Being a tourist in your own Education System

Last summer my wife’s aunt and uncle visited us from Cape Town, South Africa. Her uncle wanted to visit all of the major Toronto landmarks. We took the red double-decker sightseeing bus all around the city. I saw parts of my own city that I had never really paid attention to before. Being a tourist in your own city can be  a very enlightening experience.

Taking that tourist approach to your own education system can be equally enlightening. I found this video on Edutopia from the OECD Education Everywhere series about education in Ontario. The video focused on Unionville High School (part of the northern Toronto suburb of Markham ).  Markham is an extremely diverse city with a very large Chinese and south Asian population.

The video paid specific attention to the role of the “Student Success” teacher and the larger Student Success team. The team meets weekly and focuses on coordinating supports for the transition of new Canadian students. The goal is to provide supports for the whole child and not only the academic side.

Additional information and perspectives can be found in this OECD document:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7X-Dkl-q6IfdWZDVFVRNnVHamM/preview

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Digital Literacy: Don’t let them learn it on the streets!

The ubiquity of content is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it has created greater freedom, enhanced transparency and put the focus of education on matters of higher order. It can be a curse because there is just so damn much of it! I often find myself overwhelmed by content, not really sure where to start or how to process.  I came across this great slide from Steve Wheeler that says it all:

If adults are confused when searching for information, how do you think our students feel? 

As tech integration moves full steam ahead in our schools, we have to step back for a moment and prioritize. The access and proliferation of tools are key aspects of building infrastructure but they do not represent 21st century learning alone. The priority in education must be on teaching our students how to handle the deluge of information that they face daily.

Many people of my generation (shout out to the Gen Xers!) learned about the birds and the bees by osmosis. We learned about the mechanics through playground whispers, urban legend, contraband reading material and our older siblings! Only the few progressive schools and parents had “the talk” with their children. I fear that much the same is going on when it comes to digital literacy. Students are being taught about privacy and personal safety on the web but they are being left to fend for themselves when it comes to interpreting and using the vast amounts of information available to them. This is far too big of an undertaking for them to face alone.

Students struggle to determine the credibility of sites and content. How many times have you had an intermediate or high school aged student present you with ironclad proof that 9/11 was an inside job? It happened to me at least a half dozen times. One or two Youtube videos later, the conspiracy minded become experts in covert operations and structural engineering.  Students equate a well-polished site as “the truth”. Sadly, they don’t recognize that a polished turd is still a turd! It is only through a focus on digital literacy leading to digital fluency that they will develop the “crap detection” of which Howard Rheingold speaks.

Take a look at the picture below. What do you think?

I showed this slide to a few of my best and brightest students (a few colleagues as well!). Their immediate reaction was to agree with the quote. I got responses like “Yeah, the internet is full of garbage.” They were so quick to agree with the quote that they did not take a look at the whole slide. They completely ignored the fact that the quotation was attributed to a man who was long dead before the internet was even a dream! Proof positive that digital literacy is still in its infancy. Knowing how to search for information does not equate to knowing how to process or interpret information.

The goal then is to help our students learn how to handle information. We must also recognize the need to support our fellow educators through this process as well. In the slideshow at the bottom of this post, Alex Couros (an outstanding Canadian Ed Tech educator) presents the case for digital fluency. The argument being that we need to go beyond “knowing how” to the deeper stage of understanding “why”. This diagram pulled from his presentation provides a nice overview:

Digital fluency brings students into the realm of “knowledge wisdom”. At this stage, analysis of the information can occur. Students will have a framework to judge information, organize it and categorize it. Steve Wheeler provides us with this excellent summary:

When our kids get to the stage of digital fluency, they become much more self-sufficient. Controlling content allows them to be better at creating, curating, remixing and sharing content. Collaboration becomes more effective and networks that much stronger.

How do we get there? What are your strategies? What works? What doesn’t?

