Websites provide a simple way to share resources, to serve as an anchor point for collaboration, or to do both at the same time. Google Sites is more than a website builder, it brings the power of the entire Google Apps for Education suite into an accessible portal. This website was created for the Adelaide Summit as a self paced workshop. Beginners will be up and running in minutes with a new website, and advanced G-Suite users will learn tips and tricks to take sites further to integrate the apps you know and love.
Personally, I find technology exciting not for how it works, but for how it can work for me. In my experience in industry, that meant applying or even inventing technology, to provide business solutions. In education, it means embracing technology to find new ways to improve learning, teaching, and administration. However, technology is complex and poses challenges for schools that were not previously part of the school eco-system as schools now reach beyond the school boundaries into cloud computing, personal devices with 24/7 access, subscription resources, and a world of choice. While enabling student learning is the ultimate goal, D-LIFE addresses the organisational aspects required for effective teaching and learning in a digital age. While many of the existing international standards and frameworks address student and teacher standards, D-LIFE, like the ISTE Essential Conditions, looks at what is needed at the school organisational level.
To help school leaders navigate this digital landscape, I began a global research project as my doctoral dissertation to determine the essential criteria for enabling learning in a digital age. The resulting Digital Learning Implementation Framework for Education (D-LIFE) includes these essential criteria agreed upon by educational technology leaders and international education experts around the world. Starting from the literature, the expert panel voted on the essentiality of each criteria, and then proposed new criteria for consideration.
D-LIFE provides a framework to evaluate current levels of implementation, and determine areas where school growth is required. D-LIFE can also be used to guide leaders to ask the questions of other stakeholders, like technicians, parents, and faculty to ensure educational goals remain the priority of technical initiatives.
D-LIFE comprises 10 categories:
- Services and Support
- Technology Implementation
- Quality and Evaluation
- Resources and Resourcing
- Learning Environments
- Professional Learning
- Community Engagement
Each of these categories has between 5 and 33 essential criteria. Using a four point scale of low-high, schools leaders can assess the level of implementation of each criteria and determine appropriate action based on the local context.
Closely aligning with the ISTE Essential Conditions, D-LIFE provides further validation of the ISTE Essential Conditions while offering a practical framework for informing school strategic planning and evaluation, as well as potentially providing accountability measures to evidence the impact of technology investments.
You can download D-LIFE in summary format here. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in learning more about how D-LIFE can be applied in your context.
Flipped learning expert, Jon Bergmann recently announced the launch of the Flipped Learning Certification program. I was fortunate enough to access a pre-release version of the program and become the first ever Flipped Learning Certified Educator. In this post, I want to share some of the insights from the course and perspectives on Flipped Learning.
Why Flipped Learning?
According to Bergmann, Flipped Learning, is about making the most of class time by leveraging the flexibility afforded by technologies. Flipped learning makes the most of group and individual instruction to free up teachers to better support learners. In a nutshell, the shift happens by moving direct instruction from the group space into the individual space. In theory, teachers will have more time to support learners with more complex aspects of learning. In practice, although videos are a key element of Flipped Learning, the essence of flipped learning is re-inventing in-class time to enable students to develop and apply mastery learning.
Personally, I connected this understanding with principles of cognitive psychology and self-determination theory popularised by author Dan Pink in his book Drive where Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose are deeply connected to motivate learning and the application of skills purposefully. In this initial course, Bergmann hints at the advanced levels of Flipped Learning where purposeful mastery is developed. For those already applying a design-thinking, challenge based learning, problem based learning, or inquiry learning approach, getting hold of Flipped Learning tools and approaches promises to amplify these pedagogies. For those teaching more traditionally, this course may change your thinking about your approach, and show you how to free up time to improve student learning.
How to Flip
The course provides many examples of how to get started creating flipped resources and embracing the flexibility offered by technology. Bergmann covers a breadth of topics to enable individual teachers as well as administers get started with Flipped Learning. Rich with examples, Bergmann, shares expertise from his own experience as a Tech Director and High School Science teacher as well as examples from other Flipped Learning practitioners.
