Augmented realities in learning – hype for now?

I don’t have enough time for thinking these days – which is  not a very good thing.This thinking beyond ourselves is what the game of learning is all about, and how we do this is how we augment the true cognitive capacities of our minds, regardless of what technology-enhanced sphere that thinking takes us into.

I see so much happening in school and higher education that is encouraging – not the least being the passion that individual ‘teachers’ as learners bring to the daily interaction of augmenting the cognitive interactions of many  minds.

This is what makes learning special.We’ve had this extraordinary trajectory happening as lead speakers ‘bag out’ the industrial model of schooling, introducing ‘new’ ideas, tools, or learning designs. Everything in the past was NOT all bad – if it was we would still be in caves!

Oh I do not dispute the need for change, but I do dispute the passion with which educators get onto the latest bandwagon. First it was the internet, then it was the ICT imperative, then it was computers, then it was laptops, then it was BYOD and mobile devices – like any of this was a curative for poor thinking, poor inspiration, poor learning.

So for me today it’s the MOOC hype. While the MOOC hype continues to grow, lets not confuse mass attendance, choice, access to instructors outside our physical domains, or online platforms for informal courses as being ‘new’. Society has always had answers to the ‘informal’ learning needs of groups of people, and at times these spaces merge into more structured or formal forms of learning. Socrates challenged his listeners – so do MOOCs – if they have a ‘socrates’ equivalent to spike the thinking. But that’s not the only thing that is needed to add depth to knowledge. We have to work with the experts somewhere along the way. We have to undertake research to test ideas, look for answers, find new questions.

So I see this ‘hype’ as really an extension of ways that we augment our learning capabilities.I know that ‘augmented reality’ is used to mean something different – but is it really any different?  Whether the augmentation takes place purely in our minds, as we overlay one idea upon another, or whether the augmentation takes place as we overlay a tech-inspired 3G delivered bit of information/ideas on a local view of things – the question remains – what are we learning? what is it’s deep value? how will this scaffold thinking? Will I want to seek out more?

To be honest, it’s going to take a long time before MOOC, tech, or any hybrid can replace years of cognitive engagement with a field or discipline. MOOCing will not change the world, but thinking has and does. What we should be discussing is how we work with information and knowledge to build the capacity of our society to reach the right answers, generation after generation, in order to further the endeavours of mankind. This is why I get angry when thought leaders simply dismiss the industrial model of schooling – without first acknowledging the valuable elements that were there which we need to retrieve. Building upon foundations is a stronger metaphor for me than burning Rome. We wouldn’t be able to do what we can today if it was all bad!  Thank you Tim Berners-Lee for putting the human need ahead of your pocket!

This is where technology fits in – not BYOD or ipads or pulling down the walls for massive sized classrooms for free play with technology.   When technology makes it possible to communicate swiftly, search and acquire information and research effectively,  leverage computational thinking, and come up with better ideas or answers – then we are making sense of ICT, e-learning, technology, or whatever you want to call it.

MOOCs are just the new water cooler.  PLANE and augmented PD initiatives are just the new staff room for peer coaching. Face 2 Face conferences and online gatherings are all great ways to inspire and connect. Augmented reality and virtual worlds are new interfaces for encouraging growth and personal cognitive development. Kids understand this – that’s why they rush into Minecraft!

None of them replaces quality and depth in discipline learning.We’re committed to learning. Let’s not pretend that dedicated teaching is lessened by lack of access to technology. Let’s not pretend that poor teaching is ameliorated by tech.  Until I can plug a USB directly into your mind, it’s the cognitive wheels that need to turn. I can inspire you by drawing in the sand, or giving you a book that takes you to new ideas. Or I can give you an App.

No more hype for me. Sorry for the rant – this interaction with inspirational friends is what got me thinking!

Brain Gain and Marc Prensky

I’ve just put down my review copy of Brian Gain by Marc Prensky, after flipping through the pages once again. Reading it has been timely, given the changes that are taking place in our education environment here in Australia ~ national curriculum, NBN (!), laptop programs, iPad rollouts and  Bring Your Own Device initiatives.

There has been a significant shift in the way we think, work, and talk about technology. There has also been a lot of development in the ways that we can adapt and adopt technology to enhance our personal and professional lives. So while we discuss curriculum, we need books that are provocative and force us to run a final launch countdown to be sure that we really are ready to work with technology in a changing world.

The Australian curriculum as presented by ACARA acknowledges the interdisiplinary role of ICT by defining it as a general capability. For those of us grappling with the integration of computing and technologies, the changes and challenges can so easily take us out of our comfort zone and into new spaces for the creation and development of learning and knowledge encounters. As we are exploiting the capabilities of digital technology, we are discovering that digital technology is more than a tool for creativity, communication, information organization and retrieval.

Technology in a networked world is expanding our physical minds and changing our human horizons.

Enter Marc Prensky and Brain Gain – a broad and conversational discussion about the potential of technology to improve, extend, enhance and amplify the human mind. Marc canvasses the expected territory of the social impacts of technology, rejecting the warnings of those who suggest technology is making us stupid, or slowing down the ability of our students to think.

Because of the rapid advances in technology, notions of what is possible and, more importantly, ‘wise’ in many situation  are undergoing profound change.

Our students have to learn differently, and develop their knowledge differently.

Today’s wisdom is that its far better to learn how to acquire new information.

Throughout the book there is much discussion about ‘humanity’ and the needs of a burgeoning knowledge society to think with and through technology. The book is not a scholarly tome – rather it IS a very accessible and engaging read that covers every angle, and entices the reader into a deeper understanding of our future prospects as being interwoven with technology to deepen human knowledge and creativity.

The book is really all about cultivating digital wisdom in a technology amplified world. There are trade offs. There are pointers for professionals who are looking to understand the breadth of potential of technology. There are sweeping statements too.

However, you can’t go past this book for a riveting read, accessible to the most technophobic teachers or administrators. In setting out to read this book I would have liked to think I learned nothing. In fact I learned a lot, as the book moves from the expected to the implications of a  symbiotic combination of the human brain and technology.

I learned that it is important to be excited by ideas. I learned that collaboration is more important than ever. I learned that our technology past is not ‘old’ or irrelevant – but that our new technologies are simply escalating the rate at which we can think and develop.

I learned that technology is providing us with new pathways for thinking never before possible, and that this synergy with technology is considered by some to potentially change humanity in a ‘evolutionary’ way.

Not only does Marc present us with the positive and negative potential of technology (which we must think about daily in our teaching and learning), but he also introduced me to the Countdown to Singularity.

In the last chapter on the coming Singularity, I read about “the moment, not very far off… when our technology will become as powerful, and even more powerful than our human brains.”  This is when humans will transcend biology. Referencing theories from science fiction writers and futurists (including Ray Kurzweil), this ending seems an odd, speculative conclusion in an otherwise reasonable, practical book.

Get your hands on a copy if you can, and decide for yourself where technology and the quest for digital wisdom will take us.

Image: Reprogramming your inner child cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Keoni Cabral

Creativity and knowledge in Science

The 46th Anniversary  of StarTrek on Saturday co-coincided with the Science Teachers Association NSW annual conference.  Perfect really!  The Google Doodles were fabulous. (Even better, there is a video of it all. If you are a fan, you will want to play it over and over again.)

I got to play with the Google Doodles while I waited to present a Keynote that used the theme of Science Fiction to talk about learning and teaching in a digital era. Science Fiction has been part of my life since primary school after being booted out of the children’s library in Albury and sent off to the ‘adult’ library – because there was nothing left for me to read!  My first book borrowed from the adult library (yes, it was a different building then) was an Isaac Asimov book –  and the rest, as they say, is history. While I never quite made it to become the astrophysicist of my dreams, nor did I pursue science at tertiary level, my personal interest (and my bookcase) shows my interest in real science and science fiction!

It’s this imaginative and expansive capacity of science fiction to relate to and extend science that I particularly wanted to draw upon. I also wanted to show how the changes taking place mean that a good science teacher must connect adroitly in social media environments, must know how to search for information effectively, and must know how to share knowledge in and beyond the classroom.

I met some fab teachers, and loved the opportunity to think
‘science’ for a day. It was great to meet up with @teachercolin, and to make some new science twitter friends too.

So one and all – Resistance is Futile!  I hope you enjoyed the presentation.

Playful Learning – tinkering to re-invent schools

John Seely Brown, author of a New Culture of Learning (one to add to your bookshelf) speaks here to Steve Hargadon at the World Maker Faire 2012  about the ‘wonders’ and value of a  Maker culture – pointing out the value of ‘using our entire body to understand the world’.

The Librarian has left the building


I woke this morning to a grey sky, and many pieces of writing about teacher librarianship that my students have submitted as their first dip into a new profession. The grey sky seems to symbolise the mental consternation that is expressed by those entering the profession, and by those responding to the extraordinary changes and cutbacks discussed by  Buffy Hamilton and others at her post Do I Really have to Leave the Role of School Librarian to Work as a School Librarian?

