Tuesday, 10 December 2013

La gestión de la reputación - en lugar de "marca"

El lenguaje de los mercados a veces no cuadra tan bien con los que estamos involucrados en la educación.
En primer lugar, ¿por qué hacerlo?: ninguna organización puede tener éxito sin una estrategia de comunicación clara. Y asegurarse de que se lleve a cabo.
Esto no es sólo acerca de la venta o comercialización, se trata de contar su historia - porque si no lo hace, otros lo harán.
La realidad de cada persona es en realidad un conglomerado de pedazos de muchas historias, muchas veces oído y pasado a la memoria sin ningún mecanismo de comprobación de errores. Con los medios de comunicación social (si no sólo e-mail), las historias pueden tener una vida propia y se convierten en la realidad para muchos. La historia inexacta y distorsionada será entonces la realidad para el miembro de su cliente / padres / comunidad.
Es necesario escuchar también. No sólo porque puede que tenga que tomar medidas para garantizar la versión correcta se comunica, pero también se puede aprender y luego ser capaz de mejorar lo que haces.
Segundo punto - sobre el concepto de "marca".
Esto no cuadra con muchos educadores. Nos resistimos a la idea de que las escuelas son una marca como si estuviéramos vendiendo una mercancía.
Así que sólo hemos utilizado otros términos tales como "reputación". Ahora, esto es importante y vale la pena conservar. También nuestro posicionamiento, nuestros atributos especiales, nuestra identidad y nuestra imagen.
Esta es una presentación en que se acumula estos puntos de partida de la filosofía y los objetivos de la escuela, cómo esto es percibido por nuestros grupos de interés, y cómo los cuatro factores de reputación, posicionamiento, identidad e imagen son considerados. Por último, no se trata sólo de una estrategia de comunicación buena, pero un proceso de garantía de la buena calidad - más allá de "spin" a la sustancia real.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Readings - future curricula

There is much discussion about how the curriculum should be changed to prepare learners for a future that we can hardly describe. I have been concentrating on the Equinox Summit findings (yet to be finally published but I am working my way through their communique). Thank you to John Mikton and the ECIS ICT Committee eNews for a reading list regarding the curriculum for the future:

The Future of Curriculum

Curricula Designed to Meet 21st-Century Expectations

Mapping the 21 Century Classroom Curriculum of the Future

NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment

The new basics: changing curriculum for 21st century skills

21st Century Curriculum and Instruction

What are other "must reads" about this topic?

Monday, 2 December 2013

Managing reputation - rather than "brand"

The language of markets sometimes does not go down so well in education. I read Karl Rivers' article on Managing Your School's Online Brand with interest and he asked how schools manage this. I replied on the Ed Tech Google+ Community and thought it worth repeating here.

Firstly, why do it: No organisation can succeed without a clear communications strategy. And ensuring that it is carried out.
This is not just about selling or marketing, it is about telling your story - because if you do not, others will.
Each person's reality is in fact a conglomeration of bits of many stories, often heard and passed into memory without any error checking mechanism. With social media (if not just e-mail), stories can take a life of their own and become the reality for many. The inaccurate and distorted story will then be the reality for your client/parent/community member.
It is necessary to listen too. Not just because you might have to act to ensure the correct version is communicated, but you can also learn and then be able to improve what you do.

Second point - about the concept of "brand".
This grates with many educators. We resist the idea that schools are a brand as if we were peddling a commodity.
So we have just used other terms such as "reputation". Now, this matters and it is worth conserving. Also our positioning, our special attributes, our identity and our image.
This is a Google presentation which builds up these points starting from the school's philosophy and objectives, how this is perceived by our stakeholders, and how the four factors of Reputation, Positioning, Identity and Image are considered. Finally, it is not just about a good communications strategy but a good quality assurance process - beyond the age of spin to actual substance.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

What a difference a year makes - smartphones and tablets come of age.

In August 2012 I wrote a post entitled "Computers for serious work - tablets and smartphones just don't cut the mustard". Does this still stand?
No. I find myself producing more and more on my tablet and doing SOME work on my smartphone. What has changed?
  • Input: the input options, going beyond the tiny keyboard on the screen, have made it possible to note-take and post. SwiftKey has been the key for me to really get going with this. My Samsung tablet now can take in text at a surprisingly fast rate AND, for the most part, accurately. And as in all good software, it is learning and improving its performance. Also, voice input (dictation?) is now much more accurate.
  • Multi-tasks: I can move from one app to another for information or copy-paste. This enables a composite note or post to be made - it is still slightly iffy but seems to work for many apps, particularly in the Google suite.
  • Google Keep: as a note taking software, from which you will do something else later, is ideal (produce a document, make a presentation, etc). Simple, quick and effective, with no frills, words ready to be thought about, rephrased, improved upon. And it works without a connection, waiting for one to synchronise later.
Observing students in class, however, I can see that the advantages of good typing skills  are evident. Students can look up, pay attention to speakers, videos, presentations, yet keep note-taking without glancing at the keyboard. I am not at the "touch-typing" (touch-swiping?) with SwiftKey yet so still prefer the keyboard for extended work.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Making sense of self - 1st point of the Equinox List

Continuing from the previous post: What will schools be like for children born in 2013?
The Equinox list is a good start point for discussing how schools should change.
Here is their first point:
1. Learning focuses on the development of lifelong learning practices and a sense of self, rather than facts and figures.
I would not dispute the first - developing lifelong learning practices seems a worthy goal. But the sense of self? Rather than facts and figures?
This seems to be conflated from many phrases, a typical focus group problem when trying to reduce a list from many to few.
But what does a sense of self mean? Is that the priority? Or should it be a sense of how the self fits in to the community?
Sense of self rather than "facts and figures"?
Can anyone help to make this clearer?

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

What will schools be like for children born in 2013?