Of particular interest to K-6 Educators is what Bergmann calls the “In Flip”. The In Flip changes up the structure of face to face class time to include blended learning or technology enhanced learning, with a particular focus on direct instruction delivery. By providing direct instruction in the individual space (eg. on a computer or mobile device), students are able to pause, rewind and access instruction as needed. What this means for teachers is more time working with small groups and providing specialised direct instruction when and where needed. In this way, teachers spend time recording Flipped learning video resources so students tune in to direct instruction before applying the concepts learned.
The Flipped Learning certification course makes the why, what, and how of Flipped Learning clear. Given the rapidly changing nature of technology and varied technological contexts between schools, educators will need to use their imagination about how to approach Flipped Learning in their contexts. For me, I could see many possibilities to add Flipped Learning into our existing rich inquiry practice to continue the shift to learner-centered learning. For example, teachers can create eBooks with video instruction for students to access when and where needed. Flipped learning principles can also be applied to fostering strong connections between home and school by flipping parent information nights and parent communication. While the initial course just scratches the surface of what is possible for learning in a digital age, the course is a useful beginner’s guide to understand the possibilities. If you aren’t yet flipping, are currently flipping and want certification, or are an administrator wanting to leverage technology more broadly to enhance learning, the Flipped Learning Certification course is worth looking into.
For Educational Leaders, Tech Integrators and Tech Directors
Whole school strategies are needed to harness technology for learning. Bergmann shares insight into technology decision-making that has broad impact on teaching and learning. I would invite school leaders to consider other organizational changes needed to provide policy, communication, infrastructure, resource provisioning, professional learning, and support systems to enable digital learning approaches, including Flipped Learning. Flipped Learning may well be the starting point to learning in a digital age. Have a look at the Flipped Learning Global Initiative.
Digital Citizenship is citizenship at a fast pace, with lasting consequence, and easy access to large communities. Teaching digital citizenship requires a community approach as the life associated life skills cross home school boundaries, just as technology does. Here are some thoughts about introducing digital citizenship in K-12 schooling.
When do you start teaching digital citizenship?
When technology was limited to computers in labs or family desktops, the urgency to teach digital citizenship wasn’t there. Now with phones in the hands of toddlers, the practice starts young. In primary school the initial teachings of Internet Safety start with many of the same tenants of protective behaviors including:
- don’t give away private details,
- don’t talk to strangers,
- think before you act, and above all;
- have a trusted circle of adults you can ask for help whenever unsure.
Technology adds some new twists, but the core tenants of Internet Safety align well to other aspects of social and emotional learning.
What can parents do?
As the primary educator of children, parents need to understand the new responsibilities of parenting in a
digital age. This is a responsibility none of us have been prepared for by our parents simply because the technology didn’t exist. This means parents need to think about their approach to digital citizenship and online safety while children are still young. Here are some tips I’ve gained from our parent community:
- Model the behavior you want to see.
- Think about ALL the devices you have (Smart TV, AppleTV, Wii, Playstation, iPad, smart watches, tablets, etc…) as well as the apps (NetFlix etc…) and check parental control settings
- Consider a Home Technology Use Agreement in your home to discuss the boundaries and expectations (how long? what content? screen time balance? permissions? outside the home?)
- Keep the dialogue going. Internet safety considerations grow with age. Keep the communication open, and assume parent roles for monitoring.
- Be a parent. Reserve your right to set the boundaries, check the histories, and impose restrictions when needed. Children may try to convince you they are more tech savvy, but will hopefully thank you later for ensuring their safety and age-appropriate access through your wisdom and life savvy. Don’t forget to guide grandparents and other caregivers too.
- Check out the many resources available to parents through the Australian eSafety commissioner or Common Sense Media.
What can schools do?
- Run Parent Digital Citizenship workshops. Schools can help parents with how to monitor use, strategies for conversation starters, and building a community to share ideas and strategies.
- Become an eSmart school or Common Sense Media Certified school by developing a whole-school approach to digital citizenship for students, teachers and parents.
- Embed Digital Citizenship into everyday learning with and through technology.
- Develop web filtering strategies that grow as students do. Increase responsibility when students are ready to increase their access.
- Create a Grandparents Guide to Internet Safety. Many parents come to me asking for resources to help grandparents managing children’s technology use.
- Enlist students in the learning process. Create purposeful assessment to educate the whole school community through digital creations including: posters, games, ebooks, and advertisements.