FULL SLIDESHOWS from @timbuckteeth (Steve Wheeler) and @courosa (Alec Couros)

Video: A History of Technology in Education

Fun video from SMART, it’s a little  commercial but still effective. I think that its really interesting how the technology at each stage served as an extension of the teacher until the current period. This was most apparent in the “computer age” animation.  The screens were simply reproducing what was going on at the front of the room. The teacher was still the centrepiece and the technology was simply a tool to provide passive content.

It is only in the final “interactive age” that things become more decentralized. The students are using the technology in a much more self-directed manner. The goal is interaction and not content delivery.

Digital Literacy: Caricatures & Crap Detection

Last week I wrote a post about “the haters who just keep hating”. We all know those teachers and adults who label this generation shallow, stupid and epic wasters of time. One person went so far as to write the regrettably titled book, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30)” .  Sadly many educators view our Digital Youth as caricatures:

The new digital divide is not about access, it is about usage. As Christina Cupaiuolo writes in the article, “Connecting the Digital Divide to Digital Literacies”, the new paradigm is one of content creators and content consumers. Our job is not to be dismissive of our students and their online habits, it is to help focus those habits.

Jerry Springer and Maury Povich made careers out of reducing people into neat little stereotypes. There are many teachers doing the same to our students. Anthony Muhammad wrote a great book called “Transforming School Culture”.   Based on his research, he lists four categories of teachers. The most dangerous of these four are “the fundamentalists”. They resist change at all costs. They seize on difficulties to support their opposition and seek to recruit others to the side of “no”.  We all know educators out there who use the “time-wasting” mantra as a shield to slow down tech integration.

Do we call for limits on math education because some students use calculators to take shortcuts? Do we call for limits on teaching English because some students have bad grammar? OF COURSE NOT! Instead, we TEACH them to do better! We must take this same approach to digital literacy. The misuse of online time is a teachable moment, not a reason to slow down. We have to help students use their “cognitive surplus” effectively rather than beating them over the head with our own personal biases.

Howard Rheingold says it best,

If, like many others, you are concerned social media is making people and cultures shallow, I propose we teach more people how to swim and together explore the deeper end of the pool.

The problem with the fundamentalists is that they want to empty the pool! I don’t want to blame the technophobes for everything. We have to develop a culture of support so no one feels isolated or alone. We must shift the focus from the shiny new toys towards a culture of learning. Simply providing access is not enough, we must focus on digital literacy skills. We must  help our students become discerning consumers of content or as Rheingold says, teach them “crap detection”. The video in the header is a brief overview of Rheingold’s five part digital plan.

When it comes to digital literacy @hrheingold and Doug Belshaw @dajbelshaw are the best. They are definitely worth following.

Storify – My Favourite Digital Tool!

As much as I love Ed Tech, I am an English teacher at heart. Bringing the real world into the classroom was always a priority. The richness and complexity of news items really helped to develop core literacy skills. The absolute best tool for bringing the real world to your Language Arts class is Storify. This web based digital tool allows you to use social media to aggregate information about a given topic.

Features and Functions:

  • Storify allows users to search for news items on Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram,YouTube and a variety of other sources. Users can customize their choice of sources as well.
  • Drag the text or video onto the Storify board. Users can rearrange the order of the media items by dragging and dropping.
  • Users are able to add their own text as well.
  • Stories can be published with the option of being public or private. Public stories are available for viewing on the Storify site. Stories can also be shared on a variety of platforms.

Below is a an example created by some of my students regarding the recent Toronto ban on plastic bags:

[View the story “A Ban on plastic bags: For better or for worse” on Storify]

Flattening Educational Hierarchies: 5 Pillars for the New World

In this RSA Animates -ish video, Don Tapscott stakes out his case for the macro level changes occurring around the world as a result of collaborative technology.

Tapscott, besides being a good Canadian, is always full of really thought-provoking ideas. He is exactly the type of hopeful person that I wrote about yesterday. He is a person of game-changing vision.

Tom Friedman of the NY Times wrote about the flattening of hierarchies in his book, “The World is Flat”. It is only recently though that we are really starting to see this idea being put into action. From Arab Spring to the Occupy Movement to the Quebec Student protests, we are seeing people “self-organize”. Social media and collaborative technology have aided movements to turn ideas into action.

