Engaged is Nice, but not Enough

What do Students Need to Succeed?

When students have 1:1 access to digital resources, the traditional role of the teacher as information source is “disintermediated.” This doesn’t mean that students never need a teacher, or that educators don’t have a critical role in 21st Century learning, but it acknowledges that a good portion of student learning will take place via 1:1 interactions with digital resources and environments. You may be an evangelist of self-empowered learning and think this is great or you may be a champion for the classic bodies of knowledge and cringe at the missed opportunities and misunderstandings that await unguided innocents. Both views are slightly beside the point: students will and do directly access the world’s wealth of information – whether we like it or not has no impact on the reality.

What we must do is analyze the situation to determine, “Okay, if this is the way it is, what will help students be successful?” I suggest three traits: self-initiative, critical thinking and an appetite for lifelong learning.

Self-initiative

Without self-initiative, no one’s really driving the cursor. Without larger goals and a little focus, the digital world is hardly more than the latest, greatest “timesuck.”  Conversely, those who take advantage of online opportunities have a purpose and put their interest into action.

Critical Thinking

The second necessary trait for disintermediated learning is critical thinking. In the early days of the Web, people quickly recognized the unreliable nature of what’s published when anyone can write and post a Web page. As examples, we highlighted sites on Martin Luther King, Jr. served by white supremacists and the imminent agricultural threat to the world’s Velcro crops. With the coming of Web 2.0 and an explosion of user-generated content, these Web 1 cautions look reassuringly obvious in a world of blogs, wikis and videos. Thus the ability to analyze and evaluate what we read, see and hear is essential. But another dimension of critical thinking is ultimately more important than deciphering veracity and reliability. This is the ability to learn. The aspect of critical thinking required here is the richer notion of “making meaning.”  It involves what many have termed “habits of mind,” “dispositions of thinking” or “dimensions of learning.”  Each of these robust contributions to pedagogy vary in the particulars, but share an appreciation that thinking is a complex activity that invokes an array of attributes. Critical thinking in the Digitial World is not a simple formula for “evaluating Web sites.”

Lifelong Learning

The third trait necessary to succeed in a 1:1 digital environment is an appetite for lifelong learning. As important as we feel our subjects and content areas are, the new reality is that students live in a 24/7 connected world where the only certainty is change. What we define as essential learning will go through infinite permutations over the next decades. If content doesn’t change due to new discoveries in the arts and sciences, the methods for engaging with the learning will certainly evolve as it has already from clunky online courses to slick personalized feeds. To be successful, our students need to be open to such opportunities, even welcome change as a means to rewarding and ongoing growth.

So self-initiative, critical thinking and lifelong learning are essential. Without the first, this richest library since the days of Alexandria is lost. Without the second, it’s meaningless. Without the third, there is no future. Students who lack the characteristics to be self-learners will blob along blithely into adulthood. Because we care about students and want to do our part, we ratchet-up our resolve and do what we do best. But here’s the problem. “Teaching” is useless in helping students become self-initiated, critical thinking, lifelong learners. Can you “teach” someone to take initiative? While we might teach some critical thinking strategies, the more complex and idiosyncratic aspects of making meaning don’t fit into a fifty-minute, five-step lesson plan. Finally, the desire to pursue learning for a lifetime isn’t an instructional event. Thus, the most important keys to student success in the digital era aren’t helped by what we do best. So what do we do? Fortunately our colleagues in university research centers have some answers that we’ll explore in the next chapter. But before that, to validate the traits that I’ve suggested students need to be successful, let’s look at what’s already happening…

The Web disrupts (20th Century) “Learning”

If you don’t believe we need a different approach to “teaching” given the richness of the Web and digital technologies, take a look at three ways the Web has already undermined a “teaching” approach to “learning.” If mass production is the model and information the piece that needs attaching, then it makes sense to determine success by measuring how much of the new information is ultimately attached or transferred. With something concrete like information, content or correct answers, we know exactly what we are looking for. From the earliest days of the Web, we could see three aspects inherent in this new medium that would undermine the notion that demonstrating possession of new information or right answers indicated learning. These are: facile plagiarism, spot knowledge and the information explosion.

Exponential Plagiarism

For the current purpose, it’s obvious that the Web facilitates plagiarism: new information or correct answers no longer necessarily come from within the student, but could have just as easily been retrieved for the teacher without altering any synapses in the minds of the learner. New industries have been built attempting to detect plagiarism, and while sophisticated data mining and analysis is fundamental to the Digital Age, using the power of technology to prop up a decidedly limited vision of “knowledge” is a waste of time and effort. As educators we should invest our professional expertise in revisiting our goals for learning and devising tasks that require more than copy/paste keystrokes to complete.  We’ve had the Web for about two decades – what was that earlier remark about human institutions being slow to change?

