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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

What are some 21st Century Innovations every class can achieve?

Recently I have been challenged to look at pedagogy to discover some 21st Century Innovations that were not just based on technology and could be applied to a majority of classrooms.

The use of video in the context of a lesson has significant impacts on both content retention and student engagement with McInerney  and McInerney (1998, p.166-167) claiming that the technology provides students with ‘greater control over their own learning’ with benefits amounting to enhanced understanding resulting in ‘self-confidence, independence and autonomy’ within learning experiences. In the realm of language education, a key component across all key learning areas (KLA), Mejia (1999) extols the use of video as ‘valuable tool that can enhance a classroom experience’ through the acquisition and development of ‘listening, speaking and writing skills’ and using multiple ‘playbacks’, activities that include independent, group and whole class situations can elicit successful outcomes through ‘planned, flexible lessons, working with the level of the class’. ‘There is no one correct way to use video’ (Stempleski, 1987), however to not use this valuable tool within the class may be to the detriment of those who occupy the room.  

Collaborative discussion
The mutual experiences shared through the use of technology offer realistic opportunities for student/teacher - student/student collaborative discussion to take place before, during and after its use. The importance of collaborative discussion can be seen in the unscripted and unpredictable dialogue which occurs and this collaborative discourse means that the outcomes emanating from these lessons are determined by all participants (Sawyer, 2003). The basic insight of constructivism is that learning is a creative improvisational process (Sawyer, 2003). Recent work that extends constructivist theory to classroom collaboration conceives of learning as ‘co-construction’. Both neo-Piagetian social constructivists and Vygotskian-inspired socio-culturalists focus on how knowledge is learned in and by groups (Verba, 1994) with studies demonstrating the importance of social interaction in groups where the processes reveal insights into how learning takes place, guiding future practice and planning for teachers as a result. 

Kurt Lewin suggests that group work within a balanced, egalitarian, safe and emotionally secure environment is dramatically more effective as a learning methodology then an authoritarian approach (Exley & Dennick, 2004, p. 36). The classroom environment is, or should be, a safe and secure environment where groups can be facilitated in order to advance from a authoritarian environment to a self exploration of ideas, understandings, processes and knowledge applied to practical and educational tasks (Exley & Dennick, 2004, p.37).

Providing opportunities for students to engage collaboratively in lessons and activities is an important part of the learning process as it creates possibilities for students to engage with and develop skills outside the specific framework of the outcomes with any given lesson (Herrington & Herrington, 2006, p.4). The intentional design of groups within this lesson is specifically aimed at allowing students to engage with not only the skills of working together but also solving problems from a collaborative perspective and allowing students to observe and interact with different perceptions and different ways of addressing tasks (Herrington & Herrington, 2006, p. 6). It is this methodology that will allow students to rationalize their own understanding of what needs to be achieved and then articulate that intention effectively to the group as well as evaluate and analyse it in comparison to the other members’ intentions and perceptions. 

Implementing a group rotation phase within the lessons sequence allows students to not only engage with different ideas, concepts and perceptions but it also encourages cooperation. Cooperation is achieved as the elements within the lesson require collaboration to ensure success (O’Sullivan et al, 1996, p.38). Through collaborative learning and group phases students will engage at a deeper level with the lesson material as they will need to have some tasks explained to them by others, which will require the development of questioning techniques, just as they will need to explain aspects to others, requiring reconstruction skills and effective communication (O’Sullivan et al, 1996, p.39). It is this engagement with the task on multiple levels and constructing it in varying ways to ensure others within the group can relate strategies to other students and in turn become a more effective communicator, learner and group collaborator (Jones & Jones, 1998, p.221). 

Student Centred Teaching
Student centred Learning is the process whereby students themselves observe, apply and engage with knowledge to experience success within an environment constructed by a teacher for the students (Glasgow, 1997, p. 34). This is to say that this lesson is designed around the concept of creating an environment whereby students have access to information which they use to develop their understandings and then apply that in contextual problem based or investigation based activities. This methodology is advantageous as it allows students to “learn to learn” and expand their roles as stakeholders in their education (Glasgow, 2007, p.35). 