Tapscott highlights five key pillars of that are being ushered in by the information age:

  • collaboration
  • openness
  • sharing
  • interdependence
  • integrity
These pillars will have profound impact on education as well.I really believe that the education system in Ontario has the integrity part covered but we need massive development in the other four pillars.

We are infected by a silo mentality on the institutionalized side of education. There may be some sharing within a school but very rarely (if ever) does inter-school sharing of ideas occur.   The openness and interdependence pillars are the most lacking. Ideas are too often hidden or hoarded within schools or even within individual classrooms. As Steven Johnson points out, ideas usually begin as half formed hunches that only really come to fruition when connected to another idea. In other words, great ideas can only occur by sharing. It is only through openness and collaboration fostered by interdependence that we will see growth in system level sharing.
In education right now, we are seeing the “self-organization” movement occurring in full effect. There are SO many education blogs, lesson sites, wikis and organizations that are working to connect educators and spread ideas. Sadly, the various boards are lagging FAR behind. This self-organization of educators is to be commended. Technology is binding educators and ideas together. Most of these educators are doing this on their own and not for profit. This allows educators to do their own  relevant professional development. If the boards don’t step up their game, they will be largely reduced to governance and infrastructure. Real learning for teachers will occur completely outside of the system.
We have to take a culture before tools perspective before real change can occur. The boards are doing a good job of bringing tech into the schools but that alone will not solve the problem. A sustained focus on collaborative ideals must occur first. We must build interdependence and put a premium on collaboration. As a school leader, this will be one of my top priorities. There is no magic in the social media platform or the technological tool. The magic is in the ideas and the people. Remember, we’re all in this together!

Instagrok – Education Search Engine+

Instagrok is a dedicated search engine for educational queries.

I have been reading about Instagrok on Ed Tech pages so I decided to check it out for myself. I was not very enthusiastic prior to my search because I was anticipating another run of the mill tailored search engine. After playing around with it for quite awhile, I came away very impressed.

Features:

Users type in their topic of interest in the search area and the site begins to “Grok”.

  • Search results come back in the form of a web.
  • Clicking on the sub-topics in the web will drill down to further sub-topics.
  •  On the sidebar several drop-down menus appear with related information. The menu items include: Key Facts, Websites, Videos, Images, Quizzes and Concepts.
  • Users can delete information in order to streamline the search.
  • Useful information can be pinned to a journal in order to collate ideas in one place.
  • Journals are not dedicated to a particular search. You can populate the journals with information from multiple searches.

Search Results:

The search results can be filtered by the required depth of information and by grade level through a scrolling bar at the top of the page. The default position is in the middle but you can move it to a more basic level by sliding to the chalkboard icon or find more advanced information by sliding it towards the Eisteinish cartoon.

Click below to view the Instagrok created brochure:

Instagrok Brochure

Optimism sucks! Be Hopeful.Be Fearless.

“Hope and optimism are different. Optimism tends to be based on the notion that there’s enough evidence out there to believe things are gonna be better, much more rational, deeply secular, whereas hope looks at the evidence and says, “It doesn’t look good at all. Doesn’t look good at all. Gonna go beyond the evidence to create new possibilities based on visions that become contagious to allow people to engage in heroic actions always against the odds, no guarantee whatsoever.” That’s hope. I’m a prisoner of hope, though. Gonna die a prisoner of hope.”
― Cornell West

Like Dr. West, I too am a prisoner of hope. I have a really hard time with optimism. It is too shallow and thin of a concept. The hopeful person acknowledges that there are problems in the world and does not hide from them. The hopeful person decides to fight the problems rather than pretending that they are not so bad. I see optimism as an empty smile or an ostrich with its head stuck in the sand. Rather than rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty fixing a problem, the optimist takes a passive approach.