The question of 'what will a school "fit for the future" look like' has preoccupied educators for many years. Despite grand ideas little has changed in schools; likewise, the expectations of what schools should do have remained the same.
I have reported on various ideas and sources, such as from the International Baccalaureate Heads Conference in Buenos Aires, our own work on Preparing Learners for the 21st Century, from Ken Robinson, and our own list of 2st Century Skills in "If you are not learning how to solve problems...".
There is a feeling that the time is right (or ripe) for change.

The Equinox Summit - Learning 2030 took place under the Waterloo Global Science Initiative from the 29th of September to the 3rd of October, 2013, in Ontario, Canada. The goal of this summit was to identify the "beacons of change, assemble them into a coherent vision of learning, and map out a way to make this vision not just an occasional reality but the norm". Their communiqué (pdf) takes as the starting point that a child born today will graduate from high school in a world very different from today's - in a world where facts will have "little value" and education should equip learners to:
  • think creatively, independently, rigorously, and collaboratively
in full awareness of themselves and their social context.

This summit, hosting "current leaders in education, teaching professionals, researchers, and policymakers", represented six continents and with a "truly global and inter-generational perspective". Their findings will be presented in a road map for how to achieve this in early 2014 (The Equinox Blueprint).

The communiqué listed the attributes that high school graduates will need to have by 2030:
  • lifelong learners who can identify and synthesize the right knowledge to address a wide range of challenges in a complex, uncertain world
  • literate, numerate, and articulate
  • creative, critical thinkers
  • able to collaborate effectively with others, especially those of different abilities and backgrounds
  • open to failure as an essential part of progress
  • adaptable and resilient in the face of adversity
  • aware of the society they live in and able to understand the different perspectives of others
  • self-aware and cognizant of their own strengths and limitations
  • entrepreneurial, self-motivated, and eager to tackle the challenges and opportunities of their world
There are no surprises here. I think that we would all agree with this list - perhaps I would have emphasised the issue of international mindedness more since I believe that working with and understanding other cultures (not just backgrounds) will be crucial in the coming years.

So, what is proposed? Replacing traditional concepts of classes, courses, timetables, and grades by more flexible, creative and student-directed forms of learning. They state that this would develop deep conceptual understanding, which can be applied in other contexts.
I am not sure that this necessarily follows. 

The paper ends by listing seven aspects of the new system - and I list the main headings here:
  1. Learning focuses on the development of lifelong learning practices and a sense of self, rather than facts and figures. 
  2. Students learn through cross-disciplinary and often collaborative projects. 
  3. Students connect with each other in fluid groupings that are dictated by their needs at any given moment. 
  4. Teachers and other learning professionals serve as guides or curators of learning
  5. Learning progress is measured through qualitative assessment of a student's skills and competencies that document the learner’s entire experience, rather than measuring a discrete outcome. 
  6. Decisions that affect the learning environment are made by stakeholder groups comprised of learners, teachers, governments, and parents, with learners and teachers playing a central role in decision-making. 
  7. Schools empower both students and teachers, encouraging them to experiment with new ideas and fail safely, so that they develop the confidence to take risks. 
The full Blueprint should be available in early 2014 - and I wait for it with great interest.

(I was disappointed in the Times Educational Supplement's article on the summit - what did they pick up on? Just point 5, with the heading "Scrap exams to create schools of the future".
Come on, TES, keep to your motto of Think*Educate*Share and drop the sensationalism. You are writing for professional educators...)


Thursday, 17 October 2013

From the horse's mouth: "Multiple Intelligences" are NOT "Learning Styles

Valarie Strauss' article in the Washington Post has Howard Gardner write emphatically that his theory of Multiple Intelligences (linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal and intrapersonal - with later addition of naturalist), is NOT synonymous with the concept of Learning Styles.
It is clear that Gardner has suffered over this ("it's high time to relieve my pain and set the record straight").
He describes Multiple Intelligence (MI) Theory as being the result of research that led him to conclude "that each of us has a number of relatively independent mental faculties" (our MIs), rather like having "relatively autonomous computers" handling different information sets.
Gardner criticises the notion of Learning Styles as not being coherent and that there is no persuasive evidence that the learning style produces more effective outcomes.
He ends by drawing three primary lessons for educators:
  1. Individualise your teaching as much as possible.
  2. Pluralize your teaching  (teach in several ways - through stories, works of art, diagrams, role play).
  3. Drop the term "styles".

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Information - knowledge - understanding; from constructing to controlling learning

What is the relationship between Information and Knowledge? Between Knowledge and Understanding?
And what is "Information"?
Alan November has it that the ubiquity and availability of information causes us to reframe the way we teach and learn. No longer is it necessary for the teacher to be the the sole provider of information, often from their long and extensive academic preparation. Indeed, it is not only unnecessary, but in fact counterproductive for the teacher to be the sole provider of this information.
I have put together this presentation of points with which I have tried to construct my own understanding of learning and teaching. Is it sufficient? No, a narrative would have told the story in the form of information. Try to get the meaning, the message, behind each slide and construct your own understanding of it. And then you will be controlling your own learning...

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

IB Heads World Conference - Buenos Aires 2013

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Heads World Conference was held in Buenos Aires this last weekend. With the title IB in a Virtual World and with well known keynote speakers it promised a lot.
And it delivered. Perhaps not in the way I thought it would do but certainly as an opportunity to understand the topic of technology in education in a deeper way. The main take away point is that it is not about the technology, stupid.
I shall report on the messages from three keynote speakers and what I understood of them.

