Meet the future!

HadfieldHaving followed the tweets of Commander Chris Hadfield, remaining all the while in awe at the connections  between social media and reality (including the intersections with learning and teaching experiences),  I could only gasp at the implications of the video below that has gone viral.  Amazing.

The future is more than a Space Oddity!

The future is amazing and we need to remember that – always – in whatever field of education that we work.

Badges for learning!

Slowly, ever so slowly, the number of times I come across ‘BADGES’ in relation to learning is on the rise.  Sometimes this is in relation to open accreditation (think higher education) or it might be in relation to classrooms, and gaming approaches to learning motivation. Alternatively, it just might be in relation to social networks (foursquare!) and our passion for collecting badges for ‘check in’ or similar.

Open Badge systems provide many and varied opportunities for representation, not the least of which is uniqueness. Open Badge systems are more than a series of simple documents indicating learning.Think of it as a rich and varied representation of journeys, experiences and learned processes.

Possibly the most prominent one to emerge across sectors is Mozilla’s Open Badges, launched September 2011, that provide any organization the basic building blocks they need to offer badges in a standard, interoperable manner.

A number of tertiary institutions have adopted this approach to learning motivation and accreditation. Badge-powered learning at Purdue University is very comprehensive!

Now, Passport, a new classroom app created by Purdue University, allows instructors and advisers to give students digital badges to indicate mastery of skills. The application uses Mozilla’s Open Badge infrastructure and is available for use by instructors at any institution. Passport provides a platform for anyone who wants to deliver learning credentials. From creation of the challenge to creating the actual badge image itself, and then a way to display earned badges, it’s all built into the platform. A comprehensive explanation and information is available at the post: Digital Badges show student’s skills along with a degree.

If you are working in a school, there is no need to feel left out of the opportunity to integrate badges. ClassBadges is a free, online tool where teachers can award badges for student accomplishments. Through your teacher account, you can award badges customized for your classroom or school. Why not let your students can get involved in creating and managing their badges?

I have a feeling that badges for lifelong learning are an important new development to watch, adopt, and enjoy!

Image: Badges cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Leo Reynolds

ABC Splash working the waves

ABC Splash is a new education website for Australia, packed with 100s of videos, audio clips and games. Everything is totally free to watch and play at home and in school. in a nutshell ABC Splash has teamed up with Education Services Australia to link hundreds of new learning resources directly to the Australian Curriculum. Look out for cutting-edge games, virtual worlds and immersive digital experiences.

The site features information for Early Primary, Upper Primary, Secondary, Parents and Teachers. It’s new and it’s bound to be fabulous, so bookmark it today and start using the services in your classroom, or to support your school community.

It’s also cool to see friends included on the site – we’re making our own ‘celebrity splash’. :-)

Dean Groom and Grand Theft Childhood.
Darcy Moore and From Primary to High School.
Judy O’Connell and Rules of Engagement in the Digital Age
Jenny Luca and Personal Learning Networks

Thanks to Annabel Astbury (Head of Digital Education, ABC Innovation) for the opportunity!

From Annabel : Welcome to ABC Splash!

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’.