Learning to learn, or “positive interdependent educational interaction”, is a key aspect of what a contemporary educational environment should be built upon as it allow students to move away from recited facts and recalling list based answers and develop skills in experimentation and exploration to solve problems in the classroom and in life (Johnson et al, 1991, p.17) This lesson fosters these skills and allows students to find answers by employing techniques of questioning, analysing, assessing visible thinking and evaluating rather than recalling rhetoric. This in turn will then equip our students to engage with unfamiliar tasks in the future with confidence as they have developed a learning style built upon adaption, interaction, reflection and experimentation (Fraser. 1996, p. 3).

Computing Technology
Computing technology is used as it offers many benefits to the given lesson; these include demonstration and modelling as the teacher could showcase the application or video from the board (Moss et al, 2007), interactivity with a board or device using their finger as the mouse. It is easy to show the important features of particular software and have students interact with the material. 

Computer technology can accommodate different learning styles (Herrington & Harrington, 2006). Tactile learners can benefit from touching, marking and creating text, audio learners can have the class discussion and auditory multimedia, visual learners can see what is taking place as it develops at the board and it offers multimodal learning which can be tailored to the ability and stage of individual learners (McInerney & McInerney, 1998). Students can work together with individuals contributing either at board or within a Google Doc whilst the group as a whole discussing the activity.

The ultimate goal is to give students the best opportunity to be engaged with each learning experience offering them consistency, accuracy and comprehensiveness. This is primarily a constructivist approach to teaching (Mcleod & Reynolds 2007:12-14) and as such, we appreciate that students build their own understanding of the world they live in. From our experience we find Students respond well to the student-centered approach, they are quick to respond, engage and participate in class. Such an approach establishes high expectations of students and the teachers, in regards to the quality of the learning experiences (Vialle, Lysaght & Verenikina, 2000). The Constructionist approach emphasises hands-on, activity based teaching and learning during which students develop their own frames of thought. 

Computer technology is an excellent tool as it presents the teacher with the ability to encourage critical thinking in students (Hmelo-Silver, Duncan and Chinn, 2007). Its creative use is limited only by the imaginations of teachers and students (Mejia, 1999). The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition Model offers a method of understanding how technology might impact teaching and learning.

Scaffolding and modelling activities
Scaffolding and modelling provides an example of the teacher’s expectations, whereby the most important steps and decisions are emphasised (Jonassen, 1998).  Scaffolding the learning builds student confidence and ability to expand intellectual qualities through constant constructive feedback as part of learning processes (Beale, 2005). This occurs when the learner’s inner speech occurs on an automatic, unconscious level (Ellis, Larkin and Worthington 1994). The teacher demonstrates using video, websites and the information desired for the student to learn then students interact and engages with this to build context for new knowledge. Interaction with technology supports the development of proficiency to create a basis for further student development. Additional scaffolding examples can be contextual support, support by asking 'leading questions' , support by giving away parts of the solution and asking students to draw on their previous experience (Winnips, 1998, p. 35).  In addition to improving learners’ cognitive abilities, scaffolding instruction in the context of classroom learning Delivers efficiency as the work is structured and focused. The distractions have been reduced allowing time on task and efficiency in completing the activity to be increased.

Creates momentum through the structure provided by scaffolding. Students spend less time searching and more time on learning and discovering, resulting in quicker learning (McKenzie, 1999).In this, the needs of individual students learning styles are catered for, increasing engagement (DET NSW, 2003:13) and significance (DET NSW, 2003:14). By teachers knowing and utilising the student’s learning styles, they help develop coping strategies to compensate for the student’s weaknesses and capitalise on the student’s strengths. Scaffolding is an important instructional tool because it supports students’ learning. It helps students to understand that they can teach and learn from others which leads to collaboration. Students require practice to actively construct knowledge, build connections and mental schemata. Learning in this type of socially constructed environment leads to students taking responsibility for their own learning and respecting their own and others’ thinking.

