Thursday, 7 September 2017

Education for the Future

Thanks to Leigh Hyne's recent blog post  I viewed the video of an interview with the OECD’s Director for Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher. The video is an hour long but worth watching as there are many interesting points raised that are relevant to New Zealand (and indeed worldwide) education.

Schleicher was asked (35:39) what was the most important thing a teacher could do to prepare students for their future?  His reply was to stop thinking about preparing students for jobs, jobs will look totally different in the future. In science, for example, we spend too much time on teaching content and too little time teaching students to design experiments and think like a scientist.

This fits really well with my views around the need for an inquiry approach and the use of authentic contexts for learning. Students need to do the work that would be done by those working in the discipline in the community, in science they need to do what scientists do, in art they need to do what artists do.

Schleicher went on to say that coding, for example, will look totally different when younger students leave school. This fits with my view that the coding itself is not the important part. The problem-solving and computational thinking will still be relevant, the ability to think logically, to break tasks down into parts and see patterns, to design solutions, to de-bug when things don't work and to re-design, these skills will still be useful and valuable. This is especially important to keep in mind as we consider the draft of the new Digital technologies area of the curriculum.

Schleicher believes that education systems need to have core values and everything that is in or added to the curriculum needs to be examined against those core values. This works at both a government level and an individual school level.

Schools in New Zealand have to develop their own school curriculum and their core values need to be a the heart of this. This is not always the case. Most schools have worked on developing these sets of core values as part of developing their vision and mission statements but there are still some that have not applied these when developing their school curriculum. Schools that have done this well, Te Kowhai Primary for example, have seen the benefits for their students

Schleicher also talked about early childhood education (49:34) and how formalisation of learning is doing more harm than good and that we need to let children play and socialise,  which proponents of play-based learning would be heartened to hear.

It was interesting to hear the question (51:47) from Mark Treadwell, a New Zealand educator, on how we overcome the lack of understanding around what is the difference between knowledge, an idea, a concept and a concept framework. There is a definite need to develop common understandings around what these terms mean as it impacts on both curriculum design and implementation.

Schleicher emphasised that we need to teach fewer things at greater depth, to get to the root of the discipline, to foster students' talents. Japan, for example took 30% of material out of their curriculum and it resulted in an increase in creative skills and creative problem solving. He  remarked on the tendency of schools to prioritise the urgent over the important. Just having more learning time does not equate to better outcomes (Pisa data shows a negative correlation).  He asserts that we need to help students find their passions, what they are good at, what is going to serve a social purpose.

Cross-posted from my Inquiring Mind blog

Monday, 3 July 2017

Coding for their Future

This week the draft of the revised Technology Curriculum was released. I have written a blog post looking at the new draft and what it means for teachers. Take a look at Coding for Their Future.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Blended Ways of Working

Now, more than ever, with the rising need for collaborative inquiry across and with schools, there is a need for online spaces that allow teachers and school leaders to come together to share resources and discuss and debate with one another. These spaces can be used to supplement and support the face-to-face (f2f) discussions that take place.

There are many reasons for wanting to use an online space, these are some:
  • accessible 24/7 on any internet-capable device. This allows people to take part at a time and place that suits them
  • some people will contribute in a forum but not f2f. It means the quieter folk get their voices heard
  • Resources in the cloud - not easily lost, everything in one place
  • Content such as images, videos etc can be added and are thus easily accessible
When deciding which space to use it pays to think about what you need from an online space then check what is available against your criteria. Some things you might want to consider are:
  • Can anyone join? Do you need to have people outside your school joining? This is important for clusters as some platforms won't allow participation of those outside the school domain. Is it easy to join? 
  • Can you easily add files and resources from your computer and Google Drive?
  • Can images and videos easily be shared and can they appear as an image or embedded video rather than just links? What can you add these to replies in a discussion?
  • Does it need to be private and if so can you change the privacy settings to suit?
  • Can all members easily participate in a discussion in the group?
Table comparing options:

Joining Easy to  discuss Add files Add images
& video
From link  email.Needs Gmail acc.
Upload Office files to Drive or use Office 365 Sharing
Public or Private
Yes - from link or invite. Can join from outside domain.
Can create discussion channels.
Yes and can embed some code.
Public or private. You can create channels for sub-groups
From email or code.
Join as teachers.