Spot Knowledge

The second way the Web undermines a “learning as the recitation of answers” view is what James Fallows calls “spot knowledge.”  This highlights a positive attribute of the Web where, a decade after inception, enough people have posted every different kind of knowledge that, to quote the Urban Dictionary, we can “access unanticipated areas of knowledge quickly and efficiently.”  Thus, unlike the problem with plagiarism, spot knowledge doesn’t challenge how we check for achievement of learning, but calls into question the very nature of what we’re asking students to do. Learning is a cognitively taxing endeavor. Whether you look to Piaget’s assimilation and accommodation, Bloom’s taxonomy or later theorists’ construction of meaning, all emphasize that developing new knowledge is hard work. Given the degree of difficulty – and the relative ease of accessing spot knowledge – don’t we owe it to our students to be very careful and selective about what information actually needs to reside in the minds of learners and which can live just as happily “out sourced” or available “on-demand?”  On days when cynicism gets the better of me, I relax in appreciation of the “Forgetting Curve,” the century-old understanding that reveals that without repetition or reinforcement of what is newly learned, we forget 80% of it. On less cynical days I appreciate just how important it is for us to choose wisely and teach effectively so that the remaining 20% is significant and worth remembering. Regardless, it’s the rare curriculum initiative that recognizes the reality of easily accessed spot knowledge and instead we see vested interests continue to heap-up the content of already bloated syllabi and curricula.

Information Explosion

The third way the Web undermines current assembly line concepts of learning relates to the two previous, but presents a different challenge. Yes, a basic information acquisition approach invites plagiarism. And Spot knowledge calls into question the appropriateness of asking students to commit large amounts of easily accessed information to memory. But, thirdly, the very explosion of information that makes plagiarism easy and spot knowledge accessible also highlights an essential skill this new environment requires and we would be remiss if we didn’t address. The need to sort and make sense of this explosion also points us in a better direction for using the Web to support classroom-based learning. When so much information is so readily available, accessing it is nowhere near as important as doing something with it once you’ve found it. Thus rather than repeat back little bits that are easy to cheat on and just as easy to forget (or find when you might happen to need them), making something from this wealth of information and adding it to a growing body of knowledge that is personally meaningful and useful becomes not only a good idea, but essential. Essential that is, if we are to help students do something worthwhile with this new default of 1:1 digital access.

The Web Requires Real “Learning”

This section started with the assertion that successful learning in a rich digital environment requires self-initiative, critical thinking and an appetite for lifelong learning. Having just seen how plagiarism, spot knowledge and the information explosion are (not) being dealt with in most classrooms and curricula, notice how the three line-up.  If students today, in our 20th Century schools had positive self-initiative, plagiarism wouldn’t be an issue.  Certainly acts of plagiarism may tap into self-initiative, but this is to circumvent uninspiring and extrinsically motivated tasks.  Similarly, spot knowledge becomes the raw data for critical thinking if we cared to alter our assignments.  Finally, in a world where accessing exploding information is like “sipping from a firehose,” the best option for managing the overflow is as a lifelong learner whose interests shape the data as needed.  Even though developing students with these positive traits has always been worthwhile, it looks like it took the Web throwing a wrench into the Assembly Line to make it necessary.

A sad fact is that while schools can make the curriculum adjustments to support such cognitive development, they play an active and tragic role endangering students’ mental health.  We explore this serious threat in the next chapter.

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Learning Reflection

Too often when teachers talk about “learning” they’re really talking about “school.”  So I use this short guided professional reflection to give everyone a felt sense of that great joyous feeling that is learning.

Reflection on “Learning” from Tom March on Vimeo.

Or just listen to the audio:

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We have a Dream!

Add your Dreams for Cambodia to this Etherpad.

 

YouTube Preview Image
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Exploring Leadership

1. The Characteristics of Leaders

Last week students at CCF6 brainstormed the characteristics that they thought good leaders demonstrate.

Here is a list showing the terms used as nouns and adjectives with their syntactical context.  Use this page to help you write your sentences in the next step:

The list is now in a Google Doc where students should write correct and meaningful sentences for each term.  Students can count-off or choose their favorite terms to write sentences about.  When the sentences are drafted, they will be reviewed for correctness and then rehearsed aloud to practice English pronunciations.

2. Finding Characteristics You Value

The class brainstormed 18 different — and important — characteristics for for leaders.  But no one in the world can be this good!  Please choose 4 – 6 that you think are the most important. You will use these to analyse different leaders from the past the present.  Let’s practice with one leader who has recently died.

Remembering Nelson Mandela

Watch the video and pay attention for examples of any of the 4 – 6 characteristics of a leader that you chose.

When the video is over (or we have watched enough), you will answer this question and support your answer using your 4 – 6 characteristics of a leader:

Was Nelson Mandela a Great Leader?

Claim Support Question

1. Make a claim about the topic

2. Identify support for your claim

3. Ask a question related to your claim

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Some Crazy Cliff

New Resource Site Launched

crazy cliffWhen I left the classroom in 1995 for a fellowship to develop things like WebQuests and Filamentality, one of the first projects I thought I’d work on was a comprehensive Web-based resource for The Catcher in the Rye.  Ok, so almost 20 years later I get around to it….

