Wayfinder Learning Lab

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.


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“This will revolutionize education.”

Note (2018): If my inbox (edumarketing fluff) or the internet (hyperbole) are anything to go by, this video is still as relevant as when Derek posted it 4 years ago. Not a lot more recent, but still memerific, here’s another post on Eric Jensen’s Google quote

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Being in a tech-rich school, we have access to a lot of different platforms, tools and ideas. We have a good group of educational technology leaders in the school and a pretty strong focus on putting the learning first when choosing and using educational technologies. Nothing is blocked and teachers are given opportunities learn more about (and try) different platforms, ideas and strategies using technology. Sometimes the best tech is low-tech; other times systems like Hapara help us to differentiate more subtly, give feedback more readily and think more carefully about task design, scaffolding and criteria.

Derek Muller (the awesome @veritasium), released this video and I was reminded of how poor some #EdTech implementation can be. This video gives a brief history of #EdTech hyperbole, from the ‘moving picture’ to the laser-disc, each step along the way seeking to automate the art (and science) of teaching. When the focus is on how teachers can be replaced by tech or simplistic educational inquiry (is X tech better than Y tech to do Z simple transmission process?), then the resources and energy spent on the technological innovation are wasted.

“What limits learning is what happens inside a student’s head. […] What experiences promote the kind of thinking that is required for learning?” 

It has become a cliche in #EdTech now to say “it’s about the learning, not the tech,” and that’s a great thing. The mantra sticks, and hopefully it forces us into careful thought about how we choose and use #EdTech tools. Learning is social, critical and personal; it requires the guidance of an expert, caring teacher and it needs inspiration, motivation and perseverance.

If we think about it this way then, as Derek says, we can evolve education, if not revolutionize it.

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Now if only the companies that keep sending advertisements to my school and i-Biology inboxes for weak platforms (and worse PD) would watch this…


Using personal GoogleSites for learning, assessment & feedback in #IBBio

Click to see an example of how the GoogleSite was set up.

This is reposted from my i-Biology.net blog. To comment, please go there.

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Over the last two years, My IB Bio class have been keeping individual GoogleSites as records and reflections of their learning. Based on this experience and their feedback, I have tweaked the project to try to make it more effective as a learning tool.

Rationale

With the bulk of our resources online (here on i-Biology.net, Slideshare and elsewhere), as well as a 1:1 laptop and GoogleApps environment, it doesn’t make much sense to be using too much paper. The aim of this project was to empower students to build skills and knowledge connected to the IB Biology course, whilst making their thinking visible to me as a teacher. Through this process, students are able to track their progress, stay on top of their grades and prepare at their own pace (especially if they are working ahead).

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Tweeching

So many of my blog posts on this site, or resources posted to i-Biology, have been stimulated by something first heard about on Twitter, so here goes…

Blogging

My site (i-Biology.net) is powered by the blogging platform WordPress.com. It is cheap, as customisable as I need and easy to write and edit posts and pages. It is intended mostly for my own students, but I do get a kick out of the comments from others. It was through discussions about the site that I found out about my current school. Related to this is SlideShare, where most of my resources are actually hosted – and which has its own community of commenters. With the current volume of traffic, there are many watchful eyes acting as a giant group of reviewers – so when they spot mistakes I can fix them quicksmart. As a result, I’m confident my students have a decent set of resources for learning. Finally, by sharing the content I can encourage teachers to make donations to charity through my Biology4Good page.

This personal blog, though more recent, has been a useful way to develop professional reflections and organise my thoughts around masters work and issues in education. It is an encouragement to be reflective, to put thoughts on the page with an authentic audience in mind. Other teachers do the same. Some write about their subject, others about their practices. All are useful resources, especially when they’re citing research that I can follow-up with my access to the university library.

Facebook

It was very easy to set up a Facebook page for i-Biology and in my previous school I used as a way to share interesting science resources with students without having to cross the boundary into ‘friendships’. Students ‘like’ it to get updates. It still runs, though has more-or-less been superseded by…

Twitter

Although at first a skeptic, a colleague (@JasonGraham99) convinced me it was worth a whirl. Did I have time to tweet? Welll I make time for everything else so why not. Now I find it my number one tool for self-directed professional development for these reasons (and more):

  • I have followed lots of scientists, science writers, educationalists and IB-types who post frequent useful links to resources, articles and stimulus for my own PD or class work. It’s a real-time way to keep up-to-date. My ‘Sunday reading’ often consists of catching up on science or education links that were tweeted during the week and that I ‘favourited’ in order to save them for when I have time.
  • I can connect to other teachers of the same subject, regardless of whether they are in IB schools. It is interesting to follow discussions on teaching methods, standards-based grading, modeling in science, the “flip” and more. Every week something is added to my toolbox as a result of Twitter. The challenge is keeping it organised!
  • I can post, retweet or write about current news, education or science and use #hashtags such as #IBBio to organise information. With #hashtags being used in tweeting conferences, it is possible to follow some of the action without being there (check out the #Learning2 feed).
  • With the Paper.li service, tweets from the people, organisations and search terms I follow are aggregated into a weekly #IBSciWeekly ‘magazine’ collecting up science and education news for students and teachers.
  • It gets the message out there. Followers spread the word, give feedback on your work, engage in discussions.
  • You can ‘meet’ like-minded people – which is not always possible in small-school settings.
  • We have recently started #MYPChat* as a way to connect MYP teachers in a monthly discussion – across disciplines. Maybe one day it will be as popular as #PYPChat! It’s great that the IB people ‘in the know’ are on board with social media and present as positive and supportive voices.

Untapped potential? 

There is more I could be doing, for sure, but some of it is just beyond my level of comfort. Some teachers use Twitter as a classroom tool, engaging students in discussions and ‘backchanneling’ lessons. Student blogging is something we do sporadically, though there are excellent examples out there of classes – particularly ‘creative’ courses – building community around student work. I should develop this further in the science context, to make sure my own students have an authentic audience for their work. As our school develops mission portfolios as a graduating requirement, we will use them more often, in particular for tasks such as One World articles.

And so…

Input from outside helps me develop as a more globally-minded teacher and learner. Although social media can at times be time-consuming, careful curation and management of how they are used can be an invaluable tool for personalised and meaningful professional development. I would encourage more teachers to get into it – share your work, ask questions and take part.

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*#MYPChat happens early in the month, on a day and topic voted for by participants. Resources are posted to the wikispace here: http://mypchat.wikispaces.com (but for a way better-developed model, look at the #PYPChat site: pypchat.wikispaces.com)


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Paper.li: A quick review

A couple of weeks ago I started paying attention to tweets such as:

These paper.li things seemed to be providing a decent service – mocking up a magazine of links curated by their ‘editor’. For me, they provide a decent one-stop look at articles and resources that I might have missed in my Twitterstream, for whatever reason. It looks like a pretty recent startup, and as such is going through some development. I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops.

After a quick exchange with Adrienne I decided to give it a go, building a weekly magazine for IB Sciences classes (MYP and DP). It was quick, easy and published in a couple of minutes. It took some tinkering to work it out, but I was generally pleased with the results:

The first edition of the IB Science Weekly Magazine

The first edition of the IB Science Weekly Magazine

It is scheduled as a weekly paper, updated on Tuesdays, and pulls in links posted by people, organisations and hashtags I follow on Twitter.

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Here are some of my observations after using paper.li for a couple of weeks. Some of them may be erroneous, based on a lack of experience, so feel free to correct me in the comments below.

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My EdTech Choices: More ‘why’, less ‘wow’ (now)

Another tweet-inspired post. Twitter really is great PD, as long as you’re happy to read the links and think about how they apply to your own practices and thought processes. @FernandaDesani retweeted a link to this article at Education Week Teacher: “Why Twitter and Facebook are not good instructional tools.” (I don’t think the headline really fits the thrust of the argument. Was it inserted by a sub-ed?)

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The author (Paul Barnwell) writes as a teacher sharing his experience of using tech in class, and the article boils down to: Wow! Huh? Hmm. Early adoption of cellphones and PollEverywhere gave him and his class a taste of tech, but got sidetracked by distractions. He discovered that kids aren’t really as tech-savvy as they might be made out to be, though are personally engaged by social media. Other services seemed to provide more of a gimmick to grab attention than give longer-lasting educational value. Then came the Hmm. He thought about using tech in a creative process, using web 2.0 to teach the desired skills, not just engage them. He moved up Bloom’s taxonomy.

This experience rings true with me and, I’m sure, with many other teachers out there who have access to technology and the freedom to try things out. I’m certainly glad I got over the Wow! phase before having two kids and more serious professional roles. Getting started, I spent hours – and hours – fiddling with ideas, trying out services, experimenting and, more often than not, dumping the work and starting again. I made documents and handbooks, built websites and even tried to install Moodle on a portable hard drive to test it out before the school had made the decision to use it.

There was a lot of ‘Huh?‘ as I expected things to work but they didn’t. A collaborative GoogleSites project became an exercise in copy-pasting, Prezis were a pain in the WordPress to embed and turned out to be little more than flashy powerpoints anyway. My edtech history is littered with the fossils of apps unfit for purpose. Once we had Moodle installed I was super-genki for it, spending literally months trying to get the provider to integrate it with Turnitin.com. I took an online course in extended online teaching, built resources and courses for my classes and IB Diploma Programme and five-year review. I then started to become enamoured with GoogleApps: nicer looking, easier to edit and collaborate on and worked with GMail. When I moved here to CA, with an older version of Moodle and no Turnitin integration but fully GoogleApps powered, I dumped Moodle completely.

Probably my biggest ed-tech regret has been building almost all of my IB Biology presentations in SMART Notebook.

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“When you have interest, you have education.”

It’s the last day of the academic year, and the kids have just left the building. I went on Twitter for a quick read and saw this video from GOOD Magazine, after a tweet from Adrienne Michetti (@amichetti). If this reads like a tired teacher’s ramble, then it probably is!

I like to use tech in class and am always looking out for useful tools that will help student learning and build relevance. However, I’m also a bit skeptical of what sometimes comes across as ed-tech hyperbole: when this site or that app is touted as a ‘revolution in education’.

For about the first three and half minutes of this video, I was a bit dubious. However, when it reaches the point of ‘just in time’ learning and relevant problem solving, I was starting to be won over. Then Sugata Mitra came on and I’m a total fanboy of his, since seeing James Tooley at an IB regional conference speak about him and his hole-in-the-wall computer experiment in Delhi. His similar TED Talk is at the bottom of this post.

“A five-year old today; by the time he’s 25 it will be 2031. Can any teacher say that they’re preparing that child for 2031?”

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