ASB Unplugged Reflection Part 2 – Unplanned, Unconference

It seems like forever ago since I landed back in Hanoi after 3 days in Mumbai. Actually, it was only a week ago. I started my reflections with a list of tweets that I sent during the conference.

The first day of ASB Unplugged was devoted to classroom visits, student showcases and discussions by some of the various R&D groups that are functioning at ASB. During that time, quite by chance, I found myself sitting around a table that included Jeff Plaman, Andrew McCarthy, Simon May, Aaron Metz and Adrienne Michetti. What happened over the next 90 minutes was PURE GOLD.

The focus of conferences, for me, has changed. It is no longer about sitting in a room and being told about/shown the  “next great thing” in education. It’s now about sitting in the hallways and in the common areas and leveraging connections that I have already made through Twitter and other aspects of my PLN into deep and meaningful conversations.

In those 90 minutes, we bobbed and weaved through three major points of discussion:

1. Ownership and Exit Strategy – I’ve written about it a long time ago and it still sits somewhere in the back of my mind. How do we balance the needs and wants of teachers to create curriculum materials in spaces all over the internet with the need for the school to have continuity in that curriculum delivery? With such a large amount of transience in international schools in particular, how can schools encourage teachers to create amazing, lasting digital curriculum material that can continue to be used by both parties when that teacher moves to the next school? Related to this, what are we doing as a school to create an “exit strategy” for teachers, helping them to collect all of their digital resources to bring to their next school, ensuring that those resources are available to subsequent teachers? I’d be curious to know if there are any schools with effective checklists for the end of year related to Google Docs, WordPress blogs, and any external wiki platforms that are used. How do you keep track of all the great things that are going on in the classroom on the weeblys and wikispaces and tumblrs and…?

2. New Teachers – Transient teachers mean lots of training. Last year, there were 44 new teaching and admin staff at UNIS due to staff turnover and school growth! We spent a lot of time discussing ways in which we run our various orientations and inductions. CISHK runs a course through Moodle with teacher-created content that is accessible by their new staff prior to their arrival. Included in the course are some short ‘assessments’ on skills. If they can show mastery prior to showing up on campus, then they can skip those training sessions at the beginning of the year and spend time doing other things to prepare for the start of the year. I love this idea. I wonder if we could use Google Forms and Flubaroo as a means of creating self-assessed quizzes for incoming staff to show their understanding?

3. New Students – Student turnover is pretty constant at UNIS. Just this month I’ve seen 4 or 5 new students as they prepare to start in their new classes. Because we are a technology-rich school, students need to feel some level of comfort with the machines and the systems before they can be effective in classes. What’s the balance? How do we effectively and efficiently get these students ready to participate in classes? One things that is working very well this year in the middle school  is the idea of a tech buddy. New students attend a 60 – 90 minute orientation with their tech buddy (who is also their buddy for other things, I believe). Instead of me leading the students through some of the basics of their new computer, I get the buddy to do the brunt of the work. I think this idea has great potential but I’ll need to work with the teachers to ensure that the skills that they feel are necessary from day 1 are being addressed.

I’d love to hear any ideas that you have about any of these three points. The more perspectives the better!


EXIT: cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by zilverbat.


Updated Technology Walkthrough Using SAMR

After my first attempt, I’m back with a new attempt to collect walkthrough data related to technology integration.

I’m currently working with Adrienne and Jeff on a presentation for ASB Unplugged on different coaching models and roles as related to technology. We had a discussion about our roles as data coaches and where this ranks on the list of things that we do. I’m hoping this form will act as a bit of action research for me and my school.

The walkthrough that I envision should take less than 10 minutes and the form is designed to support this. The data that I hope to collect should give me holistic data which can then be used to analyze departments, grade level and even specific teachers. It should be said that this isn’t about evaluation or appraisal (not that I have that power!), but rather about being able to target specific areas for support and PD.

I’ve chosen to use the SAMR model but this can be easily modified to suit your school’s needs or current practices.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this and how it compares to how you collect walkthrough data at your school.