My biggest problem with optimism is that it leads to incrementalism. The change agenda is slow and plodding with a complete lack of bold action. As Dr. West says, hope is based on visions of new possibilities. The incrementalist approach brought on by optimism also leads to low expectations. The hopeful person sets audacious goals and fights hard to achieve them.

So what does this have to do with education?

I really believe that we must have high expectations for our system, our boards, our leaders and ourselves. If we want education to move into the 21st Century, then we have to be bold and fearless. We have to map out a real vision for progress and not just a piecemeal or retread plan packaged as a vision. The best way to craft such a vision is collaboratively. When we are supported, we are more confident. When we are engaged and involved, we are more passionate. If we want big change, we need a larger pool of ideas from which to draw. Take bold action to incorporate collaborative technology into our system.

The video in the header is from the Case Foundation started by Steve and Jean Case (early builders of AOL). The goal of the foundation is to spark innovation and collaboration around the world. The plan that they set out for collaboration and innovation is bold yet attainable. Please take their pledge seriously. Real change comes from a collective and hopeful vision.

Please click on their logo to view the Case Foundation site:

BE BOLD. BE HOPEFUL. BE FEARLESS. Remember, we are all in this together!

Remember, we’re all in this together!

As evolutionary ideas become nuanced, there seems to be a move away from Dawkins’ reductionist ideas of the “selfish gene” where humans are simply hosts for gene survival and any form of altruism or desire for the greater good is reduced to kin selection. The new movement focuses much more on the benefits of cooperation and working together for the greater good. Martin Nowak of Harvard university penned the book “Supercooperators” where he argues that cooperation is hardwired into our very genetic make-up and he just happens to be a devote Roman Catholic (another nail in the coffin in the false dichotomy of science vs. religion).

Of particular interest to this post are the ideas of J.Haidt and his work with “Hive Psychology”. Haidt’s work focuses on happiness and its relationship to losing oneself in a greater whole or cause.  An article on Scott Belsky’s the99% highlights two major tenets of Hive Psychology:

(1) “The most effective moral communities – from a well-being perspective – are those that offer occasional experiences in which self-consciousness is greatly reduced and one feels merged with or part of something greater than the self.”

(2) “The self can be an obstacle to happiness (given our inherent limitations as humans!), so people need to lose their selves occasionally by becoming part of an emergent social organism in order to reach the highest level of human flourishing.”

-From “Hive Psychology, Happiness & Public Policy” by J. Haidt, P. Seder & S. Kesebir

The goal of this post is not to debate evolutionary science or explore the relatively new field of evolutionary psychology, instead I want to underline the importance of cooperation and teamwork at school. Student success must ALWAYS be paramount to any initiative undertaken in any school but the well-being of the staff within a school is vitally important as well.

We live in a world of ubiquitous connectivity. As educators and educational leaders, the goal is to ensure that these connections are purposeful. There are times of deep isolation in our profession and I have teachers become completely disconnected as a result. Building a strong community of support based upon professional development, mental health and most importantly student success is just the type of moral engagement that Haidt discusses. Building a true community of learners that advances the lives of parents, students and staff members is a powerful thing. It is the type of thing in which we should seek to lose ourselves.

How often have you found yourself excited by the “ping” on your phone which signifies a new message? We get excited because it is the potential for a connection to another person or group. The haters will tell you that this type of virtual connection is empty and only leads to more empty connections. I think that’s nonsense. When my wife, who is home on maternity leave, sends me a picture of our daughters on my phone, I am not satisfied. It only makes me want to see them in person all the more. The pictures alone are not an end, instead they represent another layer of connection. Let’s harness these virtual connections and use them to make our face to face connections more meaningful, productive and vibrant. Rather than viewing collaborative tech platforms as an empty connection, view them as a tool to expand connectivity. The goal is not to replace face to face contact rather it is to diversify connectivity and deepen bonds.

Technology like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Google Groups, Chatter, Edmodo and many more, provides us with a chance to share information as well as build community. We can end isolation and build deeper supports so that we do not feel overwhelmed or bogged down my minutiae when we do have opportunities for face to face collaboration at school.

