Emerging technologies for learning

Some excellent research and commentary is available from BECTA in the UK in the recent publication

Emerging technologies for learning: volume 3 (2008)

The various chapters explore the ‘net generation’ who can seamlessly move between their real and digital lives; examine the implications for education of the convergence of mobile devices, pervasive wireless connectivity, and internet applications and services; discuss the development of virtual worlds and ‘serious games’ and how we can make best use of these technologies to support better learning; analyse the problem of finding and searching digital content on the web and the limitations of current systems; and considers the potential of some emerging display and interface technologies to improve interaction with computers and facilitate collaborative activities in more natural and intuitive ways.

These are excellently presented too, and make good professional reading handouts for staff discussion.

The problem with powerpoint

The problem is that some people are offended when I explain that good powerpoint presentations are….well good! and represent a completely different presentation design to 20th century versions. Our understanding of how to promote thinking, engage audiences, and use powerpoint as a visual communication medium has matured. So also has our understanding of how we can teach kids to engage with knowledge, and provide a visual synthesis of their ‘take on a topic’ via a powerpoint and an actual talk about a topic, rather than read of a topic! has ‘come of age’.

The presentation Dodging Bullets in Presentations explains the design and function developments beautifully. Now I urge you to apply that reasoning to the next ‘powerpoint project’ that you give your students. They may be a little surprised at how much work and how much understanding is required to produce an assessment without all those bullet points. Their supporting ‘talk’ just may need them to know and understand their topic for their talk – especially if no notes are allowed 🙂

Google for newbie Web 2.0 teachers

I like to point out obvious tools to teachers to discover – and challenge their thinking about Web platform tools. So here’s a little reminder to keep an eye out for good Google tools.

Too many teachers know about ‘googling‘, but don’t know enough about what else is worth using for Google tools.

googlemore.jpgSo remember, when you go to do a Google search, look up at the top left-hand corner and discover a few other tools – the magic one to follow is the little word “more“.

Most teachers are already know about images, maps, Gmal…but more?

Yes, there are a few other very useful goodies. But then what about “even more“?

That’s a page that all smart 21C teachers should visit and come to grips with! Not necessarily to use them…but to be aware of what these represent..the required pervasiveness of Web 2.0 tools in our daily educational practice.

Check out Google Notebook, and Google Scholar – if you haven’t already done so. There are many Google tools that deserve attention and discussion. How could we use them? What other ‘brand’ tools might be a better choice? What are the tips for good pedagogical integration?

What you’ll also notice on the full listing page is that sometimes a new tool appears with the label New! right next to it. Google Notebook has that right now.

Did you know that this doesn’t really mean ‘totally new‘ but rather that the tool is no longer in beta phase?


Google Labs are the place where the up-and-coming tools can be found. Checking out Google Labs is a great way for teachers to find out about some of the future trends.

I wanted to highlight this information about Google because Google is everywhere – especially where teachers haven’t moved beyond the “go and do some research on the internet” phase of online instruction.

Google is more than a search tool or email facility. Know what else Google actually is, and then develop a good sense of discernment – so that you can determine whether a Google tool or another tool is the best for your particular learning and teaching need!

That’s a fun series of PD sessions for you to try out?

Hmmm, might do that myself later in the year too 🙂

Core knowledge and creativity for Learning 2.0

Today was interesting! I met two year 11 Chemistry classes and spent a little time opening up the options of choosing a Web 2.0 tool to produce part of their assessment task. These students have by and large been operating in a Web 1.0 world for school learning – but of course are operating in a Web 2.0 world of social networking with the usual MySpace, Facebook or Bebo.

The challenge for them was to think about creativity and the learning process, and if they dared, to step out of their usual comfort zone and into Web 2.0.

Why did we want to do this? Well the issue is this – that critical thinking skills cannot be learned in the abstract. They always pertain to concrete knowledge of subject matter. But by the same token, absorbing and ‘learning’ some concrete subject knowledge does not necessarily lead to critical thinking or creativity. Learning is a delicate pattern of interconnections!

If you sit boys in rows, if you always ask them to write an essay, produce a poster, deliver a talk, or make a powerpoint then without a doubt the capacity for independent learning or flexible collaborative learning that is deeply reflective just ‘ain’t gonna happen’ easily.

It’s true – we threw these boys in the deep end with a big challenge. Sorry boys!

…….. and I watched some of them run right back to safe shores, others forgot how to paddle or swim and splashed and floundered around (hiding their confusion behind boyish bravado), and others got right in and swam to the new shore across the bay. A few quiet ones spent a lot of time exploring the tools, checking the parameters and began to talk about the nature of learning this way.

We’ll be happy if we see a few wikis, maybe a blog or two, or maybe even a voicethread. This was just an experiment. No student will be advantaged or disadvantaged for either choosing or not choosing a Web 2.0 option. All we hoped for was that for some boys – the naturally curious and creative ones – the opportunity to use a Web 2.0 tool just might make the learning experience fundamentally creative, collaborative, and fun!

I’ve added a new TAB to the blog for the students called Student Tools – Let them fly!

So back to the beginning of the lesson.

What DOES this video prompt YOU to think about creativity and learning?

After all, an escalator can never break. It can only become stairs. Have we nullified the capacity of our students to be creative in the very ordinary yet essential daily processes of learning? That’s the message the video gives to me 🙂

Photo: One small piece of machinery

Students 2.0 – fantastic initiative!

I hope you’ll find it as exciting as I do. This new initiative from Clay (thanks for sharing the Delicious ranking success with us in Twitter) has the potential to create fairly seismic effects, over time, in the edublogosphere – by elevating student edubloggers!

The students ask us to

Check out this post by Clay Burell, the teacher who sponsored our collaborative, world-wide project, for ideas on how to spread the word.

Students 2.0 looks like being the first of its kind! Grand stuff indeed….. and the site design is just fabulous. Go visit!

Administered, designed, edited, and written by a global mix of students of varying ages, interests, voices, and points of view, Students 2.0 will feature content written by both staff writers and guest contributors. From Hawaii and Washington, from St. Louis and Chicago, from Vermont, New York, Scotland, Korea, and other points on the globe, these writings will be united in one central aspect: quality student writing, full-voiced and engaging, about education.
The moment for a student-centered edublogosphere has come. The staff at Students 2.0 invite their adult partners in education to treat their posts as they treat all others: as serious writing, as invitations to their readers to listen, reflect, agree, disagree, extend ideas – and above all, to create new possibilities, understandings, and insights in education.

Creating possibilities in learning

For two days, we are being engaged in a trip into the roots of education – an important step of revision and re-visioning our ideas and purposes for learning.

Our task? To begin to understand ways of actualising a new Parramatta Catholic Education Framework.

Our leader in this process is Yoram Harpaz, founding Director of the Community of Thinking programme at the Branco Weiss Institute in Jerusalem.

We are doing this in order to help us draw a new conceptual map of education to define our aims and means of education. Schools are in deep crisis – they no longer work effectively for 21C – but for now we don’t have strong alternatives in place.

We need to ask ourselves some fundamental questions – and the most fundamental is “what is education?” and “what does it mean to prepare students for their lives in the 21st century”?.

Yoram mentioned many times that schooling has been a very successful sociological experiment, but a failure for our students because of our inconsistency in our pedagogical frameworks.

Yoram jokingly says that we operate as if it “Doesn’t matter what you teach so long as it’s boring!”

Essentially we have to find, what Yoram calls, “our pedagogical sentiment”. There are lots of slogans, but what is our real authentic pedagogy or stance? How do we turn our classrooms into a community – a community of thinkers? He wants students to experience knowledge as human creation.

The thing we are investigating is Yoram’s Third Model which is about ‘disruptive intelligence’, about sharing ideas, working together because

thinking is a dialogic and societal process.

Our purpose should be about putting dialectic pressure on students. If we are flexible and sensitive then teaching can support learning. I love the idea of ‘teacher as therapist!’

Yoram is also a strong advocate of ‘story’, and the human narrative, which fits very well with digital story in a Web 2.0 context as well. As he explains, knowledge is created by human beings – it is storytelling which helps put order into our chaotic life and insert some logic into the mystery of life. We want our students to create their own stories, their own interpretation, and original ways to solutions.