Trans v. Inter Disciplinary – A Visual Guide

I’ve been busy preparing for my upcoming MYP workshop in Mathematics and I’ve been getting all ‘Presentation Zen‘ on the slides. Yes, it adds to the amount of preparation (I could just use some ‘canned slides’ for all workshop leaders) but this way

  • gives me ownership of the content
  • makes me really think about what I’m presenting
  • allows me to make something that I’m proud of
  • will be more helpful to my participants (I hope).

One of the ideas that I was really struggling to present was the difference between transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary teaching and learning. I realized it was because I didn’t fully understand the nuances of them myself!

So, with the help of Twitter (@klbeasley, @amichetti, @stangey especially) and our Curriculum Coordinator, I came up with the following visual metaphors for monodisciplinary, multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary teaching and learning. I wanted something that people could recall in their head to help explain the differences between these terms.

All of the original images used were found on Flickr and licensed under Creative Commons. Please feel free to use or reuse them as you see fit!

I have included some brief explanations on the Flickr pages (each image links back to its Flickr page) for each image but have purposefully left them off here. I wonder if those images clarify, to you, the differences? If you go back and read the explanations, does that help?

Any comments or suggestions, either on the content or the presentation of the slides, are greatly appreciated!

Keep Your Eye on the Blog

I’m not normally an internet meme kinda guy. But I like the idea of spreading a little love and knowledge…

Thanks to Maggie at Tech Transformations for the recommendation as a blog to keep an eye on. Actually, I believe the term she used is “Vale a pena ficar de olho nesse blog,” an initiative to highlight, well, blogs to keep an eye on!

Learning on the Job is an attempt by me to document my thoughts and experiences as I work my way through my new position. It is becoming my de facto portfolio, one that I would happily point any prospective employer towards as it is equal parts reflective and celebratory. It also serves as a sounding board for my thoughts and ideas; just taking the time to write them down help clarify things for me.

Of course, I don’t work or live in a vacuum and I am constantly inspired, motivated and encouraged by my blogging colleagues around the world. Here are 10 of them, presented without commentary:

Keri-Lee at Tip of the Iceberg.

Jabiz at Intrepid Teacher.

Kim at always learning.

Jackie B at Continuities.

David at Questions?.

Dina at The Line.

Adrienne at create. connect. question. (not hugely busy ATM since she is in the middle of her Master’s Degree) and her MYP Language A blog for Triple A learning.

Maria at Teaching College Math.

All the folks at 1 to 1 Schools.

The good folks at Boing Boing.

If you haven’t had a chance to read some of the blogs above, please do check them out. And if you are one of the bloggers listed above and you choose to play along, here are the rules: Copy the picture, link back to here, and recommend 10 blogs of your own for people to keep an on!

Transformative Tools in Education

By Pieter Mustard, licensed under CC BY NC ND
By Pieter Mustard, licensed under CC BY NC ND

“It’s not about the technology.”

This is the popular refrain that we hear constantly in the blogosphere and at conferences devoted to technology and education. And I agree: the purchase/use/integration of technology, in and of itself, does not imply learning any more than the purchase of books implies reading or the purchase of pencils and paper implies writing.

Adrienne is working on this cool Master’s program and, even though she is thousands of miles away, she’s keeping me thinking. In a recent post on OneNote in Schools, she comments

However, I like you, I am not sure about OneNote in terms of a learning tool. Sure, it makes some things easier. But transformative? Notsomuch.

Part of the problem, as we discussed it, is that these tools are not designed for education: they are really productivity tools for the business world whose purposes have been re-articulated to fit into an educational setting. I think this is what the EduPunk meme was all about: a revolt to the use of office-tools in the educational environment. The irony is that the education we are trying to provide using these tools is to enable students to work in fields that extend beyond the typical office!

Unless a tool/system is designed with educational pedagogy in mind it will almost undoubtedly fail to be transformative. All educational pedagogy interested in authentic learning must include, at a minimum, the following facets:

  • Collaboration, because societies do not function in isolation.
  • Connection, because this is now an immutable fact of life.
  • Construction, because the real world requires you to make your own conclusions.
  • Reflection, because learning doesn’t happen during the test; it happens before and after.