Let’s get lost in education together. The more purpose that we create in education, the happier that everyone will be. Remember, we are all in this together!

Developing the Net Generation through Coaching

I have several daily must-reads.  Fast Company is my favourite from  that list. For those unfamiliar with the magazine and its website, this excerpt from their “about us” section encapsulates its purpose well,

Fast Company is the world’s leading progressive business media brand, with a unique editorial focus on innovation in technology, ethonomics (ethical economics), leadership, and design. Written for, by, and about the most progressive business leaders, Fast Company and FastCompany.com inspire readers and users to think beyond traditional boundaries, lead conversations, and create the future of business.

While pulling the early shift with my 9 month old, I found an article on FastCompany.com entitled, “To Bring Out the Best in Millennials, Put on Your Coaching Hat”.  The article was written by Tony Wagner , the first Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard. While the article may be aimed at corporations, the ideas presented prove helpful for schools as well. Wagner points out that this generation has a passion for creation like no other generation but this passion is sometimes misunderstood or under-appreciated. The gap between millennials and older generations lies in their approach to work, tradition and definitions of success.

Millennial Observations:

  • more interested in making a contribution than making money
  • they see work as an adult form of play
  • they seek experiences that are engaging in the moment, that excite them both intellectually and emotionally
  • they are looking for opportunities to give back and seek change
  • feel stifled by the 9 to 5 routine – want to be held accountable for more than following simple protocol
  • engaged in passion, play and purpose

I am quite sure that this list of observations would neatly overlap with those of any teacher in any classroom from  grade 7  to 12. Rather than being excited about the possibilities of the millennial mindset, many educators and corporate managers have their reservations. Instead of castigating them for a different mindset, we should recognize that it has the power to fuel innovation and generate social equity. One of the chief complaints that I hear regularly is that this generation lacks respect for authority. I agree with that perspective to a point. Students have lost respect for the traditional authority based on position and hierarchy. I suppose that every generation says the same about the next.

Wagner argues that the authority that matters is that of expertise, modelling of good values, the enabling of innovation, and authority that enables teams to come up with better solutions. In other words, authority is an earned construct rather a simple function of position on the pyramid.

Wagner suggests that the best way to develop this generation is with a coaching mindset. Manager, teacher, principal, or any other position needs to focus on developing strengths and guiding students rather than constraining them. In an era where access to information is ubiquitous, content knowledge is no longer king. We must develop the skills in our students that will allow them to be innovators and to create social change. Innovation flows from an open environment.

Below is one of Wagner’s presentations about developing an innovators mindset:

What the heck is Digital Literacy anyways?

One of my TCDSB colleagues tweeted an article from the NY Times this morning about the new digital gap. Rather than it being an issue of access to technology, it has now become an issue of use. Kids from homes on the lower-end of the socio-economic scale are spending more time using technology for games, social networking and video viewing. The implication is that kids on the higher end of the scale receive more supervision from parents when it comes to use of technology. The article mentioned the need for “digital literacy skills” to be taught in order to help combat this problem.

This got me thinking about what “digital literacy” really means. Is digital literacy a universal term? Are their cultural nuances? How is digital literacy best imparted to students? Like any good digital citizen would, I started searching for answers online. I went to Slideshare first because I love the concise nature of slideshows. The work of Doug Belshaw popped out at me immediately. Belshaw is an Englishman and Ph.D. who wrote his doctoral thesis on Digital Literacy. I have included his TEDx Warwickshire talk about digital literacy and the slideshow that accompanied his talk. I have also included another presentation of his about digital literacy that can stand on its own. The TEDx slides only make sense within the context of the talk.

I would be interested in seeing people’s viewpoints and personal definitions of digital literacy and also best practice in regards to teaching to our students.

TEDx SLIDES:

The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies Presentation:

School is dead. Long live school.

“There’s no other technology in the world that 87% of the world’s population owns. And yet, despite mobile devices’ ubiquity and connectivity, we are only beginning to realize what’s possible.”

