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The Way It Needs To Be

From The Solutions Journal comes this quote from Peter Senge:

I believe that the Industrial Age system of education that has spread around the world in the past 150 years will change dramatically in the coming decades.

The assembly-line progression of grades (first, second, third, etc.) coordinated by a fixed curriculum and headed by teachers in charge of students’ learning has grown increasingly out of touch with the realities of today: the global interconnectedness of economics, politics, and culture; the Internet, which puts more and more information at students’ fingertips; and businesses that need people who can think for themselves and collaborate effectively in teams to solve complex problems.

While mainstream school systems are obsessed with standardized test scores and intense individual competition, education innovators are focused on higher-order skills like systems thinking and creativity in conjunction with basic skills in mathematics and language; personal maturation together with technical knowledge; and learning how to learn together in service of addressing problems that are real in students’ lives.

Do I hear an “Amen”?

Original article here

 

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Cellphones in the classroom – an African perspective

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Through the network of teachers in my PLN I have the privilege of meeting some amazing educators from all over South Africa. One such teacher is Robyn Clark of Sekolo sa Borokgo, an independent school in Johannesburg. We met up at a conference in Pretoria last year and met up again at a conference in Durban last month when we both shared as speakers. What I love about Robyn is her willingness to embrace challenge and change as well as her drive to be a teacher who makes a real difference in her pupils’ lives.

Robyn’s innovative and open approach to the use of cellphones in her classroom is evident of her desire to use the tools available to her pupils to teach them more effectively. The recent call to ban cellphones from schools in South Africa (a short-sighted and, quite frankly, ridiculous call) by the National Association of School Governing Bodies elicited a great deal of response in the media. With emotional responses on both sides of the argument, it is good to see a piece of balanced journalism from China Network Television who recently visited Robyn’s school to see how they were using mobile phones as a tool for learning.

Televised insert available here: http://english.cntv.cn/program/africalive/20120518/100250.shtml

I wonder how the National Association of School Governing Bodies would respond to this?

Well done Robyn!  You are an inspiration to your fellow-educators. Thank-you for being a difference-maker!

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Transformation before technology!

Changing an outdated industrial-age paradigm of education to a relevant 21st century one will take more than simply adding technology. This piece by Will Richardson sums up my sentiments around this issue so well that I simply had to quote his blog post – I cannot say it better than this!

From the “I Know I Keep Saying This But I Just Can’t Stop Dept.” comes yet another example of how out of whack our language is when talking about what student learning should be. In this long,celebratory piece from the Las Vegas Sun today we learn that students at a Nevada charter school have had their learning “transformed” at the Explore Knowledge Academy, the state’s first iSchool. And the path to transformation? The iPad, of course.

“The world has changed; the expectations in the workforce have changed,” said Abbe Mattson, EKA’s executive director. “You can’t even work at a McDonald’s without using a touch screen. … If we don’t change how we teach, it’s a disservice to our kids.”

Grrrrr…

In the six months since its technology infusion, EKA has become a model of what the classrooms of the 21st century might look like in Clark County.  Although some students found learning to use the new technology challenging, most took to digital learning immediately, Mattson said.  “It’s like second nature for the students,” she said. “They’re open to trying this and they’re used to this multimedia access.”

Students use the iPads to access educational websites and applications as well as electronic textbooks. They use the iPad to take notes and the tablet’s camera to photograph whiteboards filled with teacher’s lessons and chemistry formulas. Some even record lectures using the iPad’s digital voice recorder or video camera, referring to them when they review for tests.

“I love them,” eighth-grader Alexa Freeman, 13, said of the iPads. “They’re super fast and easy to use.”

Wow…

And, finally…wait for it…

Educators say the potential payoff of this digital education is enormous, even though it’s still unproven if this nascent technology will increase student achievement. Educational games and visual applications attempt to make learning fun and keep students’ attention, which should translate to better test scores, teachers say.  “If you can get kids engaged, they’ll learn,” Mattson said. “These iPads will help get kids engaged.”

Learning = better test scores. And so it goes…

Look, I know that this here blog has not been all happy, happy lately. I know my cynicism is seeping through more that even I would like. I know I need to get focused on the good, seriously transformative things that some “bold” schools are doing, and I will, I promise. Really.

But I also know that if we keep allowing stories like these to set the bar for change, we’re shortchanging our kids. It’s yet another example of conflating teaching and learning, of not fully understanding the shift to self-directed, personal learning that technology and the Web support. Transformation in this sense means shifting the balance of power to the learner. And I know that starts way before we put a piece of technology in a kid’s hands. But with that power, the technology becomes a much richer, more valuable tool for learning.

I just feel like we have to keep calling this what it is: old wine in new bottles.

Original article

 

 

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An Illusion Of Modernity

Mostly technology in school offers an “illusion of modernity” – automating routine tasks like word processing, or watching a teacher having fun at the smartboard. If students do get online in school – it often involves viewing “filtered” web content with limited functionality.  Of course students need lessons in “digital hygiene.” But curating all their web content and interactions doesn’t teach them responsible use, it just sequesters them behind a firewall. “Suspicion invites treachery” ~ Voltaire

This quote is taken from an excellent blog post by Peter Pappas. The idea of schools creating an “illusion of modernity” is also true for teachers. There are many teachers who seemingly embrace technology without truly understanding the concept of 21st century learning. I fear that in many classrooms old paradigms are continued with new technologies.

