Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Setting the scene for Authentic Learning

Jan Herrington's Authentic Learning is the subject of this week's #change11 MOOC.
She sets the scene really well with a set of nine videos, breaking down the process into steps:
  • Authentic context
  • Authentic activity
  • Expert performances
  • Multiple perspectives
  • Collaboration
  • Reflection
  • Articulation
  • Coaching and scaffolding
  • Authentic assessment
 This approach is not limited to university level work so it is great for the preparation that we are doing as a school to consider "open approaches to learning" within a secondary school setting.
As an introduction, her video explaining the academic and real settings continuum, explaining this against an authentic task and decontextualised continuum, helps greatly.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Falling at the first hurdle - ubiquitous sage on the side not for me

This week's topic on Slow Learning for the #change11 MOOC had me fall at the first hurdle. Clark Quinn's introductory post asked the following question: "What would my ideal learning situation be?"
He replied by saying it would be having a personal learning mentor with him, prompting support at the right moment and developing him slowly over time. He thus develops the concept of an automatic "sage on the side" to prompt, guide and thus produce learning.
Listening to the subsequent live session and participating in the final session was useful to have an understanding of this, the idea of drip irrigation as opposed to flooding and the value of formal and informal learning for novices, practitioners and experts. This slide is worth repeating:

His statement that learning gets better when we work with more people can be true and I liked the idea of the big L in Learning - learning which is more through problem solving, innovation, research and creativity.
But I would not use his learning GPS system (nor do I generally use a real GPS system - I prefer to use it only when necessary in very new and difficult circumstances).
I do not think that a personal learning mentor would be my ideal learning situation. The point of open is just that - open to wherever I want to go, not someone or something else to control.
I have just seen the following video, produced by Corning Glass and called a Day Made of Glass. It is both inspiring and worrying. Could I work with ubiquitous in-your-face technology?
The constant prodding of a sage on the side would worry me because of both this intrusion as well as manipulation - "stealth mentoring" as Carole McCulloch puts it in her post. I want to be totally in charge of my learning and I am not sure that even a human mentor is what I need.

Monday, 5 December 2011

IB Changes - notes from the IB Heads World Conference

Communications is not one of the International Baccalaureate Organisation's (IBO) strong points. Surprising this, given its status in the world.**
So, in response to requests for information about where the IBO is going, I publish the notes that I made for staff at school.
It is worth reading the IBO's philosophy at the outset since this is the driving force for the changes afoot. There has been a change here, a change that has been working its way in for some time. At one time the IBO could have been regarded as a service organisation, providing an internationally recognised diploma (DP) for universal university entrance. Indeed, early pioneers of the IB diploma would describe this exactly in this way - including my father, one of the first IB diploma teachers. Over the years, and particularly since the influences of the Primary Years Programme (PYP) and the Middle Years Programme (MYP), a much more crusading approach has been taken. I recall previous IB World Heads Conferences where hugely expansionist ideas were rehearsed by the IBO and resolutely rejected by the Heads present.
So it is significant that I heard, for the first time, definite statements about the PYP and MYP influencing the DP. Some people might say "about time" but I would urge a much more cautious approach - do not affect the value of the IB diploma nor the investment that schools have in it.
The IBO have split off assessment and curriculum into two departments, and it is clear that these are early days in this split. You will notice a couple of slides on a continuum of validity and reliability and the quote from Alec Peterson which was used by Carolyn Adams to introduce the idea. She used this in answer to complaints about the reliability of internal assessment moderation and marking. I do believe that there are other ways of looking at this, but that will have to wait for another post.
Carolyn Adams explained the ideas behind e-marking, the IBO's answer to improving quality and answering the critics of expansion. This seems an excellent approach although I still worry about the quality of examiners that the IBO find.
The changes as I noted them (please beware - I might have got some things wrong!) are listed on the final slides - and the presentation finishes with me imploring my teachers to get involved. It is a sad state of affairs that such a small proportion of IB teachers around the world take part in the curriculum reviews.

**The IBO's HeadNet, supposedly the online area for Heads, contains ancient information - minutes from 2010 and very little else. A new IB communications person has been employed - let us hope s/he can drag this organisation into this century.

