Friday, November 16, 2012

A Great Teacher

"A good teacher can teach with only a stick and sand. A great teacher would snap the stick in two and give one piece to the student!"

S Crook 2012 :)

Math Wiz by joeywan, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  joeywan 

Fullan & Hattie

Here is a presentation I gave to Primary eLearning Coordinators on the work of Michael Fullan and John Hattie. There is an eLearning focus but may still be of interest further afield.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Presentation to Pre-service Computing Teachers

Yesterday I was invited to speak to pre-service computing teachers at ACU. The context was the fact that traditional computing subjects are on the decline in NSW. However, we wanted to emphasise that the students' skills were not wasted, and that if they adopted an 'eLearning' mindset (see previous blog post eLearning v ICT) for their secondary subjects, they could experience rich teaching and learning whilst integrating technology in any classroom (and beyond). Here is the presentation:

eLearning v ICT

In recent years we have made massive efforts to evolve from an 'ICT' mindset to an 'eLearning' mindset in schools. Some may say this is semantics. However, by definition, ICT refers to technology (stuff - cables, equipment) whereas eLearning refers to learning. Take the classic example of the incumbent ICT Coordinators in schools a few years ago. Usually these were men, often in jeans, who fixed the printers, ran the networks (with DIY fixes) and taught the occasional computing class. Five years on, after a focus on eLearning, we now have 50/50 male/female eLearning Coordinators, who are teachers first and foremost (from all disciplines). We employ technicians to do the technical work.

It is a personal bugbear when, because I work with technology (in teaching and learning), I am often referred to as the IT guy. I do not have those skills, I cannot fix your printer or write code for your website. However, if you want support with teaching, particularly in capitalising on the opportunities technology provides in (and beyond) the classroom, then I'm your man! 

Don't get me wrong, I have the utmost respect and need for people with technical skills. Unfortunately, I feel both technicians and teachers who work with technology are often treated in a patronising fashion as lackies to fix other people's problems. Surely it is the responsibility of all teachers to capitalise on the use of technology where appropriate (and a part of one's professionalism to develop problem-solving skills rather than default to your nearest lackey).

I expressed this frustration in a tweet with elicited some great responses from Judy O'Connell and Andrew Churches:

 eLearning is simply 'learning' in this day and age, enhanced and augmented by technology.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Kiwi Invasion

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of working very closely with David Eddy at some Principal and Assistant Principal workshops (the back-channels of which can be found here). David has many years experience of coaching new and established school principals. A lot of David's work is around developing 'relational trust' between principals and their staff and also within staff teams. (Examples of his work can be found here).

David draws heavily on the work of Viviane Robinson with whom he works at the Centre for Educational Leadership and the University of Auckland. Viviane's body of work is extensive including her latest book 'Student-Centred Leadership'.

A former colleague of David and Viviane at the University of Auckland is John Hattie (now at the University of Melbourne, West Island ;) of Visible Learning fame. In Visible Learning, John generates average effects sizes for various interventions on student performance from the synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses. His findings and presentations are often quite confronting and controversial. An example of his controversial claims and upfront delivery can be seen in the video below. An excerpt that gets to the point is where he states:

"teachers do not make the difference [per se] ... some teachers doing some things make a difference "

This year, someone who has probably had the most impact on our schools with her model of inquiry and teacher professional learning and development is Helen Timperley, again from the University of Auckland.

The reason why I mention these esteemed academics is not to name drop but the fact that they are all having a massive impact on schools and education, particularly in Australasia, and they are all Kiwis! So great is their impact that a colleague recently lamented regarding how much work these leading educators are creating for him (I would suggest this is now the nature of the beast as they provide a sound research and evidence base). What with this 'tribe' (the collective noun for kiwis) of Auckland academics, combined with my friend Andrew Churches, responsible for Bloom's Digital Taxonomy (I would also consider David Eddy a friend), there is truly a Kiwi Invasion happening in education.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Augmented Reality in Prayer

This is one for the RE teachers out there.