Two things are needed if we are to avoid this:

1) An open mind

2) A willingness to learn new pedagogies which reflect the reality of the 21st century

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What Teachers Make – World Teachers’ Day 2011

Today is World Teachers’ Day – have you hugged a teacher today? 🙂

This poem by Taylor Mali is now a few years on and many have seen it. I still think it is outstanding and worth another listen!

 

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What Happened To Professionalism?

Local school teacher to a pupil in her class: “Where did you go to school before you came to this school?”

Pupil: “I went to {insert name of another local school here}.”

Teacher: “You are so stupid to have wasted half your schooling at {insert name of another local school here}. Only idiots go to that school.”

This is unfortunately a true story…

It never ceases to amaze me that a teacher can be so small-minded and insecure in herself that she is forced to make this kind of comment in front of a class of 11 year olds. Not only is this a ridiculous thing to say, it also reveals an astonishing lack of professionalism. There is also a lack of judgement evident in what is appropriate to say to children and what is not.

Teachers such as this have no place in a classroom in a society in which we are striving to develop children who have the emotional intelligence to seek first to understand before judging others and who have the core value of respect for others. How many other teachers like this are in our schools today? Whatever happened to teachers being the pillar of society and those to whom our children turned for moral and ethical guidance in an often confusing world? Call me naive, but I believe its time to bring honour back into our profession.

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Another Opportunity To Learn

Earlier this year over 100 teachers attended the very first EdTechConf event in Cape Town. The event was a great success and as a result the EdTechConf organisation has developed a three-way approach to future events :

1) A national EdTechConf conference to be held annually in Cape Town which seeks to attract teachers from all over South Africa

2) Smaller local EdTechConf Extended seminars/conferences to be held throughout South Africa during the year

3) EdTechConf “ThinkShops” which will be focused workshops held on a regular basis at a central venue in Cape Town (to start with!)

EdTechConf Extended @ ElkanahThe very first EdTechConf Extended event is to be held at Elkanah House from 30 September to 1 October. There is a terrific program  planned which will include hands-on workshops, think-tank discussions and informative plenaries. Workshops include topics such  as Paperless Teaching With An iPad, Free Teacher Tools From Microsoft, Online Tools In The Foundation  PhaseGoogle Docs In The Classroom and Using Adobe Photoshop And Indesign.

This promises to be another great event for networking and peer-learning. There are still a few places open so get busy and sign up today!

Please let others know about this event so that the network of like-minded teachers can grow and continue to support one another as they strive to bring new approaches to their teaching. You can point people to this page : http://www.edtechconf.co.za/edtechconfx/edtechconf-extended-elkanah/

The eXtended @ Elkanah House provisional programme can be downloaded here (PDF) : http://www.edtechconf.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Prov_programme_web1.pdf

For further information on EdTechConf or to book a speaker for your school/organisation, please head over to the EdTechConf site – www.edtechconf.co.za , join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

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Learning to change – changing to learn (Video)

I love this video which challenges our perceptions of what true learning in the 21st century really looks like. I am challenged to take this message not only to my team of teachers at school but to our parents and wider education community.

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How The Internet Is Revolutionizing Education

This powerful infographic shows the impact of the internet on education.
The author/illustrator asserts that higher education is no longer only for the elite as anyone with an internet connection can access it. That seems like a contradictory assertion – doesn’t the fact that only 30% of the world’s population have internet access make it elite by default?  (Stat from http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm – figure as at 31 March 2011)
How the Internet is Revolutionizing Education
Via: OnlineEducation.net

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I Believe In…

I believe education matters : I believe in education that is relevant to a rapidly evolving world. An education that prepares children for a world where they will change careers multiple times before retirement. An education that gives children the tools to cope with an ever-increasingly connected world. An education which recognises that learning takes place in an organic and connected way. An education which does not rely on a system of grades to indicate whether a pupil is learning or not. An education which teaches the value of emotional intelligence and the importance of respect for one another.

I believe teachers matter : I believe in teachers who foster a life-long love of learning. I believe in teachers who know that in a Google world they can no longer be seen as the source of all knowledge. I believe in teachers who are open to new ideas about the value of grading pupils and about seeing change in their classroom practice. I believe in teachers who are on a journey of self-discovery and personal learning and who are constantly learning how to be better at what they do. I believe in teachers who persevere through difficult circumstances because they believe that what they do really matters. I believe in teachers who choose to teach each day with the same enthusiasm they had on their very first day in the classroom.

I believe parents matter : I believe in parents who understand that the education of their children cannot only happen at school. I believe in parents who choose to work in partnership with their child’s teacher. I believe in parents who realise that teachers have personal responsibilities after 5pm and don’t call them at home or on their mobile phones at night. I believe in parents who support the discipline of the school and don’t undermine teachers by bringing down teachers around the dinner table. I believe in parents who see themselves as part of a team with the staff of the school. I believe in parents who believe in the inherent potential of their child. I believe in parents who choose to invest in their child’s education as a priority in their monthly budget. I believe in parents who are the singularly most important people in their child’s life – providing love, security, boundaries and support.

What do YOU believe in? Send a tweet to @artpreston with the hashtag #headthoughts – in a  few week’s time I’ll post the results.