The conference opened with Charles Fadel - author and founder of the Center for Curriculum Redesign. His M.O. seemed to be to want to shock the heads with what was just around the corner in terms of technology, and I think that he did that to many. Using examples such as high speed manipulation by robots to bring home the point about the future of manufacturing and other repetitive process, the way digital technologies can be almost approaching on the creative (examples from art and music) and the increase in computing power to match first a human brain and then, very shortly, ALL human brains, Fadel prepared us for his talk the following day. This was regarding the work of the Center for Curriculum Redesign [CCR] (and reported in his co-authored book: 21st Century Skills, Learning for Life in our Times) which came up with a four dimensional model of the knowledge and other aspects of learning which are needed. The process of working out what is needed in the future is an exciting one, and one which we have done in our school. The CCR model maintains Traditional Knowledge (but what should we exclude?), adds Modern Knowledge (but what should we include?) and adds Metacognition, Character and Skills.

(From Charles Fadel - PPP)
For the breakout sessions we were sent to discuss what we should include and what we should exclude. This proved to be a very difficult thing to do - not because there were not those willing to explore this, but the discussion seemed to go off in different directions. Perhaps the way we were doing it was at fault. When we did this exercise at school (with the SMT and separately with the Board), we broke off into smaller groups to do this, presenting our results on poster paper after 30 minutes. That is much more productive because this level of discussion can only be achieved by working in pairs or groups of three. Shame.

The keynote speaker for the Friday morning was Aleph Molinari who was the founder of the Fundación Proacceso, "a nonprofit organization that uses the educational benefits of technology to drive the social and economic development of people living in marginalized communities" (from the excellent IB Heads Conference App - great to see paperless programming).
Relating his information to Mexico, Molinari spoke of the digital divide and the low numbers of students who finish school, all with low technical knowledge. His foundation provides sustainably built meeting areas with computers, teaching English and other subjects, in a well defined programme, following each student with a digital card allowing excellent measurement of success and completion. He advocates a top-down implementation process, from legislation down.
This was a very interesting process since I think it is easily transferable and copyable to other Latin American countries. In a way it by-passes all the problems of state schooling in these countries and engages the interest of children (and adults) in learning. Excellent.

I expected good things from Alan November - and I was not disappointed. In his usual style "this is only my opinion" way, he left nuggets to think about. And it is not about the technology. His was the Saturday keynote.
He re-framed the problem. "The real issue is not training teachers to use it (technology) - the most difficult thing is shifting the control to the student, for learning".
This is the fundamental November point, and not grasped by all. He put the task of leaders as being to recalibrate the control of the organisation to manage learning for the students, and for students to increasingly take control and design for managing their own learning.
So, not a technology problem, a control problem.
And I get it. His example of the preparation of a powerpoint presentation by the teacher for the forthcoming lesson: that act of forming, aligning, and presenting her knowledge is what the STUDENT should be doing, NOT the teacher. We are depriving the students of constructing their own knowledge.
So, November re-frames the situation into three parts:
  1. Control shift needed.
  2. Information is ubiquitous - teachers should not be the sole providers of this and information is so available that it enables questions (assignments?) to be written to raise the levels of response to much richer learning and expressive levels.
  3. Global relationships/communications - broaden the audience for student work to the world and have learning relationships with the world. First hand.
So, November would say that the real work is redesigning assignments to be
  • more creative
  • more demanding
  • more rigorous
  • and thus, even more motivating.
As usual, he left the nuggets for us to follow up, so here is a topic list:
  • WolframAlpha - investigate this as a superb instrument to free us from the drudgery to examine the real concepts, not the mechanics.
  • Google search - get to grips with the 16 operators so that you can find the genuine articles and enrich the questions that you ask your students; do not give assignments like those you gave in the world of paper, enrich the possibilities of deeper thought and synthesis.
  • Teachers need to give more structure, guidance and capacity to our students for research, using 
    • Knowledge Engines such as WolframAlpha
    • Search Engines such as Google search
    • Social Media Engines such as Twitter.
  • Eric Mazur and clickers (and Facebook!) - just researched this and found GoSoapBox - excellent tool for feedback in class, or before the next lesson after homework. Click on the link and use the access code to answer the question "who does most of the work in your lessons?". Access code: 793-936-932
  • And finally, the Curse of Knowledge. How many times have we seen this in action. "The more we know about a subject, the less prepared we are to understand a learner's misconceptions, confusion and questions". But it is exactly that which makes us teachers, and not just spouters of our knowledge. Let us provide avenues, technological or otherwise, to get this feedback.

Minecraft (Digital Lego) comes of age

Fascination. Obsession. Compulsion. Infatuation. Enthusiasm. Passion.
These are some of the words used to describe children's attitude to playing Minecraft. Observing children immersed and creating their virtual labyrinth you can see it is all embracing. Having them explain to you what they are doing involves a mind-blowing and eye-popping few minutes as they flick/scroll/dash through their creation of rooms, passages, castles, food, storage, doorways and traps. It is, undoubtedly, Digital Lego. Indeed, its blocky nature lends itself to this thought, and actual, physical Lego is available on the Minecraft website so that the virtual game becomes a real 3D one.
It is often difficult to describe such games as educational, but they are. Our Learning Resources Coordinator (and much more) Jennifer G. has been the champion for this type of learning at our school - with students participating in workshops and webinars explaining what they are doing and what they are learning. Slowly, there is a recognition of the creativity, resourcefulness and effort that goes into creating such virtual worlds. And the learning that takes place.
Minecraft announced that they have 33 million users (BBC article on this is worth reading). Without doubt Minecraft has come of age, with an acceptation that it has great educational benefit.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

MOOCs going mainstream

The dust is settling on the MOOC debate. Is it here to stay? Is it just the latest flash-in-the-pan which will disappear once they hype has died down?
The Economist's writer thinks that on-line courses - including the latest incarnation of these, the MOOCs - won't kill mainstream degrees but that "MOOCs presage a period of great change in higher education".
Quoting from the first edition of MOOC Forum, the article makes clear that MOOCs have pervaded university level education: "An editorial explains that there are over 500 MOOCs being offered by more than 100 well known, and accredited, university brands".
The issue of completion of a MOOC has been a criticism. The writer "E.L." makes a good case for this being immaterial in a rapidly changing world where the needs of the learner are so varied and not necessarily tied to paper qualifications.
The MOOC term, albeit hijacked from a much more grass roots approach (and more appealing - let us have more #change11 MOOCs!), seems to have been a catalyst for giving a tweak to distance learning in two dimensions - the number enrolled and the open access of it. These aspects allow the provider to monetize in a different way, usually by having those that want credit for the course pay for this.
MOOCs are here to stay - until a better term comes along.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

What devices are being used at school?