The above quote came from a recent article from Forbes online by Mark Fidelman.  Just like in the business world, education has barely scratched the surface of the possibilities for mobile technology. The growing power and access of mobile technology means that a major shift in both the public and private sector is coming. Fixed locations and workplaces become less relevant because mobile technology allows for quick collaboration and access through the ever-growing cloud. Without adaptations, many organizational models will crumble or risk becoming obsolete.

Adaptations are not always easy though. Fidelman quotes Lisa Bodell, author of Kill the Company,  “The very structures put in place to help businesses grow are now holding us back.” The high walls of protocol, policy, procedure and accountability have their place but they also prove stifling. We all know that this same problem exists in the education system as well.

Fidelman explores how corporate barriers prevented innovation leading to start-ups surpassing corporate giants:

Why didn’t Kodak invent Instagram? Fear of  non-revenue generation in the short while neglecting the potential windfall down the road. That windfall turned out to be $1 000 000 000 from Facebook.

Why didn’t Zagat invent Yelp? 28 year Zagat did not recognize the power of mobile technology. Google offered $100 million for Zagat while 8 year old

Yelp! harnessed mobile tech and has a market value of $1 billion.

Why didn’t the music labels invent iTunes? Rather than embrace mobile technology and start the revolution, the big labels pursued the path of litigation to prop up a dying model.

Are we going to be asking similar questions about the education system? The rise of web based learning platforms like Khan Academy, Udacity, iTunes University, and EdX are growing quickly. The start-up mentality of these companies makes them nimble and current. The education system moves with the pace and agility of a lumbering giant. While Bodell’s concept may be a bit extreme, we must undertake the hard changes before these changes are forced upon us.

A good first step for schools is Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) but tools alone do not solve the problem. We need to attack the larger issue of an engrained culture that resists innovation. In order to keep pushing forward, we must fight to have an educational culture that values growth and development. Without such a mentality our model risks obsolescence.

Video – Tools for the 21st Century Educator

I was playing around with Animoto this morning, making videos of my kids. I thought that I would make one highlighting 21st Century Education resources. PLEASE enjoy and share as often as possible.

Social Media & Authenticity: Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

As I inch closer to my new role in school administration, issues like culture and collaboration occupy a prominent spot in my mind. These are issues that are best approached with a design mentality.  The more integrated the approach, the greater the likelihood of successful implementation. Many initiatives that are rolled out by school boards and local schools are done in a piecemeal fashion. A paint by numbers approach may include all the correct elements but it lacks the impact of the real thing.

Companies that can truly call themselves “social organizations” approach culture and collaboration from a true design perspective and the impact is stunning. Starbucks makes use of social media not just to promote products but to craft an experience. The phone app makes life easier for the customer, a rewards program encourages frequent usage and “My Starbucks Idea” allows consumer to become co-creator. The level of integration makes the customer feel like a partner and the experience becomes truly organic. A complicated process becomes simplified and elegant.

Too often we decry the lack of parental involvement in schools and chalk it up to parental indifference. This mentality would never fly in the private sector. When Starbucks started to lose its way, it lost customers. Coupled with the “Great Recession of 2008”, a juggernaut really stumbled. Howard Schultz did not throw up his arms and blame the customers for not buying his product. He rolled up his sleeves, got back in the game and got busy reengaging his base.Does the education system treat parents and students as co-creators or passive consumers? Profits are a great motivation for change but moral imperative is even more powerful.

School boards should strive to become social organizations. Social media gets a bad rap sometimes from an organizational perspective because it is regarded as primarily a marketing tool. As it stands right now, most boards are guilty of using social media as a marketing tool. Plans are created within the hierarchy and then shared with the stakeholders as done deal via some social media platform. This is reductionism at its best. A powerful tool is stripped of its power and simply becomes a more expedient newsletter. The goal should be co-creation and consultation during the development phase, not simply notification of a completed product.