Knowledge is not an object – Knowledge is a ‘story that works’

The Department of Education and Children’s Services in South Australia provides a good series of informative links for Dr Yoram Harpaz.

Harpaz & Lefstein: Changing Schools – What sorts of changes in schools should we be putting energy into?

I’ve got more to write about this on another day….

Image from jakedobkin.
  • Top 100 tools for learning 2007

    Jane’s E-Learning Pick of the Day is a ‘must read‘ to add to your RSS feeds.

    She gathered people’s favourite Top Ten Tools for Learning from 100 educators around the globe. Over 400 different tools were named in total, but the final list was created in order of popularity. The top 100 tools received 3 or more (positive) mentions. The results can be seen here in a neat comparison table with links to sites providing the tools.

    It’s a great resource for anyone looking at their knowledge working environment and wondering where to improve.

    Choose several different tools to get things done in your knowledge working landscape – tools for gathering, processing, networking, sharing, and scheduling because Learning is a Conversation and learning (not schooling) is our context.

    Photo credit: Sweet reality, sweet fantasy
  • You smoke! You die!….for literacy.

    year-6.jpg Literacy is still the focus for our project work at Good Shepherd this week – today it was Year 6 using Photostory to consolidate their learning about ‘smoking’.

    After doing their research from the Cancer Council about the dangers of smoking, Megan asked the students to create a poster representing a key aspect of these dangers for an anti-smoking advertisment campaign. Students created a storyboard for their work, and were then able to record a supporting statement for each poster. Put these together – and bingo! a podcast of their own about the dangers of smoking. This was all ‘first time’ for these students – and the integration of visual, text and audio literacy skills were the bonus learning experience. Love your work Megan 🙂

    Back to the future! with Library SKILLS

    Many of us are all to familiar with the ‘shoestring’ approach to school library resourcing. What is even worse is the lack of understanding of the purpose and role of a school library, and the work of a teacher librarian. Actually, I think some teacher librarians (library media specialists/librarians) also need a wake up call – but that’s a whole different story.back-to-the-future.jpg

    However, there is no doubt, based on research, that schools should have qualified staff and appropriate resources. The Ofsted Report (UK) “Good School Libraries: Making a Difference to Learning” identifies factors that make good primary and secondary libraries. There are many school library impact studies, the most well-known being the Colorado Studies. Keep an eye out for one more Colorado Study, the third in a series of studies by the Library Research Service (LRS), which proves that school libraries have a direct link to student achievement. For more links, go to School Libraries make a difference to student learning on the IASL website.

    How better to embrace 21st century learning than with a fabulous library centre and learning space that supports literacy, research, creativity, and multimodal/multimedia approaches to learning

    Study after study proves that students in schools with well-stocked libraries and highly qualified, state-certified school librarians learn more………Today, only 60 percent of school libraries have full-time, state-certified school library media specialists on staff. With limited resources, school administrators are struggling to stretch dollars, and library resource budgets are increasingly being used to make up for shortfalls in other areas.

    A press release from the American Library Association tells us that the US government is taking the research findings seriously.

    Seems they are going Back to the Future – strengthening libraries again.

    Legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate last month is an essential step forward in ensuring that students across America have the library resources and support they need for a Twenty-First Century education.

    [Hello? is anyone else listening?]

    The Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries or SKILLs Act guarantees that students across America will be served by highly qualified, state-certified school library media specialists and will have the library resources they need to succeed.

    The SKILLs Act ensures that library funds will be available to serve students in elementary, middle and high schools throughout the nation; that appropriate books and materials will be available for students at all grade levels, including those with special learning needs and those learning English as a second language; and that highly qualified school library media specialists will be available to assist and support all students with their learning needs.

    [what should we do to promote similar clear commitments in our own school, town, state or country?]


    “Legislation Introduced to Ensure Essential Library Resources, Support for 21st Century Education.” American Library Association. 2007.
    http://www.ala.org/ala/pressreleases2007/june2007/skillsactpr.htm (Accessed 22 Jul, 2007)