Interesting statistics on the 928 unique devices tracked on our Secondary School wireless network:

Android Phones: 3
Android Tablets: 76
BlackBerry Phones: 40
BlackBerry PlayBooks: 1
iPads: 79
iPhones: 248
Linux PCs: 5
Macs: 171
Windows PCs: 276
Windows Phones: 8
Others: 6

iPhones have eclipsed BlackBerry, the previous phone of choice (BB Messenger being the reason why), and Mac representing a fair proportion of student laptops in use. Android tablets are certainly increasing rapidly although I am surprised at the small number of Android phones tracked.

(Thank you Fernando, our Sysman for the data)

Friday, 6 September 2013

IT resources and bandwidth experiment - is it enough?

Our students are doing a unit involving much internet use (around 80 students in IB Theory of Knowledge course).
How did the IT resources and the school's bandwidth measure up?
Some information - the unit is on a Google Site with links to some video resources (Screencast-o-matic and YouTube), to Google Groups discussion forums and to Google Docs used as a collaborative space. Four classrooms being used, each with its own Fortinet access point, about 20 students per class, with a 600C Fortinet firewall allowing 16Gbps Firewall throughput, up to 3,000,000 concurrent sessions and up to 70,000 new sessions per second. We have a 30 Megabit/second internet connection with 1 to 3 compression which was upgraded to this two years ago - this is a description of it.
So, how did it go?
This is the system resources report on how our Fortigate unit (our firewall) was doing during the heavy load period. Fernando, our Sysman (who provided all this information - thanks!), describes this process as a traffic manager, and you can see it doing really well. Conclusion - enough capacity here.
The following traffic history is from our Fortigate - internally monitoring our bandwidth in a 30 minute interval:
Fernando did a sweep of the classrooms and found some disgruntled students trying to access a Screencast-o-matic video - they had internet bandwidth problems (nb: not wireless access point problems) as well as Java problems (Chrome on Apple, Chromebooks, etc).
However, I noted in following the activity from viewing the collaborative Google Docs that were being produced, that this aspect worked well.
What did it look like from our ISP? Here is the report from the same time:

And here is the problem, our 30 Mbps topping out during this classtime.
So, all the work to upgrade our internal systems has worked, but we need much more bandwidth to cope with our use. Anybody suggest how much?

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Panic over - lesson learned from a Google Spreadsheet

Let me set the scene - questionnaire out to all staff on which committees they want to serve on, received on a Google Form, then editing the Google Spreadsheet formed by the answers (including the datestamp information).
It needs a little tidy-up, of course, let's get rid of the datestamp and responder information that was automatically gathered by the form, then share it to all staff....
Spreadsheet disappears and this message appears, for all who access it:
Now, we really needed this information but it was gone!
We had many e-mails back from staff saying that they could not access the spreadsheet, not from home nor from school. Panic!
We contacted Google Enterprise Support the next day and had an instant reply from Eibhin Martin. At least we felt supported.
There were questions to answer and we shared Eibhin into the spreadsheet.
Later, quite by chance, JS found that she had the document open in one of her hundred tabs or so which are habitually open on her computer, and we were able to see a version of the committee lists - phew!
Eibhin got back to us - not a good idea to edit spreadsheets formed from forms - corruption of either or both can be the result.
Lesson learned. We shall make a copy in future before messing with it...

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Changes to the CIS Accreditation Indicators

The Council of International Schools (CIS) has recently announced changes to the indicators for two of the accreditation standards in Edition 8.
Sharing here a presentation which I found useful to use to explain what these changes are - feel free to use.
There is such a cross-over between the "Access to Teaching and Learning" and "School Culture and Partnerships for Learning" sections in the new edition that it is difficult to separate them, and I think will create some concept problems in using the new protocols. Let's see.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Communication - telling the story (and listening to the reply)

No organisation can succeed without a clear communications strategy. And ensuring that it is carried out.
This is not just about selling or marketing, it is about telling your story - because if you do not, others will.
Each person's reality is in fact a conglomeration of bits of many stories, often heard and passed into memory without any error checking mechanism. With social media (if not just e-mail), stories can take a life of their own and become the reality for many. The inaccurate and distorted story will then be the reality for your client/parent/community member.
It is necessary to listen too. Not just because you might have to act to ensure the correct version is communicated, but you can also learn and then be able to improve what you do.
This particularly applies to schools, but it also applies to large international organisations too. I am pleased that the International Baccalaureate is improving their communications and congratulate Drew Deutsch, Director for IB Americas, for producing a personal message on Vimeo.This is more like it IBO!
I have been in the audience for many an excellent presentation from IB personnel - but have had to be there in person. Could we hope for other video presentations about the IB programme changes, for example? This is an excellent medium for getting the IB story out to those who implement the programme.
And using blogs, video and social media are great opportunities to listen, too.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

IB Teachers have different teaching perspectives profile

I read about the research studies released by the IB in the latest IB News Update for Heads. One of these concerned a study on the IB teacher - The IB teacher professional - identifying, measuring and characterising pedagogical attributes, perspectives and beliefs, based on a research report prepared for the IB by Liz Bergeron and Michael Dean.
The study used various methods and included the Teaching Perspective Inventory (TPI) developed by Pratt, Collins and Selinger (2001).

Personal results:
This is an interesting inventory to take and I have included my result in this blog post. About ten minutes is all that it takes and it is to be found at the Teaching Perspectives Inventory website.

There are five perspectives and these are well described on the website:
    Effective teaching requires a substantial commitment to the content or subject matter
    Effective teaching is a process of socializing students into new behavioral norms and ways of working
    Effective teaching must be planned and conducted "from the learner's point of view"
    Effective teaching assumes that long-term, hard, persistent effort to achieve comes from the heart, not the head
    Effective teaching seeks to change society in substantive ways
 and each is divided into Beliefs (what you believe about teaching and learning), Intentions (what you try to accomplish in your teaching, and Actions (what you do when your are teaching).
Using the Dominant and Recessive lines above, you can see I show as dominant in Developmental and Recessive in Transmission. Since I had to think of a particular teaching example whilst doing this inventory, I chose what I currently teach - IB Theory of Knowledge.

Results from the IB Research:
They found that in general, IB teachers are similar; responses are fairly consistent on the TPI, focus groups and open ended survey items, that they carried out.
The average IB teacher and the average TPI database teacher are similar. They have as dominant NURTURING, with backup APPRENTICESHIP and DEVELOPMENTAL.
However, IB teachers value ALL perspectives more and scores are relatively close, whilst in the TPI database only one or two are higher.
Naturally, the study found that IB teachers would describe themselves best by using the IB Learner Profile. SOCIAL REFORM average for IB teachers was higher than 60% of all teachers completing the scale (Pre-kinder to 12th grade sample) - the study wondered if the international dimension could be a factor here.
IB teachers also value using inquiry based instruction and also flexibility in their use of professional judgment, to form their teaching practice.
Could there also be a difference in dominant perspectives in terms of PYP, MYP and Diploma IB teachers?

Pratt, Collins and Selinger (2001) Pratt, D., Collins, J., and Selinger, S.J. 2001. "Development and Use of The Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI). Unpublished paper presented at the 2001 AERA annual conference, Seattle, Washington, USA.

IB Communications - finally!

"We heard you" writes Siva Kumari in the first issue of IB News Update, the new quarterly e-publication that focuses on news of special interest to IB Heads of school.
Siva is the Chief Operating Officer, Schools Division, of the International Baccalaureate Office.
There is a suspicion of side-lining of Heads by the IBO - I have to say it is easy to come to this conclusion - so this is a welcome (closed) publication. Thank you!
But we Heads do have opinions and it would be nice to harness social media (a private Google + community?) so as to try these out and to find solutions to our common problems. The IBO should not fear these types of initiatives - we live in times of active and rapid two-way communications and collegiate approaches to solving problems.
It has taken some time for the IBO to get their communications act together and they now have two (generally available) e-publications: IB Global News and IB in Practice (the latter is in its inaugural issue too).
I do wish that the IBO would reconsider their commercial pricing of their new IB Journal of Teaching Practice. This should be the vehicle for reporting research on the all important Approaches to Teaching and Approaches to Learning, and thus be readily to hand for all IB teachers, not just those who fork out the required dollars.

Previous post on this

Friday, 24 May 2013

Preparing Learners for the 21st Century - what we are working on

How do you prepare learners for the 21st Century?
This is a theme that has preoccupied educators for years. At our school we have been sharing and discussing the latest pronouncements and ideas, trying to see how we can consider the type of changes that are necessary to move us from "factory" education to one which truly empowers our students in all sorts of ways, but without destroying all that we do so well to make our students successful in our present world.
We planned a 3 hour retreat for the School Management Team, in the morning (when we might be at our freshest!).
We are not starting from scratch on this, having been posting resources on our "School fit for the future" site and using Diigo, e-mails and meetings to share. So for this retreat we decided that each of us would have a maximum of five minutes to bring to the table some perspective which would form the basis for discussion. This blog post lists two of these ideas.
[Would you believe it - we had a power-cut for the whole of the session! It was a talking and whiteboard only session but it was none the poorer for that; refreshing, actually!]
Mandy had asked her top 5th graders for their opinions. She brought in a long poster roll with the result, in their own handwriting.
Thanks to the Grade 5 "Think Tank": Jeffrey, Marcelo, Ariana, Andrea and Andrea, and Silvana.

This was, as always when you involve children, enlightening.

My contribution used two sources - one expected and well known, the other from someone working in the digital field. This was a recording made prior to the retreat.

Enter learner to view the video

What are YOUR thoughts about this? What should schools be emphasising, changing, dropping, adding so as to prepare learners for the 21st Century?

Monday, 20 May 2013

All our eggs in one basket - problems with Google Apps

We have had a rogue account on our Google Apps for Education system. One of our student accounts had been taken over and something spam-ish or worse happened.  We got an e-mail from Google to our Administrator about the account with the following information:
The following is an automated security notification from Google about your domain accounts.
It has come to our attention that some of your user accounts might have been compromised and are being used to send spam from your domain: xxx
The following users in your Google Apps domain appear to be affected:
We have disabled the users in a way that they can be recovered by the admin. Please follow the actions below before you re-enable these users.
We have taken the action required (reset password, completed the Gmail Security Checklist – all 9 points – and looked at the Google Apps Email Audit API information).
But Blogger has been disabled. Any access to blogger from our GApps domain goes to a repeating Captcha which does not resolve to the blog required – that is any blog on blogger.
What is the answer? How is this resolved? I can POST to Blogger but I can't see it!!!