As it can be seen innovation can be unplugged as much as it can be based on technology. Innovation is more about the attitude and desire to do whatever it takes to create an environment that cultivates rich learning.

ReferencesBeale, I. L. (2005). Scaffolding and integrated assessment in computer assisted learning for children with learning disabilities. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 21(2), 173-191.
Exley, K. & Dennick, R., 2004, Small Groups Teaching: Tutorials, Seminars and Beyond, RoutledgeFalmer: New York. 
Ellis, E., Larkin, M ., & Worthington, L. (1994). Executive summary of the research synthesis on effective teaching principles and the design of quality tools for educators. University of Alabama, AL.
Fraser, K., 1996, Student Centred Teaching: The Development and Use of Conceptual Frameworks, H.E.R.D.S.A: Canberra.
Glasgow, N., 2007, New Curriculum for New Times: A Guide to Student-Centred, Problem-Based Learning, Corwin: Thousand Oaks.
Herrington, A. & Harrington, J., 2006, Authentic Learning Environments in Higher Education, Information Science: Melbourne.
Hmelo- Silver, C. Duncan, R.G and Chinn, C.A. (2007) Scaffolding and Achievement in Problem Based and Inquiry Learning. Educational Psychologist, 42(2), 99-107
Johnson, D., Johnson, R. Smith, K., (1991) Cooperative Learning: Increasing College Facility Instructional Productivity, Washington University: Washington.
Jonassen, D. H. (1998) Designing constructivist learning environments. In C. M Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional Theories and Models (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Jones, V. & Jones, L. (1998) Conprehensive Classroom Management: Creating Communities of Support and Solving Problems, Allyn and Bacon: Sydney.
McInerney, D. & McInerney, V. (1998). Educational Psychology: Constructing Learning. Sydney: Prentice Hall. 
McKenzie, J. (1999).  Scaffolding for Success. Beyond Technology, Questioning, Research and the Information Literate School Community. 
McLeod & Reynolds (2007) Quality Teaching for Quality Learning, South Melbourne : Thomson Social Science Press.
Mejia, E. (1999). Video in Language Education: Making News Broadcasts Work for You. URL: 
Moss, G., Jewitt, C., Levačić, R., Armstrong, V. Cardini, A and Castle, F (2007) The Interactive Whiteboards, Pedagogy and Pupil Performance Evaluation: an Evaluation of the Schools Whiteboard Expansion (SWE) Project: London Challenge, School of Educational Foundations and Policy Studies, Institute of Education, University of London.
DET NSW (2003) Quality Teaching in NSW public schools, discussion paper. New South Wales Department of Education, Sydney.
O'Sullivan, T., Rice, J., Rogerson, S & Saunders, C., (1996) Successful Group Work, De Montfort University: London
Sawyer, R. K. (2003). Improvised dialogues: Emergence and creativity in conversation. Westport, CT: Greenwood.
Stempleski, S. (1987). Short takes: using authentic video in the English class. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages: Westende, Belgium.
Verba, M. (1994). The beginnings of collaboration in peer interaction. Human Development, 37, 125–139.
Vialle, W., Lysaght, P. and Verenikina, I. (2000) Handbook on Child Development. Social Science Press Australia.
Winnips, J. C. (1998). Scaffolding the development of skills in the design process for educational media through hyperlinked units of learning material: report of activities performed in the first year of PH. D. research (Internal report). Enschede: University of Twente, Netherlands.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

What are Mystery Locations & Why?

Mystery Locations is an educational game where your class uses GHO or Skype with another class somewhere else in the world. The goal is for each class to determine where the other is located using critical thinking, collaboration and geography skills.