Yes, can add files via link or upload them to your library & share
Can create sub-groups
VLN group
Need VLN acc. Closed groups - email invite
A little clunky
Adds a download link
Links. Can upload some resources.
Can be public or Private
Face- book group
From link or invite.
 Requires Fb acc.
Can upload files to the group. Can link to other files.
Open, Closed or Secret
Email invite
 Add a link.
Can embed some items eg Google docs
Images &
embed Youtubes   in posts. Post links in replies.
Public, private or invite only
Google Class-room
Email invite or code. Must have Gmail acc.
Yes, works best when all  are co-teachers. 
Upload Office docs to Drive or use Office 365 Sharing 
Yes but only the link appears in replies.
Invite only

So what exactly are the options out there and how do they measure up? Here are a few of my favourites that include the ability to discuss topics:
  • Google+ Communities Can be public or private.   Public - can ask to join if you have the link. Can restrict to just your domain or allow members outside the domain. Need to have gmail address and join Google+. Can invite via a link with members asking to join or invite by email.
    Private - invite by email, only members can see posts. Can moderate discussions by only allowing approved posts.
    Can create polls, add photos and embed video. Add files via a sharing link or upload to Google Drive and share the link. Very easy to have a discussion on a particular topic.
    Overall a good option if people have Gmail accounts (school or personal)
  • Slack - Works like a news feed but you can have several different feeds (channels) going within on Slack group so you could have a general one and one for each separate main topic you discuss. Each learning challenge or goal could have its own channel for example. You can choose from within group members as to who can see the channel so you could have sub-groups. Easy to add resources. Need to authenticate Google Drive or Dropbox first then directly link to files from these.
    Overall a good option for discussions and is easy to join and use although the format may take a little getting used to.
  • Edmodo - has the look and feel of Facebook but doesn't require a Facebook account. Join Edmodo as a teacher then use the group code to join the group
    Can add files from computer or links to files. Can add quizzes and polls.
    Overall this is a good option alternative to a Fb group if all teachers don't have a Facebook acc or they don't like using it for work purposes.
  • VLN group - Any teachers can join. Joining with school email address seems to make the process quicker.  Can set the privacy of a group: Open - any VLN member can join. Anyone can view, only members can comment. Closed  - invite only, can only be seen by members. Discussion threads can be started and resources can be shared as links or in uploaded. This is a little clunky however. Posts are ordered with oldest first which seems counter-intuitive.
    Overall this option is not so easy to use for discussions or adding resources, nor are they as viewable as other options. If a public group is wanted it has the advantage of being very visible to teachers.
  • Facebook group- Open - anyone can see posts and join, Closed, anyone can see the group and ask to join but only members can see posts. Secret - invitation-only. The advantage of this is that many people are already on Fb and the discussions will pop up in their feed or they can get notifications if wanted. A Fb account is required and not everyone has or wants one and some like to keep their work and personal life separate.
    Files can be uploaded to the Files section or a document created although there can be formatting issues with this. In posts resources can be shared. Adding hashtags eg #numeracy can make finding related posts easier.
    Discussions can be held on a post and images and videos appear in the reply.
    Overall this is a good option provided all members are happy having a Facebook acc and using it for work purposes.
  • Blog - (This refers to Blogger but most other blog sites are similar) Anyone can be invited as an author via their email address but they will need to set up a Blogger or G+ profile if they don't already have one. Blogs can be private, viewable just to authors or by invitation or they can be public.
    Blog posts display in chronological order with the most recent at the top. You can use labels (like tags) on your posts so that you can easily find related topics. People can comment on posts so a discussion can take place but resources can only be shared as links in replies.Individual pages can be set up on a blog. These are more static and can be useful for sharing resources.
    Overall blogs are probably more suited to sharing resources or individual reflection on teacher inquiries. Teachers could invite either public comments or specific people to get feedback.
  • Google Classroom - Until recently you could only use Google Classroom within your school domain unless each school changes the settings in their admin console. Then you can invite people from the domains you allow.
    There is an alternative now as personal Gmail accounts can use Google Classroom. Members must have a personal gmail account to join the Classroom if it is created in a personal acc. which could be an issue for some.
    Google classroom is easy to use once set up and does allow for announcements and questions but so far isn't really set up to easily participate in a discussion and other than the "teacher" there are limited rights given to participants. You can have up to 20 teachers added so for groups of 20 or less this could work.
    Can send docs as viewable or with edit rights. Can send an indiv. copy of a doc to all or some members.
    Overall this option is more suited to use with students than teachers.
Based on the ease of holding discussions I'd recommend Google+ Communities, Slack, Edmodo or a Facebook group. Each have their pros and cons however, so think about what the priorities are for your group and choose accordingly.
If you are just wanting teachers to share their inquiries and have other teachers give feedback then a blog can also work well.

Please reply in the comments if there is another platform you have used or would like reviewed. I'll be posting next week on static resource sites.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Promise of Excellence

This week I had the privilege of working with a group of Year 2 secondary teachers. I was heartened by the discussions related to learning; that of their students as well as their own ongoing learning. As we explored student-centred learning, a level of collegiality emerged with a willingness to exchange ideas and question current practices.

We began by uncovering  the ‘why’ behind a learner-centred classroom. We engaged with readings available from UNESCO and Enabling eLearning.  How could we develop the dispositions necessary for our students to become successful, contributing members of society? The student-centred approach encourages teachers to let go of the teacher as ‘all-knowing’ concept where a directive teaching style predominates and instead develop a relationship with students which is more ako-oriented.

As we developed our understanding of how student-centred approaches could work for our students, we also looked at the place of digital technologies in education. How could they help our students develop the 6 C’s of education for the future? Critical thinking, communication, collaboration, culture, creativity and connectivity?

We used a range of learning strategies ourselves, too. Think, pair, share, walk and talk, jigsaw exercises, linoit brainstorms and shared online notes to name but a few. Then, once the ‘front-loading’, exploration and discussion time ran its course, we moved into application of ideas. These amazing teachers came together in their learning areas to discuss and plan how they would apply this new learning to a unit of work. The buzz was palpable!

A final sharing of key ideas and ‘aha’ moments concluded our day together. If these teachers are an example of the educators in our schools, then we are in good hands. Lifelong, collaborative learners with highly developed communication skills and the ability to apply new learning into specific contexts. Awesome!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Teachers Who Fall Through The Cracks

Crossblogged from Hynessight

Check out your twitter feed, or the VLN (Virtual Learning Network) or whatever personal network you are part of and observe the incredibly inspiring conversations around teaching and learning. From project based learning to innovative learning environments, from coding and robotics universal design for learning to future focused collaboration, from flipped learning to crowdsourcing resources. The list goes on.

It is easy to believe in the evidence of a revolution changing our outmoded industrial model of education into one that is responsive to learners needs, and truly is future focused. We are urged at every step to look out for those learners who might fall through the gaps. Who is failing the national standards, who needs extra supports, who could do with a little boost to their fragile understandings?And teachers all over the world are responding to the evidence that they see in their classrooms in the best ways that they know how.

But what about teachers who are falling through the gaps? Most teachers have jumped on board the train, and are beginning to understand the need for being a lifelong learner so that their students will achieve the best outcomes that they can. But there is a silent faction of underachievers in the teaching profession as well. They are afraid of being shown up, after an age of being the one that their learners and parents look to. They are represented in all age brackets, but they all lie low when professional development opportunities arise. They cover up their lack of understanding by remaining silent, not asking questions, and keeping any conversation about their learners to a minimum, or alternatively restricting discussion to that of the behaviour of their learners. They are afraid that teachers will think less of them if they answer "I don't know." They present as a blank wall.

I don't identify these teachers to shame them. I identify them to say, I know you exist, I know you feel afraid, I know it pains you to feel inadequate, but now is the time to step forward and say - "this is me." EVERY teacher is a learner at the moment. There is so much to learn, so much at stake, so little time in a year when you can make a difference to your students. Stand up and identify yourself as a learner, too. As soon as you start asking questions, you will find yourself part of the most interesting conversations on earth - what does the future hold, how can we prepare the young for it, what skills and attitudes will they need and how can I be a part of it?

Monday, 27 February 2017

Andragogy vs Pedagogy

This posted is adapted from one on my Inquiring Mind blog. The original post was aimed at primary teachers but I feel it applies to all education contexts where there are adult learners as well as younger learners.

There is nothing more likely to get me to screaming point than an article  with accompanying video, about the supposed differences between androgogy and pedagogy. 

Why does it make me scream, you may ask? It may be helpful to start with a definition of both terms:

Pedagogy: The method and practice of teaching (Oxford
Andragogy: the method and practice of teaching adult learners (Oxford

This is interesting because the pedagogy definition makes no mention of the age of the learner, although it has become more common to use this in reference to teaching children and young people, possibly because of its roots in the word paidagōgia meaning 'lead the child'.

The term andragogy appears to have come to the fore because people looked at descriptions of pedagogical practice and said "Hey! that's not how adults learn best". Well I have some news, its not how children learn best either.

This excellent article by Tom Whitby sums up many of my concerns. In particular this list of the characteristics of adult learners from Malcolm Knowles:

  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed 
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences 
  • Adults are goal oriented 
  • Adults are relevancy oriented 
  • Adults are practical 
  • Adult learners like to be respected 
I look at that list and think, so if I made a one word substitution would it still be correct?
  • Learners are internally motivated and self-directed 
  • Learners bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences 
  • Learners are goal oriented 
  • Learners are relevancy oriented 
  • Learners are practical 
  • All learners like to be respected 
Does it still hold true? I think it does. Sure there are degrees of each for all learners but that is true of adults and children alike. Surely we must look at the individual learner and not put them automatically into a category based on some magic age. I have seen incredibly self-directed and goal-oriented children and adults who are neither.

This Pedagogy vs Andragogy chart (The original link is no longer valid so I've linked to Richard Byrne's copy of it) and this article on Andragogy (just the first section on the 5

Differences Of Pedagogy Vs Andragogy In eLearning) really sum up the issue for me. It makes me wonder what the magic age is when people suddenly become adults. Is is 16? 18? 21? 30? Do we wait till the day of their birthday before we suddenly shift to using a different teaching strategy with them?
It makes me want to scream when I read things like "Children have to follow a curriculum. Often, adults learn only what they feel they need to know." , "Children learn skills sequentially. Adults start with a problem and then work to find a solution." and "Children learn by doing, but active participation is more important among adults." (Full list here)

It makes me wonder about a schooling system that thinks the things in the Pedagogy list are okay. Where is the learner agency in this? Why can't young people do the things in the Andragogy column? Answer: because we haven't given them the opportunity.

As Tom Whitby puts it:
"If we respected kids more as learners, they might be more self-directed and motivated in their learning. If they are allowed to participate in their learning, they might take more ownership. "

Thankfully the effective pedagogy section of the New Zealand curriculum looks more like the andragogy section of the Pedagogy vs Andragogy chart. Those who are advocating the type of thinking espoused in the chart should read this section of the curriculum. Let's look closely at the individual learner and let their needs be the basis rather than some set of rules based on an arbitrary age.