UPDATE: Blogger now working. What was the problem? Rogue account? Possibly. More likely it is to do with automated queries from our website to blogs. We have a communications page which reproduces just a few lines of each post of some key blogs on a blog integrator space. We have stopped the automatic updates and are working on another solution.
Strange how it all happened at the same time.

gmail security checklist

Friday, 10 May 2013

Escaping education's Death Valley - how to move schools on

Ken Robinson's "How to escape education's Death Valley" is his latest TED talk on education. As usual, he is entertaining and convincing, but this time much more prescriptive about what is wrong and especially about what to do about it (at least as far as the USA is concerned - he was speaking in Los Angeles).
His main points:
Three aspects about human life:
  • We are diverse
  • We are curious
  • We are creative
Science and mathematics necessary, but not sufficient - the arts, humanities, etc allow the celebration of talents but also provide the diverse nature of talents and interests of our children.
Teachers are the lifeblood of success of schools. Teaching is a CREATIVE profession NOT a DELIVERY SYSTEM. Role of a teacher is to facilitate learning, not having testing be the dominant culture of education; testing should support education.
Education being seen as a mechanistic system when in fact it is inherently a HUMAN SYSTEM.
Describes an alternative education programme in Los Angeles:
  • it is personalised
  • has strong support for teachers
  • close links with the community
  • has broad and diverse curriculum
  • many involve students outside the school as well as inside the school
This should be the education programme of all schools, says Robinson.
Cultural climate of school is what determines whether it will be successful and is absolutely essential.
Leadership: should not be command and control but one of climate control - creating the climate of possibility.
Robinson provides some general principles on which to base learning in schools and a timely reminder that education is a human system; top down initiatives (eg No child left behind) just do not work - responsibility should be devolved to school level to get the job done.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

"If you are not learning about how to solve problems, what will you do when you are out of school?"

"If you are not learning about how to solve problems, what will you do when you are out of school?"
This was Liva Pierce's conclusion after doing "Expeditions" in science and technology whilst in 8th grade in King Middle School, Portland, Maine.
Following on from my previous post on We know where we are, but where are we going?, here is an example that ticked ALL the boxes in the lists that I made:

21st Century Learning Skills: 

  • Creativity and Innovation (Entrepreneurship in Yong Zhao's language?)
  • Collaboration and Communication - complex communication, oral and written
  • Digital and Quantitative Literacy
  • Global Thinking, International Mindedness
  • Inquiry, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Integrity and Ethical Decision-making
  • Adaptability, Initiative and Risk-taking
  • Leadership and Teamwork, Responsibility
21st Century Learning Approaches and Environments:
  • Authentic Learning - Project Based Learning
  • Experiential Learning
  • Open Learning
  • Technology Infusion
  • Social and Emotional Learning
It is possible to open up learning to incorporate these ideas in ordinary school settings. Clearly an insightful and coordinated set of teachers at King Middle School planned and delivered an excellent example of what can be achieved. Thanks for showing us one powerful model.

Here is the report from PBS:


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

We know where we are, but where are we going?

There is much debate about schools and where they are failing. Schools are being seen as products of the industrial age and reflect this by their narrow pedagogy, factory style classrooms and content based curricula.
Where should schools be going? What are the skills that we should be developing in our students so that they are ready to be productive individuals and citizens in the 21st century?
I found the job description from the International School of Beijing for a Futures Academy Facilitator really interesting and a commendable approach to planning for the future.
It is not the only list of skills and approaches, so I combined these with others that we have been working on for some time at our school. The concepts do not divide neatly and there is some overlap, but would welcome other suggestions too.

21st Century Learning Skills: 
  • Creativity and Innovation (Entrepreneurship in Yong Zhao's language?)
  • Collaboration and Communication - complex communication, oral and written
  • Digital and Quantitative Literacy
  • Global Thinking, International Mindedness
  • Inquiry, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Integrity and Ethical Decision-making
  • Adaptability, Initiative and Risk-taking
  • Leadership and Teamwork, Responsibility
21st Century Learning Approaches and Environments:
  • Authentic Learning - Project Based Learning
  • Experiential Learning
  • Open Learning
  • Technology Infusion
  • Social and Emotional Learning 
Creativity is the big thing at the moment. In the UK, according to the Times Educational Supplement (19th April 2013 TESpro edition, editorial by Jo Knowsley), the new national curriculum planned for 2014 will encourage greater creativity in the classroom. There is some skepticism as to whether the reforms will achieve this, but the TES has published a supporting article "Let creativity fly in the classroom - through careful planning, make the most of the greater freedom promised under the new curriculum".
But is this really where we are going? Is it enough? Are we tinkering around the edges?
David Garner thinks so. It is good to see an international educator getting into this arena and giving a very powerful yet understated presentation.
"Our brains are superbly equipped for learning, if only our schools would engage us! Today's students are growing up in a global society and have more information available in a day than earlier generations could access in years. To transform information into learning, students need critical thinking skills; to succeed in tomorrow's economy they will need to collaborate across cultures. But our schools were designed for yesterday when knowledge was scarce and learning was an individual pursuit. Our schools are still teacher-centered, with too much emphasis on lecturing. It's time to throw out the sage on the stage."

Monday, 29 April 2013

Maintenance of systems and equipment - an example from this school

Maintenance of systems and equipment is essential. Maintaining what we have got, extending its useful life and adapting to our ever changing needs is expensive but necessary. We try to work with a $36,000 budget per year and here you can see where we spend it. The translation below refers to the list in order.
  • Keyboards, mouses, memory and various parts
  • Licenses, renewal and subscriptions
  • Switches
  • Taxes
  • Network installations, fiber optics and protection for the server farm
  • Maintenance of printers and digital projectors
  • Consumables
  • Overtime
  • Software and applications
  • Various including uniform, chairs, radios

Monday, 11 March 2013

IB Journal of Teaching Practice - great, but why charge?

