Leadership in a Connected Age

A great gathering of educators today in Melbourne for the SchoolsTechOZ conference.  Always a favourite, and as always a great lineup of speakers and workshop leaders.

Here are the slides for my presentation in the afternoon.  Not identical, but the main links that attendees might be looking for are all there :-) .  I’m looking forward to digging into some of this a little more deeply at my workshops tomorrow.

Why digital citizenship is important

Are you busy preparing new content and learning experiences for your students?  If you are, never miss the opportunity to include digital citizenship in relation to online environments.

This video cleverly highlights the scary truth about how much personal information is available about those who are not careful. A fun way to make a point!

Computational thinking ~ really?

I’m a great fan of ISTE, and love to get updates and information about things that are happening. In my email today were a few tidbits that made me stop and think.

Wow, that’s crazy is more like the sentiment that crossed my mind.

The buzz word this time was “computational thinking”.  Perhaps this is a term that is embedded in curriculum frameworks in North America, but I was a little saddened to see thinking in a digital age being described by such a mechanised term. Seriously –  thinking is thinking, and calling it computational thinking seemed to me to reflect that educators are not understanding the immersive nature of  21st century learning environments.

It’s like saying ‘water swimming’ instead of ‘swimming’. How else would you swim except in water?  So in 21st century environments, how else would you facilitate thinking except with the power of technology – that may or may not be ‘computational’ by the way! I do understand the need to still talk about digital age skills, because so many teachers are still struggling with being digital. I really don’t want to  bury 21st century thinking terms like this.

Computational thinking reminds me of the the Hungarian word for computers (when they don’t use the English word, which is most of the time now). A computer is a  számítógép – which literally means adding machine.  See how that shows the origins of the term?  Computational thinking is like an old term for a new idea – one that is actually NOT new at all anymore!

However, the video is good, and has some great ideas. Wish we just didn’t have the term!

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by Katherine Squier

The time for libraries is now!


Each new academic year brings me challenges, changes and excitement in ways that I often cannot anticipate. Once again our library shelves have been dusted, collections prepared, digital tools sharpened, and our motivation is running high. Yet the one point of predictability is that the learning landscape refuses to ‘be still’!  When it comes to literacy, information and life-long learning, the pulsing energy of change powers the curriculum of learning  throughout the year at breakneck speed.

Before the year had hardly got underway there were already several indicators that confirmed that education should  never be what it was when you were at school. For example YouTube told us:

Since the dawn of YouTube, we’ve been sharing the hours of video you upload every minute. In 2007 we started at six hours, then in 2010 we were at 24 hours, then 35, then 48, and now…60 hours of video every minute, an increase of more than 30 percent in the last eight months.

Never mind that the ‘dawn of YouTube’ was February 2005, which was just 10 short years after Larry Page and Sergey Brin first met at Stanford University, and before Google was a twinkle in their eye.

We saw the launch of iBooks for education, and iBooksAuthor which promised to challenge the textbook environment in schools by allowing teachers and students to create interactive content for iPads.  Following the unveiling of iBooks 2 Apple saw an incredible 350,000 textbook downloads in in the first three days after launch.

We also saw the new twist on Google+  which finally allowed both nicknames and full-fledged pseudonyms to be used. We got confirmation once again that game-based learning had more to offer than novelty interest. When online gamers topped scientists’ efforts to improve a model enzyme using the online game Foldit (University of Washington in Seattle) a milestone in crowd-sourced research was achieved.

While all schools are now involved in technology integration, laptop programs of some kind, and even iPads for 1:1 programs, it is astounding to think about the myriad ways the core tools and learning opportunities of the 21st century have indeed become extraordinary.

This is the socially connected era of mobile devices where interaction is key, and where mobile phone cameras are replacing point-and-shoot cameras to provide visual connection to the conversations. Audio and video media are more and more available online and always accessible in contrast to a disk or separate device designed for single purpose use. While some schools (or systems) lag in adopting the tools of today, students generally do not, making this is part of the overall challenge for information professionals.

Both librarians in your public or corporate library,  and your teacher librarians in your school library can have a vital role to play in today’s interactive knowledge environments as knowledge building, literacy and communication in action  takes many forms, shape-shifting before our eyes. This digital information ecology demands a new knowledge flow between content and digital connection in which expert professionals understand reading and information seeking in a connected world. In other words, the time for libraries is now!

For schools, all this sounds very much like an environment that is best understood and interpreted by teacher librarians who are passionate about their library’s role in the learning culture of their school. It sounds like the perfect space for teacher librarians who are up-to-date with social media, and who already understand the portable, personal web, focused on the individual, on life-stream, on consolidating content, that is powered by widgets, apps, drag-and-drop, and ‘mash-ups’ of user engagement.

