summarise a few key points and point to a few more influential quotations from some of the best edublogging thinkers out there.

I broke up my visionary word grabs into a few broad categories. Starting at 12 o'clock on the page, I started with an arrow sticking out of the C -> for communication, the more commonly overlooked word in the acronym and posed a few questions. Communication for who? Between students? Teacher to student? School to community? To world? Students to teachers?

Moving around the page clockwise, I started a big section on Inquiry Learning (otherwise known as Problem Based Learning, Resource Based Learning) especially because my current role involves using this methodology to embed the use of ICT in learning. My statement to be critiqued by my colleagues - Inquiry learning actively involves the use of technology skills and information literacy. The Inquiry learning skills are listed along with the emerging Information Literacy issues for learning - sorting information, facts v. opinions, intellectual property, managing the flow of information and verifying sources. (There's heaps more, I know but this was a brain-spill!) Basically, both threads meet up in the common ground of sorting information, classifying and making new meaning.

I then swing around to about 4 o'clock on the page and cover an essential part of everyday life in Australian schools - the curriculum. This vision has to develop into something that is grounded in current reality, not utopian impossibility. My key question is: How can ICT's assist student learning more efficiently than before? By before, I'm talking about "traditional" teacher transmission models but the idea of explicit teaching isn't left out altogether. Using technology like the IWB, special needs kids and kids with learning difficulties have access to a tool that can cement essential skills into place before they are used in ways that are described so well in this great post from Wesley Fryer yesterday. I remixed this quote to match my purpose (my changes in bold italics):

ICT in our school should be all about changing teaching and learning in fundamental ways– NOT simply “doing school” with digital tools. We don’t need digital worksheets. We don’t need endless hours of computer-aided instruction. What we DO NEED are opportunities for students and teachers to engage in investigations about real world issues and problems, using digital tools to both conduct research and communicate their ideas with others. ICT in our school , to be successful, MUST be focused on transforming predominant pedagogical models of instruction.

And almost as if he knew I needed more fuel for the fire, Wesley expanded on this post today, summing up the necessary way forward succinctly:

I resonate with this last idea: Digital learning should not and cannot be optional for students and teachers in our schools. Do we need to force every teacher to use PowerPoint? No! This should be an invitation extended, not a mandate from on-high communicated by a stick-wielding administrator. And of course, we are talking about the use of digital tools which extends far beyond a mere “accomodation” level use, of replicating analog practices with digital tools. We are talking not only about teachers modeling the effective use of digital teaching strategies, but also students being invited to become digital content creators. Inviting students to discover and share their own voices. Recognizing that there are many more voices in the classroom that need to be heard, that simply CAN’T be heard because of time limitations in a face-to-face setting. We are talking about pioneers of digital teaching using blended learning methodologies from a growing menu of tools– selecting those which are appropriate to the content, audience, and task at hand. A tall order to be sure, but one we must collaboratively strive to fill for our students– who are in the final analysis our customers, rather than the “products” of our educational institutions.

This ties in perfectly with my next section on Staff Expertise, an area that keeps defaulting to me. This spawned a whole bunch of questions to pose to my staff.

  • Are we going to let kids "learn on their own" in this digital world?
  • Can we learn from each other? (Students as well as adults.)
  • Student access to technology - better at school or school?
  • Do we value the new skills being used in a digital world?
  • Is it just about mastery of technology? Or is it more about ethics, responsibility, high expectations, empowerment and creativity?
  • What's the balance? What are the right choices for our school?

My next stop on this little journey was a section I titled Exponential Change. Alex Hayes prodded this idea with a stick in the comments section of this blog recently - How do we cater effectively for these students whose life has only known exponential change? I had three prongs to this section - moving teachers' view of the internet from having students using it as a resource for viewing along to creation and participation on the web. The second prong was Emerging Technologies. My question for my colleagues is :- What do we do about emerging technologies - mobile phones, ipods, pda's etc. Ban, ignore or integrate? Then over at the TALO Group, Alex provided some answers of his own envisioning how a disruptive technology like mobile phones could be integrated into classroom practice. Seeing most schools don't want to know about mobiles or haven't any ideas on where to start (myself included), Alex's scenarios make good pedagogical sense. Check this segment out:

Scenario One
This is the idea that students are encouraged during discrete times of the day to use their 'phones' in ways which best suit a range of activities. During other times in the day students would be required to have the phone on discrete or the flight mode.

Scenario Two
Students are actively encouraged to use their mobile devices ( notice the shift from 'phone to 'device') to record, document and upload their findings using the advanced features of their phones including the camera, voice note taker, video camera and SMS out / in. There is no cost in using these aspects of the device and if you look around the learners setting these days you'll be suprised at the level of technologies that one or many of your group possess and use regularly.