The International Baccalaureate Organisation have announced, in their inaugural issue of "IB Global News", the debut of the IB's Journal of Teaching Practice. Published twice a year, in February and August, it will have action research reports, studies in practice and review of resources.
"The journal is based on the premise that teacher research is a powerful form of professional development that can have a positive impact on student learning," says co-editor in chief Robert Harrison. "The journal complements the wide variety of IB teacher workshops as well as the IB educator certificates."
This is excellent news. The IB is planning far reaching pedagogy changes to the way the IB programmes are delivered, being much more specific on the "Approaches to Teaching and Learning". Given this, it is excellent that they are fostering a grass roots interest in action research and the discussion on what works in learning for the IB programmes.
But, why charge? The trend is for open access to learned journals. The opportunity for open access, for discussion, for getting reaction  and opinion, is severely limited by placing it all behind a wall.
Who will be paid? The peer reviewers. They will be paid a $50 honorarium for each review they complete. 
The rank and file, in a journal which is tagged "Written by teachers, reviewed by teachers, published for teachers", will have to pay to access it. 

 Come on, IBO, you can do better than this.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Horizon Report - emerging technology impact, trends and challenges

The New Media Consortium has been examining emerging technologies for their impact in teaching and learning, in a series of annual reports. The 2012 report not only contains interesting predictions but also some key trends and challenges.
The following presentation is a summary of the main findings of the report - I recommend reading it in its entirety (it is not that long) since you may be able to make a judgement on their predictions by looking at the examples given.

Good Predictions?
How accurate has the NMC Horizon Report been in the past?
Here is a list of their predictions with a time-to-adoption horizon of one year or less:

 Horizon Report 2004
  • Learning Objects
  • Scalable Vector Graphics
 Horizon Report 2005
  • Extended Learning
  • Ubiquitous Wireless
 Horizon Report 2006
  • Social Computing
  • Personal Broadcasting
 Horizon Report 2007
  • User Generated Content
  • Social Network
 Horizon Report 2008
  • Grassroots Video
  • Collaboration Webs
 Horizon Report 2009
  • Mobiles
  • Cloud Computing
 Horizon Report 2010
  • Mobile Computing
  • Open Content
 Horizon Report 2011
  • Electronic Books
  • Mobiles
Horizon Report 2012
  • Mobile Devices and Apps
  • Tablet Computing 
Mobiles have been a long time coming.....
Assuming that their very short term predictions (that is, with a time-to-adoption of one year or less) should be the most accurate, how have they done in their predictions?
Certainly the technology chosen was the interest of the time. We are rapidly forgetting the recent history of technology implementation, but their list of technologies just about rings true.
Some technologies have been slow in developing. Learning objects seemed particularly exciting at the time and I believe that the fencing in of learning platforms did for it. Only now are some of the concepts being used (in Learning Design, for example, with Teaching-Learning Activities (TLAs) being used as elements of a Pedagogical Pattern - see OLDSMOOC).
Ubiquitous wireless is an interesting one - this has become the resident technology in our institutions but commercialised and difficult to access away from them.
A more thorough study of the forecasts made by NMC in past Horizon Reports can be found in this article by Computers and Education: New technology trends in education: Seven years of forecasts and convergence.
But Mobile and Apps it seems to be. Now this is a challenge....

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Bandwidth usage at school

Thanks Fernando, our Sysman, for publishing the bandwidth usage by school area, over the last 15 days.
The Learning Resources Centre (LRC) takes the prize for the most usage.

Total: 238.83GB

Porcentajes por área:

LRC: 35.47% (LAN: 23.18%, WIRELESS: 12.29%) (Total LRC: 84.72GB -> LAN: 65.34%, WIRELESS: 34.66%)
Science-PAC-PE-Music: 13.85%
Maths: 5.54%
Spanish-French-Room47: 5.25%
Upper-Primary (from the spanish dept.): 3.92%
Upper-Primary (up to the art class): 5.25%
Lower-Primary (not yet accurate): 1.12%
ICT Support + LSU: 1.70%
Jubilee Library: 5.58%
Administration: 7.26%
English-Room43 (not yet accurate): 10.95%
Servers-others: 4.11%

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Context is all - ensuring learning design fits

The second week of the OLDS MOOC on Learning Design was a messy but ultimately interesting and worthwhile run through the idea of contexts.
There is a lot that we take for granted in schools. Context is one of them. Obviously, when starting out in teaching in a new situation, the context in which the teaching and learning is going to take place is investigated. Soon, an understanding of what works in that context takes over and, apart from ideas such as differentiation or learning preferences, the task is about lesson planning.
At times a particular contextual topic may be raised. For example, are we doing enough for our second language learners? How can we use through-school language approaches to support these learners language development AND learning in other subjects? But it is rare to go back to basics and consider the complete contextual situation afresh.
The programme this week was tough to keep up with - one week was far too ambitious. Particularly because there was a lot to take in and then a lot to construct from the readings. Since I am still project-less, I am working through this in general and not relating it to a particular project.
The following are my notes on this area.
I take away from this week the idea that it is important to tease out all the issues involved with the contexts of the learning design. I considered the following three approaches: scenarios, "personas" and Ecology of Resources (EoR).
  1. Scenarios - brainstorming to obtain a view of the context involved:
    • Actors (who is involved?)
    • Goals (what are the targets?)
    • Settings (done where and when?)
    • Objects (what things involved?) laptop, phone, tablet, course platform, social media, mail, text, etc.
    • Actions (what happens to actors?) writing a narrative from the beginning, from seeing the course, joining it, working through it, completing it.
    • Events (what events could happen?) dropping out, falling behind
    • Results (what is achieved?)
    • Your design (what role does your design play?)
  2. Develop a narrative scenario (this is telling one story of this; really not sure if this is a good approach - how does it help beyond point 1?)
  3. Scrutinize scenarios - what claims are you making? do they hold up?
  4. Invite comment on your scenarios.
 Personas involved developing fictitious characters representing a typical person in the domain. These would be written on cards (post-its) and a process gone through to develop a "force map" (a graphical representation which illustrates the situation).
Several steps take you through the process:
Step 1: create persona cards in scenario
Step 2: create target cards - what do actors aim to achieve? what will they consider success?
Step 3: where? List material, social and intentional factors connecting/separating actors and targets.
Material: location, physical conditions, available technology, etc
Social: institutional structure, relations between actors, etc
Intentional: prior knowledge, beliefs, desires.
Step 4: place cards on a large sheet of paper thus:

                Actors                                                                         Targets

                                 Factors in between them, then link and annotate 
                                whether supporting or conflicting

Both of these approaches required a guessing of all the different types of actors, personas, that would be involved. As a learning device to get to understand the concept of contexts this is satisfactory. As a practical device to use in Learning Design I am not so sure.

The Ecology of Resources (EoR) approach consisted of three phases and seemed to be based on pedagogy - in this case Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (explained here, slides 21 to 31). The idea of a Zone of Proximal Adjustment (ZPA) is used as is the idea of More Able Partners (MAPs - could this be based on Paolo Freire's "Act of Knowing"? see slides 7 to 13 from the same Slideshare presentation).
The design goal is to "redesign learner contexts so as to optimise opportunities for interactions with social and other resources capable of assisting learners perform towards their objectives" and the design is a ZPA.
The three (iterative) processes are:

Phase 1: create model of resources potentially available to assist learners and filters that constrain learner interactions with these resources. Identify forms of assistance and potential MAPs.
    • BRAINSTORM potential resources in an Ecology of Resources
    • SPECIFY FOCUS OF ATTENTION - decide which resources to focus on
      • Knowledge and skills
      • People and tools
      • Environment
    • IDENTIFYING FILTERS - things that influence availability of potential resources
    • IDENTIFYING LEARNER RESOURCES - brought by learners
    • INTERACTIONS - reviewing focus of attention to obtain OPTIMAL SET OF FORMS OF ASSISTANCE (from ZPD to ZPA)
Phase 2: identify relationships so as to better understand how these are independent and are opportunities (amongst LEARNER, RESOURCES, FILTERS). Which are influential relationships, component relationships, typology relationships, social relationships?

Phase 3: Design adjustments to make right resources available at the right time - produce SCAFFOLDING and ADJUSTMENT.

    I did find the scaffolding designed for this OLDS MOOC tight and too detailed. I accept that this was designed for many and so this approach might suit some. As pointed out by Josh in Tuesday's convergence session, these are learning processes which will generate a check list for your context, eventually.
    This type of contexts definition is useful to do even in a school setting. What are we missing or ignoring which are filters to learning?
    I wondered about the cultural contexts in particular in terms of teachers new to a particular school or country (see extract from the mindmap produced for this course). But there are other areas which are important for us to take into account when designing learning.

    Saturday, 19 January 2013

    Learning Design gone mad - OLDS MOOC

    Desperately trying to follow the learning plan for Week 2 - but it is too prescriptive. Supposedly, the principles of Learning Design have been followed to design this OLDS MOOC. Oh dear.
    Having a day by day activity list with the Thursday (day one) task being to "plan your week" is an example of poor context definition. How can you plan for what you do not know and for collaborative tasks you cannot find? Is it just a matter of putting down some times in a calendar? I am meant to make sense of this outline:
    Present your contextual analysis (of the project? have not even determined a group to work with). Comment on others' analysis (where are they? most learning journals seem empty).
    The highly structured, day by day defined activities do not fit the context of a MOOC with a diverse group of learners. I know if I prepared something like this for my classes, in such a rigid and structured way, it would all go awry in no time.
    I am doing the reading but cannot contribute in the way that the highly scaffolded daily activities are asking.
    Not looking very encouraging.... too prescriptive, too unrealistically scaffolded. Fine for classic left-brained sequentialists, how about the other half?? What sort of context planning is this?

    Friday, 18 January 2013

    Looking back at the first week - OLDS MOOC

    Time flies!
    I know from other MOOCs that I have done that the first few days (weeks?) in a new MOOC experience can be unsettling and frustrating. But I found that by persevering and having some faith that you will get there in the end brought great rewards (testing my growth mindset to the limit! - see Dweck). #change11 was the most rewarding MOOC - and also the most frustrating at the beginning; this was a constructivist MOOC and I had not realised how imbibed with this approach I had become.
    OLDS MOOC was frustrating at first because of a constraining communications and sharing platform - Cloudworks. To fulfill the communications and sharing aspect, finding pages again and being able to interact across pages are key requirements. I did not find success in these requirements - come back Stephen Downes and his website all is forgiven! Although it needed much work on his part to keep up to date, it fulfilled its purpose well.
    I've had a go at trying out existing social media for communications and sharing and this is showing promise. Twitter is always good for this but I am really warming to Google + Communities. This has the potential of being an excellent platform for this (have been using it with my family and have been really pleased with it - personal, private, instant and fun).
    I set up "OLDS MOOC - Schools" community to try to generate interest in this subdivision of Learning Design and it has eleven members at the time of writing. Glad to have help from Penny Bentley which I have found encouraging.
    The idea behind this community was to be a study group with a special interest (Learning Design is schools), but I have yet to establish a project. Cloudworks did not work for me for this and had hopes that Wallwisher would - yet to see if this will generate an interest in Learning Design in schools using Google Apps suite of programmes. Perhaps it is too specific - if no interest is shown I shall have to look again.
    Looking forward to week 2 - although I note that the day-by-day structure of the course is very specific and requires you to keep up. Some of us do have jobs and the daily requirement is proving difficult. Also, having not found a project yet I am not sure how this week will work.
    We shall see.