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. (Accessed 22 Jul, 2007)

    Second Life Classroom – Not School, Not Home

    Schome Park, in Teen Second Life, is a classroom run by the pupilsI have tried to encourage my ‘system’ colleagues to take 3D virtual worlds seriously – at least to run some pilot projects or join in some 3D initiatives.

    Absolutely no success on that for me (blank looks 😦 ), but I am glad to see that not only Australians (e-Leadership team within Learnscope projects), but also educators in the UK ARE taking the future seriously.

    The Guardian reports on a pilot project during which around 200 members of NAGTY (The National Association of Gifted and Talented Youth) aged between 13 and 17 will be exploring Teen Second Life.

    Plenty of information is available at the Schome Wiki.The Scho-Op on Schome Park

    Schome (the education system for the information age) is going to be a new form of educational system designed to overcome the problems within current education systems in order to meet the needs of society and individuals in the 21st century.

    Explore Schome and their Second Life Project.

    Better still, view Schome Park on Youtube.

    Addition from Kerrie Smith: Sites of Interest for Educators in SecondLife .

    Also Lindy McKeown, ACCE and ISTE ICT Leader of the Year 2006, is ‘doing’ her PhD on use of 3D learning environments. She has set up Terra Incognita in Second Life as an island for educators. Read more about this from Kerrie in her post Thinking about Second Life, VLEs and other 3D environments.