Today we had our Team Day and I was on prayer with @jpilearn. Obviously we wanted to get people involved, ideally in our case with the aid of eLearning. Walking past the banner for the Year of Grace I had a bit of an epiphany (pardon the pun) whilst reading Pope John Paul II's statement: 
'Keep Jesus Christ in your heart and you will see his face in every human being.'

I had been wanting to play around with augmented reality for a while and here was the perfect opportunity to use the contemporary world to bring a prayer alive. The simple procedure was as follows:
  1. Download Aurasma Lite app on all iPads
  2. Create a channel
  3. Subscribe all iPads to that channel
  4. Find a variety of images (in this case hearts)
  5. Print them off and stick on cards
  6. Mount the cards on name labels
  7. Find a variety of images new images (in this case images of the face of Christ)
  8. Save to Camera Roll of main iPad
  9. Using Aurasma, scan each heart individually and link to a particular face of Christ
  10. Ask everyone to wear a heart. During the prayer ask people to take an iPad (already logged onto wireless and primed in Aurasma) and 'look into the heart' of their colleagues. 
  11. Observe the awe and wonder of your colleagues
Check out the footage of this in action:

This of course could be used for any learning or group activity. 

A technical tip with Aurasma is to use images with good contrast i.e. light against dark. We found that pastel images were not recognised very easily.

Have a go. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Response to ABC Radio National Discussion on Computing and Literacy

Below is the response I gave to the radio transcript of a discussion around 'Computers and Literacy' given by a Brisbane teacher on ABC Radio National. I hope it doesn't read like I'm pontificating, but as it is very close to my area of study and my first paper is 'In Press' I felt obliged to respond. What with the protracted process of publication and the recent arrival of mini-me #2 it has been a long time between mentions of my research in this blog.

There are several aspects of Michael Callanan's discussion I agree with and a few I disagree with. Perhaps more importantly some points need to be expanded upon.

Michael in correct in stating that there is no unequivocal evidence linking computers with student performance. Hence there is all the more reason to perform further research. To this end the University of Wollongong is undertaking a massive study on behalf of the NSW Government looking at the deployment of the Digital Education Revolution in their schools. Similarly, myself and the University of Sydney are analysing the effects of the deployment in Sydney Catholic schools.

However, what is immediately apparent is that the wrong questions and suggested correlations are being stated. As Fullan (2011) remarks: “the notion that having a laptop computer or hand-held device for every student will make her or him smarter, or even more knowledgeable is pedagogically vapid…without pedagogy in the driver’s seat there is growing evidence that technology is better at driving us to distraction, and that the digital world of the child is detached from the world of the school”. Following on from Michael Callanan’s remarks on fetishism, it is not simply about having computers but rather what is done with them in the pedagogy - the art and science of teaching.
Expanding on Michael’s discussion, investment should not only be made in infrastructure but also in professional development and training. Importantly, there has to be a buy-in by ALL teachers (spread across the spectrum, labeled somewhat crudely by Rogers (1962) from ‘Innovators’ to ‘Laggards’). Teachers have a ‘moral imperative’ to attain and maintain the relevant skills for contemporary pedagogy including the use of technology in the classroom. Hence the onus is on the schools, systems and the teachers themselves. Some schools and systems can mandate professional development and the integration of technology in teaching practices however many cannot or do not, fearing the unions. Without a buy-in from teachers then laptops will go the way of interactive whiteboards and be primarily expensive white elephants although this time adding to greater distraction.
We should not be questioning the use of technology in the classroom it is simply there already and totally relevant to the world the students will graduate (or not) into. We should be encouraging students and teachers to create a positive digital footprint (it would be nice to be able to Google Michael). Common jargon in education circles like ‘21st Century Learning’ is unhelpful and outdated, we are 1/8 of the way through the 21st century. Technology is not only here to stay but is constantly changing. Humans, particularly teachers, hate change, however we must now prepare ourselves for working with continuous change.
Simon Crook, eLearning Adviser to 17 secondary schools in southwest Sydney (and not that long removed from the classroom).
Provocative aside – it’s very unpopular and unfashionable to say but smaller class sizes are not a proven measure of improvement and are potentially a very expensive red herring (Hattie, 2008).

