Monday, 19 November 2012


Google Apps for Education (GAFE) now has Google + available for use, and we are slowly working our way through it.
We partitioned our accounts in the Organization & users tab, subdividing the domain into suborganizations. We chose an arbitrary trial subdivision and assigned our guinea pigs to this division.
Clicking on the subdivision we then clicked Services and enabled the G+ service for this subdivision only.
One question we had was how this would integrate with our existing gmail account G+. It seems that the G+ application is exactly the same for both accounts. The gmail circles are there in the GAFE account and vice versa. You can circle your own other account. But it does get confusing. I purposely have chosen a slightly different photo so that I can identify which G+ account I am using. Does it matter?
It is a bit disconcerting seeing your private gmail G+ posts appearing in your GAFE G+ post area. We have been using "Make the default setting for new posts unrestricted" but we are currently evaluating that. Should we keep the two domains separate? How will that limit us?

Slicing up learning

The models that we use to try to understand the learning process always seem to give part of the answer but never the complete one.
Some see it in dichotomies:
  • Cognitively Active vs Cognitively Inactive
  • Deep Learning vs Surface Learning
  • Slow Thinking vs Fast Thinking
Others in a progression:
  • Knowledge, Skills, Understanding
  • Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom (DIKW)
  • Data, Information, Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom
(from Wikipedia)

 Some see it in terms of knowledge forms (Milan Zeleny, 1987):
  • know nothing
  • know what
  • know how
  • know why
 adapted later to include why do, why is, what to do, and knowing the right things to do (wisdom?).

Each helps us to understand a particular context or slice through the cake of learning. Sometimes these models are ingrained in the language we use to discuss learning and can confuse.
How do you slice up your learning cake?

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Brain Processing - the limiting factor?

Glynda Lee Hoffman reiterates the importance of "Brain Based Learning" in her TEDxChico talk published today. In particular, she talks about the interventions that her group has done to improve the visual, auditory and motor neural processing of students who struggle in the classroom.
Her point is that these students do not SEE or HEAR or MOVE appropriately because the neural pathways to do these things are not developed or are developed ineffectively.
In this recording she recounts the work of her institution, the interventions made and the advances reported. I was intrigued since some of the visual processing improvement work was done on rectangular arrays - pinboard type exercises - each time increasing the complexity. Is it possible that abstract and out of context tasks can bring about this improvement? Are poorly performing students able to motivate themselves to do these tasks?
I would like to see the research on this and the results - I was able to find the Hoffman Institute that she refers to but no information about the research. Does anybody know about where this work is to be found?

Friday, 16 November 2012

Rounding the hexagon - new International Bachalaureate Diploma model

The International Baccalaureate Organization has announced new models in today's publication: "Launch of new programme models - November 2012".
It was just a year ago when I heard about the new direction that the IB Diploma programme would be taking. The then new curriculum director of the IB, Andy Atkinson, presented these ideas at the IB Heads Conference in Singapore. The "Approaches to Teaching and Learning" would signify a prescribed pedagogy, making the subject areas much more about conceptual understanding than content.
I linked these ideas up with my subject area (mathematics) and with Conrad Wolfram's TED ideas in a post shortly after the conference. Here are my notes about the direction that the IB is going, written at that time.
Gone is the old familiar hexagon - the new model is now circular, part of what the IB calls the "IB Continuum" (not sure about this concept - the career related certificate, the fourth IB programme, is hardly consecutive, more concurrent, hardly continuum).

This is the IBO's explanation about the new models:
These have been created to illustrate the coherence across the four IB programmes and highlight each programme’s unique elements. The design is no longer hexagonal but circular, illustrating the alignment of structure and terminology across all four programmes and a seamless, holistic and integrated continuum of education for children aged 3-19 years old.
The new models continue to be built around the learner profile, with an underpinning theme of international-mindedness. Approaches to teaching and learning are now embedded within all four programmes, which are further aligned by each one culminating in a learning experience.
The new IB Diploma Programme Model:

© International Baccalaureate Organization 2002, 2007, 2011

The Middle Years (MYP), Primary Years (PYP) and Diploma Programmes (DP) now aline in concepts and the "Approaches to Learning and Approaches to Teaching", written in the innermost circle, makes clear the directed pedagogy aspect. Experimental Sciences is now just Sciences.
The IB Learner Profile and "International-mindedness" feature prominently in the diagram, as does the watermark of the world - "indicating that much learning for the DP takes place in the global context".
There are challenges ahead. I hope that this now circular peg will fit as neatly into its hexagonal hole - and that the currency of the IB diploma is enhanced and not reduced.