What can teachers do?
- Model thinking processes online
- Give students opportunities to learn online and practice skills of digital citizenship in safe environments (eg. Edmodo or Google Classroom)
- Monitor your students online behavior in your virtual classroom and use mistakes as teachable moments to learn
- Become a Common Sense Media Certified Educator
- Embed Digital Citizenship into your classroom culture, purposefully through teaching about it early on, and continually practice and review.
- Familiarize yourself with useful teaching resources:
This is a growing and changing space, with technology in the hands of babes we all have much to learn.
The Horizon report lists Blended Learning as one the top trends for K-12 education (Johnson et al., 2015).
Blended learning, is an emerging term describing face-to-face learning with online learning. In its essence, blended learning is seen to have the potential to transform learning by personalizing learning and providing learners with varied approaches to learn at their own pace, space, and time and pathways. With technology readily and Internet access available, blended learning is seen by some as an approach that so significantly changes learning it is causing the world to re-think whole education systems (US Department of Education Office of Technology, 2014; UNESCO, 2014)
Examples of approaches to blended learning include “Flipped Learning” where students access learning resources outside of class and then participate in other learning activities when face to face. Other approaches, although sometimes considered merely an extension of ICT integration, include providing instruction and resources online supplemented by in-class experiences with and without technology. This approach gives learners the ability to pause, rewind and revisit instructions and resources as needed. Other approaches include activities, lessons or even courses entirely outsourced to third party providers (think Pearsons).
So what is being blended?
What is being blended is digital and physical, teacher time with students, and home and school!
What does blended learning look like in a primary school?
The take up of virtual learning environments is telling with over 80 million users between Edmodo and Google Classroom (see their websites for up to date numbers). While there is no prescribed approach to blended learning, these sites, as well as the multitude of LMS’s available show that primary educators are incorporating some sort of platform for learning. Reasons vary, but here are some I’ve found:
- Workflow for student created digital artifacts (eg. Books, Movies)
- Collaborate on multi-user documents
- Collaborate with other students
- Provide Feedback on digital media texts
- Communicate with instructor
- Connect home and school
Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015). NMC horizon report: 2015 K-12 edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from http://www.nmc-.org
UNESCO. (2014). UNESCO education strategy 2014-2021. Paris, France: UNESCO. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org
U.S. Dept. of Education Office of Educational Technology. (2014). Future Ready Schools: Building Technology Infrastructure for Learning, 70 p. Retrieved from http://tech.ed.gov/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Future-Ready-Schools-Building-Technology-Infrastructure-for-Learning-….pdf
I’ve often wondered why competent and confident teachers are sometimes thrown off kilter by new technology. After all, a great teacher is by definition an excellent learner. Teachers learn new things all the time. So why does technology add an element of fear and trepidation for some? With time as the most precious commodity for teachers, I expect fear of lost time plays into these anxieties and hesitations. Working in the area of technology, I’ve never considered myself a technologist, but rather an expert learner. I like to try all the menu options and work out the functionality, all the while looking at new application opportunities.
As we implement new technologies in schools, teachers cry out for more technical support. I’m of mixed mind about this and question the right balance of enabling support versus what I call rescuing support. Enabling support is proactive and includes self-help, coaching and growing a community of learners who perpetuate this cycle. Rescuing help fixes the immediate problem, but keeps teachers coming back for more. Rescuing help could never be staffed fully as new problems arise and the old ones perpetuate. Teachers want their technical problems to be fixed, but to a large extent in my experience, still feel helpless to solve the problems themselves and want someone else to “just FIX it”. When systems and technology is error prone, this attitude is understandable. However, when systems are singing and the technology “just works” most of the problems are of an educational nature. Parents too are challenged by the rapid growth of take-home technology in use in schools. So.. what strategies can help people to help themselves and their children? Here are some I’ve tried over the past year for technical support, learning teams, students and parents.
Tips for the Techies
- Think like a teacher. Make sure it works the first time and proactively provide clear instructions
- Show children how to solve their technical problems and have them show you back. Teach them to teach their classmates.
- Provide Self-Help strategies for common problems that can be accessed again and again via an iTunes U course, eBooks or FAQs in the Help Desk
- Post clear instructions on all AV equipment. Keep things consistent and simple so teachers can help each other.
- invest in lead learners and share within teams and professional learning communities
- provide a weekly SnipITS sharing session at staff meetings
- run TeachMeets at school where sharing is the norm
- feed great tools and resources to lead learners to share within their teams
- provide staff induction resources in an iTunes U course that can be revisited and used with new staff through the year
- Provide self-help books on their devices for common problems (adding printers, what to do if you can’t print, about content filtering…)
- Have self-help posters in the junior years and keep referring back to them
- Create student experts (App Captains, Techies, …) to help each other (and the teachers)
- Create an iTunes U course for Digital Citizenship (help parents understand risks and responsibilities in a digital age)
- Run parent workshops at your school or refer parents to workshops at the local Apple Store or equivalent
- Create tasks that involve parents with student technology (eg interview your parents, record feedback, or have them take pictures of students taking action on their learning)
Some may seem rather simple, but all are geared toward building confidence and enabling others with technology. What strategies do you use to enable learning in your context?
Collaborative Communities: Developing Children as Global Citizens
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Nelson Mandela 1994
Global Perspective flickr photo by www.liveoncelivewild.com shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
Global interdependence requires our citizens to competently participate in local, national and global communities. Significant research in the higher-education arena, including innovative graduate and postgraduate programs aligning universities and their students across the globe under the tenants of social learning theory, emphasise the importance of participation in membership communities enabled by technology to foster global competence amongst graduates (Nerad, 2010). Both pedagogy and technology use are changing as agile student-initiated media, in which learning is co-created and self-directed, is increasingly favoured by universities over teacher-created learning spaces delivered through traditional Learning Management Systems. Technology is progressively viewed as an enabler to enhance students’ ability to learn about global issues and participate in global communities.
Global connectivity and participation is now accessible to elementary schools and not just academics (Vega and Terada, 2013). Where elementary schools have long practiced participating in and learning with and about local communities, some are now bringing the local to the global by using technological resources to investigate the world, recognise perspectives, communicate ideas and take action (Mansilla and Jackson, 2011). With increased access to technology (Nagy, 2002), awareness of digital citizenship safety and responsibility requirements are heightened. More than just etiquette and safe practice, Global citizenship, require authentic participation in technology enhanced learning communities. While today’s students are asking for variety, flexibility and agility as well as opportunities to communicate, connect and collaborate with peers teachers and experts (Project Tomorrow, 2014), students’ learning experiences at home and school are not always on a level playing field.
Real issues to global collaboration in online communities include a very growing Digital Divide between those with privileged resources and those in the least connected countries (Nagy, 2002). In addition to challenges with language, motivation and timetabling (Samra, 2007), some educators are hindered by the lack of a deep desire to innovate, a distrust of difference and the lack of means to assess new interdisciplinary and collaborative ways of thinking (Mansilla and Jackson, 2011). Perhaps the greatest barrier exists within individuals with self-imposed limits created by their own inexperience in global contexts (Nerad, 2010).
While professional and government bodies advocate for increased child safety (ACCE 2014), elementary schools rapidly embrace resources like Common Sense Media (US), Australian Communication and Media Authority’s Cybersmart (Australia) and Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (UK), but how relevant are these resources in web-filtered, walled garden scenarios at school if students don’t make the link to home and to the greater world?
We can no longer prepare our students for a world of the past. Educators need to first recognise the importance of their own role in global education and choose professional learning strategies that involve themselves in global communities to gain first hand experience, perspectives and relationships in this global education economy. As life long, self-directed learners modelling their practice, educators can then apply heutagogy into scaffolded classroom pedagogy to expand student horizons through dynamic, collaborative participation in a complex and interconnected world as global citizens themselves. We need to educate our teachers to use technology effectively to collaborate both within and beyond classrooms. In the elementary contexts this could include participating in global projects and developing sustained relationships with classes from other parts of the world to collaborate through a plethora of tools both synchronously and asynchronously. Internationalisation is not a subject in and of itself in the primary classroom, but a perspective to be integrated into the everyday practice of teaching and learning as in the International Baccalaureate program (Vega and Terada, 2013) where “international-mindedness” is fostered through transdisciplinary themes of local and global significance. Models like Puentedura’s SAMR provide a framework for using technology to truly transform learning (Puentedua 2014). In the case of community building, technology has the power to transform learning through access to and participation within purposeful, authentic global communities. Teachers, open up your classrooms! There is a world waiting to be explored.
Image: CC by Keoni Cabral
Cochrane, T., Buchem, I., Camacho, M., Cronin, C., Gordon, A. and Keegan, H. (2013). Building global learning communities. Research in Learning Technology, [online] 21(0). Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v21i0.21955 [Accessed 23 Oct. 2014].
Department of Education & Training, (2005). Research on Learning: Implications for Teaching, edited and abridged extracts. Research eLert. Melbourne: Department of Education and Training State of Victoria.
Higgins, H., Xiao, Z. and Katsipataki, M. (2012). The Impact of Digital Technology on Learning: A Summary for the Education Endowment Foundation. Durham: School of Education, Durham University, pp.1-6.
International Telecommunication Union, (2013). Measuring the Information Society 2013. Geneva: International Telecommunication Union.
Lin, S. (2012). Publisher’s Note: The Correct ISSN 2227-7102 for Education Sciences. Education Sciences, 2(4), p.254.
Mansilla, V. and Jackson, A. (2011). Educating for global competence. New York, N.Y.: Asia Society.
Maresca, P., Guercio, A., Stanganelli, L. and Arndt, T. (2014). Experiences in Collaborative Learning. Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society, 10(3).
Moyle, K. (2014). Technologies, Democracy and Digital Citizenship: Examining Australian Policy Intersections and the Implications for School Leadership. Education Sciences, [online] 4(1), pp.36-51. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/educsci4010036 [Accessed 23 Oct. 2014].
Nagy, G. (2002). Measuring the Activity of the Information Society Creating regional, county and town level information indexes (in the case of Hungary). Katedra Gospodarki Przestrzennej i Planowania Przestrzennego.
Nerad, M. (2010). Globalization and the Internationaliza- tion of Graduate Education: A Macro and Micro View. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, [online] 40(1), pp.1-12, Keynote address. Available at: http://depts.washington.edu/cirgeweb/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Nerad-2010.-Globalization-and-Internationalization-of-Graduate-Education.-A-macro-and-micro-view..pdf [Accessed 23 Oct. 2014].
Project Tomorrow, (2014). The New Digital Learning Playbook: Understanding the Spectrum of Students’ Activities and Aspirations. Speak Up National Research Project. Irvine: Project Tomorrow.
Puentedura, R. (2014). Ruben R. Puentedura’s Weblog: SAMR for Leadership: Beyond the Basics. [online] Hippasus.com. Available at: http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/000133.html [Accessed 1 Nov. 2014].
Samra, M. (2007). Creating Global Citizens? The Case of ‘Connecting Classrooms’. 1st ed. [ebook] London: Media@lse, pp.1-66. Available at: http://www.lse.ac.uk/media@lse/research/mediaWorkingPapers/ElectronicMScDissertationSeries.aspx [Accessed 23 Oct. 2014].
Vega, V. and Terada, Y. (2013). Research Supports Global Curriculum. [online] Edutopia. Available at: http://www.edutopia.org/stw-global-competence-research [Accessed 23 Oct. 2014].
Leadership expert, and author of “Start with Why”, Simon Sinek, conceptualises the strategy of communicating from the “Why” within a simple, but powerful illustration he calls “The Golden Circle”. The Golden Circle codifies the Why, How and What of communication.
- What you do: everyone knows this
- How you do it: some know this
- Why you do what you do: “very few people or organisations know why they do what they do or why they even exist!”
Sinek claims inspired leaders and organisations all “think, act and communicate” from their purpose – or the inner circle “of why”.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
Sinek aptly exemplifies his point through great leadership examples from Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright Brothers; all leaders who clearly understood and could articulate their purpose to inspire action.
Sinek sees innovators as those who are clear on what they believe and take action early on. He moves us beyond the marketing strategies of features and benefits to the conceptualisation of why they would want your product or service.
In my current profession as an educational technology leader, I draw on my initial career in business to gain strategies and insights into how to more effectively lead by influence rather than authority. Although not speaking directly to educational leaders, Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” provides a conceptual view of communicating from the why to inspire and motivate with purpose. Although communicating from the “why” isn’t exactly a new idea, Sinek’s illustrations make it crystal clear why this method works.
What does this mean for education?
From a learners perspective, we need to keep learning purposeful and from a conceptual level so we tap into personal motivation and relevancy. Motivation, according to Daniel Pink’s “Drive” tells us that intrinsic motivation is based on purpose. It is this purpose that is tied closely to our beliefs. Pink believes to maintain our “drive” we need three components of mastery, autonomy and purpose. Mastery comes from practice and refinements guided by reflection, autonomy from choice and empowerment and purpose that is tied to intrinsic motivation. To develop life-long, self-directed learners we need to enable learners who can manage, monitor and motivate their own learning.
From a school perspective, leaders need to be clear on their purposes and apply strategies that can be conceptualised and carried out to steer the organisation. This purpose needs to emanate through all parent communication, marketing strategies and policies. The purpose needs to be understood, believed and practiced. The same is true for educational bodies on a grander scale.
In my years in education, I have seen many programs, plans and strategies come and go. True purpose is unshakeable. As individuals, we must tap into something deep inside us that aligns us to the organisations we choose to serve, particularly in education where the motivation for exceptional educators is much more than monetary.
As Sinek says:
“Those who lead inspire us. We follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to”.
What motivates you to follow the leaders you are following? What makes your heart sing?
"Open your classroom to the world"
Connected from the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades would have to be the most practical book
I’ve come across in the past year. A year 1 teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator, from remote Moose Jaw, SK, Canada, Kathy Cassidy inspires teachers to step outside their comfort zones and become global learners with their students. Targeted to teachers in the primary years (junior primary to Australians), Cassidy’s book is full of interactive resources and stories of her journey developing a connected classroom. With her “If I can do it , so can you” attitude, Cassidy shares with us why she uses Twitter, Skype, Blogs, Videos and Digital Portfolios to connect young students with the world. Connected from the Start generously shares the stories and practicalities of implementing technology from a classroom teachers perspective. This is not a technology manual, but a guide for teachers wanting to expand the boundaries of their classrooms, build resources, relationships and global perspectives. Full of practical advice for parent nights, privacy, moderation and set-up, this eBook provides practical tips for teachers that only a classroom practitioner could offer.
Connected from the Start is a guide, can be read, clicked, linked and annotated cover to cover, or used as a reference for teachers wanting to dive straight into a particular aspect of global connection.
Although Cassidy has crafted her book with teachers of very young students in mind, her stories and encouragement will help teachers of student of all ages and stages along their journey using technology to expand horizons. The eBook is available as a PDF with hyperlinks and embedded video from the PLPNetwork.
The book isn’t just something to sit on your eReader, rather it opens up a professional relationship and dialogue with a real teacher. I initially met Kathy Cassidy on Twitter (@KathyCassidy), and so can you! In fact she encourages you to interact, share your ideas and provide feedback. Cassidy readily shared her own blog Mrs Cassidy’s Classroom Blog as well as Edubloggers’ Class Blog List with me after a brief 140 character at a time dialogue across the world. She exemplifies connected education in both her book and her practice as a connected educator.
Connected from the Start doesn’t stop at why teachers should create connected classrooms, but examines in depth the journey of teacher and her class of 6 and 7 year olds with blogs, digital portfolios, Google Docs, Twitter, Skype and other technologies sharing the why, what and how of connecting around the globe. These real stories are backed by links to people, sites and resources to get started, encouraging teachers to “open your classroom to the world” and have a flexible mindset toward new opportunities while modelling yourself as a learner.
Who should read this book?
- Primary/Elementary Teachers to get practical tips for developing a connected classroom. You can do it!
- ICT Coaches and Integrators to see clearly through the eyes of a classroom teacher. Ask yourself: How can you enable teachers like Kathy Cassidy who aren’t sure how to take the next step using technology purposefully?
- Principals and School Leaders to better understand what it means to be a global citizen in today’s classroom. Ask yourself: “Am I a connected educational leader? How can I leverage these same tools on a broader scale”?
- Education Authorities to ask: “What policies, systems and strategies are need to enable our students to operate as fully functional global citizens?”