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Nil Satis Nisi Optimum

Last week I was fortunate enough to facilitate a 2-day workshop at the Second National ITL Masterclass in Adelaide. It was quite an interesting concept with delegates splitting into cohorts and working over two days on a theme, developing a PLN, creating resources plus a final product to showcase, almost an intensive, project-based form of contemporary adult learning.

My workshop was called 'Nil Satis Nisi Optimum' (Everton's motto :) meaning 'nothing but the best is good enough'. Below is my prezi plus an outline of what we did.

Using the stimulus material in the prezi we:
  1. discussed the end product and how to get there (kind of backwards by design)
  2. outlined the technologies we would use (as a means to an end, not tech 101)
  3. discussed the 'Moral Imperative' of teaching using Fullan and Hargreaves as stimuli
  4. looked at crowdsourcing as a means to collaborate, share and draw on the qualities of the collective (excellent contemporary adult learning!) using Google Docs (see below)
  5. brainstormed what a great teacher looks like using Wallwisher
  6. looked at Ethics - leading by example using Creative Commons
  7. brainstormed what great eLearning looks like using Popplet (Fullan again)
  8. discussed what great PD looks like and modelled a mini-TeachMeet
Day 2:
  1. brainstormed what poor teaching and eLearning look like using tools of choice
  2. modelled staff meeting activity to engage whole staff in difficult conversations using Google Forms
  3. discussed what poor PD looks like and hence the need for empathy, meaning and proactivity rather than stick (or carrot...)
  4. developed resources as a PLC:
    • crowdsourced ideas in Google Presentation (see below)
    • Google Site of resources and PLC
    • YouTube video (see below) (quite funny in parts and unflattering in others...)
    • collective wiki  
Overall it was a great event, the highlight of which was meeting and working with so many great teachers and adding to my PLN, not least @neptunet, @eddyednedted (best of luck with TeachMeet Darwin John!), @skye_myers, @rach_y, @michellepayne55, @helenbull (excellent video Helen!), @rvkent, @miroepps (awesome dance moves Miro!), @HejkaC, @GAPC, @kwindsor02 (get me to KI!) @SeeMyBus, @pupcallery (nice win Alex!), @jessicaefrost, @JenNeish, @wjwhittle, @paul_h_taylor, @brightwaterss, @pars0, @kpetz, @Shadow80aus (great site Simon!) and @bernieos1967 - Cohort 1 rock! It was also great to catch up with the other great facilitators @mrpbps, @LibHowe, @grahamwegner, @jjash and @loisath.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

15 Minutes of Fame

Apologies in advance, there may be a whiff of narcissism here, but a couple of bizarre things happened recently at the K-12 Technology Congress in Darling Harbour, Sydney.

(Before the surreal events are unpacked it must be stated that overall it was a great conference with some excellent speakers and I was honoured to be asked to MC the afternoon of the first day).

Back to surreality, during the morning of the first day, along with many others I was a bit of a demon on the Twitter back-channel. However, maybe due to a lot of colleagues following proceedings from afar or maybe because of a frivolous use of other hashtags but I seemed to be retweeted a lot. This must have happened to quite a degree as this tweet suddenly appeared:

It was quite bizarre to see Trends Australia state that I was 'trending'!?! In my ignorance I didn't even know a person could trend (I thought only hashtags could). Not only that, @jonesytheteachr pointed out that I was briefly trending ahead of Justin Bieber and 1Direction!?!?! To compound this craziness further, after Professor Barry McGaw (Chair of ACARA) finished presenting he was able to field one question...mine. My question was not particularly mind-blowing but unbelievably the back-channel was being projected straight behind him and @pipcleaves tweeted:

It is much to my embarrassment that when presented with perhaps my only opportunity ever to quiz the pre-eminent academic responsible for the new Australian Curriculum, upon receiving his answer I was somewhat distracted and trying to stifle a laugh as this appeared behind him 5m wide! Profound apologies Barry.