Print materials are no longer at the core of the school library reference collection, the non-fiction collection, or the information search process. Students use technology to research online, anytime, anywhere. School libraries that adapt to the digital needs of their students not only continue to build a reading culture in the school, but provide the divergence and convergence in media needed to provide the materials for motivation, differentiation, collaboration and connections necessary for 21st century learning in the multiple and diverse ways of a true expert.

Put bluntly, the era of the  iPad and other mobile/hand-held devices have changed school libraries forever, but have made the role of the teacher-librarian within the whole school community the most important leadership role there is!

Lisa Oldham, Development specialist for school library futures at the National Library of New Zealand, discusses the future of school libraries in the knowledge economy.

Let’s make 2012 the best ever for our libraries!

Image: cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

Information abyss – in the era of global education

The more I look the more certain I am that I stand at the edge of an information abyss, rather than at the dawn of a  golden age of information and life-long learning powered by the digital environments.

Perhaps there are two sides to this:

The good side encompasses savoring the growth of creative knowledge and nurturing the  understanding for students engaged in the topic of discussion. In this way students can sometimes surprise and delight us with insights and even lead us in new directions taking the teacher mentor along with them.

The bad side encompasses that information abyss that exists, but which is misunderstood,  largely unmentioned, and yet which is creating a new form of the digital divide – content and conversation ignorance in an era of mass information.

Knowledge and creative/scientific  understanding is always at the heart of the educational endeavour. Teachers gnawing at the syllabus bones of their subject may find juicy marrow, but it’s still the same pile of bones.    The officially mandated parameters of accreditation organizations (think departments of school education or higher education) means that content and process may run parrallel to the natural learning needs of students.

Designing any long-term educational action these days (especially in the face of 1:1 computing and mobile devices) involves creating scenarios for acquiring and developing competencies and knowledge in subject domains that are enabled by personalization. Competences are the main element of the learning process and personalization in virtual learning scenarios involve designing and executing learning paths, learning activities within a subject and some kind of analysis that ‘tags’ the success of the particular lifelong learning elements involved.  That’s education, but is that learning?

Ah – here it is again, that information abyss.

Educators were never information experts, but in the era of ‘industrial schooling’ this did not matter.   Information was organized and made available in structured ways, quietly providing access to tacit and explicit knowledge at point of need.

Then technology transformed the information landscape, pushing changes into education. Unfortunately education experts forgot that they were not information experts, and in the age of web-enabled information some educators and educational   leaders, in their enthusiasm and  ‘debunking’ of industrial schooling,  have also advertised their ignorance in how to work with the most precious of all commodities – information!   Did they toss the baby out with the bathwater!  Nope, they actually never did know what information organization was all about, what metadata means, when digital preservation is important, how information access can be facilitated, how information is organized, and what strategies are needed to find, analyze and synthesize information.  Pre the web era , this didn’t matter. There were librarians around to fill the breach and provide the knowledge gap.  Now things are different.

Information (and the knowledge it contains) is the underpinning of society, learning, and future developments. Information is what lead to the creation of the web, and which leads to developments in all forms of our web engagement.  Social networks are enabling information sharing. We need to be able to read, and read well, to access information. We need to know how to find and make available to others the information that matters.

But while educators “toot” the use of web tools, and play with virtual environments, they seem to remain more ignorant than ever about the impacts of web organization on information access and information retrieval.   Only a fool closes a school library down because information is on the web, and fiction books are sitting in a box in the classroom.

How should we ensure we refresh the mental browser of pre-digital thinking to suit the evolution of the web?

What school leaders need to do is to go out and find the best information and library experts they can find to re-vitalize their school library.  What school leaders need to do is to go and empower an information expert within their school to lead in curriculum design, and ensure that it incorporates the required fluency with information access, use, manipulation, remix, and dissemination.  What school leaders need to recognize is that all the reshaping of classroom spaces, and use of tech tools and mobile devices for   curriculum innovation is nothing more than a hollow shiny bauble  (which may well be crushed in the next iteration of the web)  and really useless .

Kids aren’t learning how to be adaptive in complex information environments.



Someone HAS to help the teachers of our 21st century kids understand reading, literacy and information seeking in a connected world.  The information abyss is right there at their fingertips, and each day teachers are doing a great job of throwing kids down into that abyss!  (Test your knowledge of the abyss by perusing Knowledge 2)

Our students now need help in navigating diverse information pathways within their personal and creative learning environments. They need a range of literature and information options, delivered to them via a variety of physical and virtual means, from books to all manner of media and digital objects, via a plethora of digital devices. They need to know how to juxtapose text, sound, media and social connections in real time, and how to filter, then mix and match what they see, hear and experience in order to build personal knowledge and understandings of the curriculum.

Where once the bibliographic paradigm created text-book learning and school libraries, learning today requires that teachers and school librarians understand reading and information-seeking in a connected world.