Carolyn Foote and Judy O'Connell

I’m just recently back in Australia, after a number of visits in the USA related to libraries now and in the future. I was fortunate to attend the Computers in Libraries conference in Washington (CIL2012 – do access some of the presentations), and during the three days of the conference was delighted to spend time with Buffy Hamilton, Carolyn Foote, Sarah Ludwig, Polly Farrington and others involved in services to school libraries. I was struck by the extraordinary passion, the outstanding work happening every day  – and by common complications (in some schools) caused by the ignorance and lack of vision demonstrated by school leaders when it comes to libraries.

The reality is that teacher librarians  can be the best person to have in your school – but only if they have actually learnt how to fill that role well, and have understood and assimilated the principles of embedded librarianship.That’s what undertaking a Masters degree in Teacher Librarianship is all about! It’s an energising and complex profession that you just can’t learn on the job.

As Buffy rightly argues, we do not need to leave the role of librarian to become a better librarian.  What I sincerely believe is that we need school librarians to be recognised for their significant and vital role in the life of a school, and we need for their position to be better staffed and better supported within the school.

The School Library Journal allowed a provocative piece to inadvertantly lead a discussion that is vital to school library futures.  Linda W. Braun interviewed Sarah Ludwig, whose session I enjoyed at CIL2012,  and in showcasing how Sarah Ludwig left the library, became a tech coordinator, and forged a path to the future implied that perhaps this was a good thing.  It was not!

I believe that Next Year’s Model (term used by the school library journal)  is not the school librarian escapee – any more than the classroom escapee was ever the right person to be a school librarian!

I loved Sarah’s presentation at CIL2012, because she was engaging and clearly enjoys working hard to make a difference.  She is achieving some of what is possible as a teacher librarian.

Sarah Ludwig at CIL2012

So it was  nice – it was not innovative! The model adopted by her school was nice – it was not innovative. I’m guessing that Lorri Carroll
Director of Technology and Information Services Hamden Hall Country Day School is in fact not a qualified teacher librarian, though she certainly recongises what it is that makes Sarah’s work relevant to her school. The fact that Sarah said in the interview piece, and at the conference,  now it’s easier to get people to trust my opinion on technology, which enables me to do more than I could as a librarian is a reflection of the challenges in the teacher librarian profession.

It’s so important to look past technology, and to stay with the model that Buffy and other leading teacher librarians espouse in their work  (under circumstances that almost few Australian teacher librarians need to contend with) and to continue to shape a responce to change in the profession. This theme is not unique to school libraries – it is the same tune throughout the LIS sector.

We have had  better solutions taking shape in many Australian schools. In Hybrid Synergy – the Future of School Libraries you can read about a model that would suit Lorri and Sarah to a tee! Check out St Ignatius College, Riverview here in Sydney. They have realigned their library services to create a new hybrid synergy under the direction of the  Head of Digital Learning and Information Services (who IS a teacher librarian), supported by several  Digital Learning Facilitators who teach a subject as a classroom teacher, work with a faculty, and also support students reading, learning, and research needs in the library.  Of course, with such a commitment to empowering student learning, there are other important roles such as a Library Manager, and library and media technicians.

In other words – poor school, rich school, country or city school – we need a great teacher librarian at the helm to lead learning and innovation with and beyond technology!

Good luck to any teacher librarian of quality who becomes a curriculum leader, technology leader, Principal, or who takes on any number of other significant roles in the education sector.  Education is all the richer for it – but don’t leave for the wrong reasons!

Has the librarian left the building?

Ask yourself ~ Who is better off now? What stupid cutbacks by senior administrators has resulted in a move that will impact future generations of kids?  What is it that needs to change in our understanding of Teacher Librarianship so that we can make more of a difference? In times of economic constraint, why are school libraries under threat?  Are teacher librarians committed to keeping up-to-date? What do we need to change to improve?

The time for libraries is now!  .

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

Free to mix – guiding the way

My recent visit to New Zealand has left me breathless with some of the yummy opportunities available for students across the country. One of these, the Mix and Mash competition is all about creative use of media. “Are you a crafty storyteller? An app developer? A visualisation ninja? Then this is the kiwi event for you”.

Wow!  Check out the 2010 winners if you want to get an idea of what they have been up to including posters, cartoons, alternate music, poems, and many more supreme mashups.

For the rest of us, as we stand by and watch, why not go and grab a copy of Free to Mix: An educator’s guide to reusing digital content. Use the word document to create your own school version, or just share the PDF. 