Why Mystery Locations?
According to Paul Solarz (2013) “Reasons to Do a Mystery Skype” are numerous:
  • Geography Skills
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Listening & Speaking Skills
  • Student Directed
  • Student Resourcefulness
  • Collaboration
  • Global Community of Learners
  • Future Partnerships
  • Authentic Purpose for Research
  • Supports and links to the Curriculum
Connecting Classrooms around the World
Whilst this video is promoted by Skype it gives educators a snapshot of the educational benefits of Mystery Locations.

Ways to Play
Within my educational context I have used 3 particular styles to play.
  • 20 questions - recommended for beginners and younger children.
    • Students prepare 20 questions and 5-10 clues.
  • Clue Drop - recommended for intermediately experienced classes.
    • Statements like: we don’t have… we are not… we don’t live near...
  • Yes or No - recommended for more experiences classes.
    • Classes are only allowed to ask yes or no questions.
Mystery Locations Jobs
  • Greeters - Say hello to the class and give some cool facts about the class without giving away their location.
  • Questioners - These students ask the questions and are the voice of the classroom.
  • Answers - They are the students who answer the other classes questions about their location.
  • Runners - These students run from group to group relaying information.
  • Google Mappers - They are the students that work with Google maps/earth studying the terrain and also piece together the clues.
  • Globe Hunters - These students use atlases, pull down maps, country maps, paper maps, globes and time zone maps to piece clues together.
  • Supervisor - Oversees the entire operation and takes notes on what worked and areas to improve on. They also lead the post-call debrief.
  • Note Takers - These students type all of the questions and answers for review during the call and assists to develop the post-call blog.
  • Reporter - Takes pictures/video during the call and assists to develop the post-call blog.
After the Mystery Location has been Identified
  • Share information about country, state, city, and/or school
  • Compare & contrast communities
  • Make plans for future projects
  • Share common projects
    • Global Read Aloud, Maths Challenges, NPHCBlogIT, etc.
  • Traveling scrapbook/journal
  • Add Mystery location to Google map and/or wall map.
  • Reporters write about event for classroom blog or twitter.
  • Continue to make connections with class via Twitter, GHO & Skype.

        How to Get Started

            Paul Solarz (2013) Becoming a Global Educator through Mystery Skypes

            Monday, 7 September 2015

            The Not Perfect Hat Club

            Earlier this year I was blessed to connect with Jena Ball and Marty Keltz founders of Criterkin. Jena was an author of numerous children's books and Marty an Emmy award winning producer. As part of this conversation I was exposed to an initiative they they were working on. Their goal was to create a movement that taught emotional intelligence and shows the importance of relationships. This plan was well thought out and put together with the intention to engage a variety of younger audiences.

            As the year went on I had multiple virtual visits with Jena and Marty. Jena while she was writing would come and meet my class, sharing the opening chapters of the Not Perfect Hat Club. As expected my class was delighted to meet a published author, which instantly improved their own creativity in writing but the surprising element was how quickly they took on the message Jena had to share. They were able to empathise with Newton, a well breed but abandoned golden retriever. They connected his story of feeling not accepted, failing to do the right thing and not being perfect. They understood the feeling of others talking behind their backs and their desire to be loved for who they are. They connected with Jabber's willingness to befriend, forgive and not listen to the bad things others had to say about Newton.

            Late last month, shortly after it was released I got a copy and it has been fantastic! I love that helps me to teach concepts and encourages generosity, respect and acceptance towards others. My children are not wanting to put it down because it speaks to them and to the things that they are dealing with. It says to them that it is okay to be yourself and to be unique. Its all right not to get things always correct because "you are not perfect but perfectly imperfect". By getting things wrong we grow and learn to be better. 

            We soon came to know our classroom as a Not Perfect Hat Clubhouse, a place where the students knew their feelings and emotions were safe. A place where they could put their Not Perfect Hats on as they knew they were okay to try and fail because they understood that they would be supported by everyone because it was part of their "First Attempt In Learning." My students are often heard quoting “I have you got my not perfect hat on, have you!”