To top off this narcissistic episode, in concluding the first day the main MC (Arron Wood) summarised that we heard 'this' from Alan November, 'that' from Stephen Heppell, 'the other' from Sir Ken Robinson and from Simon Crook that "we should look to work far more close together cross-sectorially and collaborate between State, Catholic and Independent schools far more readily". To be included in the same sentence as these demi-gods is unbelievably flattering and crowned off a quite surreal '15 minutes of fame'.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Twitter People and Hashtags by Subject

In preparation for a Staff Development Day (and something I'd been meaning to do for a while) I've cobbled together a brief table of great people and hashtags to follow on Twitter by curriculum area for people getting started in Twitter. It is by no means definitive as it needs to be brief. Additional recommendations much appreciated. It is quite NSW-centric but not exclusively so.

Compiling it was yet another great lesson in the power of Twitter and the PLN. A simple request for people to recommend educators and hashtags to follow by subject yielded generous responses from  , @, @, @, @, @melanne_k, @ and @shortcomp. Thanks guys!!! (A subsequent observation is that the English PLN in particular is all-pervasive and very self-supportive!)

Twitter People and Hashtags by Subject
 The various acronyms are based on how curriculum areas are denoted in NSW.

As well as the responses from my PLN, several hashtags were obtained from the far more comprehensive post in Edudemic. Of course there are many, many other great people to follow out there plus several great education, non-curriculum hashtags such as #edchat, #edtech, #slide2learn and #ceolearn

Sunday, March 4, 2012

4 Pubs and a Bar: A TeachMeet Tale

This is 1 of 300+ possible tales about the (world record breaking) TeachMeet in Sydney on Friday 2nd March 2012. Hence it is by no means definitive but may offer a bit of insight into the background, lead up and team that contributed to such an amazing event that has already gone down in TeachMeet folklore. The night itself was simply awesome but the build up was a truly amazing, humbling, emotional, collaborative experience of the highest order!

As has been well documented, nearly 6 years ago @ewanmcintosh was one of a handful blokes attending what became the very first TeachMeet in the Jolly Judge pub, Edinburgh. Last Friday night, 300+ teachers gave up their own time at the end of a long, wet week to brave some filthy Sydney weather and get to Australian Technology Park (ATP), Eveleigh to participate in the world's largest ever TeachMeet (the previous record was about 280 at BETT 2010, facilitated by @tombarrett). It was an amazing evening but more on that below. First, how did we get to making this happen?

Back in late November, I (will try to limit the use of the first person preposition) found myself in the Beresford Hotel (pub), Surry Hills, with Tom, Ewan and a few colleagues. One of my colleagues, @obrikate, was booking Ewan and Tom to work with our SSNP schools around Design Thinking plus keynote at the Early Years Conference being arranged for 2nd and 3rd March at ATP. The hiring of ATP was serious $$$ but did include use of the facilities into the evening of the first day if we so wished.

Kate suggested we have a TeachMeet on the first evening to get bang for our buck. To me this was a no-brainer! To have an awesome facility like ATP paid for by someone else (thanks Kate!) plus the 'Godfathers of TeachMeet' present was too good an opportunity to pass up! A few jars into the evening, after hearing more about BETT 2010 from Tom, the thought occurred that we could attract more than the 280 educators at the BETT TeachMeet and in effect break the world record!!!

Previously I'd been involved in organising 5 TeachMeets amongst our schools and had become very much aware of the whole Sydney TeachMeet movement occurring in all sectors across the city. Straight away it was obvious this was the perfect opportunity to bring together all teachers from the State, Catholic and Independent schools (the equity across the board I was perhaps overly paranoid about #CEODECAISBFF :) and really springboard the whole TeachMeet culture for 2012. To achieve this a canny team was required behind the scenes. Enter TeachMeet stalwarts @mesterman, @henriettami, @7mrsjames, @liamdunphy, @pipcleaves, @edusum, @townsey77, @malynmawby, @cpaterso, @rolfek, @pehogg, @mickprest, @jpilearn and @benpaddlejones (mega-unconference edupunk). What an awesome, cross-sectorial group (known latterly and affectionately as the 'Blue Team')!

Cue the start of millions of emails and tweets, many Google Docs and pub #3, the Commodore Hotel, North Sydney, in early December where Henrietta, Summer, Liam and myself got together for a confab about our ambitions. Just before Christmas a bunch us got out to ATP for the first time. Importantly, Matt Esterman was there. Matt had been the main driving force of the TeachMeet Sydney subculture. We had communicated many times electronically but this was the first time we had met face-to-face. What an all round top bloke! We were partners-in-crime throughout the whole process and it was the special connections made with Matt and many others that made this such a fulfilling and positive experience.

