Launching Designing Spaces for Learning – our new subject!

Our newest program/course/degree (terminology depends on the part of the world you are in) has been keeping me very busy.  Here at Charles Sturt University I  launched the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) in March 2014.  We have just completed some of the subjects, and I will have to share the outcomes.

But before I do share this, I want to welcome my good friend Ewan McIntosh of NoTosh fame,  to CSU as a newly minted Adjunct lecturer – all ready and engaging as of this week with a new clutch of students. We have people from all around the world, who will be pulling and teasing ideas around with Ewan in the first iteration of the grand new subject.

Ewan said:

When most people find out that they are in line to create a new physical or virtual environment for their school, few have really driven deep into what the research says, and how it might pan out in practice. And, with deadlines in place, and architects producing their “masterplans” based on what they have been able to squeeze out of school communities, the clock is ticking too fast in most cases to begin that learning journey in a timely fashion.

School principals, deputies, librarians and innovator educators can base multi-million dollar decisions on hearsay, gurus’ say-so, and what the Joneses have done with their school. For the initial cohort of students on our inaugural Masters subject on Designing Spaces for Learning at CSU (Charles Sturt University), the story will be very different.

Do visit his blog post Launching a new Masters: Designing Spaces for Learning #INF536. and check out his wonderful welcome video.  Visit the course Facebook Page too!

Perhaps you would like to join our course and his subject in 2015?

Track those new Horizons!

While it was published a little while ago, I am still pleased to share the NMC Horizon Report 2014 edition, in case you’ve missed it.

Launched in 2009, the NMC Horizon Report > K-12 Edition broadened the reach of the NMC Horizon Report series to include primary, middle, and high schools. The K-12 Edition explores the key trends accelerating educational technology adoption in schools, the significant challenges impeding it, and emerging technologies poised to impact teaching, learning, and creative inquiry.

I’ve been along for the journey in every K-12 edition as a member of the K-12 Expert Panel, which has been amazing! Now we have this amazing collection that tells an extraordinary story of change, development and innovation in education as part of the mapping of new horizons.  It is fantastic to be involved at this level in education – I love it :-)

> Download the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 K-12 Edition

Check out the trends, challenges and technology forecast in the report. Look for the opportunities where you can contribute to your school’s development, especially in ways that technology can be embedded into the curriculum programs.

Creativity and education


A regular criticism leveled at education is the function (and sometimes the lack of) creativity in motivating and inspiring learning.  Creativity these days is seen as something ‘special’ and worth capturing.

However, when it comes to creativity in education, there are many aspects to consider. Every student is creative in some way, and the job of educators is to release and support that creative talent in an appropriate manner. Of course, not every student is a  musical Mozart or a scientific Stephen Hawkings. That is not the point for educators. The point is capturing creativity to empower knowledge transactions and in so doing also help prepare students for the digitally diverse and changing nature of our society.

A working definition of creativity is offered by Faultley & Savage (2010, p.6), which does capture nicely the transactions taking place in a learning environment such as a classroom.

Creativity involves mental processes;  can involve action; is within a domain; is purposeful; and is novel (to the individual – ‘everyday’ creativity)

Teaching creatively and for creativity entails taking students on a creative journey where their responses are not predetermined. Teaching for creativity means that students will be producing ideas that may well involve novelty and possibly, experimentation. Teachers and students involved in teaching for creativity will be engaged with processes and although products may well be important it is in the process of creation where the true focus lies.

Craft (2005, p 42) identifies that teaching for creativity involves:

  • the passing of control to the learner and the encouraging of innovative contributions;
  • teachers placing a value on learners’ ownership and control, when innovation often follows;
  • encouraging students to pose questions, identify problems and issues;
  • offering students the opportunity to debate and discuss their thinking;
  • encouraging children to be co-participant in learning, resulting in further control for learners over appropriate strategies for their learning;
  • being at the least considerate and ideally ‘learner inclusive’, thus prioritising learner ‘agency’;
  • encouraging ‘creative learning’, the construction of ‘creative learners’ and ultimately the ‘creative individual’.

So then what is meant by creative and critical thinking in education contexts?

Langer (2012 p. 67) proposes two major purposes that help shape our expectations, both of which result in “mind in action”, meaning-making moves with distinct functionality and motivation.

  1. to gain information and build concepts. (motivated primarily by an information-getting, retrieval, connecting and/or applying purpose)
  2. to engage in a more fluid and open-ended experience where we are not sure to where it might lead. (motivated primarily by a search to see purpose)

Together they contribute to intellect, and it is their joint availability that permits us to engage in the kinds of flexible cognitive interplay that supports intellectual functioning and intellectual growth.

Exploring horizons of possibilities, in a creative experience, we are guided by the open-ended search for ideas. To do this we not only call on what we can imagine,  but also what we cannot yet imagine, in response to ideas or stimuli that we meet along the way of our search.

I can imagine that all these aspects of creativity have a good chance of being unleashed at the Pegasus Bay School.  They want to broaden their horizons!