            Some other quotes from Students
            "I liked that nobody really cared about what their hat looked like, we were not being teased."
            "I used to feel that I needed to be perfect, I used to think that other people were better than me but as we read I realized that I am okay as myself."
            "I loved that I can be not perfect, the Not Perfect Hat Club means we can try."
            "I liked that Carl accepted Newton and cared for him even though he was not the best dog. My dog does the wrong thing all the time and I still love him. It doesn't matter that he makes the mistakes because this is how he learns!"

            I would highly recommend this book and the experience of the Not Perfect Hat Club. It changes the class culture in tangible terms by highlighting to students the grasp of perfectionism.

            Sunday, 6 September 2015

            Learning Spaces

            The next paradigm shift that is going to take in education in Australia will be the ready adoption of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) taught in a holistic and blended way. As part of this shift, makerspaces are going to become more common to allow students ways to express understanding and knowledge in practical and physical ways. They will use cardboard and craft, electronics, computer based tech as well as robotics and blended learning to achieve this (Cooper 2013).

            The Makerlab (an alternate name for the makerspace area) will be spaces or units where school budgets will be directed towards sparkfun kits, littlebits, makeymakeys and Ardinos. They will also provide students access to smart robotics for enrichment and reinforcement. These spaces are being designed to shift students understanding by moving to teach students about physical computing and how all things work in processes and systems. These understandings can be easily seen through active participation with STEAM rather than sitting in front of a screen.

            By changing the space you cause engagement, using lights, decorations, choose your own adventure activities, toys and tools that force students to look at the problem, issue or learning in a different way. Kinesthetic sensory learning is still one of the most valuable forms of learning; however, it takes a bold teacher to move outside of their comfort zone and experiment. Failure is part of the learning course of a students as, such within our learning spaces we need to be happy to try and fail in front of them. We then model ways to work through, process and learn from this. Making our thinking visible in this process guides our students. These process is a unique trait of STEAM education.

            STEAM allows the basis of the teaching that schools adopt to tap into social and cultural interactions (Trillig and Fadel 2009) as it helps us realign and change focus. For example history is not just about learning facts but learning lessons from the past and using these lessons and manipulating them to create new innovations for the future. They also desire to develop a global literacy which is a student's ability to connect people, problem solve and create creative solutions to others problems (Hayes Jacobs 1989).

            Another aspect of this change within learning spaces is blended or flipped learning. This way of teaching has powerful repercussions for student learning as it frees up time to engage students in richer conversation. Much of the rote is given through video and websites allowing for rich tasks to be completed within the context of the class with teacher guidance.

            Cultural globalization is a reality that we need to acknowledge. Desire to have engaged and aware global citizens. Authentic experiences that inform the curriculum should drive teaching. It seems that this is something that many educators are catching on to and engaging students with real world stuff, they like it and love to learn about it. An example of how we can engage culture and history is by virtually bringing grandparents in the room as experts. They provide a wealth of life experience that often they freely will give if asked.

            Ideas for experimenting with virtual learning spaces
            • Mystery locations is a great way of completing authentic geography content in one session. It is real, genuine and engaging. 
            • Not perfect hat club is a great tool to link students with an expert author. 
            • Connected classrooms with google and google cultural institutes also allow educators to move outside of the walls of the classroom. 
            • Twitter is seen as the fastest growing social media tool for educators and an excellent strategy for creating a larger audience for student work.
            The future of learning spaces are connected, open and engaging. They are places where there is a lot going on and there is noise. They are flexible and have multiple ways of allowing students to see and represent material. They have a variety of rich tools (lego, playdoh, makeymakey, minecraft, craft) where students have choice in use. They are bright and exciting places to be where teachers work as students in collaborative spaces. They are learning together. Teachers will not explicitly teach subjects as siloed activities but will need to combine them to make the best use of time and allow students the richness they require as 21st century learners.

            Cooper, J. (2013) Designing a School Makerspace

            Hayes Jacobs, H. (1989) Interdisplinary Curriculum

            Trillig, B. and Fadel, C. (2009) 21st Century Skills, John Wiley & Sons

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