Scenario Three
Students are credited using a range of options to enable them to interact with learning experiences on / off campus and either in real time or asynchronously. The user ( notice the shift from 'student' to 'user' ) is encouraged to participate in learning experiences which requires an advanced interrogation of the MMS capacity of the phone, video and photo blogging capacity of the mobile device and perhaps even the wi-fi, bluetooth, infra-red and GPS capabilities of their device.

Scenario Four
Peer to peer networks. The networking of mobile communication devices in hubbed clusters, swarming in learning pools, descending into learning experiences as mobbed groups. Constructing m-portfolios inter-fed with servicing updates, subscriptions and portal access to mobile web 2.0 online environments.

Honestly, how hard would it be to at least implement Scenario One and Two in a primary school setting? I know someone will cry "inequitable" but we ask kids all the time to produce computer generated assignements or internet based research knowing that access and levels of technology vary wildly from home to home. Mobile phones are no different. This leads to the third prong - safety. The filtered school online environment (protection or false sense of security?) vs. the reality at home. Bill Kerr sums the issues faced here in South Australia well in a post from earlier in the year. Identity management of all school based users looms as a big issue as we ask them (students and teachers) to access more and more web based tools.

Finally I round off my vision splatter with a cloud on Documenting Learning. How do we capture and assess learning in digital form? Can other forms of learning benefit from ICT recording, storage and analysis? I had my e-portfolio headset on here - it's an area that needs more fleshing out and maybe my Action Research Project (even though it's teacher focussed) can help provide some direction.

It's going to be a week for visions. On Tuesday, the MYLU team have a planning day to map our way forward for our middle school students. Maybe another brain-spill could be useful there - technology has a big influence in adolescents' lives and both Wesley's and Alex's thoughts could drive some conversation. Anyway, this has gone on for long enough. I'll finish with another quote to round off my 200th official post here at Teaching Generation Z, this time from Mark van’t Hooft at Ubiquitous Thoughts, following on from Wesley's first vision based quote:

Finally, and most importantly, stakeholders need the VISION that teaching and learning with technology is not a privilege, but an essential part of education if we want our kids to succeed in the 21st century.

I've spent the last couple of hours scouring the web for information relating to my e-portfolio Action Research Project and it's been hard going. Perhaps it's a measure of my lack of effective digital literacy skills or just perhaps the ongoing conversation about this idea is a bit thin on the ground. I have two RSS search feeds over on my PageFlakes site that track the phrase through the blogosphere and I've been picking through the links coming in. I did find a post from Graham Attwell which speculates whether the concept of PLE and e-portfolio are merging to be essentially the same thing. That really tells me what I already know - an e-portfolio is a lot more than a CV, and is a learning landscape that evolves with the user. Graham blogs from Europe where he notices;

e-Portfolios are moving beyond the first adopters, beyond the pedagogic researchers into mainstream use.

I definitely don't see that here - I haven't really patched my own version together yet, and I'm struggling to get my focus group together (illness, other commitments). Next week, Chris Bennie from TSOF comes out to video me on my project and I don't know what he's going to tape. It's not like I haven't been thinking and reading on this idea but it's very hard to nail down and organise efficiently.

So, what have I done so far? Let's try some dot points for efficiency's sake.

  • set up a wiki to record my project - links, thoughts, snippets etc. (I know wikis are great collaborative tools but they are a dead simple way to make a navigational website and keep things neat and tidy. I'm erring more on Doug's personal use philosophy rather than Artichoke's "let the floodgates open" approach.) By the way, do you like my fancy logo?
  • using Google Notebook to snip key passages of information about e-portfolios as  find them on the web. It's a really efficient way to gather notes as it automatically cites the source. It can be made public too - I was going to do that but changed my mind as I'd have to check the licensing on all of the sites I've accessed so far. Four wouldn't take me long but I will add to this as I go. My link to Graham Attwell's work above will provide a lot of fodder for my brain.
  • set up a page on Pageflakes for this project. Again, not much there except the RSS search feeds, links to my wiki and Notebook.

I've also started listing possible e-portfolio software solutions for my focus group. When I meet with them, I want to have a conversation about their needs and it could well be that one of them wants to try a hosted solution, wants their own domain name and so I am accumulating some possible one-stop-shop solutions. That of course isn't the way I personally want to go - so the next section is a list of possible web based applications that can be "glued" together for a Web 2.0 version of an e-portfolio. I have this blog as one piece, I have grahamwegner.wikispaces.com ready to go for static content (although it's a bit sparse) and I'd want to use either PageFlakes, NetVibes or WebWag as the gluing solution for any other pieces I'd want to join on - Flickr images, box.net and ourmedia files, other places that I contribute to and so on. The freerange approach is definitely the method that will answer the question "Are teacher e-portfolios sustainable?" for me, but whether other teachers will be quite as enthused remains to be seen. As for the video shoot, I could just blabber for a while and use this post as my cue cards. We'll see.