As I think about what tools we are using in my school in this manner, it’s clear to see that few if any of can have a transformative effect on education and student learning. It’s also clear why “It’s not about the technology”: because the technology is not about education!

The transformation of education is just itching to happen. But it is being delayed by the nonexistence of systems and learning environments – not tools – that will allow students and teachers to truly harness the technological power that we possess. These systems will not come from Microsoft or Apple or any other developer who is focused on the workplace. These systems must come from educators who understand that improving efficiency does not imply improving student learning.

Doing the Best with What I've Got

Or, What SharePoint has Taught  Reminded Me About the IBO

My school runs a Microsoft SharePoint portal. It’s okay, I guess. It’s a bit clunky, not very attractive and somewhat limited in terms of customization. Or so I thought…

I have been given the keys to my own little kingdom: I have been granted permissions above and beyond those of most teachers (but not fully admin rights) because of my spiffy new job title. And, like any geeky gadget-lovin’ guy or gal, I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to see how far I can go before I break something. And that’s how I discovered that, with the proper design privileges, you can embed media-rich content into SharePoint web pages.

Notice that I did not say blogs or wikis. That is the one feature that is most missed in SharePoint. You simply cannot embed videos or any other script-based ‘widget’ into the SharePoint blogs or wikis. But, emboldened by my new discoveries, I did some more research and came up with this: the Enhanced Rich Text Editor. This just adds a new button to the WYSIWYG editor that allows for exactly the embedding features I’ve been looking for. It hasn’t been installed yet but my Tech Director seems keen on the find too.

I’ve just finished reading “Education Needs to be Turned on Its Head” which was Tweeted to me by my friend @amichetti. I think his words are relevant here:

It’s this: learn about what interests you, gets you curious, gets you excited. Figure out where to get the information you need. Read about it, talk to someone about it, find out about it. Try it. Do it, make mistakes. Figure out how to correct the mistakes. Figure out how to solve the problems you encounter. Repeat.

I’ve just done exactly what we want our students to do. Find a problem; solve a problem. It was my own natural curiousity that drove this inquiry and I was only able to be an inquirer because of that extra bit of tinkering room I was given. We need to take the shackles off the students, give them the room to play, to make mistakes and maybe even break something. Let them be a risk taker! But we also need to guide them down the path of being a responsible and principled memeber of their community. Did you see what just happened?

Image Credit: Kingdom Keys by LivingOS (CC BY SA)

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised… It'll Be Podcasted

NOTE: a version of this post first appeared on an internal blog at our school as was inspired by a post by Jeff Utecht.  This post is also cross-posted at Pockets of Change, a new blog that I co-author with my colleague Adrienne Michetti.

With all due respect to Gil Scot-Heron… Revolution Square

True revolutions are not created or planned. They are organic: they arise when the needs of the masses (students, teachers, and even administrators) outstrip what the dominant establishment (the monolithic entity of ‘Education’) is able to supply.

We are on the precipice of a revolution.  There is a growing number of teachers who realize there is a better way.  There is a change in the demographics of both teachers and administrators as innovators and early adopters of these new technologies take up positions of responsibility within schools. There are groups of students who are becoming more aware of the vast educational possibilities that collaborative technologies allow.

There are two ways for this revolution to be truly initiated: either a watershed event a la the Boston Tea Party, or through a methodical plan of actively searching out the agents of change, slowly proselytizing by example and converting whoever we can whenever we can.  In either case, the goal is to create the critical mass necessary to evoke true reform and revolution in the sphere of education.

Once 50% +1 of a school or even a department are using collaborative technologies in a meaningful and productive way, can the remaining population afford not to? Once the teachers in these trailblazing departments or schools move on to their next destination, as is always the case in international schools, will they willingly go back to the way things were?  These teachers then become the messengers of change as they enter their new schools, bringing with them their expertise and the power of their personal network.

This revolution will be a grass-roots, bottom-up shift from teachers who understand the power of Web 2.0. There should not, can not, and will not be shift in educational philosophy decreed by the powers. That’s not the way revolution works.

Photo Credit: localsurfer