Fast Company’s Co.Exist recently published an article about how three old school, non-profits have used social media to great effect. Goodwill, The United Way and Red Cross are hardly sexy brands but they are creating a big social media footprint. The strategy was to connect with the support base from a new perspective. Rather than simply soliciting donations , these companies are creating partnerships with potential donors. A community is being developed that can be a source of support in both the short and long term. They have created an affinity for their organization and people are much more willing to lend a hand. There is ABSOLUTELY no reason why school boards cannot do the same. People want to feel valued. A recent poll showed that people would be willing to take less pay for a job that made them feel valuable. Parents will make sacrifices if they feel valued. Volunteers teas and the like are wonderful but they do not create a sense of value. Real affinity comes from participation.

Below is a great infographic from Craig Newmark (Craig’s List Founder) showing the use of social media by public organizations.

Mathalicious: Don’t just learn math, use math.

Mathalicious is a web based digital math tool. Math topics are presented to students in an engaging and contextualized manner. For example, expressions and equations are explained through an examination of calorie burning after eating McDonald’s. Problem solving and critical thinking are at the heart of every activity. The creators stress that Mathalicious is not just about learning math, it is about using math. The activities are aligned with American common core standards but they overlap nicely with the Ontario Curriculum Expectations.

The information for each problem is presented via an embedded Slide Rocket presentation that can be shared with the students. Detailed lesson guides and student worksheets are available in PDF.

Remember a few years back when Radiohead released an album on their web page and invited users to pay whatever they wished for the download? Mathalicious is using a similar price hook. The suggested payment is $20/month but you can subscribe for as little as $5/month. The developers do not want to let price be an object to learning.

I REALLY like this site. It is well worth checking out. The integration of collaboration, content, critical thinking and context is outstanding.

Trends in Technology 2012

I found this presentation on my new favourite site – Slideshare. The slideshow was created by frog production, the home of Mr. Disruptive Innovation himself, Luke Williams.

Three of the trends could potentially have a huge impact on education:

  • Taking Computers out of Computing: The introduction of Siri-like voice commands and Kinect type motion interfaces will make technology that much more available to our students of all needs and the teachers who doubt their tech abilities.
  • Reign in the Cloud: As information moves towards the cloud, the more universally accessible it becomes. Information becomes seamlessly integrated into our lives. This will also change the way that we view technology in schools. Devices will serve one purpose – to get on the web. Ram will be the important metric and not hard drive space. Schools can invest much more in mobile tech or allow students to use their own.
  • Remote Collaboration: Working with people from around the world is becoming easier by the day. Skype and other digital platforms stretch the limits of what we used to believe possible in regards to collaboration. Our students can now work with students in almost every corner of the world and learn together.

The Evolution of Education Tools

Interesting infographic found on Pinterest displaying the growth of education tools over the years.

Education Collaboration II – Connecting Ideas

I was really happy to see the response to the Education Collaboration post from yesterday. The goal is to continue these posts and solicit suggestions for bringing educators and their ideas together to foster student success.

Before we discuss tech platforms for collaboration, the genesis of ideas should be examined. One of the foremost experts in this field is Steven Johnson, who funnily enough penned the book, “Where good ideas come from”. An RSA summary narrated by Johnson himself can be found in the header of this post. Johnson points out that many great ideas develop slowly and manifest themselves more as a hunch in one’s mind. Often these hunches are pieces of a bigger puzzle that only really take off once they are combined with the hunches of another. A good example would be Jobs and Wozniak – each held a piece of the Apple puzzle.

Johnson points out that the coffee houses of the enlightenment were so important because they brought great thinkers together under the same roof, helping to connect hunches to form great ideas. What platforms will serve to connect people for an educational enlightenment? Statistics show that face to face collaboration is the most effective, but how often do we have face time at school?

The ideas that will move education in the desired direction will come from the connected hunches and intuitions of teachers dispersed around the world. How do we connect them? There are so many social media platforms that will facilitate the connections but how do we stoke the flames to get people interested in mass collaboration?

Share here or at:

#educationcrowdsource

I found an interesting article on Edutopia about a group of teachers leading such a collaboration movement under the name “The Educator’s Village”. It is a very good read and it provides you an opportunity to collaborate immediately via a Google Form. Click on the picture to read the article.