Deal with the information abyss.  In the name of education, get a new school library!  This is what I’ve already debated in the post  Why Teacher Librarians are Important. 

Essentially though, in this new library we find that the literature, magazines, information, technology, learning and teaching activities are designed to support the needs of the networked learning community, creating a partnership between teachers, students, school, home and the global community.  Moving to a Networked School Community is essential, and is the only way to ensure that a school is dealing with the information abyss.

Images:
1. cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Ka Rasmuson
2. cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

Intelligent searching with[out] Google

I’ve noticed a few comments recently on the continued changes in Google’s search
facilities.  Amazing how we have to keep in touch with all this – and just
as well that we do.  I’m thinking that there are plenty ‘out there’ who
never do.

So did YOU loose Google Advanced Search?  or did you never make use of anything other than the Google slot [search]  box ready to punch in your query? A random query amongst non-library friends told me that plenty of folk never even bother to do anything but type randomly into the Google slot [search box] so apparent simplifications of the Google interface makes perfect sense for the masses.I’m not game to run the query past teacher friends because I feel they should know better – but I just might be dissappointed.  Perhaps I feel that sometimes it’s easier to stay away from inconvenient truths?

If you want to use Google Advanced search, you’ll find that it is now accessed via the small ‘gear’ in the right hand of the navigtation bar of your google interface. Of course, you can bookmark the direct link too. Phil Bradely provides a step-by- step instruction to find Google Advanced search.   I think Google explects you to be ‘logged in’ . Clicking on the gear brings up advanced search, language tools, and more.  So Google advanced hasn’t been moved, so much as changed in terms of the access point.  But it doesn’t stop there for Advanced Search, as some other features have also changed.

I also recently mentioned Google Verbatim, another change responding to the removal of Google keyboard operators like +.  And so it continues…change, change, change…

But of course there are so many other issues at stake and so many other options for positive quality research. Too many teachers just don’t get it! As my friend Dean wrote today, the internet research task is not about ‘googling’ information in response to questions generated by the teacher. That teaches students nothing:-

The point is to develop judgment or understanding of questions that require a nuanced grasp of the various facts and to develop the ability to think about and use those facts. If you do not have copious essential facts at the ready, then you will not be able to make wise judgments that depend on your understanding of those facts, regardless of how fast you can look them up.

So mindful of this I’ve been collecting information at Knowledge 2 which has other search engines and options included. 

In actual fact, it can be a challenge to keep up-to-date with all the developments, so If you have some additions, or changes that you’d like to see made, please do let me know.

For more in-depth investigation and review of the search possiblities, you can’t go past this excellent set of slides from Karen Blakeman on searching without Google.

Image:cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

Google Verbatim – what’s that?

Google has a verbatim search mode which looks for exactly what you type. Get it?  ver.ba.tim Adverb:In exactly the same words as were used originally: “recite the passage verbatim”; “verbatim quotes”.

Wait, isn’t all of Google search like that?   No way kids! Actually, Google used to have that functionality  with a well-known (but, they say, little used) “+” operator. And then they dropped it…..and then Twitter exploded!

As Wired told it “Google phased out the + operator yesterday, which means I now have to “quote” “every” “term” “like” “this”. Nobody else finds this annoying?” Many of us found it annoying, and Google seemed to end up agreeing.  Less than a month later Google has added a search option which makes the not-outrageous assumption that what you type is actually what you wanted to search the web for. “Verbatim” is not the default setting — so Google will still fix what it thinks is a spelling error, and search for that — unless you turn on verbatim search.

Your search query is just the starting point for Google’s searches. Sometimes Google fixes misspellings, replaces some of the keywords with synonyms or other related keywords, disambiguates your query using your search history.

Philip Bradley explains it all in detail, step by step.

You need to check this latest change (enhancement?) out, and be sure to pass this information on to all your students – young and old.

What is interesting is that in Chrome I can turn Google Instant on or off, and that there is a suggestion that Chrome will also soon include the same option for Verbatim.

As Google explains it as you start to type your search terms, Google Instant automatically shows results for a popular search that begins with those letters. If you don’t see the results you want, just keep typing and the results will dynamically update.

This very ‘dynamic’ nature of google instant is a smokescreen to make us feel successful. But since fast search doesn’t necessarily mean intelligent search, and since Google’s adjustment of my basic search is equally confusing at times, it just may be that turning off Google Instant and turning on Verbatim as the default for students can take us back to teaching the key elements of search – choice of the best search terms and strategies.

Oh wait!  Your institutition might not let you use Chrome?  Never mind – just be sure to update your integration of search strategies in your curriculum practices. On the other the sort of customisations that Chrome can offer for key things like ‘search’ might be just another reason to beg for Chrome deployment on your devices!


Top image: cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by Yersinia