This initiative is another from the wonderful National Library Services to Schools, which is unique to New Zealand.

Leaders can make magic happen too

Often we focus on what it is that students can bring to learning, but we shouldn’t forget the leaders in our schools and their responsibility in helping change the teaching culture to remain strong and resilient in the face of technology and 21st century participative environments. Each step on that journey is different for each teacher and each school. What is important to me is that there IS a journey, and that the champions of innovation and change are at last acknowledged for their passion rather than than being dismissed as geeky. Good teaching these days HAS to be about good use of technology in seamless ways.

We use technology to think and learn.  We don’t use technology because it’s a cool tech tool, and because our syllabus says we need a certain percentage of technology in the curriculum.

We have moved on from teaching teachers how to use technology to nurturing teachers how to think with and because of technology. When technology is finally recognized as the foundation for learning our job as technology educators will be done.

My conversations with staff at Tara Anglican School were about that, and the presentation provided an overview, and was designed to kick off the workshop discussions about new learning needs. The supporting material used in the workshops provided them with the chance to explore in grade and faculty groups, and enjoy the process.  As I said – change IS as good as a holiday!

By starting at the very beginning the presentation allowed all teachers to ‘buy into’ the conversation.  But the champions were there, and later in the day at the roundup session were able to showcase their already rich understanding of flexibility in 1:1 learning environments. Those teachers are ready for everything that 1:1 learning will bring.

The 21st century beckons and thanks to the support of Principal Susan Middlebrook, Tara teachers are championed for being flexible and innovative – just as soon as they dare.

Paint your own horizons


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Werner Kunz

What will you do in your school library this year?

While we are always looking for opportunities to encourage growth and development in our school library services, and new ways to promote what we do, there are some ‘tried and trustworthy’ options for advocacy and promotion that should not be missed. The Horizon Report 2011 K-12 edition  points out how important it is for school library professionals  to keep technology in the forefront of our thinking.  The National Australian Library Associations ALIA and ASLA have provided a site to help us tell our community What a Difference a School Library Makes.

I really want to share with you Buffy Hamilton’s Annual Report.  She shows us three key things:

  • what you can and should be aiming for in your school library each year (even if you start small)
  • strategies for promotion beyond the school through media promotion
  • how to ‘package’ a professional annual report (even if you start small)

Congratulation to the Creekview High School library  team for another great year. Thanks for the inspiration :-)

New Horizon Report – 2011 K-12 edition out now!

The 2011 K12 Edition of the NMC Horizon Report, a research effort led and published by the New Media Consortium, is finished and is available now at http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2011-Horizon-Report-K12.pdf

Three international organizations — the New Media Consortium, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) — collaborate on identifying technology experts and other aspects of the research, and this year, for the first time, each organization is planning a significant event related to the new report for each of their audiences.
CoSN started the rolling release yesterday with a private webinar for their audience of school CIOs around the world. The NMC follows with a major event at their annual Summer Conference, held this year in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday, June 17th. ISTE rounds out the release effort with a major session at their annual conference in Philadelphia on June 27.
The report has been released under a Creative Commons license to encourage broad distribution.

Emerging devices, tools, media, and virtual environments offer opportunities for creating new types of learning communities for students and teachers. Dede (2005) described the interrelated matrix of the learning styles of neo-millenials as being marked by active learning (real and simulated), co-designed and personalized to individual needs and preferences, based on diverse, tacit, situated experiences, all centred on fluency in multiple media, chosen for the types of communication, activities, experiences, and expressions it they empower.

The Horizon Report K-12 edition, issued annually since 2009, has identified and described emerging technologies that are having a significant impact on K-12 education, re-iterating the diversity of influences in the learning spaces of our schools. For school librarians the report directs attention simultaneously to both information use and learning and highlights the fact that 21st century technologies are unlikely to be empowering unless they are in the hands of an informed learner.

Key Trends in 2011:

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less

  • Cloud computing
  • Mobiles
Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years
  • Game-based learning
  • Open content
Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years
  • Learning Analytics
  • Personal Learning Environments
Watch for more information at the Horizon K-12 wiki at http://k12.wiki.nmc.org which will have have a tweak or two before June 17th.
Once again, it was an honour and a real buzz to be part of the Advisory Board in 2011. My personal thanks go to Larry Johnson, Chief Executive Officer at NMC for being the driving force behind this work.
Dede, C. (2005). Planning for Neomillenial Learning Styles: Implications for investments in technology and faculty. In D. G. Oblinger & J.L. Obliger (eds.), Educating the Net Generation. www.educause.edu/educatingthenetgen