The site is (appropriately) called Some Crazy Cliff and focuses on an Understanding by Design approach to unit planning and classic WebQuest formatting that leverages great rich media to promote authentic and meaningful student learning.

Please take a look and send me any feedback.

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The Purpose of Schooling?

See Think Wonder

1. What do you see?

2. What do you think is going on?

3. What does it make you wonder?

Use this EtherPad to brainstorm on these questions.

Add your opinions to this pad

Go to the CCFPilot?

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Northside Christian in December

Hello Again!

Thanks to Stephen, Chris, the Teaching and Learning Committee and the ISV for giving us another day to work together.  Below is the agenda and related activities, but overall the main objective is to take your great Vision and begin to build a curriculum that can make it a reality.

Today’s Agenda:
  • Revisit your Vision: “Our Job” & “Successful Learners”
  • Tame the (Australian) Curriculum
  • The Edge-ucators Way – a model for Authentic Learning

Revisit your Vision

Tame the (Australian) Curriculum

The Edge-ucators Way – a model for Authentic Learning

How Real, Rich and Relevant Learning supports your goals:

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Feedback on Achieving “Successful Learners”

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ISV Showcase and Wrap-up

Hello one and all!

It’s been along time since we’ve seen one another, but this is a great day when we get to do two main things:

  1. Share our experiments integrating ICTs and authentic learning
  2. Look toward 2014 and discuss strategies to support successful change.

Update

Because it’s been a while since our last session, please update everyone on some of the things you’ve been up to in the interim.  Use the Comments feature of this post to do this, so then later people can reply to you to leave their feedback when we get into “Sharing” next.

Sharing

Below are links to things workshop participants have used or developed this year.  Please take time to look through each and then Leave a comment for the author.

Concurrent Activity: 2014 and Beyond: Making Personal Learning a Reality

Andrew
Ben
Gjulsime
Ian
Jasmine
Jo
Narelle
Penny
Sadia
Sonia
Taya

2014

Schoolwide
Personal

Resources

Here are some other resources people have found useful that they wanted to share.

Web 2.0
Apps

Review & Farewell

  • Debrief 2014
  • Reviewing Next Era Ed
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A Day with Stella Maris

 Welcome!

stella1Today is a full day of professional learning with the whole staff of Stella Maris College.  As the starting point for everything, we’ll see what people see as the Challenges they face.

Agenda

Here’s a list of the main points we’ll focus on for today:

  • Understanding the challenges we face
  • Defining how we see our job
  • Setting a clear, indisputable and shared vision of our goals for students.
  • Using technology to facilitate authentic, engaging and personalised learning
  • Considering what’s needed to revise the curriculum to support 1:1 Digital Learning

Activity #1: Your Greatest Challenges

Brainstorm (anonymously?) the greatest challenges of your job

stella-wordle

Activity #2: What is your Job?

  1. Work in your small groups to discuss this question.
  2. As a small group, compose one sentence that best captures your group’s thinking?
  3. One at a time each group will modify a compilation description:

What is your Job? One Sentence Essence

When you are not the “modifying group,” you will engage in Activity #3 below.

Activity #3 – Explore “Look to Learns”

While your colleagues are modifying the “One Sentence Essence” of your job, please explore the links below. After this “discover immersion” session, You will be asked the following questions:

  1. What are the key components of the activity format?
  2. What do you think the purpose of these activities are?
  3. What would be the educational value of such activities?
  • Also – Explore the latest Look to Learn’s in the Stream or Archive

Morning Tea

Activity 4 – Review & De-brief

Challenges

  • Challenges: Logistics or Learning?: Wordle and Word Doc
  • Review – 20th vs 21st Century Schooling?
  • Presentation on Learning?

Our Job

  • Review the One Sentence Essence & its evolution.
  • Our Job: Teaching or developing successful Learners?

Activity 5: Our Mandated Job – Learning in the 21st Century

Presentation – How 1:1 Changes “School”

Melbourne Declaration

“The development of the Australian Curriculum will occur over three broad timeframes and is guided by two key documents: the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (pdf) and the Shape of the Australian Curriculum (pdf).”

from the opening paragraph on the Curriculum page of the ACARA Web site.

Validation from the Shape of the Australian Curriculum:

The curriculum development work of ACARA is guided by the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, adopted by the Ministerial Council in December 2008. The Melbourne Declaration emphasises the importance of knowledge, skills and understanding of learning areas, general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities as the basis for a curriculum designed to support 21st century learning.

The Melbourne Declaration’s vision of ”successful learners“ (what would you add?)

Where’s the Teaching?

Activity 6 – Look to Learn

Resources

Look to Learn

Edge-ucators Way

  C E QA LL / Seek all!

Self-managed Learning Framework for students
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