As an ICT Coordinator, I empathise with many of the challenges Cassidy faced and strive in my role to think through and avoid some of the possible barriers through developing whole school approaches that make things easier for teachers. Student account management and interfaces, policy development, infrastructure enablement, parent communication methods and tool selection can be time consuming jobs. In my opinion, technology needs to enable education and educational needs must drive technology requirements. Encouraging teachers isn’t enough if the site is blocked, the internet too slow or the technology doesn’t work. An agile, coordinated approach to technology is required at school level.
New privacy laws introduced in Australia also bring about a few more hoops to jump through. It is concerning that some Australian jurisdictions are placing restrictions on “cloud computing” at the same time our increased access to technology holds more potential than ever. Students need access to tools, and to people around the globe with varying expertise and cultural perspectives.
Connecting with the world can no longer be an optional part of a teachers’ role if we want authentic global resources, relationships and experiences for our students. Global projects like Flat Connections, Global Classroom’s Edmodo Pen Pal and the annual Global Education Conference offer online opportunities to “learn about the world with the world” (Flat Connections Project motto) and give teachers the freedom to pursue their passions. So as Cassidy asks:
“What’s your next step?”
Could you buy ingredients and create a healthy meal for four people for under $1.50 USD?
As a year 5 homeroom teacher, and Apple Distinguished Educator, Jane describes the process she and her collaborators undertook to outwork one Challenge Based Learning (CBL) project with a class of 5th graders from Sinarmas World Academy in Jakarta. The book is free from the iBookstore as an interactive, visually rich illustration of exemplary teaching and learning. Educators will appreciate the depiction of this student-led, inquiry-based approach providing meaningful, relevant and engaging learning opportunities. Full of photographs, slideshows and video, this media-rich book takes you on the student’s learning journey and shares with you their investigations, reflections and deliberate actions to solve community problems.
The teachers posed the challenging problem:
“It is our shared responsibility to ensure resources are more evenly distributed”
and guided students through an inquiry process where students took the lead posing and investigating their own questions. They were given the opportunity to think deeply about meaningful world problems and respond locally by taking action in a nearby community. To better understand the resource needs, students collaboratively investigated:
- life on a limited budget
- life in a local “Landfill Community”
Visiting a local community with so many resource needs led students to identify real issues facing this neighbouring community and further inquire into new challenges, problems and opportunities to solve problems with lighting, safe shelter and clean water; all problems that are difficult for governments to solve let alone school children!
Students became problem-solvers, inventors and advocates posing real solutions. More importantly, they gained cultural understanding and empathy within their extended community. Their reflections indicate that they see themselves as global citizens who are able work in teams and with help from around the world, to tackle the world’s problems.
I recommend this book for teachers interested in fostering student-inquiry, empowering students to take meaningful action, or publishing for purpose.
What I loved about this book was:
- the clear illustration through example of transdiciplinary learning where many “subjects” were explored in-depth “just in time”,
- the clarity of the role of teacher as activator, facilitator and learner with students clearly in the driver seat of meaningful learning they won’t soon forget; and
- that it is freely shared with the world and encourages global perspective!
I agree with Ross on the power of student-led inquiry and applaud her for sharing her experience in this accessible way. However, I expect teachers in Australia and other developed nations will face a few of their own challenges implementing learning in this way:
- Do privacy policies limit us from sharing work in this way?
- Would risk assessment plans prevent us from accessing communities in these conditions?
- Would our subject-based national curriculum veer us toward set achievement standards and sacrifice depth of learning for breadth?
- Do we have the agility in our learning spaces, timetables and pedagogies to take learning in new directions based on learners’ wonderings?
- Are our communities too insulated to look at the needs of our neighbours near and far?
- Will we step out of our comfort zones and model ourselves as learners to extend learning in unfamiliar contexts?
- Will students score as well on national tests and impact school ratings negatively?
- Does a national curriculum designate a ceiling for student learning and cap it or does it have the same potential Ross outlines to create a launchpad for learning?
There are many implications for school leaders related to culture, however the greater challenge may lie in imposed national curricula. In Australia, the 2014 Australian Curriculum Review final report poses some of these concerns at a national level, particularly around fragmenting and overcrowding the curriculum and giving preference to discipline-based pedagogies. My hope is that we can find ways to empower rather than overwhelm innovative practitioners who wish to follow Ross’ lead.