Education Innovation

We live in a time of rapid innovation in the private sector. This innovation is being fuelled by connecting people through social technology. The walls between creators and consumers are disappearing with the paradigm shifting towards co-creation. The video in the header of this post defines innovation as the culmination of the tri-part process of IDEATE, CREATE, and VALIDATE. If private sector giants like Coke, IBM and P&G can shift course towards a more innovative, social oriented business model, don’t tell me that public education cannot follow suit.

It’s one thing to call for innovative change and define the process but it is an entirely different proposition to create that change. So my fellow educators how do we do it? How do we generate ideas, create innovations, and validate those ideas in an educational context?

It certainly won’t be through accumulating tech toys without purpose behind the acquisitions. It will come from an attitudinal shift that runs throughout the whole system. We must focus on building stronger networks of ideas and people. Secondly, we need to make organizational openness accepted practice.

Kevin Kelly, original executive editor of Wired Magazine, is renowned for his writing about the power of networks. Kelly wrote a piece called the “New Rules for the New Economy”. Amoung Kelly’s ideas include similar calls for more openness and connectivity.

Kelly places tremendous emphasis on the power of connected individuals with shared interests and goals as agents of change. He calls these networks “virtuous circles”. These circles are powerful feedback loops that can increase the rapidity of change through networked interactions. One good idea connects with another individual and that idea begets another and so on and so on. This loop builds on acquired knowledge at an exciting pace.

Key to innovation is also a philosophy of openness. Two of the biggest Tech titans in the world, Google and IBM have embraced open source technology because they have an eye on longer term prosperity. Open source like Linux is not really what I talking about though. A philosophy of idea sharing, with no concept of proprietary professional information, is more akin to the openness of which I speak. Ideas and information must be shared freely throughout a school, a superintendency, and even a board. If the end result of education is student success, then we must leverage every trick in the book.

As educators, we can take advantage of social media to become social organizations and create larger inter-school and inter-board, hell even inter-provincial “virtuous circles” of connected educators. There is no need to wait for a top down solution. Let’s take advantage of resources like Ning, Facebook, Google Groups and the like to connect teachers.

One of the real benefits of networked interactions and a philosophy of openness is nimbleness. It becomes must easier to change direction and deal with emergent problems quickly and effectively, when everyone is apprised of the problem. Networked solutions are also more comprehensive. Rather than allowing macro-educational problems to fester, openness can create a more rapid response. Openness also creates a more engaged work culture because people being to perceive themselves as members of a team rather than as a disconnected employee.

I think that an evaluation of openness should take place in every school. How often are ideas shared? Is information proprietary in your school? Do you have idea “hoarders” and “hermits”? If so, Why? How can we change their mindset? How do we build the trust that is so vital for openness?

I would love to hear from all of the educators out there. What successes have you been witness to regarding openness and networks? What are the challenges? Where do we go next? What tech tools can we use to support this growth?

Over the next few days, I will be sharing some more videos and ideas regarding networked and open innovation. Share your ideas on this post or on Twitter #educationcrowdsource.

Successful Crowdsourcing

The end result of any educational initiative must be increased levels of student success. Crowdsourcing has largely been a private sector tool to build support for a brand and source out innovative ideas. So the question must be asked, how can we use this private sector tool to increase student success?

Some ideas include:
1) Engaging and involving students and parents in school activities in a less taxing and more participatory model.

2) Mobilizing the expertise of a board full of caring educators.

3) Creating networks of ideas. Creating more frequent interactions amoungst colleagues on a more regular and specific basis.

What ways do you see crowdsourcing as a game-changer for education?

The following presentations provide some practical ideas for successful crowdsourcing. How can we adapt this to an education model? Share on this page or Twitter via #educationcrowdsource.

https://www.box.com/embed/ds2k8i2bhl67ra0.swf

https://www.box.com/embed/pbn6eau1rg0il64.swf