References

Craft, A. (2003). The limits to creativity in education: Dilemmas for the educator. British journal of educational studies, 51(2), 113-127.

Fautley, M., & Savage, J. (2010). Creativity In Secondary Education. Learning Matters Limited.

Langer, J. (2012). The interplay of creative and critical thinking in instruction. In Dai, D. Y. (Ed.). (2012). Design research on learning and thinking in educational settings: Enhancing intellectual growth and functioning. Routledge.

Image: GoogleTV by lynetter

Design Thinking – an opportunity not to be missed!

From the very first moment an education institution begins the process of even thinking about the construction of a new space for learning, be that physical or digital, the process itself sets a course for potential error.

It is with this very proposition that Ewan McIntosh from NoTosh begins the learning journey in a  14-week challenge to learn and engage with Designing Spaces for Learning, a new subject to be delivered by Ewan in the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation).

The biggest challenge for educators is not, in fact, understanding the technical skills of the digital or buildings architect. The biggest challenge is one of scope, of seeing the possible rather than seeking the “not possible” of budgets, building constraints and “real life”. In short: the challenge is learning to think like a designer, to think differently about the world around us, and recognise which elements of our expertise in other domains lend themselves to the design process.

Ewan is more than an innovator – he is one of those global leaders in education who is genuinely making a difference in the concepts and practices we need in a digital age to empower organizations in all sectors to be responsive to global change needs in education.  NoTosh has flourished since late 2009 into one of the world’s most innovative education companies, working around 40% with creative industries, and the rest with schools around the globe.

NoTosh has created significant impact on student performance in schools in Europe, Asia and Australia. No other consultancy on the planet is managing to work daily with both creative firms and with schools, bridging the gap between design thinking and robust formative assessment, research and practice.

See what Ewan had to share at TEDx, London.

You may not be a student in the MEd(KN&DigInnov) but you CAN be part of this learning experience with Ewan.  You may enroll in this subject, as a single subject enrollment at Charles Sturt Univeristy, and take advantage of all the benefits of engaging with Ewan within the participatory experience with other students.

Single Subject Study at CSU: https://www.csu.edu.au/distance-education/study-options/
single-subject-study

The subject code is INF536  The Subject name is Designing Spaces for Learning.

This subject would provide automatic credit into the new degree if you take up admission in 2015.

Image: CC BY-NC 2.0  Ewan McIntosh

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Building the (Minecraft) lost city of Babylon

Regular reports hit my radar of the amazing work being undertaken by global kids, as they become knowledge-able, as well as knowledgeable in their gaming interactions. Many kids, supported by knowledgeable elders (parents and peers) are engaging in this amazing platform. Many teachers are also supporting their students to do amazing things.

Just look at this gorgeous build in Minecraft – Babylon in a very new world of our kids futures.  By amazing – I don’t just mean building in a gaming environment! I mean engaging in literacy  and communication; in digital citizenship and story telling;  and above all creativity and global cultures. But it takes dedication on the part of the adults to nuture students this way.

Minecraft in education is growing phenomenon – and people are jumping on board to see how they can integrate Minecraft into the learning cultures of their schools. To be honest – Minecraft is also becoming a minefield of its very own in the ‘grown up world’ (consultant warning) – and therefore making it critically important that we connect with quality users with grounded experience in best practices in Minecraft rather than with consultants.

Project Mist

Project Mist, from Donelle Batty, is one of my favourite Australian leaders – doing with her kids daily that we could only wish for all our kids. Donelle has been running Project M.I.S.T (Minecraft In School Transforming education) for what seems like eons now. Her students have very powerful learning experiences. GMods Experience in Minecraft tells it all!

My experience in Minecraft this year was spectacular; the team work, the efforts, the creativity gained and witnessed was truly outstanding. In the class I got to socialize with kids that have the same interests I have, building friendships throughout the year. Cooperation was the biggest highlight; When there was ridiculous amounts of mobs and high death count, we took shelter and shared supplies. When someone needed help building or creating something it always felt good to teach them how to do so. I’ve also learnt more about the importance of my appearance on-line and how I present myself to the people of the world wide web, presentation is key and your first impression is everything. If you are acting like a tool on the internet people will see you once and think: “Wow, that person seems stupid and rude” And that would be the last time they visit your page/ sever/ profile.

Recently, I followed a tweet to see what Donelle wrote about the 2014 launch of #ProjectMIST.

She reminded us all that Minecraft is a collaborative experience, as is the various stages of learning involved in gaining Minecraft experience. Donelle is without a doubt a global leader, and will be away from her hometown in Tasmania on her Hardie Fellow (Info re Hardie Fellowship and recipients for 2013-14).

Donelle also reminded me of the fantastic work done by Jo Kay who is an amazing colleague I have worked with closely over the years on various projects.  Jo currently builds and supports our work in the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) degree here at CSU. We don’t use the normal LMS, but have developed our own for the degree for now.

So in much the same way Donelle explains:

We are really lucky at ProjectMIST as we have one person who has been with us from the start and is always there, even at 12:04am. At this time of the day I am in bed asleep and the computer is asleep too, but Jo Kay is wide awake supporting the students where I can’t. Her support is extremely appreciated by the students and they demonstrate this through building replicas of her avatar on their own servers, one young man did this just the other night when she helped him out after he locked himself out of his server. This student has now just been accepted onto Massively @ Jokaydia Minecraft Guild and he is really excited to be able to build, learn and explore with others from all parts of the world.

If you are an educator, a parent, or just someone who wants to give kids a chance at Minecraft I recommend you visit Massively @ Jokaydia.

The Massively @ jokaydia Guild Website –  a community supported by jokaydia.com –  provides kids and parents with games-based spaces to learn, collaborate and play!

The project is designed for kids aged 4-16yrs who are interested in gaining digital media skills, exploring their creativity and developing online social skills. We are currently using the video game Minecraft to support a safe, whitelisted server and a range of activities which encourage kids to choose their own playful learning pathways and adventures.

You can’t do better than that!  Babylon was a build created by just one of those students!

You will find Donelle on Twitter @dbatty1 and Jo at @JoKay. You’ll also find student Nat, from the TedEX video below @natbott42

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Jo Kay

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Shrinking the world after 4000 years

Quite a while back I read the book by John Freeman called Shrinking the World – the 4000 year story of how email came to rule our lives!  A ripping read, that contextualises email into the early 21st century communication systems as a derivative of human interactions through the ages.

We are now working in an era of constant interruptions. We nearly all have multiple email accounts which we use for a variety of purposes. Some eschew rapid communication still, of course,  along the lines of “oh I don’t want a gmail account, and please don’t expect me to create one so that I can participate in a google hangout for the conference/professional development/learning activity”.  Others of course have moved well on from email, making equally boring comments like “who uses email now anyway”?

If you work for a large organisation – as I do – the likelihood is that you will be using email. In fact, email remains a core professional communication tool alongside other forms of communication – Yammer being one example in my institution.

To be honest, I don’t have a problem with email – when it is used properly!   Ah, but there’s the catch.  Like any media tool, there are savvy users, and there are others.  And it is  the ‘others’ really who just confound the efficiency of the thing :-)

Freedman says:

One of the great paradoxes about email is that although it is created, driven and indelibly marked by ourselves, heavy use of it can leave you feeling emptied out, voided, fractured into a million bits and quips, yet somehow obliterated.

Overall his book is an attempt to step back from the frenzy and the flurry of now – the now we have created and the now we have to slowly remove ourselves from. He suggests that email is good for many things; but that we need to learn to use if far more sparingly, with far less dependency if we are to gain control of our lives.

I don’t agree with this – I think there are significantly  important points at the central purpose and value of email. Of course social media is giving us levels of connectivity across platforms, organisations and devices that email never set out to do.

But email itself, while still at the centre of an organisation, also needs to be used effectively. Let me tell you there are some basic aspects of email that can allow you to manage your workflow AND use the tool efficiently. Here are a few starting points: 

1. Don’t take forever to respond to an email message.  You may be busy, and if you haven’t time to give a considered and full response, have the courtesy to reply and indicate a timeline for response.  Not replying at all is discourteous.  If you can’t reply – put on your vacation message, or your ‘out of office’ message as a quick way to let people know that your inbox is in fact working.

2. Treat your students with respect. If you work in a tertiary institution treat students with the same respect you would accord to any adult you have contact with. I can’t tell you how many times students have been shocked to receive a reply from me the same day – they are accustomed to the (almost inexcusable) approach of treating virtual contact with students the same way as consultation hours with the tutor in a f2f setting – i.e. once or twice a week.

3. Use distribution lists or group lists to hold a conversation about a topic

4. Organise conversations logically. When in a group conversation – for heavens sake reply to the latest message.  The way that people fragment the conversation by simply replying to the first message, or one somewhere in-between is not only inefficient but also transparently discourteous.  If you were standing in a group around the water cooler – how would you feel if everyone simply acted as if you weren’t there.  Same thing.

4. For goodness sake use proper formatting.  We have a wonderful written language. We communicate in proper sentences when we write. We also speak sensibly and courteously with each other.  Yet for some reason, people apply kindergarten rules to email which look like this:

Dear Person I just like to write my comments all in one sentence and/or maybe a paragraph because it’s too hard to apply proper punctuation or even structure the message intelligibly and did you have a nice weekend Judy

While I can accept this in casual social media settings, to my way of thinking professional conversations in corporate email should also utilise the full affordances of the English language and supporting email structures.  I actually find it vaguely rude when a colleague doesn’t.

5. Turn on your auto-signature. I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to chase up a person’s contact details because the courtesy of having the full signature file is not utilised.  In a large organisation, transparency of conversation is essential.  If I need to phone you, or forward your email to another for response it should be clear who you are and in what capacity we are having our email conversations.

You’re probably thinking this is all very ‘old school’.  Perhaps it is!   But I’m convinced it’s part of the way to be professional, courteous and efficient with email until another tool arrives.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by consumerfriendly