So things started to shape up. Ideas, flying in from all directions, were synthesised and a shape started to form, all the time with the healthy critique of Mick and Ben ;). Megan did amazing work on the flyers and posters. Henrietta took the lead with the 'sandpits' (plus organised our blue team t-shirts plus the show bags plus the new website). Jeanette was a recruiter extraordinaire including Skype-ins from @abfromz and @largerama plus @betchaboy for what became a 'Chat by the Bar'. Mick and Phil worked on the USTREAM. Malyn had a million ideas and did an excellent job with the registration. Pip worked on her 'Anarchy Room' and the program flyer and all the time Matt calmly organising, providing excellent communications to all educators involved and keeping myself and my bossy boots bullet points in check. (And all the while, scheming in the background, Liam was arranging a sneaky flash mob!)

So, come 2nd March, we had over 330 signed up, an article on page 5 of the Sydney Morning Herald (thanks @jcsymington, Ewan and Kim Arlington!) and a lot of anticipation from educators from all over Sydney, plus visitors from country NSW, SA and NZ. On the night there were educators from DEC, CEO, AIS, various unis, Board of Studies, pre-service teachers, casual teachers, education consultants, freelancers, media, vendors (not allowed to sell/promote their wares) and even a few sticky beaks plus a student and his mum!

Great panoramic shot by Rolfe Kolbe

It was a truly special night. Beforehand we all congregated in the cavernous dining room with super cool, blue-lit walls with nibblies and of course the bar. Teachers aren't used to being wined-and-dined in cool venues the same way corporate people are. Everyone really seemed to respond to the atmosphere, vibe and excitement about the evening, they were part of something special.

After the intro in the theatre we jumped straight into some 7 or 2 minute presentations from Ewan, @BiancaH80, @KatyO1983 then an outstanding flash mob from the gang at NBCS plus a description of their 'Audacious Classroom'. When the video of this flash mob comes out it will go viral!

Essentially being behind the scenes, I didn't get to see as many presentations over the evening in the various rooms as I would have liked. Having said that those I saw from Bianca, @whartonag and @karlao_dtn were incredibly inspiring. The highlight of any TeachMeet is the networking. It was brilliant to finally meet people face-to-face for the first time when I'd already been following the excellent work of many from afar. People like Cameron (we'd been collaborating on preparing for the event without ever meeting!), Bianca, Alex, Karla, @Steve_Collis, @cwoldhuis, my study buddy @enzuber plus many more and many familiar friends and contemporaries.

At the close there was a very simple message: anyone can run a TeachMeet! Do it! You don't need permission, just a venue and the drive. Maybe focus on niche subjects or geographical areas but do it! (and in the process of organising a TeachMeet you will meet some wonderful people and go through an emotional roller coaster after which you'll be a better person and educator).

Aside - whoever shouted our 'BEER!' when the moment, nervous energy and sense of being part of an outstanding team were making my voice waiver is a genius!

So at the end of the night we all knew we'd been part of something special. To celebrate we adjourned to the Alexandria Hotel, Eveleigh. But here's the irony, TeachMeets started with Ewan in a pub in Scotland; this world record TeachMeet idea was born in a pub in Sydney in the company of Ewan and Tom; yet, because they were keynoting the Early Years Conference the next day, Tom and Ewan missed the post-TeachMeet well-earned beer and feed. (Never mind guys, the rest of us enjoyed the unwind :-).

In conclusion, the March 2nd TeachMeet was a truly wonderful event. This was the highlight of my career thus far yet I love my day job. With further irony, this was after-hours, not strictly speaking part of my job. Ultimately, the camaraderie that came from helping organise the TeachMeet is something that will carry into the future and I cherish dearly.

Postscript - as pictures, videos and blog posts about the event appear I will endeavour to add links. Must dash, this baby is surely coming soon!!!

All of the great blogposts and resources seem to be through Pip Cleaves' Storify