Teacher-tech use for learning - Part 2

In the previous post on the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) from the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, I asked if it could be incorporated as a model for evaluating technology use by teachers. Clearly this was the intention of the matrix and, since it had exemplar material for each of the intersections, it could also be a guide as to how to move up to higher levels of technology integration.
It has proved difficult to use the categories as they are. 
Firstly, the vertical axis which describes the characteristics of the learning environment, seemed to complicate the definitions and made it more difficult to audit. Additionally, we found it difficult to separate student, teacher and environment in the horizontal axis (these are further layers in the model). And finally, the descriptors were not that helpful - particularly at the "Transformation" end.
We had asked teachers to self-report their technology use and had not wished to be prescriptive - so we decided that we should do the classifying afterwards. I am glad that we did not go for complicated categories initially because it is quite difficult to place things reliably and consistently.
The "Entry" level and perhaps some way into the "Adoption" level can be fitted to Puentedura's (SAMR Model) "Substitution" idea, whilst "Adoption" and "Adaptation" could be "Augmentation", "Infusion" mapping to "Modification" and "Transformation" to "Redefinition". Here it is in bullet points:
  •  Entry > Substitution
  • Adoption > Substitution and Augmentation
  • Adaptation > Augmentation
  • Infusion > Modification
  • Transformation > Redefinition
 Even though one can argue that the two are for different purposes, there does seem to be this match.
The descriptors for the TIM model were difficult to use. For example, in the Transformation column, "Extensive and unconventional use of tools" was the prevailing descriptor. Extensive is fine - unconventional? What does this mean?
The purpose behind the audit is to attempt to see where we are now and determine where we shall have to work to get curriculum leaders to review pedagogy. TIM has proved difficult and we have reverted to a simpler model (the SAMR one), but we have to do some work on exemplars so as to make the categorisation more reliable. #change11

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Gamification - increasing fluid intelligence

Thanks to @suifaijohnmak for the link to Gabe Zichermann's TEDxKids@Brussels talk on Gamification.
An absolute enthusiast for games in education (and life) - fast talking presenter with a powerful message.
"Kids are going to be alright" - in fact they are going to be "awesome" - according to Zichermann his prescription to adults is  "get into the game with kids - don't fight the game trend, understand it".

Getting more out of Google

Great infographic from Hack College (tag line "work smarter, not harder") on getting more out of Google, aimed at students conducting online research.
Copying it here as a personal reference since it is a great look-up for search term grammar.

Get more out of Google
Created by: HackCollege

Friday, 2 December 2011

Simulations - design features take-aways

Clark Aldrich's final session on the design of simulations again provided interesting ideas which resonated. An obvious expert in the games and simulations area, Aldrich reeled off statistics, concepts and pitfalls from his area.
Again, I found good ideas and terms that I can take away from simulation design which can be applied in school learning.
One was the idea of skill cones - as a player progresses through the simulation, skill cones can be used to see how s/he is introduced into a new skill and how this gets harder. Truncated skill cones show no ease of transition into a new skill but straight into a higher level of difficulty. By graphically placing these skill cones in the simulations timeline, you can ensure that not all difficulties are met at once. Parallels with introducing skills into lessons...
The other idea was that of the toleration waves for resolution and frustration. I have to use a snip from Aldrich's presentation to explain this:
This was a great way of showing the balance between frustration and resolution, with the dips into frustration being controlled and planned in the timeline of the game. Again, parallels with lesson design and perhaps problem solving.
I wrote about conceptual learning yesterday, in relation to Conrad Wolfram's stance on mathematics. His approach is to use simulations to concentrate on the ideas, the concepts, and really get to understand them - rather than concentrating on calculations and the manipulating algebra by hand. Simulations, surely, will play a bigger part as we move towards conceptual understanding and away from factual knowledge in our learning and teaching.
(As an aside - I did wonder what I would get from this particular week in the #change11 MOOC. Again I was surprised that I really enjoyed and learned useful ideas from another area - the power of connections that a MOOC provides).

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Making Mathematics Conceptual

Knowledge, skills and understanding. This is the way that we educators breakdown the learning which we are to achieve in students. We work from detailed curricula, schemes of work, instructional plans, syllabi - whatever it might be called - and it is usually stated in detailed lists of things to know about and how "to do" things.
Recently, the move to more "conceptual" approaches, where content is not directly specified, has been discussed. Even assessment orientated organisations such as the International Baccalaureate have been discussing having a more conceptual curriculum for the IB diploma subjects. In order to be clearer about the teaching and learning of this curriculum, they are considering ATTL - specifying Approaches to Teaching and Learning (an extension of the ATL aspect in the lower IB programmes). This might include:
  • A recommended pedagogy
    • constructivist learning
    • subject specific conceptual learning
    • contextualised authentic learning
    • differentiated learning
    • inquiry and critical thinking
    • independent, lifelong learning
    • stimulating learning environments
    • study skills common to all subjects
    • e-learning/technology component
(from Andy Atkinson's presentation at the IB Heads World Conference - he is the new Curriculum Director for the IB)

This is quite interesting territory, needing all the usual caveats regarding the value of the IB diploma curriculum to the next stage of education and thus its currency for university entrance. However, it could herald in a new age of learning and teaching at this normally dry and traditional level.

To see how this might work in mathematics, and at an extreme of the concept, I recalled Conrad Wolfram's presentation from October 2010 at TED. Here he presents his arguments for making math more practical and more conceptual, using real world problems for the calculations ("real problems look knotty, they have hair on them"). As Conrad put it:


He stated that it is not the case that computers will dumb down mathematics but that we have (choose to have) dumbed down problems in mathematics (to be able to deal with the calculations that we can handle).

Here is the original presentation: